Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of and is copyright (c) 1988 by L. P. Santos. Originally published in Abode of Strife #12, Bill Hupe editors. Rated PG13.



L. P. Santos


The office was located high above the city, nestled within a towering sky rise, hidden from view. Flanked by an accounting firm and a dental office, its affiliation to the Starfleet Medical Center was unknown. If it weren't for the single name plate on the door, no one would know of its existence.

"I'm not really certain why I'm here," she said in the silence of the room.

"Why don't you start out slowly, Doctor Chapel?" the soft voice asked.

"Slowly, yes; that seems the way to begin. First, I think you should know that I don't believe in this, though I don't have anything against your profession. Lord knows I've had to use a bit of it myself during my career -- I just don't believe that it's for everyone. I guess I'm one of those who believes in the old adage 'physician heal thyself," she stated firmly.

"Fair enough. I happen to agree with you: psychiatry does not always work as a catharsis for everyone, but as a doctor, don't you agree that sometimes a patient is unable to make a clear diagnosis of their own illness?"

"Oh yes, I see a lot of patients who think they know what's wrong with them. Sometimes I meet people who are sick but can't see it. They usually don't discover the problem until it has progressed too far," Chapel exclaimed. After a moment she caught what she had said. With a slight smile she tilted her head as a fatigued sigh escaped her control.

"Touche, Doctor, touche."

With a concealed smile, the psychiatrist leaned back in her chair as she absently read over Chapel's file.

"I'm glad that you told me your feelings. It makes my job that much easier," her voice sounded in even tones as she scanned the computer screen on her desk.

"Well, I thought you should know," Christine said as she dropped her eyes to her folded hands.

"Now that we have that out of the way, why don't we begin? First of all, Christine … may I call you Christine?" the voice asked. Chapel nodded acceptance. "All right, Christine, how do you feel?"

"Fine. All right."

"Medically you're fine? No problems in that area?"

"I had a full exam last week."

"The full exam, everything?"

"Yes, neurologically, biologically, and of course, gynecologically -- the full treatment." She tried to make her words sound humorous.

"Anything abnormal?"

"No, nothing."

"How about psychologically? No depression or anxieties?"

"God, I don't have time!" Chapel laughed with a shake of her head.

After a moment of silence the voice broke through Christine's thoughts. "Then, if you feel fine, why are you here?"

For a moment she felt the question bear down on her like a hurtling rock. Why had she come? Why did she take valuable time out of her schedule to be here? Thinking over a response, she remembered the past days with bitter memories. Memories which had only begun to torment her thoughts. With no one to speak to, no one who would understand, Christine had sought out the assistance of an outsider.

"I guess I'm here to get in touch, try to get a hold on what's happening." she finally answered.

"And what is happening?"

Christine shook her head in confusion at the question.

"I don't know. Everything... nothing... I guess I'm not certain."

"Let me rephrase the question, Christine. What do you think is happening?"

"I think I'm going insane."

After her words an eternity of silence followed. Noting it, Christine suddenly laughed in an effort to ease the tension.

"God, that's a laugh -- me going insane! After ten years in Starfleet service, five of those in deep space, two sons and a marriage!" she exclaimed.

"Why don't you tell me a little about your family?"

"I'm not certain there's much to tell. I have two sons: one's almost twenty-one and the youngest just turned fourteen."

"And your husband -- I understand you were married once?"


"Oh, I'm sorry. Was it recent?"

"No, it was … God, when was it?" Christine asked herself as she mentally calculated the years. "It's been eight years now, eight years..."

"Then your eldest son was twelve years old when his father died?"

"No … I mean yes. He was twelve, but my husband was not his father."

"I see. Does he know this?"

"He's aware that his father is a Vulcan. The differences are noticeable," she replied, unaware of the harsh tone in her voice.

"Then I imagine the death of your husband was hardest on your youngest son. I am correct in assuming the second child was your husband's son?"

"Yes. Brian, Jr. So much like his father. They looked a lot alike. They both had the same coloring and mannerism, and they both held this zest for life. God, it's hard to explain the similarities!" Christine exclaimed with a slight smile.

"Well, Christine, since it seems we've hit upon a favorite topic, why don't we start there? Tell me about your boys. What are they like and what were they like when they were growing up?"

"Where would you like me to begin?"

"Why not at the beginning with your eldest son? Don't feel you have to tell me anything you don't want to. It's entirely up to you."

At the request Christine felt her mind recoil, her thoughts. For some reason, such topics had never been in the forefront of her thoughts. She had never wanted to return to the past. Preferring to remain in the present, she kept a bridle on her wandering thoughts. Forced into the past, she simply sighed as she leaned back further in the chair.

"My oldest son, Stephen, was born on a cold rainy day. Funny I should remember that the most, but I do. That seems to be my earliest recollection of him," Christine absently thought. "Cold, wet, rain, and pain. Nearly two days of sheer pain. God, that kid put me through a living hell..."

* * *

Her peaceful study hour was suddenly interrupted by the wail of an infant's cry. Like the ringing of a klaxon, it filled the entire two bedroom apartment. Angered at its existence, she set her study tapes aside to tend to her infant son.

Inwardly she felt angered at the disruption. It seemed that only a few moments ago she had managed to get him to sleep, finally able to study for her upcoming exams. But, now he was awake and in need of a change or food. With all the distractions, she doubted that she would ever graduate on time.

With a visible attempt she damped her anger as she moved to the crib. Only three weeks old and he had already changed her life. Always hungry or wet, he seemed to demand every spare moment of her time. Chastising her own thoughts she smiled slightly at the black eyes that met hers. Once, long ago, she held a passion for kids. It seemed that she would have made a natural mother. Now she held serious doubts.

Perhaps it would have been better if she had never gone through with this birth. If he had not been born she would still be aboard the Enterprise with full rank and career. Now, because of her resignation, she had nothing -- neither rank, nor commission, and no salary. She found herself once again at the beginning. Working full time at the Medical Center as well as being a full time student was not an easy task. Adding a newborn infant to the picture only compounded the problems, she thought as she easily changed his soiled diapers.

Upon reflection, she knew that she could never have gone through with an abortion. There was no way she could have lived with herself knowing that she had taken a life, she consoled herself. Lifting the clean baby in her arms, she carried him across the room. With a toothless grin he cooed as the coolness of her body was felt. Glancing into his eyes she could not help but smile. With round eyes and graceful nose he was an adorable child, his full head of dark hair and angular brows enhanced his features. Brushing the hair aside she noted with distaste his small elfin ears. So like his father's, so very much like... but no, she would not dwell on the past. At times, the past was better left forgotten, she convinced herself as she took out a fresh bottle of warm milk.

Perhaps adoption was still a viable option, she thought as she carried him across the room. Christine sat in a comfortable chair as she cradled her son in her arms, holding the bottle to his lips. With slurping noises he greedily sucked the milk from it. He was young, still considered a newborn. She knew that there were many childless couples who waited on a list of adoptive parents. Perhaps there would be a couple, a couple who would have both the means and love needed for her son, she thought.

No, the rules were clear. The adoption agent had explained the laws to her. A child must be adopted by a couple of his own species. Being similar to Vulcans, he would be turned over to a Vulcan couple to live his life on that alien planet. Knowing this she could not bear to give him up to the fate of following in his father's steps -- it was unthinkable. No, her son would not grow up in a rigid society that bred intolerance to sexual activities until the man was driven to rape.

Rape. That is what it had been. His father had raped her, but who had been at fault? Perhaps she had asked for it, she wondered silently as the infant began to drop off to sleep. If she had not been throwing herself at him, he might have overlooked her completely when his time of mating had arrived. Maybe she could have done something that would have prevented his assault, she wondered, not for the first time.

No, upon reflection she had to face the facts. True, she had shamelessly chased him like a love struck school girl, but she had not asked him to rape her. She had not dreamt of being held captive in his cabin against her will, nor had she ever desired to be used like a rag doll for his own sexual gratification.

As if sensing her turmoil, the child in her arms awoke and began to squeal. Higher in pitch, it continued to cry its tiny features bunched into a frown. Frantic and in need of silence she began to pace the floor and rocked him in her arms. With slight cooing sounds she tried to silence the deafening noise that would once again give her a nagging headache.

"Please, baby, shush, stop crying! Everything's fine; it'll be alright," she pleaded with the tiny bundle that held her captive.

Through the sounds of his crying, the chimes of her door caught her attention. With child in arms, she moved and opened the door to the waiting visitor. A finely dressed, short Asian man stood with a broad smile.

"This is the home of C. Chapel?" he asked as he held out a plastic ID card.

"Yes. Are you here from the agency?" she asked as she frantically attempted to silence the screaming child.

"This is correct. My name is Daniel Wong. Would you like to read over my credentials to make certain that I am the employee you desire?"

"This is not necessary. If the agency sent you, then I'm sure you'll do. You're hired and your first task is to take care of him." Her voice seemed on the edge of breaking. As frightened as the child, she felt herself losing control. Turning over the duty to another would help, if only momentarily, and perhaps let her keep her sanity, she reasoned as he accepted the infant with a smile.

