Amanda met Margaret Kapoor when she went to Stanford. They roomed together in an apartment off both of their campuses: Margaret was in the medical program, and Amanda was in the education program.
Amanda had been shell-shocked by the amount of persistent, unyieldingly cheerful sunshine in the way that only a native of Seattle could be, and Maggie had laughed at her as only a resident of New Delhi could.
They'd gone to school together as the young 16 year old girls in both of their programs, gone on to achieve doctorates and distinctions, and Amanda could never quite shake her.
She's regretting it now, as she sits, unpacked at the Earth Embassy on Vulcan, curled in a window seat and reading while looking out on Vulcan's barren, quiet landscape. Even the planet, she reflects, turning a page, has a certain gravitas.
"Amanda! Amanda!" Maggie shrieks as she tumbles into the room. Amanda sighs.
"Could you at least pretend to be a merit scholar and not twelve?" she asks plaintively, wondering how many times she's asked the same thing and been thoroughly disappointed. Amanda, however, is an eternal optimist.
"I was never allowed to be twelve when I was twelve, I'm making up for it now," Maggie says virtuously.
"Do you know that all doctors say that?" Amanda asks, sitting on the bed.
"I never had a wild youth, I was too busy studying."
"Yes, well, neither did I."
"It doesn't count, you were never going to be anything but perfectly reasonable and atrociously maternal."
"That's very kind," Amanda says very dryly.
"You know what I mean. And I'm only saying, I didn't think Vulcans were supposed to be hot."
"Vulcan internal temperature is a fair ten or fifteen degrees higher than- "
"That's not what I meant, and you know it."
Amanda puts down the book she's trying, and, apparently, doomed to fail at reading. "Margaret."
"Don't look at me like that. I've been stuck in conferences all day and now our esteemed hosts are throwing a party."
Amanda tilts her head. "And what would a Vulcan party look like, do you suppose?"
"I don't know, which is why you have to come. It's your duty as a scholar."
"I'm have a doctorate in education and a masters in history, Maggie, hardly a scholar."
"Lies," Maggie denounces cheerfully, grabbing her hand. "I think you'd look good in grey, don't you? You can borrow mine so you don't look like a great Puritan prude."
"That's charming, Margaret, thank you." The book lays forgotten on the windowsill.
"Why are they having a party of any kind?"
"To acknowledge the varying cultures and to provide a highly logical avenue in which to socialize," Maggie says. "Or so I'd imagine. Not being Vulcan makes it a bit hard to say."
The open reception hall is full of people- academics- in glittering finery. Maggie is already laughing at a few people who have been poured into their outfits, but she goes after whomever looks to be a good-time with single-minded determination.
Amanda speaks with Dean Mi'si, of Xkuk University, before he turns to a man walking by and says, "Ah, Ambassador Sarek, this is Doctor Amanda Grayson, my esteemed colleague."
"Doctor Grayson," he says.
"Ambassador." It's interesting, she thinks, that they don't say "nice to meet you" or "a pleasure to make your acquaintance." It's… refreshing, actually.
Mi'si toddles off to go pursue new conversation, and she shakes her head after him, standing next to the ambassador for a moment as the dancing commences. She can see Vulcans dancing, which surprises her, and prompts her to ask; "Would you like to dance?"
"I do not dance," he replies gravely.
"Do not or will not?" She can't help the smile, because he says it so heavily, even for the Vulcans in her acquaintance.
"I do not know the dance."
"I can teach you."
"No, that will not be necessary."
"Dancing is never necessary, Ambassador. Merely a frivolity," she says, and smiles because the music is happy and swelling and people are laughing brightly and there is so much joy to be had that- that it hardly seems a rejection, not really, and she laughs a little as she slips away to find Maggie, whose dark skin is flushed high with color as her black eyes snap with amusement.
"What were you talking about with the Ambassador?" she asks over the sound of the music, pulling her way a bit and snagging a flute of white wine as she passes it.
"The merits of dance."
"He's watching you," Maggie says, glancing over under her lashes. "And he? Is a hot Vulcan."
"I don't know why he would," she replies, shaking her head, touching her bun idly. "You said there were doctors from Earth Outpost II?"
"Lonely doctors who are light on their feet and eager to dance."
"No one talks like that, Maggie."
"I'm feeling very Austen, tonight."
"Maggie, if you cast a Vulcan as Darcy- "
"Don't lie, then you can be Elizabeth. Oh, Miss Bennet!" she dissolves into laughter, and Amanda turns her face into her hand and laughs helplessly, because Maggie is absurd, and this whole conference is about being on one's best behavior, but maybe for this one night of indulgent gaiety they can be all right.
"Doctor Grayson? I have a message for you." A Vulcan hands her a piece of paper, and she unfolds it, Maggie peering over her shoulder.
Amanda- parents in hospital, don't worry, call when you get this.
