Saavik eyed the near mountainous pile of data padds on her desk that still waited to be analyzed and processed, and for one of the few times in her life, she had no desire for her work. She touched her forehead, feeling a building weariness. "I am beginning to believe he was entirely accurate."

Thuray slid a hypo across her desk without even looking up from the padd he worked on. "This will help. Why do you think he fought so hard against being promoted? The honorable James Tiberius Kirk was no fool."

Saavik narrowed her eyes at the hypo and placed it back in front of the Andorian with deliberate movements. "The implications of that statement are entirely comforting." She gave her aide a look that bordered on the suspicious. "Perhaps you can explain how you knew to whom I was referring when Andorians are not a telepathic race?"

One blue antenna swung in her direction. "I could summon Healer Setik, if you prefer a different selection of analgesic. He is here on Earth while he accompanies his wife's dance troupe on her command performance."

"I am well aware of my son's location." Saavik's eyebrows drew together in something dangerously close to a Romulan scowl. She pressed long fingers against the bridge of her nose. "You could summon Setik. You could also volunteer for the extended deep space position opening on the Intrepid for which you are entirely qualified. I believe it is slated as a ten year mission."

Thuray sighed. "One would have thought with all the years spent in association with diplomats, you would have managed to acquire even a small portion of their cooperation skills." He laid down his data padd and fixed her with a reproving stare. "But then, Vulcans have a marked history of being... difficult."

"Brought on, no doubt, by constant and deliberate Andorian provocation."

He smiled, his teeth very white against his incredibly rich blue skin. He had allowed his snow white hair to grow long, binding it loosely behind his neck as it was now.

She found she approved of the effect. Her gaze softened. The Andorian had worked with her for some years now, and he was the grandchild of an old friend. Not that she played any favoritism in appointing Thuray to this position – he had earned it – but her ties and respect for Akhilend'r perhaps made her treat his grandson more personally than she would another.

That and the young Andorian's unexplainable ability to work his way past her formal defenses.

"You are of a proud house, Thuray, and I know your original plans for your future differed from this. It makes me question why do you continue playing service to me?"

His smile widened into a grin. "Espionage is an accepted pastime."

Saavik gave the piles of padds and crystals a significant look. "You are going to die a very old aide then."

Thuray laughed, and it settled into a quiet smile."My view of the future has changed. I realized seeing an aide's position merely as a stepping stone belittles what the position really is. I'm proud of doing it well. Not everyone can."

He rose from his chair, not as tall as most Andorians. She remembered his grandfather introducing her to the delicate boy with his typical point-blank attitude suffused with pride. "A small child, but I have been assured his intelligence levels will compensate for the lack."

More than compensated, he had earned Saavik's respect and appreciation.

"Would you care for some tea?"

A muscle twinged as she moved in her chair, making her probe the barely healed wound in her shoulder. "My response depends on any additional ingredients you intend for the tea."

"Only the finest Kentucky bourbon."

"Then you have somehow heard stories of Doctor McCoy as well as James Kirk."

He dipped his head before walking over to the serving station where he selected two delicate white tea cups. "Setik is concerned that you have been neglecting your exercises again." "My son should not discuss such matters with you." She shifted again, trying to get comfortable but a white hot stab raced along the nerves from her shoulder up to her neck, adding to the ache in her temples. She eyed the hypo still sitting on her desk, but set herself against using it. She was a Vulcan; she had other means at her disposal for handling pain.

Thuray measured out the delicate smelling tea and set it steeping in the cups. "Setik's concerned for your health. You have not had time for the past seventeen months for any real healing. He hoped that your personal physician could make you see facts and that I could help with your schedule, since you won't listen to what he has to say." He gave her a look over his shoulder. "Combined with your recent injury, you have worn your biocontrols to an ineffectual level." His white eyebrow rose in perfect mimicry of her son. "Most illogical."

The gesture, along with his real concern, kept her from saying he should not discuss such matters either. Shewas his business; part of his job was to push issues that needed it.

"I will put in for personal leave upon the cessation of the current attacks," Saavik said dryly.

He frowned down at the tea unfurling in the cups. The current attacks weren't likely to cease for at least another year. "You slept seventeen days ago, correct?"

