It was quiet.
A little too quiet.
Rios peeked over the back of the captain's chair and scanned the ship.
It was suspiciously quiet.
Rios knew for a fact he should be hearing something right now. Whether it was the sound of quick footsteps in training, or klinking somewhere in the ship of someone working with tools, or soft shufflings coming from downstairs, he knew that kid never failed to find something to do on the ship.
So when Rios finally realized it was quieter than usual he started to get curious. When was the last time he heard a noise? He thought back on the day, trying to pinpoint when it was he stopped hearing the everyday sounds around the ship.
They had docked the ship at one of the main spaceports to have a diplomatic meeting with the Federation. Thankfully they were able to land down on the planet allowing his new crew to go have a good romp. Well most of the crew at least.
Picard and Soji had left hours ago for the diplomatic meeting. A bunch of Federation and synth diplomacies he didn’t really want to get into. Besides the higher ups had only asked for them anyway, leaving the rest of the crew to do as they please. Although Elnor was not pleased at first. It took some convincing from Picard to have him stay on the ship.
“I’ll be alright Elnor,” Picard had attempted to soothe the young man, “We’ll be perfectly safe with Federation officers at the meeting.”
“And I’ll look after him.” Soji had kindly interjected in hopes of helping to quell his nerves. Of course he relented and bid them farewell from the open bay doors of the ship.
They weren’t expected to be back until tomorrow, opting to stay the night at the embassy the Federation had offered.
Then the girls didn’t help matters for the kid either.
“Sorry Elnor, but it's going to be a girls day out for now, no offense.” Agnes had smiled over her shoulder as she followed Seven and Raffi out the bay doors as well.
“I’ll bring you back something!” Raffi had called back.
“I’ll make sure it's something good.” Seven playfully added in, receiving an eye roll from Raffi.
And so, once again, he watched Elnor bid farewell from the bay doors, looking rather dejected too.
For the first couple hours they had done their own thing around the ship. Rios was catching up on some diagnostics while Elnor was either training or studying the lessons Seven gives him. Only once did he come to Rios to ask about a particular component or topic he was having trouble with. If there was one thing he liked about the kid it was his ability to keep a rigorous schedule for himself. Must be all that sword training discipline he grew up with.
But right now it was quiet and it was starting to grate on his mind. Rios sat for a few more minutes just listening.
What the hell?
Finally he got up from his seat with a small groan, stretching a little in the process and went about searching the ship for it’s unusual quietness. The day was starting to come to an end and a soft orange glow was filtering in through the windows of the ship. He made an entire loop around the ship, looking through the crew quarters last. He found Elnor’s room eerily quiet and empty, only a crisply made bad and an empty wooden box on his table.
It was then Rios just felt a touch of panic coming on.
Did he seriously just lose the kid?
“Computer?” Rios tried to keep his voice calm as he heard the familiar confirmation beep, “Where is Elnor?”
“Elnor is not on the ship.”
Rios made a fist and then immediately bit into it. He stood there for another moment before hustling back to the bridge. Hopefully, Elnor remembered to keep his comm badge on him, then he could trace where he decided to roam off too. He was just about to start bringing up the controls at his seat when he looked up and stopped with hands in the air. There was Elnor, outside sitting on a large rock, legs dangling over it. He seemed to be watching the sunset and...he had a very suspicious looking bottle next to him complete with a cup.
Rios leaned back in his chair in relief, taking a moment to observe him. He had his back to him and was a little slouched forward as if he was resting his elbows on his knees. It was probably the one time he saw him completely still for so long. He eventually turned toward the bottle next to him to pick it up hesitantly and look at the label, only to set it back down again. Something did seem off with him this time, so after a few moments of consideration, Rios went down to the mess area to grab a cup of his own and made his way outside.
The sun was still over the horizon as he picked his way over to the rock. Rios knew Elnor heard him coming by the way he tilted his head in his direction, but didn’t say anything, which made Rios slightly concerned. He shuffled up on the rock next to him with the bottle between them. They sat in silence for a few moments until Rios carefully picked up the bottle, only hesitating slightly to see if any objections arose. When none came he turned the bottle to look at the label and let out a low whistle.
Romulan Ale. And a good bottle by the looks of it. Still unopened too.
Still holding the bottle, Rios leaned in toward him, “How long have you had this kid?”
“For as long as I can remember.” He clipped back. Rios could feel his eyebrows reach his hairline.
“Ok, next question, WHY do you have this?” For a split second there was no answer and then quite suddenly the bottle was snatched out of his hand, only to be immediately set back down on the other side of Elnor. Rios couldn’t help but notice how carefully he set it back down, with only a gentle tap on the rock. Elnor was half turned from him, “It’s not…!” he started, then he sucked in a deep breath as if remembering himself and looked towards the ground, “It’s tradition.” He finally let out quietly. Rios leaned back to fold his arms and regarded him carefully, knowing to stay silent to let him continue.
