Michael stood in front of them for a moment holding her crying child and seemingly torn as to which of the two men she could hand the infant over to. Gabriel put her out of her misery by putting down his wine glass and reaching out and taking the unhappy child;
“Hey little one, what’s all this noise about?” he asked entirely rhetorically.
“Thank you Admiral,” Michael said with a grateful if slightly harassed look “he’s been fed and changed,” she added before returning to deal with the chaos of the twin’s birthday celebrations.
“Hey, hey, hey,” Gabriel said, falling into the slightly awkward rocking bounce that usually seemed to work with squalling infants. It took a little while of wondering the room humming a tune he didn’t know all the words to but eventually the baby seemed to settle enough to stop bawling. “Sorry Ambassador, you were saying?”
“You seem to have a distinct talent for this, Admiral,” the Vulcan commented wrly.
“I’ve picked up one or two tricks in the last few years. Surely you’ve some experience? Or do Vulcan children not cry?” he asked, genuinely doubting himself as he tried to think whether he’d ever seen a Vulcan infant at all.
“Our children are not dissimilar,” he said continuing to watch as Gabriel paced back and forth, “however we have the advantage of innate telepathic abilities. Parents are able to sense their infant’s needs while they cannot express them verbally. As the child grows and they begin their mental training the link fades.”
“Forgive me,” Gabriel said, “but doesn’t that lead to an emotional connection?”
“We are able to suppress the child’s emotions with our own while still grasping their needs. I find it remarkable that human parents manage so well without that insight.”
“I don’t really know how they manage either,” Gabriel admitted honestly, “most parents do seem to be able to tell. I only ever manage to work my way through the list of likely causes and then try this when all else fails.
“Well, your approach seems quite satisfactory,” Sarek said in gentle acknowledgement of the fact that his adoptive grandson was now asleep in the other man’s arms.
“For now,” Gabriel said, aware that the small body had yet to reach the limp and heavy stage that indicated true sleep.
The two of them returned to their earlier conversation as eventually young Henry relaxed further into his arms reaching that place where the utter trust of it warmed something in Gabriel. He sat down carefully, accepting the baby blanket Sarek handed him and tucking it around the babygrow clad form and shifting him slightly so his head rested more comfortably against his shoulder. As if on cue, Katrina appeared at the door of the secluded study;
“I should have known I’d find you two hiding up here,” she said with a wry smile.
“We’re not hiding, we simply staged a strategic retreat,” Gabriel said, keeping his volume low.
“Admiral Lorca is providing a valuable service,” the Ambassador added.
“And what are you doing then Sarek?” she asked with an arched eyebrow.
“Providing moral support.” Gabriel snorted at this, then froze to try and gauge whether he’d woken his charge.
“Oh look at that,” she said, perching on the arm of the chair to look down at Henry’s face squished against his chest. “I love them when they’re still this little.”
“I must admit that I find my grandchildren easier once they can grasp basic concepts and understand what it is I’m saying to them,” Sarek said, “but the learning and development that occurs in the first few months are remarkable.”
“In both species,” Katrina agreed, “and Vulcan schools are fascinating.”
“You have learnt over time that your children learn many things best through play, it is simply different. No better or worse.”
“I’m glad we agree on that and you know that Henry’s cute, Sarek. I know you well enough and I’ve had enough wine with Amanda that your enigmatic routine only goes so far.”
“Any emotion you chose to see in me is only a reflection of your own feelings,” Sarek replied with the utmost calm, “but it is in the young’s evolutionary advantage to appeal to adult’s protective nature.”
“Well, I think he’s delightful,” Katrina said reaching out to stroke the back of her finger along Henry’s cheek.
“Not sure Michael would agree given how poorly he’s been sleeping,” Sylvia said appearing in the doorway a toddler on her hip and a bottle of wine in hand. “I am here to tell you that the hoards are departing. Well not our hoards, but the other hoards. There are less children than there were. Dinner in an hour give or take, so?” She lifted the bottle and Katrina went and liberated it from her hand.
“Not for Uncle Gabriel,” his fellow Admiral said with far too much amusement.
“This seems to be a recurring theme,” Gabriel said.
“I’ll take his glass,” Sylvia said, reseating her daughter on her hip and picking up his discarded glass.
“No need,” Paul said, appearing with several clean glasses and a second bottle. “Apparently I’m only winding them up more and I’ve been banished.”
“Never,” said Sylvia with mock sincerity. Just when the adults had all settled down, there was the thundering of small-ish feet on the steps and the birthday girls appeared in the doorway. They stopped and took a moment to arrange themselves into a suitably formal stance.
“Thank you for our presents, Admiral Lorca.”
“You’re very welcome ladies,” he replied genuinely, “and I think that Gabriel will do.”
“Will you help us make aeroplanes now, Uncle Gabriel?”
“Uncle Hugh said, if we asked nicely you might.”
“Daisy and Jess say you make the BEST planes.”
“Well,” he began. Seeing that Katrina was cradling her arms, ready to take Henry, he stood and went to hand him over only for Henry to make it very clear that this was not going to happen without more tears and crying, “I’ll tell you what,” he suggested changing tack, “my hands are full but if your Grandfather is willing to help, then I’m sure that between us we’ll manage.”
“Indeed,” Sarek agreed, standing and straightening his robes, “do we have all the supplies we require?” The girl’s faces broke out in matching grins as he took both of their hands.
“Uncle Gabriel gave us a PADD with instructions and a pack of polymer paper but some of them look quite hard,” one of them said.
“Well we shall have to pay close attention to the instructions then,” Sarek said as Gabriel followed the three of them back down stairs. To his credit, the Vulcan Ambassador to Earth’s stride didn’t falter even when he was led into the dining room where eight human children were all sat around the dining table looking up expectantly.
“Right,” Gabriel said, saving him for the second time that day, “who can tell me what the most important things to remember are when we’re making a paper aeroplane?” There were a flurry of raised hands and Gabriel smiled.