"What is his name?" the Asian man asked as the baby instantly calmed.

"I haven't named him yet," she managed to say as she ran to her room.

Completely out of control, she slammed the door behind her. Alone in the silence, she threw herself across her bed and began to weep. She knew that she could not continue like this, yet she was unwilling to give him over to strangers on a strange planet. Torn between her need to care for her son and her own need to be rid of her past, she cried until sleep finally consumed her.

* * *

She never gave up the child. Even though her baser instincts told her otherwise, Christine kept her son. She prayed that in time she would find within her the love a baby required. She hoped that naming him after a favorite relative it would begin to develop. But it did not.

Every time she noticed his alien difference, the vivid memory of his father's actions returned to haunt her. She felt numb each time she laid her eyes on the child. She allowed the duties of her office in Starfleet to take precedence over her child. Assured that he was well-cared for by Daniel, she turned her energies to other matters.

"Well, Daniel, what do you think?" she asked the servant as they made a brief tour of the house she had just purchased.

Larger than what was needed, the suburban home was conveniently located near schools, malls, and her post at Starfleet Medical Center. While keeping a close eye on the one year old wanderer, the Asian scanned the four bedroom structure.

"It is much larger than your apartment! I will have to clean twice as much!" he commented as he grabbed hold of Stephen's hand and pulled the child from his exploration of a kitchen cabinet.

"That two bedroom place is much too small! Besides, wouldn't you like to be able to give up that apartment that you're keeping? You could save more money if you lived here with us! Look, Daniel," she pulled his attention to the room right off the kitchen. "You could stay here. You'd have your own room; my god, you practically live with us already!" she exclaimed as he picked up the toddler. As he inspected the room, the elfin child clung to his side. With little regard for his mother, he held onto the man.

At the sound of a low beeping noise, she took a small communicator from her hip.

"Chapel here," she spoke into the box.

"Doctor Chapel, there's been an emergency. A patient is being prepped now for surgery."

"On my way." she replied without hesitation.

Snapping the communicator shut she turned to the Oriental.

"Look, just think about it, all right, Daniel? Please think it over?" she pleaded before a beam of light engulfed and carried her away to her duties.

In the silence he turned fully around. He had to admit that this room, with an adjoining bathroom, was much bigger than his studio apartment. It would be a pleasure to have a real roof over his head. A home and a place where he could be closer to Stephen. With this thought, he lifted the child high in the air. Filled with pleasure, the elfin boy smiled broadly as a giggle escaped him.

"With your mother calling me as often as she does to come and watch you at night, I might as well live with you," he said, and lowered me boy to the floor. On strong legs, Stephen lightly rocked indicating that he wanted to be held high again. Smiling his fondness for the child, Daniel lifted his young ward high off the ground.

"What do you think, Stephen? Would you like me to live with you?" he asked the child.

With dark piercing black eyes, the alien boy smiled broadly as he lightly patted Daniel's chin with a small hand. Then he mumbled and gurgled a reply, and showed off his two new baby teeth. As if he was the closest person in the boy's life, Stephen wrapped his arms around Daniel's neck and hugged him close.

"Then it is settled, little one," Daniel said aloud as he returned the boy's hug. "We stay."

* * *

"Stephen!" his mother called.

Alone, he sat high among the branches of a tree.

"Stephen, your mother wants you!" Daniel's voice reached him. Standing below the tree the man stood in calm silence. He'd known from the very beginning where Stephen had gone. As if he could read the boy's mind, Daniel found him in places where his mother could not.

"I don't care! I'm not coming down!" the child yelled, instantly regretting his words.

"To show disrespect for your mother is uncalled for young man. Come down at once." The order came without harshness or anger. Instead Daniel's voice held a stern tone which made it hard for Stephen to disobey.

Obediently, he jumped from the concealing branches of the tree. With a contrite expression, he stood with head lowered before the man. He knew that even though Daniel never raised a hand to him, the man's anger could be felt. It was felt in the tone of his voice and in the open silence he used as a way of punishment.

"That is better," was all Daniel said as a silent barrier was raised between them. With an open plea Stephen looked up at the tall man.

"Please, don't make me go! I don't want to go in there, please don't make me!" he pleaded with half sobs.

"You must go. Your mother wishes your presence," Daniel's voice softened in understanding as he knelt before him.

"But I don't want to meet that man. Please, Daniel, don't make me meet him!"

"You must. He is your stepfather. He will be living with us and you will have to learn to get along with him." Daniel tried to reason.

"Why should I have to live with him? She's the one who married him, not me. I shouldn't have to live with him, should I?" his juvenile voice asked. "Daniel, why don't we leave? Couldn't we? We could leave, you and me. We could go away and live somewhere."

"You and I," Daniel corrected.

"Yes, you and me. Let's go somewhere, Daniel! Let's move out and let them live here. We could find a place easy." His convincing words began to form a plan as he clasped Daniel's hand.

"No, Stephen. What you suggest cannot be done. I do not have the funds. We must stay; besides, your mother would miss you greatly if you left," he reasoned.

"Miss me? She wouldn't even notice I was gone She's always too busy with work to even notice me! Only when she wants me around does she see me!" he snorted as he folded his arms over his chest.

Angered, Daniel grabbed hold of the boy. Turning him slightly, he gave Stephen a swift swat against his bottom with an open palm. Shocked by the sensation, Stephen rubbed his back side as tears began to form.

"Regardless of what you think, Stephen, she is your mother! You will accord her with the respect due her. Do I make myself clear?" he asked as he towered above the six-year-old.

Wiping away the tears, Stephen nodded and hung his head in shame.

"Good, now go inside and meet your new stepfather!" he pointed to the lighted house.

As Stephen moved slowly to the house, slight sniffs escaped his control. Like a man marching to his execution, he walked slowly to the form of his mother and the man. He did not know what to expect but he knew he would not like it.

* * *

Stephen discovered that the man was not someone to fear. He was kind and filled with a giving spirit. More importantly, he seemed to like children. For Stephen this was an added plus: he soon found himself included in family-like events. Where once Christine used to leave him in the care of Daniel, Stephen was now included and actually given an active part in the family, and it was all due to the man who was his stepfather. Brian seemed to take genuine pleasure in Stephen's company.

Even after the birth of his little brother, his stepfather still included him in the family. Stephen didn't even feel hurt at the fact that his mother took a year off to raise his brother. Both the addition to the household as well as his baby brother, made him feel as if he were in a normal family -- a family where his alien differences were not noticed.

"Daniel, did you hear?" he asked excitedly as he ran into the kitchen. At the smell of the fresh baked cookies he took one from a plate and sat on a nearby stool.

"Brian says that we can each have a pet." he explained as Brian Jr. toddled in.

"Brian, I'm against it. Who's going to take care of the pets? It's not fair to ask Daniel to care for animals," his mother's voice filtered through the closed doors.

"Chris, I know how you feel, but believe me, a pet is the best thing for the boys. It will teach them responsibility," his stepfather pleaded.

"It's not going to work. Have you seen Stephen's room lately? Go take a look then tell me if he can handle responsibility. What about Brian? He's too young to even understand the meaning of responsibility!"

"The decision of whether you receive a pet or not is yet undecided," Daniel whispered with a smile as returned his attention to dinner preparations. Completely accustomed to his job, the Asian moved around the room with confidence.

"Brian said we could and I'm certain we can. I know exactly what I'm going to get," Stephen said as he thought of the sehlat he had seen in the pet store window. Spying his little brother's raised arms, he helped the child onto a nearby stool.

"Me, too," Brian Jr. echoed as he took a cookie and began to eat, leaving crumbs all over the counter.

"Do you think you could take me tomorrow to get it?" Stephen asked as he moved to stand near his caretaker. At ease in their relationship, he began to help the man by handing him the various spices needed for the meal.

"Let's wait until the final judgment comes forth." Daniel smiled and tilted his head toward the closed doors. Suppressing a grin, Stephen nodded in agreement.

As they shared their silent joke, the slight noise of metal scraping against the tiled floor caught Stephen's attention. He turned in time to see the stool topple from beneath his brother as the small child stood on its padded seat. With a pain-filled scream, Brian Jr. landed on the floor.

"Brian!" his mother yelled as she ran to her wailing son.

A gash in his brother's forehead began to bleed as Brian's Jr.'s crying grew even louder.

"How did he get on the stool!" she demanded as she quickly tended the open wound. Seeing his inability to move one arm, his mother turned her attention to it. By her side Stephen's stepfather knelt with obvious concern.

"His arm's broken. We'll have to take him in," Stephen heard her say as she tended to the arm. "How did he get up there?" she once again demanded as she faced her oldest son.

"I put him up there, mother. I didn't mean for him to fall. I was watching him the whole time, honest. I was!" he pleaded.

"It was an accident," Daniel jumped to the boy's defense.

