She had not spoken aloud to anyone since Vulcan.
She had remained in her cabin for the entire trip back to Earth, barefoot with her hair down, taking her meals from the tiny replicator unit and burying herself in an unfinished project. (Or three. Or six, with annotation on a seventh.)
And that had been fine, if unusual. She was an intensely social person, and long trips were wonderful for striking up conversations with fellow passengers.
It was fine, this time, but it meant that she’d avoided the problem at hand for four days.
And yet somehow, the little studio was too much to handle. She’d spent almost a week alone, and even in comparison this space felt too incredibly empty.
For twelve entire seconds she stood breathing in the silent darkness, looking at her plants on the window ledge silhouetted by the streetlamp outside.
It was almost a strange compulsion, the slightly robotic way that she sat her case neatly next to the front closet, retrieved a jacket, and walked directly back out into the night.
The sky was drizzling down slightly, the coolness of autumn already looming at the tail-end of August.
She let her feet carry her on and on, let herself wander until she felt sore, until she knew that she’d be feeling the ache in her arches for the next few days.
It was more than an hour before she finally ducked into a transpo stop to wait under the little overhang for the next bus to come rolling around, and she pulled her comm from her pocket.
Normally, she would have sent a message to her mother as soon as the shuttle had departed Vulcan, but she’d found herself simply staring at the input field on her PADD. What was she supposed to say? That the free money was tasteful and her marriage might be over?
But she was back now, and had to say something.
Got home safe. I’ll call soon. Please send dad my love.
It was late enough - early enough - something enough - that she didn’t expect a reply for hours.
And yet the device gave a little chirp, the readout flashing up a message:
we were starting to wonder. love you, button.
Amanda stared at that, wondering what her mother could possibly be doing awake at this hour, worried suddenly that she’d woken her.
She considered pulling up the voice widget, considered letting all of her pent-up confusion come pouring out on a rainy sidewalk, until the guidelights of the approaching bus came up in the distance.
This was not a conversation she cared to have where others could hear.
The other half of the bed was empty. Had he left early again, or -
It took a moment, blinking awake to the sound of her alarm, for her to realize, to jolt straight up to sitting.
It had been months, months since she’d done anything but relish having a whole mattress to herself.
She’d never even shared this particular mattress with Sarek, so why had she expected -
Shutting off the beeping, she considered the strength of coffee to replicate, considered if she just wanted to work from home that morning.
(Had she been dreaming about him? Had they been dreaming about each other? That sort of thing required something on the order of planetary proximity. She’d only been back for three days - unless he’d followed right on her heels, she couldn’t imagine that he was back yet.)
She fixed her hair into a smooth bun, dressed herself in plain, straight black trousers and a boatnecked blouse, some simple flats, put on a lined anorak against the burgeoning cold, and shuffled herself out to the transpo stop at the bottom of the hill.
(Did she want to dream of him? Did she want to wake up next to him ever again? Did she want to go and put her little sculptures back on the living room shelf in Shi’Kar? Did she want to work towards warmth with him again? Did she want - did she want?)
Her canister mug of coffee was almost empty by the time the bus ambled its way along Lake Union. She could see the Archives building coming up along the road.
(Was she only dreaming of him - maybe dreaming of him - because of those few hours they’d spent together? Was this simply something within her craving familiarity?)
She stepped back into the cool morning, made her way across the plaza toward a side entrance to the museum, to the doorway down into the vaults - there would be time for all of this fretting later.
She worked, worked, actually worked through lunch, reading as she ate, combing through two translations that a colleague at a satellite location had been working on.
She was logging her notes when there was a polite, gentle tapping against the open doorframe to the office.
Gavriela was one of the tallest human women Amanda had ever met, imposing at first glance, but her expression was one that always suggested that she contemplating some kind of horrible joke. (Usually, she was. Her puns were unsurpassed in almost any language.)
“Now, normally I’d be concerned if someone came back from a funeral with almost a month’s worth of work done.”
Ever to-the-point, no dithering. It had been the same way when she’d been Amanda’s linguistic anthropology professor, the same again when Amanda had herself started teaching and they had become friends.
