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Shon-ha'lock: The Engulfment

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Shon-ha'lock: The Engulfment

Ambassador Sarek stepped out of his flitter and onto the sidewalk in front of the Vulcan Embassy on Terra in San Francisco. Two of his security team, his brother Silek and another trusted Vulcan named Stenn, walked ahead of him, checking for threats at the entrance. Before he could follow his team onto the walkway, something coming toward him caught his eye. He looked up to see a human female in the distance, jogging toward him on the sidewalk. He was struck by her beauty; her cheeks were flushed from her exercise and her running shorts and tight shirt showed off her toned and feminine figure. His mind was consumed with her beauty, and for a brief moment, a single word rang through his mind: Shon-ha'lock.

As she jogged, she looked up at the big, beautiful building that housed the Vulcan Embassy. She did not see Sarek on the sidewalk in front of her. He was so taken with her that he didn't realize she was heading right for him.

"S'haile!" Silek called, but it was too late. She ran right into him, hitting her nose on his shoulder and scraping her calves as she fell to the ground on her rear.

They were both startled, and spoke at the same time.

"I'm so sorry!" she exclaimed.

"I beg forgiveness," he said.

She looked up at him and gasped, "Ambassador Sarek! My sincere apologies, Osu!"

"It is of no consequence," he replied, "I am unharmed. It appears, however, that you would benefit from seeing a Healer. Let me assist you." He held out his hands to help her up. She took them graciously and allowed him to pull her to her feet.

Silek and Stenn glanced curiously at each other as they watched Sarek's exchange with the human, but wisely remained silent.

She remembered that touching was considered taboo to Vulcans and quickly pulled her hands out of his. "I'm so sorry," she said again.

He made sure his mental shields were securely in place before touching her and answered honestly, "Your touch has caused me no discomfort. However, your olfactory organ appears to be bleeding and your legs require dermal regeneration."

She blushed as his eyes raked over her body and held her hand up to her nose. Sure enough, there was a little bit of blood seeping out of it.

"Silek," Sarek called, "Inform Healer T'Aurna that we will arrive in her office forthwith."

"Right away, S'haile," Silek replied with a bow.

"I'm fine, Ambassador, really…"

"I insist, Miss…"

"Grayson. Dr. Amanda Grayson. We have a meeting scheduled for next week regarding my research on Vulkhansu. It's nice to meet you," she said with an embarrassed smile, "though I regret it is under these circumstances. I usually strive to make a good first impression."

"You are Dr. Grayson?"

"Yes, Osu."

"Indeed," he replied quizzically, "Please come in to see Healer T'Aurna."

"That's really not necessary."

"I must insist that you are cared for. Please follow me," he said, and without waiting for a reply, he turned and walked toward the embassy.

She followed him in and they walked into Healer T'Aurna's office. Amanda offered a small smile as she held a tissue up to her nose.

"How may I serve the kevet-dutar today?" The Healer asked. Healer T'Aurna was great in age and it showed, but her mind was still sharp.

"Lack of attention… on my part and Dr. Grayson, has resulted in an... unfortunate collision. I am unharmed, but Dr. Grayson requires treatment," Sarek replied.

"Of course. Please sit, Dr. Grayson."

As the Healer tended to her injuries, she looked up and saw Sarek watching her intently. Her cheeks flushed and she offered another small, embarrassed smile.

Sarek's eyes softened and he felt the corners of his mouth turning upward. Alarmed at the slip, he quickly schooled his features, somewhat relieved that Healer T'Aurna had not seen his lapse of emotional control.

Amanda, however, did see it, and her small smile turned into a grin. Sarek's stomach flipped. "Why do I enjoy her illogically emotional display so much?" he wondered. He would need to meditate on that later.

Amanda marveled and thought to herself, "He just smiled at me! Do Vulcans even smile? I guess they do!"

Once the Healer was finished tending to her injuries, she stood and bowed her head, "Thank you for your assistance, Healer," she said respectfully.

"I come to serve," T'Aurna replied.

