Five Weeks after the Marriage of Spock and Saavik
Saavik was lying in bed, watching the parallel yet irregularly shaped stripes of light on the wall. She turned her head to Spock, who was sound asleep. Although the Time had been over for some weeks, their nights were still active, more than she would have ever thought, leaving them tired and sleepier than usual. But soon Saavik`s leave would end, and she was to return to "Armstrong". How would it be without him? Lonely and cold, she admitted.
Silently she stood up. The window faced the garden, and she could see the way to the main entrance behind the flower beds. Ruanek was just leaving, his fast steps leading him to the road where the new flitter was parked. At the gate he turned around and looked back to the house. His gaze met Saavik`s eyes. She didn't move a muscle. There was no use in pretending she hadn't seen him. But she didn't want to greet him either.
Ruanek sighed. Of all members of the House of Surak, Saavik was the only one who almost ignored him. Two weeks ago he talked to Spock about it, asking for enlightenment as to why she obviously seemed to hate him. Spock had told him the basics concerning Hellguard, a colony of which Ruanek knew almost nothing, and told him that Saavik`s problem was not related to him personally, but to Romulans as a whole. His friend was sure that she would come to peace with it eventually, but it would take time, and he neither could nor would press her in this.
Now two more weeks were over, and whenever a Romulan theme was discussed - which happened often, since Ruanek gave lectures on the academy concerning everyday Romulan life and society - she either sat in a corner and engaged herself with the small reading padd, or left the room. Nobody mentioned this behaviour, but a week ago, when Saavik brushed angrily through the balcony door, Ruanek could see the look Sarek gave Spock. This was the moment when Ruanek decided to tell Sarek the next day that he would move out, taking a flat in the city. But Sarek had insisted that he would stay.
// "You saved the life of my son and daughter - even if she seems to have forgotten that, for which I wish to apologize - and you are not only my guest, but a friend of this house."
Ruanek bowed his head.
"Thank you, S`Haile. I am honored. But my existence here disturbs her. She is Spock`s wife and I don`t want to hurt her."
"She will adjust. Her behaviour is highly illogical and emotional, and sooner or later she has to get over her prejudice concerning Romulus, and her past. In my opinion, your presence will probably be a successful method to further this progression. Of course we don`t want to force you, but I personally want you to stay here as long as you wish to."
Ruanek looked at Sarek, still unsure whether he really should remain in the house in Shikahr..
"Take your time to make this decision. I really appreciate learning so much from our distant cousins." Ruanek nodded and was glad to get out of the room and into the cold hall, just in time to collide with Spock who raised an eyebrow over Ruanek`s disturbance.
"Did you have another interrogation?" he asked.
Ruanek shook his head.
"Sarek told me, he wants me to stay here." He hesitated, fearing Spock`s reaction, but his friend only said: "I fully agree", showing a hint of a smile. //
Saavik saw Ruanek`s frown and clenched her teeth. Why did she have such a problem with him? He was friendly, intelligent, eager to please everybody in the family, and he saved Spock`s life, and consequently hers.
//How I deny this...//
He was probably to become part of the family sooner or later. Was she jealous? She didn't know. She had to adjust. Somehow. She tried hard to control her feelings, but couldn't quite succeed.
The lips on her ear startled her. "Excuse me, I didn`t want to alarm you." Spock touched her shoulders, sensing her troubled thoughts about the Romulan. He had watched her struggle with Ruanek's presence for weeks, and was surprised how complicated it seemed for her to get on even a courteous basis with Ruanek.
Whereas he, after his visit to Romulus, was more convinced than ever that Vulcan and Romulus were but two sides of the same coin, and the coin had to be rebuilt again in the future, Saavik was determined through sheer effort to put her experiences there behind her.
He fondled the shoulders of his wife and with a slow caressing touch up her neck started to kiss her. Soon they would part again, and for years they might meet only rarely, but at the moment he wanted to be with her as much as possible, as if he could add up their time as savings to live on longer //how illogical//
Saavik turned, and their mouths met in a deep kiss, her lips even hotter than Spock's. He got a hold on her hips and shifted Saavik onto the window sill. "If somebody sees us..." She whispered, truly concerned.
Spock didn't dare to answer, but moved closer. She shivered. He smiled a bit, a movement that came easy with her. In the beginning there had been just trust and friendship, but the Time had brought love and desire. It would take some time to get back to his usual level of control, but it could wait until she had left...
Sarek looked up the window and raised an eyebrow. It had obviously been a good choice, although he had to remind his children that the window could even be seen from the street, probably leading to the embarrassment of the neighbours. But just as he wanted to go inside to alert them, Saavik`s back disappeared.
The old Vulcan nodded approvingly and went into the garden. Amanda would have been happy to see them both that way, so joyful and alive. Sarek looked at the roses. They had never again looked the way they did when Amanda tended them, no matter what the gardener tried. The blossoms were hanging loosely and thirstily, reflecting his own inner feelings. His loneliness had grown even more since Spock and Saavik were here. He longed for someone to share his daily life, his evenings and also his nights.
