Disclaimer: The Star Trek characters are copyright by Paramount Studios. The rest of the story is copyright (c) 1999 by Cheree Cargill and may not be reproduced in any form without express written consent of the author. A single copy may be downloaded for personal enjoyment of the reader. Respect the rights of authors and artists!

Family Ties

Cheree Cargill

Spock took a very deep breath and calmed himself before pushing open the door and entering the dimly-lit bedroom. Inside it smelled of medicine and decay and impending death. Dominating the room was a large bed in which a small figure lay, almost lost in the snowy sheets and soft comforters.

From across the room, a blue-clad nurse rose and came toward him. "I would like to speak with her alone," Spock informed her in a low voice. "I will summon you if you are needed." The nurse nodded acquiescence and went out into the hall.

Quietly, he shut the door and stood attempting to determine if the small figure in the bed slept. Her breath rasped softly in and out of her sunken chest, but she gave no other outward sign that she lived. He had just determined that she was indeed asleep and that he would exit as silently as he had entered, when the head turned slightly in his direction and a cracked voice demanded, "Who's there?"

"It's Spock, Grandmother," the man replied, not moving yet from his position by the door.

"Who?"

"Spock, Grandmother," he repeated a bit louder, taking a step further into the room.

"Oh. Yes. Amanda's boy." The old woman settled back into the position she had been in when he had entered. "What do you want?"

He took another couple of steps nearer the bed. "I came to see you, Grandmother. I wanted to see you before..."

"Before I die?" she finished for him, turning a hard eye in his direction. "Kind of you to go to all that trouble. You never have before."

That stung. He looked down at the carpet and slipped his hands into a loose clasp behind his back, taking a couple of seconds before answering softly, "I did not think I would be welcome here."

"You're right," Miranda Grayson responded acerbically. "Get out."

He sighed and lifted his head to look at her, his expression one of resignation. "Why do you hate me so, Grandmother? I cannot recall anything that I have ever done that would cause you to feel this way about me."

The old woman's eyes narrowed slightly and she turned her head to stare directly at him. "You were born," she answered bluntly. "That's what you did to me. You will never know the pain and humiliation I have endured because of you. Because of what your mother did to me."

Spock tilted his head slightly. "Married my father, you mean."

"Yes." She turned her gaze back on the ceiling. "Bad enough she went off with that alien but then she had to go and have a baby with him. It just made me sick!"

Spock hung his head again, this entire encounter making him feel ill as well, but he had determined that he would make peace with his human grandmother before her life was gone. It was one of the reasons he had come to the Grayson family gathering with his mother, something he had never done before.

At last he moved and retrieved an upholstered, straight back chair that sat beside a small writing table near the bed. Bringing it to his grandmother's bedside, he sat down facing her and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs and lacing his fingers together.

"Grandmother," he said earnestly, "I feel that you have judged me without ever knowing me. It has been many years, I realize, since I last came to see you and that last time I was only a child. If you knew me, I do not think you would be displeased with me or the man I have become."

She looked back at him, her expression hard. "I don't care about what 'kind of man' you have become. I care about what you are and that's what I object to."

"Vulcan," he clarified.

"Alien. Yes."

"I am human as well," he pointed out.

"Have you looked in a mirror lately, Spock?" she snapped.

"I know," he answered softly. "I have the appearance of my father's people. And I have chosen to live my life as a Vulcan, but the fact remains that I am half human. I do have a human family and you are my grandmother."

"I don't claim you," she sniffed aloofly, turning away again.

"That is your prerogative," he agreed. "But I claim you. You are the only grandmother I have, you know. My father's parents both died before I was born. The only concept of a grandmother that I have ever had was you. My mother has told me many stories of what you were like when she was growing up."

"Amanda always did have a vivid imagination," the old woman snorted.

"Indeed she does, but somehow I do not believe that she was making these stories up." Spock peered at his grandmother for a moment to see if there was any reaction. "For instance, she told me that when she was eight, she contracted a case of Thalusian flu. She told me that she doesn't remember how long she was ill, only that you left your university post and stayed at her bedside until she was well again and regained her strength."

"Seven weeks," the old woman answered, softer, her gaze far away into the past. "She was hospitalized for seven weeks. I thought we would lose her. Your grandfather and I prayed so hard that she would live. We just couldn't stand the thought of losing our baby. Our youngest."

Spock nodded. "And when she was ten, she said she needed a costume for a school play but forgot to tell you until the night before. She said you stayed up all night making that costume for her."

Incredibly, the old woman chuckled slightly. "Oh, Lord, I'd forgotten that. It was as a fairy for a scene from 'Midsummer Night's Dream'. I thought I'd never get those wings to stay on."

"And she told me how you taught her to swim, and took her and her siblings on picnics, and listened without complaint as she attempted to master the clarinet."

Miranda turned to look directly at him, frowning. "Why are you telling me this, Spock? What do you hope to accomplish?"

"I hope to illustrate that you were a good and loving mother to your daughter," he answered quietly. "As your daughter was a good and loving mother to me."

The woman didn't reply and, encouraged, Spock went on. "Do you know that I also had Thalusian flu when I was a child? My mother sat with me day and night until I recovered, reading me stories that you had read to her when she was a child and had been ill. Sometimes at night, when I could not sleep because of the pain the disease caused, she would wrap me in a blanket and hold me in her arms until I was finally able to sleep. I was five and beginning to know that Vulcan mothers did not treat their children in such an emotional manner, but in the privacy of our home, in the dark and quiet of night, I knew that she would comfort me as her human mother had comforted her. One of my most cherished memories is being rocked to sleep in my mother's arms, feeling very safe and loved." His voice trailed off in a soft whisper.

"You're trying to get around me," the old woman accused, but her voice had lost its harshness.

Spock shook his head. "No. I only want you to see, Grandmother, that I am not so different from your other grandchildren. Whatever my heritage may be from my father, my heritage from my mother is you. You are part of me. And I am proud to be your grandson."

Miranda studied him for a few minutes and then said, "You've got your grandfather's eyes, you know."

Spock quirked up an eyebrow in surprise at that comment. "Really? I never knew that."

"And his chin, I think. I guess I just never looked at you before." Miranda sighed softly. "I guess when I did, all I could see were your ears and eyebrows. Your ali... your Vulcan features."

"Tell me about him," Spock said, leaning forward again.

The old woman's eyes strayed back to the ceiling, her gaze lost in remembrance. "Your grandfather David Grayson was a judge. A senior judge of the Tenth National Court of North America. We met when he was just out of law school and had gone into private practice with a friend of his. I thought he was the smartest, most handsome man I'd ever known. You know, Spock, except for the ears and eyebrows, you really do look very much as he did then." She suddenly grew quiet and her eyes swam with tears. "I know exactly why I couldn't ever bear to look at you, Spock. Because you always looked more like my dear husband than any of my other grandsons ... and you weren't even human. It was like fate had played a horrible joke at my expense."

