"Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most...Human," Admiral Kirk's eulogy for his friend rang in Saavik's ears as she entered her cabin. She ignored the comfortable bunk, going instead to crouch in the corner of the room, a stance she reverted to unconsciously in her grief. On Hellguard, one rarely slept; it was wisest to only doze, back to the wall, and then only in the warren.
Her fists were clenched, her throat felt hot and tight, but the tears she had expected did not come. Perhaps her Vulcan training had conditioned tears out of her nature, but the Romulan part of her craved release from emotions even a Vulcan could not deny. Her grief, the ache that filled her at his loss, was overwhelmed by a blind rage. That Spock, an individual who had epitomized sanity and reason in a world of chaos, that his life should be forfeit to the mechanizations of a madman...Khan, a name she had learned only today, a name she would curse with her own dying breath.
Spock's words came to her, soft and rich, words of comfort and consolation. "You are not alone, Saavik-kam." But they were only a memory, an outdated assurance because now she was alone. Even more alone than she had been on Hellguard.
Spock had saved her from exile on a forgotten world, a hellhole of filth and evil. He had educated her, seen to her material needs, but the gift he had given of himself, that had been the gift she regarded as most valuable. A gift that had been savagely ripped from her today.
Spock had once explained to her the meaning of the Human phrase, "A friend to the last extremity." Today he had demonstrated it by sacrificing his life to save the lives of those he cared for. He had tested the equation and had, no doubt, found it quite sound.
Saavik, left with the monumental task of coping with her
grief in the vacuum Spock's death had brought to her life, trembled with suppressed
emotion. She titled back her head, an unearthly moan escaping from her parted lips. It was
a low-pitched, feral sound which rose and fell like a desert wind until finally the room
fell as silent as it was dark.
David Marcus stood uncertainly outside the cabin door, his hand poised over the button which would disturb Lieutenant Saavik's grief. David was grieving also. Not just for the loss of his colleagues from Regula 1, but for the years that had passed, never to be recovered, years which he might have shared in some way with a man who was his father. The illusions of his youth lay in shards at his feet, as scattered and broken as the bodies of the scientists who had become his friends, a surrogate family.
He had not needed his father's explanation of what Captain Spock had meant to Saavik. He had seen it in the young lieutenant's face as the captain's body had been committed to space. It occurred to David that Spock had been more of a father to Saavik than Kirk had been to him, and even on such short acquaintance, David realized that he would grieve James Kirk's death. His father was a powerful individual, a trait he evidently had shared with his dearest friend, Captain Spock.
David had felt Kirk's grief for Spock, actually felt the loss as a palpable sensation throughout the ship, from Spock's crewmates to his cadets. David regretted knowing Captain Spock only by reputation. Moreover, he regretted that Genesis, a device proposed to create life, could have been so perverted in the hands of Khan as to become the cause of such death and destruction. Genesis used as a weapon, his own worst nightmare coming to horrible fruition. He closed his eyes, thinking of the lives which had been lost because of the nature of his research.
Khan was dead, and it would be years before the Regula team's work could be duplicated and a new torpedo devised. Personally, David questioned whether the risk should be taken. Unfortunately, there were too many other men like Khan, men who cared little for Humanity or the ideals which had inspired Genesis in the first place. All his life, David had scoffed at Starfleet, shunned the militaristic attitudes which he had viewed only as detrimental to the scientific process. Now he understood. The Enterprise had kept Genesis from being used against an entire world, perhaps saved billions of lives. But the price had been much too high.
To David, even the loss of a single life was unacceptable. He had stood beside his mother in engineering, seen naked grief in the faces of the crew and faced the knowledge that Genesis had come about at a terrible price, one that could never be repaid. That knowledge would haunt him forever.
He pressed the button.
David entered the cabin in complete darkness which closed around him as the door swished shut, blocking out the light from the corridor.
"Lights," a familiar, emotionless voice ordered. As the lights came up gradually, Saavik appeared before him. She was still in uniform, composed. Her dark eyes betrayed no hint of what she might be feeling. David studied her, appreciating her exotic, attractive features. He reminded himself of the strength which had felled him to the floor of the Genesis cave, but inexplicably recalled also her soft curves pressed against him and the spicy alien scent of her hair.
"Doctor Marcus," she said in greeting.
"David, please," he requested, feeling at least as awkward as he had in his father's cabin. "My fa--Admiral Kirk told me that you have an impressive background in sciences."
Saavik raised an eyebrow. "That is correct. Although I am a command trainee, my area of expertise is life sciences."
David shifted uncomfortably beneath her intense gaze. "The U.S.S. Grissom is meeting us at Regula One, and it will be taking over the job the Reliant started regarding..." His voice trailed off. He hesitated to use the word `Genesis' in light of the death and destruction it had become synonymous with.
"Genesis?" she prompted calmly.
"Right." He lowered his gaze to stare at the toes of her polished boots. "Admiral Kirk suggested that you might be interested in accepting an assignment to the Grissom as my assistant. Your experience would be invaluable to me, and since you already know about...about..."
"You seem to be unable to say `Genesis,' David," Saavik said quietly.
"Yes," he choked. "Because if I had to name it now, after what's happened, I would probably call it Armageddon!"
"I do not understand the reference."
"There is no need to apologize; there are many aspects of your culture which are--"
"No! I'm not apologizing for that; I'm sorry for what happened. It's all my fault! I should have foreseen this whole situation. I should have insisted on tighter security, more protection from Starfleet. Those people died because of me!"
"That is not true."
David was trembling now, fists clenched. "I'm the one who should have died, Saavik, not the others!" Tears streaked down his face. "Damn! I'm sorry. For them, for Captain Spock. I should have taken steps to prevent it."
"That is illogical; you had no way of knowing that Khan would--"
"No way of knowing what Genesis could be used for?" David cried. "No way of seeing what a weapon it could become in the wrong hands?"
"You are a scientist, David."
"That's no excuse for irresponsibility!" he shouted. "What Khan did, any demented terrorist could do. Starfleet had been warning us about that possibility from the start. God, I saw them as the threat. How's that for ironic?"
"You are distraught," Saavik observed. "Perhaps I should send for Doctor McCoy."
"Doctor McCoy?" David laughed, a bitter, self-derisive laugh. "Doctor McCoy has enough to do without worrying about me. Thanks to me, he's grieving for one of his best friends. It's a wonder any of them can even stand the sight of me!"
"Captain Spock's death..." Saavik's voice trembled, and she paused, summoning control. David caught her gaze, seeing the grief he had glimpsed before.
"It's a wonder you can stand the sight of me," he finished softly. He turned to leave, shoulders sagging with defeat.
"Don't go!" Saavik's whispered plea was out of her mouth before she could take it back, her hand gripping his shoulder. She felt a telepathic surge between them, experienced the warmth of his intellect, the depth of his guilt. Before she could raise her mental shields, she also felt a terrible sense of isolation, one that echoed into her very soul. Even as she clamped her protective shields down tightly, she felt the sympathetic resonance of that isolation within herself.
David turned, and she enfolded him in an awkward embrace. "You are not alone," she breathed as his arms slipped around her hesitantly. "Oh, David, you are not alone."
She savored the comfort of his body pressed against hers, sensed, even through her shields, his gratitude for her acceptance, and just a touch of something more. Her grip on him tightened convulsively. "Stay with me," she requested. "Stay with me tonight, David."
He pulled back to meet her gaze. "Saavik!"
She lowered her shields, allowing her thoughts to mingle with his, now able to sense his desire for her. "You want me," she said, her matter-of-fact tone at odds with the warm, erotic emanations which she projected.
"Telepathic!" he whispered. "My God! I can actually feel--"
"There is more to share than our grief." She felt a rush of pleasure that he could read her. She had often wondered if it would be possible for her to project to a non-telepath.
David's lips brushed lightly against hers. Are you sure?
Saavik's hands cupped his face, pulling him closer, her mouth moving seductively against his. I am sure.
David awoke, momentarily confused by the unfamiliar surroundings, then he smiled, feeling Saavik's warmth pressing against his side. He rose up on his elbow to study her.
She remained asleep, one cheek cushioned on his pillow, a half smile playing over her lips, her hair fanned out around her shoulders. David had been struck by her beauty from their first meeting. He had been drawn to her, wondering idly if a burning ember glowed beneath the cool Vulcan mask. What he had found surpassed his wildest imaginings. Making love to Saavik was truly like opening Pandora's box.
She shifted in her sleep, curling one leg over his thigh. David caught his breath, recalling the depth of her passion, the intensity of need he had felt in her. He had mistaken that need for experience, not realizing his error until too late, freezing in astonishment. Saavik, seeming oblivious to his fear of hurting her, had arched into his possession, crying out in a mixture of pain and release, bruising his shoulders as she clasped him against her.
With Saavik, he felt not just his own desire, but hers as well, and when he pleased her, his pleasure was intensified. The telepathic contact between them had been unlike anything David had ever experienced. It was warm, euphoric, and sensual, leaving an afterglow of tranquillity and a sense of belonging. It was like getting drunk without the hangover.
He leaned forward, brushing her smiling lips with his. She stirred beneath him, stretching with a feline grace and opening her eyes. Saavik gazed back at him with none of the initial disorientation he had experienced, and David felt the psionic tether between them intensify. She gripped his shoulder to pull him down against her, and he winced.
"Did I injure you?" she queried in concern.
David grinned. "Just a little tender in a few places. That was quite a workout you gave me."
"I believe I forgot for a moment that you were Human," she said apologetically, her lips gently tracing the bruises her fingers had made on the pale skin of his shoulder.
"I remember the moment," he teased, nuzzling her neck. "And 'did I injure you?' was supposed to be my line. I'm sorry, Saavik. I had no idea that I was the first."
She frowned, remembering Captain Spock's words as he had ordered her to take the Enterprise out. For every thing there is a first time. "Does it matter?"
He smiled, brushing a stray strand of hair from her cheek. She was so delightfully different! "Of course it matters! If I'd known, I'd have gone about it differently."
Saavik arched a brow. "Really? Explain."
David blushed, his amused chuckle rippling about them. "I would have taken it slower, been more gentle with you."
Saavik studied him with wide eyes. "For what reason?"
David sighed and shook his head. "It's an ancient Human custom. The male has...had...a responsibility to protect the female from harm. It was a code of honor with my ancestors."
"What an archaic custom."
"It's based on a sound premise. Human males have greater strength than females. I'm sure you've studied Human physiology."
Saavik nodded. "Indeed I have. Enough to know that your ancient custom is completely inappropriate when translated into our relationship. In our case, the point of gender is not the issue. My physiology is superior."
"And I've got the marks to prove it," David grinned. "Forgive me for clinging to the myth of male dominance. We may have outgrown the sexual stereotyping, but we haven't yet licked the problem of the male ego."
David grimaced. "What you've just trod on by reminding me that you have twice my strength."
"Considerably more than twice your strength," Saavik corrected. "Add to that my Starfleet defense training and--"
"There go half my favorite sexual fantasies out the portal!" David laughed.
Saavik stared at him. "Sexual fantasies?"
"You know, like I'm the Orion pirate, and you're the trembling young virgin about to be ravished..." His voice trailed off as he caught her puzzled expression.
"I fail to see what that adolescent scenario has to do with sex," she said.
David grinned. "You mean to tell me you've never had a sexual fantasy?"
Saavik shook her head, frowning. "I do not find Orion pirates arousing."
"Okay, but you must have thought about some situation, or daydreamed about some person you couldn't have in reality."
Saavik's expression became a mask. "Vulcans do not fantasize."
David smiled, tracing the point of her ear with one finger. "If last night was any indication, I think I know why. You don't need fantasy when reality is that good."
"May I assume that I've just been complimented?"
He kissed her, slowly with a lazy passion. "Yes," he whispered when he finally released her. "In fact, I'd like another dose of reality if you promise to be gentle with me."
"If that is what you desire," she teased, nipping
his earlobe. "Tell me when you have been sufficiently ravaged."
Saavik was dressing for duty when David came up behind her and slipped his arms around her waist. She leaned back against him and sighed.
"Will you accept a transfer to Grissom?" he queried softly, inhaling the scent of her hair.
"I do not know."
His grip on her tightened, "Last night when I came in here, I felt so alone, so confused. This morning, I feel..."
"Bruised?" she prompted lightly.
David chuckled. "I'm trying to say thank you."
"There is no need to..."
"Yes there is. I needed someone last night. I needed you, Saavik, and you were there for me. I'll never forget that."
"That sounds like a farewell."
"It doesn't have to be," David whispered, turning her in his arms so he could look into her eyes.
"I want you with me on the Grissom, Saavik. I want a chance to be with you."
"Last night we shared our grief and our desire. We filled a temporary need in one another. For us to assume a deeper emotion after such a brief experience would be impulsive."
David sighed. "If I told you that I think I'm falling in love with you, I suppose you'd accuse me of thinking with my--"
"David!" Saavik interrupted, her eyes wide. "Are you making a joke?"
He met her gaze solemnly. "No, I'm not."
She considered it for a moment. "I do not understand the Human concept of love. It is even more difficult to grasp than your humor. I am not entirely certain that I am capable of reciprocating love."
"Have you ever tried telling a joke, Saavik?"
She shook her head.
He smiled. "Repeat after me. A Tellarite and an Orthodox Jew get stranded on a deserted planet with no food or water."
Saavik frowned. "I fail to understand."
David pulled her closer. "Your first lesson is in humor. Once we get that licked, we'll start on love."
Saavik shook her head. "Like your father, you do not believe in the no-win scenario."
"I'm a product of my heredity," he agreed, kissing
Stepping onto the bridge, Saavik caught her eyes straying to the science station, which remained unmanned. Suddenly she realized what an anchor Spock had been for her, not just personally, but here on the bridge as well. She had counted on him so often for guidance, for council. As she moved quietly to her station at the navigation console, she wondered if the other bridge officers felt the vacuum created by his absence.
She responded automatically and politely to Sulu's greeting, surreptitiously studying his inscrutable profile. He seemed as calm and purposeful as ever, even though this emergency had taken him from his position as executive officer of the starship Cooper.
A hand fell on her shoulder, and she twisted to look up into a pair of hazel eyes, knowing that at least one other individual felt the loss as deeply as she. Had Saavik not been telepathic, she still could have sensed the depth of the admiral's grief merely by looking into those haunted eyes. Studying James Kirk's features, she was reminded of the time Spock had taught her the Vulcan word for brother. This was the image she had sensed in his thoughts...T'hy'la, brother, friend to the last extremity.
"How are you doing, Saavik?" Kirk queried softly.
Knowing instinctively that he was not referring to navigation, Saavik responded, never breaking her intense gaze. "I am fine, Admiral. And you?"
