When she reached the entrance of the restaurant, and saw him standing just behind her, she was more pleased than ever, and he, too, as he followed her into the restaurant, seemed content to have come.

"You were not planning on doing something, were you?" Amanda asked.

"No, nothing that would require my immediate attention."

"Ah! That's good."

He hung up his robe on a hook by the table gently, lingeringly, and sat at the table. Just for a moment both of them sat silent in that dimmed light. Amanda thought 'Why should we speak? Isn't this enough?'

But suddenly he looked at her and she tensed. "Should we order? I'll call the waiter. Are you hungry?" she asked.

"Not particularly."

"Well, I am."

She ordered another of the wonderfully exotic dishes that she was quickly starting to develop a taste for. It looked exquisite, unidentifiable; she could not even tell which world it was from, much less what it was made of. "Do you realize how good it is," she implored.

"Indeed," he said in a strange tone, again between a statement and a question.

"It's a strange thing but I always do notice what I eat here and never anywhere else. I suppose it comes of living alone and always reading while I eat..." She paused, then began to speak very fast. "I simply haven't got any external life at all. I never notice places or furniture or what people look like. One room is just like another to me-a place to sit and read or talk in," and here she paused again and smiled in a strange naive way, and said, "except here on Babel." She looked around and then at him; she laughed in her astonishment and pleasure.

Sarek's eyes were like black pools. "It was not the wisest decision Mr. Wilson made in not spending this day with you. He is your mate, is he not?"

A new silence came between them. Nothing like the satisfactory pause that had followed their entrance. And then both of them broke it at the same time. She said, "I will get a drink," and he said, "I wanted to ask you about..."

Both of them escaped. She stood up and went over to the bar instead of calling the waiter. She drank one and returned with another drink. Sarek initiated the new conversation. "I was curious about the connection between my father's work and the theories in Mr. Olsen's lecture yesterday."

"Oh, what did you think of the lecture?"

They were off and all was as usual. But was it? Weren't they just a little too quick with their replies? Was this really anything more than an imitation of their previous talks? Her cheeks burned and the stupid thing was she could not tell what exactly was happening.

It happened again. They faltered, broke down, were silent.

Well, why didn't they just follow it up and see what would happen then? But no. Vague and troubled though they were, they knew enough to realize that their newly formed friendship was at stake. She was the one who would be destroyed.

Sarek broke the silence again. "I have to disagree with your view of the Universal Translator. In my line of work it is a great asset, quite irreplaceable."

"I completely agree with that. It is not the translator that gives me the headaches, it's the general attitude against learning languages. You can't compare a mechanical translation to a translation by someone who knows both languages. The work has to make the same impression on you, just as on the original speaker, which is of course very difficult, as they are not the same speakers, they don't have the same cultural background and experience. You have to explain the cultural realities, for instance. You know, it was when I first read your father's translation of Surak's writings that I realized this."

"You have read Surak's writings? Fascinating. May I ask, how did you become interested in Vulcan philosophy?"

"Oh, I'm not. Don't take this personally, but the whole suppression of emotion really is not my thing. It was listed as one of Skon's works, so naturally I had to read it. And when I tried to find it, there were two versions: Skon's translation and another, translated by a computer, which was probably much more exact than Skon's. But Skon's writing is so much more accessible."

Sarek's facial expression was openly curious. "You are fascinated by my father's work, but wholly unimpressed by Surak's writing. How very curious."

On the talk went. And now it seemed they had succeeded. The evening continued to be pleasant, without any tension. There was no hesitation on either part when they went to listen to the concert together.

Famous Andorian music was going to be performed in the centre of the town. The concert was going to be held outside, under the stars. It was a beautiful place; there were fountains, and little tables had been set up to give the impression of a café. The only illumination was the candles on the tables and colourful lights around the fountains that seemed to give the water a magical glow. Various waiters walked between the tables, taking orders for drinks.

There was silence at Amanda's table, making her think of the events of the day. The music could not start soon enough for her. She had the urge to explain, still affected by Sarek's comment. She started talking about Malcolm, then stopped when she noticed that Sarek was not responding. She needed something poignant, simple, to explain the whole thing. "He doesn't take me seriously," she finally said, aware of the ring of truth of her statement only after she had heard herself say it.

Sarek seemed lost in thought, looking into empty space. Then his eyebrow rose, in what had become a familiar gesture, but his eyes did not focus. "Sometimes we have to start by taking ourselves seriously first, and the others will follow."

