What is Left in the End
"There is a storm coming up," Spock said with a slight frown, looking into the distant desert.
Saavik awoke from her thoughts with Syreen tugging at her uniform sleeve.
"It is boring here," Syreen said, and waved her little hand around in the waiting area of the ShiKahr main hospital.
"Shh, control yourself just a little bit longer," Saavik replied soothingly and patted her head.
"How long is longer?" Syreen asked, not willing to drop the subject.
"We can only estimate," Saavik said and looked at the chronometer that was hanging in the hall - probably installed for offworlders, since the Vulcan time sense made the usage of such devices moot. Unfortunately, whenever there was a clock, it caught Saavik's gaze, as if she needed to calibrate her inner one.
"Can you calculate it, Syreen? They told us to wait for approximately 1.4 hours. That was when?"
Syreen looked at her thoughtfully, and in her eyes Saavik could almost see the digits fall into place.
"1.1 hours ago," Syreen answered, and only her cautious gaze gave away her uncertainty about this result.
Saavik nodded. "So there are 0.3 hours left."
It had been logical to take Syreen with her - it had been illogical to wait here instead of going into town. But now it was too late to change her mind.
"What about reading the book of Terran tales you took with you?"
Syreen nodded obediently and fetched it out of her little backpack, sitting down next to Saavik.
Saavik gave her a side-glance. 'Appeased for the moment', she thought and her eyes meandered back to the picture of the Forge on the wall she had concentrated on before, getting drawn to her memories again.
"There is a storm coming up," Spock said with a slight frown, looking into the distant desert.
She didn't ask him why he should know the desert on an alien world - deserts were deserts on all worlds, sharing the unique combination of sand, sun, dryness and occasionally storms. And he already had been here once, decades ago on a mission with two very old friends of his.
Some minor negotiations with the desert people had given Spock a good excuse to come here again, and she accompanied him, leaving their 3-year-old daughter Syreen with Ruanek and T'Selis for a month. A part of her regretted that David Rabin had died five years ago - she would have liked to have met the man who had influenced Spock at the two most important crossroads in his life.
"Without him I would have never joined Star Fleet Academy," Spock had said when they had stood in front of the polished stone in which the sunlight had reflected intensely enough to make them close their second lids.
"And you would never have rescued me," she had added in a low voice. 'Or married me', she thought.
"It is idle to think in terms of what - if, since we cannot change the past." Spock had replied. "But I have to admit it is a challenging intellectual problem. Would the universe have evolved differently if I would have stayed on Vulcan, if I would never had joined the crew of the Enterprise..." His voice had trailed off and he had looked unfocused into the sky, obviously drifting back to some old memories.
She had stood beside him for some long silent minutes, before he finally had left his transfixed position and they had descended the small hill to join Rabin's daughter and grandchildren for dinner.
Two days later the negotiations had ended, but they still had some time left, and so - after the fourth call in half an hour - she had leaned over him and pressed the off button of his portable communication center.
"We'll go on leave now," she had stated, inwardly prepared for some arguments against her suggestions, but he delivered none.
"What do you propose?" He had simply asked back.
"What about a desert walk?"
"That is acceptable."
"Without communicators." The frequent stirring of the devices got on her nerves - it felt like they were on red alert constantly.
"Not advisable. With one communicator for emergencies."
She had given in to logic and nodded.
"One communicator, then. What else do we need?"
Spock had raised to his feet. "Since you are not as experienced with deserts as I am, I will organize the necessary equipment."
"If you want to do all the work..." she had shrugged, not sure whether she approved of this.
"We have to send a message to Vulcan today, otherwise Syreen will be disappointed," he had reminded her and caressed her face lightly.
"Disappointment is an understatement," she had replied with a small smile, summoning up the vision of their daughter at her worst.
"Then it is even more important to fulfill our parental duties." He had fetched his cloak and gone for the door. "I will be back in approximately 1.3 hours."