He started to respond and then paused, his grip on her shoulder tightening. A mirthless half-chuckle escaped him and he shook his head. "I was going to say, fine, but that's not the truth, and we both know it."
His eyes strayed to the mainviewer, staring sightlessly at the stars before he continued, his voice dropping to a near whisper. "We all have a little of the Vulcan in us, Saavik. We keep so much inside our self-erected walls that only a handful of people ever see beyond them...or through them."
"Such individuals are rare," Saavik said, thinking of how it had felt to share herself with David. The merging of their thoughts had brought her a feeling of contentment, a sensation of belonging. It had been so easy to share their isolation, to connect. She could feel his presence even now, in the back of her thoughts, a telepathic thread of sensation.
"I feel like a part of me is gone," Kirk said. The admiral's words were spoken so softly that only Saavik could have heard them, and she wondered if he was even aware he had spoken.
Uhura called Kirk to communications, and Saavik manned her
post, grateful for Sulu's Asian reserve and his carefully neutral conversation. All
morning long, the bridge echoed with reports from various decks and engineering as the
crew continued repairing the damage wrought by the Reliant's attack. Saavik
performed her duties mechanically, only peripherally aware of the others on the bridge.
She kept her eyes averted from the empty science station, Kirk's whispered confession
echoing in her mind. A part of me is gone.
After her watch, Saavik found David alone on the observation deck, looking out at the stars. He did not turn around as she entered the room, but continued staring at the sparkling, warp-distorted view. Stars streaked like hyperactive comets around them as they passed at speeds their ancestors had declared impossible.
"You've decided, haven't you?" he asked as she came up behind him. He turned to face her, searching her expression. "I can sense that you've decided, but I don't know what the decision is...Saavik!"
She felt his tension, and experienced a rush of pleasure that he should care so much about her choice. "I am going with you," she assured. "Admiral Kirk is notifying Starfleet Command of the transfer request now. He is confident it will be approved."
David broke into a relieved smile, slipping his arms around her and sighing. "Do you know that I can feel you even when we're not touching?" he whispered. "Not specific thoughts, but you're there inside my head, like soft music. I've been listening to your music all day, Saavik."
She stared up at him. "We share a strong mental bond. I, too, feel a resonance," her lips quivered. "Your music."
His mouth closed over hers in a gentle kiss, his hands massaging the tense muscles of her back. "I'm so glad you're coming with me," he breathed, his lips trailing down her neck. "I need you, Saavik."
The mental contact between them intensified, becoming an
electric current of desire. Saavik could not respond verbally to him, because he was
kissing her again, his tongue probing her mouth. She pressed closer, molding herself
intimately against him. I need you, also, David.
"I can't imagine what could be keeping McCoy." Admiral Kirk said apologetically. "I told him seventeen hundred hours."
Saavik knew that the admiral's restless pacing had less to do with the doctor's lack of punctuality and more with the nature of the gathering. He had summoned her to his cabin for the viewing of Captain Spock's will. Saavik had been a bit puzzled by the invitation, but she had not allowed it to show in her expression. She had arrived on time, of course, and for the last ten minutes had endured the admiral's awkward attempt at conversation while he paced his cabin.
McCoy's abrupt entrance into the cabin was more of a relief than Saavik could have imagined. The frown that knitted his expressive brow matched the irritated tone of his voice. "Well, let's get on with it, I've got work to do."
Saavik had known McCoy long enough to realize that he was grieving beneath his facade. She could not help but think that although the Human physician had always declared the Vulcan repression of emotions unhealthy, his own habit of substituting anger for every other emotion seemed equally unhealthy, not to mention illogical.
McCoy did a double take when he noticed Saavik, his blue eyes softening. "Hello, Saavik," he said quietly. "Should've known Spock would've wanted you here, too."
Saavik nodded in response to the doctor's greeting, unable to think of an appropriate comment to offer. Wills were a Human custom; she had no experience with which to compare this.
"Want a drink, Bones?" Kirk had offered Saavik a drink when she arrived, but she had refused it. She had never understood the Human tendency to complicate difficult situations with ethanol consumption.
"Yeah," McCoy began, then he glanced at Saavik. "On second thought, I'll pass. No sense in draggin' this out, is there?"
Kirk paused, then replaced the stopper to his decanter of brandy and sighed heavily. "I guess not." He picked up the disk, scrutinizing it for a moment and then cleared his throat. "Well, as you both know, Spock left this, to be viewed in the event of his death. It was with the instructions he had left about..."
Saavik watched Kirk as his voice trailed off, realizing that he was reluctant to insert the disk into the viewer. She glanced at McCoy, sensing his concern for Kirk mingling with his own grief.
"Aw, come on, Jim," McCoy said, gently taking the disk from the admiral's hand and slipping it into the slot.
Kirk moved forward, putting one hand on McCoy's shoulder. Saavik observed the reactions of the two Humans with frank curiosity once the green type of Spock's last will and testament filled the screen.
"Damn!" McCoy whispered, after a moment of shocked silence. "Of all the impersonal, inhuman things to do! Why couldn't he have just--"
The expression on Kirk's face was difficult to read, as it conveyed what she perceived as a mixture of several negative Human emotions. "Oh, Spock!" he said softly, sagging against the doctor and closing his eyes as if to shut out the image on the screen.
McCoy twisted around to face Kirk, gripping him firmly by the shoulders. "Jim." The tone was full of compassion.
Kirk's eyes flickered open and he stiffened, stepping back out of McCoy's reach and becoming very much the Admiral. "Of course, I'll have copies of the document forwarded to both your quarters. Thank you for your time, Lieutenant, Doctor."
The terse words were a dismissal, and Saavik turned and left the room, pausing in the corridor to ponder what she had just witnessed. Before she could formulate any theories, McCoy burst from the cabin, scowling. "God damned, green-blooded--"
He cut himself short when he saw Saavik and noted her puzzled expression.
"I do not understand," she said. "Why is the admiral upset? He did not even read the will. How could the contents be disquieting to him?"
McCoy shook his head. "Jim was expectin'...we were expectin' a taped message. A goodbye. We all have them on file in case, in case..."
Suddenly, Saavik understood. Spock had breached a Human cultural tradition with his written will. She frowned. That was unlike Spock. He valued his dual heritage and was very mindful of the feelings of his Human companions. The omission was uncharacteristic.
"Perhaps there is another--" she began helpfully.
"No, Saavik," McCoy said, as if he had already considered the possibility himself and dismissed it. "That was the only disk in Spock's safe. Jim and I went through all his things; that was all he left. Damn pointy-eared so and so. I should've guessed he'd pull a stunt like this, especially after that time with the Tholians. Jim's goodbye hit us both where we lived." The doctor sighed. "Well, I guess he just couldn't bring himself to do it. He went out the same way he lived, avoidin' sentiment."
Saavik did not know anything about the incident to which McCoy referred, but his explanation of the situation did not seem quite right to her. Captain Spock's devotion to the admiral ran deep; she could not imagine him omitting a farewell when he knew that Kirk would expect it. That was not his way.
"Well, I'd better be gettin' back to work." McCoy said wearily. "See you later."
"Doctor," Saavik said, thinking of where she had been headed when Kirk's page had diverted her. "I would like to schedule an appointment with you at your convenience."
The blue eyes widened, and the physician stared at her. "What kind of appointment?"
"Medical. There is certainly no hurry, but I would like to--"
"No time like the present," McCoy interrupted gruffly. "Come on."
Ten minutes later, McCoy eyed his young patient with a mixture of curiosity and relief. For starters, it was good to see someone in Sickbay looking healthy and whole. There had been enough severe cases down here lately to last a lifetime. He saw Peter Preston's face in his mind, glowing with excitement and anticipation as he had stood in line for Kirk's inspection. The image faded, replaced with that same visage, blank eyed, bruised and bleeding as it relaxed into death. Get a grip, Leonard! he ordered himself silently, forcing his attention back to Saavik's medical file.
"You say you waived a contraceptive injection when you took your last physical?" he questioned, looking through her records.
"Yes," Saavik said, averting her gaze.
"Relax, Saavik; it's a feminine prerogative," he said with a reassuring smile. "Women have been changin' their minds since the dawn of time. I'll have you fixed up in a jiffy."
He started to turn away and then paused, studying her expression thoughtfully for a moment before he continued. "Uh, before I give you the hypo, I need to know, have you--"
"Yes, Doctor," Saavik interrupted. "I have."
McCoy flushed. "Then I'll have to scan you first. The injection is contraindicated if there's already..." His voice trailed off, and he was seized with an unprofessional curiosity, a desire to know who it was that Saavik had been with. Please, don't let it be Jim! he prayed silently, recalling the long wait for the turbolift the other day and Saavik bursting past him like a photon torpedo, hair flying out behind her in a scented cloud. She had looked guilty, and so had Jim Kirk. So much so that he had made that crack about the Romulan ale.
Saavik was already stretched out on the diagnostic table, and he pushed the suspicion from his mind, irritated with himself for speculating. He concentrated on recalibrating the scanner for his patient's unique physiology, and glanced down at her. She looked perfectly calm, but he had known Spock long enough to know what turmoil the Vulcan facade could mask. Thinking of Spock intensified the sensation of loss in McCoy, and looking at Saavik reminded him achingly of all his friend had had to live for.
He thought of Spock's fatherly pride in Saavik, and of the respect and honor the Lieutenant had afforded her mentor. It occurred to McCoy that Spock was the only family Saavik had ever known, and the doctor suddenly realized how much she must be missing him. Damn! In his own grief, he had failed to consider what Saavik must be going through.
He snapped the scanner on, interpreting the readings as he recalled all the years of bickering, all the arguments. He remembered countless planetfalls, battles, shore-leaves, and perils, and the pointy-eared, decimal-quoting tower of strength and reserve that he had grown to trust and love...
Blinking back tears, he felt a brief sensation of vertigo that had been recurring since Spock had nerve pinched him in Engineering. He waited until it passed, wondering if he had managed to concuss himself when he fell, but Spock was always careful about easing his victims down gently, especially when the victim was a friend. As the sensation faded, he took a deep breath and managed a steady tone. "You check out fine. I'll get the hypo." He patted Saavik's arm as he turned to obtain the injection.
Saavik stiffened as he released her and busied himself with the pharmacy computer. She closed her eyes, the room spinning dizzily around her. No! she mouthed silently, denying the presence she had sensed. For a moment, she wondered if she might be losing her mind as her pulse pounded in her ears. A deep tone echoed in her thoughts, soft and familiar and unmistakable. You are not alone.
She heard McCoy's voice calling her name, felt him grasp her shoulders when she did not respond. Shrinking from his touch, she frantically shielded against the telepathic contact, but it was unnecessary. Gradually she relaxed, opening her eyes; McCoy was staring at her. She felt his concern, she felt his curiosity, and beneath it all, she felt his grief. Nothing more.
"You all right?" the doctor asked.
"Fine," she assured, her voice sounding much more calm than she felt.
"You look as though you've just seen a ghost," McCoy observed.
"I am merely fatigued," she said. It was the truth, not all of it, but enough to suffice.
"I guess we all are," he said, sounding tired himself. He pressed the hypospray against her arm and released the contraceptive into her system with a faint hiss. "This'll be good for at least a month. Don't go over that without gettin' a booster, okay?"
"Understood. Thank you for your time, Doctor," she said, sitting up and swinging herself off the table.
McCoy caught her wrist as she started to leave, his touch chill against her warmth. "He was proud of you, Saavik."
Saavik froze, not turning back, but unable to continue out the door. There was no need to ask of whom the doctor spoke.
McCoy scanned her, not missing the tightly clenched fists. He sighed. "God knows, he was never one to say such things openly, but he was proud of you, of what you've accomplished."
"What I have accomplished," she began, her voice catching, "I have accomplished because of him."
"He wouldn't want us to grieve, would he?" McCoy asked softly.
"No," Saavik said. "He would not."
McCoy watched her leave, her body tense, jaw braced defiantly
against a tremor of emotion. Spock wouldn't want us to grieve, he thought, tears
blurring his vision as the door swished shut. But we're damn well going to.
Saavik was overseeing the transport of the crew of the Reliant up to the Enterprise when David found her the next day. She nodded in greeting, but continued with her expert manipulation of the transporter controls. David lingered awkwardly near the doorway, flattening himself against the bulkhead as members of the Reliant crew milled about. David felt useless aboard the Enterprise; he was out of his element, even as Saavik seemed to be in hers. Everywhere he went he seemed to be in the way.
He had missed being with Saavik last night. He had spent it with his mother and father, and the evening had been a disaster. Kirk was grieving for Spock, and he and his mother were still numb from the brutal deaths of their colleagues on Regula. Instead of addressing these issues, they ignored them. The conversation flitted from one superficial topic to another until it stalled out altogether. The awkward silences were worse than the stilted dialogue, and finally, Carol had pleaded a headache, and David had taken her back to their cabin.
David compared the isolation and discomfort he had felt with his parents to the warm acceptance he experienced with Saavik and smiled. He had wanted to go to Saavik last night, to be with her again, but his mother had seemed so vulnerable and depressed that he didn't have the heart to desert her. She had not questioned his story that he had spent the previous night on the observation deck, but he was certain that she didn't believe it. As a rule, Carol turned a blind eye to his sexual adventuring. She offered advice or passed comments on his choices only when they interfered with his education or career, but, on those occasions, he had known her to be quite strong-willed in her objections.
David instinctively knew that his mother would see his relationship with Saavik as a poor choice, one that could be detrimental to his tenure aboard the Grissom. She had often told him it was unwise to mix professional relationships with personal ones, but David had seen her break her own axiom on several occasions. A product of his heredity, David Marcus was not bound by axioms and rules; he was challenged by them.
Returning his attention to Saavik, David watched her at the transporter console. She's so beautiful, he thought. Beautiful and composed, a picture of Vulcan reserve. He wondered idly if all Vulcan females had her sexual drive. If they did, he could understand the rumor that Vulcan men made love only once every seven years. Dealing with that kind of intensity night after night would be exhausting. He had muscles aching all over his body, and bruises where no man should ever have bruises.
As the last member of the Reliant's crew beamed up, David moved toward Saavik, colliding with a tall, blond-haired officer. The officer sidestepped him with an apology in a clipped accent and proceeded to the console, surveying it with an expert eye.
"It's been a long time," the officer said with the air of a man who has come home. He gave Saavik a quick once over, with less interest than he had afforded the console, and bowed. "Commander Kyle reporting, Lieutenant. I would like to have a word with Captain Spock or Admiral Kirk when it's convenient."
Saavik met the tall man's gaze. "The admiral is busy in Engineering, Commander."
Kyle grinned. "Lending a hand with Scott's bairns, I'll wager, and Captain Spock?"