Ashamed, she turned her face away from him and brought one trembling hand up to cover her mouth.

His own pain warring with his need to ease hers, Spock closed his eyes for a minute, then reached out and took the withered hand that lay atop the coverlet in both of his. She clenched his hand in a surprisingly strong grip. "What can I say, Grandmother?" he asked very quietly.

She looked back. "I know it's not your fault what you are," she said.

"Grandmother, I am not ashamed of what I am," he responded, a touch of forcefulness in his voice. "I am very proud of my Vulcan heritage. I am very proud of my Vulcan family. Do you know nothing of the man your daughter married?"

Her expression was growing obstinate again. "No. I have never associated with aliens and don't see any reason to start now."

Spock sighed in frustration. "My father is the Vulcan ambassador to the Federation Council. His father was ambassador before him. And his father held First Seat on the Vulcan Ruling Council until his death. Then his wife, T'Pau, my great-grandmother, took his place and has ruled for over 70 years. Our family is one of the largest landowning and political families on Vulcan." His eyebrow quirked up again in irony. "I would say that your youngest daughter did quite well by marrying Sarek."

Miranda turned her glance back in his direction. "You mean she married into money?"

Spock almost laughed before he caught himself. "Indeed. Quite a lot of it. And power, too." But then his expression sobered and he said earnestly, "But, Grandmother, I would be as proud of my heritage had my father been the lowliest laborer found on our planet. You cannot make me ashamed of being Vulcan simply because my mother is not."

The old woman was silent, almost glaring at him, before finally answering, "You are just like your grandfather. What a proud, stubborn..." She shook her head and sighed. "No wonder Amanda kept you away from here while her father was alive. I swear to God, bull-headedness must surely run in this family. The arguments those two used to have..."

Spock decided to let that one lie. He had come to soothe his grandmother, not stir her up. Changing the subject softly, he responded, "I think I should go now, Grandmother. We have talked longer than is good for you. I do not wish to tire you."

"I'm tired all the time, Spock. You can't make it any worse." Still she did not release his hand and allow him to rise. Instead, she turned an intense gaze on him. "I want you to know, Spock, that I still don't like aliens and I don't like the fact that Amanda married one. But ... be that as it may, you are my grandson. I'm glad you finally came to see me. I think your Grandpa David would have liked you. I'm sorry you never knew him." She sighed and closed her eyes. " I'm going to take a nap now, but you come back later and I'll tell you a little more about him. You know, he did keep your picture on his desk in his judge's chambers, along with his other grandchildren. I never could see why. Must have thought it was funny because you looked like him..." Her voice trailed off as she slipped into unconsciousness.

Spock sat for a few moments longer, still holding her hand, before he finally took a deep breath and rose, replacing his grandmother's age-spotted hand back on the coverlet. He quietly put the chair back in its place and crossed to the doorway.

The nurse was waiting outside, reading, and she looked up as Spock stepped into the hallway. "She's sleeping once again," he informed the young woman. "Thank you for allowing us some time alone."

"Oh, not at all, sir," the nurse answered. "You're family, after all. I just work here."

"Nevertheless," he replied. He turned away and started wearily down the long curving flight of stairs to the first floor, his hand gliding along the dark polished wood of the railing. Amanda met him halfway.

"How was it?" she asked.

Spock sighed. "Not as bad as I had anticipated," he answered. "At least she allowed me to talk with her. She still holds considerable antipathy towards me."

They resumed their progress down the staircase, Amanda sliding her hand loosely into the crook of her son's elbow for support. "Mother is very opinionated, I'm afraid," Amanda commented.

"Prejudiced is a more accurate description," Spock answered, glancing at his mother. "Why does she hold such hatred for non-humans?"

Amanda shook her head sadly. "She comes from a very segregated society, I'm afraid. She was never exposed to any non-humans until my father moved into the upper ranks of the judiciary and began to try cases that involved other Federation races. By that time, she was good and well set in her ways. It's hard to change someone's mind about something when they're absolutely convinced they are 100% right about things."

"Indeed," Spock replied as they reached the landing and Amanda released her hold on his arm. "I have encountered this attitude numerous times during my career with Starfleet, but it is distressing to deal with it in my own family members."

"And that is why I did not expose you to the Graysons much before now," Amanda answered. "But it's time we did. Mother is dying and I couldn't stand it if this idiocy went on ... of banning you from your own family simply because you don't look like them."

"I agree," came a new voice from the study to their left. A young woman in her early 30's stepped out. She had chestnut colored hair pulled back into a loose ponytail and gray-green eyes that held a lively intelligence and humor. "Especially when you look so much better than the rest of us! Spock, you have really grown into a gorgeous hunk of man!"

His eyebrows shot up in surprise. "I beg your pardon?" he managed to get out.

Amanda laughed in delight at his discomfiture. "Spock, you remember your cousin Therese, don't you? Jeffrey's daughter?"

"Oh, yes, now I recall," he answered, still staring at his cousin. "Did you not push me into the pool fully clothed when I was here as a child?"

"I sure did," she grinned. "How was I to know you couldn't swim? I didn't know that Vulcan was a desert planet. I just knew that there was this funny looking kid who was way too solemn for his own good!"

Spock's lips moved in a slight smile. "I have learned to swim since that time," he assured her.

"Excellent," Therese responded, grabbing his arm. "Did you bring your swimsuit with you?"

"No, I did not come for recreation purposes," he replied, looking a bit unprepared. "I had planned to--"

"You can borrow one of Benny's," his cousin insisted, pulling him along. "He's about your size. Come on. I want to introduce you to my husband."

Spock looked helplessly in his mother's direction. "Oh, go ahead, Spock," Amanda smiled. "It's a while until dinner. Get to know your family. It's the reason I brought you here."

He sighed in defeat and accompanied his cousin towards the rear of the Graysons' large home.

* * *

Therese did a graceful dive off the board and sliced into the water with hardly a splash. In a few seconds, she surfaced, flung water out of her eyes and settled into an easy stroke that brought her to the side of the pool where her husband and Vulcan cousin were lounging, chest deep in the clear water.

"Good one, Terry," her husband, Ben Crawford, applauded. "You've really improved."

She beamed and kissed him. "My best coach and my best audience," she smiled. "Okay, Spock, your turn."

"No, I am only marginally comfortable in water as it is," he answered. "I swim because learning was required of line officers at the Academy, but I still prefer dry land. Water is so precious on Vulcan that we do not use it for recreational swimming."

"Interesting. You're in Starfleet, aren't you?" asked Ben curiously.

"Yes. I am First Officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise," Spock replied simply.

