Title: Gratified by Your Company

Author: Starfleetdream

Series: TOS (could be read as 2009 also)
Codes: Sa/Am
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't profit
Feedback: Yes, please
Summary: The year they met and married. Warning: Chapter 10 is explicit. Everything else is PG-13. There is a non-explicit version of this story posted on my author page here on fanficnet.

Author's notes: This is by far the longest piece of fiction I've written, and the longest piece I've written of any kind by about two times, so this feels like an accomplishment. It's the product of nine months' of work, a lot of inspiration from fellow fan writers, and my love of Sarek and Amanda as a pair.

My greatest thanks go to Selek for his incredible beta. He poured hours into reviewing and editing, for which I'm grateful. This story is a much better one for it, and I learned a ton as a writer.

Another big thank you goes to T'Lina for her encouragement and her excellent preview of the story. Thank you for the early feedback!

I'm also grateful for the Sa/Am group members who are inspirational as writers and encouraging as readers. The group's warm welcome to my shorter efforts encouraged me to write this.

Some references: For all Vulcan words, phrases and translations, the outstanding Vulcan Language Dictionary, starbase-10 dot de slash vld slash. The quotation of Surak, "We have differences…" is from here (thank you again, Selek!).

Surak's words referenced in Chapter 5 are from marketaz dot co dot uk slash StarTrek slash Vulcan slash Surak dot html and refer to "Cast out Fear. Cast out hate and rage. Cast out greed and envy. Cast out all emotion that speeds entropy, whether it be love or hate. Cast out these emotions by using reason to accept them, and then move past them. Use in moderation emotions that do not speed up entropy (e.g. compassion)," and "Master your passions so that they are used to slow entropy." – Surak

Finally, the ideas to include security and staff (you'll see) come from Anodyna over on LiveJournal. I love the way she thinks about Vulcans!

I hope you enjoy.

Gratified By Your Company

The year they met and married

by Starfleetdream

Chapter 1: October, 2228

Away and alone

He stood on the balcony of the embassy, a tall, brooding figure gazing out over the alien landscape. So vastly different from his home. Moisture clung to everything constantly, and a chill wind always blew. These were not new observations; he had come to this planet in service to his own people over two decades ago, and yet, the alien nature of this place struck him anew. Perhaps his sojourn home in the last year, still too recent in his mind, caused him to desire the familiar surroundings of his world. That, however, was unproductive, so he shoved the thought away. His fate was decided for the indefinite future; he would be here.

Perhaps his elder had been correct, that it was for the best that he remain away from home for a time. Try as he might to meditate them away, too many painful memories lingered. In his entire life, he had never been denied anything; he always achieved his objectives. As first-born male heir to the most powerful family on his planet, he knew power from birth, both its privileges and its demands. Even at his relatively young age, as a prominent, successful diplomat, responsible for securing his home world's interests with other worlds, he knew power by capability. He simply did not know failure.

So when his mate rejected him this past year, he was totally unprepared. She had chosen the way of the adepts, and so had forsaken all personal relationships – including the one with him, the one that had existed since they were children, the one that had lived in his mind since that early time, the one that would sustain his life. Now, in addition to the aching hole in his psyche that he felt but would not acknowledge, to his people his unbonded status made him a looming hazard, a ticking time bomb that needed to be defused. Though surrounded by loyal subordinates and in constant contact with extended family, he had never been more alone.

Today's rumination was no different than any other day's, and no more logical. It had brought him to the same conclusion that it always did: he was missing the other half of his soul. He perhaps had never had it with his former mate, but realizing he lacked what he knew to be an essential part of himself was a shock to his system nonetheless. It was not logical to expect that he would ever find it.

Devoted to a life of service as he was, he had little room for such personal concerns. He turned back inside. The bright blue, white-capped waters of the San Francisco Bay held little attraction for him. He had work to do.

S'chn T'gai Sarek of Vulcan was his planet's ambassador to Terra, or Earth as its residents preferred to call it, and as such he was kept busy by the issues and controversies that were, it seemed, constantly generated by this world's denizens. Public discourse here, even when it involved other worlds or the United Federation of Planets (UFP), was typically chaotic, overly emotional, and loud. The UFP was headquartered in San Francisco, and brought its own set of issues demanding Sarek's attention.

Not an endearing public figure – for he did not expend effort in an attempt to become such – Sarek was nonetheless extremely (some complained ruthlessly) effective at his job. He consistently achieved the High Council's bidding when they directed it, and when they did not deign to interject into matters, he did what was logical – and he succeeded. He of course adhered strictly to Vulcan's moral code in all his endeavors, but he spared himself many of the time-wasting niceties in which those not from his world seemed to indulge.

He began another diplomatic day.

At his desk, Sarek listened while his aide briefed him on the day's appointments and summarized the relevant news. Most important was the progress of the Centauri Accord, an agreement among member worlds of the Federation designed to bolster economic integration and economic strength that he had been charged with ushering through ratification. Vulcan favored the accord. The accord had to be ratified by each Federation member, and, of particular concern to Sarek, one of the most difficult approval battles was occurring on Earth. Sev updated his superior on the latest political maneuverings in Earth's Parliament regarding the accord, as well as on the current tone of public opinion.

