An Ideal Husband
"How silly to write on pink paper! It looks like the beginning of a middle-class romance. Romance should never begin with sentiment. It should begin with science and end with a settlement"
She flew to the fertile plans of the Shikahr Valley after that. T'Pau's Palace looked pretty enough to be worthy of its tourist Holocards, lematya banners snapping on the flag poles, her Palace guard out in their archaic uniforms. At the main entrance, a fleet of Terran blue tourist buses, clashing horribly with the ochre sands, discharged and swallowed up their small groups of passengers. Signs that even the mighty T'Pau was reduced to doing her share to fill the greedy Federation tax maw with tourist credits.
Apparently to give the tourists more of a show, someone had dragged out some ancient Vulcan siege weapons to decorate the entrances, even though the Palace had been built after Surak had negotiated his great Peace, and the Palace had never been a working Fortress as her home had once been. More of a show castle. It was certainly prettier than her own home, but Amanda looked down on it for that.
"Sucks to you, you fake old Folly," she told it, as its force shields dropped to her flyer's coded transmitter.
Amanda turned her flyer to a side entrance, and ignored the tourists who'd turned recording cameras in her direction, hoping to scan out one of T'Pau's visitors. She walked through the fabulous gardens, fountains tinkling, pleased that the tourists weren't in this part of the grounds.
It was too early for even lunch, but T'Pau had laid out a late breakfast to receive her, the sign of a very kind regard. Amanda dropped to her knees before the Matriarch, and gave her hands over in the familial embrace.
"You are well, child," T'Pau said, letting go of her hands to brush Amanda's temples briefly before pulling her hand back as if fearful of intruding on her privacy. No doubt nervous about any too recent memories of her son's flaming fever.
"Of course, I'm well," Amanda said. "Why wouldn't I be well?" The Matriarch just gave her a direct, intense look.
"I'm well enough," Amanda repeated.
"But you indicated that you had something of import to see me about." T'Pau reminded her, gesturing her to a seat, and seating herself with every evidence of reluctance.
Amanda eyes widened as she realized the Matriarch expected some dire announcement from her. "I'm sorry. I didn't think you'd infer that. You've seen Sarek surely." Amanda was surprised at T'Pau's suppositions. Sarek invariably was a bit shattered after any Pon Far, but he was walking around, functional. She was sure T'Pau had already been informed from her Council aides, if not the healers themselves, if not from her own spies in Sarek's Fortress Guard, that Sarek had made it through another Time, and was back in circulation this morning.
"Not seen. I have heard that he has one again survived the Time." T'Pau's expression gave away nothing. "But no more. And nothing about you, from you, save this request."
"He's seeing the healers today, but he believes he is well."
"T'Rueth says he has not eaten, since the Time," T'Pau worried.
Amanda bit her lip, half amused, half annoyed by this evidence T'Pau had spies even within her own staff. Though T'Rueth and T'Pau would have reason to be concerned if that were true, since a lack of appetite would indicate a Vulcan had not recovered properly from the Fever. "He has, judging by the state of my supplies. Just not anything T'Rueth prepared. I laid in food in our suite," Amanda explained. "Most of it got eaten and certainly not by me."
"I am relieved to hear this. When you indicated you had something of import-"
"There's nothing wrong with us, that I know of. Nothing wrong with me, either. At least, not that a little time and distance from these events won't repair."
"Indeed." T'Pau offered her tea, a bit testily, and Amanda realized she must have given her mother-in-law a good scare.
"I'm sorry. It is actually about another I've come to ask. I hate to bother you. But I believe something like this, between human and Vulcan. Well, you would not only have to know, you might be the only person who would be informed."
Some of the Matriarch's wooden stiffness fractionally relaxed, and she blinked. "Of whom do you wish to speak?"
"There was a young woman, who came to my Academy Office to see me, just before I - well, just before she said she was going to marry. A Vulcan, that is. I didn't have time to deal with her or warn you then. The girl was Amy Prue. The Vulcan-" Amanda faltered, because T'Pau's face had closed again, and she had held up her hand to forestall any further comment.
"It's best not to speak of these events."
Amanda took a breath. "What events?"
