Sarek made himself remain utterly composed. The Vulcan embassy's elegant window filigrees were open in a rare extravagance, allowing the cool, moist breeze from outside to stir the room with the scent of flowers.
Earth in the spring was soothing. Especially for the woman next to him.
He benefitted from years of discipline and experience with confrontations. After all, I have stood before the Andorian Chancellor without disturbance in the days when we were long at odds .
He still caught himself drawing in a calming breath.
Beside him, draped in a rich green robe that brought out the highlights of her hair, Perrin shifted and edged surreptitiously closer to him. She licked her lips, trying unsuccessfully to moisten them, and looked down again at her Vulcan robes.
"I should have worn the brown." She looked back up at him, lines drawing across her forehead. "This is too presumptuous a color, isn't it?"
She glanced hurriedly at the room's chronometer, calculating rapidly. "Do you think I have time to change?"
She looked back at him, her eyes wide. "It's four hundred and twenty five meters from the pad. How fast does she walk?"
She got a desperately hopeful look. "And there are the Security checkpoints!" Her eyebrows drew down as she began the mental figuring. "I think the last review said it averages four point seven minutes per checkpoint for clearance of an expected arrival, and barring--"
"She's Starfleet and Vulcan, so I would guess, given her height, of course, that the maximum step efficiency she can maintain comfortably while still maintaining the proper decorum of an officer would be approximately--"
His slightly raised tone finally penetrated and she stopped. A blush colored her fair skin and she stared at the tiled mosaic at her feet.
"I ask forgiveness for my lack of control," she said in a soft whisper before a spark came into her eyes. "Not that I would have been able to make the calculation anyway."
Sarek gently extended two fingers. Almost shy at the new sensation of deep intimacy that came from the gesture, Perrin touched the tips of her fingers against his. She raised her eyes slowly and he could see her affection for him warring with her very real concern.
It made his heart ache.
"This will not be the same as the last introduction."
Perrin looked away, and he knew she was attempting to hide the emotions the thought of Spock brought up.
"He. . . I. . . ." Her proud shoulders sagged. "I'm not Amanda." Her face lifted and he could see a painful moisture fill her eyes. "I'm not. I'm all right with that because I know you are. But if Spock doesn't like me, how can I expect her to even tolerate me? Everyone knows how she regards him!" She pulled away her fingers so she could clench her hands firmly together.
Sarek had to suppress a flash of humor at the memory of Saavik introducing that extremely rude Tellarite captain to the deck plate by way of a neck pinch for so vilely insulting her betrothed.
Yet, Saavik was her own unique self, still.
And she was also a daughter, long before her marriage to his son.
Sarek set himself. What was, was.
Warmth filled his chest. He had once sworn he would lose Saavik when Amanda died. In spite of all of his wife's reassurances, it had haunted him in the dark months after her death when the estate was full of nothing but emptiness.
And then Saavik had come, the effort of having caught every transport or cargo ship she could find, all the way from the Frontier to Vulcan, showing itself enough to know it was there.
He had looked into her eyes and realized that she had come for him.
So her father would not be alone.
He reached out again and took Perrin's clenched hands in his, lowering his mental shields to send a soothing calm, firming her failing control and easing down her fears.
"Green is most becoming on you."
Surprise flared in Perrin's eyes; then delight flooded her face and made her seem young in the afternoon light.
They turned and Saavik was there.
In full dress uniform, she was as elegant and formal as if she stood before admirals. His sharp hearing caught Perrin's soft inhalation. "Father, I have come as summoned."
Perrin's eyes widened.
Summoned? Yes, perhaps, looking back, he did see that his request for Saavik to come had sounded formal. Very well. Perhaps a thin layer of formality would ease this by giving Saavik a veneer under which to adjust to his announcement.
He drew himself up and inclined his silvered head. "Your obedience brings honor to my House." He hesitated for just a moment.
What will be, will be.
He turned and extended once more two fingers to Perrin. Her matching fingers trembled ever so slightly, but she raised her chin properly and stepped forward. He felt the thrill of her touch and her rallied strength in his beating heart.