"Your service honors me," Amanda said. Then, looking at Sarek again, she said, "I do apologize, Ambassador Sarek. This building is quite beautiful and I was admiring it instead of watching where I was going."

"It is of no consequence," Sarek said again, "Come, Dr. Grayson. I will see you home."

"That is really not necessary, I can walk."

"I must insist," he replied, holding out his hand and directing her out of the Healer's office.

She followed him out to his flitter and gave the driver her address before nervously sitting in the back across from Sarek.

To her relief, Sarek was the first to speak, saying, "Today I have reviewed your professional and academic portfolio to prepare for our meeting next week. You are young, but your credentials are most impressive, Doctor."

Amanda smiled at his compliment and he felt his stomach flip again. "Thank you, Osu. But please, just call me Amanda."

"Very well… Amanda. Since you have extended me the courtesy of addressing you by your first name, I invite you to do the same. You may call me Sarek."

"Thank you, Sarek," she said and after a brief and minimally awkward silence, they arrived at her apartment building. "Would you like to come in for a glass of water or tea? It is the least I can do."

Sarek pondered for a moment. On Vulcan it was inappropriate to be served by a female who wasn't his bondmate, but he was not bonded and she was not Vulcan. He knew she was offering as a courtesy, but was not ready to take his leave of her. "I do not wish to inconvenience you," he replied.

"It's no inconvenience. Please," she said. He nodded and then followed her up to her apartment. "Please sit," she said, gesturing towards the couch, "Would you like tea or water?"

"Water will suffice," he said.

She handed him a glass of water, then took a container of fresh chunked pineapple out of the refrigerator, "Would you like some pineapple?" she asked.

"Pine… apple?"

"You've never had pineapple before?"

"I have not."

"Oh, I think you'll like it!" she said with a smile, "It's a fruit that originates from South America. It's tangy and sweet. Please, try some!"

Sarek nodded, "Very well. I shall sample this fruit you've offered."

She smiled at him again, then went to get him a plate and fork. Sarek fought to keep his face passive. "Why does her smile please me?" he thought to himself again.

She handed him a plate of fruit and watched as he speared a piece with the fork and tried it. His eyebrows shot up in surprise; he chewed carefully then swallowed. "This is… most refreshing."

She smiled again and ate hers, delighted that he liked it. Once they finished, he stood, "I thank you for your gracious hospitality, Amanda. I must return to the embassy."

She looked in his eyes and smiled, and he offered a very small, brief smile back to her, which seemed to delight her. "I look forward to our meeting next week, Sarek."

"Indeed. I foresee it to be quite enlightening. I bid you good day."

"Good day," she replied with a smile. She closed the door when he left and leaned up against it with a sigh, "Only you could go and get a crush on a Vulcan, Grayson," she said to herself.

When Sarek finished his duties for the day, he went to his private wing, lit his meditation candle and stared into the flame. The entire afternoon he was distracted, his mind consumed with thoughts of Amanda. He tried to rationalize his thoughts and emotions regarding her, but could not do so satisfactorily. He had met and worked with other human females before, as his job required, but none of them had affected him like she did. That word rang through his mind again: Shon-ha'lock. The Engulfment. He was taken with her from the moment he saw her. It was something that he had never experienced before.

After his meditation, which did little to clear his thoughts of her, he decided sleep was in order. Sarek rarely dreamed, but this night he did, and vividly. He held out his hand, offering the ozh'esta to Amanda. She touched her fingers to his and with his other hand he stroked her cheek. He leaned over and kissed her the human way, something he'd never done or even contemplated doing before. After they kissed he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her close, burying his face in her neck and breathing deeply, losing himself in her scent. He whispered to her, "Ashayam adun'a…"

He was startled from his sleep by the dream and those words now rang through his mind. Ashayam adun'a. Beloved wife.

"Illogical," he thought to himself as he sat up in bed and tried to slow his breathing. She was human. Surely they could not bond… could they? "Illogical," he thought again. They had only just met. He sat on his mat and meditated for the rest of the night.

On the day of her meeting with Sarek regarding the Vulkhansu language, Amanda was in her office at the University, and the head of the language department called her into his office.