"Where is the nearest comm?" she asks, feeling as though all the music in the room has been shut off and she is standing on a precipice, about to tumble into a black hole.
"I will show you," Ambassador Sarek says, putting a hand on her elbow and guiding her into a hall, down into a study that seems very subdued.
"Yes, this is Amanda Grayson, I got a message from the hospital- well, a neighbor, um, Xin Li. My parents- I'm off-world, I'm on Vulcan- "
"Ms. Grayson, this is Doctor Emmanuel at Boston General. Your parents have been in an accident. The shuttle they were in to get back from Paris to Seattle crashed. Your father is in stable condition in the ICU, but your mother is undergoing surgery again. Is there any way you can get back?"
"I- it'll take me at least six days to get there," she says, sitting in the surprisingly comfortable chair.
"Then I suggest you board it now. We'll keep in touch, but as you know communication at warp speed can be suspect if you are not Starfleet."
"I understand, thank you." The communication beeps its disconnection, and she inhales shakily, exhales hard, and runs her fingers over her lips as she stares into middle distance.
"I offer my own cruiser," Ambassador Sarek says, startling her into remembering his presence, which she immediately feels guilty for. "It can be ready in thirty minutes. At warp 8 we will be at Earth in 136.976 hours."
She looks at him blankly. "I majored in history and education and minored in literature."
"5.7 days, approximately."
"I- thank you."
"It will be no trouble."
It is fifteen-crew cruiser, and later she will be impressed by that when she isn't sitting on one of the beds in the too-warm cabin, trying not to "what if" them to death.
Five days pass in which she attempts, very arduously, not to think about it. She reads constantly, eats when she thinks to, and sleeps.
She sleeps the most, because every time she opens her eyes they are that much closer to Earth.
That much closer to her parents.
"I'm coming," she whispers. "Hold on, I'm coming."
An eternity later, Sarek (she's not sure when she's dropped "Ambassador", but she has, and honestly, the man is taking her in his own private cruiser to see her parents and essentially ditching a state function- there is no need to stand on ceremony in her mind) knocks lightly, and informs her that they have arrived in San Francisco and he has commissioned a shuttle to take them to Boston.
He takes her elbow to guide her down the steps, and she is grateful, because at some point in the past week she's gone from being competent to being a nervous wreck.
The two and a half hours it takes them to get to Boston are the longest of her life, and she's fairly close she's hyperventilating as they walk through reception, and are directed towards the surgical/intensive care wing.
Sarek takes measured steps, and she matches hers to them, and breathes in and out every time she puts her left foot forward- a trick she used when she was going to exams to calm down.
She stops at the receptionist's desk- a heavy forty-something year-old woman with a heavy brow and the look of someone terminally bored and unimpressed with the world in general. Amanda supposes that must be some sort of job requirement for receptionists, regardless of culture or planet.
"Amanda Grayson, I'm here to see my parents- Trevor and Jenna Grayson? Doctor Emmanuel is expecting me, since it is my shuttle just got in I've been on Vulcan and then had to take the shuttle from San Francisco and- "
"Okay… Grayson, Grayson."
Amanda taps on the top of the counter as the nurse scans her files, chewing the inside of her lip.
"I'm sorry, do you have any form of picture identification on you?" the nurse- Madison Greenley- asks.
"I- no. I came from a conference on Vulcan- those are my parents- " And now, now, she's crying, and she wipes them away furiously, mad at this stupid, stupid woman for keeping her from her parents and-
"I am Ambassador Sarek, of the Vulcan Embassy. My information should be in your files and easily verified," he says, and she didn't realize he was there- why is he here? "I will vouch for Ms. Grayson, as it is partially my fault that her information is on Vulcan, as it is my shuttle which she has taken here."
The nurse frowns, but apparently there's some ambassador-secret-code because she gives him an exasperated look, but nods.
"Thank you," Amanda whispers, putting her hand on his arm and squeezing. "Thank you, Sarek."
"Ms. Grayson, won't you come this way?" Dr. Emmanuel looks too grim for it to be good news, and a small sob wrenches from her throat before she nods, letting her hand fall from his arm as she walks towards Dr. Emmanuel in her stupid high heels.
"Please, have a seat."
She does, clutching the arms.
"Your mother died within the first forty-eight hours she was in our care. When the shuttle overloaded, she was directly in the line of damage and, unfortunately, what with the retrieval and the journey here… I'm afraid she spent her entire stay in a medically-induced coma. We suspect that she was not in any pain, having lost consciousness at the initial blow." Dr. Emmanuel folds her hands together and presses them to her desk. "Your father, however, only died within the last twenty-four hours. He died of heart-failure; it is my opinion that the stress of the crash compounded with his high blood-pressure and the surgeries were simply too much, and his heart gave out."
"Was he in a lot of pain?" That seems important, somehow.
"I'm afraid so. Both physically and emotionally- he knew of your mother's passing, and so- "
"Passing, she didn't pass anything, you pass a kidney stone. She died. Please use the correct wording."
