DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2018 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.

Hellcat

 

By Djinn

 

 

Chapel heard the comm system going off over the dueling snores of her husbands. She crawled over Jim and got to the comm, "Yes?"

 

"Private channel for the captain from Admiral Nogura," the comms officer on duty said.

 

"Hold on, I'll get him."

 

Getting him consisted of waking him up, and then being shunted into the bathroom with Spock so Jim could take the call in private.

 

She thought it likely that Spock could hear every word that was being said. Not that he'd tell her if he was—and he had his best "I am doing nothing wrong at all" face on. She leaned up against him and he put his arms around her, nuzzling silently—confirming her suspicion that he was listening.

 

Then again, it was possible he just didn't want "hearty morning sex" noises coming out of the bathroom when Jim was on the comm with his boss. Was it even morning yet? Chapel felt way too tired for it to be time to get up, and she'd been in such a rush to get to the comm terminal, she hadn't looked at the chrono.

 

"What time is it?" It was a rare day that Spock was too distracted to notice how much time they had to play before getting up.

 

"We have four more hours to sleep. Unless this is a crisis in which—"

 

She kissed him to shut him up. He tended to revert back to "State the Obvious" Spock when he'd been woken abruptly—especially after being worn out the night before by two amorous spouses.

 

She knew the Pon Farr was still on all their minds. That they'd almost lost each other. That they, in the end, had chosen to make it work. But that it hadn't been a given. That things did—and might again—get hard.

 

But they also were choosing love. And not worrying about who was with whom. They were a unit. And she loved that. She felt that they'd come out the other side stronger. Not forgetting was just prudent, because forgetting was the way to become complacent and risk that happening again.

 

"You are exhausted," Spock said softly.

 

"I'm really tired. Too much sex." She laughed quietly, pulling him back to her.

 

He seemed content to kiss her and made small moans as she moved her hands over places he loved to be touched. Maybe he wasn't eavesdropping?

 

The bathroom door opened and Jim said, "You can come back to bed. Although you look very pretty doing that so I'm a little torn." He yawned. "Actually, I'm not. Come back to bed, I'm beat."

 

"You do not have to attend to whatever the Admiral wanted?" Spock asked.

 

"Course change. Maxwell has it under control on the bridge. I'll brief you in due time."

 

Spock frowned slightly.

 

Christine knew that when Jim pulled out the "Sorry, can't tell you" voice, it was usually something not very nice they were headed into—and often classified.

 

"It may be nothing, Spock. We'll know more tomorrow. Now come on, our bed is calling." He left them in the bathroom and was already in bed when they walked out.

 

She let Spock have the middle this time; as much as she loved being back in the big bed with both her men, she was tired of being deafened by the snore-chestra.

 

##

 

Saavik sees the commandant and returns the strange little smile he always gives her. She is not afraid to play on the warmth she has parlayed into favors, into survival. But she enjoys it, too. He treats no other child this way. "Little Cat, it is time to say goodbye."

 

"Are we leaving?"

 

"I am. You are not. You will stay here."

 

She turns and sees the Romulans are packing their belongings into shuttles. What they cannot easily carry, they are destroying. "But...we are your children." In fact, she is his child, even if he has never told her that. Her mother did, spit it at her one day when Saavik came in bruised from a fight—a fight she had won because he had taught her how to.

 

He sighs. "You are our bastards. Our...experiments. There is a difference." But the way he ruffles his hand through her hair belies his tone, and his voice almost breaks.

 

"Take me with you. Take me home," she whispers.

 

"You have no home, Little Cat. The day you realize that is the day you will be truly free." He hands her his dagger. "Fight well with this. The food stores we are leaving for you are extremely limited." His expression changes. "At least there will be no adults to take them from you. Romulans leave no prisoners, but we also do not kill our own, even if you have no place with us."

 

She looks around and realizes all she sees are children. "But... There were so many adults."

 

"A Vulcan would know exactly how many. You are so Romulan." For a moment, he looks torn, but then he turns away.

 

"So we will die? Where is the logic in that?"

 

"Your mother taught you foolishness. Only a few races operate by the tenets of logic, child, and they will not rule the cosmos. It is a pity she did not die before you could soak up her ways."

 

She barely remembers her mother. A Vulcan. Beautiful. But cold—ashamed of her. She knows her mother taught her the basics of logic because it angered the Romulans, not because she wanted her daughter to be anything like her.

 

She meets the commandant's eyes and sees so many emotions in them, but she can tell that none will allow him to relent, to take her with him, to keep her safe.

 

She has always wondered why he taught her to fight. Now she knows. She turns on her heel and does not say goodbye.

 

But she fights tears as she hears him say it in their shared tongue.

 

##

 

Christine found Jim in their quarters, studying a padd. "Len said you wanted to see me."

 

He held his hand out to her, pulling her close and leaning his head on her hip.

 

"Orders you don't like?" she asked softly.

 

"More like orders to a place Spock is going to find hard to bear." He handed her the padd.

 

She read quickly: Romulans experimenting with captured Vulcans, a ten-year eugenics program of some kind, but no adults left, just children. Children who didn't read, didn't write, had spent their entire lives fighting for survival in some kind of Darwinian society. "How could they do this? It's..."

 

"Unspeakable. Yes." He took the padd and pulled her into his lap, but it was clear he was interested in closeness, not sex. "God knows what they had to do—what they've seen?"

 

"Does it remind you of Tarsus IV?"

 

He looked up, surprise clear on his face. Did he think she wouldn't understand? Finally, he nodded.

 

"I'm sorry, Jim. But we'll do right by them. Their lives will improve, right? A hard road, after all they've been through, but ultimately a healthier one. And happier, if they're allowed to feel that."

 

"Spock feels."

 

"I know. But he's always gone his own way."

 

"Do you think Sarek doesn't love Amanda? Isn't happy with her?"

 

She kissed him gently. "He married a human. I'm not sure we married into a typical family."

 

"Good point. They won't want to talk." His expression darkened; he was obviously referring to the kids again, not their in-laws. " You want to forget after horrible things. You want to move on. But you have to face things to move on." He studied her. "You have to face what you did to survive."

 

"I've never been in that position. I'm sorry." She stroked his cheek gently. "Other than Thule. But that's not the same thing. No one was hunting us, other than the elements. And we all had each other. And look where we ended up." She kissed him as tenderly as she could.

 

When they eased away, she could tell the sharing was over. His face was the captain again, not her husband.

 

She eased off his lap. "So what next?"

 

"Spock has been talking to his father all morning. Making plans for the children."

 

"How could the Romulans leave them to die? They're half Romulan."

 

"I don't know."

 

The door opened and Spock came in.

 

"I've read her in," Jim said.

 

Spock nodded, as if this was not a surprise. "I believe all is in order. My father is preparing a place for them. They will be evaluated. Those who are healthy enough will be assessed for where and how to integrate them into society."

 

"What about their families?" Christine asked.

 

"The Adelphi has sent us the genetic information of the survivors as well as the deceased adults and children, and I have forwarded it to my father but..." He actually sighed, loudly. "There is great shame in this. That so few survived will be seen as perhaps fortunate."

 

"Fortunate." Jim sounded resigned.

 

"What about compassion?" She moved closer. "What the hell about taking care of your own?"

 

"We shall."

 

"We, Vulcan, you mean? Not we, their families? What? In some kind of institution?"

 

"It will be up to each family to decide what is right for them. We cannot force them to welcome these children into their lives."

 

She started to say something, but Jim said, "Christine, this is hard enough for him." He stood. "And we'll be there in three hours. We need to be united, not fighting."

 

"Indeed, Jim."

 

She glared at both of them. "They're just children. Children who possibly killed other children just to survive."

 

"Yes. That makes them potentially quite dangerous." Spock's look was more tender than she expected given how she was insulting his society. "You must not let down your guard until we have assessed them." He turned to Jim. "Mister Chekov and I have configured one of the auxiliary sickbays into a temporary dormitory. With maximum security protocols."

 

"You think they'll try to take over the ship?" She almost laughed at the idea.

 

"Christine, they may have been trained to do exactly that. You must not view them as children, but as potential Romulan agents. We cannot discount that possibility until we know they have not been raised to infiltrate the Federation."

 

"This is insane." She pushed his hand away as he tried to lay it on her shoulder. To what? Calm her down? "I'm going to sickbay. Where I assume we still heal people no matter who they might be."

 

"Leonard is already working on the issue."

 

She cocked her head. "And didn't tell me."

 

Jim stood, clearly tired of her attitude. "I'm telling you now. This is sensitive beyond just Vulcan feelings about the status of these kids. If this is a plot, Starfleet Intelligence will want the knowledge of it contained. I'm only allowed to read in select personnel. So now that you're in the know, go help Bones." He sounded tired. Like he didn't want to be her captain, wanted to go back to holding her. But then he turned and motioned for Spock to follow, "So tell me what I need to know."

 

The door closed behind them and she tried to kick away the feeling of being left out, which was stupid. They did this; they worked closely together. More closely than either of them did with her.

 

So she took a moment to try to find the logic she knew she was capable of and went back to sickbay, not surprised when Len motioned her into the office. "You seem ticked off. I gather Jim read you in?"

 

"He did." She sat and studied him. "They're going to be prisoners on the ship, Len."

 

"I know, hon. Let's do our part to get them viewed as children, not spies."

 

She helped him prep the exam kits to take down to the makeshift dormitory. The other doctor and nurses on duty didn't ask questions, just started to help them when they saw what they were doing.

 

When they finished, she and Len sat in his office, waiting for the ship to establish orbit around a hell world.

 

##

 

Saavik watches the crew from the small ship herding children from one shelter to another. She knows the ship is called Adelphi because she heard the crew introduce themselves as she was fleeing, but they were not speaking Romulan, and there was an echo of another language under the Romulan, as if their voices were being translated as they spoke.

 

One of them is scanning and points to where she is hiding, so she ducks back, against the hills that contain some kind of metal that confuses sensors.

 

The ship landed two days ago. The small crew have not only been treating and feeding the surviving children but putting the bodies of the dead in some kind of bags. Then they began digging up the remains.

 

Her mother is there. Saavik feels very little about that.

 

She does not trust the people in the ship. She does not like the way they keep the survivors confined, weapons out, some kind of clear barrier transforming the shelters into cages.

 

She was lucky to get away. But not surprised that the other children probably told the men to look for her. She has the knife, after all. An advantage over all of them.

 

She is in the best health, has the fattest belly—although she knows that will change the longer she hides. There is nothing to eat but the little remaining of what the commandant left them, and now what the men in the ship provide. Both of which are kept far from her.

 

She is thirsty, too. The stream that feeds the settlement is blocked by the men and their shelters, and it is too long a walk to any others—if there are an others nearby. She grabbed a full water carrier on her way out of the settlement when she heard the ships, but it has only a few sips left.

 

She is not sure why she fled. The children do not appear to be suffering under the hands of the men in the ship: they are simply confined. But something in her said to run, so she listened. It is how she has survived so far. Relying on herself, on her own wits, on the intuition the commandant used to tell her to cherish since it would keep her alive when logic failed.

 

It is this instinct that keeps her hungry and thirsty; logic would dictate that she join the rest of the children.

 

But even hungry and thirsty, she is free and she wants to stay that way.

 

It may well mean she will die alone in this wasteland, but at least something will have finally been her choice.

 

##

 

Christine and Len accompanied Jim and Spock to the surface, relieving the crew of the Adelphi after being briefed on the current situation.

 

Spock examined the remaining Romulan tech, all destroyed, no doubt beyond any means to get the information back.

 

She crouched down next to him. "Anything?"

 

He shook his head. "They were quite thorough." He turned to the head of the scout team. "Have the children shown any sign of revolt?"

 

"No, but they're extremely weak. No one but us has come to the planet since they were abandoned with minimal stores. They say there's an older child out there"—he gestured toward the bare mountains that rose up beyond the camp—"who the commandant gave special favor to."

 

"A concubine?"

 

"I don't think so, sir. She's only ten. But she's a wily one. And armed with a dagger, from what the kids told us. We catch her biosigns every now and then, but then she gets closer to the mountains and the jivanium screws with our sensors." He turned to Jim. "We appreciate you taking them home, sir. We don't have room."

 

"Understood. I've got security men beaming down in a few minutes. You'll be clear to leave once they get here."

 

"Aye, sir. It's..." The man swallowed hard. "It's horrible. What's happened here." He turned and headed back to the shelters, as if talking about it was just too difficult.

 

Christine surveyed the body bags laid out, the smaller bins that would hold less complete remains. "So many."

 

Jim's eyes were hard as he followed her gaze, and she knew he was back on Tarsus IV for a moment, then he turned as Spock started to head out toward the mountain. "Spock, wait for security."

 

"It is better that I do this alone, Jim."

 

"Why?"

 

Spock turned, his eyebrow going up. "Because I can reach her."

 

"And you know this how?"

 

"I just do. Perhaps, I have been spending too much time with you?" His words were playful, but his expression wasn't.

 

"Maybe so." Jim sighed and pulled out his communicator. "Kirk to Chekov, we're ready for you down here."

 

"Aye, sir. Beaming now." A moment later he appeared with a contingent of security officers. He turned to watch Spock striding toward the mountains. "Do you want some of my men to go with him?"

 

"Send two. But tell them to keep well back unless Spock needs them. He thinks he's better suited to get this done. She's a ten-year-old child but she's got a knife and you should consider her dangerous.

 

"Understood, sir." Chekov motioned two officers forward and after a few words, sent them to tail Spock.

 

"All right, Bones," Jim said. "Let's see what we've got."

 

She tried not to bristle. She was his wife, not his CMO—he was going to look to Len first.

 

But then he looked back and made the little smile of "I know you're here, too," and she felt stupid and overly sensitive.

 

She glanced back to where she'd last seen Spock; he was out of sight. He could handle a ten-year-old. He was strong and smart and suspicious of her—possibly more so than humans would be. He'd be fine.

 

Meanwhile, there were children who weren't fine. She hurried to catch up to Len and Jim, steeling herself for what they were going to find in the shelters.

 

##

 

Saavik can tell someone is behind her, even if there should be no way to track her when she is this close to the mountains. She climbs up, because it has been her experience that few fail to consider that danger may come from above, and she waits.

 

He strides into view. A Vulcan?

 

"I am not here to hurt you," he says in Vulcan, but she somehow hears it as Romulan, too.

