Epilogue: Hope Redeemed

When Amanda awoke her face felt stiff. She opened her eyes to find herself looking into a very familiar face.

"You're still here," she said, her voice thick. Her throat was sore, her eyes puffy...but the unbearable emotional pressure that had weighed on her was gone. She had cried it away the night before. Now she just felt...empty. Hollowed out.

"Where else would I have gone?" he asked, stroking her hair and kissing her lightly. "I have not left the room since you went to sleep."

"Thank you, Sarek. For staying on Vulcan," she said, letting her eyes slip closed.

"There is no need to thank me. I was not in any state to go either."

She opened her eyes again. He looked calm, collected...as he always did. She thought back to the night before- to how he had broken. She recalled the pain in his eyes, in his voice...the emotions she had felt from him. She had not been the only one to cry. She'd felt his tears too; they had been silent and few but they had mingled with her own.

She reached up to lay a hand on his cheek, her thumb stroking the corner of his mouth. He raised his hand to hers and caught her fingers- interlacing them together with his. She watched as he closed his eyes. He looked to be deep in thought, silently reflecting on something that was an unknown to her. "There's something you want to say. I can sense it," she said gently. "Tell me, Sarek."

A moment of silence fell between them- peaceful and contemplative before he finally answered her, his voice low.

"I had doubts," he said quietly. "About our marriage. I considered releasing you from the bond even if you tried to refuse."

"When? Last night?" she asked. He nodded, closing his eyes again briefly.

"I found that I would not be able to commit such a crime against myself. I do not know how you have affected me this way or how it impedes my ability to make logical decisions, but it does. It would be logical to end this. Yet I cannot- will not."

She listened silently, looking up at the man who was her husband- the Vulcan who had only ever let down his emotional barriers for her. He was letting them down again...she could sense it.

"We have had many difficult times and there will be many more. Last night I gave up hope. I could see nothing but misery in our future...there was nothing but darkness and despair. But then I lay next to you...I smelled your hair, felt your skin against mine...I recalled the times when I have been the most content and realized they were all when I was with you. It is selfish, but I refuse to give you up. I refuse to allow this despair to continue. We cannot change what happened...but we still have many things to look forward to and strive for. Do not allow yourself to dwell on this, my ashayam. If you do, we have no hope for our future and we will only destroy what remains of this relationship."

"I want to hope. I just don't know if I can right now," she said softly, nuzzling her face closer to his chest. "I don't know if I can heal from this pain."

"Then I will help you," he replied, tilting her face so she looked up at him. "You once told me our relationship is worth the pain. Do you not still believe that?"

"I do, but..." She couldn't finish the thought. She didn't know what she was going to say.

"Then try, Amanda. You cannot dwell on pain and misery. This situation cannot be helped that way."

"I will try," she said. She honestly did not think it would be as easy as he made it sound...but he was right. If she dwelt on this they would not be able to move forward. And she did want to put this behind her.

They did not speak for several moments, during which he closed his eyes and continued to stroke her hair. Then she remembered something he had said.

"Ashayam..." she repeated. "Sarek, what does that mean?" He opened his eyes, looking down at her.

"Beloved. It is one of the ancient Vulcan words no longer used today, and known by few," he replied in a soft voice, pulling her against him and tightening his arms around her waist.

"That's the closest you've ever come to admitting you love me," she whispered.

"Do the words matter?" he asked.

"No...they don't." And they didn't. She already knew how he felt- had known it for months. She didn't need to hear the words for validation. She knew it in the tender way he touched her- the way his eyes softened minutely when they fell on her, even when in the company of others. She knew it in the way he bent the laws of logic and the doctrine of Surak to please her. She knew it in the way he was holding her now...like she was the only thing that mattered to him.

She once again buried her face in his chest.

Hope...it seemed a distant thing, unreachable. But it felt as if it were getting nearer with every passing moment.

Two months later...

Despite hardships, life has a way of going on. The world does not stop with one tragedy, even if it feels like it should...and while those tragedies may result in pain that feels like it will never go away and wounds that feel as if they'll never heal, they inevitably do.

The first days were full of pain for them both. They hardly left the bedchamber...they took their meals there, spent the time talking, and Sarek played his ka'athyra for her. It was peaceful, quiet...but the truth hovered over them.