"My daughter, I would speak the name of the one I have chosen to call aduna. Perrin, I would have thee greet my child, Saavik."
Perrin swallowed and inclined her head. "I greet thee, Saavik."
And for a long moment, there was silence.
He forced himself to meet Saavik's eyes unflinchingly. And knew a shock.
Her gaze wryly chiding, she cocked her head at him and arched a dry humored eyebrow. "Father, I had begun to fear that perhaps you would require persuasion."
He had to take another slow breath.
Saavik turned to Perrin and bowed. "I am honored to greet thee."
Had Perrin not been trying desperately to have Saavik's approval and also maintain some level of the new training she was beginning, Sarek calculated a ninety-four point three percent probability that tears would be in her eyes. She bowed back, not trusting herself to speak yet; her grip on his fingers was almost crushing.
Saavik seemed to remember something and slowly nodded. "I ask forgiveness for my husband's. . . ." Her brow darkened and she got a look in her eyes that made even Sarek wary, and then she smoothed her face and a glint lit her eyes as she studied both Perrin and Sarek. "I believe he was . . . 'caught off guard'. You would have done better to prepare him."
Perrin swallowed and looked at Saavik. "I do not want to cause. . . ."
Saavik's face took on the stern rebuke of a commanding officer. "My father knows comfort now." For an instant, the grief of losing Amanda flashed across her face and then was controlled again. "Spock's logic knows this." Again the dry humor rose. "We must wait for the other portion of him to acknowledge it as well.
She studied Perrin a long moment. "Though, if I may offer a recommendation based on personal experience?"
Perrin nodded rapidly. "Oh yes!"
"Avoid discussing duty -- familial or otherwise--with him in the future."
Sarek resisted the urge to sigh.
Perrin frowned, her eyes beginning to spark with temper at the subject's mention. "His priorities--"
"Are his own." Saavik's eyes seemed to focus on something far away and her voice softened. "He is not his own, but his destiny's." Her eyes refocused sharply upon Perrin. "You are not required to accept it."
"I won't!" Perrin's face darkened. "His family--"
"Receives what he is able to give."
"And you think I should just accept such thing?"
"You must learn to, yes."
"Because Sarek is the same."
Perrin turned wide eyes on him, and he saw the first beginning glimmer of what her station in life might hold. Consort to an ambassador of any world was not just a relationship; it was a job. And it required sacrifice.
But she ground her jaw together and refused to yield. "And what about the upcoming diplomatic summit on the Cardassians? Already Spock is taking an opposing view against Sarek's!"
Saavik's sly gaze slipped to Sarek again. "A common event on either side."
"How can you say that? He's going against his father! In public like that!"
Sarek watched Saavik summon patience and knew she did it not just for Perrin's inexperience in these matters, but mostly because Perrin was his choice. "Spock is an ambassador, as is Sarek. Their duty is to speak their minds on what course is best for Vulcan and the Federation."
Perrin sputtered and then flung up her hands in frustration. "I don't understand this! I don't understand him! How he can just--"
"Perrin, do not interfere in this situation. For any subject where Spock and Sarek disagree, it is best to allow them to satisfy the situation themselves."
Sarek decided he must intervene when his betrothed showed no sign of heeding. "Perrin--"
She swung on him. "Am I supposed to be blind when your own family attacks you?"
Saavik shook her head gently. "You speak as a human sees."
"I am human!"
"No, you are not. Not any longer."
That brought Perrin up short. "What?"
"You have been called aduna by my father, who is Vulcan. You are now family to my husband and I -- who hold the mixed blood of three peoples between us. You will be named grandmother to those who may yet see reunification completed and enemies become intimates. If you see and understand and speak only as a human, you will deny yourself the opportunity you stand presented with: to see and understand and speak as the others."
Perrin sighed, rubbing at her forehead, but some tension drained out from her. "You are referring to IDIC's end design, I think."
Saavik nodded, studying Perrin with interest. "Enhancement."
