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“Papa?”


“Yes, sweetheart?” Jim looked up from his paperwork pile (which he was pretty sure was both sentient and fertile) to smile at his daughter, the light of his life and the center of his universe (along with his bond mate, of course, but even Spock wasn’t as cute as T’Lira, as Spock would be the first to agree).


“I do not like the scratchy robes.”


Oh, God. Here we go. At just past a year old, T’Lira was the sweetest little girl ever spawned. She was so smart, so loving, that raising her was almost effortless. She’d been able to communicate mentally from birth; she’d learned to talk before she was eight months old and started walking not long after that. At the age of ten months, she had toilet-trained herself in two days because she had figured out that “large people,” in her words, did not wear diapers, and therefore, there was no logical reason for her to do so. She almost never cried, and if she did, there was a damned good reason for it. It wasn’t the imagination of a doting papa (although Jim was certainly that); T’Lira was very nearly the perfect child.


Except for the fact that she was as stubborn as a mule.


Jim blamed Spock for that; Spock blamed Jim.


“Stubbornness is a human trait,” he bond mate proclaimed loftily whenever they discussed T’Lira’s personality.


“Oh, bullshit,” Jim had retorted. “Don’t blame this one on me. When you set your mind to something, ashaya, I can’t move it with a winch and a warp drive.”


Spock had denied that, of course, and the whole argument had devolved into a wrestling match, which had devolved into a tickle-fight, which had ended with Spock using those velvet-lined handcuffs he’d gotten Jim for his birthday to subdue his stubborn bond mate and pleasure him until Jim was deeply glad that their bedroom was freshly soundproofed. However, the question of who had passed the stubborn gene down to T’Lira had never been settled.


Jim put down his padd. “Now, sweetheart,” he coaxed, lifting T’Lira onto his lap, “your formal robes are not scratchy.” Privately, Jim agreed with her; he had a formal Clan robe as well, and it was scratchy as Hell, largely because of the intricate embroidery that covered it.


“Scratchy as Hell,” T’Lira echoed, having picked up on her father’s thought. “You think so, Papa, and you have tough, large people skin. I have tender, petal-like skin.” Jim grinned; that little phrase was courtesy of T’Lira’s Auntie Nyota, and Lira was trotting it out whenever she was supposed to do or wear anything she didn’t like, informing any adult in range that her ‘petal-like’ skin must be protected. Of course, she did have beautiful skin.


“I do not want to wear my scratchy robes,” T’Lira continued. “I want to wear my pretty blue, practical, logical Science uniform.”


Jim smothered another grin. That particular article of clothing was courtesy of Uncle Grumpy Bones and his wife T’Rina, who had conspired with the Quartermaster to make T’Lira a perfect miniature Starfleet Science uniform (Jim was privately peeved that they hadn’t made her a Captain’s uniform; T’Lira was smarter than a lot of starship captains Jim knew, and he saw no reason why she shouldn’t be an admiral some day. It would be really handy to have an admiral in the family. Of course, she was absolutely adorable in her little Science uniform, especially when she walked through the Enterprise corridors one step behind Spock, her sa-mekh, little hands clasped behind her back in his exact pose, her little pointed ear peeking out from beneath her corn-silk blonde hair).


“Lira,” Jim said patiently. “You know that you can’t wear your uniform when you go to meet your sa’mekh’al Sarek on Vafer-Tor.”


“Why not?” she asked, her indigo-blue eyes looking into Jim’s. “Does sa’mekh’al Sarek not like Starfleet?”


Yeah, that’s part of it, Jim thought, being careful to shield this time. Plus, he doesn’t like us raising you on the ship. In fact, he’s still not happy about the fact that Spock and I haven’t resigned our commissions and settled down in the colony. And he doesn’t like the fact that we’re raising you as a sort-of-Vulcan, instead of indoctrinating you with all of the no-emotion bullshit that I told Spock I wasn’t going to subject you to, especially considering you’re three-quarters human, even if your ears are pointy.. “Sweetie, that’s not the point.” Jim had a flash of inspiration. “Lira, can I tell you a secret?”


“What secret?” She stopped squirming on Jim’s lap at once. T’Lira loved secrets.


“You see,” Jim said in a low, mysterious, secret-telling voice. “Your papa is a—Vulcan prince. Well, damnit, a Head of House is almost a prince. “And you are the heir to my—kingdom.”


The deep blue eyes were wide with wonder. “Really, Papa? Does that mean I am a princess?”


“Yes,” Jim said stoutly. “Yes it does, and that’s why you have to wear your pretty, not scratchy robes when you go to Vafer-Tor. I have to wear mine, too. The people who will meet you will expect to see a Vulcan princess, not a Science officer in training.” There, he thought, satisfied. Parenting crisis averted.


“All right,” she announced, sliding off of Jim’s lap. “I will wear my robes so everyone knows I am a princess.”


“Umm, sweetie?” Suddenly Jim remembered the one flaw in his brilliant plan.


“Yes, papa?”


“You shouldn’t tell sa-mekh you are a princess, ok?”


T’Lira tilted her head just the way that Spock did when confronted by a particular piece of human illogic. “Why not, papa? Doesn’t sa-mekh know I am a princess?”


No, he’d be very surprised. “Um, yes, yes he does, but he didn’t want you to know,” Jim said hastily. “He wants it to be a—surprise when you are older. Sa-mekh doesn’t want you to worry about all the—responsibilities you’ll have as a princess.”


T’Lira thought about that for a long moment. “Sa-mekh is right,” she announced at last, much to Jim’s relief. “Responsibilities are very bad for my petal-like skin.”


 


“I do not understand it,” Spock murmured to Jim once they were in bed that evening.


“Don’t understand what, love?” Jim rubbed his cheek fondly against his bond mate’s shoulder.


“Yesterday, T’Lira told me that she was not going to wear her ceremonial Clan robe because, quote: “it is scratchy and illogical.” However, tonight she told me that she intends to wear it without complaint.”


“Yeah, we had a little talk about that,” Jim said, deliberately casual, “and I managed to convince her that her grandfather Sarek would be hurt if she didn’t wear the native dress.”


“Thank you, t’hy’la.” Spock was obviously relieved. “I did not want to mar our first visit to Vafer-Tor by arguing with T’Lira regarding Vulcan garments…”


“In other words, you didn’t want to deal with her Vulcan stubbornness,” Jim interjected with a grin then yelped when Spock’s clever fingers administered an admonitory pinch.


“I did not wish to deal with her human stubbornness,” Spock continued as serenely as if he hadn’t just bruised his bond mate’s ass. “However, it is considered disrespectful not to wear them for the recognition ceremony. Therefore, I am grateful that you managed to handle it.” He made up for the pinch by bestowing a very prolonged, very hot kiss on his mate’s lips.


“You are an excellent bond mate,” he said softly.


“And you are a stubborn Vulcan brat,” Jim murmured with a grin, curling up in the brat’s arms for a good night’s sleep.


 


“Where the Hell is Bones?” Jim asked, pacing around the Transporter Room. The Enterprise was in orbit around Vafer-Tor (New Vulcan, as many still called it), and those Vulcans on the ship (including Jim and Bones, both Vulcan by marriage, although Jim frequently teased Bones by telling him his ears were beginning to point) were heading down to the surface. Both T’Lira and McCoy and T’Rina’s son, Selik, were to be formally recognized as Vulcan citizens and Clan members—members of Jim’s own Clan, in fact, the House of Selik, the House founded by his beloved friend, Old Spock, who had named Jim his heir upon his death just over a year before. Jim still missed the wise old Vulcan, especially at times like these, when he thought of how the dark eyes would have twinkled at the sight of Jim and Bones dressed in full Clan regalia. You got me good, you old le-matya, Jim thought fondly. Me, Jim Kirk, repeat offender, head of a Vulcan Clan.


“My t’hy’la threw up on him.” T’Lira, perched on the steps of the transporter platform in her ‘scratchy robes,’ every pleat in place, her hair smooth and shining, volunteered this information. Little Selik, now seven months old, had been proclaimed by T’Lira as her t’hy’la, almost from the moment of his birth, and they certainly had a mental connection. If T’Lira said Selik was barfing, then that was exactly what he was doing.


Just then, Bones strode into the Transporter Room, his son in his arms, his wife next to him.


“Sorry for the delay, oh mighty Clan chief,” Bones said sarcastically, “but my pride and joy decided to lose his last meal, and I had to clean up both of us.”


“Is he sick?” Jim asked. Selik didn’t look sick now; in fact, as his dark eyes lit on T’Lira and he crowed, trying to squirm out of Bones’ grasp and get to her, he looked completely healthy. T’Lira got up and reached out as well. Bones lowered his son to the floor, and he promptly crawled over to T’Lira, who wrapped her arms around him and cooed in Vulcan as Selik made happy noises.


“Our son is not ill, Elder,” T’Rina assured Jim, who was also her Head of House. “My foolish mate insisted on feeding him—I believe they are called grits—and Selik reacted adversely to them.”


“Damnit, they’re completely vegetarian, and any son of mine…”


“My t’hy’la says they taste like glue,” T’Lira informed him severely. “Uncle Grumpy Bones, you are not to feed glue grits to my t’hy’la again.”


Bones started to laugh, but one good look at T’Lira and T’Rina, both giving him the Vulcan Death Glare, scotched that. “I hear and obey, oh wise ones,” he intoned. He looked at Jim. “Now, can we get this over with?”


 


Jim, with cool drink in hand, breathed a sigh of relief as he stood in the gardens of the Hall of Immortality, where the recognition ceremony would shortly be held for all Vulcan children born in the last standard 14 months—a Vulcan year. Jim was pleased to see that it would be a long ceremony; the Vulcan people were doing all they could to re-build the race. However, before the ceremony began, there was this reception, a time for people to meet and chat, even though Vulcans would deny that they ever chatted.


Jim glanced off to his right, where Spock stood talking to his father. Part of Jim’s sense of relief was that Sarek had met T’Lira for the first time since she’d been born and had been immediately and completely smitten. Oh, he tried to hide it, but from the moment Lira had bowed before him and said in her little crystalline voice, “I greet my sa’mekh’al, the father of my father,” Sarek had fallen in love. Yeah, she may be smart; she may have pointy ears, but she’s got my charm, Jim thought smugly.


“Pretty good spread they set out, but no grits.” Bones stood next to him, yanking at the collar of his Clan robe until a pointed look from T’Rina made him drop his hand.


“I’ll see what I can do next year, Bones, but if Vulcans think they taste like glue…” Jim grinned. “You ever think you’d be spending all your free time at a Vulcan family reunion?” he said in a low voice.


“No, and I never thought I’d be calling you Elder, either,” Bones grumped, but with a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. Jim knew that Bones absolutely adored both his Vulcan bride and his half-Vulcan son. “But life plays funny tricks on us, Jim-Boy.”


“That’s Elder Jim-Boy.” Both men looked up as a gong began to sound with a deep, solemn chime. T’Pau, matriarch of all the Vulcan people, had arrived. It was time for the ceremony. People began to make their way in small groups into the Hall.


“Jim?” Spock was suddenly at his side. “Where is T’Lira?”


Started but not alarmed, Jim looked around. “I don’t see her.” The grounds were walled, and no Vulcan would ever hurt a child. “She’s here somewhere, love.” As unobtrusively as he could, still moving in the general direction of the Hall, Jim started looking for his daughter. Spock had disappeared from his side, obviously looking elsewhere in the crowd.


“Jim?” Bones was back and had caught Jim’s anxious scanning of the crowd.


“Lira’s MIA,” Jim said as quietly as possible.


“Oh, shit.” Bones started looking too as everyone kept pacing into the Hall.


