Tadik wondered what to do as D'vork drew him backwards till his back touched the captain's chest. Tadik froze. Then D'vork drew the fur back over him, and gave a sigh of frustration. Tadik relaxed a little, thinking that perhaps he wasn't going to be assaulted after all. "Tadik, I wish to apologize for the way you have been treated."
"What do you mean?"
"On Gpuchk, a young person is never left to grieve, or to deal with personal problems on his own. The family is duty bound to comfort him, and if he has no family, he goes to an independent councilor of his choice who in turn finds him a mentor; be he a family friend or a favourite uncle. On this ship, you have neither, so I would like to make amends for leaving you alone in your sadness, by offering myself as a mentor or perhaps as a friend. We love and cherish our young, just as our brothers the bears do. I would be honoured if you would accept my offer."
Tadik lay quiet for a moment, feeling strangely safe in the Gpuchkian's embrace. As he had no one else to turn to, except for and android and a computer, it looked like he was fated to endure a lonely voyage to Gpuchk. His father used to be very fond of hugging, and that was what he missed the most. Thinking about his father, he realized that his mother was never overly demonstrative in her affections. "If I was your son, or a young man suffering on your planet, what would you do?"
"This,"the captain said in his ear, and turning him over, he wrapped his arms about him, bringing him into a warm snuggle against his mighty chest. "I would offer him the comfort of my embrace, and the love of my heart that a father could ever give. I would make sure that nothing would ever hurt him. We never had more than one of two children and often there as much as ten years between each birth, so we cherish the ones we have like precious diamonds."
"Do you have children?"Tadik asked him.
"Yes, I am blessed with two sons. D'vorkus, which means first born to me, is twenty summers old, and D'vorketh which mean second born to me, is sixteen. As soon as I arrive home, D'vorkus will begin his career as an ambassador and D'vorketh will begin his training in our space fleet. It is rumoured that having human blood in my veins has contributed to my ability to produce male offspring. If that proves to be true, we might find that humans are made welcome on Gpuchk in the next few years. But we are digressing here."
Tadik felt really comfortable. He was warm and held in a pair of arms that reminded him so much of his father's. If he drifted away, he would imagine that it was his sire that held him...
He ran to the door as his father opened it, and leapt into his arms with a squeal of delight. "Mummy; Daddy's home!"
His father hugged him close and kissed him, and carried him into the lounge. His mother frowned at him from where she sat at a table, working on a letter. "I wish you wouldn't baby him so Tadik. He's not a baby anymore."
"Of course he's still a baby! Aren't you boy?"
"He's nine years old and should act like it."His mother's voice held a note of anger."
"But he's still my baby,"his father retorted. "And look how he's grown!"It had been almost a year since Tadik had last seen his father striding away from the house to fly to some remote part of the universe."
"As I said, Tadik, he's no longer a baby. Get down Tadik and attend to your studies."
His father refused to put him down, his eyes flashing with anger. "We at least he's pleased to welcome me home. I'm away for ten months and it seems as if I've just stepped next door. Come on sprout, you can help me off with my uniform."
"Tadik, I said -."
"Oh, for God's sake, woman, what is the matter with you?"
His mother wilted at his father's sudden attack. "I'm sorry Tadik, I just can't cope any more. Your credits haven't come through yet, and it's hard to make ends meet when you're not here."As father set me on my feet, she rose from her chair and came to him, lifting her lips to be kissed as she put her arms round her husband.
"I've missed you."His father said into her gracefully coiffed hair.
My mother didn't return the sentiment, simply saying, "Yes, dear. I've made your favourite for dinner. If you'd like to choose a bottle of wine from the cellar, we can sit down in about ten minutes."
Tadik knew his father loved his food, but his wondered if his mother used his love of her cooking as a substitute for what he wanted in bed. Little Tadik already knew about all that. His father had shown him how his body worked, and how to have his pleasure, as all dutiful fathers did, and had explained what men and women did in bed. His father had promised that when he was ready, he would provide a suitable lady friend to lose his virginity with. His father had also talked to him about the possibility that he might prefer a boyfriend, and that it wouldn't change how much he loved his son. Tadik waited with growing impatience till the day he spurted for the first time. There would be a special celebration followed by his first sexual experience. As long as Daddy was there, he wasn't afraid of anything. But what if Daddy couldn't be there?