“It’s tradition among Romulan men…” Elnor elaborated a little more evenly, “When one comes of age, he is joined by his father or close kin and they offer him his first drink as an adult.” Elnor shifted in his seat to face more forward and continued, “The father is the one who pours the first drink and with it he would give his blessing. It can be a promise or advice. Just anything really. Some families would do it at home, but others would take the young man out. I would see them when I was at Vashti. ” At this he looked down at his hands, “I’ve always wondered what it would be like. To have something like that.” He turned back to the bottle and picked it up, holding it in his lap with the label facing up, “The only memory I have of my father is when he gave this to me. He said to keep it safe and someday we would open it together, but...that is never going to happen now.”
Silence reigned as Rios processed all Elnor had shared with him. He didn’t know much about him except he was a refugee from the supernova and also an orphan. No father to share this tradition with. He could really use a cigar right now. He wasn’t sure what to say or do, Picard would be more useful in this conversation, but here he was, sitting next to a depressed Romulan kid with a bottle of ale. He ran his hands through his hair as he tried to come up with something. The sun was just touching the horizon now and for some reason he felt like he was running out of time. For what he wasn’t sure, until it hit him and he turned to Elnor, “Hey, is today your birthday?” Elnor finally looked up at him and his heart clenched at the look on his face, before he gave a small silent nod.
Rios considered this silently and cast his eyes about him as if something around would help him in this situation. They landed on the lone cup Elnor had brought with him. Rios stared at it, looked up at Elnor to see he was watching the sunset again, then back down to the cup.
Oh hell, why not.
Rios suddenly grabbed the cup, drawing the attention of Elnor, and then lifted the bottle from his lap before he could protest.
“Kid!” Rios started boldly, “I might not be your father, or anyone’s father for that matter!” He unceremoniously grabbed the cork of the bottle with his teeth and gave it a yank, successfully opening it and spitting the cork to the side, “But like hell I’m going to let you miss out on this!” He then began to pour the blue liquid into the small cup and offered it to Elnor, “AND as your Captain I am offering you this drink with a Captain's blessing of many safe travels in space, with a crew who love you and telling you to always keep up with your kickass sword skills.”
Elnor was stunned. Rios wondered how much longer he was going to be sitting there holding up the cup before he finally, tentatively reached forward for it. For a moment Rios thought it was going to all go down hill as Elnor stared at the cup with the same look he gives when he’s about to stab someone. He looked up at Rios and he couldn’t help but tense until Elnor stated matter of factly, “You need a cup too.”
“Oh, right!” Rios was reminded he did bring a cup with him and cast about for it on his other side. He brought it up triumphantly and then poured himself some of the ale. Once the bottle was safely set back down between them, Rios waited with his cup lifted slightly, “So do we just drink now, or…?”
“Now we just drink.” Elnor simply replied and proceeded to bottom up his own cup. Rios quickly followed after. They both coughed a little at the new sensation the drink brought, Elnor taking it quite well in Rios’ opinion. Better keep an eye on this kid he thought as he looked down into his now empty cup and was already starting to feel a buzz come on.
They sat in silence for another minute or so before Rios leaned over questioningly, “So why didn’t you do this with Picard?” As he thought on it, Rios was surprised Elnor didn’t bring this up with Picard, seeing as they had more of a relationship than what they had.
Elnor looked a little sheepish, “I was going to, but I just couldn’t find the right opportunity. I wasn’t sure how to bring it up with him.”
Rios grumbled a little at that and retrieved the cork he had tossed to the side. He deftly replaced it back on the bottle and handed it back to Elnor.
“You still should. I think the old man would be thrilled.” Elnor took the bottle back and nodded his head, “I will.” he replied and Rios knew he would. The sun had completely set by then and Rios wrapped an arm around Elnor’s shoulders and gave him a little shake, “Come on, the girls will be back soon.” He started to stand up from the rock and immediately felt dizzy. Elnor was just able to grab him by the arms before he toppled over the rock.
“Strong stuff.” He huffed out and Elnor chuckled at him.
“Yes, we drink it just to prove we can, or so I’ve heard.” Elnor replied between his chuckles, Rios just looked at him and was about to retort before he heard some yelling coming from the ship.
“What are you two doing over there?!”
Both men looked up to see Raffi with her hands on her hips waiting by the open doors of the ship.
“Don’t worry we’re coming back inside, don’t get your hair in a tizzy!” Rios shot back. Raffi just huffed good naturedly and walked back inside, leaving them alone again.
Once Rios regained his footing they started their way back to the ship. Just as they were coming up to the doors Rios suddenly remembered something said earlier and turned toward Elnor.
“Happy Birthday kid.”