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A Truth Universally Acknowledged, by ShouldKnowBetter
A Truth Universally Acknowledged
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the characters, the Star Trek franchise and the universe. I just use them for my own private, non-profit making amusement.
Amanda Cole knew this. She even knew that the current incumbent of the post was renowned for his bad temper. But she had had the misfortune to encounter a very different version of the Vulcan to Ambassador Soval and had quickly developed a profound liking for him. Already reeling from the loss of so many of her fellow MACOs, stung by her rejection by a man with whom she had thought she had had so much in common, she had been vulnerable and Captain Soval had appeared at just the right time to take advantage. Not that he had known any of that. For him, it had been first contact with a species he found intriguing, a species that appealed to his innate curiosity and rather liberal interpretation of appropriate Vulcan behaviour. Amanda had no doubt that, if they had had only a little more time and opportunity, she and Captain Soval would have found their way into bed together. Why not, when they were experiencing mutual curiosity and attraction? But Captain Soval had ceased to exist when the timeline was corrected – something that could not have been achieved without his help.
Amanda had sat through the memorial service for the Enterprise dead, growing ever more angry. She grieved as sincerely as anyone for her fallen comrades, but there was a name missing from the role of honour, and it was that of the captain of the Sh’Raan. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t existed in their current timeline. He had made this day happen as surely as Hayes, or Chang or Taylor or any of the others. Tucker and T’Pol, who understood that, should have ensured that Captain Soval was included, but – and she glared across the hall to where the two were standing close together – they were far too absorbed in each other to think of anything else. And who would listen to a MACO corporal, who wasn’t paid to do more than appear when needed and shoot the bad guys?
Having talked herself into a state of misery and righteous indignation, Amanda began to make her way across the hall, where the post-memorial reception was taking place, heading for the buffet table. Food was always a reliable form of comfort, and if there was no chocolate cake, she’d throw a tantrum – the heroes of the Delphic Expanse deserved all the chocolate cake they could eat.
The robes caught her attention first, and then the sleek grey hair, and she halted abruptly. She hadn’t seen the Vulcan contingent at the memorial service, but she should have guessed that they’d attend, out of courtesy if not respect. Trip had facetiously said that he’d introduce her to the real Soval, but the damned engineer had disappeared – probably necking in a corner with T’Pol – but what did that matter? Captain Soval had liked her. Whatever was said about Ambassador Soval, he couldn’t be that different.
She drifted towards the Vulcan, hoping he might notice her as Captain Soval had, but this Soval was engaged in discussion with a high-ranking Starfleet officer. She had to wait nearby until he turned away from the woman, frowning, his mouth tightly compressed. “Ambassador Soval?”
His head came up, frown deepening still further. “Do I know you?”
Amanda hesitated, taken aback at the cold question. Now that she was closer, she realised that this Vulcan looked harder than Captain Soval, the lines on his face more marked. “My … my name’s Amanda.” She had intended to offer her hand, as she had with his doppelganger, but the disdain in his eyes froze her in place. “Corporal Cole. I was on Enterprise.”
He was looking at her with profound irritation, clearly wanting her gone: just another Human he didn’t like. She wasn’t sure that he even saw her as an individual. “I’m sorry.” The hurt was surprising. She’d known that she liked Captain Soval. She hadn’t realised quite how much until now, when it was made plain that she wasn’t going to find a substitute. “I thought you were someone else.”
She turned and walked away, knowing that the Vulcan dismissed her instantly, to return to the important business of suppressing Human pretensions.
It was hard to adjust to living on Earth again. Amanda knew that she should have been grateful for the two month’s furlough she was granted, but, if truth were told, she was bored. She missed the routine, the regular training, she suspected that she even missed the adrenaline rush of combat. She certainly didn’t miss a Vulcan who had never existed, or an engineer who hadn’t even wanted her, although she went through the motions of looking for a little male company. But a trawl of bars and nightclubs proved that the men were all too young and stupid to interest someone who had witnessed a great deal of killing, and inflicted a certain amount herself.
When the early recall came, the only emotion Amanda experienced was relief – right up until she learnt the nature of her next assignment. “What?”
Colonel Casey frowned around the assembled group, trying to identify who had so rudely interrupted, while Major Miller glared at Amanda, silently threatening retribution at a later date. The new platoon commander appeared just as hot on discipline as Hayes had been.
“As I was saying,” Casey returned to the brief, “you have been assigned to the Vulcan embassy. While it seems unlikely that actual violence will be offered, there is a good deal of anti-Vulcan sentiment on Earth at the moment. They’re being blamed for limiting our ability to defend ourselves, for not helping us protect Earth against the Xindi threat.” He paused to scan the blank faces of the men and women before him. “Whatever your personal views on the matter, I know that I can rely on you to ensure the safety of Ambassador Soval and his team. Dismissed.”
The dozen rank-and-file members of Amanda’s new platoon had plenty to say on the subject of their new assignment, most of it unrepeatable. MACOs considered themselves above providing security for a bunch of aliens no one much wanted on Earth anyway. Amanda considered reporting the dissent to Miller, but couldn’t quite bring herself to do so. Probably it was no worse than the things she and her colleagues had said on joining Enterprise, when the Starfleet crew had treated their MACO shipmates as outsiders. And what risk was there really likely to be on Earth, where crime had practically been eradicated? The assignment was just a sop to the Vulcans, and a complete waste of everyone’s time. But at least it would be something to do, and San Francisco nightlife available for when the boredom set in. Maybe she’d find her way to the bars around Starfleet HQ and see if there were any more charming Floridian engineers on the books. Maybe she’d meet another Vulcan who liked her. Maybe pigs would fly.
Soval had not wanted Human soldiers assigned to the Vulcan embassy. He didn’t approve of Human soldiers, reeking as they did of Earth’s barbaric past. That Vulcan’s past was equally as barbaric, he always ignored, on the grounds that it had been a long time ago. Vulcan had followed Surak’s teachings for two thousand years, while the Humans had no logical basis for their claim to have put violence behind them: a mere ninety years of peaceful progress proved nothing. Besides, having Humans within the Vulcan compound offended all the females on his staff, and an offended Vulcan female was something he preferred not to have to deal with. It gave him a headache as surely as did Admiral Forrest. “No.”
“Ambassador Soval,” the admiral in question protested, “all we’re asking is for Enterprise to be given right of passage through Vulcan space!”
“While on its way to a meeting with the Andorians. The answer is no.”
“Now, listen here, ambassador!” Soval promptly phased the man out of his consciousness. Forrest would say nothing that he had not already said in the previous fifteen minutes. Why Humans thought that repetition added weight to an argument, he did not know, even after thirty years excruciating contact. Perhaps he should ask T’Pol; she claimed to understand Humans. He frowned at the thought of his daughter, who had been laconic in the extreme in her last letter. All she had said was that Commander Tucker was proving most helpful in assisting her regulate her emotions, an illogical statement in itself. That particular Human was the least controlled person Soval had ever had the misfortune to meet.
Behind Forrest’s back, the Human soldiers changed again – a pointless procedure. Not only was there no risk of anyone penetrating this far into the compound, but they should have been able to maintain their concentration for more than two hours at a time. Perhaps he should point this out to their commanding officer, a woman who actually seemed capable of some emotional control. Major Miller might be amenable to teaching her platoon a little mental discipline. Most were reasonably composed, but he had noticed one or two who showed signs of levity - such as the child who had just come on duty. Soval leant back to get a better view. She looked serious enough now, but he had seen her smiling several times. Once she had even laughed. She really was very lovely, even so: change her skin tone, the slant of her eyebrows, her ears, and she could have been Vulcan. Quite exquisite – for a Human.
“Soval!” He blinked, looking back at Forrest who grinned, casting an eye behind him. “I agree she’s very pretty, but perhaps we could finish up here before you start planning your seduction.”
Needless to say, Enterprise was not granted passage through Vulcan space.
The San Francisco bars proved to be empty of charming engineers. There weren’t any Vulcans who liked her either. Amanda gave up on watching for flying pigs, and looked around for other entertainment. Aside from swimming, the gym, extra target practise and washing her hair, she eventually drifted into a chess club that she found by accident one afternoon, when out for a walk. It had looked like a normal coffee shop, but when she had stepped in for a cup, she had quickly realised that it was the venue for some serious chess playing. During the afternoons, most of the clientele were elderly men, who were delighted to find her a chair, and even more delighted to discover that she played as well as any of them. It passed the time and gave her something to think about when she was on duty. If she had to stand around the Vulcan compound six hours a day, then planning her next game was as good a way to pass the time as any. It beat scowling at the Vulcans when they sneered at her. She still hated Soval’s guts for not being someone else and she’d tell him so, if he didn’t stop staring at her. The only reason she hadn’t taken it personally so far was because the other MACOs all agreed that he stared disapprovingly at them too.
Amanda was putting a carefully thought out strategy into effect one afternoon when one of the more infrequent members of the chess club turned up. The murmur of greetings didn’t initially disturb her, until her partner looked up and chuckled. “Why the guards, Soval? Have you finally irritated someone enough that they want to kill you?”
“So I’m told.”
Amanda looked disbelievingly over her shoulder, saw that it really was Soval who had entered, and focussed hastily on the chessboard again. She didn’t think there was a rule that said she couldn’t be in the same room as the Vulcan ambassador when she was off duty, but she wouldn’t swear to it, and, if there was, Soval was certain to tell her about it – rudely.
Her opponent sighed and tipped over his king. “You’re getting too good for an old man, Amanda. Soval,” he lifted his voice fractionally, “come over here and give this young lady a game. Maybe you can put her in her place.”