"I was just preparing for my meeting with Ambassador Sarek," she said as she took a seat across from him, "What can I help you with, Professor Weng?"

"Amanda… there's no easy way to say this. We just finished with the budget meeting. It seems that the powers that be feel that funds are more appropriately allocated to the medical and science departments. You're research position is being terminated at the end of this month."

"Greg, what?!"

"I fought to keep you, Manda," he said, "Fought like hell. God knows you're brilliant and I don't want to lose you. But they wouldn't budge."

Amanda felt her lip tremble and willed her tears away, "So that's it?"

"I'm so sorry, kid."

She took a deep breath, "It's… it's OK. I know it's not your fault. I really love it here… But I understand."

"I am really sorry, Amanda. I wish there was a way to keep you. I will happily write a shining letter of recommendation for any job that you pursue. You're last day is May 31st. Why don't you take the rest of the day off."

Amanda assured him that there was no hard feelings then went back to her own office and checked the time. Her meeting with Sarek was in 30 minutes. "Too late to cancel now, although it's kind of pointless." She thought about canceling, but wanted to see him again. He hadn't left her thoughts all week. "Screw it, I'll go and that way I get to see him, and just explain what happened," she decided.

At the embassy, Sarek's stomach flipped at the thought of seeing her. Over the last week he had all of his normal duties to attend to, but she was constantly in his mind. His com went off and his aide Skoth spoke through it, "Dr. Grayson has arrived, S'haile."

"You may send her in."

He stood at his desk as she walked in, and his stomach flipped yet again when she smiled at him. He carefully controlled his urge to smile back at her.

"Hello, Ambassador," she greeted.

"Dr. Grayson," he replied with a slight bow, "Please sit."

She sat across from him and he immediately picked up that something was amiss. "I look forward to our discussion today regarding Vulkhansu," he said and she smiled at him sadly.

"I was looking forward to it too," she replied.

He raised an eyebrow at her cryptic response and asked quietly, "What troubles you, Amanda?"

His eyes held a look of concern for her and she smiled at him again, thinking, "He really is sweet." Speaking out loud, she replied, "I got some bad news today. The University is terminating my position at the end of this month, so I will not have the funding to complete my research on the Vulkhansu language." Her voice cracked and her hand flew up to her mouth as a tear escaped down her cheek. "I'm so sorry!" she exclaimed, embarrassed about not keeping her emotions in check.

"There is no reason to apologize," Sarek replied gently, "It is understandable that you would feel distressed upon hearing such news."

"Thank you," she said, quickly wiping away the tear and regaining control. "I thought about canceling our meeting. I figured if there was no funding… I know you're very busy. I would love to continue my studies on my own, but did not want to waste your time simply to satisfy my own curiosity. I just got the news before coming here and figured I'd tell you in person."

Sarek looked at her curiously. He knew she was still upset but now her emotions were carefully controlled. Admirable. "Amanda... curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge is an admirable trait, whether it be for personal gain or for the benefit of others. It would not be a waste of my time to assist a young mind in that pursuit. I would be most honored to continue our discussion as planned."

Her sad look vanished and she smiled brightly at him, "Oh, thank you, Osu!"

For two hours they discussed the language of the ancient Vulcans, and its evolution into the modern day. Sarek was completely taken with her, this time for her great intelligence as well as her beauty. They were interrupted by Skoth once again speaking through the com, "Your next meeting begins in .5 v'hral, S'haile," he said.

"Your service honors me," he replied, and she stood to gather her notes.

"Thank you so much for meeting with me, Sarek! This has been truly enlightening!" she said, once again offering him a bright smile.

"For me as well," he replied. He looked at her curiously for a moment before saying, "It would be… logical… to continue this conversation. Forgive me if I overstep, but perhaps you would join me for end meal this evening?"

She smiled again, charmed by his question. "Is he asking me on a date?" she thought, "Surely he only wants to talk about Vulkhansu…"

"That sounds wonderful, Sarek."

His stomach flipped again, and he found that he was most pleased with her acceptance. "Indeed. I will pick you up at 1900 hours this evening. Is that time sufficient?"

