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"Mycroft, perhaps you should explain," Bruce Wayne said questioningly. "If my eyes do not deceive me, Richard's sister, who should be in Washington with the Tolhursts, just appeared next to my piano with a gentleman who -- your pardon, sir -- appears to resemble a goblin out of legend. And I deduce this is in some way connected to that small device you were speaking into as though it were a telephone."
"Elementary, my dear Wayne," said Mycroft Holmes, lounging on an upholstered settle. "Miss Grayson is accompanied by the Ambassador from the Planet Vulcan. I believe they were aboard his ship, and were just transported in from it."
"Mr. Holmes, please," Amanda said. "Though I am proud of my father's name, it is only logical to refer to me by my new, proper title, Amanda, née Grayson, Ko-telsu t'Pi-Maat Sarek." Sarek raised an eyebrow.
"Ah, yes. That translates to Amanda, born of the Family Grayson, Wife of the Family of Sarek, am I not correct? My apologies; I have not yet gotten used to it." Mycroft responded urbanely.
"You're married?!" Richard was startled.
"Betrothed, actually, if I understand Terran customs correctly," Sarek said. "We are committed as husband and wife, but will formalize that according to the customs of my people when we return to my world."
"I find this hard to believe," Bruce said. "My understanding was that you are too young to contract marriage. And what did Rupert and Lavinia have to say about it?"
"After we convinced him it was the logical thing to do for my safety, Rupert gave his consent," Amanda answered. "Lavinia -- well, that's a different story. But in fact I am of age to marry by Vulcan standards, and, strange as it may sound, we found ourselves in love the evening we met."
"Well, I was going to tell you that Bruce has become like a second father to me," Richard interjected, "but I guess that's kind of like an anticlimax to your news. Are you happy, sis?"
"Very much so," Amanda answered warmly.
"Me too," Richard said. "And that's what really matters."
"'Out of the mouths of babes...' ," Sherlock quoted.
Both Graysons turned baleful gazes on him. "It's a proverb from the Bible," he explained, "to the effect that sometimes you can get the greatest wisdom from the young." They smiled.
"May I have Alfred serve you a beverage, Mr. Ambassador?" Bruce asked.
"Tea would be acceptable," Sarek answered. "And just 'Sarek,' please. In view of the fact that you are now collateral members of my Family."
Amanda looked pleased and surprised. She quirked an eyebrow at Sarek, who explained, "The House of Wayne is clearly of some repute; Dr. Tolhurst indicated as much. But your brother is equally entitled to the protection of Vulcan, if he should ever need to invoke it -- as is the man who has taken him as son."
Bruce bowed gravely; as he gestured, Richard did the same. "I am not sure what that entails, Sarek," Bruce said, "but I get the impression that I have been deeply honored by you. Please accept my thanks."
"It was merely the logical thing to do," Sarek said. "You are, after all, the man who rescued my wife and..." he paused, clearly searching the right word "...my brother-in-law from the Orphanage. That was an act in accord with the deepest and most time-honored customs of my people, and deserves reward beyond what I may give."
"I have given orders that the children there receive more caring and respect, and opportunity to choose their own futures in accord with their maturity," Bruce said. "I'm glad that the children's plight opened my eyes to what was happening there."
"Then you have some authority to ensure proper care for children in this nation?" Sarek asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"Only insofar as the money I give to the institutions for their care and education gives me that authority. I wish I could do more. If this is a concern of yours, you should speak with the government." Bruce was apologetic.
"I have done that," Sarek answered with the faintest tinge of anger in his voice. "They had 'more important' things to concern them, like battleships and trade deficits. 'The most important duty of any person is to provide for the care of the young,'" he quoted.
"Surak?" Amanda asked.
"Yes, that was one of his aphorisms," Sarek answered.
"My husband's ancestor is remembered as the founder of modern logical Vulcan civilization," Amanda explained proudly.
"Have you engineers open to learning new technological advances?" Sarek asked Bruce in an apparent change of direction.
"I do indeed," Bruce answered. "Wayne Industries has a fairly large research and development staff; I find it pays for itself many times over."
"My wife," Sarek said to Amanda, "I have committed to you that we will do what is in our power to ensure no other child faces what you and Richard did. Since the government has been unhelpful, well, as the old Terran Proverb goes, 'there is more than one way to remove the pelt from a feline animal.'" Looks of bafflement on the faces of the Earth humans were replaced by chuckles. "Did I misquote?" Sarek asked.
"No, you reproduced faithfully the sense of it, but your translation back into English altered the original phrasing enough to make it amusing," Mycroft explained.
"I must work at learning the human sense of humor," Sarek said, then continued. "Mr. Wayne...."
"Bruce, I have committed Vulcan to your government to introduce some of our advanced technology at a controlled rate. But I did not make a commitment as to how I would do so. Would it suit you that I have some of our leading teachers of Technics, work with your research people to use your businesses as the primary conduit through which I keep that commitment -- and in exchange you would expand your contributions to places which provide care for children?"
"It would be my great pleasure, Sarek," Bruce said. Richard and Amanda were beaming. "Is it possible that you and Amanda would join us for dinner, and, if I may be so bold, for the evening as well?"