Two pairs of dark eyes met, then the Vulcan turned away. “I think not.”
Amanda scowled at his averted back. Not good enough, was she? Too Human? Not sufficiently important to play chess with the Vulcan ambassador? “I hate him.”
“Do you?” The old man sitting across the table smiled benignly at her angry face. “I’ve known Soval for years. Not an easy man to get to know, I’ll grant, but he plays a good game of chess.”
“And that makes up for all the rest?”
“Of course.” He began to reset the pieces on the chessboard in front of them. “Run along, Amanda. I want to beat someone before I go home tonight.”
V’Mir found herself confronted by the back of her superior’s head when she entered his office, a sight with which she was becoming familiar. If she had not been perfectly in command of her emotions, she might have been led to worry that he was finally experiencing the strain of dealing daily with the Humans. She had known Soval for many years, and the only previous times he had shown such signs of abstraction were the prelude to that event that no Vulcan mentioned publicly. But she knew that the last occurrence had only been four years previously, because she had dealt with the matter personally.
Out of professional concern and nothing else, she moved so that she too could see out of the window, allowing one eyebrow to rise. Why the ambassador should see fit to watch the Human soldiers, who were engaged in violent conflict in the courtyard behind the main embassy building, she did not know.
Expecting to find Soval glowering at the misuse of embassy premises, she turned to find that he was simply watching. “Ambassador?”
“What is it, V’Mir?”
He didn’t move his head and she frowned, taking another look at the two Humans. One had long, dark hair, caught up behind her head. V’Mir could not be sure, but it appeared to be the same female Soval had been intermittently observing the previous day, during her discourse on the poor state of the embassy’s garden. And the day before that, during a meeting relating to staff placements. “Shall I have the Humans removed, ambassador?”
“They must train somewhere.” He sounded remarkably mild, until he added sarcastically. “At least there, you need not be concerned that they will damage your orchids.”
“Shall I arrange for you to dine with her?” V’Mir usually rose above Soval’s barbed comments, but he had no cause to criticise her leisure activities. “I understand that she is considered attractive – by some people.”
That finally drew a response. Soval returned to his desk, scowling at her. “Your meaning, V’Mir?”
“The Human woman: your interest in her has been most noticeable.” She ignored the intensifying glare. “I am sure she would make a suitable hostess at embassy dinners – if she could be persuaded to leave her weapons behind.”
“You seem irrational, V’Mir. Have you meditated lately?” He pushed a data recorder towards her. “The High Command believes that Tavin and his ship may be heading towards Earth. Prepare a briefing for Admiral Forrest on the V’tosh Ka’tur. I will attempt to persuade him that Starfleet should turn them back.”
Another fortnight passed before Amanda finally became convinced that Ambassador Soval really did spend a great deal of his time watching her. She was at another meeting of the chess club when she felt his dark gaze on her, and this time glared openly back. He just continued to look at her, and she turned back to her opponent, the same kindly old man she had been playing when Soval had first refused to play her. “Why does he do that?”
“Perhaps he likes you.”
She rolled her eyes. “Soval doesn’t like Humans! Maybe he thinks there’s something weird about me.”
“Why don’t you ask him?”
“Maybe I will.” She turned her head and caught the Vulcan looking as usual, but this time he left the corner where he had been waiting for a partner and moved towards her. “Damn!”
Soval didn’t speak, just watched the game for several moves, until Amanda’s temper got the better of her. “Do you think I play exceptionally well, Ambassador Soval?”
“Only moderately? Then stop watching me!”
He didn’t react to the angry statement, meeting her eyes calmly. “Perhaps you would consider joining me for a game once you have finished here?”
“No. In fact,” she rose to her feet, “I’m out of here. I don’t like the company anymore.”
Soval watched the Human woman leave, wondering what had prompted him to offer to play her. No doubt the fact that she was extremely competent - and rather splendid when she was angry. He banished that thought almost before it had crept out of the woodwork and completed her game for her: it would have been illogical to waste a winning position.
Amanda stomped out of the coffee shop in a huff, then realised that she now had a free afternoon on her hands and no plan as to what to do with it. Even more annoyed with Soval for having spoilt her off duty hours, she wandered aimlessly for a while and eventually found a bar she hadn’t visited before. A beer and a sulk, and then she’d head home and wash her hair – again. What did a girl have to do to find a nice man these days? Or even a bad one.
Entirely engrossed in self-pity, she jumped and looked up into a friendly smile – then did a double take. Surely he couldn’t be …
“I’m afraid that I am.”
“I am Vulcan.” The man’s smile didn’t waver as he indicated the seat beside hers at the bar. “May I sit down?”
“Uh, sure.” She couldn’t help but stare at him. Tall, nice looking, charming smile – and those ears were definitely pointed. “Um …”
“I see that you are familiar with Vulcans.” He held out a hand. “But not, perhaps, with the V’tosh Ka’tur. My name is Tolaris.”
“Amanda.” She took the hand automatically, feeling the unnatural warmth. “V-what?”
“V’tosh Ka’tur. The Vulcans without logic. A terribly derogatory term, I’m afraid.”
“Right.” Her head was still reeling a little. “You smiled at me.”
“Of course.” He smiled again. “I take every opportunity to smile at attractive women when I find them alone. Are you expecting someone?”
“No.” Amanda shook her head, still confused. “But … you smiled. I didn’t think Vulcans …”
“The V’tosh Ka’tur seek to reintegrate our emotions. It allows a much more fulfilling life, I assure you.”
“Yeah, I guess it would.” There was something vaguely unsettling about Tolaris, but she put it down to the fact he was smiling. It didn’t look right, somehow. “What are you doing on Earth?”
“Tavin, our leader, asked permission for us to visit. We hope to be able to study Humans, observe how you deal with emotions.”
“We’re a research project?”
Tolaris actually laughed. “Someone of my colleagues might see it that way, but not myself. I hope I’ve progressed beyond the point where I cannot see the individual for the species.”
The thought of Ambassador Soval, who most definitely saw only the species, flashed into Amanda’s head; followed more painfully by Captain Soval, who had liked her for herself. Tolaris tilted his head slightly, studying her expression closely.
“I wonder, Amanda, would you care to have dinner with me?”
She banished the memory of another Vulcan, who might not have smiled at her, but who had been quite capable of indicating his liking. “Sure. Why not?”
The evening turned out surprisingly well. Tolaris was charming, with a host of stories about the places he had visited with the rest of the V’tosh Ka’tur. He didn’t seem very interested in listening, but Amanda had met plenty of men who felt the need to make a good first impression, and she was prepared to let it go on a first date. First date? She pondered that, while Tolaris recounted a trip to Risa. It certainly felt like a date. Tolaris made it plain that he found her attractive, and he seemed intent on keeping her interest. A date with a Vulcan, huh? Those pigs must have grown wings after all.
“Enterprise?” She interrupted his monologue in surprise. “I was on Enterprise for a while.”
“Were you?” The smile wavered. “Then you must have met T’Pol.”
“Yeah. Briefly.” Just long enough to spot that the Vulcan woman didn’t like her, for some fairly unprofessional reasons.
“Was she well?”
“I guess.” Being jealous as hell didn’t really qualify as an illness in Amanda’s book.
“She did not mention me?”
“Should she have?”
“Obviously not.” Tolaris smiled again, looking a little sad. “Perhaps I expected too much.”
“You mean you and she …?” Amanda left the question hanging.
“The circumstances were against us.”
“Tell me about it!”
“I’m sorry.” His warm hand closed over hers where it lay on the table. “I hope I haven’t brought back bad memories.”
“No.” She smiled back, not bothering to explain that it was another Vulcan who did that. “Look, I’m sorry, but I really have to go. I have to be up early tomorrow morning.”
“Of course. I apologise for taking up so much of your time.” His hand was still resting on hers. “But may I ask – we will be here for some time yet – may I see you again?”
“Sure.” He was attractive and he liked her and why the hell not? “Day after tomorrow? I’m free all day”
“I will look forward to it.”
Date number two went okay, too. Tolaris definitely lacked a sense of humour, but she could put up with that in the short-term. He wasn’t very interested in the football game they went to see, either – he gave Amanda the feeling that he was studying her reactions rather than watching the game. She had no objection to being the centre of a man’s attention, but during a football game? That wasn’t natural!
Perhaps taking the Vulcan to the chess club wasn’t a good idea but, after the game, they had an hour or two to kill before they could reasonably find somewhere to eat and Tolaris expressed an interest in coffee. Feeling more pleased with herself than she had in a long time, Amanda bounced into the coffee shop and didn’t notice that anything was wrong until the waiter ignored her order in favour of watching what was going on behind. Surprised, because the man ought to be used to Vulcans, even if her one was nicer than their normal visitor, Amanda turned to find that Tolaris wasn’t the only Vulcans present - Soval had risen to his feet and was glaring at the V’tosh Ka’tur.
It was Tolaris who broke the tableau, reaching for the door without a word. “Wait!” Amanda scowled briefly at the elder Vulcan before looking back at Tolaris. “Why should you leave just because he’s here?”
“I would rather avoid any unpleasantness.” Tolaris too glanced quickly at Soval and left, and Amanda headed after him, shooting Soval another furious look as she did so.
“Amanda!” Startled that he even knew her name, she paused at the door. “Do not associate with him.”
“How dare you?” His eyes were fixed on her, surprisingly angry despite his rigidly controlled expression. “How dare you tell me who I can see?” She started to leave, but turned back to make herself absolutely clear. “And don’t you ever call me Amanda again!”
