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I awoke with slick silks upon my skin – not my bed at home….and not T’Pau’s stone cell within the Forge. The air smelled as though it had been scrubbed clean, with gentle notes of Mother, and stronger tones that belonged to Father. A deep thrum resonated through my body…

We were still on the shuttle.

I had a dim memory…Mother helping me to bed. Niaan everywhere. With me. Within me. Parted from me, and never parted….

Niaan!”

I jerked upright before I found any control; my head was too heavy, and not securely attached to my neck. I clutched at the edge of the bed as I found my balance – but, for the emptiness in my soul, there was no help…

“Niaan!”

She was not here – and I could feel her only as a hollow memory…Had she been only a dream? Was I yet alone, belonging truly nowhere and to no one?’

“Seek within yourself, my son. If she is there, you will find her. If she is not, it is best you learn it now.”

I was standing in the doorway, quite unclothed. Father leaned forward in the chair by the window, his eyes intent upon me. Mother slept on the couch, her breathing soft and comforting.

“I – ask pardon for my outburst.”

“There is no need. Thy cause is sufficient. Learning to balance within a bond is an imprecise -” he paused, for a moment, and his brow lifted. “- and often disquieting – process.” His scent carried – tenderness? Amusement? Understanding? – as he rose. “Do you require assistance?”

“I am uncertain.” That much was true. I was uncertain how to regard this new closeness and concern, when I had expected to do battle. I was uncertain what action to take, beyond that I could not remain thus, naked in the doorway.

I was uncertain, too, of Niaan, and what was between us. “Parted from me, but never parted….”

Father’s breath caught in a rare display of surprise. He came slowly nearer, and the lines around his mouth had softened, as had his scent. He took a woven blanket from the back of the chair. “I would welcome your company, Spock, and there are things we must discuss. However, it is possible that you have not done with sleep, or with Souldance.”

He remained in the chair, and did not meet my eyes, and I was illogically happy about both. I lifted my chin, allowing myself to express some element of Niaan’s wildness…and my sense of her rekindled, and I made a soft sound, as I reached outward to her…I could feel her, could see, through the window, the heading that would lead to her.

“I will not surrender my bond with Niaan, Sarek. Do what you will, but know that I will not.”

“Be at ease, my son. I have no desire to undo is done, and I doubt that it could be accomplished without grave damage to you both. That is between you and she, alone.”

He came with the blanket, wrapped it around my shoulders, then lifted me as I began to tremble in the new warmth. I allowed Father to carry me to the chair he had occupied. He settled me, then went to the servitor, returning with a laden tray. I smelled Mother’s soup, and a tea I did not recognize, and my stomach clenched emptily, bringing nausea I swallowed back.

“A marriage has been arranged, for you, Spock, with a daughter of House Kontrin. Her name is T’Pring, and you and she are of an age.”

I accepted the soup that he offered. My hands shook…with weakness, and with rage I knew I could not voice. I drew three breaths, and swiveled the chair so that I could look out at the stars – and there was Father’s face reflected there, obscuring the path that led to her, inescapable. “A marriage? I am bound to Niaan, and desire no other.”

“The arrangements are provisional, my son. There will be a Promising. Your minds will be locked together, against your eventual need.”

I wanted to protest, to release all the words and accusations built up over a lifetime of living within the constraints of Father’s will. But Mother had been right. Only logic would sway Father. Mother might employ emotion, and so win her way, but I could not. “There is no conclusive proof that I will face such a need. Also, I may well find her.”

“You are correct. Logically, that means that there is also no proof that you will not. Your bondmate is not of this world, or any world we know of. Logically, we cannot assume that you will find her. Therefore, we must see that you have – an alternative solution.”

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