A/N: I wrote this aaages ago for a fandom auction, set it aside to post when I had a title and promptly forgot, lol. Anyway, here it is to top off the old year.

.

Amanda dreams of being burned from the inside out and wakes choking on Vulcan's heat. Pain lights her body aflame and her throat feels as chafed as if she'd attempted to drink the desert down. She thrashes once then curls in around the source of the pain, embracing herself as if she can keep it contained.

There is a grip strong on her shoulder and a caress at the edge of her consciousness and she feels herself relax, just a little, when she realizes she isn't alone.

"What is it?" Sarek asks, bent close over her. He manages to reach one of her hands and squeezes. "Close your eyes, Amanda- breathe. Tell me what's happening to you."

She takes a deep breath; it isn't enough, not in Vulcan's thin atmosphere. The heat she normally finds soothing instead prickles at the end of her every nerve. She realizes she's crying, tears mingling with sweat, and turns her face into her pillow.

There's a hand on her face then, fingers pressed to her temple. Sarek urges her to look at him and whispers a long shhh that she feels cross her mind like a summer breeze. She gasps in her relief and tries to see him through her tears. His face looks pale in the dark.

"My lower abdomen-" she begins, then cuts herself off with a hiss, closing her eyes again against the nausea. "It hurts. I feel sick- I don't know-"

She shifts then and her eyes snap open when she recognizes the wetness between her legs. Without another word from her, Sarek pulls the sheet away from her body. The two of them stare at the blood soaking lazily through her nightgown and she feels Sarek's hand tense in hers. She almost laughs but the relief is washed away by another wave of pain and it comes out instead as a sob.

"This isn't right," she manages to say. "Sarek-"

"Peace, Amanda," he says and shifts beside her. The hand on her hand disappears but the other hand continues to press comfort directly into her mind as he grabs at a communicator and calls for help.

/

"He's very polite," her father said but the disapproval was plain to hear. He stopped there and Amanda could see him staring at her from the corner of her eye.

Amanda focused the tray she was loading with desserts. She resisted the urge to tell her father to use his words. "Impeccably so," she agreed instead. She glanced over at her father's tray, still only half set. "Have you got that? I don't want to leave him between Mom and Doris for too long- those two can test anyone's manners."

"He's awfully cold, don't you think?" her father asked without acknowledging the question. He used that whip crack tone that meant he wanted you to know he was holding his temper by a thread. "I noticed he didn't have much to do with you."

She'd noticed her parents exchanging looks throughout dinner, every time Sarek could have taken Amanda's hand but didn't. Every time he nodded instead of laughing or smiling at a joke. Every time he refused to rise to bait.

"He can seem cold when you don't know him," Amanda said, turning at last to look her father in the eye. In spite of herself, the genuine concern she saw there softened her and she let a smile touch her lips. "Vulcans are very reserved in company."

"I hear they don't have emotions," her father said, staring hard at her. His voice still hadn't raised but his face was turning red. It went a shade darker for every moment she continued to look at him with flat serenity. "Looking at this gentleman, I'm inclined to believe it."

"They have emotions," she told him, a cold snap of dignity in her own tone. "They just don't allow themselves to be ruled by them."

She didn't wait any longer to cart her tray out into the dining room, though she tried to project calm by the time she got there. Her father was slow to follow, his face still red. Amanda's family had only ever wanted her to use her words until she said something they didn't like, after all.

/

"I'm afraid our only specialists in human medical treatment are unavailable at present," says the nurse who greeted Sarek by the family name that Amanda is still learning to wrap her tongue around. He barely glances at Amanda and she can't decide whether she prefers that to the way other Vulcans, staff and patients alike, had stared at her as they passed. Humans are still a novelty on Vulcan and especially in the capital and of course they all know who she is. "We will, of course, treat the Lady Amanda to the best of our ability."

Sarek shifts at Amanda's bedside, the hand he'd allowed himself to put on her shoulder twitching.

