A/N - I wrote this about three or four years ago and didn't want it to ever see the light of day. But I took it out and dusted it off and decided to edit and post it here. What's the use of writing stories no one else will ever read? Hope you like my original characters in the Star Trek setting and I hope you review. It's about six chapters long (or five?). As usual, there's a Vulcan involved...okay, in this story, there's a lot of Vulcans! Yes, I am obsessed!
Disclaimer: I don't own Star Trek, I don't make any money off of it. Sure as heck wish I DID, but last I checked that's not illegal!
Tila Van Zandt was more than a little stressed out and she was worried her grandfather would know all about it. He had certain abilities since he was not human.
He came from a race of people called the Giseth. They were long-lived and wise. And grandpa could tell a lot from just looking at a person. Today, of all days, he'd left her a message requesting that she meet him for dinner.
Initially, she thought about not going. Not because she didn't want to go, she loved her grandfather more than almost anyone else she knew. But because he would sense what was wrong (and the source of her problems) without ever even asking a question, it was almost a minefield of disaster if he so much as reached out and touched her hand. From just that one action he would know everything.
The only genetic piece of that Giseth gift Tila picked up was an almost Betazoid form of empathy and slight touch telepathy. Her ability was not at all or profound. It was just enough that it helped her get by a little easier on occasion. It had gotten her into more trouble, truthfully, but she figured those were just the hazards of someone mostly-human living on Earth in the 24th century.
But she loved grandpa and wouldn't have him sitting in a restaurant awaiting her arrival since she knew 'no' was not an answer he would take. People who stand up their grandpas burn in hell she thought…not that she even believed in hell. So she got dressed and considered wearing gloves.
She reached the restaurant less than five minutes before he expected her there. (Grandpa had always been a stickler for punctuality.) And there he was, waiting for her. He pretended he didn't sense her entering the establishment, but she knew he was just being polite and trying to blend in. Old habits died hard living amongst humans for almost four centuries. She took a moment to look at the side profile of the face she loved so much. Grandpa Orin was very tall, not unusual for a Giseth; he was almost six-six. He had a head full of silver luxuriant hair that he kept just past his shoulders and in a ponytail like most men from his people. When she was a little child he used to let her play in it. Like most little girls, she had been merciless in the silly styles she put on him. Ponytails that extended this way and that, braids and twists. Once she even experimented with cornrows on him. She had no idea back then how much pain grandpa endured just to make her happy. As she grew older, at first she didn't understand why such a dignified man allowed his grandchild to do such daft things to his hair.
As time and age became a filter for wisdom, she realized she was the only grandchild he had since her father was his only child. It was the drawback, she would discover, of being from a race that could live so long. One progeny your entire existence, and for a couple of rare Giseth, maybe even two.
Some part of her always reverted backward when she saw him, and she found herself rushing to his side as if she were merely seven or eight. "Grandpa!" she greeted him happily as she walked up to him, her concerns over what he might be able simply from touching her temporarily forgotten.
"Hey!" he said as he smiled widely, his teeth straight and beautiful, his eyes alighting at the sight of her voice. It warmed her heart to know how much he loved her just from the light of his eyes. They said the day she was born, his first and probably only grandchild, he wept tears of happiness. He stood quickly from his chair and before she could stop him, he bent down to kiss her on the cheek. And just like that, he knew everything that had happened. To his credit he didn't say a word, but she knew he was not pleased one bit.
What did grandpa know instantly? Well for starters her job wasn't going as well as she'd made out to everyone else. She wondered every other day if she were on the verge of being fired. She gave and gave but her boss was one of those prima donnas with an attitude who wanted your entire life, your very soul, invested in her and her company.
Tila at first hadn't minded the hectic pace, the calls at 4 a.m., the last minute assignments. But after two years, it was getting to be a bit much. All she was, when it came down to it, was a secretary/personal assistant. She had never gotten the opportunity to take a day of vacation in the two years she worked there, every sick day she had had been interrupted by calls from the boss, and she had carried out her share of ludicrous errands while serving the lady. Being born and raised on Vulcan, Tila had learned how to keep her emotions under wraps and do whatever her job entailed, complaint free, but the final straw had come the week before when her boss sent her to the dog groomers to pick up her small breed dog. Had it gone well, it wouldn't have been a blip on the radar of her life. But of course, it had not.
The dog, Precious, had not been there and come to find out there had been some kind of mix-up by the groomers where her priceless designer two-way mixed breed had been switched up with some four-way mongrel.
When she put in a call to tell her what had happened, the boss had inexplicably tried to place the blame on her. There was but so far you could push Tila…
The mix-up had been straightened out, but that was the day she began to seriously think of quitting her job and finding something.
What else did grandpa know instantly? Her roommates were driving her just a little bit insane. A little bit. At least she loved them all and they felt the same in return. But this was not what Tila's mind was really avoiding.
