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The House of Amanda

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"Should we choose to marry," Sarek begins, "I would live where you wished."

"Oh," Amanda says. "Do you mean -- I know your work takes you to Earth often --"

"Amanda, if you felt that that you could not be from your people for months, perhaps years at a time, I would be willing to make Earth our primary residence. Voyages to Vulcan become simpler every year -- quicker, more convenient, less taxing -- and I would do this for you."

"I would be willing to live on Vulcan," she replies.

"Oh," he says, and she grins. "Then we must choose."

"Well, we don't have to right now," she says. "You have to be on Earth for the next seven or eight months; I have my book to finish and my teaching contract won't be up for another 18 months."

"It seems unwise to put the decision off."

"We're not avoiding the question -- we just need to evaluate the situation later, when we're not both required to stay on Earth." Amanda considers it and adds, "Also, note how you haven't actually asked me to marry you yet so this is just… reconnoitering the territory."

"Surveying."

"Military conquest isn't your intent?"

Sarek is a stubborn bastard, even by Vulcan standards. That Amanda could occasionally disarm him or get the last word was akin to pulling the goddamn sword from the stone.

"Amanda --" Sarek begins again.

"If you plan on proposing, by the way," she interrupts. "I'd like a real proposal."

"How could I propose to you fictionally?"

"I mean," she laughs, "On a separate occasion that we can celebrate later -- so I don't have to tell Sybok and any other children we may come by that their father declared our discussion satisfactory and drew out a contract right then and there. Hardly a knee-buckling, swoon-worthy kind of occasion."

"Knee-buckling and swoon-worthy," Sarek says. "Vivid descriptors, yet seemingly unsatisfactory as they suggest a multitude of health problems unsuitable to find in a mate..."

"Oh, please, you with the eternal subscription to the Journal of 18th Century Women's Literature, don't play the stupid Vulcan with me."

"Already, so like a traditional wife, denying me my amusements, referring to her aching limbs --"

Amanda clasps his hand as she laughs and keeps grinning even when Sarek stops their walk around the San Francisco block they had been on for close to an hour -- wasn't she going to stop at the chocolate shop at some point? Or --

"I will ask you tomorrow," Sarek says suddenly and seriously, looking right into her eyes eagerly, "I cannot wait another day without knowing."

"Knowing…?"

He raises his eyebrow slightly and asks, "You would play the stupid Terran with me?"

"I'd play just about anything," she laughs. "Croquet, Quidditch, basketball --"

"You are at a severe disadvantage for that last one."

"I have a terrific lay up. Sneaking right by you and yup, basket. You need more activities that get you in shorts."

"I believe the bookstore has finally opened," Sarek says suddenly.

"That's such convenient timing," she says as he takes her hand and they walk across the street.

*

Sybok is Sarek's son from his first wife, who had died about five years before -- a genetic disease gone unnoticed her entire life suddenly became activated after Sybok's birth and she was dead before his second birthday. While Sarek is on Earth, Sybok is on Vulcan, living in the school dormitories in Shi'Kahr, a little city boy if there ever was one.

Amanda really likes Sybok. Of course it stems from his being a part of Sarek's life -- a part of Sarek -- and she loves all of that, but a lot also comes from how much Sybok is a brilliantly joyful child whose excitement for everything ever can't be contained.

The day after their engagement discussion, Sarek drags Amanda stupidly early to the city shuttleport -- his assistant was unable to meet a dignitary because of a sudden illness and he has to do it himself.

She has on giant sunglasses and sips from her giant cup of tea. "I appreciate the chance to take this scenic drive at this hour, really I do, but I've lived here a good part of my life," she tells Sarek. "I know what the coast looks like at dawn. I'm pretty sure I could have done with the extra hour --"

"I believe our dignitary has arrived," Sarek interrupts.

"Wh -- oh it's Sybok!" Amanda shrieks and she takes off running, careful with the tea in one hand, as Sybok with his backpack bolts down the terminal hallway. She kneels and lets him run into her, his arms tightening around her neck. His hair smells like what she remembers Shi'Kahr smells like, an urban desert, it smells so red and dry. "Honey, I missed you. Is your father behind me?"

"Course he is," Sybok says. "Where else would he be?"

She hugs him another while longer and then stands up -- Sarek is there, of course.

"Sa-mekh," Sybok laughs as he clings onto Sarek's leg. Sarek's hand runs through Sybok's hair and along the tips of his ears affectionately, and he looks at Amanda.

"After a long discussion," Sarek says, his hand still on Sybok's head, "Sybok insisted on being here."

"But what about school?" she asks. "That --"

"It's a special occasion," Sybok replies.

"I required my family here," Sarek adds and like some kind of diplomat-ninja, he's pulled a ring out from one of his endless sleeves and offers it to Amanda. "Sybok and I would like to invite you officially into our family. For as long as we all should live."

Amanda throws her arms around Sarek's neck, and feels arms around her leg, and the ring is lost somewhere in the folds of all their clothing, but Sybok finds it when it clinks on the floor.

"Is that a yes?" Sarek asks.

"Father," Sybok sighs.

"That is definitely a yes," Amanda replies, looking at both of them. "I agree. I want to join your family. Officially and always."

Sarek drives the embassy car back, Amanda reclining in the backseat with Sybok sleeping curled up against her.

"Eyes on the road," she says when he looks at them in the rearview mirror. "You let a six-year-old boy fly across space all night? By himself?"

"We were emotionally compromised, and it was not night when he left Vulcan," Sarek says with what has to be sheepishness in his voice. "You see why we could not be even a minute late for our dignitary."

It's at our dignitary when she lets out a little choked sound that makes Sybok roll slightly in his sleep and clutch at her pant leg a little more.

*

They're married ten and thirteen months later: ten in a small Earth ceremony with Sybok, what's left of Amanda's family (a few scattered cousins), and their friends; thirteen in a small Vulcan ceremony.

Small by Vulcan standards.

It's officiated by T'Pau, which is pretty big by Amanda's standards. By anyone's standards, really.

Correction: Sarek and Amanda are married in a big Vulcan ceremony.

T'Pau watched her like a hawk the night before the wedding at an introduction dinner Sarek held for every VIP on Vulcan. She eventually approached Amanda.

"Sarek's child is attached to you," she said.

"And I to him," Amanda replied. The touch of overly formal diction demanded itself just then, maybe always with this woman.

"Sarek himself is also attached to you," and Amanda wondered whether it was the fault of a translator or maybe if 'attached' had -- well, maybe it was just Amanda who felt that T'Pau used the word like she was describing the activities of a bottom-dweller in the ocean.

"He informs me you are a teacher," T'Pau said.

"Professor of linguistics," Amanda said. "And cultural studies with a focus, obviously, in linguistics. We met at a conference. Love at first diacritic. That sort of thing."

T'Pau nodded gravely, took in her appearance again, and then moved on to another Vulcan. She spotted Sarek across the room and they made eye contact. He waited a few moments before making his way to her.

"I see you spoke to T'Pau," he said in a low tone, low even for Amanda because of the superhearing powers of everyone in the room.

"I don't think she likes me."

"Like is irrelevant to Vulcans."

"Then I don't think she respects me."