"Christ, forget about who's to blame. Let's take him in!" Brian exhorted.

"No, we just can't forget it. You think he's ready for responsibility and look at what he does! He can't even be trusted to watch over our son!"

"It was an accident!" Daniel repeated firmly and rested a palm lightly on Stephen's shoulder.

"This is a family matter, Daniel, stay out of it! Stephen, go to your room!"


"I said go to your room, young man, or do I have to take you there myself?" she asked sternly. She gave him single slap to the face. Both in anger and confusion he darted to his room in tears. The incident had happened so quickly, yet it would remain with him for many years to come.

* * *

"Your mother didn't mean anything by it," Brian tried to explain.

Huddled under the blankets, Stephen remained hidden by the darkness of his room.

"She is just worried about Brian, she didn't mean anything by it," his voice of reason said as a sniffle escaped Stephen's control. "Listen, tomorrow we'll go and pick up a pet. What do you say?"

"Mother won't let me have one!" the boy's tear-filled voice stated.

"Yes she will, you wait and see. By tomorrow this whole thing will be forgotten and you can pick out your favorite animal. How does that sound?" Brian asked as he forced Stephen to face him by pulling the blankets down. With a tender smile, Brian gently brushed the tears from his stepson's cheeks.

"There, is that better?" At the shake of the boy's head, Brian settled himself on the bed and pulled him close. Comforted by the touch, Stephen sighed and his tears subsided.



"Why does mother hate me?"

At his question, Brian stiffened. He lightly brushed aside Stephen's raven black hair. He seemed to understand the question but found a response difficult to form. Finally, after a moment of thought, Brian smiled and held Stephen close.

"She doesn't hate you, Stephen," he said. "Your mother has been through a lot. She's experienced many things, some good, some bad. There is a lot that she still has to work out in her own mind. What we have to do is be patient and understanding. In time, when all of her thoughts are sorted out, you'll discover that she's not who you see her to be."

At those words Stephen felt confused. Desiring to understand, he looked up into Brian's compassionate face. "Is it like an illness? Is she sick or something? Did she catch something while in deep space?"

"You might say that, " Brian said. 'The main thing to remember is that it will take time and a lot of understanding from us. We have to give her all the support we can. You'll see, in time things will be different," the man said as he laid the boy down and pulled the covers over his shoulders. "Do you understand, Stephen?"

"Yes. I'll do everything I can to help mother get better. I'll be real good and try to make her happy." He promised as a smile lighted his features.

"That's a boy. I know I can count on you," the whisper came even as Stephen began to fall asleep.

Through his thoughts, he felt that if only he could be good, if only he proved himself worthy, she would take note and begin to like him. All it would take was a little effort on his part, he reasoned as his childish mind began to form a plan.

* * *

The evening rains tapered off by next afternoon. Sitting in the warmth of the living room, his mother and stepfather sat playing with a furred ball. Noting his entrance, his mother flashed him a radiant smile filled with warmth. His brother, lying on the sofa waved at him. With an arm in a light-weight cast, the boy hardly seemed to notice the bandage on his forehead.

"Stephen, look," his joy-filled voice demanded as the child pointed to a tiny animal.

Gray with blue eyes, the Persian kitten mewed as it bounded from his mother to brother.

"Isn't it adorable!" she exclaimed as she took the furred creature in hand and began to pet it. "Where have you been, Stephen?" she asked as she continued to stroke the animal.

"Out," he smiled secretly as he moved to join them.

"Oh, and what have you been up to?" she smiled in return.

"Nothing... just getting a present," he nonchalantly stated as he sat on the nearby foot stool. With a wink of encouragement, Brian urged him on.

"What kind of present were you getting?" she asked as she cast her husband a slight smile.

"A present for you, Mother. I went out and found a special gift just for you," he said as he stood before her. "I decided that I didn't need a pet. Instead, I found one for you. He's perfect, Mother. He'll make a good guard for you," he exclaimed as he ran from the room to the outer porch.

Careful to conceal the creature, he hid the wiggling animal below his jacket. Unable to keep control of it, it jumped from below his jacket and ran head-long into the room. Black with a few patches of white, the small puppy bounded over the floor. Wet from the rainy weather, its black paws left a trail of dirt and mud on the white carpeting, then jumped in excitement upon Christine's clean dress.

"Get this mutt out of my house!" she yelled as she cast a look of disgust from the mud to the puppy.

At these words Stephen felt his entire world crumble. Rejected, he grabbed hold of the excited puppy and led him from the room.

* * *

"Did Stephen's father ever come to visit during this time?" a voice pulled her from her private thoughts.

In a relaxed position, she sat on the nearby couch with knees drawn to her chest. Glancing out of the large window, she was unable to see the true beauty of the city. Returning her attention to the woman, she straightened.

"No, please, Christine, be comfortable," the psychiatrist instructed from across the room.

"Thank you." she half-whispered. "What did you ask?"

"Stephen's father -- did he ever visit his son? Does he know he had a son?"

"No, not at first," she said absently as she stared back out the window at nothing. "He didn't know about him at first. It wasn't until after..." She hesitated.

"Yes," the other woman prompted, "it wasn't until after...?"

"After Brian's death. There were photographers at the funeral. They took a picture us; Spock arrived later."

"How did he feel about you concealing his son from him?"

"Understandably angry." she half-laughed. "He wanted to spend time with Stephen."

"Did you let him?"

"Yes, at first."

"Then what happened?"

"He wanted to take him away. I couldn't let him take Stephen away!"

"Did he ask you if he could have custody of the boy?"

"In a roundabout way," she tried to explain. "He said a lot about traditions and family lineage. He seemed to feel strongly that a Vulcan child should be raised on Vulcan," she laughed at the remembrance. "I don't mean to laugh; it's just that sometimes Vulcans can be so funny."

"You didn't think that at the time."

"No, I didn't. In fact, I was angry. Here my husband was barely buried, I had two young children to think about, and he was insinuating that I wasn't taking care of his son!" she exclaimed. "Can you imagine the nerve he had? Insinuating that I couldn't take care of my children? Me, a fully qualified physician!"

At her words, the room grew suddenly silent.

"Did you take care of your sons?"

"I did my best. They didn't lack for anything. They had food, clothes, all the things that boys could want. I even took a lot of time to be with them. There was the time when Brian needed assistance with a science project, and I helped him put it together... and the time he needed a costume for the school play. When his teacher told me that he was falling behind in math, I took out time to tutor him. I believe I did my best," she explained.

"What about Stephen?"

"What about him?"

"Did you take time with Stephen? Did you help him with various school projects or anything else he may have needed help with?"

"Of course! There was the time when..." she began, but remembered it was Daniel who had helped him that time, not her. "I'm certain that I helped him. I just can't remember specifics right now. Anyway, Stephen didn't need my help as often. He was a good student. He was more of a loner. He really didn't care for attention. He didn't need it, not like…"

"Brian," the woman finished her sentence.

"No, not like Brian. Stephen preferred to be by himself."

* * *

"Stephen, let me in!" the voice of his brother sounded through the locked door. Needing his privacy, Stephen merely sat on the floor in the bathroom.

At sixteen, there were many emotions raging through him that he lacked understanding for. If Daniel had been around, he was certain that he would not be experiencing this confusion. But a few months after Brian's death, his mother-had gotten into an argument with Daniel and sent him away. Exactly what the argument was about, Stephen did not know. All he knew for certain was that the only man he'd ever truly loved was sent away. At the time, it was the most devastating thing to happen to him. To lose a friend through death was hard. To also lose the companionship of Daniel had been far worse than he could have ever imagined.

Ignoring his nine year old brother, he continued in idle thoughts. had died. It seemed as if life had ended after Brian had died. All he had been accustomed to changed. Daniel, his friend, was gone and though he lived in a nearby city, visiting in secret was not the same as having the man around when Stephen needed him. Then there was the Vulcan. He'd never asked for the man to enter his life. He even found it uncomfortable. What did he have in common with his father? What did they have to share? So what if he was a high- ranking officer in Starfleet? He did not understand Stephen as either Daniel or Brian had. Instead, Spock made a false attempt to make him feel accepted.

During this time, his mother had changed considerably, too. Where before she used to spend her free time at home, now she spent it continually working, as she had before marrying Brian. When she wasn't working, she was with Brian Jr.

Brian Jr. He was another complex problem. Although Stephen did not want to admit it, a part of him confirmed his fears. He was jealous of his little brother. It was not of the clothes or possessions Brian owned, nor did he care about the attention his mother showed him. At times, he even understood his mother's actions and accepted them. Resembling his father, Brian Jr. was the living image of the only man she ever loved. It, therefore, made perfect sense for her to like him more. But was it so wrong to wish things were different? Was he evil for wishing that his mother could love him, if not as much as Brian... then maybe just a little? He knew he could never have all of her love, but was a small portion too much to ask for? he wondered secretly.

