Chapter 4
Old Friends

Ashan sat on a low wall at the edge of the city gazing out over Vulcan's Forge. From here, the desert stretched out before him in all its primitive glory, turned crimson by a sun so huge it filled the entire sky. Or so it seemed to the boy. He had been warned not to look directly at it even with the protective inner eyelid. But he could no more ignore its splendid fury than ignore breathing.

Of course he had seen deserts before, had even camped in them as a child, but never such a vast, red, blazing desert as the one he now contemplated. It was as beautiful and as terrifying as his father had described it. He could see no way a person could live there for very long, but he had been told that even the children of this planet were required to complete a desert survival trial. He shuddered at the thought. His own planet was harsh but this one....

Of course much of his knowledge about this world constituted only rumours. He had heard that the people could kill you with their minds, and that when they died - they trapped their souls inside strange containers. His father and mother had told him other things during the 3 day trip here, accompanied by the huge white Federation Starship. Things which he found difficult to believe.

His school friends had nothing but obscenities to offer about people of this world and Ashan was just like any other young boy when it came to peer pressure. But he was no longer a boy - at 17 years counted on the Romulan time scale, he was legally an adult. He should no longer be concerned with those childish prejudices. So why was he weeping? Could it only have been a few days ago that he had been a normal, adolescent Romulan boy preparing to enter the military?

During the three days on board the transport ship, he had finally been told the truth. A truth that both horrified and shocked him to his core. To discover that he was part of this strange alien world filled him with a loathing he could not even begin to articulate. Now he sat staring out over the Forge with eyes that did not see and ears that did not hear.

Needing to be alone to think, Ashan had announced that he was going exploring. His aimless wanderings had brought him here, to this hostile, blazing landscape, more ancient even than the rift that existed between this planet and his own. No - not his own, he knew himself to be a child of both those worlds. But the knowledge served only to fuel his anger. How could his parents have kept this from him for so long? Even being able to understand his father's long absences failed to appease his rage.

Standing slowly, he began to walk into the desert, but before he had taken more than a few steps, a deep baritone voice spoke from behind him,"I have been looking for you."

He glanced over his shoulder at the stranger who wore his fathers' face.

"Well, you found me."

"If it is your intention to go into the desert, I must warn you that you will not survive more than a few hours in the Forge."

"Why not? According to mother, you survived the Forge when you were only 7 years old."

"Almost from the day I was born, I was trained for survival in these conditions. This planet is far less hospitable than your world Ashan - do not underestimate it. Come, your mother has prepared our evening meal and after we must talk."

Ashan turned back to his contemplation of Vulcan's desert and said stonily. "What is there to talk about father? I believe you have already explained the current situation to me most succinctly."

Spock regarded the back of his sons' dark head. He had no words to offer that would make this situation easier on the boy. He was well aware of how Ashan felt about him. And yet it was his duty to try, "This has come as a great shock to you...."

Without turning the boy spoke in a flat monotone, "A shock? Is that how you would describe it?"

The words were so devoid of emotion that they would have made a Vulcan proud. But not this one.

"Ashan....?" Spock began to reach for his son's shoulder, but let his hand drop before it made contact. Instead he quietly folded both hands behind his back.

His son finally deigned to face him and favoured him with a smile that failed to reach his eyes, "Don't worry - I'll try not to embarrass you in front of other Vulcans."

Spock closed his eyes momentarily and when he opened them again Ashan was walking stifly back towards town. He followed his sons retreating back with heavy eyes and heavier heart. He had come to tell him more of his heritage but he now saw that would not be wise. Finding out that he was Part Vulcan had been enough of a shock for one day. Perhaps it was too soon to reveal that he had human blood in him as well.

Later that day, Spock sat on one of his mother's prized antique "deck chairs" in the middle of her garden on their estate in Shikahr. The heat on Vulcan in mid-summer was almost unbearable even for him. However, a small desert breeze had sprung up, catching his too long hair and whispering through his fingers. He sat with eyes closed contemplating recent events with deep sadness.

At first he didn't hear the small chime. It was set too low for human hearing now that his mother was gone but he should have picked up on it easily enough. The truth was simply that he was so deep in thought, he had no sense of the outside. The chime sounded a second time but louder as it was programmed to do. This time Spock roused himself and cleared his throat.

"Come. "

A few moments later he heard a familiar and expected voice shout from the hall. "Where the devil are ye Spock - its too damned dark in here."

" The garden Mr Scott." Spock heard the force-field crackle as it shut down to allow the man exit from the house. A few seconds later it crackled again. He made a mental note to have the force-field repaired. It was supposed to be silent. Then the familiar Celtic burr was muttering in disapproval. "Ye have a wee crossed circuit in yer force-field generator Spock. I'll get ma tool kit and sort that oot afore I go."

Montgomery Scott, dressed in Starfleet issue desert suit stepped around the chair and stood, hands on hips, and broad Celtic smile on lips in front of his old shipmate and friend. "My god if yer no a sight fer sore eyes and that's a fact," he beamed.

