Sher-Kan

OOWhiz

It was the fifth time she had punched her pillow, aggravated at her inability to fall asleep. Sheíd been tossing and turning since she went to bed unable to fall into that peaceful slumber which she so desperately needed. This is ridiculous, she thought. Iím exhausted, and I canít sleep! And if I look at that blasted clock one more time I think Iíll scream!

She tried a different position, but to no avail sleep was simply not coming. Finally she got up, put on her slippers and robe and went down to the kitchen. Switching on the lights, she got some milk out of the fridge, poured herself a mug, and warmed it up in the microwave. Removing it she took a cautious sip, feeling the warm liquid course down her throat. She was leaning on the kitchen counter across from the backdoor, staring at it. Maybe some fresh air would do me some good, she thought. Taking the mug out to the porch with her, she sat down on the top step and took another sip. Her gaze wandered over the yard, checking the shadows produced by the light of the full moon.

Looking up at the stars she remembered a night, much like this one, and smiled. Setting the mug down she moved across the yard toward the meadow. She took the path down to the creek, enjoying the slight breeze that blew across her face, listening to the sounds of the crickets chirping madly away.

When she reached the creek she stood at its edge watching the water swirl and dance in the moonlight. It was mesmerizing and she lost herself in it, and in the memories of long ago. Suddenly she thought she heard a voice calling out to her, a voice from the past, but she couldnít be sure she hadnít conjured it up herself. She shook her head amazed at the tricks the mind could play, it sounded so real. She was about to go back to the house when she heard it again. "Emily," it whispered, calling to her from the darkness of the woods. It sent a shiver down her spine. She turned in the direction of the voice.

"Where are you?" She demanded, as she scanned the tree line. "Show yourself!"

"Emily, Iím here," answered the voice, and then suddenly there he was, standing in a shaft of moonlight. Her breath caught, it couldnít be! She shook her head, closing her eyes, she must be dreaming. When she opened them again he was still there, and now she knew why she couldnít sleep. She had been drawn to him just as she had been drawn to him the day Vincent had been conceived. When she could get her feet to move, she ran to him, flinging herself into his arms. He caught her easily, swinging her off her feet. When he set her down he whispered, "I wasnít sure if youíd be happy to see me."

With tears of joy streaming down her face she sniffed, "Of course Iím happy to see you! I thought Iíd never see you again!" Her heart was hammering in her chest. "This is such a shock."

He lifted her chin with his finger, "I came as soon as I could." He stared at her, "Iíve thought about you every day since we left. I wanted to thank you for what you did for me, I know it must have been a difficult decision for you."

"Sher-Kan, it was such a long time ago. I was happy to help, I wanted to." She looked away, suddenly shy, "I was in love with you."

"And now, Emily?" He asked anxiously. "How do you feel about me now?"

"Canít you tell?" She looked at him, her eyes full of love.

"Itís been a long time, things change, and Iím out of practice reading human emotions."

She smiled up at him, stepping back out of his embrace and took his hand.

"Come, letís go to the house."

She felt his hesitation.

"Donít worry I live by myself now, my parents passed away a few years ago. Thereís no one but me." She sighed wistfully.

She tugged at him to make him follow her. He let himself be led, enjoying the wash of emotion coming from her. He had felt their bond growing stronger the nearer he had come to Earth, but now it positively sang.

Emily almost danced back to the house. She hadnít felt this happy since she had been reunited with her son. Good God! She thought suddenly, she had to tell him about Vincent! He felt her sudden apprehension as they stepped through the door.

"Emily, what is it?"

She took him into the living room. Taking both his hands in hers she lowered herself to sit on the couch, pulling him down beside her. She put a hand on his face, "I still canít believe youíre really here. How did you manage it? Didnít you tell me that they were going to invoke a non-interference law or something?"

He took her hand from his face holding it tightly. "There is a law, and Iím violating it by being here, but as soon as I had the means of getting here undetected I did."

"But how, Sher-Kan? How did you get past your authorities?"

He smiled ruefully, "There is a race of beings that we are not on the best of terms with who invented a device that renders a ship virtually invisible. They call it a cloak."

She smiled thinking of her son, and how he hid himself from the world with his cloak.

"I managed to obtain one and had it installed in my ship. So here I am following my heart and a bond we forged together so long ago." He squeezed her hands, looking deeply into her eyes, feeling complete for the first time in years.