Two hours later her message went to Vulcan and Spock and she had left for the desert.
And then they stood here, facing the upcoming storm that made its way with a threatening speed. The air was already thickening with sand in the increasing heat that the storm seemed to bring, and Saavik closed her nose against that assault.
"There seems to be a shelter," Spock stretched his forefinger out into the direction of the mountains, guiding Saavik's view to a point where some shadows hinted at a cavity.
"Agreed. Let's go."
They made their way, first walking fast, then, when the storm started to hit them from the side, running to the point they had seen from the distance.
When they got there, both were relieved to find that their presumption had been right. The cave was not large, but deep enough into the mountain to give them shelter against the storm that rose to maximum now.
They removed their cloaks, carefully shaking off the sand that had already worked its way into every crinkle of their clothes.
"Next time please remind me that I don't like deserts," she muttered as she sat down, got out of her boots and turned them around. A slow flow of sand trickled down to the ground, building a small hump. The sand was even gritting in her teeth when she talked.
"You lack the statistical material to judge," Spock replied dryly. "And emotions related to environments are illogical."
The filling from his boots joined her sand knoll.
"I will set up a fire and prepare food," he said, sensing that she could use some kind of 'cheering up', as his human friends would have called it.
"Fine," she mumbled, and fetched the bottle to water her dry throat. Sand from her lips was instantly flushed into her mouth, and she hastily stood up and spit the mixture into a corner. 'Great', she thought, 'desert 101: there is sand everywhere. Try to remember that lesson, Saavik'.
Spock had conspicuously overlooked the incident and was setting up the small fire. The flickers of the flames enlightened his features in an unusual way, and Saavik was reminded of the jokes of Dr. McCoy about a devilish look. Her research had resulted in some pictures of the traditional Terran devil that in her judgment didn't resemble Spock in any way. But now she readjusted her opinion. Here in this cave, kneeling before the fire that sparkled its light erratically over the walls and the two fugitives, she finally understood what the term "Prince of Darkness" was referring to.
He looked up and met her gaze, his right brow raising a fraction of an inch in an unspoken question.
// Prince of Darkness? // trailed over their bond.
// Just thought about your 'devilish look'... // she sent back, smiling in her mind.
His brow rose higher and not incidentally - she was sure about - enhanced that image further. His way to change her mood...
// I love you //
// Appreciated and returned // he formally replied, but also smiling in his mind.
"Only 0.2 hours left." Syreen stood next to Saavik and probed her gaze into her mother's eyes, getting her out of her day dream.
"Well calculated," Saavik said, and examined her daughter. Increased tension, sure sign of too much energy that could not be put into action. Saavik looked at the Vulcan female at the reception counter, and obviously there had been enough of a plea in her gaze to call upon her help.
The woman walked graciously over to them and looked down on Syreen for a moment, then met Saavik's eyes.
"My name is T'Parl."
"I am Saavik, and this is Syreen, my daughter."
All nodded in greeting before T'Parl went ahead.
"This waiting area is not prepared for children. But I can take her over with me and teach her about the hospital organization."
Syreen looked slightly unconvinced, and her gaze traveled from the woman over to her mother back to the woman.
"We appreciate this offer," Saavik replied, and her gaze fixed on Syreen who understood that her mother found this a sensible occupation. "Imagine how much you can tell your friends later, when we go home."
Not very Vulcan, but appropriate for her daughter who liked to show off knowledge, and once in a while even Saavik simply stuck to the easiest solution. Syreen thought it through for a moment and then visibly lightened up. Anything would be more satisfying than her current boredom.
"Follow me," T'Parl said, and both went to the reception. Within minutes Syreen was so occupied and eagerly listening to the information the Vulcan gave her that she stopped looking over for her mother, and Saavik thankfully let her mind drift back to her memories again.
She didn't quite recall why she had said it, but somewhere in the middle of their discussion about education it slipped out of her; the one thing that had made her uncomfortable in the last weeks.