As his father let his mother go, little Tadik caught hold of his hand and the two of them walked down the hall to the master bedroom where he helped his father remove his tunic. He loved his father's body, so strong and muscular, and his greatest thrill was to be safe in those strong and loving arms. If his mother didn't want this, then he did. His father saw him looking at his chest, smiled, and lifted him up to nuzzle his neck. He carried Tadik to the huge bed and lay down with him still in his arms. He laid him on is chest and let Tadik caress his pecs. "I love it when you do that, son."At this, little Tadik laid his head on his father's chest and closed his eyes and his father rubbed his back. He purred with pleasure as he felt his little pee pee expand...
Tadik cuddled closer and loved the feel of his father's arms holding him close and rubbing his back, but something was not quite right. His father's chest was a lot rougher than when they had fallen asleep. Tadik jerked awake and stared at the chest beneath is cheek. No! Shocked, he forced D'vork to release him, and he rolled away, his face red with embarrassment, his chest heaving as he tried to control his shattered nerves. For one moment he wished there were pillows on the bed that he could bury his face in. Hot tears stung his eyes and he squeezed the shut. He had felt so warm and cared for. He so wanted to feel it again, but he wanted it to be his dad.
D'vork waited patiently for some sign that the boy was all right, and was surprised to hear the loud sobs of despair. The boy's shoulders shook with each sob, and D'vork touched his back. The boy jerked and gripped the edge of the mattress with white knuckled fingers. "Tadik let me help you. Tell me what is hurting you so."
It took a long time for Tadik to stop crying, but his body still shook with each intake of breath. "I...I thought...you were... my dad. I miss him... so much."The sobs threatened to break out again, and D'vork forced him to turn over so he could gather the boy to him.
Holding him close, he let the boy sob his heart out, not caring if his shirt got soaked. Inmahn popped his head round the door and D'vork waved him away. Now wasn't the time to have anyone else near. "Tell me, Tadik. Tell me about your father."
Tadik sniffled a bit, trying to cope with a runny nose. "We used to cuddle a lot, and he promised he would be there for my ceremony, but he never came."
"What ceremony is this?"
"It's something new the world government came up with. Like the ancient Jews with their Bar-mitzvahs They said we had the right to know about sex, and that our first spurt was something to be proud of, not hidden away as something distasteful. A lot of people were against it at first, Mum didn't like it at all, but Dad insisted that it was a right. Dad promised that I would have my first experience after the celebration. Everything was ready, our friends were at the house, but someone came and told us that Space Command had lost contact with Dad's ship. Mum forced me to go ahead with...with my...experience. She'd gone to a lot of trouble with the party she didn't want it wasted and she didn't want to disappoint all her guests. I made a mess of things and couldn't keep it up, thinking of my Dad, that I might never see him again. I ran out of the bedroom with the girl shouting insults after me. It was awful. I just ran upstairs and hid."
D'vork tightened his arms about the boy. "Could it be you would have had a better time if your partner had been a boy?"
Tadik stilled, thinking. "Maybe; I don't know. I didn't care. I could hear everyone laughing and making jokes about me."The tears started again and D'vork eased the boy from him, got up off the bed, fetched the towel Inmahn had brought and, handing it to Tadik, he lay down again.
Once again he gathered the boy in a gentle embrace and let the boy sob into the towel. "That was cruel of them to do that. No one should be made fun of because things don't work out as planned, especially at your time of loss. Did you have time to grieve?"
Tadik shook his head, and wept some more. "I had to look after my mother and the house, and then... and then we heard what happened to my dad and we had to arrange for a memorial. We... we didn't even have a b... body to bury. Then Franklin came along and said I had to pull myself together and get on with my life, that I was old enough to do without a father."
