Blood Debt by Djinn

Begin Part 2 of 2

Saavik looked out the window of Rise's bedroom. She could just make out the mews from where she stood, could just see Rise working with her birds.

"She won't like that you're in here," Jorase said as she entered with a basket of clean linens.

"I know. That may be why I did it." Saavik sighed. "She's barely spoken to me since Spock left."

"Well, there's no predicting what she'll do," Jorase said as she put the linens away.

"But it's been over a week." Saavik remembered Rise checking on her when she first woke up from the injection after Spock had gone. And Rise had shown her how the mirror in Saavik's room turned into a viewscreen for the camera device she'd given Spock. But other than that, she'd completely avoided Saavik.

Jorase walked out of Rise's room, and Saavik followed her down the stairs and into the kitchen. A bowl of beans sat on the table. Saavik sat down and began to snap off the ends.

"Here now," Jorase said as she hurried over and took the bowl away. "That's not for you to do."

"Jorase," Saavik said, as she gently took the bowl back. "I am bored and I'm lonely. This looks like the most entertaining thing I'll do all day. Let me find diversions where I can."

"Well. I guess it's all right then." Jorase gave up the bowl. "I'm sorry for that. The loneliness, I mean." She stared out the window. "Sometimes this house is that way."

Saavik watched the woman, realizing that sometime during her captivity she had stopped noticing the way Jorase looked. "We never eat together."

"No." Jorase began to make some sandwiches.

"Why not?"

"Oh, she entertains sometimes. That...person from the Tal Shiar. But otherwise we don't sit down for a meal. Haven't since--"

"--Since Cameron died?" At Jorase's startled look, Saavik said, "She told me about it."

"Did she? That explains her silence then." Jorase sighed. "She had breakfast with Master Cameron the day he was taken. It was the last time she saw him. She lost her taste for family meals after that." Jorase smiled sadly. "And who was there to eat with anyway? Me? The boy who tends the animals?" Jorase shook her head. She was silent for a long time, her attention solely on making lunch. Then she said very softly, "She pulled away, pulled all inside herself, when we lost him." She seemed about to say more when the door opened and Rise walked in.

Rise barely glanced at Saavik, just turned to Jorase and said tersely, "I'm taking the dogs for a walk."

"Good, they need it. And I've made you lunch. There's enough for both of you."

Saavik looked up from the beans in surprise.

"Both of us?" Rise stared at Jorase.

"You and Mistress Saavik. The dogs are very restless. They all need a good run."

"I'll take them by myself."

"You know you can't walk them all yourself."

"Then I'll take Keltun with me."

"I wish I'd known you were going to need him. I sent him to market not ten minutes ago." Jorase smiled innocently as she handed Rise the knapsack she had filled with their lunch. "I've put all your favorites in. More than enough for you both."

Rise stared at Jorase, her face taut with annoyance.

"Well, look at her, Mistress Rise. What'll she want to do next? Help me bake?" Jorase shuddered.

Saavik stood up. "She's not wrong to be scared of that. I'm impossible in the kitchen."

With a sigh, Rise put the knapsack on the table. "Fine you can come, but we won't be out long enough to eat."

"Sure we will. I'll carry this," Saavik said lightly as she pulled the knapsack over her shoulders. She turned to Jorase and winked. To her surprise the woman winked back.

She had to run to catch up with Rise, who was walking very fast toward the mews. At the last moment, she veered off and led them into the nearby shed. A cacophony of barks, meows, screeches, and other animal sounds greeted their arrival.

"Are you running some kind of sanctuary?"

"Something like that," Rise said tonelessly. She let four dogs out of their cages and snapped their leashes on. "Here, you can take the delinquents."

"Of course," Saavik said wryly.

"You don't have to come."

"I like delinquents. I can identify."

Rise didn't answer as she let the rest of the dogs out and let them run free.

"No leashes?"

Rise shook her head. "These I trust."

"Maybe I should have a leash on then?" Saavik said, trying to keep her voice light.

Rise didn't smile when she said, "Maybe you should."

They stared at each other for a long moment, then Rise turned away and whistled. "Let's go."

An answering cry from far overhead sounded and Saavik looked up. There were two silhouettes in the sky. She recognized the male as the shiarawk that had threatened her so many times. "Shiansu and..."

Rise looked up. "A young female."

"You haven't named her?"

"She has a name. Why would I name her?"

Saavik smiled. "Most people can't ask their animals directly, or have you forgotten? So will you tell whoever ends up with her what her real name is?"

Rise shook her head. "Names have power. I know that too well."

She increased her pace, and the dogs milled happily around her, stopping here and there to sniff and play with something in the grass. Saavik was busy trying to keep the four dogs Rise had given her from tearing her arms out of the socket as they pulled relentlessly on their leashes. When all four decided to go in different directions, Rise walked back to her. She took two of the leashes and the worst offenders suddenly fell in line with her, heeling perfectly for a few seconds before they tried to take off again.

"They're incorrigible," Rise muttered. "They know what I want them to do, but they just can't bring themselves to do it."

"Not unlike some people," Saavik noted.

"I wasn't talking to you."

"Well, don't not talk to me so loud and I won't answer back." Saavik saw Rise's face tighten and wished that she could take the retort back. "Rise, I'm lonely. It's been a week and you've barely spoken to me."

"You're a hostage, Saavik. You're not here to be entertained."

"I thought you enjoyed our conversations."

"I did. Until it became clear that you were only using them to get what you wanted. Well, now you've done that and Spock's home. The conversations are unnecessary. Unless you think you can convince me to let you go as well?"

"That's not what this is about. Would it kill you to trust someone?"

"Probably," Rise answered, walking a little faster.

Saavik sighed and let her go. She walked for some time before reaching a small pond. Half the dogs were already in the water, chasing a ball that Rise was throwing for them.

"Can I let these two go?" Saavik asked.

"Go ahead," Rise said, waiting for the two latecomers before tossing the ball again. She looked back at Saavik. "Is he dead yet?"

"Spock?"

Rise nodded.

"You haven't checked on him?" When the other woman shook her head, Saavik said, "He's getting worse. But it's slow. He's keeping busy."

Rise looked at her sharply. "Keeping busy how?"

"Nothing dangerous to the regime," Saavik said. "He's helping Perrin with her research. For her doctorate."

"Perrin? Why would he do that? All he ever felt was resentment for her."

"How do you know what he felt for her?"

Rise turned away. "He spoke of it while he was here."

Saavik didn't think that was the truth, but decided to let it go. "She's not a bad person, really. She's always been good to me."

"She took Amanda's place."

Saavik shook her head. "No, she didn't. No one could do that. Not in Sarek's heart, not in anybody's. But that doesn't mean there wasn't room for her too." Saavik remembered how coldly Spock had treated Perrin. How torn between her loyalty to him and her growing fondness for Perrin Saavik had been every time he'd come back to Vulcan for a visit. "She loved Sarek with all her heart."

"Did Sarek love her?"

"I believe so. Certainly he was lonely after Amanda died. She was the life of that house, of the family. Perrin came along and I think he felt needed again."

"So now she and Spock are getting along?"

Saavik smiled at her. "Stranger things have been known to happen."

Rise looked away but Saavik caught a small smile on her face as she did so.

Taking the knapsack from her shoulders, she sat down on the grass. "Are you hungry?"

Rise shook her head.

"When did you eat last?"

"I said I wasn't hungry."

"Okay, then I'll wait too," Saavik said as she leaned back and relaxed in the sunshine.

"Eat if you're hungry."

"I want to eat with you."

Suddenly a shadow blocked the sun. Saavik opened her eyes and saw Rise standing over her.

Her voice was controlled but Saavik could hear the rage in it anyway. "What are you doing?"

"I just said I wanted to eat with you."

"You play these games, Saavik. You play them and you don't care what kind of wounds you are picking at or how much it hurts when you touch them."

"I didn't mean to hurt you." Saavik sat up. "Rise--"

"--Stop it. Just stop it." Rise started to turn but Saavik grabbed her hand, pulled her down to the grass.

"I'm sorry, Rise," she said as she gently smoothed back the hair from the other woman's face.

Rise closed her eyes for a moment, then she jerked away, rising in one graceful motion and walking back to the dogs. She did not say anything to Saavik for over an hour. Some of the dogs grew tired of playing and joined Saavik to rest, while she spent the time trying to think of something to say that would make it better with Rise.

She finally gave up and closed her eyes when another shadow fell across her face and she looked up to see Rise standing over her again. Saavik sat up, waited for whatever she was going to say.

Rise sat down across from her. "I'm hungry now," she said abruptly, her eyes daring Saavik to make too much of the statement.

Saavik just nodded and opened the knapsack. She handed Rise her share and watched as the woman carefully opened the packets. Saavik took a bite of her sandwich, trying to pretend that nothing out of the ordinary was going on. Finally she said, "It's good. She's a good cook."

Rise nodded.

"She loves you, you know."

"She has to. I'm all she's got."

"Love doesn't work that way, Rise."

"Yes, it does." Rise looked away and Saavik sighed.

As they ate in silence again, Saavik studied Rise. In the bright sunshine, she could see that her tawny hair was flecked with a few white strands. Not many, considering how old she was in human terms.

Rise smiled self-consciously. "What?"