While popular sentiment was gradually turning in favor of the accord, there were still some segments vocally opposed to it, either due to economic fears or a particular nativist worldview that reviled the idea of greater integration with other planets. Sarek had seen similar dynamics before on other worlds. While not a particularly complex diplomatic problem, it nonetheless required patience and caution to resolve successfully.

His assistant also provided a news summary from Vulcan and a variety of reports for Sarek's review. Before departing, Sev relayed one more piece of information. "And lastly, S'haile, there is a progress hearing at 1400 hours on the Universal Translator project at Federation Headquarters."

Sarek nodded. "Your work is commendable, Sev."

"I come to serve, S'haile." Sev bowed his head and retreated from the office.

Otherwise engaged

She was young, but she was accomplished. Unusually intelligent, she combined her intellect with a personable nature and a drive that enabled her to get things done. Most of that drive was inborn, but some was also an attempt to re-direct energy borne of sadness.

Her youth was evident in her appearance but not in her bearing. She had always been self-possessed and strong-willed, and these assets proved crucial to her well being when she was suddenly orphaned as a teen, losing her parents in a shuttle accident. Her older brother lived off world, so she quickly became adept at self-sufficiency. Naturally friendly and self-confident, she maintained a satisfactory if, in her mind, unremarkable social life, filled as much as she wanted with friends and dates. Her focus and most of her time, however, were devoted to her work. This and her unusual brilliance were what enabled her to achieve so much so young. She loved her work, and found security in the fact that it could not be taken from her.

She did not see a reason to take another emotional risk at this stage in her young life. Further, she simply had remained uninspired by the men she had dated in college and beyond. So it made sense to protect a fragile heart, and it made equal sense to do something useful with the time that afforded her. As a result, she had earned two advanced degrees, including a doctorate, at an age when many of her contemporaries were only finishing their undergraduate work, and had already struck out on a path of teaching and research of her own.

Most recently she had agreed to take on a leading role in a very important Federation project – the development of a Universal Translator. A working translator would enable races within and without the Federation, as well as those newly contacted, to communicate with one another.

Amanda Grayson stepped off the tram and headed up the steps of the United Federation of Planets (UFP) Administration building. It was another beautiful fall day. She allowed herself to take it in for a moment before turning her thoughts to the day ahead.

As one of three lead investigators on the Universal Translator project and as its Linguistics head, she was responsible for gathering the input material essential for the system's function: thousands, if not millions, of translations from one language to another. She and her team had labored for the past year compiling a huge, representatively-balanced database of known languages that the translator's artificial intelligence would reference in seeking to interpret new languages. It would also serve the very useful purpose of allowing the many peoples of the Federation to communicate more readily with one another, even if they were not multilingual themselves.

The technical side of the project was proceeding surprisingly well. Her software and hardware counterparts had made amazing progress developing the algorithms and devices necessary to make a practical application out of several of the ground-breaking theories that had earned her such acclaim. At twenty, she had been the youngest appointed junior faculty member at Harvard and was recruited to the Universal Translator team as the foremost xenolinguist in her field. So she had picked up and moved again, this time from North America's east coast to its west, to take on this new challenge.

Now a year later, testing of the system had begun as they worked in parallel to complete the database. What they needed most was more translations from Vuhlkansu. It was a difficult language and of a relatively closed society, meaning that the breadth of material that had been easy to obtain from other cultures had been a challenge to locate. Amanda recently had begun working with Soran, the chief of staff at the Vulcan Embassy, to gain access to less widely distributed works.

The immediate, most pressing issue for the Universal Translator project was another round of funding, followed by the need to secure an embassy willing to be the first beta tester for the translator. Amanda and her colleagues were to deliver a status report today to the UFP oversight committee responsible for the project. They had to get their next round of funding authorized and, as usual, doing so required dealing with a surprising number of political issues surrounding the translator.

There were a number of traditionalist groups on Earth and other worlds who feared the translator would increase alien influence in their cultures or somehow dilute their native languages. And now Starfleet was making noises about wanting a broader role in determining the system's application and scope, possibly seeking to restrict its use as a military- or government-only technology.

The UFP members who sat on the oversight committee had been notoriously tight-fisted when it came to allocating funds for the project, which is why the team had to go back again and again for money to keep the project running, even though they had kept to an extremely austere budget. Finally, the project now required embassies from non-Standard-speaking worlds to assist with beta-testing the technology prior to it being rolled out further. As yet none had stepped up to be the first to test, probably because no one embassy wished to take on the larger time commitment of being first.

Amanda was well aware of all these issues, and, as exasperating as some of them seemed to one whose background was not politics, she felt that she and her co-leads were well prepared to deal with them at the status meeting later today.