Amanda cleared her screen, sat up a little straighter, and shrugged as she considered that.
“All I had was time on my way back. Dwelling on everything honestly would’ve made it worse.”
Glancing over her shoulder before she stepped into the room, Gavriela spoke again, much more quietly.
“Did things go badly?”
People had been nosy, of course, when Amanda had applied to the Archive’s translation team. The Vulcan ambassador’s wife, living alone back on Earth, doing work that was neither charity nor a particularly high-profile cultural exchange?
She had deflected most of those questions with politely canned answers.
Gavriela had not pressed her, but Amanda trusted her, and so she was as aware of the situation as anyone else could be.
“No. Confusing, but not badly.”
Gavriela nodded slowly.
“Alright. Well, stop making me think that you’re going to burn yourself out, alright? And I know you’ve got my comm line. Any time,” she said, punctuating with a rap of her knuckles on the edge of the desk.
Amanda had barely spoken to anyone in a whole week, and after all, Gavriela was one of the only people who knew about everything - so why was she so reluctant to talk about it? Did she really just want to hold this all in until she saw Sarek again, and make everyone worry?
“It was just a really weird week. I’ll loop you in once I’ve got it figured out. We'll split drinks. Deal?”
Nodding again, Gavriela took a step back towards the door.
“Deal. But only if you get out of here for the night. You’re making the interns nervous.”
The daylight wasn’t even gone - going straight home would have been absolutely unbearable. She waited instead for a bus that would carry her in the opposite direction, out towards the bay.
(She normally might have walked, but decided to spare her feet.)
It was strange to her that she felt so compelled to isolate herself, to mull this over alone, in the same breath that she despised the thought of actually being alone.
Perhaps she just hated the idea that the decision would be anything but her own.
But that was ridiculous, and she knew it.
Maybe it really wasn’t anyone else’s goddamn business, but what was she supposed to do - let this eat away at her for two more weeks?
She was not about to shut down and wallow like that.
(Perhaps the whole past year had been wallowing in its own way, even if she was justified. Now there was a thought that stung.)
She shouldn’t have put Gavriela off like that. She should have just called her mother that morning. She shouldn’t have pushed Sarek back a whole extra week.
Should have, should have, should have -
What she deserved was a walk along the waterfront in the coolness of the late afternoon, and a dinner by herself, and to stop working herself up over all of this.
She didn’t even get out of her clothes that night.
She took off her shoes, hung her bag in the closet, and proceeded to roll onto the bed, half-clutching the pillow as she drifted off.
The sun wasn't even up when she awoke to a chill, real or imagined. She slowly considered peeling off her socks and getting under the covers, considered letting herself drift along until the alarm finally went off.
Instead she rolled over, sat up, and drew the elastic band from her hair. She let the remains of her bun fall free, and reached up to run her fingernails along her scalp.
The clock read ‘4:57’ in faint purple numerals, and she rolled her ankles a few times as she turned her gaze to the rest of the apartment again.
Empty in a way that hadn’t bothered her for a whole year. Empty in a way that she hadn’t allowed herself to contemplate. Was this just loneliness, or did she actually miss him?
She almost wished for something to clean, something to give herself a purpose until she could make her way into work.
Instead, she retrieved her comm from her satchel and stood silently in the kitchenette, taking a long moment to consider before she tapped out a message.
It’s not an emergency, but if you’re awake, I’d love to talk to you.
She sent that along, and stepped along to set her coffee 'mat.
The pot was halfway done when the response came - not the chirp of a message, but the lingering chime of a call coming through.
With a deep, bracing breath, Amanda accepted, and held the device up to her ear.
“Hey, sweetheart." There was a pause, and Amanda thought she heard the sound of a the door from the kitchen to the deck opening. That checked out - her mother had always liked having her tea outside, weather allowing, and she probably didn’t want to wake Amanda’s father with chatter. “This is a weird hour for you.”
Amanda laughed at that, reaching into the cupboard over the sink for a mug.