"That's great. Thank you again and I'll see you tonight."

She smiled at him again, and while his face remained passive, his eyes clearly showed that he was pleased. "Good afternoon, Amanda," he said as she turned to leave.

Silek was not only Sarek's brother and security, but also his closest aide and assistant. Later that afternoon, he approached Sarek at his desk and asked, "Should I bring end meal to your office this evening?"

"That will not be necessary, Silek. I am meeting with Dr. Grayson for end meal this evening to continue our discussion on Vulkhansu."

Silek raised an eyebrow, "Indeed? That is… most unusual. Many of our people may misconstrue the sharing of a meal with an unbonded female."

"You forget, sa-kai. We are not on Vulcan, nor is she Vulcan. It is acceptable on earth to meet over a meal for academic discussion. K'lalatar prnak'lirli."

"Indeed..." Silek replied. He did not miss how his brother stared at her as she was jogging last week, nor did he miss Sarek's demeanor that afternoon after he met with the human female. He seemed… much more at ease than he normally was. But kaiidth. "I will offer my services as your driver this evening, as well as to be a discreet security detail."

Sarek knew that his brother did not completely accept his reasoning for dining with Amanda, and was somewhat relieved that he did not pry further. "Your service honors me, Silek."

He still had a few hours before their dinner, and decided to research human customs associated with dining with a female. He learned that while not always expected, it was customary for him to pay (he planned on doing that anyway). He closed his eyes for a moment and allowed himself complete honesty. His intention was not simply academic discussion. He wished to court her, to pursue an… intimate relationship with her. He altered his search from dining etiquette to human courting customs. He was amazed at how different humans were in this regard. Some of what he read was most illogical. A Vulcan female would be perplexed by such things, but she was not Vulcan, and he did not want her to be. Part of her appeal, he realized, was her humanity. After thorough research, he got ready, then pondered stopping to buy her flowers, as he read was customary for courting a female human. He wondered how Silek would react to the gesture. He called through his com for Silek to come to his quarters. "Before we arrive at Dr. Grayson's dwelling, we will stop so that I may acquire… a floral arrangement."

Silek once again raised an eyebrow, "Brother, forgive me if I overstep… but may I speak candidly?"

"You may speak."

"Floral arrangements are not typically offered before a meal regarding academic discussion. They are usually… as I understand it, used as a human courtship ritual. I have not missed your reaction to being in the presence of Dr. Grayson. With her, you seem to be experiencing Shon-ha'lock. It is logical for you to pursue a bondmate so that you may survive The Time. Your choice, however unorthodox, is the embodiment of IDIC. I have looked at Dr. Grayson's file, and she seems a most logical choice. As Ambassador to Earth it is your duty to observe and understand human behavior. Bonding with a human is… logical."

Silek looked at his brother, expecting a reprimand. Instead, Sarek looked at him curiously for a moment before responding, "You miss very little, sa-kai. I am honored that you find my choice acceptable, and your wisdom has brought me solace regarding this uncertainty. It is indeed logical, and fitting with IDIC. I am, however, not convinced that I will be successful in my pursuit. Human courting can sometimes last for years before a marriage takes place… I am also uncertain if it is even possible to bond with a human."

"The human brain is strikingly similar to ours. There is nothing, anatomically speaking, that suggests it would be unsuccessful. I would recommend that you speak to Healer T'Aurna when you feel it is appropriate. I am uncertain how the elders on Vulcan and the Matriarch will react, but kaiidth. Do not hesitate to approach me for any assistance you may require in this endeavor. As always, I come to serve."

"Your service honors me, sa-kai."

At 1900 hours, Sarek stood at the door to Amanda's apartment, holding an arrangement of Terran lilies. He took a breath and hesitated. "It is illogical to feel anxious," he thought to himself, then proceeded to knock on the door.

Amanda opened it with a smile and Sarek offered her the flowers, "I hope you find these pleasing," he said.

Her whole face lit up and Sarek felt illogically, immensely pleased with himself. "Oh Sarek, they're beautiful! I love lilies, thank you so much! Let me put these in water!"

