Chapter 8

Very early the next morning, the Vulcan guard Savoruf stood once more in place on the right hand side of Saavik's bed. Soluk was on the opposite side, idly watching as T'Mes spoke in quite tones to the woman deep in healing sleep. Savoruf was trying very hard not to look at the unconscious woman, and especially not at the twisted, damaged hands or the still visible marks on her exposed skin. He tried not to look at her, but he found himself constantly doing so, and hurting for her each time by the injuries.

He brought his attention back to other things, mundane things, to keep his poise, such as how this helmet was pinching his ears and his hair at the back of his neck. He knew Spock's reasons for ordering the guard into heavier armor, and it didn't seem to bother Soluk who appeared sharp. He probably didn't stay up most of the night either, turning over and over this unusual duty while Savoruf had done just that, wondering again how he was convinced to be here.

He wished, for the first time, he had someone like Soluk's Vulcan discipline.

Carefully, he felt the signaling device in his right palm, under the concealing protective glove. Today, in a few hours, he'd know if that device was going to call him into action. Until then, he'd stand here as Savoruf, loyal member of Spock's personal guard. If called, he'd be who he really was and put his plan into action -- correction, not his plan, the one given him. If the device didn't signal, he was still getting out of here.

For the sake of distraction, he listened to T'Mes as she spoke to Saavik, even though he didn't understand why she did it. Did Saavik hear her? They said Kirk had talked to her and was confident she heard him. Maybe the healing sleep was allowing some of the words to seep in, if Saavik wasn't lost in that instability still.

Savoruf didn't want to think too hard on that last point.

He once more looked over the broken features as T'Mes went on speaking.

"You will want to know the Armageddon presentation went well. The Empress radiated pleasure. The resulting planetary volatility bothered her not at all, precisely as you said. Stron tells me the guard has doubled its security around the captain, something else you will be pleased to hear."

Savoruf barely heard the soft report as he stayed focused on Saavik. He barely knew her and yet-- something about her. He grew conscious again of the signaling device in his palm.

T'Mes took in the way Saavik's injuries affected him. He wondered what his expression showed, because in mute agreement, T'Mes drew the blanket up to Saavik's shoulders, covering the smashed hands. Her face naturally stayed in the open, but this helped.

T'Mes kept talking through the whole thing and he finally understood it was so Saavik knew someone was with her. "With the presentation completed, the science department prepares for new work. An interesting challenge, one you will want to see when you awake."

Savoruf saw a couple medtechs enter the main room in Sickbay. One came up behind T'Mes, someone he hadn't seen before, and withdrew a scanner, playing over Saavik's length. The noise attracted some angry glares their way, from staff and patients alike. Savoruf was confused and asked T'Mes why the hostility.

"Hearsay spread through the ship last night following Spock's visit here. Many speculate Saavik is the Captain's Woman." He wondered if her annoyance was because she found the title offensive or if it was aimed at the people she indicated with a nod of her head. "Those wanting to be Spock's lover have a target now. Dismiss it. It is only petty jealousy."

The medtech put away his scanner and withdrew a hypo. Soluk immediately held out a restraining hand.

"No drugs are administered without Healer Sagar's approval."

The tech frowned, blinking in puzzlement. "Are you sure that order still stands? I got one saying Lieutenant Saavik was back under regular care."

"Let me see this order," Soluk asked. He examined the padd but straight away shook head. "You need the captain's approval on this."

"Look, has anyone else been here this morning?" Soluk shook his head again. "Then she's behind on her medication. Contact the captain and I'll--"

"No," Soluk insisted.

The tech exhaled noisily. "Just let me do my job. I got a long day ahead and I'm not getting screwed by starting off behind schedule!"

"No."

"Look, pointed ears!"

Savoruf saw the other medtech start across the room, but he almost missed the phaser as it slid down the woman's sleeve into her hand.

"It's an attack," he called to Soluk and pulled his phaser. He took out the other medtech easily, but a commotion materialized at the door and a squad of guards poured in.

The first tech pulled a scalpel, swiping at Soluk and then trying to plunge the hypo into Saavik. But the scalpel only caught Soluk's heavy glove and he grabbed the tech's head, applying tal'shaya so swiftly, the medtech was dead on the ground with a broken neck before he made another move.

Savoruf caught this peripherally, busily firing into the doorway trying to snare the attacking squad before they could rush in the room. In a second, he heard Soluk firing with him. They moved simultaneously to the edge of Saavik's bed, forming a barrier, but it left them in the open.

Soluk picked up his dead victim, using the body as a shield as they had on Thieurrull, and Savoruf hurriedly did the same with the woman he shot moments before. But the bodies would last only so long before destroyed.

A dagger sailed past them into the chest of an attacker. T'Mes. But not being a guard, she did not carry a phaser with her permanently. "I'll summon Stron!" she called above the fire.

"No!" Soluk called back. "Do not divert security from the captain!"

"They want the diversion!" Savoruf exclaimed. "From Spock by attacking Saavik! Warn them!"

T'Mes pulled the private communicator from Soluk's sash, but Savoruf was too busy to watch her. The body in his hands was disintegrating from the blasts and he heaved it at their enemy. What to use now?

He dashed out a few feet and seized a medcart, spinning it sideways for maximum coverage, and hurried back in place in front of Saavik's bed.

If he wasn't so close to Soluk, he'd never have heard the low grunt. Risking a glance, he saw the burning mark on Soluk's shoulder. "Can you--?"

Soluk shifted his phaser from his useless hand to the other and kept firing.

Incredibly, the noise got louder and it came from outside the door. Their attackers shouted, a few of them whirling in the other direction, and Savoruf realized reinforcements were here.

Stuck in the crossfire, the remaining squad members fell swiftly, the last one deliberately only injured, but still downed by Soluk.

Savoruf checked Saavik while his fellow guard crossed to the wounded enemy. She still slept deeply, miraculously unhurt -- further wounded, Savoruf amended. All this is not from Spock's would be lovers. Who then?

He knew T'Pau was talking to Spock at this moment in the concluding tribunal. He felt the slight cut where the signaling device sliced him during the fighting.

A scream broke his eyes away from Saavik and he whirled around, phaser up.

Soluk's fingers pressed deeply against the temple and jaw of the wounded man, his face calm while his victim's was distorted in agony. Another scream punctuated the air before Soluk dropped the man to the deck, unconscious.

"Who sent them?" T'Mes asked.

He didn't get to answer. Security, not personal guard, rushed in from the door with no warning, weapons already aimed. Behind them, pushing the bodies out of the way with his boot, came Kirk.

He saw Savoruf's drawn weapon. "Put it away."