Tolaris had not got far, and she quickly caught him up. “Hey.” She caught at his sleeve, tugging to get his attention. “Wait for me.”
He halted, turning to face her, surprise showing. “I did not expect you to follow.”
“I doubt that Soval approves of your acquaintance with me.”
“And that should bother me?”
He hesitated, studying her. “But you know him?”
“I’m part of the security team assigned to the Vulcan embassy, that’s all.”
“Yet I’m sure he told you to have nothing to do with me.”
“I don’t do what Ambassador Soval tells me – not in my own time.”
Tolaris studied her for a moment, then raised a hand to touch her cheek lightly. “Not many would be so brave.” She snorted rudely and he smiled. “You certainly don’t know him.”
“So tell me.”
“Perhaps I will. Over dinner?”
Soval completed the game in which he was involved because it would have seemed strange if he had not, then left, for once barely noticing the MACO who followed him. He had not known that the V’tosh Ka’tur had been allowed access to Earth. His warning should have been more than adequate to ensure that they were turned away, but the Humans’ stubborn refusal to accept advice had triumphed again. It was tempting to allow them to reap the consequences of their folly, but that would be irresponsible. He would try again – but not until he had spent the night in meditation.
That brief encounter had revealed one terrible fact to him: he desired the Human woman. It was entirely irrational. She was beautiful, he had acknowledged that before, but he had encountered many other Human women over the years, and he had never experienced the slightest interest. But when he had seen Amanda enter with Tolaris at her side, it had not been annoyance that the Humans had once again ignored him that had brought him to his feet. It had been jealousy that she was with someone else and concern lest she be hurt. And because she was Human, she too had disobeyed his order to disassociate herself from the V’tosh Ka’tur.
Soval scowled, quickening his pace. Perhaps he should consult the embassy’s doctor. The premature onset of pon farr, perhaps? A viral infection leading to a hormonal imbalance? He could not possibly feel an attraction to a Human woman less than a quarter his age. She was a child even more than all the rest, wilful, foolish, disobedient and undisciplined. And very, very lovely.
The latter intruded into Soval’s usually disciplined thoughts and he had to take a moment to regain his focus. Lovely, yes, but an entirely inappropriate partner for a senior diplomat. The High Council would likely recall him if they found that he had instigated an intimate relationship with a Human Amanda was far too young, even if their current life expectancies were similar.
Even more disturbed at the direction his thoughts had taken – had he really contemplated, even for a moment, the possibility of spending the rest of his life with a Human constantly underfoot? – Soval headed for his rooms, ignoring V’Mir’s plea for his attention. Meditation would restore his equilibrium. Then he would approach the problem logically. But before that, he would rid Earth of the V’tosh Ka’tur, before Tolaris had a chance to hurt his Amanda!
Soval halted in the act of lighting the first meditation candle, coming close to using archaic language. She was not his Amanda. She never could be his Amanda. She was Human, a very striking example of the species, but still Human. That meant she was juvenile, ill-informed and prejudiced. Not at all the sort of individual who could offer him companionship, and Vulcans did not indulge in casual fornication. He could not have her, whatever the physical appeal.
Soval lighted the rest of the candles and seated himself. It was fortunate that techniques existed that would soon rid him of this fit of irrationality, or he might be in some danger from the woman.
They found an Indian restaurant some distance from the coffee shop – Tolaris had been reluctant to linger in the vicinity – and, once they had ordered, Amanda leant her elbows on the table and looked expectantly at the Vulcan. “So, what’s the dirt then?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“What do you know about Ambassador Soval that the rest of us don’t?”
“It would hardly be fair to tell you when he isn’t here to defend himself.”
“Oh, go on! How come you know him, anyway?”
“I once worked for him.”
“It was a good many years ago.”
Amanda broke off a piece of popadom and popped it into her mouth. “And?”
“He dismissed me.”
“For questioning our traditional beliefs.” He smiled depreciatingly. “More correctly, for questioning the current interpretation of Surak’s teaching.”
“That doesn’t seem very fair. What about the right to free speech?”
“I’m afraid that that is something not encouraged on Vulcan – and particularly not by Ambassador Soval. He holds to a very rigid interpretation of tradition. At least where others are concerned.”
Amanda frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Tolaris shrugged, a very Human gesture that she found strange from him. “If you have seen much of Soval, you must have noticed that he can be quite emotional.”
“He’s got a nasty temper!”
“Exactly. He is fortunate in having family connections that mean that such behaviour is overlooked. Others of us aren’t so well placed.”
“That’s terrible! Is that why you had to join the V’tosh Ka’tur and leave Vulcan?”
“In part. And then, of course, there is his daughter.”
“He’s married!” Amanda sat up straighter, instantly pitying the poor woman.
“Widowed. It caused some speculation at the time, I believe. Against tradition, he left his wife during their first year of marriage, when she was pregnant. She didn’t survive the birth.”
Amanda’s eyes were huge. “What about the daughter?”
“You’ve met her.” Tolaris smiled gently. “T’Pol prefers not to acknowledge the relationship publicly, but Soval is still very protective of her.” He looked down at his plate, smile growing sad. “I suspect it was his influence that stopped her contacting me again, after we met on Enterprise.”
“He deserves to be shot!” At least it explained why Captain Soval had been so concerned with T’Pol’s safety: he’d been looking out for his daughter.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Tolaris said gently. “There are others who would say that he was only doing his duty. But let’s talk of pleasanter things than a prejudiced man neither of us cares for. Have I mentioned our visit to Andoria?”
The rest of the evening passed pleasantly enough, even though Amanda was again forced to acknowledge that Tolaris, while a perfectly decent guy, was terribly self-centred. She tried to recount a few stories of her own, but he would simply listen for a few moments, then use the incident to comment on his own experiences. The most charitable interpretation she could come up with was that it reflected the V’tosh Ka’tur’s desire to change themselves – they naturally analysed everything that had happened to them to death. But she’d like Tolaris to be a little more interested in her.
She let him walk her back to the embassy, even though she had already decided against inviting him in: she’d heard enough travel stories for one night. “Well, this is me.” She turned to look up at him. “Thanks for your company today.”
“And you for yours.” He was smiling confidently at her, and Amanda felt a prickle of annoyance. So he expected to kiss on a first – well, all right, second – date, did he? Tough! She wasn’t as desperate as all that. “May I see you again?”
“Why don’t you give me a call?” Then she could see if she felt up to another night of listening to him talk.
“I will do. Goodnight, Amanda. Pleasant dreams.”
Amanda heard nothing from Tolaris for a couple of days, which annoyed her. A girl liked to know that she had been appreciated, even if only as a good listener. Even Soval had stopped starting at her. In fact, he completely ignored her, not even granting her the courtesy of the half-hearted nods he sometimes accorded the MACOs after they had escorted him somewhere. Not that she cared, but it would have been satisfying to let him see how much she despised him. Difficult to get the message across, when the person in question looked straight through you.
Life was, in fact, extremely boring. Amanda briefly considered committing a social solecism in the middle of her shift, in the hope that she would be reassigned, but abandoned the idea. Given her luck, she would be punished with additional duties, and if she had to stand around the Vulcan embassy much longer each day, she would go seriously mad.
She was rather gloomily playing chess when Tolaris finally put in an appearance. She wasn’t even pleased to see him. She had had to fend off a number of curious questions about both him and Soval, who actually seemed well liked by the rest of the coffee shop regulars. They had wanted to know why the ambassador had taken such an active dislike to another Vulcan, and Amanda had been tempted to put the record straight, but had managed to hold her tongue. Soval was too influential to risk her career. If he’d destroyed Tolaris’, he certainly wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to her. She had lost two games because she was thinking of all the cutting things she’d like to say to the Vulcan ambassador, instead of concentrating on chess, and was inordinately disappointed when Tolaris came through the door. She’d thought up some really rude remarks that she could probably get away with, and she was in a mood to have delivered them if Soval had shown his face. As it was, she let Tolaris take her outside, frowning at his grave expression. “What’s up?”
“I’m afraid our acquaintance must be suspended.”
“Oh.” At least she wouldn’t have to listen to any more tedious stories, but the knowledge that yet another guy wasn’t as interested as she’d thought didn’t do much for her ego. “Why’s that?”
“We’ve been asked to leave Earth.” He smiled faintly. “I’m sure you understand why.”
“You mean Soval’s behind it?”
“Almost certainly.” While she scowled, Tolaris took both her hands in his. “I regret that we did not have longer together, Amanda.”
“Me too. God, I hate him! How dare he interfere?”
“Who can stop him?” Tolaris’ hands tightened. “I admire your passion, Amanda, perhaps even more than I admire your beauty.”
No one had complimented her in a long time, so she didn’t resist the pressure he exerted to pull her close, raising her mouth invitingly. Why not? He was leaving and it would really piss Soval if he knew that she had kissed a V’tosh Ka’tur.
The kiss was mildly boring and Amanda pulled back when Tolaris raised a hand to the side of her face, his fingers pressing a little too hard against her temple and cheekbone. For a second, she thought she saw a flash of annoyance cross his expression, then he was smiling ruefully down at her. “Forgive me. You are very tempting.”
“What’s to forgive?” she asked briskly. “Are you leaving at once?”
“That is what Tavin intends. Amanda, can I trust you?”
“I am thinking of returning to Earth in a short while.”
“But you’ve been told to leave.”
“And I will leave. But I grow tired of the roaming life, and Earth offers so many opportunities for exploration. Will you see me again if I can contrive to come back?”
