Snips and Snails
Amanda was having tea with a human teacher from the Science Academy, and looking out over her garden with real pleasure. The previous day the heat had broken and the start of the winter season had manifested itself in a pelting rainstorm. The desert was now full of impromptu electric blue lakes, dangerous quagmires really, but from which were popping stunning fields of bloom. While the surface water wouldn't last more than a few weeks, forecasters were predicting that the cool snap should last through the winter, and being Vulcan forecasters, Amanda trusted them. Surveying her own gardens and the wisps of bright color painting the desert, she thought it was one of those times when to be on Vulcan was pleasant indeed. She was so absorbed in sheer enjoyment that she missed a good bit of her friend's conversation, a lament on one area where Vulcan fell unreservedly short. That is, in offering suitable places to hold a birthday party for a seven year old girl.
"It's maddening. Every year it becomes one more thing that you have to top. And there isn't anywhere on Vulcan to hold such goings on. No amusement parks, no paintball arcades, no clowns to hire--"
"I should think not," Amanda said, startled by the incongruity of that notion into commenting. "Clowns must be an endangered species on Vulcan."
"Laugh all you like," her friend said, "but you don't know what you've been spared. You think adult dinner parties have one-upmanship, but this rivalry is brutal."
"They're just little girls," Amanda said, bemused.
"You had a boy. A Vulcan boy. Believe, me, nothing beats little human girls for sheer cattiness. And I am fresh out of ideas."
"For a party? Amanda asked. "It seems so simple a solution, but why don't you have it here?"
"Here!" Jude looked around, as if seeing the place for the first time. "You're joking."
"Here? Here." Her eyes widened speculatively and she surveyed her surroundings with fresh eyes. "Oh, my. But I couldn't."
"Why not? We're old hands at giving parties here. Usually for stodgy old diplomats, but I think we could swing one for little girls. And, it's cool enough to use the grounds."
"Yes. For once it is. And to have it in your princess garden – what a coup for Emily!"
"Didn't you know? That's what the kids call it. All the human enclave classes take the garden tour as a field trip. Some of them have never seen Earth, you know. It's as close as they can get."
"I didn't know that. I'm not usually here when the tour groups go through."
"It would be wonderful," Jude sighed. But," she added reluctantly, "I couldn't dare impose."
'Don't be silly. The refreshments will be no trouble at all: the garden is bursting with fruit. T'Rueth can easily make a cake, a dozen cakes for that matter. I don't think we can manage ice cream, but we can make all sorts of fruit ices and sherbets. And afterwards they can play in the pool."
"Amanda, it has been a long time since you've had a young child! You don't stuff a child full of cake and ices and turn them loose in a swimming pool. Trust me, that's not a recipe for success for any party."
Amanda laughed. "You're right, I did forget. Well, before the cake and presents them. They can play hide and seek in the rose maze. Then they can pick their own fruit, if they want, from the gardens and coolhouses. That would be an amusement for them. They can even take a little basket home, as a party favor. Then a dip in the pool to cool off. They'll be plenty tuckered out by the time they're ready to sit down and eat."
"It sounds lovely. More than lovely, it sounds perfect. But, well…"
"What about Sarek?"
"What about him?"
"Well…shouldn't you ask him, first?"
Amanda tilted her head in pretend consideration. "He does have his mischievous moments, yes. And he's been known to surprise me. But I honestly think I know him well enough to predict that he'll unequivocally pass on any invitation to a children's party."
"I meant ask him if…" she trailed off.
Amanda smiled and shrugged. "Come on, Jude. This doesn't have any galactic, diplomatic repercussions. It's just a birthday party for one of my Academy colleague's children."
"But a lot of the kids attending will be embassy kids," Jude said worriedly. "We're not diplomats. I don't know anything about that side of things, about holding it here. Do we have to worry about…well, protocol?"
"For a seven-year-old?"
"It's not the kids I'm worried about. You know what their parents are like."
"Do you expect to have to seat them in diplomatic order as per Federation Directives?"
"I've seen it happen at some of their birthday parties that Emily's been to, believe me. And those girls learn their catty ways from their parents."
"They wouldn't dare expect it here. That's one advantage of my being outside the pale. I'm out of those little Embassy hierarchies. There's not much they can do to me. And you're not in politics, either. As for the kids, we'll just have to excuse them for not choosing their parents better."
