The Wedding Present
The Starling's Lament
The sound of dawn birds woke Sarek. When he stirred, Amanda, still deeply asleep, snuggled closer in unconscious protest. He looked down at her head pillowed on his shoulder, felt her breath warm against his throat. One of his hands was tangled in her long hair that lay streaming across her back. Whereas she had one arm around his waist, one leg across and between his. Always at the back of his mind when he woke like this, was the nagging thought that Vulcans did not sleep thus, so uncontrolled
He had meant, early in his marriage, to say something to her about this apparently human lack of control in sleep. Perhaps to suggest some Vulcan disciplines. But they had both been reeling from the myriad culture shocks such a union engendered, and it had hardly been an important issue. And before he could even find an opportunity to raise it, he himself had become bowled over, lost, charmed by the absolute, unconscious show of trust and affection her sleeping behavior demonstrated. He had never experienced anything like it.
Not that he had approached his marriage unprepared. They had made a conscious, logical decision to bond, even based on – at least on her part – motivations that had been as much emotional as rational. As a Vulcan, he had expected his wife would honor and respect him. And yield to him – that was a given. Nor did he have any difficulty in understanding, sharing and reciprocating her desire. That was mutual between them. He had even made an intense study of the emotion called love before they bonded, and felt he understood it as well as any Vulcan could, even if he didn't expect to ever share it.
What he hadn't expected, what he had somehow overlooked in his research was this – this unconscious, unstudied expression of affection and trust – outside of desire or love - that she felt for him. Her careless, thoughtless, spontaneous innocence continued long past the point where they could claim any innocence between them - a behavior undeniably undisciplined and childlike, by Vulcan standards - even as she demonstrated in every other facet of her life that she was no child. It had struck him to his Vulcan core. And for the first time in his life, he had felt…envy. Most surprisingly, envy of humans. With the specter of Pon Far haunting him as it did every Vulcan male, Amanda's absolute trust and her conviction that he was worthy of that trust was something no Vulcan wife would so easily feel for a Vulcan husband. But apparently it was something common to Human marriage, and for that he felt himself wanting. He had done nothing yet to ensure her safety in Pon Far; he felt undeserving of such convictions. Yet Amanda felt that for him. He found that …amazing, given she had been well educated as to the nature of Vulcan biology. And captivating. He had become determined to earn that trust, even as he completely reversed his opinion on her sleeping habits. The idea of suggesting any alteration in that behavior was unthinkable. In fact, he would have opposed anyone or anything, Vulcan or human, that suggested it. Deserved or not, deserving or not, he found his desire for it ran a close second to his desire for her.
Though it did have its disadvantages. Small wonder he could hardly keep his hands off his wife when awake, when he was so conditioned to have her in his arms when asleep. But he would never trade a Vulcan marriage now for that as well. With that thought in mind, he shifted to draw her under him. It was when reaching for her hands saw the dark bruises on her arms.
For a moment, he stared at them, chilled, mentally berating himself for forgetting his own strength, inexcusable behavior, regardless of the cause – at least, outside the Time. But then the reasons for his loss of control came back to him, and he shuddered. As far removed from his former chill as if he were suddenly bathed in icy water.
He drew back from her as his thoughts congealed, and he tried to push the unpleasant topic away even as he withdrew from his wife's embrace. He had resolved firmly not to think of his son until the boy repudiated his errant choice and returned to his father's ways.
But still, the thoughts would come. Sarek found himself returning again and again to the events of the past week, of the past eighteen standard years of his child's life. Sarek could not see where he had gone wrong. His son's every choice had been Vulcan. Why would he abandon this choice now?