"Never and always touching", he murmured, wavering lost in thought over the roses when he poked his finger and small hints of green blood marked the red blossoms. "Time to get inside and get the medikit", he sighed, wondering whether somewhere there was a solution for his real problem.
Two days later Saavik was once again sitting in the corner of the room and pretending to go over some notes concerning Advanced Astrophysics, while the three men were talking about Ruanek`s next lectures. Her acute hearing allowed her to listen to the conversation. The discussion centered around into how much detail on internal Romulan matters Ruanek should delve...
"There are of course military secrets I don`t want to reveal, I didn't even do so with the Federation investigators, but there are also some social aspects I will not use in lectures, for example the tradition of family marks..."
Spock leaned immediately forward. "Please, tell us more. This topic is most interesting." His gaze went over to Saavik, who pretended not to listen.
"The mark is really a branding, done by an iron that belongs to the related House. It has an official impact, you can claim your rights based on your mark, so to prevent forgery the branding will be administered to a newborn on the fifth day after birth, and then a chemical substance is added so that the brand will not loose structure during the following years. The mark is also deeply connected to the rite of passage for young Romulans. In the sh`relit ritual young adults of the ages of thirteen to sixteen, depending on when the family sees them fit to become of age, will undergo a second branding to refresh the sign."
"As far as I know, there is no data on how many of them exist and to what families they belong." Spock said, with an underlying question.
"You are right - there is no database collection of all the family marks. It is absolutely forbidden to sample any of them. Of course, during military service one gets to know some of them, but it is strictly forbidden to pin them down or describe them to others. If someone is found with a forged mark, he will receive a death sentence and be decapitated. An experienced examiner can see whether the branding was done when already an adult, so you would have to forge it from childhood on, making the risk of detection much to high."
"This ritual you mentioned a little while ago, what does it include?" Sarek asked curiously.
Ruanek hesitated. He knew that he would not be able to talk about it from a really objective point of view. Sarek saw the inner conflict and added: "If this a too personal a question, you do not have to answer, of course."
Ruanek made a little gesture. "It was a very personal experience, but I will tell you."
"The ritual is held in special place far away from the cities. It is meant to be a trip into the wilderness, a test, meeting your animal side and growing beyond it, but the major difference from kahs-wan is that it is a family experience, because chosen members will go with the young one. They will bring the iron-of-rebirth and everything necessary to make a fire. There are also ritual drinks and music and dance. After the sun is down, several traditional songs are sung, while the fire heats the iron up. Later that night the brand will applied."
He hesitated once more, then went ahead. "It was a very personal and powerful experience for me then..." His voice broke up. No, he just couldn't emotionally strip before the silently listening Vulcans. It just didn't fit.
Saavik looked up. Her eyes met Spock`s, and she was angered by his questioning face. She announced, "I will go to bed" and rushed out of the room.
Sarek looked after her, wondering whether her relationship to Ruanek would really improve over time, when Spock caught his gaze and said, "This topic may be the door-opener to some deep-lying connections." Ruanek was fast thinking. He had never thought of Saavik having a family mark.
"It would be very unusual for a child of dishonor to be branded" he said, looking at Spock who nodded slowly.
"There is something behind it all, but even now I don`t know what it is." //I won`t even guess//
His mind's eye visualized the faded branding, its angular and complex shape, slightly distorted from the growth process from baby to adult, but this mark belonged to Saavik. She would have to ask Ruanek if she ever wanted to know more about it.
"There is a block in her mind concerning some very old memories, so her past partly lies in the shadows." It was obvious he wouldn't say more, so the discussion went on to other topics and soon they all left for bed.
Spock opened the door and listened to the regular breaths inside the room. His eyes adjusted to the darkness, and he could see Saavik`s body under the blanket. He undressed and lay next to her, reluctantly to wake her, when he realized that her sleep was far from peaceful.
He wondered what she dreamt about. Her striking face looked disturbed, and her jaw-bones ground. He touched her forehead lightly, just to reassure her of his nearness and to give her some security and peace, but the emanated emotions were powerful and painful: fear, anger and hate.
Concerned about her, he drew closer and initiated mind contact. Instead of her usual warmth, it was cold inside her mind. He froze. That was not her normal composed self, but the disturbed and lonely child he once knew, a long time ago. He started to reach deeper, looking around for her, and had go to profoundly inside before he finally got near her.
Suddenly Spock realized where she was - this was the unbreakable memory block. It was a repeated disappointment for her in the first years of training, and they gave up trying when she was a teenager, deciding that eventually it would be the right time to go there. Now she was grown up and bonded, but the block was as dense as ever, and whatever lay there, was unknown.
