Author's Note: My fourth, yes fourth Sarek and Amanda origins story. I've done a lot of other tropes, from interstellar political intrigue to stranger in a strange land to stranded on a deserted island. Why not fake dating?
This one should be more fun than the others and while Sarek may strike some readers as being a bit out-of-character, I promise I have a plan to bring him full circle to the stoic, slightly-snobby-yet-adorkable character we know him to be from canon.
It was difficult to ignore the grating laugh wafting from the woman with the light brown hair and the teeth that were much too large for her mouth. The braying bounced off the hard surfaces nearby in an unfortunate demonstration of acoustics.
She was speaking with another woman via hololink and the conversation sounded rather personal in nature. Her companion was doing most of the talking, her rapid speech only occasionally interrupted by the receptionist's giggles and fragmented interjections.
The tiny holographic projection shrieked, "Lish, wait, you're not going to believe what he said next though!"
The woman at the desk responded with a languid, "What?"
"He said I remind him of his sister! Like, what does that mean?"
This amused her and she slapped her hand on the desk. "Shut up!"
"And the other night we were at his apartment and he just started clipping his toenails on the couch. Right in front of me."
"I know! Why is it so hard to just find a guy who isn't weird or gross or stupid? I'm not even going to be picky about species at this point. Just give me someone normal."
The woman behind the desk flicked her eyes in Sarek's direction, lowered her voice, and said, "Speaking of different species—there's this new astrophysicist in cartography that Garrett just hired. Vulcan. Not too hard to look at either."
"Oh, do tell," the holographic projection insisted.
Her voice dropped another few decibels, but it wasn't enough to evade Sarek's sensitive Vulcan ears. "I only just met him. He's waiting for Garrett in the lobby."
Sarek turned his attention to the news holocube in the center of lobby, drumming up as much interest he could muster in a story about rising narcotic use among Tellarite teens. There were two women in Starfleet uniforms sitting directly across from him, their eyes darting between the chatty receptionist and Sarek, smirks growing on their faces.
Rather than force himself to feign interest in the habits of the Tellarite youth, he opened his PADD. Three notifications of messages from his mother awaited him but he ignored them and swiped across the screen to view the application with his preferred Vulcan news streams. Underneath the featured story about the Vulcan Security Service thwarting another attempted bombing of a Solarian temple by Ask'era Ozhikersa, a fringe sect of logic extremists, was a picture of a familiar face. He tapped the link, even though he could easily predict the story's contents.
The Vulcan High Council has appointed Ambassador Skon of Shi'Kahr, son of Solkar, to negotiate with the Orion Free Traders on behalf of Vulcan interests in the disputed territory between Orion and Ithen. Many consider the High Council's attempt to negotiate peace with the Free Traders as futile in light of the growing power of the Orion Syndicate, an organized crime association that controls the majority of the territory in question.
Sarek skimmed the rest of the article, noting briefly the short paragraph at the end commenting on the appointment of Skon's son, Silek, as Ambassador to Earth. The story used nearly three hundred words to say very little but there was so much more information concealed between the text that many people would recognize.
Anyone with even a rudimentary awareness of Vulcan politics would know that Ambassador Skon was extremely overqualified for such a task. Anyone familiar with his family, which was a sizable fraction of the Vulcan populace, would recall that Skon had two sons, and some of them would likely remember that Silek was the younger of the two. Perhaps they would contemplate what it meant that no mention was made of the elder son.
He turned his neck to see a tall man with brick-red hair and a full beard approaching. He stood and dipped his head. "I presume you are Mr. Garrett Fischer."
"Please, call me Garrett," he laughed. He began to extend a hand but paused. "Are you the hand-shaking kind of Vulcan or do you prefer the thing?" He attempted to form his fingers into the shape of a traditional Vulcan salute.
"I do not prefer to shake hands, but whatever you are comfortable with is sufficient." It seemed the most appropriate answer to offer his new employer.
"Right. It's great to finally meet you face-to-face."
Sarek nodded, thinking their virtual interview had only taken place eight days ago so the idea of finally meeting in person was an unnecessary exaggeration.
"We're lucky to get someone with your credentials," Garrett continued. "And the team is very excited to meet you."
