Home is Where the Heart Is


Pat Foley

Chapter 7

Komack did call Amanda. He apologized profusely for the delay, claiming priority security issues, which Amanda failed to entirely believe and which he entirely understood she did not. In fact they understood each other completely, which actually made their using each other work rather well.

He magnanimously offered to have the Enterprise drop out of warp. But now, with only hours before the Enterprise reached Altair, the situation had changed for Amanda. The Enterprise was too far away for a quick trip back to Vulcan. Altair was closer. Since Vulcan was out of the question now, she preferred the Enterprise reach Altair with all due speed so that the healers there could do a true assessment of her son's condition. And at least have Vulcan healers at hand if he should be …ill. She, T'Pau, even Sarek were anxious over that. To force the Enterprise to delay now would serve no purpose.

If only to herself, she had to admit that after the proposal from T'Pring's family, she preferred Spock be out of reach the of T'Pau's direct influence. Under normal circumstances, she might pick Spock or Sarek as coming out ahead in any conflict with T'Pau. But in this instance, she preferred to keep Spock as far distant from the influential Matriarch as she could.

Regardless, if she had taken Komack up on his offer, such magnanimity on Starfleet's part would have a price. Who knew if or when in future there would really be an emergency situation that required her use such a trump card? She felt she should hold onto that option. She thanked Komack, but demurred for the present, attributing it to that the ship would now soon be within communications contact without such exigencies. When he, in insincere regret for the delay that made her original request impossible to satisfy made the mistake of offering such services in future, she let him know that once the Enterprise reached Altair, she might have need for the ship to return to Vulcan. The scowl warring with his politic smile as he cut the connection offered her only slight recompense for her buried fury at him for his spuring her original request. She however, never lost her politic smile. She knew she really had to start cultivating Starfleet brass if her son was going to keep signing on for these missions.

If. She could almost sympathize with Spock's Starfleet service in 'Fleet, if the alternative was for him to return and take up residence with T'Pring. Her role as emissary for T'Pring's family weighed on her. She could use the extra time before Enterprise dropped out of warp to talk herself into the kind of neutrality required to perform that duty adequately.

It was another of the strange ironies of life, that she, who had never felt comfortable with his bonding to T'Pring, had to by all Vulcan duty present an option for Spock to take her back. She felt a new kinship with T'Pau, who when Sarek was in vrie, had to advise her in all logic to choose Challenge, even though it would have assured Sarek's death. When up till then, what T'Pau had feared most was that her son's human wife would prove unfaithful and leave her son to that fate worse than death.

Sometimes Vulcan duty was a royal pain.

But she had resigned herself to it in this case. The Enterprise barely had a parking orbit before she had a call put through. And a priority call with an Admiral's authorization took precedence over all other duties for a mere Commander. Her son went to his quarters to receive it and came to the pickup with more than a trace of exasperation on his Vulcan features at her machinations.

But gloriously alive.

"Mother." He sat down across from the pickup in his red draped rooms. "Did you not receive my message?"

"Did you think that would satisfy me? I wanted to speak to you anyway."

"I regret having caused you such concern."

"None of this was your fault. It was-" she hesitated saying the name, and Spock simply raised a brow.

"You need not be so circumspect. Perhaps it was not. But my situation unfortunately caused innumerable problems and concerns. For Starfleet, my Captain, and…you."

"I imagine the rest of us will survive," Amanda said dryly. "How are you?"

He drew a deep breath. "I see that I failed to convey my present status in such a way as to alleviate any disquiet. I am well, Mother."

She looked at him searchingly. "How can I believe that? Spock, I am not exactly unfamiliar with the usual progress of Pon Far."

He colored like an adolescent. Which by Vulcan standards he essentially was. "Mother, you should not speak to me of this."

"Of course I should. This is my duty, Spock. And it is yours. Don't treat me like the village idiot. I've been married to a Vulcan for over 30 years. I know about the usual progress of Pon Far."

He flinched at her repeated blunt naming of that syndrome. But that was typical for Vulcan males. Sarek was reluctant to speak of Pon Far, even after being married to her for over three decades. Even on the news, casualties of Pon Far were still reported as from an 'unspecified fever'. That Spock would not name it could merely be Vulcan circumspection, and not that he was still suffering from it, even if in chronic form.

"The …combat…seemed to break the fever," he confessed before clamming up again.

Amanda eyed him closely, but his Vulcan mask was well in place now. She could not read anything from him. "There are Vulcan healers at Altair, Spock. T'Pau wants you to see them. And so do I."