The only thing she could ever remember from her earliest childhood was the branding and then later the time in the barracks and the weapons experiment. But in the very beginning lay at least three years where all was blank, and nobody knew if it would stay this way.
He calmed her down through their connection, and when her breathing had become steadier, he stood up and sat on the chair by the window, his fingertips closing on each other, looking out of the window but not really seeing anything. He was thinking.
The other Hellguard hybrids neither had a mark nor the same missing memory, instead they remembered quite well that they were groomed from the beginning in some barracks, and finally let out some weeks before the Romulans left. It never became clear why the Romulans did this at all.
On Vulcan the topic Hellguard was not considered important enough to justify more research - in fact, everything concerning the Sundered was considered off-limits, and the Vulcan government was even - by Vulcan standards - embarrassed by his undercover mission to Romulus.
Saavik and he had faced a lot of interviews, ranging from Starfleet to the Vulcan council. The most interesting interviews were done by the chief of Starfleet intelligence personally. Uhura had the excuse of being a long-time friend to cover her two days in ShiKahr as holiday, and she was refreshing as ever, filling the evenings with alluring songs, and the days with sympathetic interviews in a friendly atmosphere.
Her goal was to get whatever new information on Romulus they both had to offer, instead of checking on their presumed betrayal of confidential information like several others did. But she also openly said that she might not be able to cover for them a second time. It was a fair warning, and Spock appreciated it, although it would in no way dissuade him from doing whatever he thought necessary - and Uhura knew that, too.
He somehow had the distinct feeling that Saavik`s past was a key to some important things. //Jim would grin to see me pondering mere speculation// One day, he hoped, it would present itself, and then they would see whether it was another Pandora`s box or not.
A muffled sound came up from behind, and he turned around. She was disturbed again. Interesting - the more she wanted to distance herself from her Romulan past, the more emotional she became. "There will be no real peace in her mind till she learns to integrate it" he thought, and Ruanek would hopefully be a catalyst for change.
Spock stood up and lay next to her again, caressing her face with two fingers and giving her nicer dreams.
The next morning she was gone.
It was hot, hotter than anything she ever had experienced. The sun was mercilessly raised high above the Forge, sending whatever was living here into the shadows. For three days she had been out in the desert.
Some part of her knew that it was a crazy and completely illogical idea to come here, with only a marginal supply of water and food, with no real experience of the desert and with the only weapon she owned - a very old, blunt knife. But that morning three days ago, when she awoke and once again stood at the window and looked into the distance, she knew she had to come here. It was calling for her.
Now she raised her hand to shade her eyes against the gleaming light over the plain. The landscape was unknown to her, but the road was what counted, and she just went ahead like she had done for hours. Neither plants nor animals could be seen on the way.
Was she looking for an epiphany? She never had been religious, and the depths of philosophy were lost on her. Spock had spoken with her about a lot of things, but she only adopted what she felt as truth, not something that some confraternity wanted her to believe in. She had no experience with transcendence, which she felt was something for people who weren't content with what reality offered them. So what was she looking for?
// The answer to it all //
Her mouth twitched. "So you want to find your answer by stumbling around in the desert, Saavik?", she debated with herself, kicking a stone away which had lain before her boot. "You think that with exhaustion comes enlightenment? You will break down and your memory will free itself? Some divine light will enfold you and guide you? You are a fool. And what is worse, you make Spock look like a fool with your behaviour."
Her other half raised its voice. "When all else is tried, the answer may be found only with a completely different approach. This is logical." She sat down on a small rock, exhausted.
// There is more to life than logic //
She pondered the thought in her mind. She had tried to embrace logic and to control her emotions, to live the Vulcan way - at least as much as was possible for her. But the Vulcan way had released her beasts through Pon Farr. What irony - with the same man that had taught her how to control, there came the loss of all control, where he had offered her guidance to peace, he had now caused the warbirds of raw emotion to rage again. She couldn't just go "back to normal". There was no simple switch inside her mind for that.
She fetched the water bottle. There was only approximately a day`s supply left, so she took only two sips and tucked the bottle away again in her backpack. She wondered whether Spock was looking for her, and thought about whether she wished more that he would or he would not. The small note she had put on the desk was simple and intended to mollify him: "I have a need for solitude for some days. Please do not follow. I will take care of myself. Yours - Saavik."
"Take care" was somewhat an exaggeration of her actual state, she thought bitterly. Would she die of exhaustion in the desert? No. Spock would surely know this through the bond, and find her before. She had closed it down a bit, but since a bond was a permanent connection, she felt his presence in his mind, however far away she was - and a few dozen kilometers wasn't that far.
Saavik started moving again, although it was the midday heat on the Forge, when even Vulcans would rather meditate or sleep in the shadows than to walk in the open, but sitting on a rock was not what she had come for - even if she had to admit that she did not know what she came for here in the first place.
