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5. Bridges and Storms

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The combination of metorapan and takeo herbs saved Mora's sanity. He woke up to minimal pain. Spending hours bent over plants used to mean agony the next day.

This morning? Nothing he couldn't push through as long as he got his next dose of medication right away.

Rain fell in sheets against his bedroom window. A lightning flash heralded the reverberating boom of thunder. He was glad everything got planted yesterday. The plants could enjoy their first drink from nature itself.

"Wow! That was close!" Kejal shouted. He appeared in the bedroom doorway. "Father, did that wake you?"

Mora shook his head. "I woke up because of the rain." He grunted, sitting up. "Do me a favor...bring me one of those takeo smoothies. It should be in the cooling unit. You just have to fill a drinking glass, break up three leaves and sprinkle them on top. Aleexa left a bag of leaves on the counter, but we'll get the rest from the plant you brought home."

"Okay. Just a minute, then. Oh!" Kejal ran to the window after another lightning flash. The following thunderclap rattled Mora's bones. "Good one. Be right back!" He disappeared to make up the smoothie.

Mora dosed himself with the dexalin and metorapan while Kejal was gone. He limped into the bathroom sans cane. No blood in the urine-- Mora considered that a good start. He managed his morning routine of shaving and combing his hair without too much struggle. Kejal returned just as he sat down on his bed again.

"Ah, thank you." He sipped the thick concoction. A little bitter for his taste, but not enough to complain. "Where is Odo?"

"Regenerating." Kejal watched the rain fall outside. "He's using that huge vase by the wall."

"Ah. How long is his regeneration cycle now?"

"Every fifty two hours for one hour."

Mora wiped his upper lip. "And yours?"

Kejal fidgeted. "Sixteen hours, just like mother was. I still can't fall asleep while in my humanoid shape like he can." He squinted. "How does that taste?"

"It's all right." Mora finished the smoothie. "Amazing how well it works. I should be miserable right now. I haven't felt this good in a long time. It even helps my knee-- I can walk short distances without the cane! Isn't that wonderful?"

"I'm glad it helps," Kejal replied. He sat on the foot of the bed. "Maybe you'll get better after all. Miracles happen. We could try the herbal route and forget the artificial chemicals."

Mora sighed, dismayed. Kejal was showing the parts he inherited from Odo.

"Kejal, there aren't any miracles for me."

"Did you try everything?" Kejal wrinkled his forehead. "There might be new treatments right now that we haven't found yet."

"Kejal-- "

"Aleexa might know someone who can contact someone else and-- "

"Kejal!" Mora snapped, sitting up straighter. "I understand you're upset. I know you don't want to hear this. I am going to die in two months, and nothing will change that."

"You can't just give up!"

"Do you think I didn't try? I lived far longer than my physician predicted. I fought with everything I had, and I squeaked out several extra years. There comes a time when the treatments stop producing results."

"So you gave up!" Kejal countered. "You just gave up!"

Mora pulled himself upright and met Kejal face to face. He kept his voice low. "No. I changed my plan."

The pain in Kejal's eyes almost ended him right there.

"I'm scared, father..." He whispered. "I can't imagine you not being here. I won't imagine it!"

Mora grasped Kejal's arms and gave him a slight shake. "You have to face it. Like it or not, that time is coming. You'll see a sunrise and I won't be here. And when that day comes, Kejal, my son...remember this moment. Remember me telling you that you are going to be fine."

Shaking, Kejal wrapped his arms around Mora's shoulders.

"I can't imagine that sunrise," he whimpered. "I can't."

"You can." Mora pressed his fingers against Kejal's clothing, denting the mimicked fabric. "The morning after my death, you will watch the sunrise from the oval window just like we used to. You will see the most beautiful dawn of your life and realize life goes on. I want you to smile for me when that morning comes."

Kejal hung his head. Or would have, if Mora's shoulder wasn't in the way.

"I can't smile when I'm in pain, father."

"I know you can't now, but you will later. Kejal, I'm going to make you a promise."

"Oh?"

"By the time I die, you'll be rejoicing over my freedom." Mora smiled, raising both eyebrows. "I'll certainly feel a lot better once it's all said and done, but I can't go until I know you and Odo are all right."

"Good, then I'll never be okay with it!" Kejal wriggled free. "If it means you live, then I won't be fine with any of this!"

The smile slipped off Mora's face. "Kejal! You're being irrational. Think! Think about what you're saying!"

"I don't have to! Dammit, father, I won't let you die!" Kejal kicked the cushioned chair by the bed and stomped out of the bedroom.