"Syreen has started asking about my parents."
Spock didn't answer immediately, instead he stirred the bowl of soup he was preparing. Saavik followed his circling movements with her eyes as if hypnotized.
"That was to be expected," he finally replied, matter of fact. "What is your answer?"
She sighed. "I simply say they are dead and I never got to know them."
"That is basically correct," Spock agreed, unable to prevent his lips from twitching. She caught that movement and frowned slightly.
"She is surely too young to tell her the truth. And there isn't much more to tell anyway - "
She stopped in mid-sentence, pressing her lips tightly together. That subject was closed, at least as far as she was concerned.
"I agree," Spock said, and sat down next to the fireplace, a mere meter away from her.
"You agree?" she inquired raising her brow, quite well remembering that he would have preferred it if she would already have taken the genetic scan decades ago. But it had never been the right time, somehow. Shame, guilt and fear of rejection had prevented her from undertaking it time and again. And long before Syreen, she had given up any idea of a Vulcan family claiming her.
Only with giving birth to her daughter and getting involved into the relatively tight traditions of Spock's house, had she started to think about the term "family ties" again. But it had not changed her mind about the most important points...
She awoke from her musing and found Spock's gaze centered on her. He sat relaxed and cross-legged, his hands hanging loosely over his knees, and Saavik was sure he had fetched some of her thoughts.
"I agree that there is nothing more to say," Spock said.
"You mean, we lack information because I never had the genetic scan done." Her voice betrayed the irrational feeling of guilt she experienced right now, much to her own surprise.
He raised a brow. "I have not implied any judgment. It is your right to choose."
"Then tell me why I feel like you accuse me of not having it done."
"Feelings of guilt are irrelevant as long as you execute your right of free choice. However, it may be the case that - concerning this topic - you are guided by other feelings in the first place that impede your judgment."
A feeling of anger rushed up in her. That was not the husband, but the teacher who spoke those words, and she was not willing to feel like a student again. And then she realized that he was right - fear pounded in her chest when it came to this topic.
She voiced what she hadn't voiced for a very long time.
"They would reject me."
"There are few reasons why they should. There are more reasons why they should not."
She raised a brow. "Give me some logical ones."
"You are well-known on Vulcan as Admiral of Starfleet, with a long successful career. You belong by marriage to one of the most powerful houses of Vulcan. You are the wife of a legend and our children are the heirs of wealth."
"Are those you logical arguments?" She said frowning, and wondered briefly if the desert heat had corrupted his brain - or hers.
"No," he replied with an almost invisible smile. "Those were the illogical reasons no Vulcan would admit to be influenced by."
Saavik looked at him, puzzled.
"The logical reason for accepting you is that you belong to their family," he simply added.
"Is it that easy?" She shifted place to look him directly into the eyes, piercing her gaze through him. "How would you react if Syreen would be taken by enemies, and decades later her daughter, proof beyond doubt of her rape and death, would step over our threshold?"
He pondered that vision for a moment, though in reality he had made his mind up long ago about it.
"I would welcome her with open arms."
Saavik looked at him in unbelief. She opened her mouth and closed it again, as her thoughts raced faster than her brain was able to parse it into sentences. It took her a while to regain composure, before she could ask him for his reasoning.
"Goh kuv ish ha'kiv vesh'thinoi la'tusa pak-tan t'ha'kiv - Loss of life is to be mourned but only if the life was wasted. If Syreen would have to die young, it would give me some comfort to know that she had left something to the universe, an offspring in which a part of her survived against all odds."
Saavik visibly chewed on that thought.
"It sounds... logical. Unfortunately, there are many who would not follow your line of arguments."
He shrugged slightly.
"All I can say is what I would do. This in no way relates to possible reactions of others, since my experiences have considerably broadened my view."
'Quite an understatement', she added silently.
Her thoughts meandered back to a long-forgotten memory.
"Even if they would accept me - it might be painful for all of us."