"Amanda, you can be so…wicked." She sighed, gazing out at the gardens. "And you make it sound very tempting. But I couldn't impose."
"Jude, I'll confess. Emily's birthday just happens to also be my birthday."
"Oh, then we certainly can't intrude!"
"No, you don't understand. I don't celebrate them."
"Still, you'll want to be with your family."
"Vulcans don't celebrate birthdays either. And I don't want to celebrate one for myself. I never even gave birthday parties for my son, except for a few when he was a baby. But now that he's grown up, I realize how much I missed that. So…nothing would please me more than to throw a real Terran birthday party for a child with all the trimmings. It would be a present to me as much as to her. I'd really enjoy it."
"If you put it that way, how can I refuse?"
After that it was simple. She put T'Rueth wise to the plan. Then she paid a visit to the formal gardens and laid down the human law to a certain Vulcan sun god represented in sandstone statuary. He made no comment, but she thought she got her point across. She also took care to consult the weather forecast. She was assured by a promise of clear skies and continued cool temperatures -- by Vulcan standards, at least. She still arranged for a tent-like sun canopy to cover the place where the table would be set out, along a long corridor in the gardens where the roses arched above like a bower, a setting fit for a princess' birthday party. She added streamers and ribbons to the canopy, and stole table and chairs from the conference table in the armory; they looked close enough to thrones that it filled out the princess theme nicely.
She put T'Rueth to making cakes and ices, and if the grounds staff were heard to grumble at moving the heavy table and chairs they soon were made up for it by T'Rueth's efforts. She made half a dozen "try-cakes" before settling on a recipe she considered perfect. Amanda had said a plain yellow cake would be fine, but when she sampled T'Rueth's final effort her taste buds nearly swooned. T'Rueth had made an orange flavored cake, with icing of a complimentary citrus blend. It wasn't too over powering for six year old taste buds, but it was so scrumptious Amanda was tempted to start renting out the garden to birthday parties just to have the excuse to eat any leftovers. They added sherbets of suitably pastel shades and fruit flavors to the menu: orange, lime and lemon, raspberry and strawberry. And lemonade and grape and orange juice for beverages. The rainbow of refreshments all looked delicious and tasted even better. Amanda deemed the party a success already.
She hadn't bothered to tell Sarek about it. He would be at Council. And he wouldn't be interested anyway. She'd always found it best to let her Vulcans remain blissfully ignorant about things that didn't concern them. They were such know-it-alls about everything else, it served them right.
Anyway, he would eat up all the refreshments.
The sun god cooperated, the preparations were complete, and Amanda had rescheduled her classes to spend the day at home. At breakfast, she was amusedly wondering how sophisticated a hostess as herself, who had twenty years of giving political functions behind her, could be just a bit nervous about a birthday party. So much so that she almost overlooked her husband's appearance at the breakfast table. Almost, before his informal clothing finally registered.
"You're dressed very oddly for Council. Have they decided to have the Vulcan equivalent of Casual Fridays? I'd love to see what the Guard are wearing."
"They will be dressed as usual, I presume," Sarek said equably.
"That's a relief. I'm rather fond of those uniforms. They're so…logical," Amanda said wickedly, for it was well known the traditional Guard uniforms were bizarrely and iconoclastically violent in appearance. It was a favorite photo snap of the tourists visiting Castle Keep.
"There is a logic behind them," Sarek replied unperturbed. "However, Council will meet without me today. I had heard of your arrangements to 'play hooky' today from work. It seemed an opportune time for me to take a free day as well. This rain has made Vulcan rival in blooms equal to your garden." Sarek raised a questioning brow. "I thought we might take advantage of that, and visit some of the more scenic oasis to see some of the natural blooms this rain sometimes brings. It may be many years before such another such rainstorm may bring similar conditions."
Her eyes widened, even as she wondered at her husband's myriad sources of information. Who had spilled the beans…and how far? "That's …very…sweet," she stalled, then said, with relief at finding so easy an excuse. "But you know I can't hike so far into the Forge, even in winter."
"I'm aware the Forge is hardly hospitable to humans, even at this relatively mild season of the year. But we will take an aircar. We can return long before you become fatigued. In fact, I am sure T'Rueth would be willing to pack us a picnic lunch, to refresh ourselves along the way."
Amanda stole a glance at the kitchen, where T'Rueth had, in fact, stuck her head out and behind her husband's broad back was miming sephamores of distress. Amanda cleared her throat self consciously. "Unfortunately, I made plans for this afternoon. I'm actually going to be very busy."