"Incorrect. The President convened an emergency Council Session that evening."

Thuray made a dangerous noise in his throat over her keeping professional matters from him, not to mention her going against medical orders. A Vulcan for function without sleep for two weeks, but by not sleeping seventeen days ago, she was in the middle of her third week.

The President and an emergency could not be pushed off.

"Perhaps I will have Grandfather come speak with you." He slid a crafty look over his shoulder. "You have responded to his persuasion before."

"It took me four days to recover from Akhilend'r's last 'persuasion'." She touched a hand to the side of her head in emphasis, and noticed to herself that it was coincidentally the same spot where the ache grew now.

"He did apologize for misjudging the thickness of your skull." A white eyebrow lifted again. "Although, as I recall, you did deserve the remonstration."

Saavik raised an eyebrow in return. "As I recall you were once such a good child."

That slight, small boy looking up at her, as his grandfather introduced him, at first intimidated by her towering over him, then puffing up with pride at her compliments.

He grinned and nodded satisfactorily at the tea. "You're telling me you won't discuss your health with me any further."

"Correct."

He found the glass bottle he had stashed behind the tea station and began to pour a rather large amount into the cups.

Her eyebrows drew together as she saw the liberal dosage of alcohol. "You claim you are determined to speak with my son. If you describe the methods of your tea brewing, Setik will have your antenna in one of his specimen units."

"It will dull the pain."

I do not need to be acting any more Romulan than I currently am. The thought came from nowhere and surprised her. Was she acting Romulan? She did have the undercurrent of... raw nerves.

Thuray swirled the cups gently, walked back to her desk and held hers out. "If you note your revised schedule, you have an appointment to meet with a certain Romulan."

Saavik's eyes narrowed. Not so much at the coincidence of her thinking of her own Romulan blood and then Thuray mentioning another of that race, but of his not giving a name. "Specify which Romulan."

"T'Pren's."

Saavik took the cup and stared darkly into its depths.

Thuray cleared his throat. "The water is already boiled. It does not need such a heated look."

It does not; however, T'Pren's choice for consort does. Saavik took a deep breath, and pressed the fingers not holding the cup against her forehead. Something definitely Romulan -- or at least, primal and maternal -- stirred deep within.

"And T'Pren was my obedient daughter." She shook her head and disapproved at the flare of pain the movement caused. Really, where were her biocontrols? "Setik chooses a daughter of T'Pring, and T'Pren chooses... "

She could not finish the thought, especially not in front of someone else, except, of course, her husband.

Spock.

He was so far away.

She did admit, perhaps reluctantly, that her son could not have found a better consort than T'Qet, despite her being the daughter of T'Pring and Stonn. T'Qet and Setik were well married, and the expression Saavik had seen in her son's eyes for his wife... no, Saavik could not find fault with T'Qet.

But Romulan Ambassador Araek of the noble House i-Lluinh tr'Hwaehrai was quite another story.

Saavik took a drink from the cup. The heat from it soothed her; the heat from thinking about the spoiled arrogance in Araek aggravated. She took another swallow of the tea.

Thuray sat back down in his chair and shook his white head. "The universe enjoys T'Pren's turnings," he said philosophically. He lifted his cup. "It was not long ago when Andorians and Vulcans fought."

And it was not long ago a Vulcan would sooner choose death than a Romulan lover.

"The conflict between Andor and Vulcan was centuries before your birth." She realized she had given a generality, not the number of exact years. She hadn't even thought of the exact number. What an appalling lack of control...

She took another drink from the cup and rested the growing agony of headache and irritation against the palm of her hand. "I was gone too long. With all of her father's talk of Reunification... ." Saavik closed her eyes. "Reschedule Araek."

I need meditation before dealing with such as him. And being made to wait will be a good lesson for his arrogance.

Thuray winced. "I cannot."

Saavik opened her eyes and lifted her head, giving him a look that had sent more than one enemy off to select easier prey. "Explain."

He swallowed. "T'Pren made me swear I would not." His blue skin flushed dark.

Saavik's eyes narrowed to slits. "Why does my daughter lack the time for a later appointment?"

