But the sea is wide, and I cannot swim over
Neither have I the wings to fly
Carrickfergus (traditional song)
In the last month of her life, Amanda Grayson looked up at the sky, to where Mother Earth circled Mother Sun. Something in her parental bond with Spock had shifted.
Completion, or the promise of it.
She stroked it carefully. Spock, asleep, did not notice. Something...as if he was, not linked, but primed for a link.
Centuries ago, when ships only sailed over seas, propelled by wind or oar, her grandmother had taken her into her arms and whispered in her ear, “Your son will find love before you die.”
A witch knew the day she was born what day she would die. Amanda had two days to die, both in the twenty-third century. A few years after Spock was born, she would feel wrenching and know that she'd die the day that came soonest.
Her grandmother had spoken true, however. Spock would be fine, in all the variable definitions of the word.
They felt the air stir when the first Vulcan landed. They landed close, three of them, in a flutter of long hair and dark dresses to touch and know it alien and lick the metal and taste the materials not of Earth. Among them Amanda's mother, by then head of their witch clan.
The Alliance of Other Sentient Terrans, founded to ensure everyone was fairly represented in the human-dominant govermnents, met to hear what she had to report. It was decided they needed their own representative. This contact with extraterrestrials was too important to let it be managed by humans alone.
Amanda Grayson became a liaison to the Vulcan ambassador to Earth.
They charmed her with their stoicism and quiet eloquence.
She, in turn, disquieted them.
She was immortal and ethereal where they were creatures of sand and rock, further from her than even the humans of earth and water. The only sentient species on Vulcan aside from Vulcans and their daemons were the fire gods of the Forge, wraiths that a Vulcan adolescent had to survive for four months before they were considered fully adult.
Sarek, former astrophysicist and former bondmate to Her Highness T'Kofla, newly ambassador and single father of Sybok, charmed her in an entirely different way. Or, more accurately, Sybok charmed her and Sarek reasoned her into falling in love with him.
“Humans cannot fly,” a boy's voice announced in the embassy's formal parlour, the place to receive honoured guests and have sober tea parties. Vulcan didn't really do tea parties for any other reason than to humour the humans.
“I am not human,” she told the boy, who was all green dress and earnest dark eyes beneath a bowl cut. “You will observe my daemon is a bird.” She pointed at Anatheria, sleeping on a bookcase.
“What does that mean?” The boy was now right below her. Amanda looked down once she had changed the antique lightbulb and replaced the cover of the lamp. Genuine 20th century make, as was the rest of the room. The boy was peering up into her skirt with something approaching curiosity.
She descended diagonally until she sat across from him, cross-legged. “On Earth only witches have birds for daemons. Humans have mammals or reptiles. Whales have fish. They are our companions, so they must be able to move like we move.”
He put his hand on part of his dress and only then did she see a small reptile the exact shade of the material beneath it. “What is her name?”
Sybok's eyebrow winged up. “ His name is Solon.”
“He?” That was unusual.
“All members of the House of Surak have a daemon of the same gender as themselves.” He had his hands clasped before him and pronounced the sentence as if he was reciting a lesson. “In the time before the Awakening, it was a sign of nobility to have a daemon of one's own gender. Many of the old Houses still exhibit this trait.”
And so it was that, after more than a century of serving with Vulcans, it was a little boy who taught her most about their history.
Sybok arrived a week ahead of his father, who was delayed by a diverted ship.
Amanda and the boy were well on their way to a friendship, though most of their conversations were very one-sided. But between two beings of such disparate ages, one seven centuries old and the other seven years, it felt natural. It had been some time since Amanda had been asked questions she didn't know the answer to.
“Why does that building have beams that do not support it?”
“What is an armadillo?”
“Why does that man refer to my physical features in a falsetto voice?”
“How do you survive on a body of water for long periods of time?”
“What is a poker-face?”
“Why is this girl telling my I should pretend to be her husband and the father of an inanimate object?”
Amanda's official title was Terran Liaison, equivalent to the Human Liaison, Starfleet Liaison and a handful of other such working at the embassy. After a decade, however, she became the most senior person working there. After several decades, she was, unofficially, the only non-Vulcan among the advisors to the ambassador. It fell to her to explain humans to each new ambassador, to mediate between species where necessary and to recall the history of Vulcan-Terran relations.
