As a Reminder, and a Promise…
Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint—
Note: This novel is a continuation of the Holo series, Volume 1: The Catalyst & Volume 2: The Wedding Present or the Starling's Lament
Stardate 2250.4 Vulcan
Freed from six months of chattel status after her husband had worked through a chronic Pon Far condition, Amanda discovered upon her return to society that her husband's "throwing her into the deep end of the pool" had the elements of both a blessing and a curse. He'd signed her up for her usual set of classes and seminars at the Academy and let her in for it further by submitting for review a slew of academic papers she'd written months ago.
All this on top of her just getting used to wearing normal clothing again, walking without flinching through the door and gates of her home that were formerly locked against her, taking calls, making calls, and horror of all horrors, actually dealing with living people. It had been singularly stupid of Sarek to have assumed she could so easily resume her personal and professional lives simultaneously. Yet his naïve and touching faith in her abilities made her love him all the more.
Though it was hard to imagine how she could love him more than the day he'd restored her to bondmate status. She didn't have much time for introspection, but even she spared some moments marveling over her feelings for him. Intellectually, she felt like she should have some …reservations about the man who had raped and injured her, locked her up and kept her under strict chattel status all this while. And yet it was if that was another Sarek, maybe even another Amanda. As for her, she had six months of living in near stasis to make up for, six months of being starved for an emotional and physical connection to anyone, and most particularly her husband. And now that he – and she—were back to normal, she could hardly contain her love and relief. She felt like she could not get close enough, could not hold him, or have him hold her, tight enough. It was the first, and strongest reaction to her changed status, and while she had fleeting moments of wonder about it, her intellectual curiosity was far removed from her emotional needs.
Fortunately Sarek was feeling something similar. Lessons aside – and she knew if she cared to think about it that they both hated lessons - they hadn't made love in six months. And now, in spite of all the tasks that required her attention, and the frantic rushing to catch up that should have left her exhausted anyway, they were making love every night and every morning, with more than a few interludes in between when they could catch a minute. To a certain extent that wasn't all that unusual for them, before, but what was different was the way they were making love – with the frenetic desperation of a couple of teenagers.
So it was that they had woken at dawn, after a late night of lovemaking, and made love again. What was the phrase? She was drowning in honey, stingless. Rushed as she was from six months of delayed tasks, she went back to sleep for an hour, relaxed and content.
And woke for the second time, but this time to a lematya's outraged scream.
She sat up, blinking at the orange sunlight streaming through the long windows. It was much too late for a lematya to be around.
The furious scream came again, making her flinch. That was close. She heard the sound of male voices in the courtyard below. One calling to another, who answered. The words were indistinct, but she could hear the urgency in their tone, Vulcan though they were. She slipped from bed, took a wrap from the bathroom and went to the balcony.
Sarek came back into the bedroom, dressed for the desert in sand colored clothes, his hair in the crisp curls that was its natural state. He came up behind her on the balcony. "What is it?"
"I can't hear what they are saying," Amanda admitted. The lematya shrieked again, and she shuddered. "But I can hear that! What is she doing here, after sunrise?"
"An excellent question." At the third scream, Sondt, who managed the estate came out of the archway leading to the office wing, head turned to the sound of the lematya. Sarek stirred. "I should go down."
"No," Amanda protested. "You're not a guard. Let them handle it."
"I recently changed the security programs," Sarek reminded her. "It is extremely unlikely that I made an error. But I suppose it is possible. I must go and see."
A pair of guards, fully armed with stun phasers and tranquilizer guns, ran past, heading for the far gardens.
The lematya screamed again, furious, outraged. Amanda shivered. "It must be a cub in trouble. That's the only reason she'd be up after sunrise."
"Perhaps. Probable. A lematya might breach the security to protect a cub, but if she did, she'll be dangerous. Nevertheless, you need not be concerned, Amanda. We are well able to handle a stray lematya."
"What is this we? You don't have to handle it."
"In this case, it is my responsibility to assess the situation," Sarek was already halfway out the door. He paused and looked back at her, "Amanda. Don't go farther than the courtyard."
She was new enough to freedom that she hesitated at his words, then she realized what he meant. "You just told me there's nothing to worry about," she countered.
"Nothing for you to worry about. I don't want you near a raging lematya."