Perrin smiled ruefully. "I knew I should have studied philosophy instead of journalism." She gave Saavik a teasing glower. "You have given me a headache."
Sarek's voice was dry. "Then your knowledge begins."
Saavik gave her father a look that made Perrin laugh. "Perception shift attempts are often difficult."
"Yes," he said calmly, "so I have noted."
Saavik's eyes narrowed and Perrin covered her mouth with her hand.
Sarek arched an innocent eyebrow. "What is the duration of your leave?"
"Perhaps longer than is wise." Saavik looked at Perrin skeptically. "Sarek did fully brief you on this family, correct?"
Perrin began to smile. "I believe he gave me the sanitized version."
Saavik gave a deliberate sigh. "That would be the diplomatic training in him." She slid a glance at Sarek. "No doubt you will swiftly require all of your professional research skills. And a significantly higher security clearance."
"Teasing is an illogical activity," said Sarek, giving his daughter a firm look.
Saavik's eyebrow lifted at Perrin. "I could provide the clearance."
Perrin's eyes were positively wicked when she studied Sarek.
Sarek sighed. "It is fortunate that Vulcan children are not as impressionable as human ones."
Saavik's mouth twitched dryly. "Yes. Or I would forbid any more of your 'explanations'."
Sarek drew himself up defensively. "T'Kel asked."
Saavik crossed her arms. "That alone should have been cause for immediate cessation."
Perrin looked from Saavik to Sarek. "Wait, isn't T'Kel the one most like--"
"Aduna," warned Sarek.
Saavik gave him a dark look. "Sarek. . . ."
Perrin frowned. "But isn't that good?"
Saavik looked exceptionally displeased. "No."
"Yes," said Sarek firmly. A glint showed in his dark eyes. "And T'Kel is quite pleased with the comparison."
"Only because she garners satisfaction from provoking me. It will be a disservice to her to encourage the comparison further and you will cease it."
"Most parents are pleased to have a child similar to them."
Saavik shuddered. "That is a most disagreeable thought."
Perrin's frown deepened. "Wait, I'm confused. What is wrong with T'Kel being compared to you? Isn't that good?"
Saavik looked at Perrin a long moment and then at Sarek. "Shall you enlighten her or shall I?"
"Aduna, our daughter has a most illogical self-conceptual construction which neither time nor significant evidence to the contrary has managed to erode completely."
Saavik narrowed her eyes at Sarek. "My self-concept is entirely accurate."
He gave Saavik a stern look that melted into understanding. Behind it was... memories. "You seek to protect T'Kel from those who will trouble her for their perception of her being Romulan."
Saavik bristled. "You cannot argue that myperception of those qualities, or the people who would stand prejudiced because of them, is a wrong one."
"No, I cannot argue it, but we have had this discussion before. You cannot keep T'Kel or the other children safe from prejudice. It is a horrific truth of parenthood. All you will do is cause them to suppress being whole."
Her gaze met his, and he saw the struggle that others would never see. The struggle he had faced so long ago.
"Do you honestly believe those qualities will serve them any good?"
Perrin surprised them both by holding up a staying hand. "Why would a rise from Thieurrull to such high levels in the Federation be viewed as anything less than honorable? Even to a Romulan?"
Saavik's jaw almost dropped.
Sarek looked at Perrin quite pleased at her intellect. "My point exactly, aduna. And it is unfortunate, but even the children's Vulcan qualities will bring prejudice down on them from some. You best serve them with experience on how to meet it."
He saw pushing the point would be torture for Saavik, and belabor an issue she must resolve within herself. So he softened his next paternal command with a twinkle. "With such agreement, a dutiful child would bow to the logic."
Saavik narrowed her eyes at Sarek. "The last time I bowed to such logic, I found myself betrothed to Spock."
Perrin tried to smother a grin. "She does have something there, Sarek."
Saavik managed to keep her face perfectly straight. "Father, you are well matched again." She studied Perrin thoughtfully. "Though, I perceive, she will be somewhat more. . . ."
"Difficult?" offered Sarek, turning a fond look on Perrin.
Perrin frowned. "You've been listening to Spock."