Because she held such a high position, she also welcomed each new ambassador to his home, and oversaw preparations the Vulcans preferred to leave to more junior personell. After seven centuries, it was hard to believe the short-lived mortals could do tasks as well as she, which sometimes made it hard to delegate anything.
She'd been seeing to the last of the preparations when Sybok had arrived. Now, she'd seated herself in the parlour again, glasses of water on a low table, Sybok by her side while he quizzed her on a story, his latest fascination.
The door opened, low voices exchanged a greeting, and it closed again almost immediately. A single Vulcan appeared in the open doorway to the parlour, carrying a suitcase he would not have been able to lift had he been human.
Sybok looked up, nodded, said “Father,” and returned to questioning Amanda, as if his father had only stepped out to get some air.
An amused Amanda rose, smoothing her dress. She raised her hand in a ta'al to greet the new ambassador, but he did not return it in kind, bowing instead. “Lady Amanda.”
She tilted her head. “Welcome ambassador, and very courteous of you. Most do not call me that.”
He nodded in acknowledgement. “Most do not have the benefit of a grandmother who reminds one of the benefits of being respectful to females senior to oneself.”
The House of Sarek was headed by T'Pau. “I image not.”
A tug on her skirt brought her attention back to Sybok. “Amanda! Why is Mr. Bernie waltzing down the street? I have not seen humans dancing in public. Do they?” He was pointing down at the book.
She considered it. “Some do, in open-air performances. We will go watch one sometime.”
“That is a very vague statement.”
“Son.” The sharp drop in the middle of the word made Sybok look up. “You are rude. You will address Lady Amanda respectfully in the future.”
Sybok shook his head. “She has told me I am her friend, which is a Terran relationship characterised by informality and honesty.” He turned dark eyes on Amanda and pointed at the book again. “So this man is dancing in the middle of the street?”
“No, I believe that in the story it's a metaphor for walking with exaggerated movements.” Children's stories were the best way of explaining human modes of expression to young Vulcans, and since they identified completely with the human children in the book who did not understand adults, it often made them much more positively disposed to human children they'd meet in reality.
“I see.” He continued reading. The ambassador had followed the exchange silently. He did not comment.
“Can I offer refreshments to you and your aides?” Each Vulcan ambassador usually brought some personal staff along.
“I travel alone.”
It was her turn not to comment, so she merely offered him a glass of water. After they seated themselves, Amanda continued explaining the story.
Previous ambassadors she'd often escorted to any events so as to explain protocol and run interference when they were too blunt in expressing themselves. Sarek preferred to go everywhere by himself and expected a briefing on etiquette he needed to know from the entire team that worked for him, Amanda one of them.
She saw more of Sybok.
A month passed before they were alone together again and he finally asked the question she'd expected at the beginning. Even then, it wasn't a question. “You have made yourself my son's tutor.”
She shrugged. “Circumstances threw us together and he made me as curious as I made him.”
“You have met many Vulcans.”
“I did not meet any Vulcans willing to open up to me.” Even now, the door was open and he did not stand close to her.
He was standing by a window, almost sunning himself. It was too cold outside for the sun to warm anyone and even inside it was comparatively chilly because everyone was wearing sweaters. Only behind glass and in the rays was there any real warmth to be found in the embassy. “You are confusing.”
“In what way? I can't change that if you don't tell me what is confusing you.” She had had this conversation with each Vulcan she'd worked with. They were hard-pressed to explain what was to them a weakness.
“The firegods.” He turned to her. “You resemble them, yet you do not.” This was usually where the explanation broke down. “As... the solar system resembles an atom, yet is on the opposite side of the scale in size.” She felt her eyebrows go up. A metaphor? From a Vulcan? “During a rite called Tal'oth we spend four months in the desert, and several firegods come to us, attack us. They are part of the desert, superheated rock, obeying no physical laws known to us. Similarly, you fly when you should not, you live longer than your body should allow, but are more air than fire and you do not seem violent. In addition, you have a daemon where they do not.”
She nodded. “Correct.”
“You are unlike them in nature, but like them, the existence of your race is... illogical.”
She threw back her head and laughed. “Not really.” She came around the desk to his terminal, still on, and entered a query. “Look, on Earth this is a very new branch of physics as well, I mean, it's still got the pall of the Eugenics wars all over it, but some new research is being done into the nature of daemons and other energy-based beings.” She opened a paper to which her mother had referred her. They kept a close watch on any research involving the other sentient Terran species. “Humans, you, your bodies are physical. We are not. Part of our make-up remains to be quantified. That is why we interact with our environment differently.”