Sarek sensed he should give some reply but he had neither talent nor patience for human small talk. He followed his new supervisor through the expansive lobby, crossing the ornate emblem carved into the floor featuring the company's name and logo, the blocky letters spelling Cary Cartographic circling six five-pointed stars of varying sizes.
"The first few days should be pretty relaxed. HR is going to subject you to a lot of training and forms. We got your work visa late last night."
They passed through a sleek set of semi-opaque glass doors into a brightly lit office space littered with people in well-tailored clothing navigating between eclectically-colored cubicles. After a few paces, they were greeted by a man who appeared Vulcan in only a biological sense.
His hair was neatly shaved around the sides of his scalp and worn long on top, slicked back into a style worn by many of the human men in the office. He wore clothes designed after the human fashion and brandished an open smile on his face. A line of Vuhlkansu script inked into the flesh of his right forearm read, "Live long and die young." He switched a mug full of steaming liquid to his left hand, raised his right, and said, "Live long and prosper. I'm Vedek."
Sarek returned the greeting and introduced himself, finding it difficult to draw his attention away from the man's tattoo.
"Vedek's going to show you around, get you settled in," Garrett said, gesturing to the grinning Vulcan. "I'm late for a meeting with some Starfleet types."
"As usual," Vedek teased, slapping Garrett's shoulder. "I'll take care of him, don't you worry."
As Garrett trailed back toward the lobby, Vedek turned and said, "Most Vulcans living in Austin are some flavor of V'tosh Ka'tur, but I don't get that vibe from you."
"That is because I am not."
"Where on Vulcan are you from?"
"Really? Me too, originally. Who's your family?"
Sarek dismissed a fleeting feeling of discomfort. He would have preferred some degree of anonymity but he could see no reason to conceal such information. "I am of the S'chn T'gai family."
Vedek uttered a low whistle. "So if you don't mind me asking, and I'm sure you probably do, what brings you to Austin?"
"I have come to Earth for employment."
Vedek tossed his head back, giving the impression he was thinking deeply to himself. "Not fleeing Vulcan on the road to apostasy?"
"I assure you, I am not." His reply was automatic and perhaps might be construed as curt, but he greatly disliked his current state of transparency. He had only just met this unorthodox Vulcan man and he felt so exposed. "Will you show me to where I will be working?"
"Sure thing. You're in the cubicles on the left with all the other brainy types. I personally hate these open office plans but Garrett likes being able to know what's going on."
He directed Sarek to a space that resembled most of the others in the expansive room. The desk sported a computer console and ports for various duotronic devices and was covered in a thin layer of dust. All of it was guarded by a mostly dead potted plant and a figurine that loosely resembled Zefram Cochrane with an oversized, wobbly head.
"Your predecessor left that." Vedek smiled and flicked the doll's head downward and it erupted into discordant bobbing. "Anyway, take a seat."
Sarek did as he was instructed but a moment later, a pair of heavily made-up eyes peeked over the top of the adjacent cubicle. "Is this the new Jason?"
"I am Sarek. What is a Jason?"
Her response was a high-pitched laugh. Did she find his name or his question amusing? Vedek intervened, explaining, "Sarek is the new chief cartographer, yes. Sarek, this is Kyla, she's our—actually, remind me what you do again, Kyla?"
"I'm an interstellar geospatial engineer," she said, rising to her feet and extending her hand over the cubicle. "It's nice to meet you, Sarek. I look forward to working with you."
Sarek gazed at her hand, reluctant to join in this grossly intimate human custom but eager to avoid causing offense. He took it gently—how frail her bones were!—and shook it up and down exactly one time before releasing it.
"Are you new to Earth?" Kyla asked, eyelashes aflutter.
"I relocated here three days ago."
"Hey, do you live in the Village?" asked Vedek.
Sarek blinked. "This is a large metropolis. I would hardly call it a village."
"Not a village, the village," laughed Vedek. "Vulcan Village. It's the Vulcan district in town."
"I was unaware housing was segregated by species," Sarek explained.
That made them both laugh. Vedek said, "There's no official segregation, but some species do prefer to stick to themselves. Austin has a lot of V'tosh Ka'tur, but I guess some elitist habits die hard."
"So where do you live?" asked Kyla. "I'm always looking for someone to carpool with."
"I have secured an apartment two blocks from this building adjacent to the city's main university."