Andorian music, written in icy underground caves, was best enjoyed by night. The enchanted melodies, flawlessly performed, seemed to call to Amanda, make her yearn for something that she was not yet fully aware of. She ordered drink after drink, desperately trying to avoid thinking.

They stayed long after the concert was over and people had started leaving. The entire time they sat in almost complete silence. When they finally started walking back, they found the place deserted. She stopped in front of a fountain, watching the water. Sarek stopped as well.

"Tomorrow is the last day," Amanda said.

"I will be leaving directly after the banquet."

"Everyone will leave. And only an empty town will be left behind. As if there was no one here. I don't understand. How can this be a good solution? Erasing every trace of the people who come here."

"This planetoid is left uninhabited, so that no one can lay a claim on it. This way, every Federation citizen has the same right to this place."

"Because it belongs to no one, it belongs to everyone?"

"Precisely."

Amanda felt an exquisite sadness take hold of her. "There is something very pretty in that thought. That we will leave, but a part of it will still belong to us, and a part of us will still belong here..."

She turned towards him. Later, she was not certain what made her do it, although the alcohol definitely had a hand in it. Standing on her tiptoes, she kissed him.

From the middle of the fountain a thick column of water rose strongly into the night sky.

Malcolm was already in their suite when she returned. He took in her clothing, not breaking the uncomfortable silence for a while. "You were out with that Vulcan. I saw you enter the hotel together," he finally said.

"We attended the concert together."

He looked her up and down, and smiled an ugly smile. "Interesting choice of outfit," he said and went to bed.

Amanda had expected a fight, had braced herself for it. It did not happen, and she could not help but feel that this was much worse.

They barely spoke to each other the next morning. Amanda reached the point where she would have done anything to end the impenetrable silence between them. Meeting Sarek in front of the banquet hall still caused her insides to contract. After her misplaced behaviour the night before, she could not look him in the eyes. She was not sure if her inebriation could be used as an excuse or if it only added to her misconduct.

Malcolm started making pointed remarks about Sarek being without a companion. They were stupid really, and quite embarrassing. At that point Amanda had decided to ignore Malcolm the same way he always ignored her. But then she noticed that something in Sarek's expression was off. A few days ago she would not have noticed. Obviously something in Malcolm's remarks, something about him being alone and not wanted, had touched him more deeply than Malcolm even seemed to realize.

Finally she decided she had heard enough. And it was with great satisfaction that she took Sarek's arm and walked with him inside the banquet hall. Pointedly ignoring Mal's stare, she moved over to their table and, after making sure Sarek was seated, went to get a drink. The short-lived euphoria faded as soon as she was out of sight and depressing thoughts started to seep through her mind, making her dwell on things that she would rather ignore.

There was nothing wrong with her life; everything was going according to plan. The upset feeling in the pit of her stomach had nothing to do with her state of mind. Surely the food was the culprit. So many dishes she had never tried before, over a period of five days, could have led to much worse than she was currently suffering. She would admit only to a bit of sadness. Sarek would be leaving for Vulcan right after the banquet. She had befriended him quickly, and now she would probably never see him again. A little sadness was permitted. The crass pain she felt at "never" was more worrisome. How strange: after that first meeting who would have thought that getting to know him would be the best part of her journey?

She had a slight headache from the previous day's drinking, but she downed her drink in one go.

"You have an uncanny ability to say and do the exact thing people do not want you to." Sarek had apparently left the table as well and was now standing behind her, barely a step away.

Suddenly inexplicably angry, she whirled around. "You know, for a diplomat you are surprisingly undiplomatic." His reaction to her statement stopped her in her tracks and the next moment she was sure she had imagined the minuscule upturn of his lips. The anger was gone, and with it the weight that had sat in the pit of her stomach, not permitting her to breathe. Fear. It had been fear, she realized.

"Let me say good bye to you while we are still alone," she said, smiling, trying to look brave. "I will probably never see you again, so let me tell you it was my greatest pleasure getting to know you."

"It is not entirely impossible that we shall meet again. I will be on Terra in June according to your calendar, attending a diplomatic conference." He stopped at that, surprised, maybe because that was not what he had planned on saying.

"Have you been on Terra before?"

"No."

"You should visit Death Valley. That is a place from the part of Terra that I come from. People always joke back home that Vulcans might be the only ones to appreciate it."

"Death Valley... The name does not sound very welcoming."

Amanda's smile returned. "I suppose not. It is very hot there, at least by human standards. You would probably find it rather mild. And if we should ever meet again you can tell me what you thought of it."

"I will."

She did not cry until the next day, when she was already on the starship taking her home, and Sarek was light years away.