Savoruf searched for the Andorian woman that was supposed to be on their side. She wasn't there. He looked to Soluk who nodded. He holstered the phaser and eyed the number of Security people. They were badly outnumbered.

Kirk gestured to someone in the hall and McCoy walked in, remarking loudly in disgust about the condition of Sickbay. Kirk slapped him lightly on the chest and jerked his head at Saavik. "Get to it."

Quite some time before, Spock waited in the briefing room, hands steepled in front of him as he kept quiet and composed. Soon, T'Pau would link to the viewscreen and give her judgement. He could no more but deal with the outcome.

Without turning his head, he glanced out of the corner of his eye at his father. He hadn't seen Sarek look so drawn since Amanda had died. His eyes seemed hollowed, sunken in his head, and his shoulders sagged under some weight. He had said he did not know T'Pau's decision because she choose to keep her own counsel after asking a few questions.

He sensed Spock's gaze and looked over. Spock snapped his eyes ahead.

"My son."

Spock leaned his mouth on his steepled fingers as if deep in thought. "Father," he mumbled.

"Spock," Sarek began and then stopped. "If the worst happens, I want you to accept my support and remember nothing is gained by losing yourself."

Not knowing how to reply, Spock rubbed his index fingers against the tense lines on the bridge of his nose. "Are you saying--"

"I will do whatever it takes to save you."

Still without facing his father, he asked, "Save me. No one else?"

Silence.

"Because I am your heir."

"Because you are my son and we are all that is left."

Spock dropped his hands into his lap. He looked without seeing the items on his table, looked across to the blank viewscreen where T'Pau would appear, looked everywhere but at Sarek. "Why can you not accept my choice?"

"Because Saavik means your death."

"And if that were not the way it was?"

Silence again.

"You know she is still alive."

Was that a sigh? "Yes."

He picked up a stylus, laid it down again, and straightened it to a precise right angle to his padd. "You did tell Saavik about the miscarriage, and it saved us the pain of having to tell the other. You didn't intend the compassion, but it was there nonetheless."

At length, Sarek said hesitantly, "She is devoted to you." Another long pause. "Will you accept my help?"

"I have no desire to die, Father. But your help cannot be priced with Saavik's life."

A second, then another, and another. Spock thought he heard the circuitry in the lights, in the door, into the corridor and down to the lift as he strained in wait for Sarek's response.

"Agreed."

He steepled his hands again and placed the fingers to his lips. He whispered as if to himself, "Most kind, Father."

A chime on the table signaled T'Pau was transmitting. Spock rose to his feet and a moment later, the viewscreen came to life. He raised his hand in salute.

She returned it. "I will be brief, Spock."

His own words repeated. But neither her expression nor her words gave indication to what she had decided.

"You made an impressive argument, Spock, and I commend your logic. Of your points, I disregard your refusal as witness and victim to bring charges against Saavik. By law, your family has the right to bring charges for you and as matriarch for our bloodline, I do so. I also set aside your point regarding the bioweapon. As Sarek expressed to me, your witness could not confirm Romulans are not affected by the weapon, and therefore Saavik may be a victim through that half of her genome."

Spock understood now why Saavik so often cursed. He wanted to; Sarek was not fooled by Archernar's evasive answer.

"However," T'Pau said, "I cannot disregard your other points. Saavik is disowned by the Romulan Empire, her biological connection not enough to gain her the right to be one of their people. Moreover, she is an Imperial citizen and is protected under its law."

Spock could not believe it. T'Pau was not throwing out his whole contention. He still had a chance. He concentrated so hard on what she said, Stron had to tap him on the shoulder to get his attention. Only then did he understand his guard had been calling him repeatedly.

"Sir," Stron started, holding his personal communicator.

"Not now, Mr. Stron. My apologies for the interruption, T'Pau."

She regarded the interference with a heavy frown, but Stron would not give up. "Sir, you must listen."

He turned up the volume on the communicator and Spock heard T'Mes barely through what sounded like phaser fire.

"-- repeat, we are under attack. An unknown squad of guards entered Sickbay--"

Saavik.

But if he didn't let T'Pau finish... "I apologize again, but my people need--"

She raised an eyebrow. "Surely you have more than these few people, Spock. Can no one else go to their aid?"

As if she arranged it, a new call came over the communicator. "Do not, repeat, do not remove security from the captain. He is to stay secure. Send reinforcements, but do not compromise Captain Spock."

He thought of the number of people at his command while he was the only one T'Pau would give her judgement to. The logical decision was clear. He clamped his teeth against each other hard. "Send a squad to help," he ordered. "Send two if necessary. And keep me informed."

Stron didn't like it, but backed off, issuing rapid fire commands into the communicator.

"May I continue?" T'Pau asked. He nodded tersely and waited. "As I was saying, as a non-Romulan and an Imperial national, I cannot find Saavik guilty of violating a law meant only for Romulans. Therefore, the execution order is rescinded and the loss of your child will be recorded in the House records. Also, if you require one of our healers to cure the remaining damage on the woman who saved the lives of your father and yourself, one will be sent to rendezvous with your ship."

He made no action, none, not even simply closing his eyes, to show the impact this had. He won. He couldn't take it in. He won. And in that moment, to his greater surprise, he turned to his father who appeared as taken aback as his son.

"Nonetheless," T'Pau proclaimed, "I see by your logic the answer to another question, this one regarding Saavik's claim to a Vulcan citizenship."

He held his breath.

"By your evidence, Saavik is not a Romulan despite her being of Romulan blood. Accordingly, I cannot acknowledge her as a Vulcan. Using your own argument, if her Romulan parent cannot make her a Romulan, her Vulcan parent cannot make her Vulcan. The High Council consequently will not accept any claim from her on our people."

Punishment. He had told Saavik he thought he knew what punishment was when Vulcan -- and the Graysons -- kept Amanda and Sarek from marrying. His parents had defied that punishment by remaining together, but it didn't change the fact they were forbidden all they wanted.

He told himself he'd won the bigger battle. The execution order was cancelled. And the kae'at k'lasa law never would apply to Saavik again. But at this moment, he understood what his parents' punishment truly was.

Vulcan would never accept Saavik, never take her in, and never acknowledge her. And he gave them the argument to do it.

"Spock."

He could not look at T'Pau because she would see his defeat. He would not give her that.

Stron returning gave him a chance to regroup. "Sir, I am not sure what to make of this, but -- you have a call from Sickbay."

Even T'Pau frowned in confusion as Spock, with permission, split the viewscreen in half to bring in Sickbay. He expected T'Mes or Soluk. He got Kirk.

"Greetings!" Kirk exclaimed, smiling broadly. "I apologize for interrupting what's going on in there, but this is my flagship, you see, in the service of the Empress. You do understand who that is, I take it."