Sarek raised a brow at her uncharacteristic -- and very unwifely refusal – at least unworthy of a Vulcan wife. "Humans eat lunch."
Amanda smiled charmingly, to take the sting out of her rejection. "Indeed we do. But this human happens to be booked all day today. Duty, you know."
Across the table, Sarek sat back a little, figuratively digging in his heels. He met her eyes with a cool stare that was a veteran of a thousand successful negotiations across various conference tables, though he rarely used it at her breakfast table. "A short excursion might not take much more than an hour. Two at the most."
Experience had fortunately inured her to what she thought of as the Vulcan Death Stare. Far from melting into a little puddle at her husband's feet as had many a less savvy negotiator, she didn't even loose her sweet smile. "It's a lovely thought. But, you should have asked me before you cleared your schedule. I'm very sorry, but I won't be free until tea time at least."
"Indeed." While clearly far less than pleased to her discerning eyes, being a Vulcan to the core, he didn't violate her privacy to ask why she would be busy, since she clearly seemed disinclined to mention it. After considering her amendment, he said. "At this season of the year, that is too late in the day, too close to sunset, for such an expedition. The evening predators will arise to take advantage of the game visiting the surface water." He paused, looking at her speculatively, then shrugged and to her relief, let go of his plans. "Given as I am free, perhaps I will take this time for a long hike on the Forge. It has been some months since I have had an opportunity for such. It will be very refreshing."
Amanda disciplined herself not to let out a breath in relief, a little amazed she had so easily disposed of this nuisancy problem. As a Vulcan, he'd have been well within his rights to get a little testy over being refused, even to give her an emphatic order. Or, like a human husband, to just hang around the house and plague her all day. In view of that, she owed him one. "That sounds like a wonderful idea." She said enthusiastically, even though she usually hated his desert hikes through the risky, untamed Forge, rife with predators both animal and vegetable and normally would, if not try to talk him out of it, at least load him down with warnings and adjurations.
Sarek raised a suspicious brow at her unprecedented acquiescence to this plan. "You usually dislike my hiking on the Forge. You have previously manifested strong arguments against such expeditions, in spite of my having repeatedly assured you of my safety."
Amanda merely smiled serenely, though she was thinking of the ingratitude. Here she was, sending him off without a murmur, with both hands! When before, she would have given him a hard time. Serve him right if she wasn't always sweetly devoted. Anyway, she had a right to worry until her men returned safe and sound from those Forge excursions. But keeping a Vulcan off the desert was like keeping a bird from flying. They were drawn to those hostile sands like iron filings to a magnet, no matter how much she argued against it. "Your eminently logical arguments have finally managed to convince me, is all. I have no worries whatsoever. Enjoy your day." Amanda smiled at him and restrained herself from making a shooing motion. "Bye."
Sarek gave her a long, evaluative look, apparently not the least convinced by her change in attitude, and more disbelieving than ever. But then he shrugged like a Vulcan, a mere slight head tilt, perhaps assigning her quixotic behavior to being an illogical human female – not the first time that had been convenient when trying to pull something over on her Vulcans -- and left to change into desert fatigues.
Amanda breathed a sigh of relief. Not that Sarek would object to her issuing her own invitations, but she didn't want to deal with Vulcan curiosity, and the inevitable questioning of and references to the illogicality of the activities throughout the afternoon. Nor did she want to explain every arcane custom until he "understood". If she was going to only hold one human child's birthday party, she wanted it undimmed by trying to recast even part of it within a Vulcan's logical context.
The party was a huge success, if you can call twenty little screaming miniature hoydens running roughshod through the roses a success. They'd taken a long tour of the gardens, then picked their fruit and arranged it in baskets by their plates, and now were supposedly picking bouquets of roses to take home to their mothers, with an extra special gigantic bouquet for the birthday girl. Their calls and cries as they raced around to find the prettiest roses and best each other in making the prettiest bouquet would have rivaled a lematya for sheer volume. And her Vulcan gardeners would no doubt be horrified at this wanton destruction, given Amanda wasn't much of one for cut flowers. They, and the roses, would recover, however. And the guests were having fun, or so it seemed.