His antenna crinkled and retracted partially. "Harming the messenger will not void the message."

"Explain!"

He set his tea cup on the edge of her desk and took a deep breath. "She intends to accept the post of Federation Ambassador to the embassy in Ki Baratan. Araek will be bringing her across the Neutral Zone to Romulus himself."

The tea cup shattered in Saavik's fist, sloshing steaming hot liquid over hand and onto the decking. She surged to her feet, sending her chair toppling with a crash, and Thuray jumped back from her desk.

Two Security guards dove through her office doors, weapons up. They took one look at Thuray and Saavik's expression, and immediately aimed at the Andorian.

Alarm for him pulled control back to her and she drew in a long, terrible breath.

"Stand down," she said through clenched teeth.

The Security guards hesitated, and she turned to them. She caught sight of herself in the window's reflection. Even that pseudo-mirror showed the very Romulan fire in her eyes, the heat of her skin, and the way one fist had clenched and struck her hip. Still, the guards wisely obeyed, and backed out of her office carefully, shutting the doors.

She closed her eyes and saw the peace of the stars, of Vulcan's landscapes, and focused simply on calm breathing.

Thuray peered ever so cautiously at her and suddenly narrowed his eyes. "Would you care for a sedative?"

Saavik could not help it; one corner of her mouth gave a shadow of a twitch and instantly the rage slid away. She rubbed her eyes. "I need to meditate."

He sighed and straightened slowly. He looked away. "You are not well."

Her shoulders sagged ever so slightly. "I do not have the time to get well, Thuray."

He cursed the Federation Council and Starfleet Command so viciously that it lifted Saavik's eyebrow with approval. "You have carried too much too long. First the Dominion War, then the myriad small conflicts that sprang from it. You fought for them, you won for them, and you have spent all your strength rebuilding them." He shook his head in disgust. "And before you can heal, before you can rest, another battle comes." He sat back down in his chair. He glared at the tea cup still sitting on the edge of her desk. "Have you even had time to recover from your imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Klingons?" He shook his white head slowly, bitterly. "And where is he?"

Saavik knew he meant Spock, and she was not going to take anyone abusing her husband. She walked stiffly to the window that looked out into space, keeping her shoulder still and ignoring the burn on her hand. She rested her head against the cool metal, feeling the pain ease somewhat at last into the background. "He is where he should be. The latest conflicts – especially the attack on the RouAnhraed Colony by one of our ships – has put our peace with the Romulans in jeopardy. Spock can be the turning point to putting the alliance right again."

If he wasn't murdered first. Her heart clenched.

"And he will watch over T'Pren."

Because their daughter took the most dangerous job a Federation Ambassador could have, right next to her father.

An all consuming exhaustion pulled at her and she closed her eyes. "I do not have the time for this."

But she could no longer force herself on. "Clear my schedule of everything but Araek. It is time I rested."

Rest... it brought dreams of Vulcan again. She hadn't had the chance to go home in years. She wanted no more of the dampness and the chill from the fog outside. She wanted the warmth of home, wanted it seeping into her and healing her... with visions of Spock coming to her where she waited for him... She wanted that so badly, it was an ache and a craving...

Wait.

Her eyes flew open. She put aside any diagnoses such as exhaustion and injury, and separated the symptoms by themselves: headache, fever, respiratory distress, and a raw sense of nerves, even a tremor along her nervous system...

Her injuries and exhaustion had covered the signs of the early stages in the neurochemical imbalance that was --

No, not now. Spare us...

Ever since the violence in the Klingons' war camp, her pon farr cycle had been thrown off. She and Spock had to adjust to being re-bonded, after her death, and their cycles readjusted to each other because of the strong bond. When the Fires hadn't arrived on schedule, he also wondered if his human blood had put him in an early menopause for a Vulcan.

They should have known better.

Damned biology anyway! If she could be with her husband, if he could come to her, they would be! If Spock answered the drive pulling him from the Empire... she calculated four different times the odds of the Romulans catching and murdering him. She got four different calculations; she liked none of them. If Spock did not reach her, they would die. What good did Nature serve by killing them?

And when she needed her mind most, to think of a way to get Spock home – especially with the Neutral Zone at its worst in decades – Nature would make her go mad!

She choked on a sob.

No, she must gather the ragged edges of her control as long as she could. Spock would be doing the same. Their lives depended on it.

"You are quite correct, Thuray." Her voice was barely above a whisper. "I am ill."

She was about to dismiss him, but he was already walking around her desk to where she braced against the bulkhead. She felt the hiss of the hypo against her neck, and she was falling into his arms.

"I am not a child," she said, but she was already drifting. Her aching head fell against his shoulder.

Andorian eyes took in the rich chestnut hair, the elegant but worn features of her face, the lines of her body that were more than enough of beauty to draw the desire even in injured weariness, and he smiled.

He bent his head. "Grandfather noticed," he whispered into her hair.

He carried her easily, enjoying the simple pleasure of feeling her breath against the skin of his neck, her warmth against his chest. The doors to her inner office opened smoothly to his presence and he strode through to the doors of her private quarters. So near his. He shifted her gently, noting that she had already fallen into unmoving sleep, and keyed the Security code he knew by heart.

It was hot inside, the lighting dimmed to a dusky shadowed red. He noted that the meditation stone had actual dust on it and that the firepot was cold. He shook his head and took her to her bed, sighing at the sight of it so long empty. He laid her down so softly that her breathing did not even change and gently stroked her face.

Too many shadows had settled there for too long. He felt the swell of anger in his chest and quickly tamped it down, unwilling to stir her sleep. He bent and gently removed her boots. He hesitated then, chewing his lip, and then nodded once to himself he bent again and removed her uniform. He turned and laid it over a chair and when he turned back again, his breath caught.

The starlight from the single porthole had turned her skin to smoothest silver, darkening her hair to night. Clad now in only the standard issue shift set that left her thighs bare and lay like a caress against her breast, he could see the thin lines of scar around her wrists and ankles. He could see other scars where the edge of the shift had lifted over the curve of her hip and knew from her medical records that more lay covered beneath the silk. His eyes were drawn to the newer scars at her shoulder.

He forced the anger back down. And the desire.

She was still beautiful. Even scarred. But he made a mental note to speak with Setik. It was time she was free of them. If there was enough strength left in her to allow it.

He bent and retrieved the blanket folded so neatly along the foot of her bed. Shaking it out, he let it drift down to settle lightly against her skin.

He stood there silently for a long time in the starlight simply watching her sleep.

And wondered if Spock even remembered what she looked like in the night. Or if he knew how very soul-weary she truly was. Thuray doubted it. Spock was locked in duty and she would not burden him with her own needs.

A sudden wave of guilt hit him. I am being unfair. Spock did not want to be so separated from his wife anymore than she wanted to be forever away from him.

They had their bonding.... what was that like? Did it comfort a husband who had been so long separated from the sight of his wife and lover in the night?

Thuray felt a deep pity for the Vulcan male. And not a little envy.

He smiled bitterly. Wanting someone else's mate... and if Spock were here, in plak tow, he'd snap Thuray's neck for taking such liberties as undressing and watching his wife in the starlight. Those rights were Spock's alone.

Thuray sobered.

Unbidden Setik's quiet worry returned to his mind. He saw again the Sickbay and the strange blue eyes in such a still face as the Healer had, without a single word, handed him a medical padd.

The biological signs could not be denied. Her utter exhaustion, the sleep deprivation, the endless rounds of war, the constant pain of a body and mind not fully healed—all of it merely misdirected her from the slowly building danger.

As he had seen tonight. Her lack of control was escalating.

Except Setik never expected Thuray to know about pon farr, and the Andorian probably wouldn't...

... if his grandfather hadn't somehow known. Akhilend'r noticed Saavik's beauty as well as her strength and intelligence; but it had created a respectful friendship, not his grandson's...

When he had become Saavik's aide, Akhilend'r had drawn him close. "Saavik's a true friend of mine. Times will come when you will be her last line of defense, the last one to stand between her and her enemies. Grow strong, Thuray, so you're worthy of that station."

Thuray had barely gotten the oath out when Akhilend'r drew even closer. "Her life will be threatened by something else, something inside her. I'm going to tell you what it is, but you will never tell another or you answer to me. If you see she is threatened by this... biology, and she's in danger of not reaching her mate, youmust make sure she gets to him any way she can. It's the same if someone attacked her with a weapon. Be that line of defense, Thuray."

Then the elder Andorian had whispered what he knew about something called pon farr, and Thuray swore an oath again.

He now calculated that, with another conflict in the space between them, there was little chance Spock would be able to cross the Zone alive. And little chance Saavik would be even reachable if he did. Her wounds and weariness was escalating how fast she fell under pon farr.

Thuray knew the summons that were coming for her. The Council and Command were not fools. They knew her skill as a tactical commander of ships. And they would need her to win this conflict, as she had done with the last.

They would send her with a fleet to the battle.

Spock and Saavik would not find each other this time. This time, when the universe inserted itself between them with its latest problems, it had done too good a job.

A part of him, a dishonorable traitorous part of him, felt a wild hope. If Spock could not be there for her, she might finally turn her eyes to...

Then his gaze found her sleeping in the starlight and it burned him.

Years of association with Vulcans reasserted themselves. Logically, he scowled that if she would be gone before her husband arrived, if Spock could not cross the Zone... .

His mind turned once more to tomorrow's schedule.

His antenna began to quiver. He slipped swiftly from her room, past the inner office, to the outer where he rapidly keyed a call to the Romulan envoy. He all but winced at the hour display on the chronometer but set his jaw firmly.

Answer, you—

He grimaced outright when T'Pren answered, her dark hair soft about her face, drawing a robe about her, and he felt relief that Saavik was sleeping.

T'Pren took one look at the caller, then at the chronometer on her own readout, and her eyes widened. "Aide Thuray, what is wrong?"

Her Romulan immediately came and stood behind her, his hands resting protectively on her shoulders, and Thuray resisted the urge to narrow his eyes at the breach of impropriety.

He should not be flaunting their intimacy, especially in front of someone he doesn't know!

"Thuray? Is something wrong with... with Mother?"

He bowed his antennae to her, noting absently the lines of her face that he knew so well on Saavik, and skipped the usual etiquette procedures. "Ambassador, have you spoken with your brother about the scan he performed three days ago?"

T'Pren's face tightened. "What scan?"

He took a deep breath. "He has received the results. She has not had time to see them. I have."

"Thuray... send these scans to me."

He transmitted Setik's medical scans of Saavik, and watched T'Pren's face grow in stark contrast to her black eyes. He didn't read them again himself; he didn't have to. Fluctuations in serotonin levels and cortical readings – an escalating neurochemical imbalance in the brain, which would cause death if not relieved.

Pon farr.

His gaze shifted to the Romulan behind her and his eyes became hard as blades. "Is your ship able to accept... sensitive cargo?"

Araek's eyes didn't get a chance to dart down to the transmitted scans before they came up to Thuray's and widened. T'Pren's white face and obsidian eyes turned and looked up at him. He took a deep breath and managed a smile. "Of course." He winced. "Though it might be... safer... if the cargo was... secured."

T'Pren narrowed her eyes at him and Thuray barely managed to avoid his own smile at the echo of Saavik again. T'Pren usually showed more signs of Amanda, Spock, and Sarek.

He granted the Romulan an out. "Agreed." T'Pren turned and gave him a penetrating stare. He dipped antenna and gave a rueful smile. "I... informed her of your request."

T'Pren and her Romulan looked uneasy. Everyone in Saavik's family knew of her absolute commitment to the family's security... and her questioning Araek's apparent shallowness threatened her daughter, right when she found out he was taking her into the Empire to a dangerous position.

"Until Saavik is... attended to... it would perhaps be most logical to allow sedation." He offered a comforting turn to his lips. "She is beyond her strength as it is; some days of sleep will help. And, unless I error in my understanding of your brother's results, sedation in so early the stage will only increase her probabilities."

The Romulan looked at T'Pren for confirmation. "Does he mean...?"

She nodded, already calculating what would be required, so she missed the look of fear that hit his eyes, and now they did dart down to the scans. Thuray couldn't believe it. So Araek did care... T'Pren was not just a dalliance. The Romulan might never go into pon farr, but he wanted to marry her. What was happening to Saavik and Spock would happen to their daughter, and Thuray saw Araek thinking What if I am too far from T'Pren when the time comes...

The Andorian took another breath. "Can you find Spock?"

T'Pren looked again at her lover, studying him, weighing him. At last she nodded. "I can."

A gently surprised pleasure crossed the Romulan's face and he touched T'Pren's smooth skin gently. He had known she trusted him with her life, but she now trusted him with her parents' lives. She had faith.

Thuray hoped she was right.

He felt a loss slide through him and he forced his shoulders back and lifted his chin. "Make the arrangements. Contact me swiftly." He hesitated and then added, "Swiftly or the upcoming battle will have a new fleet commander."

T'Pren inhaled sharply, fear in her dark eyes. He knew then that she must have heard the same whisperings as he had.

The Romulan nodded once. "Understood."

T'Pren swallowed. "Thuray?"

He waited.

"Do not inform my brother or sister as to our... decision."

Thuray smiled at the image of the look on either of her siblings' faces at the very thought of sending their mother across the Romulan Neutral Zone. In time, they'd see no other way existed, but they didn't have time to exhaust other possibilities. He bowed and cut the communication.

He busied himself laying the false data that would keep Starfleet and any curious minds from noticing only that Saavik was working in her offices and not to be disturbed. With his presence in and out of her offices, no one would be the wiser if fortune held—and if it didn't, by the time they did, she would be beyond their reach.

And hopefully in Spock's.

He gritted his teeth, and then chastised himself for the reflex. He had to focus on the situation, and that meant getting her to Spock before both died.

Then we will have to devise a way to get her back again. There was a conflict to settle, and she was needed in the Fleet.

One problem at a time. And they both will have their reasoning back to help themselves more by then.

He keyed her safe, sweeping all the data padds and crystals securely inside. Then he locked down her terminal save for 'routine use' and encoded it.

He slipped into the inner office and repeated his actions, this time adding a time delay program to give the appearance that she was using the terminal for data study. He opened the inner safe and extracted the bio echo and set it to delay operation. No sense in having a simple scan reveal her absence. He winced, knowing the explosion that would come when they realized she was gone.

He shook it off and went to his door. He keyed entry and opened his own personal safe—pulling out the hyposprays Setik had given him earlier when he had shown him her results.

He grabbed a shoulder bag and stuffed all of them inside save one. Then he took a deep breath and went back to her doors.

He used his access code to override the routine lockout and stepped quietly inside, fearing that she would awake and he would have to make a hard decision.

But the starlight coming in her window found her still sleeping the dreamless sleep of the deadly exhausted. He moved softly back to her side, readjusting the hypo in his hand to a lesser injection. He paused just a moment, to gently touch her face. She was warmer than she should be. He pressed the hypo to her throat and heard it hiss.

She did not even stir as she fell into a deeper sleep.

He went to her wardrobe and found a nondescript tunic and pants, then moved back to carefully dress her. He chose non-issue boots and slipped them on, before going back to the wardrobe to pull a grey hooded cloak from its depths. He went to the far interior wall of her room and worked his fingers along the bulkhead panel seam until he found the latch. He pressed it firmly and stepped back as the panel gave a pneumatic hiss and slid aside. He entered his access code again and the blast panel gave way to a regular maintenance access. He turned back and carefully wrapped her in the cloak and then lifted her again into his arms. He went through the last line doors, his bag over his shoulder, and they slid closed automatically recoding.

The walk down to the interior ship dock passed silently and without incident. He made a mental note to have her install some sort of security system to the access ways. If they could slip through so easily, an enemy could also.

He held her tighter and moved like a shadow, craning his antenna in every direction to listen for what his ears might miss.

At the end of the access, he peered cautiously through the grill. He could see the sleek lines of Araek's personal ship resting in its dock. The larger one would be outside. He backed into the shadows and waited.

And he watched her sleep, her fair skin tinged now with the fever that would set the Fires to raging, and cursed once more the fate that caused his birth to be after she considered a lifemate.

And refused to hear the inner voice of Fate telling he wouldn't have been chosen even if he had been born in time.