"Oh, that makes me feel much better!" She looked at him, but the habit of six months made her reluctant to argue or question further. "Be careful."
"I am always careful, my wife. I have not your predilection for accidents, cuts and scratches. So you will not follow me. The guard and I will have enough to do with suppressing a raging lematya, without concerning ourselves with the safety of a careless human." He disappeared.
Amanda sighed, amazed at how Sarek could express both love and censure in the same sentence. He must get it from T'Pau. And then she went to get dressed.
She made breakfast, taking out her anxiety by making some of Sarek's favorites, as if she could tempt him back from his dangerous pursuits. Her preparations were punctuated by the sounds of the lematya's continued enraged screams. Like tearing metal. Amanda consoled herself that the big cat must not be inside the perimeter, because if that weren't the case she'd have been dispatched quickly. She must be outside the fences and forcefields, and it must be a cub that drew her. It was sometimes frightening to realize these deadly creatures prowled so close to her home, right outside the garden walls, but Amanda had discovered, almost from her first days on Vulcan, that there was a traditional truce between Vulcans and lematya. Outside the protected cities, and the walled gardens of isolated households like hers, they were allowed to roam free, at night. If they breached security, or made nuisances of themselves during the day, impeding travel, or threatening safety, they were taken down, tranquilized and moved to remote and unpopulated areas. Most lematya, nocturnal anyway, were no trouble. This one must be after a cub. If her cub had gone inside the perimeter fences and somehow gotten trapped or stuck, she would leave as soon as her cub was returned to her.
Breakfast made, Amanda left it in stasis, and went out into the court. She hadn't heard any screams for the last five minutes, and she was at the end of the path, seriously considering going after Sarek anyway and marveling at her own temerity. And then saw Sarek and Sondt returning, head to head in discussion. Sarek glanced up and saw her, nodding that whatever had happened was over. For a moment, she still hesitated. She was getting used to the idea that she didn't have to shy from the staff, but she'd not yet actually pushed herself to encounter one. But she had to do it sometime, so she squared her shoulders and went to meet them, touching her fingers to Sarek's in the only public embrace proper for bondmates.
"Was it a cub?"
"Indeed." Sarek sounded amused. "It was chasing a litka, which took refuge in a irrigation tube. The cub got stuck, and could neither advance, nor retreat."
"Oh, poor thing. Is it all right?"
"We had to cut the tube apart to free it, which took some time and care not to injure the cub inside." Sondt said, "It cried continuously, hence the mother's outraged screams. However we did recover it undamaged, and it did not need much encouragement to flee for its mother. They returned to the hills immediately upon its release. I don't think we'll see that cub again. Though we have tagged it, as a matter of course. It is cub 467M."
Amanda wondered at the pride Vulcans took in tagging, tracking and otherwise taking care for these vicious predators. "A boy cub. No wonder it got into trouble. And the litka?"
"Long gone. Sarek, this was not a situation envisioned by the company that created the irrigation system. But covering those tubes with a mesh would prevent litka from entering them, and tempting foolish cubs."
"That seems a reasonable prevention."
"Isn't there some way to keep lematya cubs out of the garden?" Amanda asked.
Sarek shrugged. "The little ones do get through. They are close enough in scanner readings to other Vulcanoid forms that preventing their access would be disruptive to the ecosystem as a whole. And at that stage, they are harmless."
She shivered. "Their mothers aren't"
"She was outside the perimeter."
"And I bet she was furious enough to breach it, even through the forcefields."
"There were several guards ready to stun her if she tried."
"She was a tagged lematya," Sondt added, "one resident in this area for many years. She was well aware of the perimeter, and no doubt expected her cub to be released. She knew there are no predators within the gardens, and that we would not hurt it. Her screams were mostly frustration that she could not get to it, and because her cub was crying."
"Amanda, do not be distressed. She will keep that cub far from the gardens, in future. As it should be."
Amanda sighed. She'd never been quite sanguine about the idea of violent predators outside her door, but it was another part and parcel of life on Vulcan. "Anyone want breakfast?"
Sarek perked up immediately, "Indeed." Even Sondt looked tempted. She supposed hunting lematya was hungry work.
"I have breakfasted," Sondt admitted, "but I would take some tea."