It wasn't easy to get over. How could it be? They had both endured a personal loss together. They had grieved together. Cried together. And in the end...came out stronger than ever.

They still had their lives before them- a future. It would have been illogical to dwell when they still had a chance, still had hope...for themselves...and for a family when they were ready for it.

They were hurting but they would heal. They always did. That was the way of life.

Weeks passed and they improved- slowly but surely. And there were even moments when they went backwards. But they were closer than ever. When at home they were nearly inseparable. Sarek even allowed her in his office while he worked, something that was unprecedented. And the few times he had to go to Earth she went with him instead of staying behind. The bond was open at all times no matter what...they were easing back into a routine.

Life had once more taken on some semblance of normalcy, with subtle changes that indicated their increased closeness- indicative of their resolution to continue this ill-fated marriage. They were determined to win against the odds and they knew they would in the end. They would show the universe- they would take whatever it threw at them and emerge from the aftermath victorious and unscathed.

And two months after their ordeal, the Vulcan embassy on Earth was completed. They were ready to go back- to start over yet again. To bring their hope to a new home. To begin to construct a new life around it from scratch.

Amanda especially looked forward to being among her own people again- even if that included reporters. But moving back to Earth meant packing...a chore she truly detested.

"Damn," she said with a sigh as she tried to reach the topmost holograph hanging on the wall in the bedroom. She felt a sudden warm presence behind her and a familiar black-clad arm reached over her shoulder to retrieve it for her. She took it from his hand gratefully and turned to face him. "Thanks. Did you get the ones in the living room for me?" she asked.

"They are in a crate with the rest of our belongings," he replied and took the holograph from her again to set it in the waiting box. He then took both of her hands into his and drew her close to him, lacing his fingers through hers.

One thing she had noticed...ever since that night two months ago, Sarek was more inclined to show affection. He was not above it before- but generally she initiated it or he did so only when she desired it. But now...he often surprised her with gestures of affection when she was not expecting it. It was one of the many positive aspects that had sprung from that night.

He kissed her gently, stroking the side of her face with the back of his hand. She smiled, leaning into his warm touch.

"There's something I want to talk to you about," Amanda said, tightening her fingers around his.

"I am listening," he said as she backed him toward the divan, where he sat and she climbed onto his lap to straddle him.

"While we're on Earth there's something I want to do," she said.

"Does it concern your sister?" he asked. Amanda bit her lip.

"No. She still won't return my calls. I'm just going to give her the space she wants for awhile...this is about my career."

"The heretofore nonexistent career which you often complain about," he pointed out. She pressed a reproving finger against his lips.

"Hush, adun. I don't complain- I merely comment that there isn't anything for me here. And you know that's true. I am not in any way qualified to teach Vulcan children."

"Perhaps the five year old class," he said. She glared at him but they both knew she was not truly angry.

"So what I want to do is work towards my doctorate," she finished. He nodded slowly.

"A wise decision. It is logical to expand one's knowledge. What field will you concentrate on?"

"Linguistics. And I also want to get a degree in xenocultural history. You know, learning Vulcan has given me a new appreciation for languages. I want to study them further. And as for xenocultural history...putting up with you- and you can be a pain in the ass at times- has made me realize just how different our species are. I want to study this further and specialize in Vulcan-human dynamics."

"Logical choices," he replied. "Although I must add that it is often difficult to put up with you as well."

"I'm learning the ways of logic from you," she said, ignoring his last comment and smiling as she kissed him.

"That is....quite an alarming thought."

"What? Learning it from you?"

"No, a human attempting to apply logic to any situation. The idea is dangerous."

She shook with laughter, her arms tightening around him as she buried her face in his shoulder. "Sarek, you of all Vulcans have no room to talk. Anyway...I got a call today from a school in San Francisco. It just so happens that they're looking for a teacher. It's an elementary class, which isn't really what I was looking for...but I'll take what I can get at the moment. Class started last month, so it'll be a late start. Hey, you know what..." Amanda's eyes glazed over suddenly.

"Amanda?" he questioned when she didn't speak again for several seconds. She looked at him.

"We've known each other for over a year now," she said. "To tell the truth, I didn't like you when I first met you. You were a jerk."