T'Pau just sketched a Vulcan negative, refusing to comment.
"Please tell me she didn't get married."
"That I cannot do."
"She married," Amanda repeated, and sighed. "I thought it a very unpropitious match. I tried to warn her against it. You'll have your hands full with her, I'm afraid. She told me that she intends to market her situation for profit, as a sort of penny dreadful romance. She even threatened me. Hopefully, the healers put that notion out of her head, and explained the notion of Vulcan privacy. But she may be a bit headstrong on that point. You may have to bribe her to keep her from spilling Vulcan secrets. Fortunately, she seems the type to trade her silence for that sort of currency."
"I have no concerns on that score," T'Pau said.
"She's been spoken to then?" Amanda asked. Still more than a bit dehydrated, Amanda drank her tea, before looking over at T'Pau. "You worked something out?"
"She is all right?" Amanda ventured. "I mean, in spite of her attitude, I was concerned for her, knowing the volatile nature of a Vulcan male in the Time, but…" she trailed off. I made it through, was her thought. I made it through. I don't want to think beyond that. I can't.
T'Pau said nothing.
"She'll recover, at least," Amanda insisted.
"My Daughter, this is none of your concern."
"Tell me," Amanda said, biting out the words, her hands now clenched.
"Unfortunately, the young lady was the victim of an unspecified fever." T'Pau said the words with cool Vulcan neutrality.
Amanda's breath caught in her throat. She'd heard the phrase since her earliest days on Vulcan, newscasters rattling off some statistic, but even when she finally understood what they meant, she had never known, never actually spoken, to any real casualty of the syndrome.
"Was it dehydration?" Amanda asked. "Did she die at Iolani?"
"Amanda. This is private. By tradition, only the families of the individuals involved are entitled to know the facts."
"It would not be good for you to know."
"Tell me." Amanda stared T'Pau down. "I will find out one way or another. I'd rather hear this from you."
And the Matriarch relented. "She married the day after you and Sarek were secluded," T'Pau reiterated, her voice emotionless. "She and her mate attempted to reside in her Federation Center apartment, but her contract was terminated upon her marriage and she was evicted. They then went to Iolani."
"Oh, no," Amanda said, remembering again her own brief experience with Iolani's nightmarish heat and dryness. Even with Sarek quickly hustling her out of there, bundling her into an aircar, her brief exposure to that searing environment had given her a tremendous respect for the inhospitable nature of Vulcan's equatorial deserts. "It was dehydration, then," she insisted.
"You seem unwilling to spare yourself this knowledge, even though it must give everyone who knows of it pain." T'Pau tilted her head, regarding her disapprovingly. "It surely can't profit you to know the circumstances. It was not a natural death, my daughter."
"Dehydration isn't natural."
"Her death was the result of an unspecified fever. More than that, you need not know."
Amanda sank back, pushing her tea away with a shaking hand. "What a waste of two young lives." Still exhausted and emotionally raw from her own ordeal, tears sprung to her eyes and she wiped them sadly away.
"Two? But only one, my child. Stregan is unharmed."
Amanda paused, hand at her cheek mid-pause. "He's unharmed. Unharmed?!" She gripped both arms of her chair and half rose. "But how can that be? Wouldn't he have died when his mate did, since he was in the grip of the Fever?"
T'Pau tilted her head in a Vulcan shrug. "Presumably his marriage was well consummated before her demise. According to his employer, he is well."
"His employer? You mean he went back to work? He's not in custody?"
"For what? Males are not to be held responsible for their actions in Pon Far."
Amanda was non-plussed, and then remembered something Amy Prue had said. "But his first wife died seven years ago. He's done this before! Hasn't he?"
"There was an unfortunate prior incident, yes," T'Pau admitted.
"He preyed on that girl! He's nothing but a sexual serial killer."
"She chose to marry him. Against all counsel and advice." T'Pau held out her hands in a rare for her gesture of helplessness. "In such circumstances, what can be done? She was of age, by human standards. Who could stop her?"
"Someone should have stopped him! Tell me he didn't choose a human because a Vulcan women wouldn't have him."
"In such circumstances, it is difficult for a male to find a Vulcan female to agree to bond."