First impressions

The meeting that afternoon was tumultuous. All of the traditionalist groups seem to be represented, and, rather than ask genuine questions about the translator, most seemed to use the opportunity for asking questions simply to grandstand about their particular issues. More frustrating were the committee representatives from the member worlds who were supposedly sponsoring the project. Each time Amanda or one of her colleagues brought up the need to reach closure on their funding proposal, the discussion was deflected away to a less germane topic. The committee chairwoman, Regina Orlofsky, the UFP administrator responsible for the project, was largely ineffective at moving the discussion along. While a capable technical administrator, she was neither a politician nor a diplomat, and she had failed to organize the necessary funding or testing support prior to this session. Admiral Sharif, the main proponent within Starfleet seeking greater control over the translator, was also quite vocal and appeared to be making some headway with the committee members.

Returning from another meeting, Ambassador Sarek and members of his delegation joined the session while it was in progress. Sarek was familiar with the project, and interested because of his own computer background, but he was not acquainted with any of the project's lead researchers. He was reviewing the session's distributed notes on a PADD when one of them began speaking, causing him to look up. The speaker was a Human female, and her voice was strong and confident as she answered an inquiry questioning the value of broad distribution of the translator.

"The Universal Translator obviously offers great value for exploration and first contact opportunities, and that is a primary focus of its functionality. However, it also offers great utility among peoples who are already acquainted. While a great many beings within the Federation are multilingual, the vast majority are not, and, while we can hope for this situation to change, in the meantime a translator can assist by facilitating greater commerce, education and overall cultural understanding among our many diverse worlds. Since these are some of the very reasons the Federation was formed, surely a technology which enables those goals is worthwhile to fund, test and implement."

Sarek leaned forward, intrigued. The Human was eloquent, displaying an obvious intellect, poise and passion for her work. She continued to answer questions, a number of them hostile, speaking politely yet forcefully about how well the project team had met aggressive deadlines within budget and what the costs would be of interrupting the project if needed funding and testing were not forthcoming. Her points were logical yet passionately made, a combination Sarek found quite interesting.

The committee chair was now adjourning the meeting, announcing a closed session for Federation representatives only the following day to resolve the still-open issues. Sarek leaned toward Soran and spoke quietly to him before rising to depart with the rest of the attendees.

ooo

Following the frustrating conclusion of the oversight session, Amanda and her teammates retreated back to the large, open-plan office that housed their project. She and her co-leads would strategize about talking points to give the chairwoman for tomorrow's session and about which committee members to try to buttonhole before then for support. In the meantime, they had an ongoing task list they needed to make sure was still being addressed by the junior team members and the many interns working on the project. Although it had been a long day already, they got to work as quickly as they could.

ooo

Amanda felt his presence before she actually saw him. A slight hush fell over the noisy room and she looked up, her eyes fixing on the Vulcan delegation that had just entered. She had worked with several Vulcans so far on the project, so their appearance was unremarkable in that respect. This group was different, however. Amanda's eyes were drawn to the figure at its center. He was tall, even for a Vulcan, dark, and imposing. His eyes swept the room commandingly, missing nothing. His hair was dark, but of a wavier texture than his colleagues'. His features, from his dramatic brows and elegant ears to his broad jaw, were sharp, angular and strong, and his presence seemed to demand attention.

She recognized him from the news feeds as the Vulcan ambassador. Frequently in the press, and often excoriated in editorials, he was a prominent, if often unpopular, figure. Vulcan seemed to dictate much of Federation policy whenever controversial issues arose, much to the irritation of many Terrans, and since Ambassador Sarek was the voice of Vulcan, he was the target of their frustration.

While she like many other Humans found Vulcans attractive as a species in general, she thought to herself he was a particularly striking individual. He was now speaking to the one she recognized as Soran, and they were looking in her direction. Amanda quelled an uncharacteristic stab of self-consciousness before returning her attention to the intern before her.

Moments later a shadow fell over her table and she looked up to see Soran and his broad-shouldered colleague. "Greetings, Chief of Staff Soran," she said in Standard, raising her hand in the ta'al, then, "Nashaut, Fei t'suyu Soran."

"Dr. Grayson," Soran replied, "May I introduce S'chn T'gai Sarek of Vulcan, Ambassador to Earth." At that moment piercing hazel eyes met deep blue ones and time seemed to pause for just an instant.

"Live long and prosper, Dr. Grayson," Sarek acknowledged gravely, offering the ta'al.

"Sochya eh dif, Kevet-dutar," Amanda responded, raising her hand in the same salute.

Sarek did not outwardly react but he was impressed by her flawless delivery in Vuhlkansu. Although it was logical in her position that she possess some command of Vulcan, he had found precious few Humans who were functional in his language, and fewer still who were actually fluent. Now at closer range, he observed her appearance in more detail. Her hair was golden brown, and her slight but apparently healthy frame belied the strength of will he had observed earlier during the hearing. The most striking thing about her appearance, however, was her eyes. They were a deep, clear blue, and they seemed lit from within as her direct gaze unapologetically met his.

