DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Saidicam29 and is copyright (c) 2001 by Saidicam29. Beta Reader: Selek - thank you so much!!! Acknowledgments: The characters of T'Liash, Selkk, and Elizabeth belong to Gamin Davis. She was gracious enough to allow me to play with them for awhile, but I'll return them to her when I'm done. Rated NC-17.



Regrets

Saidicam29



Background: The idea for this story came from a fanfic titled "Angels: Home for Christmas", written by Gamin Davis. When Amanda was unable to bear Sarek's child, the clan elders pressured him to divorce her and take a Vulcan wife so that the clan of Surak would be perpetuated. He does this, so now he and his wife, T'Liash, have a two year old son named Selkk. After the divorce, Sarek gave up his position as Ambassador to the Federation, and now works at the Vulcan Science Academy. Amanda lives on Earth, with her sister Elizabeth, and teaches English and History.



Summary: Sarek returns to Earth for one last mission, leaving his family behind on Vulcan. When pon farr unexpectedly comes upon him, there is only one person on Earth who can help him through it, but there are unforeseen complications.



* * * * * * * *



Sarek sat alone in his office at the Vulcan Science Academy. It was late and he had just finished the last bit of work he had left. He should have been home hours ago to share end-meal with his wife, T'Liash, and his son, Selkk. He also should have contacted her to let her know he wouldn't be there, as etiquette dictated, but he didn't bother to do that either. He had told his wife shortly after their marriage not to expect him home at any certain time and she apparently accepted that since she did not bother to wait up for him anymore. That was precisely why he did work late as often as he could. Not that there was anything wrong with T'Liash. She was a dutiful wife, aesthetically pleasing, and she tried to satisfy him. She gave him Selkk, whom Sarek adored beyond all logic and who had been his only source of happiness these past few years. Even his work had ceased to satisfy him. At first he had enjoyed teaching full-time and getting involved in research again at the Academy, but now he missed being an ambassador. He missed the debates and the negotiations. Most of all he missed meeting so many different people and going on missions to various planets. He could go back to it, if he wanted to. His government had asked him to several times, but with his knowledge and experience of Terra, they insisted on posting him there again. That was something he couldn't do. Even though he knew that the chances of running into Amanda were minuscule, there would be too many painful reminders.

Ah, Amanda again. After being apart from her for almost four years now, she still managed to creep into his thoughts at least once a day. It was illogical and unproductive. Sarek had tried to meditate on this, to cast her out of his mind, but it had not helped. As Sarek walked through the courtyard to his home, he reflected on the changes that had been made since she left. Amanda's garden was gone, as was all of the vibrancy she had added both inside and outside. This had mostly been T'Liash's doing, but Sarek had allowed it since it was her right as his wife.

The inside of the house had been totally redecorated in traditional Vulcan style. All traces of the previous Human occupant had been removed, except for in Sarek's bedroom. He kept the room he and Amanda had shared and T'Liash took the adjoining room, which Amanda had intended to use as a nursery. It was not uncommon on Vulcan for bond-mates to have separate sleeping quarters. For many, the intimacy felt through the bond was sufficient so there was no need for frequent physical intimacies. It had been the same with his first wife, T'Rea. Only with Amanda had he felt the desire to share a bed every night. Perhaps this was because he had married her by choice, where he had married the other two out of duty and necessity. Or perhaps it was merely because Amanda, as a Terran, had expected it.

As he walked down the hall to his room, T'Liash emerged from the nursery, which was directly across from her room, holding Selkk. "You are very late tonight, my husband," she said quietly as she held out two of her fingers for the traditional Vulcan embrace.

Sarek returned the gesture, as was expected of him. "There was work to be done. Why is my son not yet asleep?" He held out his arms, indicating she should hand over Selkk, which she did.

T'Liash watched as Sarek brushed his fingers over their son's face and Selkk clumsily did the same to his father. No words were spoken, but none were needed, because Sarek had formed a parental bond with Selkk several months ago. She almost envied her son their closeness, because despite their marital bond, Sarek shared very little of himself with her. "He awoke just a few minutes ago. Perhaps he sensed your arrival?"

Sarek was still focused on his son. "Perhaps," he murmured.

"You missed end-meal again, my husband. Do you require nourishment?" she asked dutifully.

Sarek looked at his wife. "No. I will take Selkk now. You may retire for tonight." Then he moved down the hall to his door, but stopped at her quiet interruption. "There is a message for you, my husband." She waited until she had his full attention.

Sarek turned to her and patiently inquired, "Yes?"

"T'Pau called for you. She requested that you contact her at your earliest convenience. I informed her that you were at the Academy, but she did not wish to contact you there."

"Understood. Is that all?" Sarek waited until she nodded. "Then sleep well, T'Liash." He took his son into his room, wondering what T'Pau could possibly want from him now.

Since 'at your earliest convenience' with T'Pau meant immediately, Sarek placed Selkk upon his desk to prepare to make the call.

"Pra-la," Selkk said, pointing to the comm-unit.

"Correct. We talk to people using ... no, Selkk." Sarek removed his son's hands from the comm-unit's controls. "Your curiosity is admirable, young one, but you are not yet ready to learn the comm-unit." After reseating his son on the desk, Sarek made the call to the woman who had served as his clan's matriarch for longer than he had been alive.

Her assistant answered the link, and immediately put him through, then T'Pau's wizened face came into view and they exchanged greetings. T'Pau, as always, came right to the point. "Your service is required on Terra as part of the Federation Council. The Council is meeting to decide the best method of negotiating peace between the Safiyah and the Urvasi. Since Vulcan has a trade interest with the Safiyah, we want to be certain we are represented adequately. You are the one we chose."

Sarek had to put forth great effort to ensure that he did not show the slightest flicker of emotion. He had expected something like this; it was similar to the other requests his government made of him, which he had refused. This time, however, it was T'Pau making the request. Sarek cleared his throat before speaking. "I gave up my position as ambassador 3.8 years ago, T'Pau. Sturk handles the Terran embassy now."

Sarek held his breath while he waited the 1.8 minutes for T'Pau to answer. "I am aware of that, young one," she answered drolly, "however, Sturk is away on another mission and, since you are available and have more experience in these matters, you are the logical choice for this mission."

Sarek knew he could not refuse her. T'Pau would demand a reason for his disobedience and he had none to give, at least not a logical one. He would shame himself by giving an emotional reason for refusing the mission and she would dismiss it and expect him to go regardless. After all, it was his duty and, if this woman would demand that he give up Amanda, then she would certainly insist on this as well. "Of course, Tela'at. I meant no offense. I will be able to leave for Terra in two days."

T'Pau raised an eyebrow in disdain. "Unacceptable. You will leave in the morning."

"But, T'Pau ... Telat'at," he amended respectfully, "there are arrangements that must be made. I can not possibly..."

T'Pau held up a hand to stop him. "They have already been made, Sarek. A transport will be waiting for you at first light. Soran will meet you at the embassy on Terra to inform you of the particulars and your superiors at the Academy have already been notified." She positioned her hand in the Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, my child. May you find success in your endeavor."

Sarek numbly returned the salute and sat in a stunned silence for several minutes after T'Pau broke the comm-link. The arrangements had all been made. He never really had a choice in the matter; the elders had known he would bend to their will, as he always had. Suddenly Sarek felt no bigger than the child sitting upon his desk.

* * *

Amanda Grayson was hunched over her computer, trying to get a head start on grading term papers before she left for the Thanksgiving break. It was deathly silent in the school since all of the students and most of the teachers had already left. That was the biggest difference she noticed between teaching at a high school compared to her days as a professor at Harvard. There were always people around at Harvard, both students and faculty, going to the labs for research, or forming study groups. But here, at Cheltenham High School, when the end of the day arrived the students fled in one large mass, with the teachers following closely thereafter.

Amanda was deeply concentrating on her work when her sister, Elizabeth, burst into the room. "What are you doing here!" Elizabeth exclaimed.

"Damn it, Beth, don't do that!" Amanda took a deep, calming breath. "I work here. What are you doing here?"

Elizabeth laughed at her younger sister's reaction. "I came to get you. Come on. Put that away and let's go home. Thanksgiving is tomorrow and we have a lot to do still." She started grabbing the things off of Amanda's desk and tossing them into drawers.

"Okay, hey, stop it will you? I said okay, but I'm taking these term papers home with me. I need to get through them now because when we get back there will only be three weeks until the Christmas break, and then I'll have mid-term exams to grade."

"Good Lord, Mandy, when did you get to be so boring? You were such a hell-raiser before you... I mean, when you were younger." She had almost said 'before you married Sarek,' but caught herself in time. Just the mention of that name still caused Amanda great pain. She held her hands up, calling for a truce. "Okay, bring them home if you must, but promise me that you won't even touch them until after the holiday. You promise?"

Amanda rolled her eyes. "All right, fine. I agree. Happy now?"

Elizabeth gave her a too-bright grin. "Mandy, dear, I'm always happy! Oh, by the way, you got another call from Mr. Jonathan Preston III. He says he really, really wants you to join him in San Francisco for a couple of days. He wants to wine and dine you and hopefully get you in bed for some hot, freaky sex."

Amanda laughed out loud, something she rarely did anymore. "Stop it! He did not say that!"

Beth was pleased to have finally gotten a smile out of her sister. "All right, he didn't actually say the sex part, but I'm sure it was implied. You know, Mandy, the man has been asking you to meet him on and off for the past two years. He and I are on a first name basis now, you know. I thought you said you've known him for twenty years or so. When are you going to go see him?"

Amanda busied herself putting things into her bag. "I'm not, and before you start in on me, I have several good reasons why I can't see him." She looked up to see Beth waiting for her to continue. "First, I do not want to get involved with a member of the Federation Council. Anytime he's on Earth, he's up to his neck in meetings and negotiations, and the rest of the time he's on some other planet in meetings and negotiations. Number two, I'm in Pennsylvania, he's in California. If things did work out, I certainly can't afford to be transporting across the continent just to see him."

Amanda stopped talking and Elizabeth tapped her toe impatiently. "That's only two reasons. Several means at least three."

Amanda gritted her teeth. "Fine. How about this. I am a 42-year-old divorcee who hasn't even had a single social encounter with a Human male in 15 years. Is that reason enough?"

"Oh, come on. Tell me you are not using your age as an excuse. I'm older than you are and I certainly am not too old to have a good time." She sighed deeply. "Look, Amanda, I know how you feel. After Don and I split up I dreaded having to date again, but it's really not that bad. Honey, you're too young to give up on having a husband and a family of your own."

Amanda closed her eyes and whispered. "Beth, why did you have to bring that up?"

"Amanda, why do you insist you can't? I know what you went through on Vulcan; the drugs, the procedures, losing your period; but everything's back to normal now. Even Dr. Childer said there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to have children, Human children at least."

Amanda shook her head. "There's no proof of that. Just because I'm menstruating again doesn't mean that I can have children. And I know first hand that men don't want a woman who can't give them children."

"That's not true! You have as much proof that you can bear children as any of us do. Little sister, take my advice. Go and spend some time with Jonathan. If it works out, fine, and if it doesn't ... at least he'll be easy to avoid." She gave Amanda a hopeful smile.

Amanda blew out a frustrated breath. "All right, I'll go. But it's going to be horrible!"

Beth put her arm around her sister's shoulder and walked with her to the groundcar. "That's my girl, always the optimist."

* * *

Sarek stood in the ballroom of the Federation President's Colorado residence. He was looking out the window, admiring the multi-colored lights decorating the grounds for the upcoming Christmas holiday. He was here tonight to attend a reception the President was holding. Most of the guests were political figures from various organizations. He had already observed that several members of the Federation Council, which he had been working with this past month, were in attendance. Personally, Sarek would have liked to skip tonight's festivities, but he had no wish to offend the President. So, here he was, with his chief advisor and long-time friend, Soran, until it would be acceptable for them to return to the Vulcan embassy.

Sarek was contentedly distracted looking out the window, as it had begun to snow, a sight that still fascinated him even after all his years on Terra. Although its cause was simple to comprehend, Sarek found snow to be a delightful treat, as long as he didn't have to go out in it.

Sarek was a bit surprised when Soran suddenly appeared beside him, acting quite agitated. "Sir, I think there is something you should know. Ambassador Preston just arrived..."

"Ah, good. There are a few matters I wished to discuss with him in private. Where is he?" Sarek began to scan the crowded room for his friend and colleague.

Just as he caught sight of him, Jonathan apparently also noticed Sarek because he raised his hand in greeting and began making his way over to the two Vulcans. "Sarek, I'm rather surprised to see you here, although I'm pleased. I wanted to talk to you about the negotiations."

"And I you, Jonathan. Would now be an acceptable time?"

"Sure ... um ... why don't we sit at that table in the corner over there? That way I can keep an eye out for Amanda. She just went to the ladies room to freshen up."

Sarek was familiar with Terran naming practices, so he knew that many women had the name Amanda. It never occurred to him that this could be his Amanda, so he was unfazed by the mention of her name.

Soran, however, felt as though he were standing in front of a charging le'matya. As the men made their way to the table, he tried once again to head off this impending disaster. "Sarek, about Ambassador Preston's companion, there might be a slight problem..."

Sarek again cut him off. "I see no problem, Soran. Jonathan's guest is welcome to join us." He turned to Jonathan. "That is, if you do not think she will mind us discussing business."

"No, of course not." Jonathan didn't know why Sarek thought she would mind now, when she hadn't the past fifteen years. His eyes were focused on Soran, however. He was getting an uneasy feeling over the Vulcan's odd behavior.

Soran did not have the opportunity to mention it again. They arrived at a small round table pushed into a corner of the room. With four chairs present it would be crowded, but at least they would have some privacy. Sarek took a chair that put his back to the room. Soran took a seat next to him, and Jonathan took the other seat next to Soran, which allowed him to see the room.

Before the conversation could begin, Jonathan called out to catch Amanda's attention. "Amanda, honey, over here." He smiled broadly at her as she reached their table.

Sarek, at first, didn't recognize Amanda. All he saw was a petite woman approach Jonathan and bend down to kiss him on the lips. Her hair, which was long and loose, had fallen forward so he could not see her face.

But as she took her seat and he heard her voice say, "Miss me, hon?" a cold fist closed around his heart.

He barely heard Jonathan's quiet reply, "Every second we're apart."

Amanda took her seat and finally noticed who her table companions were. Her eyes locked with Sarek's and both were temporarily paralyzed. Her face lost all color and Jonathan noticed she gripped her napkin so tight her knuckles were white.

Jonathan had known Sarek and Amanda as friends for many years, since shortly after their marriage. When he heard of their divorce, he was surprised but had assumed it was an amicable parting since they had always gotten along so well through the years. He wondered what could possibly have happened to cause this kind of reaction in Amanda. "What's going on here?" He placed a supportive arm around Amanda's shoulders, then looked at each person present for an answer. No one responded, though. Sarek and Amanda continued to stare at each other, Amanda wearing a stricken expression on her face and Sarek struggling to hide his. Soran was staring intently at the table before him.