“I’ll look forward to it.” He might not be great on the conversational front, but he was different and physically attractive and there was still a lot more she wanted to find out about Vulcans.
“Thank you.” He smiled, kissed her lightly and left.
Amanda rubbed the side of her face where she could still find the pressure of Tolaris’ fingers, frowning after him. Maybe she shouldn’t have encouraged him if he had been formally asked to leave Earth, but most likely he wouldn’t bother to come back. She seemed really good these days at making men disappear. Pity it didn’t seem to work on Ambassador Soval.
Life was even flatter after Tolaris left. The following week was enlivened only by the fact that Amanda managed to break a colleague’s arm during a training session. The incident led onto a blistering exchange of opinions with Major Miller, resulting in Amanda being put on report and assigned double duties for a fortnight. She acknowledged that she’d deserved to be disciplined, but the punishment was unfair – the last thing she wanted was to have to spend more time around the embassy where Soval could stare at her. She thought he’d stopped that game after seeing her with Tolaris, but after five or six days of ignoring her, she’d caught him watching her again, although rather more covertly than before. It annoyed the hell out of her and didn’t seem to give him any pleasure either. Soval appeared to be in a foul mood and even the Vulcans who worked for him weren’t immune. Amanda heard him snap at several of his staff, the tone recognisable even when they were speaking Vulcan. It wasn’t until the final day of her punishment, however, that she found out why the ambassador was even more bad tempered than usual.
She was guarding the main embassy office – a pointless activity in the opinion of just about everyone except Major Miller – and it was late, very nearly the end of her shift. No one had been near her in hours and she was tired, bored and feeling sorry for herself, as seemed usual these days, when Soval appeared at the end of the corridor and walked slowly towards her. Amanda glowered covertly at him, surprised when he halted in front of her. She snapped to attention, focussing on the opposite wall, having no wish to find herself on report again. He said nothing for a moment then reached past her to open the door. “I need to talk to you.” He sounded grim. “Come in.”
She followed him, racking her brains for anything she might have done that would have landed her in trouble with one of his staff, and came to attention again as Soval turned to face her. “Sir?”
There was definite annoyance in his expression, for all that respectable Vulcans were supposed to have mastered their emotions. “Will you dine with me?” Amanda opened her mouth, closed it again, and shook her head slightly. “Well?”
“Why?” There was a lot else she’d have liked to say, but she really didn’t think she’d heard right.
“I would have thought that was obvious.” Soval sounded even more irritated at being asked for an explanation. “You are very attractive.”
“You like me?”
“I find you physically appealing.” The answer didn’t leave room for Amanda to believe that there was any sentiment behind the unexpected request. “I trust that spending time in your company will resolve the matter.”
She stared at the Vulcan, cold fury welling up inside her. “You think that if you get to know me, you’ll dislike me so much it’ll stop you lusting after my body?”
“That is one possible outcome.”
There was never a moment’s doubt in Amanda’s mind that that was Soval’s preferred outcome. “How dare you?” She could never remember being so angry, not even when Tucker rejected her or Chang died at Human hands. “How dare you ask me out? I’ve never been so insulted in my life!”
Soval’s eyebrows drew together, deepening his habitual frown. “You expect me to be gratified by the fact that I am attracted to you? Have you any idea what would be said if this became public knowledge?”
“I don’t give a damn what people would think! D’you really expect me to want to have anything to do with a man who despises me? Who’s attracted to me against his better judgement? “
“I apologise for speaking the truth.” Soval’s tone dripped sarcasm. “But I will not lie for the sake of your vanity.”
“So you think a little flattery is all it would take to get me into bed? Well, you’re wrong, ambassador. Even if you’d made any effort to be nice to me, I still wouldn’t wanna have dinner with you. Not with a man who’d persecute someone who worked for him.”
“Tolaris?” Soval’s voice grew quiet. “He brought his fate upon himself.”
“Oh, sure! What about forcing him into the V’tosh Ka’tur in the first place? Stopping T’Pol contacting him again? Making him leave Earth?”
They glared at each other, both furiously angry, until Soval said, almost through gritted teeth, “You have made your views very clear. Be assured I will never trouble you again.”
“Great!” There were still a few things she’d not said, but Amanda felt a sudden, ominous tightening in her throat. “Best news I’ve had in weeks.” She flung out of the room, handed over to her replacement who had fortunately arrived early, and almost ran to her room. She rather desperately wanted to indulge in a crying fit - something to do with another Soval, who hadn’t despised her, who had liked her, who had been kind when she was upset. She still missed Captain Soval, ridiculous though that was when she had only known him for a few hours, and just for a moment she’d thought she had a chance to get him back. She should have known better. If Ambassador Soval had ever possessed a tenth of Captain Soval’s compassion and understanding, he’d lost it before she was born, and she hated him even more thoroughly for having briefly reminded her of the other Vulcan she’d loved.
Much to her relief, Amanda knew from the schedule of movements they were all obliged to study that Soval was due to leave Earth early the next day, for an indeterminate period. She wouldn’t have to meet the bastard again – hopefully ever. While he was gone, she would get herself transferred away from the embassy, even if she had to bust her career to do it. She hated him.
She was only half dressed the following morning when someone buzzed at her door. Grumbling at colleagues who couldn’t let a person get up in their own time, she went to open the door, stepping back as Soval stared at her with haughty composure. “Do me the courtesy of reading that.” Amanda automatically took the PADD he held out to her and he inclined his head fractionally and walked away. She retreated into her room, staring at the recording device. Her immediate reaction was to fling it into the highly efficient recycling unit in one corner, just as she would have deleted an electronically delivered message. But Human curiosity was too strong. She dropped onto the bed and activated it.
“Corporal Cole,” she could hear Soval’s cold voice through the printed words, “do not be alarmed that I am about to repeat the offer that was so disgusting to you last night, but I demand your attention. Your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice.
“You accused me of destroying Tolaris’ career, of causing his exile from Vulcan, of ending a relationship – perhaps two! - that both he and another desired. I do not know what he has accused me of, so I will simply tell you the truth about him.
“Tolaris was recommended to me some ten years ago. He joined my staff on Earth, but it soon became clear that his behaviour did not fall within acceptable limits. I do not expect you understand: I can only ask you to believe, that it is dangerous for Vulcans to allow themselves to experience emotion. We have emotions, but we suppress them lest they master us, and turn us back into the paranoid, murderous beings, who came close to destroying ourselves. We do not speak of it, but many of us lose control at some point in our adult lives, never voluntarily and usually to the danger of those around us. But Tolaris seemed to seek out every opportunity to access his emotions. When I disciplined him, he appeared to reform. I only found out later that he then took to leaving the compound, seeking emotional experiences amongst Humans. The truth came out when he attacked one of my staff, seriously injuring her. I had no choice but to send him back to Vulcan for re-education. This appeared to be successful, but when I next heard of him it was to learn that he had left Vulcan to join the V’tosh Ka’tur.
“The next incident, I would much rather leave untold: I trust that you will not speak of it. Tolaris encountered Enterprise and T’Pol. From what she has told me, she was not entirely innocent of blame, but nothing can excuse the fact that Tolaris raped her mind. Their doctor was able to repair the neurological damage, but T’Pol was left with a disease for which there is no cure.
“This, corporal, is the truth. If your abhorrence of me makes my assertions valueless, then you may ask V’Mir about Tolaris’ previous time on Earth, although I would ask that you do not speak to her of T’Pol.
“May you live long and prosper. Soval.”
If Amanda hadn’t been late for duty by the time she finished reading Soval’s letter, she would have binned it then and there. By the time she got back to her room, she was curious to read it again and then threw it across the room – but she just so happened to miss the recycler slot. By the time she was pretty much on the way to knowing it by heart, throwing it away seemed pointless and she was more miserable than ever. She was forced to admit that she couldn’t disprove anything Soval had said about Tolaris. The younger man had flattered her and she had responded because she had wanted to believe that a Vulcan liked her. Likewise, she had believed every word he had said about Soval, because she had wanted to think badly of the ambassador. But would Soval really have been able to keep his position if he was as unscrupulous as Tolaris had implied? He might be prejudiced against Humans, and zealous in pursuit of his government’s policy of holding Earth back from deep space exploration, but she’d never heard of any request to replace him. Maybe, just maybe, she’d believe that he was speaking the truth about Tolaris, but that didn’t change the fact that he’d asked her out in the expectation of proving that he wouldn’t like her. That had been rude, and she still hated him. It would have been stupid to feel any other way.
It was a couple of months before Soval returned to Earth, at which point Amanda was still assigned to the Vulcan embassy. She had somehow failed to apply for reassignment, and she had even dodged the opportunity for a training trip to Jupiter Station. If asked why – and she had been – she couldn’t give a good answer, except to say that she was tired and didn’t want the disruption of a new assignment.
She was on duty when Soval got back, hardly unexpectedly given modern communications, but a little earlier than might have been expected, given that he had rudely cut short Admiral Forrest’s attempt to extract a full briefing immediately on landing. Amanda came instinctively to attention as the ambassador entered the building, V’Mir at his shoulder, and he halted abruptly, while she focussed blindly dead ahead, rather desperately not looking at him. It was a little late to realise that she should have ensured that she was transferred away. What would Soval think, finding her still there?
“Corporal Cole.” He sounded surprised, not annoyed, and Amanda ventured a quick look. He was frowning at her, but there was a marked lack of aggression behind the frown – maybe because he was too tired for anger. He looked exhausted, eyes sunken and shadowed, and she was sure he was paler than normal: must have been one hell of a mission.