"Then that is why you are crying now. The time has come for you to grieve. Let me be your councilor, your mentor and your friend at this sad time."He let his lips caress the soft blonde waves below his chin, and held the boy tight against him. A while later, Inmahn came in and signaled that D'vork was needed and D'vork looked down to find the boy sleeping in his arms, a look of peace on his tear stained face. His heart seemed to grow huge within his chest, and he found it hard to swallow. Was he really falling in love? That wasn't such a ridiculous idea after all. His father had found love with an earth woman half his size.
Easing the boy onto his side, he covered him with the fur and went to join Inmahn at the computer. Percy's face filled the screen, but as soon as D'vork sat down, the face of Sir Rayle filled it, his eyes alive with excitement.
"Sir Rayle, I didn't expect to see you so soon."
"Captain, I didn't think I would have something for you so soon, either. May I speak to my client?"
"Not at the moment, Rayle. The loss of his father has caught up with him at last. He's had time to cry, but now he's sleeping."
"Oh, I see! Well perhaps what I have to say might cheer him up. I had a friend of mine, who's a judge in the criminal justice system, look at the evidence. I also had another friend of mine chase up the missing blood and urine samples. They'd been conveniently misfiled in the lab. They proved that Tadik's blood was full of a strong suppressant. That boy was so doped up he couldn't have stayed on his feet long enough to have killed that girl. The only evidence against him at the moment is the evidence inside her."
"Wait a minute, Rayle. I've learned something today, which may make a difference. Tadik told me about this first spurt ceremony that's becoming popular on Earth. He failed his miserably. How much semen did they find, and where was it?"
"Not much, and not far into the vagina, why?"
"Well, considering the way we sometimes impregnate our precious females on Gpuchk, couldn't someone else have helped plant the evidence?"
"You mean, in his state he wouldn't know what he was doing and had to have help to finish? Yes, I think that might have been the case. But who would believe that?"
"My father would vouch for it, and my mother."
Rayle was silent for a moment, frowning into the screen, then he realized what D'vork as getting at. He chuckled and said, "So, that's how they did it? I did wonder. How is the old bear any way?"
"Still trying to make babies. So, will you out that idea to your judge?"
"I certainly will. I will also be asking him to investigate the misplacement of the samples. Someone had to have been friendly enough with Mrs. Jute. I'll get back to you."
They signed off and D'vork Inmahn hovering at his shoulder. "And you can take that knowing smirk off you face. I'm going back to the bridge. The boy must not be left alone for any reason. Let him sleep but call me the minute he wakes up."
On the bridge, all was well. They would reach the stricken ship within three hours and there seemed nothing for him to do. Then he glanced towards L'gia and saw him frowning deeply. "Commander, is something bothering you?"
L'gia straightened up and tried to appear relaxed. "It's nothing, Captain."
But D'vork knew L'gia; his first cousin on his father's side, and they were as close as any brothers could be. "Come on, L'gia, spit it out."
L'gia nodded. "Can we talk in private?"
D'vork's bridge cabin was a tiny compartment where he could rest during an engagement but still be available while on duty. It also served as somewhere for private consultations such as this. He led the way in, and bade L'gia sit down beside him on the couch. "What is it, cousin?"
"I'm worried about U'lac, Captain."
"Forget I'm the captain. We are first cousins and free to talk in here. Now what about U;lac?"
"Well, umm, it's a rather delicate matter, Ca...I mean D'vork."
D'vork smiled. "Let me guess. You and U'lac are more than just friends. I'm not blind; I've seen the way you've looked at each other over the years. It's certainly taken you a long time to get to this point. If you want him to declare you his consort, I won't stand in his way, although it will be difficult with his impending tribunal, and his being in the brig."
"I understand, cousin."L'gia sighed unhappily. "I went to see him today. He's very down at the moment."
"I'm not surprised. There is one way to deal with his little problem, of course."L'gia stared at him with hope filled eyes. "Would you be willing to step down as commander and accept a demotion back to Lieutenant Commander?"
L'gia's eyes brightened. "Of course I would, if it meant him being released; but what about the tribunal? He disobeyed a direct order, and that's a serious offense."
"I accused him of it, I can rescind the accusation, and offer him his freedom. I will write a report saying I was mistaken about his intentions."
"But why would you do that."
D'vork grinned and said, "Because, my dear cousin, I have found him to be right."
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