Mora heard the front door open. Two voices greeted each other, and then a Tarkalean hawk flapped past the bedroom window.

"Pol!" Aleexa called from the living room. "Are you awake?"

"Yes!" Mora managed to make his tone congenial. He shrugged off his bedclothes and reached into his closet. "Just a moment. I'm dressing."

The Talaxian woman respectfully waited outside his bedroom door until he'd pulled on a shirt and pants. An old, wooly vest went over them for extra warmth. He chose dark gray attire like the clouds outside. A fitting color for his mood.

"Good morning!" He said once he'd made himself decent.

"Well, well, you're walking so much better." Aleexa rubbed her hands together, smiling. She'd styled her hair into a rope-like braid that swung when she turned her head. "Everything is ordered and will arrive by transport shortly. If there's anything you want off the bed, grab it now."

"The b-- oh! Of course. Will it come already dressed, or should I keep the sheets?"

"It has sheets already. I like to let people personalize their beds." She touched the edge of the red and gold comforter. "This quilt is so beautiful...where did you get it?"

"Thank you. Leruu made it." Mora took the hand-made quilt off the bed and folded it into a neat pile in the corner.

Aleexa attached a small tracking device to the foot of the bed. A blinking white light signaled its activation.

"Is everything all right?" She pouted her lower lip out. "You're wearing a frown today, and I know it's not because of your back."

"Ah." Mora sighed, puffing out his cheeks. "Kejal and I had a little disagreement. One minute, he seems to accept what is happening, and the next he thinks he can prevent the inevitable."

Aleexa chewed on her bottom lip. "Mm...denial and bargaining. I see that a lot. Ooh, stand back. Here comes the bed."

Mora moved aside as his bed disappeared in a shimmer and the new one reappeared in its place. It didn't look much different from his original bed, save for being lower to the ground. It had several differently-shaped pillows piled up on top. The headboard and a railing displayed touch screen controls.

"So many pillows," he mused.

"They'll help keep you comfortable when you're less mobile. Right now, I'd like to show you the controls. Are you up for that?"

"Absolutely."

Aleexa helped him toss the extra pillows aside and spread the quilt over the memory foam mattress. "The controls on the headboard are mostly for me. You have the same ones on the rail here." She pointed to the panel on the right side. "This setting will make the left or right side of the bed wider. Up to three people can lay on it together. Now switch it over to turn the display yellow, and you can raise the head or foot of the bed. The purple setting raises and lowers the entire bed, so feel free to adjust it to where you want. The air icon makes the mattress shift under you. It helps prevent bedsores. Don't worry, you won't feel it moving around. You can also heat or cool the bed if you like, that's the symbol in the lower right corner. And if you get confused, the red circle will take you to a settings menu."

"Ah. Thank you." Mora reached out and raised the bed to the same level as its predecessor. Then he climbed on and laid back, finding the mattress far more forgiving than his own. "This is much nicer on my back."

"You'll sleep like a baby."

"Definitely!" He sat up and ran his hands over the quilt.

I'm going to die in this bed.

The sobering thought gave him pause.

Aleexa whispered into her combadge and Mora heard the familiar whoosh of a transporter beam. She excused herself from his room and returned carrying a large container.

"Here are the grab poles and bars for the bathroom. Mind showing me where you prefer them again?"

"Certainly." Mora said.

Aleexa had him cover the toilet and sit down. The narrow bathroom meant he had a wall in arm's reach in front of him. She positioned the grab bar and attached it with suction. It was made with two large hand grips to prevent slippage.

"And don't worry about sanitation. The grips have pressure sensors, and they disinfect themselves within ten seconds of you grabbing on and letting go. The poles I'm putting to each side will help you sit when that gets difficult. Just use the little rungs on the sides and walk yourself down with your hands. They're also self-cleaning."

"Excellent."

Mora followed Aleexa through setting up grab poles in his shower. He showed her where he stepped out and she set down four non-slip strips.

Aleexa straightened once she finished. "We don't want you hitting your head and causing a massive brain bleed. It's not a nice way to die."

"Definitely not." Mora agreed.

He grabbed his cane as he followed Aleexa into the living room. They arrived just in time to see Odo emerging from his regeneration.

"Don't watch," Mora reminded Aleexa.

Aleexa caught on immediately. Without missing a beat, she knelt by Mora's favorite chair and deployed a grab pole.

"Good morning, Odo," she said brightly.

