Anyone who's been on list for a while knows I lost my long-time best friend, Dusty Jones to cancer last fall. Dusty had spent almost 30 years working on her stories of Sarek and Amanda, but as a perfectionist, only 3 ever made it into light under her pen name, L.L. MacLeod. She left a huge pile of pieces that I hope in the future to sort through and put at much as I can into cohesive stories. But here is part 1 of MacLeod's 1st published story, long out of print. Keep in mind that Dusty believed the only canon was what one saw on TOS. She made no attempt to alter her universe for the movies or subsequent series. This sucker is 70 pages, so it'll take a while to go up, with thanks to Caz for reminding me I had a scanner that could take this and translate it into text from a type-written page!
I hope you enjoy!
A VULCAN TEA PARTY by L. L. MacLeod
This had to be the worst day in his life. Absolutely. Worse than the day I-chaya had died. Worse than the day they'd taken him up to Daicun to be pledged to T'Pring and he'd known her thoughts. Just when things had been starting to get a little better for him at school, this had to happen. Why did she have to go and do this to him?
"Here, let me help you."
His wife's hands were trembling so much that she couldn't get her shoulder tab fastened.
"You are entirely too nervous, Amanda. You will do fine and I shall be inordinately proud of you." He tightened the collar buckle. "As always."
"I'm not nervous, Sarek."
"Indeed?" The pleats were crooked. Her Terran contours did not quite fit into a Vulcan robe. "If I had half the energy that you waste in emotional displays, I would be clan chief by now."
"I seem to recall a certain Vulcan gentleman who had a case of nerves that would have put mine to shame."
He pretended to ignore her sly little look. "The cause was more than sufficient, I believe. I had never been a father before."
"And I've never been a teacher."
Ambassador Sarek tugged the errant pleat into place and stood back to admire.
She was off, his Amanda, off into the world and out from under his sheltering wing. She was a grown woman of high intellect, but her emotions made her vulnerable and easy to bruise. He was pleased that she had made this decision, had become interested in building a career for herself. But he was concerned for her tender Terran feelings. If others should speak unfairly to her ...
Perhaps he was overly protective. But she had never complained about his hovering about. A Vulcan woman would have ordered him to mind his own business, but Amanda was a Terran and saw his interference as the expression of devotion that it was meant to be. Before they had met, Sarek had never believed that a woman could be his intellectual equal and not be repelled by what his peers would term his unmanly assertiveness where women were concerned.
Even so, he must let her go now just as, if things had been different, he would someday have had to let their own daughter go.
This teaching thing was going to be very good for her—for them. She'd been hopelessly bored around the house; she spoke Vulcan fluently now, although with an accent, and she read it well enough to have exhausted the pertinent literature concerning Vulcan developmental psychology, as well as anything dealing with the practices of any culture. Spock would be nine years old in only a few months, and certainly needed no constant supervision to give her the excuse to be home. And she was tired of hearing the same old insults about her living on Sarek's money and raising Sarek's child; she knew Sarek was. He'd never said anything to her about it, but he was not that kind.
But what could she do? The career prospects were pretty grim when you took a moment to consider that it was against Vulcan law for an outworlder to own Vulcan real estate or have any interest at all in a Vulcan business. Until Sarek had been named t'yetma, she had had to have a special document drawn up each and every time she left the capital city of ShiKar. The government didn't want unsupervised aliens wandering around the planet. Sarek's first official act as a high level diplomat had been to arrange for a special pass to provide his wife with freedom of movement. To do this, he'd had to hire her on as a member of his diplomatic staff. Oh, the gossip had flown on that one!
No, I don't mind being my husband's employee. No, I don't mind him having a title when I have none. No, I don't care if my husband supports me. No, I don't mind his leaving me to care for his baby. And no, she would not allow anyone to ruin her joy at Sarek's accomplishment.
It was better now between them since he had been named. When the subject had first come up in council about Sarek's rank, Amanda had been as pleased as he was, but as the months rolled by and as they waited for a decision, life had become miserable. Sarek wanted that title more than he would admit, and he grew more and more concerned that his wife and child would do something to jeopardize it, to reflect badly upon him by association. He'd grown sterner with Spock, colder and distant toward her until finally one evening after their son was in bed, she had been unable to hold back the tears and had told him how lonely it was to be kept out of his thoughts, and how she felt that he had been pushing her away from him, shutting her off in a backroom of his life like some poor relation who might commit some horrendous faux pas to embarrass him. This rank was becoming more important to him than she was, she'd said, and he had been appalled at her words. Later, in meditation, he had been able to be honest with himself and had been ashamed of the shabby way that he had been treating her.
But that was yesterday—yesterdays and yesterdays ago. Spock had passed his kas-wan uneventfully, Sarek had his title, and now he had his eye on a Vulcan degree for her and a brilliant research career to follow without delay. Sometimes Sarek behaved toward her as if she were his beloved child: he had already begun to diagram a course of study for her and had made a call to the Mental Research Institute in Mirhansa to make inquiries.
Amanda looked down at their son. His hair was a deep, deep brown, not black like his father's. "You're very quiet this morning, Spock. What are you thinking about?"
He had been staring out of the window. They had taken a limousine. Everyone would stare. He turned and looked at his mother briefly because it was discourteous not to. "I was contemplating my lessons for school," he said, gripping the tape case on his lap.
The limousine had been Sarek's idea. The service came with his title and, frankly, Amanda thought that he was enjoying this toy very much.
The limo pulled up alongside the exercise yard. Children aged seven through thirteen were milling about until drills were called, and they stopped to stare at the state limousine as it hovered to a stop to discharge a passenger.
Before the driver could disembark, Spock had opened the door on the street side and was climbing out.
"Where are you going, dear?"
"I have to stand with my team," he explained in a hurry.
"Oh, well ... all right, then. I'll see you in class."
Her son gave a little nod and closed the door behind him. The driver opened the door on the yard side for Amanda and when the car had moved on, she could see Spock nowhere in sight.
Spock hurried away from the limousine and waited near the water sculpture until he could fall in step with a group of children approaching from the avenue side and could walk with them to the exercise area. Sepek T'Ardikan was already there. Now that he was eleven, he was no longer in Spock's division and wore a bright blue harness with trim of the same color along the edges of his robe and at the top of his briefs. His older cousin was thirteen and in the white division. She had just given him grief about something at home, so he was looking for a victim.
Spock stayed out of his way and tried to blend. They were all gazing across the schoolyard.
"What's that limo doing here?"
"Looks like a Terran woman getting out."
"What is she doing wearing a ser's uniform?"
Spock faded to the back of the crowd. They were talking about his mother. He did not fade fast enough.
"Oh, look," said Sepek, "it's Spock Amandaikan." He stressed the matronym as if it left a bitter taste in his mouth. "That's his mother. She's coming here to teach us all to speak English..." He drew out the last word so that it sounded like the hissing of a snake.
Once the headmaster had left, Amanda got down to business. She reminded herself to take it easy; this was a Vulcan secondary class. There must be order and serenity at all times, but she would not be stern with them unless she had to.
"Now that I know all of your names, I'd like to know if any of you have heard any English words. You may speak out without bowing your heads if no one abuses the privilege."
They were silent, all looking at her with brown eyes. Certainly, one of them had heard some English before. Proper names and certain concepts did not have Vulcan equivalents—and this was the capital city where the interstellar interface occurred.
Amanda drew her eyes across the faces and tried to remember names. They all had the same dark hair and eyes, the same spindly little bodies.
Sarek had once tried to explain the physical differences that existed between the tribal consolidations, but she had not been able to perceive the subtle distinctions. Sarek had teased her then about not being able to distinguish him from other handsome Vulcan males. Very little chance of that.
"Hasn't anyone heard any English? Down at Space Central Port or at the Import Store?"
Spock's eyes were averted. She could always call on him, but it wouldn't be fair. His spoken English was as competent as his Vulcan, but she didn't want to call undue attention to him since he was her son. It would be hard for any child. Surely, of these twelve, one had heard a hello or good-bye...
A boy stood at his desk to be recognized.
"I know an English word, but I don't know what it means."
"Well, then—Sepek, isn't it?—why don't you tell us so that I can explain to the entire class?"
The boy paused, shooting a quick glance at Spock.
"Well, Sepek, what is the word?"
The eleven-year-old looked his instructor straight in the eye and said, "Shithead."
Spock was staring at his desktop. The other children waited patiently. Sepek was watching the teacher expectantly. He knew. That rotten little brat knew!
Amanda glared back at him. "Shithead," she repeated in instructive tones, "a compound word made up of two smaller separate ones. The second word, head," she pointed to that portion of her anatomy, "the uppermost part of the body, reputed to house the brain. And shit, a slang term, used to describe animal waste products. When these two words are combined, they form the word shithead, a term applied to those persons whose brain matter appears to have taken on the quality and characteristics of feces." Amanda reached into her case for a tape. "You may take your seat, Sepek."
When Amanda walked in the front door after that first day at school, she found her husband's carrybag on the entryway table. "Sarek?"
He emerged from the kitchen wearing a work apron.
"Sarek, what are you doing home?"
"I thought that I should be here to greet you. How did you fare at school?"
"All right." She looked once at Sarek and knew that he expected a more detailed report. "They don't trust me yet—but they will. I'm new and alien; they'll have to get used to me first."
Sarek nodded, gazing beyond her into the entryway. "Where is our son?"
"Oh, he had to stay for drills." Amanda fingered her husband's apron. "What are you doing?"
"I thought I would be a man of tradition and prepare a meal for my wife."
"Oh, good. I'm kinda tired tonight, dear."
Sarek's eyebrows lifted. "Well, it will not be good, but it will be nourishing."
She'd spoiled him. But she didn't care. She loved to cook. He didn't. It also gave him ample opportunity to tease her about "playing servant" to him. It was one socially acceptable way for a Vulcan woman to show affection for a man and—what was more important—to declare him to be of equal status with her.
Sarek was gazing at her expectantly. "You must be quite fatigued, my wife," he said quietly, then looked away demurely.
She felt a smile growing, stretched up and let it blossom in the hollow behind his ear. He was dependent upon that; it let him know that all was well between them. She eyed him with a grin. "Terran women are never that fatigued."
"So I have observed."
He hadn't lied to his mother. He had stayed to practice drills, but he did them alone behind the equipment shed where he would not be seen.
He didn't really need the extra practice. He was very good at physical drills, even weaponry. When the new seresa had announced that boys could be included in weapons classes even though other schools wouldn't allow it until they'd reached their fourteenth birthdays, Spock had been afraid that his father would not give his permission—that he would think it unseemly behavior for a male, or a waste of time to learn a skill that he would never have to use, or entirely too martial a pastime for the son of Sarek of Vulcan. But he had been permitted to take the whole course: an'wun, lirpa, and throwing stick. And he was good, even at an'wun which was a quick weapon and dominated entirely by girls by the time they had reached academy.
The new seresa was also the one who had decided to start an English class for the children whose families were in the diplomatic corps or interstellar trade. And who had hired his mother.
Spock picked up his tape case and strode out from the shelter of the equipment shed, looking to neither side until he was on Abrogn Walk. He would not be teased. No matter what, he would not be teased.
The children continued to be uncooperative. Oh, they completed their lessons satisfactorily, were flawlessly obedient, but that was all. Nothing Amanda did seemed to arouse any enthusiasm in them. It was as if they had stretched a huge, damp, smothering blanket between her and them and, every time she pressed against it, it was worse than standing at a distance.
The teacher across the hall was another thorn. Nosy, critical, self-absorbed, he controlled the students entrusted to him by ridiculing some and doting on others. The children avoided his negative attention by not misbehaving in his class. They didn't excel either. Silly old fart.
Amanda had made a few pleasant acquaintances, though, among the other teachers—all male. Vulcan women didn't trust their Terran counterparts or, at least, thought very little of them. If Sarek weren't so confident in her devotion to him, she'd have no friends at all because nearly all of her Vulcan associates were men.
Vulcans were always first to make mention, although the Terrans professed equal status of its sexes, that there had never been a female Terran Ambassador to the Federation while men had attained every pinnacle of power on Vulcan at least once. But behind closed doors, away from alien eyes, their instability kept Vulcan males from attaining high level posts in any numbers before they were nearly too old to enjoy the privileges.
A series of windfalls and good timings had gotten Sarek his foot in the door before anyone could see just how important the role of Ambassador to the Federation could be. After all, it was an exo-Vulcan matter and was safe enough for a man still in his siring years, not like a resident ambassador who had
to set up base on an alien world. It would be a simple enough matter to plan ahead to relieve a male Federation representative of duty when the "years were against him." And Amanda could just bet that there was somebody, somewhere—like T'Pau—just waiting and counting the days.
Sarek was working at his desk when she entered his office. They always tried to respect the other's privacy, but the door was open so she just walked in.