"Probably, yes. I suspect you refer to David, for whom the roles were somehow inverted - a welcoming father and a repudiating son. It wasn't easy for both of them. But Jim Kirk would have much preferred to fight with his son a whole life than to loose him to death - or never to have gotten to know him."
"But he was a Human," she interjected.
"As I said before - we are talking about odds, not about safe assumptions. No one knows for sure how they will react."
She was not convinced, and in her mind dozens of possible outcomes played out, none with an happy ending.
"You are projecting," he said lightly, stirring the bowl again.
"I am what?"
"A very human fault," he added, and it took her a moment of anger to realize that he teased her to get her into the discussion. It worked, as usual.
"Please explain," she replied stiffly, and prepared herself for a long talk.
"You anticipate the outcome. And you have done this for such long time, that your memory almost believes that it is - or was - reality."
Saavik's brows knitted in open refusal. How could he impute something like that... Then she realized some deep emotions had been stirring with his words.
"You're talking from experience," she half stated, half asked, and he slowly nodded in response, raising up for more coal - and to avert her gaze, as she supposed. When he had fueled the fire, he sat down and looked at her again, not as relaxed as before. A slight tension had crawled up his back and made him look tired. And somehow older.
"When I left for Starfleet, I didn't contact my parents for 14 years. Not only my father, but also my mother. I was determined to prevent her from pain, and I had concluded that she would feel it most when I would talk to her, thus putting her in the middle of the dispute with my father."
His eyes fixed on some point upon Saavik's shoulder. The storm was still chasing outside, and some sand whirled in through the entry of the den. Saavik waited in silence for him to pursue.
"I never had asked her what her opinion was. I made my decision, and she had to live with it. Later it turned out that it had been the worst thing I could do to her besides leaving in the first place."
He steepled his fingers, aiming them at the fire before him.
"After this I once again made a decision - not to make decisions like that above anyone's head again. I didn't succeed at all times. Often it seems easier just to follow one's own beliefs. But then one has to realize that this actually is about beliefs, not about reality even in the vague meaning of this word."
Spock fell silent, and Saavik joined his quietude, though her thoughts didn't stop racing for the last several minutes. She had made most of her decisions by herself - and was proud of it. Fighting her way through to the goals she had wanted to reach hadn't been easy, and there surely had been moments where she had decided above someone else's head...
"Reunification - you know I do not second it. And I even less second that you endanger your life for that mission. But you already made up your mind years ago, when you were on Romulus, didn't you?"
"I did." He inclined his head as if in apology. "There exist higher goals to reach. But today I know why and upon whom I inflict pain. This is more... challenging, since the outcome of every decision I make finds its way back to me without check. And of course Unification is my personal belief, I am fully aware of that."
He raised his head and looked at her gravely.
"So I have to live with whatever my decision does to us, to you and to our children. But I will promise you this - I will not go to Romulus before they have reached adulthood."
Saavik nodded very slowly. His decision was not abandoned, only postponed. But hoping for more would have been useless anyway. He was aware of her fears, but it didn't stop him. Higher goals...
She stood up with a sigh. Her back was aching from the erratic stone surface on which she had been sitting far too long, so she shook her limbs. Suddenly an unusual silence filled the room.
"The storm has gone," she said, and went for the cave entry, looking outside cautiously.
Darkness had fallen long ago, and the storm had chased away, leaving behind only the fresh cool air of a desert night. Stars were shining down on her, sending their light unhindered by clouds. She couldn't get away from the universe, not even in the deepest shelter of an alien planet. All that they were and all that they ever would be, was unbreakably connected to some higher order. Not a nice idea, but one she had to face. They weren't just two ordinary people...
Fast steps made their way into Saavik's awareness, and she abandoned her memories to look for the origin of the sounds. A part of her hoped that it was the doctor who would call her in for the results, although a check of the time gave away that it would be five minutes too early. But it was only some humans who accompanied a friend into the hospital.