Before he can answer, Amanda speaks up, "I have every confidence that you will," even though the pain makes her voice quaver. "Sarek has assured me that you're the finest medical center in Shi'Kahr."

The nurse blinks and she can see clearly enough beneath his placid expression that her pronunciation has impressed him.

"I must stress," he says, addressing her for the first time, "that our care in your case may be lacking, as compared to what we could offer a Vulcan in your position."

Amanda holds back the reflexive urge to laugh as a reassurance, a habit she's still unlearning, strangling it beneath a repressed grunt of pain. She inclines her head in acknowledgement of a point, noting but ignoring the implication that it may carry. "Of course," she says through gritted teeth. She makes herself hold eye contact. "I came to Vulcan with both eyes open."

The nurse tips his head, uncertainty stirring his features.

"A Terran turn of phrase," Sarek explains before he can ask. "What my wife means is that she knew when she made the decision to move to Vulcan what potential there was for danger."

"I can't reasonably hold my own educated choice against anyone who does their best for me," Amanda adds. She still doesn't break eye contact, never mind how her eyelids flutter.

"Your understanding is… appreciated," the nurse says. He's studying Amanda with a look she's growing refreshingly accustomed to. It's the look of someone who sees something other than what they expected. He nods at them both and steps out of the room, assuring them about getting an update from the doctor they've called for her.

"If a specialist is indeed needed," Sarek says once the nurse is gone, his hand going from Amanda's shoulder to her face, "one will be obtained for you."

Amanda's lips twitch up at the corners, a subtle enough movement that she doesn't concern herself with trying to repress it here. She leans into the contact and sighs when she feels Sarek's soothing touch to her mind. "I have every confidence," she murmurs again. "Just as I have every confidence that I'm in good hands now."

"One would hope," Sarek says, just as quiet and not without a glance at the door.

Her lips twitch again and then she relaxes as well she can against the bed and waits.

/

From the covered shelter of the porch, the shouts of a dozen people in a makeshift game, one with no name and little in the way of rule structure, weren't so overwhelming. Amanda rocked lightly in her chair and inhaled the fragrance of her tea, still too hot to drink. Her cousins and aunts and uncles all argued some point or another, a cry going up for the third time in a half hour about who was on what team. The crowd roiled with laughter and anger in turn and Amanda was content to watch them, not bothering to dizzy herself with trying to keep track of what they were arguing about when she was sure even they didn't know.

"So, this is where you were hiding," said Doris, laughing as she invaded Amanda's little bubble of almost quiet. She huffed as she lowered herself into the other rocking chair, one hand on her swollen belly. There were no teeth in her smile but it had a jagged edge all the same when she added, "One little engagement to a bigshot ambassador and you're too good for the rest of us, is that it?"

It was always one thing or another that had Doris suggesting that Amanda thought herself above the rest of them. That she wasn't excitable, that she had a position at the Vulcan Embassy on Earth. Amanda suspected that Doris's game was just to toss out one possibility after another until she could content herself that she'd hit upon the truth. She watched Amanda like a fox watching a hen house, waiting for a bird that was stupid and slow enough to be a meal.

Amanda cupped her tea in her lap and looked back at Doris with the same calm she'd been practicing around Sarek. She held her silence just long enough for Doris to start turning their father's familiar red- not long at all- and then smiled and tipped her head at the ruckus out in the yard. She said, "You know that this sort of thing has never been to my tastes."

Doris laughed again, like a chill wind, and said, "Right, right, what am I thinking- you always thought you were better than the rest of us."

"You know that isn't true either," said Amanda, voice and gaze held steady though her hands tightened on her cup. She tried to take comfort that Doris had sought her out at all; their father made a point of never being alone in her company anymore.

"Do you really think they'll accept you there?" Doris blurted through a grimace. "Sarek is one man you've managed to charm. And the other Vulcans at the Embassy are used to humans, you know- you ought to know, you've taught them to be. But they come here expecting to have to put up with humans, even wanting to. You think on their own planet they'll all be happy to have a human walking their streets- in their capital, isn't that what you said?"

