Vulcan is gone. Where it existed in her husband's life is an empty hole.
They sit together in the medbay as medical staff bustle about and shout for hypos. They both verge on catatonic. Amanda feels the horror of his loss through their bond and fumbles with her own brush with death.
She shakes and trembles with the knowledge of her own mortality. She isn't sure she will ever again trust the ground to remain solid beneath her feet. She doesn't think she ever wants to see a mountain again. At the very least, she never wants to stand on one again.
Her finger's touch Sarek's, sinking into the gaps between his fingers. He doesn't protest the touch, and T'Pau, who is seated on the biobed beside them and as silent and stunned as the rest of the remaining Vulcans, sees the touch and says nothing. For once, no Vulcan looks at Amanda's closeness to Sarek askance. And for once, he doesn't try to pull away.
She craves his touch, but she won't ask for more than that. The cliff may have nearly given way beneath her feet, but his entire planet was swallowed up by a singularity. Where Vulcan once hung in the vast expanse of space is an invisible, inescapable gravitational well. She is now very well aware of how quickly her life can be taken away, but he has just witnessed the destruction of his people.
And they are shaken.
They are grieving.
But they are not broken.
Whoever attacked Vulcan has made a grievous mistake. Rage boils under Sarek's controlled exterior and the numb shock on the surface of his thoughts. His rage is bone deep, inexorable and inexhaustible. The attacker has awaked the soul-searing wrath of the Vulcan people.
Through her bond with Sarek, she can feel their passion vibrating in the air around her. On the surface, they all appear as he does: collected, perhaps a bit shocked. But under that shock, their fury takes the form of an underwater earthquake. No one will know their rage until the tidal wave strikes and destroys everything in its path.
They are not broken. They have lost their world, but they are not broken.
The logical wall around Sarek's black pit of emotion holds strong, and the mind it protects is already working. He is considering every M-class planet he knows of, dividing them into different categories – suitable, passable, unsuitable, and then further flagging the suitable planets by their individual attributes. He measures their climates, their weather patterns, their tectonic plate movements. She has no doubt at least half the other survivors are doing something similar.
In the end, they terraform a planet so that it suits their needs. There is, naturally, an alien invasion in the midst of the process, but in the end, the planet is almost perfect for them. Its surface is a delicate balance of biomes chosen so that the planet can sustain itself and constant terraforming isn't necessary. The Vulcan need to preserve life forced their hand in that regard; they wished to keep the indigenous animal life alive.
So the planet is arid and mountainous about the equator, and to the north dry, grassy plains stretch on toward ice-capped poles. It has only these three diverse climates, and that appeals to the Vulcan people.
What doesn't appeal to them are the two massive oceans that they simply cannot do without. Without the oceans, so much larger than the old Vulcan's seas, the ecology of the planet collapses, and they cannot afford to constantly terraform just because they don't want water. The oceans breed impressive hurricanes that initially take the Vulcans by surprise.
At least as far as any Vulcan can be surprised.
When the first storm rolled in, pounding at the temporary, transparent aluminum housing, both Sarek and T'Pau stared out into the violent downpour and said "Fascinating."
But the planet calls to the Vulcan people for a simple reason: it pulses with life. It sings in the minds of its new inhabitants.
It is not perfect.
It is not Vulcan.
But it is acceptable.
Six years after Nero's destruction of Vulcan, Sarek awaits her this time, a nervous presence in her mind. He finds the caves unnerving. Unfamiliar. This place is not the place of his ancestors, and he knows it through the smoke and flames of his time.
These caves are empty – of his people, of his family, and of meaning. There is no tradition here. The rock beneath his feet isn't hallowed.
He burns. He burns violently, but there is no lust in him. As Amanda hurries through the rough-hewn corridors and natural cave formations, she feels the flames chewing away that last of his control.
He does not smolder with lust.
The last leash on his emotions breaks, and he breaks with it.
She rushes into their caves and falls to her knees, sliding across the smooth floor on the soft fabric of her shift, and she wraps his sobbing form in her arms.