After the death of his stepfather, he did his best. He did not complain or whine. He helped around the house and even took Brian off her hands when she seemed on the verge of tears. Still she did not notice him. In school, he excelled beyond everyone else. He did more than what was expected of him and received high marks. When he arrived home with exceptional grades, he was rewarded with a simple smile and a pat on the shoulder. When Brian returned with an average or B grade, she praised him until the roof fell down.

"Stephen, why are you mad at me? What did I do?" the voice asked through the closed doors.

"Nothing! Leave me alone!" he shouted.

"No shouting in this house, young man!" his mother's voice sounded from the other side of the door. "Stephen, what ate you doing with the door locked?" she asked as he opened the door.

"Nothing. I was just thinking," he answered weakly.

With a frown of disapproval, she cast him a sharp glance. "When you share a bathroom with your brother, you don't lock yourself in to 'think'. Do your thinking elsewhere," she ordered as she pulled him from the bathroom. With a pleased smile, Brian Jr. moved behind their mother, then, at Stephen's apparent frustration, his little brother stuck his tongue out to mock.

"Now go on and get dressed," she ordered as she turned to Brian Jr. "How many times do I have to tell you? Get dressed!" she ordered her younger son as she guided Brian Jr. into the restroom. Angered by their slowness, she shook her head and left them alone. "I want you both cleaned and dressed properly by the time your grandparents arrive."

"They're not my grandparents! They're Stephen's!" Brian yelled Seeing Stephen's anger, he made a mad dash into the restroom and locked the door behind him.

With an open sigh, Stephen merely crossed the hall to his room. Holding little concern for the upcoming, he threw himself full-length across the bed. Reaching below his pillow, he removed a carefully concealed item. In less than a week, he would give it to his mother. With a picture-perfect plan, he was to present it to her on her birthday. Although he did not know what to expect by way of reaction, he hoped that it would be positive. Having taken nearly six months to carve, he prayed that she would find favor in it, and in turn, find favor in him. He unwrapped the sculptured, ebony wood and began to sand it smooth.

* * *

The following days passed with little incident. Stephen's grandparents were as he remembered from the last visit. Even his father was the same. Stoic and in control, he remained an unapproachable figure. Taking time each day, he spent what he thought was adequate time with them, then disappeared from sight.

"Bet Mom likes my present better!" Brian teased as Stephen fastened the clasp on his dress tunic. Making no comment, the older boy simply continued to dress in his finest clothes.

"Stephen, what's the matter with you?" Brian asked.


"Then why are you ignoring me? Ever since your family arrived, you've been ignoring me. What's wrong? You think you're something special just because you have Vulcan relatives?" he asked. Stephen ignored the remark. "See, you're doing it again! You're ignoring me!"

Crossing; the room, Stephen reached beneath his pillow and removed the satin bundle. Seeing it, Brian moved forward excitedly.

"What you got? Is that Mom's present?"

"Yes," he answered as he put the palm-sized gift in his pocket.

"What is it? Let me see!"

"No. It's for Mother. No one sees it before she does," Stephen firmly stated.

With a childish pout, Brian looked from the pocket to his brother. Then, in apparent anger, he frowned and stomped his foot on the ground. "It doesn't matter what you give her because my present is better!" he shouted then ran from the room. With a slight shrug, Stephen combed his hair, then left.

Walking through the hall, he caught sight of Brian in his own room. Sitting at his desk; the boy scribbled something across a clean, white piece of paper. With a slight shake of his head, Stephen went down to join the others for dinner.

* * *

"I'm glad that you decided to stay for my birthday," she was saying as she led the way to the family room. With dinner completed, the maid began clearing off the table. Following behind, the two boys remained close by her side.

"We are honored that you invited us for this special day," Sarek of Vulcan replied as the wine glasses were passed around. With glass in hand, the adults began to relax in the atmosphere of comfort.

"I don't mind. We were accustomed to dinner guests at these special times. One year Brian had the entire Board of Directors over." she smiled in fondness. At the sudden thought of her husband, a shadow of darkness seemed to engulf her. Filled with a sense of loneliness, her features turned to a slight frown.

Sensing the time was right, Stephen moved to her side. "Mother, I have a gift for you. I made it especially for your birthday," he said as he ignored his little brother's deep set frown.

"A gift? Why thank you, darling," she said softly as she ran a palm over his smooth cheek "My boys – they're the reason for my life," she said as she took the parcel from him. With careful movements, she unwrapped the cloth. Concealed within was the object which had taken months to carve. In the shape of a butterfly, the wooden ornament shone.

"Oh, it's lovely. Isn't it beautiful, Amanda? Sarek?" she asked as she held the object up for their inspection.

"Indeed. It shows considerable talent," his grandfather said with a note of pride.

In apparent anger, Brian moved forward and forced his way to her side. "I have a gift, too, Mom. I've been working on it a long time," Brian said as he removed the paper from his pocket.

Wrinkled and crumbled. the wet ink had run together to form a mess. Apparently blind to this, she simply took the paper and read the scribbled words. Filled with moistness, her eyes teared over as she looked at Brian. 'This is the most beautiful thing I have eve received. Thank you," she whispered as she embraced Brian and kissed him tenderly.

Already forgotten, Stephen's hand-carved gift sat idly on the nearby table top. With a pleased smile, Brian glanced at him then passed a condescending look to the others nearby. At this action, Stephen felt a firm grip rest on his shoulder.

"The carving was executed most skillfully, my son," the tall Vulcan stated.

Suppressing his strong emotions, he lowered his head as a whisper escaped his lips. "Tell her that." Angered by his own lack of control, he pulled himself free of his father's touch. With no thought but to escape the situation, he made his way from the room.

"Don't be out late!" she called, as if nothing were wrong... even as his feet landed on the dew-soaked grass.

As was his trait, the shadow of his brother ran from the house and sprinted to catch up. "Stephen, wait! Stephen!" the boy shouted as he ran along side Stephen. "Look, I'm sorry if Mom likes mine better than yours."

Ignoring his brother, he simply walked, hands in pocket, eyes to the cement walkway. With little thought of a destination, he allowed his feet to carry him down the dark streets of the city.

"Stephen, where are you going?" Brian asked as they made their way to the subway.

"Why don't you leave me alone? Why don't you just go home, or I'll…"

"You'll what? You won't do anything because then Mom will be mad at you! Then she'll let those Vulcans take you away! They'll take you far away, and Mom won't care one bit!"

Deep within him, Stephen felt his anger rise. Capable of committing great bodily damage, he restrained himself long enough to count to ten. At the number nine, a thought entered his mind. With a wicked smile, he turned to his little brother. "Say, how would you like to go downtown?"

"Downtown? What's downtown?"

'The library."

"The library? What's in the library that's so important?"

"Information about your father. Don't you want to know more about your father? You were just a kid when he died, so you probably don't remember too much, but the library has everything," he explained as he draped an arm over his little brother's shoulder. Visibly excited by the prospect, the younger boy grinned.

Confident of what he would do, he led his brother through the busy subway station. All during the ride through the city, his mind went over his plan. Although his mother did not mention his stepfather too often, Stephen remembered him kindly. It was for this reason that he had been surprised to find Brian within the old periodicals. Containing another aspect of his personality, the tabloids published much about the deceased man, especially speculations about his death, Stephen thought with a smile. He did not believe much of what was written. Despite this, he was pleased with the prospect of showing Brian his father's name. Filled with the ignorance of youth, his little brother followed him through the city and to the library.

"Why do we have to come here?" his brother sounded scared as Stephen led him down to the dark basement of the library.

"Because this is where the information is. You do want to read about your father, don't you?" he asked. After a moment of thought, the young boy nodded and moved down the darkened basement.

"Here... it's right here," Stephen said as he turned on a single light.

Casting shadows off the nearby walls, he activated the archives and programmed in the correct request. After a moment, the screen lit up with various headlines dating back to the funeral. Taking hold of Brian, he sat the boy in the seat and made him read the slanderous remarks. Filled with disbelief the boy tried to leave but Stephen grabbed hold of his shoulders and forced him to continue.

With a pleased smile, Stephen leaned down by his brother's ear. "Business Magnate Brian Neilson suspected of drug trafficking," he whispered as his brother shed silent tears. Without mercy, he continued to read the headlines of the past. "Corporate Resident Brian Neilson known mob leader? Accused embezzler?" his whisper tore into the boy's shattered thoughts.

"No," came the half-whisper. "No!" Brian screamed as he broke free of his hold.

As he watched him dash from the room, Stephen felt laughter escape his control. "Run, run as far as you can, but you'll never escape! It'll always be there for you!" he called as the slight footfalls faded.

Hours later, he found himself walking down a dark, familiar path. Having stopped at a few places, he found himself feeling pleasantly refreshed. Even though under age, he knew of places to obtain the numbing liquid which adults seemed to pickle themselves in. Following their example, he drank of the bitter tasting liquor until his inner pain vanished into numbness.

"Stephen!" Her voice stopped him short of climbing the steps. Holding himself perfectly still, he remained silent and awaited her words. "It's almost morning. Where have you been?"