She resumed her trail to the mountain. Her eyes concentrated on the sand directly before her feet, and with the steady pace of her measured steps, her mind emptied itself and all that was left was the color red.
The mountain was further away than she had thought, and so she reached its foot when the sun sank again. She was tired and so exhausted that she was already over the edge, her body working on emergency power, the endorphins pushing her forward without feeling the throbbing pain in her legs, the thirst in her throat, and the sunburn she had gotten in spite of the protective gear she was wearing.
Forty minutes later there was no more power left, and she fell heavily on her knees, her hands landing in the sand to catch her fall. On all fours, she was gasping for air, her lungs dry from the desert and her heart beating like a drum.
She raised her eyes and blinked. A gate, a perfect, wonderful gate in the middle of the desert! That could not possibly be...
Then she remembered that moment long ago, when Spock had shared for the first time his innermost thoughts with her, on the doomed planet of her childhood - Hellguard.
// Your answer lies elsewhere //
This was Gol.
Kneeling before its main entrance, her view traveled over the huge metal gate, then moved to the high stone walls and the towers that raised on both sides. It was once a fortress, and now the religious center of Vulcan, the heart of all logic. Here was neither forgiveness nor compassion, here was the living death of endless nothingness.
// Truth that cannot be taught, Peace that cannot be shared. //
She shuddered. Was it this that called her into the desert? Where Spock failed, how could she succeed? Never had she thought about whether Kolinahr could offer her any answer, and no, it never would.
She looked at the door. "You do not have my answers, Gol", she said, and the fortress stood silently as if to confirm her words.
Then suddenly the door swung open and a hooded figure came out.
"Saavik of the Sundered. Come."
"That was not an invitation," Saavik thought looking up to the unmoved Vulcan priestess, but an order, and for a moment she wanted to decline it, but then exhaustion and curiosity won over her dignity and she followed the woman into the coolness of the hall. Only then it crossed her mind that the priestess had known her name and her parentage, a somehow irritating fact.
They went through dark halls and corridors that looked older than anything else she had seen on Vulcan, and wherever they went she could hear the song she once heard in Spock`s mind.
The coldness in Gol was not only one of temperature, but of mind, and she froze at the emptiness of the ornamateless, colorless walls. She was wrong here, it was like inviting the fiery devil to the silence of heaven - a comparison which caused her a small grin that gratefully trailed off unseen. If this was paradise, she would prefer hell.
Saavik was led into a big hall where the priestess disappeared as silent and fast as she had appeared before.
"We expected you, Saavik of the Sundered." A hooded woman raised from a stone bench in the back of the hall and drew near.
Saavik awaited her silently. The woman`s gaze met her eyes, and Saavik felt like being slowly stripped down to the bone, but held on despite the shiver that slowly moved up her spine.
"Thee have no question?" The woman asked solemnly, her voice almost disembodied flying from unmoving lips.
"I do no know what the question is", Saavik replied. "I only know I search."
"This is not enough."
"I was called to the desert. I am here now. I seek an answer." All of Saavik`s pain spoke through these words.
"We only call those who are ready. Thy inner voice betrayed thee. We do not offer answers, where no question was given." The woman turned around and started to move away from Saavik.
Saavik felt an almost overwhelming rush of anger and raised her voice: "So this is Gol at its best, no peace to offer, no truth to share, no help to give", aiming her words at the woman as if they were arrows. But there was no self left in the woman that could be hit by emotion, and her steps didn't waver a second.
Saavik clenched her fists. "I am glad he failed", she muttered to herself, suddenly stricken by the thought that Spock might have successfully buried himself in this grave, an achievement whose implications almost made her sick.
The hooded figure turned around again. "He only failed by seeing it as failure", she said. "Go now and come back when you have questions." She disappeared into the shadows.
Saavik was led out by the priestess again and when she left the gates, the heat embraced her like a lover. But this was a lover who had betrayed her, and the Vulcan desert offered her even less answers than the closed door did.
She fell on the hot sand and cried desperately.
He had brought her into the shade and given her water. She hadn't asked how he had found her and why it was he, not Spock, who was here. Ruanek watched her quietly for a while, than started to unpack his luggage that was in the back of the flitter. He suddenly heard her laughing with a underlying tension of irrationality.
"This is crazy... " She stood up and staggered to him, uneasy because of her exhaustion. "Seems I can go wherever I want and still not get away from you. What are you? My personal Romulan ghost?" She came to stand before him. He simply waved to the ground behind him. Lying there were a traditional Vulcan fire pot with its necessary supplies, some bottles and something she couldn't quite allocate.
"What is this all about?" she asked him wearily.
He looked into her eyes. "Spock sent me. He thought you might need some support on your search."
"On my search..." It was not a question - Saavik knew exactly what Spock meant, and her defense wore off. She went down and examined the unknown tool closer. A branding iron was lying there. She touched it reluctantly, letting her fingers travel across the filigree surface. Fascinating.