He gave Amanda a small shake. "Sweetheart? You okay?"

The spell was finally broken and Amanda turned to look at him. "How could you?" she whispered then jumped up and raced out of the room.

"Amanda, wait!" he called, but it was too late, as she had already disappeared from view. He turned to Sarek, but he was still staring at her empty chair. So, he turned a pleading look to Soran. "What just happened here?"

Soran met his eyes and shook his head. "Why did you not mention you were with her before now?"

"I guess it never occurred to me. We just started seeing each other less than a month ago, right before Sarek came back. It's been a bit of a whirlwind romance since. I didn't realize it would be a problem after all this time. Oh, Christ! Look, I've got to go after her, but stay here, please. I'll be right back and we can get this whole thing straightened out." At Soran's nod he took off in the same direction Amanda had.

As soon as Jonathan left, Sarek stood and turned to Soran. "We are leaving now!" He stalked off without waiting for a reply and Soran had to rush to catch up with him.

* * *

Jonathan finally caught up with Amanda halfway down the driveway leading from the house. "Amanda! Honey, wait a minute." He grabbed her arm to stop her. "Come on, let's go back inside and talk about this. It's freezing out here!"

Amanda spun around to confront him. "How could you do that to me, ambush me like that?"

He was shocked by her accusation. "I didn't know!"

"Oh? You didn't know that Sarek was back on Earth? You didn't know that he would be here tonight? It didn't occur to you to tell me, to give me some warning?" She hugged herself to keep warm. Even though she wore a thick, full-length coat, it was bitterly cold.

Jonathan was hopping from side to side and rubbing his arms briskly. "No! I figured you knew. I didn't realize you two didn't get along. I really can't believe you're still so affected by it, it's been five or six years, hasn't it?"

"Four years! And it does still affect me, okay? Oh, forget it! I've got to go."

She spun back around to leave, but he once again stopped her by grabbing her arm. "If you want to leave, I'll take you. Just let me get my coat, all right?"

She shook her head vehemently. "No, thank you. I've got a cab on the way. I'm going back to your place to get my things. I'll leave the key on the dresser."

Amanda attempted to shake off his hand to go, but he tightened his grip. "Hold on, now, just a minute. What are you saying, Amanda? Look, I realize that you're upset and I'm partly to blame for that. I made a mistake, but you know it wasn't intentional. Come on, honey, we've become really close these last few weeks. Don't close me out now."

Amanda finally let the tears she'd held at bay fall. "I'm so sorry, Jon, but I can't. Obviously I'm not ready for this."

He pulled her to his chest, to comfort her, and she held him in return. "You've just had a shock tonight, that's all. Give it some time, and you'll be able to put this all in perspective. Take a few days, then call me. Okay?"

She pulled back and wiped her eyes. "I'll give it time and I promise I'll think about what you've said, but I just don't think this is going to work. I'm sorry, Jon." She turned and walked away, and this time he let her go.

* * *

When they got back to Sarek's rooms at the embassy, he poured himself a large helping of Vulcan port. He was absolutely seething inside and having a difficult time controlling it. The instant he saw Amanda's face, he was bombarded by memories of their last day together.

The clan elders were becoming increasingly concerned about their inability to have children and had been calling for Sarek to take some sort of action for several years. On Vulcan, propagation of the species was major priority since their population was so low. Particularly in Sarek's clan, since they were one of the few ruling families on the planet, children were essential to ensure their place in society for the future. It was so important, in fact, that infertility was one of the few instances in which divorce was allowed.

Sarek had always managed to put them off, though, and never once mentioned it to Amanda because he didn't want to hurt her. They had been making progress. Amanda had been taking various fertility drugs for years and the healers at the Academy thought they had finally developed a drug that would enable a Vulcan and a Terran to conceive a child. Then Amanda's menses had stopped and the healers said there was no hope of her ever having children. It was at this point that T'Pau took action of her own. She called Sarek to her office for a meeting and there she bluntly told him that if he refused to do his duty to the family and sire offspring to ensure the line, then he would no longer be considered a part of Surak's clan. He would be klee'fah'he, banished, a non-person in the family.

Sarek, who had been raised to believe that family and duty were the cornerstones of society, was heartsick. He had devoted most of his life to his duty to the family and had no wish to deny them now. On the other hand, he did not want to lose Amanda either. He had never been so happy, so complete, as he had the past fifteen years she had been his wife. Logically, he knew that he should divorce Amanda to find a wife to bear his children. It was best for the clan, and 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one'. Unsure of what to do, he went home to finally discuss the situation with his t'hy'la.

Amanda was understandably outraged and insisted that they pack up and move to Earth immediately. To hell with the clan, and to T'Pau especially. But Sarek couldn't do that. Giving up his family went against everything he believed in. When he refused to leave with her, Amanda had moved into the guest room. He attempted to discuss it with her again, but they hadn't managed to exchange a civil word since.

A couple of days later T'Pau asked the both of them in for a meeting to discuss their options. But there really had been no options. T'Pau insisted that they divorce and she had a healer present to perform the p'pil'lay, to sever the marriage bond. Her reasons were that since Amanda could neither conceive Sarek's child, nor carry a full-blooded Vulcan child, then their marriage had no purpose.

At this Sarek nearly lost his control, but Amanda hadn't moved a muscle. "T'Pau, my wife and I require some time, to discuss this, privately..."

"No, let's do this now." Amanda interrupted, tight-lipped and straight-faced. "Besides, I'm leaving on the afternoon transport today."

Sarek forgot about his control temporarily and turned to face Amanda. "You never mentioned this before, and you have nothing packed. No, we need to discuss this, Amanda."

Amanda refused to look his way. "We already discussed this and you made your decision. I have everything I need, so let's just get this over with."

The healer moved between them to begin the p'pil'lay and Sarek was too numb to react. First, he felt the healer's warm touch on his face, then Amanda's mind was being slowly untangled from his. He had wanted to fight, to scream in outrage, but the healer was controlling everything at that point. When it was over, Sarek felt drained and empty. He instinctively moved to touch Amanda, to make some connection with her, but the healer prevented his contact. Without saying a word, Amanda got up and left T'Pau's office.

Sarek immediately went home, and although Amanda wasn't there, everything seemed to be in place so he had hopes that Amanda would be back. It took quite a bit of searching before he realized that she had indeed packed. When he opened the trunk she kept her old Earth-styled clothes in and the other things she wore before they were married, he found it was empty. Amanda was indeed gone, but she had left behind all of her Vulcan clothes, every gift he had ever given her, and every item they had ever bought as a couple. It was as though she denied he ever existed.

Sarek had not seen nor heard from her again, until tonight. The image of her kissing Jonathan was burned into his mind. He had considered Jonathan to be a good friend to both him and Amanda for almost eighteen Terran years, but he never would have pictured them together. Now, he briefly wondered just how long their attraction had been there, but forced the thought away. He knew Amanda had never been unfaithful, she had never done anything but try to be a good wife to him. Their divorce was his own fault, for not standing up for himself, for not standing up for her. A burning rage bubbled up inside Sarek demanding to be released, and he blindly threw his glass across the room narrowly missing Soran, who had stayed in the room but remained by the door.

"Sarek!" Soran exclaimed, offended by the outburst.

Unfortunately this drew attention to him and gave Sarek a new target for his rage. "You knew all along! You knew about them and you knew that she was going to be there tonight!" Sarek roared, pointing an accusing finger at Soran.

He had completely lost his control now and Soran was a little frightened both for himself and for his friend. "Sarek, please control yourself," he said calmly, hoping it would have an effect on Sarek, "I did not know anything until I saw her tonight. I attempted to warn you, but did not have the opportunity. I realize you were surprised tonight, but ... Sarek? Are you well?"

Sarek's respirations had increased dramatically, to the point that he was almost panting, and he grimaced as though in pain as he collapsed into his chair.

Soran approached cautiously. Taking in Sarek's appearance and volatile behavior tonight, understanding dawned on him. "Pon farr," he whispered to himself. "Sarek ... Sarek!" He had to shout to get his friend's attention. "Have you been hiding this? How long?"

Sarek nodded shortly. "The negotiations are almost done. I have been controlling it with mediation and T'Liash has been assisting through the bond. It has been one point two weeks or so, I believe. It should not be my time yet so there was no reason to expect this. What are you doing?"

Soran had moved to the comm-unit. "I am calling the healer. He will assist you until you reach Vulcan."

"No, the negotiations--" Sarek began, but Soran cut him off sharply.

"--will continue just as easily with you on Vulcan as they would with you dead. Do not argue, you are not thinking logically."

Sarek couldn't have argued if he wanted to because his eyes had rolled back in his head and his body began to tremble violently. He was only vaguely aware of what transpired around him.

* * *

The healer, Sasav, briefly examined Sarek before turning a grave face to Soran. "It is too late, he is deep in the plak-tow. I can not help him now."

Fear stabbed through Soran's chest. "But his bond-mate is on Vulcan. That is four days away."

The Sasav shook his head. "He will not live that long. I estimate he has little more than a day left. If you can not find an unbonded female willing to offer herself to his madness, or if his bond-mate is unwilling to assist, then he has no chance of survival."

Soran looked at the healer questioningly. "Are you saying he can get through this with someone other than his bond-mate?"

Sasav met his eyes directly. "Not precisely. The bond-mate is required to control the pon farr, it can not be totally resolved without her. However, the symptoms of pon farr, the physical needs, can be lessened by any female. I have never actually witnessed this succeeding, but I have heard that it is occasionally effective. Providing, of course, that the male does not refuse the new female and that the bond-mate effectively controls the madness. There is also the chance of a pregnancy occurring. The presence of a krenath, an illegitimate child, would complicate everyone's lives. I would imagine it would be difficult to find a female willing to risk so much with nothing to gain. There are a few unbonded females here. We can ask them, however, Sarek is so deep in plak-tow now that I have doubts as to whether it would work."

As Sasav spoke, Soran had been forming a plan. After her reaction tonight it was doubtful that she would agree, but she was Sarek's best chance and Soran refused to give up without trying. "Healer, contact T'Sai T'Liash and gain her assistance. I believe I know someone who can help him here." He gave Sarek one last look before leaving the embassy in search of Amanda Grayson.

* * *

Amanda sat curled up in front of the fireplace in her rented room. She couldn't afford to use transporters anymore and the snow had kept all of the air transports grounded, so she had to wait until morning to go back home. Instead, she rented a room in a modest little Bed and Breakfast nearby, and took a long, hot shower to relax. She felt a little calmer, but so far had not changed her mind regarding Jonathan. It wasn't because he didn't tell her about Sarek, it was because of what seeing her former husband again did to her. Even after all these years since the divorce, after the way he callously tossed her aside to please his family, she was still madly in love with him. She was in love with him, but she also hated him. Pathetic, Amanda, that's what you are. Be that as it may, however, there was no way she could handle being with Jon when that would mean running into Sarek at the various functions that were such a big part of the diplomatic lifestyle. But that did not mean she was giving up on dating altogether, she just needed to be with someone who wasn't involved in the political arena.

Someone rang her doorbell and she got up to answer it thinking it was probably Jon checking up on her, since he and Elizabeth were the only ones who knew where she was staying tonight. When she opened the door and saw Soran standing there, she instinctively slammed it shut and braced her back against the door. Her heart was racing, and she illogically hoped that he would go away, but obviously he knew she was there. After a few minutes Soran rang again, but still Amanda waited. A few more minutes passed then Amanda checked the peephole, but there he still stood, looking impassive and infuriatingly patient. "Shit!" Amanda spoke to herself. "He'll stand there all night until I answer." Taking a deep breath for courage, she straightened her shoulders and opened the door. "Soran, what are you doing here?" She was pleased at how calm her voice sounded, despite the turmoil she felt inside. Amanda covertly looked around for any signs of Sarek.

"He is not here, T'sai. I must speak with you regarding an urgent matter." Soran stepped past her into the room, then waited for her to join him.

Amanda closed her eyes while she gathered some strength. She was not really surprised he had found her, because Soran was one of those people who seemed to have endless resources. He could find out anything about anyone with apparent ease.

She turned to find him watching her intently. "Would you like something to drink?" At his negative response she continued her small talk. "How is T'Sar?"

"My wife and I are both well, Amanda. I came to speak with you about Sarek." He watched her walk past him to get herself a drink.

As she busied herself at the bar she responded quietly, "That is not a subject open for discussion, Soran. If that's why you came here, I'm sorry you wasted your time."

Soran did not budge, but found that what he had to say was more difficult than he had imagined. "Amanda, you know that Sarek is my friend, more than that, he is my k'war'ma'khon, family by choice." Amanda nodded her head affirmatively, although she still had her back to him. "I have always considered you to be a friend as well, despite recent circumstances. What I must say to you concerns something that is not spoken of aloud, even among Vulcans, unless it is unavoidable. I will be betraying Sarek's trust, his privacy, but his life depends on this."

Now he had Amanda's attention. "His life? Is he ill?" Against her will, she had to ask.

Soran sat on the couch and stared at his steepled hands while he worded his response. Amanda joined him. "Sarek is experiencing pon farr, actually he is in plak-tow, the blood fever. The healer says he only has perhaps one day to live."

Amanda gasped audibly. "You mean he never remarried, he does not have a bond-mate?"

Soran shook his head. "He does, but she is on Vulcan. She can not help him now, but you can." He looked at her imploringly.

Amanda met his gaze, and saw the desperation there. "No, Soran, I can't do anything for him. Our bond was severed, there is no link between us. I'm sorry."

Soran could see how sincere she was, and felt a surge of hope that he could convince her. "According to the healer, you can." He explained everything that Sasav had said to her.

Amanda's eyes had grown wide and her mouth gaped open. "No! No, no, no, no... I can't do that. How could you ask me to?" She jumped up to refill her drink.

Soran followed her. "You are his only chance, Amanda."

She took a long gulp of the alcohol. "No, this is not my responsibility anymore. Ask someone else, someone at the embassy. Besides, he doesn't want me anymore, he divorced me, so he'd probably refuse me now too." She knew she was babbling, but couldn't help it.

Soran was secretly pleased, because it meant that she was not indifferent to Sarek. "I do not think so. I am not sure he could refuse anyone at this point. Allow me to continue," he said when she moved to interrupt. "You are still the most logical choice. You have been through this with him before, and being Terran, you will not feel his madness through his touch. T'Liash will control the madness, you need only to allow him use of your body."

"Soran, I can't," she said firmly. "Vulcans can separate the mind from the body, but Humans can not. There would be no difference for me."

Soran turned her towards him and forced her to look into his eyes. "Then you hate him so much, that you will condemn him to death?"

"No ... but I need time to think..." Amanda began, but Soran interrupted.

"Sarek is out of time," he said quietly. "He will die, Amanda, soon, if you do not help him. Come with me now, and see for yourself."

Amanda was in the middle of a tug of war between her love for Sarek, and her hatred for him. Love, apparently, did conquer all. "Let me go get dressed."

Soran suppressed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, T'sai. Bring all your things with you. As you know, it will take several days."