Odo did a fine job of not looking perturbed. "Good morning." He glanced out the window. "Quite a storm."

"It sure is. Oh, Pol, that reminds me-- I left my rain poncho on the floor by the door. I'm sorry about the puddle. I'll make sure it's cleaned up so you don't slip."

"I'll take care of it," said Odo. He paused to watch the grab pole emerge from its suction cup like a metal tree. "Interesting."

Aleexa smiled up at him. "This is Talaxian medical technology." She winked one eye shut. "Having two spinal columns means twice the back issues."

Odo snorted at that. "I remember the brief time I had one. I don't miss it at all." He walked away to take care of the poncho issue. "By the way, Doctor Mora, I heard you and Kejal arguing. Don't worry, he will come back. Kejal always comes back."

.o

Kejal always comes back, Odo repeated to himself. He hung Aleexa's wet poncho on a hook that swung out from the wall beside the door. Then he morphed his hand into a towel, cleaned up the rain puddle and wrung it out on the ground outside.

It wasn't unusual for Kejal to run off when he became upset. Sometimes he broke away from the Great Link to sit on the island and sing. A few found it irritating, but Odo loved hearing Kejal's voice. Like the other Hundred who grew up without the Great Link, Kejal took solace in solitude. He had thoughts he preferred not to share, and he valued his individuality.

Odo's hands went to his chest. Even after thirty years, it felt too empty when Kejal wasn't around.

He forms with a combadge. He can reach me if something happens.

"You look bothered."

He bristled and faced Aleexa, barely keeping his tone neutral. "Did I? I must have that kind of face."

She smiled, her eyes pleasant. "I know Kejal is having trouble accepting Pol's illness."

Odo nodded. No denying it. "He reminds me of myself when I was a lot younger. By the way..." He gestured to the hook where he hung her poncho. "You can hang any rain gear up here."

"Oh! I didn't know. I'm sorry." Aleexa's cheeks colored. "Anyhow, I'm about to put together some lunch. Pol says you're the one who eats...so you're welcome to share the table with us if you like."

Annoyed, but unwilling to be rude, Odo clasped his hands in front of himself. "I heard Talaxians have a natural gift for preparing food."

"Mmhmm. I can teach you."

"I uh...I have no sense of smell or taste." Odo said, suddenly self conscious. "I may evolve them someday, but for now they are beyond me. I hope you don't take offense."

"Nonsense!" Aleexa gestured towards the kitchen. "You don't need smell or taste to cook as long as your hands and eyeballs work."

"I'll admit, I find the preparation of food fascinating."

She giggled. "All the more reason to join in. Come along."

Doctor Mora looked up from the PADD in his lap. "Careful, Odo," he grinned, "she might domesticate you."

"Don't be ridiculous. I-- " Odo found himself holding a whisk. " --feel strangely domesticated."

Aleexa and Doctor Mora barely stifled their laughter.

"Here." Aleexa sprinkled bits of takeo into a bowl of water and added something orange. "Stir until it's a thick liquid. It takes some work. Careful, it can splash."

"Wouldn't a mixer be more efficient?"

"Mixers make it too watery. It's something done better by hand."

"Ah." Nodding, Odo gripped the whisk and stirred the contents in the silver bowl. She'd been right-- it took effort to get started, but got easier the more he worked at it. "What will this be a broth for?"

"It's a vegetable soup I came up with." Aleexa said. She began chopping several vegetables he'd never seen before, save for the lettuce. "Everybody I know loves it once they try it, and Pol expressed interest in tasting it." She winked. "I call it the Aleexa Special."

Odo found a comfortable stirring rhythm. "What does it taste like? I, ah, spent a brief time as a humanoid. I do understand the concept of taste."

"Oh? Well then, I'd say it's a little on the salty side with a hint of spice. It won't upset a disagreeable stomach. Quite the opposite. The broth by itself is pretty nutritious."

Doctor Mora used the new grab pole by his chair to help himself stand up. He joined them in the kitchen. "Really now? Then let me in on your secret. No, no, Odo, go ahead and keep working on that."

Aleexa started to name off the vegetables she brought. Doctor Mora listened intently. Odo didn't miss his mentor's occasional glances towards the front door.

Odo let the whisk sit in the bowl and tapped his combadge. "Odo to Kejal."

"I'm fine, mother." Kejal answered, and Odo's worries eased away.

Doctor Mora jerked his head up. He clasped his chest in visible relief.

Kejal went on, "I just need a little time alone. I'll be back soon. I love you."