"They're such… girls," Amanda said, bemused. After living in a male household for twenty years – and nothing beat one very Vulcan husband, and one Vulcan son, for unbridled testosterone, or the Vulcan equivalent thereof-- she was unprepared for this sheer quantity of unabashed femininity. Flowered dresses, satin sashes, lacy tights, bows and barrettes holding back cascades of curls. "Really –such girls."
"Girls personified. Girls squared. Ruffled, beribboned girls. Not a tomboy in the lot of them."
"Naturally. They're at the stage where they want nothing to do with little boys. Snips, snails and puppydog tails." Jude looked at Amanda. "Believe me, I'm savoring it. It won't last long. The only thing worse about the boy/girl wars is when they're over and suddenly you have to worry day and night about keeping them apart."
"I guess I've forgotten that about raising human children."
"Blissful ignorance, I'd say."
Amanda shrugged a brow, Vulcan style. And then turned her head as the glad screams of little girls playing hide and seek among the roses turned into a piercing shrieks.
The three little girls playing in the rose maze could be forgiven for their alarms, for the roses had hidden Sarek's approach. His disheveled appearance and formidable presence when he broke through into their midst would have given pause to stauncher souls than these little girls. And while he wasn't surprised in turn – he had heard them long before, after all, and was merely mildly curious as to who they were as he made his way in from the desert -- he had forgotten that being human, they wouldn't have heard him. Their sudden, shocked screams thus surprised him as much as they'd been startled. Sarek had stopped as if dead in his tracks, taken aback in turn by their outcries. The two stared at each other, equally stunned, in the silence that followed. It said much for the courage of each sets of parties that neither turned tail and ran in that first moment. With the resilience of youth, the girls recovered first while Sarek was still calming his racing heart.
The three little girls Sarek had come across were pretty little pictures of feminine humanity, in spite of their amazing capacity to produce noise. One was a miniature Snow White with raven hair, one a Titian portrait in miniature, and one could have doubled for Alice in Wonderland, her white blond hair held back with a ribbon that matched her blue eyes.
"It's a Vulcan!" Snow White breathed.
The Titian girl added, "A dirty Vulcan."
"I didn't think Vulcans got dirty like that," said Alice.
"That's the dirtiest Vulcan I've ever seen," the first girl said, uncharitably but probably accurately, for Sarek had indeed run into some trouble on the Forge.
The dirt that covered him, however, didn't hide his features or identity from one of the more prescient girls, who pushed her fellow and exclaimed. "Stupid! That's the bad Sir Sarek! Haven't you seen his pictures on the vid?"
"What's he doing here?"
"Ambassador," Amanda corrected her gently, coming up behind the three to see what had caused the ruckus. "It's Ambassador Sarek. Sarek, what are you doing here? I thought you were--"
"What's he done?"
"Yes, why's he bad?"
"He's not," Amanda began again. "The title is--"
"He must have done something bad, to get that dirty," Snow pointed out.
"Yes, Ambassadors," the girl stuttered a little over the title, "wear fancy dress. They're clean. They don't show up at parties uninvited and covered in--"
"Because he's full of snails." The third girl asserted. "That's why. He's bad, dirty. And full of snails."
Sarek had been listening with raised brows up till now, but he drew umbrage at this. "I have never eaten snails. I am a vegetarian. Snails are not even indigenous to--"
Amanda headed off this debate. "Sarek, she six. She doesn't know what vegetarian means, much less indigenous – and how did you get so dirty? What are you doing back here?"
"You are so a snail eater!" The girl said from the safety of Amanda's back.
"All boys are." The other chimed in from the other side of her.
Sarek drew a breath to counter this, but at Amanda's head shake, let it out in a deflated sigh.
"He is not," Amanda fielded gently.
"Miss Mandy, you're a teacher," Snow said. "So you must know all boys are dirty and nasty. And if you're full of snails, you must be bad. Besides he's a boy and he is dirty."
"Quid, pro, quo," Amanda laughed, amused.
"That's why he's a bad Sir Sarek!" They suddenly all ran off, triumphant in agreement, before Sarek could even draw breath to contradict.
"Well, it is logical, in a way," Amanda offered to Sarek.
"It is not," Sarek said, with a trace of indignation, though it wasn't clear whether it was the allegation of snail eating or the confused mangling of his title that rankled him more. "Why do they consider that I'm – that males of any sort --"
"It's a long story," Amanda said. "I'll satisfy your curiosity on that point later. Meanwhile, I've got twenty little girls to ride herd on here and no time to get into a logical debate or illogical explanations of the same. For now, you're going to have to fend for yourself. And what are you doing here, anyway?"