Grandpa now knew about Samuel. Her so-called 'boyfriend' of nearly one year. He'd given her a 'we should see other people' speech at dinner the other night after a year of what she now saw was wasted time. Truly she should have seen it coming. He'd waxed hot and cold through their entire relationship. The first few weeks he was so happy, enthusiastic, over the top in love with her. Then one day he'd picked her up for a date and treated her funny, said he wasn't sure about what he wanted anymore. A week after that it was as if the incident had never happened.
The strange treatment didn't start up again until a month later and he began to mess up in major ways. Disappearing for hours, sometimes days, and not telling her where he was. Blowing up at her if she asked him where he'd been. At first she thought these things were normal. She'd never had a real relationship before with a man, so honestly she had no point of reference. All she ever heard from everyone on Earth was 'relationships are hard'. She assumed this was what they'd meant by 'hard'. But when her roommates found her huddled in a ball in her bed less than three months before when he'd told her he wasn't sure he loved her anymore, she finally broke down and told them all of what was going on between them. And she could tell from their reactions that this most certainly was not normal human behavior between a man and woman. Then she realized she was stuck in one of 'those' relationships. It was like a bucket of water on her opinion of Samuel.
Some days she would wake up and remember how much easier it had been growing up on Vulcan. What was said, was meant. You did what you did without pretense. There were no unspoken lies. The only things unspoken were things that were simply none of your business. Living here on Earth was turning into an exhausting venture. And now grandpa knew it all. But to his credit, she knew he wouldn't say a word.
"Tila," he said after they'd enjoyed appetizers, "remember my shop back on Vulcan in the section of Shi'Kahr, Crafter's Section?"
She smiled. He had translated the name into Fed Standard. It lost its flavor that way. "I remember. I spent two years working there when I was younger." It was also the best working two years of her adult life. She'd attended the Vulcan Academy during the first half of the long Vulcan day and kept records at the store during the second half of the long day. That shop was a constant in her life since she'd been a baby. She remembered visiting there or being brought there throughout her life. And then finally, of all the honors, she was asked to work there. But at the age of 21 her mother had convinced her she should leave for Earth, get to know 'her people'. So she bought it, hook, line and sinker and found herself on the way to the planet of most of her forebears.
He looked as if he were hesitant to mention something. "The shop is in a little bit of trouble," he finally said.
She was genuinely troubled by the thought. "Oh, no. What's wrong?"
"The agreement I've had with Clan Mother T'Kaletul, it's being called in, as you say."
"What?" she said, not understanding what he meant.
Grandpa leaned on the table conspiratorially and looked into her eyes. It was the quality about him that endeared her the most. He always spoke to her as if they were equals. Another Giseth quality. "Apparently it's not good enough to have just any relative working there on my behalf. As you know your father worked there for decades. Then your mother worked there for years. Then you worked there for two years. T'Kaletul was always impressed by what you'd done to those records. Anyhow, when you left for earth, your mother went back to working there. Then your father took up the job again for a little while. But he couldn't do it any longer. So he had a cousin from his mother's side come in and work there. Well T'Kaletul is apparently not at all satisfied with anyone else but a direct descendant of me working in the shop. The only exception is the spouse of my child, your mother. And that's all. That was, after all, the original agreement. We all speak Vulcan, understand the customs and traditions, our minds are versatile. We all also speak Giseth and Fed Standard…the cousin that's there now only speaks Fed Standard since he's only just immigrated to Vulcan, doesn't understand the nuances of Vulcan life, is not part Giseth nor can he speak that language. The whole thing has turned into a mess."
"The clan mother, what's her part in this?" she asked, curious.
"T'Kaletul always has someone working in the shop who happens to be a direct descendant of her, as well."
"That's easy for her, though. Clan Mother T'Kaletul has like how many children and grandchildren? But you only have me and daddy and by extension mom."
"Those were the stipulations when we entered this venture," said grandpa with a nod and a sigh. "It was over a century ago but it was supposed to be a joint Vulcan-Giseth shop and they don't want the humans working there to not have Giseth in their veins unless it's your mother. And as the humans would say, the buck stops there. An agreement is an agreement."
"Wow. I had no idea, grandpa."
"This is where it gets good," he said as he smiled, his grey eyes looking very merry. "My first cousin has agreed to come and help in the shop at the beginning of the year. He's an experienced Giseth crafter, so he won't be there to do office work, but one of T'Kaletul's grandchildren can fill that in by then."
She thought about it. "You mean the beginning of this year? The new year just passed less than three weeks ago, so your problem is solved." But even as she said it, she knew it couldn't be that cut and dried.
"No, I mean the beginning of the next year."