"You're only a quarter Vulcan, right?"

Rise nodded.

"But you don't look any older than I do."

Rise laughed softly. "A gift of the mad doctors that played with my genes. They couldn't keep me human but apparently they could keep me young. I should live as long as you, maybe even longer. I don't really know."

Saavik's eyes narrowed as she noticed something else that hadn't shown up before. She reached out, touching Rise's cheek, where a bruise could just be seen. "Sela?"

Rise looked away.

"Rise?"

"She wasn't pleased that I let Spock go." Rise took another bite of her lunch. Chewed slowly. "I'm still here, you're still here, obviously I made it right with her."

"But not before she hurt you."

"Hurt?" Rise laughed. "You think this qualifies as hurt where Sela's concerned? This was a warning not to push her too far. Nothing more."

"I don't like it."

"Why do you care? I convinced her not to take you away. You should be grateful. Whatever else you're feeling, don't bother."

"I am grateful." Saavik looked down, unsure exactly what else she was feeling. "Thank you. For letting him go. For protecting me."

Rise nodded, her face unreadable. Then she pushed herself up. "I've had enough," she said as she fed the dogs what was left of her meal. Saavik watched her as she snapped the leashes on the four that needed them, then called the rest to her. "I'll see you at the house." And without a backward glance, she left Saavik sitting alone in the grass.

"That went well, I thought," Saavik said to the birds overhead, then watched as they too abandoned her.

--------------------------

Rise was reading in the courtyard. Jorase was at the other end of the area, working in the herb garden they'd planted together when they first moved in. Rise smiled, enjoying the moment of domestic tranquility when the door opened and Saavik came out. Putting down her book, she watched as the other woman walked over and sat down next to her.

"Yes?" Rise said warily.

"I don't want anything. Just companionship."

"There are five other benches in this courtyard, Saavik."

"Companionship, Rise. Look it up. It means more than one person."

Rise got up. "Next time I need a dictionary, I'll know who to come to."

Saavik looked up at her, a hurt expression on her face. "Is it so odious to sit and talk to me?"

Rise could feel the strange mix of emotions that Saavik seemed to provoke inside her bubbling up again. "I have things to do."

"Do them later. I want to talk to you."

Rise laughed meanly. "Then of course the whole world must stop because Saavik wishes it were so."

"You're a real bitch."

"Yes, I've been told that before. I killed the last man that called me that."

"Is that supposed to scare me?" Saavik crossed her arms across her chest. "Because it doesn't."

"Then you are a fool." Rise turned and walked toward the house.

"Did you ever care for him? Even a little? Or were you playing him the whole time?"

Rise turned around. "I can only presume you mean Spock?"

Saavik nodded.

"We might have been okay. I had grown fond of him when he first took me under his wing. I might even have told him the truth eventually. If he hadn't decided to pursue peace with the Klingons. And if he hadn't fallen in love with me." Rise's expression tightened as she saw Saavik's expression change to one of scorn. "You encouraged him in that, Saavik. But then I guess you were pretty eager to hand off the duty of Pon Farr whore."

Saavik was up so quickly that Rise was taken by surprise and didn't even try to block the hard slap that sent her reeling. Rise heard Shiansu scream from far away and sent him a quick, *I'm all right* before turning to face Saavik.

Saavik truly looked like a Romulan as she stood there in full fury. "Say something like that again and I'll kill you. I don't care about my word, or your damn hawk, or anything else." She started to walk away, then turned back and said in a low, deadly voice, "I did what I did to save him. I'd do it again if I had to. Don't you ever dare to judge me or my actions." She walked past Rise into the house and slammed the door behind her.

Rise held her hand to her stinging face.

Jorase came up to her and asked, "Does it hurt?"

Rise nodded.

"You need ice for that?"

Rise nodded again.

"Well, you know where it is," Jorase said tightly as she walked back to the herb garden.

Feeling more than just her cheek stinging, Rise stumbled into the house.

--------******--------------------

Saavik watched as Sela strode across the grass and down toward the mews. She didn't seem to notice Saavik sitting in the courtyard.

From the column where he stood guard, Shiansu made a strange sound. Saavik realized he was watching Sela.

"You don't like her, do you?"

The bird turned to stare at her. Then it flew away, following Sela.

"When in Rome..." Saavik smiled wickedly as she followed Sela and the bird. "And in this case, all roads lead to Rise," she said softly as she watched Sela pull Rise into a quick embrace, made quicker by Shiansu's coming in to land on Rise's gloved arm.

He _really_ doesn't like her, Saavik corrected, as she saw him narrowly miss Sela's shoulder with his outstretched talons. Sela backed up and glared at the bird.

"Hope I'm not interrupting anything?" Saavik called out, as she got closer.

Rise looked up in surprise, Sela turned slightly, annoyance clear in her expression. Shiansu screeched, the cry sounding suspiciously like laughter, and took off in an explosion of wings.

Sela's hand dropped to her weapon, but she didn't do more than touch it. "Saavik. How pleasant to see you again. Sureya tells me you're quite the cooperative little hostage." She laughed meanly. "You can't possibly have any Romulan blood in your veins if that is the case."

"Perhaps there are Romulans with a sense of honor, though I have yet to meet any."

"Perhaps there are Vulcans with an ounce of courage, though of course I have yet to meet any of those either."

"Spock had courage. He stayed here and worked against you all those years."

"Ah yes. The great Spock. What a disappointment he was. After all I'd heard, I expected more."

Saavik smiled dangerously. "Yes, quite the disappointment. He tricked you if I remember the story correctly. Leaving him alone in your office?" She clucked her tongue at Sela. "How does a Tal Shiar agent explain that sort of stupidity to her supervisors?"

Sela drew her weapon and held it to Saavik's head. "It is difficult to explain. And more difficult to forget. Killing you might help erase some of the sting."

Rise stepped between them, gently pushing the disruptor away from Saavik. "And if you kill her, we lose our hostage for Spock's good behavior."

Sela stared at Rise. "So logical. One might think _you_ were the Vulcan."

Rise laughed. Her merriment sounded real to Saavik. "Oh, Sela. You say the most outrageous things. Yes, I'm a Vulcan. Emotionless. Passionless." Rise pulled Sela to her for a long kiss then let her go. Without warning, she turned and slapped Saavik hard across the face. "I told you this area was off limits. You try my patience, Saavik. And you insult my good friend and guest. Now get back to the house."

Saavik glared at her. She knew that Rise was trying to protect her, but the blow and the words stung. Saavik wasn't sure how much real anger was in Rise's voice, how much truth there had been in her actions and how much was feigned.

"Go." Rise's eyes were totally devoid of emotion.

Saavik fled, wondering suddenly why she'd thought coming down to the mews was a good idea.

--------------------------

Rise was just waking up when she heard a familiar sound coming from Saavik's room. Her heart plummeted when she realized it was the sound of coughing. She hurried into the bedroom.

Saavik was trying to pour a glass of water but the coughing made her hand shake.

"Here, let me," Rise said as she poured out a glass and held it to Saavik's lips.

The first sip caused Saavik to cough even more. Then she took another sip and it seemed to help. She looked up at Rise. "I was in the caverns too."

"I know. How long were you down there?"

"A few months."

Rise straightened up. "Not so long. There may still be time then. Jorase!"

The servant hurried in. "I heard the coughing."

"You know what we need."

Jorase nodded.

"Go then. Use the transporter."

Rise moved the humidifier from Spock's room to Saavik's and added some of the aromatic oil. Then she sat with Saavik while they waited for Jorase to get back.

Saavik looked toward the mirror. "Tell me what he's doing?"

Rise stood up and waved her hand in front of the mirror. It shifted to the view of Spock's room. He was sitting up in bed, working on a padd. He had to stop frequently to cough into a tissue.

"He lives still?"

"Oh, yes. He is working on his research."

"He will work until his last moment," Saavik said, her tone somewhere between affection and sadness.

"You know him better than I do."

"I do. That's sad, isn't it?"

Rise was spared from answering by the return of Jorase.

"It was hard to find, but Master Telev had some in his stores."

Rise opened the bottle and poured some of the foul-smelling liquid into a small cup. "Drink it all."

Saavik turned her face away. "You've got to be kidding."

"Drink it, Saavik." Rise glared at her. "You'll only have to do it once a day. It's very strong. It probably tastes even worse than it smells, but if you want to get well, you'll drink it all down and not argue."

"Rise--"

"--No! No arguments today." Rise nearly spilled the liquid in her agitation.

"Okay. Just don't splash it on me. I don't want to smell like it." Saavik drank it down, making a face at the taste. "It's horrible."

"Lie down now."

Jorase adjusted the humidifier and then left them alone.

"Thank you." Saavik yawned.

Rise watched as Saavik began to relax, her need to cough subsiding. "Shh. Save your strength."

"Why?"

"You'll no doubt need it to argue with me tomorrow." Rise smiled wryly.

"Am I that predictable?"

Rise nodded, laying her hand on Saavik's forehead for a moment then pulling away.

"You have a gentle touch," Saavik whispered.

Rise found it difficult to look at the other woman.

"Wouldn't it be easier to let me die too?"

"Probably."

"So why don't you?" Saavik studied her.

"Because I can't." Rise started to get up. "I just can't."