"So he did prey on that girl. Who officiated at that wedding? What Vulcan would allow that ignorant, foolish woman to marry him, knowing that he would rapidly be in Pon Far and that she was completely clueless as to what that meant for her, or even how to survive it?"
"Amanda, they were married in a Federation civil ceremony. No Vulcan would marry them."
"A Terran ceremony. Oh," Amanda sank back, appalled anew. She shook her head. "It shouldn't be allowed."
"Indeed. I have never approved of the intermarriage of Vulcans with outworlders. I have tried to oppose such unions. If you recall, I strenuously opposed your own marriage to my son. But as Vulcans are now Federation citizens they are entitled to take advantage of these options. I would need," she eyed Amanda calmly and pointedly, "allies to enact some legislation to prevent these things in future." She raised an expectant brow.
Amanda shied back a bit from that. "I would have to think about that. And you were primarily concerned with Sarek. With your traditions, the continuation of your family line."
"Naturally, I had personal concerns. I was also concerned that this young woman's fate would also be your own." T'Pau reached out, in an almost unknown gesture for a Vulcan, and touched her hand to Amanda's as if in comfort, for herself or for Amanda it would be hard to say. "It so very nearly was, my child. Or so very well could be."
Amanda shivered at that. "I've been very lucky, haven't I? I certainly wasn't much smarter than she. It was just sheer...dumb...luck."
"Not entirely. There is also character. I think Sarek has been fortunate, that if he were to marry a human, it was you that he chose."
Two tears spilled from Amanda's eyes and rolled down her cheeks. "Oh, T'Pau."
She couldn't face going to the Academy after that. She didn't actually believe the ghost of Amy Prue would be there, leaning up against her office doorframe, castigating her for not preventing her death. Not warning her enough. Not counseling her, selfishly not helping her to prepare, as Amanda had frenetically prepared herself for Pon Far with a Vulcan. She had not done enough.
And what could she do to prevent any future Amy Prues, that was the question. And even if she could, did she want to? Should she help T'Pau?
And Stregan walking free. Taunting her. Haunting her.
No, she wasn't yet up to inhabiting the same space, breathing the same air, she and Amy had both shared a few weeks ago. She was still alive. Amy was now dead.
Amanda wondered if any of her office neighbors would be agree to a change. She wasn't sure she could return to that office.
Instead she flew home. Sarek's flyer was in its spot in the hanger. Usually he worked long hours after the enforced absence a Pon Far dictated. She always felt it was less because he was catching up, and more because he was simply embarrassed, in a purely Vulcan way, to face her. That the easiest way for him to purge that emotion was to concentrate on work, logic, duty. Become super Vulcan for a while. That he needed to put some physical space and time between the pre-Reform Vulcan he had recently been with her at home, and the modern Vulcan his profession dictated.
But neither she nor Sarek were quite the same people they had been before he'd succumbed to vrie.
So she wasn't really surprised to see his flyer there. As she had told Mark, she rather expected it, though it was unlike his previous behavior.
"You're home early," she said to him when she came across him seated at a table looking out over the Terrace gardens. She had to admit to herself, that she wasn't entirely all that pleased to see him. It was what she had told Mark. She didn't love Sarek any less after these intervals. But she needed some space, particularly after these worst of Pon Fars, to put that pre-Reform Vulcan out of her mind, and let her feelings for the husband who wore his face to return. And right now her emotions were in a turmoil. She could have used a brief respite from Vulcan and Vulcans. Sarek might have formerly retreated into his Super-Vulcan mode, and stayed away after a Pon Far. And she might have been miffed with him for it. But perhaps he sensed she had formerly needed that as much as he.
But it seemed that too had changed.
T'Jar came silently, set out a laden tea tray, and departed with only the briefest glance to each of their faces. Amanda spared enough of her attention to give the girl a nod.
He poured himself and her tea. "There was nothing particularly pressing. My aides were competent. And I wished to be here." There was a definite shade of emotion coloring his words at his last statement. She raised a brow at that. Even, perhaps especially post Pon Far, that was emotional for Sarek. If Spock had said something to her in that tone, his father would have been all over him for it.