"I won't be the only human to live on Vulcan-"

"You'll be the only human married to a Vulcan," Doris interrupted. She strained to lean forward, feet pressed so hard to the wooden floor that it creaked and one hand tight on the arm of her chair. Something like real fear sparked in the cold flash of her eyes. "Do you really think they're free of pride and prejudice there?"

"Not free of it, no," Amanda admitted. She wanted to set her tea aside but was worried her hands would shake. "No more than they're free of any other emotion. But they're more aware of it and that lets them control it instead of being controlled by it." She breathed deep, twice. "I don't have any expectations of being accepted immediately. They guard themselves too closely for that. But they'll come around when they see there's no logical reason to reject me."

The sisters spent a long time just staring at each other. Amanda counted her heartbeats, calmer with each steady thump, teeth rough on her tongue. Doris's breathing was ragged at the edges but she finally breathed deep and let it bluster out and take most of her hositlity with it.

"I just don't understand," she said at last, shaking her head. She looked tired, even more so than she had for the last month as her pregnancy wore her down. In a vulnerable moment between breaths, she looked almost hurt. "You've always been so reserved- really reserved, not repressed like that fiance of yours. But here you are jumping the planet for- what, for some romantic dream?"

"I'll be leaving to live with my husband," Amanda said, falling into the soothing cadance she used with her students. "That's fair, isn't it? And I'll have opportunities to advance my career that I don't here, and to enrich my life. You know how long I've been interested in Vulcan culture, Doris."

"You won't be able to stay there- not for him, with that wall he keeps around himself," Doris said over her. They were always talking over her, past her, always addressing what they thought she must feel instead of what she expressed. She could never express it well enough for them. Doris struggled to her feet, waving off Amanda when she tried to offer her help. She looked down at Amanda with deep sympathy and intoned, "I hope you know we'll be happy to accept you back, when you can't take it anymore."

There was no point in arguing, not then and like that. Amanda made herself smile at Doris, tried to make it genuine, and said, "I'll keep it in mind."

/

No words are wasted once the doctor, T'Paj, has assured herself of the diagnosis. She looks Amanda in the eye as she delivers it, as she has throughout the exam. Her manner betrays none of the discomfort that Amanda has come to expect of Vulcan medical personnel but she cannot entirely hide her disquiet with the results of her tests.

Amanda hardly notices. She gasps deep, intensifying the burn in her belly. The doctor's words catch in her teeth like the grit of the desert and she grinds them between her molars to keep from spitting them back out. She swallows them with another gasp of pain and reaches without looking for Sarek, her hand tight on his wrist.

"You didn't know that you were pregnant?" T'Paj asks, something sharp beneath the professional bluntness of the words.

"I didn't know that I could be," Amanda says, hardly more than a whisper. The admission felt sharp in its own right in her chest but is dulled by her shock by the time it passes her lips.

"We both were under the impression that we couldn't conceive," Sarek says; Amanda wonders if T'Paj can hear his defensiveness, his protectiveness, as well as she can.

"It is an unexpected case," T'Paj says without looking away from Amanda. "And you're sure that it is the case?"

Sarek tenses but doesn't answer. Amanda, still reeling, realizes that the question has been directed at her alone. Of course- Sarek, logically, cannot be the one to insist.

"There's been no one but Sarek," Amanda says, trying not to bristle herself. It isn't an accusation, she knows- or if it is, it's a logical one to make. It's a possibility they'd be foolish not to rule out and there's something comforting in recognizing that. "In any case, I don't have much opportunity for contact with other humans."

She may not be the only human on Vulcan but she is the only one in the city, aside from Dr. Corrigan, who she's only met once so far in passing when she'd gone for her first appointment on Vulcan. It's lonelier than she'd expected, though she doesn't dwell on it. She didn't come to Vulcan to make human friends, after all, and she's made a fun hobby of charming her Vulcan neighbors and acquanitences.