"No kiddin'?" Therese stared wide-eyed at him. "That's pretty impressive! How long has this been going on?"

Spock returned her gaze calmly. "I have been an officer in Starfleet for nineteen years, most of that time assigned to the Enterprise. I have been First Officer for four years now."

"So, what's Granny's problem with that?" Therese questioned. "I should think she'd be bustin' her buttons that one of her illustrious descendants is doing that well."

"It is not my career to which she objects," Spock answered solemnly. "It is me personally."

"You seem all right to me," Ben shrugged diffidently.

Spock glanced over at the broad-shouldered man treading water beside him. "I'm afraid her objections lie in the fact that my father is not human. No amount of career advancement can wipe that away in her mind."

Ben shook his head and looked down. "She does tend to make up her mind about people, I'll say that."

Therese frowned. "She's a damned bigot, that's what she is, Ben! Why don't you just say it?"

"Now, Terry, you know I'm not going to start bad-mouthing my in-laws."

"Then I'll bad-mouth them for you!" The young woman's green eyes flashed. "She's my family -- I can say whatever I like. And so can you, Spock! Why don't you stand up for yourself?"

"I have no trouble defending myself, Therese," Spock answered. "I simply choose not to be bothered by the attitudes of people such as our grandmother."

"Bosh!" the girl replied. "Don't start going all Vulcan on me. I saw your face when you and Aunt Amanda were coming downstairs a while ago. You looked like Granny had put you through the wringer! What'd she do? Give you her 'I don't consort with the hired help' speech?"

Spock's expression showed his discomfort. "More or less," he admitted. "I attempted to show her that I am no different from you and Ben, but I do not believe I was successful."

"Probably not," the other man answered. "Because you're not like Terry or me. You are different, Spock. The trouble is, all Granny sees is the differences and not the similarities."

"Agreed," the Vulcan responded somewhat glumly.

Ben leveled a serious gaze at him. "Look, you and me, we've been around the galaxy a time or two. I'm a salesman for Stellar Transports, Inc. I sell starship parts to whoever will buy them. I'm used to dealing every day with Vulcans, Ferengi, Andorians, Orions, and sixteen different varieties of humans. You name it. Terry, too. It's no big deal to us or most people of our generation to have friends and business associates of every hue and cry you can think of. To us, people are just 'people' and their differences are to be enjoyed and celebrated."

"IDIC," Spock replied.

"Huh?"

"The Vulcan concept of harmony of nature. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations."

"Exactly," Ben continued. "But the older folks -- and really most humans -- have never been off-planet and have never even seen a non-human in the flesh. They translate 'non-human' into 'sub-human.' When Granny looks at you, she sees someone of lesser rank than her."

"I understand that," Spock answered. "Do not think that humans have an exclusive hold on such an attitude. The vast majority of Vulcans are exactly like humans. They have never been off-planet and have never met a non-Vulcan. They can speak philosophy all day, but when presented with an actual outworlder, they respond as if it is a lower life form. I have been treated with disregard my entire life because of my human blood."

Therese pursed her lips and looked puzzled. "I would've thought Vulcans were more open than that, considering how long you've been a space-faring people."

"Ironic, is it not?" Spock replied. "I wonder how many would be amused to discover how very much alike our two peoples are."

"Offended is more like it," Ben spoke up. "Outraged. How dare they insinuate that I'm like those pointy-eared so-and-so's!" He cast an eye in Spock's direction. "If you'll pardon my parody."

"Of course. Believe me, I am the frequent recipient of much worse invective from our ship's surgeon. I have learned to put up with almost anything."

"Well, you shouldn't!" Therese snapped, her brows lowering again. "I repeat -- you need to stand up for yourself, Spock!"

"To what end, Therese?" he responded seriously. "Who have you bested when you've bested a fool? No, I long ago discovered that it was much more effective if I refused to dignify crude comments with an answer. Inevitably, it makes the provocateur appear to be the deficient one and not I."

"Still..."

"Spock's right, Terry," the other man said. "People as a whole move in insular, provincial groups. Me, my wife and our children. No one else counts. Changing that attitude into a larger frame of reference takes a lot of time, generations even."

Spock glanced at his bondcousin and commented, "You do not strike me as merely a starship parts sales man, Ben. Your arguments are quite well-thought out and well-expressed."

"My training is in history and anthropology, Spock. But it's hard to make a living on a low level teacher's salary. I have a wife to support who's got a taste for the fancier things in life."

"I do not!" Therese protested hotly. "You've been doing that song and dance ever since I bought that--"

"Okay, okay," Ben interrupted. "Let's not have a fight here in front of Spock. He'll decide he is better off not associating with humans!"

Spock's eyes were crinkled slightly in a smile. "I assure you, Ben, I am totally immersed in human idiosyncracies daily on the Enterprise. I doubt seriously that Therese could shock me with her behavior."

"Hmmphh! I'm getting out and going in the house!" the woman retorted. "I am not going to stand here and be insulted by the two of you!"

"Good!" her husband replied playfully. "Then Spock and I can really talk about you."

She splashed water at him in retaliation, dousing Spock in the process. As Spock reflexively back-pedaled away, Ben dove at his wife and dunked her. She surfaced and hastily kicked away from him, putting Spock between the two of them. The surprised Vulcan attempted to get out of the way of the combatants and promptly got dunked himself. He came up spluttering and flung dripping hair out of his face, gasping for breath.

Therese was laughing merrily, her arm around her husband's neck. "Oh, Spock, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to do that!"

"A pattern appears to be developing here," he answered, treading water. "Each time we meet, you attempt to drown me!"

Therese laughed again and abruptly reached her other arm over to slide around Spock's neck, pulling him quickly toward her, where she planted a kiss on his cheek. Then, before he could do more than react in shock, she had flung herself away from the men and was halfway across the pool.

Spock and Ben exchanged glances then the Vulcan commented, "Ben, I had no idea that insanity ran in my family."

"Cuz, you don't know the half of it!" the man replied and launched himself in hot pursuit of his wife.

* * *

Despite the day's heat, the swim chilled Spock and he soon left the pool to return to his room and dress. He chose a pair of long soft cotton pants of a faded blue color then topped those with a thick woven sweater of in a pattern of midnight and cream. As he was lacing on his brown suede ankle-high boots, there came a soft knock at his bedroom door.

"Come," he answered.

The door pushed open and Amanda entered. She was dressed in a pearl gray pant suit that beautifully complimented her cloud of silver hair. "Ah, good," she said. "It's time to go down for supper. Did you enjoy your swim?"

"It was very informative," he replied, standing to face his mother. "Therese and Ben are quite talkative and open about their feelings."

"And that's surprised you?"

"Indeed. They are quite the opposite of the other family members I have met."

"The Graysons, like most humans, are not all alike," Amanda answered, turning toward the door. Without speaking further, they made their way downstairs and into the dining room.

Supper was an informal affair, laid out buffet-style with everyone helping themselves. There were several family members already seated at the long dining table and well into their own meals. As Spock and Amanda took plates and chose from the selection of vegetables among the many dishes, Therese and Ben entered the dining room and joined them. The three younger members of the party spoke amiably as they took their plates to the table. There, Spock graciously seated his mother then slid into his own chair beside her and shook his napkin out into his lap.

Across from him, a man and woman in late middle age sat eyeing him before the man spoke up. "So, Spock, it's good to have you finally come home for a visit. How do you like it here on Earth?"

"It is not my first visit, Uncle Jeffrey," Spock replied, sensing the man's discomfort in his presence. "I was on-planet several times as a child when my father's ambassadorial assignment brought him here, and I attended Starfleet Academy in San Francisco for three years. I have returned numerous times since then whenever my ship has put into port here."

"Ship, dear?" spoke up the woman in a rather condescending tone. "Are you in the Navy?"

"Cathleen, he just said he attended Starfleet Academy," Jeffrey Grayson responded. "I think he means a spaceship, not a sailing vessel."

"Oh, of course," she sniffed. "Is that what you mean, dear? You work on a spaceship?"

Spock could feel Amanda stiffen beside him but he answered before she could. "I serve aboard a starship actually, Aunt Cathleen. I am First Officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise."

"Oh, how nice," the woman replied indifferently, letting her gaze slide away from his face, registering boredom. "That sounds very ... um, important, dear. How proud Amanda must be."

"Yes," Amanda snapped, her expression tight. "I am very proud of him."

"Yes, of course, you would be, wouldn't you?" Cathleen murmured with an insincere smile. "Mothers are always so proud of their sons."

Therese had turned a chilling glare on the older woman. "Mother, may we have a pleasant meal for a change?"

"Why, certainly, darling. Who's stopping you?"

"You are!" Therese ground out through clenched teeth.

Spock turned to his cousin. "It's all right, Therese," he said softly. "She does not bother me."

"She bothers me!"

Cathleen gazed cooly back at the others. "I do apologize for my shortcomings," she purred, tapping the corners of her mouth with her napkin. "However, I find the company here as displeasing as it obviously finds me. There are those present with whom I do not associate in our level of society. Good evening." With that, she rose and sauntered from the dining room without looking back. Her husband hastily rose and followed after her.

Amanda glared after them. "Ooooh, I simply cannot stand that woman!" she snapped bitterly. "Why Jeffrey ever married her--"

"Mother, please," Spock sighed. "You forget that Cathleen's obvious attempts to insult me are totally ineffectual. I have no ego to bruise, therefore, she only makes a fool of herself in her efforts at emotional injury. It is illogical to take offense at such persons."

Amanda looked up at her son and replied, "Spock, I have heard the same speech from your father for years. Maybe you and he can block it with your Vulcan training, but I can't! Don't you understand that her snide remarks are aimed at me as well? Just who does she think you are -- the kitchen help?"

"She did not even refer to me directly," he pointed out.

"Oh, stop being so obtuse, Spock! You know what she meant!" Amanda shot another glare at the doorway. "What's that Vulcan word that's so insulting? The one that means 'stranger'?"

Spock's expression registered slight wariness. "Tiviokh?" he asked.

"Yes, tiviokh. That's what she was implying without actually saying the words. Stranger, low-class, foreigner." Amanda's blue eyes burned with anger. "There used to be a lot of very ugly words like that in English that aren't used anymore, thank God. Horrible words -- but they all meant the same thing -- tiviokh! And that's exactly how she's treating you! I will not have it!!"

"Amen!" Therese echoed. "I know she's my mother, but I truly hate her when she acts like this!" She started to rise. "I'm going to have it out with her right now--"

"No, you're not!" Ben grabbed her arm and yanked her back into her chair. "Now listen to me! You can't reason with someone who doesn't have any. Reason, that is. It won't do any good to have a knock down, drag out with her and all it will accomplish is giving you a migraine and me an ulcer. Now you just simmer down. You, too, Aunt Amanda. We're not gathered here because we all love each other so much. We're here because Granny is dying and, once she's gone and buried, then we can go our separate ways and we won't have to associate with certain family members any more than is necessary."

"But, how can you ignore--"

"Ben is right, Therese," Spock interjected. "Do not give them the satisfaction of knowing that they have accomplished their purpose of 'getting a rise' out of you."

"Well, they have!"

"Undoubtedly," he answered. "But, please, let it go. You, too, Mother. Allow me to enjoy your company during the short time we have here. With my duties, I see you so seldom."

Amanda looked down at her plate. "I'm sorry, Spock. The circumstances that brought us here are awful enough without adding to them. Forgive me."

He murmured something in Vulcan that made her look up and smile. Therese glanced from one to the other. "What? What did you say, Spock? Aunt Amanda?"

"He said, 'It is the logical thing to do'," Amanda replied. "It's something his father said once." She reached out and patted her son's hand. "You get more like him all the time."

"I hope not," Spock answered matter-of-factly as he speared a cube of melon and conveyed it to his mouth.

Amanda couldn't suppress her burst of surprised laughter and was instantly in a good humor once again.

* * *



After dinner, more annoyed than he was prepared to admit, Spock went out onto the flagstone terrace and took the walkway down to the garden. He was disquieted by the animosity he had felt here and needed a session of seclusion and meditation to center himself and gain control once more. On his way, he met Jeffrey Grayson coming back in the direction of the house.

Spock had no desire to speak to the older man but Grayson blocked his path and would not let him pass. With a touch of belligerence in his voice, the human said, "My wife was rather upset with you tonight, Spock. I hate to do it, but I really must take you to task over that." Punctuating his remarks with a finger jab into Spock's chest, Grayson added, "You know, it's not your place to act so high and mighty, m'boy!"

Taken aback by the man's actions, Spock felt his tolerance and patience snap. "I am not 'your boy'," he replied coldly, his eyes hard and steady on the other man. "In fact, I have not been a 'boy' for a very long time and I do not care to be treated as one."

"Now, see here--"

"No, it is you who will see." As if dealing with an insubordinate junior officer, Spock had stiffened into his command stance and voice, full of authority and forcefulness, pinning his uncle with an unblinking glare. "You will cease this calculated offensiveness towards me at once. Further, neither you nor your wife will again insult my mother in the manner you did at supper tonight."

"She is my sister and I'll treat her--"

"She is the wife of the Vulcan high ambassador to the Federation Council. She will be treated with the respect she deserves."

"How dare you speak to me in that manner! You impudent half-breed--"

Spock took a step closer and his voice dropped into a soft, steel-edged tone that brooked absolutely no argument. "Jeffrey, do not assume that because you are my mother's brother I will continue to ignore the veiled and open insults with which I have been inundated here. I am not a servant or a low class lackey whom you may denigrate with impunity. I am a career Starfleet officer and second in command on the Federation flagship. I am the son of the Vulcan ambassador to Earth. And I am heir of the Talek-sen-deen clan whose matriarch holds the First Seat on the Vulcan Council. Do not make the mistake of over-stepping the bounds of proper decorum as befits a person of my station."

"You think you're pretty important, don't you, you alien freak?" Grayson hissed maliciously. "Well, I've got friends in high places, too! I can ruin you with one hand tied behind my back! I'll have you busted so low in Starfleet that you'll be doing good if they let you peel potatoes in the mess hall!"

"I do not believe that your threats carry any substantial weight," Spock replied icily. "On the other hand, should the power behind the Vulcan embassy be brought to bear against your business, I believe it is you who would suffer the consequences."

"Well, we'll just see who carries the biggest stick now, won't we?" Grayson had gone beet red in the face in obvious fury.

Spock continued to glare stonily at him. "Unless you are quite sure of the size of this stick, I suggest that you refrain from attempting to use it. You might find yourself battling a stanchion with a twig."

The other man gave an infuriated growl in response and stalked off towards the house. Spock watched him go, then closed his eyes and drew several long, deep breaths. He would be grateful when their mission here was done and he could return to a more civilized people. He knew now why his parents had made Vulcan their home and why he had no regrets over choosing the Vulcan path as his own way of life.

* * *

Therese found Spock sitting in the darkness of the garden, close to the fountain that bubbled quietly nearby. His eyes were closed and his fingers were steepled before his face and at first she wondered if he were asleep. But then he looked up at her approach and straightened in the garden chair.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Yes. I was meditating," he answered. "I had an encounter with your father a short while ago. I'm afraid it was not especially cordial."

"I know," she answered, slipping into the chair next to him. "He's up at the house breathing fire. You know, he's threatening to have you busted to janitor on your ship."

Spock did not seem unduly disturbed. "I doubt that your father or anyone in his acquaintance has the power to do anything of the sort. He is merely angry that I refused to back down to him."

"I don't know. He's a good friend of Senator Thorgill."

"Who holds nothing more than a minor seat in the World Congress. I told you before, Therese, I am quite capable of defending myself. In any case, Starfleet Command would not take any disciplinary action against me unless I had committed a serious breach of regulations and not without a full hearing to determine whether or not a court martial was warranted. Then it would take the unanimous ruling of the trial board to convict and sentence me. And, believe me, Starfleet Command has more pressing issues to attend than the petty complaint of a civilian in a purely personal and family matter." He leaned back in the chair and loosely folded his fingers together over his stomach. "The Judge Advocate General's office would laugh your father out the door if he attempted to file such a complaint against me."

Therese sighed. "Nevertheless, don't be surprised if he tries."

"By the time he does, I expect to be back aboard ship and very far away from Earth." Spock tilted his head back and looked up at the stars as if longing to be back among them.

Therese watched him quietly for a moment then said, "You really hate it here, don't you?"

He looked back at her. "Hate? That is a human emotion. I am not capable of feeling such a thing."

"Is that true? Or just something you think I'll believe?"

He lifted one eyebrow in response. "I am in complete control of my emotions, Therese. Vulcans are taught to suppress all emotions from a very early age."

"You're really Vulcan then, aren't you?" she answered and, for the first time, felt a little intimidated and frightened in his presence. "This isn't just an act."

"I am really Vulcan, Therese," he responded, gazing seriously at her. "My father is really from another planet and I am really a product of that other world. Trained in its disciplines, educated in its schools, raised within its beliefs and rituals. The family I acknowledge is there and they all have pointed ears and green blood and speak a different language from you. I do not count myself human at all." There was a steel-edge to his voice that dared her to challenge him.

Therese felt her eyes sting with tears. "I was hoping to show you that the Graysons are pretty decent people, over all. Despite the bigotry my parents and Granny show toward you. But I see now that's not going to be possible." She stood up and faced him. "Because you're just as bigoted as they are. Did it ever occur to you that you've got a chip on your shoulder just as big as the one my father has on his? Don't you know what this feud is all about? It's not about Aunt Amanda running off to marry a guy from another planet. It's not about the fact that she then had a mixed-blood child and somehow shamed the family. It's about being stiff-necked and too proud to meet anyone halfway!"

Therese paused to catch her breath and dash away the tears streaming down her face. "It's because she eloped with Sarek to spite Granny and Gramps. I have no doubt that she was really in love with your father, Spock, but that wasn't the point. Gramps was a judge, you know, and he'd had a case with a Vulcan prosecutor. The Vulcan was so cold and arrogant to him that he ended up with a marked dislike for the guy. Then, when Amanda brought Sarek home as her husband, a fait accompli, and practically dared her parents to do anything about it, Sarek compounded the matter by turning out to be just as cold and arrogant and stubborn as the Vulcan prosecutor Gramps had dealt with. It firmly set in their minds that all Vulcans were like that."

Spock had straightened and stiffened in his chair. "Therese, I didn't know --"

"And then they went back to Vulcan and Amanda had practically nothing to do with the Graysons for years. She wouldn't even let her parents come to visit when you were born. That really hurt them because Amanda was the baby and only girl of the family and now she was refusing to allow them access to their grandchild."

Therese again wiped tears away and turned away from him. Spock stood and moved up behind her. "Truly, I did not know the circumstances, Therese. I was never told this. I only knew that there was a great deal of animosity between the Graysons and my parents and that I was not considered a true family member as a result. I always assumed it was simply because I am half-Vulcan."

"Nothing is ever that simple, Spock. Hatreds and feuds and grudges can go back for generations and they're handed down like some precious jewel that can't be lost. Finally, they truly turn into bigotry and beliefs about people. Not individuals, but whole categories of people. And then it takes untold generations longer to root them out and erase them."

"Therese..." Spock's voice had softened to a whisper. "I'm sorry. If I had understood beforehand..."

"Well, you do now," she sniffed and wiped her face once more.

"There's another side to it, you know," he said quietly. "Mother felt that the family had disinherited her because she had married a Vulcan. And my father's family wasn't any more pleased that one of the lineal heirs had married an outworlder. Mother turned to the only family she truly had left -- my father and myself. And even we two betrayed her. Sarek and I had a major falling out when I was sixteen because I wanted to enter Starfleet and he refused permission. I left home and my father and I didn't speak for eighteen years."

Therese had turned to stare at her tall cousin with an air of disbelief. "I can't believe that! I thought Vulcans were all so calm and orderly and emotionless."

"So we ourselves would like to believe," Spock answered with an ironic shading to his voice. "It is not so. Vulcans are incredibly passionate people. That is why we must practice such strict control of our emotions. But it seeps through, nevertheless." He permitted himself a hint of a smile to lift the corners of his lips. "We are almost as passionate as the Graysons."

Therese laughed despite herself. "I like you, Spock. I'm glad we're related. I've learned a lot these past couple of days."

"As have I," he replied.

There was the sound of a footstep on the gravel and both turned to find Ben coming down the pathway. "Oh, there you two are," he said urgently. "Better get up to the house right now. It's Granny. Better hurry!"

* * *

The rest of the family members were already present in Miranda Grayson's dimmed bedroom as Spock, Therese and Ben entered. Jeffrey Grayson directed a killing glare in Spock direction, but the Vulcan ignored it and faded back into the shadows against the wall, foreseeing an especially emotional time period fast approaching and wishing to withdraw himself from it as much as possible.

Amanda was seated close by her mother's bed, holding the old woman's hand. Barely visible in the bed, Miranda lay with her eyes closed, her face almost as pale as the sheets and her breath coming in ragged spurts. With each exhalation, a rough gurgling sounded from her throat and Spock recognized it as the "death rattle", when the body's cough reflexes were no longer working and the lungs were filling with fluid.

Miranda turned her head restlessly on the pillow and murmured something. Amanda leaned closer and answered quietly, "He's not here, Mother. Not for a long time now."

But Miranda refused to be placated and called louder, "David? I want you!" Suddenly she opened her eyes and, after searching the faces surrounding the bed, her gaze came to rest on Spock and stayed there. She pulled her hand out of her daughter's grasp and held it out to her grandson. "David, there you are. Come here. I want you."

Spock stiffened in surprise and didn't move as all heads turned in his direction, as puzzled and stunned as he was. But the old woman insisted, "Come here, I said. I have to tell you something."

As if walking through water, Spock pushed himself away from the wall and moved to his grandmother's bedside. The old woman's watery blue eyes crinkled with delight. "They told me you weren't here. Where have you been, dear? Did court run late tonight?"

Spock swallowed to wet his dry throat, took a deep breath and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Yes," he answered her. "I came home as quickly as I could."

"Was it a tough case, dear?"

"No," he replied, his voice a hoarse whisper. "Simply a complicated one. Is there something I can do for you? Something you need?"

"Just sit with me a while, dear," she responded, closing her eyes for a moment. Her withered hand groped and found his, hanging on. He could feel the frail bones underneath her skin and noted that already her hand was beginning to feel cold. He covered it with his other hand, willing the warmth of his own skin to transfer to hers.

She opened her eyes again. "Are the children alright, David? You know we haven't heard from Mandy for a while."

"They are fine, Miranda," he answered softly. "Mandy is on Vulcan. Remember?"

"Oh, yes... I want to go see her now that the baby is here. Can we do that?"

"Whatever you wish," he whispered.

"Was it a boy?"

"Yes, Miranda. A boy. They named him Spock."

"Funny name..." she mused. "I was hoping they'd name him after you."

"It is a Vulcan name, Miranda. For a Vulcan child."

She closed her eyes again. "Spock..." she murmured and he wasn't sure if she was addressing him or merely repeating the name he had told her.

After that, she did not speak again. After a few minutes, Spock gently pulled his right hand out of her grasp and lightly touched his fingertips to his grandmother's face. She still lived but had retreated inside her mind. There he watched as she relived the memories of her younger days. She was a young woman again with three small children running wildly in a noisy game through a meadow. She reclined on a red-checked cloth with the remains of a picnic meal spread before her, and beside her was a man who smiled at her in adoration.

It was like peering into a mirror, only not. It wasn't himself he was seeing but his grandfather, David Grayson, as he had looked when he was Spock's age. Tall, slender, with a shock of thick, black hair and deep brown eyes, wide mouth pulled into a grin showing even white teeth. High cheekbones, finely arched brows, angular face... Spock realized it was how he would look if he were human.

Large, strong hands reached out to smooth a curl away from Miranda's face and then he laughed in a rich baritone as a little blonde girl pounced on him and he seized her and shoved her high above him, joining her delighted laughter. "Mandy-pandy!" he chuckled. "Who's got you now?"

"Daddy!" she cried and pretended to fly as her father's long arms held her aloft.

The vision began to darken, as if a cloud had covered the sun, and Spock quickly and carefully backed out of the mind probe. His grandmother's breathing had softened until it was barely audible, but Spock did not release her hand.

Amanda had risen and moved close to him, realizing what he had done when he'd touched Miranda's face. "Spock?" she questioned softly.

He didn't look at her but continued to gaze at his grandmother's peaceful features. "She is with David now," he answered in a whisper, meant only for her. Amanda nodded, her lips pressed tightly together for control, but laid her hands on her son's strong shoulders, taking solace in his nearness and reassuring presence.

They stayed there in that position until Miranda Grayson's breathing softened and then stopped.

* * *

Spock escorted his mother to the funeral, held in a large church not far from the Graysons' home. He felt decidedly awkward in this house of human religion and could feel the stares of the other attendees boring into the back of his head. There were shocked murmurs and whispers that greeted their entrance with the rest of the family, but he studiously ignored it, concentrating on supporting Amanda. She had tried very hard to maintain a Vulcan stoicism, but in the end could not, and now she clung to his arm and dabbed at her eyes with a lace-edged handkerchief.

While the soloist rendered a mournful religious song and the minister rose to deliver Miranda's eulogy, Spock distracted himself from the palpable waves of emotion that threatened to drown him. He spent the service studying the grotesque image of a near-naked man attached to a pair of wooden crossbeams, in the act of being tortured to death. Blood dripped down the man's face and his eyes were turned heavenward, his face eloquent in its suffering.

Intellectually, he had studied this religion, simply because it was his mother's and because so many humans practiced it, but he had never understood it. There was too much mysticism involved here, too many questions that did not have answers, too many contradictions in its chief piece of literature. It was an illogical religion and no Vulcan would have even considered believing the things it postulated -- that a dead man should come back to life and then fly up into the sky. Spock found it preposterous. The Tenets of Surak much more applicable in every day life and therefore more logical.

And, if he found himself in need of spiritual counsel, he could always turn to his ancestors, to the presence of their combined katras, which formed the overlying force of a'Tha. He knew that he could call upon the wisdom of his forebearers and receive guidance. That there was no more substantial, physical proof of their existence than what the humans believed did not occur to him. He simply believed it at the base of his soul. He would have denied that he actually worshiped his ancestors but would have found it totally logical that he kept a shrine in his cabin and burned incense to honor their memory.

