AN: I have always felt a strong pull towards Saavik. Her backstory is only hinted at in the films, and though she is quite the heroine in Carolyn Clowes's The Pandora Principle, I wanted to give my own take on her history, who she is and why she is that way, and most importantly, how she grew up and was influenced by the adults around her. This is the first story I've written that I feel such an emotional attachment to, so I'd really appreciate it if you would take the time to write a quick review and tell me what you think of it.

Disc.: I own nothing.

She is huddled outside the entrance to the Vulcans' camp, straining to hear their conversation. Not that she can understand much—she is still a child, and her knowledge of the Vulcan language is extremely inadequate. She has limited verbal prowess anyway—after concluding their genetic tests, the Romulan scientists had abandoned this wasteland of a planet along with the progeny of their test subjects. She and the other halfling children had scratched out a life here, or at least a semblance of a life. She is but eight years old, yet is one of the oldest still alive on Hellguard.

She starts when the tent flap opens abruptly, allowing one of the Vulcans to exit. His posture and even steps suggest an calm demeanor, but as he draws closer she can see the barely suppressed fire in his eyes. He seems to be staring up at the night sky, unaware of her presence, and she jumps slightly when he addresses her.

"What are you doing here, Saavik?" he asks in Vulcan, slowly so she can better understand him. She stands—no need to crouch when he's already seen her—and answers in a rough mix of Vulcan and Romulan.

"Nothing!" At his look (an arched eyebrow she would soon become very familiar with), she sighs, then elaborates. "Fine. I was waiting to hear what you were going to do with us." She drops her gaze to her feet, dirty and calloused from the hard terrain of her homeworld.

Spock kneels to her level and speaks quietly. "Saavik, my father and other members of the Vulcan crew are…hesitant to bring you children back to Vulcan. I have spoken out against my father, in favor of allowing you to return to our planet with us. My behavior has caused my father to cast me out for the duration of the meeting. However, my ship is nearby. I have put in a call to my captain; I am certain he will allow me aboard. I assume you would like to accompany me?"

She smiles, albeit a bit reservedly—although the Vulcan party has been around for weeks, and though she had been shadowing Spock for the majority of that time, she was still distrustful; she had seen first-hand the consequences of trusting anyone on this god-forsaken planet. "Spock? Why don't your father and the others want us?"

She swears a look of sadness appears in his eyes, but she blinks and it's gone. "That is of no importance." At the scowl quickly passing over her face, he amends, "I shall tell you when you're older."

Having to be satisfied with that answer, she grabs his hand in a moment of impulsivity and stares at him. "Fine. Then I'm coming with you, wherever you're going."

She's still holding his hand when they are transported to the Enterprise.

Opening her eyes, having squeezed them shut when the transporter beam first overtook them, she looks around the room she'd just materialized into. The walls are shiny chrome and the floor is vibrating slightly. There are other people in the room too, and Saavik expects Spock to drop her hand and move to speak with them, but he doesn't. Instead he looks down at her at asks in Vulcan, "Are you alright?"

Still unable to speak, she nods. He tugs at her hand slightly and she moves with him, stepping off the pad to greet the others. Spock speaks with them, but Saavik, unable to speak or understand Standard, is left unaware of what is being said. Then, a hand is on her shoulder, and she looks into the smiling face of a woman dressed in red, crouching at her eye level.

"Hello," the woman speaks quietly in Vulcan. "My name is Nyota. What is your name?"

Saavik looks questioningly up at Spock, who, having noticed the conversation taking place at his side, is regarding them with a strange look in his eye. Sensing her hesitation, he nods slightly, encouragingly. That's all the prompting Saavik needs.

"My name is Saavik," she replies proudly. The woman—Nyota—smiles.

Saavik will never forget the kindness Nyota Uhura showed her that first day, when she was nothing but a terrified child aboard a strange ship surrounded by an alien language.

~~**~~

Saavik has grown up quite a bit in the five years that have passed since she last set foot on the Enterprise. At thirteen, her mind is a sponge, soaking up all the information she possibly can, perhaps in an effort to make up for time lost on Hellguard. Her hair is no longer matted and caked with mud, her feet not calloused and her eyes much more vibrant than before. The five years she had spent with Spock as her teacher had brought about a complete change.

There were not only physical changes, but mental as well. Whereas before she had been a child, prone to lashing out in anger when things didn't go as she'd intended, now her Vulcan half reigned supreme. Emotions occasionally manifested themselves as a slight upturn of her lips or a quirked eyebrow, a trait she undoubtedly picked up from Spock, but those moments grew fewer as she aged.