He held out his right hand when he saw her, continuing his jotting on the lightslate before him. "I was going to search for you presently. I have some matters to discuss with you." He checked his reading screen, touching her hand briefly then gesturing to the extra chair. "As you know, I have been making inquiries—discreetly, of course, about degree programs at the Mental Research Institute. Now, we are both aware that no outworlder has ever been admitted for study there. You will be the first. The Academic Council will argue that a Terran is unable to learn even the basic techniques of Vulcan mind control. Good. It will render them that much more impressed with your competence when you arrive for your audience. Now, as to the matter of your course of study..."
He went on for quite awhile with Amanda only half listening. He had it all planned out: what courses she would take, how long her involvement would be, when would be the most advantageous time to begin—
She hadn't done a thing with her students—none of the tests and evaluations she'd talked to her husband about. She'd wanted to do a study on color perception to start with, based upon some observations she had made of Sarek when they'd first met, then move on to tests of comparative intelligence—would that be controversial? Sarek seemed to think that she needed to be armed with Vulcan-based data when she applied to MRI; he was most probably right. You didn't walk onto a battlefield with your arms wide open and a smile on your face, at least not without something up your sleeve. Her written observations would be her weapons; her unpublicized capability in mind meld, her ace-in-the-hole.
"...and have you any reports or records that I may read?"
Amanda's mind snapped back into the room. She'd always had the uncanny ability to pop out of daydreams just when a question had been posed to her.
"Uh ... not yet, Sarek," she answered.
"And why not?" For a moment, his tone was almost disciplinary, then a familiar sternness darkened it. "Have there been any rescissions made by the administration at the school concerning their agreement with you?"
She had to defuse him fast. If he thought anyone was giving her a hard time, there'd be Hell to pay and at Sarek's price. His hand was already reaching for the
"Oh no, dear," she said lightly, "nothing like that."
His arm remained extended. "Why the delay, then, my wife?"
He didn't completely trust her to faithfully report personal slights to him. In his opinion, she was much too forgiving of insults.
"The time just isn't right yet, Sarek," she told him. "I have to feel my way with this."
"Well, yes. I'm studying people's minds, Sarek. I have to consider intellectual and emotional states. It's not like theoretical physics where there is a one-to-one relationship and the results are the combination of a set of variables. In psychology, if people are in the wrong mental set, it can throw the results and you're left holding weeks' worth of worthless, invalid data."
The ambassador considered for a moment. He was certainly no authority on the mechanics of emotion although he had become quite familiar with their expression. Amanda, however, was remarkably sensitive to the needs of others. Entirely too sensitive, he thought. "I see," he said in deference to her knowledge. He would have to be patient. "You will keep me informed of your progress?"
"Of course, dear."
She touched her fingers to the back of his hand and he took them in his. He didn't seem to be terribly disappointed, and she hoped that he couldn't pick up any anxiety from her. According to Sarek, there would come a time when a touch could reveal much, and to that end he had been teaching her the proper shielding for protection from others. She didn't particularly enjoy the instruction. Anything that kept her out of Sarek's mind was unwelcome to her.
One thing for certain, she was going to have to obtain some data from somewhere.
"Sarek," she said, "I've been thinking. Maybe you could get some subjective data for me—anecdotal material—by touching minds with some other Earth people. The Rosenbergs, maybe. You could give me an idea of the degree of similarity,"
Sarek had dropped her hand. Amanda received a distinct and well-defined projection of distaste.
"I will not."
"Ask anything else of me, Amanda, but that one thing I will not do."
"I don't understand. I just want to compare—"
"Excuse me, Amanda." He rarely interrupted her when she was speaking, yet he had done so twice in the last few moments. "You obviously do not realize that of which you speak." He waited a moment, lowering his voice and speaking in the tone he used for explaining intimate matters. "Asking this thing of me would be tantamount to my requesting that you take other Vulcan men as mates so that I could compare your reports of their performance to my own."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean—"
Amanda felt her husband's hand on hers.
"Your request was made in all innocence, my wife. I am not offended."
She conjured up a smile for him and felt it reflected back. "Would you excuse me, Sarek?" she said, getting to her feet. "I have some things to do."
He released her hand after a brief pause. "Certainly, my wife. I did not mean to keep you so long from your readings. If you should encounter Spock, would you send him to me for his mental training?" He glanced at his screen after making some adjustments. "And we are overdue for certain contact practices ourselves. May I schedule it for Hublas?" He was already beginning to make the notation.
"That's fine, dear."
He had a natural tendency to take charge, to run everybody's lives for them. He worked too hard, tried to do too much. But Amanda couldn't tell him to slow down. He needed to have somebody to take care of even more than she needed his all-encompassing concern. She was spoiled—she knew it—to know that Sarek would come running whenever things went wrong. She could admit that to herself and the knowledge that she didn't mind it—in fact, she adored his hovering devotion—but whether it was healthy for him...?
"Spock, dear, your father's looking for you."
He scampered away like a little desert creature. Sarek was on that child like a hawk, monitoring everything he did, seeing to every little detail of their son's life.
It's not right for him to pour so much into our son. The child needs some breathing space. Another child would spread Sarek's attention somewhat—most Vulcan men of his age had several children to care for, leaving them much less time to misfire their paternal instincts on other younger relatives. They said "it goes easier for a man when he has one in the cradle." And he had been nearly "twice the age" when Spock had been born. It almost seemed that…he had been saving his parental feelings for this one child and would be a successful father with a vengeance. It wasn't good for Spock. And it's not good for me, Amanda told herself. Another baby ...
Even if it were possible, she had mixed feelings about bringing another hybrid child into this or any world. To have it tormented and pushed out of things and left to feel rejected and torn. But she would never have to face that. Once he had said to her, "We have a fine son, my wife. Any further issue would merely be redundant." But he so needed to be needed...
The child got to her feet and stood by her desk and said something in her soft, whispering voice.
"What was that?" asked Amanda.
"Will you direct me to the Vulcan Consulate?"
"That's excellent, Noiard," said Amanda. "You should speak up more clearly."
"She always talks like that," said Sepek in a loud voice. "AlI of the teachers have to remind her not to whisper."
Noiard sat down, looking shyly away. This was obviously not the first time that Sepek had embarrassed her.
Amanda regarded the timid child gently. "I think that you have a very nice voice, Noiard. And might I suggest that a loud voice is the instrument of a weak mind."
After the first class, Amanda went down the hall for a few minutes and when she returned, she found a man waiting for her in her classroom.
"Pardons, Ser," he said, "but are you the teacher of English?"
"I am. "
"The seresa said that I could wait for you here. I am Noiard's father."
He was quite young and he had a baby nodding on his shoulder. Noiard must have been his first child. Amanda stepped into the room and closed the door behind her.
"My name is Ser Amanda," she said.
"Yes, I know. My daughter speaks of you often." When he had introduced himself, he reached for something leaning against the legs of the chair on which he had been sitting. "I have brought something." He tried to juggle the package and the baby at the same time. He did not do very well.
"Here, let me help." Amanda took the baby from him and cradled it in her arms.
Wide, moist eyes. That's right. Forest Tribe children were supposed to have large and beautiful, dark eyes.
The young man looked questioningly at Amanda. "That's odd," said the father. "He usually screams like a lematya at the very sight of strangers."
"He's beautiful," said Amanda, and he was, not quite as beautiful as Spock had been, but a good second place.
"His mother is very pleased with him," said the young man. "I was sent to ShiKar as husband to her only last year, which is why I have brought you this."
Amanda traded parcels with him and found herself in the possession of a rather hefty container of brewers.
"It is our best blend, Ser. I hope that I have not been too presumptuous and that you will enjoy it."
She would. The mixture of leaves and roots had the familiar smell of that brew that she had forbidden Sarek to buy when their finances had been low. Amanda regarded the man with curiosity. "My gratitude, h'daarin. But I don't understand."
The young man bowed his head for a moment. "As I mentioned, my Noiard and I are very new to your city and, aside from one other household on the far side of the Center, we have no kinspeople. It is fine for me; I have a wife and baby. But Noiard is alone. You have been kind to my daughter and encouraged her studies. I hope to see her on the Interstellar Exchange someday. For this, I express my gratitude to you and your household."
Amanda's nostrils were so full of the aroma of the brewers she nearly felt dizzy. "I was kind to your daughter because she is a good student and because she is considerate herself. I wasn't expecting any reward."
"'A gift unsolicited is doubly earned,'" he quoted. "Please, you will accept it?"
Amanda fastened the cover down over the container. She could almost taste the stuff now. "Of course. And let me thank you for your thoughtfulness."
The man nodded. He understood thank you, too. Amanda was still puzzled about one thing and decided that right now she had the nerve to ask about it. "Might I ask you one question, as your daughter's teacher?"
"She's such an intelligent child, and she always knows the right answer. Why does she speak so softly that no one can hear?" If she had thought it a structural problem, Amanda would not have asked. She waited for a reply.
"You may have noticed," said the man, "that I speak with the inflection of the Forest tribes. Noiard learned as I did, but it seems unacceptable here. The other children grieve her about it."
It was Sepek. That damned Sepek. Penon, and sometimes Rasni, were the real adversaries, but Sepek seemed to find a perverse enjoyment in discovering just what it was that annoyed or hurt the other children and then proceeded to dig in hard. What was wrong with that boy? He came from a good home, a prominent family—
"You may tell Noiard for me," said Amanda, "that she is by far my best student, and if she continues to progress in her English lessons and is tutored in the family business at home, she will not only be on the Interstellar Exchange, she will be in charge of it one day."
"You truly believe it so?"
"She has the ability. She is one of the brightest children I have ever known."
Noiard's father was very pleased. And it was the truth. She was, even including Spock, the best child in Amanda's English class.
Spock didn't bother with a leafroll. He wasn't hungry.
There was no place to sit. The javelin team was pulling equipment from the shed so that his usual place was out of the question. The history master sat in the middle of the courtyard with his favorites surrounding him, taking up the coolest spot outside the classrooms. He had a lot of favorites; if he asked you to join him, you didn't dare refuse. Except Penon. He invited her to take break with his group nearly every day, but she always had something to do at some other location. Spock had never been asked.
Penon and Sepek were walking across the courtyard, arguing. Spock didn't understand them. If he had a cousin—or a sister—in his household, he would never let bad words come between them. Once he had made the mistake of asking his father if there might be a little sister for him. The answer had been negative.
"And that is all I will say concerning the matter," Sarek had said, "and under no circumstances is this subject to be discussed in the presence of your mother."
There were a lot of subjects that had been forbidden him to speak with his mother.
Spock hefted his tape case and headed for the drilling yard. It was hot out there, but it was peaceful.
He had to wait for them. Penon and Sepek were of Sarek's tribe. He had to be civil to them.
"Spock Amandaikan," said Sepek in false amiability, "how are you this fine day?"
"I am satisfactory, Sepek T'Ardikan."
"And your mother, the Terran master?"
"The same." Why did he have to put up with this? Why couldn't people just leave him alone?
Sepek leaned toward him, his long face grimacing. "I am so pleased to hear it."
Spock reined himself; he was losing patience fast. He almost longed for their younger days when Sepek's insults had been more simple and obvious and not couched in amenities that had to be returned.
"If you have nothing further to say to me, Sepek, I have some matters to attend to."
"What?" inquired the other boy. "Laughing lessons?"
"Leave him alone."
The last comment had come from Penon.
"I said leave him alone, Sepek."
He'd better shut his mouth. If he knew what was good for him, he'd better shut his mouth.
"Good day to you, Spock."
The girl took her cousin by the arm and propelled him away. She reprimanded him in undertones, but Spock heard anyway.
"Why can't you leave that boy alone? He's younger than you. Besides, he can't help it that he's half Terran—no more than his mother can change what she
Spock threw his juice in the receptacle near the arch and sought sanctuary in the blistering heat of the drilling yard. No. There was nothing he could do about it. Absolutely nothing.
Sarek had to go out of town overnight on business and Amanda though it would give her a chance to spend some time alone with Spock and discover why he had been so quiet the last few weeks.
They cooked dinner together, something he always enjoyed doing, and while he carefully stirred the sauce for the chaktai, Amanda dug out the waved steak from behind the caveberries from last season and looked for something to cook it in. She was going to pan fry it and let the aroma fill the kitchen and tease her nostrils even before she could taste it—something she couldn't do when Sarek was home.
"Well, what's happening in your life?" she asked her son. "Even though I see you all the time at school, I hardly get to talk with you anymore."
He seemed to brighten.
"Maybe if you didn't teach anymore..."
She laughed. "Don't you worry about that, dear. I'll always find time for you!"
Spock was quiet all through dinner. Amanda felt his neck once but he didn't feel feverish. Every subject seemed to fall flat, even the suggestion of making cookies after they'd finished eating. Sarek always said "you are the diplomat, Amanda, not I" referring to her way of finding something gracious to say to anyone she met. To fail to carry on a conversation with her own son distressed her.