He deviated from his Vulcan mask enough to look mulish. "That is unnecessary."

"Spock, you must do this. In respect to your Matriarch. It is her command." When Spock still looked reluctant, she added, "And in respect to your Starfleet obligations, as well. Do you want to risk another …disruption?"

That argument swayed him. "Very well."

"How…how is your Captain?" she asked hesitantly.

He unbent enough to look both troubled and grateful, an odd combination for her son. "He is well. He was only slightly injured before …the subterfuge of our ship's surgeon took effect."

"I know you've spoken of him as a friend. How is it between the two of you?"

"It seems to have survived it." Spock admitted. "He is …quite a remarkable individual."

Amanda drew a relieved breath. "I am glad. Someday I'd like to meet him. And your remarkable ship's surgeon. I am so grateful to him. How much we owe him!"

"Do not let him know that," Spock said with the dry humor that convinced her more than anything that he was well. "He is insufferable enough."

She smiled in equal relief, both grateful her son had such friends and that he was free enough of the fever to be able to joke. Loss of his sense of humor and tension was one of the first signs for her that Sarek was on the downturn of his cycle to Pon Far. "Funny, I thought that description best fit you."

"Mother." Spock shook his head slightly. "It is pleasant to speak with you. But your concerns are unfounded. I will see the healers as you wish. But we have just dropped out of warp, and I have duties that must take precedence now. I trust you and Sarek are well, and-"

She forestalled him before his reaching hand could cut off the transmission. 'There is something of import we need to discuss, my son. And it involves a delicate subject. I don't wish to distress your control, which must be in a uncertain state so soon after …leaving Vulcan. Are you equal to it?"

Spock grew wary, his hand returning to his side. "I am not in the Fever. I am well. Surely there is nothing left to discuss of that situation."

"There is the question of a bondmate."

"That is not an immediate concern."

"There is a related concern of that which is immediate. It involves T'Pring."

"Mother, she is nothing to me now." He said it with infinite patience, his 'my mother is so human' voice. "I see you do not fully understand. I have released her. She is now Stonn's."

"Perhaps she is not Stonn's."

"I gave her to him."

Her brows rose, not in dispute of that, but in surprise that her son could be so Vulcan. Vulcan enough that even he, who had spent fourteen years in a service where women had at least tacit equality, could so casually speak of giving a woman away as property.

Seeing that, he added, not understanding the reasons for her skepticism, "T'Pau was witness."

"I don't doubt that," Amanda said carefully, thinking about how complicated all this was. What contradictions Vulcan men must deal with. And, with a flicker of acknowledgement to herself, what Vulcan women, or at least women married to Vulcan men must go through as well. "But there has been a development to that situation. T'Pring's family has contested that as the challenge was improper, and the combat did not end in death, the divorce should be annulled."

"Why would they contest that?" Spock asked, brows raised. "Did not T'Pring get precisely what she wished?"

Amanda half laughed, not in amusement, but in amazement that her son could be so dense in some respects. "Not quite. She didn't want to be chattel."

Spock's brow cleared.

"Yes. Stonn was displeased at her unorthodox Challenge and champion. Claiming she dishonored him, he has so far refused to release her from chattel status. Her family has been unable to sway him."

"Indeed. Stonn's reasoning abilities were never great, and his logic hardly exemplary," Spock spoke slowly, eyes wide in wonderment, considering all this, "but T'Pring was aware of that when she chose him. It was one of the reasons she so chose him. That she could manipulate him."

"Well now as chattel, she has found she has lost all leverage to do so."

Spock shrugged. "She could have reasoned her actions might lead to this consequence. It was a calculated risk on her part. One she must have considered and accepted as worth the potential result."

Amanda drew a measured breath, both marveling that her son could speak so indifferently to a woman – once his wife to be – living such a life, even though T'Pring had planned – hoped for – her son's death in the planning. T'Pau was right, even knowing that it was still hard for her to consign T'Pring to that state. But it was harder still to speak the words duty now required her to say. "T'Pau has been appealed to by her family to annul the divorce."

Her son's eyes widened anew, brows rising in astonishment. And then his face clouded. She saw him so rarely, spoke to him in real time so infrequently, she wasn't sure if his emotionalism was due to Pon Far. Or simply in that living in a largely human society he had come to relax some of his disciplines in that regard. But she didn't have time to wonder, for his face was a valid predictor of his next words.