"…Very well. He knew she…died, and took it as hard as you might expect. If there is no will to live, patients often don't make it, despite our best efforts."
The muscles in her neck and back are tight, and her vision has gone blurry, her nose full and stinging as she presses her fingers, and then the backs of them, and then the fronts again to her mouth, nipping at the pads to try to regulate her breathing, which has become impossible to bear.
"Would you like a cup of water?"
"No. No. Thank you, I'm sorry. I'm fine. Um.. Are their bodies here or- "
"They've been sent to the funeral home specified in their wills in Seattle, Washington," Dr. Emmanuel says gently. "The curator there is waiting for your instruction."
"Thank you, Dr. Emmanuel," she says, smiling a little and wiping her eyes, cheeks, and neck.
"I'm so sorry for your loss."
She nods, and steps out of the office.
Sarek stands from his seat on the bench in the hallway, dark eyes impassive, but she thinks- there is concern in the shape of his eyes; the tightness around them.
"My parents are dead," she says, and her mouth twists, and she stays quiet until she can speak again without sobbing. "I have to go back to Seattle- please extend my apologies for my hasty departure from the conference, but I need to organize a funeral and… and go through all of their things, and…"
"I understand. I will take you to Seattle, and then I must return to San Francisco."
He comes to the funeral, which is, naturally, on a rainy day, because Seattle is always blanketed in rain.
She is standing there, surrounded by her parents' colleagues and some friends. Maggie couldn't make it- even if they pushed warp 9 she wouldn't have been back in time, and so when Amanda comes out of the funeral home and into the cemetery and sees a tall figure quietly standing among the trees.
There is something very… reassuring about his presence.
He's not there, she knows, to pay false respects or because he's standing on some strange concept of propriety.
Genuine. The word she wants to describe his presence is genuine.
And so she stands beside him as the coffins are lowered into the ground, and tries very hard not to fly apart at the seams.
"So, what did you think?" she asks, sitting in her parents apartment and sorting through their books. He is standing by the window, watching the rain fall.
"Earth mourning customs. That is your role, to understand Earth better as Vulcan's ambassador, isn't it?"
"I suppose that is true."
"What did you think?"
"I confess to not understanding the grief displayed: it appeared to be directly inversely proportionate to the degree to which the individual was known to the deceased."
She laughs, then- it's surprised out of her, and once she begins she can't stop, hunching over. "I'm sorry. Go on, I'm curious."
"Is this part of the grieving process?"
She blinks, wiping her eyes. "I suppose. I am trying to think of other things. This house- I grew up here. Learned to read with these books, ate at that table…you're a welcome distraction, and whether you know it or not, by agreeing to come back here you also agreed to be that distraction."
She smiles, faintly, then, because he doesn't, not really. "I think people who don't feel grief as keenly because they don't know the deceased as well feel the need to express it lest they be found wanting," she says. "Everyone knew I was grieving- but I also am hostess of the event, and so I wasn't allowed to cry. I didn't have to prove how sad I was, but… others might have to validate their presence there."
"Thank you for explaining."
"I could hire someone to do this," she says flatly, scrubbing her face. "I could tell the landlord to just chuck it all."
"'Chuck it'?" he repeats, and it's hilarious, really, to hear him say it like that.
"Throw it away."
"Fascinating: you state that you have an emotional attachment to the items within the apartment and yet you appear relieved at the prospect of purging it all."
"Thus purging your emotions."
"Thus ending the immediate pain," she corrects, frowning just a little as she thinks it over. "Yes. Purging the painful emotions."
He sits on the couch, straight-backed and lacing his fingers, watching her with intent eyes, and she moves from the floor with a wince to sit beside him.
"Thank you for coming, today. For everything. You didn't have to, and I- I'm grateful." She puts her hand on his arm again, and he looks down at it, at her small pale hand on the neutral layers of his jacket sleeve. Vulcans wear so many clothes, she thinks distractedly.
"You are welcome," he says, and she smiles slightly because she thinks that it's a Terranism he's trying out.
It's very quiet in the apartment: too quiet. Mom always had music on, and Dad would flip on a holovid and they'd argue and laugh and just talk, all the time, about everything.
Even the rain sounds muted on the window, and she leans her head against his shoulder, suddenly tired. "Is it illogical to grieve?" she asks, sounding small even to her own ears. She's 25, not a child, and yet she feels like an orphan.
"No," he says simply, and shifts just enough so she is under his arm, pressed against his side; protective. She has the silly thought that if she stays here, just like this, the world can't get in, and she'll be fine.
She leans up and kisses him, just a brief press of lips, before curling back down against his side, and closing her eyes.
When she wakes up, she's alone in the quiet apartment, and Sarek is gone.
She looks around, exhales, and puts in a call to her Dean- she needs a sabbatical. Maybe Maggie's right; maybe they've been going since they were young and they never had time to learn how to pick themselves up when they fell.