Her intellectual capability had been obvious from her conduct in the hearing. Now, as she returned Soran's greeting and chatted briefly with friendly ease, still in Vuhlkansu, Sarek sensed that something in her manner was unique from other Humans he had encountered. He detected an aura from her, a moderate one, not unlike many others he encountered from Humans. Interestingly, though, hers seemed… steadier, more self-assured, than the others that frequently struck him as flighty and weak.

His curiosity piqued, he waited for a break in their conversation. "Dr. Grayson," he asked, "how are you and your team addressing the political issues that have arisen around the Universal Translator project?"

She gave them a wry smile. "It's been an education, Ambassador. I'm a teacher and a researcher foremost, and I think much the same can be said for most of the team. As a result, we weren't expecting these challenges and we've had to learn very quickly. Lately, though, I've started to think it would be nice to have someone with that kind of expertise on our side."

"Indeed. The socio-political dynamics surrounding the translator are complex. Teaching is a most honorable pursuit," he added, thinking of his own time at the Vulcan Science Academy. He was rewarded for his comment by a warm smile that unexpectedly enhanced her aesthetic appeal.

"Yes, teaching is my first passion. This is rewarding, too, of course," she gestured around her, "and it needs to be done." Their eyes met again.

If Amanda found his appearance striking from across the room, she found his voice positively arresting. It was deep and pleasant, with a unique timbre that positively vibrated up and down her spine. Impressive as he sounded over the news feeds, they did not do it justice. Then there were his eyes. Dark hazel, they bored into hers; she knew it was irrational, but his piercing gaze seemed to see right through into her soul.

With a small start, Amanda realized that the conversation had paused. She broke her gaze with the ambassador and turned to Soran. "Soran, I'm almost done with that last set of documents you sent for me to translate. I'll be ready for a new set in a day or two." Turning back to Sarek, she added, "Soran has been most helpful providing us with documentation in Vuhlkansu for the translator database."

Sarek inclined his head silently at the compliment to his aide, while Soran intoned, "I come to serve."

"Your service honors us," Amanda completed the traditional exchange, smiling again, and added, "I hope that we can be of equal service to you."

With that, the two Vulcans took their leave, sweeping up the rest of the delegation behind them. Amanda watched them depart. It would be intriguing to engage the ambassador in a longer conversation, if only to hear that voice and look into those eyes again... Then she shook her head and returned to work; she could only imagine the Vulcan ambassador's reaction to a flirting Human female.

ooo

"You have interacted with Dr. Grayson?" Sarek asked Soran as they left the hall.

"Yes. She is quite intelligent, and diligent. And she appears to manage her team efficiently." This was high praise, coming from his old friend.

Sarek nodded. "I will attend the closed session on the Universal Translator tomorrow."

Catalyst

The follow-up session on Universal Translator funding was almost as chaotic as the first one. Chairwoman Orlofsky fielded comments from the representatives of the member worlds on the funding committee but failed to obtain any kind of consensus. Commentary primarily consisted of bickering about why each of the representatives should have to provide funding or be the first to beta-test the translator. For a long time Sarek merely sat silently in the back, observing, his analysis of the situation confirmed. The amount of funding required was trifling; he did not even have to seek approval from Vulcan for this. It will be a relatively simple matter to thwart a Starfleet takeover of the project and to secure its completion in an efficient manner.

Admiral Sharif saw his opportunity in the failed consensus to press his case. "Madame Chairman, given the lack of available funding from the assigned member worlds, Starfleet is probably the best equipped at this point to provide both funding and oversight for this project. We would be glad to provide these services."

Before the Chairman could respond, Sarek spoke. "That will be unnecessary, Madame Chairman. As you'll note in the documents transmitted to the committee a short while ago, Vulcan has agreed to serve as the primary beta tester for the Universal Translator, and in this capacity we will also underwrite the project for the duration of the testing period. We only require that, for efficiency's sake, the project be headquartered at the Vulcan Embassy for this phase."

Obviously surprised but pleased to be presented with a painless solution to this situation, Chairman Orlofsky seized upon Sarek's offer. "That is very generous of Vulcan, Ambassador Sarek. Do I hear any objections from the committee?"

The other committee members, having only succeeded in staking out why their worlds should not fund the project, and also pleased that Vulcan was stepping in to absolve them of their obligations, had little of consequence to contribute. Sarek waited patiently until the chatter died down. When Admiral Sharif tried unsuccessfully to resurrect Starfleet's offer, Sarek calmly deflected it. Then he rose. "Madame Chairman, if these proceedings are concluded, I trust you will see to it that the Universal Translator team is transferred to the Vulcan Embassy at its earliest convenience."

Orlofsky gave him her assurances, and adjourned the meeting. Pleased that the committee had accepted a logical solution, Sarek departed, confident that there would now be few problems in completing this phase of the translator's development.

Reaction

The day had been an unmitigated disaster. Amanda had arrived at her office that morning only to find movers unceremoniously packing up her and her team's materials. They were being moved to the Vulcan Embassy, of all places, and no one seemed to be available or able to provide any explanation. Her two co-lead investigators, Wei Ming and Jennreth'nu, were personally supervising the movement of the main computers and other sensitive equipment, leaving Amanda to deal with an irritated and concerned team of developers and linguists now at the embassy. Snatches of annoyed conversation followed her as she spied Soran and attempted, for what seemed like the fortieth time, to obtain an explanation from someone for the bedlam.