"We have everything that is necessary for the sh`relit ritual."
"Does it... fit to my mark?" she asked, wondering from where they had gotten it.
"Yes. Spock drew it by memory and had it constructed by a metal artist in SheRa. The traditional food and potables I made up by experimentation with the food replicator. When all was ready, he sent me here."
Her throat tightened and she inwardly bowed to Spock`s supreme knowledge of her. Yes, she would go through this ritual, but her way was not his way and she had to do this without him.
She looked up to Ruanek, and he saw a watered glance in her eyes. "I am ready. How shall we proceed?"
"The sun has almost gone down, so we can already get the fire going." He arranged it with experience. Saavik watched him. "I never really thanked you for saving our lives. I regret this. Please forgive me my illogical behaviour. It was never about you, but only about them."
"I know", he simply replied, ordering the coal into a symmetrical and efficient structure and inflaming the paper in the middle. The blue flame made its way through the paper and the pieces of tes-than, the Vulcan equivalent to wood splinters.
Ruanek sat down on the earth next to her and opened the package of food. "Here, have some fried meat." Her first impulse was to reject it, arguing with Vulcan vegetarianism, but then she checked her wishes, and yes, she wanted to eat this food. It was fat and crisp and had an unusual but pleasant taste. He also offered her a cup with a yellow fluid that tasted delicious.
The fire was burning brightly now, giving enough heat to warm them against the suddenly falling temperature on the Forge.
"I didn't feel bad on Romulus", Saavik suddenly said. "My feelings were not... really important there. And this irritated me."
"I don`t know much about your past, but from what I know, your reaction is fully understandable to me. I can`t imagine how much I would have hated my kind, if this had happened to me."
"But one`s past is not everything. So many things in my life have changed, but there is still hate in me for Romulans." She had spoken it, loudly. Hate. A deep-lying hate that never really could have been overcome. And it was not only them. It was every single one of them personally.
"This hate diminishes my freedom of choice and chains me to my past. And it was powerful enough to stand against all my accomplishments concerning peace and logic." She drank from the drink Ruanek had given her.
"Since Romulus I have thought a lot about it, and I fought, fought against giving it up. One gets adjusted even to bad emotions, if the alternative seems to be to feel nothing at all. But today I have looked into the emotionless heart of logic, and there I saw what nothingness really means. My problem was never that I had no emotions, I only feared that their intensity would be unbearable for me. And now Pon Farr had released them all, and I must handle all of them, not suppress them like before, but integrate them." Saavik`s voice trembled.
Ruanek hesitated. He could not really imagine how it would feel to actually allow feelings after decades of denial. He carefully posed his question. "And what do you seek to accomplish with the ritual now?"
She looked into the fire and drank another cup of the beverage, which warmed and relaxed her.
"There is that one thing that hinders me from embracing my past... the forgotten memories. Whatever happened there, I want to know it, otherwise I will forever think about it, trying to break through the block. It ties me even tighter to my childhood as any brutal, yet clear experience could."
Ruanek silently put the iron into the fire, careful to not touch the coal with it, but instead fixed it a bit higher. She felt cold sweat on her forehead, from the drink and from a sudden fling of discomfort. "Does it hurt?", she asked unsteadily. "It depends on the receiver, but it generally hurts less than one would think. It does not sting, it is rather a deep-down hurt that can be easily embraced."
Saavik wasn't convinced by this - her childhood vision of the brand was not that pleasant. She drank another cup of the liquid. She hadn't asked Ruanek what was in, but could feel that the ingredients meddled with her brain, adding to her already altered state from her desert walk. The colors of the fire seemed to change in color, becoming brighter, and the flickers turned in curls up and down. "It is illogical to take drugs", she said, and looked to Ruanek.
"There is more than logic in life", he said. "Even Vulcans know that, but they won`t admit it."
"Logic is only the beginning, not the end of wisdom, Spock once told to me."
"He is the most impressive man I have ever met", Ruanek admitted. "I am honored to be his friend." He suddenly felt ridiculous saying something like that to Spock`s wife, but she simply nodded.
"He was my rescue from hell, then my admired teacher, my friend and now is my husband. Sometimes I wonder whether this is only a dream..."
Her voice trailed off. She felt extremely at ease with Ruanek, and his heart jumped when he saw how she smiled at him.
// So finally, we will be friends too //
"What now", Saavik asked, and her voice clearly showed that whatever was to come, she would happily undergo it.
"Kneel down with your eyes on the fire and take your shirt off", Ruanek answered. She didn't hesitate. Soon she had placed herself there, her upper body nude, hands loosely on her thighs, and looked directly into the fire. Ruanek started to oil her back and massage it, now singing a Romulan song in a deep voice that reminded Saavik of wind in a forest.