Well. She thinks her parents dying is an adequate excuse.
Being on sabbatical apparently means she gets to attend fundraisers and awards- which is joy unparalleled for an academic.
Except for how it's not.
So now she's here, at a stupid award that she's not even up for, sipping orange juice and attempting to avoid handsy senators.
"Don't look," Maggie says abruptly, and so of course Amanda looks.
Sarek is standing across the park, and Amanda flushes slightly.
"What exactly happened?" Maggie demands, grabbing her arm and pulling her aside, putting down her champagne flute. "I mean, obviously you were distressed, but I ask for you and they tell me Ambassador Sarek has whisked you away in his private cruiser, and then I hear from Dr. Andrews in the Lit department that he was at the funeral, and now you can't even look him in the eye and you're blushing? Amanda, tell me this is not a resurgence of the white knight fetish."
"I don't have a white knight fetish," Amanda protests, and goes even redder, and damns Maggie to hell.
"Oh my god, you want to fuck him?" Maggie almost shrieks, and Amanda slams her hand over her mouth- it's too late, people are already looking at them. That is because of the rule that anyone who shrieks "fuck" or a variation thereof in a crowded place automatically gives up any illusion of privacy for themselves and whomever is associated with them. No really, it's in the urban dictionary.
"Come here!" she snaps, hauling her into an empty room in the governor's mansion. "No, obviously, because Vulcan sex has to be very boring- "
"You've thought about it to the degree that you know it would be boring," Maggie points out, gleeful. "Plus, you're the one who volunteered that whole "white knight" thing, and yes, Amanda, you have a thing for the white knights."
"I do not!"
"He was not- "
Amanda frowns…it's possible she's right. "White knights don't really exist, as evidenced by the list," she points out. "I've learned my lesson. Besides, he's Vulcan, here to study and observe us."
"I hate you so much."
"You kissed him, didn't you?"
"It was a heat-of-the…post-funereal moment."
"Don't call me that."
"You want Vulcan sex. What if it's amazing?"
"Oh god, shut up."
"What if it's huge?" Maggie takes a moment to be staggered by the possibilities of that, wetting her lips unconsciously. Slut.
"I cannot believe you won't shut up!" Amanda laughs, dragging her back out to the reception. There are many, many very attractive young men there (which Maggie is supportive and points out cheerfully, even pulling introductions), and all she can do is watch Sarek as he talks gravely with the governor of California.
At nine she decides it's pathetic, and goes out into the governor's mansion's gardens, immaculately groomed shrubbery and flowers- Maggie's found a senator and is making very bad life choices, and Amanda is determined not to care.
She jumps, turning to look at him. "Sarek- I mean, Ambassador."
"I do not think it necessary to stand upon ceremony," he says. "Amanda."
"Did you enjoy your conversation?" And yes, this is the inane part of the conversation, and in about an hour she's going to kick herself. Or five minutes. Whichever.
"I found it informative."
"Your conversation with…Governor Keyes?" she says dubiously, raising her eyebrows at him and pulling her hair over her shoulder.
"From a cultural observer's point of view," he clarifies, and she laughs, because yes, that.
"He's a moron," she says. "Californians elect morons, but then I suppose we all elect morons, because they're the only ones stupid enough to run. Of course, this might be why I am not a political scientist."
"It is jaded," he concedes.
"It's a national past-time, to be jaded about politics. It's how we know the system's working."
"It seems illogical and inefficient."
"Your tone suggests satisfaction at odds with what you have just told me."
"That," she says brightly, linking her arm with his and walking down the path, "is because we as a species have always delighted in being contradictory."
They stumble upon an amorous couple, and she flushes and hastily changes direction, and wonders what you say in the wake of that other than "his knees are going to be so sore tomorrow."
Sarek bites the bullet, which surprises her. "This penchant for exhibitionism, is that universal or specific to individuals?"
She stops and stares at him, trying to formulate an appropriate response to that. "I'm very concerned by what that question implies."
He looks at her, and she suddenly feels very bare in her little black dress, remembering the women of Vulcan in their corseted gowns and elegant veils.
When he kisses her, and he does- he kisses her this time- she tilts her head up to receive it, her pulse racing so loudly it seems impossible that he can't hear it.
His lips are hot, and his hand big as it cups her neck under her ear, thumb resting on her cheek and his fingers in the hair at the nape of her neck.
It is, she realizes dazedly, a kiss borne of observation, but not experience. She wonders how Vulcans kiss, if not like this: if they kiss at all. So she tilts his jaw slightly, adjusting their angle and sliding her tongue over his lips, darting inside when he opens for her, tasting the shocking heat of him.
He is a very quick learner, and when he pulls back she makes as if to follow, heat curled at the base of her spine and at the pit of her stomach and she wants- she wants.
The Vulcan embassy is very spare, which she will appreciate at a later date, when her brain isn't chirping, and how big is the bed? and what if it's terrible?