T'Paj looks at her a moment longer, darts a glance at Sarek, then nods. She says, "It is, as I said, an interesting case. Once you've recovered, I'd like to put you in touch with some of our researchers." She pauses, darting another look between them, and now a little of that familiar discomfort does show through. If she were human, she'd look sheepish. "That, of course, is your own choice to make."

"Indeed," Sarek says. He's stiff beside Amanda and his tone is blander than what she's gotten used to, nearly droning. "What steps do we need to take in the meantime?"

"We will prescribe medication for the pain," T'Paj says, doing Amanda the courtesy of addressing her instead of Sarek. "You should consider an appointment soon with someone better versed in matters of human biology but it would seem that your body is already doing the work on our behalf."

T'Paj goes on to explain what Amanda should expect over the next few days, what's normal and what isn't as far as her understanding lets her say, and Amanda can only hope that Sarek is paying better attention than she is herself. Those words buzz in her ears, prickle at her mind so that even Sarek's soothing influence is drowned out.

/

"I thought you loved children?" her mother blurted without so much as a greeting, appearing at Amanda's shoulder like a specter. It was a wonder, really, that she'd held it in for as long as she had, though perhaps it shouldn't be. She never was one to start a confrontation if she could get someone else to do it for her. She was wringing her hands in her apron and getting garden dirt under her fingernails as she watched her grandnieces and nephews run off to play, inspired by the story they'd been told. Her eyes were wide and wet when she turned to look at Amanda as she rose. "You've always loved children, haven't you?"

Standing, Amanda smoothed out her long sweater and tucked her book under her arm. She smiled after the little ones and agreed, "I have." Looking back at her mother, she reminded, "I've never needed them to be mine to love them."

"You always love them better when they're yours," her mother murmured, loud enough to hear but low enough to mean that she didn't want a discussion on the topic. She'd declared more than once that she hadn't felt like she'd had a family until she had her daughters playing at her feet, no matter how many little ones were constantly under those same feet as family near and far enjoyed her hospitality.

"I'm happy to love them all as well as I can," Amanda said, loud and clear and just as unabiding of argument. She watched the wrinkles between her mother's brow; they'd always been the biggest tell for a crying fit.

Her mother wiped her face in the crook of her elbow, more reflex than anything. She said, "I just don't understand how you can give something like that up for him." One of the children shrieked and they both looked over to assure themselves it was with laughter before turning back. Her mother looked wistful as she continued to watch the children in spite of facing Amanda. "I just want to see you happy, my love." She did look at Amanda then, imploring. "You know that, don't you?"

Amanda did know that, of course. She held that fact tight to her bosom despite the frustration of knowing that the happiness her mother wanted for her was the same happiness she would have wanted for herself rather than what Amanda wanted.

"I'm happy with the choice that I've made," Amanda said. She took her mother's hands in her own, trying to press her sincerity and her certainty into her palms. "I know you don't understand and I'm not asking you to. I'm only asking that you trust me to understand myself."

Her mother stared at her for a long moment. Then she took her hands back, scrubbed her face in her elbow and turned to walk back into the house.

/

The trip back home is quiet. Amanda slumps against the door of their little hovercar with both hands pressed over her belly. It feels warm and whole under her touch, a far cry from what she feels inside, and she worries she'll lose herself if she lets up. She tries to put it out of her mind and watches the scenery pass. Vulcans go about their business along the street, sedate and steady, and she tries to make herself feel the serenity she sees on their faces. When they slow to take a turn, she sees a Vulcan father guide his daughter out of the path of an oncoming group of pedestrians with a hand on her shoulder. The girl blinks around at the group, then up at her father; her face is bright, emotions not yet under the strict control expected of adults. Amanda watches as the girl scrutinizes her father's face and then does her best to match it, drawing up as tall as she can with a confident little strut in her step.

Amanda's fingers curl, nails digging past the fine weave of her clothes to press into her flesh. She closes her eyes and keeps them closed for the rest of the ride, not even realizing they've arrived until Sarek rouses her with a hand on her shoulder.