"No shit," Amanda muttered as she went into the bedroom.

* * *

Soran placed her bags just outside of the door to Sarek's bedroom. They went in to find Sarek lying on the bed, trembling violently, and groaning softly.

"Why is it so painful? He wasn't like that before." Amanda was sick to see Sarek's condition.

"He has never let pon farr go unresolved before," Soran answered quietly. He, too, was unsettled by the sight of Sarek. He had never seen a Vulcan die from the fever before.

The healer came over to speak to them. "T'Liash has consented to this. Together, we have managed to calm him somewhat." He looked Amanda over quickly, then addressed her. "You do this willingly?"

She couldn't take her eyes off of Sarek. "I ... uh ... I don't know. I..."

Sasav turned to Soran. "If she is unwilling, then I suggest we warn T'Liash to shield herself, and employ tal'shaya."

"No!" Amanda gasped. "You can't kill him!"

"Amanda, it would be a much quicker and kinder death than what awaits him otherwise." Soran turned to the healer. "Give us a few moments."

Sasav looked from Sarek, to Amanda, then back to Soran. "Very well. Call me if you require my assistance." He left the three of them alone.

"Your decision is required now, Amanda," he prompted quietly.

"I'll do it," she whispered.

"Be certain, once you are committed to this--"

"I said I'll do it." She had much more conviction this time. "I can't let him die."

Sarek had risen from the bed and slowly approached them. He watched Amanda for some time, then looked at Soran. "No." His voice was raspy and could barely be heard. "Do not do this to me."

Amanda looked away. "He is refusing me?"

Soran stared at Sarek, shocked. "I do not know. I can not believe he that he is speaking now."

Soran turned to catch Amanda's eyes and was totally unprepared when Sarek suddenly lunged at him and threw him against the wall. Before Soran could react, Sarek had his hands around his friend's throat. "Why did you do this?" he roared.

Amanda was terrified at Sarek's behavior. She had always known that, as a Vulcan, he was capable of great strength, but this was the first time she had ever seen him use it aggressively. Afraid for Soran's life, she ran up and grabbed one of Sarek's arms in an attempt to pull him off. "Sarek, no! Please don't."

Sarek groaned loudly, then grabbed Amanda and crushed her to him while he quickly moved them onto the bed. She was momentarily stunned until Sarek's weight crushed her onto the hard mattress. His hands were clumsily insistent, relentless, as he attempted to gain access to her body. He was being very rough, unintentionally hurting her in his haste, and she instinctively began to fight him, although she knew she shouldn't. First, she was powerless against his greater strength; and second, she knew that fighting a Vulcan in pon farr was equal to challenging him, and would result in greater injury to herself than allowing him his passions.

When Soran heard Amanda's clothes being torn from her body, he fled the room. He only hoped that if they survived the night, he could somehow gain their forgiveness.

* * *

Be calm, stay relaxed, he can't help himself; be calm, stay relaxed, he can't help himself, Amanda began repeating this chant to herself from the first painful thrust Sarek inflicted upon her. She wasn't sure how long ago that was, a couple of hours perhaps. It was still just the beginning.

Already her body ached all over, not just in the obvious places. There were marks all over her body from where he had torn her clothes in his haste to remove them, some of the threads still remained. Her head ached from where he had pulled on her hair to stretch out across the bed, giving him better access to her. There were bruises on both her wrists where he had held them down to stop her struggles, and a wound on the base of her neck where, during his first climax, he had bit down hard.

This was so different from the other two times she had been through this with him, so much worse. Not just for her either, at least she didn't think so. From what she could tell, it didn't appear as though his symptoms were easing at all. His respirations were still too fast, and his heart, which she could feel against his side, was beating so fast she feared it would explode. He was continuously groaning, with pain, not pleasure. Sometimes he would mutter a few words, but they were mostly incoherent. He acted very upset and insecure, which was normal for him at this time, but she could not reassure him. She tried speaking to him, in both Standard and Vulcan, but it had no effect.

Suddenly Sarek stopped his movements and collapsed on top of her. "Sarek?" Amanda tried shaking his shoulder to rouse him. His breathing was still unbelievably fast and shallow, but otherwise he did not move. Oh God, he's dying! Amanda tried her best to roll him off her, but he was too heavy. She struck him hard on the face, "Sarek!"

His eyes popped open. "Aduna!" he cried out searchingly.

"Sarek, I'm here," she soothed.

He lifted himself up to look at her. He was trying to speak, but his irregular breathing made it difficult. "Aduna?"

"Yes, I'm here." She reached up to caress his face.

"Can't ... I need..." This came out as an agonized plea.

"I know. It's all right. I'm here for you, Sarek." It was so hard for her to see him like this, hurting so much.

First he was looking at her, then he started trembling violently and his eyes rolled back into his head. He once again began to move within her. Slowly his hands crept their way towards her face and once his fingers were in the correct positions, he began a link.

Soon Amanda felt the familiar presence of Sarek's mind. She could feel his desire, and his pain, and she allowed herself to become lost in it since it distracted her from her own physical discomfort. He was searching frantically, for what she did not know, but she sent him thoughts to calm and reassure him. It seemed to help, because his breathing slowed somewhat, and his thoughts became less chaotic.

I could not find you, Aduna. Why did you hide yourself from me? she heard his mind's voice speak.

No, love, I was not hiding, she thought to him.

Sarek pulled back and gazed intently into her eyes, his eyebrows frowned in concentration. "T'Liash?" he asked out loud. He doesn't even know who I am! Oh ... dear Lord ... what did I do to ever deserve this? Amanda swallowed the lump in her throat back down and willed her tears not to fall. "Yes, Sarek. It's me. Everything is fine, now."

He settled back down and deepened the mind link. Amanda once again found herself riding the tide of his desire. After a while she became aware that something was different. Sarek was totally focused on his own needs at the moment and yet she could feel some part that was elsewhere. She concentrated on tuning out Sarek's thoughts so she could focus on this other part of his mind. It took some effort, but finally she was able to reach it, and she discovered what it was.

T'Liash, Sarek's wife, was a very faint presence in his mind. She was trying to reach him, trying to calm him, but somehow couldn't seem to find him through the madness. Adun, parted from me, yet never parted. Come to me now. I am here, Sarek. Let me ease your pain.

Amanda could hear her thoughts. Could feel a part of Sarek respond to her. It was just too much. Unable to bear it anymore, Amanda used all of her strength to employ the shielding techniques Sarek had taught her over the years. Once she was safe in a cocoon of darkness, she let the tears flow.

Then Amanda became aware of Sarek shouting, he sounded furious and suddenly she was consumed by his presence as he tore through her shields. Still his voice shouted, both in her mind and in her ear, but she couldn't make out what he was saying. She felt terrible pain stabbing through her head and Sarek's presence filled her until there was no room for anything else. And still he pushed on, penetrating farther, the pain increasing in her as he went. Amanda felt herself becoming submerged in Sarek's mind. She tried to stop him, begged and pleaded with him, but he could not be detoured. With one final push, blinding pain flashed behind Amanda's eyes and she heard an agonizing scream. Her last conscious thought was to wonder who that scream had come from.

* * *

Sarek awoke to find himself nude, in his own bed in the embassy. He closed his eyes again as he checked his body's condition. He was tired, drained both physically and mentally, but otherwise unharmed. The pon farr was still upon him, but he was somewhat in control, at least until the next bout of madness. He could tell that the bed was devoid of sheets and the room held a familiar musky scent. It was obvious that he had been engaged in some strenuous sexual activity. He didn't know how long it had been, or how much more there was to come. He had no memory of what had transpired in this room. His last recollection was leaving the President's reception with Soran. Sensing that his wife was still asleep, he left her undisturbed and got up to shower.

Feeling somewhat refreshed, he decided he had better wake her so she could clean up before he needed her again. As he finished his grooming, he called her through their bond. Aduna, it is time to wake up. He neither heard nor felt any response, so he tried leaning out of the bathroom doorway to call her out loud. "Du i'she-tor, T'Laish (It is time to rise, T'Laish)." Still there was no response.

Feeling slightly impatient and a bit guilty for having worn her out so, Sarek approached the bed to physically wake her. That's when he noticed the woman in his bed wasn't T'Liash, but Amanda. Confusion and fear settled in his gut like a lead weight as he took in her appearance. There were small bruises and marks all over her pale skin, her hair was a mess, and she was wearing fragments of clothing here and there. She had obviously been thoroughly ... used. Sarek wracked his brain to try to figure out how she had come to be there. The last time he remembered seeing Amanda was when she fled the ballroom at the reception. Jonathan had gone after her, then he and Soran left. Now this. Sarek concluded that Amanda must have calmed down, found out he had left the reception, and come to the embassy to talk to him. At that point the fever must have overcome him and he forced himself on her. As he thought of what his poor t'hy'la must have endured, tears sprang to his eyes, but he managed to stop them from falling. Sarek returned to the bathroom to draw a tub of warm water, for once grateful that the Terrans who built the embassy had ignored the Vulcan custom of using only sonic showers. When he returned he found that Amanda had not moved, but her eyes were open and she regarded him cautiously. He approached the bed, knelt before her, and gently brushed some hair off her forehead. "Are you injured?" he asked softly.

She shook her head slightly. "No, just sore. I have a pretty terrible headache though. What happened?"

"I do not remember anything after the reception. I am not exactly sure how long ago that was." He began to gently remove the last of her tattered clothing. As he leaned over her to slide the remains of her bra from her shoulder he saw the deep bite mark on her neck. This time he could not stop a tear from rolling down his face as he was overpowered by guilt over what he had done. "Forgive me, t'hy'la. You should not have had to endure this."

"No, Sarek, don't. It wasn't your fault, it's the pon farr. I know that, but you really scared me this time. I think you scared Soran too. Are you okay now?"

Sarek gently picked her up and carried her into the bathroom to carefully place her in the tub of water. "What I am experiencing right now seems more ... typical to my previous experiences." He picked up a brush and began to work through the tangles in her hair. "What did you mean by what you said about Soran? Does he know that you are here?"

Amanda closed her eyes and let the water soothe her aching muscles. "Of course, he brought me here."

Sarek paused mid-stroke, "Soran brought you here ... for this? You mean he intentionally put you near me during my Time?" Attempting to control his anger at his friend, he put down the brush on the side of the tub and paced the room. "I was deep in plak-tow, he risked your life by bringing you here!"

"It's not his fault!" She grabbed his hand to stop him. "He asked me to come because there was no other choice. There wasn't time to get you to Vulcan. He didn't want you to die!"

Sarek turned his hand in hers so that they were clasped together. "Then you did this willingly?" When she nodded he asked, "and do you still stay willingly, or do you wish to leave, while there is still time?"

She paused a moment to consider her words before answering. "If you still need me, I am here for you."

He didn't answer, but instead went to a cabinet and retrieved some liniment which he applied to the bite mark. After replacing the container he resumed the task of brushing her hair. "Amanda, I must admit that I am very confused by this situation."

"I know. I don't understand it either. All I know is that they said if I could take care of the physical needs while ... she took care of the mental needs, then there was a chance you could survive this."

Sarek closed his eyes to concentrate on the bond, and Amanda could feel his thoughts brushing hers. "All I feel is you," he murmured. "T'Liash is not there."

She turned to face him directly. "Yes, she is, but you melded with me earlier so maybe that's confusing you. Or maybe you're shielding her and don't realize it."

"I know how to control my shields, Amanda!" he snapped.

"Fine, Sarek. I'm not going to argue with you, but I know she is there because I felt her shortly after you started the meld." Her voice drifted off as she realized that he had stopped listening and was staring intently at her breasts. He was breathing fairly hard again and she felt a flash of desire, his desire. "Oh..." She wondered how she would get out of the tub before he accidentally drowned her.

Sarek abruptly tossed the brush to her and stood up to walk to the door. She couldn't help but notice that he was already fully aroused. "You will have to finish this yourself. I will wait in the other room, but don't be long, Amanda. There is not much time."

* * *

When Amanda emerged from the bathroom she found that Sarek wasn't in the room, but he had apparently been quite busy. There were fresh sheets on the bed and her ruined clothing had been picked up. He had moved her bags into the room and even had her robe laid out at the bottom of the bed. Not that she'd need it much these next few days. Feeling that his tension was building, she decided to get into bed and wait for him there.

A moment later Sarek came in carrying a tray laden with food and a few other items she couldn't identify. "Wow, that was a quick trip. I didn't realize how hungry I was."

Sarek placed the tray on the night table by Amanda. "I did not get these. Someone left them for us on my desk. Soran, I expect."

Amanda grabbed some tono'pak, Vulcan berries, off the tray and popped them into her mouth. "What's in those tubes?" she asked as she chewed.

Sarek took the items in question and held one up. "This one will help any bruising and soreness you might feel." he placed it in the night table drawer, then held up the second tube. "And this one is a ... well, it helps to..." His ears flushed green. "...it's a lubricant," he finished quickly.

Amanda turned crimson. "Oh, my ... well, Soran is certainly ... uh ... thorough."

"I am certain he was concerned for your comfort." He quickly stuffed the tube under Amanda's pillow and walked around to get in on his side of the bed.

For a moment they just lay there side by side, neither one speaking, just staring at the ceiling. The silence was broken when Amanda began to giggle hysterically. Sarek turned on his side, his head braced on his hand, and regarded her questioningly. "What is it?"

Amanda had to speak between fits of laughter. "I'm sorry ... it's just that ... just that this strikes me as funny. I mean, here we've been walking around for the past twenty or thirty minutes, completely nude and not really even noticing it. Not to mention the fact that we were together for almost fifteen years, but here we are acting like a couple of virgins." She broke into another fit of giggles.

"Hmm," he said noncommittally.

"I can't even imagine how many times we've made love in all that time, and yet now..."

"Eight thousand, thirty nine," he supplied automatically.

Amanda's face grew sober. "Well, I guess it just seems a little silly for us to feel awkward with each other, that's all."

Sarek leaned over and gently cupped her face. He studied her for a moment before he seemed to come to some sort of decision. "I agree, t'hy'la," he murmured then claimed her lips in a deep and passionate embrace.

She felt it the moment desire overcame him, then overcame her, and they lost themselves to their passions. That's how it went, on and off, for the next three days. As time went on the couplings decreased and the intervals between matings increased, but still the pon farr ruled.

* * *

Amanda awoke to find Sarek had been watching her. She smiled groggily at him. "You know I hate it when you watch me sleep."

Sarek permitted himself a brief smile and nodded in acceptance of her statement.

Something was different, she could sense it both in his behavior and in what she could feel through their link. "It's over, isn't it?"

Again he didn't speak, but simply nodded. He looked as though he wanted to say something, so she waited, but when he made no motion to do so after several minutes, she excused herself to take a shower.