And, as she's stretched out on the bed with his mouth on hers, his layers of clothes discarded over a lounging couch, his body hot over hers, he's almost painfully experimental: his hands trailing over her body and pausing to make note of what makes her breath hitch; watches her face carefully as though to determine if the gasp is in pleasure or in discomfort until she can't bear it, wet to the point of being slick between her thighs, which she spreads, hands cupping his shoulders as she begs, "Sarek. Sarek, please."
And then he's sliding in, still watching her face, just quiet, barely out of breath, but he's hard and hot and here, and she doesn't need him to whine under her fingers to know that he wants her.
"I don't know why I'm telling you this."
"I take it back."
"Isn't it creepy?"
"No. No, it's…not creepy."
"Amanda, I love you, you know I love you, but… how is this going to end? He's not going to marry you, you're just… I mean, maybe he's enjoying this and everything but he's also here to observe and… who was the last Vulcan who married a human? And you want kids, and…and you hate parties, and being the Ambassador's wife is… it has a lot to do with being very politically correct. And you sort of suck at that."
Amanda curls around the comm, surrounded by pillows in Sarek's bed, and here, in the bright light of morning- what is she expecting? What is she doing?
"And he's Vulcan, and… what, you're going to have a very logical relationship with adequate indicators of affection such as he can give based upon observed behavioral patterns?" Maggie continues, voice gentle and horrible at the same time. "Amanda, you want a family, and a man who will tell you that he loves you- you cry every time Darcy tells Elizabeth he loves her. Every Darcy, every time."
And that's… true.
"I just don't want to see you hurt, love. Are you still there?"
"Yeah. I'm here. I just… I think I want to be reckless, right now."
"Okay, well. I'll be here with hugs and strong liquor when it ends, okay?" Maggie sighs. "And now I have to strategically exit a senator's house without her husband seeing me. Wish me luck!"
Maggie, Amanda reflects, has a serious mental problem that someone should diagnose.
And she's shrinking in, thinking about how foolish last night really was- how silly she's being sitting in his bed in her underwear like…like she's any right to be here.
"I have brought breakfast. I did not know what you liked, and so the cook made a guess, and included traditional Earth breakfast items, with the caveat of vegetarianism," he says, bringing with him a tray, and she stares at him, and his eyes slide from her face to the comm in her hand, and she can almost see him brace himself, so she puts it down on the bedside table, twists her hair into a rope to throw behind her shoulders, and says;
"Good. I was hungry." She scoots over, and twitches down the covers, and then looks at him expectantly after he places the tray in her lap.
And when he sits, fully dressed in his suit, she smiles, then laughs, nudging him contentedly and drinking what appears to be fresh-squeezed orange juice.
"What are you doing today?" she asks around a slice of toast, and he tells her about the meetings he'll go to, and by the time he is very, very late for a meeting and she's wiping strawberry jam from the corner of his mouth and laughing, she's forgotten all about Maggie's call.
For five months she has Sarek to herself, wrapped in the cocoon of the Embassy and his indulgences, letting her take him around San Francisco or to old bookshops in Seattle or to the museums in Paris not to see them as he has been- as a Vulcan Ambassador for whom governors shut down cities and museums open for exclusively, but as Terrans experience it. They're a people of small pleasures really, and she almost (almost) thinks he's getting it.
Of course, then she tends to go on and on about history, the rise and fall of Earth civilizations and silly little facts that nobody remembers but her, because she likes the parts of history that are intimate, connected to the people and not belonging to the ages. But he sits and listens over Afghani food in Seattle while she talks how Afghanistan was finally subdued by imminent threat from Pakistan and a man who ruled with a paternal smile and the wife who slit throats from behind her hijab. They had been terrible and amazing and no one had known quite what to do with them: the world had decided to sit back, the Americans quietly withdrawing while the world politely pretended it hadn't been a failure- and it's not remembered as a failure, but only because Maiwand Teyrawah and his wife, Fahim, filled the vacuum. And they had been amazing because they'd managed to turn the nation into a constitutional monarchy that endured until the creation of the United Arab Federation of today.
She's growing accustomed to the dry heat of the embassy- of the luxury of sabbatical.
Maggie looks at her like Amanda's setting herself up for a fall, but… she can't bring herself to care, not really.
Then, after a night of hand kissing (which is hotter than you'd think) and lip kisses, he draws back and says, very seriously, "Please marry me."
And she laughs and kisses him and says yes, because what else was she going to say?
And then? Then it gets intense.
There are rules for everything, and the real cruelty is that none of them are written, all unspoken, but firmly etched in every Vulcan's mind as though etched in stone.
She is twenty-six, Terran, and coming into this whole thing from the wrong angle. Mainly, that she isn't Vulcan.
And so she dresses a little more conservatively, wraps a veil into her hair and wears long sleeves. She's always worn skirts, so that sacrifice is hardly a sacrifice.