"Making the acquaintance of my brother-in-law and his a'nirih is an order of magnitude more important than any other task at present," Sarek responded.
Seeing the looks of consternation, Amanda explained, "A'nirih means 'nurturing father,' a person who fills the role of father to a son or daughter though not in that blood relationship. Father was your sa'mekh, Richard; Bruce is now your a'nirih."
Alfred came to the drawing room door just then. "Beg pardon, Mr. Wayne. Chief Moody just dropped off those parcels you inquired about."
"Ah, good -- and wonderful timing, too! With Amanda here, we won't have to express hers to Washington," Bruce said. Both Graysons were giving him inquisitive looks. "I arranged with the Chief to have what could be recovered of your and your parents' belongings brought here. It was my intent to send Amanda hers, and have Rupert bring her by when next he was in town to share out your parents' things. Now she can have them directly."
Alfred carried in two large bundles. "Feel free to look through them; I can see you're eager to," Bruce said. Brother and sister began looking through things, initial excitement turning to sentimental reminiscence as they sifted through their parents' small estate. Then Richard suddenly grinned. "Look, it's our costumes! C'mon, Amanda, let's put 'em on and show 'em off!"
"I believe I'll wait and model mine for Sarek later," Amanda said, reddening slightly. "But go ahead and change into yours!" Richard was out the door and up the stairs in a flash. A minute later, he came running back down. His acrobat's costume was close-fitting and colorful. Below, tights in hunter green; above, a tunic, cinched at the waist, with a short cape. Cape, arms and back of the tunic were also hunter green; the chest area was a bright red-orange. He posed for the assembled group, then turned an experimental cartwheel on an open area of floor, springing back to his feet and spreading his arms in a bit of showmanship.
"My word," Mycroft said, "in that costume he looks like a little robin redbreast!" Richard executed a theatrical bow in his direction, to light chuckles from Amanda and the adult humans. Sarek's lip twitched in what looked like a fleeting smile; Amanda noticed.
"Mr. and Madame Ambassador," Sherlock interjected, "if you are not pressed for time, I had intended to assess Richard's skill at detection this afternoon. Alfred, if Bruce agrees, please stay with us." Bruce nodded assent. "Richard, note the paperweight here on the table. As you go to change out of your costume, one of us will take that paperweight and secrete it upon his or her person. Your task when you return is to discover who has it. You may use any of your reading and experience to date, anything you can note about this room, and the facial expressions of those here -- but you may not ask any questions of anyone. Are you game to try it?"
"Sure!" Richard agreed sunnily.
"Then go change and come right back," Sherlock said. As the door closed behind Richard, Sherlock gestured to one of the people in the room to take the paperweight.
Richard returned two minutes later, again clad in normal boyswear. He looked around the drawing room, then at Sarek and Amanda, who had emotionless expressions -- and then at Bruce, Alfred, Mycroft, and Sherlock, who were maintaining the same deadpan visage. He glanced around again for a moment, stood in thought, then walked up to Alfred and held out his hand. Alfred drew the paperweight from his pocket, as the humans applauded and cheered him. Sarek gave him a grave, "Well done."
"Would you explain your reasoning?" Sherlock asked.
"It's simple," Richard answered. "You set a specific set of conditions -- we're sitting in a drawing room, I was to use reading, experience, and observation, but no questioning. I had no relevant experience, and observation told me nothing except for the room being the same drawing room as before, except for the missing paperweight. Therefore the answer had to lie in my reading. And it's a commonplace of drawing room mysteries that the butler did it. And you asked Alfred to stay. So I knew it had to be Alfred!"
"Well solved," Sherlock said.
"Do you plan to include Richard in your training program?" Mycroft asked Sarek.
"Training program?" Bruce and Richard questioned.
"It would of course be his own choice," Sarek answered bemusedly, "but I hadn't thought of doing so. Certainly he -- and Bruce as well -- will join us on Vulcan from time to time. But I'd intended the program for boys interested in science, and in space. Richard can do more good aiding his a'nirih in what we've discussed already, and preparing himself to someday take charge. I covenant that he will not miss out on any adventure, and can be more help to more children like himself and his sister, helping guide Bruce's efforts."
"What my husband is failing to explain," Amanda said, " is that the Vulcan Fleet will be taking selected human boys and training them in spaceflight, to be the initial cadre of Earth's own space fleet command someday in the future. I said we should include girls too, but a bunch of Washington bureaucrats find it very easy to not hear a 14-year-old girl."
"In time," Sarek said. "The seas did not dry up overnight, as it is said."
"My Yitzhak is so smart," the proud mother said to her neighbor. "Only three, and he's taught himself to read and do simple sums. I know he will excel at shul and then yeshiva, and go on to be a famous rabbi!"
Yitzhak basked in his mother's praise, then wandered off. The sun was setting across the fields to the west; the near-full moon had just risen in the east. Yitzhak looked up at it. 'I don't want to be a famous rabbi, with a bushy beard,' he thought. 'I want to go there!'
It was a few hours from sunset. Arthur picked his way across the shingle at the sea's edge. Thoughts of the boy he'd seen swimming earlier swirled through his head, and caused an unfamiliar feeling in his abdomen.