Saavik grabbed her hand. "Can't what?"

"Can't lose one more thing," Rise said so softly she didn't think Saavik had heard her.

"Rise." The word contained a world of emotion. Pity, tenderness, irritation.

Rise shook her hand away. "Rest now."

"Rise--"

"--Just rest now, Saavik." She fled the bedroom, hurried over to her own and threw herself on the bed, pulling the covers up over her head as if she were still a child. She felt like crying but she ruthlessly held it in. She didn't cry anymore. Ever.

She felt someone crawl in beside her and burrow into her back. "I'm sorry, Rise. I didn't mean to upset you."

"Go back to your room, Saavik."

"I'm lonely there. I like it here." Saavik's arm snaked around her waist. "Let me stay, Rise."

Rise could feel the tear before it fell. She swallowed hard, trying to stop the next one. It fell anyway.

"You can let it out, you know. I won't tell anyone."

Rise shook her head. "I'm fine."

"Like hell you are." Saavik's lips found her neck. "But I'm not going to press it."

Rise closed her eyes, allowing herself to sink for a moment in the sensation of being held. Then she pulled away. "Go back to your own room."

Saavik sighed, and turning over, got out of bed. "Who's this?"

Rise rolled over and saw that she was holding the picture of Cameron and her when she had looked human. "Nobody. They're dead now," she said.

"That's you, isn't it? As a human." Saavik nodded. "And is this Cameron?"

Rise nodded. "A long time ago."

Saavik put the picture down. "You were happy when this was taken, Rise. How long has it been since you felt that way?"

"I'm content."

Saavik stared down at her for a long time. "You don't seem very content. You actually seem lonely...lonely and sad." She turned and walked back to her bedroom.

I was content, Rise thought angrily. Before you came, I was.

-------------------------------

Saavik slept late the next day. When she woke, she could tell it was far into the afternoon by the way the light came through the shades. She was having trouble breathing and wondered if the medicine was making her condition worse. Moving slightly, she realized that something had wrapped itself around her neck. She gingerly pulled it away from her and studied it.

"You," she said, laughing as the black kitten swiped at her nose. "What are you doing up here?"

The kitten cried and Saavik put her back down on her chest.

"You're awake," Rise said from the doorway. "And you have a visitor. She just can't get enough of you."

"Unlike some people," Saavik said under her breath.

"You know I heard that," Rise said as she walked into the room. She sat down on the bed and felt Saavik's forehead. "You may have a fever."

"I feel fine."

Rise reached for the medicine. "You need this."

"Please, no." Saavik made a face but obediently took the cup Rise handed her. "Cheers." She gulped it down, trying not to react to the bitter taste.

Rise took the cup and put it back on the bedside table. She sat for a moment, her back to Saavik. Then she stood up and began to walk out.

"I want to understand you," Saavik said into the silence.

"No, you don't." Rise stopped walking. "You just want to seduce me so that I'll let you go."

"Is that what you think?"

Rise turned. "I'd be a fool to think anything else. And I'm not a fool."

"I never said you were." Saavik slid out from under the covers. The kitten followed her feet as they moved under the blanket.

Rise smiled slightly. "You should name her."

"Shouldn't I ask her first?"

Rise shrugged. "Cats rarely share their true name."

Saavik closed her eyes and concentrated for a moment, then she opened one eye. "She's not sharing."

"Told you."

"Okay, then. It's up to me, I guess." Saavik thought for a moment. "T'Mal."

"Was that your mother?"

"Why do you think that?"

"Your expression. It reminded me of how I feel when I think of my mother."

Saavik shook her head. "I never knew my mother. The Romulans took us away from our parents as soon as we were born."

Rise waited.

Saavik closed her eyes. She didn't like to think of Hellguard. It hurt too much. She opened her eyes and stared at Rise. "You know of my background?" When Rise nodded, she went on. "T'Mal ran the Hellguard nursery. Had to care for us all. She was very old. Past the age of any interest to those who devised the tortures of that world. Her only job was to get us to an age where we too could be amusing to torture.

"She loved me. She was the only person that did." Saavik was transported back to a chaotic world where everyone talked too loud and hurt her when they touched her. Everyone except T'Mal. She was the only comfort Saavik had ever known. "Until Spock," Saavik whispered. "So I guess she was my mother."

"You miss her?" Rise came back and sat down on the bed next to her. "I miss mine."

"How did she die?"

"The Klingons attacked our ship." Rise closed her eyes. "She had been on Risa. She looked so relaxed. A little later she was dead. They should tell you...there should be some kind of message you get that says, 'This is the last day you'll ever have with her,' you know?"

"Yes. I know."

"I loved her so much. My world crumbled when she died."

Saavik remembered how it had felt when she'd gone into the nursery--much too old to be there but needing a moment of T'Mal's love--and had found the frail woman lying on the floor. All around babies had sobbed or wailed. Saavik had barely heard them. "Don't leave me," she'd begged.

But T'Mal had already started on her journey. Her katra had flown and her body was cold.

Saavik looked at Rise. "I shut down the day T'Mal died. Turned off everything soft inside me. I don't know why Spock even considered taking me in. I was violent...full of hate." She remembered how hard he'd had to fight to get her to trust him. "He worked so patiently with me, Rise. Gave me so much."

Rise looked down.

"He saved me." Saavik laughed softly. "I was a savage. Every day Spock would have to search me before school...would take away the knife I had fashioned during the night."

Rise smiled.

"I'd make them out of anything I could find. A tool, a piece of stone, a fine spoon from Amanda's collection. I destroyed more things in that house..." She smiled, remembering the dismayed look Spock's mother used to favor her with when one of her better pieces had been mangled.

"So he always took it away?"

Saavik nodded. "Until the day I put it in the bottom of my shoe. Sliced the hell out of my foot. But I got it to school with me. Felt safer that day than I ever had." She paused, remembering the hell school had been for her during those early years. "The students used to make fun of me. The way only a pure Vulcan can make fun of you." Saavik sighed. "I stabbed the one I hated the most."

"You didn't?"

"I did. He nearly died." Saavik stared at Rise. "The other families and the teachers were fed up with my behavior. They all wanted me thrown out...put in a facility for disturbed individuals. Spock fought them. He wouldn't let them take me. He said I deserved a chance at a normal life and that I just needed more time. No one had ever stood up for me that way. It was a turning point in my life." She took Rise's hand in hers. "He saved me, Rise. I wish I could show you the man I knew, the father you never knew. I wish I could make you love him the way that I do."

Rise pulled her hand away abruptly. "You can't." She stood. "I know what you're doing. This is just a different kind of seduction." She scooped up T'Mal. The kitten hissed and clawed Rise's hand. "Fine," she said as she let T'Mal jump back on the bed. "Stay with her then."

"Rise."

"Just stop, Saavik. It won't work." She hurried out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Saavik studied the kitten as she crawled into her lap and began to take a bath. "That wasn't the way to win her heart, kiddo." She stared at the door. "That wasn't the way at all."

----------------------

Several days passed and Rise stayed away from Saavik except to give her the medicine that was making her well but also keeping her very sleepy. A blessing, Rise thought as she activated the mirror and watched Spock as he slept. "So you live yet," she said, then waved her hands and the picture faded to black, then reverted to her own image.

She stepped back and studied the sleeping Saavik. She looked younger when she slept, less dangerous somehow. T'Mal lay in the curve of her neck, as blissfully asleep as her new mistress. Rise reached down and touched the kitten, heard her start to purr. Saavik sighed and Rise had the overwhelming urge to touch her cheek, was already reaching out. Rise forced herself to pull away. She turned and saw Sela standing at the door, watching her. "I didn't know you were here."

"Jorase let me in. With quite a lot of frowning, I might add. I don't think your servant approves of me." Sela walked into the room, picked up the medicine and read the label. "Caverns got to her too?"

Rise nodded.

"Nothing that can't be cured, I hope? Not much of a hostage for Spock's continuing good behavior if she dies."

"She'll be fine." Rise tried to draw Sela out of the room.

Instead Sela kissed her softly. "I've missed you, Sureya."

Rise sighed as she pulled away.

"Is it her?" Sela pulled a dagger from her boot. "Is she the reason you are no longer interested in me? Shall I kill my rival?" The knife was perilously close to both T'Mal and Saavik's throat.

Rise smiled as seductively as she could and stalked over to Sela. "Of course not. What possible interest could I have in her?" She leaned up and nuzzled Sela's neck, heard the woman groan. Rise reached for the dagger and pulled it away from Saavik, running it slowly down her shirt, then down Sela's uniform. "Come away," she urged.

Sela followed Rise into her bedroom, kissing her passionately as they fell on the bed. Rise remembered how once she had found Sela so beautiful with her blonde hair and pale eyes. Once she had wanted her. For her own protection, she would pretend to want her again. She would do it to hold on to those things she loved.

She refused to think that Saavik was one of those things. Refused to consider that she would do this just to keep Saavik safe.

But when it was over, when she lay in Sela's arms, exhausted from the pleasure the woman had given her and that she had given back to her, then it was more difficult to ignore what her true motivation was and how much she hoped that Saavik would not wake up and find her in this position.

"You're very quiet," Sela kissed her softly.

Rise closed her eyes. "You wore me out."