First she took a sonic shower to clean up, then switched the dial over for hot water to soothe her muscles and nerves. She stood with her arms braced against each wall, her head hung down to allow the water to rush past her face and down her neck. She didn't hear him come in, but suddenly Sarek's strong hands were massaging her back and shoulders. He then pulled her against his chest, and kissed his way down her neck and across her shoulders. He rubbed his hands over her breasts, pausing to gently squeeze and tug on her nipples, causing her to arch into his hands. He turned her to put her back to the wall, then bent down to gently take her lower lip between his teeth. Amanda moaned as he nipped and sucked her lip, and grabbed her buttocks to pull her against his, once again, erect body. He released her lip to take one of her breasts in his mouth. Alternately he rolled her nipple around with his tongue, then suckled her breast, remembering that it gave her great pleasure.

He was about to switch to the other breast when Amanda grabbed his face between her hands and led him back up to her. She knew he was doing this just to please her, not that he wasn't getting some enjoyment out of it as well; but Vulcans are tactile creatures and generally don't use their mouths to pleasure each other. Amanda had introduced Sarek to the art of oral gratification shortly before they married, and he always made sure to include some of it in their lovemaking. "You don't have to do this," she said quietly.

He cut off her protest with a passionate kiss. "I want to, Amanda. I could not ... I did not have time before to pleasure you. Allow me this, t'hy'la, give me one more time."

She kissed him back, and when he cupped her butt to pick her up, she wrapped both her arms and legs around him to hang on. Sarek carried her out of the shower and laid her on the bed. Both of them were still soaking wet, but it didn't matter. He covered her body with his and stretched her arms out over her head, a sign that he wanted her to submit to his ministrations. He then kissed a path from the top of her head down to her breasts, where he pleasured her some more, then moved lower.

As he knelt between her legs, he spread her wide and tentatively touched his tongue to her clitoris. Pleased by her involuntary gasp, he settled himself to set about pleasing her to completion. He alternatively licked and sucked her there, then moved down to penetrate her with his tongue, gauging his speed and intensity on her moans and gyrations. When he sensed her time was near, he gently inserted two fingers to rub against the spot that he knew intensified her climax. He continued his oral ministrations while she clenched and screamed through her orgasm. After placing a quick kiss on each inner thigh, he moved up and laid on his back beside her. Once she'd come back down to Earth, Amanda rolled over to lay her head upon his chest.

He rubbed her back while she traced lazy circles around his nipple with her finger. "I was surprised to learn that you did not return to your teaching position at Harvard, Amanda. Your current position must pay considerably less."

She was surprised that he would want to discuss anything that happened after the divorce. "It does, only about half of what I used to make, but it's not bad. I live with Elizabeth now and I like being anonymous again." She started placing tiny kisses across his chest.

"Are you and Jonathan lovers?" She stopped her movements but didn't respond. "I was just wondering how he is going to react to what has happened between us."

Amanda rolled off, putting her back to him. "That's none of your business." He followed and wrapped an arm around her waist to prevent her from leaving the bed. "Is it not? It was you who spent the past four days in my bed, not the other way around."

"To save your life!" She couldn't believe he was acting possessive, the same man who let her go just because his family requested it.

"I did not ask you to come here. You chose..."

"No, of course you didn't, you sent your crony to do it for you! God forbid anyone reject the..."

"I had nothing to do with that," he said with infuriating calm.

"Oh, forget it!" She flung his arm off her, got up, and began to dress. "I'm sorry I saved your miserable life."

Sarek got up also and put on a robe. "You know I am grateful for that," he said humbly.

Amanda had finished dressing and was stuffing the last of her belongings into her bags. "Ha!" she said to him, then muttered under her breath, "What are you doing away from your precious Vulcan wife, anyway? I thought you were supposed to be perpetuating the clan?"

Sarek heard her and automatically corrected her. "We already have one son. Waiting a few more years for the next child is of little consequence." He heard her sharp intake of breath and could tell through their link that she was deeply hurt by this news. That had not been his intention

Amanda felt as though she'd been punched in the stomach. She hadn't known he had a child, but she realized she should have surmised as much. She refused to cry in front of him, not now, so she grabbed her bags and ran out of the bedroom towards the outer door.

Just as she approached the door, it opened to reveal Soran as he entered carrying another tray of food. He jumped to the side to avoid being run over by her and turned to watch her flee down the hall, then turned back to see Sarek slowly walk over to his desk and slump into the chair. He approached and placed the tray on the desk before Sarek. "I did not mean to interrupt."

Sarek raised an eyebrow and picked a piece of fruit off the tray. "I think it is obvious that we are finished," he said sardonically.

Soran was peering at him with a discerning eye. "Are you well? No ... unusual side effects?" He walked over to activate the comm unit.

"Nothing unusual." He watched as Soran summoned the healer to come up to Sarek's rooms. "That is unnecessary."

Soran perched himself on the corner of the desk. "I assure you, it is quite necessary. Sasav must examine you." He studied Sarek a moment, then looked as though he was going to say something, but changed his mind. Instead he said, "Wait for the him. He can explain it better than I."

Before Sarek could question him, the healer entered the room. "Are you in any pain, S'hy'le? Experiencing any unusual symptoms?"

"No, I am well." He looked back and forth between the Sasav and Soran. "What is this about?"

"First, I must touch your mind, then I will try to answer your questions." Sasav placed his fingers on Sarek's face. After a moment he withdrew and turned to Soran. "He is bonded."

"This is not news," Sarek, but upon seeing the expression on Soran's face he became concerned. "I think someone should explain now."

Soran nodded, then centered his attention on Sarek. "We received word from T'Pau three days ago. T'Liash is dead, Sarek, apparently from a severed marriage bond. Selkk is being cared for by family."

Everyone was silent while they waited for Sarek to digest this information. After a pregnant pause, Sarek shook his head in denial. "Impossible. I would know if she had died. I would also be dead if the bond had been broken that abruptly. Besides, you just stated I was bonded..." Realization dawned. "...Amanda? How is that possible?"

Sasav answered. "I have never encountered a situation like this before, however, after much discussion with the Academy, we have developed a theory. First, we know that space travel interferes with the cycle in an unpredictable manner, hence your early pon farr. We believe that either because you waited too long, or because of the immense distance between the two of you, probably a combination of both, T'Liash was unable to effectively control the madness. In order to survive, you instinctively forged a deep bond with T'sai Amanda, which severed the bond with T'sai T'Liash."

Sarek was stunned. "My telepathic ability is merely adequate. I could not possibly sever a bond."

Sasav nodded thoughtfully. "Of course none of this is certain, but, as you know, during plak-tow the senses are heightened. We see better, hear and smell more, and we are more sensitive telepathically. It is possible that the more intense the plak-tow becomes, the more powerful the senses are. You were at the height of plak-tow, very near death. It is rare that anyone reaches that point and survives. Do you remember any of it?"

Sarek shook his head negatively. "So, I killed T'Liash," he said quietly.

"There was no crime committed. One is not held accountable for what occurs during pon farr," Sasav informed factually.

"It was not your fault, Sarek," Soran quickly assured him. "You were not in control; you were not even aware of what had happened. Besides, if you had not bonded with Amanda, you would now be dead."

The healer nodded slightly in assessment. "When you return to Vulcan, the Academy healers want to examine you in depth for any lasting effects. T'sai Amanda as well." He looked toward the bedroom. "Does she require any attention?"

Soran and Sarek looked at each other, silently agreeing not to discuss what had happened earlier. "No, she seemed fine."

Sasav did not detect the cryptic message. "Very well. Call me if you should need my services." He turned and left the room quickly.

Sarek closed his eyes in anguish. He had never wanted T'Liash for a wife, but he certainly hadn't wanted harm to come to her, even for Amanda -- Amanda, who was once again his wife and who quite probably despised him after this morning.

"I grieve with thee, t'hy'la," Soran spoke formally.

Sarek didn't acknowledge the sentiment. "Why her, Soran? Was there no one else who was willing?"

Soran knew he'd ask this eventually, and he'd spent the past few days trying to find a way to explain this logically, yet diplomatically. He took a deep breath as he prepared to answer. "First, there was no time to search for a woman. I had to think of someone who I was fairly certain would accept and who was someone you would accept. That immediately narrowed it down to either Amanda or one of the few unbonded females here at the embassy. Of those choices, I thought she was the most likely to comply, because during your marriage you were both very close. Also, while I was not completely sure about her, I know that your ... regard for her had not changed. In addition, with Amanda there was the advantage of knowing there would be no ... repercussions. At least we did not think there would be."

Sarek got up and walked across the room to look out the window at the flurry of Terrans scurrying about. "You mean you chose Amanda because you knew we could not conceive a child together." Soran didn't answer, but Sarek did not notice. "Logical," he said quietly.

Soran stood up from the desk. "Shall I find T'sai Amanda before she boards a transport?"

"No," Sarek stated flatly, still watching the activity on the street below.

Soran joined his friend at the window. "She will need to know what has happened." When he got no reaction out of Sarek pressed further. "I do not understand you. Despite the tragic circumstances, you now have exactly what you wanted all along. You have both Amanda and a son, but you do not seem pleased."

Sarek turned to his friend. "That is because I do not have Amanda. Just because we are bonded does not mean she is going to come home and be my wife. She is not Vulcan."

Soran could not fully understand how a woman could be your bond-mate, but not your wife. He decided not to dwell on it. "She will at least need to accompany you to Vulcan long enough to have the bond severed." He became perplexed when Sarek shook his head. "You will need a wife and a mother for Selkk."

"There is adequate time before I will need a wife. I will contact her before we leave for Vulcan, but not now."

Sarek did try to contact Amanda, and when she refused his calls he tried to see her in person, but Elizabeth told him that Amanda had gone on sabbatical. She refused to tell him where she went or how long she would be gone. So, once the negotiations were over, Sarek returned to Vulcan, alone, without ever telling Amanda of their bonding.

* * *

In the past month since her encounter with Sarek, Amanda had finally managed to find peace with herself. Learning that he and his wife had a child, as devastating as it was, finally helped her to realize that it was over. He had moved on and it was time that she did too. She felt she needed to get away, to reevaluate her life, so she took time off from work and spent a couple of weeks camping at a remote cabin that had been in her family for several generations. In the time she spent there she came to the conclusion that she had neglected herself for far too long.

The first thing she would do would be to get a new job. Looking back she realized that she had been hiding out in Pennsylvania, but no more. She wanted to be at a university again. A place where she could not only teach, but also get involved in the latest technologies and research in xeno-linguistics. There were several good universities that would enable her to do that. With her past achievements, including the development of the universal translator, she was sure she would have her pick of positions.

When she returned from her camping trip, Jonathan called to request that she come out to stay with him for awhile. Having promised herself to be open to all opportunities, she agreed and spent the remaining two weeks of her sabbatical with him. What a wonderful two weeks it was, too. Sometimes they went out on the town, but most of the time was spent in front of the fireplace in his room, talking quietly late into the night. He never pressured her, but with some gentle prodding, he managed to get her to talk about the divorce. When she cried he held her, not commenting, but just listening and letting her work through her feelings on her own. It felt so good to be held by a man again. Sometimes it was just for a little while, but sometimes it was all night. What she loved most about Jonathan was that he never made any demands of her. He asked for nothing, but was simply there waiting to accept whatever she was able to offer him. She knew it was a bit selfish of her. She was receiving much more than she was giving in this relationship, but for right now she would enjoy it. When he said he loved her, she couldn't say it back. She told him she wouldn't lie to him, but it was too soon for her to know what her true feelings were. He said he understood, and would wait until she was ready.

While she was in California, she had a meeting with the dean of Berkeley University, who happened to be an old associate from her Harvard days. He immediately offered her a position in the linguistics department and she accepted. It was just what she needed to put her career back on the fast track and it would keep her near Jon so they would have the opportunity to let their relationship develop. He was ecstatic when she told him she would be moving out there this summer.

Shortly after returning to Pennsylvania, Amanda developed flu-like symptoms. Even in the twenty-third century, modern medicines couldn't prevent every illness. It was only a mild case, but when the symptoms persisted after a week she made an appointment with her physician. It was there that she received the news she least expected. She was pregnant. Amanda was stunned and made him repeat the test, but the results were definite. She was still in a state of shock when she entered the house to find Beth sitting at the table reading the daily news vid.

Elizabeth was still engrossed in her reading when she heard Amanda walk in. "Hi there. How did the appointment go?" She looked up when Amanda sat in the chair across from her and saw her pale complexion. "What's wrong?"

Amanda let out a deep breath before answering. "Well, it turns out I'm not ill at all, I'm pregnant. About six weeks."

Elizabeth stared at her silently for a moment, then broke into a wide grin and reached across the table to squeeze Amanda's hands. "Oh, Mandy, that's wonderful! Congratulations. Six weeks? That would have been around Christmas. You never told me you and Jonathan were lovers."

Amanda shook her head in denial and crumbled into tears. "We're not."

Elizabeth got up to get her some tissues. "What do you mean? Who then?"

"Sarek," she said as she gratefully accepted the box.

"Sarek ... but how is that possible?" Elizabeth began to brew two cups of tea for them.

"Beth, I really can't go into the details. It was a big mistake, that's all."

"No, I mean biologically speaking, how is that possible?"

Amanda managed to calm herself somewhat. "Oh, I don't know. It shouldn't be. I already contacted Sakar, my physician on Vulcan. My records have already been forwarded so he can examine them. I'm leaving for Vulcan in the morning because this pregnancy will need to be monitored carefully. He is concerned that I will not be able to carry the baby to full term and they may need to do some genetic altering to make sure it stays viable."

Elizabeth placed a cup before Amanda and sat down with hers. "So, you're keeping it then?"

Amanda looked at her sister appallingly. "Of course I'm keeping it! How could you even ask me something like that?"

Beth raised her hands in the surrender position. "I'm sorry. It's just that you are finally getting your life back in order. You're starting a new job soon, and you and Jonathan are getting close. Are you sure you want this sort of complication in your life right now? It's going to be difficult, not just the pregnancy, but raising a half-Vulcan child on your own. What about Sarek? What's he going to expect from you now?"

Amanda leaned forward and looked Beth directly in the eye. "I would keep this child, regardless of who the father was, because it is my baby. And Sarek isn't going to expect anything from me because he is not going to know about the baby, at least, not if I can help it."

Elizabeth looked at the conviction on her little sister's face. "All right, if that's what you want, then I'm happy for you. What are you going to tell Jonathan?" Amanda took a deep breath as she considered the question. "The truth." She got up to leave the room, "I owe him that much at least." She left to pack her bags, then placed a call to California.

* * *

Amanda stepped off the transport into the intolerable heat of the Vulcan sun. Even when she had lived here she never managed to completely get used to the heat. She quickly went inside the transport station and turned to see Jonathan making his way toward her with some of their bags.

"Good God! I don't remember it being so hot here, although I've actually only been on this planet twice." He put the bags down and wiped his brow.

"Well, it's summer now and the middle of the day. Even the Vulcans try to avoid going outside at this time." She gave him an affectionate smile. "I still can't believe you came here with me. I don't deserve you."

He pulled her close for a hug. "Of course, you do. I'm honored that you're letting me help you through this. Okay, here's the plan. You go on over to the Academy for your appointment. I'll get us a hotel room and deliver our bags, then meet you in the academy lobby."