"Excellent choice," Vedek exclaimed. "Lots of good bars down here and the ladies are prime."
Rather than continue their inane discussion, Sarek asked, "Garrett says there is training I must complete. Can you assist me with this?"
Five minutes later, Sarek was alone in his cubicle, attuned to his computer, earbud in his right ear, listening to a woman in a training video discuss the company's equal opportunity policies. She droned on for an hour, informing him that Federation law required private companies to provide special environmental accommodations based on the biological needs of an individual's species. She was explaining company procedures for requesting such accommodations when he noticed Vedek talking to a woman with severe eyes and coal-black hair several cubicles over.
They were both looking at him and smiling but Sarek preferred to ignore it. The day went on that way, with more videos on topics ranging from sexual harassment to respecting Federation and Terran environmental laws and more of his co-workers casting curious glances in his direction. No one else approached him and he suspected he had the earbud to thank for that.
Garrett collected him at noon to consume a midday meal in the official breakroom and he met half of the marketing department waiting in line for the replicator. There were so many introductions and handshakes and peculiar human names to commit to memory and were it not for his logic, he imagined he could have felt overwhelmed.
It was no secret that humans were a very inquisitive, friendly, and assertive species, but by the end of his midday meal, he was certain he had underestimated their ability to exude such qualities. The human females in particular were keen to openly discuss any facet of his or their own lives no matter how personal. After explaining to a woman named Shannon in the information technology department that despite his physique and "graceful walk," he was not a great dancer because he did not dance at all, he politely excused himself from the conversation, but not before overhearing her whisper to her friend, "Ugh, he's so adorable!"
He went home at 1700 hours like everyone else in the office. It was a short walk and the spring weather was wet and chilly and he arrived at his mostly empty, entirely silent apartment at 1711 hours. He sat on his stiff sofa in a state of semi-meditation until 2030 hours, prepared himself a simple meal of vegetable stew from the replicator, and retired to bed at 2100.
He repeated this basic routine the following day and the day after that and the day after that, occasionally being forced to make a new introduction and be probed with any manner of personal questions. On the third workday when he completed his training, Garrett assigned him to a project to map a cosmic anomaly in a distant sector. It was tedious and simple work, but he greatly preferred it to training videos about effectively resolving interpersonal conflict.
On the fifth and final workday of the standard week, he was in the telemetry lab completing a series of diagnostics in preparation for test transmissions the following week when Vedek approached wearing his usual carefree smirk.
"How was your first week?"
Sarek walked past him to return to his cubicle and Vedek followed.
"Got any plans for the weekend?"
"I intend to remain in my apartment."
"You've got to get out and explore. Austin's a great city and Earth is a great planet."
Sarek took a seat at his desk and Vedek invited himself to lean on the attached cabinet. Before either of them could speak, the office manager, Petra, strolled into his workspace.
"Are you having a good first week?" she asked, brushing her glossy black hair over her shoulder with a casual toss of her head.
She had asked him this very question the day before and the day before that. In fact, she had a curious habit of appearing at random throughout the day, regardless of where Sarek was or what he was doing.
"It was satisfactory."
"If you ever want to get together for drinks, let me know. I'm free all weekend."
Sarek gave a small nod and she was gone just as quickly as she had appeared. Vedek leaned toward Sarek and muttered, "Petra's pretty but she can be a bit aggressive. I'd steer clear if I were you."
"Will you permit me a query?"
Vedek's left eyebrow jerked upward. "Sure."
"I have observed that the human females in our office seem preoccupied with me. Do you know why this is?"
"Because you're Vulcan, obviously," he laughed. "I don't know what it is about human women—and they usually prefer the term women over females, by the way—but there's something about pointy ears and a cool, logical demeanor that seems to really do it for a lot of them."
"You are Vulcan but you hardly have a cool, logical demeanor." Sarek's eyes drifted toward Vedek's paradoxical tattoo.
"I'm capable of turning on the old logical charm when it suits me," Vedek winked. He stood up and with a voice stripped of all emotion, recited the first three lines from the Teachings of Surak.
Sarek repressed a twinge of shock. "You imply you do not follow logic yourself but pretend to in order to gain the affection of women."
"I'm not completely without logic, Sarek. I just prefer everything in moderation. I was a lot like you when I first got here. I left Vulcan thinking I needed to see what life outside of Shi'Kahr was like and I have to tell you, it's liberating. On Earth I can smile without causing a minor scandal."