"Never could in the past. You're different, Sureya."

"I'm just the same as I ever was." Rise laughed. "Perhaps it is you that has changed. Perhaps you are growing tired of me?"

"I suppose it is possible," Sela said. Then tickled her. "In an alternate timeline."

Rise giggled and squirmed away.

"Kiss me and I'll stop," Sela said with a wicked grin.

It's going to be a long afternoon, Rise thought as she pulled Sela's face down to hers.

-----------****-----------------

"Show me how to fly the birds," Saavik asked.

Rise looked at her in surprise.

"Please? I feel fine. If I have to stay in that room one more day, I'll go insane."

Rise studied her, finally nodding. "But you're going to have to lose this one." She reached up and pried T'Mal off her perch on Saavik's shoulder. "She's just the right size for the birds to go after."

Saavik shooed the kitten away and followed Rise out the door and to the mews. She could hear the birds start to call out well before they got to the doorway. "You can talk to them? Mind to mind, I mean?"

Rise nodded. She looked up where a large hawk sat in a tree watching them. "That's Shiansu."

Saavik nodded. "Him I recognize."

Rise nodded as she reached into the mews and pulled two gloves from the hooks on the front wall. "Here you'll need this," she said as she put the other one on.

Saavik pulled on the bulky glove as Rise stepped away and whistled shrilly. Then she held her arm out. Shiansu threw himself off the tree limb, his broad wings catching a thermal and soaring gracefully down to where they stood. He back winged and landed on her arm gently.

Rise smiled as he cocked his head and stretched his neck to be scratched. Her face, her entire being relaxed as she touched her bird. Then she extended her arm again. The bird readied himself for the gentle throw and took off, powerful wings carrying him back up to the tree.

"You don't train him?"

Rise shook her head. "He doesn't need it. He does what he pleases around here."

"Like guarding the place and you."

Rise nodded. "He's very protective." She turned and went into the mews. When she emerged, it was with a smaller bird on her arm. At Saavik's look she said, "Romulan falcon. Even rarer than the shiarawk."

The bird tried to fly off her arm despite the leash holding it in place. Saavik stepped back.

"He's a handful," Rise admitted, trying to calm the bird. "I've been working to get him to hunt for me but he just hasn't been interested. I've cut his food down, maybe now he'll get the idea."

Once he quieted, she let him go. He immediately flew up and up, strong wings beating hard. Then he evened out and soared high above. He scanned the sky below him intently.

Rise smiled. "Looks like he might do it this time."

Several pigeon-like birds flew by. "Hope you're not squeamish," Rise said as she pointed up to where the falcon had begun his dive. Faster and faster he plummeted toward the smaller birds.

Saavik inhaled sharply, awed by the speed.

The falcon hit one of the birds with an audible crunch and it fell to the ground. The falcon followed it then bit it in the neck once to kill it. He began to eat.

Saavik looked over at Rise. She was smiling. "I take it pigeons aren't high on your favorite animals list?"

Rise laughed. "Fli'vin aren't pigeons, Saavik, they only look like them. And what you just saw is natural behavior. I just wasn't sure he'd ever do it for me."

"Guess he surprised you."

"Guess so." Rise watched the falcon for a moment. "So you want to fly a shiarawk?"

Saavik nodded.

"Then you'll have to get one to trust you first. And that takes time. Let's find you a good partner." They walked into the mews.

Saavik stopped in front of one of the cages. "How about this one? She's the one that came with us on the picnic, isn't she?"

Rise walked over. "Good memory. And she's a beauty. Very smart."

"So I get to know her?"

Rise nodded. "Grab that stool and sit a while. Let her get used to you."

"For how long?"

"However long it takes." Rise grinned. "This isn't an instant venture, Saavik. You have to work for their trust."

"I'm getting that." Saavik dragged the stool over and started to talk to the bird, feeling very self-conscious. "Hello. Rise wouldn't tell me your name. I know you have one though and she's just being difficult. It amuses her to be difficult with me. So I'll call you--"

*Menah,* popped into her mind.

She stared at the bird. "Okay. I'll call you Menah."

The bird made a small noise and preened.

Rise came back in to put the falcon away and take out a shiarawk. "So what're you calling her?"

Saavik smiled. "Her name."

Rise looked up from the cage. "She told you?"

Saavik nodded.

"I'm impressed."

Saavik laughed. "I am too."

"Ask her if she wants to fly for you."

Saavik leaned in trying to think as much as say the words, "Menah. Would you fly for me?"

The bird seemed to consider her for a moment. Then she sent back, *Fly.*

"I think she said yes."

Rise had the shiarawk on her arm when she came over. "Then open the door and hold out the gauntlet. If she's ready, she'll go to you."

Saavik opened the door slowly and held her arm out. Menah didn't hesitate. Saavik held her arm out awkwardly.

Rise smiled. "You can bring it in a bit." She led them back out to the sunlight. "Okay, the next step--"

"--Mistress?" Jorase hurried up to them. She gestured to the front gate. "There's a man here with a hurt dog. He was hoping you could take a look at him."

Rise nodded. "Let us put the birds away first."

Saavik followed her in. Rise let her bird hop onto a perch near the door. "Could you put him in his cage? I have to go see what's wrong."

Saavik looked at her uncertainly.

"Just open the door and hold him close, he'll go to the perch inside it on his own. Then latch the door. And apologize to him for me. I really don't like to do this to them." She was already moving toward a man that was carrying a large dog up the grass toward them.

Saavik saw the shiarawk study her and straightened slightly. "Don't try anything," she warned it.

From the cage behind her, the falcon cried. She turned and admired it. It was beautiful, rings of gray and white on the body with black on the wings. His strong legs flexed as he moved back and forth on his perch.

*Fly?* Menah asked in a confused tone.

"Sorry, girl. Emergency." She opened her cage and let her jump in. Then she went over to the bird Rise had brought in and carried him back to his cage. "Sorry, boy."

"Saavik?" Rise called.

She hurried out and over to the shed. The dog lay on a table under a bright light. He had a long, vicious tear near his hip.

Rise looked up. "I need you to help hold him. I have to clean this." She motioned Saavik over and waited till she had a good grip on the hindquarters. She looked at the man that held the dog's head. "Don't let go." Then she touched the dog's head and her eyes became unfocused.

She's talking to it, Saavik realized. Mind to mind. Telling it what she plans to do? Such skill for someone who's mostly human when I've barely moved beyond the basics.

Rise pulled away and reached for the antiseptic. "I don't think he'll fight you, but be ready just in case." She gently swabbed the wound. The dog jerked and whined but he didn't try to get up.

"Good boy," Saavik said softly. She shared a smile with the man.

"He's my best hunter," he explained. "Got caught in some fencing."

Saavik nodded and turned to watch Rise as she layered some powder on the cut. It turned into a liquid when it hit the skin, disappearing immediately into the torn tissue. "Antibiotics," Rise said. Then she pulled the skin together with her fingers and ran the dermal regenerator across the cut. The skin healed instantly. She waited a few minutes then ran the regenerator across it again several more times. "Okay. That should do it. Let him up slowly."

Saavik let go and the dog shifted and got up. Rise patted him as he stood on the table, watching the healed area carefully to make sure the new skin held. When it did, she told the man he could lift the dog down.

"But keep him inside, and keep him quiet. At least for a day."

"Quiet? You don't know this dog, ma'am. I can't thank you enough."

"Just take him home. And tell your neighbor to quit using fencing like that. It's too dangerous."

"I'll do that, ma'am." He walked slowly out, trying to keep the dog quiet.

Saavik followed him out, watching as Jorase walked him to the gate. "You do this a lot? Play local veterinarian?"

Rise nodded. "We're a little isolated here. Or hadn't you noticed?"

Saavik grinned. "I noticed."

Rise washed her hands and grabbed a bag of food. Going from cage to cage, she began to feed the occupants.

"Sela sure seems to find her way here a lot."

Rise froze.

"Like yesterday. When I woke up. That was who I heard, wasn't it? In your bedroom with you?"

Rise looked over at her. Nodded slightly.

"Thought so." Saavik picked up another bag of food, started to feed the cats. "Do you love her?"

"No." Rise didn't stop moving.

"Does she love you?"

Rise laughed, the sound was full of scorn. "Hardly."

"Are there others here that you're...you know...close to?"

Rise stared at her. Shook her head.

"Oh." Saavik realized she felt strangely relieved.

"My life hasn't really been about that," Rise said softly. "I don't let people in easily."

"I've noticed."

Rise shot her a look.

"So why Sela? How'd she worm her way in?"

"I don't know. I think it was her hair." Rise laughed softly.

"You have a thing for blondes?"

"I _was_ blonde. Remember? When I was happy? When I was human?" Rise fell silent, then looked over at Saavik. "She looks human, doesn't she?"

Saavik smiled. "I wouldn't tell her that, but yes, she does."

Rise shrugged. "So maybe that's why. Or maybe it's just that she was good to me at a time when no one else gave a damn." She put the food back abruptly and let a few of the dogs out. "Come on, guys, let's go for a walk." She didn't look at Saavik as she walked away.

----------------------------------

Rise lay in the clearing on the far reaches of her property. Shiansu soared overhead while a half dozen dogs ran happily through the grass. She put her head back and enjoyed the early morning sunshine.

