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Only when we escaped outside did the pain resume. ” We hurt….”

The sobbing was illogical and unforgivable, – a lapse of control such as a child barely old enough to walk would be expected to temper. Yet, we felt no shame – we felt the need to sob, and so we honored it, as we always had.

We’d Run from the kitchens, determined that the woman – she is not Mother, to me, my own! – and to a place where a small body of water was ringed round by plants- trees? – that seemed almost as tall as the cliffs at the Forge. Now, we slipped in amongst the shadows, waiting for all the scullery maids to return to their duties within, so that there would be no chance that we would be seen.

Spock?” Mother’s voice, sleepy, with the scent of concern as she sat up. “What is it? Sarek?”

Father held our hands – our HANDS! – in his, deep feelings rising through his mind and roiling through his scent, threatening his control. We wanted to be wholly in the shadows – the intimacy of this moment, Father’s emotions, were unknown things surging within us….

They are one, my wife, and his bondmate has been struck repeatedly by her mother. It is not the first time, but it may be the last. Do not be alarmed; he bears the evidence of the assault – this is indeed a powerful bond they have forged.”

Mother came, wrapped her arms about us, tight, her tears falling on me. “Oh, child,” she said, her mind saying the words meant for us both, and we turned into her breast, knowing it was an infant comfort, but unable to stop the impulse. We clung to my mother, made as babies again, made helpless . Niaan’s torment stung and drove space into our joining, but more that she saw nothing unusual or devastating in such abuse.

I was broken open, that she accepted it as her due, as her life.

In the same instant, she wondered at a life where those who created me tended to my needs, and where there was never fear of them.

“Her – mother -struck – her….”

My words came out through hurting hiccoughs and sobs. Niaan licked her ruined hands, her blood mixing with the sticky reek of the sauce. She was calm – no, numbed. She was absent; her mind contracting to protect itself, knowing that no place that was safe, for her, and that knowing the dangers had become her life’s duty…a duty I distracted her from, that our joining had blunted her awareness of.

I had been a part of her pain. That was too much to be born.

“It was – an accident. She was running; she -didn’t want to ruin the sauce – “

I was babbling, to cover the pain of separation, and Mother rocked me.

“Be at ease, my son.” Father still knelt knelt before us, my torn and bloody hands still in his, despite the intimacy, despite the flow of feelings between us. “There is no logic, and no compassion, in striking another. The loss of Attunement can be painful, and brings its own sorrows. The cause is just; be as thee are.” Some decision settled over him; I felt it without knowing what it was, and I held to that, that he knew what he would do.

“You must have Seclusion. Also, food, drink, and care for your wounds – inner and outer. You must be fortified, that you may be support for she who is your mate.”

“She – she thinks it normal, to be treated that way….” What Father had said registered, belatedly, and Niaan stalked closer, made curious by my thrill of anticipation and a yearning that seemed born of all that was Vulcan, and male, within me. “Seclusion?”

“Seclusion, my son. As any other who is newly bonded, you have much to absorb. You must not be distracted by the rest of living. You must have quiet, rest, and time, to learn your mate, and yourself, bonded with her. All else must wait, until you reconcile what is between you, and only then may you begin to resume the rest of your living.”

“It can’t be on Vulcan,” Mother said, as Niaan slipped back to me. We sighed, together, and Father nodded softly and released our hands, as though he had been proxy for her absence in my soul.”Vulcan means duty, and respect, and control. Let’s go to Earth, Sarek, to the place by the lake. It’s late spring there, and green, and there will be no expectations, and no interruptions. Spock and I can stay, as long as they need to, even if you need to go back to work.”

“Logical and elegant, my wife, and I know you will be glad of the chance to be home, as well. What say you, Spock, and she who is your mate? It is thy Seclusion.”

I had not been often to Earth, but there was a freedom there, people who did not notice the imperfection of my control, or the openness in my body language, or my porous mental shielding. It was green as Vulcan never could be, and restful.

Niaan stretched within me, as she prepared to leave her shadowy hiding place. There was no need to ask; her answer was within me. “I would find Earth – most agreeable. Niaan will also enjoy it, so longas there is wilderness, and good hunting.”

Father nodded. “Then it is decided. I will speak to the pilot, and we will go at once.”

I was recovering, and Mother released me when I sat up. “I will get you soup and tea, Spock, after I treat your hands. And you will do as you will, when you will, and nothing other.”

Father turned back, the medikit in his hands. “It is as your mother says. You must take time to adjust, and only you can know the shape of that process, or the timing. Do as you will, from this point forward. Whatever you wish, your mother and I will provide. Be at your ease. There is no need to concern yourself with control, or schooling, or any other matter than those which you choose to engage in.”

Mother tended my hands while Father spoke, and now she rose, returning quickly with a tray holding soup, tea, bread, and fruit, as well as a pitcher of water.

I had never before had such freedom in my life, and I was not quite prepared to trust it. Niaan knew something of it, though, and,as I sipped at soothing plomik soup and tea, I filled with her….and there was the promise of Earth, and the cabin by the lake, where we could be alone in a place like the Huntlands.

There, we could perhaps pretend that we were truly together, in every way.