"Sounds good." She reached up to plant a quick kiss on his lips. "I'll see you soon."

"Good luck!" he called out to her as she walked away.

* * *

Amanda waited in Sakar's office while he finished with another patient. She had been here many times over the years and was mildly amused to see that nothing had changed since she was here last. When she first arrived at the Academy, she was examined by Sakar's assistant, who ran a series of tests on her. She'd only been in the office a few moments when Sakar walked in, acknowledged her with a brief nod, then sat at his desk and pulled out a PADD which she assumed to be her medical file.

After a quick perusal of the file's content, he focused his attention on her. "Are you having any difficulties at the present time?"

"No, not really. Just the usual symptoms; some nausea, breast tenderness and fatigue."

He nodded slightly, "If these symptoms become unbearable I can treat them, however, I prefer not to do so unless absolutely necessary. I would like to know exactly what you are experiencing with this pregnancy, so it would be best not to mask the symptoms."

"I understand. I want to do whatever is best for the baby." Amanda rubbed her brow tiredly. "Sakar, I have so many questions. First of all, do you have any idea why I finally conceived?"

Sakar made a few brief notes on her record. "At this point, Amanda, why you conceived is irrelevant. The fact remains that you are pregnant with a half-Vulcan child." He could tell by her expression that his response did not satisfy her. "However I, too, was curious when I heard of your condition. That is, until I read your medical file. Your menses resumed approximately one year after returning to Terra, correct?" At her nod he continued. "All living creatures are affected by their environment, Amanda. Vulcan is a much different environment than Terra, different light cycles, different gravity, different atmospheric pressures. It is logical that after a time this could interfere with your cycle."

When it appeared as though he had finished speaking she pushed for more. "Yes, I know, that is what my physician on Earth suggested. However, I lived on Vulcan for many years before my cycle became irregular. Why did I conceive now, but not then?"

Sakar looked at her as though she were a simpleton. "You were not on a fertility regimen then, but you are now."

Amanda was perplexed. "No, I'm not." Sakar quickly searched through her file. "You have not been taking the Prakruti your Terran healer had prescribed for you the past 3.7 years?"

"The prenatal vitamin? Yes, I asked my physician to order it from the Academy for me because it gives me a lot of energy and helps me stay focused. More so than any vitamin I've found on the market."

Sakar nodded in agreement. "We wanted your body to be as strong as possible, therefore Prakruti does contain a rich source of vitamins and minerals, but that is not all it contains. Among other things, there is a drug that gives you stronger, healthier eggs and another drug that causes you to release more eggs at ovulation than you normally would. Also, there is a buffer to raise your body's pH level, making it easier for Vulcan sperm to survive in your womb."

"Then what was the injection I came in for every month?"

"That was mainly just progesterone to help you make a thicker, richer uterine lining to encourage implantation."

Amanda shook her head disbelievingly. "I can't believe I've been taking fertility drugs all these years! I wonder why Dr. Childers never realized it and stopped them?"

Sakar ignored her second comment but responded to the first. "You must stop taking the Prakruti immediately. We will put you on Vishwajanani now. It also is a vitamin and will help to maintain the proper hormone levels to sustain pregnancy."

Amanda instinctively put her arms around her womb. "So everything looks normal? Is the baby okay?"

Sakar leaned back in his chair. "The fetus will die, Amanda, unless we are allowed to perform some subtle genetic changes immediately."

Amanda's face turned ashen. "And if you make those changes, what are the chances for survival then?"

Sakar considered this for a moment. "There has never been a Terran/Vulcan hybrid that has survived until birth, therefore there are inevitably factors that may arise which we have not considered. However, at this time, taking into account the complications we expect may arise, I estimate the fetus has a 62.47% chance of surviving full term."

Amanda reached into her bag for a handkerchief to wipe away her tears while Sakar averted his gaze. "Those aren't very good odds, are they?" She took a deep breath as she fought for control. "I'm sorry, Sakar. I'm okay now."

He continued to work on her file as he answered. "Statistics are not meant to be either good or bad, T'sai. They simply are. I understand what you mean though, they are not as favorable as they would be if your child were fully human. However, they are much more favorable compared to the chances of survival without intervention. We will do everything we can for both of you. If you are ready to proceed, I will take you to another room to begin the procedure."

Amanda stood up, "Please, let's proceed." She followed Sakar out of the room.

* * *

Three months later...

Jonathan burst through the door of their hotel room with his arms full of shopping bags and was followed by hotel staff carrying more bags.

Having heard the commotion, Amanda emerged from the bedroom, her hands automatically cradling her rounded stomach. "What's all this?" she exclaimed as Jon dismissed the hotel staff.

He smiled at her lovingly. "This, darling, is a celebration." He poured some Hirat juice into two champagne glasses and handed her one.

She took a hesitant sip, as juice still sometimes made her nauseous. "What are we celebrating?"

Jon wrapped his arms around her from behind and spread his hands across her swollen abdomen. "We're celebrating the beautiful, bouncing baby boy you're carrying, at least according to the doctor. You're halfway through this pregnancy, you're healthy, and your son is healthy. What's not to celebrate?"

Amanda kissed him gently on the lips. "So, you went out and bought all this stuff for the baby?"

He tweaked her nose playfully. "Now, sweetheart, don't be jealous," he teased. "Some of it's for you, too." He grabbed a couple of bags and started to sort through the contents. "This should be everything we need to get started. The woman in the shop assured me it was. I figure it should work at least until we get to Earth."

Amanda couldn't help but chuckle as he picked out a small outfit and laid it over her belly. "Jon, I love that you did this, but could we put this stuff in the bedroom for now? We'll go through it together later, I promise, but right now I'm expecting Sarek to arrive at any moment."

He stiffened visibly at the mention of Sarek's name, then began gathering up some of the bags. He hadn't seen Sarek since the conclusion of the Council's meetings on Earth several months ago. He had heard that Sarek returned to his retirement. "Okay. So, I guess you called him?" Jon inquired hoping that his jealously was not evident in his voice.

"No, actually, he called me. He said he just recently learned I was here and requested to meet with me to discuss some 'personal issues'."

Jonathan delivered the first load of bags and came back to collect more. "Do you think he knows?"

Amanda helped him cart the rest of the bags into the bedroom. "I'm not sure, but even if he doesn't, I've decided to tell him anyway. You were right, he's bound to find out at some point. Plus, I don't want to deny my son a relationship with his father. It wouldn't be fair to either of them. I guess I wasn't thinking clearly before."

"Well, you were angry and hurt. All that matters is that you do tell him." He hugged her comfortingly. "I think you're doing the right thing."

Someone buzzed at the door causing them both to jump. "I'll get it, Amanda. You take a moment to collect your thoughts."

Amanda took a deep breath, checked her appearance in the mirror, and fluffed her robes out from her waist. It was a futile effort. While the robes helped to hide some of her new bulk, she knew that Sarek would notice the change immediately.

When she went into the living room she found Jonathan and Sarek still standing by the door in what appeared to be an awkward silence. As soon as Sarek's eyes fell upon her, she noticed they immediately traveled down to her mid-section. When his eyes once again met hers, she was startled at how haunted they seemed, but whatever was there quickly disappeared as he exerted his control.

Jonathan softly cleared his throat. "I have some work to do, so if you'll excuse me." He walked over and took Amanda's hand. "I'll be in the other room if you need me." He kissed her quickly on the cheek and left them alone.

Amanda moved over to the bar. "Can I get you anything? Altair water, perhaps?"

"No, thank you. I would like to sit, if I may?"

"Of course, please make yourself comfortable."

Sarek removed his outer cloak and sat at one end of the couch. Amanda moved to a nearby chair, bringing a glass of water with her. She wasn't really thirsty, but wanted something to do with her hands. "So, how did you learn I was staying here?" she asked for lack of anything better to say.

"I received my quarterly health care statement two days ago and was quite ... surprised ... to see several entries for obstetrical treatments and tests. When I inquired about them, I learned they were for you. After that, it was not difficult to find out where you were staying." His eyes strayed to her abdomen. "You and the child are well?"

Amanda unconsciously rubbed her womb. "Yes, we're fine. Thank you for asking."

Sarek nodded but didn't alter his gaze. "How long before the infant is due to be born?"

Amanda blew out a breath. "I'll save you the math. You are the father of this baby, but you knew that already, didn't you?"

On the outside, Sarek's demeanor didn't change at all, but on the inside he was a mass of conflicting emotions. Joy at the prospect of having another child, anxiety over the risk to both the child and Amanda with this pregnancy, fear that Amanda will leave and he would not be a part of his child's life, and hope that perhaps this child, their child, might be enough to bring Amanda home to him. "I suspected that might be the case. It would explain why you came to Vulcan for your care. Did you intend to notify me about our child, Amanda?"

"Yes," she answered quickly. "I'm not sure when I would have done so, but I had planned to tell you." She sighed tiredly. "I'm sorry about the mix-up. I thought they would know to put it through my Terran health care plan, but I guess I didn't actually tell them to do so. I guess my old information was on the files and they used that. I'll correct it first thing in the morning."

"There is no need, Amanda. This is my child, therefore I should provide for any expenses that occur, especially here on Vulcan. Also, when you are ready to purchase supplies, for yourself as well as the child, I will pay for whatever you choose."

Amanda bowed her head slightly in acceptance. "Thank you, but Jon already bought us everything we'll need for the baby."

"I see," Sarek responded coolly. "Jonathan is not the child's father, I am."

Amanda met his gaze directly. "That's true, but Jon is a part of my life now, therefore he will be a part of the baby's life. You need to accept that."

Sarek stood up and moved to gaze out the window at the city below them. "Where do I fit in our child's life, Amanda?"

Amanda moved to stand beside him. Both were feigning interest in the scenery to cover up their discomfort. "You are his father, Sarek, nothing can change that. And I want you in his life as much as possible. The time will come when he'll need you. No matter how much I may know about Vulcans, there are some things only you will be able to teach our son."

"The child is male?" he asked quietly. At her nod, he turned to walk back to the couch. With his back to her he asked, "And you intend to raise him on Terra?"

Amanda followed him and sat back down in her chair. "That's where I live," she said dryly. "Sarek, I don't have all the answers, but we'll work something out between us. I certainly can't live here on Vulcan."

"Why not?" Sarek sat on the couch to look her directly in the eye.

Amanda returned the stare. "Because, my life is on Earth now. My family is there, my job is waiting for me there, and Jon is there. Besides, while I don't understand the attitude, I know enough about Vulcans to know that your family will not want an illegitimate child running around for all to see. A half-Human one at that." Sarek was suddenly reminded of his original purpose for coming here, to tell Amanda about their bonding. "Our child is not illegitimate, Amanda."

Amanda took a sip of her water. "Yes, it is. Illegitimate means that the parents are not married to each other."

Sarek leaned a little closer to her. "I am aware of that, Amanda. Our child is not illegitimate," he emphasized.

She shook her head in confusion. "I don't understand. What are you talking about?"

Sarek leaned back and released a small sigh. "Forgive me. I am handling this poorly. I will try to explain it. When we were together, during my Time on Terra, I bonded with you, therefore, you are my wife, and our son is not illegitimate."

Amanda laughed sadly. "We're married, huh? Well, whatever happened to your other wife? Oh, and if we're bonded, why can't I sense you in my mind at all?" she asked sarcastically.

He ignored her tone and answered her questions, although it pained him to recall T'Liash's fate. "T'Liash is dead. When I bonded with you it severed my bond with her and she did not survive it. You have not sensed me because I have been shielding myself until I could talk to you about this."

She stood up angrily. "I don't believe you," she walked a few steps away and began to pace. "I think you're making this up. You just found out about the baby and you're afraid that I'll go to Earth and you won't be able to see him. So, you're making up any excuse you can to convince me to stay."

Sarek stood up, and with his hands folded at his waist he calmly addressed her. "I do not lie, Amanda, and everything I have said can be verified. As for proof..." He slowly withdrew his shields and watched her face as she sensed his presence and realized the truth.

He could feel her anger, her hurt, and was prepared for the explosion that came forth. "How could you! I did not consent! You can't do that, it's ... that's rape!"

Sarek flinched at her use of that word. While by Vulcan law it was not rape because she had consented to assist him and a male is not held responsible for his actions during plak-tow, he personally had been experiencing a lot of guilt over what he inadvertently did, what he considered to be rape and murder. "It did not happen intentionally, Amanda."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better? How long have you known? End it! Sever the bond." Amanda absently wiped at a few tears that rolled down her cheeks.

"I can not..." he began but she cut him off.

"Yes, you can. You did it with her." Amanda's voice had gotten louder the more she lost control. Jonathan rushed out from the back room, worried about Amanda's emotional state.

"And she died, Amanda. I will not even attempt such a thing."

Jonathan tried to comfort Amanda, but she was too agitated to be held. "This has to stop now. Sarek, Amanda can't be getting upset like this. It's too stressful for the baby."

"I am not intending to upset her." He used the bond to calm her down.

Amanda whirled around and threw her glass of water at him. "Stop it! Don't touch me like that."

Sarek easily caught the missile and gently placed it on an end table. He quickly replaced his shields.

Jonathan grabbed Amanda's arm and firmly led her to the other side of the room. "Amanda, he didn't touch you. He wasn't anywhere near you."

"Here," she touched her temple, "he touched me here. Oh, Jon, do you know what he's done? He bonded with me, months ago, and he's been hiding it."

He sat her down at the desk. "Amanda, calm down. Think of what's best for your son." He stepped back to address the both of them. "It's apparent that you both have received some startling news today. I'm sure this will all be worked out, but not right now. Sarek, I think I should escort you out now."

Sarek considered refusing. He was displeased with the manner in which Jonathan was involving himself in the situation, but he had to submit to the logic of his suggestion. Negotiations can never be undertaken successfully when emotions reign free. He had certainly seen enough of that over the years as ambassador. Besides, he had no wish to cause harm to Amanda or to see her harm herself.

Without another word he grabbed his cloak and left the room to await a turbolift. As the doors opened he stepped into the car and was quickly followed by Jonathan. "Main floor," the Human told the computer and glanced circumspectly at the Vulcan beside him, who seemed to be ignoring his presence.

As the lift began its descent, he turned to address his former colleague. "Sarek, I don't want to interfere in this business between you and Amanda, but there are a couple of things I'd like to mention."

Sarek made no reply, and continued to stare at the closed turbolift doors.

"First, Amanda is under a lot of pressure right now. This pregnancy hasn't been easy and is only going to get harder. I'm asking you to please, even if you can't understand her emotions, at least be patient with them, and her. Also, she said the two of you are bonded. My understanding is that the bonding means you two are married, at least under Vulcan law."

"The bond exists, Jonathan, regardless of any law."

Well, at least he's speaking to me. That's a start, he thought to himself. "I understand that, Sarek. However, Amanda has made it quite clear that she does not want to be your wife. All I want to say is that I hope, when the time comes, you will not fight her on her decisions. You know how important having a baby is to her. I'm asking you to allow her to live her own life, to be with whomever she chooses, to live where she wants to live, and to raise her child in the manner she feels is best."