"The lioness suns herself?" Saavik emerged from the shadows. She was holding a bunch of wildflowers.

"I wanted to be alone." Rise turned her face back to the sun.

"I doubt that." Saavik sat down next to her. She lifted the flowers to Rise's face. "They smell good."

Rise pushed the flowers away and sat up. "Let's go," she called to the dogs.

"Stay a while?"

Rise shook her head.

"Please?"

"Why?"

Saavik looked down. "Because I'm lonely. Because Spock is dying and all I can do is watch from a distance. Because I feel guilty that I haven't killed you and left."

Rise sat down. "Ah. The truth finally. No seduction, no sad stories. Just the realization that you could possibly overpower me and go home?"

"Possibly? You are mostly human. I could easily overpower you."

"Are you so sure?" Rise stared hard at her.

Saavik lunged at her, knocking her to her back. Rise used the momentum to carry her over and on top of Saavik. She tried to hold her down but Saavik knocked her back and pinned her.

*Protect!* Shiansu screamed.

"Saavik, stop. He'll attack." Rise sent the bird a firm, *No! No protect!*

Shiansu screamed again, but his soaring pattern became more normal.

Saavik didn't let go of Rise's arms. Her face was very close. "Call him off," she said quietly.

"I already have."

Saavik let go of her hands. Touched Rise's face gently. "I won't hurt you."

"Don't, Saavik."

"Don't what? Don't do this?"

The kiss was sweet and gentle and Rise felt as though she was melting into Saavik. She pulled her close; let the kiss become more passionate. Then suddenly, she felt Spock's pain intrude on them. It was as if she couldn't breathe, as if her chest would crack from the tightness in it. She pushed Saavik off her savagely.

"Rise?"

She jumped to her feet and ran across the meadow, unsure where she was going, just feeling the need to flee.

She heard Saavik behind her and tried to put on a burst of speed.

"No!" Saavik said, as she tackled her.

Rise went down hard, the sensation of having the air knocked out of her only adding to the feeling that she couldn't breathe. "Leave me alone," she said as she hit out at Saavik.

"What is wrong with you?"

"He's dying." Rise shook her head, trying to clear it of the pain she felt, the sense of resigned despair. "Stop it, Spock!" She hit at her head, harder and harder.

Saavik grabbed her hands. "What are you doing? What is wrong with you?"

"I can feel him."

Saavik just stared at her.

"You heard what happened on the ship? How he forced the meld?"

Saavik nodded.

"It left us connected. Less than a bond and only one way but still connected. I feel his pain, his greatest pleasures. His rages, his sadness." She sagged. "All of it. The best and the worst. But with Spock, it mainly seems to be the worst. Now I feel this. The last of it." She panted, breathing air in desperately. The feeling of choking slowly subsided.

"Rise?" Saavik touched her face gently. "Are you all right?"

Rise stared at Saavik for a long moment. She tried to ignore Spock's physical pain, but when she did she felt his emotional torment overwhelm her. She attempted to push herself off the ground, felt Saavik help her to her feet. "You must go." The words were out before she could call them back.

"What?"

"Yes. It's time. You have to go." Rise turned and began to walk quickly toward the house.

"Go where?" Saavik hurried beside her.

"Back to him." Rise bent down and retrieved the flowers Saavik had dropped. Handing them back to her, she said, "We must hurry."

"You're just letting me go?"

Rise nodded.

"I'm his hostage. Without me--"

"--Once he's dead, he won't need a hostage. And once he's dead, your life expectancy here will be much shortened."

"What about you? The Tal Shiar won't be happy with you."

"I can take care of the Tal Shiar."

"Sela will be angry." Saavik tried to stop her. "Rise, come with me."

Rise shook her head. "I can't."

"Sela won't like this."

"I'll handle Sela."

Saavik's voice was so soft Rise barely heard her say, "I don't want to leave you."

"Then come back to me."

"I will," Saavik said.

Rise noticed that she looked away quickly. "Don't make promises you can't keep, Saavik."

"I didn't. I mean it."

Rise smiled bitterly. "You say that now. I wonder what a few hours of freedom will do to change that?" She increased her pace; hating the hope she had felt at Saavik's words.

Jorase hurried out. "Is something wrong?"

"Spock's dying." Rise pushed past her and went upstairs to call Del. "Get the ship ready."

"Yes, ma'am. Where to this time?"

"Same place. Same house," she said softly.

"You're the boss."

She grabbed the controller units, setting the relays as she walked back downstairs. Del would bring it back to her once Saavik got to the base. She walked downstairs, handed the unit to Saavik. "This will take you to where my ships are. My head man Del will be waiting for you."

"And then?"

Rise smiled sadly. "And then my fastest ship will speed you home."

"Home."

"Isn't it?"

Saavik thought, finally said, "As much as anyplace is for me."

Rise turned away.

"How do I get back?"

"Give it up, Saavik. We both know you aren't coming back," Rise called over her shoulder.

Saavik called after her. "I don't understand. You're just letting me go?"

Rise walked back to her. "It's what you want. What you've been working for these past few weeks. You got your wish. You win. You beat me." She touched Saavik's lips briefly with her own. "Be happy. You're going home."

"Why, Rise?"

"Because it's the right thing to do. Because it's you. Because it hurts too much. He hurts too much."

"I thought you wanted that?"

Rise smiled sadly. "So did I." She turned and headed to the front courtyard. T'Mal sat up with a start, taking two steps toward Saavik then stopping. Then with a soft miaow, the kitten ran out of the courtyard and into the long grass.

"T'Mal?" Saavik started to go after her.

Rise shook her head. "There isn't time." She backed away even as Saavik reached for her. "I wish..."

"Rise..."

Rise shook her head.

"Here." Saavik handed her the flowers. "To remember me by."

Rise smiled bitterly. "I'll never forget you, Saavik. Don't you know that yet?" She ignored the hand Saavik held out to her. "Goodbye." Resolutely, she turned her back on Saavik and walked into the house. She took the stairs slowly, Spock's pain creeping over her again, making it hard to walk, hard to lift her feet to climb the steps.

Saavik's room seemed suddenly cold and lifeless. Rise stuck the flowers in the pitcher of water and went to the mirror. She activated it and saw Spock lying in his bed. His eyes were half closed and he was breathing heavily.

*She comes,* Rise tried to send to Spock.

Shiansu answered, *She goes.*

Rise could imagine the shimmer of the powerful transporter. The way Saavik would disappear from view, would appear in the cavern. Del would be waiting for her. He'd take good care of her. Rise turned away from the mirror and went downstairs.

Jorase was waiting. "She'll come back, mistress."

"So she said."

"I think she meant it. I've got a feeling about that one."

Rise laughed bitterly and walked out before Jorase could say more. She busied herself with the animals for a while, flying all the shiarawks and working herself and Keltun so hard they were both drenched with sweat. Finally, taking pity on the boy, she sent him home but she hung back and cleaned out the mews until she was so exhausted she knew nothing would keep her from sleep.

She woke the next day to a house that seemed empty. When she walked downstairs, she found Jorase subdued. Rise ate her breakfast leaning up against the sink as Jorase worked at the table.

"Sela won't like what you've done."

Rise nodded. "I've been thinking it's time to leave. Soon. Now."

Jorase looked up in alarm. "What about Saavik?"

Rise closed her eyes. "How naive are you, Jorase? Or how gullible do you think I am? Anything Saavik said that she felt--anything she made me feel-- it was a lie, Jorase. A lie to get free."

"I don't believe that. She cared for you."

Rise felt hope beat wildly inside her, ruthlessly pushed it aside. "Then you're living in a dream world." She stalked outside before Jorase could answer. As she headed to the mews, she felt a sudden stab of joy. So, Saavik had arrived home. Rise laughed, bitter amusement rising in her. My gift to you, Father. At least you'll spend your last hours happy.

------------*******--------------------

Saavik sat by Spock's bed, watching him sleep. She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder and smiled up at Perrin.

"It always surprises me when you do that."

"I tried for so many years to be the perfect Vulcan." Saavik tried to look somber. "No emotion. It just didn't work for me. I'll never be perfect."

"You seem even less perfect lately, Saavik. Wherever you were, it agreed with you. And you look rested for once. Not so thin."

Saavik nodded. "I had plenty of opportunity to relax and eat."

"And it probably bored you to tears. Will you ever settle down and find a place to call home?" Perrin leaned against a low chest. "You know you are always welcome here."

"I know." She tried not to think of a sun-splashed courtyard. Of a black kitten. Of Rise's rare smile.

"Did you meet someone?"

Saavik looked up at Perrin in surprise. "What?"

"You look...softer than I've ever seen you."

"Someone..." Saavik sighed. "It wasn't meant to be."

Perrin got up. "That's sad then." She patted Saavik on the shoulder. "I'm going to work on my paper." She looked over at Spock and smiled. "He helped me a great deal with the research. Who'd have thought it?"

"Strange bedfellows."

Perrin looked at Saavik disapprovingly. "Well, I wasn't sharing his bed, Saavik. Really!"

"It's just a figure of speech."

"And not a very nice one." Perrin looked at her sternly, then leaned down and kissed her cheek. "I'm glad you're back. I know it means the world to him."