It wasn’t until Jim was inside that he saw her.


At the far end of the Hall, perched in the throne-like chair that T’Pau (and as far as Jim know, only T’Pau) ever occupied, T’Lira was calmly regarding the dozens of Vulcans who were regarding her with total amazement.


Shit, shit, shit! Before Jim could take more than two steps forward, T’Lira spotted him and waved merrily.


“Hi, Papa!” There was a rustle as dozens of formally-dressed Vulcans turned to look at Jim, the ultimate example of failure in child-rearing. Then it got worse.


“Kroikah.”


T’Pau’s voice cut through the murmurs, and everyone froze. Jim felt Spock at his shoulder, but even Spock wasn’t sure what to do at this point. In complete silence, T’Pau moved regally up the center aisle and stopped in front of her chair, currently being polluted by a three-quarters human imp in a scratchy robe.


“Hello,” T’Lira said sweetly.


T’Pau regarded the tiny morsel of Vulcan/humanity. “Child, why does thee sit in that chair?” she asked, her voice carrying across the hall.


“Because this is a throne, and I am a princess; my daddy told me, but it’s a secret—well, not anymore,” T’Lira replied. “It is only logical that a princess sit on a throne.”


Oh, SHIT!


There was no smile on T’Pau’s face, but her voice seemed suddenly—kinder.


“Child,” she said, “For now, this is my seat. However, thou has been drawn to it, and that has not happened since I was as young as thee. When my time here is over, would thou be willing to take my place?”


Vulcan decorum or not, there were gasps in the hall at T’Pau’s statement. Being a member of the High Council, Jim knew that the question of a successor for T’Pau, who had no daughter, had been hanging fire for more than four years now.


T’Lira rose and bowed. “I did not mean to take your throne,” she said. “I will go to my papa and sa-mekh now.”


“That is well,” T’Pau replied gravely, as if T’Lira were much older than she was (and Jim often thought that was true). “But will thou take my place someday?”


“No, thank you,” Jim’s princess replied. “I want to grow up and be a science officer on a starship.”


The laughter that filled the hall was completely un-Vulcan.


 


 “Well, I’m glad that’s over. Clan meetings are exhausting.” They’d gotten T’Lira out her ‘scratchy robes’, bathed, and tucked into bed; now Jim and Spock had retired as well.


“That was…an interesting experience.” Jim, lying next to Spock, cringed and grinned at the same time. He knew damned well that ‘interesting experience’ was Spock-speak for ‘cluster fuck supreme.’


“Probably the most interesting Clan gathering in a thousand years,” Jim snickered. “And everybody knows our princess now.”


“I do not know who you can be so calm about this,” Spock blushed hot with renewed embarrassment as he mentally replayed the moment his daughter told the matriarch of all the Vulcan people that she didn’t want the job.


“Oh, come on, love,” Jim said. “It wasn’t that bad. Besides, our daughter is following a proud family tradition. T’Pau is the only individual ever to turn down a seat on the Federation High Council. You’re the only individual ever to turn down a spot at the Vulcan Science Academy. And now our daughter is the only individual ever to turn down becoming the matriarch of all Vulcan.” Jim kissed his bond mate’s nose. “I’ve never been prouder of our stubborn little rebel.”


“Thank all the gods that T’Pau told her she could reconsider the offer when she is older,” Spock said.


Jim snickered. “Yeah, at least that kept Sarek’s head from melting.”


“Jim, my father’s head was in no danger of…”


“Oh, yes it was.” Jim wrapped Spock in his arm and hugged him tight. “And you might as well forget seeing Lira as matriarch of Vafer-Tor. She’ll never go for it…” Jim yawned hugely, “…unless they re-design the robes, that is.”


“Or let her preside in a Science uniform,” Spock agreed. The two drifted off to sleep.


 


Spock seldom dreamed, but that night, he dreamed of T’Lira, matriarch of the Vulcan people, presiding regally over the great gathering—dressed in a blue Science uniform.


 

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