The doors of the dock opened and he went on alert. The Romulan and T'Pren strolled casually through, nodding to the Security guards as they passed.

Thuray smothered a smile at the barely controlled grins the guards gave each other.

A Vulcan who had taken a Romulan for a lover would have caught a great deal of interest anywhere, but when that Vulcan was the daughter of Spock and Saavik, with all that came with that notorious pair, it caught even more.

The guards nudged each other.

Araek caught T'Pren's hand, all the spoiled insolence that made Saavik distrust him poring out of his grin and wink at the guards. He exemplified the pampered child of a powerful family that covered up his messes and created all his opportunities.

No parent worth anything would want their daughter with him.

Except that two of his diplomatic envoy neatly slipped in and stunned the guards, lowering them to the deck. T'Pren immediately scanned the area with rapidly searching eyes.

Thuray sighed and used his shoulder to push open the grill. T'Pren and Araek were at his side almost immediately, even as the others unlocked the ship and set it to warming.

T'Pren brushed the cloak's hood back and inspected her mother's face. The Romulan eyed Saavik carefully and nodded. He reached to take her from Thuray.

"Return her well."

Araek met the lethal warning in Andorian eyes. His insolence faded away and he became the consort T'Pren saw in him. "I swear on the Eagle." He looked at Saavik and grimaced. "Assuming she doesn't waken unnaturally and kill me."

T'Pren sighed. "That is not even remotely humorous."

Thuray grinned viciously. "Entirely accurate though." He sobered and gently laid Saavik in the Romulan's arms, wincing as he did.

Araek shifted Saavik with infinite care under both T'Pren's and Thuray's eyes, and gave them both a glower that was so similar to ones Saavik had given them, that T'Pren reached out with paired fingers and brushed them against his. Thuray lifted white eyebrows.

Saavik suddenly twitched, and then convulsed, her upper lip drawing back in a snarl even though unconscious.

Araek stared at this rejection. "I can't help my birth." His voice was taut with frustration.

"It is not that." T'Pren moved forward and placed her fingers to her mother's temple. After a moment, Saavik eased somewhat. She at least stopped fighting the fact that Araek held her for the time being.

"She rejects the presence of any male outside of my father," T'Pren explained. "It is part of the condition."

She did not fight my holding her. And Thuray's heart leapt.

"Under normal conditions," T'Pren continued, "she would not display this stage for another day instead of this moment. My brother is right. Her lack of sleep and injuries cause the imbalance to increase more quickly."

Thuray's brief burst of hope died horribly.

"Give us a day," Araek said. "They can know she's gone then. Put in her request for personal leave for the Vulcan medical reasons."

"A day?" Thuray protested. "You can't justify the warp speed to do that! You're going to bring too much attention to yourself!"

"I have plenty of justification." Araek's face took on a bitter humor, and T'Pren stepped closer. "My family has found out who I chose as a consort. My father has demanded I return home, and to make sure I do that as fast as possible, he had the Senate withdraw my Ambassadorial post."

The Andorian felt his stomach drop. The crossroads where Araek would decide which man he would be – his image or the one T'Pren saw – was here. It was the worst time to put Saavik's life in his hands.

Except T'Pren thought it would be all right.

A low call came from the ship.

T'Pren looked back at Thuray, her dark gaze penetrating and then softened. She reached out and touched his arm. "Thank you." She lowered her gaze. "I... know what you give."

His eyes went wide and his antenna stiffened. "You know... "

"I will reveal nothing." T'Pren looked back up at him and then bowed warmly. "I am pleased to see you again." Her eyes studied him. "Your grandfather would be proud to see your honor."

His blue skin warmed with a heady flush and he was glad she had not seen him in Saavik's quarters.

Then they were hurrying to the ship, T'Pren already pulling a data padd from the folds of her own cloak and activating her diplomatic security override program to release the bay doors.

The klaxon sounded and the automatic forcefield flared into life as the great doors began to roll back.

Thuray made another mental note to have Saavik tend to that bit of Security failing when she returned, and turned and vanished back into the maintenance access.

He sent a silent prayer to whatever gods might be watching and hoped they had a fondness for impossibly held lovers.

He walked slowly back to Saavik's offices and decided to make himself some more tea.