Her eyes cut to his, evaluating him. He was appreciably thinner, hollows in his cheeks, a trace more gray, perhaps in his hair. But he moved easily enough, his hands were steady as he poured, and while she sensed he wasn't pleased with himself, she didn't think he was consumed by any too dark Vulcan passion. But that could be wishful thinking on her part.
"Are you all right? The healers cleared you?"
He blinked at that. "I am quite well. Thank you."
She blinked at that odd expression from his lips. Vulcans didn't thank, given their actions were always presumed to have a logical motive. Gratitude was both emotional and illogical. But something in the way he said those words made her think they had more than a social meaning. Other than his odd words, and the tinge of emotion coloring his phrasing, his manner was calmly Vulcan. "If you are thanking me for what I think you are thanking me for," she said, a trifle acerbically, "please don't."
No reaction to that, his face utterly neutral. She sank across from him, worn out from her interview with T'Pau on top of the stress of the last two weeks. She repressed an odd desire to slap his face. Down girl, she thought. Nice Kitty. You wanted a Vulcan. You got one.
"I think you are unwell," he noted, handing her a cup. "You should drink. You are still dehydrated."
"I'm just tired." Too tired to be angry. "I had tea with T'Pau. She gave me some news today."
"Indeed." Sarek didn't comment further. Or meet her eyes.
She looked across at him. Events like what had occurred between Stregan and Amy Prue, bonding issues, Challenge issues, were not the province of Vulcan males. Never. They were handled by the Matriarch. No Vulcan would discuss such an issue with Sarek. But humans from the Terran Embassy might. Somehow, she knew, she just knew, with the intimacy of the bond still giving her an enhanced awareness of him, that he was familiar with the details too.
"So you know about Stregan and Prue?"
His eyes widened slightly. "How do you know of them?"
"Amy Prue came to visit me, in my office, before, well just before they married."
Sarek raised his brows, his eyes even wider. On a Vulcan, such an expression made him look appalled. Almost as if he might faint. "She was a friend?" His voice rose notably, human style, with his question.
Amanda blinked, puzzled in spite of her own emotions by his reaction. "No. That was the first time I had ever spoken to her. And she, well, she wouldn't ever have been a friend. In fact, with what she planned, she would have been more like an enemy." She looked at him. "How do you know about this? This isn't something Vulcan males are supposed to be involved in. Did the Terrans bring it to you?"
"There have been questions asked about her demise," Sarek admitted.
Amanda sighed. "I confess I too don't understand why Stregan is just allowed to walk free."
Sarek tilted his head, looking at her. "One might say the same of me."
"Oh," All the events of the last two weeks rushed in to overwhelm her, and Amanda put her face in her hands, wanting to shut out the world and all these conflicts. After a moment, Sarek put a hand on her shoulder. She shifted uncomfortably under it. He took it away again.
"There's nothing for me to forgive," she said, not looking up. "You didn't rape me, Sarek."
He was silent a moment. "By Vulcan standards, perhaps not. But by human, perhaps yes. And I have been newly informed the Federation penalty for rape is fifteen years to life in a maximum security detention center. Of course, a Vulcan would not survive the first seven. And for a murder, the sentence is thirty to life. In either way, the sentence for a Vulcan in those circumstances would be death."
"I never said no. You didn't rape me, and you certainly didn't kill me. I entered into our marriage knowing the facts. And willing."
"Not all of the facts."
She raised her head. "Certainly all you or the healers could expect. You didn't know all the facts either. No one anticipated what happened to us. And I'm sure she was counseled too."
He raised a brow. "Amy Prue knew those essentials as well. She was willing."
Amanda sighed. "Is the Terran Embassy really asking for Stregan to be charged for her murder? I think he should be punished. Or dealt with somehow. But ... not a human style murder trial."
"How would you suggest he be punished?" Sarek asked, looking at her.
"I don't know. Don't ask me that Sarek." Amanda rubbed her temples. "What do they want?"
"They are seeking an investigation. Which of course cannot be allowed."