"I guess it is a date," she thought.

She turned to find a vase and his eyes raked over her body. She was wearing a modest but form fitting light blue dress that brought out the color of her eyes. "She is very aesthetically pleasing," he thought to himself, but did not dare to say anything.

Silek drove them to a small Italian restaurant and he remained in the car when they went in. Over dinner they spoke at length about Vulkhansu, but after a while the conversation turned to topics of a more personal nature. She told him about growing up on the east coast amongst the mountains of Pennsylvania, and her experience with the cold, snowy winters and beautiful, warm summers. Then she asked him about Vulcan. "Tell me about Vulcan. I can only imagine how different it is from earth."

"It is indeed quite different. Earth has a great range of climates and temperatures ranging from well below zero to over 48 degrees Celsius in some regions. Vulcan has some temperature diversity but there is no place on our world where it goes below 21 degrees Celsius. And that is considered quite cold. Our hottest days can be upward of 55 degrees Celsius."

"Wow! That's fascinating! I'd like to change the subject, if it's alright, and forgive me if my question is rude. You certainly don't have to answer if it is."

"Please proceed."

"Many humans believe that Vulcans do not have emotions. I am quite certain that they do," she said with a knowing smile, "but the majority of people that I've encountered believe that you simply evolved not to have them after Surak's reforms. They think you've been conditioned to be completely without emotion. I am curious, do you simply suppress them or have you just evolved not to acknowledge them? Does it take practice or are you born that way? Please forgive me if I've overstepped, like I said, you don't have to answer if I'm being offensive."

"There is no offense where none is taken," he replied, "Your pursuit of understanding of the Vulcan people is… most gratifying." She smiled at him and he thought for a moment before answering, "Emotions run deep in the Vulcan people. In many ways more deeply than in humans. We are not without emotion, nor have we evolved to not have them. It does take practice, and we are trained from birth to control our emotions and embrace the serenity that can be found in logic. Perfect emotional control is something that very few Vulcans obtain. It is something we actively work on every day. Some days are more difficult than others, but with logic our people have prevailed. Emotions are felt very strongly by Vulcans. In the time before Surak, our emotions nearly caused our own destruction. That is why we embrace logic. Vulcan emotion can be, at times, quite dangerous."

"Human emotion can be dangerous at times, too," she replied, "You are very different from humans, but I think those differences set a good example for the people of this planet."

He offered a gracious nod and a very small, almost imperceptible smile and held up his glass, "I am pleased to see that we are different. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us."

"Amanda," he said, feeling now was an appropriate time to again change the subject, "Do you have plans for employment once your University position ends?"

"I was thinking about applying to other Universities, but the ones that have open positions are in other parts of the country. I love San Francisco, I don't think I'm ready to leave yet. So I was thinking of teaching again."

"You are a teacher?" he asked curiously.

She nodded, "Teaching was my first job after I got my Masters. I taught high school Standard English and Spanish language for almost 3 years while I got my doctorate."

"You are a Standard English teacher… I think I may have something to offer you. You are fluent in Vulcan as well as Standard. We have many Vulcan families living at the embassy with young children. The current teacher of Standard language will be returning to Vulcan to pursue the Kolinahr. We have not yet found a suitable replacement. Your qualifications suggest that you would perform that job adequately."

"Sarek, you're offering me a job at the embassy? Teaching?" The look on her face was incredulous, and for a moment Sarek was worried that she was reacting badly.

"Yes, but if the offer is not welcome… I apologize if I have overstepped…" he began, but she cut him off, a grin slowly spreading across her face.

"That's wonderful! I can't thank you enough! This is like a dream come true! I've been wanting to teach again! And at the embassy! This is incredible! I accept! Sarek, thank you!"

"It is logical to offer you the position, as you are more than qualified. Thanks are unnecessary," he said cordially, but inside he was incredibly pleased that she was so happy. He decided to let his emotional control slip just a little, and added, "The arrangement benefits me as well. I find that your company is… most gratifying."

After dinner, Silek drove them back to her apartment. "I will escort you to your door," Sarek said.