"How 'bout a game of chess, dear?"
"No, thank you, Mother. I have some studying to do."
The visicom signalled. Amanda switched it to standby.
"Would you like me to tell you a story before you go to sleep?"
"No thank you." He assumed the attitude of respect and bowed. "Borsh-a doiam."
When her son had left, Amanda turned to take her call. "Shor kirpa doiam."
"Shor kirpa," said Sarek, using the intimate form of address. "How is everything at home? How are you?"
Amanda smiled for him, tuning his long-view face into focus.
"I'm fine, dear. But I miss you."
Thank God! The children packed up their tapes and waited to be dismissed.
They all stood to the left of their desks, waiting.
When they had gone, Amanda sat down behind her terminal, folding her arms along its low back and resting her chin on her wrists. Beyond the twelve orderly little desks, her pictures of breezy ocean scenes and crystalline snowfalls seemed odd and out of place, a mockery of every fond memory she had of home.
Sarek understood. But he had shared with her the sights and sensations of Earth; they had met and grown close under its heavy blue skies and among its green, rain-kissed hills. She could say, "Remember the time we...?" and he could nod in fond remembrance of a day on an expanse of ocean-lapped sand, or at his first encounter with the wind-whipped snowdrifts of a Boston winter.
But none of these children had any first-hand knowledge. Even Spock had been to Earth only once, and he had been too little and the stay too brief to make anything but the most surface of impressions. It was the first time he'd been separated from her for any amount of time and when he and Sarek had arrived, he had come running down the ramp to her right under the customs barricade. He'd been such a pretty, happy little boy in those days with a ready smile for anyone who was kind to him. When she looked at her son today, it was he who seemed alien, not his full-Vulcan father.
Someone was watching her. Amanda's eyes darted to the classroom door and caught the last glimpse of a retreating face. Why, that old fart—
He was at his own door when Amanda reached the hallway, pretending to be trying the latch.
"Did you find anything that interested you, Ser."
The old man regarded her with that familiar expression of Vulcan superiority which she had come to despise. He was from the Mountain Clan, she knew, by his name, and had probably been somewhat attractive when he was young, but not enough for it to have been easy for him to manipulate his way in a woman's world.
"I am of the opinion, Ser," he said, "that a teacher should spend her out-class time in study and meditation, not dreaming into the air."
How anyone could manage to speak with their nose held that high?
Amanda replied by making a show of surveying the walls, the floors, and the ceiling of the corridor -- and even under the soles of her sandals.
"What are you doing?"
Amanda took one last glimpse behind the classroom door, then turned her blue Terran eyes on the other teacher. "I'm just looking for the dim-bulb who asked for your opinion in the first place."
The man was mortified. Good. Amanda was pleased with herself for being able to get an emotional rise out of him, but her righteous anger was shot through with the trembling fear that she had been opposing Vulcan custom too much. These people were not Sarek. They wouldn't listen with an open mind.
"I will have you know that I have been closely observing the games, songs, and the like irrational manner in which you present your lessons. We'll see what the seresa has to say about this."
"Good," Amanda called after him, "you just do that."
She felt her shoulders stoop suddenly as if someone had tied a string to the base of her skull and attached a paving stone to the end of it. She hadn't mean to antagonize him, but he was a silly old fart and she was sick and tired of his interference, his accusations, and his thinly-disguised insults and threats. She didn't want trouble, but she didn't want to lose her self-respect either.
She knew the seresa would be calling for her. Instead of staying and facing the music like a woman, she hustled out of her classroom and scuttled through the halls and out onto the street where she hopped a lift heading for the park district. She sat at a table in a brew and pastry shop for nearly half a besa, letting the natives stare as she tossed down half a dozen glazed leafrolls and four bowls of the thickest, sweetest brew on the menu while she pretended to be studying a media report on the overhead screen. She hadn't been there long when a group of schoolchildren in red-shaded uniforms passed by.
It'll be all over the school. 'The seresa came looking for her and she fled in well-deserved shame.' There was no reason why a teacher had to remain at the school building when she had no lessons or duties to keep her. But the fact that another ser had complained of her to the seresa and that she had left shortly after would make her out a coward.
And aren't I? Oh, I'm brave enough to stand up to a man, but to a woman? Amanda didn't hold fertile men in condescending tolerance—but that was exactly what everyone would say. Well, who cares? Her husband would care, and her son. They had reputations to keep intact and what a woman did reflected upon her family.
Amanda drank the last drop of her brew. She wondered if there was anything stronger at home. That's right, Amanda Jaquith Grayson, drown it all, hide it all in a bottle. Typical Earther. Earther. They used to call Spock that. Did they still? Probably nothing in the house, anyway. How often did she drink, really? When the Rosenbergs came over or when they invited her and Sarek to dinner at the Earth Embassy? Or on a starliner on the way to Federation Council meetings, maybe? Besides, alcohol made Sarek nauseous.
Amanda got up from the table. She had to get home and fix dinner before Sarek got in and dutifully went about preparing a meal. His idea of cooking was dumping water over something dehydrated and watching it expand. But as soon as she had them taken care of, she was going to bed, pull the blanket up over her head, and sleep for a hundred years.
"I have sent him to his grandfather's for the night."
An apparent non sequitur.
"Have you forgotten the VCIU reception this evening?"
Oh, God. The new ambassador from Cygnet XIV. They'd known about this for weeks.
"I'll get dressed, Sarek, and you—" She stopped halfway out of the room. "Oh, no! "
"What troubles you, my wife?"
"I don't have anything to wear!"
He couldn't believe her.
"I sent my good robes out to be cleaned this morning."
"All of them?"
"They're probably hanging in the back of Wat-fafa's shop right now. Every last one of them."
Sarek considered. "What else have you?"
"Besides my day robes? My school uniform and my desert suit, and some things from Earth."
"Perhaps Fafa-sim would be willing—"
"When does the reception start?"
Sarek checked the clock. "We are expected to arrive at the embassy in less than a quarter besa."
Wat-fafa and his daughters had been making Sarek's clothes since he was a boy and had taken care of her ever since she'd come to Vulcan. The shop did all their own designing, construction, tailoring, and cleaning—of everything from day wear to ceremonials. The family would think nothing of doing this favor.
"We'll never make it, Sarek. You'd better go without me."
Sarek shook his head. "I would rather not."
"Don't be silly, Sarek. You don't need me. It's the Vulcan Ambassador to the Federation they'll expect to see. They won't know me from Adam."
Sarek hesitated before he spoke. "I would prefer an escort, my wife. It is a formal affair."
"Oh, you'll just look wonderful being carted around all night by an Earth woman in a pair of jeans with a red patch on the bum and a sweater with 'MIT' knitted into it."
"What about that gown you had Fafa-sim design for you to wear at receptions during Federation Council meetings?"
"You mean the thing with no back? You want me to be seen in Vulcan company wearing a Terran evening gown?"
"It is formal," her husband said simply.
He'd made up his mind already. He knew it was clean because she'd sent it out after the last council meeting and hadn't worn it since. "You had better dress, my wife, or we will be embarrassingly late."
A clear case of subconscious avoidance, that's what it is. Still, she couldn't win. Amanda gave in. "You know, I'd probably look better if I just wore sandals and wrapped a sheet around my body."
She saw Sarek's look.
"Don't even suggest it..."
She tried to make light of the matter, but there was no humour involved that night. To begin with, they arrived late which had embarrassing connotations for Sarek, and then the door attendant at the Katullan Embassy which was hosting the reception got things turned around and introduced Sarek first using his rank which, to a room full of matriarchs from both Vulcan and Cygnet XIV, was entirely inappropriate. As the night wore on, she tried to lessen the first impression by not going through her usual routine of deferring to Sarek because of his superior rank, but he was so used to her attending him that they kept running into each other every time they tried to move.
Aside from the fact that the Vulcans were not in floor-length but full-length formals, her evening gown was duly appraised by both Vulcan and Cygnetian alike. Although the ambassador herself wore a short tunic and a ceremonial dagger, Amanda knew that the cut of her gown combined with the fact that she was from a traditionally patriarchal planet like Earth made for conversations of disgust among most of the other women there. I might as well chain myself to Sarek's wrist... Amanda felt a nervous laugh coming on and tried to leave the hall.
At once, Sarek was at her side. "Where are you going, my wife?"
It was funny, but he never let her out of his sight at parties. Too many memories to keep them all covered. "I need to go to the euphemism."
"Shall I accompany you?"
"No, dear, I'm a big girl."
Then she almost wished she had let him because his presence would have prevented her from overhearing the conversation.
"Who is she, anyway?"
"His wife. She attends to him, though, as if he were hers."
"I heard that he outranks her by many degrees...
"That is truth, Ambassador, but if thine own husband were to manage such a position, would thee trot behind him like a pet?"
"Certainly not. Look, I'm as liberated as the next woman. I let my husbands have their little careers—it keeps them out of my hair when I'm not in the mood—if you know what I mean. But I'll tell you one thing: when they're at home in my house, they know their place and how to keep it and who's in charge."
"Exactly. I see that thee and I are one in thought, Ambassador. Our worlds may have much to say to each other."
Amanda waited out of sight until they had left. Much to say to each other? What could anyone possibly learn when everybody was saying the same thing? The Cygnetian ambassador and T'Pron, the tribal council representative from Taimun,of all places! A summit meeting in the women's room. Jesus Christ! She supposed she should be flattered that her name would come up in so lofty a conversation, but it could only reflect badly on Sarek. Suddenly she was sick.
"You were absent a long time, my wife. Is everything all right?"
"I don't feel too well, Sarek. Could we leave without causing a disturbance?"
She knew they couldn't, that their early departure would only reinforce their late arrival, but there was nothing Amanda could do about it. She would have tried to stick it out, but she suddenly felt incredibly nauseous and knew she'd be a worse embarrassment to Sarek if she were to become sick all over the ballroom.
"You look very pale, my wife," he told her in the back of the limousine on the way home. He pressed his hand to her neck. "Your skin is clammy."
"Something, or a combination of somethings, mustn't have agreed with me. I'll be all right when I can lie down."
He checked to see that the screen to the driver's compartment was off then patted his lap. She rested her head against his legs.
"I saw T'Pron re-enter the ballroom shortly before you did, my wife. Had she anything to say to you?"
"I didn't see her, dear." It was the truth. She hadn't seen the council member. "Sarek ... I hope you didn't mind leaving the reception so early..."
His hand floated down to her stomach to ease her distress.
"Not at all, Amanda. The odor of cooking flesh was beginning to unsettle me."
She felt his eyes although she could not see them in the dark limousine.
"You looked very attractive tonight, my wife."
Amanda patted the back of his hand. "I should have worn the sheet."
[Note: T'yetma (Chate-mah) is the Vulcan term for ambassador]
There was still a bitter taste in Amanda's mouth the next morning. Sarek had made her drink a foul-tasting concoction that he had devised years ago when she had tasted authentic Desert Tribe cooking for the first time. She'd told him both times she'd rather vomit, but he was always insistent and nagging until she gave in.
Conversational English was first. It could have been a fun class, but it wasn't. The children were supposed to learn how to communicate orally with each other and to that end Amanda had created games and activities and even songs to make the task more interesting than the usual Vulcan procedure of rote learning and constant drill. She'd explain what she wanted them to do, get them started, and see that first faint glimmer of enthusiasm fire up in their eyes. Then, with a cold-water glance from Penon, or sometimes Sepek, the fire would go out and they'd go through the lesson dutifully, capably—but that was all.
Sarek had warned her about the girls. "They will challenge your authority, try to make you show your weaknesses, then cut you sharp as with a blade."
That seemed a bit catty for females in a matriarchal society. Or maybe she applied that term from her own patriarchal bias. Still, Amanda reasoned, their undeveloped emotional responses had to go somewhere, just as their males involuntarily vented their emotional impotence in a vastly different but infinitely more dangerous manner.
Penon's grandmother was Ib'at'ye T'Uvri whose gilded watchtower blinded you at certain angles when the sun was low. That woman had a real dislike for Terrans, males especially, yet the class roster for English had shown Penon and Sepek's names as first to be registered after Spock's. Figure that. Might as well figure why the girl herself was such an adversary in the classroom. Amanda's instincts made her suspect that the child actually liked her.
"If you wait for me, T'yetma, I will walk with you."
"Ib'at'ye T'Uvri," the Federation Ambassador said, stopping in the Grand Gallery of the Council Building, "when did you return to ShiKar?"
The woman paused, breathless, under the archway. She had a recurring illness that came and went mysteriously and was obviously, at present, suffering from its effects. Sarek waited for her to speak.
"I arrived last night after the children were in bed. I wanted to ask them of their English lessons. I hope my Penon has not been too much a trial to your wife, Sarek, but that girl is woman through."