"I'm beginning to have an unwilling sympathy for the Terran Embassy," Amanda mused. She looked over at her husband. "I thought Amy Prue was such a fool. She had no idea what she was getting into. She was living in some fantasy world." She shook her head. "Still, I imagine they always thought the same of me. In fact, I'm sure of it. Maybe to a lesser extent, but the same, you know, in all the relevant parts. Just a matter of degree, really, from their perspective. I knew that's what they thought of me." She laughed without humor. "And I thought myself so superior. I never thought of myself like that. I was different, you know. I knew what I was doing. I had Prince Charming for a husband. I was the interstellar Cinderella. I was such a flaming fool, Sarek."
"How can they go after Stregan? Amy became a Vulcan citizen when she married him, didn't she? Vulcan laws take precedence."
"They were not married by Vulcan law," Sarek said. "They were unbonded. They were married in a Federation civil ceremony. The status of her Vulcan citizenship and the pertinence of Vulcan laws to her situation could be debated."
Amanda looked up, horrified. "They were unbonded? T'Pau never mentioned that."
"As an elder, as Matriarch, she finds that dishonor even more difficult to countenance."
"How could Stregan do that?"
"He was in the Fever. He wasn't thinking logically."
"He preyed on her."
"He wasn't fully responsible for his actions."
"Terrans won't think of it that way."
"I know," Sarek's voice was soft. "Perhaps I sympathize with the Terrans more than you realize. And even with Stregan."
Amanda looked at her husband. "Don't take what I say too much to heart. I'm a little rough right now emotionally. And you and I have some fences to mend. But you're not him. You didn't prey on me."
"Didn't I?" His eyes cut to hers.
"Courting is not preying."
"No. But I am Vulcan. In different circumstances, their fate could have been ours." He turned a little away from Amanda and his voice came in a hush. "I did not know that Miss Prue's name was Amy."
"I'm not she." Amanda did reach out and took his hand in hers. "Sarek. You and I knew each other, and loved each other, before we married. And it was two years after our marriage before your first Pon Far, not a few hours. She couldn't have loved him. She hadn't known him long. She just wanted a Vulcan. And he certainly did not love her. As I know you love and loved me. In spite of, not because of, my being human. And I love you irrespective of your being Vulcan."
He looked down at her hand on his, the first time she'd consciously touched him or really allowed his touch without flinching since Pon Far. Then raised his eyes to hers.
"All right. She put her other hand over his, "Maybe I'm a little angry – not angry precisely, but resentful and feeling put upon. It was a bad one, Sarek. The short ones I can manage, but I don't have Vulcan stamina when the fever last longer than four days. I love you in spite of that. I won't say it's easy." She shivered. "But at least we're bonded. I can't imagine a woman going through that and not being bonded. That would be rape. It would be nightmarish."
He moved to put an arm around her when she shivered, then stopped and looked a question. She nodded, and leaned her head against his shoulder. "I agree," he said. "It is unimaginable. But I suspect with the Fever upon him, logical choice had become impossible."
"What will happen?" she asked.
"They will try. We will refuse. Eventually something more politically expedient will happen to divert their attention and they will move on. Their protests are somewhat perfunctory. I gather her disappearance is almost as much of a relief to them as it might be to-" he hesitated.
"To Vulcan? Should she have carried out her plans?"
"That would never have happened," Sarek dismissed. "One way or another, they would have been prevailed upon to respect Vulcan conventions. In spite of her ambitions."
"She would have accepted a bribe," Amanda said dryly. "I'm not sure even you could afford what she wanted though."
"Vulcans do not succumb to blackmail. There are other ways to prevail upon such a pair. Even if she was not subject to Vulcan justice, he was. And Vulcan is more important to the Federation than the Federation is to Vulcan. If he could not control her, if we could not have, they would have."
"And Amy Prue just disappears," Amanda said. "A convenience to everyone." She paused a moment, then admitted. "Like I almost did." She thought about that a moment, and shuddered.
For a moment Sarek hesitated. "Yes. Though there was somewhat more concern regarding your disappearance, my wife."
"Aren't I lucky to be so popular?" Amanda said dryly. "All that concern didn't help, though did it? I was still trapped."
Sarek put out a hand to cover hers. "I have not forgotten my promise, Amanda."