"She cannot object to your work, logical and useful as it is, but she is much more of a politician than an academic." Sarek sipped from his glass and said, "She is very much an inclusionary Vulcan -- she believes in -- there is a Standard idiom for it. About visiting versus living?"

"I'm a nice place to visit but why would you want to live here?" Amanda asked.

"An antiquated idea regarding outworlders, but you know her history. She fought to return the practices of Surak to their purest roots, but did so with the help of Jonathan Archer and other Terrans. She would not interfere with our life."

They get married the next day and return to Earth.

*

The time comes and they choose to live on Vulcan because:

1) the school system is better (budget-wise, Vulcan pours its resources into education in a way that Earth… just doesn't);
2) Sybok can continue being an eight-year-old learning things eight-year-old Vulcans learn rather than going to Earth and being an eight-year-old learning things 19-year-old Terrans learn;
3) Amanda's never lived off-planet before;
4) She can focus on her research and writing;
5) Kids.

Sarek is, for Amanda, a breath of fresh air. He's direct about everything -- talking to him is both the simplest and most difficult thing in the world.

They're bonded and she's stopped feeling ill all the time, and she knows he's not an idiot so she can't play the whole "wow, feels like I'm pregnant… so I've heard" card. No, the difficult part in speaking to Sarek about Serious Things is that she has to build up her own courage and just say what she wants to say. She should be prepared when she starts.

"I want another child," Amanda says. "I think now's the right time since I'm ready, and you have one major assignment on Earth coming up and then you'll be on Vulcan for seven months straight. I think Sybok would be an amazing big brother to a plant, so he'd pretty much rocket over T'Khut if he had a sibling. What do you say?"

Sarek stares at her for a moment, blinks, and says, "I say yes. We should have another child."

She kisses him (both Vulcan and the Terran ways), and when they tell Sybok, she was right: he's blown away with happiness and informs them he can tutor the baby in literature and poetry and organic chemistry.

"That's a very well-rounded curriculum you've drawn up for the baby," Amanda laughs.

"I suppose she or he will have to have math, too," Sybok says quite wearily for an eight-year-old. "But only practical mathematics."

"Of course," Sarek agrees.

*

Science intervenes and pregnancy happens.

It's disgusting, annoying, full of immunosuppressive hypos all day and every day (among hormones, vitamins, and just about every other chemical her body refuses to produce because it doesn't quite believe that tiny bit of Vulcan growing in her is actually hers), and lands her in bed rest for a month before they can remove the baby (because, haha, natural childbirth? With a baby three times as strong as its mother fighting its way out -- no. Sorry, but FUCK. NO.)

Sybok loves it -- he hates seeing her hot and miserable and in pain most of the time (three times as strong!), but he loves being her main window to everything outside.

Also, he has input on his sibling.

"Sa-mekh told me it's a boy," Sybok says, "and it's traditional in our clan, because we're descended from Surak, for boys to have names like his -- first letter S, last name K in Standard, and it's the same principle in Vulcan."

"So tell me what names you've found for --"

"No, just Spock," Sybok says. "I can tell you the story of Spock, if you'd like."

"I'd love to hear his story," Amanda says just as Spock kicks her somewhere in the liver. Maybe he'd prefer the name Sebastian. Sebastiak.

It's a surprisingly long and involved story about the Age of Awakening, Spock picking up where Surak left off after his death, leading his people to the ruins of Shi'Kahr and rebuilding the city demolished by decades of war into the capital for Surak's clan. That inspired the other clan leaders (Vanak and Turek) to move their clans to separate areas of the continent where they wouldn't have to compete for resources and create more wars.

"But Spock's a very rare name even though he was very important," Sybok says.

"We will have to discuss it with your father," Amanda says. "But I like it very much, even if Spock will need some getting used to it," she adds with a look towards the bump.

Sybok reclines on the pillows next to her and asks, "What does Amanda mean?"

"It's from an ancient Terran language -- it means 'she who must be loved.'"

"A very strange name, but fitting," Sybok says.

"Thank you, Sybok," she says, and she touches the tips of her pointer and middle fingers to the tip of his nose.

*

The first five years of Spock's life are -- well, incandescently happy for the four of them.

One day, out at a government-sponsored family event, Sybok points out to Amanda one of his teachers (if the person stalking about outside one's isolated teaching pod could be called a 'teacher'.)

"We should go speak to her," Amanda says.

"I answer all my questions correctly; I study very much," Sybok says. "Do you have to know more? You receive the biannual reports on my progress on your PADD."

"Why shouldn't I?" Amanda asks while Spock yanks on her hand and squeezes her fingers impatiently for attention. "Well, now's an excellent time. Those other reports aren't nearly detailed enough as speaking to someone who sees you every day."

Sybok's instructor, T'Miro, acknowledges Amanda with a nod, which Amanda returns. "Sybok, could you find your father and wait until I'm finished speaking with your teacher?" Amanda asks.

"That is unnecessary," T'Miro replies. "If you wish to speak on Sybok's progress, there is nothing I will tell you that I have not told him."

"Oh?" Amanda says. She glances towards Sybok, whose expression is neutral -- neutral for Sybok, which means he has a smile at the corner of his mouth that no other Vulcan in the room has. "And how is he doing in school? His grades are excellent."

"That is because he is an excellent student. He is very adept at problem solving, has a fine and quick memory, and is unparalleled in his studies."

"Is he being challenged enough?"

"He has his own challenges," T'Miro says with a glance towards Sybok. "Sybok excels in classes, but he lacks the emotional control characteristic of our people."

"Yes, I noticed," Amanda says, also looking at Sybok and giving him a smirk. "Does that affect his studies?"

"It affects his status as a Vulcan," T'Miro replies. "There are precepts handed down from the oldest days, those that have brought us progress as a people, and Sybok ignores them completely. He may enter any profession he wishes -- perhaps become a professor such as yourself -- and he will excel at it; however, he will excel as Sybok, not as a Vulcan."

And it's something about Sybok, and only Sybok, that he would hear this -- this condemnation, someone telling him that he could do great things but his home world would never accept him as theirs -- and not mind. He simply doesn't care.

"Would you excuse us for a moment?" Amanda asks, and she ushers Sybok over to a far corner. "Sybok -- I don't even know what to say. Is she -- did you upset your teacher somehow? Why would she say that?"

"That wouldn't be logical," Sybok says. "We… I don't mind school. I like school. I don't pay attention to the other kids, and they don't pay attention to me."

"Sybok, I taught for years before I married your father and came to Vulcan. I can tell you: it's important to be social with people your own age. It's one of the benefits of school."

Sybok is fourteen at this point, and Amanda reflects that if he had been raised Terran, he would -- well, she would have known earlier that he was outcast from his peers. She had seen that acting out behavior before in so many other students, but this was -- he was so calm, which was even more off-putting.

"Perhaps for others," Sybok says, "but not for me. I prefer reading, observing, writing. The others don't mock me; they simply leave me alone once they realize I won't rise to their taunts."

Sarek finds them and they have a hushed family conference in the corner of the hall, and Sybok lets them find no other conclusion but that he's content as he is.