He curls against her chest and cries of anguish wrack his trembling body.
Silent, she strokes his hair and his naked back. Tears burn her eyes, too, but they don't fall. Her throat convulses, and she wishes she knew what to say. She wishes she had the words to ease his grief. But she can't offer him anything better than gentle touches.
He holds himself, his fingers digging into his arms, and his breath is reduced to sharp pants and gasps.
Through their bond, she feels nothing but a swamping depression, a tidal wave of pain and frustration and grief that had no outlet until this moment. For six years, he mourned his planet in the quiet, Vulcan way, but now he mourns it in the privacy of the caves with none of his control.
The force of his sorrow is unbelievable. She can't comprehend the feelings that reverberate along their bond. They are impressions. An empty maw surrounds him, a rough-edged patch of darkness. She associates grief with a cold, dead chill; he associates it with a crackling of electricity and a lick of fire. The roar of wind fills his mind.
She thinks she understands Surak a little more as she clings to her husband, curling over his naked back and wrapping him in her arms. If all Vulcan was once like this, utterly overcome by feeling, she understands why he would seek a better way. She can't comprehend the dark, deep, gripping hole of Sarek's sorrow, but she can comprehend the danger of it. It would be easy for Vulcans to fall into these emotions and become completely ruled by them.
She isn't particularly good at meditating, but she has done her best to learn over the years. Not out of any sort of necessity, but because meditation is a part of her husband's culture and she wants to be a part of that culture. She takes a moment to center her mind.
Blocking out Sarek's anguished sobs is one of the hardest things she has ever done. She allows herself to hear them and then dismiss them in an effort to find the very core of herself. She listens only to her heartbeat and her own breath, slowing them both with long, deep inhalations. She pushes away extraneous thought until she is quiet. Still. She is at once very small and very big.
Sliding off Sarek's back, she settles on her knees at his side. She wedges her index and middle fingers between his fingers and the skin of his arm, and braces herself for the soul-wounding pain that she knows will come flooding through their bond.
When it hits, it's like a kick in the gut. Winded, she gasps for breath and struggles to orient herself. For a moment, the world goes white, and she feels like she's in the midst of a blizzard she can't survive.
Two words quiet the storm in his soul. "S'ti th'laktra," she murmurs in his ear, her lips brushing the green-tinged tip of it. I grieve with thee. This time, she opens herself entirely to his pain. She lets it swamp her, but she does not let it drag her down. She is an island, and even if the waters of his grief strip away everything on her surface, the core of her remains untouched.
"Taluhk nash-veh k'dular," she whispers, both aloud and in her mind. She lets her words resonate across their bond and pushes through all her affection as well. She does her best to communicate her feelings wordlessly, in the Vulcan way.
Love is gentle and warm, she thinks, and she remembers how baby Spock's cheek felt against hers. It is protective, and she recalls how they curled around Spock's body, just watching him breathe and sheltering him with their bodies. It is kind and giving, and she thinks of the times they shared a ceremonial cup of water and he gave it to her to drink first.
Slowly, so slowly, he turns toward her. Precious little of his tension eases, and when he looks at her, she sees the anguish in his eyes.
She kisses the tears from his cheeks. Her lips brush his eyes and his psi points, and with each touch of her lips to those points, she can feel his mind against her own. Through their bond, she senses how he takes comfort in her mental presence. He turns into the touch of her mind and presses into her slowly.
His grief is a hard canker in both their minds, but she leaves it be. There's no reason to deny him his pain, and there's no reason to take it away from him.
Instead, she kisses the slant of his eyebrows, the strong line of his nose, and the corners of his mouth. She nips his lips gently, then a bit harder when she feels his burgeoning interest. Nuzzling his cheek with hers, she moves her mouth toward the line of his jaw. Her tongue touches his earlobe and travels along the outside of his ear, tracing up to the point. He shivers under her, turning toward her.