"S'haile Soran–" she began.

"Just how hot is it in here, anyway?" someone grumbled to no one in particular. It was hot.

"We've lost at least a week of work, for certain."

"We better find out soon what the hell is going on or I swear –"

Amanda raised her voice over the din. "Soran!"

Sarek was returning from a meeting when his ears picked up unusual sounds in the embassy: raised voices. Far down the long hallway he detected a commotion and what sounded like Human voices. He turned toward the disturbance. When he arrived in the large office area, he encountered several non-Vulcans and a prodigious number of boxes, computers and other items piled on the floor. Everyone seemed to be talking at once, gesticulating at the piles, and the cacophony was loud enough that it hurt his ears. Then he saw Soran attempting to hold a conversation with an agitated Dr. Grayson.

"Soran, look," Amanda implored, growing frustrated. "You must be able to tell me something. We find ourselves just moved here today, we don't know why, my team is very upset, and I can't tell them anything—"

"As I stated, Dr. Grayson, I will have to have you speak to the ambassador when he is available—"

"Oh please!" she snapped, then regretted it.

Just as she opened her mouth again to apologize, Sarek stepped in. "Dr. Grayson. Employees are expected to converse at appropriate volumes inside the embassy."

Excuse me? Amanda thought. "Well then, it's a good thing I'm not an embassy employee, isn't it?" she said tightly. "In fact, Ambassador, I'm not sure why I'm even here. My team and I have just been summarily picked up and moved across town without explanation and no one seems able to tell me a damn—"

Although he gave no outward indication, Sarek was taken aback by her demeanor. She is quite emotional. Apparently she requires a more complete explanation. "I am responsible."

"What? " Amanda was sure she misheard. She wiped the sweat from her forehead.

"The Universal Translator requires testing by a non-Standard speaking delegation as well as funding. I have volunteered the Vulcan delegation. It is logical for developers and testers to be co-located; thus, your team has been provided space here."

"Wait. So you're the one who moved us?"

"I believe that is what I just said."

The grip on her temper was rapidly slipping away. We barely avoided Starfleet's attempt to commandeer the project only to find we've been hijacked by the Vulcan delegation instead? "It is highly inappropriate to unilaterally enact a major change in a development project like this without involving the researchers!"

"I assumed you would be informed."

"The movers just showed up this morning and told us we were being moved this afternoon!"

"So you were informed. What is the problem?"

This is the man I found so charming two days ago? "My team's work flow has been disrupted, I've got engineers concerned about possible data loss, all while we're trying to meet deadlines for this project. It would have been much better to involve us in this process ahead of time!" His stone-faced stare in response did it for her. "It sure would be helpful if we had a working Universal Translator right now, don't you think, Mr. Ambassador, because I do not believe we are communicating!"

Amanda's words hung in the air for a tense moment. Soran, observing the scene with dismay, had never heard any being address his superior in such a way. He saw Sarek's jaw tighten ever so slightly, and he dreaded what was to happen next.

The ambassador appeared to stand even taller as he looked down upon the Human linguist. When he spoke, his voice was calm but very firm. "Doctor. A review of the facts if you please. Yesterday this project was without funding and without a suitable group willing to assist in testing the translator. Today you have both. It is not my concern if your Human channels of communication are flawed. And I was not aware that the physical location of your offices would affect the competency level at which you and your team perform your designated tasks."

Amanda controlled her fury and frustration only barely, her voice trembling with the effort. "Our work has been disrupted with an unplanned move which will take days from which to recover – hopefully no more. Also, hopefully, there has been no irreparable damage. Mr. Ambassador, sir, if you please," she inhaled through clenched teeth, "please… just leave me to sort through the wreckage here. I may be stuck in this inferno but I do not work for you!"

Sarek observed her flashing blue eyes and accelerated breathing. She is angry; not the reaction I expected but Humans are unpredictable. However, she is distressed by the apparent lack of communication prior to the move, and she is apparently physically uncomfortable due to the climate here at the embassy. He himself had assumed the logistics would be handled better than they had been on the Federation side. Yet she defends her teammates, and is primarily concerned about the adverse effects the situation will have on them and their work. While admirable, this still does not excuse such an emotional display. He coolly replied, "As Vulcan is underwriting this portion of the project, Doctor, at this point, you do." With that, he nodded to Soran and they both turned back down the hall.

Unbelievable, Amanda thought. "That arrogant excuse for a diplomat has no idea how far his head is up his ass!" she muttered in disgust.

Several paces away, Sarek stopped and turned back toward her, arching a brow. "A curious image. But quite anatomically impossible, even for a Vulcan, Dr. Grayson." He turned again and strode away, leaving Amanda's face burning red as she contemplated kicking the file cabinet.