They exchange no words as they get out, Amanda swaying only a little. The medicine causes no drowsiness but the lack of pain leaves her aware of how drained she is by the ordeal. Sarek's hand is soon on her shoulder again, urging her with a gentleness he'd surely deny towards their front entrance.

"Is everything well?" asks their nearest neighbor, T'Laas, as she passes. It's late in the morning now; she must be on her way to work. She sweeps a gaze over Amanda and turns a querying look on Sarek.

"Everything will be," Amanda says, sharper than she meant to; she bites her tongue when T'Laas draws herself up, however subtly, in affront. Amanda inclines her head in both apology for the outburst and acknowledgement of the concern. In a gentler tone, she says, "I only need to rest."

T'Laas relaxes and nods in return, the indiscretion already dismissed. She murmurs her wishes for their good health and continues on her way. She and Amanda have shared tea before and are on good enough terms that Amanda trusts T'Laas not to hold this one incident against her. A knot of tension Amanda hadn't noticed loosens at the base of her spine and she allows Sarek to guide her inside as T'Laas goes on her way, understanding that her presence now would be more hinderance than help.

Being home isn't the relief Amanda had hoped for. The house feels bigger than it did; more empty. One hand stays on her belly and she trails the other along the walls as they walk to try and get her bearings. For the first time since she arrived on Vulcan, Amanda doesn't feel as if she's home at all.

She balks when they reach the entrance to the bedroom, standing firm against Sarek's guidance, and nausea comes over her in spite of the medication. Bile tickles her throat and she finds she can't look at the bed, even though she knows it will have been cleaned up in their absence.

"Amanda," Sarek says, chiding. "You must rest, give yourself time to recover."

"I will," she says, swallowing. She rolls her shoulders to shake his touch and turns with purpose down the hall towards her study. "But not in there." After a deep breath, she expands, "Not right now."

Sarek trails her down the hall, silent as a shadow. He touches her shoulder again when she reaches her study, a passing contact that's gone by the time she turns to look at him.

"I have correspondence to see to," he tells her, tipping his head towards his own study a little further down the hall. "Nothing urgent. You can find me there if you have need of me." He hesitates halfway through turning and looks back to pin her with a stare. His gaze roams her face and his mouth is pinched at the corners. He is agitated, more so than he's letting on. Just before the silence would have been too much, he asks, "Amanda- did you want the child?"

Amanda doesn't flinch but it's a near thing. Some absurd part of her wants to laugh. It's a topic they'd danced around during their short courtship and beyond, no matter how he'd deny it if put in those terms.

Her tongue runs rough against the backs of her teeth. She looks away from him, hands tight against her belly. Finally, she confesses, "I don't know. I never really thought about it before."

No one has ever really asked her before.

/

Amanda's family sprawled across several small, tightly packed towns and beyond. Having children wasn't a question; it was an expectation.

It was both a burden and a relief throughout her life. Every assumptive comment, every knowing look, had chafed and chipped at her. But at the same time, no one pressed. Why would they? They all watched as she tended to her young cousins and occasionally their neighborhood friends and knew beyond doubt that she would have her own someday. Amanda could enjoy the company of her young relatives without having to worry too much about "her own someday" as long as she paid her share of polite smiles when they were mentioned as a forgone conclusion. Sometimes she'd catch the eye of a cousin who the family whispered about with pity or exasperation or both and they would share a secret smile and a roll of the eyes. These were the few, precious moments she felt a bond of understanding with members of her family.

So it was easy enough to bear the smug edge of Doris's smile when she bounced little Lester on her lap and cooed about giving him a sibling someday soon. Amanda even had patience to spare for the condescending lecture about how to hold him and feed him and speak to him, as though she hadn't grown up being taught.

Doris was a new mother, she reminded herself, and her labor had been difficult. Whatever other motive she had, it was natural that she would be protective of her firstborn.