 

She answers back in Vulcan. "I do not believe you."

 

This time, when he answers, there is no echo in Romulan. "I presume you have little reason to." He looks up, his eyes scanning the ridge she is on. "I used to enjoy climbing. My father never looked up."

 

Does he know she is missing the commandant? Is that why he mentions his father? She will not show him that it hurts. "Some kind of game?"

 

"No, generally I was attempting to avoid him." He moves closer. "My name is Spock. I am part of Starfleet. Of the Federation. Do you know what those are?"

 

"No." She moves closer so she can study him. "I am Romulan."

 

"You are half Romulan, if I understand the purpose of this planet correctly."

 

"My Vulcan mother made it clear that half-breeds are abominations."

 

"I am half human. Not all who have mixed blood are seen as bad."

 

"So she was wrong?"

 

"She was forced to have you. That is what is abomination—the lack of consent—not you as an individual."

 

"Small comfort."

 

"Yes, I suppose that is true." He moves closer.

 

She pulls her knife out. He is almost under her. As he comes fatally close, she launches, stabbing down, aiming for the gut but only hitting the shoulder because he moves too fast—she is used to underfed adults, who are sluggish. He is obviously well fed.

 

He falls with her but twists, bringing her up under his arm, and she gets ready to elbow him when suddenly she feels his fingers on her neck. She has forgotten this thing Vulcans can do. None had used it in years because the Romulans cut off fingers in punishment, and no touch telepath wanted that.

 

She has no idea how to fight this attack. Her world goes black before she has to think too long about options.

 

##

 

Christine felt the bond ping hard, and saw Jim turn, both of them staring toward where Spock disappeared, their hands reaching up to their right shoulders. She expected her hand to come away bloody, but it didn't.

 

"Jim, he's injured."

 

Jim began to head off, but then two security men appeared in the distance, one with a child slung over his shoulder. The other walking behind, clearly ready in case she woke. And Spock was bringing up the rear and holding his shoulder, his hand covered with green.

 

"Bones, help me with Spock. Christine, assess the child." Jim ran to Spock.

 

"I don't need a scanner to diagnose that she's a goddamn menace." As Spock came closer, she saw a nasty knife she must have been carrying. "Over here," she motioned to the security officer, then turned to Spock. "Neck pinch?"

 

He nodded even as Len told him to hold still.

 

"Let's get some restraints on her. She's obviously an 'act first, ask questions later' kind of girl." She waited for the security officers to get the forcecuffs on her, then began to scan. "Astonishingly healthy, compared to the others. Age about ten."

 

"She's one of the oldest, then." Len walked over. "Spock says the dagger's Romulan."

 

"Did she steal it or did someone give it to her?"

 

"Does it matter?"

 

"Yeah, it does." She thought about the way favors worked, and scanned to see if this child had been trading her body for advantage, but to her great relief, she found no indication of sexual activity, consensual or non.

 

Spock walked over, Jim sticking close, watching him as if trying to figure out what he was thinking.

 

She realized she was having a hard time feeling him, too. After the pain of the stabbing, he'd shut down, probably to spare them, but had not opened back up.

 

"Revive her," he said, his voice harsher than she was used to.

 

"Spock, is that wise?" Len held his hand out when Spock pushed forward. "Why not get her up to the ship where we can control her better? The isolation room, for instance, in the auxiliary sickbay is perfect."

 

Spock seemed torn in a way Christine wasn't used to seeing him. It didn't make sense to her; she would have been in no hurry to get anywhere near the kid again.

 

"There are other children here, Spock." Jim actually took Spock's elbow, easing him away from the girl and to the tent where the others were being held.

 

"Color me old fashioned, but I wouldn't be so interested in a child who'd just skewered me as wickedly as this one did Spock." Len met her eyes. "You got any idea what's going on in his head?"

 

"I guess they connected out there."

 

"Before or after she tried to kill him."

 

"No idea." She could tell the girl was starting to come around and reached for the hypo before Len could tell her not to, sending her back into a nice deep sleep. "Don't lecture me."

 

"I was going to give you a commendation, hon'. Angry half-Vulcans aren't big on my list of favorite things."

 

He'd seen Spock during that first Pon Farr, and later with Zarabeth, when he'd reverted. And he'd faced down a very angry Spock after their own Pon Farr, when he wouldn't let him see her.

 

She studied the girl. Pretty but her hair was wild and her skin and clothes were covered with dust. But she'd clean up just fine—on the outside, anyway. God only knew how damaged she was on the inside.

 

##

 

Saavik wakes on a bed very different than the cots she is used to. She notices a strange vibration under her feet, then the smell of air that is somehow wrong. She sees the Vulcan she stabbed sitting just outside the doorway of the room she is in, and even though she no longer has her dagger, even though he lifts his hand and says, "Do not," she charges.

 

A moment later, she is on the ground, shaking herself from the shock of whatever barrier is between them.

 

"You have never seen a force field? I would have thought the Romulans used them."

 

She gets up and studies the doorway, easing closer until she can feel the slight tingle, running her hand close enough for the hair on her arm to rise. "The power was unreliable. The same thing in the mountains that defeats sensors interfered at times with the generators."

 

"Ah." Then he frowns. "But there were no bars."

 

"There was nowhere to go. And..." She takes a deep breath, remembering and not wanting to. "If you ran, they killed anyone you cared for."

 

"Were there suicides?"

 

"At first." She studies him now that the force field no longer fascinates her. "It is easy to kill someone else. Not so easy to kill yourself. Not without weapons. And the Romulans intervened if someone stopped eating or drinking."

 

"Were there no revolts?"

 

She imagines the feel of the dagger in her hand—how much safer she felt with it, taller and bigger. "No. There were more Romulans than captives. Not just guards but scientists. Rebellion was inefficient." Her mother told her this once, when Saavik was very young and asked why she did not do anything to free them.

 

"When the Romulans left, they killed all the adult captives. Why not you?"

 

"We were Romulans, if only half." She sits on the floor.

 

"How did you come to have the knife?"

 

"The commandant gave it to me when he left. I was his favorite." She meets his eyes. Wondering if he will see what she is not saying.

 

"You were his daughter?"

 

She nods.

 

"And yet he left you."

 

She turns away. "I was an experiment. Not a family member."

 

"But he left you the knife."

 

"He was...conflicted." She looks up to see if he is surprised she knows the word. Her mother used it more than once. Never about how she felt, always about how the commandant did.

 

"What is your name? Mine, if you remember, is Spock."

 

She sees no reason to hide her name, not when she is clearly his prisoner. "Saavik."

 

"Is that Romulan?"

 

"I do not know."

 

"Did the commandant give it to you?"

 

She nods.

 

"What did your mother call you?"

 

"Nothing." She hopes he sees how little she feels when she says it. Just as little as her mother did. "I meant more to the commandant, and I meant little to him." She pushes herself to her feet in one lithe movement. It is something she practiced, being able to get away fast.

 

But there is nowhere to go. "Let me out."

 

"I cannot. Not until I know you are not going to try to hurt anyone."

 

"I do not know where I am. I can guess that it is a ship. But even if I were to somehow get to the controls, I would not know how to do anything with them." She frowns. "Do you think I do not understand how cooperation gains certain freedoms?"

 

"I think you fully understand that. Which is why I cannot let you out just yet. Cooperation can be temporary."

 

"You wish something more permanent for me? Assimilation? Annihilation?" Will he admit it if that is what is ahead for her? "Indoctrination?"

 

He flinches. Just the smallest bit but she has learned to see that kind of thing. "You think you can fit me into your society? On...Vulcan?"

 

"You are half Vulcan."

 

"It is not my dominant half."

 

"That is not your doing." His eyes are full of something it takes her a long time to realize might be compassion.

 

"Do not pity me. Vulcans are weak."

 

"That is your truth. Perhaps I can change it." He gets up. "Do you prefer your food mild or spiced? I will bring you some Vulcan dishes."

 

She walks to the doorway, careful not to get too close, and looks past him. "Where are the other children?"

 

"In a different place, but nearby."

 

"Why am I alone?"

 

"You are the only one who was armed. And you are the only one who is healthy."

 

"So I am punished with confinement. You do not trust me."

 

"As I have said."

 

She wonders what he thinks her capable of. But, as he turns, she says, "Highly spiced."

 

"Excellent."

 

He will have to lower the field to give her the food. Should she try to escape? She was not lying when she said she would have no idea what to do with a ship.

 

But she is a fast learner.

 

When he comes back, with two trays, he puts one in a slot in the wall, never opening the field and she feels relief rather than disappointment. She does not know what she would do if she got out.

 

She is hungry so she eats quickly. She drinks the water he has brought and he refills the bottle for her twice.

 

The bottle is of a soft material. If she broke it, it would not make a good weapon.

 

She sees what she thinks is a small smile playing at his lips when she looks up. He knows what she is thinking?

 

Then a door opens behind him and a woman with dark hair comes in. She stands next to him with her hand on his neck, and he leans into her slightly.

 

"Jim wanted to know if you're coming to dinner, but I see you're not." She walks to the field. "Hello. My name is Christine." She smiles but it is not a real one. It does not reach her eyes. The commandant taught her to look for this. Her mother never would have—Saavik never saw her smile even once.

 

"Christine is human," Spock says. "You remember I said I was half human?"

 

She nods. She remembers. "What is a human like?"

 

"Emotional," both Christine and Spock say together. Christine laughs softly and her smile becomes genuine. "And very happy that you're free of that place."

 

Saavik gestures toward the field. "I am not free. I have just been moved to a different cell."

 

She looks stung. "It's temporary."

 

"Is not everything?" She can tell the woman does not know how to answer that.

 

Christine turns, touching Spock again on the arm and murmuring, "Don't stay here all night," and leaves.

 

"She is your...mate?"

 

"She is one of them."

 

She lets an eyebrow go up. "Interesting." It makes him more vulnerable to have so many he cares about. "A Vulcan this time?

 

"Another human. You will meet him later. Possibly tonight. He is in charge of this ship."

 

"You have important associations."

 

"I am second in command."

 

"Ah. Then it is the woman who has mated for advantage."

 

He thinks about it. "I think she would not necessarily agree." He almost smiles. "She is a healer."

 

"You put it that way so I will not equate her with the Romulan doctors who did cruel things to us. I am not so easily manipulated."

 

"That is because you are very bright."

 

The commandant always told her that, and suddenly she is not hungry and pushes what is left of her meal away. "I wish to rest."

 

"Then do so. There is a privacy area behind the screen if you need to relieve yourself. Rest well, Saavik."

 

She does not answer, just goes to the bed and faces away from him.

 

He does not take the tray, and it has a fork and spoon on it, so she waits for him to walk away and then retrieves them. They will not make fine weapons, but they can be modified to be useful. But as she lies, unsleeping, the utensils clutched in her hand, they begin to vibrate, then disintegrate into powder. She has no weapons and if she wishes to eat more later, she will have to use her hands.

 

It is how they ate in the camps. If Spock thinks it will be a hardship, he is very wrong. But it annoys her that he anticipated what she would do. She must not be predictable. Not if she wants to escape.

 

But escape to where? She feels an emptiness fill her.

 

It is hard to have hope when one has no home.

 

##

 

Christine followed Jim into their quarters after lingering over dinner and possibly having a few too many drinks in the lounge, and was surprised that Spock wasn't in bed already. "I thought he'd be back by now."

 

"I'll go introduce myself to the girl and rescue our husband." Jim kissed her quickly, then strode off in his best "Captain of the ship" mode.

 

She sat at her desk, rubbing her neck as she tried to concentrate on the padd, but then she heard the door open and turned, "Wow, that was fast."

 

Spock raised an eyebrow.

 

"Oh, it's just—I though it was both of you. Jim went to get you."

 

"Should you perhaps have some antitox?" Normally he was indulgent about drinking but tonight he sounded annoyed.

 

"I'm a doctor. I think I'd know if I needed it." Which was stupid. She probably did need it. So did Jim. But they had a nice lusty buzz on and wanted to focus it on Spock. Was that a crime?

 

"I have been meditating in guest quarters."

 

"You can't meditate here?"

 

He gave her a look that clearly said he was going to ignore the question. "You said Jim went to get me...in the children's containment area? I asked you both to give me time alone with her."

 

His words were a verbal slap and she could feel herself redden, but she was still having trouble feeling anything from him through the bond, which would usually tell her if he was truly annoyed at her or just generally bitchy. She started to ask about it, then chickened out.

 

He was her husband—and her bondmate. Why the hell couldn't she ask about this? If he was shutting her out, shouldn't she know why?

 

But one look at him and she knew she wouldn't push it, as he practically glared at her. But that didn't mean she was going to just back down. "Yeah, he went to find you. It is his ship."

 

Without a word, he turned for the door, so she followed him into the corridor and to the lift. They rode it in silence, until she asked softly, "You wish I'd stayed in our quarters, don't you?"

 

"I am unsure of the utility of your presence in this instance."

 

"Wow. Okay." She took a deep breath. "Maybe I just want us to face this as a unit. She's not just your problem."

 

"Is that what you saw when you looked at her? A problem?"

 

"That's not what I mean. You know what I mean, damn it." But he was already double-timing it down the corridor toward the auxiliary sickbay and she had to jog to keep up with him.

 

Jim was standing at the force field, talking to the girl. She could tell he'd taken some antitox by the controlled way he was smiling. "Spock?" He glanced at her, and she gave a little shake of her head in warning.

 

"I wish I had known you wanted to meet her." Spock sounded more than annoyed—was he angry? Why the hell did it matter that Jim wanted to meet her—on his own fucking ship?

 

Jim seemed to agree with her assessment. "I thought it was high time I met her. And we didn't need a chaperone, did we, Saavik?"

 

"No, sir." Her tone was respectful, but her eyes were wary. The kid could clearly read a room.

 

"I do not think threats are the best method."

 

Jim looked confused. "Threats?"

 

"The hierarchy she lived under was all consuming. Do you wish to establish yourself in the same role as the Romulans."

 

Now Jim looked mad. "Do I wish to—I'm sorry but were they in the habit of bringing her cookies?"

 

Christine realized the girl was holding a half-eaten ginger snap. "Guys, let's give Saavik some privacy to enjoy those cookies, okay? Because they look really good."