"It was a Challenge lawfully given and administered by T'Pau. I risked my life; my captain risked his. That he did not... die," she heard his brief hesitation and reluctance over that word, "was immaterial. Our risk was the same. In payment for her release from an unwanted bonding, in payment for her risk of the lives of her bondmate and champion, T'Pring risked her freedom. That she lost her gamble, that Stonn proved as false to their planned future as she was to…to hers and mine together, that her gamble has resulted in an untenable situation for her is irrelevant. She Challenged. And she has lost. In all respects."

Amanda drew a breath at the harshness of his tone. Even as she had seen herself in Spock a moment ago, now she could see his father. In vrie.


"No, Mother." His stormy eyes had narrowed, and he was shaking his head, human fashion as well. She hadn't seen him shake his head so adamantly since he was a toddler, before his first lessons in control, when he had shaken head, shoulders, even his whole body in refusal. "I see no grounds for an annulment of the divorce. And even if T'Pau granted that annulment, T'Pring would still be chattel. My chattel. To do with as I please. Except that I have no wish to possess one so false as she. I could release her to Stonn yet again."

Amanda shook her head in turn. "Please don't take this as an approval or an endorsement on my part of this situation. I am not advocating for this development. But I've been told it is my duty – my Vulcan duty - to present this to you. I speak on T'Pau's directive, who as Matriarch is also acting from duty. Neither of us is trying to force you back into a marriage with T'Pring. But I am required to present this offer to you. We are all acting from duty. All that is required in duty from you is to listen to the proposal," she winced at the inadvertent use of that human word, "that I am required to relate."

His brow cleared and he sat back, relieved now that he understood why she had contacted him regarding this, but clearly affecting disinterest. "Speak then. Let your duty be done." And over with, his manner clearly said.

Amanda let out a relieved breath. Either Spock had relaxed his emotional controls in Starfleet, or he hadn't quite regained his control after Pon Far. "T'Pring's family is desperate to have her released from her present disgraced status. If you accept the annulment and agree to take her back - as a wife, as a bondmate with all rights and status - they would agree to almost any marriage settlement you would request. Wealth, property, and her mother's seat in Council have been offered."

Spock's eyes actually widened at that. "T'Prill has actually offered to permanently relinquish her family's council seat? That is unprecedented."

Amanda was surprised in turn. "Are you really interested in her Council position?"

Spock flicked an impatient brow. "If I had, would I have joined Starfleet?"

"You asked," Amanda pointed out.

"Merely from curiosity's sake. It is an astonishing offer. T'Prill derives much status from her seat in Council. I had not thought her so opposed to Stonn."

"I don't think it is Stonn, so much as her daughter's current status that motivates her offer."

Spock shrugged. "Perhaps she should have advised her daughter differently."

"You think T'Prill knew of her daughter's plans?"

"I can only speculate that T'Pring would be unlikely to so miscalculate as not to at least tacitly raise the prospect. She undoubtedly has her family's support now. The one flaw in her reasoning was Stonn, and he was enough the weak link that she didn't even trust him to win her Challenge. But for her family to offer a hereditary clan council seat as a betrothal price is very nearly unprecedented."

"Is it an inducement to you?"

Spock looked overly patient. "Regardless of my father's disapproval of my current career, I am still his heir and T'Pau's. I'll inherit his position as Head of Council one day. Why would I be interested in some lesser seat?"

"You'd get this one right now though."

Spock flicked a reluctant brow. "Sarek would like that. No doubt it will increase my – Sarek's –disapproval for me to admit that, at least at present, I much prefer my Starfleet duties. Nor does such an offer in any way compensate for taking T'Pring to wife. You may communicate that I have listened, fully appreciate and honor the offer given, but must refuse their proposal."

"And if they decide to contest the divorce, and take you to court?"

His brows drew together, frustrated. "I am not bonded to T'Pring. The link is gone. I don't see how a court of judges could contend that no divorce has taken place. And I was certainly the least to blame in her decision to Challenge or the resulting lack of fatal combat. I was deep in the Fever. I did not return to …conscious thought… until the conclusion of the combat, as is traditional. I am confident any court will consider the divorce valid. But even if they do not, I have no bond with T'Pring. And I will not undertake one. If they return her to me, I will free her, with or without another Challenge. Her parents would do far better to negotiate with Stonn."

"I can see you are as stubborn as ever. But are you sure, Spock? Sure, that is, that you are really free of the Fever for now? Your father expressed particular concern about that."