When they got to her door she asked, "Would you like a cup of tea before you go?"

"Tea would be adequate," he agreed and followed her inside.

He sat down on the couch and she set her sound system to play Les Miserables, her favorite musical, and made them both tea.

"I am unfamiliar with this musical arrangement," he said as she handed him his tea and sat next to him.

"This is the musical Les Miserables. This recording is very old, from the Earth year 1995, 10 years after the musical was first introduced. It was then, and is now considered a masterpiece."

"Indeed… I have read the book. It is quite… emotional."

"She smiled at him and said, "It is a very emotional story. This telling of it is entirely in music, and it's beautiful."

"I believe that this musical is playing at the Orpheum Theater next week. Would you care to accompany me to see it?"

"Oh, that would be wonderful! I've never seen it performed live, though I've always wanted to!"

"I will contact you with the details of our showtime," he agreed, "I will also have Silek arrange a meeting so we may discuss your new position at the embassy." He looked into her eyes and the joy on her face warmed his heart. He could not help but to offer a small smile in return.

"This has been a wonderful evening, Sarek, thank you so much."

"Your company has been most agreeable. I anticipate seeing you again." He placed his empty tea cup on the table and bowed to her slightly, "I wish you a pleasant evening, Amanda."

"You too, Sarek. I'll speak to you soon."

Sarek got back into his flitter and Silek began driving them toward the embassy. "Was your evening satisfactory, sa-kai?" Silek inquired.

"Quite," Sarek responded, "I have offered her a position at the embassy teaching Standard when T'Lana returns to Vulcan."

"Logical," Silek said, "She is indeed qualified."

"She has also agreed to accompany me to the theater next week."

Silek nodded his approval and they drove in silence the rest of the way.

Amanda was bursting with excitement at home, "I can't believe he offered me a job!" she thought, "He really is very sweet. And handsome. Oh my God, I'm dating a Vulcan! Do Vulcans even date? I guess this one does!" She showered and then went to bed, thinking about Sarek.

The next week, after seeing Les Miserables, he was once again escorting her to her door. "Come in for tea!" she said, and he followed her in and once again took a seat on the couch next to her. "So Sarek, what did you think of the show?" she asked excitedly.

"It was… interesting. The performers had great talent. The story itself makes one think about morality. It shows simultaneously that emotions can both help and harm a situation. Most interesting indeed."

"I thought it was wonderful! Sarek, I can thank you enough!"

"I am… pleased that you enjoyed it. I am hoping to persuade you to join me again next week, perhaps for dinner again?"

"That sounds lovely."

For the next few weeks, they met for a date every Friday night. She started her job teaching at the embassy, and they were both pleased that they were able to see each other so often. Some of the parents were wary of an emotional human teaching such young and impressionable Vulcan children, so they had an aide observe her for her first two weeks.

At the end of the two weeks, the aide, T'Pay, met with the parents of the children in her class. Amanda was not present at the meeting, but Sarek was.

"As you are aware," T'Pay began, "for the last two standard weeks I have observed Dr. Grayson while she has taught the young ones. It is my observation that she is indeed worthy of the title T'Kehr. She is human, but does not teach ours like one would teach human children. She seems to have a firm grasp Vulcan culture. She is not emotional with the children, nor does she tolerate emotional displays from them. This week, we had a student openly show frustration and anger. She gently but firmly reminded him that he should strive to embrace logic, and not let emotion dictate his actions. When he commented that she was human and could not teach him about logic, she told him that in addition to teaching Standard language, it was her job to reinforce the lessons taught by their parents, so while she taught she also embraced logic. She told him that emotional outbursts had no place in her classroom and then set up a mat in the corner for "meditation time". She advised him to meditate quietly until his emotions were under control. She has since kept the mat there, and any student is welcome to use it if at any time they feel their emotions getting too great. She is a most adequate teacher, and satisfactorily embodies IDIC. I do not believe further observation is required." The parents were satisfied with T'Pay's report and Sarek felt illogically proud.

A few weeks later, they were once again in her apartment drinking tea after dinner, and Amanda said, "May I ask a personal question? Of course you don't have to answer if you don't want to."