Spock's childhood had, to Sarek, been difficult and dangerous sands to navigate. And yet, from his son's Kahs-Wan to his bonding, to mastery of emotional control, of logic, of psi skills and basic educational requirements, to his final accomplishment of two advanced degrees at the Science Academy and an offer of research and teaching facilities, it had been a series of successes. No small tribute, Sarek believed, to his own patient guidance, his stringent application of discipline - necessary for the raising of a half Vulcan child as Vulcan in the same home as his human mother - and his own example. It would have been far too easy to relax his standards. But as the sole Vulcan in his Vulcan home, Sarek had borne the entire responsibility to raise his child within them, as well as to fight long and hard for his son's acceptance in Vulcan society.
Finally, with the Academy appointment and his son's passage into an honorable profession, Sarek had looked forward to the thought of welcome relief from his long-held care and struggle. If Spock had failed, that would have been one reason why the child might have abandoned his Vulcan life. But the boy had passed every test. Why, when the pinnacle had finally been reached, when victory was assured, when the long awaited mastery had been achieved would the child …abandon …all of it?
He sat up abruptly, his disquieting thoughts making it impossible for him to remain any longer in bed. Next to him Amanda sighed in her sleep and Sarek looked down at her, his expression dark, a mirror image of the tenderness with which he had regarded her only moments before. He was painfully reminded that she had supported Spock in this, and that she was another riddle he could not solve.
For Amanda was motivated by love. He did not, could not, would not love her.
He tried to understand her human emotions, and he believed he had a fair understanding of them, but they were not his. He knew she loved him. She said it, and he could feel it through their bond. But while he appreciated her emotions on an intellectual level, he found love… painfully wanting.
Before he'd married Amanda, he'd done research on this emotion considered to be so necessary to the union with a human female. That was only logical. And he had not liked what he'd found. Love as a motivation for marriage had been long empirically discovered, even by humans, to be lacking. It was fickle; it could not be trusted. But worst of all, it was not all encompassing.
As a Vulcan male, held for life, or for unimaginable death, in the grip of a potentially fatal mating drive, Sarek could not countenance anything less than a tie of marriage that was absolute.
But love was not. Neither was love, according to all his research, single-minded, or selfish. It implied a degree of self-sacrifice Sarek found incomprehensible. It had seemed, based on his reading, that if he really loved his wife, as he understood it, he would be able to hold her desires, her needs, above his. He would be able to have such reasonings stand above passion. That was…unVulcan. Reason had no place in passion, the two were antithetical. In a Vulcan marriage, a Vulcan male's passion must rule. Any other expectation could lead to death for both parties.
The thing that had horrified him most of all in his research, was discovering that if he really loved his wife, far from challenging for her, far from defending his right to her to the death, he would be expected to…just… let her go. When he had first read this philosophy, he had been sure it must be a mistake. Humans were so prone to them. But the theme was repeated again and again. Love implied the antithesis of possession.
Obviously, that was unworkable for a Vulcan male. Unthinkable. If that was love, then it must be impossible for him to feel.
Logically, based on his findings, he should have not pursued her. But his desire for her was the one area of a Vulcan male's life where passion should and must eclipse logic, and where reason had no place. He had instead sought to explain to her the biology of a Vulcan male and how it factored in his culture. He had had others, Vulcan healers more qualified than he to teach such subjects, explain it to her. He had told them to spare her nothing. She had been told of the blood fever, of the violent nature of a Vulcan male in his time…and out of it.
And of the permanence of the union. Dissolution was not an option. There would be no letting go here.
True, some few rare Vulcan marriages ended in divorce. Some were even dissolved without murder. But it was exceedingly rare, and mostly in parentally arranged marriages where the parties involved had never been through a Time and agreed beforehand that they were unsuited, incompatible. Sans desire and passion.
That was not the case, had never been the case, with him in this. He had made sure, before they took the virtually irrevocable step of bonding, that she had understood, as well as a human female could, the depth of the commitment they were to make.
Her wife was not Vulcan. But she was intelligent. She was well able to extrapolate possibilities.
As was he.
That being so, the wise course of action would have been not to marry. Amanda had understood, as had he himself, that based on the wide difference in their cultures this was one area in which Humans and Vulcans never could, perhaps never should, meet.