"To let me go?" Her lips twisted, looking down at his hand over hers, the antithesis of his statement. But still... "Maybe it wouldn't be so bad for you. There must be other Amandas, other Amy Prues out there."
He drew back as if burned. "Don't." After a moment, he regained control. "That is unfair."
Amanda sighed and looked up at him. "You're right. You'll have to forgive me if I tell you that I find it a little harder to love you as much post Pon Far than I do normally. It's a bit too soon, Sarek. I'm trying."
"I do understand." He looked down into her eyes. "But we have a shared history, Amanda, of good and bad. After an unfortunate period, it behooves us to reinforce the good. I need to try as well, as you put it."
"What does that mean?" Amanda said warily, suspicious of that entrée. "I don't want another ten acres of roses, or a box of Hershey bars. I don't want any kind of present, Sarek, even couched in practicality like a new aircar or computer. Don't give me anything. It would feel too much like - Remember, I'm not looking for a bribe."
"I am aware of that. However, since I am sure you are surfeit of being home, I thought we might engage in some pleasant diversion."
"What sort of diversion?" she asked, suspicious anew. "I don't want two weeks on the Riviera either." She thought about that. "Though it would give me a chance to get away from my office ghosts," she added consideringly. Then shuddered. "But no, I don't."
He blinked but didn't pretend to understand her non-sequitor. "The Academy Symphony is playing tonight," he offered.
"You want to go out?" she was shocked at that. "Sarek, you never want to go out. Particularly not after - And we could listen to music just as well at home."
"It's true that I am often surfeit of the numerous social obligations we are required to attend, that when we have a free evening, I don't often choose to be social. But given our recent...confinement, perhaps we should go out."
"My head is aching a little too much to sit through four hours of screeching instruments, though," Amanda admitted. "And if we left early, it could be taken amiss."
He flicked a brow, perhaps in similar agreement. "If you don't care for the symphony, the Federation Players are presenting The Real Inspector Hound."
Amanda winced. "No. No murder mysteries, Sarek. Not even in spoof."
"I hesitate to mention this event, given the title. But the Shikahr Comedy Club is presenting a play entitled "The Ideal Husband."
Against her will, Amanda's mouth twisted. "If anything speaks to the fact that we live in a diverse and multifaceted Federation, it is the existence of a group called The Shikahr Comedy Club. That alone is hilarious."
"They are mostly human," Sarek said in feigned indifference, but looking at her reluctant smile with intent. "It is an Oscar Wilde play."
"I know the play." She looked at Sarek in sudden suspicion. "Do you?"
He gave the fractional chin jerk to the left that was a Vulcan negative, one brow flicking. "Should I?"
"It's about the naïve wife of a corrupt politician, who discovers she perhaps is holding everyone, including herself, to an unrealistic ideal. Are you sure you didn't bribe them to run this play?"
His brows rose to his forehead in an expression of Vulcan innocence. "Amanda, I may be Vulcan, and heir to certain unfortunate biological compulsions. But I am not corrupt."
"You can be devious, though," she said consideringly. "In your own Vulcan way."
"I would never bribe a set of actors to present a play I am unfamiliar with, on the slim chance you might agree to attend a performance with me. Particularly when I could have no idea either of us would be capable or willing to attend."
"Hmmm." Amanda said, conceding that. "So you're inviting me on a date?" she asked.
He sat back, eyeing her. "My limited understanding of human social conventions is that dating is an activity one engages in prior to the state of marriage. But I suppose that is essentially what I am asking."
"I want to take a nap this afternoon," she said, considering. "But, oddly enough, I like the idea of getting out for a while this evening. Just to...gain some perspective. Recharge. I just can't deal with issues like Stregan and T'Pau yet. And I could use some diversion. Even a laugh. So could you, I expect."
"I will not-"
"Oh, you know what I mean. As long as we make it a short night. I'll still be a little tired."
She gave him a direct look. "And as long as you realize that just because I'm going on a date with you that you are not going to get lucky tonight. And don't give me those innocent Vulcan brows and pretend you don't know the colloquialism and what it means in respect to dating. You do."
"I have already been very lucky, my wife," Sarek said. "To use your colloquialism. And I should not wish to get lucky again, as you call it, for some time." He shuddered slightly. "Not for at least a week."