"You may ask."

"Why are you not married? I thought Vulcans bonded with their mate at a young age."

"Indeed. I was bonded at a young age. Four years ago, she decided to sever our bond to pursue the Kolinahr."

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said.

"Kaiidth. What is, is. That which we cannot change, we're must accept."

"Can I ask you another question?"

"Of course, Amanda."

"What are we doing?"

"We are drinking tea?..." he replied, confused.

She smiled, "That's not what I mean. I mean, we go on dates every week. You seem to enjoy my company and I know I enjoy yours. But it hasn't gone any further…"

Sarek nodded and set his cup down, now understanding her question. "I very much enjoy your company. These dates have been my attempt to court you, though I must admit, I am somewhat unfamiliar with the process. Do you… want to take things further?" he asked.

"Well, yes, I would like to take things further if you're willing…"

Sarek nodded and then stood. He took her hands in his and pulled her up so she was standing in front of him. He brushed her hair away from her face and whispered, "I'm glad to have obtained your permission to take things further. I have been wanting to tell you for some time now that you are quite beautiful."

She smiled and whispered back, "How long have you been wanting to tell me?"

"Since the first time I saw you, when you were jogging in front of the embassy. I saw you when you were quite a good distance away, and I was so taken with your beauty that I did not realize you were on a collision course until it was too late." He allowed her a small smile.

"You're very sweet, Sarek."

"Only for you, Ashayam."

His heart fluttered as he leaned over and pressed his lips against hers. He had never kissed anyone this way before and was surprised that it was quite pleasing. She sensed that he was not familiar with kissing and encouraged him gently, guiding him through it until he was confident, his tongue desperately seeking hers. Sarek found himself becoming aroused, and his control started slipping away. He ran his hands through her hair and up and down her back. He pulled away suddenly, his breath ragged and rested his forehead against hers.

"Amanda, I would like your permission."

"Permission for what?" she whispered.

"As you are aware, Vulcans have touch telepathy. Every time I've made physical contact with you, including now, I've kept my mental shields in place as to not invade your privacy. I wish… I wish to feel your emotions."

She smiled, "You have my permission, Sarek." She took his face in her hands and pulled him down to kiss him again. He finally let his shields down and was flooded with her emotion. Her affection, respect, admiration and arousal shocked his senses and he pulled her closer and deepened their kiss.

After a few minutes, he knew he had to stop or he'd lose control completely. He reluctantly pulled away from her and took her hands in his again, "It grows late. I should go."

"You can stay if you want," she whispered, her finger tracing around his ear and jaw.

"I cannot…"

She could tell that he had a reason he was not ready to discuss, and didn't push the issue. "Thank you for a wonderful evening, Sarek."

"Thank you for sharing your emotion with me. It was… very pleasant. I shall see you tomorrow. Sleep well, Ashayam."

"Goodnight, Sarek." She kissed him again and he let himself out.

After he left, she pulled up her Vulcan Dictionary on her PADD. Twice he had called her Ashayam, but despite being fluent in the language she was unfamiliar with that word. She smiled when she saw the translation: Ashayam- Beloved.

In his room at the embassy, Sarek meditated to try and regain his control. He badly wanted to take her to bed, but knew that he could not. Not yet. The urge to bond was an instinct, and he knew if they were to consummate their union he could not stop himself from bonding with her. He couldn't allow that to happen until he obtained her permission and shared his secret. After he meditated, he researched Terran marriage customs.

Several weeks later, a package arrived for him at the embassy. It was the engagement ring he had made for her. It was a rare red diamond surrounded by brilliant sapphires that matched the color of her eyes. The gems were set on a white gold band. He had pondered getting her a Vulcan gemstone, but decided to go with gems that were precious on her planet instead. He looked at the ring with approval then closed the box and tucked it into a pocket on his robe. Then he went to Healer T'Aurna's office.

"How may I serve the kevet-dutar today?" she asked respectfully.

"I seek your wisdom, Healer," he replied. He sat across from her and she waited while he gathered his thoughts. "I wish to know… if you are aware… if it is possible for a Vulcan to bond with a human."