"Out," his voice came as a muffled whisper.

"Look at me when I'm talking to you!"

Snapping to attention, he turned to where she stood. If he had been surprised by the presence of his Vulcan family, he did not show it. Instead, he maintained his silence as he waited on her.

"I asked you where you had been!"

"Out!" he half-yelled with a wave of his hand.


Unable to suppress his laughter, he chuckled as he nodded in agreement. With little more to say, he maintained his silence.

"Go to your room and sleep it off," her even tone ordered.

On wobbly legs, he managed the steps one at a time. Before he could make the third step, her harsh voice stopped him once more.

"Stephen, where's Brian?" she asked. When no answer came, he heard her move toward him. "Stephen, I saw Brian go with you. Where is he?"

"Am I supposal to be a babysitter now? I can't watch everything he does!" he yelled back in anger.

With arms crossed, her even glare held his eyes captive as he turned. As if she could sense his deception, she maintained her silence. After what seemed an eternity, she moved toward him with deliberate ease. "I asked you a question, young man, and I expect an answer." Her words were slightly above a whisper.

Feeling an oppressive sensation engulf him, he fought to maintain control. He knew that even if she didn't know all he had done, she suspected his guilt. Rather than voice the truth, he allowed a moment of anger to surface. "What do you want from me?" he screamed in a plea.

"The truth! Where is your brother?" she yelled back as she grabbed his tunic.

Backed against the wall, he took hold of her wrist. With a strength he did not know he possessed, he held her wrist in a vice-like grip. At the sudden snap of breaking bones, she looked at him in shock.

"I'm not his caretaker! I don't know where he is!" he shouted as he gave her a slight shove.

With a look of fear, she clutched her broken wrist as a look of sudden realization occurred.

Unable to focus on her features, he watched as she blurred from sight. Then, at the prolonged silence, he simply shook his head and moved weakly up the steps. How he made it to his room, he did not know. All he was certain of was the warmth of blankets being laid over him in the early morning hours.

* * *

Waking to the sound of voices, he managed to move from his bed. With a pounding in his head, he walked from his room to the outer corridor. Below, the sounds of voices reached his sensitive hearing like slabs of metal screeching against concrete. Holding his head with one hand and his stomach with the other, he moved down the steps in silence.

"Doctor Chapel, we found this on the subway tracks. Do you recognize it?" a stranger's voice asked.

Standing in the doorway of the living room, he was surprised to see the room filled with Federation police officers. Near his mother stood the tall forms of his father and grandfather. Before them was a uniformed officer holding his brother's familiar blue jacket before her.

"Do you recognize this, Doctor Chapel?" the man asked once more.

Growing suddenly pale, her eyes glistened with moisture as she reached out a tentative hand. "Brian's..." was all she managed to say.


At the sound of Stephen's voice, the room grew silent. With all eyes on him, he felt an oppressive force bear down on him. Both in disbelief and guilt, he shook his head as he looked at his brother's dirty, tattered jacket.

"Stephen!" he heard his father's voice even as he shook his head in denial.

"No... no!" he screamed and bolted for the door.

Unsure of where he would go or what he would do, he simply ran as far as he could go. He allowed his feet to carry him blindly over unseen paths. Panicked and guilt-ridden, he tried vainly to escape the accusing eyes of his mother.

* * *

"How did you feel at the time?" the voice brought her once again from her thoughts.

"Angry, of course. God, I was so angry that I could have..."

"Yes, Christine? What could you have done?"

"I could have killed him! Can you believe that? I was actually capable of killing my own son!"

"But you didn't."

"No. I didn't."

"After you found out that Brian was safe, how did you feel toward Stephen?"

"I don't know," she honestly said with a shake of her head. Still holding on to a semblance of control, she sat in the shadows of the evening sun.

"Why don't you tell me about afterwards? You had to search for Stephen after Brian was found. What was that like?"

"God, that was just as crazy! But I didn't search for him; it was the Vulcan Embassy who sent searchers out. The police couldn't do anything unless they defected foul play. And there wasn't any."

"But you say that Stephen returned on his own?"

"Daniel, our old housekeeper, returned him."

"Can you tell me about that? Tell me how you felt when you first saw him?" the voice asked.

Recoiling at the memories, she made a conscious effort to remember all that had happened. Although unpleasant, she found the incidents firmly etched in her mind. Holding nothing back, she began to recount the events of the day her elder son returned home...

* * *

The morning sun shined against the house in the same light he had grown accustomed to. With the wind rustling through the nearby trees, he sat for a moment in the aircar. He watched as the shorter Asian man spoke to the tall Vulcan. Casting occasional glances his way, they conversed in low tones. With his grandfather and grandmother nearby, all Stephen could do was lower his head in shame.

Why had he done it? Why had he shown his brother the records? He knew that the tabloids were lies. He knew that all they printed were vicious gossip from sources who had been jealous of his stepfather. Holding such a high position within a business always created enemies. If he knew and understood the statements to be false, why had he shown them to Brian?

"Come out," Daniel commanded as he opened the door.

With his father on one side and his grandparents on the other, Stephen maintained his silence as he leaned against the car. He did not know what he would say or even if he could say anything. What he had done was wrong. It was the worst bring he could have ever done, and he knew that forgiveness was no longer within reach.

"I intend to return to Vulcan. You will accompany me. What is your opinion on the matter?" his father's stern voice asked.

Engulfed in his own shame, he kept his eyes averted as he placed his hands in empty pockets.

"Child, do I have your attention?"

With a slight nod, Stephen responded wordlessly.

"Then what is your opinion about residing on Vulcan?"

Filled with apparent concern, his grandmother moved by his side. Gently, she brushed her hands through his hair and draped an arm over his shoulder. So consumed with guilt, he did not notice the compassion radiating from his family. Instead, all he felt were their eyes boring into his soul.

In answer to his father, he simply shrugged his shoulders and absently kicked a pebble at his feet.

"It will take time, but I am certain he will understand," Daniel stated. "I believe it is for the best, and if you are capable of accomplishing it, then you should not hesitate to do so."

"It will not be difficult," his grandfather stated. "Once you explain the choices she has, I am certain she will agree."

"Indeed. I shall explain the full ramifications of her decisions." His father's voice held a tinge of anger.

They discussed his future as if he was not there. His grandmother's warmth surrounded him.

"Stephen, it is time." Daniel's voice broke through his thoughts. With determination, the man held out a hand to him. As if he had just been asked to sentence himself to death, Stephen pleaded with his eyes. With an all-too-familiar sternness, Daniel shook his head.

"You will have to face her sooner or later. Sooner is much more appropriate," he advised and took the boy by the arm and began to lead him to the house.

Holding no conscious thoughts, Stephen merely followed. Consumed in his own guilt, he knew what to expect. Although he longed for her love and forgiveness, he knew that he would not get it. Instead, she would show only her distance and perhaps hatred. He reluctantly followed Daniel into the house

Asleep on the sofa, his little brother lay wrapped in a warm blanket. Despite his safety, Stephen did not feel free of guilt. If anything, the fact that Brian was still alive to cast accusing eyes at him made the situation much more unbearable.

"Doctor Chapel," Daniel broke the silence.

Turning from her son, she looked at them with tear-filled eyes. As if unaware of Stephen's torment, she held his gaze. When the oppressing weight of her silence became unbearable, Stephen averted his eyes in shame and attempted to turn away. Grasping his shoulders firmly Daniel held him in place as Stephen turned once more to his mother.

"Doctor Chapel, you have a problem here," Daniel said flatly. "It seems that you have a son in trouble. He did something in anger because he felt rejected. He is experiencing guilt over what he has done and what he attempted to do to his brother. Doctor Chapel, your son needs to know that you have not rejected him. He needs, if not your understanding, then your forgiveness," he said as he took hold of Stephen and physically turned him to face his mother.

Wracked with guilt, Stephen merely wrung his hands before him as he kept his gaze averted. He could sense her emotions radiating through the silence. As if unaware of his understanding, she merely kept her silence.

"Doctor Chapel, look at your son. Give him the answer he needs," Daniel's voice whispered as he took Stephen's chin and forced him to look up.

Through tears, he saw his mother's confused expression. Sparkling in a familiar manner, her green eyes searched beyond him. As if he had asked for something she could not give, she gulped silently and averted her eyes.

"Mother?" his voice was barely above a whisper. "Mother, please. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry." He made a move toward her.

Turning away, she held out her hand to stop his action. With a single shake of her head, she waved him back. Fill with an endless need, he shook his head in disbelief. Confused and hurt, he turned and ran from the house. If there had been no one waiting outside, he was certain that he would have run, once again, beyond their reach. But his grandfather grasped him and he was held firmly in place as he openly wept.

* * *

"Doctor Chapel," the familiar deep voice broke through the silence. With broken wrist throbbing and bandaged, she remained in her silent confusion. As her younger son slept from the induced sedative, she sat a silent watch. From outside the sobs of Stephen entered her senses.