He grinned, daring one of them to speak against him. "Of course you do. And our Empress wants to know why the hell this ship is still circling this Warbase. And quite frankly, that's your fault. So in an effort to get out on schedule, I thought I'd help things along."

He glanced over his shoulder and ordered the Security officers out of the way. They stepped over bodies scattered on the floor, and as they cleared the area, Spock saw they had blocked Saavik's bed.

Saavik... with McCoy standing by her head. Spock felt control over the situation slipping further from him.

"Admiral, I will be--"

"Now personally, I don't give a damn about whatever it is you're debating about in there, but it's holding me back. We made --" Kirk stopped and pointed a finger at T'Mes. Coolly, she gave her name. "T'Mes patch in through Spock's communicator system. And I had McCoy wake Saavik out of this healing trance and listen to what was said."

Spock put his hands behind his back and clasped them hard together. "Admiral, Saavik is not in a condition to be awaken. You risk further damage--"

Kirk's smile died away. "You're not listening. This ship is leaving now which means whatever this goddamned game is ends now!"

T'Pau drew up at the affront. "You dare?"

His nostrils flared as he reigned himself in. It took almost a full minute before he plastered his smile, strained this time, back on his face. He held his hands out in a shrug. "I have my orders, you can understand that. The Empress wants this ship to go, it goes. You have a problem with that, that's your right, and you can take it up with her, but I'd think you'd be happy -- excuse the expression -- to get this --whatever it is -- settled. I'm giving you what you want."

T'Pau leaned forward, judging carefully, before nodding once. "Proceed."

"T'Pau," Spock interjected, "I must point out--"

"We will see where this leads, Spock. If it is ill advised, I will halt it immediately."

"No need," Kirk said. He snapped his fingers at McCoy who raised the head of the bed. Saavik's face came into view, her color horrible, and her head almost fallen to her shoulder. Spock watched helpless as McCoy injected a hypo and Kirk hitched a hip on the foot of her bed.

"Now then, Lieutenant," he said. "You heard what T'Pau said earlier when she gave ruling. You got a reply?"

Her eyelids fluttered open, and her eyes rolled, focused briefly, and then her eyelids shut again.

"She cannot do this!" Spock protested. "Even if she is awake, with the injuries and medication, she is not of sound mind."

"Sure, she is," Kirk argued. "Aren't you, Lieutenant? C'mon." He snapped his fingers again, loud in her ear. "What do you have to say?"

She lay as if dead and Spock caught himself checking the monitor levels, reassuring himself. The indicators showed close to normal, but she stayed non-responsive.

She has no focus to pull her mental state together. Perhaps with Sagar's help but this way?

Kirk leaned up on the bed to curse at the doctor. "Goddamn it, she was awake before! What happened?"

Saavik's face spasmed in pain suddenly, and excitedly, Kirk got even closer. The spasm deepened, and Spock abruptly caught that the admiral was unknowingly lying on Saavik's hand, causing her agony.

"Admiral!"

Kirk looked back to the screen, shifting his weight. Saavik convulsed again, and Spock forced down his impotency to help from this distance, and the hostility that rose up because of it.

Pain is the focus. He made himself remember that. All Vulcans coming out of healing sleep and such deep trances use pain as a focus.

In reality, this was no worse, he tried to convince himself, than if a healer struck her across the face to bring her out.

Except it was worse to think of those hands hurt more and to know she had to pull out of something far stronger than the healing trance by itself.

T'Mes bent over Saavik, muttering something.

Spock took this as a chance to implore, "T'Pau, this is not working. We obviously need Sagar--"

She held up a hand. Something in Saavik brought that gesture for him to wait.

Her mouth parted, extremely slowly, her lips reluctant to break apart after dried together for so long. Spock noticed a small cloth in McCoy's hand flecked with dark green. He must have used it to clean her mouth.

She worked at saying something, but the effort appeared too much. She fell back again and just as Spock was about to beg T'Pau again, Saavik labored to say a word. It creaked out, her whole body pushing it out: "... acc-ep-ted..."

She was taking the punishment.

Kirk turned back towards the viewscreen. "Good enough?"

T'Pau sat heavily back in her divan chair. "We are adjourned."

She locked glances with Spock, measuring what? She bowed her head, slowly, and keeping her head down for a beat as if hiding her eyes while she pondered something, but she faced him again before he could decide what that something was.

"Peace and long life, Spock." The transmission was cut.

He gave it no more thought as he focused as completely on Sickbay as the viewscreen now took it up. He took note again of the number of bodies strewn about, and started giving orders to Stron when he heard the guard's call into his communicator instructing squads to secure the halls from the briefing room to Sickbay. Spock left without any further waste of time, and it wasn't until later that he realized he hadn't said anything in parting to Sarek.

They were almost out of the lift when the call came from Fathiyya that Kirk had ordered a further Security detail; she wasn't told why. Even with the squad of his personal guard present with him and in the corridor, Spock felt dangerously exposed. Did he dare risk a confrontation?

He exchanged a significant glance with Stron who immediately signaled quietly on the personal system. If all went well, either T'Mes still had Soluk's or she had given it back, and the signal could be answered safely. It took a moment, text display only:

We are safe, but hasten.

That must be T'Mes. With no further hesitation, Spock rushed to Sickbay.

Almost colliding with the Empress. The number of guards should have warned him, but it wasn't until he saw her that he saw her inner Defense retinue. All the rest were from Enterprise.

Kirk was smiling smugly, both in the coupe of having the Empress here and keeping it from Spock. Grinding in, as usual, his superior position and rank. Spock folded his arms behind him and drew himself to full attention. His eyes darted to Saavik; she was unconscious again.

The Imperial monarch was in turn urging Kirk in his display. She wasn't a beautiful woman, but her strong features hinted at a time when she was striking. Her deep purple eyes hit like a hammer with the force of her personality, and her body, hidden by the elegant, diaphanous dress, was muscular and as tall as Spock was. The dress and jewelry also concealed the weapons she always bore, never satisfied to leave her safety completely in the hands of others. Three of her rings hid hypos for poisons, a fourth contained acid. Every bit of her, from the graying black hair to her large, well-shod feet, was forged from the iron battle it took her to reach the pinnacle of the Empire.

She and Kirk were laughing over something when Spock came in, and as Kirk silently rubbed his advantage over the Vulcan, she glanced about the room without much interest.

"You will get this fleet out immediately, won't you, James?" She said it like a coo, but it was a hard warning and they all knew it.

Kirk smiled easily. "The moment you are safely aboard your own transport," as if it were a luxury yacht instead of a Slayer class destroyer with a compliment of other warships, "unless, of course, you wish to come along?"