He uncurls, drawing upright with her. His eyes focus on her mouth, and she feels his need to kiss her the way a parched man needs water.
She touches her mouth to his, tentative and light. She isn't sure how much he needs, so she is content to wait for him to take. His response is uncertain and hesitant. He makes no demands of her. Rather, he maps her mouth with his. He takes time to relearn precisely what he likes from a kiss, and she allows him his freedom.
But she is not passive.
Drawing her hand away from his, she smooths her fingers over his cheeks and brushes his psi points before sliding into his hair. She traces his ears as he kisses her, her fingers following the curve of his skin over the delicate, pointed tips and down the other side. Her nails run lightly along the back of his neck, and he shivers in response.
Gently, she presses her fingers against the muscles at the base of his neck, working through the tension she finds there. He groans against her mouth, and he reaches for her. He draws her toward him, and she sinks into his embrace, sliding onto his lap. Her legs wrap around his back loosely, her arms curled around his as she continues to knead his tight muscles, and she takes control of their kisses.
Her mouth slants over his, sweetly plying his lips with her own. She gives him little kisses on his lower lip and traces it with her tongue. When he gasps with pleasure, she presses their mouths together and coaxes his tongue into dancing with hers.
Sweeping her hands down his shoulders, she catches both his hands and settles them firmly on her thighs, under the fabric of her thin shift. The heat of his hands feels like fire against her cool legs, and his tentative touch kindles flame under her skin.
She cradles his face in her hands, kissing him in slow, deep draughts, like he is her addiction and she can't get enough of the spicy, hot taste of him. Her body moves against his without any conscious thought, rocking over him as he grows hard against her core. He is already naked, and she is barely clothed, and every roll of her hips brushes her over him.
His breath catches in his throat.
Drawing back, she combs her fingers through his hair, looking at his face. Head tipped back, lips parted, eyes closed, he looks like a decadent god seeking solace in the arms of a mere human woman.
His fingers dig briefly into her thighs. You are more than that. He doesn't have enough coherence to think the words, but she knows that is precisely what he means to say when images tumble into her mind.
"Let me love you," she says against his chin, her lips a satiny whisper over his skin.
She kisses down the column of his throat. Her mouth touches his collar bone, and then her tongue takes in the spicy taste of him, sweeping along the line of his collarbone. She nips him gently when she reaches one end, and she nibbles her way across his chest to the opposite side.
Settling her hand on his shoulder, she pushes lightly. He leans back after a moment's hesitance, dragging one hand from her thigh to support him on the ground.
Ducking her head, she kisses down his chest. Her mouth closes around one of his nipples, and a quiet groan comes from deep within his chest. His thumb begins tracing small circles high on the inside of her thigh, and she hums softly against his skin, nuzzling her cheek against him.
Focused on him, on the taste of his skin and the feel of him beneath her, she sucks slightly on one nipple, catching it with her teeth and giving him a small bite.
He snarls above her, but the sound is pleased, and when she glances up, she finds him watching her with great interest.
Unwinding her legs from around his waist, she pushes carefully to her knees and then sidles backward, out of his lap. She senses his confusion, and his unease, but she doesn't pull away from his skin. Her mouth follows the lines of muscle on his abdomen. She has grown old, but he remains much the same, just as handsome as when she first met him.
She pauses over his heart, her lips lingering there as she stretches between his legs, lying on her side. One of her arms drapes over his hip, her fingers dancing over the small of his back. She traces the lower reaches of his spine, enjoying the difference between their bodies.
Pulling her lips away from his heart, she closes her teeth over his hip bone and bites down hard enough to bruise him, and he moans, the sound low and uninhibited. Emboldened by his response, she kisses her way across his abdomen, moving carefully around his length, deliberately denying him any contact. He hisses softly, watching her with narrowed eyes when she glances up at him.
Giving him a mischievous smile, she bends down and bites his opposite hip, giving him the same treatment he lavished upon her their first time. He shivers beneath her touch, his breath coming in shallow pants, and she feels his anticipation through the bond. He is eager, ready to take her, but holds back to see what she will do with him.