"Iím so glad you came. How long can you stay?"

"That depends," he whispered. He lowered his head for a moment, gathering his courage. Raising it again he looked into her beautiful blue eyes. "Emily, I want you to come back with me."

Her eyes went wide with shock, he felt it, but also the elation that followed it and then again the apprehension he had felt earlier rose up.

"Emily, what is it? What concerns you so?"

She shook her head, looking down at their clasped hands. "A few months ago if you had asked me that question I would have said yes immediately, but I met someone that I would find hard to leave."

His face fell, he was so sure he was reading her right, but obviously the years of their separation had changed things.

"Iím sorry, I shouldnít have assumed youíd be free to come with me."

He rose to go, but she was quicker, she stood in front of him pushing him back down. "No wait, you donít understand. Sit."

She turned and went to the window seat where she kept Catherine and Vincentís wedding album. Lifting the seat she took it out and brought it over to him. Sitting beside him again she opened the album.

"This is why I canít say yes right away."

He looked at the page she pointed to, his breath caught it could have been him in the picture. He looked closer. No, the being wearing his face had blue eyes. He tore his gaze from the image. "Emily, who is this?" he demanded

"That," she whispered, "is our son."

"Our son?" He was shocked. "I have a son?"

She nodded her head with tears in her eyes. "Yes, you have a son."

He looked back at the picture, studying it. Suddenly his elation turned into remorse, his face fell as he thought of her bearing his child all alone. "Emily, Iím sorry, I had no idea our two races were compatible, that our union could produce a child. If I had known I would never have left you."

She held a finger to his lips to stop the flow of words, the self-recrimination.

"Itís all right Sher-Kan you didnít have much choice, you were in no shape to know what was going on. Bartok did what he thought best for you."

"But Emily, a child? I have a child! A son!" He was so excited, "Do you know what this means to me? Do you have any idea what a gift you have given me?" Tears welled in his eyes. "Children are so precious to us. I thought Iíd never have the opportunity to be a parent, and now to have found you again, and to know I have a son, itísÖitís overwhelming."

He tilted his head and smiled at her. Just like Vincent, she thought. They are so very much alike.

"Tell me about him!" He demanded. "Tell me everything about my son!" He was like a starving man.

She told him the story of Vincentís birth, how she lost him, and how by the miracle that was Catherine found him again such a short time ago. She showed him the pictures in the album explaining who the people were, and what they meant to Vincent, and what they had come to mean to her. When she was done he took her into his arms, overwhelmed by her strength, and humbled by her dedication to him, to the memory of him. Their bond was true, strengthening by the minute. He loved her and he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she loved him too. They belonged together, and he vowed to himself that no matter what he would never leave her again.

She felt his resolve, and had already decided to leave with him, but she wanted to discuss it with Vincent. She picked up the phone, and punched in the number that she knew so well. Sher-Kan watched her mystified.

"Hello, Catherine? Yes I know itís early, but I wanted to catch you before you went to work. I was thinking of coming down tonight. I was wondering if youíd wait for me before going Below so I could go with you? No dear, thereís nothing wrong itís been a rough week and I need some tunnel time thatís all."

Vincent and Catherine had been enjoying breakfast together before going to their respective jobs when the phone rang. Catherine had been surprised when she heard Emilyís voice. She usually called on Friday nights before they went Below to spend the weekend with their tunnel family. Concerned, Vincent had gotten up to stand by Catherine listening; he could hear Emily just fine without the receiver to his ear. She sounded excited to him, perhaps it was the anticipation of coming into the city. He motioned to Catherine to give him the phone.

"Emily, Vincent wants to speak to you, Iíll see you tonight."

Emily motioned to Sher-Kan to move closer to her, she wanted him to hear his sonís voice.

"Mother, is anything wrong?"

She smiled at the look of pure joy on Sher-Kanís face.

"No son, everything is fine thereís nothing to worry about. Iíll see you tonight, ok? Love you. Bye."

"Goodbye, Mother."

He hung up the phone slowly, puzzled. He opened the bond he had with his mother, but only felt great joy emanating from her. Fleetingly he felt something else, but it was gone in an instant.

"Sheís up to something." He mused.

"Vincent, you have a suspicious mind."

He shook his head. "One thing Iíve learned in the few months weíve been married is that women are mysterious creatures."

He shrugged his shoulders, whatever his mother was up to theyíd find out soon enough.