 

The girl cocked her head, and Christine had the feeling she was being assessed and found wanting for being the peacemaker. Yeah, well, welcome to marriage.

 

"Guys." She tried to use her doctor voice—the one they generally did not ignore.

 

And they didn't this time, both finally moving into the corridor. Jim turned on Spock the minute the door was closed. "What the hell, Spock? What did you think I was going to do?"

 

"I have formulated a strategy for reaching her. But it must not be contam—" He looked down.

 

"Were you going to say contaminated? By what? A human? Or is it just me you don't trust?"

 

"Jim, you do not have experience with children."

 

Christine closed her eyes. She couldn't believe Spock would say that. Not when Jim had no choice in the matter.

 

"And you do? I'm sorry, is there a part of your life we're missing. Some mystery son or daughter along with your mystery brother?" Jim got closer, the way he did when he was truly angry. "I remember a kid we met on our first mission. Grew up away from normal civilization. Name of Charlie. You recall that? His parents had to take him away for our safety."

 

"I also remember a child named Miri, who you reformed. All of those children were reformed, as I recall."

 

"They had parents who cared for them before the sickness came. They weren't raised as science experiments. Neither were the kids with their friendly angel alien. I'm not saying Saavik is one or the other. But you have to be prepared for the possibility that we are dealing with someone like Charlie—someone you can't help. And you seem to be losing perspective on that."

 

"We don't know which way she should go, and we shouldn't be fighting about it." She looked at Jim, trying to get him to let it go since he seemed the easier to convince. "But you can't shut us out, Spock. Well, maybe you can shut me out on this if you really want to, but not Jim."

 

"You wish to know what is next for her?" At Jim's nod, Spock said, "I plan to show her the ship. I think it will help her understand the enormity of change that is before her. The possibilities."

 

"Were you going to ask me if I thought she was ready for that?"

 

"Keeping her in a cell, Jim, will only reinforce what she already knows. That she is a pawn and that adults will hurt her. Even if they come bearing sweets."

 

Jim crossed his arm over his chest. "I checked with Len, Spock. You've shown almost no interest in the other kids. Why is this one so special?"

 

"She is the commandant's child. She had...more latitude than the others. He gave her the dagger so she would survive; she was given affection, trained to survive, to consider his ways, not just Vulcan as the rest of the children seem to gravitate toward. She was made to feel special and now feels...betrayed and abandoned. He left her, left her to deal with the fallout of his actions."

 

"Are we still talking about Saavik, Spock? Or your brother?"

 

She looked at Jim startled that he'd bring Sybok up again. But she saw something in Spock's expression that told her he was on to something.

 

Moving slowly, afraid to do anything to light the powder keg of emotion that suddenly seemed to be surrounding them, she got between them. "Let's go back to our quarters." When neither moved, she said, "Please?"

 

Spock stalked off first, which she considered a very good sign. She grabbed Jim's hand and pulled him with her, so they could catch up and stand in the lift together, Jim and she smiling at crew who got on and off during the ride. Then the short walk to their space, their sanctuary.

 

She moved first, pressing against Spock, "Please let us in, Spock. Whatever this is really about, we want to support you."

 

"I believe you do, Christine." He pulled her to his side, his arm tightly around her, and she suddenly felt like the prize he'd just claimed.

 

She slipped out of his grip, using a combination of moves she'd been learning from the self-defense trainer. It was one of her ways of getting ready for the next pon farr. She'd never be able to out-muscle them, but there were other ways to get away if things went south like they did the first time.

 

Spock and Jim were both obviously surprised.

 

Then she moved to Jim's side. Mainly because he made no move to grab her. "Don't ever do that to me again. I'm not your possession."

 

The tension in the room ratcheted up, but she didn't care. "Furthermore, why can't I feel you? What's wrong with the bond?" She turned to Jim. "Can you feel him?"

 

"No." He didn't sound mad, more hurt, when he reached out. "Spock, why are you shutting us out? We want to be here for you."

 

"I have told you what I need."

 

She was sick of his attitude, sick of the emptiness that filled where the bond should be, sick of seeing Jim's face register the emotional hits. "What you need? Oh, you mean for us to butt out so our annoying human ways don't fuck up you trying to create a perfect Vulcan out of that poor child."

 

Spock turned on his heel and walked out.

 

"And you were doing so well at mediating." Jim rubbed his eyes. "God damn it, Christine. What the hell is wrong with him?"

 

"I don't know." She walked to the viewscreen, snagging some antitox from her desk on the way—it made her feel sober but it didn't make her feel better. "Jim, you pushed it, and you know you did. Why did you go see her alone?"

 

"I went looking for him. He wasn't there. She was. I introduced myself. And I brought cookies—that Len approved, by the goddamn way—for all the kids, not just her. Is that a fucking crime now?" He turned away from her and walked into the bathroom.

 

She knew, if pneumatic doors could slam, theirs would be slamming very hard.

 

##

 

Saavik is bored, even with the padds they have given her. Padds with interactive games that she suspects are evaluating her intelligence as she plays.

 

She hears the door open but does not get up to see if it is Spock. She is not willing to show any eagerness. To give him that much power.

 

And if it is one of his mates, she does not want to give them that much respect. She is not sure why, but she is causing problems for them. She can read it in the way they stand, the way they talk when they are together. And she can tell by the grudging way the captain told Spock he could take her out.

 

She wants out. She wants out of this room so badly she could scream. But she suspects screaming would be the worst thing to do if she wants to gain Spock's trust. He is like her mother, wishing to teach her logic. Only his desire seems rooted in emotion, unlike hers, which was rooted in some kind of cultural pride.

 

She turns and sees it is Christine who has come in. She does not think Christine will take her out so she ignores her and goes back to playing.

 

"You're a clever girl." Christine's voice is soft. Soft and low and she sits in the chair that is Spock's and studies her.

 

"These games are assessing my intelligence, are they not?"

 

"Maybe." She smiles, but it seems to convey something other than happiness.

 

"Do you like me?"

 

"I hardly know you, Saavik? Do you like me?"

 

She shrugs. "You are important to Spock. So I anticipate having to interact with you." It is not smart to antagonize the lovers of the only person who seems to find her pleasing, but she cannot help it. She has been in this room for too long. The air is too cold and too stale, and no one has dropped the barrier. She is fed and watered through a slot, like the animals the Romulans kept to butcher.

 

Spock has not asked her if she eats animal flesh. She thinks he knows she must have. But every Vulcan meal he brings her is vegetarian. He has told her the reasons not to eat another living creature.

 

She finds them unconvincing. The strong prey on the weak. It has been the core lesson of her life.

 

Spock comes in and does not appear surprised to see Christine there. He merely says to Saavik, "Are you ready to see the ship?"

 

"Yes." She ignores Christine and as soon as it is clear Spock has dropped the force field, goes to the other side of him so she will not have to be near his mate.

 

If logic and things Vulcan are so important to him, why did he marry humans? This is a mystery she is not sure will be easily solved.

 

She forgets herself at times during the tour. Marveling at the views, at the tech, at the sheer number of people—so many different species—on the ship.

 

"We will save the bridge for another day," he says, sounding...sad, and she thinks the captain has not told him she can come up there. She understands that the bridge is a place of command and Spock's other mate does not trust her there.

 

"Spock, let's get her some ice cream. I don't know a kid who doesn't love it."

 

He is saying something, when Christine puts her hand on Saavik's shoulder.

 

She does not stop to think, she grabs Christine's hand and wrenches it in a way that causes a very loud snap.

 

To her credit, Christine does not cry out very loud. This is surprising.

 

"Saavik, why did you do that?" Spock seems torn whether to lecture her or tend to his mate.

 

"I'll just get to sickbay. Don't worry about me, Spock." She glares at Saavik then says, "More Charlie than Miri, I think."

 

Saavik does not understand the reference but it makes Spock angry, even if he barely shows it.

 

"Do not touch me again," Saavik says, wanting to defy Christine. To show support for Spock in some way.

 

"Don't worry, kid. I sure as shit won't."

 

"Christine, language, please."

 

"Here's a tip, hon'. Don't tell the lady with the broken wrist to watch her goddamn language." And then she walks away, cradling her hand.

 

Spock is standing very still. "Did you plan to hurt her?"

 

"No. People only touched to hurt on Hellguard. It was...instinctual to react."

 

"Do you regret hurting her?"

 

She can see it is very important that she says yes. But she does not think he will trust a quick yes. So she considers and finally nods when she realizes she does, to some extent, regret hurting his mate.

 

He seems to let out breath he was holding and she knows she has said the right thing the right way.

 

##

 

Christine sat in sickbay while Len worked on her wrist. "I gotta tell you, Christine. This child is not a fan of yours."

 

"Not to defend her, but I think it was more out of instinct than malice. I should have known better than to startle her."

 

"She's a kid. Having to worry that she'll hurt you should not be something that comes up on a normal day. Or even an abnormal one. The other kids—they're far more passive. Pleasant even, if very tentative." He scanned her wrist. "Okay, good as new."

 

"Thank you."

 

After her shift, she went back to their quarters, lying on the big bed, thinking about the last time they'd all made love. It felt like such a long time ago.

 

But it had only been a few days since the little hellion had come into their lives. It was as if Spock was turning off before their eyes.

 

As if he didn't love them anymore. Which was ridiculous. He'd known this child a hot minute.

 

She was still lying there when Jim came in barreling in, clearly agitated.

 

She frowned. "What now?"

 

"First, is your wrist okay?"

 

"Of course. Len patched me up. Did Spock tell you she hurt me?" She was surprised he'd admit his precious protˇgˇ had fucked up that bad.

 

"He did." He began to pace so she sat up so she could see his expression better. "He doesn't want it to happen again and obviously she can't stay here. So, when we get the kids to Vulcan, he plans to stay. To mentor her. He's put in for a year off."

 

Her stomach sank. "A year?"

 

"I countered with three months. We compromised at six. And...I want you to go with him."

 

"Jim, no. He needs to stay here. With us. The Vulcans are going to work with all the kids in some institution. That was the plan." A plan she'd had problems with until she met Saavik.

 

"And they still will. But he plans to take Saavik home. He's already talked to Sarek and Amanda." He sighed, loudly. "Why are we not part of this?"

 

"Because she hurt me." She closed her eyes in defeat. "Because he won't admit he's wrong. You know how he is. Once he's on a path..." She swallowed hard. "But can't Sarek and Amanda mentor her..."

 

"You know better than that. He won't stay here. That kid's got him. I don't know how. But she's wrapped him around her fingers." He pulled her to him, nuzzling her neck as he whispered, "I'm afraid, if you don't go with him...if you don't keep him grounded, we'll lose him. I'd go too if I could, but the ship...I just got her back."

 

"He hasn't asked me to go, Jim."

 

"And he probably won't. So you'll have to push it."

 

She started to protest and he shook his head. "You're very good at getting what you want and we both know it." He followed the words with a gentle stroke of her cheek. "You can keep him with us."

 

"But without you—promise me you'll visit. As often as you can?" She pulled away and forced him to look at her. "Jim, what if he thinks of her as a daughter? If that's the case, we need to, too, or we will lose him."

 

"I know. I don't really like her, though." He laughed, the slightly helpless laugh that always made her nervous because she was used to him being in control. "Do you?"

 

"She's not a fan of me as evidenced by my war wounds."

 

"That's not an answer."

 

"I guess I'll learn to like her. Or I'll be back here sooner rather than later." She stroked his face gently. "Tell me you don't want me to go."

 

"Of course I don't want you to go. I lived through this scenario after the Pon Farr. That you'd leave with Spock. That I'd be alone. I still could be. Once Spock has you alone..."

 

"What's wrong with you? I love you, and have no plans to become just his. And more importantly, he loves you as much as he loves us. He's just...obsessed the same way he was when he was helping Pike. Only this time, we know he's doing it and we'll get out of his way."

 

"That sounds like you're not going with him."

 

"I will. I'll just try to be...less of a bitch." She tipped his chin up. "I trust you to know what's best when it comes to him. But I'm also serious that you need to get to Vulcan as often as you can. Am I making myself clear?"

 

He smiled slowly. "I love you."

 

"Yeah, I know. That's why you married me." She laughed as he hiked her up onto the dresser. "Oh, sure, turn this into sex. See if I care." But the eager way she was pulling off her clothes gave lie to any thought of her being not in the mood. It just felt good to be touched, to connect.

 

"I need to get as much of you as I can before you're gone." He traced her cheek as he moved against her.

 

She threw her head back and rode out the high, but once she could think again, she wondered if he was going to need Spock just as much—and worried that he wasn't going to let himself. That he was going to let that little hellion come between them.

 

As he leaned against her, breathing hard, she murmured, "Don't shut him out, Jim. He's not leaving you. He's just helping her."

 

"Semantics." He pushed up, maintaining the connection, so she wrapped her legs around him and pulled him in closer. "Chris, I have these dreams where he left me. Just gone, for no reason that makes sense."

 

"He didn't leave you. He'll never leave you."

 

"Before we were lost. Before we were lovers. He...he spoke of a place called Gol. On Vulcan. A place to purge emotions. He spoke of it...longingly, Chris."

 

She wondered if he realized he was calling her Chris instead of Christine. He never had before. Was he trying to make something that was just theirs? "He's embraced emotions. He's bonded to us. He'd never do that."

 

"No, he'd never do that now. But what if being on Vulcan with Saavik is appealing? What if he doesn't want to come back?"

 

"Then we make a long-distance marriage work."

 

"Where would you be?"

 

"I'd be on the ship. I still have a career, you know." She started to unwrap her legs but he grabbed them, holding tight. "You want me to say I'd pick you."

 

"I want someone to pick me, yeah."

 

"Jim, sweetheart, where is this coming from? He loves you so. Why are you doubting this?"

 

"I saw how happy he was when he had you to himself after the pon farr—after I hurt you. I saw how happy you looked too, Christine."

 

"You sent us away." She shook her head, feeling tears coming but not sure why "And you're doing it again now, so don't make me go. He'll come back or he won't, with or without me." She kissed him almost desperately. "I won't have anything to do there. I'll just be in the way."

 

"You need to go because you're right: she's probably going to be our daughter if he's as smitten as I think he is with her. And she won't be if we're not there—she'll just be his, and this thing that is always between us all." He sighed. "And yes, I get that it has to be all of us, not just you and him. I absolutely need to find any excuse to get near Vulcan." He let go of her legs. "I just...things were so bad after the Pon Farr, but they've been good. They have, right?"