"Christine," he stated with more compassion. "Christine, I am going to take Stephen with me," Spock informed her as he sat on the chair opposite

Understanding his meaning, she turned to him in confusion. "You want to take my son away?"

"I want to take care of my son. He will live with my family on Vulcan. I assure you he will be well cared for. I bought this for you to see." he said, as he handed her his resignation from Starfleet. Signed by both Captain Kirk and the medical CMO, it stated that he had been given an honorable discharge due to family matters.

"I don't understand."

"I have resigned in order to take care of Stephen. He will live with me on Vulcan."

"Why are you doing this?" her voice was laced with anger. "Why must you continue to ruin my life?" she asked with pure hatred.

"Christine, I fully admit my guilt. What I did to you was inexcusable. However, if you remember, at the time I came forward for charges of rape against me. I fully intended to stand trial for my crime, but you left before a formal hearing could be convened. That was your choice!" his voice grew harsh. :"If I thought it would serve any purpose, I would bring the same charges out again."

"But what you're asking -- he's my son, for god's sake, he's mine!"

"He is also mine. He is not only human, but Vulcan as well. Consider what will happen to him if you insist on continuing in this manner?" At her evident confusion, he openly sighed.

"Christine, Stephen is Vulcan. Whether you wish to admit this or not, he is every bit as Vulcan as I am. He has Vulcan traits and abilities. Although he has been not tested I am certain he has psi capabilities." At her shocked expression, he smiled slightly.

"Yes, Vulcans are born with psi powers. That is why we must hold ourselves apart from untrained minds. The mere thoughts of others on a child untrained can be unbearable. How much do you think Stephen has felt of your thoughts and emotions?" he asked but gave her no time to respond. "Yet there is another matter to consider," he said as he turned his gaze away. Folding his hands he kept his eyes averted as he blushed a slight shade of green.

"He is still a child. A Vulcan child, but the day will come when he will be grown, an adult Vulcan male with Vulcan needs. What will become of him if he is not prepared for such biological needs? Yes, Christine," he answered her silent question. "What happens to my people is not caused by social ignorance, it is a medical condition which cannot be altered except through completion or death. Are you willing to have Stephen suffer such things here on Earth with human women? Would you be willing to see your son sentenced for rape or worse, die, when it could be avoided?"

She cradled her swollen wrist as she looked down at Brian's sleeping form.

"There is another matter, Christine. Already you have seen his strength. If he does not learn control, his passions will do him in. Only on Vulcan can he learn what he needs to. I will assist him in order that he might catch up with his peers."

"But you can't just take my son!" Her confusion ran deep.

"If you sign these, everything will be in order," he instructed as he handed her some legal documents.

"You want me to turn over custody?" She dropped the papers.

"Christine, if you do not sign, then I will be forced to take further legal procedures. Are you certain that you wish to undergo such an event?" he asked as he glanced at her sleeping son. "Remember, Christine, all of Vulcan will fight for the safety of one of their own," he stated as he took the papers and placed them in her hands again.

Confused yet somehow relieved, she accepted the offered stylus. She had wondered how she would cope with Stephen. Always she seemed to be at odds with the boy and more recently she felt a genuine fear of him. Having experienced the strength of his anger, she had wondered if she would be able to control him if he was angered enough. True, he was no more unmanageable than another boy his age, but at times his temperament threatened to consume her. Always moody and silent, she was unable to approach him on any level. Perhaps living with his father was best, she reasoned as she signed her name.

* * *

"I've just realized why I'm here." she sniffled.

Curled on the couch, she remained shoeless as she spoke to the nearby figure. Silent  yet understanding, the woman held out a box of tissues for her. With a grateful smile site took another wipe and blew her nose. Never in her life had she cried so much and with such deep feelings.

"Why are you here?" the soft voice asked.

After a moment of thought she wadded up the handful of used tissues and folded her arms over her chest.

"I guess I'm here to try and rid myself of guilt."

"What is it that you feel guilt for?"

"For everything, for the way I signed over my son's future without even talking to him about it."

"Is that all?"

At the question she looked at the woman. "I don't understand. What else could there be guilt for? she asked even as the answer registered in her mind... "For the way I treated him all his life…" she answered her own question as she placed a fist to her lips. Angered at herself, she shook her head in disbelief

"I should have known. I should have seen what was happening."

"How could you have known what you wanted to avoid?" the doctor asked. Sensing her evident confusion, the woman merely smiled as she gave Christine another tissue. "Stephen's father raped you. It was a fact that existed, but one you attempted to forget. It was an impossible task you set out to accomplish. Each time you saw Stephen you were reminded of what had happened to you. Rather than confront it, you chose to ignore it, thereby…"

"Ignoring him," Chapel finished the sentence.

"Precisely! When you saw Stephen you saw his father and you remembered what had happened. Instead of becoming angry or resentful at the man, you took it out on the son. Which, if I'm not mistaken, the man is not to blame as much as the culture he was raised in." The doctor's words began to shed light on t hat which had always been evident, yet hard to see.

"I took it out on Stephen, and he knew it," Christine whispered.

"But he didn't know why. All he knew was that you cared more for his brother; Brian."

"Because I loved Brian's father, I transferred my love to him, with nothing left for Stephen." She smiled as it suddenly became clear.

As if a weight had been suddenly lifted from her shoulders, she sighed in relief. All these years, all these days filled with anxiety and she had not known why, now it was all clear. But instead of knowing what to do she felt more confused.

"I just…" She allowed her thought to go unfinished.


"I just wish there was some way to reach Stephen. Some way to make him understand..."

"What would you do if you did see him? What would you say to him?"

"What could I say?" she asked tiredly. "I guess first I'd take him in my arms. I'd hold him close and tell him how much I love him. I'd try to make him understand that I don't hold him at fault. I guess I'd just try to apologize for what has happened."

"Then you think you could look at him without holding any blame over him?"

"Yes. What happened between his father and myself has no bearing on his existence. He is still my son, a part of me. I do care for him, and I want to try to make him see this, understand it."

For a moment silence ensued as the doctor made a few notations. Then she leaned back in her chair.

"How long has it been since you've seen Stephen?"

"Oh, god, nearly five years, not since his father took him away."

"You haven't seen or communicated with him since then?"

"I wrote a few times but he never answered -- not that I expected him to. I guess I jjust wrote to try to appease my own guilt. I don't blame him for his silence," she whispered.

"But despite this, you're willing to try to meet him, to try to bridge the gap?"

"Yes. Even if only for a few minutes I need to see him," Chapel affirmed as she rose to move before the picturesque window. With arms folded, she overlooked the darkness of the city. Scattered like fire flies, a few apartment windows were lit.

"I have to see him, don't you see?"

"What if he rejects you?"

"I'll still keep trying. I'll do my best to reach him in any way I can. Don't underestimate me, Doctor, I fully intend to make him understand that I love him, and if I can, I'll take Brian to come with me."

"Do you think he would go with you?"

"I believe he will." Christine half laughed at a memory. "You know, it's been Brian who has kept Stephen's name fresh. Despite all that's happened, he seems to understand his brother better than I ever could. He doesn't hold any ill feelings; he understands him," she said with a whisper. "Yes, that's what I'm going to do," she affirmed as she turned to face the young psychiatrist. "His twenty-first birthday is coming up, I think I'll take a leave of absence and go to Vulcan," she stated.

"I believe it is a good decision. You seem to be in touch with your feelings. You understand why the incidents occurred, and I believe that you're now better able to control whatever anger exists, if in fact it does still exist. I would, however, like to see Brian before you go. I think it's important to sort out whatever he might be feeling, before he sees his brother. Would that be possible?"

"I'll have him come in," she replied.

"Good. When you've sorted things out with Stephen, I'd like to see him as well. With all that's happen I'm sure that he'll need help coping. What about his father -- do you think we can get him in here as well?"

"I don't know about that," Christine chuckled. "After all, he is Vulcan and filled with Vulcan pride."

"Why don't you tell him that it might help Stephen. He sounds like the type of man who would anything for his son."

"Yes, that he is," Chapel replied with a smile. "That he is... I'll talk to him; I'll can be done and I'll send Brian in before we leave, doctor." She turned to face the woman. "Thank you. I guess in my case this visit has helped."

"I'm glad Christine -- I really am." The doctor smiled at the expression of relief on her patient' s face. The final journey would be hard, but this woman would survive, she reasoned.

* * *

He awoke to a deep throbbing in his head. Damp with sweat, he removed the twisted blankets from around his legs. As usual, he awoke earlier than necessary. Still dark, his family home remained filled with silent sleepers.

Garbed in only shorts, he made his way from his room to the nearby bathroom. Splashing cold water over his face, he fought to control the slight shivers that coursed through him. Once again he had been awakened by a dream he could not recall. If asked, all he could state was that it had been disturbing. Shaking the thought from his mind, he opened the glass cabinet. Removing the single bottle, he poured one tablet into his palm. Chewing the tiny pill he began to feel an instant relief came over him.