As their shuttle docks in the Enterprise shuttle bay, she glances at her traveling companion. His expression is as stoic as ever, but Saavik, having spent the last five years with him at his home on Alpha Centauri, can read the look in his eyes as anticipation. He must be eager to return to his ship and to his friends, she muses. A few of Spock's fellow officers had stopped by while on leave during the years on Alpha Centauri, but Saavik knew that a few weeks spent with friends could not replace the feeling of living with them everyday aboard the Enterprise.

Saavik too was eager to return to the ship. She had questioned Spock endlessly about Starfleet and the Federation, wanting to know everything about the organizations her mentor believed in. The more she heard, the more she wanted to know. And although she would only be aboard the Enterprise until they dropped her off at Vulcan (her new home, as Spock had re-enlisted in the 'Fleet), she welcomed the opportunity to talk with officers firsthand, to hear their stories and to decide if this was the path she wanted to follow.

The doors open with a swoosh, and she sees Captain Kirk waiting for them. Forgetting for a moment her Vulcan discipline, she runs down the ramp and stops at his feet, snapping off a slightly messy salute. "Permission to come aboard, sir!" she asks loudly, her voice echoing around the cavernous dock.

Captain Kirk smiles at her, a chuckle in his voice as he replies, "Permission granted." He looks over her shoulder to where Spock is exiting the small craft in a more decorous manner. "Glad to see you haven't had too much of a bad influence on her, Spock," he greets his first officer with a twinkle in his eyes.

Spock affects an insulted air. "It was only fitting that she should be given the benefit of learning about both halves of her heritage, Captain." Then, dropping the pretense, he replies, "It is satisfying to see you again, Jim."

Kirk's smile becomes a grin. "Likewise, old friend."

Their journey to Vulcan is delayed as the Enterprise intercepts a distress call from a planet in the Phi Hydra system. She is not privy to the details, as she is merely a passenger and not an enlisted member of Starfleet. She only knows that the captain, Spock, and several others are members of a landing party. Hours later, Nyota comms her in her room to tell her that there were several casualties, and that only three were transported back aboard. As soon as Saavik closes the comm. link with Nyota, she bolts to Sickbay, only to be stopped, held back by the head nurse.

"The captain is in surgery right now, Saavik," Chapel murmurs quietly. She goes on to explain how Spock was injured by the indigenous people of the planet, and how Kirk managed to save his first officer's life, even while greatly risking his own. Spock was expected to make a full recovery, but as for the captain…

Saavik will never forget the heroism of that Starfleet captain as he fought for the lives of his fellow officers, and subsequently his own. She will forever state that Captain Kirk's unwavering bravery, even in the face of death, was her inspiration to join Starfleet.

~~**~~

Saavik is almost too excited to speak, although her now nearly-perfect Vulcan façade masks her glee. Approximately two days ago she received a sub-space communication informing her that she had been accepted to Starfleet Academy. Since she first made up her mind about enlisting five years ago, after that disastrous away mission, she had been dedicated to her studies, eager to earn a place in the prestigious academy. Now, all of the hard work, the lengthy hours spent studying, had paid off. She would be a member of Starfleet!

At the transporter technician's nod, she steps onto the main transporter pad in Shi'Kahr and lets the beam take her away.

Opening her eyes (she has always closed them during transport, ever since she was a child), she steps off the pad and asks Captain Kirk for permission to come aboard, albeit much less enthusiastically than previously. The captain's answer is the same, and he offers to escort her to her quarters to drop off her duffel bag.

"It was really very kind of you to bring me to Earth, Captain," Saavik says and hopes that her tone conveys the depth of gratitude she feels but cannot voice.

The captain smiles, and Saavik thinks he must have picked up on it. "It was no problem at all, my dear. The Enterprise was in the neighborhood and we're due back at Earth soon for a refit anyway. Plus this way you get to spend the trip with us and not any shady shuttle passengers."

They continue the small talk until they reach her temporary quarters. Captain Kirk waits outside until she deposits her belongings, then inquires, "You must be hungry, Saavik. Stop by the mess hall and have a bite?" She is about to refuse, but when she looks into his puppy-dog eyes, she nods her acquiescence.