He kissed Catherine goodbye and headed for Below to get his work assignment from Father, and to have the guest chamber readied for Emily.

Catherine went to work with a smile, amused that her husband thought of her as mysterious.

When Emily hung up the phone she turned to the being she loved. "How are you feeling?"

He looked dazed, "I wish to see him," he said eagerly, "to meet him. Do we have to wait?"

She picked up the phone again, "Hello Sue, I wonít be into work today. I really havenít been feeling well lately, and Iíve made an appointment with my doctor in the city. Iím sure itís nothing serious, but better safe than sorry. Iíll see you on Monday."

When she hung up the phone she turned to him with an impish grin.

"We have to wait till dark before we can drive in so people canít see you. In the mean time Iím sure we can find something to occupy ourselves with."

She kissed him, and then stood, offering her hand to him. She led him up to her bedroom where they spent the rest of the day. They did manage to find time for her to pack a bag and for him to get some clothing from his ship. Among which was a black cape with a hood.

They left in Emilyís SUV just as it was getting dark. She drove cautiously, not wishing to attract any attention. She couldnít wait to see father and son together. Luckily there was a parking space right in front of the brownstone. She told Sher-Kan to stay put until the front door was open so that he could dash in with a minimum of exposure. She tugged his hood closer around his face, her hand lingering on his cheek, rubbing the stubbly fur. Looking deep into his eyes she leaned in for a kiss." Iíll see you inside," she smiled.

Quickly she got out of the car and walked up the steps to the front door. She rang the bell, hearing the melodic chime sound inside the house bringing with it footsteps. The door opened to Catherineís smiling face; she drew Emily into an embrace bringing her into the vestibule. Before she could close the door a tall, hooded figure pushed through. Alarmed she tried to close the door, but Emily stopped her.

"Itís all right Catherine, heís with me."

Vincent had felt Catherineís alarm and had started down the stairs to protect her. Emily urged Catherine through the back vestibule door pulling Sher-Kan behind her. Vincent stood on the stairs posed to assist in whatever manner necessary, but checking the bond with his mother he found she wasnít frightened at all, she was full of joy and happiness. He turned to hide himself from the stranger, but Emily stopped him.

"Vincent, come down," she called. "I want you to meet someone."

Slowly he came down the stairs, staring at the stranger who remained hooded with head bowed. Catherine moved to his side as he reached the bottom step. Emily took a deep breath, "Catherine, Vincent, I would like you to meet Sher-KanÖVincentís father."

Sher-Kan raised both hands to lower the hood of his cape. Catherineís eyes followed those furred and clawed hands then gasped as Sher-Kanís face was revealed. It was Vincentís face, the mane, the coloring, was all Vincentís except for the yellow eyes. The couple stood staring, spellbound by the being in front of them. Catherine finally found her voice and sticking out her hand she managed to squeak out a, "nice to meet you."

Sher-Kan gently took her hand in both of his and looked down at her smiling. Hesitatingly, she returned the smile.

"It is an honor to meet my childís bond-mate." He greeted her in Vincentís voice. He let go of her hands, his eyes going from hers to Vincentís. Catherine could feel VincentĎs turmoil and made a move towards him, but Emily stopped her, pulling her aside so nothing stood between father and son.

Sher-Kan drank in the sight of his son like a thirsty man in a desert. He was visibly trembling, and when he spoke his voice shook, "Vincent, my son." He held his arms out to embrace him.

Vincent had frozen to the spot the second Sher-Kan had revealed himself. "I Ö.I have no sense of you," he stammered. He had opened his mental senses wide, and felt nothing from the being in front of him.

Sher-Kan lowered his arms. "Iím shielding myself from you. Iíll drop my shields if you wish?"

Vincent nodded and immediately felt a flood of emotions bombarding him. It was almost painful; he winced trying to sort it all out. He held onto his bond with Catherine as his anchor, as his center, as he was inundated with the emotions of his birth father. The assault on his mind lessened as Sher-Kan dampened his feelings down. Through it all Vincent had felt an immense pride and joy mixed with an equal amount of regret.