"He's still learning that nighttime is for sleeping," Doris said on a breezy little laugh. It trailed as she looked at her son sat babbling on Amanda's lap. She reached out to brush wispy hair off of his forehead and forgot entirely to look smug. "I'm up all night some nights, just holding him and humming whatever lullaby I'm not too tired to remember. James offers to help out, of course, but I'm not ready to share that much just yet…"

Lester drooled and rubbed his little fist into the mess, burbling like he was proud of himself. It seemed to break the spell and Doris gave that little laugh again as she took him from Amanda and dabbed at his face with a soft cloth.

"You'd almost think you had the better idea of things, looking at him like this," she said. When his face was clean, she lifted him in quick bounces and grinned past him at Amanda. "No sleepless nights for you, eh?"

Amanda chose to ignore the secondary implication in the statement, not that it would change her response. She gave Doris the little slip of a smile that had become her norm and rolled her shoulders in a shrug. "I had the best idea for myself, at least. I can't imagine the same thing working out for you."

Doris's face went funny- not red, not yet, but funny- and she settled Lester on her knee to bounce so she could look at Amanda unimpeded. Her lips pressed into a tight line and Amanda could see her jaw work.

"You really do think you'll be happy there, don't you?" she asked, not sounding altogether sure of what she thought of the idea. "Surrounded by all those repressed Vulcans- living with one, even. Loving him and having to believe he loves you even when he never says it."

"Sarek tells me that he loves me," Amanda corrected, feeling some satisfaction in the surprise it brought to Doris's face. She didn't bother to explain herself; she felt no need and it would be pointless besides. "He tells me every day, just like I tell him. You've just never seen it."

No, Doris would have to hear it and wouldn't believe it otherwise. She didn't understand Vulcans. She certainly didn't understand Sarek and likely wouldn't even if she were willing to make the effort to do so. He was too much like Amanda for that.

"Just as well, maybe," Doris muttered, digging for a win as was her wont. Her brow wrinkled and she couldn't seem to decide if she wanted to look at Amanda or not. "One less thing to worry about there. You'll have a hard enough time of it yourself. Any child of yours might be more Vulcan than you but they'd never be as Vulcan as him."

There was no logic to arguing, so Amanda didn't. She let Doris turn red and huff and then finally turn her attention back down to Lester, who had begun to wiggle and whine for want of stimulation. She grabbed a little plush of uncertain design, Lester's favorite, and used it to boop his nose. The happy little noises he made in response melted her face into a smile and she seemed to forget for the moment that Amanda was there.

Amanda leaned back in her chair, smiling softly at the two of them. She could see the appeal, certainly, even when Lester pushed his fingers into his mouth and then endeavored to touch everything around him with the glob of drool he'd gathered in the two seconds it took Doris to pull them back out. She looked forward to one day reading Lester her favorite stories; to seeing him grow up as she'd seen her little cousins do. But if no child of her own was in her cards, it was no loss at all compared to what she stood to gain from her life going forward.

She didn't bother to think of it again.

/

Any hope Amanda might have had that she would feel more at ease in her study is dashed within the first slow circuit she makes around it. She looks at the familiar room, decorated with a mix of Vulcan and Terran aesthetic influence, and feels as if she doesn't know it.

She paces, touching everything. Her fingers flit over the spines of her collection of hardbound books, though she leaves them all on the shelves. She looks at the painting in progress on the easel in the corner with a critical eye, comparing it against the view out of her window. She touches the lute hanging on her wall, more decoration than instrument until she learns to play, and her touch coaxes a sour note of grief from it.

Her circuit finishes at her desk and she reaches reflexively to turn on the terminal. She has work to do, she recalls distantly, work she'd intended to do when she woke. Her students will be due their latest scores soon. But Amanda isn't thinking of working; she probably shouldn't anyway, with her head stuck up above the clouds in the thinnest layer of Vulcan's atmosphere. One hand drifts to rest over the comm suite; the other is back on her belly.