But he had desired her, and she had loved him and they had both put reason aside. That was proper, logical, to do, as regards marriage. She had said yes. It had been a profound relief to him that she had enough appreciation of Vulcan culture and biology to understand where even logic must dictate passion's rule. He had not been sure, even then, he could have survived her refusal. And he had found it difficult to reason with his passion even enough to patiently see her instructed and informed before she made such a choice.
She had become his with her understanding that however much she might love him, this would be a Vulcan marriage. He was a Vulcan; she was his wife. He agreed to try, to try very hard, as far as he could, to understand and respect her human needs. But it was inherent in their agreement that she had no choice regarding his.
That was the one thing he could not, even remotely, countenance. Even only months from a recent pon far, his mind could not accept the possibility. As a Vulcan male in the prime of life, his … passions… ran high on this. He was Vulcan and she was his wife, his bondmate. She had no right, none, to even consider any desires other than his own.
Not even her son's.
Not even her own.
She was his.
Sarek forced his racing heart to slow, his sudden short breaths to calm.
Well, he had kept his side of their unlikely bargain. He had promised to consider her needs, and when she had demanded her son's freedom in payment for her own, he had granted it. But it was a high and dear price. No doubt, in Amanda's human mind and emotions, she considered she had paid in kind. He understood she was invoking some human ideal of self sacrifice, in her remaining, and that he almost could not bear. It implied she was making a choice and in his mind, even the idea that she had such a choice invoked a kind of madness in him. A barely suppressed wish to challenge against this unnamed foe.
She had no choice.
He refused to acknowledge the sense of purely Vulcan pain and betrayal he felt that a bondmate he had honored so many years and through so many Times still harbored such thoughts.
But, he reminded himself, she was only human. Even as his Vulcan passion rose in fury at such a tacit betrayal, his reason held him barely in check. She was human, not Vulcan. She could not help a culture which had no biological or racial conception of an absolute biological need unto death. She could not comprehend or offer, unknowing, what she did not understand. No more than he could understand love. It was for him to make his demands plain in such a way that even a human female could understand them.
Well he had, years ago, agreed to meet her as well as he could, halfway. And he had let his son leave for Starfleet. And he would see she kept her side of the bargain as well. Which did not imply any half measures. He had lost all of his son, and he would keep all of his wife. Past all letting go.
Fortunately for them both, Amanda was intelligent and honorable enough that when he succeeded in making her understand his requirements, she had never failed to yield to them. Though he admitted to frustration, even occasional fury, that instruction was still sometimes required.
He rose jerkily, unable to stay still any longer, his thoughts too painful to contemplate. His movements jostled Amanda, and she turned over and sat up. Her eyes met his, and something of his thoughts must have showed on his face, must have communicated through the bond, even not touching. The color of her blood rose in her face, washed pink across her bare limbs, and she swallowed hard, her gaze breaking from his, her breath catching in her throat as she stilled under his gaze. H
Tis wife had spirit. But, as he reminded himself yet again, she was only human, and female. The enormity of what she had agreed to quailed even her at times. Sarek did not regret seeing that.
It proved she understood her position. Human and flawed as her humanity made her in this regard, she had yet made an agreement. And was honorable enough, after her own fashion, to understand that and keep it. He would see that she did. Even if her love had moments when, as he had long ago expected, even predicted, it might falter. Well, his passion and logic had no such failures, and he would see she did not fail him.
The heavy curtain of her unbound hair had fallen forward, hiding her face from his, but he knew her body as well as his own, and he could see her stillness in her bare unmoving ribs, hear the absence of her respiration as she held her breath. He drew the blond strands behind her round human ears, back from her face, tipped her chin up with strong fingers so her eyes met his. His gaze raked her again from head to feet, possessive, demanding. But then he stepped back.
"You have a class to teach, do you not? You had better get dressed."
To be continued…
copyright Pat Foley 2005