Amanda was a native of Earth, but she had spent so much time in the heat of Vulcan that San Francisco felt almost impossibly cold. It was sunny, which helped, but even that couldn't shake off the chill. Sarek had, sensibly, worn multiple layers, as much for insulation as for formality, and Amanda found herself wishing she had done the same. She was so used to devising ways to mitigate heat that she wasn't used to the opposite end of the spectrum.
It was comfort more than intent that found her inside Academy buildings: the thermal regulation made things bearable. But when she found herself in the dormitory areas (and many of the students looked so /young/! children, all of them), even though she hadn't planned it, she had a moment's temptation, and a moment's weakness, and a moment of telling herself it was only /logical/ -- a phrase which, out of her mouth, amused Sarek and frustrated Spock in the way that only mothers can truly frustrate -- before she was asking the computer for the location of Cadet Uhura.
After all, this was the girl that had captured Spock's attention, in ways that no one else, Human or Vulcan, had ever done. Not that he said such things straight-on, because that was not his way, but the time he spent on her in his letters home said quite a bit to a mother's intuition. Especially when said mother was human and quite willing to acknowledge intuition.
She tapped the door-chime before entering, more out of politeness than out of necessity as the room was unlocked. A voice from inside (Uhura, since the computer had not only located her quarters but confirmed that she was in there and that she was alone) called out something half-intelligible about clothes, but Amanda didn't really have time to process that before the door opened and she could step inside.
Uhura was a pretty girl, to Amanda's eyes, dark and slender and not really the way Amanda had pictured her, except that Amanda hadn't had much to go on; /she speaks Vulcan quite fluently for a human student/, one of Spock's letters had said, so she knew that much, but that was it, because Spock had chosen to focus on her intelligence and her academic excellence and her linguistic skills and not at all on any of the questions that Amanda found herself wanting to know the answers to.
She also seemed flustered by Amanda's presence, alternating stunned silence with stammered half-sentences, and Amanda flushed with sudden embarrassment. Of course it had been silly of her to stop by without confirming matters first; as an ambassador's wife and something of a diplomat herself, she knew the importance of warning and preparation. And even as she smiled and talked pleasantries, she could feel the slow crawling urge to apologise and then run away and hide.
But she didn't, and soon enough they were on first-name basis (there was no need for rank or formalities between them), and Uhura -- Nyota -- was offering her tea, and seemed honestly pleased by her acceptance.
This was no replicator tea; not that replicators did a bad job of it, all things considered, but there was something nice about proper tea. Hot water and dried leaves, assembled with the fluid motions of ritual (how many times had Nyota and Spock shared tea, she wondered, over a discussion of something horribly intellectual?), filling the room with a sweet fragrance that could not be matched by any replicator.
Amanda smiled, both at the scent of the tea itself and at the way Nyota relaxed as she prepared the drink and poured two cups. Then the cup was in her hands, and oh, blessed warmth; she took a moment to hold the cup (how fragile it looked, though Amanda suspected it shared its owner's strength) and absorb the heat of freshly-made tea, absorb the unfamiliar but pleasing scent in the steam that rose. When it had cooled enough to drink, she took a sip. "Oh, this is wonderful," she blurted out.
Nyota ducked her head, not quite smiling but obviously pleased. "Thank you."
"May I ask where you got it?"
She hesitated for long enough that Amanda almost said oh-no-never-mind, but then she answered quietly, "It is a blend my mother makes -- from local plants." And without any questions from Amanda she started talking about where she grew up, in Mombasa; which, she said with a smile, was much warmer than San Francisco.
It was curious, Amanda thought, that she never used the word 'home'. Not for the place she had grown up and where her mother still lived -- "How often do you visit?" she asked, and Nyota's swift "I haven't" brooked no further questions -- nor for the Academy where she resided now. Then again, Amanda had never really considered Vulcan itself to be her home, yet she no longer had a home on earth, and -- "Forgive me," she said, embarrassed, realizing Nyota had asked a question that she hadn't fully heard. "I was woolgathering. What was that?"
Nyota turned her head aside. "It was a personal question; I shouldn't have asked."
"Nonsense." Instinct had her reaching out, taking Nyota's hands in her own, not as a mother to a child but just as one human to another. "I was lost in thought, not offended. Please do ask."
"I was just wondering what it was like to ... live with a Vulcan."
Amanda gave the question proper consideration; it was not something that could be answered blithely, without thought. But there was a fine line between considering one's answer and putting off that answer, and so finally she shrugged, and said, "Frustrating at times. Fascinating at times. Much like living with any other sentient being, and yet entirely different." She was still holding Nyota's hands, the sort of gesture that would not be welcome among Vulcans. "And to answer the question you -- very deliberately, I think -- didn't ask, it is possible for Vulcans to love, and to accept love, although naturally they will not admit it even to themselves. I know that Sarek loves me deeply, and I know that Spock -- well." She gave a wry smile. "Spock keeps his own counsel, more so than any full-blooded Vulcan I have known, but he respects you, and, I believe, even loves you. But that is /definitely/ moving into too-personal territory," Amanda said, laughing and sitting upright, "and perhaps we shall talk of other things, hm?"
"Perhaps," Nyota said, but her smile did not seem at all awkward. And when Amanda excused herself, Nyota pressed several packets of tea into her hand. "Please," she said, "take them--"
Amanda could hardly refuse.
(Later, later, when Nero's energy drill is burning through Vulcan, crumbling the surface and scorching the already-hot atmosphere, when Spock is leading the Council out of the katric ark -- there is a split second that lasts an eternity. Amanda can feel the ground falling away beneath her, too fast for the transporter to compensate, and she only has time to turn back and look, but a thousand thoughts race through her brain: /I'm sorry/ and /I love you/ and /forgive me/ and /she is good for you, Spock/ and /I am so proud of you/ and /I'm so very sorry./)
(And just before everything dissolves into darkness, she thinks, /I want to go home/.)