"I apologize for being a 'jerk' but your behavior was somewhat irregular," he said. "You were more illogical than most humans."

"Be careful or you're sleeping on the divan tonight," she warned, pointing a finger at him.

"I do not believe you truly want that," Sarek said, his voice low as he pulled her closer and began to kiss her neck. "It is generally tradition for us to spend the night before departures in a rather restless manner. And as we leave Vulcan tomorrow I am sure you would not want to depart from tradition."

"That's putting it mildly. But stop- I'm trying to make a point here," she said, pushing him away. She felt his disappointment and smiled. "I think I made a monster out of you, you know. There was time when you barely entertained the idea of sex on a regular basis. Now..."

"You said you had a point to make," he interrupted, eyebrows rising.

"Right. Well...when I first met you, I didn't like you. And you thought I was illogical. Who would have known we'd end up here a year from then?"

"No one could have known." He frowned slightly. "It is illogical to assume so."

"Never mind my poor, hopeless Vulcan husband," she said with a sigh, leaning forward and kissing him again. "For a genius, you are clueless."

"How so?"

"This is a hypothetical situation...say someone from the future traveled back in time- and don't say a word," she said, raising a hand when he began to protest. "Suppose someone went back to a year ago and said; 'Ambassador, a year from now you will be bonded to a human and will have made many illogical decisions.' What would you say to him?"

She wasn't sure Sarek was even paying attention. He was currently placing kisses in a line from her lips, to her neck, and then to her collarbone. She leaned back as he lifted her shirt over her head and tossed it aside, leaving her in only a bra and skirt.

"I would assume I had ingested a hallucinogen," he replied, kissing the tops of her breasts. She wondered how he could be paying attention to her words when he was currently otherwise occupied...human men couldn't do it. At this point, their blood would have gone south and they would be thinking with the wrong head- not both, like he was doing.

Then again, she was having a similar problem as his expert fingers found the clasp to her bra. Maybe it wasn't just a human male thing- but a human thing in general.

"What if you knew...uh...that..." She cleared her throat. "What if you knew he was telling the truth?"

"I would ask which human. Once he said you, I would have thought he was under the influence of a hallucinogen."

"Is that good or-" she broke off with a sharp intake of breath as the sound of ripping cloth rent the air and she felt a breeze across her legs. Her skirt was suddenly gone. "Sarek! You ripped my skirt!" she exclaimed and pushed at his shoulders.

"It was in the way."

"That's not an excuse! I liked that skirt!"

"Perhaps you should do away with clothing entirely- then this will not be an issue."

"Was that a joke, Ambassador?" she asked playfully. His hands tightened on her waist, and she was suddenly laying on the divan, looking up at him.

"No, merely a suggestion," he replied, kissing her again. Deciding that she'd had enough talk for the day...and night...she wrapped her arms and legs around him, letting herself get lost in his kisses and the feel of his hot skin against hers...

But before becoming utterly consumed, she had time for one last coherent thought. A lot can happen in a year. They'd met, fallen in love, gotten married...lost a child...they had been through a lot together. And although she had only known him a year- and had only been married to him four and a half months- she was closer to him than she'd been to anyone.

And who knew what the coming year might bring? She didn't know...but she was looking forward to it. She had a feeling good things were finally coming to them...the peace they had struggled for was finally upon them. She could feel it...and they both welcomed it.

The hope that once seemed so insurmountable to Amanda now filled her- it filled them both. Sarek had helped her through her pain and she had helped him through his. The healing was not complete...no, it would take a long time for that. But they had turned toward the future- not the unchangeable past.

They were ready for whatever the future would bring.

A/N: It's over! *Sniff*

The sequel, which is tentatively being called "Promise" will hopefully be up tomorrow. Keep a look out for it, and I might change the title so just to warn you...and it's going to take place a year in the future.

I want to thank all of my wonderful readers and reviewers! Thanks for reading and sticking with it...and another HUGE thanks to LadyFangs, who stopped me from posting many a heinous chapter and FORCED me to do rewrites on occasion (but of course her criticism was always spot-on and the rewrites were always better). I feel like this story wouldn't have been as good without her assistance. So thanks! And I hope everyone enjoyed the story!