If Healer T'Aurna was surprised by his question, she did not show it. "I do not know that it has ever been attempted. The human brain, however, is very similar to ours. There is nothing suggesting that it would be unsuccessful. Forgive me if I overstep… but you are contemplating asking Dr. Grayson to be your bondmate?"

"Yes," he replied quietly.

"Your choice is logical, and your union would adequately embody IDIC. May I have your thoughts?"

"You may."

She touched the psi points on his face and closed her eyes. After a moment she removed her hand and looked at him, "You have already started making the bond, S'haile. This is evidence that a full bond would indeed be successful. If she does not accept your proposal, however, both you and Dr. Grayson need to see me." She looked at Sarek silently and let him absorb the information. Healer T'Aurna had delivered Sarek at his birth and felt a strong, if illogical, affection for him.

"I thank you for your assistance, Healer," Sarek said after a long moment.

"I come to serve," she replied as she bowed toward him.

"Your service honors me." He stood and walked toward the door.

"S'haile," she called, and he turned to face her again, "As the humans would say… good luck."

Sarek bowed to her gratefully then left to prepare for his date with Amanda.

After their date at the Shakespearean dinner theater, they once again sat in her apartment. They sat on the couch, and he put down his tea, leaned over and kissed her gently. "Amanda, there is something that I wish to discuss with you."

"Sure."

"Forgive me, this is a difficult subject to discuss. It is only discussed on Vulcan when absolutely necessary, and never discussed with others."

"Oh, then you don't have to…" she began.

He interrupted her gently, "I must discuss this with you, Ashayam. Please." She remained silent and he continued speaking softly. "Every seven years in the life of an adult Vulcan male, they experience… the pon farr. It is the time of mating. During this time we our stripped of our faculties and logic. All that we have is emotion and the need to mate. It is often a rough and feverish affair, lasting anywhere from 2 to 7 days, depending on the strength of the cycle. If a Vulcan male does not mate during this time, he will die. This is why we are traditionally telepathically bonded to our mates at a young age. When The Time comes, both male and female are drawn back to Vulcan."

"Sarek… thank you for telling me. I know that must have been difficult. Is your time coming? Is that why…"

"No, Ashayam," he assured her, "My time is not yet imminent."

"Is that why we haven't… you know… had sex yet?" she asked.

"No," he said quietly, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear and gently stroking her face, "To a Vulcan, the consummation of a relationship is a joining of both bodies and minds. If I were to join with you that way, I would be unable to stop myself from completing the bond with you."

"Completing?" She asked and he offered the small smile meant only for her.

"I saw Healer T'Aurna this morning. She has confirmed that we have already started the bond. Ashayam… nothing would please me more than to bond with you." He pulled the ring out of his robe and slid off of the couch and onto his knee in front of her. "I cherish thee, Amanda, in more ways than I can adequately express. With you I have experienced Shon-ha'lock. The Engulfment. I believe the Terran phrase is 'love at first sight.' I was yours the moment I saw you. Would you do me the honor of becoming my adun'a? My bondmate and wife?"

He offered the ring to her and her hand flew over her mouth and tears ran down her cheeks. Sarek was startled by her reaction and jumped to his feet. "Amanda I apologize! I had feared…"

"Sarek, stop! I love you. I would be honored to be your wife."

"You would?" he asked, unable to hide his surprise.

"Sarek, you are the nicest person I've ever met. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us."

"Ashayam… I must insist that you consider this carefully. I am honored that you would accept me, however, you must know that there has never been a union between a Vulcan and a human before. We will, no doubt, make headlines. And you must know that a bond is difficult to break. You will be mine because in my Time I will have you and only you. I will be yours because you if you should reject me in my Time, I will die."

She smiled at him and cupped his cheek, "Oh, Sarek. I would never reject you. I love you."

"And I cherish thee, Ashayam," he said as he slipped the ring onto her finger. He pulled her in for a kiss, and dismissed his thoughts of what the Vulcan elders would think. She was his and he was hers, and, at that moment, that was all that mattered in the universe.

The End