 

"Yes, they have." She kissed him as sweetly as she could. She wasn't used to seeing him this vulnerable. "And they will be again. I'll make sure of that. I'm your wife, too."

 

They kissed for a very long time. Then he said, "You need to tell Spock you want to come. He'll balk if he thinks it's my idea." He eased away and did up her uniform before his own. Then he went and poured them both some scotch.

 

She joined him at the viewscreen, taking the glass. "He'll know once he melds with me that I'm lying."

 

"Then don't let him meld with you till you're on Vulcan and it's too late for him to say no. He's in full-on Dad mode. He'll do anything to protect her. Even from us."

 

"He's not Carol."

 

"He might as well be." He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Letting out bitterness that she thought probably had as much to do with David as with Saavik. Then he held up his glass. "To you winning the little brat over."

 

"To you not thinking of her as the little brat."

 

"Oh, that's my nice version." He clinked his glass against hers, his eyes twinkling. "You'll have your hands full. I'll send a bottle with you."

 

She leaned her head on his shoulder. "Nothing says love like parting with your best scotch."

 

"Amen."

 

##

 

Saavik sits between Spock and his female mate. She can sense the tension between them and is unsure why Christine has chosen to accompany them to Vulcan.

 

She thinks Spock is also uncertain about her motive.

 

And Saavik knows she has one. She is wary around Saavik, tensing every time she moves to get something from the compartment in the seat ahead of them. As if Saavik might hurt her again.

 

She thinks Spock notices this.

 

Finally, Christine gets up and says she needs something called scotch. By Spock's expression, Saavik understands he does not approve.

 

"Why is she here?" she murmurs once she is gone, so softly he can choose to ignore it if he wishes. It is how she would ask the commandant her most difficult questions. Sometimes, he did not answer and she would never ask again.

 

"She wants to be part of your life, Saavik."

 

"But she fears me."

 

"Yes. But she does not know you. In time, she will not fear you."

 

"Do I have anything to learn from her?" She studies his face.

 

"Of course. There is a saying on Vulcan: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. IDIC."

 

"What will she, specifically, teach me that you cannot?"

 

He breathes out more audibly than usual. "Time will tell."

 

"In other words, you do not know."

 

"That is not what I said."

 

"No, but it is what you meant." She sees Christine coming back to their seats. She has a beverage of some kind, golden colored, and only filling a third of the glass. Did Christine drink the rest or is this some kind of human ritual—to leave so much of the glass empty?

 

But then she sees that Christine also holds a bottle of water and another bottle of what looks like orange juice, which she has discovered a great fondness for. She looks up at Christine in surprise.

 

"He mentioned you like it. Extra pulp and everything." She hands it over with a smile that Saavik reads as genuine—one that also says she does not care if Saavik drinks it or not—and sits down.

 

She is not currying favor. She is merely being...kind.

 

Spock takes the water without comment. Saavik studies him. He does not open his water so she is unsure whether to open the juice container.

 

Finally he says, "You may drink if you are thirsty, Saavik."

 

Christine looks as if she is going to say something, to rebel, and Saavik wonders what tack she will take, but instead she closes her eyes and breathes deeply, as if in the meditation Spock has tried to teach Saavik. Then she reaches for her glass and takes a long drink. There is only half the amount of liquid left.

 

"I suggest you moderate—"

 

Christine gets up before he can finish. She drinks the rest of the golden liquid and then says, "I need a refill. I may be a while. The bar, at least, is friendly."

 

Saavik stares down at her juice. She is thirsty and wishes to drink, but it is important to ally herself with the most powerful person—the one who has not fled.

 

She slips the bottle into the container in the seat ahead of her, where it will stay cold, and tries not to think about how good it would taste.

 

##

 

Christine followed Spock into his house without a word, then pushed past him to the room she and Jim always shared with him. No way she was going to let him stick her in some guest room because he was annoyed with her.

 

Amanda followed her. "We didn't expect you. Why didn't we expect you?"

 

"He's on some kind of quest with the girl. It doesn't, apparently, involve Jim or me." She sat down and stared at Amanda. "The girl, by the way, can be dangerous if you startle her. I found this out the hard way."

 

"Is she malicious?"

 

Christine thought about the way Saavik had stared at the orange juice. At how she had made the poor child a pawn by bringing it—and she'd known she would. "No. But I think I might be."

 

Amanda sat next to her. "Do you want to talk about it?"

 

"I don't know." She heard Spock coming down the hall, talking to his father. They walked past, Saavik in tow. "Is it a nice room? Pink and full of ponies and rainbows?"

 

"Hardly the stuff of Vulcans." Amanda laughed softly. "I loved ponies."

 

"I loved unicorns." She sighed. "Saavik has known neither."

 

"Well, there's still time. I'm sure there are unicorns somewhere in this wide universe." She grinned. "And ponies can be found on Earth."

 

"What if he won't let ever her be a child?"

 

"Why would you think that?"

 

"I don't know." She felt bad for badmouthing Spock to his mom. "I'm sorry. I'm just so tired."

 

"Lie down and rest. I'm going to go meet this child that has so many people I love twisted up in knots." She closed the door on her way out, and Christine lay back on the bed but couldn't relax enough to sleep.

 

Spock came in eventually, closing the door and studying her. "You told me you wanted to get to know her."

 

"Jim told me to tell you that." It's the wrong thing to say, and if she wasn't so tired—of travelling, of being on edge around Saavik...and Spock—she wouldn't have said it.

 

"Why would you lie to me? And if Jim wanted you here, why could he not tell me?"

 

"Because you've been acting like a stranger. Spock, I can't feel you. Through the bond. I haven't since she stabbed you. Why? Why would you shut us out—especially when we all nearly lost each other after the Pon Farr?"

 

He moved toward her, his look finally some semblance of the tender one she was used to. "That is behind us. We repaired the fractures that I caused us."

 

"You didn't cause—"

 

"I did. You and Jim would never have had to endure that but for me." He sat down. "You are my mates. But you are also a significant distraction. There will be times that I need to..."

 

"To keep us away?"

 

"I am Vulcan. When I need time, this is how I will get it. Do you think my father has never done this to my mother?"

 

"I don't know. Should I ask her?" By the look on his face, she could tell he wasn't sure, was just saying it to give more power to his point.

 

She moved closer to him, running her fingers over his hand. "Spock, I need you. You haven't touched me in a while."

 

"You should have stayed with Jim if you wanted that."

 

"We can't have sex while we're here?"

 

He stroked her hair. "We can. But you do not want to merely have sex. You want me to be the man who can lose himself in you. And I will be that man again, Christine. Nothing has changed. But at the moment, this girl is my focus."

 

"Why?"

 

"Because she needs me. And no one else will do. But you are not alone. You have Jim as well as me. If you are lonely, go back to the ship." His tone was gentle. He was not trying to be unkind.

 

But still, it hurt. "This feels like the old days. When I was nothing you wanted."

 

He leaned down, so quickly it took her by surprise. His lips on hers were fierce, his hands on her body possessive. "Do not say foolish things, my wife." Then he was up and out of the room, and she was left wondering what the hell Jim thought she was going to accomplish here.

 

Miracles, apparently. She was pretty sure she was going to prove he was a goddamned fool.

 

##

 

Saavik likes Spock's house. It is large and after a week of being chaperoned without incident, she has been given free run of it. Spock's father is imposing and she knows without being told that it is important to please him.

 

Spock's mother is not imposing, but Saavik knows that this does not mean she can take advantage of her. She can see in how Spock treats her that she is important to him.

 

It is Christine that puzzles her. There are times, when Spock watches Christine, that Saavik can clearly see she is his mate. His look is possessive and even affectionate. And he treats her with respect. But when he works with Saavik, whether on meditation or studies or any other thing, he seems to prefer that Christine not be a part of that.

 

Saavik can tell this does not make Christine happy. If she wanted to, if this were Hellguard and she needed to drive her off, she thinks she could do it easily.

 

But this is not Hellguard and Christine brought her juice when she did not have to.

 

The house is quiet now, Spock has gone to talk to the people at the school he wishes her to attend, and Amanda and Sarek are at some engagement. Christine is sitting in the main salon, reading a padd.

 

Saavik knows there is a bottle of golden liquid in Christine's bag because she has gone through it. She has gone through many things in the house.

 

She has taken nothing. She is not a thief. But knowing what someone values brings understanding. The commandant taught her that. And knowing what people keep hidden is also useful information.

 

She finds a glass in a kitchen cupboard that looks like the one Christine had on the shuttle, and goes into the room Christine shares with Spock. The bottle is no longer in the bag, is in fact sitting on the nightstand, and Saavik studies it.

 

It is not full. The seal is broken. Christine has already been drinking from it.

 

She opens the bottle and sniffs, pulling back quickly as her eyes water. Her respect for Christine goes up. The woman may avoid spicy food during meals but clearly if she can handle this, she is more robust than Saavik thought.

 

She pours the same amount Christine had on the shuttle, stoppers the bottle and sets it back where it was, then carries the glass out to where Christine sits.

 

Christine starts laughing. "I hope you didn't drink any of that."

 

"I did not. I smelled it. It burns."

 

"Oh yeah." She narrows her eyes. "Did you poison it?"

 

Saavik feels stung. "No. Why would I?"

 

"To get rid of me."

 

"I could break your neck with little effort."

 

"Comforting thought." Christine takes the glass from her. "Bottoms up, kid."

 

Saavik has no idea what that means. Christine says many such things, and she has learned to ignore them unless they interest her enough to ask her to explain the words.

This does not, so she asks, "What are you reading?"

 

"Medical reports."

 

"Whose?"

 

"That is none of your business. But not yours." She seems to be studying Saavik. "Why did you bring me this?"

 

"You avoid me." She hurries to add. "And Spock keeps us apart."

 

"No flies on you."

 

Saavik does not need an explanation for that one. Flies were plentiful on Hellguard and the dead were not always discovered right away. "Do you wish he did not find me when I was hiding?"

 

"Not if it means you never got found."

 

Saavik likes the logic of that. "But if someone else had found me instead?"

 

She expects Christine to say yes, quickly. But the woman thinks about it. "You stabbed Spock. Had he been human, with different anatomy, you might have killed him." She takes a sip of her drink, her expression changing not at all, despite how much it must burn. "I am not sure what would have happened to you. You certainly wouldn't have ended up in this house. So...I find it hard to wish more hardship on you."

 

"But you would like him back on the ship."

 

"Yes. Yes, I would." She closes her eyes. "But that's selfish of me. And I know it." She takes another sip and seems to sigh happily.

 

"You enjoy that?" She edges closer. "May I taste it?"

 

"Baby, you'll be sorry." But she gives her the glass. "I recommend the tiniest of sips."

 

Saavik decides to listen to her because she speaks with authority, like she does when she is doing medical things. The liquid hits her tongue and she cannot help it, she grimaces in a way Spock would not approve of. "I do not understand the appeal of this beverage."

 

"And if you keep it that way, Spock will be most pleased. We won't tell him you tried it."

 

"You would lie to him?" Is that what marriage is?

 

"He won't ask. Unless you volunteer the info. Do you plan to? He may wonder why you thought bringing me a drink was a good idea. Unless you're trying to understand me. That was important where you grew up, wasn't it? To know where people fit—what they were made of?"

 

Saavik decides not to answer, but she meets Christine's eyes, trying to assess how much the woman knows and how much she is guessing. Spock has told her humans often rely on intuition rather than logical thinking. "Surviving required many skills," she finally says.

 

The door opens and she moves a few steps away from Christine. Spock comes into the room, his expression neutral until he sees the glass in her hand.

 

"What?" Christine says with a grin that is both disarming and rebellious—Saavik admires the duality. "I can't drink around her?"

 

He does not answer. Merely gestures for Saavik to follow him to the room he has turned into a classroom. She glances back at Christine, who has taken all the responsibility off of her. Christine does not look happy, and she smiles in a way Saavik decides is bitter, then goes back to her padd.

 

Saavik can taste the golden liquid on her breath. She grabs a mint from the bowl Amanda keeps in the hallway. They are made from Vulcan herbs that have soothing properties, so Spock does not berate her for the indulgence.

 

And does not notice the subterfuge.

 

It is a weakness of his, she realizes. Sometimes, he sees what he wants to see. She does not think Christine, and probably their other mate, would make the same mistake.

 

It is a revelation.

 

##

 

Christine found Spock in their room, packing a small bag. "Are you going somewhere?"

 

"Saavik and I are going on a retreat. We will be gone several days."

 

A sound behind her made her turn; Saavik was sitting in the armchair Christine always read in. Sitting so quietly with an expression Christine could not read. "Hi there."

 

Saavik said softly, "Hi." Again, there seemed to be a look that Christine could not decipher.

 

She decided to go with her gut and said, "Well, I'll pack a bag, too."

 

"You are not going. The environment is taxing."

 

"Oh and Thule was a walk in the fucking park." She saw him nearly wince at her choice of words. "She'll need to get used to all sorts of language, Spock."

 

Which she actually didn't believe—normally she'd watch her mouth around a kid—but he didn't treat Saavik like a kid, just a very small Vulcan.

 

"Christine, please."

 

"What if you need a rabbit dressed?" She could see his reaction before he said anything. "How the hell do you know she wouldn't like some meat?" She turned to stare at Saavik. "Were you vegetarian on the planet?"

 

Saavik looked torn, as if she didn't want to lie but didn't want to disappoint Spock either. Christine took pity on her and said, "Never mind. I withdraw the question. He'll make you one. Whether you like it or not."

 

"You will not take your anger out on her." Spock took her by the arm and turned her toward the door. "We will discuss this when Saavik and I return."

 

"You bet we will." She could tell he expected her to leave, but instead she walked to Saavik and knelt down. "I'm not mad at you, honey. I'm usually not mean." She gently stroked her hair, letting the tentative touch turn into a caress and was surprised when, just for a moment, Saavik leaned into her hand. "Be careful."

 

"I am skilled in survival," Saavik said softly.

 

"I know. Keep him safe, then." She met the girl's eyes, saw how much older her gaze was—hated how much older her gaze was. "Okay, have fun." She stood and saw that was obviously the wrong thing to say by the near-scowl on Spock's face. "And you. Don't die out there."

 

Then she strode out, trying her best not to stomp.