The ambassador moved not a hair of his eyebrows. "So, T'Uvri, is my wife."
The equipment shed was dark. Amanda was searching for the light switch when she heard voices.
"…I saw her in the hall. She's very short, isn't she?"
"She's very odd-looking, don't you think?"
"She's an Earther."
"And she's Spock's mother."
Amanda could almost see the other child turn to stare at her son.
"But you're so good at lessons, Spock. She couldn't be your real mother. She's just your father's wife, isn't that right?"
What? So Spock couldn't be intelligent and be half Terran, too?
Amanda waited for his reply.
Another child joined the group at a run.
"Penon. Your cousin Sepek is looking for you."
"What does he want?"
Amanda strained in vain to discern her son's voice in the hub-bub.
"He says you have his leafroll."
"I do not."
Spock, answer the question.
"He says you do, and he's telling everyone that you took it from him when he wasn't looking."
"You can tell Sepek for me that I don't have anything of his and if he wants to make accusations, you tell him to come and make them to my face."
Tell them, Spock. TELL THEM.
"I have some studying to do." Spock's voice was crisp and rapid. "Good day."
The retreating footsteps on the gravel were hurried, and Amanda could hear them over those of the other departing children's.
She couldn't cry. She had to find the old style viewer that was supposed to be compatible with her phototapes from Earth. She had a class to teach. She couldn't cry.
"Sarek, I need to speak with you."
"I am occupied," he said, never taking his gaze from the reading screen. "Might it wait until later?"
A long silence.
He almost had it working. If only he had a 2A—but Father said it could be done with the components he had. But with a 2A you wouldn't have to run so many bypasses. Why did Father always have to do things the hard way?
The chronometre on the shelf tonged. Evensong had gone awhile ago and he should be in bed. He turned off the power and tossed a cloth over the whole thing and went back to his bedroom. He'd learned long ago not to protest bedtime; besides, his mother would be in at any minute to check on him and say goodnight.
He climbed into bed and waited for her. He waited and waited until the besa chimed, but his mother never came.
The ambassador stood and stretched, feeling each and every vertebra in his spine snap roughly into place. The back of his neck thrummed. If it were not so late, he would ask Amanda to rub it for him. She had yet to master nerve transduction, but her fingers gave a pleasure all their own.
Spock had thrown his blanket. So like his mother. Such energy of body that she released it in her sleep.
Sarek recovered his child. He managed career and fatherhood rather well, he thought, keeping his son equal to or surpassing the standard schedule in logic training and maintaining a high-level position for himself as well. There were those who criticized him for it, who accused him of neglect of his primary duty as father, who warned what a high-pressure career in the diplomatic corps would do to a male's delicate balance.
Amanda did not agree. She felt that a man needed outlets just as a woman did despite the tangent nature of his reproductive role. She had always been supportive of his work and proud of his accomplishments and had more than once proven an asset to him by being a remarkably astute observer and interpreter of alien behavior. Still, she was young and inexperienced and in need of his guidance in some matters, but such was a temporary situation and certainly not unremediable.
His wife had gone to bed earlier. It occurred to Sarek that she had had something to discuss with him. No matter. It could be voiced at some other time. If it had been important, she would have said as much.
In entering the bedroom, Sarek disturbed his wife's sleep and she rolled over into her own pillows. She preferred him to sleep with her in her bed. It was an Earth custom that she expected of him and that he had grown pleased to fulfill, although it had first impressed him as an unseemly interchange that his people would have found a depraved form of contact in the very least. Most Vulcan men preferred their wives to leave them alone when it was done with them, but Amanda did not make him feel embarrassed. With her, all was right and honorable, although this was not a subject that he would discuss with anyone else. And it seemed that to refuse this co-sleeping to an Earth woman was an affront to her female dignity. A Vulcan man would never display disrespect of his wife. It just was not done.
Amanda curled herself into a sphere, facing the opposite wall. Reaching only slightly, Sarek could sense no mental activity in her. She had learned to shield long ago but most often left them down by choice when the two of them were together. Sometimes, she even came to him in dreams which, if she were a Vulcan, would have greatly embarrassed her. It pleased him now to learn that she had begun the involuntary practice of shielding in her sleep.
He was surprised to find her still awake.
"I've been thinking..."
"I've been thinking of moving away—living somewhere else."
"Indeed?" She had caught him off his guard. "I had thought you fond of this house."
He had purchased and furnished it especially for her comfort and convenience so that they could begin their own household away from curious and judgemental eyes. This was the first time that he had been aware of any dissatisfaction on her part.
"It's not the house, Sarek. I love this house."
He understood now. The climate was difficult for her. It had seemed easier for her after their son had been born, but apparently she still found the heat in ShiKar unpleasant.
"If we were to move south, below the sea, it would be possible to commute, but…"
"No, Sarek." She got out of bed and walked to the idol stand. "I have to leave here, get away from the school, the Council..."
The air between them stood empty for a moment. Sarek began to notice a slight sensation of uneasiness in his chest. When his wife did not speak again, the sensation increased.
"You mean to leave Vulcan altogether?" Sarek elbowed his way into a sitting position. "This is rather sudden, my wife."
He was her husband. He should follow her without question. There were certain...needs... of his; she was his wife and had the responsibility of taking charge of him. But he had pride. And she, of all women, would have no respect for him if he blindly submitted to her out of this necessary male dependency.
"Am I correct in assuming that you intend me to leave Council?" he inquired. "I do not wish to seem disrespectful, my wife, but you have spoken many times of the equality of all manner of our desires, that the wants of one of us should not take precedence over the wants of the other. And I would be untruthful if I said that I were willing to sacrifice my career without some manner of thought or discussion."
From the rear, she presented a firm, unyielding visage. "You don't understand, Sarek. I'll go. You and Spock can stay here. You won't have to give up anything." She paced agitatedly. "We can see each other from time to time."
"We will not."
He stared at the back of her head and hoped that she could feel what was in his mind just now. He did not know what had brought this idea to her, but he would not stand for it.
"I said no, Amanda."
She turned then, but he would not look at her. He was a wall, a rock, and there was no getting through. The uneasiness that he had felt was now an ache, and he knew enough about himself from her teachings to know that he was sorely hurt by this.
"You took me as husband, Amanda-married me lawfully in the manner of your people. A man is with his wife, for her, of her. I will raise the heir you took of me because that is my duty and will see to his training, but my mother did not raise me to be a mere consort, and I do not intend to be used as little more than an object of your desire. I will not submit to occasional visits from my wife when her blood is up as if I were a 'favored gentleman'. If you leave the household that we have made together, do not expect me to be cooperative if you return."
She stopped her pacing for a moment. "Sarek, don't make me…"
"It is your choice, Amanda."
"Do you think I want to leave?"
It was then that Sarek saw her face. It spoke to him what his shields had prevented him from sensing.
He started to go to her and the panic slammed into him like a wave of cold ocean water. His stomach turned. Amanda backed away. He had to get to her.
In a second, she had thrown the door open and was out of the room. By the time he reached the hallway, she was out of sight. He listened for a moment and heard her footsteps. He knew that she wanted to lock herself away somewhere where he could not be affected by her distress, but she had gone in the wrong direction. She would have to double back. He was not dressed for running, but it was imperative that he catch her before she found a room in which to lock herself. It would be easy enough to force a door, but it was always embarrassing when workers came to make repairs.
Amanda rounded the bend in the hallway and when she saw her husband, she spun and darted back the way she had come. In four long strides, Sarek had overtaken and cornered her near their son's bedroom door. He reached for her.
Without any prior warning, his arm sprang back and his wrist struck the wall with a bone-shattering force. He steeled himself against her shields and seized her with his good hand.
"Let go of me!"
That first burst of energy had strangely depleted her. He was able to hold her with physical force only.
"Quiet. You will wake Spock."
He tried to lead her away but she would not come. She could be quite stubborn when it came to protecting him from the intensity of her Earth emotions.
"Forgive me, my wife," he said, and swung her into his arms and carried her back to their bedroom. She really did not want him to leave her to herself. She knew enough about Vulcanian methods of self defense to have had him writhing on the floor if she had wanted to. Something was badly troubling her if she would make insulting suggestions and then run from him when he tried to right what had come between them.
He carried her to their bed and lowered her to the mattress. She was going to be hysterical.
The nausea, the terror—
"Amanda," he said carefully, "are you pregnant?"
She shook her head no, straining against her feelings.
"Then tell me what pains you so, my wife."
"I don't want to leave you, Sarek!"
She had blurted it out almost as if against her will. Sarek leaned closer.
"Who said you must? Did T'Pron say something the other night?" Now he saw that this anxiety had been building in her since the day of the reception. He had misread her projection as fatigue. First he would calm his wife. Then he would make a call. He truly hoped that it was an ungodly hour in Taimun.
Amanda shook her head again. She was endeavoring to pull herself together. She was more than capable of controlling her emotions in the presence of others. Sarek surmised that the hurt must be extreme to tear her from herself in this way. He realized then that it was his accusatory words that had opened her up.
He had had no right. Even if she had given him cause to doubt her fidelity, Vulcan tradition would have dictated his acceptance of the situation. If she wished to have other companions when he was off, there was nothing he could do about it.
But this was not the source of her pain.
"Amanda?" Her eyes were shut, her face contorted. "Please tell me, what is the matter?"
Her tears came silently; he brushed them with the back of his hand.
"Do not do this. Please."
Weeping unsettled him. He could deal better with her anger. Sorrow left her open and unprotected, and it shook him to the very core. He remembered then that earlier his wife had wanted to speak with him in the study. "I did not mean to ignore you earlier this evening, Amanda. If my inattentiveness is cause for your tears, please accept my sincerest apologies. Here, let me come to you in your mind and you will know that I meant no disrespect."
He thought to crowd close, to embrace her, for this was always a comfort to her, and the backwash of her emotions was pleasant to him. But she pulled back, barring him with her arms.
"No! Please, Sarek! You'll only make me worse!"
But he was insistent. "Perhaps release is necessary," he said. This was what she was forever saying to him.
She wept loudly and for a long time. He made his arms tight to secure her, but not enough to obscure her breathing. When she finally began to quiet, Sarek loosened his embrace.
"I never meant to hurt you so, my wife. But you should remember my Vulcan ways—you must be more aggressive with me when you wish my attentiveness, demand of me, or I shall overshadow you. I am forever overstepping," he said, "forever usurping your place."
She glared at him fiercely.
"You are a t'yetma. In our home as well as in council. I walk behind you because you are entitled to it—even from your wife."
"Yes, of course, my wife. We have our own arrangement. And someday," he said gently, "when you have been titled—perhaps as an ilisor of high degree I shall attend you instead."
She began to cry again.
"Please stop, Amanda. I cannot bear to see how deeply I have wounded you with my insensitivity."
She cared too much for him, left herself too open to his Vulcanian lack of demonstrativeness. How could he have allowed himself to become so careless with her feelings? Had she not been hurt enough in her short life? He deserved the bruising his mind was getting for the pain he had caused. He had ordered people from their home for much less.
Then suddenly, her arms tightened around him and the warm vacuum of her thoughts opening to him drew him in before he could consider. He was all at once bathed in her feelings and knew that his role in her despair was an insignificant little pinch, forgiven and forgotten almost before it had occurred.
Her arms drew back from him to wipe her eyes.
"Please, Sarek," she said, sniffing, "don't blame yourself. I'm just... well, things haven't been going as well as I expected at school. You know how emotional I get sometimes. It's not your fault."
Sarek searched for a tissue. Crying often congested the sinus cavities. Amanda took the tissue and blew her nose.
"My wife," he said, "you must not allow your work to affect you so deeply. You must not leave yourself open to personal injury like this."
She had changed. Had it been so suddenly, or had it been happening slowly, imperceptibly, and he had just noticed it now?
She had been so spirited once; she could command a thing of him and he was joyfully helpless to deny her. There had been a time when he had thought himself too proud to submit to a woman's demands, but with Amanda, there was no submission, no diminishing of himself. It was not, "I bother to care for you in your weakness, thus, you owe me these domestic duties as my husband." It was never his surrender, her taking. With Amanda, it was sharing, or nothing at all.
But what had happened? Had the tight yoke of Vulcan society squeezed the spirit out of her?
Perhaps he had protected her too much so that she was unable or unwilling to protect herself. Perhaps he treated her more like his daughter in some ways than his wife and companion. Perhaps it was the difference in their ages; perhaps the intensity of her emotions made her seem even younger to him. But she never made him desist, to leave her alone. Indeed, she seemed to thrive on the attention.
Sarek wiped the damp, wavy hair from her forehead. "Amanda..."
"It's all no good, Sarek. No one cooperates. The children, the headmaster, that old fart from across the hall—"
Sarek stroked her cheek, shaking his head, too. "Well, if I were you, Amanda, I would certainly not let any old fart dissuade me from my mission."