Its rhythm soon led her to close her eyes and move slightly forward and backward, absolutely relaxed and in such a deep peace with herself that she felt reborn already. There was nothing in the universe besides them next to this fire, there was no music in the galaxy besides his song. Here was the center of everything and her heartbeat was the beat of life itself. Small tears ran down her cheek, because she felt so good, so complete. Every pore of her was open for the experience to come, and there was neither fear nor hate left, only acceptance. She longed for the heat of the iron.
Ruanek smiled behind her back. He had shared the ritual with several members of his family, and was glad to see that its effect was not lost on Saavik. He could feel her state of eager anticipation with every touch of her shoulders, when he kneaded her strained muscles and massaged down her back. Then he pushed her hair softly to the other shoulder so that the old mark was freely accessible, and went around her to get the iron. She didn't move anymore, almost holding breath.
"Breathe", he said in a low voice, careful not to get her out of her meditational state. She started to respire again, slowly but regularly, only a slight shiver showed her enhanced awareness for his actions. He got the iron out of the fire.
It was red hot against the black night sky of the Forge. First, it had to cool down a bit, and then it would have to be applied with a calm hand but not too long and not too deep. It was an art, and he was glad that he was quite experienced in it - otherwise he would have had to decline Spock`s wish to support his wife through this ritual.
He went to her back. Her soft skin was glistening from the oil and the flickers of the fire illuminated it unsteadily, making the branding a challenging task. Ruanek drew a deep breath and aimed at the mark twice to perfect the movement, then he pressed the iron into her shoulder...
Saavik embraced the pain. A white-hot sensation rushed through her body, sending raw energy to even the slightest nerve in her system. Her mind opened up and extended itself to the sky, unfolding her memories in whirls with her sitting in the eye of the hurricane and watching.
She looked at the scenes like it was a movie recorded by someone else, from a perspective slopingly above that events, watching her own figure doing things, reacting to others, but the emotions were all there. She tasted Spock`s lips again in the first half-awakened moment after his return, when she lay in his arms nearer to death than life, she felt the Romulan praetor grabbing for her and finally falling unconscious by her grip, she saw her controlled but inwardly relieved self on the bridge of the Armstrong after the encounter with the F?rtal ship...
But alas, these were things from the recent past she knew well. There were others she wanted to bring up. She looked up the whirl.
There was Genesis, and she saw David die again, the slow motion of every second unrolling before her, accumulating in the almost heartbreaking pain she felt when he lay in the sand, his red blood on her fingers. Her control had left her alive, an irony because she had wanted to sacrificed herself by appealling the Klingon with her warrior-like attitude, but in the end David achieved that. Not to act is often a decision too...
In another painful memory, Kirk left for the engine room and she knew and felt that her beloved teacher, the single most important person in her life was dying to save the ship and his friends. She had not knowingly seen the scene, but now she found that here the view was Spock`s. Some traces of his memory had obviously found their way to her through the bond and the mind-melds, and she felt the aching pain from the radiation burns, heard Jim`s voice through the speaker, his panic, his fear, his deep mourning. You have been, and always shall be my friend...
"Is my mind only full of death?", she mused, searching the whirl for some positive experiences.
There were some that filled her with joy // yes, joy it is called //, but not many, she had to admit. // I will change this //
The trace of Spock in her mind was highly visible, he was like a red line connecting her moments in life from that day of rescue to her nowadays existence. She remembered a mythical story from Earth, where a hero searched a labyrinth inhabited by a hybrid of man and bull, finding his way by the one thing his lover Ariadne could give him - a string of wool. She went along her own string, making her way from the second arrival on Hellguard and her intimate mind contact there through the Academy years with the many letters of answers and questions that were exchanged between them and then finally to its end in the stone desert of the dark and cold planet of her childhood...
She saw herself sitting in the dark and watching the Silent One whose life she just had saved, and whom she felt like knowing even in that first night. Her hunger and thirst, her pain and loneliness rushed over her and she inhaled it, bathed in it, integrated it. Kaaidth.
Suddenly she was alone in the whirl.
// Your answer lies elsewhere //
// If it is not here, I may never find it.//
A part of her trembled in fear. But she moved on.
Four dull colored stone barracks were standing in a line, surrounded by a high electrical fence, in it many children of different ages, seldom talked to, only ordered harshly around by big men in dark clothes, Romulan soldiers, she knew now.
They were nothing more than cattle for them. Sometimes they ordered children out and left with them. They never reappeared. If the barracks would not have been roughly sorted by age, the younger ones never would have survived the many cat fights the children had over food and water. There was never enough of it. She shivered. How much pain was here, too much to embrace right now, but she would come back here.
She went out of the place and looked around.
Suddenly there was a change. A very small girl was standing in a room that was warm and cozy, the smell of food hanging in the air. Behind the door, footsteps could be heard to come near. She was looking forward for...