He did approach her now, a new light shining in his eyes. “Qlar-hy.” He bent over his desk and read the entirety of the paper.
Apparently, redefining herself as something undiscovered, rather than illogical, made him fearless. More than any ambassador before him, he spent time with her. Where Sybok approached her with any question, Sarek asked her about herself. In return, she started to show him the answers. Her favourite restaurants, spot on the beach, take-off and landing spots around the peninsula for a good flight.
It was a night late in spring, cool after an overcast day, that he told her to stop.
“Why?” She had not enjoyed days this much since her second century. To associate this closely with a mortal was refreshing.
He gripped the edges of his chair, shoulders and back vibrating with tension. “You... you engaged me. You must understand, I had a scientific career before this. I had not expected much intellectual stimulation in this position, but you offered it to me. During these past months however, you have not given me any answers to my questions, you have only given me more questions to ask.”
“I don't understand. That's the nature of existence.”
His feet pressed hard enough against the floor to disappear into it. “It is not. We say kaiidth. What is, is. It is the final destination of all enquiry; All research, is meant to make one arrive at that answer. The most revered amongst us achieve that in Kolinahr.”
She walked towards him. He was so much like Sybok right now, a little boy who did not understand the clockwork of a very big machine, but would not rest until he did. She put her hand on his head. “For us, it is a starting point. Sentience starts where the state of being is not merely the entirety of a creature's universe, but only the basis for asking a question.” She smiled. “Like a child who says, 'Is it, really? Why?'”
He dropped his head forward. “My search for the unknown elements in you, your origin, your character, have made me come undone, have given rise to unknown elements in my own mind.” It was an admission of defeat.
She kneeled before him. “Show me.”
“I cannot verbalise it.” But he was stroking her face.
Vulcan daemons do not speak, because their people do not communicate in speech alone. They speak mind to mind. It made humans dismissive of those daemons, so they treated them as dumb creatures.
For Amanda, after all these years, it was a reminder. So she tilted up her face in invitation and Sarek pressed his fingers to her face, frowning when she did not have the same meld points as he. She laughed and shifted his hand a little back and down.
The world disappeared.
He loved her, it was as simple as that.
He was not ready to admit it.
After five months avoidance on Sarek's part, Amanda felt even her patience run out, and she took Sybok on a tour of several locations he took an interest in.
A conversation with a shaman sent him back to her in silence.
He looked up at her, only his face visible in a small, thickly wool-wrapped bundle of Vulcan. “I will be a shaman and discover the meaning of life.”
She wondered if she had indulged the boy too much. Thirty years later, she would be happy he was not there when Vulcan collapsed on itself. He was safe, elsewhere, pursuing his dream.
Now, she answered him. “42.”
He did not wrinkle his nose. He was a Vulcan. “I am stating a career goal, Amanda, this is not a literary discussion.”
She distracted him with the promise of hot snacks. Vulcan or not, he was still a boy.
A full year after they had shared minds, Sarek spoke to her in private again. “I have behaved without logic.” That was some serious self-decrapation.
“Oh?” she asked him because she was collating the latest statistics on Vulcan's popularity amongst Terrans.
“Amanda...” the unfinished sentence drew her attention away from her work and to him again. “The act of discovery is essential to me. It would not be wise to distance myself from a source of unlimited fascination.”
“Uhuh.” He was not getting away with vague statements this time. He had already tried that a few times, only to back out.
“Amanda, will you allow me to convince you to be my wife?”
“How are you going to do that?”
“I believe it is generally achieved by going on a series of dates.”
Thirty years later and a world away, Amanda had left everything behind she had ever known so she could be with the mortal who had most captivated her.
The world passed her by, as it had done for centuries, and the sons she loved left her, as they should.
She glanced up into the sky, sometimes, to see where they went, and she knew she would not follow them into the stars.
Because a witch knows, the day she is born, how and when she will die, and that time was not far off now. It was knowledge she hid from Sarek. He did not need this burden. Even after thirty years as his bondmate, she thought that some things were best left undiscovered.
Mother Vulcan and aunt T'Khut circled a foreign star, still like a mother, still connected, still giving life, still there, as all was, as all would ever be.
Because ultimately? Time is an illusion, and its passing doubly so.