Amanda hesitated a moment, thinking of what she must do. "I don't believe I'm asking this, but something in me must ask. You don't have any qualms leaving T'Pring as chattel? She was to be your wife."

Spock shook his head, not in denial, but in refusal to consider the question. "Her fate in that regard is no longer mine to decide. It is Stonn's decision."

"He's not much of a judge," Amanda said.

"She originally chose him to be her Champion," Spock said indifferently. "Knowing that as such, he would be judge to her."

Amanda drew breath at that.

Seeing her pause, Spock continued. "Mother, perhaps as a human, you do not understand this. But those who challenge sworn vows, who risk a bondmate's life, and the life of another, who spill Vulcan blood in violence, by tradition have earned their chattel status. I cannot pity her. If Stonn chooses not to release her, that is his decision, and his alone. I have done with her." Spock shrugged. "Perhaps he knows her best. In some respects, he might be wise in this. At least, as chattel, she cannot choose another champion to free her from another unwanted bondmate."

Amanda had blushed at the first part of Spock's speech, but now she shivered. "I understand. I suppose."

Spock looked at her a moment, then shook his head. "I think you do not, could not, possibly understand, Mother."

If you only knew how well I do, she thought, but only said. "I'm wife to a Vulcan as well." She hesitated, and then said. "It's still an awful fate for her. And you don't know how reluctantly I say that."

"I meant I do not think you could understand the character of one who would act as T'Pring did."

Amanda sidestepped that dangerous discussion. Her son was still something of an innocent in that regard. "I didn't think the Council seat would be much of an incentive, in itself. But now I've been authorized to say that whatever else you might want that they could provide, you should consider on the table. You have only to ask. Her family is quite serious." Amanda eyed him. "All that they have of wealth or property is yours if you agree. They will offer you anything. They consider their clan honor, and her freedom, worth any price."

Spock drew back at this, eyes wide and alarmed. "Mother, I can't. I released her to Stonn. He accepted her. I couldn't in honor take her back now. She is his property. Her fate, now, is in his hands." He shook his head in vexed impatience. "Perhaps I should not have released her to him. Perhaps, in the aftermath of those events, late of combat and with other...disquieting concerns, I made an error in judgment, or logic. Perhaps I should have simply freed her. But I thought he was whom she wanted."

Amanda closed her eyes, forcing herself to say it. "Well she doesn't want him now, from all reports. Spock, I'll say this just once more. She could still be yours if you wish her to be so. That is all I have been asked to say and that's all that I will say. I consider now that I've done my duty."

"You speak of duty," Spock broached, eyeing her. "Is this T'Pau's wish?"

"She has refused any opinion on the matter." Amanda hesitated and then said, truthfully. "I don't think your Grandmother has much of an opinion of T'Pring now. But she would not be opposed if you accepted the offer. She has claimed neutrality." Amanda bit her lips and then reluctantly admitted, giving Sarek his due. "But I think your father would be…relieved…if you accepted it. I can't understand why, but he seems to want it."

Spock drew back at that, clearly uneasy. "Mother…" Spock hesitated. "You must know that I have no wish to oppose my – Sarek – yet again in a life decision. You must believe I am extremely reluctant to do so. I would not…if I could in all conscience not do so. But I think it is no secret to you that T'Pring and I had no true bond. Where the fault was in this I do not know. I tried. When we were children, before I left for Starfleet, I spent much time with her. Or tried to. But I could never seem to …reach her. It was as if there was nothing between us – at least, no bond such as I have observed between you and Sarek. I had considered perhaps it was because of my human heritage, but you are human and it doesn't seem to be a factor in your bond. I thought…perhaps that it was because we had not been through a Time. And I had hopes that after that Time, we would …find each other. But when the Time came, T'Pring Challenged. Our bonding was clearly a mistake, never meant to be. Yes, if T'Pring had not Challenged, I would have taken her to wife. I would have honored and respected her throughout my life for her role as bondmate. And hoped, even if she remained indifferent, that she could find it in herself to do that much for me. Even if she could not-" But there he stopped himself, his mouth setting firm. "But she chose otherwise and her attitude toward me can't have changed. She felt nothing for me in my Time. Not even honor or duty. And now, it is only that she has now found her role as chattel untenable – and she should have considered that before she chose someone like Stonn. I would not have suspected even him of keeping a woman as chattel, particularly when not in the Fever. I do…feel…some pity for her. But nothing else. Pity is not enough, Mother." He looked at her, direct in the eye. "You must understand that. I do not want her to merely acknowledge me due to obligation. Or pity. And I will not take her as bondmate in pity to her. It is not enough."