 

She was shaking by the time she got to the door to the garden, crying by the time she found the bench deepest into the flowers and sat down.

 

A few minutes later, she heard the door open and close, and soft footsteps coming toward her. "Oh, sweetie." Amanda sat next to her, hugging her tightly.

 

"I'm getting nowhere."

 

"I don't think that's true. I think Saavik likes you."

 

"Yeah, sure she does." But she thought of the look they'd shared. Was she getting through to the girl or did she just crave some meat and Christine seemed the likeliest person to get her some?

 

"You need to go back to the ship and Jim." Amanda's tone was firm but gentle.

 

"I can't leave. I'll—we'll lose him."

 

"You won't lose him. You can't lose him, darling. You're bonded to him. Both of you are to everyone's amazement, even if no Vulcan will admit to that reaction." She rubbed Christine's back softly. "You need to realize something that I'm not sure you've considered. This isn't about you or Jim. It's about Sybok." She exhaled softly. "Spock couldn't save him, but he can save Saavik. And he will, Christine. He's already made great strides."

 

"Jim did think of that. But she's not Sybok."

 

"Do you think that matters?"

 

Christine didn't answer, but finally shook her head.

 

"Darling, you know I love you, but you're not helping here."

 

"So you think I should just surrender him to her?"

 

"She'll be yours, too. And Jim's. Not now, but eventually. Come back in a month or so. I think you'll be surprised."

 

A month? "No."

 

"Yes. If you stay, you'll force her to choose between you two, and she'll choose Spock—and he'll choose her, and that will kill you. I don't want that for you or him or Jim or especially her. She needs you. She'll need Jim. She's a child and she's never had a moment of fun. She certainly won't have it here. That's your job, Christine—yours and Jim's. When she's tamed to Spock's satisfaction, you and Jim will show her what fun is."

 

Christine realized Amanda was crying softly. "Hey. It's okay. I'm sorry."

 

"No, darling, it's not—you'll show her what love is, too. The same way I did him. I know you will. But you can't do it if you're fighting with him. Because you just might lose him over this. So go back to the ship. Enjoy your other husband." She smiled with a "I can't believe I just said that" sort of grin and wiped away her tears. "Look at me. All sentimental. Children, grandchildren now. She's a beautiful girl."

 

"She is."

 

"I said grandchildren for a reason. Do you think you'll ever...?"

 

"I don't know. We talk about it sometimes. But they don't allow babies on a starship and we're not ready to not be together."

 

"I understand." She narrowed her eyes. "And it might not be Spock's. I didn't have an easy time conceiving."

 

"He's half human. It'd be easier. And he and I can both work on making it easier. Len, too. He'll have ideas."

 

"Ever the scientist. It's one reason he loves you." Her expression grew serious. "I hope you know I would welcome your child no matter which of your husbands the father was. I love you, not just the wife of my son. And I love Jim, too."

 

"I know. We love you, too, Amanda." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I guess I should pack."

 

"I guess you should." Her hand on Christine's back didn't drop. "But maybe not just yet. Let's enjoy the roses for a little while—it's so nice to have you here."

 

##

 

Saavik follows Spock through the sand even though she would rather lead. But he expects her to let him go first, to be her teacher—in all things, not just Vulcan things.

 

This surprises her. She always thought logic equaled wisdom, but he was not wise in dealing with Christine. He humiliated her.

 

She has seen so many humiliated in her time—has experienced it herself—that she could nearly feel the pain coming off the human woman.

 

She felt...she felt bad for her. Sorry. She tried to show her that, by leaning in when Christine stroked her hair.

 

Spock never does that, but his mother does. His mother seems to expect nothing of her except to try new foods and discover what she enjoys and what she does not. When Amanda smiles, Saavik feels something hard go down inside her.

 

She likes to follow her around the rose garden. The smell is lovely and it is where Amanda is happiest.

 

Happiness is such a foreign idea. Much like the new foods. She finds she cannot get enough of either of them.

 

She wishes that Christine was happier. She thinks she would be nice to follow around, too.

 

"Saavik, keep up." Spock's voice is firm but gentle.

 

She thinks he cares for her. She is not sure why she does, but she does not question it. Unlike some on Hellguard who pretended to be her friend because of the way the commandant treated her, Spock has nothing to gain by feigning affection. She is worth nothing to him and still he wants her company.

 

It is strange. But reassuring.

 

##

 

Christine walked slowly down the corridors after beaming aboard, and paused in front of the door to their quarters, taking a deep breath, trying to throw off the anger she felt, anger that had grown the farther she'd gotten from Vulcan. Finally, she gave up and palmed the door open.

 

Jim was at the desk working. He looked around, clearly not sure who was walking in.

 

She hadn't commed him, had been afraid he'd tell her to stay. "Surprise."

 

He was up and to her so quickly it surprised her, pulling her close. "Is Spock with you?"

 

"No. No, he's not." She could hear defeat in her voice, but if she couldn't share it with him, who could she share it with? "Amanda told me to come home."

 

He started to bristle and she shook her head. "No, she was right. I was just...fighting with him. It wasn't helping Saavik. Or our marriage." She pulled him closer. "Could you kiss me please? I feel slightly unloved right now."

 

"You're definitely not unloved here." He took her bag from her shoulder and set it down, then drew her to the bed. But he didn't undress her, just urged her onto it and pulled her in close. "God, I missed you."

 

"Me too." She tapped her lips. "Kisses. Now."

 

"Tyrant." But he kissed her. Very nicely, very thoroughly, and she held on to him almost frantically. "Chris, are you okay?"

 

"I'm just so mad at him."

 

"Does he know you're gone?"

 

"If he's back from his walkabout in the desert with Saavik, he does." She rolled her eyes. "Amanda made me leave a note. Even helped me write it since mine was basically just 'Fuck you.'"

 

He started to laugh.

 

"It was way nicer in her words. All about trust and giving him space blah blah blah." She pushed her head against his shoulder. "But I like my version better."

 

"I do, too." He sighed. "So, we just wait?"

 

"In Amanda's shiny happy world, you and I show Saavik love and fun. Once Spock gets done making a Vulcan out of her."

 

"She's a child of two worlds just like him."

 

"Well, let's hope he remembers that." She stretched out, feeling herself relax finally. "I was lying in bed next to him and he was just so shut down. We never melded—he didn't want to so we never had sex either, because I wanted more." She sighed. "We're a distraction right now. That's why we can't feel him. But...after having the bond, it's so weird to feel..."

 

"Nothing. I know."

 

"I'm angry with him but then I'm angry at myself because he's doing this to help a little girl who's been through hell. I feel petty. But I'm...pissed and hurt. And I can't tell anyone."

 

"You can tell me and I can tell you. And we can work it out so when he comes back—"

 

She made a face.

 

"No, Chris, when, not if, he comes back. When he does, then we won't sandbag him with all our angst. We'll be ready for him."

 

"And Saavik. Because she's not going away."

 

"Do you want her to?" He watched her so intently, in a way she'd missed with Spock being so focused on Saavik.

 

"I actually don't. I think, at the end, we were connecting."

 

"Yeah?"

 

"Yeah. I think there might be a nice little girl under all that armor." She studied him, afraid to break the mood, but finally have to speak. "Can I ask you something?"

 

"You have to ask?" He leaned back, arms behind his head.

 

"What's with calling me Chris?"

 

"You don't like the name?" He glanced over at her.

 

"No, I love it actually. But you've never called me that. You and Spock always call me Christine."

 

"Maybe I don't want it that way anymore. Maybe I need it not to be that way anymore."

 

"Fair enough. I think you've got months to get over that." She smiled and rolled so she could snake her arm over his chest.

 

They lay in silence for a moment, then she asked, "What if he doesn't come back, Jim? What if he decides we're too much of a distraction?"

 

"Then we'll divorce him and be with each other." He tipped her chin up so she was looking at him. "I mean it, Chris. I'm not just with you because you're part of the package. But it's kind of immaterial because he's coming back. I know him. He's...hell bent right now but he'll come back when he's ready."

 

"Amanda agreed with you, that it's because he sees his brother in Saavik—the chance to save him through her. That this is something deep inside him that was never resolved, and we need to understand that. But we're his...loves. I want to share his pain."

 

"We're human, Chris. Maybe...maybe this is where we allow him to be Vulcan and not share. Even if we don't like it."

 

"You're wise, Captain Kirk."

 

"And you're beautiful, Mrs. Kirk."

 

She laughed. "I think you're Mister Chapel, buster."

 

"Fine. But did you catch the beautiful part. Because while we're being reasonable and giving Spock his space"—he grinned in the way she loved—"we're going to make love like there's no tomorrow."

 

She started to laugh. "We will, huh?" But she rubbed his chest, to show him she liked the idea.

 

"Oh, yeah." He started to laugh, too. "I may wear some of his clothes while we do it. Or maybe spread his robes out and screw on top of them. The mother of all wet spots waiting for him."

 

She was laughing harder, almost hysteria, she knew. Relief after trying to be reasonable and loving and supportive. "Can we just do it on the bed tonight? I don't have the energy for enhanced sexual vengeance."

 

"Lightweight." He nuzzled her neck as he began to slip her clothes off. "Let's just enjoy this time. I've never had you all to myself like this."

 

She reached up and touched his cheek gently. "It's okay to miss him, Jim."

 

"Does that mean you're not going to enjoy this?" He finished making her naked as she smiled. "Ah, so you think you might?"

 

She nodded.

 

"Are you going to take my clothes off?"

 

"Nope. Punishment for sending me away in the first place. You can take your own goddamn clothes off tonight. And make it snappy, Mister."

 

"Aye aye, sir." He had his clothing off in record time and moved between her legs, kissing down and down and...

 

"Oh, God, yesssssss."

 

He was inside her before she'd even come all the way down, taking her almost violently, but he was watching her face, as if this might remind her of the Pon Farr so she dug her nails into his arm and said, "It's okay. Let go. I understand."

 

And he did. And she did. And when it was over and he lay breathless in her arms, he whispered, "I love you so much. I'm sorry I sent you away. Should have kept you here for myself."

 

"It'll work out," she murmured as she stroked his back the way he liked. "It has to. I don't want to divorce him."

 

"Me, neither." He played with her hair, watching her, and she wondered what he saw. "Do you want to have a baby?"

 

"Someday, yeah. Not tonight, though, okay?"

 

He chuckled. "Okay. Do you want to have my baby is I think what I'm asking."

 

"Wow, when you mark your territory, you go all the way." She studied him. "I always thought that, when we were ready, I'd just go off the contraceptives and one of you would make me pregnant."

 

"Are the odds in my favor? Hybrids are generally sterile."

 

"They are. He's not, though."

 

His eyebrows went up.

 

"He never asked me to check, Jim. I would have told you if he had. But I was curious back in my stalker days. We had plenty of readings on him."

 

"Of course you did. Sorry, I didn't mean to get jealous."

 

She smiled gently. "When we're ready to not all be stationed together—or be on Earth or some planet together—then we can talk baby-making strategies. Until then..."

 

He nodded.

 

"Is this about David? Spock gets a daughter and you can't even see your son?"

 

He looked away, the way he did when something hit too deep. But he nodded because he never evaded totally. It was something she loved about him.

 

"I think that's a normal reaction on your part." She gently pulled him back to her so she could kiss him.

 

"I probably shouldn't have asked about the baby. Don't tell him what I said." He looked so disappointed in himself she kissed him slowly until she felt his lips turn up into a smile.

 

"It's just between us. So, life of the party that you are, if you were going to show a little girl who's never, ever had any fun, the time of her life, where would you start?"

 

"An amusement park. Roller coasters."

 

"Isn't that a bit scary?"

 

"She's half Romulan, Chris."

 

"Good point. Well, I would take her to the beach. Or the lake I grew up on, maybe rent a boat and go tubing?"

 

"I love wake-boarding." He nodded quickly. "Horseback riding would be good—at my uncle's place in Idaho. Usually little girls love horses."

 

"That's true. And I would introduce her to Len's barbeque."

 

"Mmmm. But meat?"

 

"I think that poor kid is dying for a steak."

 

He laughed. "Oh, man, the possibilities to corrupt her are almost infinite. Spock is going to be so mad at us."

 

"We could teach her to gamble and drink."

 

"Smoke and skip class." He was laughing as he pulled her on top of her. "You control the pace this time."

 

She moved so they were together then found a rhythm they both seemed to like. And it was slow and sensual, nothing frantic or angry this time.

 

They fell asleep trying to outdo each other in ways to bring fun into Saavik's life.

 

##

 

Saavik hates how much older she is than her classmates, but Spock has insisted she start at the level she tested, and while the commandant taught her advanced survival skills and to read and write in Romulan, she was behind in every academic subject. Even her Vulcan was accented, something she had never realized until her classmates stared at her when the teacher told her to introduce herself.

 

She thought the older kids, the ones her own age, would be more accepting. But they look at her with disdain. She is not sure where to go when it is time for private contemplation outside so she walks down a path that leads to some benches. She does not look back but she can hear some students following and talking about her.

 

Suddenly, a small rock hits her back and she whirls, reaching for the dagger the commandant gave her. A dagger that, of course, is no longer there.

 

Four boys and a girl stand behind her. They are perfectly poised.

 

"Who did it?"

 

"A true Vulcan would be able to determine that from the trajectory of the rock." The girl's voice is cold, like Saavik's mother's voice always was. She turns and walks back to the building, the boys following her.

 

"Wow, they hate you more than me."

 

She turns and sees an older boy watching her. Human. With hair the color of the chamomile Amanda favors for tea, hair that curls in a way she has never seen. "They are Vulcan. They do not hate."

 

"They just say they don't. They clearly do." He studies her. "You look different than them. Not sure how, though."

 

"That is highly imprecise." But he has taken her by surprise that he can tell she is not like the others. She has worked so hard, hard enough to fool a human, if not her Vulcan classmates.

 

"It is. My mom would ask me what I based that theory on." He grins. "Come sit."

 

"Your mother is human, too?" She sits next to him on the bench he has chosen, so far away from the others that it is clear he is rejecting them, not the other way around.

 

"Human, yeah." He starts to laugh. "Really intense though. Could be Vulcan."

 

"And your father?"

 

"Is not here." He looks down, his face changing, looking unhappy the way Christine did when she was here. "She doesn't talk about him."

 

"Do you know him?"