A smile touched Odo's lips. "Me too. Where are you?"

"Out by the Bajoran Institute of Science. It's quiet here."

If Odo had blood, it would have run cold. Of all the places Kejal wandered, he had to go there. He ignored Doctor Mora's concerned look.

"Don't be too long. It looks like the rain will start again in the next three hours."

"Mother, I'm fine. I'll be back in two hours or less, all right?"

"I'm timing you on that, starting now."

"Tch, really? You're paranoid. Kejal out."

The combadge went silent. Odo tapped it to end the communication and grabbed the whisk again. "Well, now we know he's fine."

"Yes. I'm glad to hear that." Doctor Mora said. His entire demeanor brightened again, as though a weight lifted off his mind. "This smells wonderful already, and it isn't even warm."

He reached for a piece of sliced tomato.

Aleexa tapped his wrist with a wooden spoon. "Ah, ah! No tasting allowed until it's done."

"My apologies, your majesty," Doctor Mora offered a mock bow, chuckling. He seemed to regret it when he hesitated after straightening.

"Are you all right?" asked Odo.

"I'm fine. A twinge, nothing serious. Let's make this soup. Aleexa, how can I help?"

She handed him the knife. "You, young man, can chop this lettuce. Make it nice and fine. It's a soup, not salad."

Odo moved over a step to give Doctor Mora room. He heard the knife clink-clink away on the stone cutting board. Aleexa hummed under her breath while she peeled some sort of onion.

"Phew!" Doctor Mora leaned back.

"Safe to say it's ripe!" Aleexa set it down in a bowl of water.

"Most definitely. Odo, how is the whisking?"

"Smooth." Odo found the whisk moving evenly through the bowl. "Aleexa, is it ready?"

"Hmm...not yet. Keep going. You're almost there. You have mud, and I need something closer to pudding."

"Pudding? Hm." Odo adjusted his grip to stir faster. The noise of it drowned out the sounds Doctor Mora's knife made when it hit the stone cutting board.

"So, you're Kejal's mother..." Aleexa put something else in the bowl of water.

"Mmhmm."

"If you don't mind my asking, how did you, uh...well, those holograms make me wonder how you..."

"Give birth?"

"Yes."

"Ah. It was quite an experience. I decided to give birth the Bajoran way, and I-- "

"I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it myself." Doctor Mora interjected, much to Odo's annoyance. "His morphogenic enzymes saturated his system, and Kejal emerged through the area of lowest density, which happened to be Odo's chest. He oozed out without a struggle. Easy as breathing. Right, Odo?"

Odo bit back a scathing remark. "Yes." He shot Doctor Mora a glare. "The pain was awful at first, but the birth itself was peaceful thanks to Nerys. She helped me relax."

"How sweet." Aleexa nudged Doctor Mora and smiled up at Odo. "How old is he?"

Talking about Kejal cooled Odo's temper. "He'll be thirty years old by mid-spring, but don't let the number or his appearance fool you. He is still a child."

Doctor Mora almost dropped his knife. He captured it again and resumed chopping the lettuce.

"I won't be here to see his birthday," he whispered.

Aleexa covered her mouth. "Oh, sweetie. Is the conversation bothering you?"

"Is it-- no. I'm fine." Doctor Mora wiped at his eyes. "That's a strong onion! Odo, you're lucky you can't smell this thing!"

Odo knew nobody with scent receptors could smell something underwater. Rather than come off as pedantic, he refocused on stirring the contents of his bowl. "Go sit down and rest, Doctor Mora."

"Actually, I think I'll take a shower. It'll get the scent out of my nose." His voice was quivering. "Excuse me."

Aleexa and Odo looked at each other when Doctor Mora nudged between them.

"Should I...?"

"No. He wants to be alone for a few minutes." Odo paused until the shower hissed seconds later. He felt an eerie urge to shiver. He'd seen Doctor Mora shed tears before, but he never saw him actually cry.

"Two months doesn't feel like enough time, does it?"

Odo glanced at Aleexa. "No."

"Well, let's cheer up and get this soup going. The best way to make men happy is to feed 'em." Aleexa peeked into the bowl she gave Odo. "There you go, now it's perfect. Here, let's put this aside and I'll let you chop the onion."

"Of course." Odo set the bowl down. He took the onion out of the water, placed it on the stone cutting board and angrily hacked it in half.

In doing so, he felt shocking pain and realized he'd buried the knife in his thumb.