Kirk gestures for Saavik to enter before him, and she is startled to see a large crowd gathered in the mess hall. A banner hung on the wall reads CONGRATULATIONS! and in the corner she can see a large cake. Amongst the masses she can see Spock, Nyota, Chekov, Chapel, and McCoy, and she can hear Kirk's delighted laughter from behind her.

She is certain that this party was not Spock's idea, as he prefers quieter gatherings. And Nyota, while thoughtful, most likely would have been unsure of Saavik's reaction to such a celebration. She is about to ask Captain Kirk whose idea this party was, when a hand taps her shoulder. Turning, she looks into the beaming face of Hikaru Sulu.

"Congratulations, Saavik! Getting into the Academy is no easy feat."

"Mr. Sulu? It was you who organized this?" He nods enthusiastically.

"Saavik, you must realize how much we all care about you! You're practically one of the crew! We couldn't let a monumental occasion like this pass without any recognition!" He holds up a bunch of beautiful, luminescent flowers, and she recalls a letter from Spock highlighting the lieutenant's knack for botany. "These are for you."

Touched by the gesture, her Vulcan mask drops away, and she gives Sulu a rare smile. "Thank you, Hikaru."

To Saavik, an orphan, the notion of familial love is alien. She credits Hikaru Sulu with making her feel welcomed and accepted, like she finally has a family.

~~**~~

She stands, back ramrod straight and arms stiff at her sides, a picture-perfect example of at attention. She tries valiantly to keep her eyes staring straight ahead, but they stray again to the black torpedo tube being lowered to her right, the blue flag of the United Federation of Planets fluttering in the descent.

Kirk says a few words, but she's not really listening. In fact, she's been running on autopilot since the Enterprise's final encounter with Kahn. Her senses have dulled—sounds are muffled, food turns to ashes in her mouth, her eyesight is blurred. Somewhere in the recesses of her fog-filled mind she knows what has happened; she and Spock shared a bond, like that between a father and daughter. The abrupt severing of the bond had caused her constellation of symptoms.

"Of my friend, I can only say this: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…human."

After the burial and subsequent dismissal, Saavik is pulled aside by Dr. McCoy. "Saavik, may I have a word?" he asks, his voice hoarse. Unable to speak for fear of expressing her grief, she merely nods.

The walk to sickbay is quiet, neither doctor nor lieutenant breaking the silence that seemed to have fallen over the entire ship since Spock's death. They enter sickbay and McCoy gestures for Saavik to follow him into his office. She takes a seat in the hard plastic chair across the desk from the still-silent doctor.

After a time, he speaks. "Saavik," he begins, his voice still unusual, "how are you feeling?" As she opens her mouth to reply, McCoy realizes the error in his phrasing. He rushes to cut her off, "And don't give me any of that bullshit about being a Vulcan and having no feelings. We both know that's not true."

She sighs, effectively opening the dam suppressing the torrent of emotions and allowing them to flood her system. She hangs her head. "I am ashamed, doctor. Spock would be disappointed by my lack of emotional control."

The doctor's eyes are gentle, his touch warm as he leans across the desk to lay a reassuring hand on her arm. The simple touch reassures her, and she continues. "I feel…anger at the one who took Spock's life. An anger I cannot control, no matter how I try."

"I believe he would say, do not try to," McCoy counters. At Saavik's sharp look, he quickly continues. "Spock struggled his whole life, trying to find a balance between his unemotional Vulcan and his all-too-human halves. It took him a long time to accept himself for what he was, for him to find peace. I do not believe he would want you to suffer as he did, caught between the convictions of two worlds."

Saavik's gaze softens, and McCoy's drawl washes over her. "Saavik, Spock knew a great deal of people. He cared deeply about a few, and I can count on one hand the number of people he loved. And Saavik," he tilts her chin so she has no choice but to look him straight in the eye, "he loved you. Don't ever doubt that."

She nods slowly.

It was not much, but it was enough.

Saavik credits Spock with cultivating her Vulcan side. She credits Leonard McCoy for making her realize that it's okay to not be Vulcan one hundred percent of the time.

~~**~~

She marches off the transporter pad as soon as she is able; barely pausing to ask the transporter technician for permission to come aboard, she exits, the doors sliding open to allow her to pass. Blindly, she navigates through the Enterprise, but instead of her feet taking her to the bridge, she finds herself nearing the brig. As she approaches, Valeris looks up, and arches an eyebrow.

"Saavik! It's been so long! What brings you here?" she asks in a falsely innocent voice.