He drew himself up. "That is the third time you have asked. I have every right to be present. In case you have forgotten, I live here." He said it with as much dignity as a dirty scruffy full-of-snails Vulcan could.
She choked back a laugh. "I meant…what are you doing here now? I thought you were going for a long hike on the Forge."
"Events required me to return home early."
"What events?" She scrutinized him closely. "What happened to you? Don't tell me – you lost your footing – escaping from some wild animal, no doubt, and rolled down one of those mountains – and all that dirt is hiding bruises – or worse. And after all my warnings about the dangers out—"
"And you've got a scratch," Amanda reached out, but Sarek warded her off. He had arrested the bleeding, but the girls had distracted him from it, and it had started again. He wiped the blood off his face, and reestablished his control.
Frustrated, she said, "Fighting with some wild animal--"
"I was not fighting."
"It was fighting with you, then.
"Certainly not. However I did recover an injured bird that requires immediate veterinary aid." He raised a brow at her stricken look and her sudden "oh!" and he added, "Professional veterinary aid. Not human TLC."
She drew up a bit herself. "You needn't be quite that blunt. I can take a hint."
"And as you can see, I'm rather busy myself now, hosting this party. There's plenty of cake if you'd like to join us after your bird gets seen to. In the meantime, do get cleaned up. You are a disgrace, coming like that to a birthday party."
"I have the raptor to attend to. And then I am sure I will find something else which requires my immediate attention. Far, far away."
"Chicken," Amanda teased.
"It is a raptor," Sarek asserted.
"You know very well what I mean. But I agree, if I were you, I'd rather face a full grown raptor myself than twenty little human girls. I'm not even too sure about myself."
Sarek was settling the raptor in a cozy nest like box in a suitable corner of the gardens when the three heads of his nemesis popped up over a rose hedge. "What's in that box?"
"It is a bird, an injured Vulcan raptor," Sarek said.
"Is that Miss Mandy's present? It's her birthday too," Snow asked.
"A stinky old bird? That doesn't seem like a very good present," Titian observed.
"It is not her present," Sarek said.
The three girls approached. "Then where is her present? We want to see it."
"Yes, we want to watch her open it."
"I have not obtained one."
Two little girls gasped, while the third fixed him with a steadfast glare. "You are in terrible trouble."
"My wife does not celebrate birthdays," Sarek said, secure in that knowledge. But based on their apoplectic expressions, his assertion scored a direct hit on their sensibilities as to what was proper. And apparently put even his credibility at risk. He gave a longing look to the distant Forge as the three ringed themselves around him, cutting off any easy escape.
"Telling such terrible fibs -- "
"Everyone celebrates birthdays!"
"My wife does not," Sarek asserted.
"You had better run right out and get that present. If you know what's good for you," Alice warned, the ribbon holding back her hair setting off her suddenly stormy blue eyes.
"I never procure birthday presents. It is an illogical human custom. I see no need to change--"
"Never? Not one?"
The trio of truly stricken expressions abruptly arrested Sarek from what had been a securely held conviction of impregnable rectitude. "No…." he temporized, looking from one to the other for their reactions.
For a moment there was a silence appropriate to the enormity of the crime. Not even a Vulcan, particularly a telepathic Vulcan, could miss the reverberations of doom emanating between them. "Boy, is he ever full of snails," Titian finally opined.
"They named him right," Snow said darkly. "A bad Sir Sarek for sure."
"Worse than bad," Alice agreed.
"As you have been informed, the correct title is Ambassador --" Sarek began with ragged patience.
"Even if you are full of snails, you could at least get her a nice present. Not some stinky, dirty bird."
"The bird is not her present--"
"Miss Mandy deserves --"
"A good Sir Sarek!"
"I am good," Sarek asserted.
All three girls solemnly shook their heads.
Sarek drew breath to argue, but then, taken aback by the trio of concerted steadfast conviction facing him, he deflated, beginning to doubt his conviction himself, and at a loss as to what logical argument could convince them of that fact. Meanwhile, the court before him debated his potential fate.
"He'll be standing in the corner for the rest of his life," Titian concluded. "He might as well just live there."
"He could buy her flowers. That's what my dad does when he's in bad trouble," Alice offered. "My mother says--"
"She's already got lots of flowers." Titian waved to the outside gardens.