Sher-Kan finally put his hand out as he had seen Catherine do. Vincent took it slowly not shaking it just holding it, looking at it, a hand so like his own. He wasnít the only one any more, he wasnít alone in his uniqueness anymore, there was someone else with his looks, his teeth, his claws, his mane. His father felt it all building up in him like an explosion and when Vincent made a tentative move towards him he pulled him into his embrace. He rocked his son in his arms feeling the wetness of his tears, the shaking of his body, the years of terrible loneliness welling up. He matched it with his own longings and hurts. The want of a child of his own, the terrible loss of his bond-mate, the years of loneliness, the single mindedness of plunging all his energies into his work and then finding Emily again and the joy of finding out he had a son. They felt it all in a matter of moments, the emotions of lifetimes had flowed between the two just as their tears flowed and mingled. As they pulled apart their bond-mates joined them in a group hug.

After the storm of emotions had subsided the ladies went into the kitchen to make some tea. Catherine wanted some answers out of Emily. She wanted to find out how all this had come about and what her plans were. This would also give Vincent and Sher-Kan the opportunity to get to know one another without any distractions.

Vincent took Sher-Kan to the family room where they took seats across from each other. He had so many questions to ask him, about his heritage, about Beta, about other places, other races.

"My son," Sher-Kan began, "I can feel your questions, ask them and I will try to answer as best I can."

Vincent got up and began pacing. What to ask first? Where to begin? He stopped and facing his father asked, "Why did you leave? Why did you leave her?"

Sher-Kan hung his head, "I didnít know. Bartok took me home before I woke up and when I wanted to come back I wasnít allowed, Earth had been listed as a Ďhands-offí world." He looked up at Vincent, "I had no idea our union could produce a child. Iím sorry, for you and for myself. You had no parent to guide you and I have no memories of your childhood. I cannot begin to tell you how much that pains me."

Vincent felt the pain emanating from his birth father and it prompted another question. "My empathic abilities, are they normal?"

Sher-Kan nodded, "yes, but you are much stronger than most, it was all I could do to keep my shields up against you."

Vincent tilted his head, "What are shields?"

"Itís the ability to block out the emotions of others. We learn to shield as children, itís just as important to be able to block emotions, as it is to feel them, otherwise you could become overwhelmed. I sense you have tremendous control. Youíve done remarkably well without guidance. Iím very proud of you."

Vincent sat down beside him on the couch. "What else are children are taught on Beta?"

Sher-Kan thought a moment, "weapons training, not for aggression," he hastened to add, "but rather the opposite; the concentration and control that goes into wielding a primitive weapon has given us the ability to overcome our warrior heritage. Otherwise weíd be lopping off each otherís heads at the least inferred insult. And of course hand in hand with weapons training is healing."

Vincent was stunned, "I have the power to heal?"

"Yes, I believe you do, it seems your human side has only enhanced your Betazed abilities. When the opportunity presents itself I will show you, but for now you must wait."

Vincent filed that away for a later time. "Tell me of Beta. Does everyone look like me?"

Sher-Kan shook his head, "Iím afraid even there you would stand out as being different. You are shorter than the average Betazed and our coloring, or lack of it, is rare. All Betazeds have yellow eyes yours are quite definitely unique. With the combination of Earthís gravity being heavier than Betaís along with the manual labor Emily tells me you do you are much stockier than the norm. No my son you will always be a unique individual no matter where you are." Sher-Kan looked encouraging, "itís no bad thing to be unique, to be a blend of two races."

Sher-Kan looked uncomfortable for a moment, he hid it quickly, but Vincent had seen it, had felt it.

"Thereís something you wish to tell me, itís there, I felt it when you dropped your shields."

"You are a strong empath," Sher-Kan said with pride. "Iíve asked Emily to come back to Beta with me, and I believe she would, but for you."

Vincent was taken aback; he and Emily had just found each other, to lose her nowÖ.

Sher-Kan followed his thoughts, "No, no Vincent, donít think of it as a loss. I came here illegally as soon as I safely could, but Iím sure when we go back, with Emily to support me the council would allow regular visits because of you. They would never keep a Betazed from his child. We were one of the founding races of the Federation and Iím sure using a cloaked ship and a transporter it would be deemed safe enough. A transporter beam is still undetectable at Earthís present level of technology."

Vincent shook his head, "Sher-Kan, these words you use are unfamiliar to me, but if what you say is true then Iím sure Mother would go with you. She loves you very much, has always loved you through all these years."

Sher-Kan sighed with relief, "If the council requires your presence to substantiate my claim would you be willing to stand before them?"