“Used to be a weird hour for you, too.”
“Mm. Well, doctor still can’t nail down a good fix for the arthritis, so sometimes… all I can do is just get up and move.”
“Is it that bad, now?” she asked, kept her gaze fixed on the mug as she poured her coffee, then carefully set the pot back in the maker.
“Bad? No. Irritating. And definitely, definitely not what I think you wanted to talk about.”
No more wallowing. This was supposed to be about no more wallowing.
Before she could stop herself, before she could let her voice break over finally saying it out loud -
“Sarek asked me to think about a divorce,” she blurted out, words flowing like one long wavering syllable.
She could hear her mother breathing, felt her own pulse returning to normal. It was out there now, something that she couldn’t just take back or ignore.
“Just like that?” her mother finally asked, her suddenly-clipped tone all too familiar.
“No… no. He just asked me to - you know, to think about what I want, one way or the other. And he knows he made a mistake that he can’t take back. But I couldn’t just - I mean, that’s not something to decide when we were both grieving and angry. Or... well, I don’t think he was angry, but I was.”
The great jumbled rush of words took her by surprise as she spoke, more defensive than she'd meant to be.
She could hear the sniff and the sigh over the line, and her mother finally spoke again.
“What do you think you want, then?”
Amanda picked up her mug, finally, and walked over to the couch to sit. She felt a little calmer, trusted herself not to fall apart again.
“I really, really don’t know. And I know that I should, but… you know I talked to Spock before I left, right? He told me... he said that I shouldn't hold a grudge on his behalf. That he didn't want to be a wedge between us, because Sarek's reaction was logical.”
“You raised a sweet boy, and we all know that. But I didn’t ask what Spock wants.”
Well, that was true enough.
“Come on. Cone of silence, same as ever,” her mother prodded. Amanda felt something pass, felt the days of silent anxiety release themselves.
“He really didn’t push me either way. And I’ve gotten along fine on my own, gotten used to it again. But it'd be tough to… to just get over someone who’s been in my mind. And vice versa. Not impossible, just tough,” she sighed. She paused, took a long swig of her coffee, and continued, “Worst part is, I don’t know if I actually miss him. I just avoided thinking about it, and I don’t like that. It’s all so messy, and I hate it.”
“Does it make me a bad person if I give him a chance?” she asked, shocked at how tiny her voice suddenly sounded.
The pause from the other end of the line was almost uncomfortable, but her mother finally spoke up.
“Have you been happier since you left? I mean, really, if you think it’s not over, are you going to be giving up something by going back?”
She thought about that, glanced out the window at the gradually lightening sky.
“I would really miss the archives. I think I’d miss the bay, and the rain… and it’s been good to really reconnect with my friends.”
“But you can still have that. You’re not tethered to him. Even if you’re on Vulcan some of the time, you can still be here some of the time, especially now that the children are all - grown.”
Amanda almost giggled over her mother's attempt at tact.
"I wasn't exactly housebound back then," she did giggle. It was a good point, though - Sarek had certainly shouldered his share of the parenting, but he had also been away far more frequently than she had.
She heard the distinct tone of her mother's scoff.
“What I really meant was, if you would be happier with him back in your life, even with some changes… if it was just a mistake that everyone can live with, and there’s still plenty of good to balance it out? Fine. If you talk again and decide to end things? Fine! If you’re happy? That’s all I care about. That’s all anyone should care about. Even if I still think he's a jackass.”
Amanda considered her coffee cup for a moment, took another huge gulp before she answered.
“I'm really glad I never had to go up against you in debate club, you know that?”
“Your dad makes a point of telling me s- Oh! Light’s on upstairs. You wanna say hi to him?”
Did she want to actually cry this morning?
“No, I uh… I don’t wanna worry him until there’s something to worry about, okay?”
“Okay, Button. You know I love you?”
”I love you too. Very much.”
The line went silent, and Amanda closed the comm.
It felt as though something had shifted in forcing herself to put words to the situation. The morning suddenly felt easier. Lighter.
Her mother was right, of course. No matter what happened, she was going to be fine.