"If only I could. Such fun, I'm sure, but I do have a number of tedious duties to take care of."

With her so enthralled with Kirk, Spock took this opportunity to edge closer to Saavik's bed, but unfortunately, the Empress' dispassionate glance passed about the room, and suddenly stopped where he was with McCoy, T'Mes, and the two guards, Soluk and Savoruf, all in attendance.

"And the reason for all this?" she demanded. Saavik was receiving more attention at the moment than her monarch and that would never do.

Astonishingly, Kirk answered. "My science officer here on the Enterprise."

"Looks like you'll be replacing her."

"Not necessarily, but Captain Spock is more intimate with the details than me, aren't you, Captain?"

Spock came back to stand before the Empress, face impassive, but he knew the barb Kirk threw with the word intimate. "Lieutenant Saavik's condition improves. At this point, she only needs physical therapy and cosmetic surgery." He only caught a glimpse of McCoy rolling his eyes.

"Cosmetic? Well thank goodness she's not always as bad as this."

"Oh, she's a beauty," Kirk said smoothly, "nothing in comparison to you, of course."

"Really?" she drawled. "Someone I'd find attractive?" Everyone knew the Empress' taste in lovers ran to both genders.

"Now, would I give myself another rival for your affections?" Kirk played with her. Spock grew increasingly tired of the display from both of them. "But I have heard women comment on Saavik's looks."

"Hmmm-- interesting." Suddenly the coquettish air vanished, and the Empress pinned Kirk and Spock down under her command. "But you have not told me why all this fuss over one woman. If her looks have gotten to one of you and my resources--" Of course, she'd see them as her resources even if this was one Sickbay out of how many in Starfleet, "are being spent on one of your mistresses--"

Spock ignored Kirk's leer from behind the Empress' back just as he'd disregarded McCoy's rolling eyes. "The lieutenant is the head of the Armageddon Torpedo team. If she is salvageable," he pushed the word past his lips, "I prefer having her on the bridge for our next targets."

"And," Kirk added, "she's the one who brought me the details on Cartwright. Her injuries here came from that fight."

Spock couldn't believe what he just heard. Kirk helped justify Saavik's medical attention. In fact, he abruptly realized Kirk brought the Empress to this ship, not Excelsior.

"So this was a joint effort?" she asked.

"Mr. Spock and I have an alliance," Kirk answered, making Spock once more doubt his ears. Kirk stared significantly at the Vulcan. He was living up to his word and Spock had better do no less.

"The effort, however, was led by the admiral," Spock carefully answered. He remembered his own doubts about those events, but this wasn't the time to ask.

"So it's understood that we share personnel when we need to. I can borrow Saavik anytime I want," Kirk finished, sending an equally considerable glance for a different reason at Spock who raised an eyebrow in return and very slightly, so as not to draw the Empress' attention, shook his head. Kirk grinned back at him. "Whatever it takes to serve you, my Empress."

"As long as you know your priorities," she replied. She cupped Kirk's face. "You will take care of the Klingons for me, won't you, James?"

He smiled into her palm. "No one hunts them better."

Their flirtation disappeared for their real enjoyment as two predators for the kill. "Narendra III first, James," she instructed. "Give the Klingons just a taste of my exasperation with them. If they don't take the hint to withdraw their loathsome presence from my border, strike the larger targets."

She turned again to Spock, the pleasure gone. "And no more delays, am I quite clear, Captain? Whatever you were doing this morning will not keep this Fleet from leaving on time. You did give him my warning," she asked Kirk.

"Unnecessary," he replied and once more tossed an opportunity to save himself to Spock.

"That matter has been resolved," Spock answered. "And would not stop me from following your orders." To aggravate the Klingons into who knows how large a conflict.

"As long as I'm not getting any more calls from that bitch, T'Pau," she ordered, "and you get out of here to get things done."

Spock wanted nothing less than to stand in the space between the Empress and T'Pau. He might as well step on a landmine. He tried to form words to assuage both the faraway presence of the Vulcan matriarch and the immediate presence of the Imperial monarch when he saw she was looking past him, interested in something behind his shoulder. Typical, he thought. Her focus was as fleeting as her favoritism.

Not so.

"This morning's matter was my doing," a deep voice came behind him.

Spock turned with everyone else. Father, why...? And he recalled Sarek's words: "If the worst happens, I want you to accept my support..." Obviously, Sarek thought his son in trouble with the Empress.

He moved forward directly in front of Spock so his shoulder overlapped his son's while his personal security mixed with the others already present. The room was getting crowded.

He bowed his head respectfully. "A matter pertaining to Vulcan and our House. I needed Spock's attention. However, we were never in doubt he was needed for his duties to the Empire."

It was astonishing to see the change Sarek's presence wrought on the Empress. She grew slick under his attention and her flirtation differed from that she gave Kirk. It projected her intentions while searching if he reflected it back.

Spock noted the change dryly. Father is the thing she cannot have and therefore, tries everything to obtain. He peeked at Sarek, not wanting to see if his father turned as lascivious as Kirk in his attention. He didn't; he stayed the way he always was, and Spock wondered how he could stay master of such a game.

"Of course, Sarek, if you found it necessary. I do not question your loyalty. I can certainly understand your attention to family." As if she had a maternal instinct, she simpered, "Why, I myself am taking a direct interest in my niece's education. She should turn out quite well."

"Are you naming her heir?" Sarek asked politely.

"And have the little brat plan my assassination?"

So much for family attention, Spock thought.

"Besides, she's a child still. It'll be a few years before she can be of any use. And then only if she can raise her expectations past that of being a broodmare." A look of utter disgust crossed the Empress' face. "I have turned her out of range of my hearing more than once for her babbling about future generations. As if I have time for such juvenile debates as her plans for a fleet of daughters named things like Perrin and other ridiculous names to begin with."

"It depends on the person who bears it," Sarek answered.

She came out of her tirade undoubtedly thinking she ruined her attempt to garner his attraction through her display of familial bonding. "Quite so. In any case, you will see her around the palace one day, Sarek. After all, as you pointed out, we must make time for family, even taking the moment to see them for what they are and can be." And with the sudden change in focus typical of her, her eyes traveled from Sarek to Spock with new appraisal. If she could not have the father...

Spock took a step further behind Sarek.

"We are fortunate for your generosity," Sarek said to her. "However, I do not want to hinder you further."

"Quite correct. This ship cannot leave until I do. Oh, one more thing. Sarek, that Vulcan that arranged the Romulan prisoner exchange, I want him rewarded. Sending those animals back to their Emperor with eyewitness testimony for what I can do makes me very happy."