Catherine and Emily had entered the room and upon hearing the last part of the conversation Catherine moved to set the tea tray down and sit by Vincent, clutching his arm in alarm. "Where does he want you to go?"

"Itís all right, Catherine," Vincent reassured her.

Turning back to Sher-Kan he asked, "What are your plans?"

Emily had taken a seat next to Sher-Kan watching father and son, wanting them both and hoping for a way for that to happen. Sher-Kan reached for her hands rubbing the backs of them with his thumbs and outlined his strategy.

He and Emily would go back to Beta to face the charges of his illegal landing on Earth. After explaining, he would demand an audience before the Federation Council to plead for his parental right to visit his son. His ship was equipped with a cloak and a transporter. With Bartok to keep the ship in orbit and operate the transporter, the ship wouldnít have to land; the possibility of detection would be remote. No one on Earth would ever know extra-terrestrials were visiting on a regular basis. Vincentís presence would only be necessary to convince the council of his existence if he and Emily were not believed.

Catherine gripped Vincentís arm tightly. "How long would he be gone?" She asked in a strangled voice.

Vincent put his hand on hers, "if required I will go, but not without Catherine." He felt the tension leave her body. He turned to her, "we do this together."

"I understand." Sher-Kan nodded his gaze going from Vincent to Emily. "I promise you no matter what the outcome we will not be separated again, if I must live here to be with you so be it." He turned again to Vincent, "if our son can so can I."

"I would not do that to you Sher-Kan," Emilyís hand cupped his cheek. "You are a botanist, you love the outdoors, I would not condemn you to a life underground. We have been through so much to be with each other," her look took in Catherine and Vincent. "I canít believe God would be so cruel as to keep us apart now."

In an attempt to lighten the mood Catherine asked if Sher-Kan had any pictures of Beta.

He un-slung the device he had been carrying on a strap over his shoulder. "This is a tricorder it records and stores all kinds of images and data." He fiddled with it for a moment and an image appeared on the screen. "This is my home on Beta." He handed the tricorder to Vincent; the picture was of a glade with a cliff on one side and meadows of flowers all around it. There was a waterfall cascading over the edge of the cliff, but the lower part of it was covered by what appeared to be a building. It was shaped like a half moon the two ends of which seamlessly melted into the cliff face. There was a stream flowing out from under the middle of the curve, presumable from the waterfall. Gardens and ponds were everywhere adding more color to the already exotic lavender sky and peach colored ground.

"Itís beautiful!" Catherine exclaimed, "You did all this?"

"Yes, itís my passion." He turned to Vincent, "and itís your birthright."

Vincent looked up from the screen, "Sher-Kan, you must know that I will never live on Beta, this is my home, where my friends, my family are."

"I realize that son, but perhaps if all goes as I hope it will you and Catherine can spend some time with us there."

"Perhaps," was Vincentís muted reply.

Emily took the device from Vincent and looked at the place that would become her home. The building was odd, but nothing Frank Lloyd Wright wouldnít approve of, it blended well with its environment. She thought she saw oak and pine trees and when she questioned Sher-Kan about it he confirmed her observations. He had taken many of Earths plants to Beta. In fact there were many from other worlds as well, incorporated into his landscape. Sher-Kan took the tricorder back and began a flow of pictures. Everyone huddled around the tiny screen.

"This is one of the multi-cultural museums." He manipulated some of the buttons on the tricorder and the view went inside the building where they saw different races depicted including a display of Earth. He took them on a tour of the planet showing them all the highlights of his world. There were images of other Betazeds throughout the journey and Vincent noted that he did look different from them. They were all pretty tall and lanky, and he saw no others with single colored fur.

Looking at the clock on the mantel Catherine announced that it was high time they started for Below. Father would be waiting and probably wondering what happened to them.

As it was Father was keeping busy by trying to beat the Bishop in another game of chess, they were just starting their fifth game, the tie breaker, when a message came through the pipes. The Bishop cocked his head listening, "I know Iím still relatively new to pipe code, but did I just hear that Catherine, Emily and two Vincentís are on their way?"

"That is exactly what I heard." Father got up and limped over to the master pipe taping out a request for the last message to be repeated. Pascal tapped back Ďyou heard right.í

"Well I suppose weíll find out soon enough." He put the kettle on the brazier and resumed his seat and the game.