"Bad dream?" a soft voice whispered.

Turning, he was greeted by her radiant smile. Dressed in the familiar terry cloth robe, her smaller frame stood within the doorway. With a look of concern, she moved forward and lightly brushed her palm over his cheek.

"Didn't Doctor T'Sal help at all?" Her question came out as a crooning sound rather than a question.

With a shake of his head he merely grabbed a nearby towel. Since his stay on Vulcan, he had seen many healers. Some offered temporary relief for his dreams, but few ever succeeded in ridding him completely of them. Instead, they offered their years of experience. They probed and prodded both his mind and body until they finally gave up and prescribed mild forms of medication.

Understanding his torment, his grandmother merely smiled.

"Well, get dressed and I'll fix you some breakfast. Are you working at home today or will you travel to Arlana?"

"Home," came his low whisper as he turned and activated the sonic shower unit.

Later that night when the residents of the house were gathered together, he allowed his silence to be broken. Holding a need to inform them of the recent news he turned from the desert view. Gathered on the open patio, his family remained deep in conversation. As if this were any other day, they spoke of trivial matters.

"I received a letter from my mother today," his voice was barely above a whisper. At the slight sound each member turned from their activities to him. Looking away he focused on the distant mountains.

"I received a letter from my mother today," he repeated.

After a moment, he felt them return their attention to their previous tasks. What he had failed to mention was that lately he had been receiving many letters from her. Each were marked urgent and personal, but this had not affected him.

"I hope she's well," his grandmother absently stated as she continued to grade her students' papers.

He allowed the silence to fill his senses as he considered her words.

"I don't know." he answered honestly. "I destroyed the letter without reading it."

When the silence of their presence filled his senses, he turned to them.

"I will retire now." He made his way into the house.

"Sleep peacefully," his grandmother's voice followed him.

Once in the room, he stripped and prepared for sleep. Despite her well wishes, he knew that he would not sleep easy. Like the nights before, he would be awakened by an unseen phantom. With this in mind, he glanced up at the image in his mirror.

In the years on Vulcan he had seen many changes in himself. He had grown taller in height. Though he appeared more Vulcan with each passing day, he did not feel Vulcan. He knew that if he were truly Vulcan, his nights and waking hours would not be tormented by illogical human fears. Despite his father's words to the contrary, he knew that he could never be what Spock wanted him to be. With these insecurities, he took time to closely examine his features.

Slightly thin, he looked like every other Vulcan his age. With short, cropped hair like his father's, his Vulcan features were visible. Even his expressionless eyes mirrored the people of this planet. Were it not for the dark shadows beneath his eyes, one would never know he was different, he thought with irony.

The work days following passed with little incident. He did what was expected of him, then ended the day. Once home, he spent the expected amount of time with his family then retired to a sleepless night. This day would be no exception.

Having spent the day in Arlana, he felt relieved at returning home. Comfortable in the surroundings of his workshop, he often preferred his private solitude, yet he knew the importance of journeying to Arlana. There, his mentor/friend ran a shop. An artisan of carving, the older Vulcan seemed to welcome his silent presence. Even if only for a few days out of the month, Saren accepted his help in the shop.

"Stephen," the familiar tone of his grandmother bid welcome.

Holding little concern, he simply closed the door behind him and walked through the darkened corridor. As the light scents of the evening meal wafted past his senses, she moved to greet him. Standing taller than she, he looked down at her with a silent stare.

"Stephen, your mother is here," she whispered. Not at all surprised by his lack of emotion, she simply straightened his Vulcan-style tunic then combed his hair in place with her hands. Stepping back, she seemed to inspect him then smiled her approval. "Come and say hello to your mother," she said as she pulled him down the hall and into the gathering room.

Seated in a semi-circle were the members of his family. Along with his father and grandfather sat two familiar figures. Immaculately dressed, she beamed a nervous smile at his presence. By her side, with a childlike grin his brother sat. If he had any apprehension at their presence, he did not show it. Instead, he with a silent stare. As the remembrance of the past suddenly filled his mind, he averted his eyes in shame.

Aware of his discomfort, she rose and stood before him. She noted the stark difference in him. Taller and with more of a build, he'd begun to take on the similarity of his father. Ignoring this aspect, her motherly instinct flourished as she noted his thin, haggard appearance. As if he lacked food and rest, his thin, angular features seemed clouded over. With deep set eyes that refused to meet hers, he remained silent and withdrawn.

"Stephen, it's been so long," her nervous voice stated. Now taller than herself, she found herself looking up to him as she reached out to embrace him.

Controlling his desire to escape, he remained frozen as her arms wrapped around him and pulled him close. With a lack of response, he simply kept his silence as she pulled away from him. Confused, yet understanding, she lightly took hold of his chin and forced him to meet her eyes.

"I've missed you, you know," the strength of her words stated. Having no response available, he gulped down his inner fears as he once again lowered his eyes.

Too much had happened, more than he ever cared to remember. Yet he did remember, and this remembrance continued to dig deeper into his soul. He desired to be able to rid himself of the emptiness he felt. Even if her words were true, he found them hard to believe. Although he could not see her motives, he found himself shielding from her touch.

"Stephen, it's good to see you again," Brian smiled as he moved forward. With a tentative gesture, Brian moved toward him and carefully pulled him into a tight embrace.

"Look, Stephen," Brian's voice was contrite, "about the way I acted. I'm sorry. I was an ass as a kid -- I know that now, and I knew that then. I guess I was just jealous of you," he tried to explain. "You see, you had a family. You had a father and grandparents -- people who claimed you and someone who you could call your own."

Unnerved by the admission, Stephen kept his silence and he averted his eyes. For a moment, he allowed himself to silently examine his brother's presence. At fourteen, Brian was a mirror image of his father. With light brown hair and hazel eyes of his mother, his stature was beginning to carry the gestures of the man Stephen once loved. Calling upon the disciplines learned, he ignored the images as he pulled away from their touch.

With little more to say, he moved to the stairs and made an easy retreat. Halfway up, he found himself turning slightly toward them. Unconsciously avoiding their eyes, he cleared his throat even as he gripped the banister. "I'll wash up." His low voice was barely audible.

"It will take time, Christine," Spock informed her when their son disappeared in the upper levels of the house.

"Has he always been that way?" she tiredly asked as she returned to her seat.

"It has grown progressively worse," he stated.

"His appetite has never been good, and lately it seems to be a major battle just to get him to eat," Amanda lamented. "Even his sleep is disturbed."

"I really made a mess of things," Christine sighed as Brian moved to her side. Understanding her sorrow, he lightly placed his hand in hers. With a grateful smile, she held the warm hand in hers. "Maybe this was a mistake after all," she said.

"No, it wasn't, Mother. The doctor didn't think it was," he reassured.

"It seems this psychiatrist has assisted you both a greet deal," Sarek's deep voice resounded.

"She has, and I hope that Stephen will see her, if we can convince him to return with us," she said, then looked to Spock hesitantly. "That is, if it's all right with you, I would like to take Stephen back with me."

"Stephen is an adult capable of making his own decisions. If he chooses to return, I cannot stop him."

"Would you consider returning as well? She seems to think that it would help Stephen."

"I shall give the matter some thought." he stated as the slight form of his son reappeared.

Cleaned and dressed in evening clothes, the thin Vulcan youth moved slowly down the steps. Wearing the familiar black meditation robe, he moved silently past them to the outer courtyard. Ignoring their glances, he entered the open darkness of his family estate. He felt relieved, standing out in the open air of Vulcan. After a moment, the tall form of his father, similarly dressed, slid the glass door aside and joined him.

Wordlessly they spent a few moments gazing up at the blackness of space. Then, as if linked, they moved together to an open area. Kneeling, they faced each other and lightly touched fingertips against temples. They began to enter the slow meld.

Although it had become a normal function, Stephen found the experience slightly disturbing. To be able to enter his father's mind with little effort on his part made him recoil. As if boundaries had been set up, he traveled to areas laid open. Afraid of finding rejection, he only delved in the analytical portion of his father's mind.

Understanding his reaction, his father made an attempt to progress slowly. He allowed the sensations of the union to sink in, then, as the lesson began, he consciously surrounded his son in the warmth of his parental bond. So consumed in the thoughts, Stephen hardly noticed the difference. He was only aware of a sense of peace which surrounded his troubled spirit.

From within the house, Christine watched the two figures in silence. As their act became clear, she suddenly realized that she would never be able to share this with her so. Because of her own fears and actions of the past, her son might never feel comfortable enough to allow her into his mind. With a sense of regret, she wiped at the moistness in her eyes and turned away from the scene.

* * *

Throughout dinner, he felt the pressure slowly build. Careful to filter out the distractions, he simply went through the meal in his usual silence. Were it not for their voices, the place would be filled with silence. They spoke of events which held no meaning and people he did not know. They spoke of the praises of a doctor he had no desire to meet.