Amanda drew a breath at this. She remembered, long ago, telling Sarek that curiosity was not enough. "I do understand. I'm glad to hear that you do feel some pity for her. But I agree; it isn't enough on which to base a marriage."

Spock glanced at her. "Surely Sarek must also understand that I am enough my father's son to wish a true bondmate and companion, not owned property."

"I think he does. And if he forgets, I'll remind him."

Spock half smiled. "No doubt you would. And like my father, I wish a true bondmate. I have no desire for a chattel, in law or in mind. As for T'Pring, Stonn is within his rights to keep her so if he wishes it. That is part of our tradition. How can I judge him for it? Given how dangerous she has been in her manipulations, perhaps he is wise to keep her so. Understands her as I clearly never did. He perhaps knows her best of us all. She can hardly do much further damage in her present state. Regardless, I am not so foolish as to take her to wife again. Nor so dishonorable as to reclaim property that I had legally given away. I could not take her back now even if I wanted to, Mother. It would be dishonorable. And I don't want to. I don't think I gave her to Stonn out of some...unconscious vengeance, rather than free her entirely. I did so because he had been her intended champion. Even if I made an error in doing so, it is done. T'Pring's family must make such offers to Stonn."

"All right. I think no one – in our family that is – really expected that of you, but I had to ask. And T'Pau, even your father, have said only that you are going to need a bondmate."

Spock looked mulish. "Not now. This time that choice is mine to make."

"Do you have a candidate in mind?"

Spock shook his head, eyes wide in astonishment. "Mother. How could I? I have not been free until recently. Nor am I of the character to offer anyone what was not mine to give."

"But now you are free."

Spock shivered, just a bit. "Yes. But now, I am also …once burned, twice shy. Marriage is a grave responsibility. Particularly to a Vulcan. I need time before I am ready to consider another marriage."

"T'Pau has …lists…of unbonded females."

Spock sighed. "If I must, I will accept and consider them. But she need not put T'Pring's name on them. Whether Stonn releases her or not."

"You're quite sure?"

Spock drew up a little. "I am not so desperate, nor think so little of myself that I despair at finding a true bondmate. I don't want T'Pring." He softened a bit. "Perhaps I never did. Perhaps she sensed it."

"Even as a child, you tried with her. If she sensed you didn't want her, it was long after she made it clear that she wanted little to do with you."

Spock shrugged. "Perhaps with reason."

Amanda eyed him. "Spock, did she give you some reason for her Challenge?"

Spock hesitated, then confessed. "She said she didn't want to be the consort of a legend."

Amanda drew a shocked breath. "A legend? What did she mean by that?"

"She didn't specify, other than claiming I had a certain…notoriety…among our people."

"You did?"

Spock shrugged. "Who else? Perhaps she meant my career in Starfleet and not my heritage." He began to look uncomfortable. "Does it matter, Mother? It is done and past. And I confess, I am somewhat relieved to be free to make my own choice."

Amanda could hardly believe that T'Pring had come so close but not revealed the truth. But it seemed she had done that. Perhaps there was some honor in the girl. It appeared, even with T'Pring's blatant hint, Spock knew nothing of his father's past condition. Of course, Vulcans were not the type to gossip. And T'Pring and Spock had apparently never held any heart-to-heart chats. She still wouldn't have put it past her to have told him. But perhaps she'd had her own reasons. After all, Stonn could have found another. Or Spock could have won the Challenge. Perhaps the girl truly had been afraid of marrying into Surak's legendary and lethal line. Afraid and unwilling to raise that specter with a potential bondmate. Afraid to be the first to raise it. And now, in spite of all her machinations, she was chattel. And Spock would not save her from that fate.

Amanda pushed aside her own unease at that. T'Pring had her own family. If wealth and property and council seats had failed with Spock, Stonn might not be so inviolate. Or they'd find something with which he could be tempted, to buy the girl's freedom.

Amanda looked at her son, evaluating him anew, but he seemed free of any hint of the dark emotions that spoke that descent into the chronic blood fever of vrie to her. No matter how she worried, in the absence of that, she knew she could not be the one to raise that prospect to him, even though his aborted fever worried her terribly. Some part of her felt Spock had the right to know. And another part of her shied from it. And now, when her son's bond was so newly broken? Even if he claimed he was all right, he had to be unsettled. No, now was not the time. She buried the secret deep anew. Perhaps it was best he never knew. Perhaps it was an anomaly, affecting Sarek alone. Though everyone seemed to agree heredity made Spock more susceptible.