“Ambassador.” Soval still didn’t move and she sought desperately for something to say. ‘Welcome home’ sounded wildly inappropriate, ‘it’s good to see you, sir’ wasn’t true, and ‘I’ll make sure we don’t meet again’ wasn’t a promise she could keep.
“Ambassador Soval,” V’Mir took matters in hand, “there is a great deal to tell you – when you are ready, of course.”
He proved he wasn’t too tired for irritation by glaring at the Vulcan woman, even as he resumed his course for his office. Amanda slid her eyes sideways to watch him go, caught V’Mir’s suspicious look and snapped front again. She certainly didn’t want anyone thinking that she was interested in Soval, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Amanda spent a long time analysing her brief encounter with Soval, but couldn’t escape the conclusion that he had been pleased, as well as surprised, to see her. It required a lot more heart-searching before she could admit – very privately – that that pleased her too. Some casual questions dropped at the chess club had confirmed that the ambassador was liked for more than the fact that he played a good game of chess. By dint of shameless eavesdropping on a conversation between Major Miller and Admiral Forrest, Amanda had discovered the remarkable fact that Forrest considered Soval a friend, despite their perennial differences of opinion. It was undeniable that Soval was bad tempered, rude and prejudiced, but maybe she shouldn’t have been in such a hurry to turn him down. Maybe there was a much nicer man behind the disagreeable façade. Maybe she wanted the chance to find out.
Amanda reached that conclusion at a very apposite point: she had drunk too much coffee, she was waiting for a chess partner, and Soval just so happened to walk into the shop. She acted before self-preservation could kick in. “Ambassador.” He turned to face her as she stepped forward, eyes narrowing. “D’you wanna game?”
He hesitated long enough that she started to back away, anticipating that he was going to cut her dead as he had the first time they’d met, then he nodded slightly. “If you wish.”
His voice was quieter than normal, and Amanda studied him covertly as they made their opening moves. “Must have been a rough trip.” Again she spoke without thinking and, as he raised his head to look at her, she added hastily, “You look tired.”
He moved another piece, while she reflected that her question was entirely out of order. No one had mentioned where he’d been, so it could easily have been a confidential mission. Then he said unexpectedly, “The Andorians are never easy to deal with.”
“Enterprise met some Andorians in the Delphic Expanse.” She spoke almost for the sake of it. “They tried to trick Lt Reed into compromising the defence systems.”
Soval gave her a long, appraising stare. “You told me that you served on Enterprise when we first met.”
She grimaced. “I didn’t think you even saw me.”
“Not properly, perhaps.” He left a pause, then asked quietly, “Why did you say that you thought I was someone else, when you knew who I was?”
Amanda flushed, fixing her eyes on the chessboard. “That’s a long story.”
“One that you would perhaps tell me at some point.” He too re-focussed on their game. “Corporal Cole, unless my knowledge is at fault, your last move was illegal.”
He leant forward and moved one of her bishops back to its rightful place, slanting a questioning look up at her. “Oh.” There wasn’t any excuse for making such a basic mistake, except that she hadn’t been concentrating on the game. “Sorry.”
Soval sat back, still watching her. “I will be leaving the embassy for a few days.” The chess game appeared to recapture his interest, although Amanda hadn’t yet made another move. “Would you consider providing security during that period?”
“At the embassy?” She didn’t really understand the question. The MACOs had continued to provide cover for the remaining Vulcan delegation all the time Soval had been away.
“For me.” He glanced up very briefly. “Personally.”
Amanda took a deep breath, wondering what she was letting herself in for. “Sure.”
The private residence of the Vulcan ambassador to Earth was high up in the mountains of Oregon, easily accessible only by VTOL transport. Amanda went straight out onto the deck that was built out over an almost sheer drop, giving panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. “You own this?”
“No.” Soval had followed her out and was standing a little behind her, watching her rather than the spectacular views. “It comes with the assignment.” He moved forward to join her at the rail and she glanced briefly at him before returning to the view.
“It was built for Solkar, not long after he took up his post on Earth.” The current incumbent of Solkar’s post was still looking at the Human woman. “It was acknowledged that he needed a place of retreat, where he could escape Human contact. And no doubt,” he added dryly, “to free the Humans from his presence.”
Amanda grinned, finally turning to face him. “If it was my call, I’d move the embassy up here.”
“And thereby lose the opportunity for quiet.” She grimaced acknowledgement, and Soval added, “I must meditate for a while.” He gestured around. “Use the place as you will.”
“I’ll check the perimeter.” Amanda belatedly remembered that she was there to work, but Soval simply looked levelly at her for a moment.
“You may first wish to examine the security system. It has always proved adequate in the past.” She frowned and he added diffidently, “I asked you to accompany me because I hoped that we could come to know each other a little better, not because I needed your professional services.”
“Why didn’t you just ask?”
“I did not think you would agree.” He paused, then added firmly, “We may leave at once if you wish.”
She looked steadily back for a moment. “That’s okay.”
Something that looked like relief flickered very briefly across his expression. “Then I will see you later.”
“Okay.” He moved away and Amanda added hastily, “Ambassador!”
She flushed, half aware that she was being offered something he gave to few people. “Which is your room?” The thought of blundering in on him was too embarrassing to contemplate.
He indicated the leftmost of the glass doors that lined the rear of the building. “Through there. You will find the other bedrooms at the front, to the right. Select whichever one you wish.”
She nodded, glad they had got the bedroom issue out of the way, and he left her to explore.
Soval didn’t reappear for a couple of hours, by which time Amanda had inspected the very adequate security system, selected the least austere bedroom, showered, changed, and raided the kitchen. When Soval joined her on the deck, she was stretched out on a comfortable chair, a glass of wine in one hand and a bowl of olives by the other, enjoying the view. She sat up when he emerged from his room, however, doubt assailing her. He’d made it very clear that she wasn’t here in an official capacity, but changing out of her uniform and into a dress suddenly didn’t seem like quite such a good idea. And her motives for packing the dress weren’t ones she cared to examine.
She relaxed a little as Soval came slowly towards her, however. He wasn’t wearing his ‘uniform’ either. Instead of the heavy robes, he was wearing something reminiscent of a judo suit, in a shade of grey not much darker than his hair. Aware that she was studying him just as closely as he was studying her, she looked away to pick up the bottle of wine. “Wanna glass?”
“I don’t drink.”
“Oh.” She frowned at him as he took a seat nearby, one leg folded under him so that he could face her comfortably; it was a strangely casual pose. “So why’s there a whole load of wine in the kitchen?”
“Admiral Forrest. He frequently makes use of the facility.”
“Oops.” Guiltily she replaced the bottle, and Soval leant across to refill her glass.
“I doubt he will notice.”
She took another appreciative sip. “Well, he’s sure got good taste.”
“So he tells me.” He selected an olive. “Are you hungry?”
“Starving.” For some unaccountable reason, she hadn’t fancied lunch. Then a horrible thought occurred. “Am I supposed to cook?”
“Not unless you wish to.” He was clearly amused, but Amanda sighed with relief.
“I can’t boil an egg. So what do we do?” There had been a definite lack of pre-prepared food packs when she had poked around the kitchen.
“I cook for us.”
“Italian for preference.” Soval calmly ate another olive. “Or Vulcan, if you are interested in sampling our cuisine.”
“You cook?” He nodded, and even the knowledge that he was amused by her consternation couldn’t prevent Amanda adding, “How logical is that?”
“Far more logical than being forced to endure someone else’s presence here.” One eyebrow flicked in a gesture she had begun to equate with a shrug. “Besides, I enjoy cooking.”
“I didn’t think Vulcans were allowed to enjoy themselves.”
He looked steadily back. “Why do you think that?”
“Well, you’re all so,” she pulled a face as she failed to find a polite word, “repressed.”
“We repress our emotions because we must. That does not prohibit intellectual and sensual gratification.” Amanda noted the ‘sensual’ and hoped her surprise didn’t show on her face. “Music, literature, art are all practised on Vulcan. They may not be to Human tastes, but that does not mean we do not enjoy them.” Soval uncurled himself, rising easily to his feet. “Do you have a preference in your eating habits?”
“Not really. Dealer’s choice, I guess.” He frowned and Amanda reminded herself to stop using slang. “Cook whatever you like best.” He inclined his head and turned away, and she added hastily, “Can I watch?”
“Of course. Although I take advice very poorly.”
She grinned, recognising when she was being teased, even though she was surprised Soval knew how to do it. “No problem there. I told you, I can’t cook.”
Amanda pushed her plate away with a satisfied sigh. “That was good.”
“I appreciate your confidence in me.”
She smiled across the table, to where Soval sat with his water glass loosely clasped between his hands. “Well, who’d have thought the Vulcan ambassador would be a good cook?”
“Anyone who knows me well.”
“And how many of those are there?” The food and wine had relaxed her, or she might not have asked. They had covered a wide range of topics over the last couple of hours, but that question was a little more personal than all the others Soval had answered.
An eyebrow acknowledged the point. “Not a great number.” He topped up her glass. “Do you wish to go outside again?”
“That’d be nice.”
On the deck, Amanda went to the railing again, staring out at the view, darkening now as the sun set in a glow of red and gold. “I don’t know how you can ever bear to leave this place.”
“The climate is unpleasant in winter.”