Sarek turned to face him, his hands clasped tightly at his waist. His face looked as though it was chiseled from stone, but his eyes held a strange light. "And you envision yourself helping her to raise our child, correct?"

"If she'll have me, yes." Jonathan's eyes held Sarek's gaze firmly. While Sarek could have one of the most intimidating glares he had ever seen, Jon had faced him on several occasions during debates in the Council. Of course, that was business, and this was very personal.

The lift had reached the ground floor when suddenly Sarek reached out to hold the control that prevented the doors from opening. Jonathan instinctively took a step back. "On Vulcan, when a male insinuates himself between bond-mates, even if it is not during his Time, it is considered a challenge. To resolve it they would fight and the victor would take possession of the female with no questions asked. But you are not Vulcan..."

Jon spoke up. "And neither is Amanda."

"True. However, regardless of how it is fought, this is not a challenge I intend to lose." He released the doors and exited the lift, disappearing into a crowd of patrons waiting to board the car. Had Jonathan even had a response, Sarek gave him no time to reply.

* * *

It had been a long day at the Terran embassy and the last thing Jonathan wanted when he came home was to hear the murmurs of Sarek and Amanda talking quietly in the other room. It is said that Vulcans can not lie, and while Jon had been skeptical in the past, it certainly seemed accurate this time. True to his word, Sarek did not intend to lose Amanda. In the past six weeks since they had confessed to each other, Sarek came over at least twice a week to see her, and on the days he didn't come over, he called her. They had reached an understanding, for now at least, and while Jon didn't want them fighting, he was uncomfortable with how friendly they'd become. They were still bonded, but only because Sakar advised against severing the bond while she was pregnant. He thought it would be an unnecessary stress on her, however, she still insisted that Sarek shield himself and not invade her thoughts.

Jon fixed himself a double scotch and was headed to the den when he heard Amanda's peal of laughter. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes and plastered on a smile that he did not feel as he entered the room to greet them. "Hey, you two, what'd I miss?" He leaned on the doorjamb and took in the scene. Amanda was seated on a small love seat, her feet propped on a pillow on the coffee table. Sarek sat on the front edge of a chair beside the sofa, leaning forward as he talked to her, his legs practically touching hers.

She looked up at the sound of Jon's voice. "Hi! You're really late tonight. Sarek was just keeping me company by amusing me with tales from his classes at the Academy."

He crossed the room and sat down beside her. "A politician, a teacher, and now a comedian ... is there anything he doesn't do?" He leaned over and kissed Amanda deeply while he rubbed her stomach lovingly.

Amanda was slightly embarrassed by the intimate display in front of Sarek, but realized that it was largely due to a bit of male ego and insecurity, so she let it slide. She knew that Sarek's attentions of late were more than just concern for the baby and Jon was just staking his claim before a potential rival. As she watched the two men stare at each other challengingly, she pondered on the fact that while customs and rituals vary greatly across the universe, men are pretty much the same. "Did you know, Jon, that there is no translation for the word comedian in the Modern Vulcan Language? In Traditional Vulcan -- this would be pre-Reform -- a comedian would be called mihrsh-bosh nafu'es, which means 'funny personality' in Standard. Isn't that interesting?"

He grunted in response, but wasn't really listening.

She cleared her throat softly. "Sarek has offered to take us all out to dinner tonight." She turned to address Sarek. "I know the perfect place, too."

Sarek moved his eyes to her. "Wherever you wish to dine is acceptable, Amanda."

"Actually, honey, I was hoping to have a quiet meal alone tonight," Jonathan spoke quietly, addressing her only.

"Then perhaps we should depart and leave you to your solitude?" Sarek needled him by intentionally misunderstanding his words.

"No, Sarek, I meant alone with Amanda." He turned back to her. "There is something very important I need to discuss with you."

Amanda could tell that something was really bothering Jon. For starters, he usually did not drink alcohol before dinner, and secondly, she could see in his eyes that he was deeply troubled. What it was, and why he would need to discuss it with her, she couldn't fathom. "Okay. Sarek, can we take a rain check on dinner?" She graced him with a charming smile.

"Of course, Amanda. I await your convenience." He stood up, then assisted her as she did the same. "I will bid you good night now. Sleep well, t'hy'la." He quietly left the room.

Amanda sat down on the edge of the love seat, facing Jonathan. She reached out to hold his hand. "You look worn out. Is anything wrong?"

He brought her hand to his lips then held it in his lap. "Yes ... no ... I don't know. Okay," he took a deep breath, "the thing is, I have to leave for awhile. The Urvasi have taken some ... aggressive actions against the Safiyah, despite all of our negotiations. I have been assigned to go there and try to reinstate peace. I'm hoping it will only take a couple of weeks, but that all depends on how receptive they are to what I say."

Amanda nodded her understanding. "That's okay, Jon, I realize you have your duties to perform, but I hope you realize that I can't go with you. I don't dare leave Vulcan at this stage in the pregnancy."

"Oh, no, I wouldn't ask you to go even if you weren't pregnant. It isn't safe for anyone when people are fighting back and forth like that. You never know what might happen. What I'm asking is..." he struggled to find the right words, "...is there any reason for me to come back to Vulcan?"

Amanda's jaw dropped in surprise. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Jonathan held her hand firmly between his. "Honey, I love you so much and I've tried to be patient. I'm not trying to pressure you, but I need to know how you feel. Are you still in love with Sarek? Because if you are, if being with him will make you happy, then I'll back off. I'll return to Earth when I'm done with the negotiations."

Amanda leaned forward to press her lips to his. "Don't you dare," she whispered. "You mean too much to me and I don't know what I would have done without your love and support these last few months. I'm sorry that I apparently have not made that evident to you." She sighed, "Do I love Sarek? I don't know. I care about him, and probably always will, but there can't be anything deeper between us, not anymore."

Jon stroked her cheek gently. "You don't know how glad I am to hear you say that, however, you do realize that Sarek has different ideas about your relationship, don't you?"

Amanda rolled her eyes slightly. "Yes, well, Sarek's ideas are nothing you need to worry about."

He chuckled softly. "I don't know, Amanda, that man can be pretty charming at times," he teased.

Amanda laughed and teased him back. "Oh, I know he can. Devastatingly so, when it suits him, but don't worry because I know all his tricks."

"Yeah?" At her nod he became serious again. "I have to leave in the morning."

Amanda nodded once again. "Well, then it seems foolish to me to waste any more of our time talking about Sarek."

Jonathan tried to suppress his smile as he spoke in his most Vulcan-like tone, "Logical," then quickly ducked as Amanda hit him over the head with the pillow.

* * *

Three weeks later Sarek took Selkk to see the healer for a check-up, to ensure that the child was adjusting efficiently to his mother's death, when Sakar inadvertently told him some unexpected news. He had finished examining Selkk, had melded with him to help the child wall off and cast out any remaining grief from his mind, then returned him to Sarek who was waiting in Sakar's office. "The child has done well. He has remarkable control for one so young." Both adults looked approvingly at the child standing quietly beside Sarek's chair. "Has this control developed naturally, or are you using the parental bond to assist his control?"

"I am. I thought it was best considering the great loss he has had to deal with."

Sakar studied Sarek for some time before giving a brief, but hesitant nod. "For now, however, I must caution you against doing so too often, Sarek. Children must first experience their emotions before they can learn to control them."

Sarek bowed his head slightly in acknowledgment. "I understand."

As Sakar added his notes to a PADD he absently addressed Sarek. "I am not scheduled to see T'sai Amanda for another 7.69 days. How has she been coping with her recent loss? Is she resting sufficiently?" Sarek looked at the healer quizzically and with a little alarm. "I do not understand. What loss?"

Sakar looked up from his writing. "Forgive me. It was my understanding that the two of you were in contact regularly."

"We have been, however, I have not spoken with her in 5.3 days. I have been preoccupied with end-of-term exams. What loss do you speak of?"

"Ambassador Preston. You have not heard? I find that odd considering your diplomatic associations."

Sarek suppressed his impatience. "Obviously I have not heard. Please, elaborate."

"Amanda did not go into details. I only know that Mr. Preston was away on a mission and, during some negotiations, the area was attacked. Mr. Preston was one of the many causalities. She was quite distraught. I did what I could for her here and recommended that she allow you to assist her through her grief. It is logical, since the bond does exist. Obviously, she did not take my advice."

"Obviously," Sarek muttered absently. He had known Jonathan had gone to negotiate with the Urvasi and the Safiyah, several Federation representatives had, but none from Vulcan. He was disconcerted that Amanda had not contacted him, neither to notify him of the tragedy nor to seek comfort from him.

It was several hours later before Sarek was able to clear his schedule and seek out Amanda. He had attempted to call her earlier, but she did not answer the comm-unit. It had been 5.2 minutes since he had buzzed at her door and she still had not answered but he could hear her moving around inside and was prepared to wait her out. He buzzed again and after another 1.7 minutes Amanda finally opened the door.

Her eyes were red and swollen, her hair was disheveled and it was obvious she was in great need of sleep. She leaned her head against the door. "Now is not a good time, Sarek. I'll call you later, I promise." She began to close the door, but he reached out to stop it before it latched.

She offered little resistance as he stepped inside and closed the door behind him. The room was as unkempt as she was. There were tissues and clothing strewn about, but what really caught his eye were the two suitcases sitting behind the door and one partially packed case on the chair. When his eyes returned to Amanda he found her watching him expectantly. "I heard about Jonathan. I grieve with thee."

Fresh tears welled in her eyes and she turned away to begin cleaning up the room so he couldn't see them fall. "Thank you. Now really isn't a good time, though. As you can see, I'm not prepared to entertain company."

"You do not need to entertain me, Amanda. Nor do you need to concern yourself with appearances. We have known each other too long to be so formal." He walked up behind her and gently took her by the shoulders to turn her to face him. He wiped away her tears with his strong fingers. "What do you need? What can I do to ease your pain?"

Amanda buried her face in his chest as the sobs came forth uncontrolled. Sarek held her against him, then guided her to the couch where they sat holding each other. As she released her grief against him, he stroked her hair and back comfortingly.

After several minutes she quieted and, although she spoke to him, their positions did not change. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bombard you with so much emotion just now."

"The cause was sufficient. Sakar has expressed some concern for your welfare. Have you eaten?" He rubbed her temples in a circular fashion.

"Uh-huh, I ate a little while ago," she replied drowsily.

"When did you sleep last?" he asked quietly.

Amanda sat up to revive herself somewhat. "That was a considerably longer time ago. I'm exhausted, but just can't seem to settle down for more than a few minutes at a time. Guilt probably," she said to herself.

"Explain." When she looked at him blankly he elaborated. "Why should you feel guilt?"

"Oh ... I don't think it's something we should discuss, Sarek." She fidgeted with a stray thread on her robe.

"Because it involves Jonathan?" he questioned. She didn't answer, which in itself was all the answer he needed. "I see, however, you have always said that it is important for a Human's emotional well-being to discuss what is troubling them. If so, then the logical thing to do is to discuss what is troubling you now, even though it concerns Jonathan."

Amanda shook her head no, then turned away while she fought against another onslaught of tears.

Since his current tactic didn't seem to be helping her any, Sarek decided to try a little distraction. "Where are you going?" His look indicated the opened suitcase in the chair.

Amanda grabbed a fresh tissue and dabbed the tears from her eyes. "I want to find someplace else to stay. I don't like being here alone anymore."

A plan was forming in Sarek's mind, but he knew he had to be cautious on how he presented it. "Where will you go? This hotel has the best amenities of any in the city."

She leaned her head back wearily. "I know, but I can't stay here. I was thinking of renting one of the cottages by the Academy. It would be more ... homey than any hotel room. There's one available just a couple of blocks east of the linguistics wing."

The former ambassador quickly organized his debate. "Yes, I am somewhat familiar with the area you speak of, however, those are usually rented by off-world students. It is most likely very noisy there, not at all restful which is what Sakar suggested."

"I doubt it will be that bad, Sarek," she responded drolly.

"They are very small, as well," he pressed.

She chuckled fondly. "I know. I stayed there when I was a student at the VSA. I even had two roommates to help share expenses. It was horrible! It shouldn't be too bad for one person though."

Sarek took a deep breath, then forged ahead. "Perhaps, but you will still be alone."

Amanda took a moment to study Sarek's features to detect any sign of a hidden message in his words, but his mask was firmly in place. "That's true, but that's just the way it is. There's nothing much I can do about it at this point."

There they were; the minute signs that cued her to what he was really thinking. A slight raise of the eyebrows, a new animation to his eyes before he quickly diverts them, a sharp intake of breath as he prepares to state his case. To most people it would be unnoticeable. It had taken her years to learn to read them accurately, but now she was quite certain where this conversation was headed.

"You could stay with me, at the house," he replied quietly, knowing that she would refuse, but determined to persuade her anyway.

"That would hardly be appropriate, Sarek, but thank you anyway." She reached out to pat his leg affectionately, knowing that his intentions were honorable.

"Not appropriate? I can recall several occasions before we were bonded where you invited me to stay the night at your home." He smiled briefly at her.

She smiled back. "In the guest room! And as I recall, you politely refused each time."

"There are several guest rooms at the house, as you know, Amanda. I was not implying any particular arrangement. It is a home, it is quiet, it is close to the Academy, and you would not be alone anymore. Since it meets all of your requirements, is it not a logical solution?" He waited while she considered his words.

"In that respect, yes, it is, but ... so much has changed between us and I think it would be too ... weird." She suddenly looked up at him and Sarek was taken aback to see the anger on her face. "Honestly, Sarek, what do you want? Do you think that I'll move in with you and your son and we'll all live as one big happy family?"

"There was a time, Amanda, when that was what we both wanted," he reminded her gently.

"Really? I don't recall ever wanting you to run to another to make that family." Her anger was replaced by deep hurt and she turned away to hide her pain from him.

Sarek was unsure on how to proceed. Throughout the years, on several occasions, he'd been able to use words to make peace between entire planets, and yet with Amanda words seemed to fail him. "I do not know what words would be adequate now. If you want me to say I regret having my son, I can not, but I do regret not being able to have him with you. I am sorry, Amanda. I have upset you more than you were and that was not my intention. I think, perhaps, it would be best if I leave now."

He stood up, but before he could turn away Amanda reached out to grab his hand. "Please, don't go yet." He sat back down beside her and waited while she collected herself. "I know you could never regret a child and I would not want you to. I shouldn't have brought it up like that, what's done is done, and I apologize. I feel so lost right now, so alone. If you could stay with me awhile, I could really use a friend."

Sarek reached out to wipe away a stray tear. "We were friends long before we were lovers or bond-mates. I can stay as long as you wish ... providing that you agree to at least attempt to rest." He took a pillow from the end of the couch, laid it upon his lap, and motioned for her to lie against him.

"Must everything be a negotiation with you?" she grumbled but did as he asked anyway.

Sarek resumed stroking her forehead, but after several minutes she still was not asleep. "You are restless, Amanda, what can I do to quiet you?"