As Sarek promised to reward Sumic, Spock reassessed his original idea about the commandant. Perhaps he had made a real enemy after all. First T'Pau and now Sumic: Spock wondered whom else he would give evidence to use against him.

The Empress whisked past them in a grand exit, favoring only a few with her passing regard. "Remember my bidding, James. Sarek, if you would escort me to my ship."

Kirk frowned darkly at being passed over, but could do nothing about it. Most likely, he didn't appreciate how Sarek managed to avoid touching her with a bow and an extended arm gesturing that the Empress should proceed him. But Spock marveled anew.

Kirk almost bolted after them, but Spock held up a hand stopping him.

"A moment, Admiral. If you were so willing to stand by our alliance, why then," he pointed to the pile of dead men, "this first attack?"

Kirk scowled. "They're not mine. I got here after it was all over. I heard the shots and kept Security with me, and then sent another squad to escort the Empress."

Spock turned on McCoy and singled out the dead medtechs on the floor. The doctor snorted. "Not mine."

Soluk cleared his throat. "Sir, I interrogated one of the enemy. Captain Terrell sent them. But the medtechs struck early and it hurt their plan."

"There you go," Kirk said. "Take it up with Terrell."

"You have no objections, no alliances with him?"

"None. Kill him if you want, I don't care. Let Kyle have the Reliant."

"If I'd rather it go to Mr. Chekov?"

Kirk blew out a loud breath. "See if this is clear enough -- I don't give a damn. Now get out of the way."

"Two more things, Admiral." Spock saw he was pressing the limit. "Do you have an alliance with Sulu? I have a matter requiring my retribution for his actions. If so, does it hurt our agreement?"

Kirk chewed his lip. The fact he thought about it told Spock he did have a pact with Sulu and was weighing which way to go. "Don't kill him. Can you do that and still pay him back?"

The admiral was giving him his support. Interesting. "Most certainly. Mr. Stron!" The guard stepped forward from his place next to his wife. "I believe you have the files on Demora Sulu, our Captain Sulu's daughter? Arrange this matter for me."

Stron nodded.

Kirk's head reared back in understanding. "I get this now. Tooth for a tooth, eh? All right. You said one more thing. Make it fast. Very fast, Mr. Spock."

Spock lowered his voice. "When did you know Saavik was pregnant? Tell me the truth because I can do nothing against you no matter your answer."

The man was confused and Spock saw the thoughts dancing behind his eyes. "Ah, I see." He curbed his race to get out of there enough to answer sincerely. "I found out when we brought Saavik back to the ship."

"Would it have mattered if you knew before her beating?"

"That's two things, Spock. And no, at that time, I'd have done the same thing."

What else could he expect, Spock wondered. Kirk had no feeling for his own son. Spock's child meant even less. He finally nodded. "You gave me the truth as I asked. It is no surprise."

"Fine then." Kirk made for the door where he'd try to catch up to Sarek, and get between him and the Empress. "We have an alliance, Spock. I gave towards that today. You need to get this ship out of here and on our next mission. You promised power and riches. Time you started delivering them."

The admiral poked his head back in. "By the way, about Sulu. I didn't know you found out about his daughter. We're the only ones who know. Nobody else." He winked. "Nobody."

Spock raised an eyebrow in question, and a second later, rose it higher with comprehension. Kirk left.

McCoy looked up from Saavik. "I'm going to need to run some tests to provide that physical therapy you're so certain about."

Spock came to the other side of her bed. "I said what I needed to. What is your prognosis?"

"I don't know yet. I just got here and I've had too many people with guns running around to get a chance to do any doctoring. And don't bother giving me any more warnings. I heard about Saavik's promotion."

Spock's eyebrows drew together. "Promotion?"

"Yeah, Captain's Woman. I can imagine what threats you were about to make. Let's just agree that I won't make anymore mistakes like my previous one and you don't breathe down my neck." He watched Spock nervously. "Agreed?"

Captain's Woman-- that explains Terrell's attack. He saw an opportunity to seize Enterprise from me through a weakened target.

Spock examined McCoy's tension, and saw no threats were necessary. "Agreed."

"Then I'll get those tests set up." He turned away.

"Doctor, I suggest that in the future, you bring me news of someone who threatens your neutrality. I am quite able to protect those who help me. And the admiral is now an ally."

Leonard McCoy nodded solemnly. "Deal. And Spock, I am sorry for how it ended up. I don't make war on babies. Now do me a favor. Get these damned bodies and the rest of the gun toters out of my Sickbay."

Savoruf came up next to Spock as the doctor left. "I'm not sure I understand why you haven't killed that one." He looked around the room, but there was only themselves and the dead left. He pulled off the heavy helmet, shaking loose his longer hair, his fingers combing the dark locks that were dyed from their silver color. His bangs fell like spikes in front of his eyes and those snapped merrily at Spock. "I take it I can go, Cousin?"

Spock eyed the Romulan calmly. "Are you finding impersonating a Vulcan more than you thought?"

"Much more! But don't be smug. I have yet to see you play Romulan." Archernar stripped off his gloves and handed back the signaling device. "Glad it wasn't necessary?"

Spock took it and tucked it into his sash. "Very."

The Romulan looked down at the sleeping Saavik and his frivolity sobered. "I envy you, Cousin. I'm beginning to wish for those two centuries of learning about her for myself."

Spock cocked an eyebrow. "She would have killed you. You were right when you first said so."

Archernar grinned. "One of the better deaths I've been offered. Would you give her something for me?"

"No."

"I thought not." He turned back to Spock. "And no refunds, Cousin. I hope you understood that--" His eyes widened in alarm and his hand darted for his phaser.

Spock whirled, signaling Soluk and Stron in the same motion, and the three of them were armed and ready by the time they faced...

... an empty room.

Spock heard a noise from T'Mes and he spun back to see what was wrong.

Archernar held one of Saavik's broken hands with the delicacy of a feather, but the kiss he held on her lips was firmly passionate. He was already pulling away, but Spock didn't see that. He grabbed Archernar by the chest, flinging him from the bed and at arm's length. His dagger hissed out and held to the Romulan's throat. Its razor honed edge glittered malevolently in the sickbay lighting.

Archernar held up his arms in supplication. "Sorry, Cousin. I shouldn't have done it, and if our positions were reversed, maybe you'd have resisted the temptation. But let me go. I stole a moment that you have a lifetime of."

It took real control to reign in and when he did, he almost threw Archernar from him. "Soluk, remove him swiftly. Return him and get Mr. Savoruf back."

At least the Romulan looked honestly sorry, not that Spock cared. "Take care of her, Cousin. Keep her safe." He got no reply. "See that you do," he repeated Spock's earlier warning to him with a grin, "or I will find you."