"She did lie, however," Sybok says. "T'Miro. I don't think a Vulcan school would allow me to teach and produce materials for them until I forgot how to smile, and I don't think I can do that."

Sarek, as he did when Sybok was still knee-high to him, rests his hand in Sybok's hair and watches Amanda. Amanda looks at both of them and sighs. "Sarek."

"In this, Sybok is much like his mother," Sarek says, glancing down at him. "A priestess, by training and vocation, because she, too, did not care for the day-to-day as much as… the after."

"Dearest, what will you do?" Amanda asks Sybok. "I'm worried about you."

"Don't be!" Sybok says.

And that night, Sybok calls a family meeting and announces that when he has completed his schooling in three years, he will travel.

"For how long?" Amanda asks, her hand moving to clutch Sarek's.

"Indefinitely," he says.

"But you're a child. Seventeen -- that's barely adult by Terran standards, let alone Vulcan ones! Sybok!"

"Yes?" he asks.

Spock, who is five, asks, "Why are you leaving?"

"Because Vulcan is, metaphorically speaking, too small and I wish to see more of the galaxy," Sybok says.

"Is that logical?" Spock asks, looking to Sybok and then to Sarek.

"It's reckless," Amanda says.

"Three years," Sybok says. "Perhaps then I will not want to leave Vulcan. Perhaps something will keep me here. I… don't believe that will be the case, but you may be persuaded in that time."

The next morning, she informs him that she and Sarek want a full proposal of sites, potential sources of revenue, his relevant work skills -- extensive proof that he won't starve to death.

At least it'll give him a hobby for the next three years.

*

That day, the day when Sybok's teacher informs Amanda he'll never be a "real" Vulcan, the day Sybok reveals Vulcan is oppressive enough to make him want to wander indefinitely in search of a new planet to call home, marks a mental turning point for Amanda. It's the point when she suddenly notices, after nearly seven years on Vulcan, that the planet may not be as welcoming of her as she thought.

Like when colleagues of Sarek's visit and spend a good five minutes marveling over Spock and attempting to find the human traces in his physiology.

"His eyebrows are not nearly as pointed as his father's," one remarks.

"Yes, they also curve slightly in the center, as if attempting to arch like a human's but then continuing upward," another adds.

"The point of his ears is also slightly duller than a full Vulcan."

"He has your chin, Lady Amanda," a woman says.

"And her eyes," Sarek replies. "Shall we adjoin to the study?"

"The eyes are striking," they remark as a group before they leave.

Spock, still five years old, looks up at her full of confusion. "Did I do something wrong?" he asks.

"I suppose they think it's logical to examine you for differences," Amanda says, "because you're half-human and they've never met someone like you before."

"But you have said staring was rude."

"I did; that doesn't mean people won't do it occasionally."

"Then which is right? Do I stare at people that are different or do I not?"

"Which do you feel like doing?"

"Which is the correct one?"

"It depends on the situation."

"Then one is allowed to be rude in pursuit of an objective?"

"No, you shouldn't be rude."

"But sa-mekh's colleagues have been rude and you have excused them because they were being logical."

Once Spock learned how to speak, conversations with him could take up hours and stretch into days. He never forgot, never stopped analyzing and evaluating -- really, he had been a scientist from the day he was born.

"I thought," Amanda tells Sarek later that night when the boys have been put to bed, "That Spock would be like Sybok -- I knew he would be different and unique, he would be biologically ours, but -- he's so -- he embraces being Vulcan in a way Sybok never has."

Sarek is quiet for a few moments and then replies, "I believe it unwise to view Vulcan as completely homogenous -- though, do not mistake me, much of the population strives towards that daily, nearly to the point of xenophobia among more stringent areas. What you and other non-Vulcans identify as Vulcan is simply the philosophy of a majority of the population: those who follow the precepts of Surak. As it happens, Sybok's mother was of a different clan than mine, one that adheres less to the precepts of emotional control."

"So it's biological -- but it's not, Sarek -- maybe to some extent but not really." She puts the PADD she was reading on the nightstand and moves closer to Sarek. He puts an arm around her shoulders and pulls her to him, his own PADD forgotten somewhere on his side of the bed. "He has to embrace both. I can't become completely Vulcan, and you can't become completely Terran, so we should work together. "

"I had thought we were working together," Sarek said, amusement seeping into Amanda's mind through his touch on her arm.

"I mean," she begins after a quick eye roll towards him, "That when he asks for one or the other -- that's an easy solution, and he can't have that. So we won't give it to him."

"A most logical course of action," Sarek says.

"It's been known to happen," Amanda laughs.

*

Spock returns from school one day, sets down his bag, and asks Amanda, "Have you and Father discussed when I will undergo my kahs-wan?"

"Hello, Spock," Amanda says.

"Hello, Mother," Spock replies, and he walks around the desk in her study to kiss her cheek and embrace her.

"That's more like it -- and when did you decide to stop calling your father 'sa-mekh'?" she asks.

"Earlier today," Spock says. "I prefer the Terran terminology."

"Yes, that happens," Amanda muses, and then shakes her head. "Not that particularly but -- well, I still remember the day I stopped calling my mother 'mama' and called her 'Mom'."

"Not 'Mother'?"

"'Mother' sounds very formal to Terrans."

Spock tries it and slowly, awkwardly pronounces the word 'Mom', and Amanda laughs. He instantly scrunches his nose, tightens his lips, and declares that 'Mother' will suit his purposes fine, as will 'Father'.

"Yes, Sarek doesn't look like a 'Dad', does he?" she laughs.

"Not as such. Mother," Spock repeats, "When will I undergo my kahs-wan? Nearly every one of my classmates has completed it and --"

"Completed what? Your father hasn't mentioned this to me."

"A survival test for Vulcans entering their seventh year, as I am," Spock says. "We spend ten days on Vulcan's Forge."

"…camping?" Amanda asks with a note of hope in her voice.

"What is camping?"

"A Terran activity -- you go with your friends into the woods, build a fire, roast marshmallows --"

"No, we are not allowed food." Spock thinks for a moment and adds, "And I will have to make a fire unassisted. Also, I will have to find a source of water, but I have --"

"Sarek! Sybok!" Amanda calls. She takes Spock by the wrist and leads him out of her study, and then notices Sarek coming in through the patio door. "Sarek, your son insists on going to Vulcan's Forge for ten days completely unprepared on some survival test that the children in his class are undergoing."

"I am very prepared," he informs Sarek. "I have consulted topographical maps of Vulcan's Forge and believe I have established a route that will not lead to my immediate demise."

Amanda's grip around Spock's wrist tightens and she looks from Sarek to Spock and then back to Sarek.

"What?" she asks.

"It is a coming-of-age trial," Sarek says far too placidly for someone allowing his seven-year-old son to go into the desert (the really barren, hot, unsustainable desert, not the desert they live in) for ten days in order to prove something. "Every Vulcan male undergoes it."

"Sybok didn't -- Sybok did," Amanda gasps. "While you were on Earth -- how could you be away from him while he went out and --"

"It is a Vulcan tradition," Sarek replies. "Every Vulcan male has undergone it. It is one of our cultural cornerstones."