"So for the rest of this year…" her voice trailed off. Oh. She got it. Mom and dad really shouldn't have to be tied to the shop by a chain any longer. Daddy had worked at the shop nearly fifty years before he'd met her mother. Grandpa had been there a nice amount of time. And Tila remembered her mother working at the shop on and off throughout her entire youth. It was, after all, a joint family venture between her grandfather and the clan mother. Then she realized, "I've only done two years in the shop." She was beginning to feel awful as it dawned on her, "I'm almost 30 and I've only put in-"
His face clouded over. "Now I don't want you to feel bad about-"
"I feel positively awful! I had no idea that-"
"There's no way you could have known," he said as he patted her hand. "We've never made a big deal out of it to you. And that's why I don't want you to feel badly. As a matter of fact, if you can't do it, I'm prepared to pack this very week and go back to Vulcan. You're a young woman and I know you have a busy life here. It's about time I got back to Crafting, anyway."
She thought about it for one split second and decided no, no way was she going to let grandpa do it. He'd just found some cute older Betazoid lady to date and the two were a hoot together. No way was she breaking that up. And Samuel was what her roommate Sherrie had described as, "Not worth a damn anyway."
Tila faced the facts. She hated her job, she was nearly 30 and too old to have that many roommates and now Samuel had decided they should 'see other people'. According to her roommates, that was his way of playing the field while breaking up with her while still keeping her on a short leash. She was not in any way interested in 'seeing other people' and he knew that. It was one of the only times in their relationship he'd reduced her to tears right in front of him. Her face burned in shame and anger at the memory that was less than a week old. She decided, right there on the spot. "Grandpa, I'm going to Vulcan, all right?"
His face softened. "Are you sure, lamb?" he called her by her pet name.
Her face softened, too. "My only regret is I won't see you every week like I do now." She smiled, mischief in her face. "But I know Charmien will keep you company. I'll start packing the instant I get home."
Tila, true to her word, went home that very evening and began packing. She informed her roommates, scheduled a flight out for as soon as possible -courtesy of grandpa- and the next day called her job to quit.
"You owe me two weeks notice," said her boss over the view screen, her face quite vexed.
She hadn't even paused during her packing while she was speaking to her boss…ex-boss. "I would owe you two weeks notice if I were resigning. I am, in fact, quitting. There's a difference," she said as she briefly pointed at the screen, then resumed stuffing her clothing into a bag.
Ms. Oster was taken aback. Young Miss Van Zandt had never spoken so smartly at her. "Pardon me!" she almost trumpeted. "You don't even have the decency to sit down and speak to me about this?" Was that hurt in her voice?
Tila sighed and stopped packing, sat down in front of the view screen and decided to level with her boss. "Ms. Oster, my family business is in some kind of trouble on Vulcan. I owe them my allegiance first, I'm sure you understand that."
She sighed. "No, in fact, I don't. My own daughter would never drop even a teacup to lift a finger to help me. And you get word from your grandfather, no less, and there you are, off to Vulcan." Then she smiled slowly as the hardness in her face disappeared. "Such loyalty is rare, Tila. And you have it."
She was taken aback. The woman had called her 'Young Miss Van Zandt' for as long as she could remember. "Ms. Oster?"
"Call me Madeleine. And if you ever need anything, anything at all…I have some connections on Vulcan, all right?"
Tila didn't know who this person was. She'd worked for her two years and had never seen this side of her once. Why did she wait until the day she quit to show this to her?
As for Samuel, she didn't even bother to tell him good-bye directly. The relationship was as good as fried, anyway. She left him a message and then right after that left for the spaceport. He wanted to see other people. Fine. If he wanted her, truly wanted her, she left an address and a vid-number on Vulcan she could be reached for at least a month. She expected to live with her parents, at first, after all.
As soon as Tila arrived back on Vulcan she felt herself relax into the heat. She remembered how all of her roommates used to get upset at her for turning the heat up in the apartment her first few weeks there. So she'd consigned herself to wearing lots of socks, turtlenecks and sweaters. But now, she wouldn't have to wear all the layers of clothing anymore, thank goodness.
She went straight to her parents from the shuttle depot on Vulcan and slipped back into everyday life on the planet. It was not as easy as she remembered it to be. She'd never found it necessary to 'hide' her emotions, though she lived there, but she was also, as a result, not as demonstrative as other girls her age from earth tended to be. But being back home, she realized she'd developed some seriously human habits like staring at something she didn't quite comprehend, sucking her teeth when she was disgusted and using a swear word or two under her breath when she was exasperated. She was going to have to see if she could shed those habits lest she rub someone the wrong way at the shop.
Her parents were happy to see her, but her mother was quite upset. "I thought I told you to go to earth and experience life there, young lady!" said her mother.
"Mom, grandpa needs me for at least a year and that's what I'm going to do."
"I wanted you to meet a nice man and get married or something," said her mother.
"She has plenty of time for that," her father intervened.