The lump in her throat almost chokes her before she can think to swallow it down. Her head feels altogether too heavy and she bows until her forehead presses against the top of the terminal. She swallows again and again, eyes shut tight against tears.

Amanda doesn't want to call her mother but she wishes she could. Or her father, her sister- all of them, even. She doesn't even know if she would but it hurts down deep that she can't.

They would welcome her call, of course. Of this, she has no doubt. But it would be illogical to call when she knows it will only end in greater frustration.

Whatever their response to the news, they would center it in her narrative. What she thought and felt would be an afterthought to what they did. They would decide all that on her behalf, as they always did, this time before she could decide for herself.

It's too easy to imagine how they'd react. The color rising in their faces, the tears. She can imagine her mother's scream, a high little bleat before she slapped her hands over her mouth to keep the rest in. She can imagine their sympathy, their sorrow. She can taste their grief coating the roof of her mouth. And underneath it all would be the relief, the realization that she could have children and the renewed expectation that she would.

Bitterness overcomes her and she shoves herself away from the terminal. She paces the room three times before she finally stops at the window, staring out into the city. Pointedly, she grips either side of the window and inhales deeply of Vulcan's midday heat, letting it fill in the hollow pit that opened up when T'Paj gave her the diagnosis.

What would she have done, she lets herself wonder, if she'd known? She dismisses the question of whether she'd have been able to do anything. She closes her eyes, turns her face up to the light and breathes through the meditation exercises she's learned. What, she asks herself in spite of logic, would her ideal scenario have looked like?

Amanda has always loved children, after all, but they've always been other people's children. They've never been her responsibility at the end of the day, hers to care for and nurture. She's never dwelled on the idea. It's tangled too tightly in the expectations thrust upon her by her family for her comfort, though she'd never gone so far as to resent the possibility. She had reasoned that it would happen one day or it wouldn't and left it there. Then she met Sarek and loved him even more deeply than she desired the opportunity for a fresh beginning that his interest represented and it didn't seem logical to worry about the matter of children after that. She'd made her choice long before he asked the question.

Epiphany sings through Amanda and she stutters over a breath. Tension leaves her body in a long exhale, though she wouldn't yet call herself relaxed. Of course, she'd known the question was illogical when she'd asked herself. Not only because it was a matter already past- but because it was the wrong question to ask. Why was she dwelling on what she would have wanted when she should be asking herself what she wants?

Well, she can hardly be expected to come to a decision without facts to base it upon, can she? Not on Vulcan, certainly. With a shake of her head, she turns from the window and crosses her study in long strides. She makes her way without hesitation down the hall, determination standing her up tall. Dozens of questions have organized themselves in her mind by the time she finds herself in her doorway, each one bearing a value to be weighed and added up. Something like excitement tingles in her chest, contained with great effort between her ribs.

Sarek reaches out a hand to greet her before he's even looked up from his work. She doesn't suppose she could walk softly enough to sneak up on him, not that she's inclined to try. He finally faces her as she slides her palm across his, his gaze flicking over her.

"Your condition has improved?" he asks, less certain than he normally is with her.

"It has," she agrees. She can see his confidence rise in the face of her calm. "My mind is more at ease now that I've had time to process."

Sarek casts another inquisitive look over her and says, "Yet I can see that there's more to the matter than what you've processed."

"There is," she agrees just as readily. Letting his hand slide out of hers, she helps herself to the seat across from him and rests her elbows on his desk, fingers steepled. "If your work can wait, Sarek- there are things that I would like us to discuss."

Amanda didn't fidget but it was a near thing- not so near a thing, though, as her face being pressed against the window of their little shuttle as they descended. Most of the trip had been spent imagining this moment and the anticipation took a turn towards anxiety now taht it had arrived.

"If you're concerned what my family might think of you tripping over your gown as you boarded the shuttle," Sarek spoke up from beside her, his attention on a scientific journal in his lap, "you can rest assured that I won't be bringing it up to them."

