AFTERGLOW

Chapter One

The last slim volume slid right into the last remaining bit of space as if it was made to fit, leaving not a centimeter to spare. Amanda sealed the box, running her finger over the elaborate but unreadable (at least to her) script that marked its final destination. Turning back to her bed and the bags that would actually travel with her, she closed the final one with a decisive click. That was it - she could take nothing more. Her precious books were all packed ready for the journey, along with a few choice keepsakes. Whatever remained that she could truthfully lay claim to would have to wait until she was able to send for it.

With a deep sigh she surveyed her room, taking it in for one last time. While she was sure she would visit it again in the future, this would be the last time she would look on the room as her own. When she returned it would be as a guest. She was severing ties not only with the room but the life it represented. Her memories would be fond ones, but she had a whole new world to conquer now.

Only the hardest part was left, saying goodbye to her grandmother, not knowing when she would see her again. In many ways, she and her mother had been more like sisters, daughter to a single mother. And when her mother finally escaped to the stars, it had just been the two of them, her and Gran. Now she was also off on her own journey out into the vast, unknown universe, chasing her heart across those same stars, leaving Gran alone. It was her one true regret.

There was a brief rap on the door and Louisa entered, eyes moist and red from crying. Amanda felt as if she were looking into a reflecting pool of her own sorrow at saying goodbye.

"They'll be here for the boxes in about an hour," her grandmother paused. Amanda knew that until this moment Louisa had never really believed she would leave. Although for her the last few weeks since Sarek had returned to Vulcan seemed to have taken forever at times, for her grandmother she knew they had been far too short.

"Your bags?"

"All ready to go. And the boxes are all labeled with who knows what. I suppose that one day I'll be able to read it, but right now, I've got no idea what it says or where they'll be going." Amanda laughed nervously, and then an awkward silence descended between them.

There was not much time left before the car arrived for her, one that would start her on a journey that would cross light years in the next few weeks.

"Manda-"

She knew what her grandmother was going to say before she said it, and turned to look out the window, waiting for it to come. She had heard it over and over again, in several different forms, in the course of the last few weeks.

... are you sure?

"Are you sure? Once you're gone it won't be easy to make your way back. The further out you are, the harder it is to turn around and -"

"Gran, I am sure. I think I was sure from that first night I saw him on the porch. I've just had to make certain that it was the same for him, and it is Gran, it truly is. Believe me - please?"

"Amanda, I want to, but this is a very closed and traditional society you going into and I can't help but think that his family is going to object to this —"

"I know Gran, I know, he comes from an important family and -"

"No, it's more than that, he's an Xcha'ala'at. I once asked Naadiir what that meant, since Vulcans are fairly closed mouthed about these things, and all she could tell me was that it was 'First born of first born', in the line of a house seat for one of their tribes. I can't see that there won't be trouble for you of some sort."

She turned back toward her Grandmother, unconsciously playing the ring that now graced her left hand, as if receiving some sort of strenght from it to be added to her words, "You've always told me what a skilled diplomat Sarek is. How they use him as a trouble-shooter placing him where ever they expect tough negotiations, because of his talents. I can't think he'll have a problem dealing with his own family."

"Maybe you're right, Child, but these old bones of mine say the two of you may have a rocky road ahead there. You know if anything happens that you, both of you, will always be welcome here."
She kissed her grandmother on the cheek then hugged her briefly. They both pulled back brushing the tears from their respective eyes.

"I'll be fine Gran, I know I will," she took a hold of the other woman's hand, "Believe in us Gran, believe in us."

Downstairs, the door bell was ringing. The car was finally there to take her away.

ooooOOOOoooo

Looking out across the vast expanse of the desert, Sarek took in the view from his private rooms one last time. The small house in ShiKahr was almost ready and there was no reason for him not to start setting up the household in anticipation of Amanda's arrival.

This room had been his haven as a child, the home he would always return to from his many travels. Had his life's path been different, the adjoining rooms would have been opened up for his wife, but now, instead he would have a new home for her, one in which they would both feel welcomed.

He glanced across to the ornate scroll that sat on the side table, its size concealing the weight of its contents. It had been delivered by courier just this morning and he had tossed it aside immediately and begun to pack. He had known that it would be coming eventually, it was only a matter of time, but some small portion of him had hoped it would be otherwise and he had put off this final leavetaking until its arrival. Still, all considered, it would be better to have this resolved before Amanda arrived.

Picking up the scroll, he broke open the seals purposely, freeing the ribboned closure. The elaborate formal script and its archaic wording held no surprises. He was being called before council to account for his "actions"

Sighing, he turned to look out across the desert from the familiar vantage point one last time. So much for IDIC, he thought to himself as he tucked the scroll into the folds of his tunic and closed the door on the life, and possibly the future, that once was his.

The prophets had said "One cannot close one door without opening a second." And so it would be. He had found his second door and was walking into it eyes wide open and with a new found joy for living.