Sarek's staff handle the announcement of their marriage, and she's given lists of topics she cannot pass comment on- whom she can see, whom she can speak to, and the duration for all of them. Her wardrobe is adjusted, and will over time become more Vulcan.
No one mentions the fact that she is tiny, but the amount of hemming that gets done is a good indicator.
The day she finds out that he's 65, older than her father, is a day she has to sit down and call Maggie.
"I need a day where I am not being instructed on the appropriate degree to which it is appropriate to smile," she says.
"All right, good. We'll go to the park."
Maggie takes one look at her and sits down, clutching her chest on the park bench. "You look- "
"You look like Lady Amanda. Oh my god, should I bow?"
"Shut up, Maggie," she warns.
"No, you look- you're really marrying him?" She pulls herself up and pats the space next to her, smiling broadly.
"He's sixty-five, Maggie," she blurts, because it seems huge. It feels huge, even though it's not going to make her call the wedding off.
"Oh my god, we should have gone to the bar," Maggie says flatly.
"I'm not allowed to go to bars."
"You never went to bars when you were allowed. Still, that's…wow."
"He does not look sixty-five."
"Well, Vulcans live to be over two hundred, so really, in human years that's… he's what, had a third of his life, right? So think of him as thirty-three. Which is actually about how old he looks, and that's only what, only eight years older than you?"
"Much more manageable."
She exhales. "I don't think I can do this."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, and he's in Hong Kong."
"Sweetheart, you are marrying a Vulcan. It's causing an interplanetary stir, which is probably making Vulcans crazy. You're like royalty, now, and you're marrying the Vulcan on Earth," Maggie says almost apologetically, patting her hand. "Of course, you can't stop smiling, so I don't believe you when you say you can't do it."
"It's been five months, Maggie. Five months."
"Seven, if you count Vulcan."
"What if I'm still having emotional backlash from my parents' deaths?"
"Then you should have thought about it before he slid that rock on your finger, which, you know, how do you lift that hand, exactly?"
"You aren't helping me have a prenuptial panic attack- "
"Oh god, was there a prenup?"
"Oh my god, he wants to be married to you forever!" she squeals, beaming at her. Amanda can't help but smile back, because while she thinks it, it's nice to have someone else say it too.
"So you'll be my maid of honor?"
"Do Vulcan weddings have maids of honor?"
"No. But… we're having one ceremony here, and one ceremony there. I think he feels that as Ambassador he needs to provide…"
"The appearance of respecting his bride's culture? Are you going to wear white?"
"I think that's the idea- very traditional."
"Does it matter to you?"
"Not really. I'm not….what does the ceremony matter, really? Ends justify the means, and all."
"…Did you just go Machiavellian on your wedding?"
"I told you, I'm under a lot of stress."
She goes out every Thursday with Maggie, who helps her remember that she's not Vulcan, and she's not trying to be. That Sarek didn't propose because he hoped she'd turn into a proper Vulcan. She respects their culture and their ways deeply and she's not trying to disgrace them, but she's human. She's Terran, and she won't be anything less.
Except that once word gets out, it becomes the property of everyone else, she realizes, sipping her orange juice and trying to find her zen place (she thinks it went with a scream of protest into the night about the moment she said "yes").
There are protesters outside the embassy. People yelling about abominations, about how like ought marry like. Waves of signs and people who aren't even Terran.
It is a new front in a culture war, she thinks as she watches them, screaming and spitting as though her marriage, her decision to marry Sarek, is going to personally affect them- as though they'll be ripped from their marriages and forced to marry a Klingon now.
"If it is upsetting to watch them, it is logical to withdraw," Sarek says, placing a hand on her shoulder. She covers it with his, squeezing lightly- he does this, sometimes, a little awkwardly, having sensed or observed that humans require some sort of physical touch to indicate reassurance.
"Call it morbid fascination," she says lightly.
She reads, quietly, books of the civil rights movement, Ruby Bridges- thinks if a child could endure such hatred then surely she, a twenty-six year old doctor, can handle this.
And enduring is… bearable, as long as she doesn't look out the window, or turn on the holovids where so-called "experts" are debating the pros and cons, whether it's a sham to test the still-new dissolving of legalities around interspecies and interplanetary marriages; discussing the age differential; rooting up past boyfriends and, since no Vulcan will participate in this lunacy, speculating on whether this is a "logical act by the Vulcan Ambassador to Earth to strengthen diplomatic ties by marrying one of Earth's daughters."
Which leaves the sour taste of religion and patriarchy in her mouth, and makes her want to rage black-out for a minute.
But, as per her new instructions, she isn't allowed to even participate in the debate. She's not allowed to engage in it, not in the planning of the ceremony, not in the roll out of information, none of it.