Lips pressed against her smile- he was a cheat, was what he was, always prodding to win an emotional reaction from her- she turned to him with what she thought was a passable impression of his own quirked eyebrow. She was forced to rethink when he looked up to give her an eyeful of the original.

"Jokes, Ambassador?" she asked with great dignity. "And what would your esteemed family think of that?"

He shook his head and looked back at his journal. "How very human of you, to threaten to betray me as I've promised not to betray you."

"You hear threats where you expect to hear them," she scoffed. Since he wasn't looking, she did allow the briefest hint of a smile. "And you expect them everywhere."

"Of course," he agreed readily enough. "How else do you think I've lived this long, in my position?"

"And here I thought it was your gift of diplomacy," she said with a note of false disappointment. She dropped the game a moment later, settling back in her seat and looking with only a little longing at the sky passing beyond the window. Idly, she wondered if the ship that had carred them was still orbiting or if it had already moved on.

There was a comfortable pause, then a brief tension before Sarek asked, "Are you… feeling better?" He had grown accustomed to such considerations in their time together but they seemed harder for him to express the closer they got to Vulcan. It was fortunate for them both that she could read him as well as she could.

"I've had a chance to make peace," she said, careful over the words. The moments she'd spent bidding her family goodbye at the wedding party had been filled with tears shed and voices raised. Her mother had hugged her tight just before they'd separated and insisted through sobs that Amanda let them know immediately when she had arrived safely on Vulcan and that she was to stay in touch. "I know they mean well. I know that they want the best for me. What they need to realize is that what's best for me isn't theirs to define."

Sarek shook his head, setting his journal aside. "I must confess," he said, "I'm baffled by this dynamic. If they're so opposed to the life you've chosen to live, why don't they cut off contact entirely?"

"Because they don't want to lose me," she said gently. The question gave her a bit of a chill. It wasn't representative of one of her favorite tidbits of Vulcan culture. "They want me to be happy- and they want to be able to see it for themselves. Never mind that they're too stubborn to recognize it when they do see it."

"They raise conflict after conflict with their refusal to accept your decisions," Sarek said, the shadow of a frown touching his lips. "They continue to press their expectations upon you, trying to break you into something they can rebuild in their own image. There's no logic that I can find in this kind of love."

When he put it that way, Amanda could admit that it was easier to see his point.

Amanda brushed her fingers over the back of Sarek's hand; he turned it over at the touch and she rested her palm against his. She worked her jaw around a question that was becoming increasingly stark the closer they got.

Before she could even ask, Sarek answered, "I would hope that we know each other well enough that I would never have to choose between your- contentment and ours." His fingers caressed her, an almost unconscious motion. "Attempted reconciliation is the first step, always, and I have confidence in our capacity for reconciliation. Certainly, I've always felt that I know you better, somehow, than your own family does."

"You took the time to know me," Amanda murmured. He would never have thought to bring her here if he hadn't. Her attention strayed back to the window but only for a moment. "They never did. Someday, maybe."

Amanada could tell that Sarek was unconvinced- which was fair, she granted, since she was too- but he was gracious enough to let the subject rest. He didn't pick up his journal again. They sat, hand in hand, peaceful in each other's company. Amanda didn't realize how much time had passed until the autopilot whistled to alert them that they were docking at the shuttle station and she jumped, a jolt of anxiety going through her bones.

"Peace," Sarek murmured. He pulled his hand easily from the iron grip she'd fastened around it and wrapped his arm across her shoulders. He pressed gently when she didn't stir and again he bid her, "Peace."

But it was he who hesitated at the threshold, stopping short of pressing the button that would lower the door for them. He looked at her with an uncertainty that she was sure only she could see.

"You understand-"

"I know better than to expect Vulcan to be like Earth," she assured him. She smoothed her gown and folded her hands in front of her, the picture of reserve. "And I know how I'm- we're- expected to behave."

He hesitated a moment longer, searching her face. His lips parted but he sealed them again without speaking. Facing the door, he stood straight and hit the button.

Amanda walked into the light of her new home with both eyes wide open.