Spock could not prevent the slight smile that tugged at the corners of his own mouth. "Mr Scott - emotional as ever I see."

Scott threw himself down into the other deck chair and shook his head in bemusement. "Spock I swear ye havna aged one day since I last saw ye."

"Nor have you engineer. I look forward to hearing more on that subject."

"It's been two years since they pulled me out of the Jenolen's transporter."

"Indeed? A most ingenious solution to your predicament at the time."

"Aye - well you know me. The miracle worker. But I meant what I said Spock - its been nearly - 80 years since we last saw each other - you barely show the years."

"I have some grey hairs, engineer, and less tolerance to the cold." Spock had not done the calculations for turning Earth standard years into Vulcan years (which involved the later being divided by approximately 2.4) for many years. He found that the mental equation was still readily available to him. "In Vulcan years, I am 59.25 years old."

Scott grinned broadly, "Well ye dinna look a day over 50 to me."

Spock inclined his head graciously then indicated the small replicator slot embedded in the marble table. "May I offer you some refreshment Mr Scott?"

Scott cocked an eyebrow in a most Spock-like fashion. In his day, replicator technology was way beyond the financial limits of most private citizens. No-one would have even such a modest unit as this one in their home. But then things had changed he thought wryly.

Probably every home had one now. sighing wistfully he muttered,. "God yer a dinosaur, Monty!"

"I do not know that beverage engineer," Spock intoned dryly.

Scowling affectionately at the Vulcan, Scott leaned forward. "Have ye any scotch then Spock - I feel like a wee toast, and its nae a proper toast without whisky."

Spock shook his head and fixing the engineer with a deeply soul wrenching look said to the replicator unit , "Two mint Juleps, iced with a twist of lemon."

Scott nodded slowly and watched as the drinks sparkled into existence before them. "He never managed to get the replicator on the Enterprise to make a decent mint Julep - said it was something to so with the synthetic mint. I suppose technology has come on a lot more than I realised." The engineer picked up his glass and began swirling the contents.

Spock lifted his own glass and this time Scott could not miss the small wry smile playing at the corners of his mouth. "Indeed it has Mr Scott, however, I had this unit programmed to synthesise this particular drink some 85 years ago. I have developed a taste for them, although I never did admit that to McCoy. He would have found the irony quite appealing."

"I think yer right as always, Mr Spock." and he lifted the glass aloft letting Vulcan's raging ruddy sun turn the liquid a muddy brown, "Tae absent friends."

Spock swallowed hard but his voice betrayed not a hint of emotion. "To absent friends."

Scott regarded Spock over the rim of his glass. There was a question he longed to ask the Vulcan but he wasn't sure if this was the right time. Then again - perhaps there would never be a time so right again. Clearing his throat he carefully placed the glass on the marble table. Spock was looking down into the frosted contents of his own glass.

Before the engineer could find the right words, Spock stated,"You are about to ask me why I did not attend the service held for Captain Kirk after his disappearance from the Enterprise B."

Scotty drew in a sharp breath. Either Spock was reading his mind, or he had become unforgivably transparent over the years. Either way it didn't matter. With his usual precision, the Vulcan had cut straight to the heart of the matter. It had upset the engineer deeply when Spock was absent from the service in Iowa at Jim's parents farm.

It had been Kirk's will to be buried in space, but of course there had been no body to bury, so McCoy had insisted on holding a service when the truth had eventually dawned. Jim Kirk was not coming back.

Captain Sulu had been given permission by Starfleet to leave his ship to attend the service, and all of the other Enterprise Bridge crew, had been on Earth at the time anyway. McCoy had sent word to Spock, but there had been no reply.

It was perhaps fortunate that McCoy's stubborn pride had prevented him digging deeper and inadvertently discovering the truth of Spock's whereabouts. The service had gone ahead without the Vulcan.

Now Spock placed his own glass on the table and leaned forward. Unflinchingly, he held Scotts gaze. "I knew he was not dead."

Scott looked at him askance. Of course, in retrospect, Scott knew that was true, but Spock must have realised that his absence would deeply hurt his human friends, who did not have the benefit of his bone-deep certainty. Again Spock seemed to read his mind.

"And there was more to it than that. The truth, is that I was on the Romulan Home world at that time."

Scott picked up his drink and drained the glass in one long gulp. "Let me get this straight Mr Spock - you were on Romulus. With the Romulans. On Romulus."

"Overstated but accurate, engineer."

"So my next question would be...."

"Why? I was investigating the possibility of Re-unification of our two peoples."

"What? We knew nothing of this," Scott spluttered.

"The Federation council were unaware that the process was being started. It was a decision I made unilaterally and without the support of either the Federation or The Vulcan high councils. I had taken an extended leave and was operating undercover within the Romulan Empire. That is why it was not possible for me to attend the service."

"When I left Picard's ship - I tried to find you, but it seemed like you had just disappeared. Ma contacts at Starfleet couldn't even help. You were on Romulus?"

"Correct. During my last visit, Sarek died and I came to see that there was nothing left for me in the Federation, so I remained on Rihannsu to continue my work."