Which makes her feel fairly out of control, actually, and so she goes to her office, wearing her approved outfit, collects all of her notes on western and eastern and Arabic learning methods which created the current Standard Earth Education model, lets her bodyguard (bodyguard) part the crowd of students, some of whom are shouting, "Yeah, Professor Grayson! Knockin' down the walls of oppression, man!" (and that, she knows, without even looking, is Joseph Macaby, who smokes his weight in marijuana every day).
Others are looking at her like she's a battered woman who needs rescuing. There's even a sign: ♥♀!!YOU ARE NOT ALONE!! ♀♥
Still others are looking at her speculatively and lustily, because whenever something new is introduced into the mainstream consciousness it must by necessity be fetishized. Fucking college students.
Sotchik says nothing as he opens the door for her to the embassy, and she smiles and says, "Thank you, Sotchik," because they're assholes but he's just doing his job. Besides, if she's going to be mad at Vulcan in a truly irrational way, it's going to be fucking Sarek.
She slams her PADD and her books and her notes onto the desk of her study, draws the blinds, and starts writing, curling her feet under her and reading endlessly, marking data away.
"I have been informed that you have been in here for eighteen hours," he says.
"Are you a walking clock, now?"
"You are upset."
He sits on the couch- he looks ridiculous when he sits on couches- and regards her. "Amanda."
"I'm having a meltdown, Sarek. This is what a very human panic attack looks like: we distract ourselves from the ugly and the uncontrollable with minutiae which we can control, all right? This ends the 'look at the Human' lesson of the day, I haven't- " she breaks off, because now, oh, yes, now she's crying. Oh good, this is good. Because Sarek has no idea what to do with crying.
"I'll be fine," she says finally, wiping her eyes. "I just… have to get used to this, and it's very overwhelming and it feels very fragile."
"We are getting married," he says, and she looks at him, and there's something about the set of his shoulders that is reassuring, and so she goes over, tucks against him and rests her head against his shoulder and lets him hold her.
"I'm hungry," she says an interminable time later, and she gets a faint curl of amusement- remembers that he's a touch-telepath, and smiles.
The wedding is so ghastly that she is pretending it never happened.
She watches the footage of herself going onto the shuttle to take her to Vulcan for their wedding, the slant of Sarek's eyebrows fierce and her own expression faintly amused- they're calling her "Lady Amanda," now.
Mostly because none of them can pronounce Sarek's family name. She can't pronounce it, through she tries, tongue tripping over the sounds as he watches her.
She's leaning against his bare chest, her fingers laced and her chin resting atop them, and he sighs and leans in, kisses her into silence.
The bond is fresh- it's a strange thing to have access to his mind; to his childhood, to see herself as he sees her (and wow, she gets atrociously red and splotchy when she's having hysterics). But stranger still is reconciling the fact that he feels everything. And the coating of logic is strong enough that he doesn't even seem to know how much he feels, but she feels it, and then feels everything she's feeling on top of it, and for three days after the wedding she won't let him touch her because every time he does she comes, hard, without being touched, and she's always throbbing and when she sits she's unconsciously shifting her hips and pressing her thighs together until she realizes what she's doing.
After three days he decides he's done tiptoeing and sits her down to teach her how to shield herself.
"You should have done that before," she informs him petulantly.
"I am aware of that," he retorts, and the faintest brush of wry smile that lurks in her mind is his.
Then she reaches up and kisses him, because they've never moved slow, and he said the words and he's hers, and she's going to test this whole controlling-the-bond thing by fire, pulling him to their bedroom.
He's straining against his pants- Vulcan control is very impressive, she spares a moment to think before her thoughts are tugged to more present matters, and she brushes her fingers down his, lifting his hand to her mouth and sucking each digit into her mouth as he watches under heavily-lidded eyes. His free fingers trace the outline of her lips, while his other hand remains on his thigh. She smiles, letting his wet fingers fall from her mouth, unbuttoning her gown, and it's probably not the point of Vulcan clothing, that disrobing would be even more erotic from having been so covered and hidden, but it works for her. She pushes him back, kissing him and taking his tongue into her mouth, even as he rolls her, one of his thighs between hers, causing her to roll her hips, riding it as best she can for some stimulation.
She smiles, wrapping a leg around Sarek's and arching against him so his cock drags against her, and it's as much a tease to her as it is to him, but she can feel how it feels to him, and so she does it again, breath hitching until he covers her mouth with his, presses her down into the bed.
The sheets are cool, which is a delicious counterpoint to the heat of him as she arches, wrapping her arms around his back and her legs around his hips, desperate for it, for him, in a way that she hasn't been before, and she wants to ride him until they're both raw, until he's torn sound from his lips and she's shaking the walls with her screams, and just like that they're flipped, his eyes bright and she laughs, helplessly, kissing him before reaching between them, guiding his cock inside and settling down, feeling full of him, gasping as she settles against his hipbones, whining because she can feel this from two directions, and her nails scrape into his chest as she shudders through her first orgasm.