"Chocolates. That's what my dad gives," Snow suggested.
"Flowers and chocolates are only good for little things. Not things this bad. There's not enough chocolate in this world to save him over never getting a birthday present. Jewelry," Titian decided. "After all this time, some really good jewelry. Even that might not help, if you've – Never at all?"
Giving up his own conviction as to his innocence and throwing himself figuratively before these self appointed judges, Sarek just shook his head, human style. If nothing else, he'd succumbed to curiosity as to what his fate would be.
"Boy, oh boy," The girls wagged their heads in turn. "You are never going to get out of that corner."
"In time-out for a jillion years."
"And serve him right, too. Coming to the party all dirty," Snow criticized. "With just a stinky old bird and no present!"
"Daddies don't stand in corners. They sleep in the guest room. Or on the couch." Titian skewered him with a glance. "Forever."
"Indeed?" Sarek said, shocked into comment by this fate.
"The dog house. For sure."
"Probably that's why he's so dirty. He always sleeps in the doghouse," Snow said.
"I intend to presently change, after I've attended to the —"
"You had better change!"
"Maybe he's not so bad. If he wants to change. Miss Mandy is a nice lady," Alice explained earnestly. "She's always very patient when she teaches us our Christmas songs. And she's kind to the boys even though they are full of snails. So, I imagine that if you give her a really really good present--"
"Jewelry. Good jewelry."
"-- and maybe a kiss and promise never to forget her birthday again--"
"She might forgive you too."
"Even if you are full of snails." Snow chimed in.
"I doubt it," Titian opined. "He's too bad."
"But Vulcans are not—" Sarek began to protest.
"See? He doesn't want to change. Stand in the corner for the rest of his life," said Titian, with a sage nod.
Alice turned on him in frustration. "Look, just because you're full of snails, you don't have to act like it!"
"I am not—" Sarek began, but was cut off by a trio of outraged femininity.
"Snails!" the three exploded in concert.
"Sir bad Bad Bad Sarek,"
"Boys!" the court then concluded unanimously. "Dirty, nasty, and all of them full of snails. Even Vulcan boys."
And they turned with one swirl of flouncing petticoats and huffed away.
The party was a grand success, even if one Vulcan made himself scarce through the rest of it. Amanda was too busy to reflect upon his absence, and Sarek had decided to take the raptor in to the vet, rather than waiting for a house call. He came back well after the Fortress was empty of its guests, the rose garden and conservatories only a little tattered in their wake, bleeding petals, crushed blossoms and dropped fruit, but blessedly silent.
"I am told I am entirely remiss," Sarek said, coming up behind his wife as she was changing for dinner, her afternoon clothes rather marred from fruit juice spills and other sticky remains.
"Oh, Sarek, surely not. It didn't die, did it? Still, I know you got that poor creature to the vet as soon as possible."
"Not in regard to the raptor."
"Will it be all right?"
"My state of remiss?"
Amanda turned to him. "Sarek. You aren't listening to me. Will …your… raptor… recover?" She spoke in the careful enunciation suitable for seven year olds. Slow seven year olds.
"You are not listening to me. I am discussing an event entirely different."
Amanda shook her head in exasperation, and took up her hair brush. "Not until you tell me how the raptor is," she said stubbornly.
Sarek drew an impatient breath, and then, already defeated, let it out. "It will have a permanent disability in one wing, such that it probably wouldn't survive in the wild, but we will raise and train it to hunt here in the gardens, and there is enough game it should eke out a very satisfactory existence."
"Oh, I'm glad. Not that it will be disabled, but that it will survive at least. And we'll have it around here. Sort of a pet. They're so cute. Such big eyes."
"It is a night predator. The eyes are large to see in the dark, not for any purpose of attractiveness."
"They're still cute. Like a little owl."
"It will grow to a wing span of over one meter. I don't suspect that you will find it cute when it is swooping down on your resident feeder birds. Or decimates the wild litka population."
"Even a raptor has to eat. The birds have had a pretty free ride here so far. And we could do with a litka or two less. We'll call him Wol." Amanda decided.
"It is a female. And can we please dispense with this subject, and attend to the one which I am attempting to discuss."
"She then. The name works as well for a girl."
Amanda abandoned the raptor discussion and folded her arms. "All right. There is no Owl," she intoned solemnly.