Scott shifted uncomfortably in the deck chair, "I was sorry to hear about your father. He was a great man. I grieve with thee." He spoke the Ancient High Vulcan phrase in Standard to avoid mispronunciation.

Spock merely nodded, his silence speaking volumes. Quickly Scotty changed the subject back to less emotive grounds. "And were you successful on Romulus Mr Spock?"

The Vulcan stirred uncomfortably. "The process will be long and protracted. It will take many more years to come to fruition. I have recently been forced to flee the Empire in the wake of the new hard line regime but it is my intention to return as soon as possible to continue my work."

"And those Romulans you shipped in with?"

"Are members of the Romulan Underground Movement who's lives would be at risk if they had remained on Rihannsu."

Scott nodded, "Well tis a fine story and no mistake. How has the Vulcan High Council reacted?"

"They have accepted my travelling companions as political refugees, however there will no doubt be serious repercussions. I have been requested to resign my post as Federation Ambassador to Quon'os and there will be an investigation into my unsanctioned actions. However I am hopeful that in going public, I can prompt more serious consideration of the issue."

"Tis hard to credit. Who'd hae believed that you would end up an ambassador for peace - just like your father always wanted."

"Indeed - sometimes I wonder if we are truly masters of our own destiny."

Scott nodded sagely. "How did you know that Jim wasn't dead?"

Spock cocked an eyebrow at the sudden change in subject. "We were..... connected. There is a word in Vulcan - Th'ylla. Nowadays it is rarely used except as an endearment between bonded couples. However, traditionally it can be used to describe to relationship between siblings or close friends.

The relationship must be very deep to allow for a mental bond of the nature that I speak. More that a friend, more than a brother - he was the personification of my human half. That is, in fact, one of the most common translations of the word - Th'ylla means 'the other half of self'. Jim shared these feelings, and so a bond was established. If he had died - I would have felt the bond severed - it would have caused me great psychological trauma."

" Sounds like what happens when a Vulcan marriage bond is broken?"

"Very similar. Nothing is stronger than a properly established marriage bond, I would not have died - but the mental damage could have been, and indeed nearly was quite extensive."

Scott suddenly realised that Spock was talking about Kirk's actual death less than a month ago. No-one outside top brass of Starfleet was meant to know about it. Scotty had found out - through Jean-Luc Picard. He had dealt with his grief at losing his friend years before, and somehow could not quite face dealing with it again. The events on Veridian III seemed somehow unreal to him.

"You felt his death even on Romulus?"

"I had no idea of the circumstances until later but yes, I felt the bond broken. It was a most...unpleasant experience. I see you are also aware of the events?"

" Picard told me ."

"And McCoy?"

"We decided against it. He was already very weak - what was the point in opening up those old scars?"

"I see. Perhaps that was for the best," The Vulcan sighed deeply.

Scott pulled himself up from the deck chair and rubbed at his suddenly stiff neck. "Did ye hear how Jim died? Saving an entire planet? It's how he would have wanted it don't you think?"

The Vulcan also stood, "It is what I found so compelling about him Mr Scott. A Universe, a Galaxy, a planet or a single person - he would have given his life just as willingly for one man as for a million. For James Kirk, the needs of the many were the same as the needs of the one. He made no distinction - each and every life was important to him and the needs of each individual outweighed his needs. As I said before - he was the other half of me and I miss him."

Scott felt the sting of tears begin to form behind his eyes. "Aye - me too."

Spock gazed up at the sky and watched as one of Vulcans delicate silver birds soared overhead. "And there is another I will miss. McCoy never knew that I also considered him Th'ylla."

"Are ye so sure Spock? - he carried ye around inside his head for a while remember? I know he took yer death after our wee run-in with Khan really badly, and when that High Priestess told him the re-fusing would be dangerous - he told her straight - I choose the danger. What does that tell ye Spock?"

"I always assumed that he chose the danger because he was so desperate to be rid of my Katra. From what Jim told me - it caused him great discomfort."

Scotty laughed. "Aye - none of us knew what was causin' his erratic behaviour. Even McCoy thought he was goin' mad - especially when they threw him in the loony bin."

Spock frowned at the unfamiliar term, but Scott did not stop to explain, "When he found out what was goin' on, things changed. He once told me that he started having conversations with ye inside his head. And because he was in control - he always won the arguments. It seemed to gie him a great deal o' pleasure."

"I do not doubt it."

"Anyway, my point is this - he really got to know you well when he carried your Katra - I think he knew exactly how you felt about him."

Spock remained uncharacteristically silent. Scott indicated in the general direction of Shikahr's spaceport "I have to go now Spock. They say it will take a week tae fix ma ship so I've had to book transport to Earth. It leaves in less that an hour. Will ye come with me? I'm sure McCoy's ghost would haunt ye if ye missed his wake."

"An unsettling thought, engineer, however not entirely unfamiliar."

"How so?"

"He haunted me when he was still alive." And Scotty almost died there himself - laughing.  




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