"A hazard of marriage," said Saavik. Sarek could read the wit in it; in time, so would Perrin.
His betrothed sighed. "We don't get along."
"As you are not bonding with him, I fail to see the detriment."
Perrin smiled, but her eyes were worried. "My family. . ." she hesitated and then, "my family does not approve of my decision."
Saavik nodded once. "It is understandable. Entering a new culture, especially one so . . . different . . . from humanity's is fraught with change. But despite these adjustments on your part, you will find you will reap many benefits. If you will allow them."
Perrin gripped her hands. "Though I have covered a lot of worlds in my career, this will be the first time I have lived off planet. Off Earth."
Saavik blinked. She looked at Sarek.
He nodded once. "That is part of my concern. My duties will often take me far from home. I do not wish her to be alone amidst strangers during this period of adjustment."
Perrin colored lightly even as she looked affectionately at Sarek for his kindness. She turned to eye Saavik hesitantly.
"Logical." Saavik eyed Perrin back carefully. "I see now why you were so . . . displeased with your son's reaction to the coming bonding."
Perrin licked her lips nervously. "You . . . you aren't uh, displeased with me? For causing--"
Saavik looked outright amused. "My husband and I are often of divergent views."
Perrin sighed. "We argued."
"I believe that is what I said."
Perrin raised a skeptical eyebrow. "He will barely talk to me now."
Sarek's eyes darkened, remembering the years of silence between them. He lifted his eyes to his daughter in a silent plea.
Saavik took a long breath and firmed her jaw. She inclined her head and turned slightly to call back out the open door. "Lieutenant Raelus?"
Hurried footsteps brought one of her aides to the door. His eyes widened as he saw Sarek and he bowed respectfully to him and Perrin and then to his superior. "Yes, ma'am?"
"Where are my children?"
Perrin and Sarek looked at each other in surprise.
Her aide's face scrunched in thought. "Ma'am, I thought you knew--"
"I am well aware they are with Doctor McCoy at his residence. However, he has mentioned transporting them to a cabin in Colorado he has made use of before. I will need the embassy staff to connect communications with the doctor."
He grimaced outright. "Uh, they just got there two days ago, are you sure you want me to, uh--"
He gave a martyred sigh.
Saavik took pity on him. "Remind him that harming the messenger is uncivilized."
"Ma'am, it won't help."
Her eyes narrowed, then sparkled. She took a tricorder and spoke into it. "Dr. McCoy, if my children are not here at the Vulcan embassy within twenty-four hours, I will enroll Setik into the Youth Engineer Corps."
Her aide's eyes went wide. As did Sarek's and Perrin's. "Uh, ma'am, his blood pressure--"
Saavik got a dangerous look in her eyes, and handed over the tricorder. "Transmit this for me."
"Yes, ma'am." He vanished.
Sarek looked at his daughter with respect. "He will be most displeased."
Saavik met Perrin's gaze. "Family duty takes precedence." Her chin lifted determinedly. "It is time they met their grandmother."
Perrin covered her mouth, eyes moistening. "Thank you," she whispered.
"Your husband--" warned Sarek.
Saavik pulled herself upright with all the power of her office and her beautiful face took on a look that made more than one admiral wince to see. "I conceded to his reunification. He will concede to Perrin."
Perrin gripped Sarek's hand hard, forgetting Vulcan protocol.
Saavik spoke firmly. "In return, you must concede the points we discussed earlier."
Perrin looked ready to argue, but she at last nodded. Sarek wondered if it would hold true.
Saavik met his eyes, taking in the fact he gripped Perrin's hand back. "Amanda would approve," she said softly.
Sarek reached out and touched Saavik's fingers. "My daughter. . . ."
Saavik nodded once, keeping her emotions firmly controlled. Then she frowned. "Father?"
He cocked his head curiously. "Yes, child?"
"At no point are you to leave Perrin alone with the children."
Perrin's eyes widened. "Why?" she asked innocently. "They're just children!"
Saavik sighed as Sarek's eyes glinted in wry humor.