David felt Saavik's battle for composure, the bond between them quivering with tension as she controlled her grief.
"Captain Spock is dead, Commander. He died during Khan's attack."
Kyle's expression fell, all the color draining from his face. "Mister Spock!" he whispered under his breath. He gripped the transporter console, leaning heavily into it. "I'll be reporting to the admiral in Engineering, then," he added softly. He turned and left the room, followed by the last of his crewmates.
Saavik and David stood alone in the empty room, David at a loss for a way to comfort her. She seemed so far away from him, so detached that he was afraid to even move toward her. She hailed Engineering to notify Kirk that Kyle was on his way to report, notified Commander Uhura that all the personnel from the Reliant had beamed up from Alpha Ceti, and ran a routine check of the transporter system before she shut it down. Her movements were as stiff as those of a poorly programmed robot.
"Saavik," David began. Before he could continue, the door to the corridor slid open and a flustered-looking ensign darted in, fastening the jacket of her uniform.
"I'm sorry I'm late, Lieutenant, but I reported to the wrong--"
Saavik cut the ensign's apology off with a terse report and then stalked out into the corridor. David, running to catch up with her, slipped between the turbolift doors just as they were closing. She stood with her back to him, head bowed, hands clasped tightly behind her back.
Ignoring her isolative stance, he put his hands on her shoulders. "Saavik, I'm so sorry," he whispered.
She moved away from him, and he felt her pulling back from their bond, retreating into herself.
"Don't!" he pleaded. "Don't lock me out, Saavik. I know how much Captain Spock meant to you. I know how much you're hurting. Please, let me help."
She turned, her dark eyes bright with unshed tears. "He was my teacher, my mentor. Yet I dishonor his memory with my emotionalism."
David shook his head. "I didn't know Captain Spock, but I never passed up an opportunity to read one of his scientific papers. The one aspect of his character that always stood out in his writings was his deep abiding respect for the diversity of life. Isn't that a Vulcan ideal?"
"Infinite diversity in infinite combinations."
"And you're a combination, Saavik," David said with a tender smile. "You're a beautiful combination of two cultures. Don't reject the part of you that makes you unique. That's not what Captain Spock would have wanted you to do."
Saavik's eyes widened, and David felt her resistance to him fade. He gathered her into his arms. "Let me share what you're feeling," he whispered as he hugged her tightly against him. "Let me be there for you."
She relaxed against him, finally returning his embrace. The turbolift slowed and he reluctantly released her just as the doors opened. David turned, one hand still lingering at Saavik's waist as his mother and Doctor McCoy entered the lift.
"Well, the lost is found," Carol Marcus began, her smile fading with her light tone as she caught David's expression and noted his proximity to the lieutenant.
"Deck Five?" McCoy asked Carol, casting a speculative glance over the young couple.
"Yes," she replied. "Nice to see you again, Lieutenant Saavik."
"Thank you, Doctor."
They all emerged from the lift together, Saavik proceeding
silently to her cabin and David and Carol Marcus to theirs. McCoy caught David's furtive
glance after Saavik and suppressed a grin. Well, well! Apples don't fall far from the
tree. Shaking his head and smiling in relief, McCoy turned and headed for his cabin.
Saavik lay in the warm darkness of her cabin, David's regular breathing beside her creating a soothing, familiar rhythm. In spite of her intentions to keep the link with David from deepening, it was growing stronger. Each time they were together she sensed more of his thoughts, experienced more strongly his vibrant emotions.
David was quite intelligent, and his thought processes were remarkably well-ordered for a Human. Saavik enjoyed sharing his perceptions, his unique point of view, even his turbulent mood swings, but she found that sensing an emotion and understanding it were two completely different things.
Tonight, for example, she had heard the echo in David's mind of an argument with his mother. She had certainly not been seeking the information out, but the words had popped into her mind the moment he touched her. Carol Marcus's voice was crystal-clear and high pitched with anger and worry.
"You're impulsive, David. You always jump into things before you think them through. I can't count the number of times that you've done something on a whim and then regretted it later. Can't you see how impossible this situation is?"
"I love her, Mother."
"You come from two different worlds; she's a Vulcan!"
"She's half-Vulcan, and what has that got to do with it?"
"Everything! Consider the cultural differences, the biological differences, not to mention the fact that she's a Starfleet officer. You have absolutely nothing in common!"
"How can you say that? You don't even know her!"
"I know you, David. I know how vulnerable you are right now and I remember how easy it is to mistake need for love. You need Saavik right now, but I don't believe for one moment that you love her."
"Just because you could never make a commitment, don't--"
"I made a hell of a commitment! I chose to raise you alone. I chose to be both mother and father to you, and I tried to give you every advantage!" The mental tone softened. "And if I was hard on you, it was because I loved you, David. That's why I'm saying these things now, out of love. I don't want to see you make the same mistakes I did."
"That's what this is really all about, isn't it? Well, I'm not talking about Jim Kirk, and I'm certainly not talking about cheap sex. Saavik needs me and I'm going to her."
"This is a mistake."
"Yes, but it's yours, Mother. Don't wait up."
The conversation had evoked mixed feelings in Saavik. Carol Marcus's objections had seemed both biased and disturbing. David's defense, and his declaration of love for her had pleased and warmed her in a way she could not quite grasp. The whole situation left her feeling hurt, confused, and strangely elated.
When David had first made love to her tonight, it had been silent, almost deliberate, and she could feel the resonance of his anger at his mother, sense his frustration. There had been no joy in his release, and Saavik experienced a restless wanting after he had collapsed beside her.
"Is that all?" she had queried, unable to hide her disappointment.
David flushed. "No, of course not!" He pulled her against him, his mouth cool against her aching flesh. His hands roved over her soft curves in bold exploration and she felt his anger fade as he pleasured her with an experienced combination of his mouth and tongue.
She had felt his arousal, an urgent echo to her own growing need as he teased her. The dual perceptions, her sensations superimposed on his own, augmented his desire for her, and when she cried out, arching against him, willing him to take her again, to fill her, he was able to comply.
Saavik responded to David's possession with a sigh of delight, pulling him down against her. Even as she felt his climb to orgasm, she heard a strange mantra in his mind, a curious string of words that overwhelmed all other thoughts.
Apples, bananas, cantaloupe, dates, elderberries, figs, grapes, honeydew...
The list droned on, trailing off only when she thrashed beneath him in release. Raspberries...straw...berries! he had cried out telepathically, losing the rhythm of the chant as he joined her. Their pleasure had merged in rippling waves, blocking out all thoughts, all sensations except their shared consciousness.
Sated, Saavik's exhaustion had overwhelmed her curiosity, and she had slept, the unspoken question quivering on her parted lips.
Fully awake now, her curiosity restored, she rolled over to look at David, indulging in a smile as she admired his fair skin, the tangle of curls that framed his face. He had inherited his mother's coloring, but the line of his jaw reminded her of Admiral Kirk. If his eyes had been hazel, she thought, he would resemble his father even more. But they were blue, the blue of Earth's sky after a rainstorm.
What did she feel for David? More than mere desire, certainly, and more than the sharing of need or grief. Their bond gave Saavik a sense of completion like she had never known, a feeling of wholeness and contentment that she had never dreamed possible. David had somehow filled the emptiness inside her with his Human love. Perhaps the time had come to label the emotion he evoked in her.
She reached out to touch his face, her fingers brushing a stray lock of hair from his temple. She was immediately overwhelmed by an image, a sensuous projection into her mind as vivid as any holograph. She drew her fingers back, reeling with sensations, her pulse increasing with her arousal.
David remained asleep, and Saavik stared at him, her eyes wide with astonishment. The image she had seen was so vivid that for a moment she had been drawn into it, actually felt...
Her fingers moved slowly back to touch his forehead, and she closed her eyes, giving herself up to the temptation of joining in David's erotic dream.
They were alone in the turbolift, the panel indicated it was locked between decks. David was pressed against her, his mouth moving hungrily over hers as he fumbled with the fastenings of her uniform jacket.
"This is completely illogical." she said as he tossed her jacket to the floor. "The turbolift is inappropriate for--"
David, undaunted by her protest, silenced her with a passionate kiss. His hands slipped to her buttocks, pulling her firmly against him. Saavik did not require telepathy to sense his intent, and although a part of her labeled it impulsive and irresponsible, another part of her tingled in excited anticipation.
"David!" Her shirt followed her jacket. The cool air against her bare torso was as enticing as his cool Human touch.
"I'm going to make love to you," he murmured, his voice husky. "I'm going to take you right now; I can't wait."
Saavik leaned against him as he kissed her again, her legs suddenly going weak. "We shouldn't," she said, but there was no conviction in her breathless gasp. He had slipped one hand beneath the waistband of her trousers and she arched into his touch, a soft moan escaping her.
"You want this," he insisted, his lips brushing the hollow of her throat. "You want me to take you here."
"Yes!" she capitulated as he tugged impatiently at her trousers. There was a rending tear as the cloth gave and he stroked the last remains of the clothing aside.
Her fingers were trembling as she caught the hem of his tunic and pulled it up. David assisted her in drawing it over his head and it joined her jacket and shirt on the floor. He pressed against her, absorbing her heat as he unfastened his trousers, removing the last barrier between them. He rubbed against her, his mouth covering hers.
"Oh, Saavik!" he whispered as she reached for him.
He pinned her against the wall as she gripped the rail and rose up on tiptoe to accommodate him. His hands closed over her breasts, his tongue darted in and out of her open mouth, overloading her tactile senses with his frenzied assault on her body.
"David!" Saavik cried as the dream merged with reality. She opened her eyes to find him over her, pressing her into the bunk with the welcome weight of his body, his mouth covering hers. She drew his hands to her breasts and closed her eyes again as he filled her. Floating back to the lift, she found her release in the heat of his fantasy.
Afterward, she lay in David's arms, her head against his chest, fascinated by the slow steady throb of his heart. For a long time neither of them spoke.
"David," she began, finally breaking the silence. "What is the significance of fruit?"
David twisted to meet her gaze and frowned. "Fruit?"
"Yes. Does it have some special significance?"
"What on Earth are you talking about?"
"Before, when we were making love, you were reciting an alphabetical list of fruit. I could hear you--"
David winced and groaned, but Saavik continued. "Do you not remember? I believe that we both achieved orgasms between raspberries and straw--"
David's groan turned into a chuckle, the chuckle progressing rapidly into laughter. Saavik stared at him as he continued to laugh, tears forming in his eyes.
"What is so amusing?" she demanded, fearing for his sanity. He seemed to be dangerously close to hysterics.
"Strawberries!" he gasped, shaking his head as he was overcome with more laughter. "Oh, Saavik!"
She waited for him to regain his composure, feeling his amusement and embarrassment through the link. When he could speak again, she repeated her question.
"I was trying to hold out," he explained. "It's an old trick, a mnemonic device. By concentrating on something mundane, like fruit, a man can sometimes prolong--"
"I see," Saavik interrupted. "But why the alphabet?"
David shrugged, "I dunno. I guess it adds a structure to the challenge." He smiled at her. "And you heard it. I shouldn't have laughed, but the picture was so vivid."
"As vivid as your dream?"
"Yes, you felt that too, didn't you?"
"That was a fantasy," she responded with the air of a student, repeating a definition to commit it to memory. "A situation you could not experience in reality."
"It probably wouldn't be a real good idea. But it was nice pretending, wasn't it?"
"Indeed. Your mother was quite right. You are very impulsive."
Her observation was followed by a long silence as David pondered the weight of her words. When he spoke, all the levity had gone out of his voice.
"Saavik. I had no intention of letting you know about that conversation with my mother."
"Because it's not important."
"I do not believe that, David."
"I can see that this bond between us is going to have its drawbacks. All right, you know what was said. You also know what we share. Tell me, do you think that she's right?"
Saavik felt his gaze upon her, those deep blue eyes piercing like ceremonial daggers. "No."
David sighed. "I agree, but there isn't any way for us to give her our certainty, Saavik. I can tell her I love you," he paused, pulling her close against him, savoring the warmth of her body, the warmth of her mind. "And I do love you, but it won't make her accept what we share."
"You wished to protect me from the knowledge that your mother disapproves," Saavik said slowly. "Perhaps yet another manifestation of your ancient cultural custom?"
David smiled. "Guilty as charged."
Saavik thoughtfully trailed her fingers across his chest. "It is illogical, but I find your protectiveness pleasing, and it also pleases me to hear you speak of your love for me."
"Some things must be spoken," he said softly. His comment was a combination of a dare and a plea. "I love you, Saavik."
David held his breath as she met his gaze, leaning against
him to brush her lips gently against his before replying. "And I believe that I love
you also, David."
Spacelab Regula 1 no longer seems like home, David thought, looking around at his private quarters, now stripped of his personal effects. He was amazed at how alien and bare it seemed. He leaned against the bulkhead, looking through the portal at the unchanging view. When they had first arrived here nearly two years ago, Regula had been a lifeless chunk of rock in space. Now there was more life inside Regula than here in the spacelab. Khan had seen to that.
David sighed. Had it really only been a week ago that he and Vance had stood looking out this very portal, talking about Genesis coming to glorious fruition?
Pressing his head against the transparent aluminum, he shivered, feeling for the first time the desperate chill of space. It was an inhospitable, icy vacuum where man trekked only by virtue of his ingenuity.
"Damn ingenious geniuses we were," he muttered. "So caught up in the gift that we were giving to Humanity that we never saw the danger!"
"Of course we saw the danger." Carol's soft voice countered from the doorway to his cabin. David turned, seeing grief etched in his mother's pinched features. "We not only saw it, but we committed ourselves to preventing it. Our friends died to protect a dream. They wanted to give Genesis a chance to live up to our collective expectations. They sacrificed their lives for the life that device would create," She closed her eyes, as if to block out the images of the brutalized bodies of her colleagues, of the torture they must have endured before death claimed them. Inhaling deeply, she opened her eyes, her lips curving slowly into a sad smile. "Genesis is truly new life, new life created by all of us. Just as a part of me will live on through you, David, a part of them will always be preserved in that new world."
David stepped forward. "Then why won't you come with us to the Genesis planet?"
Carol shook her head. "Genesis," her voice broke and she paused, summoning control. "Genesis is a lot like another child I know. It needs to develop on its own, without the constraints of parental expectations."
David sighed. "I'm sorry about what I said."
"I was out of line, kiddo. It's not my life to lead; it's yours. Maybe when you have a child of your own, you'll understand the temptation to give that child the wisdom of your experiences. It can't be done, but that hasn't stopped any parent from making the attempt."
Carol smiled. "You don't, at least, not the way I'd like you to. You can't understand what I'm feeling right now any more than I can remember what it felt like to be so in love that the risks seemed unimportant."
