She had always known that this day would come. Had she? Had she…

She turned away from the window, from its red, motionless sky high up and the scouring sands below, and for once she wished to be able to turn again and see green trees with their fragile, translucent leaves and a blue sky beyond. Was Earth perhaps kinder to human grief than Vulcan? These dry sands and the red, relentless sky gave her no chance for release.

Had she been a girl she would have run out into the world, letting her tears stream, but she was old and bird-boned, and besides, the decorum of the consort of the Vulcan Ambassador forbade such displays. She kept her grief and her anger tight in her chest, balled up somewhere in the region of her heart, and it ate into her like a slow-acting acid and began to crumble her body from the inside out. If she were old, this made her older still.

She hated her human body for being old. She hated herself for her hasty metabolism catching up with her husband, racing past him and making her into a thin and fragile creature while he was still strong. She did not want to leave him behind…

But Spock…

The pain pulsed inside her, and it was impossible to hold the tears inside. Spock… Never had she expected to outlive her own son.

She had held him in her arms, damp and unfurled from the womb, the most human he had ever been. He had cried, and his eyes had touched hers, brown and deep and needing, and his hands had curled at her breast, and she had protected him from the world, from the spectres of hunger and death. She had lain watching his infant face, watching every breath that slipped from his lungs in sleep and feeling an eternity before the in-breath came and he continued to move through life. She had waited throughout those early and vulnerable months for some human fragility to betray him – and it never had.

She had watched him walking into school, upright and dignified as befitted one of his race. And she had watched him return each day, stiff-lipped and holding back un-Vulcan tears, at the treatment so logically dealt out by his classmates. Bringing up a child brought a lot of pain into one's life. So much pain…

Her tears were evaporating in the arid air, but they were no less real for that fact. Her cheeks were tight with the residue of her grief. Spock, oh Spock…

He had grown into such a man. She had been so proud of him, such a strong and perfect man, always honourable, always conflicted but in control. Challenges passed through his life and he faced them and made them his own. She was so proud of him…

She remembered reports filtering through to her, always after the fact. I spent some time in the hands of the Klingons, but I am well now. … I lost my sight for a small amount of time, but my vision is fully restored. … The ship fell into the hands of the Romulans, but we regained control. And then… And then…

Lady Amanda, Kirk had said.

His face had been pale with grief, his eyes misted and somehow ashamed. All these years, and finally he had failed.

Lady Amanda, it is with great regret that I –

And then he had faltered, and the official reserve had crumbled away, and he had smiled, an expression that was somehow sadder than any she had ever seen on the good captain's face.

I'm so sorry, he had said. I'm so sorry. Spock was – your son was –

She had been remarkably composed. The captain momentarily felt like a child, like her child come to tell her that he had done a great wrong. She waited, and he said finally, Spock died saving his ship. He saved us all. It was the greatest act of self-sacrifice that I have ever –

And his voice had failed him, and she said, Thank you, Captain, and broke off the communication before either of them let their emotions fully give way.

Days ago, that had been. She was waiting for the grief to lessen, or to change into something else, to break like a fever. It clung on inside her, thinning out every cell in her body until she felt that the wind should pass through her and her feet should make no print in the sand. Her grief would become her, perhaps, effacing her self until she was a facsimile made up of grief and nothing more. A shattered vase held together by chance, a tattered thing waiting to crumble.

Oh, Spock…

There were footsteps behind her, almost as ghost-thin as hers. She turned to see Sarek, his age sitting more heavily on him than she had ever seen it, his hands thin and uncertain. He gave her a half-smile that was laced with pain, and there was more humanity in his eyes than she had ever seen in him. She knew that the grief was there inside him, more a molten anger than hers, more a dynamic thing that held him together and gave him purpose. He was still fighting, still trying to find a way to change what could not be changed. Vulcans did not give up easily, even in the face of death.

She fell against the warmth of his chest and he held her, a bear holding an injured bird, his strength encircling her but not impacting upon her. He could protect her from anything – but this…

'I will see his Katra restored,' Sarek murmured into her ear. 'I will see our son given the honour he deserves.'

There was no answer that would not leave her mouth as choking tears, so she stayed silent.

'I have arranged a meeting with Kirk. I will see our son brought home.'

He will never be home again, she thought with shreds of anger amongst the grief. He felt that, despite her silence, and his arms tightened.

'I know,' he murmured. 'I know, my wife. But permit me this frailty. Permit me this emotion. This will be the last thing I will do for our son. Permit me this.'

She reached her hand up to let it stroke his hair. She remembered time after time of stroking his hair, loving him like this, loving him so hard that she wanted to be part of him. Spock had come from that.

'I will permit you that,' she said, her voice twisted by the grief. 'I want to see him home too.'

A different home… Such a different home, beneath the earth and the sand instead of in his room that still stood ready for him in this house.

'Go,' she said softly to Sarek. 'Go and make whatever arrangements you must. Do this last thing for Spock.'

His chin settled against her temple, and she loved him harder than she ever had. She felt the strength of him flowing into her mind, felt her bird-bones filling out a little, felt her heart beating with a little more strength. She turned back to the window as Sarek moved away, and fixed her eyes on the scudding sands and the hot red sky, and the grief did not lessen, but it shifted a little, and the pressure eased.