They didnít have long to wait before the four came into the chamber. Both men stood up from their game to greet the newcomers. Their jaws dropped when Sher-Kan walked in behind Vincent. Emily hurried forward to make introductions and Sher-Kan shook their hands. Vincent chuckled, "What was the Bishops comment during our wedding ceremony, Catherine, about catching flies?"

Catherine laughed and hugged both men fiercely. Father was still staring, then finally managed to gasp out, "howÖwhenÖ.I canítÖ."

Vincent chuckled, "Father, I donít think Iíve ever seen you at a loss for words."

Father scowled at him, "you watch yourself young man or youíll find yourself over my knee!"

Everyone laughed imaging the sight of Vincent draped over Fatherís lap. The laughter broke the ice and everyone pulled up chairs around the table and sat down. Catherine noticed the kettle steaming and jumped up to pour tea. Sher-Kan found himself across from Father and concentrated his attention on him.

"Emily tells me you raised our son as your own, I am humbled by your kindness."

"YesÖ well," Father sputtered quickly changing the subject. "I am anxious to hear how you came to be here."

Emily started the tale with help from Sher-Kan, and Vincent and Catherine took up their part in it. After it was finished Father pointed out the lateness of the hour and suggested they all retire until the morning. Vincent took Catherineís hand and they led the way to the guest chambers. He took them to the same one Emily had occupied previously. When he was going to go on to show Sher-Kan to another Emily smiled and shook her head saying that it wasnít necessary. Catherine shot her a knowing smile and led her husband back to their own chamber. It had been a long day and a very exciting night and they fell asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow.

***

At breakfast Sher-Kan was quite naturally the center of attention. Besides looking like their favorite tunnel dweller he only wore an open laced sleeveless vest over flared pants and no shoes; whereas Vincent always wore many layers of clothing covering as much of himself as possible. This wasnít lost on Sher-Kan and he again felt the pain of Vincentís differences in a world where he was unique. After the fervor of his presence had died down somewhat he approached Father. "Jacob, I noticed that you walk with a limp."

"Ah yes, an old injury that flares up more often than Iíd like to admit."

Sher-Kan pressed on, "I was wondering if you would allow me to use you as a teaching subject for Vincent."

Father looked at him puzzled, "A teaching subject? How could I do that?"

"All Betazeds are healers, some stronger than others," Sher-Kan explained, "I donít see why Vincent shouldnít be one as well. It seems apparent to me that his human blood has only enhanced his Betazed abilities, his ability to heal should be no different."

Father was stunned, "Why hasnít he manifested this ability before?"

Sher-Kan explained, "Once Betazed children have mastered shielding their parents show them how to heal, itís not something they can learn on their own. I would show him this by healing your hip."

Father began to laugh, "You must be joking? This injury is over thirty years old there is no way to heal it, only to manage the pain. Iím a doctor; believe me I know what Iím talking about."

Vincent had quietly listened to the conversation up until this point. "Father, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Just because something is not normal on Earth doesnít mean itís not commonplace somewhere else."

Father shook his head in disbelief.

"Father, if Iím capable I would like to learn."

It was that look in Vincent eyes, heíd never been able to say no to that look. "Very well," he sighed. "Shall we go into the hospital chamber?"

"No," Sher-Kan replied. "Your quarters will do."

"Well letís get to it then." Father grumbled, limping out of the dining hall.

Catherine could feel Vincentís excitement as they all trooped off, heading for Fatherís chamber.

Upon reaching it, Sher-Kan had Father lie down on his bed. Pulling up a chair to sit beside him, he instructed Vincent to do the same. Father looked apprehensive and finally asked if the healing would hurt, still really not believing in it. Not a bit was Sher-Kanís reply placing his hands over Fathers hip not touching it, but merely hovering over it. He closed his eyes concentrating.

"Yes," he spoke softly. "I Ďseeí it, Vincent give me your hands." He positioned Vincentís hands where his had been, then placed his own hands over the top of them. "Close your eyes and open your mind to the pain." Vincent did as instructed and felt Sher-Kanís presence guiding him downward to the center of the pain emanating from Fatherís hip. He Ďsawí the old injury and the inflammation surrounding it.

"First we block the nerves so he will not feel any pain," Sher-Kan instructed. "íwatchí me now, see how I do it." Vincent nodded fascinated. "Now I will reverse it and you try it."

Vincentís face creased in concentration as he tried to duplicate what Sher-Kan had just Ďshowní him. "Perfect! Well done!" Sher-Kan praised him.