Saavik blinked back tears and nodded. As Perrin walked out, she fought for control. She seemed to be on the verge of losing it ever since she'd come back. She took several deep breaths before she realized Spock was staring at her.

"Don't fight what you are, Saavik. In the long run, it's not worth the effort."

"Isn't it?"

He shook his head. "It is a lesson that I should have learned earlier."

"Probably one that we all should learn earlier," she countered.

"Yes. But I look back over my life and I wonder how I could have made some things better."

"Rise?"

He nodded.

"She's not your fault. How she turned out isn't your doing."

"Isn't it? Perhaps, if I had tried harder with her mother? If later on, I had paid more attention to what was going on around me? Christine hid a child from me, Saavik. She hid her from me even in a meld."

"She was protecting her child."

"Protecting her from me. How was I a threat?"

Saavik shrugged helplessly. "I could have told her that you were an excellent father. That she had nothing to fear from you."

"I think she was afraid that I would take Rise away." He seemed very far away when he said, "And maybe, back then, I would have. So many things I did because I thought they were for the best. So many times I decided for others."

"We are all guilty of that on occasion."

He looked up at her. "I lost Rise before I ever knew her. My child has lived a life that I know so little about."

Saavik nodded. "But she let you go. In the end. When it mattered."

"Yes, she did."

"I think she came to care for you, Spock. In time--"

"You think she would have loved me?" He shook his head. "I think not, Saavik. Too much has happened for her to ever love me."

Saavik looked down in defeat. There was no use arguing with him. What she believed would not convince him. Or Rise either. She could imagine her echoing Spock's words.

Spock's words startled her out of her reverie. "Do you love her?"

Saavik lifted an eyebrow at him.

He raised his own back at her, clearly waiting for an answer.

"I grew fond of her." Saavik saw his expression grow annoyed. "Spock, what do you want me to say?"

"The truth, Saavik."

She finally nodded.

He seemed satisfied. "I wonder if she realizes that," he said as he allowed his eyes to close.

Saavik looked at the camera. "She does, if she's watching. We can turn it off now, you know."

He opened his eyes again. "Leave it on."

"Why?"

He sighed. "She is a part of this."

"Maybe she won't want to watch you die," she said softly.

"She'll watch," he said in a tone that brooked no disagreement. "I know that she will watch."

She sat quietly, thinking of Rise as Spock fell asleep. Rise probably will watch, Saavik realized and a rush of foreboding filled her. What would this do to her? she wondered. And what would the Tal Shiar do to her, what would Sela do, when they found out she had let Saavik go? She felt the foreboding change into panic and had to fight the intense urge to go back to Romulus and make sure Rise was okay. She was not going back. Not now. Not later. She had been a fool to promise she would. Overcome by the moment. By gratitude. Possibly even by hostage syndrome, she thought as she tried to rationalize her feelings.

You told her you would come back, the better part of herself pointed out. You made a promise.

And Rise expects me to break that promise, the darker Saavik answered. I owe her nothing. And both Saaviks knew that this at least was true. She owed Rise nothing.

She closed her eyes. Tried not to see a sun dappled meadow with dogs gamboling about as she watched Rise play with them. Tried not to think how Rise's lips had felt under hers. How she could feel Rise's heart beating wildly as they had kissed. Tried not to remember the sadness that colored everything about Rise.

You promised, the voice whispered again. And you want to go to her.

Saavik opened her eyes quickly. This was getting her nowhere. She heard Sylar come in and went out to greet him and T'Ren. She tried to not think that Rise had never met her uncle, might not even be aware of him.

She's not family, Saavik thought firmly, no matter that she shared Spock's blood. Saavik shared none of his blood but she was family. Rise was a stranger.

A beautiful stranger. And an enticing one with her sorrowful face and exotic life. But a stranger always.

She's not my home. This is my home. Rise made her choices. I've made mine. And as Saavik tried to reason with herself, the feeling of panic receded a little. But it didn't go away.

--------------------------------

Rise walked slowly through the courtyard, calling for T'Mal. The kitten hadn't come back since the day Saavik left. Over a week ago, Rise realized. A week since she'd worked in the gardens, since she'd taken the dogs for a long walk. The fountain wasn't running and she wondered when she had turned it off. She walked back inside, the rooms looking bare and stark as they stood stripped of anything valuable. Jorase had just taken another load of the smaller valuables up to the shuttle. They would leave soon. Make a new start. Again.

Rise felt pain wash over her and climbed the stairs to Saavik's room. Her breath caught as she felt the distress Spock was in, could tell from the pattern of pain, from Spock's labored breathing, that these were his last moments. Walking to the mirror she swept her hand over it, watched as it changed from her image to Spock's bedroom. She was surprised that he'd kept the camera after Saavik had returned to him. It would seem that he wanted her to watch this.

So she did.

She watched as he coughed too much blood into the handkerchief he held so properly to his lips. She watched as he leaned back and closed his eyes tightly, trying desperately to fight the pain she could feel through their link. And she watched as he touched Saavik's hair, his voice barely audible as he said, "You have meant so much to me, Saavikaam."

"Spock." Her voice was broken.

Rise felt a surge of tenderness for the other woman rush through her, knew that only part of it was what Spock was feeling.

"Little cat," he whispered.

Saavik wept, burying her face in the covers next to him. Rise wanted to turn away, but forced herself to watch. Spock turned slowly, staring directly at the camera.

"Little cat," he whispered, his voice tender as he held out a hand to Rise. "I wish..." A coughing fit stopped him from finishing the thought.

As she felt his terrible regret overcome her, she crumpled, dissolving in tears. She couldn't watch anymore, so she just experienced the pain he felt, knew the exact moment that it all ended. When the link between them dissolved.

For the first time in seventy years, Rise was completely alone in her mind. The silence was deafening.

She pulled herself up, stared in the mirror again. Saavik was standing up, leaning over Spock and closing his eyes. She kissed him gently on the cheek.

Rise stared at Spock...at what might have been. Then at Saavik...at what would never be.

But why not? Saavik could come back now. Rise felt hope grow in her again and laughed bitterly at her own ingenuousness. Did she really think Saavik was coming back? She let the mirror go black and turned away. She had a move to prepare for.

And the move kept her busy for days. She and Jorase packed up the most valuable items and transported them to Del. Rise took the last load, glad to be off Romulus for a time, even gladder to help Del pilot the shuttle full of her valuables to Rul, the Ferengi whose family she had trusted with storing her riches for fifty years.

"You are sure you wouldn't like to stay with me this time?" the Ferengi asked her with a fond leer. "I'm sure we could work out a mutually beneficial relationship."

Rise shook her head, tried to muster up a smile.

"Heart broken?"

She considered that, shook her head. "Haven't you heard, Rul? I don't have a heart."

"Right. I forgot." He grinned at her.

She didn't grin back. "Del will bring the rest in a few days."

"Of course. Where are you moving to this time?"

She shrugged.

"Don't know or won't tell?"

She gave him a tight smile.

"Always so cautious, mystery lady. But you are the finest of things: a repeat customer. I honor that."

She did smile. "A Ferengi with honor. I wouldn't spread it around, Rul. Might hurt business."

He nodded.

On the way back, Del seemed in an unusually good mood.

"We're not getting back into the smuggling business," she warned him.

"I'll just be glad to get out of Romulan territory," he shot back. "Romulans give me the creeps."

"All these years, and you're just now telling me?"

"You're the boss. You wanted to stay there, I stayed there. Hated it though. Real glad to be getting the hell out."

"Me too," she said, as she turned to stare out the viewscreen.

When she returned to Romulus, Jorase told her Sela had called twice. "I put her off, but I think she was getting suspicious."

"I'll call her," Rise said, knowing she should do it soon but unable to deny herself a look in the mirror. She watched for over an hour, but there was no sign of Saavik. She's coming back, Rise thought. Then she realized there had been no sign of anyone in Spock's room. Saavik was probably still on Vulcan.

Rise waited a little longer. The view in the mirror didn't change. She let it go dark. Turned and headed downstairs to comm Sela, to try to mollify the woman.

She tried to tune out the voice that kept saying that Saavik wasn't coming back. Tried and failed.

She stayed away from the mirror then. For an hour, for two, then for many. A day passed, then another. When she couldn't stand it anymore and stood in front of it again, waved her hand over it, the screen stayed black.

"Activate," she commanded as she waved her hand in front of it again. The screen shimmered, then returned to black.

Saavik had turned the camera off or destroyed it. She wasn't coming back.

Ever.

Without a sound, Rise slammed her hand into the mirror. Pain shot through her as it shattered, the frame falling to the floor. Ignoring the blood pouring out of a cut on her hand, she reached down for a shard of glass.

So stupid, she thought, as she blinked back tears and began to hack at her hair, sawing the long strands to just below her ear, not caring that what was left was jagged and sticky with her own blood.

So stupid to hope.

She felt suddenly dizzy and holding her good hand over the throbbing cut walked slowly to her bedroom and into the bathroom. She rinsed her hand off, refusing to look at her image in the large mirror as she did so. Pulling some towels down, she wrapped one around her hand to catch the blood and sat down on the floor. She heard a noise in the dressing room and looked up.

"What have you done?" Jorase stared at her in horror.