"You've got to lighten up a little. Why don't you come out with me tonight? I was thinking about going down to one of the bars on 6th Street. That's over by your apartment, right?"
"I do not consume drinks for the purpose of altering my mental state."
"I believe you," Vedek laughed. "But you don't have to drink. Just come out and socialize. You can have cookies and milk if you want."
Sarek considered his proposal. He was leery of an excursion to a location dedicated exclusively to intoxication, but the prospect of spending another night in his apartment was equally unappealing.
"Really? You'll have a good time, I promise. Besides, it's right next to the university and unless I'm mistaken, it's the last Friday of spring break."
"What is spring break?"
Vedek's grin broadened. "You'll see."
"Missed one!" Amanda called, pointing to an oversized wooden puzzle piece.
"Okay," Amani mumbled through his chubby toddler cheeks.
He turned in a hurry, dropping some of the pieces in his hands.
"Why don't I help you out?" she asked, stooping down to pick up the remaining pieces on the floor.
"Yes," nodded the little boy. "Yes help."
Amanda smiled. As much as she loved the toddler room, working in it for ten hours straight had a way of sapping her energy like no other task could. She glanced at the clock and frowned. Two more hours until she got off work and her physics homework wasn't going to do itself. Why had she procrastinated her entire spring break away?
The sound of his voice alone was enough to make her smile. She had never gone by 'Manda in her life but she didn't mind when he called her that. She made a mental note to play it cool and turned around to see Adam, her boss' son and the center's assistant manager, standing in the threshold.
"What's up, Adam?"
"Nicoletta says you've got a physics exam to study for."
"Yeah." She wished she were clever enough to come up with something more interesting to say.
"You've been here all week. You've done your hours and then some. Why don't you cut out early?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, it's slow and I've got nowhere else to be. My girlfriend went home to Vulcan to visit her parents for a few weeks."
As it always did, her heart sank a little at the mention of his very smart, very lovely Vulcan girlfriend. "If you're really sure…"
"I am. See you Monday evening."
"Okay, Amani's helping Lola put the puzzles back where they go. Lola didn't nap hardly at all today-"
"'Manda, I've got this," Adam laughed, approaching the tiny humans. "Go study."
On her way out, she was assaulted by a barrage of warm fuzzies as she listened to Adam and ask Lola why she was feeling so cranky that evening and smiled when even Lola admitted, "No nap." He was so good with kids. Everything about him was good. Close to perfect, actually.
She said goodbye to Nicoletta at the front desk and headed back to her dorm. It was unseasonably warm for late March and the streets were packed, even for a Friday night. The moment she stepped foot inside her room Mara cried, "Get dressed! We're going out!"
Amanda sighed and glanced at her tall red-headed roommate, who was applying a thick layer of maroon lipstick to her bottom lip. Piles of clothes lay in a circle around her like she was making some kind of nest.
"Can't," she muttered. "I have homework and a physics exam on Monday that I'm not even a little bit ready for."
"So?" Mara asked, stepping back to look at the end result in the mirror. "Study tomorrow."
"Adam let me off early so I could study."
"Oh, Adam," Mara teased. "Don't want to disappoint Adam."
"You don't have to say his name that way."
Amanda hated that she was blushing. She also hated that everyone knew just how much she liked her boss and she lived in a constant state of semi-terror that it would get back to him. She shoved a pair of Mara's high heeled shoes over to their owner's side of the room and flopped down on her bed.
"You've spent your entire spring break working at the learning center. You deserve a night out. What's the point of being young if you're going to waste it studying Newton's laws? Adam would understand."
"Mara, I'm failing physics. Failing."
"And you think an extra couple of hours studying on a Friday night is going to make a difference? Just come out and have one drink."
Amanda sat up, rubbed her face, and yawned. Her eyes came to rest on the static picture of her mother on her nightstand and she felt a twinge of sadness. If her mom were here, she would tell her daughter to go out and live a little. She sighed and kicked off her shoes.
"Who else is coming?"
"Diana and Lourdes for now. Maybe Lourdes' boyfriend."
"So where are we going?"
Mara squealed in delight and said, "Glad I could pressure you! The plan was to go bar-hopping on 6th Street."