 

"I know who he is. I've never met him. Can we talk about you instead?"

 

"My mother is dead. My father...abandoned me."

 

He frowns. "I thought you were Spock's kid."

 

"He is my guardian, not my father."

 

"My mistake." He smiles and splits the orange he is holding. "Want some?"

 

Her lunch is back in the school and she does not relish going past that girl and the boys to get it. "Thank you."

 

"Yeah, no big deal." He studies her. "So you are different, aren't you?"

 

"I am half Romulan." She whispers it.

 

"Wow." He sounds...impressed rather than repelled.

 

It is not the reaction she expected. "My name is Saavik."

 

"David Marcus. It's really nice to meet you." His smile lights up his face, the way Amanda's does hers.

 

Saaviks finds herself smiling back before she can think better of it. "Do not tell them I did that."

 

The them is clear; he looks over at the other kids and makes a face that amuses her.

 

"Not a problem." He digs around in his lunchbox, then holds out a piece of something thin and brown. "You like jerky?"

 

"I do not know."

 

"It's meat. I know how you Vulcans don't ea—"

 

She grabs it and bites into it. It is salty and a little tough but so satisfying.

 

"Let me guess. Don't tell them about this either?"

 

She nods. He grins and hands her another piece and tells her all about the science experiment he is working on. He is only three years older than she, but exceptionally far ahead academically. But he does not put on the airs of her Vulcan schoolmates, and she finds herself smiling more than she probably should.

 

She decides she does not care.

 

##

 

Christine is sitting with Ny and Jan in the lounge when Jim comes in. He turns and finds her, smiling before going to talk to some new crewmen.

 

"So does the bond thing work without Spock here? We're not sitting in our normal place but he just knew."

 

"Nope. He just knows." She didn't feel like explaining that Spock had distanced himself psychically. It sounded too dire and he'd been lighter on the comms, more his old self. Saavik was doing well in school, and he was clearly relieved as well as proud.

 

"Well, he's headed this way and IÕm not in the mood for you to be yanked off to the dance floor," Ny said with a laugh, then smiled up at him in the way that always meant an edict was coming. "Jim, sit. Your wife is not going to go dance with you."

 

"Bossy, bossy," Jan muttered, laughing silently.

 

"I know them." She motioned to the chair next to her. "You can have her eventually."

 

"Jan's right. When did you get so bossy?" he asked with a laugh but he did what she said. "You okay with this, Chris?"

 

"I'm not gonna argue with her."

 

"So we're going to be at Vulcan soon, right?" Jan was watching Jim carefully, as if unsure if she should be asking about Spock.

 

But he smiled. "We are. We'll get to see how much progress Spock has made with our girl."

 

Christine smiled. They'd been working on that, thinking of Saavik as theirs. The fact that they had a list of fun "firsts" for Saavik to experience—a list that took up five screens of the shared family padd—showed how much they'd been thinking of it.

 

Ny smiled. "That's nice. Parents with no effort on your part." Then she frowned. "I don't mean I think Spock's doing all the heavy lifting."

 

"Well, he pretty much is." Jim's smile was tighter though. He was missing Spock as much as she was, even if they were enjoying each other tremendously.

 

A piece of them was missing. And the longer it was gone, the more it hurt.

 

"You two going to do anything special on Vulcan?" Jim asked.

 

"Uh, stay on the ship." Jan mock shuddered. "It's too hot, the air's too thin, and there are no bars."

 

"An apt summation," Christine said with a laugh.

 

"I want to go to a concert. It's a group who specialize in ancient Vulcan chants. Harmonies for days," Ny said. "I'll drag her with me."

 

"You played me their stuff. I don't like it."

 

"You fell asleep to it just fine. Woke up in a good mood, too."

 

Jim caught her eye. "Are you two...?"

 

"A couple?" Ny laughed. "We decided to quit trying to recreate what you guys have with Spock and focus on the part of our trial threesome we actually liked. Being together."

 

"Which means there's no dumb guy to stick with 'Accompany Ny to boring concert' duty." Jan sounded put out, but her smile when Ny pouted was very sweet.

 

"Awww." Christine put her hand over her heart. "That's really cute."

 

"Oh, shut up. We'll never out-cute the three of you. Especially when you add an adorable child. Well, cute provided Spock gets that dagger away from her. Won't be so cute if she stabs you two to death in your sleep."

 

Ny punched her softly in the arm but Jim laughed. "Never change, Janice."

 

"Don't intend to."

 

"Should I have known that you two are together?" Christine asked. Was she that friend, so involved in her own romance that she never noticed what was going on around her?

 

"Nyah. We kept it on the down low until we figured out if it was going to work. But we like it." Jan gave her the easy smile that meant she wasn't just saying something.

 

"I kind of love her." Ny grinned.

 

"What's this kind of shit?"

 

"You see what I put up with?" Ny rolled her eyes. "Maybe we should hit the dance floor. We haven't danced in public yet, snookums." She said the endearment so sarcastically it made Christine and Jim burst out laughing.

 

"That's because we can't figure out who should lead, sugarfoot." Jan batted her eyelashes.

 

"You can work out who leads while you're out there. I want to dance with my wife." Jim pulled her up, not waiting to see if the other two would come or not.

 

But they did. And they looked nice dancing together.

 

"You're thinking how you'd like to be in the middle of that, aren't you?" Christine laughed at his expression.

 

"Little bit, yeah." He pulled her closer. "Actually, I'm thinking how both of us can be."

 

"Don't even."

 

"A guy can dream." He batted his eyelashes the way Jan had and laughed when she tried to mock hit him with her free hand. "Fine. Fine. I guess I've got enough on my hands between you and our absent husband."

 

"We'll see him soon. I can't wait." She kissed his cheek as she said it. "But I love this, too. This is what you two had when I was on Earth, isn't it?"

 

"Nope. He and I never danced." He pulled away a little. "He and I were hiding it, if you recall. So, my dear, you can let go of that resentment. You've had more of me."

 

"It's not resentment. It's just our history." She relaxed into him. "It's just who we are."

 

##

 

Saavik opens the door of the house carefully, unsure if she is supposed to bring guests home. "Come in but be quiet," she says to David. She listens for him behind her. She let her guard down that first day at school because she assumed Vulcans would not hurt her. She will not make that mistake again.

 

"Oh, hello, sweetheart." Amanda looks up from the main salon and gives her a brilliant smile. "Who's your friend?"

 

"Is it all right if he is here?"

 

"Of course." She gets up and walks to them, slipping her arm around Saavik's shoulder. "And young man, you are...?"

 

"David Marcus. It's nice to see another human."

 

"I quite understand. Are you two hungry? I was just fixing tea."

 

"I'm always hungry, ma'am."

 

"So polite. Your mother raised you right."

 

"She had to. No one else to do it."

 

Saavik shares a look of sympathy. Then she hears the familiar cadence of Spock's footsteps and turns.

 

But he is looking at David in what is almost shock. "You are Carol Marcus's son."

 

"Yes, sir. And you are very famous." He looks down. "And a friend of my father's, if what my mother told me is right."

 

"It is more complex than that. Does your mother know you're here?"

 

"Sure. She's thrilled I've found a Vulcan friend." His smile is more subdued than Saavik is used to—as if he wants to impress Spock.

 

"But does she know specifically where you are."

 

Saavik feels like she is missing something. She looks at David's face and sees no similar confusion.

 

"No, sir. Coming here was my idea."

 

"He said he wanted to see the house." She tries to keep emotion out of her voice. Spock will appreciate that.

 

"I believe he wanted to see me, Saavikaam. You see, he is Jim's son."

 

All their interactions replay in her mind, all the things he has said about his father. She backs away. "You lied to me."

 

"I didn't. And meeting you was fate, not planned. I really do like you. But your guardian knows my father, so it was win win."

 

"And how like your father you sound, David." Spock shakes his head slightly. "I believe your mother prefers you stay away from your father—and his associates."

 

"Prefers? More like demands." He moves closer. "Sir, I just want to know what he's like."

 

Spock is very still for a long moment. Then he nods, and she hears him murmur something about fate but thinks he said it too low for David to catch. "He will be here tomorrow. Perhaps you can find out for yourself what he is like."

 

David's smile is immediate, but it is also...calculated. Did he use her? Is this no different than how it was on Hellguard?

 

She turns and leaves him with Spock, finding Amanda in the corridor between the main salon and the kitchen.

 

"I heard," Amanda says, her voice solemn. "Don't be sad, darling."

 

"I thought he liked me." She sounds...weak and stupid. The commandant would laugh to see this side of her.

 

"He does like you, but sometimes what we want and who we know...coincide."

 

"He will say it was efficient. Gain a friend. Take advantage of her connections. He likes to say: 'No harm, no foul.'"

 

"It's a handy saying, that's for sure." She strokes her hair gently.

 

Saavik wishes she had her dagger. Not to use on Amanda, of course. Or even on David. Just to feel strong again.

 

Hellguard was hard, but the rules were simple. Here...there are so many ways to hurt someone without drawing a single drop of blood. "I'm going to go for a walk. To...collect my thoughts. I am overly...emotional."

 

"I won't tell him where you've gone. But don't throw him away for this, dear. Sometimes friends do stupid things but for good reasons."

 

Saavik nods and leaves quietly because Spock has taught her Vulcans do not shout. She walks softly and slowly. Until she gets to the desert just beyond their enclave. And then she runs until she is past the range of Vulcan hearing.

 

And she screams. For a very long time.

 

##

 

Christine stood on the transporter pad next to Jim. He looked at her, his smile a little nervous as he told the transporter tech to beam them down to Vulcan.

 

The transporter station was in the middle of town, but Spock had sent a flitter for them and they recognized the driver. Jim followed her into the back seat of the flitter, taking her hand once they were seated.

 

"Nervous?"

 

"Yes. Stupid, huh?"

 

"We haven't seen him in months. And... No, it's not stupid. But you're excited, too. I know you're getting sick of just me."

 

He laughed at that. "Right. That's going to happen."

 

"Could. Isn't likely, but could." She took a deep breath as Spock's house came into view.

 

He was waiting for them. Nearly at the door. She smiled at how eager he looked.

 

"Hey, stranger," Jim said, his voice shy but wanting.

 

They had the foyer to themselves so Spock pulled first Jim, then her, into an embrace, kissing them each soundly. "I have missed you. My husband. My wife."

 

"Ditto." Jim peered past Spock. "How is Saavik doing?"

 

"Extremely well. But there is someone else you need to see first." He gestured for them to follow him to the back courtyard.

 

"Don't tell me you think we're going to add another person to our arrangement—" Jim went silent as he looked out the windows.

 

She frowned and followed his gaze. Sarek and Amanda sat in the shade. Saavik and a human boy were doing something with a tricorder.

 

"Is that...?" Jim's voice was ragged.

 

"It is. He wants to meet you." Then he turned to her and mouthed, "David."

 

"Ohhhhhhh," she mouthed back.

 

"Come." Spock opened the door to the courtyard, holding it for them.

 

Amanda got up to hug them. Sarek stood but, to no one's surprise, didn't offer an embrace.

 

"David," Spock said. "Your father is here."

 

The words hung between them all. David turned, his gaze appraising. Then he handed Saavik the tricorder and got up, walking toward them.

 

"David, how...?"

 

"Mom's working on Vulcan. She'll kill me if she finds out I'm here. She thinks I'm touring a museum on the far side of the planet with my new Vulcan friend." He looked toward Saavik. "I wanted..." He looked down, a flush spreading down his cheeks to his neck. "I wanted to meet you because you've never come around."

 

She could tell Jim wasn't going to badmouth Carol, so she said softly, "Your mother made it clear he couldn't."

 

Jim glared at her, but she saw approval in Spock's expression.

 

"Maybe we can talk?" Jim sounded so tentative. "Take a walk, get some privacy?"

 

"Yeah. I'd...I'd like that."

 

They walked away and as they passed Saavik, she looked up and watched them go. Then she turned away, moving to a bench far away, her back to them, looking like she was meditating. So still, but not the predatory stillness of before.

 

"She thinks David used her," Amanda said softly.

 

"Perhaps because he did," Sarek said, his voice disapproving. Christine suspected he too had fallen under Saavik's spell.

 

"I have had no luck in consoling her. Perhaps you might try," Spock sounded as tentative as Jim had. He put his hand on her arm. "I believe you will know what to say."

 

"Giving me a lot of credit."

 

"The action is past due, is it not?"

 

She smiled and touched his arm gently. "Here goes nothing." She made sure to kick stones as she walked; she didn't want to appear to be sneaking up on Saavik. When she got to the bench, she asked, "May I sit?"

 

"You may." Saavik's voice had lost the savage roughness of before. She sounded like...she sounded like a Vulcan.

 

But it wasn't that big a surprise. Adaptability had no doubt been an important survival mechanism on Hellguard.

 

"When I was younger, in University, I was engaged—betrothed—to a powerful man at the school."

 

Saavik didn't look up but she was clearly listening. "Did you care for him? Or was he only attractive because he was powerful?"

 

"I loved Roger, but that's not the point." She laughed. "Can I make my point?"

 

"Yes. I am sorry I interrupted."

 

"It's okay. Anyway, a student befriended me. But it was to get to Roger. To get him to be his advisor. As soon as he had that, he grew too busy to spend any time with me."

 

"But if you were a powerful man's woman, would that not be dangerous? To offend you?"

 

"You'd think, wouldn't you? But no. Roger had a way of attracting..." She sighed. "I told him the guy used me. He didn't care. I thought he was good to me back then, but since I've been with your father and Jim, I realize he wasn't all that nice to me. Not really. Does that make sense?"

 

"My father was the commandant of the camps. I thought he cared for me. And then he left me there to die."

 

"They probably knew they'd been discovered. That we were coming. He did leave you with food, right?"

 

She seemed to think about it. "It was sufficient for the time between their departure and your arrival."

 

"So maybe he was looking out for you." Christine took a chance and ran her hand down Saavik's hair. "So soft," she murmured.

 

"That feels good." Saavik looked off into the distance, as if she had said nothing.

 

"It's natural to be mad at David. He did use you. But he used you not to advance himself but because this may be the only time he gets to meet Jim, his father. I think you need to give him a pass."

 

"A pass for what?"

 

Chapel laughed. "It's a saying. Let it go. Move on. Forgive. Surely you enjoy his company. He's a good companion, right?"