Soluk pushed him roughly out of the room.

T'Mes and Stron waited still by Saavik who was frowning. From Archernar's kiss, no doubt, and Spock quelled an adolescent reaction of being pleased. When he reached her again, T'Mes and Stron shared a glance, and without speaking, began to move away to a discreet distance.

"T'Mes?" Spock said. She stopped. "What did you say to Saavik earlier? When Kirk was attempting to wake her."

"I said you needed her. She is your Chief Guard, is she not?" Her eyebrows arched on the last statement, plainly amused, but she whispered to him as she moved away, "She asked for you, Captain, when she first awoke."

And then he was alone with her. "Saavik?"

She struggled awake, and he almost let her go back to sleep rather than disturb her, when her eyelids parted enough so he saw a spark of light in them.

"Can you hear me?"

Those eyelids fluttered closed, then open again, and the sliver of eyes just rested on him in silence.

He lay his hand next to hers, afraid of hurting her further. "It is over, Saavik. You are safe. We both are. But you did not have to take T'Pau's punishment. Not for me."

Her eyes fluttered again.

"I am disturbing you. Perhaps I should go."

Her forehead furrowed in displeasure and he exulted in seeing her react. "Perhaps not." He thought of all the things he wanted to tell her and began with her health. "McCoy will be here soon."

She scowled.

"He will make you well or he knows the consequences. Sagar must leave, but I will have another healer come to help with any wounds the instability left."

She wanted to say something and fought against the exhausting task of speaking. He tried to quiet her, but she brushed this agitatedly away.

"Saavik, go back to sleep. You need rest."

She silently formed a word, overemphasizing it so he could read it.

"Me?"

Her nod was the merest fraction of movement. She formed the same word, looked upset by something, again exaggerating the expression so he clearly read it, and then repeated both things.

"I look bothered? Do not be troubled. I am only concerned for you."

Her hand ever so slightly moved against his and her face instantly reacted to the pain.

"Don't, Saavik. We will fix your hands, but do not move them now. Why are you trying?"

Her eyes darted around, searching for something, and then sprang back to him with an answer. Slowly, the effort clear, she pushed out in a precise whisper so he needed to duck his head to hear, "X...tm...prs..z..ntw..lfd."

His first name, his self-name. She never used it before, most likely never thought she should, and to hear her say it...

Her fingers moved just enough so he felt them and he tried to fathom what she sought after. And then he knew. He held out his first two fingers and touched them to her cheek. Her eyes closed, worn out from her effort, and satisfied in getting what she wanted.

She had no self-name. Her mother never gave her one and she hadn't picked one for herself. He had a name for her and he leaned close to whisper it, hoping it was not too soon to say it. "T'hyla."

She didn't hear it. She was already deeply asleep. But he had enough answers for now and the patience to wait for others, and so he just watched her slumber.

For the first time, he focused on what they gained by T'Pau's judgement and not what was lost. Which was why Saavik accepted the handed down punishment while he fought against it, but then she was more pragmatic than he was.

He lay his hand on the sensitive points along her face and lightly touched her psi-senses, reassuring himself she actually slept. Then, armed with his personal victories, he made his way for the bridge and whatever new battles the day brought.

Epilogue

Two days later found Sulu and Uhura leaving the bridge of the Excelsior, headed for his cabin. As soon as the lift doors closed, she spoke. "You heard about Terrell."

He gave a passing thought to the Security pickups in the lift car, but only a passing thought. Sulu's background was Security and he could bypass the microphones with no problem, but nothing about this conversation was secretive.

He smiled evilly. "You don't believe he died from a heart attack?"

She snorted. "Who does? No one's taking the claim, but they might as well what with Chekov being the new captain."

"You think he did it? I didn't think he'd have the nerve."

She scoffed at him with a sideways glance, and Sulu was painfully reminded that she constantly weighed whether he was worthy of her alliance. Or being her lover. He hated her judgements. He was Captain after all, and he got them here, but he didn't want Uhura switching allegiances and using what she knew against him. So, like anytime he felt she didn't go too far, he said nothing about her scoffing now, but someday, he had to rid himself of her. Before she did the same.

"If Chekov was behind Terrell's murder, those Vulcans wouldn't be on Reliant now."

He was surprised and she saw it, smirking at his ignorance and igniting his temper further. But Communications was Uhura's territory and she always found out things before anyone else.

"Which Vulcans?" he asked.

"Stron is the new Chief of Security over there, and T'Mes -- that's his wife -- is Science Officer. They both serve--"

"Spock."

She nodded and smiled, as wicked as him.

Spock killed Terrell and struck a deal with Chekov. In return for putting two of Spock's people in the command staff, the Russian got Reliant. And Spock's power base grew to another ship.

Sulu hated the whole thing. What did Kirk think of all this? Why wasn't he shackling Spock like he did before?

The lift doors opened on the officer's deck. Their personal guard was waiting, the hall secure, while they left their previous guard on the bridge to pickup any talk that happened while their backs were turned.

"One good thing, that leaves three openings on Enterprise. Who can we get in there without making Spock suspicious?" he asked.

Her grin grew wider. "I already took care of it."

That meant she put her people over there, and he wasn't sitting for that. Uhura had to learn her place before she got delusions of taking the captaincy.

He ducked into his cabin. The computer screen on his desk was turned towards the door, and a whirl of images was going by. He checked the corners of the room, but it was empty. He drew closer to the computer, seeing a date and time stamp in the upper right corner. Yesterday evening. The blur of figures was too closely packed for him to make them out, but he recognized it was an attack. A woman screamed suddenly and raised the hairs on his neck. He'd been a part of too many killings to let watching another bother him, but that voice tugged at his memory.

In a second, the scene changed and the time stamp read ten minutes earlier than it had previously. The image had looped around to the beginning. The room it showed was dark and he couldn't make out where it was, but suddenly Demora passed through, barely visible in the frame being a small child. Right behind her was her mother, and a gloved hand reached out from the darkness and snaked around her mouth.

No head or body other than that arm -- an arm in a Starfleet uniform -- was visible, but a voice reached Sulu's ears, all the more eerie by being masked with a computer synthesizer. "You should pick your lovers more wisely," it said to the struggling woman. "And never have children with people like Hikaru Sulu. He has crimes you and your daughter will pay for."

It was here that the blur of bodies coagulated in front of the camera and in a second, he heard her scream again, making icy shards stab his spine.

His daughter and lover dead! For something he did? Who even found out about them after he concealed them so well?

His mind dazed with the loss and going through whom this revenge was from, he almost didn't catch the dagger aimed to slice his throat. He deflected it barely and ended up locked arm in arm with Uhura.