He had meant it in humour, to make her laugh and realize how she was overreacting to the situation. Instead, it brought forth another sob, heavy and sharp. He was open to her now and felt the emotion pinch him sorely.
"I am not helping you, am I?"
He felt helpless when she was like this. Most of the time, her energy and enthusiasm were a joy to him; her imagination and humour—things he was trying desperately to understand. He realized now how much he depended upon her to lighten his spirit when it was low, to provide support and encouragement for his projects. She understood him so well that she anticipated his needs, while her feelings left him utterly confused. It occurred to him that it had been advantageous of him to vow his alliance to her for the duration of their lives; it would take him that long just to comprehend the simplest of emotions.
"You must be stronger than they, Amanda," he told her. "You must assert your will over theirs. There is not a person in that school who could match you in intellect if you would only—"
She shook her head and would not look at him. "I've embarrassed you, Sarek," she said, grimly, "and disappointed you."
"I am neither embarrassed nor disappointed, my wife."
"But you are," she said with no energy left to cry. "I know what you're thinking. You had such hopes for me. You wanted the other men to say to you 'what a fine and accomplished wife you have, Sarek'."
"And you will be." He refused to accept her protests. "And I am not disappointed in you for you have not failed—you just have yet to succeed."
Positive criticism. She'd spent years drilling that into his head, but now it seemed so trite and hollow.
"And I will be more supportive of you—"
"You always are."
"—actively supportive. I will make myself more readily available for discussion and advice."
"Sarek..." Her look was stricken, beaten. "...I love you, Sarek..." He started to speak but she shook her head. "...I love you very much, and I love our son. But I really think it would be better if I lived somewhere else."
"Please, let me finish. Please..."
The front of her sleeping robe was pulled askew. He wanted to straighten it but did not dare.
"If I went away, it would be easier for the two of you. You'd miss me for awhile," she explained, "but after a time, people would forget that you had ever married an Earth woman or that Spock had Earth blood."
At that moment, Sarek was reminded of other, earlier times when his wife had been saddened by some slight from his family or from former associates, but this time confused him more than ever before.
"Amanda," he said carefully, "why do you think that you should go from me? Why would I wish you to be other than what you are or for our son to deny his origins?"
A sensation like the insertion of the finest, sharpest blade penetrated Sarek's thoughts, the cut so fine as to be invisible even to the strongest lens. It was only a pale reflection of the original hurt, but he knew now, finally knew, how his wife had come to be so deeply and completely wounded.
Spock awakened suddenly nearly a sixth of a besa before it was time for him to get up. Listening though fuzzy ears, he perceived the sound of knuckles rapping firmly on his bedroom door.
The sound of his father's voice, stern and unbendable, brought him fully awake in a second.
"I will speak to you when you are dressed."
He found his father in the garden, facing the stand of vento trees near the side wall. He assumed the attitude of respect and stood waiting in the cool morning air. Spock had been watching his father's unmoving profile for some time before he realized that the eyes had never blinked once. Perhaps he did not know that Spock was there.
"I am here, Father," said Spock in a small voice.
Several moments passed before Sarek spoke in leaden tones. "I am aware of your presence," he said without turning to the left or right. Not a muscle moved. Another minute went by. Spock had an itch, but he did not dare scratch.
What had he done?
"Spock," said Sarek finally, "tell me of your English lessons."
Spock felt a lump forming out of nowhere at the back of his throat. He was afraid to swallow. "I have been keeping up with my assignments," he told his father.
"Good," said Sarek.
That surprised Spock. He'd expected the boom to be lowered at any second.
"And how have you helped your mother?"
"Have you assisted her in preparation before your lesson?"
Spock shook his head. "No, Father."
"Have you taken your break with your mother?"
Sarek turned his head and stared down at his son.
"Have you set a proper example for the other students in class?"
Sarek turned on him, his voice beating against Spock's stomach like a lawgiver's drum.
"Have you stood at her side? Lent your support to her endeavors? Have you done anything at all to show your respect?"
Spock stared at the ground, searching desperately for a tiny crack that he could crawl into. The god of landquakes was not cooperative. "No, Father."
"And will you be so kind as to favor us with your rationale?"
Us? He was invoking the spirit of the entire Tribe. Spock was silent. His father said, "I have asked you a question."
Spock replied in a very small voice. "I didn't ask her to go there."
"What was that?"
"I never asked her to go to school!" he blurted out. "Everyone was being friendly with me before she came. Now they're all calling me 'Spock the Earther' again."
"You shame me."
Spock took a step back. The strength of his father's projection was that forceful.
"I had relied upon you to make your mother's way easier. Now I find that, not only have you not rendered your assistance, you have displayed a disgraceful disloyalty to the person who gave you life, to whom you owe a debt that can never be repaid. You should be always at her side as the heir to her name and estate. Her esteem and well-being should be uppermost in your mind at all times."
"And what of mine?" Spock knew that he was only making things worse, but he didn't care.
"Your feelings are unimportant here," said Sarek. "Amanda is not Vulcan. She is an emotionally delicate creature. She can be hurt easily, deeply. She is alone here on our world with no family save us to be kin to and to stand at her side. It is our duty to protect her." He turned away. "And that is all the explanation I intend to make. And today, you will walk to school with your mother and assist her in any way that may show itself."
"Do I have to?"
"I will not repeat myself."
Spock looked away this time. It wasn't fair. He wanted to run away somewhere to where he was a Vulcan and grown up and everybody admired him. He almost did leave when it was silent for a time, but he could feel Sarek's eyes on him.
"Why is it that you do not wish to walk with your mother?"
Spock said nothing, but he could not keep Sarek from reading him plainly now.
"You are ashamed?" said his father in wonderment. "You do not wish the other children to know that Amanda is your mother?"
The disgust in Sarek's voice came at Spock like an ill, smothering wind.
"I see. Well, if Amanda is not your mother," he said, "then I am not your father."
And with that, the t'yetma strode from the garden and left Spock standing there alone.
He found his wife dressing in her running clothes.
"It is too hot for you to run now, my wife. It is too late."
She twisted her upper body without moving her legs like a tiny k'len, poised in all its apparent fragility over a forest stream, craning her neck for a glimpse of the clock. "Why did you let me sleep so late? I never sleep this late."
Sarek walked further into the room, taking care not to reveal how swollen his left wrist was.
"You seemed so peaceful. I thought it a shame to wake you."
She intended to scold him, he could see it by the carriage of her body. Then, without warning, he saw that tenseness fade for another kind. She had remembered.
"About last night..."
"We will not speak of it again."
He had hoped to smooth the episode from her thoughts, to prevent her embarrassment, but it had bled through. More and more, her mind was developing an enviable resiliency that he could only admire, but it made protection of her that much more difficult.
Amanda walked toward her wardrobe, crossing her arms and griping the hem of her tunic with her hands.
"I was overreacting," she said, peeling the running suit top up over her head, "and hysterical. You shouldn't pay any attention to me when I'm hysterical." She opened the wardrobe and thrust her head in.
Sarek observed for a moment. "You have stood by me when I have been in conditions far worse, my wife." And had afforded him some measure of dignity in doing so. Sarek waited while his wife hung the tunic in the wardrobe. "Breakfast will be waiting for you, Amanda, when you are ready."
He left quietly and went about his morning duties.
"Spock, come to breakfast."
"No thank you, Father. I'm not hungry."
Amanda looked at her husband with concern, but he gestured to her food and remarked, almost playfully, "Really, my wife. It cannot be all that bad..." Then he scooped up some marksh and examined it more fully. "... and then, on the other hand..."
Spock waited by the gate to the public court until his mother appeared, then fell in step beside her. They exchanged subdued good mornings and were silent for the remainder of the journey.
He'd heard them last night—his parents—arguing in the hallway outside his door. He'd sat bolt upright at the slamming on his wall, reaching for I-chaya who wasn't there anymore, waiting, petrified, until long after the footsteps had retreated and his mother's cries had completely died away. In the morning, when they'd been in the garden, Spock had noticed how carefully Sarek had held one of his arms. Then, this morning, he'd heard his mother laughing at breakfast, and every once in awhile his father would say something too softly for Spock to understand and his mother would laugh again. It made him feel confused. When they reached the schoolyard, Spock escorted his mother to the main entrance, flicking his eyes from side to side, daring anyone to comment. No one did.
"It's not broken."
Sarek gazed doubtfully at his wrist. The skin was tight where the fluids had poured into the tissues and had pushed it out. It hurt for him to write.
"I can deal with the pain."
"This is to render the joint mobile," said the surgeon, administering the hypo, "and to bring the swelling down."
The injection felt like ice.
"What I don't understand, Sarek, is why you didn't take this to a healer. She could have told you as much and treated you without benefit of all this equipment."
"I came to you because you are my sister."
"That's no logical reason."
"And because you would not ask questions."
She waved him to the door and began putting her instruments away. "I have serious patients to see. And heart surgery in less than half a besa. Out."
Sarek rolled down the long sleeves he had worn that day and prepared to leave. As he shouldered his carrybag, his sister hustled back to him and lifted his injured wrist, turning it over in her hands and glaring at it.
"If the swelling hasn't gone down in a besa, call me." She let go of his arm. "Now go, Sarek, and stop wasting my time."
Sarek left the examining room and closed the door behind him. One would think that she was the eldest.
"Permission to stand by my uncle."
The gods smiled that morning. When the climate-control system sprayed coolant into the classrooms, the school had to be evacuated and the children were compelled to spend the interval of the first English lesson standing in the drilling yard. They were so elated at having an unscheduled holiday that they paid no attention to the alien teacher.
"Permission to stand by my mother."
Another child ran off to stand by a relative who was a teacher. Before school, before logic, before Vulcan—family. Amanda was standing at the perimetre of the group of specialty teachers. She would not look for her son.
The old fart from across the hall stood scowling with his class. And he was scowling. Amanda had come to be able to recognize that Vulcans had a variety of subtle facial expressions--contentment, pain, displeasure, humor, mortification—except for that old fart from across the hall. He had only one expression—dried up.
Amanda felt a laugh coming on and covered it with a cough. Half of ShiKar already presumed that she was the victim of some bronchial disease. She kept her hand to her mouth until her face smoothed out, bringing to bear some of the mental techniques that Sarek had taught her.
If it weren't for him, she'd quit this job. But he was so taken by the idea of her going on to the Mental Research Institute here on Vulcan for further study. She could hear him declaring that teaching was a noble profession and a good and logical background for one interested in the study of the learning processes. Of course, he would say, instruction of the young child was truly the province of men as an extension of their childrearing duties, but one needed to begin somewhere...
Sarek, dear Sarek...you expect the world of the people you love.
"Is there anything I can help you with?"
Spock stood before her, poised in the attitude of respect, his uniform robe tied back from his chest the way some of the older children wore theirs. Amanda was surprised.
"Spock, shouldn't you be with your team?"
"I came to stand by you... Mother."
Amanda wanted nothing more than to sweep her little boy into her arms; instead, she touched his hand then brought her palm to rest upon his shoulder. Yani bri min, standing together. No one would criticize that.
By the time the climate control system had been completely flushed and the buildings were safe to re-enter, it was time to break for the meal. If this had happened at a Terran elementary school, the cheers would have rattled the wind chimes. Instead, each team marched inside—orderly, quiet lines of Vulcan youth.
They're not so different. They were really no more alien than Sarek was. They had different orientations, of course, but different in needs, desires, visions of comfort? Nonsense. The theorists would not agree with her, but she knew. The scientists had said that Spock was impossible, too, but she'd proven them all wrong on that score. She'd taken this job with the idea of running tests on her students to prove her theories on personality development as well, but there was no chance of that now. But with Spock standing by her, nothing else mattered.
"I'm ready, Mother."
Spock had laid out their meal and was pouring the juice. He could be a small version of his father at times; at some angles, thought Amanda, she could envision the future, mature contours of his face blooming from his soft child's features and see him looking very much like his father one day. If he had only half his father's heart, she would feel she'd been successful with him.
Amanda sat across from her son. He seemed uneasy. "You don't have to stay here, Spock, if you don't want to. If you'd like to eat with someone else—"
"No." He shook his head, peering up at her through his bangs. "I'll stay."
Sarek had spoken to him. That was it. That was why he was here and why he was so nervous.
As many times as she had spoken to him, Sarek never seemed to understand how easily he could frighten their son. He was and could be an inordinately demanding individual and could—and would—run roughshod over those he felt responsible for if he decided that they were not functioning at near capacity.
He'd found it difficult to keep diplomatic aides until he'd hired men. They found it less diminishing to listen to his criticism than women did. Sias and Ru-tar had been with Sarek now for several years and they understood what a fair and thoughtful employer he was, if with high expectations. Besides, men weren't often hired for positions that required a consistent level of stability, and working close to the upper echelons of planet-wide government was good experience for them.