Amanda leans in and whispers, "Has it ever occurred to you that --"

"Our house is particularly close to Vulcan's Forge, and even if it were not, few Vulcans fail the ordeal. They prepare thoroughly before they begin and --"

"And then forget to leave the house with food, water, or weapons! Sarek, can you hear yourself?"

"And you, my wife?" Sarek asks with a sudden hardness in his voice that she has never, ever heard before. "I understand and empathize with your protective instinct -- you appear to forget that I share it."

"Spock, leave us," Amanda says, and then shakes her head at Sarek when he attempts to touch her hand. "No, this is something that needs to be discussed out loud and carefully laid out."

"Amanda," Sarek begins. "The path before Spock is already a difficult one, and you would have him not complete the ritual that declares him a Vulcan equal to all others?"

"I'd have our son live to be eight, if it's not too much to ask!"

"Spock is not frightened."

"Spock is a child! He shouldn't have to do this -- he should wait until he's older. He shouldn't have to prove himself to others by running out into the desert and starving himself for ten days!"

"I can send you texts on the origins of the kahs-wan, in which you will see it is primarily a spiritual ritual in which young Vulcans undergo the meditative journey of Surak on Vulcan's Forge. It is important to Spock's development as a Vulcan; would you deprive him of that?"

"How can he be ready for that?" she asks.

"Now that Spock has expressed his desire to complete it, Sybok and I will assist him in preparing. What would have you believe any Vulcan parent would send their child out unprepared and unassisted?"

"Because this is clearly some callback to the days of the alpha male action hero archetype who lives only off the land and his two hands and Sarek, those days are gone."

"They are," Sarek agrees, "But that is not what this is. It is a meditative journey --" Suddenly, Amanda realizes that Spock never left and was still standing a little off to the side, just behind her, his eyes wide and his body straining forward to absorb every word while still remaining unobtrusive.

Amanda turns to face Spock and asks, "Spock, tell me why you want to do this."

The answer comes a little too easily, a little too maturely for a seven-year-old, and a little too unexpected -- she should have expected it. "Because it will make me a Vulcan," he says.

And it was what they, she and Sarek, decided all that time ago -- wait and see what their lives look like before choosing a planet to live on, wait and see how their boys present their personalities and dispositions before instilling a specific set of social mores on them. Sybok, clearly, would have none of it, but Spock made his choice.

"All right," she says, and he approaches her hesitantly until she pulls him close -- then his face presses into the folds of her dress and his arms are around her waist while she strokes two fingers along his cheek. "But remember that being Vulcan and choosing Vulcan doesn't mean you're not human, too. I need you to remember that."

"I will undergo any Terran coming-of-age traditions you would have me undergo, Mother," he replies.

"Let's see what we can do about throwing you a sweet sixteen party," she laughs.

*

Of course, things change from there even more -- Spock spends more time with his father, but it's not quite as they used to spend time together. Sybok joins them, but leaves relatively quickly, sighing and explaining to Amanda that his nearest male relatives are both the most stubborn people alive and he would have no part in their "adventures through bickering" if he could help it.

Yet when he's home, Spock spends most of his time simply in Amanda's presence, choosing to complete his homework in her study. She catches him watching her occasionally, just reading or writing or, of course, watching him.

He's a quiet boy, like several she taught on Earth who simply needed to know someone was there when they finally did decide to reach for help or support.

"You know," she says one afternoon as they both read, she on the couch and he on the floor with his back against the couch. "This is your home, Spock. You don't have to keep your shields and defenses up every minute of the day."

She feels in that bond they have, how just saying that instantly has him relax a little. She looks down at Spock, the top of his sleek dark, nearly black, head of hair, and can see his small shoulders relax slightly as he adjusts his posture and the PADD in his lap.

"I know, Mother," he says. Unexpectedly, he leans his head back against the couch cushion so that his eyes roll up and he can see her upside down. "Hello."

"Hi," she replies as she brushes the hair away from his face. "One of these days, we'll surprise your father and style your hair like a Terran -- he'll get the shock of his life."

His lips purse tightly and she realizes he's holding back a smile and a laugh.

"Does Father laugh with you?" he asks suddenly.

"Hmm, your father laughing," she wonders. "It's different -- when we married, we forged that bond, different from the one you and I, and you and Sybok, have. It's much more -- transparent. I can feel so clearly that he's amused, but he keeps himself very serious and very Vulcan on the outside."

He accepts that and goes back to his reading, so Amanda does the same. Her hand remains in his hair and she can feel -- it's something like a faint buzz in her mind, like gears working and turning in his mind. It's all strange and she's unsure whether it's being a mother or being a mother to a touch-telepath that does it, but she's glad that she can read him with such relative ease.

*

I-Chaya is their big dumb lump of a sehlat -- like a bear-sized puppy, though he's nearly as old as Sarek. In fact, he was Sarek's as a child and now he's Spock's (though if Amanda didn't know about Sybok's formative years in dorms, she would believe it was I-Chaya who taught Sybok it was all right to be silly whenever he pleased.)

The point is, their sehlat has been in the background since the first time Amanda set foot in their home and there was a bear waiting to lick her face and nuzzle her, his six-inch fangs brushing against her neck occasionally.

Sehlats are weird, and Spock loves him.

Amanda wanders out onto I-Chaya's patio (a pet that big needs his own, of course) and finds Spock sitting next to him, his arms wrapped around I-Chaya's neck and the side of his face pressed against I-Chaya's fur. I-Chaya tries to turn his head and look at his guardian with his huge brown eyes, but Spock won't move.

She stands in the doorway to the patio and I-Chaya instantly notices her and whines. Spock glances up and wipes his eyes on his sleeve, and then lets go of I-Chaya. "Hello, Mother."

"Is everything all right?" she asks.

"What do you mean?" he asks.

"How do you feel?"

"I -- I feel with my emotional receptors."

She smiles and asks, "Yes, and how would you describe the effect they're having on your mental state at this moment?"

"An undesirable one." He pauses and and strokes I-Chaya's fur again, and asks, "Why can't everyone be like sehlats? If I-Chaya whines, he is unhappy and wants attention; if I-Chaya purrs, he is content. If he is happy, he -- are humans that uncomplicated?"

"Oh, I wish," she grins. "Humans lie and hide things from each other constantly."

"To what purpose?"

"Usually to spare the feelings of others." She considers it and adds, "I suppose we value emotions that much -- we would lie to preserve another's sense of joy and contentment, and hide truths from them."

"Vulcans don't do that," Spock says.

"Untactful Vulcans who stare at you don't; your father is a tactful Vulcan. Sybok is a tactful Vulcan."

"I feel concerned," Spock says. "Perhaps… the word…" He says the Vulcan word and looks to Amanda, who thinks about it for a moment.

"Burdened -- worried -- you feel worried? About what?"

"About failing," he replies. "About -- if I fail, there is not only the possibility I might die on Vulcan's Forge, but if I survive, I will not be a Vulcan."

"Your father will explain to you," she says, "That what's most important is your survival -- you will return to us, even if it's after only an hour or a day. If you --"

"He does not expect me to fail," Spock says, and he looks to I-Chaya's fur again, running his fingers through it so I-Chaya purrs. "He said other Vulcans may fail but I cannot because then I will be less of a Vulcan."