She just wished she was doing the right thing. To conceal. To tell. It was difficult to judge, but it seemed concealing the truth best, for now.

She hesitated, then said, "Will you come home?"

Spock stared at her a moment. "Home?"

"To consider your future. Now that you are not…not to be charged with any crime. To consider T'Pau's lists?"

"I do not need to return to Vulcan for that," he said a bit sharply.

She hesitated again, and then had to ask. "Will you consider a Vulcan at all? Or only a Vulcan?"

"I do not know, Mother. I have not been free to even think such thoughts. Now that I am free…" he shook his head again. "Surely there is no rush." He eyed her. "What did T'Pau say?"

She hesitated, studying him and then sighed. "That if the healers on Altair judged you free of the fever, you could have perhaps as much as three years, before you would be required to make a choice."

"That is generous," Spock acknowledged. "Time enough to finish my present tour of duty."

"If that's what you want," Amanda said. "If the healers concur."

"I do," Spock said simply, then eyed her, "Mother you know I must finish my tour of duty."

She frowned at that. "I suppose."

"Mother, would you have me walk out, abandon, such a captain? He who stood for me when I was in Need? And who risked his life for me?"

"No, of course not," and then she smiled.

"You find that amusing?"

"Only that you were equally adamant you could not resign before this tour of duty. When you didn't even know this Captain. Spock will you ever come home?"

"Captain Pike requested that I stay, to ease the new captain's transition. I am grateful that he did, for this captain is worthy, Mother."

"I see that you lack nothing of loyalty, my son," unlike the treacherous T'Pring, she thought. "But I'd like to know when you plan to come home for good. When you went away to school, remember, you spoke only of a few years."

"By Vulcan standards it has been only a few years."

"I suppose. And you may perhaps have three more years. But in these next few years, I want you to think about your future, my son. It is time for some new life decisions."

"On Vulcan?" Spock raised a brow, half stubborn, half teasing.

She sighed. "I would love you to come home. Consider now that you'll need someone with whom to make a home. And given your future responsibilities, that does mean Vulcan, doesn't it?"

Spock drew back a little, eyes wary. "I said I would consider it. But that is for the future. For now... you will tell T'Pau of my decision? And Sarek."

"I do wish you two would…get over it. And talk to each other."

"Mother. Nothing has -"

"Please don't tell me that's what's keeping you from coming home. You know that he wants you to-"

"Mother, I have responsibilities-"

"To Vulcan, as well as to Starfleet."

Spock drew himself up. "Let us not talk of those at present. I came home to be married, Mother. And the welcome I received was a Challenge."

Amanda sighed. "You're right. This is not the time to speak of coming home. Perhaps you need a little time to get past that unpleasantness. But don't take T'Pring's attitude as representing all of Vulcan. Or even your father. He loves you."

Spock shook his head. "He is Vulcan. Mother this is not the time for this discussion. I have duties."

Amanda sighed. "It seems it is never the time. All right, we'll postpone it. Yet again."

"And I will see the healers as T'Pau requests."

She nodded. "One more thing. Perhaps I shouldn't admit this, my son. I never said anything against T'Pring to you before, because well, because I have personal experience with a disapproving Mother-in-Law. I swore I would not cause problems for you such as T'Pau's interference caused for Sarek and myself. But now I feel guilty that I didn't express more of my concerns."

"There was nothing you could have done," Spock said, already closed down and wary.

"Maybe not. But now that you are free of T'Pring, and appear to be well on the face of it, I confess to some relief that you aren't tied to her any longer. I never did like the girl. And I hope, I really hope I can love your next choice. Because I am not so sure I can bite my tongue this next time if I don't. After all this time, I think my tongue is bitten through in that respect. Just fair warning, my son."

One Vulcan brow slid up in tacit amusement. "I will keep that in mind, Mother."

"I love you," she said.

"I…know," he replied, after a pregnant pause.

Amanda shook her head, with a rueful look. "Spock, promise me one thing. Whomever you marry, just make sure you can say it to her."

"Say what, Mother?" Spock asked, with the barest hint of a smile tracing his lips, before he abruptly cut the connection.

"Brat," Amanda said fondly to his fading reflection. But then her own smile faded as she though of what she had to relate.

To be continued…