“What does that matter?” She came back to where Soval had taken a seat on a bench, settling beside him. “A log fire indoors and a hot tub out here. What more d’you need?” He didn’t answer and she had to look away, embarrassed. She was fairly sure that he was intent on seducing her, and she was too confused to know which way she wanted to jump. Was the real Soval the irascible old Vulcan who treated Humans with contempt, or the well-informed, dryly-humorous man who liked to cook and go for long walks? “How long have you lived on Earth?”
“Over thirty years.” Her surprise showed, and he added, “Not continuously. Sometimes I am allowed to return to Vulcan.”
“I’m twenty seven.” It was an apparently random observation, except that Soval had already been Vulcan’s ambassador to Earth at the time she was born.
“How old are you?”
He stretched out a hand to free a strand of her hair that had caught on the chair back. “Nearly a hundred years older than yourself.”
“Oh.” She didn’t know why she was surprised. Everyone knew that Vulcan life spans were approximately twice those of Humans, and Soval looked to be in his sixties in Human terms. But he was nearly a hundred years older than she was. “So you remember First Contact?”
She leant forward to place her glass on the table before them, settling more comfortably as she turned to face him, head propped on one hand. “Tell me.”
“Tell you what?”
It struck her again how different he was tonight, his voice softer, usually rigid expression relaxed – so much like Captain Soval that it confused her utterly. “Everything.” Aware that that was rather a large request of someone who was in his thirteenth decade and rather literal minded, she narrowed the field slightly. “About First Contact.”
“It did not concern me greatly. I was very young. Truly!” he added dryly as she smiled at that. “I expected my career to take me into the military. A new species, barely warp-capable, was of little interest.”
The regret that passed over his face was clearly visible. “My wife’s grandmother sent me to Earth.”
“I’m sorry.” Without thinking, Amanda reached out to touch one of his hands, as she would have done if he were Human. “You don’t need to tell me.”
“It was a long time ago.” He looked away, north of east, towards Bozeman, Montana. “It is hardly an edifying tale. Suffice to say, I ended by feeling myself in some part responsible for your species’ progress towards deep space exploration.”
“You’ve always tried to hold us back.” It was almost an accusation and not one that he tried to deny. “Why?”
He moved away to stand by the railing, but Amanda followed him, curious. “Because I believed that you were not mature enough. Because I believed that you would destabilise this quadrant if you ventured out too soon.” He had been looking out at the barely visible view, but drew a breath and turned to face her again. “I cannot honestly say that my views have changed.”
“Even after what Enterprise achieved in the Delphic Expanse?”
“Do you know how close Earth came to annihilation?”
“But the Xindi would have destroyed us anyway, even if we’d never left the solar system.”
“So Archer would have us believe.”
“We’re not gonna agree on this, are we?”
“I doubt it.” They remained facing each other for a long moment, until Soval asked softly, “Does that matter?”
“I don’t know.” Amanda gazed back at him, her eyes wide. “I don’t know what you want from me.”
“I want nothing that you are not comfortable giving.” His eyes were steady on hers. “Your friendship, your company here on occasion.”
“I thought you were attracted to me.”
She sounded a little disappointed and Soval’s mouth tightened in his first sign of irritation all evening. “I am! But we have established that I am almost a century older than you. I assure you, I will never trouble you with unreasonable demands.”
“I could so easily fall in love with you.” Amanda spoke half to herself. “But you don’t even like Humans.”
Soval’s response was to stretch out a hand towards her, running the backs of his first two fingers down her left cheek. “It may be truer to say that there are very few people whom I tolerate. Fewer still of whom I am fond.”
“But you think you could get fond of me?”
“But why me? You must have met thousands of us.” She frowned in sudden suspicion, as it belatedly occurred to her that Soval’s ability to make himself pleasant when he put his mind to it could illustrate a great deal of practise. “Do you do this all the time?”
“I have never brought a Human woman here.” It never occurred to her to doubt whether he was speaking the truth. “My wife died many years ago. There are a few I have been intimate with since then, but never a Human.”
“So why me?”
“That is the question I hoped to answer by spending time with you.”
“And have you?”
“Started to answer, certainly.” He held out his hand, taking hers when she offered it. “These things take time, Amanda. For Vulcans, sexual intercourse is not something undertaken lightly. If my understanding of your culture is in any way correct, it is a much more intimate activity for us than it is for you.”
“So how long d’you think you’ll need before we can go to bed together?” Amanda had entirely forgotten that she hadn’t yet decided whether or not to let Soval seduce her. The thought that she might have to wait had clarified matters dramatically.
“Typically a year, perhaps two.”
“Oh!” Maybe two years wasn’t all that long when you were over a hundred, but when you were 27, it seemed an awfully long time to wait.
“I may be willing to compromise.”
She stared hard at him, but, in the fading light, it was difficult to tell if he was teasing her again. “Can we try an experiment?” She didn’t wait for a reply, moving in to lay her hands on his shoulders as she lifted her mouth slightly to reach his. Soval’s lips met hers in a gentle kiss that still managed to send a shiver of pleasure through her, and she was smiling when they drew apart.
“Your conclusion?” He sounded politely enquiring, but he had definitely kissed her back and he was also keeping her close, warm hands resting lightly on her bare arms.
“I might be willing to wait. For a few days anyway.”
“Six months, perhaps?”
Now she knew she was being teased. Thank God, Soval had a sense of humour. “Kiss me again and I’ll think about it.”
They were part way through another exploratory kiss when an incessant bleeping within the building shattered the silence around them. Amanda jumped, while Soval scowled, turning his head towards the doors, murmuring something under his breath. She blinked. “You swore!”
“I apologise.” Regretfully, he released her. “That indicates a high priority message. I must attend to it.”
“Sure.” She followed him into the house, cold outside without his inhuman warmth nearby, and began to make tea. If there was any justice in the world, it wouldn’t take long for Soval to deal with the problem, and then they could resume negotiating a compromise. On the whole, she was quite hopeful. Soval had enjoyed the kissing just as much as she had; give her half an hour and it wouldn’t be her own bed where she spent the night.
“Amanda.” She responded at once to Soval’s summons, pleased when he stretched out a hand to bring her to his side, even though he was frowning. “I have to return to San Francisco.”
He left a short pause, a hand resting on her shoulder. “It seems that Tolaris has returned to Earth without the knowledge of the authorities.” He had been staring at the message, incomprehensible to Amanda because it was in Vulcan, but now met her eyes, his own calm, although his facial muscles had tightened. “He has seriously abused one woman already. The Human security forces cannot locate him.”
“Oh, God.” She wasn’t really thinking, just shocked at the news. “I didn’t know. I mean, he said he’d try to come back, but …”
“What?” Soval’s hand tightened, fingers digging painfully into her flesh. “You knew he intended to return?”
“He said he’d try.” His eyes weren’t calm anymore. They were angry – with her. “I didn’t think he was serious. It’s been two months and he hadn’t called.”
His hand dropped to his side and Amanda sucked in her breath as his expression iced over, changing him back into the ambassador who had barely noticed her existence. The companionable man she had spent the evening with was gone, and she had a horrible feeling that he might be gone for good. “Soval?”
“Pack your things.” He turned to the computer to respond to the message, his voice cold. “We leave momentarily.”
Soval didn’t speak on the short journey back to San Francisco, and Amanda was too intimidated by his silence to say anything. Besides, she could think of nothing to say that would not make the situation worse. She knew exactly what Soval thought: that she had only turned to him because she had given up waiting for Tolaris. She knew how easy it was to believe what you expected to hear, and she didn’t think Soval yet trusted her enough to believe her if she told him that he was in no way a substitute for the younger Vulcan.
Back at the embassy, Soval went straight into a briefing with V’Mir, ignoring Amanda who made her way to her room, wondering what she had done to deserve her current appalling luck with men. She couldn’t think of anything, but it must have been really bad. Half wondering if her explanation would sound any more believable if she wrote it down and sent it to Soval, she sat down at the terminal in her room, absently scanning her messages, then went back to check that her eyes hadn’t deceived her. But the last message still claimed to be from Tolaris, although how he could have sent something through the security filters that should have dropped over his name once he was accused of assault, she did not know. Angry and disgusted, she accessed the message, glaring at the flattering words and affectionate request for her company. Did he really think she was that stupid?
She was in the process of forwarding the message to the authorities when a far better plan suggested itself, one that would prove to Soval that Tolaris was the last person she wanted to go out with. Amanda aborted the forwarding request and hit the reply icon instead. She’d make sure that Tolaris never had the chance to hurt anyone else – and then she’d try asking Soval to give her another chance to prove that she was a good person for a bad-tempered Vulcan ambassador to have in his bed.
Their rendezvous was for a bar in Rome, but after an hour of fending off a nice Italian man, who couldn’t understand why she was there if not to meet him, Amanda gave up and left. Perhaps Tolaris wasn’t as stupid or as confident as she’d hoped. He must have realised that there was a risk she’d hear about the assault, even though the girl had refused to press charges. Presumably the exchange of messages had just been designed to feed his vanity.
A hand closed on her arm and dragged her into an alley, an impossibly strong body pinning hers to a wall before she had a chance to lash out. “Amanda.” Tolaris smiled down at her. “I knew that you’d come. I knew you wouldn’t believe those things Soval is accusing me of.”
“Of course not.” She tried to pull free, but Tolaris didn’t even appear to notice. She’d known theoretically that Vulcans were much stronger than Humans, but she’d not appreciated the reality until now. “You’re hurting me.”
“I apologise.” He released the pressure on her body, although one hand continued to encircle one of her wrists. “I fear I am being hunted. That’s why I could not come into the bar. I had to wait for you to leave.”
“So what are we gonna do to clear you?” She was curious to know what excuse he’d give, but he just ducked the issue.