She wants to scoop her little boy up and hold him, then find her husband and yell until she's hoarse -- yell until the whole fucking city hears the crazy human lady in the Ambassador's house and the whole city remembers that humans live there.

Instead, she says, as calmly as possible, "You'll always be Vulcan, Spock, and you'll always be human. It's not a matter of 'more' or 'less'."

"But I am a mixture of both -- I am not completely one or the --"

"You're not, you're both." She suddenly remembers a classical text she translated at school, and a phrase she worked on so carefully in an essay: "You're Vulcan and you're human, both at once, two natures in one body." She walks over to him and joins him in petting I-Chaya's head, and gets a lick on her forearm for her troubles. "The most important thing about this trial is that you come back safe. That's all."

*

The kahs-wan, she realizes, is a test for the family as much as for the child.

Of course, not as much due to the whole survival element, but their family spends ten days in quiet contemplation, all of them trying to sense how Spock is doing through their bonds to him.

"If he were badly injured or dead, we would know," Sarek assures her.

"We've been married -- how long? Nine years? You still have so much to learn about comforting people."

Sybok deals by going to school by day, fasting at night, sleeping outside on the patio, driving himself a little crazy over his brother, assuring Amanda he can be more in tune with Spock if he forgets himself.

She still brings him too much to eat on the porch and sits with him in the evenings, staring out into the desert that eventually becomes Vulcan's Forge.

They chain I-Chaya to the porch because he spends every night that Spock isn't there attempting to escape and find him. I-Chaya is the only one who whines at being chained in the house with Spock out there, alone and starving a little and contemplating existence in the way Amanda believes a seven-year-old shouldn't.

They're Vulcans, and this is what they do instead of double dutch or tag. Fine.

And finally, on the morning of the eleventh day, I-Chaya wakes everyone up with howls and whines, and Amanda would have collapsed right there and then if it wasn't for Sybok laughing outside.

"Here he is, here he is!" Sybok shouts as he picks Spock up and spins him around on the porch. "Smell him, he's disgusting," he says when Amanda and Sarek come outside.

"Please put me down," Spock says in a voice that's pure exhaustion.

"Never," Sybok says. "Didn't anyone tell you that after your kahs-wan, your entire family spends a week carrying you around the house and cradling you like an infant?"

Spock believes him for a moment and Amanda interrupts Sybok's laughter to smother both her sons in hugs, and drags Sarek over by the sleeve to put his arms around his sons and his wife.

"You performed as I expected, my son," Sarek says.

"My little brother wouldn't be so stupid as to die on a meditative trip into the Forge," Sybok replies. "No, you will die much more valiantly than that, I'm sure of it."

"Both of you have lost the privilege of Spock," Amanda announces. Sybok puts him back on the ground and Amanda shoves him towards the bathroom, issuing (mostly) playful (relieved) glares to Sarek and Sybok over her shoulder as she goes. Mostly, though, she relishes that she can push Spock through their living room and towards the bathroom as he complains that she's being too rough (she notices the back of his shirt is ripped and there are cuts and scrapes all along his shoulder blades.) She can gather clothes for him while he's in the sonic shower and instruct Sarek to start programming breakfast, and Sybok can unchain I-Chaya, who is good enough to wait outside impatiently until Spock comes out of the bathroom and is mowed down by his sehlat.

They eat and Spock -- he's quiet, and Amanda remembers it's because he did just spend ten days in the wilderness speaking to no one.

"Did you have trouble finding an adequate water supply?" Sarek asks.

"No. Food was also plentiful near the stream," he replies as he eats slowly in tiny, rationing bites.

"Did you feel closer to Surak?" Sybok asks teasingly.

"I did not," Spock says.

"Good, at least you still have your sense." Sybok takes a bite of his food and shrugs at Sarek's glare. "We've had this discussion a thousand times, Father."

"You speak as if you were a Vulcan who did not spend the past ten days outside fasting in a very similar effort," Sarek points out. Spock looks around the table and then to Sybok, the shock evident in his eyes.

"I did it for Spock," Sybok says. "And I stayed near Amanda and her synthesizing prowess. And you," he says to Spock, "Don't look so shocked that I love you. One would think we weren't brothers."

Spock focuses on his food and from the corner of his eye looks at Amanda, who has't eaten, but just sits there, content to listen to them talk and bicker.

"I'm so proud of you, Spock," she says.

"We all are," Sybok agrees.

"Thank you," Spock says quietly, and then asks, "May I be excused?"

"You may not. We want to look at you more," Sybok says.

"I am not hungry; as I have eaten significantly less these past ten days, it will be a few days before I can eat regularly. I would like to go outside with I-Chaya."

"Fine with me," Amanda says, and Sarek agrees.

Soon after, as they put their dishes away, Amanda wanders by I-Chaya's porch on the way to her study and sees Spock still sitting there, his shoulders shaking and his face buried in I-Chaya's fur again. She walks outside and crouches by him, and feels relief when he pries himself off I-Chaya and flings his arms around her neck, nearly knocking her off balance. He cries quietly into her shoulder and tightens his arms around her neck. She holds him closer and listens to him.

"It was fine during the day when I had to gather food and water and avoid what lives on the Forge, and prepare my shelter at night, but then at night I had to hide and could do none of those things, and I meditated but all I could do was feel, and how much I missed you, all of you, and how I might never come home and would you ever find me, or if you did find me and you would be saddened, and would I --"

"You're home, it's all right," she says, rubbing his back soothingly and if Sarek interrupts them now, she might actually injure him somehow, and even Sybok's easy smiles would upset her beyond everything now. "We waited for you; we knew you would come back."

"I couldn't sleep, Mother, and it is illogical to sleep during the day when there is so much schoolwork to be done but just this once could I?" He rushes through the sentence but she can feel his waves of pleading, almost desperation, coming off him. She gently pulls his arms off her neck and leads him to his room.

"Please don't tell Father?" he asks as he gets under the covers.

"Of course I will," she says.

"I was supposed to return more Vulcan, but I cannot, and he --"

"Sleep, Spock," she says as she presses a kiss to his forehead and runs two fingers down the side of his cheek. He rubs his eyes and watches her. She stays until his eyes droop and close, and for a few moments after that.

"Spock is sleeping," she informs Sarek and Sybok. "Don't disturb him." She picks up one of the PADDs left lying around on a table and says, "He has it in his head that you two would disapprove of him sleeping after this, so --"

"That is illogical," Sarek says. "It is an extreme circumstance, of course he should be allowed to sleep."

"Funny how a seven-year-old boy wouldn't know that," Amanda says dryly. "You would think he was young and inexperienced."

"I'm… going to go read," Sybok says. "Perhaps in another star system."

Amanda would love, love to be angry at Sarek -- not so much for enforcing a Vulcan tradition that seems insane to her, but that he would make it so much more difficult for Spock with his own social expectations.

Except then she takes a breath and the anger dissipates for a moment, and she can feel relief, concern, joy, and so much more radiating off him. She ends up in his arms, head on his shoulder, willing him to hear her thoughts, see what's burned in her mind -- how Spock rushed at her and clung to her, how he fell asleep looking at her as if to reassure himself he was really home, the way he would sit in front of the couch in her study and look up at her, his upside down face filled with amusement and adoration for her.