She snorted at that. "You wish. But...I guess I've been lucky too," she said, with renewed awareness of her mortality. "We both are." She looked up at him. "So, let me take a bath redolent with Orion love bubbles. You might even join me."
"Immerse myself in water?" Sarek asked, making, what for a Vulcan, was a moue of distaste. "I think not."
"They are great for soreness. And it might be fun."
He eyed her, fractionally, "I'll consider it," he said, as one giving a great concession.
"Aren't you brave, my husband? And then, after a nap," she gave him her hand, sans flinching, "to An Ideal Husband?"
"To An Ideal Husband," Sarek said.
But before raising her to her feet, he took her hand and kissed it. She looked down at him, thinking of when he'd first made that pretty gesture, her own buried feelings of love somewhat rekindling at the touch.
And then, when she rose, she leaned up to him, and kissed him, carefully, tentatively. Mindful of everything from her ribs to their recent past.
"Amanda?" he asked, more than a bit surprised. This was no more her normal behavior, this soon post Pon Far, than it was his.
"Maybe you'll get lucky a bit sooner, my husband," she said, taking his other hand, and letting him feel her emotions. She was sore. She still felt overly pawed over. There were still ghosts she had to banish. But she was well aware that she did have her Sarek back. Not forever. But for perhaps three years before that other, pre-Reform Vulcan returned. And when he did, she could handle it. They could. She was sure of it, as she perhaps had never been quite sure before.
And with that prospect, she smiled up at him for real this time.
And after a moment, he returned her kiss. "How unfortunate there is not a play this evening entitled An Ideal Wife."
She laughed. "Maybe you need to write our romance from a Vulcan perspective. That would be fascinating."
"Perhaps someday I shall," he said.
Halfway up the stairs, she paused, stricken. "But Sarek, what are we going to do about Stregan? T'Pau has asked me to work on legislation with her. To ban marriages of Vulcans to outworlders. And Sarek... I almost agreed."
"Did you really?" he asked, almost lazily. "And only almost?"
She looked up at him. "When you are in your right mind, you have absolutely no fear, do you my husband?"
"With such a wife as you, why would I?"
She snorted at that. "I assumed of course that we'd be grandfathered in. But it's not a simple problem. Stregan has to be stopped. But even with all our issues, that I am only too familiar with, I just can't deny a couple who are sincerely attached the right to marry. I mean, it would be hypocritical in me, and just wrong in principle. So I put her off. But you know your mother can never be thwarted for long. And she has some very good, logical arguments supporting her position," she finished earnestly.
"I'm sure she will be honored at your assessment of her logic."
"Sarek," she warned. "It's a little too soon for you to laugh at my logic. I love you...but maybe not that much. Not this week."
He looked down at her. "I'll think of something."
"Something," she said. "Just like that. You're very confident, aren't you?"
Against her will, she smiled. "Perhaps it is one of my faults. It certainly can be one of yours at times. But I like that about you, Sarek of Vulcan. I always have."
"How fortunate it is that your faults and my alleged faults so neatly correspond," he teased in return.
"Alleged, indeed," Amanda scoffed. "But I don't think it's fortune, my husband." She put her hand back in his. "I think it is fate."
"Fate, fortune, love," Sarek said. "Even I must concede, my wife, that it was not entirely logic alone."
"So T'Pau's logic doesn't scare you," Amanda said, with quiet realization.
"I am here," Sarek said. "You are here. And nothing Vulcan has yet thrown at us has changed that."
"We stand through hurricanes," Amanda said, thinking of her painful, pitiful preparations.
"Through the flames of Pon Far, and the fires of vrie. And the storms of human emotion," he added archly.
Amanda smiled, "Well, my stalwart Vulcan. If you are all that impermeable to flame and storm, you are certainly up to facing a little water."
"I suppose," he said, with reluctant consideration, "given your recent accommodations to my requirements, it is only fair trade."
"Our shared history," she said. And they climbed the stairs together.
"You were to me something apart from common life
a thing pure, noble, honest, without stain
The world seemed to me finer because you were in it,
and goodness more real, because you lived"
Quotes from Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband"