Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of L.P. Santos and is copyright l988 by L.P. Santos. Originally published in More Missions, More Myths #9, edited by Wendy Rathbone. Rated PG.

 

PERCHANCE TO DREAM

L. P. SANTOS

 

The distant Ra'atz mountains lay buried under a blanket of snow. Covered with a white powder it seemed an ominous object. It was at this time, the deepest chill of winter that few residents of Remus dared journey by foot into these mountains. Rather they chose to remain at home, close to the warmth of the fire's hearth.

Alone in his study, Senatorial member Tal remained at work. Although it had been sometime since he made a journey to Romulus' capital, he managed to maintain a firm hold over the recent events. With meticulous ease he read through the brief notes and deciphered their meaning. Despite all of the turmoil that seemed to be racing through the government, he was able to read between the lines. As if possessed with foresight, he could predict the events that would soon follow.

The economic system was still plunging. The deficit which the Praetor had sworn to resolve was still increasing by the day. It would now be too late to resolve the problems of their government. Tal knew that only one thing could stabilize their failing economy and although he knew, intellectually, that it was the only solution, he cringed at the thought.

War. War brought rapid employment. It gave men and women jobs within the armed forces or in the instillations that produced weapons. War gave the people something to unite and live for. Displeased by his own thoughts, he tossed the leaflets on the top of his desk. He could understand bringing all of his powers against an evil force from within but to bring about a war against a nation that meant no harm was ludicrous, he thought with displeasure.

As he assimilated all the events within his government his attention was caught by the distant sounds. Drifting past the security window of his office, the clatter of his legion in training could be heard. Now in the bitter chill of their home planet they practiced in the art of war. It was only a few months ago, when the heat was nearly unbearable, that they were heard performing the same exercises. Although it was not the most pleasant of lives, they chose to remain with him. Over a hundred hand-picked warriors and each pledged their loyalty to his family.

With a satisfied smile, he rose from his desk. He allowed himself a moment of respite as he viewed the working of his legion. Comprised of the best men and women he knew that his people were perhaps as strong as that of the Praetor's. Despite this knowledge, he never once allowed himself to be self-confident. He knew that although strong, the Praetor still held the ultimate power. All it would take was a single note of propaganda from the Praetor and the common citizens would turn against him. With this in mind he chose to remain cautious. Like his father before him he would be careful and bide his time. When the time was right he would act, he thought, as his gaze traveled to the mountains beyond the town of A'Ragna.

Clasping his cloak he activated the mechanism and stepped out on the veranda. With the fur-lined cloak over his shoulders, he stood for a moment and allowed his senses to revel in the surroundings of his home. The wind, although cool against his cheeks, brought a freshness to his lungs. He felt a slight smile cross his lips at the sight of the virgin white snow over the mountains. Its pure whiteness was reminiscent of days from long ago. Filled with innocence, he once found pleasure in its simple existence.

With a glance downward he allowed a sense of pride to surface. Protected by his most trusted of guards was his wife and son. Covered with a thin layer of frost the marble tile remained occupied with these two precious figures. Without a care they bounded at one another in playful gestures. Nearby, his son's pet, a R'igua, sat in apparent apathy toward the scene. Tal knew that despite the appearance, this furred beast was ready and able to tear apart anyone or thing that would threaten his young master.

Bred on a distant planet beyond Romulus' sun, the R'iguas were domesticated and reared as housepets for the youth of noble lineage. Although they could be gentle creatures, their very size combined with their claws and fanged teeth made them deadly.

With a shape resembling a Terran panther, the R'iguas had a chameleon-like ability to change color according to their surroundings. Now, in the heart of Remus' winter, the beast was covered with a white tuft of fur. Spotted occasionally with patches of black, the animal would be virtually invisible against the whiteness of snow. In the summer, when the woods were blossoming in shades of brown and green, the animal would turn a light brown color. With their fiercely loyal qualities and deadly attributes, they proved the perfect pets and guardians over the young.

Tal watched the scene below him with satisfaction. It was so rare that he saw his son so openly happy. Always he seemed brooding, and displeased. As if the weight of the entire universe rested on his small shoulders, his features were always sad. Preferring to remain alone, Ty would wander the house like a lost soul. When Tal questioned the child all he received was a shrug of shoulders. As if he himself did not know what disturbed him, the child remained alone in his world of isolation.

Tal understood a fraction of his son's disturbance. Since their trip to the capital city of Romulus, the boy's entire thoughts was on the plight of the slaves. Tal also suspected that much of the boy's thoughts drifted to a world across the expanse of space. Idly he wondered if Ty longed to meet the science officer within the picture. With a shake of his head he pushed the thought aside. Ty, regardless of similarities, was still his son. Neither the child's longing, nor the stranger from Vulcan could ever rob him of his son, he tried vainly to reassure himself.

Despite his silent reassurance he could not help but feel insecure. He had tried his best to give Ty all that was required. An education, a safe home, and the love of a father, yet he always felt inadequate. As if to accuse, the child's haunting blue eyes would stare past him to a spot beyond his vision. Like a dream trance, his son saw images which he could not envision, Tal thought as he returned his attention to his wife and son.

Still in the midst of play the two figures lurched at one another. Without skipping a beat, his wife managed to take the tackle of her son while she cast an upward smile to her husband. Unaware of their silent communication, Ty's small form took one more lunge and landed in an ungainly state at her feet. With a hearty laugh she held her hands on her hips as she looked down at the boy. Tal felt inwardly pleased. He took note of the apparent frustration of his son. Fuming in anger, the child's breath came at irregular intervals as he stood once more. Then, in a calculated move he bounded once more to her. As if caught off guard, she allowed herself to be pulled down to the marble frost-covered tile.

Stretched below her small frame her white-furred cape slipped open. Dressed in the warmth of a feminine tunic and breeches she remained the most appealing woman Tal had ever envisioned. With their seven year old son covering her, she was the ideal image of a Romulan wife. Strong and supportive when needed yet gentle and soft during love, she had come to mean everything to him. He could not imagine what his life would be like without her -- without his family.

As if reading his thoughts, she gave their child one last hug before raising from the tile. Like a child suddenly torn from a cherished belonging, he pouted, then when his vision traveled to the balcony above his features slightly smiled. With green-flushed cheeks he rose a mitted hand in a wave. Tal returned the gesture as he caught the sad blue eyes. From the corner of his eyes he watched as Areon entered the room. Mindful of the privacy needed between mother and child, Aeron kept a respectful distance. Now that the lady of the house was leaving, the warrior master moved to the child and began the day's lesson.

While his wife disappeared from view, Tal watched the interaction of Aeron and his son. With obedient posture Ty waited as his older mentant began the removal of the training weapons. Already seven, the child had successfully mastered the first lessons in the art of the zelin -- a four-edged dagger. Possessing sharp edges it took many years of practice before a single deadly blow was mastered. It was a mastery which would later serve Ty well in adult life. Although he was not proud that his son would someday possess the capability of killing, he was pleased to know that Ty could protect himself should the need arise.

As the lessons began he remembered his wife. With a slight smile he left the coolness of the veranda for his office. Replacing his cape on the appropriate hook he secured the door and took one look at his desk. With minimal effort he found it easy to ignore the troubles which plagued his people. Later, when he had spent time alone with his wife, he would return to his duty and attempt to find a solution to their problems. But not until he had found his release would he return, he vowed, as he left his office and bounded the steps two at a time.

Like a woman with a secret she smiled at his entrance. As if unaware of the problems surrounding them she remained in a peaceful state as she had always been when they met at this hour of the day. With full expectation she lay stretched on their bed. With coverlet drawn down, her tunic and trousers were abandoned for a filmy silk gown.

"I was beginning to wonder," she smiled as he began to remove his jerkin. Tossing it on a nearby chair, he swiftly removed the rest of his impediments and joined her on the firm, oversized bed.

"Did you ever doubt your powers," he whispered as he fought to control the desperation in his voice. He would not tell her of the news, not yet anyway, he reasoned as he began to reign light kisses over her neck and shoulders.

Like a man dying of thirst, he began to drink of her offered passion. Mindful of her needs he strived with all of his knowledge and abilities to bring her the most pleasure possible from this union. From her low cat-like moans he knew that he was successful. As if he would never touch her again, he made love to her like a man condemned to death.

* * *

 

With the tension released, he held her close and basked in the afterglow of love. He knew that he should return to his duties but like a child he clung to her and held her in a close embrace. As if sensing this, she lightly embraced him as she ran skillful fingers over his chest. He could sense her inner tensions and knew that she suspected his turmoil. Almost afraid to question she maintained an easy silence as her hands worked their magic. Finally when her courage was mastered, she leaned on an elbow and gazed down at him.

"Tal j'on," her soft voice spoke the term of endearment used between lovers. Ignoring her silent question, he sat up as if to leave her side. At his sudden, movement she took hold of his shoulder and forced him to stillness.

"Tal?"

At her unspoken question he openly sighed as he glanced around their shared room. Taking in the familiar sights, he felt an involuntary shiver cross his spine. Then, avoiding her gaze, he answered her.

"The votes are in. There will be war. I shall have to make a journey to the capital. If I am successful, the vote can be changed," he said as he openly sighed.

"And if you are unsuccessful?"

"My legion shall be the one to lead the 'glorious' Praetor's warriors into battle," came his sarcastic words.

Filled with understanding she seemed to inwardly sigh as she removed her hand from his shoulder. For what seemed an eternity of time she contemplated his words. Then as if the problem was solved she moved close to his back. With the skill of their intimacy she began to lightly kiss the nape of his neck as her hands reached around his waist. Skillfully and without shame she used the touch that would bring him to full arousal.

"Is it necessary to leave this minute? Would not an hour from now be better?" her voice reached him as an involuntary sigh of pleasure escaped his control. At her words he felt a traitorous smile cross his features.

Allowing her magic to reign he turned to her and began to accept the offered gift. With a feeling that this might be their last time together, she touched him with skilled confidence. He inwardly marveled at her expert ease and was pleased when she took control of the situation. As if her command ability had never left, she kissed him confidently as she pushed him on his back. With full knowledge of her intensions, he remained at ease as she moved above him, then when she lowered herself, he visibly smiled.

He knew that this simple act shared had become more than just the joining of bodies. It had become a pledge forged with the sweat of their union. It was a bond that could not be broken easily. Understanding this he allowed the exquisite sensations of her slow, deliberate swaying motions to fill his entire being. He knew that regardless of the future this single moment they would have forever.

* * *

 

Within the distant courtyard a small child sat alone. With his lessons of the day over he had much time to contemplate his thoughts. He remembered his trip to the capital city. As if it were only a day ago, the sights and sounds remained etched in his memory. He could remember the helplessness within the slaves and knew that his own life was a stark contradiction to what they had.

Where he had a warm bed and strong home, they had nothing. He never had to concern himself with food or clothing and they depended on their survival from their masters. Ty also knew that should any owner find displeasure in their slaves their lives were forfeited. As if he alone were to blame, he sighed as he absently stroked the furred mane of his large pet.

Curled up at his feet, the beast's eyes remained closed as a low purring sound escaped its body. Totally content, the animal's large paws flexed naturally. As if he were sharpening his nails in his dreams the thick, sharp nails recoiled from the massive paws. Unconcerned with his pet's actions, Ty merely leaned against its warmth as he closed his eyes.

He remembered the slave's paintings clearly. Bright and filled with life, these created images held more beauty than he imagined possible. As if it were all a dream he recalled the pictures. He saw before him the Vulcan desert and could almost feel its heat against his back. Idly he wondered if all that the slave had said was true. To think of a planet filled with a race of non-violent people was almost unbelievable, but Ty believed the slave's words. From the deep sadness in the man's eyes to the slight quiver of his voice, Ty knew of the manus sincerity.

As his young mind began to recall that older slave, his thoughts began to wander. He wondered how long it would take to journey to their cousin planet and he wondered if their distant cousins would even accept him. He was, after all, Romulan. Born and reared in a violent race he would be the exact opposite of their people. Could they accept these differences, he wondered as he pulled his fur cape closer. In an attempt to ward off the cold winter chill, he curled his small body against the warmth of the beast. As if sensing his master's discomfort, the animal curved its body around the small boy in protection.

"So, we are dreaming again, are we?" a familiar voice broke through his thoughts. With a visible frown he glanced up at the tall, scowling form. Dressed in the traditional colors of a scholar the bald man glared down at him. Since he could remember he always held a deep hatred for this man yet was unable to explain his feelings. Instead he did as A'ldin beckoned, knowing that once he had attained all the required knowledge he would be free of this man and his evil looks.

"I have completed my studies for the day, learned man, therefore there is no need for you to bother me," his disobediently clipped words rang out.

"Our young lord has found his tongue finally. I had begun to wonder," he said as he moved before him. Filled with caution the older man eyed the furred beast as he spoke to his young charge.

"Well, no matter if you chose to remain silent for days at a time. It does not offend me, young lord, in fact, it suits me well. As it were, I am not here to criticize your idleness. You have guests. Fellow lords of your acquaintance have felt it fit to request your company, although I do not understand why. They will gain nothing from 'your' association," his sarcastic words cut deeply into Ty's insecurities. Maintaining control, he rose from his pet's side and brushed off his cape. He would not allow this man to see his fears, instead he would shield from his words and maintain an even stance.

With controlled ease, Ty took the necessary steps toward the stairs. Followed closely by his pet, he made his way up the steps. After only a moment he turned in time to see the scholar's wry grin. Unaware of the man's great jealousy, all Ty saw was his hateful smile. As if pleased with himself, A'ldin watched as the child disappeared into the courtyard.

* * *

 

As the sun of Remus hovered high above the planet, Tal stood by the window. Naked, he stood alone and overlooked the lower courtyard. He had been pleased to see his son's young companions but now he was angered.

When laughter reigned he felt an inner pleasure. Finally his son was beginning to cope. Finally he was able to allow his thoughts to drift like that of a child. It was their laughter and merriment that roused Tal from his wife's side. With a desire to see his son as a child, he moved to the window and watched the interaction of the children.

All of their merriment changed in a matter of seconds. Huddled around his son, the other Romulan noble children stood in silence as Ty spoke to an older boy. As if scolding a child, Ty looked up at the tall boy and spoke in a calm voice.

With no concern for the chill, Tal reached to the security window and activated the listening mechanism. As their low words drifted to their third floor window, his wife moved by his side. With a blanket over her, she reached around him and surrounded him in its warmth.

"Violence is therefore illogical. It brings nothing but pain to both parties," their son was saying.

"You speak like a Vulcan. What do you know of violence, Ty? You are nothing but a child. A child son of a coward!" The biting words stung.

"My father is not a coward. He is a senator and leader of the people," Ty defended.

"Ha! A leader of cowards is what he is. He opposes the war against the Federation scum. He thinks that peace with them would help our people, and he would have us sign a treaty and unite."

"A force united is stronger than a force divided," Ty's young voice echoed a phrase memorized from a lesson.

"United in peace! Like the coward Vulcans. What are you, Ty? Vulcan? Is that what you are? Yes, you are Vulcan! Hey, Vulcan, tell me of your home world, tell me of your desert planet, Vulcan pacifist!" At the older boy's accusation, the other children joined in the tormenting.

With the sting of childish actions, they circled the smaller boy as their words of taunt rang out. Tal watched in anger as they continued to taunt his son. Behind him he felt his wife bury her face in his back as the tears began to flow.

"Hey, Vulcan, I bet I can make you fight, I bet I can force you to abandon your pacifistic beliefs," the older boy said as he stood before their son.

"I am not Vulcan. I am Romulan, only son of the honored warrior and senatorial leader Tal," the small voice corrected. With no regard to Ty, the older boy suddenly raised a hand and landed an even blow against the child's flushed cheek.

Startled by the action, Tal moved to clothe himself. At his movement, his wife quickly stopped him. With one pleading look he sighed in defeat. To now go to his son's aid would indeed deem Ty the coward they accused him of being. He knew that his wife was correct. Their son must begin to learn to fend for himself. As painful as it would be, he would allow his son to experience the harshness of rejection.

As if to challenge, the Romulan boy continued in his endless movements. With a force that sent a jarring motion to the boy, the slaps continued until all was silent. For a moment they remained frozen. His son stood still as he looked up at the taller youth.

"If you will not fight then you shall surely cry," his even tone stated.

"No, I will not fight and I am not crying," came the controlled reply.

"Oh, but you are. I can see it in your eyes. You are crying on the inside, Ty, and I have caused this. Now I know that you truly are a coward, a Vulcan coward at that. Go ahead, Vulcan, we will leave you to your tears," he laughed as he turned and walked from the courtyard. Following close behind the other Romulan children began to laugh heartily as they followed the older boy.

Despondently, Ty watched as they walked away. Then when he thought that none watched, he wiped away his unshed traitorous tears.

* * *

 

He entered tiredly into the darkness of his home. Through the silence he noted the low crackling sound from the stone hearth. Built within the walls of the gathering room it hid the tiny spiral ducts that ran through the entire home. Well tended, this single hearth brought warmth to the entire home.

"My lord?" Aeron's voice asked the silent question.

Fatigued from the events of the past days, Tal moved slowly to the warmth of the flames. In frustrated silence he watched as the flickering flames jumped and crackled from the smoldering ashes. Like the ashes he felt his unbridled anger slowly surface.

"I have failed, Aeron," was his reply.

After an interminable silence, his trusted servant/friend moved toward him. As if to give his silent support he stood by his side. Tal could not remember a time when his friend had not been near. Whether as a child, or a warrior in training, Aeron was always by his side. And now, in manhood, the servant was still close at hand.

"I understand, my lord," came Aeron's response to his words. "And may I ask when we leave?"

"The Praetor wishes to launch the first attack on the eve of the Terran holiday of Christmas. He believes that this would be a most appropriate time. While the Federation is celebrating 'peace and goodwill' toward all, the largest strike force will descend upon them. Naturally the Praetor has no intention of joining in the battle. Rather he plans to arrive once the strategic points have been secured." His sarcastic words rang out as he took the bronze metal and poked at the dying flames.

"There was nothing I could do, Aeron. I could not sway the needed number of votes! What could I do?" he asked as total frustration took hold.

With maintained distance, his mentant seemed to reflect on his words. As if a solution suddenly came to mind, the grey haired man smiled as he turned his attention to the flickering flames. With a tilt of his head he looked at Tal with a confident smile.

"You will do what is expected of you -- what is required of you. You will perform your duty with bravery and honor, as your father before you," the strength of his words were successful.

At Aeron's statement, Tal merely smiled as he gazed longingly into the flames. He felt an irrational need to return in time. To be able to be a youth again, with his father's strong presence, would have been a dream come true. But he could not do this. He was a man, a warrior, with a duty to his family and people. And as Aeron had pointed out, he would carry out the orders handed to him by the Praetor. He would lead his troops into a battle which he did not believe in, he thought grimly.

"Yes, Aeron, you are correct. I shall do what is required of me regardless of the circumstances," his tired voice answered.

"Indeed, my lord. But not this minute. Tomorrow when you are rested you will be better able to contemplate the war plans. Come, my lord, rest for the night. Tomorrow is another day." His strength radiated through the words. At their warmth, he could not help but smile. Even in the bleakest hours, Aeron was always by his side.

With this thought in mind he turned from his friend and walked into the darkness of the hall. Even as the events of the past days returned, his mind recoiled. Aeron was right. He was too tired to think clearly. Rest in the warmth of his wife's loving embrace is what he needed. After three days absence he discovered his longing for her nearness maddening. Idly he wondered how he would manage the months away, as he moved to the closed wooden door of their room.

Before his hand even reached the golden handle a slight noise caught his attention. Like a soft stirring in the wind it drifted through the halls. With an inbred instinct he moved softly to the darkness of his son's room. Framed by the open door he peered into the darkness in search of any danger. When none was seen, he reached over and activated the light panel.

Seemingly smaller within the large single bed his son cast a startled look at him. With his furred beast at the foot of his bed he seemed an almost helpless thing. Like a child caught in a misdeed, he pulled the quilted blanket to his neck. As if to hide a secret he kept an unseen item concealed below the blanket.

"I wasn't crying, Father, really I wasn't!"

At his panic-filled voice, Tal allowed a smile to overcome him as he moved into the room. In a relaxed manner he moved to his son's bed. As if reassured that he would not face punishment, the child sniffed uncontrollably as he wiped at his swollen tear-filled eyes.

With a visible movement Tal kept his gaze away from the boy's actions as he sat on the edge of the bed. Small and lower to the ground it proved an uncomfortable position for Tal but he did not show this. Instead he sat with an ease as he cast his son a loving smile. At the sound of bending parchment he reached below the covers and removed the hidden object.

Tal gazed at it as his son sat in nervous expectation. He could find no reason for the child's obsession with this painting. True, the people captured on canvas seemed almost alive. As if each brush stroke held an inner magic the three painted forms seemed to possess a quality of life.

In dismissal of his thoughts he smiled to son as he carefully rolled the parchment up. Although he was not as intrigued by the painting he saw no need to reprimand the child. To offer harsh criticism now might add to his son's already fragile insecurities.

"To show appreciation in art is indeed fine, my son, but to lose sleep over it can be a danger, do you understand?" he asked as he handed the parchment to the boy. With a look of confusion, his son took the painting. After a moment of silence, Ty returned it to its hiding place below the bed.

"Yes, sir, I understand," came his low response. At the child's open sorrow, Tal smiled reassuringly as he moved to the headboard. Just as he used to do when the boy was a toddler he leaned against the wall and pulled the boy into his arms. Comforted by this action, Ty snuggled in his embrace as he pulled the covers close.

"Now then, my son, what disturbs you?"

After a moment of silence, a noncommittal shrug was his answer.

Maintaining his silence he allowed the sensations of their closeness to wash through them. He took pleasure in the warmth of his son and found it pleasing to lightly run his fingers through the child's thick dark hair. Like his mother's, its coarseness often led to unruly waves of raven dark hair.

As if comforted in the contact, the boy seemed to relax as he reveled in the touch.

"Father," the child's low voice broke the silence.

"Yes, my son?"

"Is it wrong to think of a time when we will be at peace with our cousins, the Vulcans?" he asked.

At his son's question, Tal thought over a response. It was a question he had expected for some time and it was a question which had no easy answer. Either response could lead his son into danger. Rather than give the classical answer he chose to respond with honesty.

"It is never wrong to dream of peace, my son," he said as he lightly kissed the crown of his son's head.

As if satisfied with this answer his son maintained his silence. Cradling the child close he assumed that the boy had abandoned himself to sleep. Dispelling this notion, the child squirmed uncomfortably in his arms.

"Father, am I maladjusted?"

Tal felt an instant shock at the words. For a child so young to know of such a term was uncommon. To label himself thusly was unheard of, he thought, as he moved from the boy. Positioning himself before Ty he looked down into the piercing blue eyes. As if searching for an answer, Tal examined the tear stained eyes.

"Who has told you this?" he questioned.

After a moment the boy's shoulders shrugged as he looked away. As if convinced of the accusation he looked nervously at his folded hands. Then with an almost hushed tone he answered the question.

"A'ldin told me that I was not like the other kids. He said that I am weak warrior. He said that a dreamer never of spirit and that I would never make a good succeeds to win favor in the Praetor's eyes. He said my way of thinking was ... maladjusted," came the weak voice,

At the revelation Tal felt his anger rise.

A'ldin. Learned man and scholar to his son. A'ldin was the single man who was a constant thorn in his side. Praetor's spy and man, A'ldin had existed in his household since the child was able to speak. Tal knew at the time of the scholar's assignment that he was a spy but to refuse the Praetor's gift of the man's commission would have been an insult, An insult that could have led to his family's death. Now he wondered what would have been worse. The Praetor's retribution or his son's self-esteem.

"Ty, come with me. There is something I wish to show you," he ordered as he lifted his child from the covers and deposited him on the floor.

As if facing punishment the small boy followed closely behind. Tal kept his palm resting on the child's shoulder as he led him through the house. When they entered his private study he turned a smile to the boy as he moved to a locked bookcase. Keying up the code, he unlatched the door and removed a closed box.

"Come, my son," he commanded as he sat behind his large desk. Obediently, the child moved to stand before him. Seeing his slight smile, Ty visibly relaxed.

On tippy toes he glanced at the box sitting on his desk. At the discomfort of the boy's position, Tal grasped the child and sat him on his lap. When both were comfortable he opened the box and revealed the contents within.

It had been years since he had examined the contents. As if filled with a newness, Tal looked at each item with the freshness of his son's eyes. One by one they examined the objects. They turned them over in their hands and reverently gazed upon them. When he removed a single holo both he and his son stared at the single image.

"Who is he, Father?"

"He was my father."

"The honorable General Commander Tyrea?"

"Indeed, you were named after him. He is your grandfather," he informed as the child took the holo from his hands and looked closely at the image within. Dressed in full ceremonial garb his father held the very image of strength and authority. As if he held an inner fire, his military bearing was the-ideal image of the Praetor's chosen warrior.

Still holding the picture within his hand his son returned his attention to his father's possessions. Saved by Tal's mother, these few momentos were all that was left of his father. As if this box contained the man himself, each item was saved for those who cared to see them.

With reverence, his son's smaller hands set aside the medals of honor. He seemed intrigued by everything contained within the box. It was not until he came upon a small parchment that his attention was suddenly caught. Taking it in hand he turned to Tal for permission. When no protest was given Ty began to read the neat hand-inscribed phrases.

"Perchance to dream of worlds in peace," he read out loud. Then as he all that could be seen was the slight movements of his lips. Mentally Tal the words in. his mind. He had read them many times. So much so that they inscribed within his memory. When the child finished he turned to him for read on went over were an answer.

"It is my father's. He wrote it on the eve of his last battle," Tal answered his son's unspoken question.

"These are the words of my grandfather, the honored warrior?" Ty's disbelieving voice asked.

"Indeed, my son. Your grandfather was quite a ... dreamer. He, like you, dreamt of a world in peace where we would live with our enemies as brothers. Would you call him maladjusted?" he asked as he began to replace the items in the box.

"No, indeed not, Father!" came his excited words.

When his son continued to hold the holo of his father Tal simply smiled as he covered his son's hand with his.

"You may keep it, my son. It is the legacy I leave to you. A legacy which he has left to me. Cherish it always and know that above all else, your grandfather was a man of peace."

"Yes, Father," was his only reply as Tal lifted him from his lap and deposited him by the desk. Lightly he ran his fingers over the dark hair before returning the box to its place. When it was once again secure he turned and led his son from the room.

Walking a few paces before him, the child continued to gaze at the holo. With an uncontrollable desire, Tal reached for the child and lifted him in his arms. Taken by surprise the child yelped in shock and pleasure as he carried him in his arms.

"Father, put me down!" his child's voice demanded. At this command Tal merely laughed as he easily rocked the child in his embrace. With futile struggles the boy attempted to gain his freedom but failed.

"Father, I am too big for you to carry me!"

"Oh, you are, my child," he mocked the boy's words as he easily lifted his small form above his head.

"Well, I may be small for my age but I am too old for you to carry!" he protested as Tal carried him through the house.

With the ease of his strength Tal lifted his child to his shoulders and began a light run up the stairs. Squealing in delight, the boy held fast to his shoulders as they made it to the top. Tal could remember similar journeys they made when the boy was only a toddler. Now, despite Ty's age, Tal still found pleasure in this simple act.

Upon entering the room he gently took hold of the boy and deposited him with a bounce upon the bed. With this action the child's nightshirt fell open to expose his small bare chest. At this sight, Tal could not help but reach down and lightly brush his fingers along his sides. With uncontrollable laughter, Ty squirmed from his touch as he vainly pushed away his hands.

"Now then, my little dreamer," his voice was above a whisper as he stopped his hands and held the boy's shoulders still. "Is it agreed that we will not give any more thoughts to being 'maladjusted' and no concern for whatever A'ldin says?" At his tone, the child's smile broadened as he gave a nod.

"Good, now go to sleep," he said as he gave one last tickle of his ribs, then he pulled the blanket over the child.

Taking the holo in hand he placed it on the nearby nightstand. At the open understanding the child snuggled deeper in his covers as he gazed at the picture. Idly Tal wondered if his father would have found pleasure in the boy. True, although not his own, Ty had come to mean everything to him. Had he a child born of his seed he doubted that it would ever replace the love he held for Ty. He would find the love needed for this child, but it could never replace his first born, he thought as the child's eyes slowly closed.

"Father, will I some day be a brave warrior of peace like my grandfather?" his son asked.

"That possibility does exist, my son," he answered as he pulled the covers over his son's shoulders and tucked them under him. He watched as his eyes slowly closed with the fatigue of sleep. After a moment of silence the low voice spoke with the ease of sleep.

"Will I be as tall as you, Father?"

At this question Tal lightly stroked his son's smooth cheek. He would have liked to have given such a promise. To be able to tell his son that he would inherit his physical traits was a dream he often held but as an educated man he knew he could not. He knew of his wife's history. Her parentage and lineage was great, his own was as well, but would Ty someday be as tall? He simply did not know. How could he? What he knew of that Vulcan first officer told him little. Then with the remembrance of that time long ago, Tal lightly brushed back his son's dark hair. Regardless of the child's parentage he knew that his son could very well achieve the height of his father.

"The possibility is great that you shall inherit your father's height, child," he answered as he stroked the soft cheek. "Someday, my son, you shall be a great man," he whispered as a smile crossed his son's sleeping features.

When it seemed that sleep had consumed his son, Tal lowered himself and unashamedly kissed his son's sleeping forehead, then he moved slowly from the room. Framed by the door he stood for a moment and observed the child. With his pet obediently by his side, the boy slept in a peaceful slumber. As if filled with pride, Tal smiled as he deactivated the lights.

"Father," a sleepy voice called out.

"Yes, my son."

"I'm going to grow up to be just like you."

At these words he felt a hardness within his throat. As a moistness threatened to fill his eyes he gulped down the feelings which began to take control. When he knew that his voice would not betray him, he answered his son.

"Someday you will understand how much your words mean to me, my son. Thank you."

"You're welcome," Ty's sleepy voice answered as the silence of the night took control.

"And thank you," a low voice from behind him said.

Dressed in a warm robe she stood near enough to hear their exchange. At a questioning arch of his brow she smiled as she moved to him. Wrapping her arms around him she gazed longingly into his eyes. He caught her smile and was warmed by her affection.

"Thank you for being the perfect father for our son. Thank you for being my mate," she whispered as he wrapped his arms around her. At her words, he lowered himself and kissed her moist lips. For an eternity of seconds they knew nothing else but the joining of their lips. Then when oxygen was needed, they reluctantly parted.

"Come, my j'on, and let me thank you properly. Let me thank you in the fashion of a Romulan wife," her low, aroused voice had its effect. With a smile he reached below her and lifted her in his arms. In easy strides he carried her to the privacy of their room.

Despite the turmoil and threat of war, he knew that he had something to live for. He had his son, a dreamer of peace, and he had his wife. Warm and gentle, she would always be here to soothe his troubles. With this thought in mind, he deposited her on the bed and quickly moved to join her.

THE END