Amanda smiled at him saucily as she turned over to find a more comfortable position. "Oh, I don't know, maybe you could recite one of your computer lectures from the Academy. That'll probably put me right out."

Sarek responded with mock sternness, "Behave yourself, woman, or I will leave," and was pleased to hear her chuckle in response.

He waited a while more, but when Amanda still did not sleep he used the only tool he had left. Slowly Sarek lowered the mental shields that prevented his mind from touching hers. It wasn't until the shields were completely gone and he began to reach out to her mentally that Amanda became aware of what he had done.

"Sarek," she whispered warningly.

"Quiet, t'hy'la," he soothed, "just for tonight. Does this not make you feel less alone, less lost?" He used the bond to send her comfort and calmness. Within a few short minutes her breathing deepened as she finally fell into a peaceful, dreamless slumber. Sarek laid his head back as he settled himself for a night on Amanda's couch.

* * *

Amanda waited in the ground car while Sarek came around to collect her luggage. By the time she had awakened that morning Sarek had already gotten up, cleaned the hotel suite, packed the rest of her clothes, and had a small meal delivered. They ate in silence, as was the custom on Vulcan, but as soon as they had finished Sarek resumed his campaign to convince her to move into his residence, and eventually she had agreed. At the time it had seemed like a good idea, but now all of her doubts were returning.

Sarek placed her bags beside the gate leading to the courtyard. Most of her belongings would be delivered to the house later, but there were a few things that she had wanted to bring with her. He waited a moment by the gate, but when Amanda didn't join him he went back to check on her. He opened the door and peered down at his wife. "Is there a problem?"

Amanda shrugged slightly. "Maybe it would be better if I stayed someplace else."

Sarek suppressed an impatient sigh and curtly reminded her of their bargain. "You agreed you would stay here for the time being, and if you are dissatisfied with the arrangement, then I will assist you in finding someplace more suitable." He held out his hand to assist her out of the car.

After a moment's hesitation she took it and slowly walked with him to the gate. "How are you going to explain this 'arrangement' to everyone?" She opened the gate and waited for him to go through with the luggage.

He paused before her. "Our situation is no one's concern but ours, Amanda. I have no intention of explaining it to anyone."

Amanda gave him a doubtful look. "We'll see, but you will at least need to say something to your son."

Sarek nodded and continued towards the house as he replied. "His name is Selkk and I will have to tell him something. The truth, obviously, but something appropriate for his age." He noticed that Amanda was no longer beside him, and when he turned to find her she was still just inside the gate staring dumbfounded at the courtyard to her left, where her garden used to be. He went back to her. "Forgive me, I should have told you there have been changes."

"I spent ten years working on that garden. Designing it, researching which Earth plants would grow here, finding the perfect combination of Vulcan and Terran plants to compliment each other, coaxing them to grow and blossom." She shook her head disbelievingly, "All of it is gone?"

Sarek was decidedly uncomfortable. "There was no one to care for it, not the way you did, and especially not the Terran flora."

"Sarek, I knew there would be changes, you had a new wife, a new family, I expected some changes to reflect that..." Her face took on a heart wrenching pose. "...but my garden?"

Sarek could think of nothing to say, so when Amanda started towards the house he followed her silently. When they entered the hallway, they were greeted by a young Vulcan woman. She and Sarek greeted each other politely then she turned curious eyes towards Amanda. Sarek made the introductions. "T'Lee, I am certain you remember Amanda."

The young woman saluted Amanda respectfully. "Of course. Welcome back to Vulcan, T'sai Amanda. I come to serve." She bowed slightly.

Amanda returned the greeting. T'Lee was only vaguely familiar to her. She'd met her on a few occasions, but the only thing she knew about the young woman was that she was somehow related to Sarek. Deciding to leave them to their business, Amanda moved off to look at the changes made to the other rooms.

She was studying a portrait in the living room when she felt another's presence watching her. She turned to find a sweet-looking elfin child studying her quietly. Amanda attempted to approach him, but for every step she took towards him, he backed away, so Amanda stopped where she was and bent down to his level. She instinctively smiled as she greeted him in Vulcan. "Sochya heh tor-mene, nu'ri veh (Peace and long life, young one). Tor'ri nam-koltha (Do not be frightened)."

The surprised expression that came over Selkk's face was comical and Amanda laughed despite her best efforts not to. This shocked the poor boy even more and he looked ready to flee until Sarek entered the room and placed a hand upon his shoulder to guide him closer to Amanda. "You two have met," he said, bemusedly.

Amanda straightened, rubbing the soreness out of the small of her back as she answered. "I think I scare him, which doesn't do much for my self-esteem right now." She smiled at Selkk again and he stepped behind Sarek's leg to peer around his father to look at her. "Is he shy," she asked Sarek.

He looked at his son with affection in his eyes. "Not usually, however, I believe you are the first Human he has seen in person. I suspect it is your display of emotion that has startled him."

"Aren't you worried that my living here might confuse him? Interfere with his control, or something?"

Sarek gestured to the couch so Amanda sat down and he sat beside her. Selkk stayed where he was. "I am not concerned, Amanda. I will continue to instruct him in kya'shin and he will soon realize that emotional displays are one of the ways in which Humans differ from Vulcans." He gestured to his son, "Selkk, attend." The boy calmly approached his father and waited for him to continue. "Selkk, this is Amanda. She will be living here from now on. Do you understand?" Selkk bowed slightly in acknowledgment and eyed Amanda circumspectly. "Do not be discourteous, my son. Greet T'sai Amanda properly."

Selkk raised his hand in greeting and said solemnly, "Seveh, tela'ay."

Amanda leaned towards him and replied just as seriously, "Shaya tonat, Selkk," then couldn't help but smile at his formality.

This earned her a raise of his tiny eyebrow which caused her to chuckle slightly, thereby causing the child to look worriedly towards his father.

"I'm sorry, Sarek. I must be out of practice, but I will attempt to control myself around him."

Sarek looked at her with restrained affection. "No matter. However, you do seem to be emoting more than you used to." He looked at his son, who was calmly watching their interplay, then addressed Amanda again. "I sent T'Lee home for tonight. I hope you do not mind, but I thought it would be best if the three of us had some privacy, to become accustomed to each other."

Amanda shrugged. "That's fine with me and probably a good idea. So, T'Lee takes care of Selkk now?"

Sarek nodded. "She seems satisfied with the arrangement. They both do." He stood up. "Your things have arrived from the hotel. I did not know which room you prefer, so I had everything placed in the foyer. If you will tell me your choice, I will move your belongings so you can get settled."

"Well, I don't really have a preference, Sarek, so I guess whichever room seems most convenient will be fine. While you're doing that I'll fix us some dinner." She pushed herself up off the couch and walked with him towards the doorway.

"As you wish. In that case, I will put you in the room directly across from..." he momentarily stumbled over which word to use, "...the master bedroom." As they reached the doorway and began to part, a thought suddenly occurred to him. He lightly brushed her arm to get her attention. "I just realized that you would probably want to make use of the water shower in the master washroom. If you wish to stay in our room instead, I will stay in the guest room."

"No," she said firmly, then softened her demeanor, "uh, thank you anyway, but the guest room will be fine."

Sarek nodded curtly. "Very well, but you are free to use it whenever you wish." He turned and went to retrieve her bags. Amanda had been rifling through the kitchen supplies, what there were of them anyway, for several minutes before she realized she was not alone. Selkk was standing by the door watching her with great interest. Amanda spoke to him as she continued with the meal preparations. "You guys are almost out of food, you know. Even the replicator is about empty." She looked to see that he was still watching her intently and although he offered no comment, she didn't let it deter her. "Not to worry, I have enough on hand to make some mashya balk'ra for dinner." As she searched through the cupboards she muttered to herself, "If I can find the right equipment, I can. Nothing is where it's supposed to be."

Having finally found what she needed, Amanda got their dinner started before she addressed Selkk again. She held out three table settings. "If you're going to just stand there, I'm going to put you to work. I want you to set the table." She bent down to look him straight in the eye. "And if you do a good job, you can have some of the miya-zed I'm making for desert." She was pleased to see his eyes light up eagerly. "Would you like that?"

"Ah!" he exclaimed then took the place settings from her to rush out of the room. At the doorway he paused to look back at her, then gave her a brief smile before he scampered out of the room.

Amanda shook her head bemusedly, and as she went back to her task, she couldn't help but wonder who, exactly, was winning who over here.

* * *

Sarek lay in his bed in the dark, listening to the sobs and utterances coming from Amanda's room as she was, once again, caught in a nightmare. It had been the same every night since she moved in three weeks ago. The days passed pleasantly enough, but the nights were difficult for her and for him as well. The third night it happened he went to her to offer his comfort and his help, but she declined. Every night since then he listened, and waited, to ensure that she was okay. Usually they only lasted a few minutes, then she would either settle down or get up for awhile to read in his study.

Tonight, however, it had already been 14.89 minutes and still the crying continued. He was tempted to use the bond to calm her, to take control of these errant emotions that were causing her mind to dream frightening images, but he would not. He had offered to do just that when he went to her before and she asked him not to.

Suddenly her anguish became a sharp cry of pain and Sarek shot out of bed and across the hall. He knocked quickly, but didn't wait for a reply before going in. He saw Amanda half-sitting up in bed clutching her calf. She was obviously in great pain. Sarek quickly approached and sat beside her on the bed. "A muscle cramp?" He put his hands where hers were and began to knead the taunt muscle. "Here?"

"Ah, that hurts! Oh, it's the whole leg, from my hip down to my foot." She lay back down as Sarek's fingers brought her some relief. "I'm sorry I woke you. I, uh ... ow, right there ... I was having a nightmare and I guess I tensed up too much." She sighed heavily. "That's much better, thank you."

Sarek moved to his knees and started to work the kinks out of her back. "Did you have another dream about the baby?"

"No, it wasn't about him this time." She arched her back experimentally. "I'll be so glad to get this weight off my back."

"Hmmm." He continued to massage her back and shoulders. "Tell me about your dream?"

She hesitated, then relented. "Okay, Sarek, if you're sure you want to hear it. It was weird, disjointed, as dreams are. I was totally surrounded by blackness and then Jonathan appeared. He was bathed in light, like there was a spotlight focused on him. At first he was quite far from me and was shouting something at me, but I couldn't make out his words. Then as he came closer, actually it was more like he floated closer, I realized he was repeating the same words, almost frantically. 'I love you, Mandy. You've got to believe me,' over and over again. I was confused. I couldn't understand why he was saying that, or what was wrong. Then, just as he's about to reach me some thing ... some force ... starts pulling him back. Now he's desperately reaching for me, begging me, 'please, honey, please tell me you love me.' And through all this I just stood there. I didn't say or do anything to help him ... then he was gone."

"What do you think is the significance of this dream?" Sarek rarely dreamed and did not believe that dreams held any importance, but he knew Amanda did.

She sat up and turned to face him. "He loved me so much ... unconditionally. I never said it back to him."

"Did you?" he asked quietly.

"Love him? Yeah, I did." She started to tear up again.

"I see." He sat back and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He did not look at her as he spoke. "Then why did you never tell him of your feelings?"

Amanda thought about this. "I think I was afraid of making myself vulnerable. I was afraid of believing someone loved me and being wrong again and of getting hurt. I think subconsciously I thought that as long as I didn't admit to my feelings then I couldn't be hurt by them."

"What do you mean by 'wrong again'," he asked more sharply than he had intended.

Amanda hadn't realized what she had said and now wanted to head off this argument. "Nothing, Sarek. Don't take my words so literally."

He would not be deterred. "It was a reference to me, was it not, about us? You said you were afraid of believing someone loved you and being wrong again."

She sighed impatiently, got up from bed, and crossed the room to get some space. "I can't believe you're turning this into something about us. I don't want to discuss us."

He did the same. "And I can not believe that after fifteen years of being my wife, my bond-mate, that you could possibly question my ... regard for you." He was deeply disturbed and concerned for his control, so he moved to leave and find some solitude for meditation.

"Sarek, wait." She approached him and reached out to hold his hand between hers. She could feel his hurt through the bond, for it was so great that he could not contain it completely and she could see it in the way he held himself so rigidly. "Let me explain something to you."

"Not now, Amanda." He attempted to extricate himself but she would not allow it.

"No, let me say this first. It has taken me a lot of years to learn this, to understand our relationship, but now I think I do. I realize where we went wrong, where I went wrong." When she saw that she had his attention, she continued. "I know that you care for me ... as much as any Vulcan could care for a bond-mate, and more than most do, I believe. I did not mean to imply that you misled me regarding your feelings, or anything like that." She slowly paced in front of him as she tried to find the right words. "I was so in love with you, completely devoted to you, and when you asked me to be your wife I jumped at the chance. I was so enamored with who you were, Sarek, that I didn't stop to consider what you were, a Vulcan, or how that would affect my life. The truth is, I didn't care."

She looked to see Sarek's reaction, but there was none. His eyes followed her as she paced before him, but his face betrayed nothing of his thoughts or feelings regarding her statements. With no encouragement from him, she continued awkwardly. "It wasn't easy to be your wife. I gave up my friends and family, my career, my home, and even my culture. I moved to a place where I was foreign and unwanted. I know you did everything you knew of to make me feel welcomed and happy ... and I was happy. I could never regret the years we spent together, but I made a huge error. It's really quite embarrassing considering that I minored in xenosocialology. I should have known better than to superimpose my Human values of love onto you. When Humans fall in love, we hold our mates above everyone else, including other family, except perhaps for our own children. Vulcans, on the other hand, hold the family, the clan, as the first priority. You marry for the clan, breed for the clan ... and divorce for the clan."

She continued to pace before Sarek and didn't see the flash of anger that crossed his features nor the small shake of his head. "I knew that before I married you, up here," she tapped her temple with her forefinger, "but I convinced myself that you must be different. Then to learn, after fifteen years together, that you don't feel the same way about me as I do about you ... well, it was devastating. However, I've finally come to realize over the past several months that it was wrong to blame you. You can do no more than be who and what you are, and neither can I. That is why I have also come to realize that your kind of love, a Vulcan's love, is not enough for me. I need to be number one in my mate's life. I won't settle for less." She finally looked him in the eye. "Do you understand?"

Sarek stared at his wife for several minutes. His control was rock solid, nothing in his stance or features revealed the barrage of emotions he held back. However, the Terran phrase, 'shake some sense into her,' kept coming to mind, and he didn't trust himself not to do just that if he stayed much longer. "Good night, Amanda," was all he dared to say before he left her room to go to his study for some much needed meditation.

* * *

"Sarek, there is a call for you from T'Lee. She claims it is urgent," Sarek's assistant called through the office intercom.

"Put her through." Sarek turned on his comm-unit and waited for the young woman to appear. When she did, Sarek could see that she was quite agitated. He chose not to lecture her on her control. Instead, they each gave the traditional greeting. "Is there a problem?"