His fingers are forcing their way into her lips and she accepts them, sucks filthily, twining her tongue around them as she raises up and then shoves back down on him, grinding helplessly against him until the world shifts and he's driving into her, hot and desperate, his hands pressing into the mattress behind her shoulder, and she watches him, hazily, and thinks, yes, and gorgeous, and mine.
And when he comes, shuddering into her, she, who has never believed the myth of simultaneous or near-simultaneous orgasms, falls right behind him.
She blames the meld.
Or she will, when she can breathe again.
The Vulcans hate her.
And she thinks that it would genuinely sting more, if Sarek cared at all, but because he doesn't and because she's bonded to him, it doesn't bother her as much as she thought.
They spend their first three months of marriage on Vulcan, and then he has to go back to Earth.
And now it's her turn to go to all the summits, to speak with president's and prime minister's wives, to speak with governors and former tyrants. To speak with their spouses, and when Maggie calls her a year later and says, "So, you're in California, and I get no visit? I'm crying into my pillow," Amanda laughs and has her over.
"So really," Maggie says, smiling as they're curled up watching old holovids of Pride and Prejudice and watching Darcy shudder and stumble through saying "I love you" just before Elizabeth rips him a new one, "what are you going to do about the having a family thing?"
Which reminds her that they'd begun that conversation at least seven times, and he always manages to distract her.
"Sarek," she says flatly, because he's not logicking his way out of this, planting her fists on her hips. "I want a baby. I want our baby."
"The technology- "
"Is there." She sent it to Maggie when she'd finished combing through the weeks' worth of papers and data, and Maggie had mostly sworn up and down about goddamn advanced Vulcans, but agreed that it was feasible.
She looks at him, and then touches his face gently. "I want this. I married you and I love you and I want to meet the child we'll make." And she can feel the moment he gives in, and she strokes the back of her fingers down his cheek and then leans up on tiptoe to kiss him. "Thank you."
Which is entirely easier said then done, because she has to take a regimen of vitamins and hormones and supplements, and they have to go to Vulcan and she has to face T'Pau's icy disapproval feels like being caught under the ice in a freezing lake, but she just sets her jaw and stays implacable: she is the mountain.
And then she's pregnant, which staggers even her, and sends the household into the Vulcan version of a flurry of activity, with Sarek shifting his schedule and one of the clan-members, a woman named T'Pev, a cousin of whom Sarek is relatively fond, forces her to bed, and instructs her in a daily regimen of hypos that leave her feeling lethargic and detached from her own body, shivering even in the dry Vulcan heat.
But she's happy, even if she has to stay put and have the replicator moved to her bed (and pineapple always tastes like pears, which she decides is fine, mind over matter, but pear-tasting pineapple is inherently wrong), and she writes another book, this one about the importance of religion in the early creation of learning institutions on Earth, and only cries a little when Sarek has to go back to Earth to be the Ambassador, because it's not logical for him to stay: what is he going to do, other than rub her ankles and smooth kisses with the pads of his fingers over the hypo-injection sites to soothe the sting? Nothing.
And then it's the month of delivery, and she tries not to think what if. What if Spock- his name is Spock- is stillborn? What if he doesn't survive? What if he's horrible disfigured and the scans didn't pick up on it?
She goes into labor in the middle of a panic attack, which probably means the kid is Vulcan in disposition and telling her to chill out. Labor is long, and she should have asked Maggie to be here so Maggie could yell back at her when she screams because it hurts, but she has Sarek, who doesn't flinch when she drags her fingernails down the back of his hand, and T'Pau and T'Pev, and then it's done- it's over, and they're putting a baby into her arms, and she sobs, holding him and counting fingers and toes and laughing because he's perfect, with black hair on top of his head and dark eyes and ears that curl a little into a point.
"Hi, Spock," she says quietly, stroking his cheek with a finger as he looks at her, trying to project all the love and adoration and protectiveness she feels at him, because he's a baby touch-telepath. Sarek bends down, and she offers Spock to him, and the two look at each other, and then Spock starts wailing.
Sarek's eyebrow raises, and Amanda laughs, extending her hands. "He's probably hungry."
He quiets when she holds him, and Sarek leans on the bed and shifts so she is leaning against him, and she looks down at Spock, who is observing his world with an expression that seems to say he's not so sure about all of this.
He's perfectly healthy, T'Pau informs them, and she'll be fine.
"He is a conflicted child of two worlds," T'Pau adds.
"She's just jealous," Amanda whispers to Spock confidingly, "because you have more hair than she has."
Spock broadcasts contentment, and she smiles, and wonders if she'll always be able to read him as well as she reads Sarek. She hopes so: she's his mother. But even still, she spares a moment to wonder if she's doing the selfish thing, but not the right thing: if her desire for a child is damning the child she's had to a lifetime of torment. She's not sure if her love- if the unconditional love she has for him will be enough.
She hopes so, and it's a big galaxy- somewhere out there there is a kindred spirit.