"It's time to go. Get up to the Shayla like we planned. I'll send the animals up to Del's men in the shuttle. "

Jorase took a step into the bathroom. "But, you're hurt."

"It's not that bad."

"But--"

"--Go!" Rise screamed at her, causing Jorase to back up hastily. She fought for control. "Go while there's still time."

"You can handle them all by yourself?"

Rise nodded. "You take Freya. I'll tend to the rest." Despite her ebbing strength, she forced herself to her feet, stood stiffly and said, "Go."

"Yes, mistress." Jorase bobbed a hasty curtsy then fled.

"I'm sorry," Rise whispered to her disappearing back. "I love you."

She dropped the towel, now soaked with her blood, and grabbed a smaller one, wrapping it tightly and tying it off. The blood began to soak through but more slowly as she walked into the bedroom. She reached for the pain medicine she'd given Spock, opened it and took a little, then a little more- -enough to take the edge off, she told herself. She knew that she had to get the animals up to the shuttle before she was too weak to do it, but all she wanted to do was go to sleep. "I'd like to sleep forever," she whispered, as she felt the medicine start to work, start to spread the numbness, the peace.

She was about to lie down on the bed when she heard the bell ring from the front gate. Walking carefully downstairs, almost too tired to navigate the stairs, she hit the intercom. "Who is it?"

"It's Sela."

Rise laughed bitterly. Of course it would be Sela. "It's not a good time."

"It's the only time, Sureya. Drop the field or I'll blast my way in."

Rise knew the threat was empty. It would take days to get past her defenses. She could be long gone. Safe.

And alone again.

She sighed and lowered the forcefield. "Come in then if it's so important to you." She opened the hall door and waited.

Sela was with two Tal Shiar soldiers. Her expression was grim as she walked up the path. "You look terrible, Sureya," she said as she entered the hall. She touched Rise's jagged hair, then looked at her hand. "And you're bleeding."

"What can I do for you, Sela?" Rise tried to feel something other than the mind-numbing emptiness that filled her. She knew she would need to be extra cunning to get through this meeting. Found she hardly cared anymore.

Sela let her fingers drag over the hall table. "I remember this being covered with beautiful things. Where are they?"

Rise shrugged. "I put them away for a while."

"Did you put your servant away too?" Sela walked into the living room, sprawled in the large armchair. "I'm thirsty."

"I'll get you an ale." Rise turned to head for the kitchen.

"I'd rather she got it."

Rise didn't look at her. "She's indisposed."

"And your guest, Sureya? Is she indisposed too?"

Rise noticed the soldiers that had accompanied Sela had moved around to circle her. "I let her go," she said simply.

"Excuse me? For a second, I thought you said that you let her go." Sela stood and walked to her. "Sureya, I know you wouldn't be that stupid." She touched Rise's face. "Would you?"

Rise yanked her face away. "She's gone."

"And Spock? Is he back then? She was your hostage for him, or did I misunderstand the arrangement?"

Rise shook her head. "Spock isn't here."

Sela smiled bitterly, then she punched Rise hard, knocking her to the floor. Sela looked down at her and with a vicious smile kicked her hard in the ribs. Rise felt bone crack and give. She didn't cry out.

"You're not a Romulan, Sureya. You're a damn Vulcan. You've been lying the whole time. You let me touch you, knowing it would make me sick when I found out what you are." Sela's steel-covered toe connected with Rise's hip. " But now you've betrayed yourself...and us." She nodded to the soldiers, who hauled Rise to her feet. "The price for betrayal is high on Romulus. Or haven't you heard?"

Rise didn't respond.

"You're Vulcan. But that's not enough is it? You have to be human too? The price for being a human is even higher. My mother could tell you that," Sela said with a twisted grin.

She turned and walked through the kitchen and out toward the mews, the soldiers dragging Rise along behind. "Let's go see your precious birds, shall we?" Sela walked into the mews while Rise was held at the door. "Which one of these is mine?" She studied the birds. "You promised me a shiarawk."

"I lied," Rise said through clenched teeth.

"I rather thought you had. You do that a lot, don't you...Valeris?" Sela smiled when Rise did not react to the name. "You look so like a Vulcan at this moment." She stalked back to her. "Did you think I wouldn't find out he was your father? That you weren't helping us at all? You were rescuing him. His little Rise." She pushed past Rise. "The little rescuer."

"That wasn't my intent."

"I actually believe that you did mean to make him pay. But you're weak. Easily swayed by something helpless." Sela looked at the shed. "Like these curs you're always collecting. And these...cats. My mother loved cats." Her lip curled in distaste and she grabbed Rise by the hair, yanking her away from the guards. As her fingers curled around Rise's throat, she said to the guards. "Kill them all."

"No!" Rise cried.

"The birds too?" he asked in dismay.

"Of course not the birds, you fool. They're promised to our superiors."

"No," Rise said as the soldiers began to fire into the cages. "No!" she screamed as they pulled the animals out of the cages and threw them into a pile. Some of them were still struggling feebly.

Sela cuffed her. "Shut up, Rise. I should kill you, but that would involve a lot of explanations that I'm not prepared to make about how I let Spock get away...again. So you're going to leave Romulus and you'll never come back, and I'll let it be known that you took our valuable prisoners with you." She looked at the guards. "Is that all of them?"

The first one nodded.

"Excellent, go call for transport for the birds." As the guards walked away, Sela pulled her disruptor out and shot them both. They disappeared without a cry. "There is an old human saying: 'Three can keep a secret if two are dead.' It is one of the few human things I like. You killed them of course. That will be clear in the official report that I'll file. You might want to change your name again. Sureya will be persona non grata for several sectors. Dead or alive is how the notice will read, I believe." Sela leaned in. "I'll send someone for the birds once you're gone. Leave me a shiarawk, won't you? I really want one."

With a last blow, she let go of Rise, who crumpled to the ground.

An angry scream came from the sky. *Protect!* the bird cried.

Rise looked up and saw a black shape plummeting toward Sela. *No, Shiansu, no,* she sent him frantically.

Sela smiled as she pulled her disruptor from the hip holster. "Your beloved bird. How fitting."

Shiansu screamed again. Sela's shot was perfect, her disruptor scoring a long gash along the bird's chest. As he wheeled and tried to recover, Sela fired again, this time nearly cutting his left wing off with her fire. He landed heavily just in front of Rise.

*Shiansu!* Rise could feel the pain and shock coming from the bird.

*Hurts,* was the last thing she sensed from him.

Rise sobbed as Sela picked the bird up by the legs and tossed him on top of the pile of dead animals.

"Goodbye, Rise." Leaning down, Sela ripped the garnet pendant from Rise's throat. "I've always liked this. Consider it"--she looked back at the pile of corpses--"all of this, as payment for your life." She walked away without a backward glance.

Rise tried to get up but gasped in pain as her ribs and hip protested. She crawled slowly to the shed. The smell of charred flesh was overpowering and she threw up again and again.

From the mews, she heard the cry of a shiarawk. Then another screeched. And another. As she wept, their shrill cries accompanied her sobs.

---------------***------------------

Saavik appeared in same spot she had beamed out. The courtyard was deserted, the simple sounds she had come to take for granted stilled. She turned and looked at the house behind her. It was shuttered and had the air of a place that hadn't been lived in recently. The flowers needed tending and the fountain was not running, although water stood in its many levels.

She remembered how, as soon as Spock died, the strange dread she had been feeling since she had returned to Vulcan had grown into a panicked urgency to get back to Rise. Perrin had looked at her as if she was crazy when Saavik had told her she was leaving. But she'd had to come back.

But coming back hadn't been easy, not without Rise's fast little ship. She'd finally bribed a less than reputable trader to let her ride with him back to the neutral zone. She'd located the planet that Rise had kept her ships after a few false leads and had finally found Del buying supplies. Convincing him to beam her back to Rise hadn't been easy. They'd wasted precious time arguing.

"She doesn't want visitors. If she did, she'd have told me."

"She isn't expecting me."

"In my experience, that's the worst kind of visitor to have show up."

"She had you take me home."

"And she never said anything about bringing you back."

"That's because she didn't believe I'd come back."

"Maybe she didn't want you to come back."

They'd gone round like this for hours. Finally, Saavik had closed her eyes, taken a shaky breath and in a defeated voice said simply, "Please?"

He'd pursed his lips and stared at her. At last, he'd said, "Hold on a bit." And he'd disappeared for a few minutes. When he came back, he indicated she should follow him.

"You're going to help me?"

"Jorase says you're okay."

Saavik laughed out loud. Why had it never occurred to her to tell him to call the woman?

He looked startled. "I didn't think Vulcans did that."

"I'm half Romulan."

He looked taken aback.

"Believe me, I like it even less than you do."

He seemed to consider her, finally said, "Jorase sounded worried. She's been waiting in the Shayla for some time. The boss hasn't called. We better get you back there quick."

And now that Saavik was back, her panic suddenly seemed reasonable. As she walked to the hall door, she muttered, "Where is everyone?"

Although the heavy Romulan furniture still stood in the hallway, the tables were stripped of all the things that Rise had held dear.

"Hello?" Saavik called out. "Rise?"

No one answered.