"Oh!" Aleexa turned on kitchen faucet. She grabbed his hand and moved him towards the sink. "Be still, I'll pull out the knife and put pressure on-- "

"Aleexa, wait." Odo tugged the blade out himself. His inner substance welled up to fill in the wound. He wiggled his thumb. "I'm fine."

She clutched her chest. "Oh my...you don't bleed?"

"I lack most of the body systems present in humanoids. I don't have a heart, therefore, I don't bleed. I can mimic the appearance of blood if I really need to."

"But you breathe."

Odo chuckled in amusement. Solids were so young now. "I imitate breathing, but there is no gas exchange." He resumed his work of cutting up the onion. "I don't really eat, I only appear to. I can't digest food, and I'd rather spare you the disgusting details of what exactly I do with food after I swallow it."

Aleexa collected the onion chunks and sprinkled them into the broth Odo mixed up. She finished slicing the lettuce Doctor Mora left sitting on the counter.

"You're so different from Kejal. I can't help noticing the tension between you and Pol."

"It's a long story. I'm sure he told you all about his experiments. He...did not realize he was causing pain and trauma in the beginning. How could he know a jar of goo was a life form?" Odo flexed his 'wounded' thumb. "It's been a source of pain between both of us for a long time. I prefer not to discuss it further. The memories aren't pleasant for me."

Aleexa squeezed his shoulder. "I'll drop it. Now let's change the subject to where we were before he interrupted you."

Odo smiled a little. "You mean about giving birth?"

"Yeah. That's where we left off." She poured the mixed broth into a large metal pot and added the rest of the ingredients. "I've never spoken with a man who's been through childbirth."

That won a soft laugh from him. "Birth for Changelings isn't dependent on gender...any one of us can do it in the right circumstances. It isn't sexual reproduction, but it is still considered a pregnancy and birth."

"Sooo...how did you give birth?"

"Well, uh, at first I didn't realize I was in labor. I resisted it." Odo shrugged. "I resisted until I was too exhausted to keep doing so, and my body just sort of took over the process. Nerys helped me relax, and the pain virtually disappeared once I did." He pointed out the hotplate controls when he saw her searching for them. "It was strange. The world shrank until I only cared about Nerys, myself and Kejal. I didn't want to talk, I didn't want to move, and I couldn't be bothered to respond to anything happening around me. I was so focused on letting my body prepare itself. The birth simply happened. No effort needed. I just...it was like a long, slow cough and there he was."

Aleexa's eyes softened at his words. "You should see the look on your face right now."

Odo cocked his head. "Do you have any children, Aleexa?"

"No, I don't. Someday, though, I hope to have at least one." She patted Odo's arm. "You might find that Pol exhibits some of the same behaviors you did during your birth experience."

"Such as...?"

"The withdrawal from everything. He'll take less interest in outside affairs and focus more inward. Issues that used to be important to him fall lower on the priority list."

Again, Odo heard himself chuckle. "Doctor Mora? Withdrawing from his science? I don't know, Aleexa, it was his life for a long time. As for me, I was running a sting operation while I was in labor with Kejal."

"You what?"

"Mmhmm...two straight hours of keeping my body from giving birth while waiting to make an arrest. I'm sure Doctor Mora told you I used to be Chief of Security on Deep Space nine."

"He did." Aleexa giggled. "Was it the Yridians behind the fabric counterfeiting ring? You made that arrest?"

"Yes, I did," Odo said proudly. "And then I gave birth two hours later. Er...is that supposed to bubble?"

"Give it a little stir." Aleexa handed him a wooden spoon. "Hm. Wow, that was quite a news story on Bajor. And, by the way, Pol said you're a grump, but you don't seem all that grumpy to me."

"Hmph." Odo stirred the pot. "It's an image I like to keep up," he added in a less serious tone. "Besides, it's hard to be in a sullen mood around Kejal."

Aleexa swept the unused leftovers off the counter and disposed of them in the replicator. "Odo, I couldn't agree more."

"Oh, but trust me. When Kejal is in a foul mood, it's contagious."

"Some people are like that. Pol said he and Kejal had an argument earlier." Aleexa left the kitchen and approached Doctor Mora's bedroom door. "Pol, sweetie, are you all right in there?"

"Just fine!" Doctor Mora called back. "I'm dressing. Brr, it's chilly!"

"I'll turn up the heat for you. Now keep your nose peeled, you're going to smell soup pretty soon." She adjusted the environmental controls and rejoined Odo in the kitchen. "Odo, you're going to get bored doing that."

Odo tore his eyes off the soup. "Doing what? I'm waiting to see it boil."