Her face was twisted in a snarl. "You had another lover?!"

"Captain," a woman called.

Spock waited for T'Ratka to meet him, the now returned Savoruf taking a patient stance at his shoulder.

She handed him a padd. "For you."

The report was in High Vulcan hieroglyphics and encoded further against prying eyes. Spock deciphered it as he read.

Demora and her mother, as they expected, held no loyalty for Sulu and eagerly left with Spock's people for a new secure location. The woman was already proving her strength as an ally by describing in detail what she could against Sulu and his movements.

Sulu, of course, was told they were dead, and Soluk had provided convincing camera footage to support that idea, much as he had years ago with Saavik's faked booth recording for Kirk.

The report noted Uhura was with Sulu when he got the news, and that the Excelsior was shaking under her wrath. Apparently Kirk was right. Nobody knew about Sulu's lover and daughter, including his other lover and first officer.

Spock handed the report back and nodded in approval. T'Ratka dropped the padd to the ground and destroyed with a phaser blast set to low burn. Nobody could learn its contents now.

"And our new science officer and my first officer?" he asked.

"Loyal to Commander Uhura as we expected."

"They will not be here long then."

"No, sir. Dead or transferred?"

He thought about it. "Transferred. Somewhere unpleasant. Perhaps her other people will be less likely to come aboard. If anymore do, kill those. Sooner or later, the message will get through. I will promote Lieutenant Commander Copin to First Officer as I always intended, but now we have the paths Uhura used to get people onboard."

"We also have the third person who transferred into Security after we took one into your personal guard."

"Leave him." She asked him to repeat it, thinking she hadn't heard him correctly. "Leave him. This way, we know who the enemy is and they think they have scored a victory. But make sure to warn Mr. Fathiyya."

She fell into step with Savoruf and him. "The replacements for the guard now assigned to Stron are arriving on the transport from Vulcan in two days. As requested, several are non-Vulcan including a couple Andorians, a Trill, and two Terrans with one named Maxwell Grayson. Sir, the latter?"

"Vulcans claim to honor diversity, and yet we ourselves had only our own kind in my personal guard. As for Mr. Grayson, a second cousin of mine who has many to kill before I am a threat to his birthright. All of the new recruits have been verified, but have Mr. Soluk put them through Saavik's standard security checks."

He appreciated Soluk staying as Saavik's second in the guard when Stron left for Reliant. Saavik trusted very few with the position during normal times let alone while she was down. As soon as possible, he'd send Soluk to join Stron and T'Mes.

"Anything else, T'Ratka?"

She didn't get to answer because they suddenly heard Kirk bellow, "Spock!"

Again, he was forced to wait for someone else. "Yes, Admiral?"

Trailing behind at the proper pace was Kirk's new Chief Guard, Kohinoor, a tall, heavily muscled woman with a hint of Asian ancestry in her almond eyes and high cheekbones. An interesting change for the admiral, appointing a woman to the rank, as Spock had noted when he first saw her. Was the admiral influenced by the Empress or was this the price he paid to make the woman his? If the latter, she wouldn't last long, but the experience would move her into a good post elsewhere in the Fleet.

"Hear the good news?" Kirk rubbed his hands together in excitement. "The Klingons are so pissed off about Narendra III, you can hear their growls from here."

Spock was less enthusiastic about the destruction, but he could not save everyone. "Congratulations, sir."

"I know it was hardly a challenge, but now that the Klingons are ready to bite, we should see something worth our time." He walked with them towards the lift. "Going to the bridge?"

"I just left there, Admiral."

"Then where?"

"If it is so important that you know, Sickbay."

Kirk threw an arm out like he was stopping Spock from crashing into something. "Spock, take some advice. Don't get attached, not to anyone. Not your lovers or family or the people you serve with. It makes you weak."

And Sarek's voice whispered from memory: Saavik means your death.

"Look at me," Kirk said. Spock thought the admiral was the last person to be a role model for personal relationships. "I grew up with my brother, listened to my father, and being the dutiful son and brother. But my father got in my way so I got rid of him, and if George or his sons became a problem, I'd get rid of them too. I've had my share of women and dozens on top of that. Plus my share of professional alliances."

"Such as ours or McCoy's," Spock noted wryly. He wondered what Kohinoor thought about the comment on women.

"Exactly. We're a good partnership, and as long as it stays that way, fine. But since we both want to get to the top of the Empire, we're going to clash sooner or later." And the hazel eyes cut into his.

"I have stated more than once, Admiral, that I will not seek your death." With Kirk's propensity to bring his enemies to a seething heat, he'd get himself killed. "And I am content for you to be the greater target." In fact, Spock would let Kirk have the throne if he didn't know the human would create a worse Empire than the one they had already.

Kirk's jaw worked in and out while he decided to believe that. "Good. The thing is, never let people get their hooks into you, don't let them drag you down. You don't get far by getting attached and held back by people."

Spock thought of his relationship with his mother, of even Sarek coming to his support in the end, of the strong bonds with T'Mes, Stron, and Soluk just to name a few, and of Saavik who would die rather than hold him back.

Even this man, even Kirk; their alliance would be stronger with friendship as the last few days showed. And he couldn't see that.

Sadly, the Kirks in this universe did succeed, but Spock thought he'd be much stronger if, when he got to the top, he had let people get their hooks into him.

"I appreciate the advice, Admiral. May I give my own? Do not be in haste to throw away your allies."

With a smirk, Kirk clapped him on the back. "I said I'd keep you around as long as it got me somewhere."

Spock watched the man leave for the lift and, for a moment, felt pity.

He entered Sickbay and walked right into a standoff. Silently chastising himself for not sending someone ahead as he inevitably plowed into someone in the medical ward these days, he took in McCoy's stiff backed stance, cross armed and glaring, and aimed at the other party in the conflict, Saavik.

"Is there a problem?" he asked.

"There you are!" McCoy exclaimed. "You're late!"

"Only by two minutes, 47 seconds, Doctor."

"Well, it felt like longer. Especially when I'm putting up with this one!"

T'Ratka was crossing to flank Soluk, but the only important thing to Spock was seeing Saavik sitting up in bed, the faintly forming scars not taking away from how much better she looked. The bones in her face were healed and the swelling gone, her eyes normal again, and -- he inhaled sharply as his gaze traveled down -- her arms were on her raised knees, and her hands were repaired, dangling idly on top of the blanket.

McCoy made a disgusted noise next to him. "There she goes again. Dammit, I hoped that was getting better."

He was so engrossed in seeing her better, he had missed the most disturbing thing. She was staring blankly into space, not even aware of her surroundings. The mental instability hadn't gone away. Something pulled her back inside her head and he worried about where she was trapped.