"I know," he says. "He may never show me, but I know. I must be this for him, if he is to reach his full potential."

They both think of Sybok, who will finish school in a year and still quietly researches places to go from Vulcan in order to become -- they're not exactly sure what. He isn't exactly sure what.

"Spock is so gifted in the sciences and with computers," Sarek reminds her. "He can do so much in advancing technology, exploration, anything he pleases -- if he pursues that on Vulcan. You know there is no place better for the sciences. He will have more opportunities open to him if he works as a Vulcan -- as someone eminently logical."

"Okay," Amanda says.

*

The next year, Sybok leaves.

The house is quieter.

They all throw themselves into their work. Spock excels in school, Sarek travels more, and Amanda, who has finally mastered speaking Vulcan, takes a job teaching very young children at a local school.

After Spock's kahs-wan, another tradition comes up: arranged marriage.

"It would help when his Time comes," Sarek says.

"But his doctor said it might not -- because he's human, or if it did, it would certainly be later than normal?"

It suddenly hits Amanda that she's been having the same fight for the entirety of Spock's life: something Vulcan comes up, she resists, and eventually gives in.

Yet they've been the correct choices so far because Spock is at the top of his class, winning school-wide awards, and on track to being brilliant and successful. There's talk of his spending the summer at a junior diplomats corps group and he's only eight years old.

No. This is one more thing she'll fight for and win.

"I know you had an arranged marriage," Amanda says, "but I don't want that for our son. It's not our way -- it didn't end well for you and I just -- no. I don't think that's going to be our family's way of doing things, Sarek. And if his health is endangered, then we'll find some way of helping him, but -- it just feels wrong for us."

"I find myself agreeing with you," Sarek says, and it's one of those things he does that annoys, even angers, her: the way he only agrees with her when he's made up his own mind -- how completely unpersuadable and stubborn he is, like a child set on what he wants and nothing else, the only drawback being that he's older, wiser, more intelligent, and persuasive than she is and, therefore, right so often.

It's an irrational feeling, and indicative of her own pride and stubbornness, but she can't help wanting him to be wrong sometimes -- even when she thinks he's wrong, he's only wrong by human and Terran standards. Their family functions on a Vulcan system.

Except that Sybok is gone.

"Also, you are slightly incorrect," Sarek says. "It did end well for me. Eventually."

"Always the optimist," she laughs.

*

When Spock is eleven, Amanda and Sarek meet with Spock's headmaster in the middle of a schoolday.

"Your son was provoked into a fight with another boy and caused the boy serious injury," the headmaster says.

"What did they fight about?" Amanda asks.

"Neither boy would say, but we are investigating the matter," the headmaster replies. "I ask that you take Spock home, and I will allow him to return in three days. By then, he should have gained control of his emotional outbursts."

"Outbursts which were provoked by other boys," Amanda says.

"Which should not have raised his ire," the headmaster says.

"Even though he was acting in self-defense," she adds.

"Self-defense that should have been enacted non-violently. It is a foremost Vulcan precept that --"

"My wife is familiar with the precepts of Vulcan, Headmaster," Sarek says curtly.

Spock is sitting at the end of a hallway outside the headmaster's office, head bowed. Amanda approaches and lifts his chin with her finger -- a split lip, dark green seeping out, and the beginnings of violently green bruising.

"Who did this?" Amanda demands.

"You do not know them," Spock says. "One shoved me, but he and his two other friends insulted me."

"Three boys bullied you," Amanda clarifies.

"Yes. I believe I broke the nose of my primary attacker," Spock says.

"You broke his nose," she repeats.

"I threw him into the bottom of a pod," he says.

"You were wrong to do that," Sarek says.

Amanda freezes, looks at Sarek, and then at Spock, and then looks at Sarek again. "Sarek," she says, and leads him down the hallway.

"I don't agree with that," she begins.

"You are free to," Sarek replies, "but if he is adhering to Vulcan philosophies, then a path of non-violence is the path for him. Spock had no reasonable expectation of being physically injured."

"They pick on him, they tease him every day."

"Which is precisely when reason must guide his actions above all."

"I want him to embrace Vulcan, you know that -- but he has to be himself -- and that means occasionally being human."

"But his humanity is the source of his ostracism."

Again, it's infuriating that Sarek is right -- that she chose to live on this planet which would come to despise her and injure her child because she happens to bleed red and her eyes are wider and more expressive -- that she has loved her life on Vulcan, her Vulcan husband and her Vulcan sons, but Vulcan will not give one inch and make things easier for any of them.

She -- it's intolerable.

"When Vulcans get disgusted with each other, they never just walk away, do they?"

"No," Sarek replies slowly.

"Well, humans do," she spits out.

She needs air, but what waits for her outside the school building is that windy, dry heat of Vulcan. It suffocates her now.

She's unsure of how long she stands there with her eyes closed, breathing deeply because she must not because she wants more of Vulcan in her system -- eventually, Spock is standing next to her and Sarek on her other side.

"We're going to Earth this summer," she says. "Executive decision."

"My work will take me to Andoria this season -- I had believed we would go together," Sarek says.

"Then Spock and I will go to Earth," she says as she walks down the steps of the school. "He hasn't seen the West Coast in three years. I haven't seen friends of mine except through video chats in longer than that."

"But Mother --" Spock begins, and she stops on the steps and turns.

"Yes?" she asks, and she knows her voice is tight, her expression is hard, and it's not how she looks at Spock but this -- she is not budging on this.

Spock sees this, can feel the tension between them, and doesn't finish his sentence.

*

Of course, Earth doesn't help; it only creates a binary in Spock's mind where Vulcan is for hard work and Earth is some kind of pleasure planet. Spock being his father's son -- Spock being Spock -- he prefers Vulcan.

To her pleasant surprise, he spends more time in her study as he gets older -- his workload at school increases and he does independent projects that involve spreading a few PADDs and even more codices in a half circle around him on the floor.

Sybok writes once a month, but they haven't seen him in eight years. He's moved three times along the outer edge of the Beta quadrant, and writes detailed letters on life there: simple, cool, easy, pleasant.

"He sounds happy," Amanda says as she finishes reading his last missive to Spock.

"Yes," Spock replies distantly.

"Do you miss him?" she asks.

"Of course," he replies a little softer.

He's sixteen now and his voice has taken on a gentleness that's so different from Sybok's hard and loud laughing voice. Of the two of them at this age, she could have pictured Spock going off on a spiritual pilgrimage and living simply, while Sybok used his energy to take Vulcan by storm. Naturally, it's the inverse: Spock loses himself in computers and has a genuine reverie for the way things function -- she can see it as she looks over the edge of her PADD. He sits at her desk and there's a cloth spread out on the surface with the parts of a handheld dynoscanner spread out in front of him.

"Do you think he could have stayed?" Spock asks as he makes notations on the part he examines on the cloth. "That he, eventually, could have been an ordinary Vulcan? Perhaps he still can."

"He could have," she says, "but why would you do that to him?"