"In fact, there is not. It is a ---"
"That's a quote. From the Once and Future King. Arthur sees Merlin's Owl for the first time, but the bird is nervous, so when he asks to pet him, the bird closes his eyes and turns his head completely around, and answers that there is no---"
"And then the Merlyn says to the Owl that Arthur is only a boy, and Wol says, "There is no boy" You see it's sort of a logical allegory on existential--.
"Well, I was just explaining my joke," She sat back, slightly miffed. "You'd find it funny if you listened for half a minute."
'I am a Vulcan. I don't find jokes amusing."
"What are you in such a temper over?"
"I am not in a temper," Sarek said, with more than a little heat.
Amanda just raised a brow, saying in her best Vulcan manner. "Indeed."
"Amanda –" Sarek warned.
"All right." Amanda sighed and got to the heart of what she was suspecting he found unconscionable, though she couldn't understand why. "Did you really mind my hosting that party so much? I didn't think you would, and I didn't tell you only because I figured what Vulcans don't know, can't hurt them."
"You may have as many parties as you choose. So long as you inform me well enough in advance that the next time I can arrange to be far, far, far away. Perhaps in the next quadrant of space."
She half smiled. "See I told you that you wouldn't like it. The shrieking hurt your ears?"
"Your guests, my wife, informed me that I have been remiss."
"Sarek, those girls are seven. They wouldn't know the word "remiss" if it bit them."
"Very well, that is my translation of their evaluation of my behavior."
"Remiss for not joining the party? Nonsense, no one expected it. Everyone knows Vulcans don't celebrate birthdays."
'But Terrans do."
"Yes, Terrans do," Amanda eyed him, wondering at his point. "Hence the party for Emily." She began to mentally marshal her arguments as to why it shouldn't have been an issue, politically or socially. Not to mention his comment that she could have the party…
"And none for Amanda."
She stopped, well and truly caught, not having expected this trap. "But I don't celebrate birthdays."
"Terrans do," he reminded her.
"Not necessarily all Terrans," Amanda qualified, feeling on safer ground.
"Your guests informed me that it is a terrible crime for me to overlook your birthday."
"Oh," she said, beginning to understand. "Is that it? I don't think so. No."
"They were quite specific. Indeed, they were quite insistent. Standing in a corner for the rest of my life was mentioned as one suitable punishment. There were also references of banishment to couches and guest rooms and even animal habitations. Unless I immediately showered you with flowers and chocolates and 'really good' jewelry. Given these dire fates, I stand at ready to remedy my behavioral flaws."
Amanda laughed. "Believe me, Sarek, a human wife has innumerable ways to make her displeasure known. If I wanted to you to note my birthday, you would have heard of it by now. And what do I need for presents? You've already given me a garden that produces more flowers every day than most Terran women receive in a lifetime from their husbands. And chocolates would make me fat. As for jewels, that would be bringing coals to Newcastle. Your clan has enough jewels, after millennia of war and plunder, to overfill the vaults and museums. I could never wear them all even if I tried. Why would I want more?"
"Then I am at a loss, my wife as to how to make appropriate restitution."
"You've none to make. Sarek, birthdays aren't important to me."
"How can I believe that…after seeing you go to such lengths to give a party for this child, a stranger?"
"That's different. She is a child."
"Because I am Vulcan does not mean you can't celebrate your birthday. Or that you need to hide the celebration thereof. If it is something so intrinsic to human culture."
She turned away. "Doesn't it? Frankly, it reminds me of things I'd rather not consider. Not being a child, and being human, most definitely some of them."
"I don't understand."
"Sarek, I already know how short my lifespan is compared to yours. I really, honestly, don't want a reminder that every year I grow a little older. Comparatively older, relative to your age. Forgive my vanity, but honestly, I try not to remember my birthday. And I'd really rather you didn't. Maybe that's part of why I didn't want you around, so I could enjoy this one, just once, without being reminded of what it meant for us. It's a painful thought."
Sarek paused a moment, considering that. "How different our perspectives. I would consider it a celebration of another year we have shared together."
"Time stands relatively still for you."
"Untrue. I too feel the passage of years."
"'I walked to the stables as quickly as ever, and arrived much later than I expected.'"
"Quote. From Camelot, actually. Never mind, our Wol just reminded me of that."