If that's the game she wants to play… "You, actually," Saavik replies. She looks around, and noticing the security guard, speaks again in Vulcan. "What were you thinking, Valeris? How could you be a part of such a betrayal?"

Valeris stands, scowling now. "How dare you accuse me of anything, Saavik? You speak of betrayal, yet you betrayed your Romulan ancestry by lining up behind a weak, spineless Federation, afraid to take actions necessary to ensure supremacy at last over a hostile enemy!"

Saavik shakes her head. "I pity you, Valeris, for being unable to look beyond your emotions to see the logic of the situation."

"Logic!" Valeris hisses. "You sound just like Spock, always speaking of logic! You have no conception! Annihilating the Klingons was the logical option! I had no choice!"

"There are always possibilities, Valeris. Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end."

She had no idea where the words had come from, or why they seemed to resonate so strongly with the young traitor. She was only grateful that they had.

Saavik had often doubted the choices she'd made throughout her life. But here, in the presence of one so similar, yet who had followed such a different path, she is finally confident that, while she may not have made all the right decisions, she had turned out just fine.

~~**~~

Saavik stands proudly in front of the captain's chair on the Excalibur, a newly commissioned fighter ship embarking on its maiden voyage, patrolling the Romulan border. The assignment is perfect; with her Romulan heritage, the Federation may well have an edge over their somewhat hostile neighbors. There is no formal farewell—Starfleet does not want to overly publicize their new class of ships, and certainly not one that is headed into a quasi-covert patrol and recon mission.

The bridge crew complement is small—indeed, the entire ship is no bigger than a Bird of Prey, with a similar capacity. That doesn't matter. The ship is hers. She sits in the center chair, relishing in the feel of the smooth fabric against her fingertips.

She orders the helm to initiate the appropriate launch sequences, then sits back and watches her hand-picked crew perform their duties. All my life I've worked for a command of my own, and now it's finally happened. I just wish Spock was here to see me off…

She shrugs off the thought, deeming it just-too-emotional to be proper. Since her conversation with McCoy in sickbay 6 years prior, she had been striving to allow her Vulcan side to relax and allow her Romulan half to breathe. Although she still attempted to refrain from overt displays of emotion, she was getting there. It had not been an easy process.

The helm officer swivels to face his captain. "Spacedock reports all clear, Captain," he reports crisply, then turns to face forward again. Saavik is about to order the ship to warp when her communications officer chimes in.

"Captain? I'm receiving a transmission from…" a frown creases the young woman's face as she listens again for clarity, "…from Captain Kirk, sir."

A small smile graces her lips as she orders, "On screen."

The image comes into focus, and the smiling faces of the original Enterprise crew fill the forward viewscreen. There's Chekov, his recently-received admiral rank pin glinting on his chest; Sulu, with the same infectious grin as always; Scotty, winking at her and waving from the back of the group; Uhura, her kind eyes shining with pride; McCoy, with crossed arms and a crooked smile; Kirk, standing in the front of the group, all swaggering bravado; and finally Spock, sandwiched between Kirk and Uhura and looking for all the world like a parent watching his child take her first wobbling steps, both proud and melancholy.

"Greetings, Captain," Kirk says crisply, although there's no denying the hint of a smile playing about his eyes. Saavik stands at his address and bows her head slightly in acknowledgement, then inquires, "Captain Kirk, to what do I owe the honor of having the most accomplished crew in Starfleet history see the Excalibur and her crew off on her maiden voyage?"

Kirk replies, yet this time it's apparent that he is speaking for the entire crew gathered behind him. "We couldn't let you leave without saying goodbye!"

Chekov bids farewell in Russian, Sulu in Japanese, Uhura in Romulan, and McCoy in his Southern drawl. Finally it is Spock's turn. He lifts his right hand, fingers parted for the traditional gesture. "Live long and prosper, Saavikam," he intones in Vulcan, and though his face belies no emotion, his eyes are expressive beyond words.

Taking her seat, Saavik spares one last glance at the screen. "Good luck, Captain," Kirk bids by way of farewell.

"Thank you, sir. Live long and prosper," she replies, her throat tight and her heart full.

For Saavik, born of two worlds and claimed by neither, the crew of the Enterprise had been a family. She was certain that had it not been for their unconditional love, kindness, compassion, guidance, and acceptance, she would still be the same feral child Spock had adopted from Hellguard all those years ago. She owes them credit for all she had achieved.

"Ahead warp factor 3."

"Aye, Captain."