Ashan found his mother in the kitchen. She was preparing supplies of fresh food for the two travellers. She noted his puzzled expression and knew from experience, that he had questions to ask.
She sealed the container of freshly cooked Plomeek soup and turned to him. "You are troubled, my son."
"I don't understand, mother."
"Don't understand what?"
Ashan began distractedly loading the dishwasher unit as he spoke, as if he needed physical activity to hide his unsettled feelings. "Kirk. Why did he come after me? Why did he risk his life to save me? I made my feelings towards him more than clear."
"You are the son of his best friend, Ashan. As a Romulan, you must understand honour and loyalty?"
"Of course I do mother. But he risked so much - He has been close to my father for years, but he had only just met me. I didn't make it easy for him, but he kept on trying. It's almost like risk were nothing to him."
"No - not nothing, merely something that comes with the job. When one lives with danger every day of one's life - it becomes easier to face. Kirk has faced many risks in his life with great courage, as has your father. In fact he once died whilst trying to save Kirk and his crew."
Ashan gasped. "He what?"
"It is a very long story, Ashan. Kirk disobeyed direct orders from Starfleet, stole his ship from spacedock, and went to retrieve Spock's body. Once back on Vulcan, his Katra was reinstated and he breathed again.
The point is - They both understood mnhei'sahe - Spock died to save Kirk and Kirk risked his career to save his friend. A few days ago, your father faced the one thing he is most afraid of - madness, in order to save Kirk from the nexus. Each of these two men, have risked everything for each other, many times.
You don't know this, but Kirk once had a son. He was not involved in the child's upbringing, and David harboured a great deal of animosity towards his father. Eventually they reconciled their differences, but shortly after Spock died, David was murdered by a Klingon, and Kirk's ship was destroyed. He wasn't able to save his best friend or his ship, but worst of all - he couldn't save his own son. He lived with the guilt for many years. So you see - Kirk would rather have died in the Forge, than bring Spock your corpse. He could not let his friend suffer the same pain. Do you understand?"
Ashan tried to imagine what it would be like to loose so much all at the same time. A lesser man would be excused for giving up on life, but he had come to know that Kirk never gave up. "I think so," he said hesitantly, thinking it all through. "Kirk engenders much trust in the people whom he calls friend. He has a great deal of respect for my father."
Seleya nodded. "Respect that you father worked very hard to earn. Ashan, Spock's place has always been among the stars. I would never ask him to give that up, but it has been very hard on you."
"I always thought he didn't care about me. I'm truly sorry that we are not closer."
"Perhaps in time...?" she asked hopefully.
"I would like to understand him better." Ashan turned to face her. "Mother, would you mind leaving me alone for a while? I've got a lot to think about."
"I don't doubt that, my son. I have confidence that you will reach the right decision."
As she walked away, Ashan followed her with troubled eyes. What decision was she talking about?
"Well Spock - I guess this is it." Kirk stood awkwardly at the front door of Spocks' house, not sure what else he could say or do. Their preparations were complete and there was no reason to stay longer.
Scott glanced at both men then gently took the duffel bag from his Captain's fingers and squeezed past him. "I'll load the car."
Kirk smiled fondly. Trust Scotty to be diplomatic when it counted most. They stood in silence for a moment then both tried to talk at the same time.
They trailed off into silence again. When it came right down to it, there were no words either of them could use to make their parting any easier.
Ashan came out of his bedroom and watched the two men looking at each other. Their sorrow was tangible, and touched the young man deeply. He had never considered that his father might have feelings until recently, and now had cause to regret having made the discovery.
As his mother had predicted, he had made his decision, one that might hurt his father, and he regretted having to do that. Clearing his throat, he spoke from the other end of the hall, "Father, Do you intend to return to Rihannsu?"
Spock turned and frowned in puzzlement, " Of course - as soon as it is safe to do so."
Ashan saw his mother standing behind Spock. "Mother?"
"My place is at your father's side. As it has always been."
Just then, Mr Scott appeared at the front door, and scanned the expectant faces. The tension in the air was quite noticeable. Ashan nodded, and walked slowly over to his father. When he was within arms reach, he looked up and sighed, "I won't be going back with you, father. My place is no longer on Rihannsu."
Spock cleared his suddenly dry throat, but his voice held no trace of emotion. This was the moment he had been dreading. "What do you intend to do?"
Ashan did not flinch from his father's diamond bright gaze. "Father - I'm sorry. I cannot choose the same path as you did. I doubt that my nature will ever allow me to become a Vulcan. Captain Kirk has taught me some of what it is to be human, and I am no longer ashamed to have Terran blood. I think I would relish the chance to explore the human aspects of my heritage more fully."
Spock's eyes seemed to flicker. His expression hinted almost at relief, "As a being of several worlds, my son, your path must be a unique one. Only you can choose."
"You would not force your own choice on me?"
Spock allowed a small smile to form at the corner of his mouth. Although he would not influence his son's choice in any way, he had a feeling that the boy had reached the same conclusion as he had. His voice betrayed a touch of amusement. "You are not a child, and I am not my father. Whatever you choose to do, your mother and I will be... proud of you."
Ashan's eyes flew to his mother's face. Even Seleya showed her surprise but neither Kirk nor Scott so much as blinked. Ashan took one step nearer so that he was almost toe to toe with his father. "And I want you to know - that I am proud to be your son."
This time, Kirk did react. His hand shot up to cover his mouth and his eyes blinked several times at the painfully familiar words.
Spock, being Spock, merely nodded. "There are many options open to you. As I noted once before - it's a big universe."
"And I want to see it all, father."