... and another change, the scenes were volatile now. There was a baby lying in a wooden cradle. Two faces looked down on her. It reached out its tiny arms, instantly knowing that these were its parents. And then they smiled at her! She longingly stretched out her arms as far as possible. Two fingers were coming towards her, allowing her small hands to grab onto them, and she felt love and care and the knowledge that she really was...
Someone shook her hard. "No, don`t do this," she desperately thought, but the stirring didn't stop and she lost the vision, finding herself lying on her back in the sand and shaking heavily.
"What have you done to me", she cried into the face of Ruanek who held her arms. She madly hit him with a drumming of her clenched fists, knocking him to the ground. She rose up.
"I was so near it. It was all there to see. They smiled at me..." Tears were flooding down in streams, and she tumbled to her knees again. "Why did you do this to me?" She hammered on his breast and stomach, pushing his lungs out of air. He tried to fight her off.
"You... were... away... so long. I had fear..." he gasped for air. His explanation only seemed to fuel to her anger. "You had no right to take this from me!" she exclaimed between her blows. Ruanek was on the edge of unconsciousness and made a last desperate effort to free himself. His knees went up and pushed her to the side, temporarily sending her off target. Ruanek rolled away from her and got on his knees, trying to catch his breath again. Saavik went up and faced him, and he prepared himself for another attack, when she suddenly fainted and fell. He was just fast enough to prevent her head from hitting the ground hard.
"I ruined it all", Ruanek thought frantically, holding her in his arms. Her eyes were closed, and her breathing almost inaudible.
He had to get her to the hospital and he had to inform Spock that he had not succeeded in his duty to accompany her in this ritual and keep her safe. He felt deeply dishonored and ashamed. Never had he seen anybody reacting so vigorously to the branding as well as to the awakening, so it caught him unprepared. But he should have foreseen such a thing, with Saavik`s history and the last days behind her...
Ruanek let her head down slowly and struggled to his feet. His body ached, and he could feel that one or two ribs were probably broken. He tried to concentrate on some of the newly acquired techniques on pain-control, but he clenched his teeth while he quickly assembled their belongings. The fire pot would be too hot to take with them, but the iron was too personal to let it stay behind. He threw the iron into the flitter door, but missed it by two inches, so it pitched on the outer metal skin and fell on the sand.
"I wonder how the flight will be", he muttered, searching the iron and finally put it in the flitter. Then he returned to take Saavik. She was too heavy to carry for him in his condition, so he had to pull her carefully through the sand. With the last of his strength, he drew her into the flitter, then knelt next to her, again breathing hard and feeling dizzy. Behind the driver`s seat he found a blanket in which he could enfold her cold body, and also a water bottle from which he drank thirstily and then tried to give Saavik some water, but she stayed deeply unconscious.
"So here we go", Ruanek thought, as he carefully lowered himself onto the driver`s seat. The pain in his upper body was intense, and there was a faint taste of metal in his mouth. The engines started with a low humming, and then they were on their flight back to ShiKahr.
The hospital main entrance was brightly illuminated as the flitter arrived, showing lean hooded figures standing in silent anticipation.
When Ruanek had informed Spock that there had been an accident and they would fly directly to the hospital, the Vulcan had simply nodded and announced that he would inform the medical center and await them there. Spock had felt several disturbing emotions through the bond that night, so he was not really surprised by the message, and knew that he would soon enough be informed of the kind of this accident. He also hadn't missed the pain on Ruanek`s face, thus he had not intended to take more of the young man`s energy by talking to him while he flew at maximum speed to ShiKahr.
They opened the flitter door. Saavik was lying on the floor, wrapped up in a blanket. Her face was waxen. He couldn't help her and went to the side, leaving room for the healers to carry her into the hospital and take care of her for the moment.
Ruanek struggled to get out of the driver`s seat, and Spock moved to help him, a quick glance showing him that Ruanek needed at least as much medical care as Saavik. Finally, Ruanek made it slowly to the door.. "Don`t talk much - it can wait", he said.
Ruanek looked at him with a sad expression in his eyes.
"I failed... I awoke her because I feared for her... she was off so long, and reacted so heavily... and she was angry and beat me... and then she just fainted... " Spock deduced that the ritual had obviously succeeded to a certain degree, but had not accomplished what she wanted in the end. How regrettable. But now, he had to make sure that Ruanek would not blame himself //For sense of guilt is powerful, and Romulans too easily fall its prey. //
"I thank you for what you have done for my wife. It was a company I could not have given her, and it seems your judgment was based on a logical decision, even if it had failed for this special situation. I am honored by your service and regret your injuries."
Ruanek looked only slightly relieved. "I wish I would have had reacted differently", he murmured, fighting against the nausea that shadowed his view.
"Kaiidth - what is, is, as we on Vulcan say. We only can deal with the outcome. And this means, I will give you straight to the next healer, because you are in heavy pain and I want both of you to return to health."