He spoke past his dry throat. "Your diagnosis, Doctor?"

"Well, her mouth's got its strength back. She was blistering my ears plenty a minute ago. But she was like this when she came out of surgery this morning."

They approached the bed and McCoy reached out to touch her. Soluk gave a sharp look at him and Spock quietly signaled the man to stand down.

McCoy bristled. "That's what the argument was about before you came in. Saavik won't let me near her and this guy," he stabbed a finger at Soluk, "snarls if I try."

Some of Spock's own antagonism came out in his voice. "She has good reason not to trust you. Your interference cost her a child."

McCoy answered, haunted, "You think I can forget that?"

Spock looked away. He'd never forget either and perhaps never forgive, but he had made the man a promise to move on. "You performed surgery?"

"Yeah." The doctor evaporated his cheerless mood by taking great pleasure in pushing Soluk out of his way. He picked up one of Saavik's hanging hands. "Fixed a lot of bones and did some neural work. You were pretty prophetic in what you said to the Empress. Saavik will need a lot of physical therapy. I have more neural treatments in her hands -- the left's worse than the right, that boot must have just hit harder--"

Spock longed for less graphic detail.

"And I got some neural work in the face too, but all in all, it's a nice job, if I do say so myself. But to gain use of her hands again so she can stab and shoot people who look at you wrong--"

"She is the science officer for this vessel, Doctor."

"So I hear, and she'll need her hands for that too. But she needs physical therapy to get it all back. And she's been lying in that bed too long for my liking. Her muscles are going to atrophy so I want to get her walking today if possible. It's a good thing she has the constitution of an Amazon or I don't think she'd be sitting up now." He looked again into those blank eyes. "But if she's like this-- Spock, I admit this isn't my game. I can't do much about her mental state and I can't test her hands to see if they can -- well, do Vulcan things."

He coughed delicately. "Another thing, I saw a note in Sagar's report - which was written in your heathen tongue, by the way. What a pain in the ass that was to get translated."

T'Ratka took this moment to check the sharpness of her dagger.

"Anyway," McCoy continued, blithely ignoring her, and lowered his voice, "her reproductive system wasn't tested. Is that something--"

"Yes," Spock said shortly.

"Thought so. If it is damaged, she'll need to go to a hospital. This is a battleship. They don't equip Sickbay to handle baby making."

McCoy's usual caustic manner was too much today. "In summary, Doctor."

"I can get her pretty far. With time and work, she'll be back on duty, no problems. I'm leaving the cosmetic work for last, the neural work and physical therapy is more important, so you'd better not mind how she looks."

"Most certainly not," Spock answered instantly.

"Good thing she's your mistress and not Jim's or Sulu's. She'd be out on her ass."

She is not my mistress-- yet. "Doctor," Spock warned.

"Yeah, I was saying, I can get her back to normal for normal duty. I can't help with her Vulcan mental abilities including what's going on her head."

"A Vulcan healer will arrive on a transport day after tomorrow."

"Good. And I'll check the reproductive system and get a specialist for you if it's necessary. But, ah, Spock," McCoy cleared his throat, "you should be prepared. She was badly hurt and reproductive organs are very delicate. She may not be able to have kids."

Spock put that thought away. He couldn't do anything about it now and must wait until he could. And if Saavik was sterile-- she was still his.

If she agreed.

He put that thought away too. He didn't take her actions when they shared that moment in her mind or when she first awoke as a solid indication. Those displays might be nothing more than a woman sharing some tenderness for the man who survived the same conflict she did and for the father of her lost child. He wanted more than that. He needed more than that.

But being his lover already cost her a high price from the attack by Terrell's people to the anger of those who saw her using the position to get her successes. She was too fiercely independent for that.

"You know," McCoy said, "if she's going to stay quiet, I'd better take advantage of it. I have those neural treatments and the new tests -- let me get set up."

He took a few steps before stopping and speaking over his shoulder, not meeting Spock's eyes. "You could tell her I'm sorry."

"I could."

McCoy did look at him then, startled. In a moment, he snorted. "Thanks a lot."

Spock waited for him to be gone. "Report," he told Soluk.

"Nothing of interest, Captain."

T'Ratka gave him a pointed stare, and Spock saw with a great deal of amusement that Soluk shifted his weight from foot to foot with unease.

"Except for earlier when the lieutenant realized her extra security and the-- stares from people-- who-- ah--" Soluk trailed off, more uncomfortable than Spock ever saw him.

T'Ratka, with a look of amused disdain for her compatriot, told Spock plainly. "She discovered the rumored news about her relationship with you, Captain."

Spock's eyebrows arched into his bangs.

"She blamed herself. She said something she did when she woke up the other day started these rumors. She was concerned about you, that she offended you with this news."

Of course. "Anything else?"

"She knows of the continued mental instability. She said you were not to risk yourself in trying to correct it or contact her further."

"What did you tell her?"

"That I calculated a 98.99% probability that you would, sir, and that you would not give two damns about the risk."

Spock wryly noted the swearing, taking in T'Ratka's easily impressionable age. "I would suggest you not let Saavik be a model for your vocabulary, Ensign, but I congratulate you on your calculation and logic."

"Aye, sir."

"Anything else?"

"The lieutenant asked for her phaser or knife, but only when Dr. McCoy was near. Soluk," T'Ratka again gave a look for her fellow guard, "was going to give them to her."

Soluk nodded calmly enough when Spock looked over in question. "She is my superior officer, Captain."

"Quite true. However, until a peace accord can be set," Spock said dryly, "I suggest we keep weapons out of reach."

T'Ratka gave Soluk a silent "I told you so" which was greeted with a superior scowl.

"If there is nothing else," he asked them. They shook their heads. "Then I ask for a moment alone."

They immediately moved away, still in a good position to watch over their charges, but their backs turned and their ears carefully tuned out for what was said behind them.

"She discovered the rumored news about her relationship with you."

He remembered how all this started with him believing she'd never come to him for his pon farr, and how she was the one with the courage to do just that, with no urging from him, on Thieurrull. He owed her the same.

He looked at those healed hands and fit his fingers into her palms, wandering deep into her vacant eyes. "Saavik."

He stroked her palms with his fingertips, the intimate gesture sending currents up his arms. "The choice is yours, Saavik, but if you decide on me, I will come to you."

He waited, summoning patience. McCoy said he couldn't test her hands, said some neural damage still existed. Patience. The doctor couldn't know one way or the other if her telepathic senses worked. Silence did not mean refusal.

Patience.

"Saavik."

From a distance, light came back into her eyes and she cupped her hands around his fingers.