After an interminable time, the funeral was over and the casket was moved, along with the mourners, to the church's adjoining cemetery. There Amanda leaned heavily upon his arm and wept as her mother's coffin was lowered into the ground. Nearby, Therese sobbed with Ben's arm around her shoulders, although Cathleen and Jeffrey stood dry-eyed and watched the procedure rather dispassionately. Other relatives and friends demonstrated varying degrees of grief from blank expressions devoid of any emotion to wails of loss.

Spock was very, very glad when the proceedings came to an end and they were finally permitted to leave. Back at the Grayson home, he excused himself from the crowd of friends and relatives who had come there following the funeral to visit, eat, and diffuse the emotional tension. He had been cornered several times by curious relatives from out of town, the least irritating of which were the children who gawked at him unabashedly and asked honest questions about Vulcan and space and Starfleet, which he answered with like honesty.

But finally even they overwhelmed him and he went upstairs to the bedroom he had been using and began to get his belongings together and packed. He sent a message to Starfleet Communications to be routed via subspace to the Enterprise, relaying his approximate time of return and also making arrangements through Starfleet for space on a mail ship that was heading out in the general direction he needed to go.

Amanda planned to stay on and help close out various items such as seeing to the probate of her mother's will, helping her brother and niece go through her mother's things, and then traveling on to visit other relatives on Earth whom she hadn't seen in quite a while. But Spock was simply on compassionate leave and had to go back on duty as soon as he could make arrangements to meet his ship.

As he was completing his packing, there was a soft knock on the bedroom door and Amanda looked in. "May I come in?" she asked.

"Of course, Mother." He closed his case and sealed it, snapping the magnetic locks shut.

"You're not going yet, are you?" she asked, entering the room.

"No. I had planned on sharing lastmeal with you before I call a shuttle to take me to the port."

"It's supper here, Spock, remember?"

He nodded. "Yes. I just tend to fall back into old habits when I am with you." He gazed fondly at her. "I wish we were traveling back to Vulcan together. I was hoping to have some of your q'eemish before I left."

"Well, that will give you an excuse to come home, then," she smiled, looking up at her tall, handsome son. "I promise I will make it for you the next time you do."

"Agreed."

She sat down on the edge of the bed and indicated that he should join her. "I wanted to give you some things I found in Father's desk. I thought you might like to have them." Curious, Spock seated himself beside his mother. "I can't give you what I'd like to pass along -- his watch or gavel or anything like that. Those are sure to be tied up with the will since his entire estate passed to Mother when he died. Now their combined estates will have to be sorted out legally and distributed to the designated heirs. However, I thought you might like to have these."

She handed over a little stack of flat, two dimensional photographs of varying sizes and quality. The first was a portrait of Spock that had been taken upon his graduation from Starfleet Academy. Desperately young -- only nineteen then -- and with the future shining in his dark eyes, he peered out with a solemn expression, posing proudly in his new gold and black uniform, the sleeves as yet devoid of any braid or striping, a new-fledged ensign ready for his first assignment.

The second picture was actually a newspaper clipping with a grainy photo showing Spock standing in the background, watching placidly as Kirk shook hands with Admiral Komack. Christopher Pike stood nearby. The occasion had been the transfer ceremony, giving Kirk command of the Enterprise and promoting Spock to First Officer. Double gold braid now gleamed on Spock's sleeves and his tunic had changed to blue, denoting his status as head of the science department on the ship.

The next photo caught Spock by surprise, for it was a candid shot showing a small boy apparently being attacked by a huge, bear-like creature. The big animal, one of its long yellowed fangs broken off, was slurping its tongue over the delicately pointed ear of the dark-haired child, who had thrown his hands up in self-defense and was laughing in utter delight.

Spock stared at the image, as caught by the picture of his long-dead sehlat as by the image of himself in such an un-Vulcan-like display. "When was this taken?" he asked. "I don't remember this."

Amanda peered at the photo and smiled in fond remembrance. "I think you were about four here. It was in the garden. Your father was gone on a business trip and both of us felt a little bit uninhibited that day, I believe. You were having so much fun playing with i-Chaya that I couldn't resist getting the camera out."

At last, Spock turned to the final photo. And was nearly caught unawares by the surge of emotion that struck him. The photo showed his grandfather, older than he had seen him envisioned in his grandmother's mind, but still tall and distinguished, his face showing the lines of age, his features craggier and full of character. In his arms, he held a child about a year old. A Vulcan child, barely a toddler, with big brown eyes peering uncertainly at the camera, or more probably at his mother who was taking the picture. The man was smiling at the camera, love for the child he held very plain on his angular face. Even at this age, the resemblance between the human and the baby boy were unmistakable.

"That's the only picture I have of you and your grandfather," Amanda said softly. "Mother never did understand, but Father adored you, Spock. Oh, he loved all his grandchildren, but I think he had a special place in his heart for you."

"I wish I remembered him," Spock answered softly, still gazing at the image. "But I am puzzled by this photo. Therese told me that you wouldn't allow your parents to come to Vulcan when I was born."

"I didn't," Amanda answered. "I was still very angry at them. But when you were about fourteen months old, Father sent me a message that he was coming to a conference in tu'Vari'Chi and implied that he would very much like to see us. I decided that he deserved to see his grandson at least once." She sighed and her gaze turned inward. "We started down the path to healing that day."

Spock looked at his mother and said solemnly, "Perhaps it time for healing to begin here as well."

* * *

Spock found his uncle in the kitchen, pouring himself a drink. For a few seconds, the Vulcan hesitated uncertainly, then said softly, "Uncle Jeffrey..."

Jeffrey Grayson whirled, almost spilling the drink in his hand, then frowned and demanded, "What do you want?"

"I believe I owe you an apology," Spock answered, deliberately keeping his voice low and ignoring the argumentative voice inside himself that protested his words.

Grayson looked dumbstruck and finally stammered, "What ... what for?"

Spock took a deep breath and slipped his hands behind his back in a characteristic pose. "I have shown disrespect for an elder family member," he said formally. "I ask forgiveness, Mother's Brother."

"Wh...what?"

"A Vulcan elder would never have tolerated the way I spoke to you, Mother's Brother. You are the Eldest now that Grandmother is gone. I acted with disrespect and anger. Forgive my presumption and emotional response to your words."

Jeffrey stepped closer and peered at the younger man standing at rigid parade rest before him. "Spock, what the hell are you babbling about?" he asked. "What's all this Eldest and Mother's Brother nonsense?"

"It is proper Vulcan address for a senior family member," Spock answered, flicking a glance at Grayson before returning to eyes front.

"Well, this isn't a Vulcan family, so knock it off," the human answered. "And relax. I'm not going to court martial you or anything."

Spock looked back at him and softened his stance just a bit. "Nevertheless, I do apologize for acting so rudely last night."

Grayson looked down, embarrassed. "Forget it, son. I was being a real asshole to you. Believe me, my daughter read me the riot act about how I'd been treating you and ... she was right. I wouldn't treat a total stranger like that and here I was, acting like a sonuvabitch to my own nephew. Truce?" He stuck out his hand speculatively.