This time, Spock did lay his hand gently on his son's shoulder. He allowed his mental shields to drop completely, and was nearly swamped by the younger man's excitement and joy. It was not entirely unpleasant.
"If you truly wish to explore the human aspects of your persona, I can think of no better teachers than Kirk and Scott."
Kirk frowned in confusion at his friend, but a slow smile had begun to spread over the engineer's face. "What do you say, Captain? The Nova is plenty big enough for three. Could we use a navigator?"
Kirk looked long and hard at his old friend. "If the boy wants to come..."
Ashan was smiling now. "Of course I want to come. I'm 17 years old, and I've never met a Ferengi or a Klingon or... well anyone interesting. But there is one condition, Captain Kirk - you must promise never to hit me in the nose again."
"Can't promise that, son" Kirk grinned devilishly. "You might get infected by strange alien spores, or a water based virus or...."
"Jim," Spock interrupted, "part of the fun is in finding out for yourself."
And they all laughed - except Spock who merely inclined his head and raised an eyebrow. Ashan hurried off to pack followed by his mother, and Scott excused himself again, leaving the two friends alone in the hallway.
Kirk took Spock's shoulders and squeezed gently. "I'll look after your son as if he were my own boy."
Spock favoured his old friend with one of his rare and precious smiles and replied, "I suggested that Ashan accompany you on your voyages, so that he could look after you."
Kirk merely smiled a knowing smile. "Whatever you say Spock."
Seleya leaned on the doorjamb, arms crossed tightly, and expression grim. Ashan would not look at her, instead he moved gracefully from one storage unit to another, selecting only what he considered to be essential clothing. As he dumped a pile of clothes onto the bed, an old, faded strip of white material slithered out and fell onto the floor. Ashan stared at it. Seleya stepped forward and delicately retrieved the T'riellirov.
It was tradition, that after the birth of a baby, a strip was cut from the bed sheets, which the mother would then embroider with the child's initials, and other relevant information. The T'riellirov was then kept by the mother until the child's 12th birthday, when it was presented to them during the ceremony in which they received their fourth name. The material could be worn around the neck, underneath the clothing, and was considered a lucky talisman.
Seleya carefully folded the piece of material three times, and handed it to him. Ashan did not meet her eyes as he took the material. He was remembering the day he had received it. He had been angry, for as usual, his father was absent.
The Naming ceremony was one of the most important events in a young Rihannsu's life, he had thought that for this at least, his father would make the effort. He had chosen his son's fourth name, as was traditional, but of course he had not come. Another nail had been hammered into the coffin that was their relationship.
He felt a wash of shame flood over him as he recalled those feeling now. How could he have so misjudged the man, and how could he have harboured such feeling of hatred towards the Terrans? In the past three days alone he had come to respect these people more than any other living creatures - except for his mother.
He met her eyes now, and saw that they gleamed with unshed tears. She would not let them fall. Not until he was gone. He gently laid his hand on her cheek, and she covered it with her own. "Mother - my fourth name - I understand now."
"You know what it means?"
"I used father's computer - literally translated into Vulcan it means Sarek. He named me for his own father, didn't he?"
"If you have learned anything about Spock's father, you will know what a great honour he afforded you."
Ashan nodded then smiled a little slyly. "I also looked up the translation of Ashan."
"It does not translate into Vulcan," she said.
"No, but in Standard - it means James."
Seleya's eyebrows rose in genuine surprise. She had not known that. Spock had chosen his son's first name without ever seeing the boy. Although the name was unusual, Seleya had liked the sound of it well enough. Ashan let his hand drop and walked to the window.
From here he could see the sand garden which had been re-raked into its perfect symmetry, not a stone or grain of sand out of place. He turned and held out his hand to her and she joined him at the window.
"The sand garden is representative of the Universe, with a place for everything within it. Order must be maintained, or the result is chaos. How can I make a decision regarding my own place in the Universe without knowing who I am first? I must do this mother. I must learn where I fit in, but I am sorry that I did not consult with you. My decision must have been a shock to you"
She took his face between her hands and tipped his head forward to kiss his forehead gently. "My son, you did not consult me the day you made your entrance into this world three weeks early. You did not consult me when you brought home the injured Tar-lirn you found in the desert when you were five and you did not consult me when you chose your third name. Even as a child, you made your own decisions. I would have been surprised if you hadconsulted with me first. I am not offended or hurt by this - but I am afraid."
"I imagine that most mothers feel this way when their only son leaves home for the first time."
She smiled gently. "Most mother's only sons do not fly off into the unknown with James T Kirk. That one is all fire - it burns like a furnace within him and it immolates those around him."
"No mother - Kirk's fire only immolates his enemies, it merely warms those who are lucky enough to be called his friend. I would be honoured to be among those few."
She nodded and took the strip of material from his fingers. Unfolding it carefully she reached up and placed it around his neck. "You must wear it always. Any man who is a friend of James T Kirk, needs all the luck he can get."
"Federation Runabout Nova Scotia - you are clear, and free to navigate, and from all of Vulcan - farewell."
Scott turned in his chair and looked at Kirk. "Course, Captain?"
Kirk shook his head gratefully, "She's your ship, Mr Scott."
Scott turned back to the helm and smiled broadly "Aye - she's mine alright, just like the Enterprise was mine and every engineer in the fleet considers their ships to be their very own. But a ship can only have one Captain."
He looked at Kirk out of the corner of his eye "Come on, Jim, the boy wants to see the Universe - what do you say?"
Kirk took a deep breath and let it out slowly "Very well, Mr Scott, set a course for - the Universe."
He looked out at the starscape beckoning from forward viewport. "Lets go where no-one's gone before."
"Aye sir - course plotted and laid in."
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