It had been a long time, if ever, since anyone had gotten to her like that. Great, she thought. I've probably short-circuited this project as well as my professional reputation by telling off the Vulcan ambassador. Well, if I'm on the next shuttle back to the East Coast, I have only myself to blame. She was roused from her glum thoughts as Rob, one of the developers, let out a low whistle. "Whoa, G, I thought you were gonna rip him a new one!"

Amanda closed her eyes. "Good thing I didn't, huh?" Resigned, she set out to find the rest of the team to more thoroughly assess their situation.

ooo

As they returned down the hallway, Sarek turned to Soran with a quizzical look. "So this is the Human female you spoke so highly of?"

"I must ask forgiveness for my premature assessment, S'haile," Soran replied, somewhat flustered. "I had not observed such a highly emotional aspect to Dr. Grayson's behavior before this."

"She is Human, after all, Soran," Sarek responded. "And it is of no matter. I found the experience…interesting." It seemed as though her eyes became even bluer when they flashed in anger. And although she had been overly emotional, perhaps even for a Human, she had not backed down even when he had been most intimidating toward her. Most Humans – in fact, most beings – tended to retreat rather quickly when he addressed them that way. He was… impressed.

Roses

As it turned out, Amanda wasn't shipped out of town; in fact, no one said anything to her about her outburst, a fact she found quite curious. It also turned out that the project was not overly disrupted by the move after all. No data had been lost, despite everyone's worst fears, and getting back on schedule did not appear difficult. The climate at their new location was another matter, however. Some of the engineers threatened to come to work in swimsuits. In the end they just opened as many windows as they could, resulting in a significant waste of energy that would no doubt annoy their Vulcan hosts when they discovered it. But it was that or sweat instead of work, so it seemed the best alternative.

It also appeared that they would be remaining here. None of her or the other investigators' inquires back to UFP Headquarters revealed any information other than what Sarek had already told her, and it quickly became obvious that what Ambassador Sarek said, went. It also became obvious that the Universal Translator did not have any alternative sources of funding at the moment, so protesting their current (funded) situation was out of the question. Amanda was just returning from the meeting discussing all of this when she saw a deliveryman waiting for her at her desk.

"Ms. Amanda Grayson?"

"I'm Dr. Grayson, yes," Amanda replied and then stopped when she saw her workspace.

The two dozen red roses took up her entire desk. Amanda wasn't sure who felt more awkward, her or the delivery guy wondering what he was doing inside the Vulcan embassy. After the man hastily retreated down the hushed hallway, she rang the man she knew had sent them. A nice gesture, she thought, but the right sentiment just isn't there. Need to get the obligatory thank-you out of the way.

"Michael, I don't know what to say - they're lovely," she said when he came on-screen.

Michael smiled indulgently. "As you are, my Amanda."

I'm not yours, she thought. Instead she said, "I'm surprised the florist found me here..."

"Oh, I know where you spend most of your time!" he answered and chuckled. Amanda felt more disturbed than flattered by that, but before she could respond she saw a tall figure striding down the hall in her direction. Oh great, she thought. "Michael, I need to go. Thank you; they are lovely. 'Bye."

By now Sarek had reached her office, and had walked straight in as she finished the call. He had undoubtedly heard most of it. Amanda looked up, slightly irritated. "It is customary to knock, you know."

"Illogical. The door was open." She just looked at him, wondering if he even noticed she was annoyed.

She is emotional again, he thought. He focused his attention on the flowers. "You have altered your workspace, Dr. Grayson."

"Um, yes. They were... a surprise."

"What practical purpose does this surprise serve?" Without waiting for an answer, Sarek leaned over to inspect the card sticking out of the bouquet.

Amanda blushed in surprise and found herself wishing she could shove the entire huge vase under her desk. Really, he's reading the card

"On Earth is it customary to declare one's interest in a potential mate by offering dying vegetation?"

"Yes, actually," Amanda replied tartly. "Although he's not a potential mate," she continued, shaking her head as she thought about Michael. Why did I offer that up? "Not that it's any of your business," she added quickly. "But if they're offensive I can certainly remove them," she concluded, a little too defensively, her chin jutting toward him. "In the meantime, you doubtless didn't come down here to ask me about the role of Terran flora in Human dating rituals, so what can I do for you?"

Again Sarek was struck by this woman's temerity as well as her emotionalism. It seemed that she was frequently angry. He also realized that he actually would prefer that she remove the roses, but as he had no logical reason for her to do so, he filed the thought away for later examination and ignored her comment.

"I wish to inform you that I have authorized your team's use of a block of offices on the first floor, adjacent the garden. They have been installed with a climate control system that operates separately from the rest of the embassy. If these are acceptable to you, your work materials will be transferred there."

Amanda was momentarily speechless. What had motivated this? "Well, Ambassador, that's … much appreciated. Thank you. I'll contact Soran in the morning about arranging the move."

"That will be satisfactory." He turned to depart, but she couldn't resist a query. "You know, you could have just had our things moved again. And you could have had an aide deliver the news."

He turned back to her, and his intent gaze did not waver. "Yes," was all he said, and he strode away.