To clear his mind, he let his imagination run free. First a warmer sea, in which he was diving and watching the panoply of underwater life. Then deep space, with great blue stars and fantastic worlds with resplendent names like Rhamsandron and Diaspar. But images of the boy's body kept coming back to him.
Robert leaned back in the hammock, carefully setting A Princess of Mars down next to him, and began to daydream of Barsoom. The summer heat was making him sweaty, even though all he was wearing was a pair of overalls. A faint squeaking sound resolved, as it became louder, into the familiar noise of Wesley's old bike.
"Hey, Robert, c'mon! Let's go down to the swimming hole!"
Abandoning his book, he jumped up and darted for his bike. "You're on!"
The old truck rattled and rumbled its way across the rickety bridge over the stream. To its right the stream widened and deepened into a pond suitable for swimming. On the bank were two bicycles and two piles of clothing -- but no boys.
Under the bridge, Robert and Wesley hid from the sight of the adults in the truck, not wanting to be caught skinny-dipping. They were pressed up against each other near the one abutment where they could not be seen. They held their breath as the car rattled its way off the bridge and on around the curve, where cornfields would hide them from its view.
"You have a stiffy," Robert said as they emerged. "I could feel it pressed up against my bottom."
Wesley blushed. "Yeah, well, you get 'em too. And I'll bet you play with yours!"
"Yeah, I do," Robert said. "Why not? It feels good."
"Pastor Bunsen says it's a sin to play with your own stiffy," Wesley said.
"Tell you a secret," Robert said. "I don't believe a lot of what Pastor Bunsen says, It's not even in the Bible!"
"How do you know that?" Wesley said.
"I read it," Robert answered. "I like to read stuff."
Looking at Wesley's stiffy while talking had made Robert develop one of his own. Defiantly, he took hold of it and began playing with it, to see what Wesley would say. Wesley giggled.
"Wanna hear a secret?" Wesley asked. "You gotta promise you won't tell anybody!"
"I promise," said Robert, extending his pinky, bent, for Wesley to wrap his own around.
"Pastor Bensen's got a real big stiffy, with black hair around the bottom. And he shoots out lots of --you know."
"G'wan, how d'ya know that?" Robert scoffed.
"I went to talk to him about getting stiffies, and he got his out, and you know what he showed me to do?"
"This." And Wesley knelt in the shallow water and slipped his lips around Robert's boyhood. It felt like an electric charge went through Robert. Wesley moved his head up and down, inducing more pleasurable sensations. Robert felt his legs getting weak -- and something else imminent.
"Wes, if you don't stop, I'm gonna...."
Wesley continued to suck on Robert's engorged young penis, and within seconds Robert had the most intense orgasm yet of his young life. "Wow!" he said when he finally got his breath. "You didn't mind my...."
"Naw," Wesley said. "Can't say it tastes good, but I kinda like the taste anyway." He smiled. Then he looked away shyly, and said, "Do you think you'd be willin' to do me?"
"Sure," Robert said, and knelt down. Sucking on Wesley's slightly smaller penis felt good, felt right. All too soon, Wesley said, "I'm gonna...."
As Wesley had for him, Robert continued sucking, and moments later felt Wesley squirt something salty and sweet onto his tongue.
"That was marvelous," Wesley said. "Thanks."
"Me too," Robert said. "C'mon, that got me all sweaty again; race ya over to the willow!"
It was a balmy night, and Robert took his sleeping bag out behind the lilac bush, where he could sleep out with a little privacy from his sisters. He spread out the bag, stripped to boxer shorts, and lay down atop it, looking up at the stars. 'There's Mars,' he thought. 'Wouldn't it be wonderful if someday I can go there, like in the stories?' And his mind began to wander, remembering the John Carter stories, and placing himself as the hero, clad in a loincloth and leather belt and harness, out to defeat the evil green Martians.
Only in Robert's imagination, his goal was to rescue the handsome prince from unspeakable degradation at the hands of the savage Martians. The only problem, he recognized vaguely, is that the unspeakable degradation he was rescuing the prince from seemed to resemble quite closely the reward the grateful prince would bestow on him for the rescue. Tonight, the handsome prince had Wesley's face, and as he ran the last evil Martian through with his sword, the prince fell into his arms and kissed him "You have saved me, my hero! My lands, my fortune, and my body are yours to command!" And he noticed that the handsome prince's loincloth appeared to be propped away from his body by something quite intriguing.
Without opening his eyes, Robert's hand drifted down into his shorts, to deal with a pressing issue that had arisen there.
Clan Short Archivist Review Notes:
First of all I apologize for taking so long to edit this chapter. There was a wee bit of miscommunication on my part.
I would like to again comment on the direction of this wonderfully inventive story but that would be lying to you as I have absolutely no idea where it is going.
It is a very whimsical chapter yet at the same time a very informative chapter. Amanda seems to have grown a very stiff backbone overnight. She may turn out to be the proverbial "Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove"
I love the way the characters continue to grow and evolve and I am eagerly awaiting then next chapter.
The Story Lover