“Come to my room. I will explain everything there.”
Amanda didn’t resist Tolaris’ possessive arm around her waist as he bundled her rapidly down a couple of narrow streets and into an apartment block. But she wasn’t prepared for his fierce thrust as soon as they entered his room that sent her sprawling face down across the bed. Before she could move, he was kneeling on her back, running a small scanner over her. “What are you doing?” She knew when he gripped her wrist, twisting it painfully to reveal the barely discernable lump of the subcutaneous tracking device.
“Did you really think I would be so easily deceived, Amanda?” He produced a pocket knife and she gasped in pain as he sliced through her skin, flicking the device out. He held it up before her eyes, her blood staining his fingers, and crushed it as easily as if it had been a fly. “You told me you were one of Earth’s security force. Did you really think I wouldn’t check for hidden transmitters?”
“Then you know we have your location.” Amanda kept her voice even. “Let me go.” She was a little surprised that the MACOs hadn’t already moved in, but she had been warned that they would wait to be certain of taking Tolaris where no one could get hurt – except possibly their own operative.
The Vulcan just laughed, and Amanda realised that there was no humour behind it: Tolaris went through the motions, nothing more. “Your tracking systems are easily fooled. Why do you think they have not found me so far?”
“You’re jamming them?”
“Of course.” He jerked her over onto her back, slapping her hard enough to make her head reel when she tried to kick out at him. “I told you before how much I admire your passion, Amanda. Won’t you share it with me?”
“But you should! It will make it so much easier for you.” He pinned her lower body with his and pressed the fingers of his right hand to her cheekbone and temple. “My mind to your mind. My thoughts to your thoughts.” Amanda jerked her head away as something seemed to seethe inside her brain, but Tolaris just held her tighter. “My mind to your mind. My thoughts to your thoughts.” Pain shot through her head and suddenly it seemed that she couldn’t control herself, as memories began to surface. “Yes.” Tolaris fingers pressed harder. “Your emotions, Amanda. Show me your emotions!”
Forrest hadn’t wanted the Vulcans to become involved, just in case they claimed some obscure form of diplomatic immunity for Tolaris, but when the MACOs were forced to admit that they had lost contact with their plant, he had no option. The Vulcans’ tracking equipment was admittedly superior, but he could have done without Soval’s scathing comments and even more telling silences. For once Humans were in the wrong, but there was no need for the ambassador to be so damned superior about the whole thing. Then the name of the MACO who’d been sent in to locate Tolaris was revealed, and Forrest watched in consternation as the Vulcan’s frown abruptly deepened. The admiral wasn’t particularly surprised when Soval demanded to be included in the arresting party sent to pick up Tolaris, and for once Forrest gave into the demand without arguing. In fact, he included himself in the group. Unless he was very much mistaken, his long time nemesis had a personal interest in the case, and that was something Forrest wanted to witness for himself.
The MACOs went in first, leaving Forrest and Soval outside with firm instructions not to interfere, instructions that both men ignored when it became clear that it wasn’t going to be the simple arrest that Major Miller had predicted. Inside the room, they were greeted with the sight of Tolaris backed into one corner, staring defiantly at the weapons aimed at his chest.
“Corporal Cole!” Miller said sharply, just as Forrest and Soval entered, and only then did the admiral notice the woman slumped on the bed, glazed eyes fixed on the Vulcan she’d been sent to locate. Miller scowled at Forrest, but didn’t try to get rid of him, perhaps relieved to be able to share the blame for the bungled arrest with Starfleet. “The target claims he’ll harm Cole unless we let him go, admiral.”
“Destroy her mind.” Tolaris smiled widely and not very sanely at Forrest, then switched his gaze to the other Vulcan present. “I think I would enjoy that a great deal.”
“Release her.” Forrest gave the order for form’s sake, but Toloris’ smile didn’t falter as he waved a hand at Amanda.
“I’m not restraining her.”
“Do you know what’s happening here?” The admiral addressed the question in an undertone to Soval, who was staring impassively at Tolaris.
“He has melded his mind with hers.”
“Could he harm her?”
“Can we stun him?”
“No.” For once, Soval took notice of Forrest’s frustration at the uninformative answer. “Breaking the meld in such a way could be just as harmful.”
“Then what do you suggest? And don’t bother repeating that we brought this on ourselves!”
“Let him leave.”
“Let him leave.”
“Damn it, Soval, is that another way of telling me to let the Vulcans handle this?”
The ambassador finally turned to face Forrest, who immediately saw that the Vulcan wasn’t as composed as he appeared. “Yes.”
At any other time, Forrest would have objected long and hard, but he was even more certain now that Soval was worried about the mesmerised woman for her own sake, not because of the need to maintain reasonable inter-planetary relations. He turned to glare at the younger Vulcan. “You’re free to go.”
“Admiral!” Miller protested, but Forrest held up a hand to stop her.
“You heard me, major. Tolaris, you can leave – but if you hurt the girl, we’ll have you.”
The man didn’t seem surprised at the success of his stratagem, just smug, as he pulled Amanda to her feet, propelling her towards the door, from which the MACOs and Forrest pulled back to leave his way clear.
Soval stayed where he was, however, causing Tolaris to pull up short. “Get out of my way, Soval.”
The elder Vulcan looked contemptuously up at the tall one for a moment, before stepping aside. Tolaris pushed Amanda forward and, as she came alongside Soval, his hand shot out, grasping hers tightly. “Amanda! Look at me!”
Several things happened almost simultaneously. Amanda gave a small sound, almost a sob, her head coming around to face Soval, who jerked her violently away from Tolaris, as the younger Vulcan staggered back when Miller saw an opportunity and shot him. The rest of the MACOs jumped on Tolaris, who hadn’t been rendered unconscious by the stun setting, while Soval cupped a hand either side of Amanda’s face, his eyes searching hers. Shaking, she clutched at him, knuckles whitening as she gripped the front of his robe, staring back.
Half embarrassed by the intensity of the silent exchange between the two, Forrest nevertheless felt it incumbent on him to make a few enquiries. “Is she all right?”
He actually saw the change in Soval’s expression, from a strangely fierce one back into his customary irritation, even as he dropped his hands to grip the woman’s wrists and prise her free from his robe. “Her mind is free of him.”
The ambassador stepped back, and Forrest saw the MACO make an abortive move after the Vulcan, that halted as he shot her a frowning look. She turned her back abruptly, but not before Forrest saw the hurt that filled her eyes. It led him to say more harshly than he might have done, “I thought you wanted him released.”
“A meld can only be broken safely by touching the individual concerned. I had to get close.”
“You might have told me!”
Soval didn’t reply, just gave Forrest a disgusted look and turned to glare at Tolaris, who had been securely restrained by the MACOs. “He cannot come to trial.”
“He is medically unfit.”
“We’ll require proof of that.” Forrest had just known that the damn Vulcans would try to wriggle out of a trial of one of their own.
“I will arrange for a Vulcan physician to see him. You will allow access?”
That last was sarcastic and Forrest scowled. “If you apply through the proper channels.”
“Naturally.” Soval glanced briefly at Amanda, who was not looking at him. She had retreated to the rear wall, where she was leaning, arms locked around her body, skin unnaturally pale. Forrest was tempted to point out to the Vulcan that, if the girl had been foolish enough to fall for him, what she needed right now was a hug, not to listen to a discussion on how her attacker wouldn’t be charged. But he knew it would be pointless. “You may wish our physician to examine Corporal Cole also,” Soval added, contriving to sound as if he didn’t expect the offer to be accepted. “Tolaris carries a disease that is passed through the form of mental contact he had with her. I do not know if it is transmissible to a Human.”
“I’ll take that under advisement.”
The ambassador gave Forrest a dirty look for the unappreciative response and swept out, ignoring the woman he had helped rescue. The admiral glared after him, chiding himself for imagining, even for one moment, that Soval might actually have developed a tender for a Human. It was a profound pity that the MACO corporal clearly had done so for the Vulcan – evidently a case of wanting the unobtainable. She’d been stupid, but Forrest had daughters of his own and he wouldn’t like to see one of them look as hurt as Amanda did right then.
The MACO doctor passed Amanda physically fit, as did the Vulcan one, although the two physicians disagreed profoundly over treatment for the pounding headache to which she admitted. Dr Roberts prescribed an analgesic, while Dr M’Tok looked down her nose at the idea of using drugs in such a trivial case and recommended a neuro-pressure session. They exchanged opinions for some minutes, while Amanda’s headache grew worse, but Dr Roberts eventually won, by the simple expedient of pointing out that M’Tok had no authority in the case. The victory put Dr Roberts in a good mood, so that he signed Amanda off work for a few days, told her to go home, then to report back to him when she returned, if she felt she was having problems dealing with the incident. The only good thing to come out of the whole fiasco was that she wasn’t forced to let a Vulcan poke her in the back again.
Amanda could have taken a transport straight to her parent’s house, except that she found it necessary to pack and went first to the Vulcan embassy instead. She recognised that it had been foolish move as soon as she arrived, when it occurred to her that she could not simply wander around hoping to bump into Soval. Unless he was in his office, she didn’t know where he would be. She’d never had reason to enter the private accommodation, and any Vulcan she encountered would likely kick her out, rather than tell her where the ambassador’s rooms were located. During the medical exam and debrief, she’d convinced herself that Soval had only pushed her away because they weren’t alone, that the concern and relief she’d seen in his eyes during the few seconds when he’d held her weren’t just a figment of an over-stimulated brain. That now seemed a pathetically needy belief and she despised herself for being so vulnerable. She was tough, independent and quite capable of managing her own life. Only right now she wanted to be with someone and unfortunately that someone was Soval.