"Do you also entertain yourself watching paint dry?"

He arched an eye ridge, "Watching paint dry is quite interesting."

Aleexa snorted. Odo let out a snicker. They were both chuckling by the time Doctor Mora exited his bedroom.

.o

Singing was Kejal's favorite means of self-soothing. No matter his mood, no matter his current state of affairs, he could always count on music to silence the chaos in his mind.

"When you're weary. Feelin' small. When tears are in your eyes...I will dry them all. I'm on your side, oh, when times get rough...and friends just can't be found..."

He stood on the metal bridge between an outdoor restaurant and the Bajoran Institute of Science. The rain stopped for the moment, but the water under the bridge raged.

People didn't come to the restaurant at this hour of the morning. Nobody milled about outside the Science Institute building. Kejal had complete solitude, so he drummed on the railing and sang at the top of his voice. The song was centuries old. An Earth tune performed and re-performed by various people over the years.

Right then, nothing else mattered. All he felt was the music pouring through his very being. He treated it like a stage performance, and nature became his audience.

And for a few minutes, his mind quieted.

"...like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind. Like a bridge over troubled water...I will ease your mind. I will ease your mind...ease your mind!"

He leaned back and put everything he had into the last note. The power of it rang throughout his whole body. He enjoyed the reverb he got from the Institute building.

Slow, subdued applause startled him back into reality. A lone figure sat at a table in the restaurant.

Kejal ducked his head. "I didn't realize someone was here."

The person rose, a tall form mostly concealed by a large, hooded blue and white rain robe.

"I stopped to listen when I heard your voice. I didn't know your race had the capabilities to sing." The person joined Kejal on the bridge. "A logical song choice, given the setting."

Oh. A Vulcan. Wonderful.

"It's my favorite song." Kejal muttered. "I sing it when I'm a mess."

The Vulcan leaned on the railing. His wrinkled old hands gave away his age. "Ah, so your mind is the troubled water."

"Ugh. You can say that again...about six hundred times."

"I see. What troubles you?"

Kejal folded his hands. He sneered. "The man who raised me is dying of Delfeya syndrome. He says the treatments quit working, so he gave up on them. What if there are more? What if something out there can save him? He would rather die than keep fighting."

The Vulcan didn't speak for a long time. Then, he said, "Your mind is torn by the notion of 'what if?'"

"Exactly! What IF? What if someone missed something that could have saved his life? He's Mora Pol, dammit! Men like him can't just die!"

"Doctor Mora Pol?" The Vulcan's voice rose enough to signify he asked a question. "I'm familiar with his work. His achievements are admirable, and his theories are fascinating. I would have liked to meet him while he still worked at the Institute."

"Now do you see why I can't stand it?" Kejal threw a rock into the unsettled water gushing past the bridge. "I should be doing something to cure him instead of sitting around, waiting for him to die."

"Life is full of dualities...what is your name?"

"Kejal."

"Kejal, then. Life is full of dualities. When emotions take over, people have a tendency to let one side of a choice blind them to the other."

"Uh-huh, sure. What would a Vulcan know about emotional choices, hm?" Kejal felt the anguish in him rise. "Well?"

"A lot more than you think," said the man, his tone coming as close to amusement as a Vulcan ever did.

"Yeah, right." Kejal tossed another rock. From the corner of his eye, he saw the Vulcan push his hood back.

"I speak only the truth."

Kejal prepared to give his companion a piece of his mind. When he turned to stare into his eyes, he recognized the wise, craggy features, and his anger collapsed into total embarrassment.

"Oh...I-I'm incredibly sorry. I meant no disrespect to you, sir."

"I know." Ambassador Spock tilted his head and looked down his nose. He wasn't much taller than Kejal, yet his presence made him seem gigantic. His dark eyes were full of emotions that remained tempered like a newly forged sword. "Kejal, if you spend your time chasing an impossible 'what if,' you will miss what already is."

He started to walk away.

After a moment's hesitation, Kejal called after him, "Wait, Ambassador!"

Ambassador Spock glanced over his shoulder.

Kejal could not believe he was doing this. "Can you spare an hour, sir?"

Chapter End Notes:
**Chapter soundtrack**

Stormy Morning: https://app.box.com/s/oxbfpei3vt12crjij8aj

He Always Comes Back: https://app.box.com/s/r7bz4cza9tqnrl0ubn1k

Singing is Comfort: https://app.box.com/s/mkqh7agqcutnn6ywxhzn

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