Thanks to my betas, T'Aaneli and Rabble Rouser for their time and effort.
Special thanks to Rabble Rouser for her wonderful Rand stories that have so greatly influenced me and this piece. Thanks, sweetie.
A gust of cold wind whipped around Sulu's head as he sat on a stone bench looking out across his mother's garden. The bench was cold and hard beneath him. He ignored the discomfort.
It was early spring in San Francisco and the sky was a dull white with little sunlight. The smell of rain hung in the air. He noticed the flagstones were wet. It must have rained during the night.
Fragments of broken conversations reached him, carried over the wind. A sentence. A word. He knew he should go back in.
From where he sat, he had a good view of the big oak tree that stood at the other end of the garden, towering over his mother's prize rose bushes. The bushes looked healthy, despite their winter barrenness. Somebody must be taking care of them, he thought. His mother would have been pleased; she had loved those roses.
The wind picked up again and he watched the branches of the oak tree dance around, scraping against each other loudly. The newly budded leaves shook violently in the wind.
How he had loved climbing that tree when he was a boy. He even fell once, crushing one of the rose bushes. He smiled faintly at the memory, remembering his mother's indecision over what to yell about first, the rose bush or her son's broken leg. Not to mention being scratched and torn from head to toe.
Demora had loved to climb that tree too.
Looking at the tree he could almost see her hanging from one of the branches. She even fell once too, only she hadn't broken any bones like he had. He remembered that day. Demora had been seven years old.
"Daddy, Daddy. Look at me!" The high-pitched voice carried easily through the air.
"I see you, honey. Why don't you come down from there and meet our guests." Sulu shaded his eyes as he looked up at his daughter perched half-way up the tree, ignoring the chuckles coming from his two guests.
"Aww, do I have to?" Despite her words, Demora started to obey, inching her way down carefully. Suddenly her foot slipped and she screamed, falling to the ground. Without thinking, Sulu moved and caught her.
For a moment he just held her, tightly, letting the sudden fear and adrenaline leave his body, reassured by her breathing against his chest. He could feel her slight shaking, her arms wrapping around his neck.
"Well, I see you've got your hands full with this one."
Sulu looked up and cracked his wide smile at McCoy. "Tell me about it." With that, Kirk started to laugh, causing Demora to look inquisitively at him. His eyes twinkled at her, and before long, she started giggling back at him.
"What's so funny?" Sulu tried to look sternly at his daughter as he tickled her. Demora let out let out a squeal and giggled even more, wiggling in his arms as she tried to get down. He gave in and set her on the floor, taking her small hand in his.
"Demora, these are my friends, Dr. Leonard McCoy and Admiral James T. Kirk.
Demora looked up and very politely said, "Pleased to meet you," extending her hand towards McCoy. Visibly schooling his face into an equally polite expression, the doctor knelt beside her and shook her hand. "Pleasure's all mine, darlin."
Sulu looked down with pride as Demora and McCoy very properly shook hands.
Looking up from the two on the ground, Sulu turned to Kirk.
"Yes. She is."
"Mind some company?"
Sulu was startled out of his reverie and looked up into a pair of blue eyes.
"Hello, Janice." He shifted over so she could sit next to him on the bench.
"Brrr. It's cold out here." Rand wrapped her arms around her chest as she sat down. Sulu felt her looking sideways at him, then following his gaze to the oak tree swaying in the wind.
"People are wondering where you went to."
"I know. Let them wonder."
Rand nodded. "Okay."
He looked at her for a moment and she looked back. Then he reached for her hand and held it lightly in his, looking at her small fingers. He noticed the color difference between his skin tone and hers.
Rand placed her other hand over his. "Do you need to be alone, Hikaru? Should I leave?"
He didn't answer, turning instead back to the oak tree. She sat there for a moment, then started to get up.
"No. Janice, don't go." He held onto her hand, pulling her back down beside him. "Just give me a minute." He looked at her quickly then turned away.
They sat in silence for a while, holding hands, both facing front.
"I was remembering how she used to climb that tree over there."
Rand turned and looked at Sulu's profile.
"She grew up here, you know. Sue and I had decided there wasn't a point to us getting our own house, and Mom had more then enough room. Then mom died, and it was just Sue and Mora. I was away so much."
He fell silent again. Rand wondered if she should say something, but decided to let Sulu lead, trusting instinct would tell her when and if she should speak.
"I remember the day she come up to me, telling me she'd been accepted into Starfleet Academy. I was so proud--I called Pavel not five minutes later and raved to him for hours." Sulu's eyes lit up with the memory, "I called you too, do you remember?"
"Yes, I do." She let a small smile reach her eyes. "You had me on the comm for two and a half hours. I remember thinking I had never heard you talk so much the whole time I was on the Enterprise."
Sulu gave her a big grin. "I did talk your ear off, didn't I." His smile widened even further, even reaching his eyes. "Did you know she was born on my birthday? Sue used to joke about that, complaining about the lengths she went to just to get me a birthday present." Rand nodded, smiling back at him.
Sulu looked down at her hand, rubbing the back of her fingers lightly with his. When he looked back up, the smile was gone.
"I'm going to miss her, Janice." His deep voice cut through the wind and squeezed her heart. Rand searched for something to say, but came up empty. It would have been redundant to say Demora had died so her crewmates could live. Sulu knew that, as only a fellow officer could. She lifted her hand to his face, gently smoothing his wind- ruffled hair.
He closed his eyes.
They sat like that for a while; Sulu with his eyes closed holding her hand; Rand staring out across the garden to the big oak tree swaying gently in the wind.
Then he stood. "Come. Let's go back in. It's cold out here."