But her mother was worried that her daughter would languish, unmarried and lonely, on Vulcan.
Tila knew since it was a family business it was totally up to her how much time she spent in the shop. It was in the Crafters section of the city and she made it her business to make it there the next day, just to survey what had happened to the excellent record system she'd introduced years before.
She entered the shop and was struck by instant nostalgia. The smell of hot pottery and the specially mixed paints to decorate and adorn them found her nostrils and it took all of her internal willpower to not tear up at all the memories of the shop as a child. Taking several deep breaths, she willed it to pass. And just in time, because she heard someone coming from the back of the shop. There were two voices, actually.
Both males that came out of the back were quite similar in general appearance. They hailed from the same family, T'Kaletul's in particular. Both had the soft deep voices of the men of that clan, though their voices differed in several ways. And one of them she already knew very well.
As both Vulcans registered her presence, the one familiar to her only showed his surprise in one way. His eyes widened. "Little Tila," he addressed her.
"Valen," she said as she nodded politely. "You look well."
He raised the ta'al, "Peace and long life, young one. What brings you home? What of Earth? Is all well?" It was the closest to 'troubled' she'd ever seen him get. He didn't know what she was doing here? Didn't they know she was coming?
"Grandfather said Clan Mother was not pleased with father's cousin from the distaff side attending the shop; they need a direct descendant with Giseth blood."
Valen and his wife, T'Nel, had watched Tila on occasion since she was very little. Because of that, she had always regarded Valen as just another uncle. Truthfully she had spent a big chunk of her life with the Shi'Kahr branch of the Clan Mother's family. But there were whole sections she'd never set eyes on. Like the young man at Valen's side, watching her.
"This is my nephew, Tiren," Valen introduced him.
Tiren raised his hand in the traditional greeting, "Live long and prosper."
And Tila raised her hand in return. "Peace and long life to you."
Though he resembled Valen, there was something very different about Tiren but she couldn't quite identify. He was thicker in musculature than most Vulcans. His face was also more alert, his dark grey eyes giving the illusion of a laid-back calm that she knew was just a veneer. His body, though, seemed ready to spring into action. Perhaps, she thought, he was a student of the Vulcan martial arts. They were often much more muscularly dense than their contemporaries and also more on the alert for danger at all times. But that would make him a bodyguard of the clan mother at some point in his life, so what was he doing in this shop?
Valen knew what she was thinking and filled in the blanks. "Tiren is here for specialty orders and to help in the back with the office work."
"Specialty orders?" she asked.
"Another wing was added approximately seven weeks ago," said her adopted uncle. "Sometimes humans and other races that move here to Vulcan wish to have woodwork done. No other shop has adopted this custom, so we have undertaken it. They pay egregious fees to have lumber shipped here from their home worlds and Tiren sculpts it into whatever form they may wish."
Tila looked over at him and nodded. He looked more than sturdy enough to deal with off-world lumber. "I see," she said. "And in the office?" she asked him.
"I will see to payments, scheduling and make appointments for delivery times," he answered for himself. His voice was not as deep as Valen's, but it gave her an insight into him. He was unhurried in his speech, as if he carefully deliberated over everything that exited his mouth.
She didn't know quite what to make of him, but the two would be seeing a lot of one another, so she supposed she would have enough time to figure him out.
Tila went into the back and saw the records that had been compiled for the past few weeks that her second cousin had attended to while in the shop. They were a shambles. The records had not been placed within the filing system she'd arranged. But it made sense as to why. That cousin did not speak Vulcan and so didn't know what to do with some of the files. Tila spent two days fixing the filing system and electronically backing it all up on the store's computer hard drive. After that was done she felt better and got down to rearranging the office according to efficiency and her needs. She also saw the need to clean it thoroughly.
Tiren, to his credit, spent half his day in the office and the other half of his day in the specialty shop working with wood, Volcanic glass and stone or artificial ivory. Since the Vulcan day was 30 hours, the workday was nearly fifteen. She spent 8 hours in the office, and when she went home, he would work in the specialty craft section.
Tila had always been impressed with the things Uncle Valen created with pottery, but Tiren's creations blew her mind. The beauty that came out of his fingers made her stand and stare at the works of art with awe for sometimes up to five minutes. The designs were simultaneously utilitarian and beautiful. But her third week back at the shop, she put her finger on what it was about the designs. They were distinctly unVulcan at times. Where had he learned his style? Whatever his style or reasoning, his work was a hit with off-worlders and even a few Vulcans, and the orders were flying in for things he made, in particular.
The two did not talk much their first month in the shop, but they worked comfortably together; they developed a routine and some unspoken rules between the two after only a short time. Since Vulcans, in general, did not make her nervous she wished she could figure out what it was about Tiren that was so different to her senses. But she couldn't. It didn't make her nervous, just unendingly curious.