"I am uncertain, sir, however I thought you would want to know that T'sai Amanda has left the grounds in one of your aircars." She cast her eyes downward. Both her words and demeanor were expressing her deep respect for Sarek's position in the clan. "I suspect she may be headed across the desert valley towards Sha'pel. With the annual rains due to fall soon, the crosswinds over the valley are quite treacherous this time of year."

"Yes, I am aware of that, as is Amanda. What makes you think she is headed to Sha'pel?"

T'Lee hesitated and bowed her head slightly. "I did not intend to intrude on her privacy, but I could not help but notice what was happening. Osu T'Pau came to the house to speak with her. I do not know what was said, but it was obvious they were arguing. After T'Pau left I saw Amanda leave the house with some of her luggage. The aircar headed west, and since the next largest city to the west is Sha'pel, it is logical to assume she was headed there."

Sarek listened with increasing anxiety. At this time it would be near impossible to navigate an aircar across the desert valley successfully. Ordinarily, Amanda would know better than to even try, but if she were distraught over something T'Pau did or said ... then it is possible she did not think it through. Even if she managed to get the aircar down successfully, there was little time before the floods would start. "How long has she been gone?"

"Approximately 10.64 lirt'k, sir."

"I see. I will follow her in my groundcar. I do not know when I will be able to return."

Sarek began, but T'Lee answered his unspoken inquiry. "I will stay with Selkk until you do."

Sarek nodded his appreciation. "Perhaps it would be wise to notify the authorities of the situation, in case she is injured."

"I will see to that, as well as notify her personal physician. Live long and prosper, S'hy'le." She ended the communiqué and Sarek began rounding up some supplies to take with him, just in case.

* * *

Sarek had been traveling parallel to the Llangon Mountains for almost an hour without any sign of Amanda's aircar. Once he began to cross the valley the winds tossed the groundcar around with quite a bit of force. He couldn't fathom how Amanda could fly an aircar in this. The sky was very dark a few kilometers ahead, and sure enough, as he approached the rains started to fall. Sarek maneuvered the car the best he could in the accumulating water flooding the valley, but knew that soon he would have to stop and find cover on higher ground. Visibility was at a minimum, but up ahead he thought he saw what he thought could be a transport. It was slow going, as the water was getting quite deep, but as he drew near he definitely recognized his aircar.

He stopped next to it and quickly ran to check inside, but Amanda was not there. Hoping she remembered enough of her survival training to know to go to higher ground, Sarek tried to drive the groundcar as far as he could up the rocky incline bordering the valley, but he couldn't go far. He collected his supplies and continued on foot up the incline towards the first of several caverns that he knew were located within the rocky spirals. Considering Amanda's gravid condition, it seemed a logical choice.

Sarek entered the cavern to look upon Amanda's startled face as she stared at him over the fire she was attempting to build.

"Are you injured," he asked and Amanda shook her head in stunned silence.

Sarek put his supplies to the side and took over the fire-building effort. He spoke not a word as he focused on his task, and on maintaining his control. His immediate relief at seeing Amanda unharmed quickly turned to anger at the foolishness of her actions. They would speak of it, for he had to know what T'Pau had said to drive her away this time, but first he would see to their comfort.

As the sky grew darker and the temperature dropped dramatically, Amanda wrapped a thermal blanket around her shoulders and began sifting through her survival kit for a suitable dinner -- for two. She found some kreila bread and various fruits and vegetables in vacuum-sealed packages. She selected some sazh and pla'savas to go along with the kreila and got out some bottled water for them to share. Once the fire was started she offered Sarek his portion which he took and sat down to eat in total silence. Amanda followed suit knowing that it was pointless to talk to him in his current mood because he probably wouldn't respond. No, she would let him come to her when he was ready. In the meantime she would go about her own business, which at the moment was trying to keep warm. She pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders and moved closer to the fire.

Sarek noticed her discomfort and got up to retrieve several more thermal blankets from his supplies. They were designed with zippers on all four sides so they could be made into larger blankets, or even sleeping bags. He zipped two of them together then approached Amanda. "Give me your blanket. I will zip them together to form a pouch. This way we can retain the most body heat."

Amanda complied willingly. "The fire isn't giving off much heat with this wind, is it?"

"Indeed, it is not. However, it should at least discourage any wild creatures form using this cave for shelter from the storm." He glanced at her with an amused expression. "That is desirable, is it not?"

She smiled at his teasing. "Yes, I would say so, especially since I don't think this sleeping bag will be large enough for the both of us and a le'matya."

"Agreed." He laid the blankets down then moved the supplies closer before climbing in beside Amanda. After a few moments they were both comfortably warm. They were silent for quite awhile as they listened to the storm rage around them outside.

"Do you think it will last for long," she asked quietly.

"I can not say. If we are fortunate, the rains will stop and the valley will be passable by this time tomorrow. However, it is not uncommon for the annual rains to last for several days."

She sighed dejectedly. "I should have checked the weather advisory before leaving."

"That would have been wise," he responded drily.

Amanda swallowed her angry retort. "Why are you here, anyway? How did you know where I'd gone?"

"T'Lee notified me that T'Pau had a confrontation with you and that you had headed in this direction. She is aware of the conditions at this time of year and was concerned for your safety." He turned onto his side to face her. "I wish to know what occurred with T'Pau today."

Amanda stared at the ceiling. "You didn't need to follow me here to learn about that. You could have stayed home, where it's warm and dry, and asked T'Pau what happened earlier."

"I am asking you." He waited expectantly.

Amanda turned on her side to face him. "All right. T'Pau came over to inform me, well to inform you actually, that she and the clan elders have decided that I, as a Human, am unfit to raise a Vulcan child, or even a half-Vulcan child. Therefore, they decided it is in the best interest of the clan to place both children into the care of a pure Vulcan couple, family of course, for the duration of their formative years. Are you satisfied now?"

Sarek was silent for several minutes before he slowly responded. "That will not happen, Amanda."

"That's right, it won't. I'm not going to let it. That's why I left ShiKahr. That's why I'm leaving Vulcan. I'm getting away from her influence." She lay back down tiredly.

"It is too risky. You are due to give birth in approximately twenty two days."

"I know, but Sakar says the baby is healthy. I won't let her take him from me," she said with a mother's conviction. Having nothing further to say, she turned her back to him and tried to get some rest.

* * *

It was several hours later when Amanda was awakened abruptly by a loud boom. She jumped up and saw Sarek sitting by the edge of the cavern watching the thunder and lightening storm raging outside. She crawled over to sit beside him. "Oh, wow. I've never seen a thunder storm on Vulcan before!"

"It is rare, but they do occur. It has been approximately thirty-eight point six years since the last occurrence. Almost seventy-four point nine years since I have been on Vulcan to see it."

She watched the concealed excitement on his face as the lightening lit up the sky between cracks of thunder. "It's really violent out there. How long have you been watching?"

Sarek didn't take his eyes off the show before him. "Since it began, approximately twelve point four minutes ago."

She leaned against him and laid her head on his arm as they both contentedly watched the natural spectacle before them. Shortly thereafter Sarek heard Amanda gasp softly and rub her stomach. At his questioning glance she smiled reassuringly. "I guess the baby doesn't like storms. He's been jumping around and it's causing some cramping." She settled back down, but a few minutes later crawled away complaining of some dizziness and nausea, probably due to the lightening, and got back under the blankets to rest.

A few hours later the storm was still raging when Sarek moved from his vigil to tend to the fire. Once rebuilt, Sarek stayed nearby to soak in its warmth. He shifted himself to the lotus position to attempt some meditation. He felt quite serene being in the cavern where it was quiet and peaceful, while all around him nature was loud and violent. He had attained a light meditative state, so he was quite startled when Amanda suddenly cried out and sat up clutching her abdomen. After a moment her pain seemed to subside, but her eyes were fearful.

"Sarek," she whispered urgently, "I think my water just broke."

Sarek heard her words, but it took a moment for him to comprehend them. "Labor has begun," he murmured to himself as he tried to form a logical plan of action. First, he unzipped the four blankets and put two aside to keep them dry so that Amanda would be kept warm after the birthing. Next, he searched through their supplies for anything that might be useful. There was very little.

Amanda struggled through another contraction. Already they were only a few minutes apart and very strong. That baby was coming fast! As she lay there catching her breath, Sarek came over to sit beside her. In his hand he held a portable comm-unit. "Is help coming?"

He shook his head grimly. "The storm is preventing our signal from reaching anyone. We can not leave. The groundcar is useless in the floods and the winds make it too dangerous to attempt using the aircar."

Amanda reached out to grasp his hand. He squeezed back reassuringly. "It's too early, Sarek. What if something goes wrong? What if the baby needs medical attention? What are we going to do?"

"Amanda, if there were anything I could do, I would do it. We will just have to do the best we can under the circumstances." He waited while she worked through another contraction. Her pain was so intense he could sense it even without opening their bond. "I can help you manage your pain, if you will let me. It may also help you to know that T'Lee will have already contacted the authorities. As soon as it is safe, someone will come looking for us."

"Yes, but how long will that take, Sarek, and will it be soon enough?"

She was looking to him for the answers, but he had none to give.

* * *

Amanda awoke to find herself in a bed, a real bed, which was confusing because her last memory was of being in the cavern with Sarek and he was between her legs encouraging her to push. She had to remember what had happened to her baby, but she couldn't seem to focus. Apparently she had been drugged.

Amanda heard a door open then the hazy image of an unfamiliar Vulcan woman filled her view. The woman checked her over for a moment, then administered a hypo to her arm. "This will counteract the sedative so you may function on your own now," the healer told her before resuming her examination.

Slowly the fog seemed to lift from Amanda's mind. Her senses were returning, and along with it her pain and discomfort, but it was better than the numbness the drug had induced. "Where's my baby?" she asked, still a bit groggy.

The healer glanced at her coolly and at first Amanda thought she was going to ignore her, but then the woman curtly replied, "The child is with his father."

Amanda sighed impatiently. "Well then, where is Sarek? Tell him I want to see him."

The healer obviously objected to taking orders from a Human. "Sarek is being kept apprized of your condition. If he chooses to see you, I am certain he will do so after his business with T'Pau is completed." With that she left the room without waiting for Amanda's response.

Amanda laid her head back upon the pillow and closed her eyes in despair. She was afraid she knew exactly what 'business' Sarek and T'Pau were discussing.

* * *

It was just a short time later when Amanda heard her door open again. This time her vision was much clearer and it was Sarek she saw crossing the room towards her. He wore a soft smile on his face, but he was alone. "Where is my baby?" Amanda demanded, causing his smile to disappear.

"T'Lee has him at the moment, Amanda. He will be here momentarily." He sat on the bed beside her. "The healer says you are recovering well."

Amanda emitted an unladylike snort. "I couldn't say. I can't remember much of what happened out there. Where are we, anyway?"

Sarek raised an eyebrow. "We are home, Amanda, in ShiKahr. We have been here for two days." At her questioning look he elaborated. "You delivered our son with little difficulty. Afterward, however, there was a great deal of blood loss and you lost consciousness. I did not know what to do, so I tried to use our bond to control your blood flow. It was not particularly effective, but helped enough to keep you alive until the storm dissipated enough to allow us to be beamed to the Vulcan Science Academy. Sakar recommended blood transfusions and rest, and the best way to ensure you received both was to keep you sedated for a while. You were brought here only this morning."

Amanda again tried to remember any of this, but was completely blank. "You saved my life then. Thank you."

Sarek shook his head in negation. "It was the logical thing to do, Amanda. A child needs his mother."

Before Amanda could respond there was a soft knock at the door then T'Lee came in carrying a wiggling little bundle. She handed the infant to his mother. "He is hungry, but I assumed that you would want to perform that duty, now that you are able to."

Amanda took him from her gratefully. "Oh, yes, definitely. I've waited a long time for this."

Amanda was absorbed in feeding her son, and Sarek was absorbed in watching Amanda, so T'Lee quietly left the room to give the family some privacy. After thoroughly checking him over, Amanda looked up at Sarek, tears of joy wetted her eyes. "He's beautiful, Sarek. Absolutely perfect."

"I agree, he is striking to look upon." He looked at Amanda with such tenderness that she had to look away to keep her own composure. It was at this point that she finally took note of her surroundings and realized where she was. She was in the master bedroom, their bedroom, and she was surrounded by all of her things she left behind so long ago. She couldn't believe he had kept it, everything was just as it was when she left him. There was no reason she could think of for him to do so, no logical reason at any rate.

The baby had finished eating and had fallen back asleep, so Amanda just enjoyed holding him close as she and Sarek continued their discussion. "T'Pau wants to take him from me, doesn't she? That's what you two met about this morning, isn't it?"

If Sarek was surprised she knew about his meeting, he didn't show it. "Yes, Amanda, that is what she wants."

Amanda couldn't stop the tears from flowing. "No, Sarek. Don't let her take him from me. There must be something we can do to stop her. Please, help me leave Vulcan with him. You can see him whenever you want, I promise."

Sarek stopped her pleading by pressing his fingers to her lips. "No, T'Pau does not have that power. No one does. The elders can make suggestions, or requests, and use their influence to pressure us to do what they want, but without my permission they can not remove our children from our home."

Amanda thought about this for a moment. "But their influence is great, Sarek. They could threaten to cut you off from the funds you receive from the House of Surak. They could banish you from the House altogether, take your clan from you."

Sarek nodded, "Yes they can, and they did, but I refused to let them take my sons."

Amanda was quite speechless. Sarek had never refused the elders before that she knew of. "Well, maybe once I'm gone, once they know that I won't be around to influence Selkk, they will reconsider. What will you do without your House?"

Sarek shrugged slightly. "I do not know, I did not consider that when I refused to obey their wishes. However, it is relevant, Amanda. After they realized I could not be influenced by threats, they decided that having Human influence on a few of the clan was not worth disrupting the entire clan, which could happen if they start banishing anyone who does not live by their particular standards."

Amanda was slack jawed. "You're kidding? T'Pau backed down? Has that ever happened before?"

"Not that I can recall. But if word gets out about what happened here, she may need to do so more often in the future. I suspect that is why they offered me the position of Ambassador to Earth again." He raised his eyebrow in slight amusement.

Amanda chuckled. "Why? To get you off this planet so you can't tell?" Sarek didn't answer, but she could tell by his look that that was exactly what he was thinking. "So, what did you say?"

Sarek's mood grew somber. "I accepted. If you are determined to raise our son on Terra, then it will give me the most opportunity to see him, and you."

Amanda considered his words and what he had done for her, as she looked around the room at all her treasured belongings. Then she looked down at the tiny face of her son, which so much resembled the face of the man sitting before her. "Oh, I don't know, Sarek. If you can convince T'Pau to change her mind, then there's probably nothing you can't do ... if you're motivated enough."

Sarek's eyes locked with hers and he sought to ensure the meaning of her words. He smiled at her challenge. "I believe I have all the motivation I need right here, Amanda." He held out his hand to her, two fingers extended, and she returned the embrace. Both adults sighed with contentment as Sarek finally opened their bond completely. Unnoticed by them, the infant between them smiled happily in his sleep.

THE END

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