Curiosity: the fatal flaw, she thinks, of the entire Vulcan species. They will do anything to satisfy their curiosity.
Brushing her fingers over his back and chest, Amanda settles comfortably between his legs. Her hand curls softly around him, and a shudder wracks his body. She feels the soft touch of her own hand through their bond, touching him and touched. His pleasure coils low in her belly, hot and insistent.
She glances at him as she slides her hand down his length, watching his eyelids drift shut. His lips part on a quiet sigh just before she touches her lips to the tip of him. He is hot and spicy under her tongue, and he sucks in a sharp breath of surprise. Then his hand is in her hair, not forcing or guiding her, but simply holding on as she takes him into her mouth.
He never seems to know quite what to do with himself when she does this. His fingers scrape lightly against her scalp, shifting restlessly. She feels the lust building in their bond along with his need to move, and she supposes it's not necessarily a bad thing that he doesn't know what to do with himself. He'd rather climax inside other parts of her body.
She moans at the thought, unable to stop from projecting the image, and he snarls softly, pulling her off his length. He guides her mouth to his, but when their lips touch, he is still passive, letting her control the intensity of the kiss.
Her mouth is gentle on his as she coaxes slow responses from him. Her arms wrap around his shoulders, and she rocks slowly against him.
When he drags his fingers over her spine, she arches against him. His fingers continue down, curling under her to stroke against the heat of her core. With a groan, he presses his face against her neck, breathing in sharply. Her own scent floods her nose. It's a sharp contrast to his own. Where he smells warm and rich and earthy, she smells bright and citrusy, like lemons and grapefruit with a dash of tangerine.
Shivering, she presses against him, one hand framing his face. Her fingers brush over his ears as she moans her quiet approval. Her other hand drifts between them, brushing his fingers away before guiding him into her. He groans against her neck as they move together, slowly and sweetly, her body rocking against his.
Her climax triggers something in him. His emotions shift, and his entire demeanor changes.
He sweeps her into his arms, keeping her legs locked about his waist, and he takes her to bed. In the back of his mind, she senses his desire to make something of this place. It doesn't have the history of his caves, of his family, but he can make a new history.
Tumbling onto the bed, shielding her from the fall with his body, he moves in her again. She wraps herself around him as his hands grasp her hips.
There is life in the coming together of their bodies. There is something new and precious. As his mouth finds hers, his teeth worrying her lip and his tongue easing the ache, he touches her mind with his and gently urges her to follow as he retreats backward.
She does, eagerly, and there is a strange sensation of leaving her body behind. When she pauses to glance behind her, in the strange pseudo landscape of the mind, she sees a glittering silver-blue cord stretching into the distance. Her way home.
He brushes her mind again, and she runs toward him, plunging into his mind.
She finds an eternity there. His memories are little globes of golden light that sing when she touches them, and she laughs for the joy of it. Each memory she touches comes with its own torrent of emotion, as though the brush of her fingers turns a spigot of feelings inside of him.
He offers her the memories one at a time, and though she has experienced many of them with him and through their bond, she hasn't experienced the full rush of his feelings. They fill and suffuse her, twining about her and into her very soul.
Times before, she thought there was no difference between Amanda and Sarek, but such contact pales in comparison to this. This is an exultant moment of understanding. There are no barriers between them.
There is only truth.
She wants to offer this to him, too, but his lips on her neck distract her from the mental focus it takes her to share her thoughts with him. His teeth make that silver-blue cord tug against her skin, and it pulls her out of his mind and back into her body.
She isn't sure how much time has passed, but surely it's been hours. He lies on his back, and she curls against his side, her head pillowed on his shoulder, and his fingers stroke small circles on her hip.
He is surprisingly clear-eyed when he looks at her, but surely days haven't passed.
With a rumbling mental laugh, he leans down and brushes his lips over her cheek. Mine, he tells her. But not with words. They don't need words anymore. They haven't needed words, she supposes, for quite some time.