Spock watched his mother's face while she was thinking. It moved a lot, he noticed, especially around her mouth and eyes. Rasni and Sepek had noticed, too, because they rolled their eyes and grimaced whenever they imitated their English teacher. Penon had caught them at it the other day and threatened the both of them if they didn't quit it. "You want to live to be T'Rasni? Then show some respect."
Spock didn't understand. Whose side was she on? His father had told him once that he was not to pry into female affairs.
"They have women's secrets that we are not privy to. We are their husbands and sons and fathers. That is all. We should not concern ourselves with matters from which we have been excluded."
This he supposed, must be one of those secrets.
Spock looked at his mother and tried to reach her the way Father had been instructing him. He didn't have to wait for the tremor of contact because he felt her feelings like a pinch at his mind. Was she sad? He remembered what his father had said and wondered if this was so. "Mother," he asked carefully, "are you lonely for Earth?"
She looked down at him. He had startled her. He was going to withdraw the question, but she had already begun to answer. "Sometimes. It makes me feel sad."
"Why did you leave there, then?"
Her eyes looked very wet to Spock, like pebbles in a stream.
"Well, I met this very nice man and we became very good friends. We went everywhere together and shared everything."
His mother nodded. "After awhile, he had a wonderful opportunity for a whole new career that meant him going back to Vulcan. I didn't like being without him and so I followed him here."
"But weren't you lonely then?"
"Yes. Yes, I was. But being lonely for my own people was far better than being on Earth and being lonely for him."
Spock set down his cup and wiped his upper lip. The air seemed to settle down around him. "Mother," he said carefully, "was Father... lonely... for you?"
Amanda did not know what Sarek had told their son during the customary discussion at the completion of his kas-wan, but she was certain that it contained very little, if anything, about personal feelings and relationships. "If I hadn't joined him here," she told him honestly, "he would've returned to me."
She could explain no further. Sarek was too private a man to wish his feelings to be discussed with anyone other than his wife—even with his son—no matter how confusing Amanda knew the difference in his parents' approaches must be to their child.
Instead, she said, "It's very nice having you here for break, Spock."
"I'll come every day and set for you," he declared importantly, and then added, looking at his mother with less certainty, "...if you want me to."
She smiled and patted his hand. "There's nothing I'd like better than to eat with my heir every day."
The door of the classroom swung open. "Pardons, Ser. I will go."
"No." The teacher beckoned the child in. "No, Noiard. Please, come in and join us."
The little girl crept into the room with leafrolls clutched to her chest. She paused for a moment at the table before taking a seat. She was bright; it was a shame her shyness held her back.
Twice, Sarek had resisted the thought to call his wife. She must not think that he was checking up on her.
She had been badly injured. Sarek was certain that he had never experienced such a deep and abiding hurt in her before. Even if his lack of understanding at times gave her a distressful frame of mind, they could talk, or apologize; a tenderness shared, and all things were put right. But when the hurt came from the outside...
What had ever possessed their son to behave so to his mother? Hadn't he always tried to maintain a proper model of respect in the boy's presence, demonstrating the deference paid to a woman of the household?
Yes. Yes, I have. It is that group of children he associates with.
If Amanda had not explained to him the wisdom of sending their son to school, Sarek would have hired a tutor for those subjects with which he and his wife were unfamiliar. It was better, though, he saw now, that the boy learn to deal with his peers, an opportunity that Sarek had not been afforded until his days at the Academy.
She has changed. There had been a time when Amanda had been magnificently bossy—'Let's go here, Sarek,' 'Let's do this,' 'Let's move the sofa to the other side of the room.' Such energy that she made him short of breath. Where had it gone? Where had that gentle but vivacious spirit flown?
The unyielding hardness of his people could not kill it. Wound it, perhaps—shun it—but Amanda was a woman who believed. And woe be unto any who tried to stop her was his thinking.
But she would be in a better mood this evening. Spock would behave respectfully toward her today. She would be in a better mood or he would know the reason why.
"Take your seats, please."
She spoke in English, her voice Vulcan-level and firm. Perhaps she had been too easy and free with them; they expected teachers to be stoic and didactic—perhaps her casual style confused them.
"Prepare your tapes."
She wasn't going to try anymore. Sarek would be disappointed, but she just couldn't do it anymore. She felt better after dumping it on him—getting it out in the open, but it didn't change how she felt. She'd do her job—roll in, roll out—but she wouldn't leave herself open to injury by hoping to win the hearts of her students. The feeling of exhilaration she'd had earlier was beginning to wear off no matter how careful Sarek had tried to keep his intervention a secret.
Light stylii began to move. Amanda noticed little Noiard glance up at her for a moment, then begin her work. The child expected more—games, pictures, a turn at pretending that you were really in an alien place where nobody understood Vulcan and you had to speak English—
I'm dried out, Noiard, just like that old fart from across the hall. I've nothing more to give.
The white rose seemed to be recovering nicely in the flask Spock had borrowed from school laboratory. The poor thing had gotten so bedraggled outside in the sun all morning that she wondered that it hadn't just shrivelled up and died. When she'd found it next to her plate at breakfast, she'd tried to protest to Sarek, but he had only said, "pain is pain," and made her drink her tea. It reminded her of when money had been tight and he had said, in all honesty and seriousness, "I shall have to be extremely conscientious in the matter of your feelings until I can once again afford imported apologies."
Spock was signalling her. She almost went to him, then checked his work through her master terminal. What a totally impersonal way to teach anyone anything. Sarek's English would be atrocious if he'd had to learn this way. What was she saying? It had been atrocious when she'd met him.
Spock was questioning a phrase he already knew. The computer could check any literal, word-by-word translation, but idiomatic expressions were more than it could handle. Even so, Spock should have known this one. He wanted her to feel useful.
After helping Spock, Amanda scanned through the other student's work and found Sepek and his cousin's screens being written on in Vulcan. They were writing notes to each other. Amanda had had it.
"Penon and Sepek." She spoke out loud to them and drew the attention of the other children. "Would you mind explaining what it is that the two of you are writing on your lightslates?"
Penon looked up with an expression of honest innocence on her face. "It has to do with our lesson, Ser."
"Oh? Well if it is so world-shaking an event that it couldn't wait until after lessons, I think you'd better enlighten the entire class and without another moment's delay."
She had their full attention. They had never seen their English teacher in a foul mood. It frightened them.
Sepek froze, waiting for his cousin to come to the rescue. The ser's eyes were crackling like the blue blazes in a ritual firepot when it was stirred for worship, and he could not take his eyes off her. She had transformed herself into a chief displeased right before their very eyes.
She was angry. She had let them get away with murder in trying to win their favor. She didn't want their favor now, she wanted their obedience and respect.
"I will not speak my request again."
The other students were staring at Penon and Sepek. Their solidarity as a class was gone; the champions had suddenly become miscreants. Penon finally spoke.
"If I may address the ser, my cousin and I—and some of the others—have just come from history lesson, and we are at odds over the political decisions made by the early Mountain Clanners when the city of ShiKar was besieged by our ancestors."
"Your ancestors, you mean," said Haf-risa.
Amanda knew the story. Mention it in the same room with Desert and Mountain Clanners and you had an instant argument on your hands. That old fart knew he had Desert children in his class as well as those from households with mixed names. To attempt to force the children to take sides against friends and family for his own sadistic pleasure.
What a sick, warped old man.
"Some matters are better left to rest," she said in Vulcan, breaking her own rule. "I see no logical reason to rehash the subject. The Clans are at peace with each other. The families have sealed the bond with blood. In our own class we have Ran-lu and Srandin, brother and sister of differing alliances as example."
The two children she had spoken of were looking at her. Srandin would be robed near the end of the term, and Ran-lu had yet to pass her kas-tor. They were spaced just far enough apart to keep eyebrows from going up. Amanda looked at her son. The counting of years meant a lot here.
"I still say that the people of ShiKar should have fought," Sepek said boldly, now that the ser's tone had calmed to a less threatening tone. "They wouldn't have won, but at least there would have been honor."
Penon stared at him. "Where is the honor in fighting a losing battle that will decimate your tribe and kill scores of helpless children and leave the men unprotected?"
"Wait a minute," said Haf-risa, turning in her seat, "who is to say that we would have lost?"
"Be reasonable," said Sepek. "The Desert tribes have always been the strongest, most powerful—"
"You mean the most uncontrolled and emotional."
"Let us not become uncontrolled and emotional ourselves," Amanda interjected. Thank you very much, you old fart.
Penon looked to her teacher. "The basic motif is, Ser, that there were only two possible alternatives open to the ancient people of ShiKar: resist and be destroyed, or surrender and survive."
"Now that is ridiculous," said Amanda. "There is always a third alternative."
"Would you elucidate?" Penon looked at her challengingly. She couldn't believe that any planet as irrational as Earth could possibly deal with its problems both logically and peacefully. Sarek had been right. The most difficult student in the class was a girl, even if she were the perfect diplomat and watched carefully from the sidelines before moving in for the kill.
Amanda looked calmly and carefully about the class, turning slowly—one of Sarek's old tricks to buy time. Spock and Noiard sat forward attentively. Spock knew that she had backed herself into a corner and sat there willing her to find a way out. Noiard's posture was one of total confidence in what her teacher was saying. Amanda remembered telling the girl's father when he'd given her the brewers.
"All right, Penon." Amanda folded her hands in front of her. "I'll give you an example from my own homeland on Earth. Several hundred years ago, my ancestors had travelled from their homeland to a new place and built homes and a new life for themselves, just like the Mountain tribes. As the years went by, they began to think of themselves as a new people—a tribe unto themselves. But the rulers of their old lands—it was called England—still considered the new settlement under its jurisdiction, and they tried many things to keep it in subjugation, including the levying of what the settlers considered to be unfair taxes.
"Now on Earth, seventy percent of the surface is—"
"—covered by undrinkable ocean water, we know," said Sepek.
Penon turned a hard focus on her cousin. "Will you keep quiet and let the ser tell the story?"
The girl nodded to her teacher and shot another warning look at Sepek.
"Well," said Amanda, "this took place during pre-flight days and, since there was so much water, people travelled about the planet on big, slow sailing ships with huge fabric panels that caught the wind to use it as a propelling force. The ships brought all sorts of supplies from the Old World, including a very popular beverage called tea...which was obtained by brewing the leaves of certain plants."
"Like yakobspru?" asked another student.
"Yes," said Amanda, nodding. "Quite similar, as a matter of fact. And you know how people like yakobspru."
The children all nodded in agreement.
"Well, the colonists were just as fond of tea. They drank it for breakfast and lunch and dinner and every time in between."
One girl sat forward in her desk. "My father gives me yakobspru whenever I have a fever. He doesn't brew it long when he makes it for me, and he makes it real sweet."
They were with her. Just barely, but they were willing to go along.
After the conference, Ambassador Sarek retreated into his private office, closing the door behind him. He went to his desk and sat squarely in his chair, holding his hands in front of him, touching the fingertips of one hand to the fingertips of the other. He affected a clearing of his mind and then proceeded to reach out with his thoughts, hoping to brush those of his wife.
She was a Terran and so her thoughts were able to escape the boundaries of her primary energy field. If he could only learn to recognize and touch the projection of her thoughts at a distance in non-critical situations. It was not a simple task between Vulcans, but the two of them had an uncommon closeness working for them and a willingness on both sides.
Sarek could sense nothing. He reached for his carrybag. He should be there when his wife reached home.
"So, what were the colonists' alternatives?"
"The same as before," said Penon. "They could either rebel which would bring the wrath of the stronger upon them, or they could acquiesce and pay the tax on the tea."
"Exactly what the colonists' thought at first. But then, they thought of another idea."
Amanda paused, waiting for a response. The children tolerated a full four seconds of silence before reacting.
"Then what, Ser?"
"What did they do?"
She had them. Suddenly and inexplicably, they were sitting there in the palm of her hand.
"Well, at first, they began to boycott the tea. Do any of you know what a boycott is?"
"I do," offered Penon. "That's what ruined the Outer Spiral trade last year. My grandmother told me that the Havamarl system was boycotted and that the Federation wouldn't buy their mineral exports because of the illegal drug trafficking going on in that sector."
"That's exactly it, Penon. And just like that, no one in all of Boston would drink tea. And so, no one needed to buy it. And since no one would buy it, the shopkeepers wouldn't stock it. So the ships sat in the harbour, loaded down with tea that nobody wanted."
"And the shipping company lost money," offered Penon. Her tribe, and Sarek's, might be in politics, but its roots in early interstellar trade were not too far behind.
Penon nodded, companions in spirit with her teacher, assisting in the instruction. The other children noted it.
Noiard had something to say.
"My aunt took me to the receiving docks when they had a ban on because of a botanical plague. There was a whole shipment of brewers—leaves and roots and the like—but the inspectors wouldn't let them move it in until they got the whole warehouse cleared. Everything stood outside for days until most of it rotted. My family lost a lot of money. They gave us masks to wear but I still held my nose."
Something stirred the air: silent, Vulcan laughter.
One of the boys grimaced at the thought. "So what did they do?"
'"What do you think?" Amanda asked them.
"The logical thing would be to get rid of the tea."
Penon shook her head. "But that leaves two alternatives again: steal the tea and bring down wrath. Leave it and remain safe."
"Please, Ser," pleaded Haf-risa, "what did they do?"
"They stole the tea, all right, but someone came up with the idea of disguising themselves as the people who were native to the new land to do it. These were a proud people who dressed in feathers and animal skins and painted their faces, and were known for their odd, alien ways and were generally uncontrollable from the colonists' point of view."
"Can you imagine it?" she said. "A third alternative that neither bows to tyranny nor sheds a drop of blood?"
"But did it work, Ser? Did it accomplish its purpose?"
"Yes." She turned to Penon with an animated expression. "Since the colonists had been dressed like the natives of the land, they couldn't be blamed for the raid and, since the natives didn't come under the jurisdiction of the old land in any way, nobody could be rightfully held responsible. And the colonists went on to form their own country. I was born there."
"Oh, I don't believe that." Heads turned. "Well, I don't."
Amanda was too surprised to reply but Spock wasn't.
"Sepek T'Ardikan," he said in his father's tone of deadly earnest, "you had better not be calling my mother a liar."
"I'm not," protested Sepek, "it's just that I can't believe it really happened, that's all. And besides," he turned to his teacher, " you weren't actually there to see it, were you, Ser?"
"No," replied Amanda in a matter-of-fact tone, "no more than you were there when Surak calmed the tribes."
None of them were convinced. One look and Amanda could tell that.
"Here," she said, "I need a volunteer."
"Make Penon," said the class. "She started it."
"No," said the teacher. "Since Sepek doesn't believe me, I believe I'll use him."
She gestured for him to leave his seat. If this had been an Earth classroom, the jeers would have blasted the windows. Instead, dubious eyes followed him to the teacher's desk.
"All right, Sepek," she said, placing her hands on his shoulders and turning him to face the class. "This might be difficult for you to do, but you'll have to use your imagination. You, too," she said to the smug leers. She didn't want the child held up to ridicule. "We'll need everyone's imagination if this is going to work."
Amanda lowered her voice as if she were not in a classroom on Vulcan, but hiding near the docks in Boston harbour, peering into a moonlit sky on a frosty Terran night of centuries
"Now, Sepek, I want you to imagine, and everyone else, too, that it is not ShiKar in the Vulcan year 8878, but the sixteenth day of the twelfth month of the Earth year 1773. The place is Boston Harbour where great sailing ships dock after long journeys across a sea as wide as the whole Arlangan Range and as deep as the highest peak of the Llangon Mountains are tall. It's cold that time of year and sometimes there's snow on the ground; some of animals have burrowed underground to sleep until the warm weather comes, several months away. Leave a bowl of water outside, and it will freeze solid in half a besa."
Sepek's skin crawled under Amanda's hands.
"It's dark now, Sepek. The sun has gone down."
He squinted at the blazing sunlight coming from the high-up windows.
"You paint greasy streaks of color across your cheeks and down your nose, and stick feathers in your hair. And you're wearing clothes made of animal skin."
The boy squirmed, keeping his eyes to the ceiling.
"There are no streetlights, but the Earth's moon is as bright as Ibat'ye T'Uvri's watchtower in the sun—only silver—and it lights your way as you slip out of your house and hurry through the streets to the docks, trying to keep under the cover of shadows."
Amanda left Sepek's side, pacing intently as she always did when she had something interesting to say, leaning into the story. The children sat forward in their seats.
"The night watch stands on the decks of the sailing ship Dartmouth and on the other two vessels carrying a cargo of tea. You, all of you, hide under the wharf—some of you behind the thick, supporting pillars, and some of you in the chill, dark ocean water itself, all waiting for the signal."
Amanda stole a glance at the children. Rasni and Haf-risa were kneeling in their seats to draw closer; Ran-su and Noiard weren't far behind to join them.
"Some of you creep forward to get a better view," she said, going into a half-crouch. "You have to wait there for a long time—so long that your legs and shoulders ache with the cold, and tiny spasms cut your muscles from being held so taut for so long."
The children rubbed muscles that were neither cold nor wet with sea water, straining to hear what their teacher was saying. Her voice was no more than the fuzziest of whispers, yet every child heard each word. Sepek's eyes dropped from the ceiling he gazed longingly at his robe where it lie draped over his chair.
"And then, in the chill, soggy darkness there comes the cry of a nightbird."
Amanda looked up and noticed Noiard holding a cupped hand over her mouth. The other children saw and they, too, used their hands to serve as a sounding board for the cry of a yasn gliding low over a darkened Vulcan landscape.
Except Penon. She stared intently at her teacher and said, "and that's the signal, is it?"
Why not? Amanda nodded and the air was crisp with the chattering call from eleven little mouths. Penon stood by her chair.
"And do we attack, Ser Amanda?"
"We do," admitted the teacher, "only it must be carried out with restraint and control so that nobody is injured." Nods. "Now, at the signal—"
More yasn cries.
"We leap aboard the ships, drag the heavy chests of tea out on deck, batter the chests open with hatchets—think of a one-sided lirpa blade with a short handle and throw the tea right over the side!"
"Over the side!"
"Right over the side!"
A tape case clattered to the floor followed shortly by another and then two more in rapid succession.
"Over the side!"
Their eyes were lit, their bodies half on top of their desks in trying to be closer to the excitement. Haf-risa made a dive for her fallen tape case where it had landed on the floor.
"Over the side!"
"Right over the side!"
Then suddenly, the children froze, eyes on the door to the hallway.
"Do you see? Is it as I said?"
The ser from across the hall stood in the doorway with the headmaster, pointing triumphantly. "Disgraceful."
"Ser Amanda," said the woman whom Amanda had seen only twice since she'd been hired, "I trust that you have some explanation for this."
She didn't care anymore. If she was going to go, she might as well go out in a blaze of glory.
"You get out of my classroom."
She said it with cold, deadly emotion and aimed directly at that wrinkled old fart. He backed up a step, his perennially-pursed lips actually parting in astonishment.
"Well, I never..."
"I'm not the least surprised."
"No one has ever spoken to me in such a manner—"
"It's about time someone did, you nosy, gossipy, old fart!"
In Vulcan, the word for flatulence was onomatopeic and not generally used as a slang term to describe a person. The effect was all that more effective. The Vulcan teacher turned to the headmaster in supplication.
"Do you see the way she speaks to a ser, and in the presence of the students? The emotions—"
Amanda kept after him.
"At least I'm honest about mine. I don't take out my frustrations on the little people to whom I have been entrusted to teach. I also do not spy on my fellow teachers, even if I have to deal with the broken little spirits and the backlash of unfairness that he sends to me." She turned to the seresa. "Children need kindness. And Vulcan demands so much from its children. It's imperative that they have support, knowing that if they fail, there will be waiting behind them a strong and caring person who will understand their failings and help them to get back on their feet. Not someone who is supportive only when they're successful and batters them when they're down."
"It is not the proper time to speak of this. There can be discussion later."
The headmaster held the door for the other teacher and they left without another word. For a long minute, Amanda glared after them, clenching her fists so tightly that implosion became a not-so-distant possibility. Finally, she had the control to face her class.
They had all frozen in the spots they had been in when the seresa had first entered the room--some kneeling on furniture, some crouching on the floor—and only now did they scurry back into their seats, folding their hands on their desktops, eyes straight ahead. Only not straight ahead. They were on her. Every last haunted Vulcan one of them was staring straight at her.
Amanda felt her anger slipping away, and with it, her confidence. She had lost it—the teaching, the experiments, her degree all of it blown away in one flaring of temper. What would Sarek say? Oh, God. Sarek ...
The children were waiting. She should say something to them. What? That their teacher was an uncontrollably emotional Earth woman who had just talked her way out of her career plans and her husband's expectations? They could see that. Any stories that they had been told about the irrationality of Terrans had just now been proven to them and right before their very eyes. What had happened here today would go with them and color their views of Earth people for the rest of their lives.
The soft signal tong burst the air patterns with a roar. It was time for the children to go.
"Prepare to leave, please."
Please. Not that they'd need to follow those rules anymore.
After a moment's pause, the children gathered their tapes and robes and sat waiting.
"You are dismissed."
They stood with a stillness that ached Amanda's heart. Why? With the exception of a very few, they weren't particularly fond of her. Even her own son was embarrassed by her. She wanted to rush home to Sarek and feel his heavy arms around her and cry just like a baby. But Sarek wanted her to be strong and in charge like a Vulcan woman. He would be disappointed in her and she would feel it through his skin.
As the children filed into the hallway, a child with a messenger's ribbon tied to her harness inched between the doorjamb and the other students. She handed a note to the ser. "Good day, Ser,"
"Good day, Noiard."
Amanda read the note. She had been expecting this.
The other children had gone. They were alone in the room.
"Shall I wait for you in the yard after closing?"
"No," she said. "I have to meet with the seresa. You go on home. I don't know how long this will take."
She would be home soon now, his wife, and she would wish her usual cup of tea. Someday, he would have to purchase a solar brewer—not the ugly, styleless contraptions that were made now, but an elegant, crystal-domed affair that had chambers for several varieties to brew at once. If it worked for Vulcan herbs and fruit, it should certainly work for English Breakfast and Earl Grey.
Sarek finished arranging the tray. When they had first come to Vulcan, Amanda had offered to sell this tea service for the value of the silver. The Tribe could cut him off from tribal funds, but he would not allow his Terran wife to sell her earthly heritage for any reason. If he were a religious man, he would be praying at this very moment that all had gone well with his wife today. But he would not put his trust in any unseen deity. By the sheer force of his thought, he would will events in her favor.
First, she took the pictures down from the walls. Next, she packed away the few personal items she'd been keeping in her classroom. It didn't take long. She realized now that she'd never felt at home here—never really moved in. Not like on Earth; Sarek had pretended to be annoyed at finding "parts of her" all over his apartment.
Spock turned the corner near the fountain and felt hands pulling him into the alcove.
"What did the note say?"
"Was it from the seresa?"
Most of the class was there. He didn't like the intensity of focus he was getting. "I don't want to speak to any of you." He tried to pull away but Penon held fast. He tried to mindforce her but she was nearly fourteen and too well shielded. "Let go of me."
"Not until you tell us what the note said."
"She didn't show it to me," Spock told them. He wouldn't undignify himself by struggling when he could not escape but he remained firm. "And even if she did, I wouldn't tell you."
They were all listening intently to him but not with the usual condescending attitude. They wanted to hear what he had to say.
"You listen to me, all of you," he said. "The ser Amanda didn't have to come here. She wanted to do scientific research only no one on Vulcan would let her except our seresa. And still she didn't have to except she wanted all of us who might have to deal with outworlders when we're grown up to be able to know what they're saying about us. Now she's going to be fired and all because of you." He gave each and every one of them a cold, hard projection. "You were all shamefully cruel to my mother, and I want nothing more to do with you."
Penon released him and stepped back. He rubbed his left arm and then his right, shifting his tape case back and forth. He gave the entire group one final projection of displeasure and walked away. The class had been cruel, and he the cruelest of all.
The seresa gestured to a straight-backed chair, regarding her with a deceptively casual look. Amanda stood firm with hard eyes. Sarek had taught her that a diplomat's greatest weapon was never to show weakness nor indecision—nor to admit to any wrongdoing whether personal or political. Don't back down.
The seresa finally spoke. "The history master demands an apology of you."
Enraged, Amanda held her temper and tongue as well as she could manage. "You can tell the ser," she said with tight jaws, "that he can take his 'demand' and 'bury it in wet sand and walk ten thousand jas into the setting sun'."
"You read Surak?"
They were always so surprised to discover that a mere Earth woman had read of Vulcan philosophy. What did they think she had been doing here for the past ten years? Never mind. She knew what they thought she had been doing here for the past ten years. "I'm to blame for the irrational behavior you witnessed in my classroom today," Amanda said. "The children had nothing to do with it. They were only following my orders."
"Oh?" The headmaster regarded the Earth woman with nothing less than a dubious stare. "That is not how the children tell it."
"According to them, you were trying to teach a perfectly normal lesson when all twelve of them, simultaneously and without warning, lost themselves and refused to obey your orders to cease and take their seats."
Amanda felt her mouth drop open.
"And they had a variety of explanations to account for this sudden lapse of control."
The seresa examined her reading screen. "'A Mountain fever' caused two students to lose themselves. Six were moved to disobey by the sudden onset of 'ear infections'. Other assorted excuses included the 'ingestion of bad leafrolls', 'too much running in the sun', the 'will of the gods', and one ten-year-old who has evidently been listening to adult conversation claimed, with obvious ignorance to the implications, that he was seven-up and so was not himself."
