The Only Truth
The couple stood motionless, silhouetted against the vivid blue sky, their stillness hanging heavy in the air, broken only by the sound of waves lapping on the beach below. The once faint sound now echoed loudly against the silence, marking the void between them.
Both looked out across the shimmering turquoise water, neither yet willing to face the other. They were frozen in what seemed like an eternal moment as time struggled to set itself free. Finally he let out a deep resigned sigh.
"It is too much for you to accept then," Sarek brought himself up, ramrod straight and finally turned toward Amanda who still faced away from him, looking out to the distance, straining, as if she believed that if she looked long and hard enough she could see her life's destination.
"I didn't say that. It's just a lot to try and understand, a lot to have to come to terms with," she answered, finally turning to look up at him almost shyly, only to be met by the surprising pain that she could now see in the depths of his eyes. Suddenly, she realized how difficult this all must have been, to tell her this, to take a fragile and newborn relationship and to have to expect it to hold the weight of what he carried. He had opened up to her with must surely have been overwhelming odds of rejection.
"You don't really want to talk about this, do you?"
"My wants are not important," his hands tensed along the railing of the balcony, an outer glimpse of his inner turmoil, "We do not speak of this even among ourselves unless absolutely necessary, but I need- I want you to have all questions answered before any final commitments are made. Once it is done, there will be no turning back. To not have told you would have only caused harm to both of us in the end, whether you would have me or not."
"I don't really know what to say," she took a deep breath, "How long does it last? How often?"
He seemed to wince, almost as if the very thought brought him pain, and his voice lowered to a barely discernable whisper, "Approximately every 5 to 7 of your years. The cycle plays out in a few weeks time, but only a small portion of that will be… difficult."
Difficult for me, or for you, she wanted to ask. But she could already see it was far too difficult just to speak of it for him, "You use the word 'madness'. Is this—can it be violent in any way?"
"You mean toward you? You believe I might injure you?"
If it could be said that he would look incredulous, it was now as he quickly responded, "Why would you think of this? To harm one's mate, this would defeat the purpose of mating would it not? A woman accepts or turns away from a man. He is helpless to her decision, unable to force himself where he is not invited. All control to accept or deny is on her terms. "
"And if a woman denies?"
"Then she condemns her mate to death."
His tone was sharp for a moment as if masking the hurt her questioning caused. Then it softened as she let the wash of her fear brush against him. Not fear of him, but fear of losing him.
"Do you trust that no matter what would happen I would never do anything to hurt you? That any violence that might occur would be directed against any who would try to come between us at this time? I will trust you with my life in this, but you must be sure. When the time comes, I have no choice. It will be you alone who decides."
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry you have to go through this, and I'm sorry I have to question you," she wanted to take him in her arms and tell him it would be alright, but even if he would allow that, how could she say it now, when she herself was so unsure and confused?
"Have you been through this before? I mean, it doesn't matter to me if there have been other women. I would have expected it if you were a human man in your sixties, and if there hadn't I would have wondered. But you tell me you have never been married, what did you do, how did you manage?"
Her mind was rambling as she grasped for the straws that would allow her to comprehend the process he was attempting to describe to her. But her mouth seemed to be rambling even more. She did not feel scared but confused, and in her confusion she felt like the silly 12 year-old who was trying to understand what sex was truly about for the 1st time, torn between fascination and repulsion. And it was very important that she talk through the latter.
She bit her lower lip, forcing herself to stop and turned back to the sea, willing her mind to quiet, waiting for his answers. It seemed a long time passed as she stood taking in the rhythm of the sea, hearing the birds below her carrying on their usual lives, watching the wind slowly sweep the clouds across the sky. She had begun to think he had left, given up on her, when finally he answered.
"We are bonded as children when our minds are young and pliable, and with the years, our minds grow together. We grow and come to maturity over time in a slow awakening to the cycle, and at the proper time are drawn together. This is how it 'should' be."
"What happened that you didn't?"
"She to whom I was bonded was killed in a shuttle accident when we were 18. My family sought to find a suitable match, but there were none available at that time," he paused for a moment as if searching for the words to make her understand, "As we grow older, it becomes more difficult to form these bonds. We are no longer children with pliable minds that can accept what our parents see as desirable. The family will pick a suitable choice for mating and when the time comes and the mating occurs either a bond forms or it does not. If the bond forms, marriage and hopefully a child will follow. If the bond does not then one parts after the mating."
"And if a bond doesn't form and there's a child?"
"If there is no bond, there will be no child."
He said that with such conviction, she wondered if there were more to it that all that. But she didn't want to open any more wounds when he already seemed far too vulnerable.
"How many times have you…"
"Three. But none were compatible," He sighed, " It would seem I have waited for you if you would still have me now."
Ostentatiously, they had taken this trip to get to know one another, to make sure beyond any doubt that this is what they both wanted. That the differences between them meant little in the scheme of things when compared to the feelings they felt for one another. Now there were even more things to consider, differences she could never have imagined rose up like a wall before her.
She wished he would turn and look at her again, but she felt the vulnerable Vulcan of just a few moments ago was gone, the barriers having been raised again.
"I do not want your answer now. This is not something I would have you rush into. I want you to think of what I have said. If before we leave this place you would accept me, then we will be married by your people before I depart for home. If no, then we will say goodbye, if one can hope, as friends."
She took a breath as if to speak, but he quickly laid his fingers across her lips.
"Ask me no more at this time, Amanda. Take what I have said and meditate upon it. And when you come to your decision, I will answer whatever further questions that linger."
He turned and disappeared into the shadows of the suite, leaving her on the balcony alone, the horizon stretching the vast distance before her. Somehow it did not seem vast enough.
At first, Amanda had welcomed the time alone to process it all. Time where she could turn it over in her mind removed from the weight of his sometimes overwhelming presence. She walked along the secluded beach until she could go no further then returned to the bungalow. It was as if Sarek had disappeared, every trace of him was gone and the doors to the master suite were shut tight against intrusion. She couldn't bring herself to go over looking for him, somehow instinctively knowing that if he needed to be alone that would be the worse thing she could do. When he felt he had given her enough time, she expected he would reappear out of nowhere for her answer. And when he did she would have her own question that she now knew needed to be answered. She could answer him yes, but she knew for her own well being, she would need a yes in return.
Alone it seemed, in the silence of the house, she could hear nothing but the rustling of water over rocks in the courtyard pool. The walk and been hot and the pool was like a siren's song. She took it in for only a moment, before tossing her sundress aside and diving in. The water was cool enough that she could feel its brisk embrace against the heat the on her skin, quickly bringing down its temperature. She dove under and up again, arriving beneath its waterfall, letting all of her tensions and worries wash away in the stream of droplets that cascaded down around her.If I can do this, if I can be the cool caress against any fever…
She remained in the pool until the afternoon sun lay low in the sky, and then grabbing a towel from one of the lounge chairs, wrapped herself up and retreated into the darkening house. The sound of her wet feet padding across the tiles echoed through the rooms, marking her retreat to the bedroom. Her bedroom- as it had been from the day they had first embarked on their journey. Her bedroom in a dozen ports of call around the world. Her bedroom now where she stretched out across the too large bed, without bothering to turn down the sheets. She fell asleep dreaming if she would ever find a place in his.