"There's still time to change your mind and come with us," David urged.
"You see to the living," Carol whispered, her eyes haunted. "I'll see to the dead."
David took her in his arms. She was like a feather in his gentle hug, as if her density had been diminished by her grief. "You've lost weight," he observed. "Who's going to remind you to eat?" It was an old joke. Carol, becoming absorbed in her work, had often skipped meals. Without David's parental prodding, she could go for days without eating.
"I guess you'll have to write me three times a day," she teased, pulling back to gaze at him. "Don't worry. The Tplana-Hath will be here in just a few days. I'll barely have time to get everyone's personal effects collected before she arrives. You know what a lot of pigs we all were."
David's eyes strayed over Carol's shoulder, and she felt him tense. Remember your youth, Carol, she ordered herself silently. Remember what it felt like to love with that abandon.
She released her son and turned, facing the Vulcan lieutenant with a smile, which to her surprise, she did not have to force. "Hello, Saavik."
"Doctor," the young woman's tone and expression were guarded. Her dark eyes focused on David and she swallowed. "I did not intend to interrupt your farewell, but Captain Esteban is impatient to leave orbit."
"Of course," Carol said easily. She turned back to David. "You ready?"
"Uh, yeah," David said, bending to retrieve the bulging travel case from his bunk.
Carol stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek, holding him against her for a moment before she released him. "Take good care of our planet, kiddo."
Carol turned to Saavik and extended her hand. After a split second of hesitation Saavik took it, returning the firm grasp. Carol smiled. "And you take good care of my son."
The two women faced each other for a moment, their gazes locked. Finally Saavik withdrew her hand. "I shall."
Carol Marcus proceeded out the door without a backward
Justine Smythe's eyes widened as the two figures coalesced on the Grissom's transporter platform. She all but ignored Saavik, raking David Marcus with a frankly appraising stare. Smythe divided men into two categories: those she would sleep with to advance her career, and those she would sleep with purely for enjoyment. David Marcus definitely fell into the latter category.
She smiled, her dark, almond eyes glowing with anticipation. Grissom was a small ship and she was long overdue for a little variety.
"Welcome aboard!" she greeted warmly, meeting David's gaze and holding it. "I'm Commander Smythe, the first officer of the Grissom. Captain Esteban has asked that I extend his compliments. Once you're settled into your cabins, he would like for you to join him on the bridge."
"Sounds fine to me," David agreed. He hefted his suitcase with two hands, dragging it off the platform. Saavik beat him to the console, and Smythe finally tore her gaze from David long enough to address her.
"Starfleet just now notified us of your transfer, Lieutenant. Our previous orders had indicated that we would only be taking aboard the Marcuses."
"My mother had other responsibilities to attend to," David explained as he set down his case. He reached out to grasp Saavik's hand. "And you do understand that Lieutenant Saavik's transfer to Grissom is temporary?"
"We were told that she would be functioning as your assistant, a temporary assignment." The narrowing of the commander's eyes belied her pleasant tone as David's hand curled around Saavik's with an easy familiarity.
"Her extensive background in sciences and knowledge of Genesis are invaluable to me," David added, his lips curving into a smile as Saavik turned to meet his gaze.
"I'm sure," Smythe said, not missing the pride in the young scientist's voice, or the sparkle in those sapphire eyes as he looked at the Vulcan lieutenant. Smythe had been wondering how someone with Saavik's limited experience had managed to land such a plum assignment. Now she understood. Her instinct told her that David Marcus had a thing for Saavik. So Vulcans play that game too! she thought in surprise. I wonder how long she can lead him on? He doesn't look like the type to be very patient with mere platonics. "Your cabin is ready, Doctor Marcus. Lieutenant Saavik, you will be bunking with--"
"Lieutenant Saavik and I will be bunking together," David interrupted casually. "If you could just show us the way."
Smythe's brow rose and shock registered on her face before she could control it. Favoring Saavik with a stare that revealed frank curiosity and grudging respect, Smythe reconsidered her position. My, this will be a challenge!
"Commander?" David prompted, and Smythe tore her eyes from an astonished perusal of Saavik.
"Of course. This way."
Saavik, flustered by Smythe's speculative stare, reached for both suitcases, lifting them with unconscious ease to follow the first officer into the corridor. David, embarrassed at the casual way Saavik carried his immense case, caught up with her outside the door to the transporter room.
"I can carry that, Saavik," he said.
"It is quite heavy," she reminded with a frown. "And I do not--"
"I really don't mind," he insisted firmly, completely aware that Smythe had paused in the corridor ahead of them, turning to witness the exchange.
Saavik, recognizing the determination in his tone, relented, setting the case on the deck. David hefted it with his right hand, straightening up with obvious effort to meet Smythe's questioning gaze.
"Lead the way, Commander," he urged with a smile that turned into a grimace as he followed the two officers, thanking his lucky stars that the Grissom was not a large ship.
When they reached the cabin, he tugged the case through the narrow doorway, wiping perspiration from his brow. Lowering the case to the deck, he examined the stateroom with a critical eye. It was small, offering only the barest essentials, a far cry from Saavik's quarters aboard the Enterprise. "Cozy," he offered in an attempt to be diplomatic.
"Cramped," Smythe amended, moving to the small, round portal and looking out at Regula I. "I'm afraid there aren't a lot of open spaces here. These bulkheads really start to close in on you after a while."
"Have you served aboard Grissom long?" David queried conversationally as he slipped into the chair before the computer terminal.
"Five years, four months, and eighteen days," Smythe responded in the bored tone of someone who has been keeping track. "But I'm up for a promotion: first officer of the Excelsior."
"I'm sure you're looking forward to it," David said.
"There are several candidates for that post, are there not, Commander?" Saavik asked as she set her suitcase on the bottom bunk.
Smythe turned, her smile as she replied to Saavik's query holding none of the warmth it had for David. "None with my experience, Lieutenant."
David, oblivious to the undercurrent between the two women, was concentrating on the unfamiliar keyboard. Smythe turned to him, one hand falling with easy familiarity on his shoulder. "Doctor?"
"Mmmm?" David asked distractedly.
"I'm certain that Doctor Marcus and I can find our way to the bridge, Commander," Saavik interrupted. "I do not wish to keep you from your duties for any longer than necessary."
Smythe pulled her hand from Marcus's shoulder and whirled to face the other woman, bristling at the implied dismissal. The lieutenant's position as Marcus's assistant put her outside Grissom's chain of command, but her tone was one step away from insubordination, and they both knew it. Never one to show her true colors, Smythe smiled sweetly. "Why, thank you, Lieutenant." Her emphasis on Saavik's rank was impossible to miss, nor was Saavik blind to the implied threat in the pleasant tone.
"Doctor," Smythe continued, turning back to David and finally getting his attention. "We are at your disposal. If there is anything I can do to facilitate matters, any service I can provide, please don't hesitate to call on me. If I'm not on the bridge, I can usually be found in my cabin; it's just across the corridor."
David looked up at her, smiling at Smythe in a way that made Saavik clench her fists. "That's very kind of you, Commander."
"My friends call me Justine," Smythe prompted softly.
David's smile deepened. "Justine. And I'm David."
"I'll see you on the bridge then, David," Smythe said, unable to resist a small triumphant glance at Saavik as she turned to leave the room.
As the door hissed shut behind Smythe, Saavik expelled a carefully selected curse beneath her breath. What a predator, she thought. Even the hyrillan of Hellguard shows more subtlety when stalking its prey.
"She's a pleasant surprise," David sighed, turning back to the computer. "I just hate militaristic types, don't you?"
Saavik, astonished by his naivete/ and outraged at how easily he had been fooled by an attractive smile, made no answer, turning to unpack her case.
David was engrossed in accessing the ship's computer files, so he did not sense his companion's irritation as she silently put away her things, fuming beneath her calm facade. Just as she was stowing her case beneath the bunk, she heard him swear.
"That's the third time I've tried to call up this file," he grumbled. "What's wrong with this thing?"
Saavik straightened, moving to look over his shoulder at the screen. She bent over him to tap a string of numbers and letters rapidly onto the keyboard. "This is a Starfleet research vessel, David. The computers interface the Federation memory banks, therefore certain safeguards are necessary. You were attempting to access classified data."
"I was trying to access their files on Genesis!" he retorted hotly, stung by her cool tone. "Where does Starfleet come off denying me access to my own research?"
Saavik met his angry gaze steadily. "The computer cannot identify you unless you instruct it to do so." She hit the audio button and straightened. "Computer?"
"Please stand by to verify voice print for Doctor David Marcus, security clearance, alpha-five."
There was a pause as the computer accessed the information and then the flat feminine voice continued. "Voice print retrieved for Doctor Marcus, David J. Security clearance approved by Kirk, Admiral James T. Stardate 8199.3. Standing by for verification."
David looked up at her and she nodded, gesturing to the microphone pick-up.
"Uh," David began hesitantly, clearing his throat. "This is Doctor David Marcus...good morning."
"Voice print verified," the computer responded. "Good morning, Doctor Marcus."
David grinned up at Saavik, finally sensing her reserve. Assuming that she was irritated because of his outburst, he reached up and pulled her into his lap. I'm sorry," he whispered, his lips brushing against hers in a tantalizing way. "Am I forgiven?"
Saavik, remembering the proud and loving emanations he had
projected to her in the transporter room, found she could not maintain her annoyance with
him. He was so changeable, his moods swinging with such abandon. Perhaps it was
contagious, she thought, her lips quivering as she strove not to return his smile.
"You are forgiven," she finally relented, her dark eyes twinkling as merrily as
the deep blue ones.
Awakening from an erotic dream, Smythe curled herself contentedly against the warmth of Shah Jahan's body. It had been a frustrating few days, she thought, frowning. That little bitch insisted on following in David's wake, guarding him jealously as a dog guarded its master. To top it off, he spent the better part of each evening in his cabin, alone with Saavik, supposedly preparing tomorrow's briefing for the crew. There had to be a way to pry him away from her, but it was going to require some thought. Her seduction skills had atrophied from disuse during her tenure aboard the Grissom, she decided with a wry smile.
Dividing her time between Esteban and Jahan had kept her busy and satisfied, but once the initial pattern was set, it had required little skill outside the maneuvering of Esteban's ego to keep him unaware that Jahan was her lover also. The attractive communications officer had served her pleasure quite satisfactorily, she thought. He was beautiful, tireless, and most importantly, he worshiped the deck she trod upon. At first, he had been jealous of Esteban, demanding that she break off her relationship with the captain, but Justine had tearfully told him that refusing Esteban's advances could be disastrous, perhaps even resulting in the captain arbitrarily transferring her off the ship.
She had manipulated Jahan's emotions, duping him into cuckolding the captain secretly, managing both men with a consummate skill. Her accomplishment was nothing short of extraordinary considering the size of the Grissom. Of course, most of the crew had their suspicions, but none were foolish enough to put the word in Esteban's ear. Those under Justine Smythe's command never underestimated for a moment the power she wielded, nor the depth of her wrath if angered.
Jahan shifted in his sleep, rolling to face her and she concentrated on his face. Until a few days ago, she had found his classically chiseled features quite delightful. She sighed. David Marcus had the loveliest eyes, and his fair complexion and blond halo of curls had tantalized her almost as thoroughly as those square shoulders and narrow hips. She was betting he would be a skillful lover.
"Jahan!" Justine breathed, feathering one hand over the communications officer's thighs. "Wake up!" Jahan rolled over further, pinning her beneath him, ready to service her desire even in sleep. She arched up, grabbing his shoulders to pull his mouth against hers.
"Again?" he whispered, his eyes popping open in surprise.
"Yes!" she urged, wriggling impatiently. "Oh yes!"
She closed her eyes as he slipped into her, imagining fair
skin instead of copper against her and golden curls to run her fingers through. Justine
moaned softly, recalling vivid blue eyes. "That's it," she gasped.
Saavik was in a sunlit field, looking up at a pale violet sky and fluffy clouds tinged with just a trace of rainbow pink. David's hand gripped hers as they ambled through the waving grass and a warm breeze ruffled their hair.
"Beautiful!" she exclaimed, waving her free hand expansively. "You have visited this place?"
"Only in my dreams," he replied, sinking down and pulling her with him.
"A fantasy?" Saavik inhaled the sweetly scented air and smiled.
"I guess you could call it that. I invented it as a child, a secret place to go."
"Even as a child you were creating worlds," Saavik responded in awe as she lifted her head to look around them. "Are there any inhabitants in this world?"
"Only me," David caught her gaze, his solemn expression breaking into a tender smile. "And now you."
"Thank you for sharing it with me."
"You do one now."
Saavik's eyes popped open in surprise, and the image faded like the dream it was made from, their small cabin seeming even smaller in comparison to the vast open spaces of David's world. "I do not know how."
"It's easy," David insisted, pulling her back down beside him on the narrow bunk. "Relax, and let your imagination flow. If making up an entire world is too much for you, then just do a place you've been, a place you wish you could see again."
Saavik considered his words, and then smiled.
"You've picked one!" He grinned with approval as she relaxed against him.
"Yes," she said, closing her eyes in concentration. "Can you see it?"
David's eyes fluttered shut and then opened to a breathtaking panorama.
"Earth?" he queried, looking around at the azure skies and snow capped mountains. Far off to their right, he could see the crystal blue sparkle of water stretching to the horizon.
He turned to Saavik, who was drinking it all in, a pleased smile quivering on her lips. He moved to wrap one arm around her slender waist. "I can smell the pine trees!"
Saavik inhaled deeply and she nodded. "And rain."
David chuckled, shaking his head. "Smell rain?"
Saavik turned to look over his shoulder. "Yes, see the storm clouds?"
David twisted, still hugging Saavik close, and looked over the roof of the rustic cabin. She was right. The sky behind them was black with an approaching storm. David laughed delightedly as the wind gusted dry leaves across the deck to swirl against their feet. "This is fantastic!"
"I'd forgotten how beautiful it is here," Saavik said resting her head against his chest.
"Where are we?"
"Mountain View," she said, her heart aching at the familiar scene. "Washington territory, on Earth."
"Who lives here?"
Saavik stiffened in his arms, not responding at first. When David pulled back to meet her gaze her eyes were sparkling with tears.
"Who does it belong to?"
Saavik looked at the shuttered window, suddenly remembering. "To me. Captain Spock left it to me in his will."
David's grip on her tightened and he held her close as the first drops of rain began to fall. "Oh, Saavik."
"I had forgotten," she rasped in a husky tone.
"No!" Her eyes snapped open and she wrenched from him, rising from the bunk. David blinked in momentary disorientation as their cabin replaced Saavik's memory of Mountain View.
"It was beautiful, Saavik," David whispered.