She removed the roses.

Apologies

The Vulcan staff had quietly and with extreme efficiency moved the translator team into the ground floor space where the grateful Humans could adjust the temperature to something more to their liking. Amanda was pleased with the layout as well; each team member had a private space to work but there was also a common space for collaboration that was still separate from the rest of the embassy, meaning they could interact in their normal, sometimes boisterous way without disturbing anyone else.

Amanda took the lift upstairs from the new offices, heading to the ambassador's area. As she drew near, her normally purposeful stride slowed. She owed the ambassador an apology for her behavior the other day, and she wasn't really looking forward to it.

Sev waved her inside, and she walked into the large office. Seated behind the massive desk at the far end, Sarek looked up as she approached, fixing her with his hawk-like gaze. Oh yes, he's handsome. Now decidedly on his turf, Amanda struggled to push away the self-consciousness she suddenly felt. The ambassador certainly had a knack for making his opponents feel off-kilter. But you're not here to debate him, she reminded herself.

"Ambassador," she greeted him.

"Doctor," he responded simply.

"I came to thank you for the new office space. It is much more comfortable for us, and your staff did an outstanding job moving us so quickly."

"Relocating your team to a work space better suited to your physiological needs was only logical. Thanks are not necessary."

"From a Human point of view, they are, in fact, but I understand. Actually, what I really wanted to do was, ah… offer an apology for my… outburst the other day."

He raised one of those impressive brows at her as if in question. You're going to make me spell this out, aren't you? she thought with some frustration. I'm not going to let you see me squirm… much, anyway. She continued,"When I… got angry… it was uncalled for, really, and unprofessional on my part, and I apologize." There, done.

"Are you referring to when you ordered me out of your office, Dr. Grayson, or to the anatomical reference about—?"

"You don't need to repeat it," Amanda interrupted quickly, holding up a hand to stop him. "And I'm referring to both, actually, if we really need to specify. I don't usually… explode at people like that." He's really pushing his luck.

He tilted his head. "I am unharmed, as no part of you appears to have actually detonated."

The linguist opened her mouth to respond then stopped. Is he teasing me? "You're enjoying this, aren't you," she said finally.

"I do not know what you mean."

"Right." Amanda crossed her arms, studying him for a moment. "I take it this means you accept my apology."

"An apology is not necessary, Doctor. The cause was sufficient."

"I see." Huh. Perhaps this is his version of an apology of sorts as well. "Well, thank you anyway. And yes, I know that isn't necessary either."

He merely arched a brow again and began to turn back toward his work. Still emotional. Appears quite healthy. Quite healthy indeed. This thought was followed immediately by, physical attraction is not in and of itself illogical; it is simply a physiological phenomenon. What matters is how one controls that phenomenon. And my control is excellent.

Understanding that their discussion was concluded, Amanda murmured, "Good day, Ambassador," and turned to leave. She had almost reached the door when she felt his sharp eyes on her again.

"Good day, Doctor," he returned, the smoothness of his voice strangely complementing the calm intensity of his stare.

Soran's suggestion

It was Thursday when Amanda was reviewing the latest round of Vulcan translations with Soran that he broached the subject with her. Over tea, Amanda had mentioned the latest press outburst over Vulcan actions, this time relating to the Universal Translator. "I was disappointed to see that editorial in today's news feeds about the translator project – some nonsense about 'Vulcan usurping Terran technological development.' They seem to forget that Terra was one of the member worlds who couldn't come up with funding."

"It is unfortunate," Soran responded, "but not unusual. It is typical for the Terran press to ignore Vulcan embassy statements, as it has here, and to instead focus on rumor or even fabrications."

"That is unfortunate," Amanda replied. "I think one factor might be that the media here have a fundamentally different motivation than Vulcan media. Here, the primary objective is not simply to report the facts, but to increase viewership. It's a fundamental part of the economic – and social – equation. Sometimes focusing on just the facts runs counter to that goal."

Soran's look of utter incomprehension almost made her laugh outright.

"Earth media also has an historic role as the public skeptic and, ironically, truth-seeker, with the assumption that 'official' sources are not always to be trusted. The press is habitually un-trusting of authority."

They dropped the topic for the time being and returned to the translations. A little while later, Soran spoke up. "Dr. Grayson, I recognize that you would like a broader range of materials to translate. It occurs to me that a better contact for you would be Ambassador Sarek. He is better versed in classical Vulcan literature than I; he is also able to authorize the release of restricted materials."

Amanda was immediately intrigued. Restricted materials? Very interesting. And the idea of interpreting literature with Sarek? Also interesting. Aloud, she chuckled. "Are you a betting man, Soran? It's been a whole week since I told the ambassador off; are you sure I'll be able to restrain myself if I'm defending my translations with him?"

Soran pursed his lips. "I have confidence in your abilities, Doctor. In addition, I believe you could be of some assistance to the ambassador."

Amanda raised her eyebrows at this.