She wonders if all bonds are like this and if all bondmates somehow move beyond words to images and impressions and feelings.
His response is uncertainty, and his hand sweeps up her side to stroke the underside of her breast. She decides, as his other hand tips her chin back and his mouth touches hers, that it really isn't important.
T'Pau comes to their home a week after Sarek's time. Sarek is away, and Amanda is tending the garden when T'Pau arrives. The plant species from Vulcan that were deemed noninvasive by a survey team thrive in her garden. Several carnivorous plants grow along the path, too small yet to move independently. To survive, they need dry, rocky soil and the little plains creatures she feeds them.
T'Pau doesn't announce her presence. She simply enters the house and comes to the gardens in the back, and Amanda isn't surprised by it. She has grown used to the Vulcan tendency to simply walk into the homes of family members. It's an honor, she thinks, that T'Pau doesn't consider her a foreigner that needs advanced warning.
"I have come from the caves," T'Pau says, settling on one of Amanda's benches.
Amanda pushes her hair from her face, watching T'Pau with a vaguely curious expression as she pulls one last weed from her garden. Tugging off her gloves, she settles on the bench beside T'Pau. There is a healthy distance between them, but not as much as there might have been ten or fifteen years ago.
She does not press T'Pau for details. It would be the human thing to do, but Amanda isn't so human anymore.
"You did well," T'Pau says, graciously inclining her head.
Amanda doesn't know what T'Pau means. "I… Forgive me, I don't understand, oko-mekh."
T'Pau is quiet so long that Amanda thinks she isn't going to explain at all. It wouldn't be surprising, really; there's plenty T'Pau never feels the need to explain. Finally, T'Pau says, "It is strange that a human should know us better than we know ourselves."
This confuses Amanda, too, but she makes no comment.
"Do you know why the caves on Vulcan mattered?"
It takes her a moment realize the question isn't rhetorical. "No, oko-mekh."
"Because they were filled with memories," T'Pau says with such feeling that Amanda is momentarily stunned. "They were the places where we birthed our young, where we buried our dead, and where our most sacred rituals were held. We are a psychic race, and over the years, the rock took into itself the psychic energy we gave it. Our hopes. Our dreams." She pauses and looks at Amanda with an entirely human expression of wistful nostalgia. "Our feelings, ko-fu."
Sarek's family tree has always remained a confusing snarl to her, so Amanda isn't precisely sure how T'Pau is related to him. What matters is that T'Pau is the head of his clan and to be afforded all respect – which is why Amanda always calls her honored mother.
Until this day, T'Pau has never given Amanda a family title.
This day, Amanda is T'Pau's daughter, and she feels the sting of tears in her eyes and a strange combination of relief and love.
"We had years to fill those caves," T'Pau continues, her gaze shifting to stare over the dry desert sands. "And years to devote ourselves to Surak. But we feel. You know that more than perhaps any other. You know why we choose logic over emotion."
T'Pau's eyes shift to Amanda. "Sometimes," she says, "it surprises me to see your rounded ears."
This is almost too much for Amanda to take. T'Pau has never had so many kind words for her. Emotion wells inside her, something strong and beautiful, and she struggles to keep it from her face.
"You have helped us fill our caves with our memories. With yours and Sarek's. They are… so much more vibrant than our own. It is impossible not to feel them there. It will be good, I think, for you to find your rest in this place."
Amanda inhales quietly. "Oko-mekh, I am honored, but I am in good health." At least, she thinks she is, and as much as T'Pau's words do her a profound amount of honor, she's a bit terrified by the topic of her own death.
"Of course you are," T'Pau says drily. "And with many more years of life in you, I hope." She sounds like a human grandmother, and Amanda can't help it when her lips twitch into a small smile. "We'll need more of your human memories in those caves. They stick better than ours."
When T'Pau leaves, Amanda isn't entirely sure she understands everything her Honored Mother said, but she understands enough. And she is deeply gratified.