"It belonged to Spock," she said softly, lost in a memory. Her voice rose in bitter self recrimination. "How could I forget--"
"Saavik, don't do this."
"It was his! Everything I am, everything I possess..."
"I know you're missing him." David rose from the bed and tried to take her in his arms.
She backed away from him, her eyes wide. "No!"
"Let me hold you," he pleaded.
She squared her shoulders, stiffening her posture as she met his gaze, her mask of reserve firmly in place. "No," she repeated, her voice soft, but determined. "I must be alone."
David shook his head, the hurt audible in his voice when he replied. "Sure, I'll be in the observation lounge." He shrugged into his clothes, and Saavik stood like a statue until the door closed behind him.
Sinking to the carpeted deck, Saavik huddled into a tight ball before the first sob racked her slender form. She recalled the moonlit spring night when Spock had held her on that rough hewn deck, his strong arms holding her securely. She remembered the fatherly comfort of his embrace, the soothing power of his thoughts as they mingled with hers. His whispered words filled her, mocking her grief, mocking her pitiful attempt to fill the emptiness created by his death.
She had never told him how much she had respected him, how much she had appreciated his guidance and support. For a moment when David was holding her, she had remembered Spock's embrace, yearned for the comfort and contact of his powerful mind. She was confused, wearied by the conflicting thoughts and emotions that warred within her. Spock had once told her to master her emotions, to refuse to allow them to rule her life. How very easy it must have been for him to do that, with his Vulcan upbringing. Had he ever realized what a challenge that mastery held for her, or the insurmountable nature of his simple request?
She missed him, missed his presence in her life, but there was more to this than her grief, more to face here than the finality of his passing. Saavik squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head with the effort of denying the emotions which she had surprised for so long.
"Everything I am, everything I possess," gasped between sobs. "I am what I am because of you!"
Realization flooded through her like a wave, dashing her
denial aside. Her tears flowed in salty torrents down her cheeks and she trembled, a
miserable, naked form huddled on the carpet. "And I loved you!" she breathed.
"I loved you!"
Smythe slipped into the night-darkened corridor, her flowing caftan cool against her bare skin. It had been sheer luck that she had remained awake after Jahan returned to his cabin, sheer luck that she heard the door across the corridor open and close. Her dash to her own door had been rewarded with a glimpse of David Marcus, retreating around the corner of the corridor.
She moved lightly past the rooms of her slumbering crewmates,
a slender figure in scarlet wearing a smile of triumph.
J. T. Esteban fought to appear attentive as Doctor Marcus continued his explanation of Genesis. As captain, it was his duty to attend this briefing, but he had other duties to perform, and the young scientist's report, although thorough and necessary for the rest of his officers, was repetitive for Esteban, who had been briefed when he received his orders from Starfleet. He eyed Marcus thoughtfully, recalling the dossier he had been provided on the boy. He was, indeed, quite brilliant, but his genius was marred by a youthful impulsiveness.
Esteban blew a silent breath out from between pursed lips. His duty would be to provide a counterweight to that flaw, becoming the voice of reason for this project. Esteban had always prided himself on the precision with which he completed his assignments. He did things by the book, tempering his scientific curiosity with sound judgment. This was an important mission and an ill-advised skipping of protocol or procedural steps could very well result in all kinds of inaccurate data. Genesis was a unique situation, and the Grissom had been entrusted by Starfleet to study the phenomenon. It might be Doctor Marcus's planet, but this was Starfleet's ship and his mission. He was not going to take any unnecessary chances that might jeopardize its success.
Marcus was now answering questions, and Esteban glanced at his chrono, drumming his fingers lightly on the conference table. This briefing had been scheduled to last an hour and it was already quarter after...
Smythe caught his eye, rising from the briefing room table, a tolerant smile crossing her face. "Doctor Marcus, Captain Esteban and I have duties that cannot be delayed, please excuse me."
David smiled. "Of course."
Esteban rose, nodding at Marcus. "Ship's business," he murmured apologetically.
Esteban gestured for Smythe to proceed him into the corridor, thinking once again what a treasure she was, beautiful, efficient, and ever mindful of her captain's needs.
"Thank you, Commander," he said, once the door to the briefing room had closed behind them.
"You are a busy man, Captain," she responded with a smile. "I know; I arrange your schedule."
Esteban eyed her. She was beautiful, a model officer, and her devotion to him was second only to her dedication to service. It had taken all of his persuasive ability to convince her to apply for the position on the Excelsior. As much as he appreciated her, he could not allow her to sacrifice a career for the sake of loyalty.
He reached out to touch her cheek, thinking how much he had come to rely upon her. "And what have you scheduled for this afternoon, Commander?"
Smythe's smile deepened. "A meeting with your first officer."
Esteban stepped closer. "Ship's business?"
"Aye, sir," she confirmed seductively as his fingers trailed across her lips. "The only business worthy of your attention."
"Thirteen hundred hours?"
"...of course, Genesis wasn't intended to be used on a pulsar within a nebula. That's one reason why we're taking the time to do a solar survey. The situation was one that our team never anticipated, therefore no theories were postulated..."
As David continued answering questions posed by the officers from the Grissom, Saavik found herself filled with an uncharacteristic impatience. She caught herself just in time to keep from emulating Esteban's nervous habit of drumming fingers against the table.
Last night after her hysterical outburst, she had crawled back into the bunk, dry-eyed and exhausted. It had taken her several hours to regain any measure of mental control, but as soon as her thoughts were composed, she had tentatively opened herself to the link she shared with David. To her surprise, she found that David was shielding against her. She pressed gently against the mental barrier, finding it to be quite formidable. She realized that he had drawn back from their link even as she had done, the agony of that deafening silence too great to bear.
Lying in the quiet darkness, alone with the raw pain of her emotions, Saavik felt as if for the first time, the enormity of being alone, truly alone. She had willed David to return to her until tears flowed again. This time her grief was not for Spock, or even for herself, but for David. What she had done to him was unforgivable. Whether or not they were bonded by the laws of either of their cultures, they had shared a unity, a oneness in spirit. She had withdrawn from him, severing their bond rather than share with him her guilt and shame.
A fierce determination filled her, and she rose from the bunk, dressing quickly. Dashing tears from her cheeks, she went to the observation deck, formulating her explanation as she strode purposefully down the corridor. Entering the lounge, she called David's name. There was no response, the observation lounge was empty.
David had not returned to their cabin this morning, and avoided addressing her directly during the briefing. The severed link was like an open wound, an aching omission, and Saavik knew she had no one to blame but herself.
I have hurt you, Saavik thought, looking across the briefing room table at David. She tried to reach out to him mentally, even sought to catch his gaze, but he was resisting her. I could not confide in you my most shameful secret, so I locked you out, pushed you away from my mind and heart. Oh, David! I did not realize the emptiness of that abandonment until I experienced it also. We were one. Can you forgive my denial of our union?
The officers were finally leaving. Saavik stood up, navigating around the table, determined to speak with David as soon as they were alone. He was following the last of the Grissom's science team to the door when she caught up with him, touching the sleeve of his tunic.
He stopped, turning slowly, his eyes closing for a moment as he expelled a resigned sigh.
"Forgive me," she began, her voice nearly a whisper. "Please forgive me. I can make no excuse, for there is none, but know it was not my intention, never my intention to hurt you."
David avoided her gaze, staring over her shoulder at the door to the corridor. He swallowed and cleared his throat. "I was alone last night, Saavik. Alone. For the first time since I've known you, I felt empty."
"Yes," she said in understanding. "I feel it also. It was wrong for me to pull away from you, David. I did not realize how deeply we were bonded together, nor was I conscious of your pain until I regained control. I tried to reach out to you then, I even came to look for you, but--"
"What was it that you couldn't share with me?" he interrupted, his tone angry. "You shut me out completely. Why?"
"Shame," she whispered.
"What were you ashamed of?"
"My feelings. Certain emotions, certain...desires..." She could feel his gaze upon her and she forced herself to look into his eyes. "Some of my feelings for Captain Spock were not entirely appropriate."
Saavik saw his blue eyes widen as he took her meaning. "You wanted him?"
She lowered her gaze. "It seems that Vulcans do fantasize."
"Saavik, there's nothing wrong with what you felt for Captain Spock. Considering all that he did for you, it's pretty understandable. You never acted on those feelings, hell, you never even admitted to them until last night. You didn't do anything to be ashamed of!"
"You are most understanding," Saavik said.
"Saavik, there's something that I've got to tell you."
"You are still angry with me."
"No, God, no. I'm not angry with you. Oh Saavik, why couldn't you have just told me this last night?"
"I apologize for my behavior. It was--"
"Please, I've got to explain what happened after I left our cabin. I was hurting, Saavik. I can't describe how much it hurt, it felt like my insides had been ripped out. I got drunk, and when I--"
"Where did you obtain the ethanol to--"
"What the hell difference does it make? Damn it, Saavik, I ended up in Justine's cabin last night."
Saavik stared at him, realization dawning. There was a long pause before she spoke, and when she did her voice was chill. "I assume you were...intimate?"
David's brow furrowed and he sighed. "To be honest, I can't remember. She says that we were, and as drunk as I was, I can't..."
Saavik started to move past him. He caught her wrist. "Wait, please!"
Pausing, Saavik allowed his touch. "What do you wish to say?"
"I just want you to know that she means nothing to me, less than nothing. I was thinking about you, I was wanting you, Saavik."
"Apparently lust is an emotion which lends itself easily to displacement."
"I deserved that," David said quietly. "You're right, wanting you and being drunk is no excuse. I'm not trying to deny my guilt, just to explain how it happened. I'm sorry, Saavik. I know how lame that sounds, but it's all I know to say."
"Are you finished?"
"I guess. There isn't much more I can say now, except that I love you. That sounds kind of lame too under the circumstances, doesn't it?"
"Under the circumstances, yes." Saavik continued
out the door.
Smythe knew from the depth and regularity of Esteban's breathing that he had slipped into a sound sleep. She wiggled out of his embrace and rose from his bunk. Retrieving a thick robe from his closet, she slipped it on and moved soundlessly to his desk.
As the captain began to snore, Smythe keyed in his security code and accessed his files on the crew, finding the information she was looking for immediately. Esteban's pedantic adherence to the letter of fleet regulations had often frustrated her, but she had found a way to circumvent his reluctance to allow her access to classified files. She had witnessed Esteban key in the complex security code enough to finally memorize it. Since then, her perusal of his private files had become as much of a routine as his postcoital snoring.
She read the academy dossier with great interest, her brow rising as she noted the name listed as Saavik's next of kin..her father? No, she was listed as his legal ward. Smythe grinned. So, that's what Vulcans called it. She had to give Saavik one thing: she certainly knew how to pick them, first Captain Spock, and now Admiral Kirk's son. Not only were they both influential, but they were both outstanding specimens of what could be most attractive to a woman.
Flicking casually through the rest of the lengthy file, she scanned for anything unusual, anything that might give her some leverage. There was nothing much left but Saavik's psychiatric profile, and an addendum dictated by Captain Spock himself. Smythe's eyes widened. "Vulcan-Romulan admixture!" she breathed, reading aloud. "Christ on a crutch! Saavik's half-Romulan!"
Esteban stirred in his sleep, muttering something about Starfleet regulations and coded messages. Smythe hastily cleared the file, turned off the screen and stood up. She stooped to retrieve her uniform from the deck where Esteban had discarded it earlier and began to dress, favoring her sleeping captain with a small, triumphant smile.
"Thanks, J.T., darling," she whispered as she fastened the scarlet jacket in place. "You may not be much in the sack, but you make up for it in other ways!"
She blew him a farewell kiss as she left the cabin.
After a trip to the dispensary for something to calm a raging headache, David had spent the remainder of the watch in one of the science labs. He attempted to work, had even called up the Genesis file to one of the computer screens, but ended up just staring blankly at the index.
Last night had to be one of the dumbest mistakes he had ever made in his life. Of course Justine's attentions were flattering, of course he had found her attractive, and that made his behavior just that much more inexcusable.
He knew that his inhibitions were dwindling with each drink, yet he had not tried to stop himself. Why? Certainly part of it was Saavik's rejection. Perhaps another was Justine's Human frailty, her inability to see into his very soul. It was unnerving to have Saavik read his mind the way she did and it was downright embarrassing to have her flaunt her physical superiority.
So you cheated on her, he told himself sharply. You jumped in bed with Justine instead of going back to Saavik. Justine was no threat to your masculinity, and she was no challenge either. Hell, you knew that from the first look she gave you in the transporter room, David. Justine was the easy way to gratification, and as usual, you took it.
All your life you've taken the easy way, he reminded himself. Nothing that lasts is going to come easy and what you had with Saavik was something that could last.
"Can you ever forgive me?" he whispered. The only response to his question was the echoing silence in this room, augmented by the painful silence in his mind. Saavik's music was gone.
Looking at the chronometer in the lower left-hand corner of
his viewscreen, David realized that the first watch was over. He had to find Saavik; he
needed to tell her now much she meant to him. He rose from his chair, determined to
weather her wrath. "I do love you, Saavik," he breathed. "And I promise I
won't let you down again."
Lieutenant Rader sank into a chair in the recreation room, shaking his head. "I think you're wrong, Stanley. Physically, Marcus is probably in better shape, but you're forgettin' the adrenalin rush of sheer rage. You didn't have to work with Jahan this mornin'; it was like sittin' next to an intermix chamber. I'm tellin' you, Marcus is gonna be in pieces when he gets through with him."
"Louis was a fool to tell him about it," Stanley replied. "Either way, we're all going to be pulling double duty to cover communications while he cools off in the brig. You know Esteban--"
"`By-the-book' is gonna find out about Smythe and Jahan for sure this time," Rader interrupted, as his friend brought a tray with three mugs of coffee to the table and took a chair. "And when he does, this ain't gonna be a happy ship."
"The worst part is, Smythe will get out of it somehow; she always does," a third officer added as he entered the room.
"You're right, Juan," Stanley sighed, waving the newcomer into the third chair. "She'll get promoted to exec of the Excelsior, end up fucking Styles."
"I heard Styles was gay," Juan grinned, taking a seat and picking up a mug of coffee.
"You're kiddin'? Well, that ought to slow her down!"
"Knowing Smythe, she'd just have a sex change," Stanley added morosely. "Anyway, I've got ten credits on Marcus. He's been doin' it with that Vulcan regular, hasn't he? From what I hear that takes stamina."
"Wonder if she knows?" Juan queried.