"Why indeed," Spock says, and it seems to roll right off him. She knows him, though, and knows that he's always listening and processing, even when it seems he's not paying the least bit attention.

Maybe that was the wrong answer, because the next month she receives a message from her university colleague saying that Spock has written to him asking for a letter of reference.

No -- maybe it was the right answer.

*

She accompanies Spock and Sarek to the final review in front of the Vulcan Science Academy board.

He asks her about Kolinahr, and though Sarek had explained it to her once or twice, she's not sure exactly how it would work with Spock -- how it works at all. For having lived on Vulcan as long as she has (twenty years next year -- how could it have been twenty years?), she can't imagine a Vulcan completely devoid of emotion. Even the most Vulcan of Sarek's acquaintances have those crinkles around their eyes, their eyebrows expressing amusement, quirks of their mouths --

Even her son, considering Kolinahr of all things, still smiles at her.

He's fidgeting, too, before he goes into the council chamber, and would Kolinahr take that? She'd like to see it try.

She waits outside and much sooner than she anticipated, Spock pushes the doors of the chamber open and stalks out. He's furious and as she stands up, he barrels past her but grabs her wrist as if he were the parent and she the child. "We are leaving," he says, confirming her analogy.

"Spock, what --"

"Spock," Sarek's voice calls from behind them.

"No," Spock rasps under his breath, and pushes another door open.

"Spock, let go, my --"

He drops her wrist and continues walking. They get outside and she rushes to keep up with him, but he's too fast and too angry and it's like a wall of rage between them, it's that palpable.

Outside, he stops and turns around, and doesn't wait for her to catch up before he yells, "I can't stay here." He wipes his eyes and stares at her, looking simultaneously broken and defiant. "I've been accepted to Starfleet," he says when she reaches him and takes both his hands in her own. "To them, to my people," he says with a dry laugh, "I'm an exceptional pet that has managed to exceed their expectations. They'll never see me as anything more. I'm a marvel of science, a hybrid who can almost pass for Vulcan --"

"You are a marvel," she says.

"I'm not," he chokes out, "I'm just me." He turns again and walks not to their transport but to the train station -- of course, he would want to avoid Sarek.

They take the train home together. They talk and decide: Amanda will go with him to San Francisco, help him set up an apartment, introduce him to those Starfleet faculty she worked with when she was younger (so much younger.)

That night, she informs Sarek of their plans and he looks as broken as his son did earlier -- of course, he could never show Spock that.

"We agreed," he says, "Vulcan was best for him."

"I don't think Earth is best for him either," she says. "He's too -- he's Spock, Sarek, and just by virtue of his existing, he's unlike anything either of us has ever known -- never mind these billions of people on both our planets who have trouble telling their asses from their elbows on their good days."

"That idiom is crude, but apt," he replies.

"Don't shut him out," she says. "Even if -- he's going to be cold to you, but don't think it's about you, it's --"

"I am a Vulcan," Sarek interrupts. "I have no pride he can injure. He may have his anger and emotionalism --"

"Don't say it like that," she says. "Don't say it like they're undesirable; they're part of him. They're part of me, or have you forgotten?"

"You will excuse me," Sarek says, and he didn't hear her because unlike Spock who only seems to not listen, Sarek has the gift of shutting down and stepping out -- a strange gift for a diplomat to have, but one which makes more sense when one considers that having Sarek at the forefront of Vulcan politics has gained Vulcan anything and everything it has needed in the Federation. He barrels through and doesn't back down, and gets what he wants (most of the time.)

The next week, she and Spock leave for Earth.

*

It's up to her, once the boys are gone, to make their house a home again. Sarek would be content or, rather, wouldn't mind if their home became just a 'residence' or 'living quarters', but this is the house where she held Spock on the patio when he was just days old, with the rooms where the four of them talked and laughed, the patio where one could always find I-Chaya (and it's so quiet now without I-Chaya, who finally died of old age weeks into Spock's first year at the Academy.)

She works in her study, keeps up with academic progress on Earth because now that Spock is there, she can be a little more active in that career she had, and one day Sarek walks in with his PADD and sits down on the couch next to her.

"Hello, stranger," she says with a playful smile.

"Without Sybok here laughing at his schoolwork, or Spock occupying every surface with his dismantled device of the week," Sarek begins, "I believe your study is now a quiet place to work. It is also much more well-lit than mine."

"You're free to make excuses if you need them," she laughs.

She leans against him and reads on her PADD, and his finger traces the curve of her ear. She leans into him and they're never going to get any fucking work done.

"You are a distraction, Amanda," he says.

"You've sent your children off to become adults; on Earth, that means you stop working so hard. Mission accomplished."

She suddenly goes from content to heartbroken, realizing she has maybe 50 years left with Sarek, and then he would have another century on his own, maybe more. With another wife. He'd have to marry again, and she's no romantic --

"It is inevitable," he interrupts, "but that is hardly a reason to dwell on it and make yourself unhappy."

"Will you talk to Spock?" she asks, clearing her throat.

"I… will wait for him to approach me. When his grudge against Vulcan has lessened."

"And he'll wait for you to approach him, so it's never going to happen." She shifts against Sarek, her feet up on the couch as she leans against his chest, and his arm wraps around her waist. "It's illogical, I think, to waste the time given to you by not talking to your son."

"Do you remember," Sarek says, "when Spock broke that boy's nose and we fought in the corridor? You walked away from me. How did we reconcile then?" She's about to answer, but he interrupts to say, "You did not speak to me for two days, would not touch me or look me directly in the eye, and then one day, you asked me to pass the pepper. As simple as that, we continued."

"How did we do it this time," she reflects. "You planted yourself in my study and I'm a sucker for those pointed ears."

"Not my mind, or my --"

"Nope, all body," she laughs. "Those layers of robes conceal such --"

"Amanda," Sarek says and here, alone in the house, alone for miles, alone for the first time in twenty years, he presses his face against hers and she thinks she can feel him laugh, really laugh, with his face and mouth and voice.

"We'll be all right," she declares. "We -- there wasn't more we could do for either of them, was there? What else could we have done?"

"As I told Spock -- and I am sure he never told you that I told him this, if he even remembers, because my most memorable moments are those when I embody all that is Vulcan and anti-Terran --"

"Get to the point," she replies, nudging him in the gut. "And that's what you wanted, remember?"

"I am aware of what I wanted. I told him that I expected him to act according to his gifts, as all living things do. It is what we did -- you acted as a human, I as a Vulcan, and together we raised a young man who is both. We could do nothing else."

"I really don't think I could have done this with anyone else," Amanda says.

"Who would have had the patience for it?"

"Was that a joke?"

"Amanda, please -- I am trying to work."

They close up some of the rooms in the house, advise the boys they can stay there whenever they wish but they will be traveling -- for work, mostly, but for pleasure, too. He's won her over again -- the house isn't nearly as important to her as they are to each other. Vulcan and Earth aren't as important, either. They are.

*

Spock graduates in three and a half years as a Lieutenant Commander, unheard of in Starfleet, unheard of by a non-human, and he goes off on a two-year mission with Christopher Pike, who she's heard nothing but excellent things about.