"I'm not staying out all night," Amanda insisted, pulling off her polo shirt as she lumbered to her closet.
"No one ever plans on it," Mara laughed.
Amanda shoved a purple top over her head and found a pair of off-white flats at the back of her closet. They had a few scuff marks but they looked presentable enough.
"You're wearing those?"
"If we're walking 6th Street, I'm going to wear comfortable shoes."
"Let me guess, you're also wearing sensible underpants?"
"What do my underwear have to do with anything?"
"What if you meet a guy?"
"When would I possibly have time for a guy in my life?" Amanda sneered. "I spend all day in class, all evening interning, and all night studying before I panic myself to sleep about how I need to study more."
"No one told you to register for so many hours this semester and besides, I wasn't saying you were going to meet the love of your life tonight. I was just implying you could have a little fun."
"Hooking up with guys is more your thing." Amanda pulled a brush through her hair and wondered if there was any point to putting on makeup.
"I like to sample," Mara murmured with an unapologetic shrug. "But suit yourself."
They met Diana and Lourdes at the Just Bar and shared a round of pineapple vodka shots. Most people were engaged in a billiards tournament at the rear of the bar and it wasn't ten minutes before Mara rose from her barstool, smoothed out her tiny, shimmering top, and insisted they try their luck elsewhere.
The next stop was the Tourmaline Tiger, a trendy place that was quite clean compared to most of the other neighboring establishments. No sooner did they enter than Mara was whisked away by a tall Vulcan man with a stylish haircut and a weird, loopy tattoo on his right arm. He didn't seem very Vulcan but few of the Vulcans in Austin fit the typical prototype.
She never really had figured out what their deal was. She remembered when she first moved to Austin, she found herself sitting next to a Vulcan man on the bus. He was the first one she'd ever actually met—there weren't any Vulcans back home in New Chicago—and she had been very proud to form her right hand into a Vulcan salute and say "live long and prosper." He had looked her dead in the eye and said, "cool" before returning to the business of updating his status on his global account.
She sipped down two whiskey sours and listened as Lourdes complained about her boyfriend. They somehow got on the subject of his penis and began discussing it in detail until Amanda eventually interjected, "Is there literally nothing else we could talk about?"
Diana gave her shoulder a playful push. "You're such a prude."
"I'm not a prude."
They both turned to face her and said in unison, "You're a prude."
"I am not."
"I've never even seen you talk to a guy," Lourdes replied.
Amanda was grateful Mara wasn't present to make a comment about Adam. "That doesn't mean I'm a prude. It just means I'm busy."
Diana and Lourdes roared with laughter. The bartender slid a third whiskey sour in her direction and it took a lot of effort to keep from chugging it all in one go.
"I dare you to go talk to a guy," Diana announced.
"I could talk to any guy in here," Amanda insisted.
The instant the words left her mouth, she wished she could suck them back in.
"Oh really? Any guy?" Diana scoffed.
Amanda scanned the crowd and grimaced when her eyes landed on the heavyset, balding man with excessively hairy arms tending the other end of the bar.
"What about that one?" Lourdes asked.
Amanda had to turn to see who she was pointing at and was surprised to find a Vulcan man at a corner table sipping a glass of water. Unlike Mara's new best friend, who had his tattooed arm comfortably wrapped around Mara's shoulder at the table behind them, this man looked like the dictionary definition of Vulcan, right down to the high-collared shirt, perfect posture, and severe haircut. She suddenly wished she could try for the grizzly bear masquerading as a bartender after all.
However, a dare was a dare. "Fine. Watch me."
She took a long swig of her drink and stood up, surprised by how unsteady she was on her feet. Was she really already that tipsy? She stole another look at the Vulcan man in the corner and decided he wasn't bad. He was just a guy. A guy with an unfortunate haircut who went to a bar to order a glass of water. He was non-ugly and non-threatening. He was basically fine.
One foot went in front of the other and she began to cross the room much more quickly than she anticipated, spurred on by the sputtering of Lourdes and Diana's giggles. The man must have sensed her walking in his direction because when she was about five paces away he looked up and made eye contact. Her nerve began to fail but her drunk tongue blurted out the word, "Hello."
He hesitated but replied, "I am Sarek."
"Nice to meet you. Mind if I sit down?"