"She knows," Rader replied with a disgusted sigh. "You shoulda seen her on the bridge this mornin'; talk about a walkin' freezer unit! Then there's Jahan, seethin'; all over the place, Smythe boppin' in and out, with her usual smug expression, and Esteban sending off updates on nothin' to Starfleet every ten minutes. Both Smythe and Esteban disappeared after lunch, so here I am tryin' to finish a solar survey with half a bridge complement, and the half I got ain't worth a shit. Meanwhile, J.T. Esteban, Commandin', is down in his cabin, overhauling Smythe's engines--"
"You know, I wouldn't mind it so much if getting it regular would loosen the captain up a little, but he's just as prissy now as--"
"So who's gonna kill Marcus first, the Vulcan, or--"
The conversation was interrupted by the appearance of David Marcus. He entered from the corridor and looked around, seeming unaware of both the stalled conversation and the officers' speculative stares.
"I was looking for Lieutenant Saavik. Have any of you seen--"
Marcus's words were cut short as Jahan entered the room, dark eyes blazing. "So here you are, you sneaky little bastard!" His voice was dripping with rage.
"I think the antimatter just hit the fan," Rader said in a sotto tone, draining his coffee in a quick gulp and tossing the mug into the recycler.
David turned, frowning in puzzlement as he saw the hatred in the communications officer's face. Before he could utter a response, Jahan let fly with his first punch, connecting solidly with David's abdomen. David doubled over, breathless.
"Justine is mine, do you hear?" Jahan shouted as David tried to straighten up.
Great! he thought, wincing at the pain that burst through his midsection. Just what I needed.
Dodging the next punch, David tried to catch his breath, twisting to return Jahan's attack, but the jealous lover easily fended off the ill-timed blow, connecting with another punch. David staggered back and Jahan closed in, the third punch catching David's jaw and slamming his head sharply against the bulkhead.
Bright silver streaks of light clouded David's vision, reminding him vaguely of a warp-distorted starfield. He sagged against the bulkhead as Jahan's hands closed around his windpipe.
"It was a mistake!" David gasped, promising any deity who might be listening that he would never drink another glass of Saurian Brandy as long as he lived if he could just get out of this in one piece.
The hands closed around his neck, cutting off his air. David brought his knee up, frantic to break the hold. Jahan swore as David's knee connected with its target, his grip relaxing. David twisted free but fell to the deck.
Jahan fell on top of him and they struggled, rolling. The communications officer made another attempt to choke him, and this time David found himself without the strength or leverage to thwart him.
I'm dying, he thought dully as his vision spiraled into blackness. What a waste, to die over something so stupid.
He heard someone cry out, recognizing the voice as Saavik's, and with his last bit of strength, he tried to call out to her telepathically. He strained to hear the music, the tender music of her presence, holding on to consciousness desperately in the hope it would surge between them. But he could hear only the pounding of his own heart, and finally that too ceased.
"David!" The voice was sweet and familiar, reaching out to him from a black void and closing around him like an embrace. He gasped for air, crying out in pain as his lungs expanded. "David, lie still."
He opened his eyes, looking up into Saavik's face. "I'm alive!" he croaked. He raised up and looked around the deserted rec room.
"You are most fortunate that I arrived when I did, David." Saavik said softly. "Lieutenant Jahan's attack was quite thorough."
David grinned weakly. "He did what you wanted to do this morning, didn't he?"
Saavik's lips twitched as she fought a smile. "I assure you that if I had acted on my impulse, the punishment would have been more specific to the crime."
David winced. "I get the picture."
"Let it serve as a deterrent."
David met her gaze, hope rising up within him. "Saavik?"
"Lieutenant Jahan's friends have taken him back to his quarters. May I recommend that we retire to ours as well?"
"What did you do to him?"
"I administered a Vulcan nerve pinch." A suspicious glint appeared in her dark eyes. "Unfortunately, my grip was imprecise; Jahan will have what I believe you Humans call 'a nasty hangover.'"
"I guess that he and Smythe--"
"It has come to my attention that Commander Smythe is also intimate with Captain Esteban. According to Lieutenant Rader, you were 'the last straw.'"
"Smythe and Esteban?" David echoed in disbelief as Saavik pulled him to his feet. "Oh great! When I screw up I do it in a big way, don't I?"
Saavik arched a brow. "Was that meant to be funny?"
"Poor choice of words," David said, blushing.
"Agreed. Apparently Captain Esteban is ignorant of Smythe's...meanderings. Lieutenant Rader and I agreed that a continuation of that situation would be advisable for all parties concerned. He had assured me that he will make no mention of this incident to the captain, and he will urge Jahan to do the same. I believe that Rader's council, combined with the residual affects of the nerve pinch, should deter Jahan from any further attacks."
"You saved my life."
"At the time, it seemed the thing to do."
"You're still mad at me, but you do care, don't you, Saavik? I made a mistake, a terrible mistake, but I promise it won't happen again. Please, tell me that you still care."
Saavik nodded. "I still care, David."
"Then let's go back to our cabin."
Once in their cabin, Saavik was cool and efficient as she removed David's tunic to examine the marks at the base of his throat. "You are badly bruised. Do you wish for me to accompany you to the dispensary?"
"I've always bruised easily. It goes with my fair complexion," David said. "I'm okay. There's no permanent damage done. Besides, the crew is going to have plenty to gossip about without me giving them any more lurid details."
"I was thinking less of gossiping tongues and more of the necessity of Doctor Colton filing a report of the injury," Saavik replied. "Captain Esteban is bound to question a report of strangulation, and explanations could be awkward."
"You have a gift for understatement, my love," David grinned. "I suppose I could tell Colton that you did it."
Saavik glared at him. "I fail to see humor in your suggestion."
"You're still mad at me." He slipped his arms around her and pulled her against him.
Saavik pulled away, turning so he couldn't see her expression. She thought of David holding Smythe in his arms, of David pleasuring Smythe the way he pleasured her. The image brought a tight knot to the pit of her stomach. "Do you not have some work to do?"
David frowned. "Yes, I need to finish going over the results of the solar survey before we reach the Genesis world."
"Do you require my assistance?"
"Uh, sure." He moved back toward her, reaching out, but fearful to actually touch her. "But I know good and well we can't accomplish anything together until we straighten this out. I've apologized; I've given my word that it'll never happen again. What more can I do?"
Saavik turned to face him. "It is illogical for me to resent that which is past. It is wrong for me to feel jealousy for that female when you tell me that she means nothing to you. My thoughts are unworthy of a Vulcan. They--"
"But you're not a Vulcan, damn it!" David interrupted harshly. Saavik stared at him as he slammed one balled fist against the open palm of his other hand. "Listen. I know I made a mistake. I'm Human, Saavik, and Humans make mistakes, lots of them. You've got to stop seeing everything from the perspective of Vulcan society. I know that your father was Vulcan, but you weren't raised as a Vulcan, and let's face it, you won't ever be accepted as a Vulcan. You're setting yourself up to fail, and you're setting us up to fail, because I'm not Captain Spock!"
Saavik's shocked expression told him that he had gone one step too far. "Shit!" he muttered as she started for the door. He lunged after her. "Saavik, wait!"
She paused, and he reached out to take her hand. "Oh, Saavik, don't you think I'm jealous too? How can I compare to the memories you have of him?"
She turned in surprise, and David took her in his arms. "I love you, Saavik," he whispered, holding her tight. "I love you, and I'm scared of losing you. I'm not a legend; I'm not a hero. I'm just me, and right now that doesn't seem like enough!"
Saavik began to cry and his grip on her tightened. He knew damn good and well that if she wanted to break free, there was no way he could stop her, and that hurt too. He felt so insignificant, so unworthy. "Please!" he gasped as she stirred in his embrace. "Please don't leave me!" He realized that he was crying now, too, as he pleaded with her to forgive him.
She made no further move to pull away from him, and David gathered her closer, closing his eyes and stroking her hair away from her forehead. "Let me show you how much you mean to me," he begged, finding the contact points that would enhance the mental link.
At first there was no response but the sound of her muffled sobs. Just as he was about to drop his hand in defeat, he felt a warmth course through him. Saavik!
I am here.
I'd forgotten how wonderful this is!
He projected soothing pictures, gentle, wordless scenes into her mind. He sensed her calming, relaxing, the barrier between them dissolving into a soft mist. He shared childhood memories, secret fears, but mostly he shared with her how much she had come to mean to him. He projected to her such convincing evidence of his love that she finally believed what he had been telling her. Smythe had meant nothing to him. Less than nothing.
I can't bear the thought of losing you! David insisted.
You will not lose me, Saavik assured him, allowing him to feel her devotion to him. Do not ever imagine that I would abandon you.
But you did! David's response was not accusatory, rather it reminded Saavik of the cry of a fearful child. You left me alone. I was all alone, Saavik, please promise you'll never do that to me again.
I will not.
You wish to make the link permanent?
This is not a Human bonding, David. Once made it cannot be broken.
Till death do us part.
Perhaps not even then, she countered.
You mean that if one of us dies... She sensed his surprise, but no fear.
The death of a bondmate is a shock that few full-blooded Vulcans survive.
If anything ever happens to you, I'd rather not survive, anyway.
That is an emotional, illogical statement.
It is, but it's true.
Do you still wish to proceed?
Yes. What about you?
Yes, I do also.
David was fully dressed and at the computer when Saavik woke the next morning. He turned as she sat up, his smile brilliant.
"We're an hour from Genesis, Saavik!"
"Have you completed your study of the solar survey?"
He nodded, rising from his chair to join her on the bunk.
"You wished for an assistant, yet you do not allow me to assist."
He grinned, pulling her into his arms and kissing her. It was a slow, passionate kiss. I didn't want to wake you.
More ancient chivalry?
You needed your rest.
It is illogical for you to be so protective of me.
"I know," he whispered, his lips still brushing hers. "Humor me."
Saavik almost smiled. "I shall do my best."
The intercom beeped, interrupting a sudden silence in the tiny cabin. The couple ignored it at first, but the sound only grew louder and more insistent.
David pulled out of Saavik's embrace with a groan, standing up to hit the switch on the wall unit. "Doctor Marcus here."
"Doctor, this is Captain Esteban. How quickly can you report to the bridge?"
David flashed Saavik a glance that was half apologetic. "I'll be right up, Captain."
He hit the switch to break the connection, and Saavik saw his eagerness to see the world that he had helped to create.
"Go ahead," she urged, rising from the bunk. "I will join you in a few moments."
David caught her and whirled her around the cabin, blue eyes alight with a childish delight. "Hurry, Saavik! This is what we've been waiting for!" He was out the door before she could respond.
Showering and dressing in record time, Saavik left their cabin, eager to join David on the bridge. She stood waiting for the turbolift and just as the doors were opening, Commander Smythe appeared beside her. Saavik turned to meet her curious stare and then preceded Smythe into the lift.
As the doors closed behind them, Smythe leaned against the rail and smiled. "I see you took him back. I can't say that I blame you; he's good, but I would've thought a Vulcan would be too proud."
"Your comments are unworthy of response," Saavik said.
"But then, you're only half-Vulcan, aren't you? I've seen your file, Saavik."
"It would seem that intimacy with a captain provides certain advantages," Saavik said dryly, knowing that information of that kind would be accessible only to Captain Esteban.
"You tell me," Smythe retorted meaningfully.
The implication was clear, and Saavik realized that Smythe had indeed done a thorough job. To cope with her growing anger with this ruthless female, Saavik found herself taking a clue from David. She began devising a mental list of the various ways she would like to kill Smythe, beginning with an ahn-woon and proceeded alphabetically. Surprised at how entertaining the diversion became, Saavik embellished each brief scene with Smythe's pleas for leniency.
Disappointed at Saavik's lack of response to her well-chosen barb, Smythe tried another vein of attack. "Just remember, my dear little half-breed, David Marcus is a Human, and Human males like variety. If he's anything like his famous father, he's not going to be satisfied with just one woman. You may have won the battle, but not the war."
Saavik, startled out of her vision of killing Smythe with a Klingon disrupter, finally returned the commander's intent gaze, keeping her voice soft and low. "I assume you refer to the ancient custom of conquest which delivers the spoils of war to the victor. Since you have gone to such trouble to ascertain my ancestry and you also seem to view Doctor Marcus as property, I should remind you that the Romulan penalty for theft is death."
Smythe's eyes widened. "Are you threatening me?"
Saavik allowed herself a slight smile. "Vulcans consider threats illogical, Commander. Romulans consider them promises."
The turbolift opened, and Saavik emerged, her jaw quavering just slightly as she suppressed her hatred for Smythe. She greeted Captain Esteban and relieved the nightwatch crewman who had been manning the science console.
David, intent upon the long range scans of Genesis, did not realize that Saavik and Smythe had shared the turbolift. In his jubilation, he mistook Saavik's reserve for professionalism.
Jahan appeared a few minutes later to man communications, exchanging a quick glance with Smythe, who was taking the helm. The bridge settled into its usual routine, but the routine was hardly usual, and there was a smoldering tension that only Esteban and David seemed unaware of.
Saavik found herself considering Smythe's words. They disturbed her more than she would ever admit. David was his father's son in many ways. Had it been unfair of her to expect him to commit to her? Saavik looked at her scanners and reported, amazed at how calm her voice sounded. "We have reached the destination planet at point zero three five."
"Very well, Lieutenant." Esteban responded. "Helm, execute standard orbital approach."
"Standard orbit, aye sir," Smythe said, sounding bored.
Esteban turned to Jahan and ordered a message sent to Starfleet. David smiled, wondering idly if Esteban apprised Starfleet of his trips to the head.
Esteban waved one hand expansively at the planet beneath them on the mainviewer. "Doctor Marcus, it's your planet."
David's smile deepened as he moved lightly across the bridge to join Saavik. "Begin scanning, please," he requested, hoping she would find his attempt at professional detachment amusing. Finally he noted her reserve and leaned forward in a conspiratorial manner. "This is where the fun begins, Saavik!"
"Just like your father," she said in a sotto tone. "So Human."
David stared at her. Now what brought that on? he wondered. But Saavik was already scanning, her fingers dancing expertly over the console. David studied the visual readouts, his fascination for Genesis growing. It was no longer just a dream, or vague possibility. They were orbiting a world that he had helped to create. He had an impulsive urge to beam down right now and explore this new world firsthand. He imagined walking with Saavik, hands clasped, breathing in the newly generated atmosphere, and seeing the dreams of his colleagues with his own eyes. Leaning over her, he read the scans with barely suppressed excitement. Genesis worked!
"Snow!" he breathed in amazement. "Snow in the same sector! Fantastic!"
"Fascinating," Saavik seconded, her tone crisp.
"All the varieties of land and weather known to Earth within a few hours' walk," he added, unable to keep the pride from his voice. His observation was interrupted by a beep.
"Metallic mass," Saavik said.