Amanda was startled. The last—and only—person to mention pon farr in her presence had been Sarek's mother, and it had taken some time before the other woman had spoken in anything but clinical terms. It was true, then. Sarek's mother could be excused for her reticence on the subject; she was talking about her own son. But the women didn't really seem much concerned about pon farr. It was nothing more than a nuisance to them; to a man, it was a matter of embarrassment, shame, and the fear of death.
"They came in groups of twos and threes," explained the seresa, "but each and every one of them gave me their word that the ser Amanda was in no way responsible for what I viewed in your classroom today. I don't know what you intended, Ser, but whatever it was, I would like to know what makes children so loyal that they would risk being caught in falsehoods to protect you."
Spock entered the house without making a sound. Instead of dropping his tape case on the vronsin table, he kept it close to his chest and hugged the wall until he reached the back hallway where his bedroom was. He was almost there.
His legs locked into a petrified condition when all the rest of him was saying run, run— "Yes, Father," he said without turning.
"I will speak with you in the study."
Spock listened for retreating footsteps and only then dared to breathe.
"If I were to forget the display I witnessed in your classroom today," said the seresa, "would you adopt a more traditional Vulcan instructional style?"
Why should she? The children had shown more enthusiasm in that one class period than they had for the past few weeks and were likely to have had in the future had she continued teaching the way she had been. I've been holding back, she realized. Instead of doing what her feelings had told her was right, she had been trying to superimpose Earth ideas over a Vulcan framework. If an idea was sound, it was sound, and would stand on its own merit without leaning heavily on any culture. "I would not," she told the headmaster.
The seresa nodded. "I see. And you do not intend to back down an angstrom even if I and this entire school declared you to be wrong?"
"Your speaking it doesn't make it so."
It was staredown time. Amanda tried to make her eyes go cold. Sarek refused to come near her when her "eyes were flaming ice." It had been a long time since he had made that analogy.
The seresa spoke, never averting her eyes. "Are Terrans naturally this arrogant, or is it that your years with a well-bred Vulcan husband have rendered you so?"
Amanda had had enough. "My husband got where he is today on his own ability and hard work and with no help from his family. And if he is assertive, I am one woman who does not find herself threatened by her husband's accomplishments."
She did not leave for fear of doing violence to the door on the way out. She didn't want to cower in Sarek's arms now. She wanted to lead an army in a holy war to defend his honor—or throw breakables in a water plant during a drought.
Then, seemingly without reason, the headmaster averted her eyes, giving up the challenge and turning to switch off her reading screen. "Unswerving loyalty to one's husband, also? And they say that Terran females have no spirit."
"...and then to add to the disgrace with a lie..."
"But what could I do, Father?"
Spock felt so ill that he wanted to vomit. He had been affecting the attitude of respect for so long now that he was afraid his knees would disjoint from this thighs and he would collapse in shame upon his mother's blue-and-gold Oriental rug.
"If I took the blame," he tried to explain, "I surmised that the seresa would let Mother stay at the school."
"And what of your reputation?"
"But..." His voice gave out and he was ashamed. If he were emotional, he was a disgrace; if he behaved unemotionally to his mother, he was wrong as well. He felt as if he were standing in a hallway of doors and still had no way to turn. Just before his legs gave way, he knew a sensation not unlike a pillow of air rising to cushion and prevent his imminent fall from grace.
"Your heart and spirit were in the right place, Spock," Sarek said finally, almost gently. "I hear the chimes. Would you see who is at the door?"
"... and ShiKar is, after all, the capital city of Vulcan where the interface with the Federation occurs, and if its people are to be members of this interstellar society, they had better be prepared for its influence."
"I see." The seresa leaned back in her chair, tapping a stylus on the arm. "And you believe that this research of yours will accomplish this purpose?"
"Exactly," replied Amanda. "I've wanted to concentrate my efforts toward determining the degree heredity influences Vulcan thought for several years now. If any of it is learned behavior, then this world had better prepare itself for the cultural changes that its interstellar contact will bring it."
The seresa said nothing for a while. Amanda sat trying to read the woman. Her first impression of the headmaster had been one of a forward-thinking individual with an open mind who went her own way. She'd inherited the mastership of the school from a relative, and certain members of the faculty declared that she spent too much time sand-sledding on the Sas-a-shar. But Amanda had instinctively liked her. Were the instincts so touted by Sarek still intact?
"I would know something, Ser," said the Vulcan finally. "If I were to forbid you your intentions?"
Amanda blinked once: a Vulcan shrug. "I would leave this school and find another."
"And if another was not to be found?"
"I would take students into my home—a traditional Vulcan practice, I believe. Maybe I'd start out with only my son and one other student but, sooner or later, there'd be more."
"You truly believe that you could manage this?" asked the seresa.
Oh, yes. Yes, she would. "As has been mentioned many times, I have my husband to support me while I do research. And inquiries have been made of MRI."
The seresa moved things on her desk. She was buying time to make a decision, Amanda perceived. Why did she have the feeling that— "… My husband was a Master at the Mental Research Institute," the seresa said finally. "Perhaps he could be of some assistance to you."
"And you are not to concern yourself with the history master who is situated on the opposite side of your corridor. He is an old unsired gentleman—at least, he has no daughters to carry his name. If he should cause you any further difficulty, you should refer him directly to me." The seresa got up from her chair. "If you could make me a descriptive list of any tests you would wish to administer to the students, I would know how to respond to any parents who might complain. And next term, maybe we should make English lessons mandatory for the White Division—if," she added amiably, "this is all acceptable to you, Ser."
Amanda rose from her chair also. She felt the corners of her mouth tugging upward. "I believe that we can reach an understanding, Seresa."
The woman switched off her reading screen. "We should have had this discussion before, I see, but I had other concerns before the mastership of this school fell to me. I tried to speak with you the other day but you had gone, and the old gentleman had come to regale me with one of his many matters of inconsequence."
The headmaster began to gather her belongings into a new-looking attaché. "Perhaps, Ser," she said, not looking up, "you will teach me to speak English as they do on Earth—not like a computer, but with all of the proper idiotic expressions."
The seresa nodded, and when she gestured to the door, she caught a glimpse of the ser's glowing face. "Is that a smile?"
Amanda's hand rose halfway to her lips, then fluttered away. "Yes. It is."
After a moment's evaluation, the seresa nodded pleasantly and reached for the door handle. "Shall we?"
The driver hovered into place at the pad. A pick-up at a secondary school? Must be some old family.
A half-grown girl shoved open the door and scrambled into the back. She had an armful of tapes crushed against her chest and was wearing a full-length robe. "If you would hurry..."
She was not a girl, but a very short woman, even shorter than Clan Chief T'Pau.
The driver hovered up and slid sideways onto the roadway. She was proud of the way she could make good time through the city without exceeding cruising speeds simply by out-maneuvering the other vehicles on the airpath. They were less than five hundred jas away from their destination when they had to stop for a groundcar stalled in the underpass. They would have gone over the tie-up, but it was illegal for anything but emergency and police vehicles to jump an overpass during peak hours.
The young woman was climbing out of the limousine.
"Wait, h'daar. It will only be a few minutes."
"I'm in a hurry," called the passenger, only a blue streak in the rear viewer. "I've got to get home to my husband."
The driver sealed the doors. Hmm. Must be his time.
Sarek heard a sound at the garden door. Not another one. He walked to the front of the house and found his wife throwing her tapes onto the table that was meant for calling cards but seemed to function as a depository for belongings when a member of the household returned home. His wife was breathing heavily as from a sprint. "Amanda Grayson, you have not been running in this heat..."
"I had to get home to tell you.'"
"Nevertheless, you will sit down first. You are going to wear your heart out at this rate." Not to mention making a spectacle of herself in mad dashes in public at her age.
So she told him what she had said and what the seresa had said--all of it and the plans she had made. "I couldn't believe it, Sarek!" she said tugging on his hands like an excited child. "You know how I've wanted to do a study on comparative intelligence? Well, I told the headmaster she'd either have to let me do my testing and make my observations or I'd quit. Now, she's practically given me carte blanche!" She spun away from her husband, waving her arms in the way she always did to describe and express her most intense of thoughts. "I know what's in the literature," she said with a quieter intensity. "I've read it all. Nobody, and I mean nobody has done a thing with Vulcans except in theory. The field's wide open. And if I do this right, Sarek, and if I get any data at all—"
Sarek touched his forehead as if deep in thought. "Let me see, now...'Ilisor Amanda and T'yetma Sarek,' or perhaps 'Dr. Grayson and Ambassador Sarek..."
"I'm going to do it, Sarek. You just see if I don't."
The ambassador walked to his wife and took her hands again, projecting. "It was not I who doubted, Amanda."
He felt her receive the essence of his thoughts and knew that she was warmed by it. They had reached without conscious design. Here was another level of accomplishment of which she was supposedly incapable. She was entirely capable of anything she set her mind to, he thought—within the laws of physics, of course. And sometimes, he wondered about that. Less than nine years ago she had shaken the scientific foundations of more than a few individuals to the very core from which he himself had never really recovered.
"But we can speak later, my wife." He was impatient and let go of her hands. "I want to show you something." He took her to the transparent doors that looked out into the courtyard. "Your public awaits."
Sitting there at the stone bench, gathered around Spock, were the children from her English class and a couple that Amanda didn't know. It occurred to her that this was the first time that Spock had ever brought other children home from school.
"They have been in private consultation ever since school dismissed," Sarek continued. "I have not been confided in. It seems my duty is to keep them satisfied with juice. But if you will not go out to them soon, I am afraid that we shall be depleted of our supply."
Amanda stood there, unbelieving. She felt Sarek's hand reach for hers again and give it a squeeze. He opened the doors for her.
"...but I was just a baby and I don't remember it very well," Spock was saying.
"I'd like to see snow."
"But the way she stood up to the history master—she mustn't be afraid of anything..."
"But does your mother know any other stories?"
"Of course," said Spock, "she knows hundreds—maybe even thousands."
Sarek stepped forward and, in his most practiced council voice said, "Children..."
They all looked up.
"...I give you Ser Amanda."
The entire group scrambled to its feet and stood there without speaking. Of course! They didn't know!
"You may all be interested to know that I had a long talk with the seresa this afternoon about my future with the school." She paused for effect. "Well, I'm afraid you won't be getting out of your English lessons so easily. I'll expect to find today's translations sitting on my terminal first thing tomorrow."
Nods of relief.
"And..." she added, "...we're going to begin some intensive dialoguing during our first lesson so I suggest that you all hurry home and start practicing."
She felt Sarek at her side although he never touched her, nor did she look up at him for fear of destroying the illusion she had of seeing a smile on his face. The children made no moves to leave. There was a flurry of discussion among them and a series of 'go on' before they turned back to their teacher in a body and said, in unison, in English, "First, Ser Amanda, tell us a story."
"Please," Spock whispered, prompting.
Sarek leaned down to his wife and spoke so that the children could not hear. "If I only had such attentiveness in Council..."
She gave him a grin, then turned to the children. They were sorry for what had happened between them these last few weeks. They would not say so in words, but their presence here and their actions earlier in the seresa's office had spoken plainly enough. "All right, but just one..."
The ambassador watched as his wife descended into the sunken courtyard. She had touched so many lives in the short time she had been here and for the little she had been in direct contact with his people. After his wife had died, his stepfather, in silent despondency, had declined all social invitations from both family and friends until Amanda had tricked him into teaching her all of the popular Vulcan folk dances and then into trying them out with her at the Botanical Gardens. He was a better man now, with no want for companionship, for anyone who opened himself to Amanda Grayson came away the richer for it.
She was radiantly happy. Sarek could feel it spreading out in an unseen glow, knew that the children sensed it, too, albeit unconsciously, and were like a dozen odd shiny mirrors reflecting her warmth back into the world.
"What stories do you know, Ser?"
"Earth stories," said Spock. He made a space for her to sit on the bench. "Please, Mother, tell my favorite."
"All right." She bent a little, leaning into the world from whence all stories came. "Well, there was a family of rock chickens that lived above the beach near LlanPer, and one of the hatchlings was so ugly and clumsy that he made the others look almost as graceful as k'lens. And one day..."
"May I interrupt the ser for one moment?"
The eyes turned to Sarek.
"I shall leave you, my wife, in the capable hands of your son and heir, but before I go, is there anything further I might bring for you?"
Sepek nudged Spock. "Go on, ask her."
"But I don't know the words."
"I do." Little Noiard stepped forward boldly and said, in English, "Please, Ser Amanda, may we have some tea?"
Sarek nodded. "I will see to it."
One of the boys blanched. "It won't stink like in the story..."
"Of course not," said Spock, "and even if it does, we can just throw it over the side."