 

"He made me feel safe at school."

 

Christine's heart ached for the girl. "Are they cruel?"

 

"They are. But I am more dangerous." She held herself upright, imposing and wild for just a minute. Then it faded. "I am dangerous on a world where that gets me nothing."

 

"I know."

 

"Spock says to ignore them. He grew up with cruelty, too, from his classmates."

 

"Spock isn't you. His advice may be excellent for one born here. But ignoring enemies would get you killed on Hellguard, wouldn't it?"

 

Saavik stared up at her, as if shocked at her insight. Then she nodded.

 

"Fortunately, you're not on Hellguard. But I know being picked on—or ignored—can still hurt. I say, if these children won't accept you, that's their loss." She kept stroking Saavik's hair.

 

The girl didn't say anything, but she leaned hard into her hand. They sat in silence for a few minutes, then she asked very softly, "Did you leave because of me?"

 

"I left because I was getting in the way of your journey. He's my husband and I was mad at him—all the time. It was better to go back to Jim and let you and Spock take your time getting where you needed to go. But I'm sorry if you thought I didn't like you."

 

"It is nice having you back."

 

Christine smiled, unaccustomed to this softer version of the girl she'd left. "It's nice to be back."

 

##

 

Saavik watches Spock as he sits with Jim and Christine. They are not touching but he looks...happy. Somehow they are all bonded. The children at school do not understand. They talk about it at times in disparaging ways.

 

But other times she hears wonder, now that she knows what to listen for. To mine the monotone for clues to how they are feeling. Spock has done something no one else has ever done in bonding with them both.

 

And it is not the first time. He is both famous and infamous. She realizes he took her in not caring what the others would think.

 

It makes her think more of him. It makes her feel an affection that on Hellguard would be dangerous. But here...

 

"Saavik. Come here, kiddo." Christine has begun to talk to her as if there was never any distance between them.

 

She has decided to respond in like manner. She goes to where she is sitting between Spock and Jim. Christine holds up a round thing that looks a bit like one of Amanda's bracelets.

 

"I found this at the store. The other girls wear their hair up using this. Do you want to try doing that?"

 

It would never occur to Spock to offer this to her. And she thinks Amanda is in no hurry to make her conform to Vulcan ideals. But Christine is right: all the girls wear their hair up, and Saavik would put hers up as well if she knew how to do it in a way that did not end up falling down the moment she moves too fast. It is not that she wants to be like them; it is that being like them will help her survive here. Adapting is not surrender. Her mother told her this once in a rare moment of warmth, just before she died.

 

Saavik realizes she feels more for Amanda and Christine, even after this short time, than she ever did for her mother.

 

She sits cross legged, leaning against Christine's legs, and lets her brush her hair and then work it up and off her neck. The thing the girls use is a circle of prickly mesh. It holds the hair in as Christine folds and twists and Saavik feels surprise at that. She thought the girls just did not move enough to disturb their hair—not that they had this device to help them...cheat.

 

Finally Christine finishes and she leans down, her hands warm on Saavik's shoulders and whispers in her ear, "Go look and tell me what you think. It's my first time, but I used to sport some pretty elaborate hairdos back in my younger days. Nice to know I still have the touch."

 

"Come with me?" It is out before she can call it back.

 

"Of course." Christine lifts her up then follows, her hand on Saavik's neck, cool and gentle as they go in the house. Christine takes her into the room she shares with Spock and Jim rather than the small room Saavik is in. There is a full-length mirror and Saavik stops, shocked at how she looks.

 

She looks...Vulcan. Until she smiles. A huge smile.

 

"You like it, then?" Christine is smiling too.

 

Saavik does not think. She turns and hugs Christine tightly.

 

"Oh, sweetie. Such small things." Christine crouches down and pulls her tighter. "I'm here. Whenever, whatever. All right?"

 

She nods, really fast because she realizes she is crying. She is not supposed to. Vulcans do not.

 

But Romulans do. And she is half that.

 

She pulls away and sees that Christine is crying, too.

 

"What a pair of saps we are, huh?" Christine wipes her eyes, then Saavik's. "Go show Amanda."

 

She turns and sees Spock and Jim at the door. Jim is smiling broadly and Spock is watching the two of them with a look she has never seen on his face. It is more than approval. It is more than determination. It is even more than simple affection.

 

She thinks... She thinks it might be love. Not just for this woman who is his wife but also for her.

 

"You look very nice, Saavikaam." He moves so she can get through the doorway and then walks into the room to Christine.

 

Jim touches her shoulder as she goes by, and when she looks up, he says, "You look gorgeous, Saavik."

 

Amanda has told her it is human to say thank you, so she does, and his smile grows wider. Then he moves in to join Spock and Christine.

 

She stops to listen once she is out of sight of the door and can tell they are kissing. David has explained kissing to her. He explains many things she cannot ask Spock or his parents about, but she thinks maybe she can ask Christine some of these things. Perhaps Jim, too.

 

She finds the sound of their affection comforting. She pats her new hairdo and tries to bite back a smile but fails, so she goes to find Amanda to show her what Christine did.

 

##

 

Christine watched Saavik and David as they sat at the kitchen table. David was tutoring Saavik. Christine wasn't sure in what, but she seemed eager to suck up any knowledge she could get. And she seemed to have forgiven him for using her. Probably because he clearly enjoyed spending time with his father.

 

The chime went off, announcing someone at the front door, and she went to get it since Spock and his parents were out, but Jim was already on the way so she stopped in the hall.

 

He barely had the door open before Carol Marcus stormed in. "Where is he?"

 

"Carol, hold on." Jim reached out but she shrugged away.

 

She clearly thought Christine would move and had to stop to avoid running her down when she didn't. "David, get out here."

 

He came, but not fast. Saavik was behind him.

 

"We're leaving."

 

"Carol—" Jim had his best "Calm the angry aliens" look on, but it was not working on her.

 

"We had an agreement, Jim. You wouldn't stay so you don't get him. You've honored that for thirteen years. Why not now?"

 

"Because I tricked my friend to get to Spock." David stepped forward. "I hurt someone I cared about just so I could find out what my father was like." He stared at her, his anger plain. "I didn't know I'd get to meet my dad. I just wanted to hear about him. But then he was coming and how could I not? You've taught me to be curious. You've taught me to solve for the unknown. But then you expect me to live with this huge gap in my life. I can't. I won't."

 

He stopped, as if shocked he was talking to her like this. "I've done what you want when it comes to school. I always do what you want. But this time I don't care about your agreement. I get to choose. And I want to get to know him. And Spock and Christine. I want to spend time with them, too." He looked quickly at Jim, and Christine realized he'd probably never told him he wanted this.

 

"And we want to get to know him," she said, filling the silence. "He's helped Saavik so much. She was...lost." She hoped Saavik wouldn't contradict her, because appealing to Carol this way was probably the best way to get her to relent. "He's such a good example. And he's teaching her so much. Science. Math. She's behind, Carol. She lived on a world where she was the experiment. There was no education. There was no future for her. But now she has one."

 

She saw that hit home. Carol looked at Saavik, who Christine was amazed to see was doing a creditable job of looking helpless. Big faker.

 

"Carol, I'm still on a ship." Jim was talking carefully, obviously not wanting to lose the advantage Christine and Saavik and his son had given him. "You won't have to see us that often. Only Saavik is staying on Vulcan. But I'd like to get to know my boy. I really like what I know so far about him. He's a credit to you."

 

"He really is," Christine echoed, trying to look a little star struck, woman to woman and scientist to scientist.

 

Carol rolled her eyes. "Oh for God's sake. Do you think I can't see when I'm being worked? I lived with Jim Kirk before you did, toots." But she took a deep breath, and the difference in the atmosphere in the room was immediate. "I expect you home for dinner, young man. You can bring Saavik if you want. I'm making Indian. I bet she's never had that." Then she walked to the door and left.

 

They all just stood, David looking the most unbelieving. "I never win an argument with her."

 

"Well," Jim said, "you had the two of us on your side."

 

"Three," Saavik said, looking not one bit helpless anymore.

 

Jim started to laugh. "Right. My mistake. Little minx." The approval was so clear in his voice that Saavik smiled slightly. "I'll remember what a good actress you are."

 

She inclined her head in a perfectly Vulcan way.

 

He just laughed. "Come on, you two. Show me what you're working on."

 

Christine wasn't sure she'd ever heard him sound so...content. Fatherhood clearly suited him.

 

##

 

Saavik finds the house so quiet without Jim and Christine. Spock is still here, and she knows he is making a sacrifice—not professional but personal—by staying with her. She walks down the hall to his room and knocks. She hears him call, "Come," and enters, standing at the doorway, watching him work on his padd.

 

He turns to look at her. "Saavikaam, are you all right?"

 

She nods and walks to him. "Do you miss them?" She wonders if he will indulge her. He has spent so many hours explaining Vulcan ways to her; will he now venture into human?

 

"I do." He motions for her to sit on the bed so she does. "Do you?"

 

"Yes. Is that...acceptable? For a Vulcan to miss someone?"

 

His expression is so soft. "Affection—love, even—are not solely human things. Or Romulan. Do you think my father loves my mother?"

 

"I do." She does not have to think hard about this. She sees it in the way Sarek watches Amanda, in the way he looks out for her, the way his eyes grow tender as she teases him.

 

"He is fully Vulcan and still he feels such things." He looks very light. "I think all creatures are driven to seek out connections. Even a machine—an enormously powerful mechanism—wanted to know..."

 

"Love?"

 

"Indeed."

 

She thinks about that. "Why did you rescue me, Spock? Not just from the planet, but bringing me here, into your family? Leaving your mates for me? Why?"

 

"Because you are worth it. Because, for whatever reason, when you and I first met, we understood each other, did we not?"

 

She nods. She can remember the feeling. The strange, almost horrible, feeling of wanting to believe in him.

 

It does not feel horrible now.

 

He is sitting very still, his fingers steepled, as if he is considering something important. "It is also possible that I needed to help you. For myself. To fill a hole I was not aware was inside me."

 

She moves closer since he is speaking very softly.

 

"I have a brother. I have not seen him in many years. He was exiled, so leaving me was not his choice or his fault."

 

"Why was he exiled?"

 

"He—it is complicated. He followed a path he was warned not to take but did anyway."

 

"So it was his fault that he left you but perhaps not his choice." She sees him frown slightly. "Do I misspeak?"

 

"No. You are correct. But I have missed him and I have felt abandoned—but also I think I have believed that I did not do enough for him."

 

She cocks her head and studies him. "Can you not help him now? You are a powerful man."

 

"I do not know where he is. And we do not speak of him in this family—or anywhere. He is...forgotten. So I helped you instead. But you are nothing like him, Saavikaam. And I find my life the richer for having you in it." He swallows, visibly. "But I must say something. I never gave you a choice. I brought you to this house, to my family, to your school, and never asked you what you wanted. Is this what you want? If it is not, I will do my best to find you a situation that is."

 

"What do you want?"

 

"That is immaterial."

 

She moves closer, touches his hand. "What do you want?" She wants him to feel what she wants. That she wants to stay with him and his parents and get to know Christine and Jim better. That she does not want to leave—to be sent away.

 

He smiles. A real smile if small. "I want you to stay as well."

 

"Then I choose that. I want this. And...I thank you. I have never said that."

 

"You will never need to. Prosper and that will be the only gratitude I need."

 

As she gets up, he stops her. He slowly strokes her hair, the way Christine does. "You did not have a mother in any sense, did you?"

 

"No. I was an abomination. But I think..." She has to consider her words. She has been pondering this. "I think she did the best for me that she was able to. But it was insufficient."

 

"It was indeed insufficient. You were not to blame for what happened to her."

 

She takes a deep breath. "That the commandant was my father—that he showed me favor—was further humiliation for her. It distressed her that he made of me a Romulan. By teaching me to fight, to survive in his way, not hers."

 

"As she did not survive and you did, perhaps that was fortuitous?"

 

She looks up at him, unsure if he is making some kind of joke, but his face is serene. "You can think well of him?"

 

"He ensured your survival. I cannot condone what was done there, the horror of the experiments. But you are a unique and valuable individual. And if he saved you, then I am grateful for that. It is a shame you did not know his name."

 

"But I did. I was just forbidden by both him and my mother to use it. It was Pardek."

 

"Pardek." He nods, as if he will remember the name. "Saavik, I am your guardian now, but if you wish, I can adopt you. It must be your choice. You do not have to give up what you were for me."

 

"Will Christine be my mother if you do that? Will Jim be my other father?"

 

"Yes. It will be quiet confusing."

 

She frowns. "Why? You cared enough for both of them to not want to choose. It seems straightforward." On Hellguard, all sorts of relationships arose out of necessity. And sometimes true affection.

 

"I forget how old you are in some ways."

 

"Amanda would be my grandmother, then."

 

"She would enjoy that." He studies her. "You do not mention Sarek. Is he distant to you."

 

She is surprised at the question. "No, he speaks Vulcan with me, to help me gain fluency. And we work on my calligraphy."

 

"You do?"

 

"Yes. Generally when you are out of the house."

 

There is a look she cannot read on Spock's face. "Of course."

 

"Would David be my brother?"

 

"In some form, I think perhaps he would."

 

"His mother is very dictatorial. But she treats me the same way she does him, so I think that is customary behavior for her. Also her food is very good." Things called butter chicken and lamb pasanda, not that she will let that slip. David has kept her love of meat secret other than to tell his mother not to make the meals vegetarian on her behalf. "Will Doctor Marcus also be some sort of mother? How many mothers is normal?"

 

"You ask excellent questions, Saavikaam. Normal? What is normal?"

 

She finds herself smiling, but he does not berate her. "I think that is a question only someone who believes himself outside the bounds of what is accepted would ask."

 

"You are far too quick, little one." He touches her cheek, and his eyes are gently amused. "I feel most fortunate that we met that day on Hellguard."

 

She puts her hand over his, and holds on for a long moment. "I do, as well."

 

##

 

Christine jogged down the corridor to the main transporter room. Jim looked up from a padd as she hurried through the door. "Cutting it close."

 

"Len kept telling me he'd finish for me, but I didn't want to leave my patient."

 

"Just one reason I love you," he said softly, probably so the transporter tech on duty wouldn't hear them getting all mushy. If it had been Jan, he wouldn't have been as discreet. "For what it's worth, Chris, I'm going to miss having you all to myself. Even if I can't wait for him to get home."