There was no message from him and she stopped herself sending him one just in time. Even if he were still willing to get to know her, she was too emotional at the moment. She’d follow the doctor’s advice and go home, then call Soval when she got back. The last thing a Vulcan wanted was a Human who needed to be cuddled and told that she wasn’t a stupid idiot.
It took only seconds to pack then she was out through the door again, almost running through the quiet building. She encountered no one until she turned into the main entrance hall, where she halted abruptly at the sight of Soval, deep in conversation with the Vulcan doctor who had examined her – who just so happened to be a very attractive woman. Knowing she was being stupid didn’t help. Amanda swallowed hard and began to retreat quietly.
“Corporal Cole.” Soval’s voice halted her. “You are leaving?”
He sounded cool, and Amanda shivered, not looking around. “Dr Roberts told me to go home.”
Soval moved into her line of sight looking grave, and her headache intensified instantly. He didn’t want her. He probably thought she’d enjoyed Tolaris’ attack, as the Vulcan doctor had half implied. “I’m going home.”
For a second, he hesitated then stepped back. “Do not allow me to detain you.” She almost walked past him, but couldn’t quite get her feet to move. Soval left a short pause that Amanda could not fill, then asked quietly, “Are you well?” She nodded firmly, not trusting herself to speak. He had sounded as if he cared about the answer, even if his expression had not changed. His head tilted slightly as he frowned at her. “Are you sure?” Her breath caught, and she bit her lower lip, suddenly close to breaking down. Soval sighed almost imperceptibly. “Amanda, I realise that we do not know each other well, but if I can be of any help to you …” He let the sentence trail off, looking away. “I do not possess Tolaris’ mind-melding ability, but I can understand that you may not want another Vulcan near you. I can only assure you that I would never hurt you.”
Amanda gasped as she realised that he was as uncertain as she felt, and he was – hopefully – just as mistaken. “Soval.” He looked back her, and she saw that he had let his guard down again, as he had during the hours they’d spent up in the Oregon mountains. “I … I want …”
A hand closed tightly on her shoulder and it was Captain Soval’s face just in front of her, kind and concerned. “Amanda?”
She sucked in her breath, eyes closing as she fought for control. “I want you to hold me!” The plea broke from her before she could choke it back. “But I’ll cry and …”
“Look at me.” He’d said that before, when he’d freed her from Tolaris, and she obeyed him again. “Amanda, I know that you are Human.” There was no trace of condemnation in his eyes. “I find that I do not care.”
“Then you’ll hold me?”
“In private, yes.” He released her abruptly. “Come.”
She flowed him blindly, too focussed on the fact that Soval actually wanted to help her to resent the fact that he insisted on privacy to do so. Eventually, they reached a pair of large double doors, one leaf of which gave easily under Soval’s hand, and swung as silently shut behind them. He turned to her and she stepped in close, pressing her face into his neck as his arms closed around her.
“Amanda.” She responded more to the warm hand stroking her arm than to the quiet statement of her name, rolling slowly onto her back to smile up into Soval’s calm face.
She smiled again then froze. “Oh.”
“What is it?”
“I’m in your bed.”
His expression remained relaxed. “So I observe.”
“Why should you be?” He shifted slightly to have a better view of her, head resting on one hand. “I was gratified that you trusted me enough to fall asleep here.”
She didn’t quite have the courage to tell Soval that sleeping anywhere other than in his presence had been unthinkable. He had been unbelievably sweet to her the previous night, allowing her to cry all over him from the relief of finding that he still wanted her, then holding her when the reaction to Tolaris’ abuse finally kicked in. He hadn’t said a word about overly emotional Humans, seeming to understand that she needed comfort, not logic. Once she’d stopped shaking, he’d performed neuro-pressure on her that made her so sleepy she hadn’t even thought to ask if he wanted her to leave. She’d just curled up against him and slept, knowing she was safe. He must have carried her to bed – no mean feat for someone well over a hundred, even if he was Vulcan. And given that he was also in the bed, he must have stayed with her all night
“How is your headache?”
Amanda blinked, suddenly aware that she had simply been lying there, smiling up at Soval. He must think she was a complete idiot. “It’s gone.”
“Good.” His eyes were warm, even if there was very little expression on his lined face.
Too happy to remain sober any longer, Amanda laughed, reaching up to tug hopefully on Soval’s shoulder. “Do Vulcans kiss in the mornings?” He bent his head to demonstrate that one Vulcan, at least, did kiss in the mornings, and she closed her eyes, relaxing into the slow caress. “Thank you.”
“You need not thank me for something I also enjoy.”
“For last night.” She gazed up at the Vulcan, whom she’d once thought was incapable of affection, let alone of offering the comfort she’d craved. “I needed you so much.”
Soval raised a hand to her face, stroking back her hair. “Then I am pleased that I encountered you before you left.”
Their eyes met and Amanda felt a certain tension replace the sleepy languor she’d been enjoying until that moment. They were both decently covered, but it was an undeniable fact that they were in bed together; it would be a shame to miss the opportunity. She stroked her hands up Soval’s arms, watching his eyes closely. “D’you think we know each other well enough yet to make love?”
He lowered his head, brushing her lips lightly with his own. “Perhaps we should find out.”
It would be nice to report that having an intimate relationship with a Human woman made Soval into a more tolerant, better tempered individual, but that would be too much to expect. He remained curmudgeonly and sarcastic in public – and occasionally in private – but he also remained very fond of his Amanda.
Knowledge of the scandalous affair never spread far. V’Mir’s immediate intention of informing the High Council that Ambassador Soval had lost his mind gave way in the face of logic, that revealed that another ambassador might not wish to keep her on his staff. V’Mir chose silence, always ignored Amanda’s presence in the embassy, and trusted that one day Soval would recognise his error and select a Vulcan mate instead.
Admiral Forrest was perhaps the most put out by the relationship: it cost him access to his favourite holiday home. Amanda maintained that the private residence in Oregon was the only reason she stayed with Soval. They spent a good deal of time there, where there was no one else around to discover that Soval was a much nicer person than he allowed most people to know.
T’Pol was delighted with the news that her father had done the unthinkable. It reconciled her to the fact that the woman with whom he was doing the thinkable was, in T’Pol’s opinion, an unprincipled hussy. Soval’s daughter took the first opportunity that presented itself of revealing the identity of her own Human. Soval was unreasonable enough to object vociferously to her choice, until Amanda pointed out that it could have been worse: it could have been Captain Archer.
This story follows: There and Back Again
A whole mess of folks have made comments
Awesome Story! The 2 of them have such a great chemistry together. I always liked Soval... ok, maybe me being a fan of Gary Graham since his Alien Nation days helped a bit... Please consider a follow-up story!
LOVE the ending!!!!! lol
Wonderful story! Until I read your first Soval/Amanda story, I didn't particularly like either character . . . but they grew on me, and I must admit they're suited to each other. Now I'm hooked and I can't wait for the sequel! Loved the ending, by the way.
okay no tnt in this but... i really really liked it.
the ending is priceless absolutely marvelous!
i love how you have them coming together and the humor.
wonderful just wonderful!
Ain't that just the luck, two days after starting to write a Pride and Prejudice story, you beat me to it...typical!
This was a wonderful way of interpreting my favourite ever book, so I bow to you, and clap my hands at the clever way you chose Tolaris to be Wickham...inspired!
I could go on and on about how much I love this...but I'll leave it one little quote which has done the unthinkble:
"Instead of the heavy robes, he was wearing something reminiscent of a judo suit, in a shade of grey not much darker than his hair."
I got a really intense "hubba-hubba" moment when I read that...you made me lust after Soval!
Thanks for this, it was extrememly enjoyable.
Excellent take on Pride and Prejudice (one of my favorite books, btw)! I thoroughly enjoyed it!
"...until Amanda pointed out that it could have been worse: it could have been Captain Archer."
Excellent story. Very well done. I really enjoyed it. I'd love to see a follow-up. Wonderful!
I just loved this story. Very well done!
How wonderfully entertaining. I also love Pride and Prejudice (in all its incarnations :)
I'm so very glad that you decided to continue with a Soval/Amanda relationship after "There and Back Again".
Absolutely loved this! More, PLEASE!!!!!!
If I'de known this was a sequel to "There" I would have read it a lot sooner. I very much enjoyed the story.
Your fascination with Soval and Amanda is funny to me, but it sure has seemed to inspire some interesting tales.
Keep 'em coming.
Enjoyed the story, nicely done. I was also interested in your story of Mestral and Soval. I was so intrigued by the Carbon Creek episode that I wrote a short story about Mestral's situation a year after first contact. Sent it in to the Strange New Worlds contest. Never sent anything to a publisher before! I hope you thinking of publishing your work. I'd really like to see more of it.
I love the story. Great idea-getting Soval and Amanda together.
I've started reading all the Soval/Amanda fics now that I've read 'No Sin" and I'm finding I really enjoy the pairing AND your writing. Laughed at the way you imitated 'Pride and Prejudice', recognized it right away! Hilarious.
I'm the same as STC... I've never even been in Soval's annex, before "No Sin" (which is an exceptional story)... And now I'm totally hooked.
I swear, that two-finger cheek brush thing that Soval does is the sexiest thing...*sigh*
Well, I'm off to read more!
Alright. I've just finished this for the second time--and the first time after reading Pride & Prejudice. Well done. I love this.
I'll be readin this one over and over and over...