Spock understood the human gesture and met it, although normally he did not shake hands with others. "I would very much like to call a halt to hostilities," he agreed.

"Great!" Jeffrey gave him a friendly slap on the back. "Here, have a drink. Whaddaya like?"

"Thank you, no. I do not drink alcoholic beverages."

"You're kidding, right?"

"No, Vulcans do not 'kid'. Impairing the mental and physical functions with alcohol is illogical," Spock answered.

Grayson grinned. "Now, see? You've gone and insulted me again!" Spock's eyebrows lifted quizzically but his uncle laughed. "I'm pulling your leg. Drinking is a nasty habit. I admire you for not getting into it."

"Then why do you simply not stop?"

"Too old, too set in my ways," Grayson replied. "Come on. I think the ladies are waiting for us at the supper table. There'll be hell to pay if we make them wait much longer. Listen, after dinner, let's go out on the patio and sit for a while. I've got some stories about your mom that will curl your ears!"

* * *

After the evening meal was finished, the family retired to the patio near the pool area. Cathleen was conspicuously absent, having retired to her room with a migraine. Spock had taken a few moments to change from his civilian attire back into his Starfleet uniform, anticipating the arrival of the shuttle that would take him to the nearest Starfleet base so that he might catch the jump ship up to Spacedock and then on to rendezvous with the Enterprise in a few days. Therese had ooo'ed and aahhh'ed over him, to his amusement, and the other family members and household staff had shown a definite change in attitude. The uniform transformed him from simply a long-lost, curious cousin into the imposing commanding officer that he was. Even Jeffrey quailed a bit internally at the thought that he had proposed to go head-to-head with the formidable Vulcan. He had the feeling now that it would have been as useless as attacking the Rock of Gibraltar with an icepick.

All the visitors and out of town relatives had departed and peace had finally descended on the household once again. Peace had descended upon the family members as well and Jeffrey made good on his promise to tell some stories about Amanda's childhood that she adamantly denied but which had the rest of the family -- Spock excepted -- laughing. Even he enjoyed hearing them, peering at his mother several time in surprise as the stories were related.

"You should have seen Dad's face when Mandy brought the speeder back with the front fender bashed in," Jeffrey finished, settling back into the patio chair.

"It was not bashed in," Amanda protested. "There was just a little scratch in the paint."

"I can go find the holo album and show everyone that little scratch if you want me to," her brother answered. "I thought Dad would have a stroke! His new speeder, too!"

"It wasn't that bad," she insisted, turning her gaze away in mock anger. "Anyway, it's not like I'm the only person to ever dent a fender, you know. Now, when Spock was fourteen, he--"

"Mother, you promised you would never tell anyone about that!" her son interrupted sharply.

"Oh, pooh, what does it matter anymore? That was a long time ago. Anyway, he--"

"Mother..." Spock was glaring at her meaningfully.

"What? What?" demanded Therese, practically bouncing in her seat. "Shut up, Spock, I want to hear this! Come on, Aunt Amanda, spill the beans! What did my perfect cousin do?"

"Well..." Amanda glanced at her son and went on with a wicked grin. "He took his father's passkey without permission and borrowed the speeder Sarek had owned since he was a young man and went for a little jaunt to a lecture fifty miles away. Someone sideswiped it in the landing area and scraped all the paint off one door." Spock was showing signs of extreme discomfort and Amanda couldn't help laughing. "Thankfully, his father was off-planet on an ambassadorial assignment and we were able to get the damage repaired before he returned. Spock swore me to silence and we never said a word to Sarek."

"And you just broke your oath to me," Spock replied accusingly.

"But I never told Sarek," his mother answered serenely. "To this day he has never learned what happened. And I will never tell him."

"But you have just informed four other people," Spock pointed out. "Suppose one of them tells Sarek."

"Oh, come on, Spock," Therese spoke up. "You're a big boy now." Her eyes glinted with mischief. "I should think that a Starfleet officer would be capable of defending himself, right?"

The Vulcan fixed her with a piercing glare for repeating his words, but the young woman simply laughed. "Okay, cross my heart and hope to die," she promised. "My lips are sealed, too!"

Spock sat back with an exasperated sigh. "I will never understand the human inability to keep a secret," he commented.

"Well, I'd like to hear more about our mysterious relative here," Therese said. "I'm sure Aunt Amanda is just chock full of interesting stories."

Spock looked sideways at his mother and raised one eyebrow at her. She took the warning and answered, "I think I've said enough tonight."

"Indeed," Spock muttered under his breath.

"Excuse me..." They all turned to find the housekeeper standing with a man in Starfleet uniform. "This gentleman is looking for Commander Spock."

"Ah, the shuttle," Spock acknowledged and rose to face the man. "I am Commander Spock."

"Ensign Jamison, sir," the young man answered smartly. "I've come to take you to the spaceport, sir."

"Five minutes, Ensign. You will find my valise beside the front door."

"Aye, sir." The young man stiffened to attention for a few seconds, then turned and accompanied the housekeeper back inside.

Spock turned to his mother and family. "And now I must say farewell to you all. It has been an ... interesting few days."

Therese stood up and approached him. "I'm so glad we finally met, Spock. You will keep in touch, won't you?"

"As best I can," he acknowledged. "It is often difficult to correspond on a regular basis when one is on deep space duty."

"Well, I'll hope to hear from you anyway," she responded.

Ben stuck out his hand and Spock took it briefly. "A pleasure meeting you," the human said. "Good journey back to your ship."

"Thank you." Spock turned to Amanda. "Mother, do we need a word alone before I go?"

"No, just take care of yourself and let me know when you're going to be in the area," Amanda answered. In truth she was longing to throw her arms around her tall, dignified son and hug him fiercely, but knew that he would have been horrified had she displayed such un-Vulcan behavior. Instead, she merely lifted her right hand in salute.

He lightly touched his palm to hers then said softly, "Farewell, Mother." Then he nodded once to his uncle, turned and strode across the terrace towards the house where his driver waited with Spock's valise in hand.

Amanda felt tears sting her eyes. It was still so hard to see him leave. No matter that he was a grown man who had been on his own for nearly 20 years. He was still her little boy and always would be.

She felt an arm go around her shoulders and looked up to see her brother standing beside her. "He's impressive," Jeffrey murmured to her, looking in the direction Spock had gone.

"Yes. Yes, he is," Amanda sighed. She shivered and hugged her arms around her body. "Let's go in now, Jeff. This night air is getting too chilly for my bones. I guess I've spent too much time on Vulcan over the last forty years. I think it's time I got used to home again. And I do want to see that holo album! I still think it was just a scratch!"

THE END