Sarek ate hungrily, and Sondt, lured by his clan leader's example, succumbed to blueberry muffins. The blueberries were real, but the muffins weren't what Terrans would consider muffins, as much fruit as batter, and that with no added sweetener. Over the years, Amanda had adapted almost all her recipes to Vulcan tastes, and they had largely become her tastes as well. But today, she sipped tea and watched them, her own stomach still unsettled by nervousness from listening to the lematya's fury, a mere fence and forcefield from her husband.
Sometimes she wondered if she would ever get used to life on Vulcan.
Hunger appeased, Sarek was looking at her, frowning slightly. Her eye widened a little at that expression that so recently had meant trouble for her.
"You did not eat breakfast, my wife."
She let out a relieved breath. Freed or not, she had yet to get used to not entirely quailing under her husband's even slightly disapproving gaze. And today she had errands to run and newly freed as she was, even the thought of going outside the gates, on her own, robbed her of appetite. At times, on the outside, she was fine. And then there were times when the world seemed an awfully big place, and she seemed out of place in it. She reminded herself she'd been released only a few days. She was bouncing back with remarkable speed, a few frowns aside. "I ate while you were freeing the cub."
Sarek eyed her, knowing her well enough to be entirely unconvinced.
"Scout's honor." She put up a hand, lying through her teeth, without a qualm of conscience, since she'd never been a scout. It was either that or have Sarek stand over her until she did eat breakfast. He might have recovered from vrie, but he was still overprotective, and he had developed the idea that she had lost too much weight in the last six months. And had taken to urging her to eat, as if she could make it up in a few days. Well, she had lost a little, but she rather liked it and was in no hurry to gain anything back. Besides, he should look in a mirror and see himself. And she was not nagging him with every bite, something she'd never found an inducement to appetite. "I ate a big breakfast." Sometime in my life anyway.
Sarek gave her a look askance, not fooled for an instant, but polite enough not to question her veracity before a guest. To her relief, he forbore to pursue the matter. "I must prepare for Council. What are your plans for today, my wife?"
She wondered at the change in her life that Sarek was asking her, with real interest, what she planned to do, when a few weeks ago, she was forbidden to even think of doing almost everything. "I've got some meetings at the Academy. School starts in three days." She shivered a little. "I'm not nearly ready."
"Of course you are," Sarek rose. "You will 'catch up' as you say, very quickly. You always do."
Sondt rose too. She'd almost forgotten him. But rather than paying attention to their rather personal conversation, he was regarding the muffins remaining on the serving dish with a nearly wistful gaze. Amanda took pity on him, and wrapping them up, gave them to him before he walked out the door, waving aside his grave sentences of appreciation. Many Vulcans had developed a real taste for Terran foods, particularly low sugar fruit like berries. They'd become something of a fad. But they were prodigiously expensive in commerce. To put it bluntly, even Vulcans had something of a sweet tooth, but found it inconvenient to accommodate. And though he was surrounded by a virtual garden of such, Sondt was like most Vulcans, a stickler for honestly, and probably rarely so much as boosted a berry off a vine. They should have him in for dinner, or at least breakfast, once in a while.
The fortress was something like the Terran equivalent of a historic preservation site and had a staff that maintained it. She'd always left the Vulcan staff to Sarek's governance, and she had no idea what provisions he had made for their…provisions. Probably none because when the gardens had first begun, Vulcans looked askance at human foods, and no doubt the current staff wouldn't betray themselves by little more than a glance that things had changed. Perhaps she should talk to Sarek about making sure they had an allotment of the garden produce. It seemed a little unfair for Sondt to be responsible for the Fortress and for him not to have a share of the bounty it produced.
After a moment she dared to say so.
Sarek blinked and looked at her as if he'd never seen her before. And then he nodded, a Vulcan nod, a slight inclination of his head. "You are correct, my wife. I had not considered the staff's…tastes…might have changed. It was thoughtful of you to consider such. I will see to it."
She let out a relieved breath, still finding herself surprised that she had her Sarek back, in all respects.
"I must go," Sarek said, and gave her a questioning look.
"I'll be fine," she assured him. And leaned up and gave him a kiss. "For luck," she said.
"I did not think it was for logic, my wife," he teased back. And then took his own leave.
She straightened the kitchen and then flew up the stairs, to change for the Academy. At least today, if she looked a little nervous going out that fearsome gate, she could blame it on lematya.
And at that, she thought, God bless lematya. Perhaps there was something to be said for them after all.