 

She bumped against him gently. "Same for me. Are you going to keep calling me Chris?"

 

"I am. It's...a natural thing, it happened because we've been alone."

 

"And you were mad and hurt."

 

He laughed softly. "And I was mad and hurt. Don't you ever get tired of calling me on my bullshit?"

 

"Nope." She was about to say more when she was overcome with a feeling of almost vertigo, and heard Jim gasp. Then she felt it—the bond and Spock, the warmth that she knew both she and Jim had been missing. "Jim."

 

"Oh, my." He took her hand and squeezed. "I guess he's really back."

 

"He's ready, sir," the tech said.

 

Jim nodded, his grin so big she wanted to kiss him but forced herself to behave. "Bring him home, chief."

 

The familiar whine of the machine, the gradual appearance of a beloved face and body. She grinned as widely as Jim was.

 

"Good trip, I take it?" Jim's eyes were shining.

 

"Adequate." Spock's eyes fairly gleamed as well. "I found myself anticipating all the things that have been neglected during my absence."

 

As Jim led them out of the transporter room, he murmured. "It wasn't as if we didn't have sex on Vulcan."

 

"We were most circumspect and without the bond, while it was needed and welcome, it was the equivalent of emergency rations when one wants a gourmet meal."

 

"Wow, horniness makes you poetic, Spock." Christine laughed as she touched his hand softly once the turbolift doors were safely closed.

 

He chose to ignore her, but she had the feeling he was more trying to control himself after so long away than act superior. She glanced at Jim who was watching Spock with a look of deep contentment.

 

They somehow managed not to race to their quarters. Spock had arrived on beta shift—she imagined he'd chosen his shuttle schedules to ensure they would be free when he got home. Sentimental sap.

 

Or just really in need of some quality sex. Or probably a little of both. She was fine with any answer.

 

As soon as they were in their quarters, Spock turned and said, "Remove your clothing. Now."

 

"Bossy," Jim said, but he was already peeling off his shirt.

 

"I don't know that I want to take orders right now. Maybe I'll—" She laughed as Spock pulled her closer and began to remove her clothes. "Or that works."

 

And then he was pulling off his own robe and pushing them to the bed, kneeling between them, invoking the meld, the bond pulsing in a way it probably couldn't have while they'd had so many things between them: space and resentment and one little girl.

 

He stared down at them. "I know what I asked of you—especially so soon after the Pon Farr—was hard."

 

"It was," Jim said. "But it was also life. We'll be separated. We've done it before and we'll do it again. For what it's worth, I'm sorry that I couldn't see the possibilities in Saavik as soon as you did." Jim reached up and stroked his cheek. "And it's ironic, isn't it? If you hadn't left, I'd have never met David, gotten him back in my life."

 

Spock lifted an eyebrow. "It is, indeed, ironic."

 

Christine pulled him down to them. "You're back so that must mean that Saavik has integrated to your satisfaction?"

 

"Yes. Enough that I can leave her with my parents. Although ironically I believe Doctor Marcus may also be playing a not insignificant role in her academic development."

 

Jim started to laugh. "Of course she is."

 

Tired of hearing about Carol when they should be having sex, Christine pulled Spock her way. "Kisses now, okay?"

 

"Please, Spock, indulge our wife." Jim rolled to his side, the sensual look on his face that he always got when he watched them made her feel warm and loved—and sexy.

 

Spock kissed her and made sure she was ready, then pushed in, moving slowly at first. "Closer," he said to Jim, and leaned over to kiss him, never stopping thrusting.

 

"I'd forgotten what an excellent multitasker you are," she said as her two men pulled away from each other, the looks on their faces soft and unguarded. "I love you both so much."

 

She couldn't tell if they answered her because she felt herself going, Spock timing his thrusts perfectly, Jim holding her hand, murmuring, "Yes, Chris. Let go."

 

As if she had a choice? As if she even wanted one?

 

As she came down, Spock turned to Jim. "I will never abandon you," he said softly, but not so quietly to exclude her.

 

She knew Jim needed to hear it. And she reached out and touched Spock's back gently.

 

He looked at her. "Or you."

 

And then he reached for the meld points and took them deeper and deeper, into the realm of not knowing who was doing what to whom, into the place where pleasure was so thick it felt like she could happily drown in it.

 

Hours later, they lay spent, and Spock had the lazy half-smile he wore after particularly amazing—and exhausting—sex. "I have missed both of you. I have missed this release, this trust. On Vulcan, I did not relax. Not as I do with you."

 

"Well, we're free here. There...there's so much baggage." She looked over his chest at Jim. "But you saved her, Spock, by taking her there. Here...we weren't going to help. She needed you and you were there."

 

Jim nodded and played with Spock's hair.

 

"I would like to be more than her guardian. I would like to adopt her if that is what she wishes. It does not have to be a mutual act."

 

"For better or worse—isn't that what we said," Jim said gently. "For kids, blood or not. I've met my son. I'd love to have a daughter."

 

Spock turned to look at her.

 

"I adore the little charmer. No argument from me."

 

"I am a most fortunate man." He pulled them both closer. "And she will be the better for knowing both of you."

 

Christine wasn't sure there was anything else to say, so she closed her eyes and allowed herself to doze. She could hear Jim and Spock talking very softly, but she didn't worry about what they might be saying.

 

Until she heard the word "baby."

 

"We're years away from that, boys."

 

There was a startled hush. Clearly, they'd thought she was asleep. "Big goofs," she said as she snuggled in closer and let herself drift off for real.

 

#

 

Saavik is on Earth because Amanda did not want to leave her on Vulcan when they returned to the embassy and told Sarek that Saavik would benefit from private tutors at this initial stage more than from the school.

 

He came to her to tell her of this. "Saavikaam, my wife has decided you are to leave school. If you do not wish this, you must let me know. It is never wise to oppose her when she is set on something, but I will if you wish to stay on Vulcan."

 

"Will it reflect badly on me if I do not want to stay? Vulcan schools are widely regarded as the benchmark for excellence" She was parroting Spock and she thought Sarek knew it.

 

"These are unique circumstances. I cannot imagine you are achieving much in the way of social interactions being placed with children so much younger, and that is as important as academic learning since you were raised in a society much different than what you will encounter in the Federation. I believe when you have caught up to where you should be academically, you will impress all and find yourself more...welcome among your peers. Your mind is quick, your analytical skills remarkable, and your facility with language impressive—I have heard you speaking standard with Christine. If anyone does not accept that you are an accomplished young woman, it will be a reflection on them, not you."

 

"Thank you."

 

He ruffled her hair gently, surprising her. "Do not thank me, child. I wish for you to thrive, not just survive, with us."

 

And she is thriving. Her tutors are kind and seem to want her to succeed—a sense she never got from her teachers. She imagines the tutors had to impress both Amanda and Sarek, before they were placed with her.

 

And Earth seems so...diverse. With Starfleet and Federation headquarters both there, it is not just humans she can interact with but beings of all sorts. It is stimulating and she studies with a fervor her tutors approve of.

 

She has resolved to be caught up in two years. She will excel. She will never not excel.

 

And David will be back on Earth soon. Carol's tenure on Vulcan is ending; she has already chosen an apartment near the Vulcan Embassy so David and Saavik can visit easily.

 

Saavik knows Jim and Christine bristle around Carol, but she finds her brusqueness refreshing. She never has to try to interpret the hidden meaning. Carol has no time for subtlety.

 

And she enjoys teaching Saavik things too.

 

But now it is Jim teaching her things. The Enterprise is in for refits and Jim has taken her south to Los Angeles to an amusement park he loves. She is surprised they are going alone, but unlike when they first met, she feels safe around him now.

 

David wants him in his life. She trusts David. Spock, too wants him near. And Christine. Amanda loves him. Sarek tolerates him—perhaps there is even real fondness.

 

Everyone but Carol approves of him. And Saavik suspects Carol might still have strong feelings for him. It is the way she looks when David mentions him. Annoyed but also...nostalgic.

 

Saavik imagines she may wear the same look when talking about the commandant.

 

"Okay, let's get one thing clear," Jim says as they get off a ride that went far faster than she expected—to her great pleasure. "I'm not going to tell anyone if you want to abandon being vegetarian for the day." She cocks her head and he laughs. "You look like Spock when you do that. Does that mean you don't want some meat?"

 

"No, it does not mean that."

 

He grins. "Okay, then. You trust me?"

 

She nods and means it, and his smile grows larger as he urges her forward, his hand on her neck. He has a gentle touch, and she reads from the skin-to-skin contact that he is enjoying being with her. That he anticipates the thing they are standing in line for. She studies the menu. "What is a corn dog?" She has met dogs in the park. She likes them. Must she eat one?

 

"It's cornbread around a hot dog." He seems to see her distaste. "No, not a real dog. It's a mix of things, most of them not that healthy. But it's not from a dog. I love dogs."

 

They get to the window and he orders them each a corn dog, grabbing little cups filled with things she recognizes from Amanda's kitchen. Ketchup and mustard.

 

They sit under a tree and eat them, dipping the corn dogs into the sauces. She smiles as she eats and Jim laughs softly.

 

"Can I have another?" she asks as she finishes.

 

"You can. But maybe not right now." He points up, to where a ride—a rollercoaster, he called this type—that was twice the size of the one they rode first looms. "See, we want the front car."

 

They were in the middle on the last one. "Why?"

 

"Because it's terrifying. And exhilarating. But not on a too-full stomach. The trick is to eat little bits as you go. That way you can ride all day."

 

"What happens if you eat too much at once?"

 

"Well, there's vomiting."

 

"Ah, then restraint is prudent." She stares up at the rollercoaster as a car goes by very fast. "Does Spock ride on such things?"

 

"Nope."

 

"Christine?"

 

He has to think about that. "I'm not sure. She has meetings at Starfleet Medical with Doctor McCoy, or she would have come with us. But I don't know if she'd have ridden the scary rides." He suddenly looks concerned. "Hey, if you don't want to ride them, that's okay. Just tell me. I may be getting overly enthusiastic. But I can back off."

 

She watches another car zoom by. The people on it are screaming. She realizes she is smiling. "What is required to get the first car?"

 

"Speed. We're going to be racing some pretty determined teens."

 

"I am quite fast."

 

"So am I. We'll show 'em not to mess with us." His grin is open and easy, and she smiles ever so slightly then bites it back.

 

He leans in, his expression serious. "Saavik, you can be whoever you want to be around me. You can be Romulan, not just Vulcan. If you want to smile, do it."

 

"I am trying to find a balance. One that will work for me over time."

 

"I'm all for balance. But we also act in different ways around different people. Even Spock and Sarek do." He takes the last bite of his corn dog, then disposes of their trash. "You'll figure it out—what works, what doesn't. You're one of the brightest kids I've ever met."

 

She feels pleasure at the compliment. "May I ask you something?"

 

He nods.

 

"You and Carol were close—close enough to have David. But now you are not. And...things are strained between you. Will that happen with you and Spock and Christine, too?"

 

"Well, Spock found a way to bond with both of us, so we can't go too far." His smile is odd—fake, she thinks. Designed to change the subject or deflect away from—from strong emotion. He is human, but he does not wish to speak of feelings.

 

She finds that fascinating. "Humans marry sometimes only for set periods, is that not true?" She has been reading much, trying to learn so she can better understand Christine and this man and even Amanda.

 

"Some people do term marriages. It's sort of like leasing a fancy flitter. You don't spend a whole lot of time on maintenance if you know you'll be trading it in soon."

 

She frowns. "I lack full context but I think I understand."

 

He studies her. "I love Spock and I love Christine. I can't imagine my life without them. So I hope, beyond all other hopes, that we never, ever lose our way to each other."

 

"I caused strain for you—for your marriage."

 

"It wasn't you, Saavik. It was us, figuring our way. We're all pretty strong personalities. We don't like to lose. And we were just getting over another rocky patch. So...sometimes things get messy. But I'm glad you're here." He starts to laugh softly. "So...do you like Carol?"

 

"I do. She has taught me a great deal and speaks her mind as a Vulcan would." She decides not to tell him that Carol refers to him and Spock and Christine as "the three yahoos."

 

"That she does." His voice drops, becomes so soft she thinks she would not be able to hear it with human ears. "Is she good to David? A good mom?"

 

"She is. He prospers."

 

"Wow, have you assimilated." He laughs. "Okay, do you want more talking or to ride on that monster?"

 

"I enjoy talking to you, but I am...curious about the ride."

 

"Let's do it, then."

 

She finds herself walking closer to him than she did before as they near the line for the rollercoaster. She stands almost touching him, the way she can see human children doing with their parents. As they move in line, he reaches down, finding her, keeping her with him.

 

She does not think he is aware he is doing it. It is innate. His need to look after people. Spock has told her this on Vulcan, when he told her about both of his mates, but she did not understand.

 

As they get to the head of the line, he indicates two pairs of boys behind them, each eying the front car. "They're our rivals."

 

"They shall know defeat."

 

He laughs at her expression, and then the queue gates go up. He takes off and she runs next to him, then passes him, slipping into the front car before the boys can get there.

 

Jim is not far behind. He eases by the boys. "Sorry, kids. Gotta sit with my daughter."

 

The boys grumble but they move away.

 

She looks down, hiding the smile at what he called her.

 

"Is it okay that I just called you that?" He sounds concerned, as if he is misconstruing her looking down. "I know I'm not your dad. Although if you want me to be, I'd love it."

 

She meets his eyes. "It is fine to call me that."

 

"Good." His eyes are so gentle. Why did she ever think him unwelcoming?

 

Once everyone is settled and they are locked in with restraints of various kinds, the car begins to move, a long climb to the top, from there she can see all the deep drops and corkscrews and loops. She is suddenly nervous.

 

Jim takes her hand. "It'll be fun. Trust me."

 

She holds on tightly because even though she does trust him, she is also more than a little afraid. She believes Spock would tell her there is no logic in rollercoasters. David would probably tell her to live a little. She has no idea what Christine would say but looks forward to finding out.

 

The car starts to drop; the people behind them start to scream.

 

Jim laughs, and she smiles in a way Spock would not approve of. Then she laughs, too.

 

There may not be any logic to hurtling in a small car along a track in ever more exciting and fast ways—but it certainly is fun.

 

 

FIN