"Stephen, I was thinking," Brian's voice interrupted his thoughts. "I remember that you once wanted to be a doctor. Well, it's not too late. You could start the next school year with me at Stanford, at Mom's school. We could even be roommates -- what do you think? We could rent a townhouse together and share the expenses." Stephen continued to pick at his food.

Despite the house rules, he found eating a problem. He knew that his plate was filled to a specific requirement. If he did not finish it, he could not leave the table. Having no appetite, he expected to spend the entire evening at the table.

"Well, what do you think, Stephen? I did remember that you once wanted to be a doctor, didn't I?" Brian repeated.

Casting a quick glance at his brother, he took a quiet bite from the Vulcan dish. "I have a job," he said as he turned to his plate for a distraction.

"Yeah, but carpentry? Stephen, you're capable of so much more!"

"May I be excused?" he asked as he rose and left the table. Like a vise like grip, he felt the oppression of their presence overbearing.

"I'm sorry, Mother. I didn't mean that the way it sounded," Brian apologized.

"Maybe you should tell that to him." The anger in her voice was evident.

"I didn't mean that his job wasn't important. It's just that he once wanted to be a doctor. I happen to think he's got the capabilities."

"Indeed. Stephen has the capacity to accomplish any career. He chose the trait of artisan, which, I might add, he is quite skilled at," Spock stated.

"Stephen's ability to work with wood is known planetwide. Even some offworlders have sent their instruments to be tended by Stephen," Sarek bragged.

"You should see this one instrument he built. It's a cross between an Earth clarinet and an Andorian flute. The tones it produces are indescribable," Amanda exclaimed. "He made it especially for Katan."

"The famous Andorian musician?" Christine asked.

"The same. Katan came here one day and described the sound he wanted. The next thing you know, Stephen had made it."

"Mother, it was not manufactured so quickly," Spock corrected.

"You're right, but it didn't take him too long to produce," she defended.

Above in his room. Stephen stretched out on his bed. Alone in the dark he allowed his thoughts to wander. Despite their outward overtures, he felt uncomfortable around them. He knew that although they did not voice their thoughts, they held resentment toward him. The memories of what he had done were not easily forgotten, he reasoned as he tossed on the bed.

Alone with his thoughts, he drifted off to sleep. As the light wind from the open window brushed past him, he hardly noticed the presence in his room. Nor did he feel the light touch of his father. In a gentle fashion, his father removed his shoes, then placed a warm quilt over him. Nearby, a feather-light touch brushed through his hair and a light kiss was placed on his cheek.

Hours later, he awoke to the low sound of his own scream. Bolting upright, he searched the room for the phantom of his dream. Alone in the darkness, he allowed a shiver to run through him.

"Stephen," her voice came from the darkness. Moving from the silence, she sat on the edge of his bed. In a motherly fashion, she brushed back his sweaty bangs. "Stephen, it's all right. It was just a dream," she reassured him as he began to move from his bed. ""No, lay back down," she commanded.

Obeying her, he remained cautious as she pulled the blanket back over his form.

"I hope you don't mind. I've just been sitting here, watching you sleep," she said as she continued to brush her hand through his hair. "There is so much that I've wanted to tell you, so much that I wanted to explain." Her hand then lightly touched his cheek.  

Pulling away from her touch, he watched her with suspicion.

Seeing this reaction, she moved slightly away. "I guess I don't blame you," she whispered as she looked away. After a moment of silence, she rose and walked to the door. Keeping her back to him, she opened the door in silence "Good night, Stephen," she whispered before leaving his room.

* * *

The morning sun of Vulcan shone through the window of his workshop in dazzling shades of violet and blue. Ignoring such beauty, he took the simple piece of wood and began the complex construction. With the teachings of his mentor, Saren, he made quick use of the larsam branch. Hard like the mahogany of Earth, yet pliable like the dallum wood of Teller, it made the perfect wood for his next project.

With the blueprint locked within his mind, he set out to work. He stripped the bark clean then began to sculpt the rough edges. Using his inbred abilities, he worked at a steady pace throughout the day. It did not even bother him that their presence was near. Keeping silent, they simply watched as he transformed the unimpressive piece of wood into a lycon-like instrument. Occasionally he'd notice the tray filled with food that his grandmother would always leave by his work stand. Preferring to ignore its presence, he worked through the day, only occasionally sipping the drink provided.

As the setting sun brought darkness to his workshop, he finished the last touches. When the intricate designs had been etched in the wood, he carefully sanded it until its smooth bark shone. Taking satisfaction in its design, he inspected his workmanship. Pleased, he placed its smooth mouthpiece to his lips and began a slow progression of the scales. After a moment, he allowed his inner spirit to sound through the instrument. Unaware of their presence, he played the sad, melodic tune of his heart. Completed, he held the instrument as a contended sigh escaped his control.

"That was beautiful, Stephen," her whisper reminded him of her presence.

Keeping his eyes averted, he took the lycon and placed it within a satin cloth. Wrapped securely it would await the arrival of its new owner.

"I don't believe you would like being a doctor." she stated as she moved by his side. "These. hands quite capable, believe me," she said as she took them in hers, "but they were made for much more."

Feeling the sincerity of her words, he gulped down the emotions that threatened to consume him.

"Stephen, I wish there was some way I could make you understand… Some way I could prove my sincerity," she said as she cupped his cheeks with her hands. "I'm sorry for the way I treated you. I didn't mean to, believe me. If I had it all to live over again. I would do everything differently. Regardless of how you feel about me, I do love you. I care for you, and I don't hold you responsible for anything." Her words seemed to plead as she forced him to keep her gaze. "Stephen, you are my son. Nothing win ever change that, and nothing will ever make me deny that. You are as much a part of me as Brian is. Try to understand."

At his silence, she brushed back a loose strand of his hair as a weak smile crossed her features, then she released her grip. Understanding his desire to be alone, she lightly clasped his shoulder then left the room in silence. Alone in the comfort of his workroom, he watched her retreating form through the glass window. With an arching of his brow, he pondered over her words as he allowed the tears to fall unheeded.

* * *

The alien sun shone through the glass window of the towering building. With an uncomfortable feeling, he continued to fidget with a small piece of wood that he had found in a nearby park, its unusual curves having potential.

As his hands worked the knife over the wood. he registered their presence nearby. With his father's calming presence by his side, he attempted to maintain control, but only found it when his hands were at work. Apparently understanding his action, his mother and brother kept their silence as they watch his movements.

In the time they had been with him, they had hardly heard him utter a word. If they had, it was nothing worth noting. He knew of their concern because it was the same concern his father and grandparents held: Understanding yet unable to explain himself, he simply maintained his stance and hoped that they would soon dispense with their time-consuming worries.

At the sound of a door opening, he quickly closed the knife and put the piece of wood in his pocket. No longer having anything to hold. Stephen began to slowly wring his hands together as he gulped down his nervousness. Apparently at ease, his mother and brother greeted the new stranger, then introduced his father. When the introductions were over, the human female sat behind her desk and turned to him.

"Let's dispense with the formalities and begin, shall we?"

"That seems to be the logical course of action." His father's words brought a slight chuckle from the woman.

"Good. Since it seems we' re in agreement. Mr. Spock, we'll start slowly to begin with. Now Stephen," she said as she turned her attention to him. "Are you comfortable?"

Unable to speak clearly he simply nodded as he avoided her eyes.

"Good. How do you feel?"

Confused, he shrugged his shoulders and hastily averted his eyes. As his mind ran rampant, he felt her moving from behind her desk. Confident in her movements, she knelt before him in silence. Lightly touching his chin, she forced him to keep her gaze. Taking hold of his hands, she smiled as her soft voice spoke only to him.

"You're hurting now, aren't you?"

With her words he nodded in agreement.

"Do you know why?"

"No," he answered barely above a whisper.

"Well, neither do I, but that's why you're here; that's why we're all here. We' re going to try to work through a bit of our thoughts and hopefully we can find out why you hurt so much. Would you like that?"

Having no response, he stared into her light blue eyes. As if she understood his conflicts, she smiled and squeezed his hands.

"I'm not going to lie to you, Stephen; it's not going to be overnight and it's not going to be easy. Before we're finished, there's going to be a lot more hurt revealed and a lot of tears may be shed. Do you want to know something?" she softly asked.

At the silent question within his eyes she smiled.

"Hurting is a good sign -- it's a sign that you're alive. Where there is life there is hope. Feelings are not always good. Sometimes feelings hurt, but eventually the pain lessens and good feelings begin. In life one has to learn cope with both the good and the bad. Although we would like to forget and never feel anything bad, we do, and that is just another sign of life. Do you understand?"

With a shrug of his shoulders, Stephen lowered his eyes. Taking a firm hold of his chin, she forced his gaze back up.

"What do you think, Stephen, are you willing to give life a try?"

After a moment of thought, he responded to her question. "Yes."

"Good. We can begin at the beginning," she said with a smile as she wiped away his falling tears.