Soran continued. "Sarek has obviously learned a great deal about Human culture and customs during his time on Earth. However, there is always more to be learned, and it is easier to do so outside of diplomatic circles and in the company of a native. You could provide that perspective. You also seem to have some understanding of the Terran press that could be… helpful to the embassy. The media is much more of an unpredictable factor in affairs here and we are not accustomed to this."

Amanda looked thoughtful for a moment. She had plenty to keep her busy at the moment. Still, spending time with Sarek in this way sounded intriguing, and not altogether unpleasant. And Soran was right about the press. The embassy was frequently at a disadvantage in any public discussion of an issue and it needlessly generated negative sentiment toward Vulcan, a fact that she felt was wrong. If she could help in some way, she would. "All right Soran," she said slowly with a grin. "I'll take this on. Will you inform the ambassador of his good fortune, or shall I?"

ooo

Later that day, Amanda ran into Sarek outside his office. "Good afternoon, Ambassador. I understand from Soran I'm to come to you for new translation material."

"Indeed."

"Yes, he said you would be a better source of classical Vulcan literature."

Sarek nodded. "That is probably true."

"And in exchange, I'm to provide you with additional insights into Human culture."

"Yes, he did recommend that," he replied, now wondering what his aide had in mind, precisely. "What do you suggest?"

Amanda looked up at him, considering. A slight smile playing about her lips, she replied, "Let's have lunch tomorrow."

Sarek frowned at this un-novel proposal. "Lunch?"

"Yes. Let's see if we can get through a meal without an argument."

"That is a low standard for success."

"See?" Amanda exclaimed triumphantly, her smile mischievous, "Here we are, arguing about how difficult it will be for us not to argue!"

Sarek merely flicked a brow. "Until tomorrow, then, Doctor." It seems little with this Human female is predictable. Lunch should prove intriguing.

Lunch

Lunch was interesting, pleasant, and there were no arguments. Amanda had insisted they get take-out and sit in the garden. She had originally arrived at his office intending to take him to one of her favorite vegetarian cafés. However, when they prepared to depart and were suddenly joined by Stanek, Chief of Security, and Sarek's three personal security guards, she balked. "I can see why you don't get out much," she commented drily, looking askance at the four silent, somewhat hulking guards. "How about I go get take-out for us instead?"

Later, as they ate (without guards), Amanda observed him. He was certainly one of the most magnetic colleagues she had ever worked with, suffused with an exotic, potent vitality of which he did not seem consciously aware. Not that it would ever be appropriate to act on it. But she could at least enjoy his good looks from an aesthetic point of view.

She was interrupted from her musings when he spoke. "A question, Dr. Grayson."

"Of course."

"What was your reason for changing our venue for mid-meal?"

"I didn't realize you would need a security detail if we went out. I find it's more difficult to get to know someone in a crowd."

Sarek considered her words for a moment. "You consider them intrusive?"

"No; they're not doing anything inappropriate… Well, yes, in a way, I guess; not that it's their fault. For the kind of informational exchange we're trying to accomplish, I think it's best done one-on-one, but I'd feel awkward just ignoring anyone else who was with us."

"Interesting," he replied. It was obvious he was so used to the presence of security and other staff that it did not affect him. He continued. "I do not wish for you to be uncomfortable. Perhaps Stanek can be persuaded to loosen some of his security protocols."

Amanda smiled. He had a reputation for being stubborn and intransigent, but that did not appear to extend to every situation. "I don't want to put you out."

"Put me out of where?"

Now she laughed, and he noticed how her eyes sparkled. "To 'put you out' means to inconvenience you."

"It is no inconvenience to speak with Stanek."

"That would be nice, then. If I may change the topic, Ambassador?"

He nodded, still watching her eyes with interest. There is merit to one-on-one interaction with this Human, it seems.

"I had some questions about our translations of the Pre-Reform history text that Soran gave me…"

The rest of lunch passed in animated conversation about Vulcan's distant past. Sarek was definitely a student of history – both Vulcan's and Earth's – and Amanda was looking forward to discussing Vulcan literature with him if his knowledge there was even close to his grasp of history.

They quickly established a routine, meeting often daily, frequently over lunch, to discuss their recent activities. Amanda explained, commented on, and provided a Human perspective for his experiences and interactions, current events and cultural phenomena. Sarek reviewed her translations from Vulcan, provided interpretations, and compared Vulcan and Earth history. When she learned of his interest in Terran literature, especially poetry, she started to bring favorite works of hers to compare with the Vulcan ones he shared with her.

They soon began to venture outside the embassy, with Stanek's reluctant acquiescence. Often Stell and T'Lina, of Sarek's personal detail, would accompany them at a discreet distance, although if they stopped for lunch Amanda insisted that they join her and Sarek. At first, the two younger Vulcans sat awkwardly, clearly unsure how to interact with this Human and their superior, but gradually Amanda's friendly bearing and perceptive questioning drew them out. Sarek preferred to observe during these interactions, learning about his staff and about this Human's unique style of communication.

For Amanda's part, she found herself looking forward to her meetings with the Vulcan diplomat who so recently had utterly incensed her. These sessions were indeed proving interesting.