Spock half-carried Ruanek inside. T`Selis was waiting there for them, her feelings showing only by the tightening of her lips when she saw the Romulan`s situation. She glanced disapprovingly at Spock. "You should have brought him in here instantly."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "He felt an urge to inform me at least marginally on the cause of this outcome. My experience shows that emotional beings have a need to unburden themselves as soon as possible after an incident, especially if they are concerned with having acted wrongly."
T`Selis looked like contradicting, but then slightly nodded, and took Ruanek with her.
Spock seated himself in the waiting area, when his father called. Sarek`s face looked concerned. "How is the situation?", he asked. "I do not yet have information on their status. Saavik was unconscious and Ruanek was wounded."
"So the experiment went wrong?" Sarek was careful not to let out a hint of his original disapproval of the plan. He knew that Spock could judge Saavik far better than anyone else, but this Romulan ritual had in his opinion been too high a risk for her safety.
"On this I also have not enough information." Spock told him unmoved. "I will inform you when the healers have briefed me on the situation." Sarek nodded and closed the connection.
The healer in charge came down the corridor. He looked startled and addressed himself to Spock without any introduction. "We have examined her. She is awake again, yet very weak. The most extraordinary thing is an ornamental burn on her shoulder. What happened to her?"
"This is part of a ritual she had tried to accomplish with the help of my friend -" he held his hand up as he saw that the healer wanted to comment on this highly illogical action "-and they did this with my full knowledge and support. Do not judge without knowledge." Spock cited Surak. "You will not heal this branding. It is my wife`s decision alone what will be done with this wound." The healer looked unconvinced. "There is sand in it, so we at least should clean it." Spock nodded. "This is logical. But the mark itself shall not be treated until further notice." A very disapprovingly look met his eyes, but Spock simply looked back, until the healer withdrew.
"Can I visit her?" he asked. The healer put on his professional control again and found that there was no logical reason to hinder the Ambassador. " I will guide you to her", he said, and went at a fast pace through some halls.
"What was the cause of her unconsciousness?" Spock asked.
"This we have not found out yet. But the examination results..." He was interrupted by a young Human female who waved at him. "We have the results", she claimed, and smiled.
Spock entered the room. Saavik lay on a flat bed with a heating unit above - obviously her body temperature was not within normal range yet. She opened her eyes when he drew near to her and fetched her hand.
She simply pressed his hand.
"Do you want to talk about it?", he asked, sensing her tension intensely through their bond now.
"I was there... I have seen them .. my parents... they smiled at me!"
Spock raised an eyebrow. It was highly unlikely that if there ever had been something like "parents" to her on Hellguard at all, that they would smile at their child. He wondered whether the ritual rather led to invention of things than to the release of real events from the past. If that was so, the experiment was not only arguable, but very dangerous. He hadn't thought of this possibility - maybe his logic was flawed at the time. She caught his thoughts.
"I am sure the memories are real. It all fitted for me there. And just when I was about to understand what was behind it all, Ruanek awakened me..."
"And so you had to beat him up?" Spock asked on an ironic note.
Saavik blushed. "Is he badly injured? I can`t remember much. I deeply regret this... What did happen after all?"
"To your first question: Yes, you probably broke some of his ribs. More injuries and he would not have succeeded in bringing you here when you fainted."
"I fainted?" She looked surprised. "Ah well..." She closed this topic and shifted back to her real concern.
"Spock, I want to repeat it!" Saavik had that determined look on her still pale face he had learned to fear in her younger days.
"You may very well try it again some time, but at the moment this is not advisable."
She quickly answered: "I will be fine soon, and I am sure..."
He had raised his hand, and she stopped.
"My dear wife, you fainted not only because of exhaustion, dehydration, a biological drug that obviously was part of this ritual, and your explainable agitation, but also because your metabolism has changed."
She looked blankly at him.
"You are pregnant", he simply added.
Her jaw dropped slightly, and she fell silent.
"That will change... a lot of things." She finally said. "You are right, the ritual is not recommended for a mother-to-be, so I will wait. Maybe it isn't even needed..."
Her voice trailed off, and she closed her eyes. Spock could tell that she hoped for her memories to return now slowly, without the need for more actions of this kind. He genuinely wished it would be that way - and that only reliable memories would show up.
"Saavik, one last thing. The healer is eager to medicate your burning. What do you want to be done with it?"
She opened her eyes again with effort. "He shall clean it, but the branding shall heal for itself. My parents marked me on purpose, so this is their heritage to me." Her lids fell down again, and Spock almost turned away when he heard her mutter:
"I am glad you left the grave. It never was a failure." Her voice broke and she fell asleep.
He looked astonished. What was she talking about?
But then he read her open feelings and the coldness he felt in her this time could not be mistaken - it was the coldness of the halls of Gol. And a sentence in a well-known voice tinged: "Thee have no question?"