She hurried up the stairs to the bedrooms. Her room stood as she'd left it. The flowers she'd gathered had withered in the pitcher but the book she'd been reading still lay open on the bed. Saavik noticed that the mirror had been knocked down. It lay on the ground beneath where it had hung, shards of glass clustered near it on the floor. Saavik knelt down and picked up a piece. There was blood on it. Not yet dried and green. "Rise?" she yelled, rising and turning in one swift move. Hurrying to the main bedroom she threw open the door.

Rise was not there. But there were small drops of blood leading into the dressing room. Saavik ran into the small room, then to the bathroom beyond. A pile of towels lay on the floor. One was drenched and her nostrils flared at the smell of so much blood.

She ran out of the room and back down the stairs, checking each room frantically. "Oh god," she said, panting as much from fear as from any exertion. "Rise, where are you?"

The animals, she thought. Rise would never leave them.

She raced back outside, hurrying through the courtyard and out to the shed. Her brain at first refused to accept what she was seeing. Then the haze cleared and she backed up in horror as she realized that the strange reeking pile in the center of the shed was what was left of the animals she'd helped care for. Shiansu lay on top of the pile, his wing hanging nearly off his body. "Who could do this?" she whispered.

"Someone who wanted to teach me a lesson," a soft voice said behind her.

"Rise!" Saavik cried, as she turned and gasped in dismay at the sight of the other woman's jagged hair and still bleeding hand. "What has she done?"

"Oh, I did this. It's penance. For all my sins." Rise turned away, ripping a bloody towel off her hand as she did. "Sela did that though," she pointed at the pile, then leaned over and threw up.

Saavik hurried to her, but Rise pushed her away and started walking toward the mews.

"Wait."

Rise didn't stop. Her pace was slow, and Saavik thought that she was limping.

"Wait," Saavik said again as she followed Rise to the other building.

"There is nothing to wait for anymore," Rise said softly as she walked into the mews.

Saavik was relieved to see that the birds were unharmed. She walked from cage to cage, talking softly to them, turning back in time to see that Rise had picked up the heavy falconer's gauntlet. "For god's sake...all that blood. You'll make them crazy." Saavik held her hand out for the glove. "Let me. Which one do you want out?"

"All of them."

"What for?"

"I'm going to let them go. The Tal Shiar won't get them. _She_ won't get them." Rise handed Saavik the glove, then turned and walked out.

"Damn it," Saavik said, hurrying after her. "Rise, what are you doing?"

"It's not that difficult a concept, Saavik. Like you, the birds go free." Rise staggered slightly as she turned to go into the house.

Saavik followed her with a frown. "What is wrong with you?" She threw the glove down on the bench by the door and grabbed the other woman by the shoulders. There was no resistance as she turned Rise to face her. "You've lost blood. You need help."

The eyes that Rise finally lifted to meet hers were bleak, utterly devoid of hope. "Help? There's no help for me, Saavik. I'm tired. So tired."

"Then rest for a while and--"

"--You don't understand." Rise jerked away. "I'm tired of starting over. What's the point now? I'll be alone. I'm tired of not having any family." Her eyes welled up and she backed up, hitting the wall and sliding down it till she was crouching on the ground. "I'm tired of knowing that nobody loves me. That nobody ever will. That I threw away that chance. He's gone. I saw it. I felt it." She sobbed, the tears falling freely. "Spock's gone and now it's too late."

She put her hands on the ground and tried to push herself back up but didn't have the strength. "I was fine," she said brokenly. "I was fine until Spock and you showed up."

"You were the one that brought him here. That kept me here in his place." Saavik moved to her and gently helped her up, noticing that Rise winced when she touched her waist. "Let's get you bandaged up, okay?"

"Why? What's the point?" Rise trailed her finger through the blood on her hand, then ripped savagely into the cut, reopening it so that the blood began to flow freely again. "Why does it take so long to come out?" she whispered.

"Because you aren't supposed to die this way," Saavik said as she went to a cabinet and found some gauze. Pulling Rise to the sink, she cleaned the cut carefully then wrapped it and tied it off the way she had seen Rise do with the animals.

"I want to die," Rise said as she looked at the bandage. "Let me die."

"No." Saavik said, probing Rise's ribs gently, stopping when Rise hissed in pain. She began to wrap the ribs. "She beat you?"

Rise ignored the question. "Why did you come back?"

Saavik didn't answer.

"I would really like to know," Rise whispered.

"So would I," Saavik finally answered.

"You didn't have to come back."

"I know." Saavik walked to the window. "Where's Jorase?"

"I sent her ahead to the ship...I was supposed to send the animals up..." Rise's voice broke as she joined Saavik at the window. "I knew the Tal Shiar would come for me once they figured out that I had let you go."

"Why did you let me go?"

"It was wrong to keep you here." Rise looked down. "You belonged with Spock. He was your family."

"He was your family too."

"No. We'd come too far for that, he and I. We could never be family."

Saavik thought of Spock's face as he had said very nearly the same thing...and with very nearly the same regret. How like her father this one was. Sure that her journey was destined to be a solitary one. Never seeing the possibilities, the invitations. Saavik reached out to stroke Rise's hair and the woman shuddered. Never knowing when she was loved. "Then let me be your family." She turned Rise's face toward her. "Let me be where you belong."

Rise stared at her, looking very small and uncertain. "Please...don't."

"Don't love you?"

"It's dangerous to love me," Rise said, her eyes holding the memories of all the dark tragedies in her past. "People get hurt. People die."

But her hand reached up to stroke Saavik's hair.

"I'm pretty tough," Saavik replied gently.

"Why did you come back?" Rise asked again.

"I came back for you." Saavik leaned in and touched her lips to Rise's. She felt the other woman respond, putting her arms around her and pulling her closer. Then Rise abruptly let go and backed away.

"And now what? I go back with you to Vulcan?" Rise's laugh was bitter. "We live happily ever after?"

Saavik shrugged. "I haven't really thought it out that far. I didn't even know I was going to come back until I was already on my way." She smiled. "I didn't plan to. Didn't want to. Vulcan was tranquil in the way I had always found pleasant in the past. But this time, I kept seeing the courtyard here. When a bird would pass overhead, I'd think it was one of the shiarawks. I'd catch a glimpse of tawny hair and turn to say something to you. But it was never you." Saavik took the few steps needed to bring them close. "And I wanted it to be you. I wasn't thinking when I left--or I just didn't care--what it would really mean for you once they found out you'd let me go. All I cared about was getting back to him. But then once I got there, it was as if all I could think about was you. I didn't even wait for the katra ceremony, Rise. I just came back."

"But the camera. You turned it off. Today."

"I didn't. I just spent the last few hours trying to convince Del to beam me over. Before that I was in the hold of a Trebarian freighter. I've been trying to get back here for days." Saavik frowned. "You thought it was me? That I wasn't coming back. That's why the mirror..."

Rise turned away.

"I wasn't going to come back. Kept trying to convince myself there was no reason to...that I didn't want to. That I didn't want you. But I do want you, Rise. And I know you want me, I think this is proof." She reached out to touch Rise's hair.

"Don't."

"Why not?"

"Because there's no future in it. I'm a monster, remember? I'm the one that betrayed everything." Rise straightened and looked at Saavik defiantly. "I'm not sure that I'd do that over again differently."

"I know."

"I'm still Valeris. No matter what else I do, there will be those that only remember her."

Saavik nodded. "And they'll hate her. Just as I hate Valeris. But they won't see Valeris when they look at you. Not if they don't know." She touched Rise's cheek. "They'll only see you as you are now, just as I do. I don't hate you, Rise. Not anymore."

"But I'm Valeris too."

"I didn't say it made sense, little one. I have never been all that good at logic. If it is illogical that I love you, then so be it." She walked to the door and picked up the gauntlet. Holding it out to Rise, she smiled ever so slightly. "We have some birds to free, I believe."

Rise joined her, slipping the glove on solemnly. "And then what?"

Saavik shrugged. "Find a new place, where we can rebuild this. Somewhere you can stop running. Somewhere I can call home. Somewhere we can be together."

"I had picked out a planet," Rise offered tentatively as she followed Saavik out the door.

"Something a bit more pleasant than this one, I hope."

"I think so."

As they came to the mews, a plaintive cry rang out.

"T'Mal?" Saavik said in delight as she scooped the kitten up. "Where have you been?"

"She came back for you," Rise whispered.

"Just as I came back for you." Saavik leaned in and kissed Rise soundly. "I love you, Rise."

Rise looked terrified. Fight it, Saavik thought. Rise, let me in.

"I love you too, Saavik," Rise finally said as she pulled Saavik's face down to hers. She didn't pull away until a black ball of indignant feline howled in protest. Rise laughed softly and together they got a traveling cage from the mews. As she helped Saavik stuff the struggling kitten inside, she giggled again.

The happy sound sent shivers down Saavik's spine. She'd never heard Rise do that. She hoped it was a sound she heard again soon.

Rise handed her the spare glove, then turned and reached into the first bird's cage. "You're going to be free," she said as she gently removed the jesses from the shiarawk's legs. She closed her eyes for a moment, and the bird cocked his head at her. "He knows," she said, handing him to Saavik. "And he's ready to fly."

As Saavik carried the bird out and flung him up in the air, she heard Rise say, "I'm ready too."

FIN