From a distance, he watches the crowd at play.  No, more precisely, he watches the twins at play--a boy and a girl, fraternal twins--and he watches their mother watch them.

The girl has her mother's hair, wave after wave of heavy, thick silk.  Last time he saw her, it was a coppery red; today it's a perfect jet black.   It speaks to the quality of cosmetic colorization that he has no sense of what shade it would be naturally.

She wears it pulled up in a ponytail and has drawn it through the back of a ball-cap.  In her uniform, the resemblance to her brother is striking.  Beneath the cap, he sees the tiny upswept almost-points that grace the tops of her ears.

Her body is lithe and lean, a little gawky in its prepubescent condition.  She is taller than her brother is. Her batting technique is more thoughtful--more logical--too.  Her face is intent; her blue-grey eyes stay with the ball at all times.

She tilts her head.  There is no question; she has Amanda's nose.

Her brother cheers her from behind.  He is so unlike her--passionate and spontaneous, always ready to make everyone laugh, succeeding more often than not.  He is popular; everyone wants to play on his team.
His batting statistics are far below hers, but he bubbles with excitement every time he comes to the plate.  Apparently winning isn't everything for some.

His hair is also shiny black, but his has always has been.  He assumes that is the color it was at birth.  Last time he saw him, it was cut in a dome, with pointed sideburns to emphasize the telltale ears.  He wonders if that choice was intentional.

Today his hair is long and undisciplined, past his nape, held carelessly back with a leather thong.  The tie is loose; his ears are covered.

He wonders if that choice is intentional too.

The boy has Sarek's eyes.   Watching his wide smile, Spock imagines he has Amanda's contagious laughter as well.

Spock has never heard his grandchildren's voices.   He would like to do so one day.

The girl holds her stance.  The first pitch goes by her calf.  Ball one.

Spock has often wondered at their conception.  His own took four genetic engineers from two planets and more than seventeen attempts to complete.  The physicians had said he was sterile.  None of this should have happened.

It is one more curiosity he can attribute to the medicinal powers of the spores.  Certainly if life in space has taught him anything it is that the term "should" holds little meaning in the face of new discoveries.  The proof of that plays baseball as he speaks.

The second pitch is wide of home plate.  She holds her stance; her eyes dart right back to the pitcher's glove.  Ball two.

He had not seen Leila since Omicron Ceti III.  A biologist who had known them both on Earth had told him of her recent marriage to Sandoval and her daughter over a casual dinner aboard ship one night.   The calculations had not been difficult.

He had sent her a stargram with contact information, receipt confirmed.  She had not responded.

The spores had taken some choices from them both, but this one and the right to make it was hers.  He did not send a second message.

Logic dictated that he had done his duty.

He does not know what to call this force that has drawn him so often to locate her, to watch her and her child, and later on, her child's children.

In the transporter room he had told her he could only know duty, never love.  With the passing of a few more years at Jim's side, he had come to understand that to a man with a peaceful heart, they are both one and the same.

His first duty was to he captain and his friend.

It is a sad fact of life that even the most recent lessons learned are not necessarily correct.  It was not until he heard that Jim was dead and the full impact of the gaping, empty years that lay ahead of him came crashing over his mind, that he realized that he had been wrong--horribly, tragically wrong both times.   Any chance he had had
to comprehend love had been ripped from him by an energy ribbon and now drifted lifeless between the stars.

He tendered his resignation the next day.  Duty and love may not be the same, but Jim's death left him with neither.

Jim had been his only love, but watching the family--his family--now, he considers if he must necessarily be his last.

He fingers the coded missive in the pocket of his robe.  Pardek has sent word for a secret meeting on Jaqivo VII.  He reported that the hour was ripe to influence the senate toward reunification. There is much discontent with the Emperor.

The good of the many exceeds the good of the one; so many vulcanoid lives were at stake, and yet he hadn't gone.

It may not be officially his duty, but it is illogical for him not to go.

The little girl with Amanda's nose hits a ball deep into the outfield.   She takes off and runs like the wind.  In the stands her mother rises and cheers.

The girl's mother also inherited her own mother's hair, wave after wave of yellow corn silk falling down around her shoulders. It covers up the quite unmistakable points of her ears.  Every time he has seen her, she has worn it down in one style or another.

He know that blonde is not its natural hue, but it seems right to him that she should wear it that color.  Among other things, it flatters her.

She also has Leila's shapely body--wave after wave of bosom and hips. She is about the age now that Leila was then.

The mother's face turns to follow the daughter as she runs the bases. When she reaches second, the mother looks ahead toward third.  She is looking in his direction.  Perhaps she sees him this time.

He doubts she would recognize him if she did.  He wonders if she has even been given a name or a picture.

She has her Leila's smile.

The child starts toward third, but changes her mind, goes back and stops at second.  He follows the ball as it is thrown back in.  It arcs up into the sky.

Flimsy wisps of clouds scatter the blue.  Cirrus, altocumulus and cumulus, they are all conglomerations of water vapor and ice crystals--nothing more.  There are no dragons in the sky.  Despite his memories, he tells himself there never were.   None of that was real.

None of it.  It was only an illusion of the spores.

The good of the many exceeds the good of the one.  He will tidy his affairs and leave in two days.

The boy with eyebrows comes up to bat.  He has Leila's cheekbones, arched high and round.  Perhaps he was wrong; he sees nothing of Sarek in the boy today.  Perhaps it was only the haircut after all.

The boy prepares to bat eyes sparkling with excitement.  No, there is nothing of Sarek in him, but he is a fine boy in his own right.  His family should be proud.

Spock will tidy his affairs and leave for Jaqivo VII in two days.  But for now, he will watch the remainder of the game.

In the transit lot, Leila stops her aeromobile a discreet distance away.  Her summer blonde is still thick and luxurious, but has long since turned to shades of silver.  She doesn't colorize it; she prefers it this way.

In the transit lot, Leila stops her aeromobile a discreet distance away.  Her summer blonde is still thick and luxurious, but has long since turned to shades of silver.  She doesn't colorize it; she prefers it this way.

She pulls a pair optifocals from the convenience compartment of the instrument console.  She put them there the second time she thought she saw him watching.  Or perhaps it was the third.

She directs the beam. Yes, it's him.  He looks older now--even older than the last time, and that was barely six months ago.  He no longer looks like the man she once loved.  The man she knew then had had the feel of such simmering unmapped potential, if only he would let her show him.

This man looks like a refugee drifting too weary to navigate--simply hoping to find home

But somewhere in there is the man who told her she was beautiful, and that he loved her as he had loved no one else before.  That kind of love doesn't simply die.  She knows that for a fact.

She readjusts the optifocals.  She thinks she can still see it a little in his eyes.

She watches for a long moment, then puts the focals away.  Elias is dead; sometimes she thinks it would be nice to try again, but there is more than herself to consider these days.  Although her descendents do not share Elias's genes, they have all been blessed with the gentle compassion and the heartfelt love of all things living that Elias had
given to them.

He may not have given them life, but he gave them the capacity to love life, and that is the greater of the two.

They knew the facts of course, but the cold hard fact was that in every way that mattered, chromosomes excluded, Elias was their sire, and the best one any child could want.

To meet a father--a grandfather, no, a semen donor--who could not love them back, would be beyond their happy understanding.  After thirty-five years, Leila is just beginning to understand and to forgive.   She would not wish that anguish one anyone--certainly not her dearest, and so she drives off.  There will be other games for her
to watch.

A mother's foremost duty is ever to her young.