Those watching couldnít see a thing, even Father who was up close and personal saw nothing and felt nothing; not even the customary pain that he was used to. "Now Ďwatchí me start then join in, we will do this together." Vincent did as he was told and followed Sher-Kan in the repair of the hip. He felt the flow of energy from somewhere in his chest to his arms and out through his hands. When they were done Vincent felt drained and wanted nothing more than to lie down.

"The more you do," Sher-Kan reassured him. "The easier it will become; you did very well for your first healing son." He clapped Vincent on the shoulder.

"Father, how do you feel?" Vincent stood, giving Father a hand up.

"I feel fine." He took an experimental step, "in fact better than fine!" He chuckled at his Mouse-ism.

Catherine and Emily watched in amazement as Father walked around the entire chamber without his crutch. When he again stood before his two healers he noticed that Vincent looked far from happy, in fact he looked down right miserable. He was at a loss to understand, but in a moment it dawned on him. He laid a comforting hand on Vincentís shoulder.

"Youíre thinking of Ellie and Margaret arenít you"? The powerful shoulder shook under his hand. Sher-Kan was totally perplexed looking to Catherine for an explanation.

"Ellie was a child who died last year of an illness, and Margaret was Jacobís wife."

"Vincent, you didnít know. You couldnít have done anymore at the time than you did," Father said softly.

"I mourn with you, the death of a child and a bond-mate is a grievous matter. What did they die of?" Sher-Kan asked.

Father sat on the bed, "we had an epidemic Below, pneumonic plague. Ellie had been exposed directly to the source a number of times, and I was slow in diagnosing the illness. Maybe if I had caught it soonerÖ." He trailed off.

"Father, no you did everything you could. You worked tirelessly; everyone else was cured, if only I had known I could healÖ" Vincent lamented.

"Enough both of you, self-recrimination does no one any good. They are gone and it is a sad thing, but they will live on in your memories of them. Vincent, you could not have cured this, we cannot cure viruses, or bacteria that invade the body. We can provide energy to support the bodies own defense systems to help in the fight, but that is all. It is in the past, it is done, remember them in your hearts and rejoice in your newfound ability."

Father looked at him, "Wisely said!" He took another stroll around the chamber. He was so delighted with his painless mobility that he offered to take Sher-Kan, accompanied by Emily, on a tour of the tunnels. Vincent was too exhausted by the healing to do anymore than rest in his chamber, joined by Catherine who was just content to be by his side.

Sher-Kan recorded all that they saw on his tricorder so he and Emily could play it back at their leisure when they left Earth together. Emily planed on going back to work and letting everyone know that someone had made her an offer on the farm that she couldnít refuse, and that she would be leaving on a world tour, something that she had always talked about doing someday. Catherine would buy the farm through an intermediary, and have a helper, who had been looking to relocate his family to a more rural area, take care of it. The farm was self-sustaining, since Emily leased the land out to local farmers, so the family should have no problems maintaining it.

***

Weeks later Vincent was lying in bed at the brownstone; Catherine curled up fast asleep beside him. He had just finished reading Beauty and the Beast, a book he had never wanted to read as a child knowing he could never turn into a handsome prince. He set the book on the night stand, turned off the lamp and carefully slid himself down so as not to disturb his wife. Catherine merely cuddled closer, laying her head on his chest and throwing an arm around his waist. He thought about the last line he had read, "and they lived happily every after." He smiled, that was his now, a happy life; he didnít need to turn into a handsome prince for that. He now knew exactly who and what he was, a beloved son, a respected member of a community, a friend, a husband, a warrior, a healer, a teacher and a student, a Betazed and a human.

Sher-Kan had given him a communicator when he had left and tonight he had contacted them. He had asked for and received an audience before the Federation Council to plead his case. They had accepted the evidence of the tricorder images and Emilyís testimony, but more compelling than anything was the sample of Vincentís blood Sher-Kan had thought to take with them. There was no need for Vincent to appear before them it was proof enough. Sher-Kan and Emily had been granted the right to visit their son on Earth whenever they wished provided they could do so undetected.

Yes, Vincent thought, all was right with the worldÖno he would have to think bigger than that, with the universe. He was sure they would have their ups and downs, they were too unique not to, but they would face everything together. He hugged Catherine closer to him and closed his eyes letting himself fall into a peaceful slumber full of happy dreams.