"Close range scan," he ordered, the light going out of his sapphire eyes. There was only one possibility that he could think of, and it wasn't one he savored. He read the crisp blue type on the screen and stared for a moment at the rectangular shape beside it. "A photon tube," he said, noting Saavik's carefully neutral expression. Oh, Saavik! "The gravitational fields were in flux," he surmised aloud. "It could have soft landed."
Remotely, David heard Esteban sending off another update. He saw Saavik flinch at the mention of Captain's Spock's name. David took her hand, squeezing it. I'm here for you, Saavik.
Saavik looked up, meeting his gaze, relaxing visibly. I know, David.
David continued to grip her hand, looking up to see Esteban glance down at them and do a double-take as he recited his orders to Jahan. Reluctantly, David let go of her hand and straightened up.
Saavik was not certain how she managed to perform her duties for the next few moments, much less of how she kept from bolting to the turbolift to transport down to the planet. Her urgent need to find the "lifeform" melded with David's, and they found themselves arguing in concert against Esteban and his regulations. Saavik heaved a sigh as they finally entered the lift. David took her hand and squeezed it. No words passed between them. None were necessary.
They materialized on the surface of Genesis, the view of Grissom's transporter room dissolving into the lush, tropical forest which had become Captain Spock's final resting place.
As they started to walk toward the source of the lifeform reading, Saavik found herself filled with such conflicting emotions that she would be hard-pressed to catalogue them all. However, the one sensation that seemed to surpass all others was dread. This was the same way she had felt when she saw Captain Spock rise from his post and head for engineering. Had it been less than two weeks ago? Hope and fear mingled in her, intensifying her dread of what they would find encased in that metallic tube.
David caught his breath, overwhelmed by the reality of this beautiful, newborn world. Forgetting for a moment why they were here, he recalled the eager faces of his colleagues as they had visualized this moment: Del, Vance, Jedda. They would have been so proud of this world! His mother was right. A part of them would live on forever through Genesis.
"Life from lifelessness," he breathed, echoing Carol's poetic phrase before he could stop himself. He turned to Saavik, his euphoria changing abruptly to guilt as he caught her tightly controlled expression. Embarrassed by his thoughtless comment and knowing it would be useless to try to explain, David averted his gaze to consult the tricorder.
Saavik considered his words. "Indeed," she whispered. But what kind of life would they find? It was too much to hope that Captain Spock would be himself if he lived. She had a sudden vision of him appearing before them, that characteristic half-smile tugging at the corners of his lips as he raised one hand in the Vulcan salute. "Good morning, Lieutenant, Doctor Marcus. I have been expecting you."
That thought merged into a worst-case scenario, as Spock became a radiation-distorted mass of bloodied flesh. She visualized a nightmarish parody of life, one claw extended, twitching in a vain attempt to achieve a gesture that would mock its own horrible fate. "Live long and prosper!" The surrealistic animal cry of her creation forced her back to reality and she swayed dizzily.
"You okay?" David asked in concern.
When Saavik made no response, he slipped one arm around her waist. She experienced the reassurance of their bond, and felt the depth of his love. Whatever lay ahead, they would face it together.
You're scared to death! David projected in surprise, picking up part of her thought processes.
My fears are irrational.
"Considering the circumstances," he countered, squeezing her reassuringly before he released her, "a little well-placed fear is damned rational. We don't know what we're up against here."
Saavik's addendum, "or who", remained unspoken between them, but the thought was paramount in both their minds as they proceeded through the foliage.
"Grissom to Saavik," Esteban's voice sounded distant and metallic through her communicator. "We're picking up radiation from the life form."
"Affirmative, Captain. Our readings are well below danger level."
"Very well," came Esteban's response. "Exercise caution, Lieutenant. This landing is captain's discretion, and I'm the one who's out on a limb."
"I'll try to remember that, Captain," Saavik replied, quelling a very un-Vulcan urge to giggle. Her ability to find humor in Esteban's order spoke volumes about her current emotional state, and she realized that in her haste to report to the bridge this morning, she had omitted her usual routine of meditation. It was a discipline which she sorely needed right now, she thought regretfully.
She followed David through the thick foliage, breaking into a near-run to keep pace. They were close to the reading now. She could tell by the sounds the tricorder was emitting.
They entered a small, fern-covered clearing and there, nestled in the greenery, was Captain Spock's tube. Saavik's eyes widened as she saw the writhing, grub-like creatures that surrounded it.
"There are your lifeforms," David said. "These were microbes from the tube's surface. We shot them here from Enterprise. They were fruitful and multiplied."
"But how could they have evolved so quickly?" she queried. Nothing in the data she'd seen explained this. Animal life had never been conceived as a part of Genesis, perhaps because of a lingering distaste that Humans had for their own history of eugenics experimentation. Spock's tube was, of course, another unforeseen variable, but if she understood the Genesis effect correctly, the mutation of these microbes could not have occurred. What had David said at the briefing about unpostulated theories? Was this a quirk of the Genesis effect that could be attributed to its use on a nebula instead of a dead world?
Instead of replying, David moved forward to open the tube. Saavik found herself hanging back, her pulse pounding in her temples as all her previous fears returned. Her dread reverberated in her mind with the regular, pulsing surety of a red alert klaxon. Twisted flesh...radiation...and then the most repulsive of thoughts. What had those microbes been feeding on?
"Saavik?" David's voice held no horror, just puzzled curiosity. She took a deep breath and forced herself to move closer.
David picked up the silky garment, gathering it up to hold out to her. "What is it?"
Saavik examined it, her dread fading into wonder and renewed hope. "Spock's burial robe."
The ground trembled and shook, a deafening roar accompanying it as Genesis convulsed beneath them. As the groundquake faded, a different sound, an animal cry, echoed around them. Saavik's dread returned as she met David's gaze.
Moving through the brush in the direction of the cry, David consulted the tricorder. "Another lifeform," he reported. "It's up ahead, one twenty-two, mark seven."
They proceeded silently, David tracking the lifeform with the tricorder and Saavik following in his wake. When the tropical forest changed abruptly to a snow-covered desert, he paused, crouching to examine the tracks left in the snow. Saavik joined him, noting that the wind had distorted them too much to do more than confirm their suspicions that whatever they were tracking was bipedal.
As they rose to continue, Saavik flipped open her communicator. "Saavik to Grissom. We are definitely reading a second life form."
"We concur. Proceed with caution, Saavik."
The cries continued, coinciding with the ground tremors, and David's unease increased with each step. Saavik would have dismissed some of these tricorder readings as impossible, but he did not even consider the possibility that the unit was malfunctioning. Not the tricorder, he thought dispiritedly. He told himself that there would be time to pursue his disquieting suspicions later, once they had beamed back to the safety of the ship, but a part of him was longing to blurt out the truth right now, to deal with Saavik's anger and his own shame before the deception could continue a moment longer.
The wind was picking up, whipping the snow into frantic patterns, and the temperature was dropping steadily. David shivered as the wind blew icy crystals down his collar. Saavik took the lead, squinting to see as visibility diminished.
The cry came again, and it sent another shiver along David's spine as he directed Saavik toward the new reading with one arm. She turned, drawing her phaser, and David shouldered the tricorder by its strap, wishing it were a weapon instead. He mentally thanked Esteban for invoking another of his Starfleet regulations about arming civilians, reminding himself to tell the good captain that regulations didn't come in nearly as handy in a crisis as a fully charged phaser.
They moved forward, seeing nothing at first but a blizzard of white, then Saavik touched his arm, directing his gaze to their left. He squinted, trying to see through the whirling, wind-tossed flakes and made out a small figure huddled at the base of a cactus.
Saavik hurried to crouch beside the child, wrapping Spock's robe around its shivering body. David shared her amazement as she stroked the raven hair aside to reveal a pointed ear.
She spoke to it in Vulcan, but the child did not respond, staring at her in mute curiosity. She looked back at David, as if for confirmation of what her intuition must have already told her.
"The Genesis wave," he said. "His cells could have been regenerated."
Saavik opened her communicator. "Captain, this is Saavik. Come in please."
"Yes, Saavik, go ahead."
"We have found the life sign. It is a Vulcan child...perhaps eight to ten Earth years of age."
"A child? How did it get there?"
"It is Doctor Marcus' opinion that this is..." Saavik reached out to touch the child's face, lowering her shields to seek the mind that had become so familiar to her, and her voice faltered for a moment before it continued. "...That the Genesis effect has in some way regenerated...Captain Spock."
"Uh, Saavik, that's, uh, that's extraordinary!" Esteban responded. "What would you like to do next?"
"Request permission to beam aboard immediately."
"Saavik, does Doctor Marcus think there could be any chance of radioactive contamination?"
Saavik looked at David, and he shook his head. "No."
"None that he can detect, sir."
"All the same, I'm going to advise Starfleet and get instructions."
"I'm sure Starfleet would approve, sir."
"Probably true, but let's do this by the book. Stand by on this channel. Go!"
Saavik heard Jahan's voice faintly as he put in the call to Starfleet on a subspace channel, quelling a cry of pure frustration at Esteban's over-cautiousness. By the book. Captain Spock's gentle teasing of her not so long ago for doing the same thing made her throat ache. Now she understood what he and Admiral Kirk had been trying to tell her. Real life seldom made for textbook situations, and a good commander based his decisions not just on protocol and procedure, but an instinct that allowed for unusual scenarios.
She looked down at the child. Captain Spock's body lived, but that which made him Captain Spock, his experiences, his wisdom, the memories of a diverse and unique individual, had been lost. She could sense in this being only the fertile vacuum of a sentient mind left untutored. A new grief filled her for the memory of her mentor, the ache of his loss as fresh as the day they had committed his body to this planet for burial.
"Locate!" Esteban's harsh order crackled through the static of the open frequency.
"Sir, it's astern, Captain!" That was Jahan.
"Oh my God!" The horror in Esteban's voice was unmistakable.
"Captain, what is happening?" Saavik queried.
"We're under attack--stand by for evasive."
There was a burst of static and then the eerie whine of a dead frequency. Saavik readjusted her communicator.
"Saavik calling Grissom. Come in please. Saavik calling Grissom. Come in please!"
When she received no response from the first hail, she knew it was useless, but one glance at David's shocked expression prompted her to make another attempt. "Grissom, this is Saavik on emergency frequency. Come in, please!"
"Saavik, what happened to them?" David asked when the silence stretched beyond the limit of his tolerance.
"It would seem," she said, making a conscious effort to keep her voice steady, "that Grissom was destroyed by an enemy attack. We must go. They will soon come for us."
David carried Spock, and Saavik led the way, moving toward the sector which had scanned as mountainous. The rocks would provide cover and they would be better able to defend themselves from attack if they could see their enemies coming.
Once they had put a safe distance between themselves and the point where they had found Spock, Saavik indicated that they could pause for a moment to rest. David had insisted on carrying the child, and Saavik knew that he was tiring.
She lowered herself onto the snow-covered ground and favored her lover with a piercing stare. "It's time for total truth between us," she began, holding a tight reign on the suspicion which had been growing in her since Grissom's destruction. "This planet is not what you'd intended or hoped for, is it?"
"Not exactly," David looked at Spock rather than meet Saavik's gaze.
"I used protomatter in the Genesis matrix."
For a split second, Saavik considered lunging at him, knocking him to the ground and beating him senseless. Her Vulcan training kicked in automatically, Spock's tutorials springing forth in her chaotic thoughts seemingly of their own accord. You are Vulcan; Vulcans abhor violence. You are Vulcan; Vulcans abhor violence.
When she spoke, the only indication of the depth of her anger with him was the coolness of her tone, the Vulcan facade overpowering the Romulan urge to shriek at him. "Protomatter, an unstable substance which every ethical scientist in the galaxy has denounced as dangerously unpredictable."
"But it was the only way to solve certain problems," David defended weakly, rubbing his temple in a vain attempt to ease what was becoming a raging headache.
"So, like your father," she continued in that soft, emotionless tone that berated him more soundly than a million Terran cries of rage, "you changed the rules."
At the mention of his father, David bristled. Saavik knew better than anyone how a comparison to his father would wound him. His mistakes were his own, and she knew damn good and well how unfair it was to drag James Kirk into this.
"If I hadn't, it might have been years, or never!"
"How many have paid the price for your impatience?" she continued. "How many have died, how much damage have you done, and what is yet to come?"
David stared at her, helpless against her calm rage. His blue eyes pleaded with her to understand, to forgive him, but her expression was as cold as space itself.
"You hate me, don't you?" he said after a moment.
Saavik stood, gathering the child into her arms. "We
must keep moving," she said, ignoring his question. "Come."
David stood outside the cave, watching as the Genesis sun sank rapidly below the horizon. He took in the wild beauty of this created world, but the joy he had felt in it a few hours ago was gone. In fact, he had never felt so miserable in his life. Saavik was right. The price of his impatience became higher as each hour passed. How many had died because of him? How many more would die?
Captain Spock, his friends from the spacelab, now the crew of the Grissom, all dead because of Genesis. And now Genesis is dying, he thought, the full weight of his folly hitting him with the force of a photon torpedo. The ground tremors were becoming more frequent, more violent. This entire world was based on an unstable formula, precariously balancing between life and death. The weight of time would tip the scales, and, according to the tricorder, the end would not be long in coming.
David swallowed the lump that rose in his throat, turning the tricorder on to take yet another reading. Saavik emerged silently from the cave, joining him on the precipice.
"This planet is aging in surges," he offered, wondering if she had come out to berate him further, or to make amends.
"And Spock with it," she replied, the anger gone from her voice. "It seems they are joined together."
"They are," he said, his tone apologetic. He was thinking of their own joining, of the joy he felt when she first opened herself to him, and thought how unfair it was that their link should bring her here, sentencing her to die with the animal screams of her regenerated mentor ringing in her ears.
"How long?" she asked.
"Days," he said flatly. "Maybe hours." He paused, expelling a sigh of pure self-loathing. "I'm sorry."
Saavik sank to a outcropping of rock at his feet, looking up at him. "It will be hardest on Spock. Soon he will feel the burning of his Vulcan blood."
"I don't understand."
"Pon farr," she explained calmly. "Vulcan males must endure it every seventh year of their adult life."
Saavik had briefly explained to him the cyclic urge that Vulcans experienced and the dire consequences if the urge was left unfulfilled. There's only one way to keep him alive, David realized, fighting the instinctive jealousy that rose within him. He told himself that it was not a matter of choice, but a matter of survival. Spock would need her, and she would try to ease his suffering. He made a decision, closing his mind to the unwelcome thoughts that followed. As if on cue, the tricorder began picking up the life signs again. He sighed.
"Whoever they are, they're getting closer."
"I'll go," Saavik said, starting away from him.
"No. I'll do it," he countered firmly. "Give me your phaser." He met her gaze, his eyes pleading with her not to argue. His hand brushed hers for a moment when she handed him the weapon, and he projected a brief, unspoken command. See to Spock.