"Indeed." Sarek gave her a look that clearly said what he thought of his wife's illogical human thought processes. "To return to my point: To me, every year you grow more beautiful. More accomplished. More precious. I, for one, would welcome such a celebration in our lives. And an appropriate venue to show such appreciation."
"What a charmer you are my husband. No wonder you're such a good politician," she smiled a trace, "even if you are 'a bad Sir' Sarek."
"Ambassador," Sarek corrected automatically, as it seemed he'd been doing all afternoon. "Ambassador Sarek."
"How formal." She extended a hand, a wickedly gauche gesture to a Vulcan, one even she wouldn't have made even as a girl. "Amanda Grayson. Do I know you, sir?"
"I believe we have met," Sarek said dryly. "Perhaps this will remind you," taking her hand but sliding two fingers against hers in the public touch acceptable to bondmates.
Amanda slid her hand away, and tapped the two fingers instead to her brow, thoughtfully. "It would be hard to forget a face like yours, I know, but I'm getting on. The mind goes, the memory fades. Wait, wait, don't prompt me, I know I've met you somewhere. It will come to me… The ears look familiar…"
Sarek drew up at that. "Amanda…"
"The Tellurian/Federation Centennial Bash – weren't you the one at the bar, cracking all those Orion slave girl jokes?"
"I've never been one for Orion women. In fact, I've always found Earth girls to be …what is that characterization I've encountered…" Sarek drew it out, enjoying it, paying her back for her remark about his ears. "Easy."
"Easy!" Amanda was offended.
"A mis-statement," Sarek recovered smoothly, having made his point, so to speak. "Upon reflection, my wife, you have never been easy."
She gave him a suspicious look, given this left-handed compliment was little better. "I thought you'd done with never."
"That is true, I have. But this now depends on you. And on… context."
"When we first discussed marriage, my husband, I had some concerns we had no shared history. Now I'm beginning to think we have far, far, far too much of it. A good reason alone to skip the whole notion of celebrating birthdays."
"Nevertheless, I would not wish to fail in my husbandly duty on such occasions, the penalties being so dire. Are you quite sure you wouldn't care for some small trinket to mark the occasion? A golden watch? A string of pearls? A box of Hershey bars? I have been told by wise counselors that a girl cannot have too many of either of these staples."
"I only like dark chocolate, and you'd only eat the candy yourself. Besides, your regard is what I want. Much more indulgent than chocolate bars. And aside from the occasionally insufferable comment -- which I will get back at you for when you least expect it -- your regard, when you're not being the 'bad Sir' Sarek, is something you give me every day."
"Indeed. Then I am not remiss," Sarek said with some satisfaction.
"Well, except for one thing," Amanda reflected. "I do expect a birthday kiss."
"Having just narrowly escaped one major transgression, I certainly would not wish to again risk standing in the corner for the rest of my life for failing to deliver such a trifle."
"We're both of us getting a bit too …hmmm, I won't say old, but too…mature. Definitely too mature to be standing in corners. At least for what I have in mind."
Sarek raised a brow in pretend shock.
"Bed is more to the purpose," Amanda finished.
Shocked or not, Sarek wasted no time in picking up his wife and effecting that relocation. "You are very very wicked my wife."
"All wives should be wicked. And you were the one remarking on how context," she pulled a pillow under her head more comfortably, "is everything. This is a better context...for such activities."
Sarek considered that, and gave a Vulcan shrug in agreement. "Perhaps true. One question, however, yet remains."
Amanda sighed. "I told you, it was an existential joke."
"Not that. Please explain, my wife. Why am I allegedly full of snails?"
"Oh." She lay back looking up at him. "Because you're all boy," she said. "Snips and snails and puppydogs' tails. That's what boys are made of."
"That is entirely illogical."
"Maybe. But that you're all boy, in spite of, or as well as, being all Vulcan, is what this little girl likes best."
Sarek looked down at her. "Indeed. And little girls? What are little girls made of?"
"That's easy. Sugar and spice and everything nice."
Sarek flicked a brow in concession. "Obviously. Quite logical. Now why could I not have deduced that?"
Amanda stretched luxuriously, arms behind her head. "You still owe me that kiss. Care to have a taste?"
Sarek complied and then looked down at her with amusement. "I was correct."
"Always," Amanda answered. "What about this time?"
"Earth girls are easy," Sarek said, and silenced her protests with a kiss that may not have been full of sugar and spice, but was sweeter than any Hershey bar.
Snips and Snails