She and Sarek are on Earth when Spock returns from his mission, but Sarek has a conveniently scheduled summit to attend all day. (Spock practices his lies of omission on her: he never the mentions one-on-one conversations he doesn't have with his father, changes the subject when it comes up, says they're both extremely busy and would only interfere.)

(Sarek asks about him, reads about him, inquires after him on Earth, but he will be stubborn to the end of time if he has his way. They're getting there, though, when they meet on Earth.)

The senior officers' shuttle arrives and in the middle of the first hug she's had from her son in two years, a youngish (could he be just a few years older than her?) grey-haired (could she be old enough to go that grey soon?) man clears his throat.

"Now I'm sorry to interrupt," he begins, and Spock lets go of her and stands up straighter and more alert than she's ever seen him, "But -- you're Amanda Grayson."

"I am," she says.

"Captain Christopher Pike," he says, and he extends his hand for a handshake. She takes his hand and laughs because she hasn't had to shake hands with anyone in years. "I don't mean to interrupt, but I've gotta tell someone about how amazing this boy right here is."

"Captain," Spock protests, and Pike gives him a look.

"Don't. Now here's a shortlist of the mind-blowing, death-defying, brilliant things your son has done in the past two years," and it's a real list, Spock interrupting to downplay each one but Pike being able to counter with another detail that makes it all the more extraordinary.

"Now I'm going to be grounded for the next few years," Pike says. "Just got married and Number One -- my first officer and now, hilariously enough, Mrs. Pike --"

"I believe she threatened you bodily harm if you called her Mrs. Pike," Spock comments.

"Part of the fun of married life," Pike quips. "Anyway, she wants a year or two to catch up on what we've missed out in the black. She'll probably be promoted to full captain herself and when I head out there again, I'm recommending Spock to be my first officer." He turns to look at Spock and says, "Which is incredible when you're twenty-three and the Fleet Admiral is going to laugh himself into a coma, but that's when I'll drop off into his lap my nine-trillion page report of your first deep-space mission, and he can see why you've got the makings of the best officer Starfleet's seen in years."

"Captain --" Spock stammers.

"Be safe, Spock," Pike says, "I'll be in touch." He looks to Amanda and adds, "Now you take this boy out for the dinner of his life while I call up the Vulcan high council and tell them what complete idiots they are for letting him out of their orbit."

Pike joins an attractive brunette woman who immediately begins arguing or fervently discussing something with him, and Amanda turns to Spock and laughs.

"He is… quite a character," she says.

"That's Captain Pike," he replies. "He and Number One, they are an excellent team. I could not have hoped for better on my first mission."

"I couldn't have either," she replies. "Now. Where should we go?"

They leave the shuttleport and discuss Spock's plans -- he will accept the position of first officer and ship out when Pike does, but in the meantime, he has been elevated to the rank of Commander and offered a position at Starfleet Academy.

"Teaching, Spock?" Amanda asks. "Really?"

"They sold me the position as a researcher who happens to teach," he replies. "I learned so much on my mission, Mother." He begins to tell her of the mission, saying that he "learned" so much when really, he discovered all these things.

They stay until the restaurant closes and it's hours of Amanda reflecting on what a fucking marvel her son is, on what a wonder she and Sarek have made.

*

"Darling, finally. It's been --"

"Eight days, I apologize --"

"No, I know how busy you are --"

"Yes, and liable to be busier," Spock says. "I have had to be a disciplinarian these past weeks and I must say: it is unpleasant."

"Oh no," Amanda laughs, "What have the children done now?"

"The cadet is not my student proper," he says, "but he -- do you recall that cadet who took the Kobayashi Maru twice and was taking it a third time?"

"Cadet Stubborn of the USS Persistence, I remember."

"He took the test a third time and then enabled a subroutine to change the conditions of the test so that he could defeat the Klingons and rescue the ship."

"That's -- incredibly clever of him."

Spock glares at her over the video link and she laughs again. "You have to admit, it's ingenious. Would you have thought of it?"

The tightening of his lips tells her he didn't, and wouldn't have, were it not for this cadet who found his blind spot.

"If I had, I would have prevented it," he says finally. "I have spent the past week taking reports from everyone involved, disciplining the cadet who opened the message with the virus in the first place -- they were romantically involved, he lied to her, and sent her that message while she was on duty, which shut down the system and activated his overrides of my programming."

"The poor girl," Amanda says.

"'Poor girl'?" Spock nearly scoffs. "She is an excellent student of mine and she was compromised by this cadet. Additionally, he is Jim Kirk. George Kirk's son."

"The Kelvin captain?"

"Yes, and as George Kirk is a venerable hero of the Federation, you can imagine the lengths I had to go to in order to have his son prosecuted for cheating -- fortunately, Admiral Barnett agreed with me and called a full disciplinary hearing tomorrow."

"Go easy on him," Amanda says. "He could be an asset to you, if he was able to find a weak spot in your programming."

"That was the opinion of much of the admiralty, but they also agreed that academic integrity for its future officers was a foremost concern," Spock says. "He was on track to graduate a term early, and this will certainly give him another six months of ethics training -- which his record shows he desperately needs."

"He sounds like Captain Pike," she comments.

"Which is what Captain Pike said!"

Amanda can't help but laugh and hide her mouth behind her sleeve because she has never seen Spock so animated and determined.

"Captain Pike is particularly invested," Spock continues, "as he was the one to recruit him. He found him beaten and bloodied in a bar in Iowa."

"The poor boy!"

"He started the fight by harassing a Starfleet cadet."

"Spock, really, he sounds like the sort of company you should be keeping."

"Mother, please."

"It's been my opinion that you haven't been reckless enough in these salad days of yours, but this boy --"

"He must learn --"

"And then you should adopt him."

"What?"

"Not literally, but see about mentoring him -- keep tabs on him. You could be the Pike to his --"

"Captain Pike is the Pike to his… me," Spock says, his nose wrinkling at the syntax. "Enough about him -- how are you, Mother?"

"Fine, fine -- everything is fine here -- your father will be in San Francisco in a few weeks for a conference. Will you have time to see us?"

"Of course. I heard about him presenting at the conference only recently and I had hoped you would attend -- I regret I will not be able to come to Vulcan at the end of this week. There is too much paperwork to do, particularly as Captain Pike and I will begin preparing for our next mission at the end of this term."

"What wonderful places will Captain Pike take you to this time?"

"The edge of the Alpha and Beta quadrants; the Federation cartographers have been considering redrawing the galactic divisions and would like more information on the current boundaries and why the initial stellar cartographers chose those boundaries."

"Fascinating," she smirks.

"It is," he protests. "I have some grading to finish and then dinner plans, and I am sure --"

"Dinner plans? You? Taking time from your busy day torturing cadets for a meal with another person?"

"That," he says, and she can see him blushing slightly in his ears and his cheeks, "is a matter for another video call."

"Their own video call -- now I'm impressed," she laughs. "All right, keep your secrets, but I expect to hear about them soon."

"You will, I promise. Goodbye, Mother."

"Good night, Spock, and try not to let that cadet drive you crazy. I love you."

"I love you, and he already has. We haven't even formally met."

"Oh, Spock," she laughs, and he gives her a smile before he turns off the screen and she turns hers off as well.