So, how does it feel to finally be a hero, David? he thought bitterly as he trudged away without a backward glance. Starfleet isn't responsible for this mess--you are--and your solution may be chivalrous, but it sure as hell isn't going to beat the no-win scenario Saavik and Kirk told you of. He doubted if even his famous father could find a way out of this one.
Saavik returned to the cave to find Spock sleeping; his breathing was still coming in shallow pants, but his expression had relaxed. She settled against the far wall of the cave, trying to compose her thoughts.
The events of the past several hours would have tried the reserve of a Kolinahr master, but of course Saavik had no way of knowing that. In her confusion, she fell back on her old habit of blaming her inadequacies on emotionalism. Using an unrealistic, perfectionistic ideal to measure her performance, she mentally flogged herself for allowing her personal attachments to David to cloud her judgment and affect her decisions.
Had she not loved David, she would have been more suspicious of his behavior. He had known all along that Genesis was unstable. That's why he'd kept her from studying the results of the solar survey, and that's why he'd been so obsessive about who had access to his files. She recalled him taking the tricorder from her in Grissom's transporter room, understanding too late the terrible secret that he had somehow managed to conceal from her even through their mental bond.
Why hadn't he confided in her? She knew the answer before the question had completely filled her thoughts. He had been afraid to tell her, afraid that she would think less of him for his failure. David's sense of self-worth had always been weak, what he called fragile male ego. He had kept the secret to himself, no doubt thinking that it would, somehow, magically resolve itself. So much for Terran fairy tales.
Human emotionalism had brought them to this point, but she could see no way in which logic could resolve it. There were vanishingly few alternatives left. Mutara was restricted, and the Grissom had had no opportunity to send an SOS before she was destroyed. It would be days before the radio silence would be questioned, longer before a ship could be dispatched to investigate. What was it that the Admiral had said to her after she took the Kobayashi Maru?
How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn't you say?
She was jarred out of her meditation by another groundquake, and Spock's tortured cry brought her to her feet. She noted that he had aged perhaps a decade while her eyes were closed. In the blank, dark eyes she saw the animal longing that no Vulcan male could control, mingled with an instinctive fear of the unknown.
"Dom, keyh sahla," she said resignedly.
That is what separates us, image of my mentor, she thought. You fear what you do not understand. My fears are more tangible: they have shape, substance. Until now, they have ruled me, but no more. All that I am, all that I have been, I have been because of you. Before I die I shall repay that debt.
She moved to join him.
David stumbled as his captor shoved him roughly to the ground, wincing at the sharp stab of pain in his chest. The Klingons had fractured several of his ribs, and if his jaw wasn't dislocated, then it damn well ought to be. He wished to hell that they would have just killed him outright and been done with it.
When they dragged Saavik and Spock out of the cave and threw them on either side of him, the physical pain was augmented by his guilt for failing her yet again. Unwilling to meet his lover's gaze, David turned to look at Spock, amazed at the way he'd aged in such a short time. Genesis, too, was aging at an incredible rate. Time was running out.
The leader of the Klingons was eyeing them with obvious distaste.
"I've come a long way for the power of Genesis, and what do I find? A weakling Human, a Vulcan boy, and a woman." His guttural standard was spoken with an arrogant scorn that transcended language or culture.
Saavik addressed the Klingon with a respect that David found annoying. "My Lord, we are survivors of a doomed expedition. This planet will destroy itself in hours. The Genesis experiment is a failure."
"A failure?" Again that arrogant sarcasm. "The most powerful destructive force ever created? You will tell me the secret of the Genesis torpedo."
"I have no knowledge," Saavik said honestly.
"Then I hope pain is something you enjoy," the Klingon threatened.
David was tempted to tell this arrogant bastard that the formula he was looking for was long gone, bled into nothingness from Regula's data banks, but he held his tongue. Once the Klingons found out there was no information to be had, there would be nothing to stop them from killing them. His own life meant nothing to him now, but he could not bring himself to hasten Saavik's death, or Spock's, for that matter.
One of the other Klingons was holding out a communicator and the leader took it, snapping, "I ordered no interruptions!"
It's a bitch when a guy can't even torture innocent scientists without getting interruptions, David thought with grim humor. He heaved a sigh of relief as the leader dematerialized, and they were left with only the two guards for company.
Saavik heard Admiral Kirk's voice over the communicator, and for an instant thought it was the echo of a dream she had been having in the cave just before the Klingons had yanked her out into the clearing. She exchanged a glance with David, trying not to react visibly to the illogical, Human relief that burst through her.
David saw the hope in Saavik's eyes and could not help but feel a slight resentment in her blind faith in his father's abilities. He couldn't blame her, though. Men like Jim Kirk are larger than life for a damn good reason. Guess the hero gene didn't quite make it into the offspring, he thought with a bitter half-smile.
Saavik strained to hear the frustratingly faint communication on the open frequency, using her scant knowledge of Klingon to piece together what was happening. Apparently the Klingon ship was cloaked. She swallowed nervously as she recalled the battle damage wrought by Reliant's attack, knowing that some of the repairs made were what Mister Scott had referred to as the "wing and a prayer" variety. The Enterprise was surely not up to another enemy attack, nor could the admiral have many experienced officers aboard. The Klingons definitely had the advantage.
The sounds of battle were unmistakable, and Saavik found herself holding her breath. The Enterprise had to have been damaged by the surprise attack: the question was, how severely?
It's going to be okay. Saavik realized that David had reached over to brush his hand against hers. Their link surged between them and she blinked in astonishment at the pain she could feel from him, not just the physical discomfort, but the soul-wrenching agony of his failure. His attempt at reassurance touched her, but the darkness of his mood was overwhelming.
David, you must not--
The thought was aborted as she heard the Klingon commander's demand that the Enterprise surrender. It did not surprise her, as she had seen first-hand the arrogance of the man, but it angered her that she, Spock, and David would be used as leverage against Kirk and the Enterprise. The Klingon could not know it, but among his hostages were the two individuals in the universe which Kirk would be most likely to risk the safety of his ship to save.
"I will allow you to speak with them," the Klingon said.
Saavik was pulled roughly to her feet and the communicator was shoved in her face.
"Admiral, this is Lieutenant Saavik."
"Saavik! Is David with you?"
"Yes he is, and someone else, a Vulcan scientist of your acquaintance."
"This Vulcan, is he...alive?"
"He is not himself, but he lives. He is subject to rapid aging, like this unstable planet."
The Klingon held the communicator up so David could speak.
"Hello, sir, it's David."
"I'm sorry I'm late."
"It's okay. I should have known you'd come. Saavik's right, this planet is unstable. It's going to destroy itself in a matter of hours."
"David, what went wrong?"
"I went wrong."
"I don't understand."
"I'm sorry, sir; just don't surrender. Genesis doesn't work. I can't believe they'd kill us for it."
The Klingon commander's voice crackled out to them, disembodied, but still thick with an arrogant self-confidence. "Admiral, your young friend is mistaken. I meant what I said, and now to show that my intentions are sincere, I shall kill one of the prisoners."
Kirk's protest was cut off and Saavik heard the guttural order in Klingonese, "wa'yIHoh jISaHbe!"
Meeting the gaze of the Klingon with the sword, Saavik straightened her posture and projected a message with her eyes. The Klingon stared at her for a long moment and then Saavik was certain that she saw a responsive flicker of what might have been respect. She had been counting on the fact that Klingon officers considered it glorious to choose their own death. Klingons were barbarians, to be sure, but like most barbarians, they lived by a code of sorts. A Klingon who died in the line of duty was remembered with honor and glory. What she had tried to project to this Klingon was a mute plea to give her that opportunity. She was certain her plea had been received as he circled around them slowly and come to a stop directly behind her. Hearing the metallic click of the sword's secondary blades as they descended into place, Saavik took a deep breath and prepared herself for death.
David's hand brushed against hers. Saavik--
She felt his intent and a part of her screamed in silent rage. No! Do not--
The link was broken as David lunged at the guard. Saavik whirled to try and stop him, but found herself held immobile by the second guard. She struggled to free herself but the Klingon's grip tightened, threatening to snap her sturdy bones.
David, no! she cried out psionically as she felt him pull back from their link. Oh, David! She sagged weakly in the arms of the Klingon who held her, the severing of the link ripping at her soul.
It was over in a matter of seconds. She saw death glaze David's sapphire eyes as his lifeblood surged forth onto the ground of the world he had waited so long to see. Saavik found herself beyond rage, beyond grief. In spite of the fact that David had severed their link mere seconds before his death, she felt a part of herself die with him. The hollowness she had experienced at Spock's death could not compare to the vacuum inside her now. She was filled only with a mind-numbing calm, a detachment of such magnitude that there was no need to compose herself as the Klingon raised the communicator to her lips.
"Admiral, David is dead." Her words were as emotionless as those of the Enterprise's computer. There was no gasp, no tremor, no telltale hoarseness, only the bitter truth. David was dead, and Saavik realized that she was functioning only on some reflexive level which barred any connection to reality.
"How we deal with death is at least as important as
how we deal with life, wouldn't you say?" Admiral Kirk's words echoed in her
mind again, and Saavik experienced a sudden flash of insight. David had just played out
his own version of the Kobayashi Maru. He was a product of his heredity. He
didn't like to lose.
As the crew of the late starship Enterprise voted unanimously to return to Earth to face the charges against them, Lieutenant Saavik found herself standing alone beside the fountain at the foot of Mount Seleya. She stared sightlessly up at the broad steps which led to the temple, dark eyes seeing not the timeworn path that had supported countless sandaled feet in millennia past, but a wild and tempestuous world: Genesis, a Human dream, named for the mythical creation of life from lifelessness. Vulcan had its myths too, tales handed down from pre-reform days. One of those ancient myths had brought her to this place this evening.
Saavik bent to trail one hand through the water that reflected a scarlet and magenta sunset, the resulting ripple distorting the mirror-like illusion of her emotionless face. Three months on Vulcan had gone a long way toward restoring her shattered disciplines. The days which she had shared with David had faded into chimera-like images which she closed off in a part of her mind, along with her grief.
She had not permitted herself to dwell on those memories. A part of her had shied away from examining too closely the sharp edges of those bittersweet recollections, but the time had come to do so.
She closed her eyes and a familiar, beloved visage appeared in her mind. The warm sensations recalled from their first mind touch surged through her, evoking a joy that she had also repressed. She played her memories like cherished holographs, savoring images of David in an endless number of ways, flushed with excitement and desire, tight-lipped with anger, sleep-tousled and drowsy, and smiling with that boyish delight she had come to know so well. The final image, a blurred glimpse of his expression fading into death, filled her eyes with tears. She clenched the stone edge of the reflective pool until her knuckles blanched, a single tear running down her cheek and dropping soundlessly into the water.
She straightened up, turning in determination to mount the steps. 40 Eridani's glow on the horizon was fading when she reached the top. The temple was deserted, silent. Saavik stood for a moment, breathing in deeply the alien scent of the thin air and looking at stone pillars, sensing a compressed tradition of ritual. It permeated this place, becoming almost an audible hum in her mind.
She closed her eyes again for a moment, summoning strength, and the hum became voices, thousands of chorusing voices joining in a wordless song. With slow but deliberate steps she approached the altar, her footfalls sounding ridiculously loud as they echoed off polished stone. The night wind sprang up, gusting with force as she knelt in the center of the circular area. She shivered, the night air chilling after the heat of day.
The experience she sought was myth, she knew, an ancient legend that pre-Reform Vulcans had passed down from generation to generation in their poetry and songs. But in this place, with the whispering voices of her father's ancestors rising and falling with the night wind, she believed it possible. It was said that the true nature of NOME was a oneness of all things in creation, and that life and death were mere stages in a greater existence. Vulcans saw the barrier between the living and the dead as little more than a doorway, a threshold between levels. Saavik visualized the doorway in her thoughts, allowing the chorus of voices to fill her mind, becoming one with them.
She passed through the doorway, finding herself in a sunlit field. Above her stretched a pale violet sky. Fluffy clouds tinged with just a trace of rainbow pink floated lazily by, and a soft wind rippled the tall grass like an ocean wave.
Saavik turned about, staring at the individual who moved toward her through the waving grass.
"David!" She ran into his solid embrace, tears streaking down her face as he clasped her tightly against him. After a moment, he pulled back enough to meet her gaze and smiled his most brilliant smile. In that instant their link swelled with a sensation of such perfection that no words were necessary and then he faded away, dematerialized as if by a transporter beam.
"David!" she cried as the vision snapped and the temple coalesced around her once more. The wind whined across the open plain and then abruptly ceased. All was silence and only a single image was left in her thoughts. In a verdant meadow beneath a violet sky and rainbow clouds, two lovers walked hand-in-hand in the tall grasses of eternity.
Saavik turned a tear-stained face to the rapidly darkening
night sky and blinked, her blurred vision focusing on the first star of the evening.
"Yes, David, my love," she whispered. "When the time comes, we will share
your world once again."
"Saavik," Admiral Kirk said, taking Lieutenant Saavik by the shoulders as his warm hazel eyes met hers. "This is goodbye."
"Yes, Admiral," she responded.
"Thank you," Kirk said, squeezing her shoulders in the closest approximation of a hug a Vulcan would tolerate before releasing her.
"Sir, I have not had the opportunity to tell about your son," Saavik began. "David died most bravely. He saved Captain Spock. He saved us all. I thought you should know."
Kirk was more aware of the grief and regret which lay behind those halting words than the young lieutenant would ever know. McCoy's intense scrutiny of Saavik since they beamed up from Genesis was second only to his mother-henning of himself and Spock. Kirk didn't have to ask why, nor would he consider asking. McCoy's transparent concern had told him all he needed to know.
Kirk had also been aware of Saavik's quiet grief when Spock treated her with the polite indifference of a perfect stranger. The re-fusion had worked, Spock lived, but some memories were still not restored. Kirk refused to believe that they were lost, preferring to think that they were merely buried, awaiting an experience which would restore them.
As if to illustrate Kirk's thoughts, Saavik turned away from him and came face to face with Spock, meeting the Vulcan's gaze steadily for the first time since the re-fusion. Kirk watched their exchange with fascination, thinking that there was something different about Saavik today, a serenity that he had never sensed in her before. There was no pain in her voice as she addressed her mentor, and he could detect no tension in her lithe frame as she proceeded on her way. He frowned in puzzlement, wondering what could have brought about such a change.
Saavik stepped out into the warmth of Vulcan's dawn and allowed herself a slight smile as she returned Amanda's wave and moved to join her. The Admiral was right; facing death was important and she had finally done so. Thanks to his son, she had not faced it alone.
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