She looked over to Syreen. Her daughter was still occupied at the reception, but gave her a smile when she felt the gaze of her mother resting on her.
How could it be that the last minutes of a waiting period always seemed to be the longest, so illogical and against all physical law? She had hold on for such a long time, why the need for hurry now? She forced her thoughts back to her memory, just to dispel the tension of the final minutes.
She took some steps out of the den into the desert, inhaling deeply. Suddenly she missed Syreen. Even the theoretical assumption of loosing her to death opened the normally well-closed corner of her mind where the dark abyss of her personal fears lay hidden.
She didn't really fear death anymore when it came to Spock. She feared more all the possible steps in-between... losing him slowly through his missions over time... loosing him through distance of mind and body... that would be the worst.
But with Syreen it was different. Visions of her heartbeat stopping in the middle of the night - the image of an accident - or worst of all, abduction and death by the hand of one of their many enemies.
"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to loose." Very Human lyrics. And very true ones.
Saavik wasn't free anymore. It didn't feel wrong after those years, but still gave her the feeling of enhanced vulnerability, when she allowed herself to think it through.
Had her parents feared her loss, too? Had her unknown grandparents feared loss, before the message was brought to them that their child was missing in space? Forever lost, nothing left - except an offspring they never got to know.
Suddenly Saavik found her fears irrational. She was not a lonely, obstinate child anymore, fighting for her right to live in the eyes of the harshest possible judge - her own inner impeaching conscience. She was not a child anymore whose behavior was unbearable, a child that would have dishonored every Vulcan family in every regard. She could look back at her career and her personal life with pride. Was that what Spock had tried to tell her, that what she had to offer so much more than she realized? The word 'understatement' as flaw had even found its way into her personal file at Starfleet, as someone once had told her.
Spock appeared in the entry, reluctant to approach her, so she turned around and reached out with her hand. He touched it cautiously, shielding high to not read her thoughts, if not invited to.
"Everything is alright," she assured him, and their minds connected over the bond openly.
// I will think about it // she thought, and he simply nodded in acknowledgment. They shared the view of the milky way until the cool air chased them back into the den.
The loud humming of a shuttle awakened them the next morning.
"Taxi service," the young Asian woman in Starfleet uniform announced as she opened the hatch to the Vulcans who came out of the den.
"Taxi...?" Saavik asked.
"An old Human expression for shuttle service," Spock replied in a low voice.
"I am honored to meet you - my name is Tara Sulu." Tara was grinning as both Vulcans raised their brows in unison. "Grand-Granddaughter of Hikaru Sulu, yes Sir, my Lady." She bowed slightly and waved back to the shuttle.
"I just was flying along for a test when the Rabins called me, demanding a little personal help..."
"I had not been aware that there was a Starfleet test area on this planet," Spock said.
"It is only a small one, fitting some special purposes," Tara answered without further explanation. Probably an Intelligence center, then...
Saavik examined the features of the human. So this was the granddaughter of Demora - quite a beauty. And a Starfleet brat through and through. Spock had caught her thought and a smile waved back to her. Their own daughter would be one, too.
Sulu had also not been aware of the existence of his daughter till he met her as a teenager. And he had loved her with all his heart, as Saavik could remember. But then, there had been a loving relationship behind her existence, even if it had been short enough, and without happy-end...
She took action. "Let's fetch our belongings and enter this..." she looked for the right word, "taxi, then." Tara smiled broadly. Fetching someone who had worked with her family legend was something she had been looking forward for years.
Minutes later they were flying back to the city, Spock sitting next to Tara as co-pilot, and Saavik relaxed in the rear, closing her eyes for a brief moment.
Holiday had ended. But Saavik's reconsidering had just began.
Six months after their holiday she had looked up the number of the office she would have to contact for the genetic scan.
Three months later she had called them and asked for the necessary papers to fill in.
Two months after having obtained the forms she had sent them back.
Two days after Spock had left for his actual mission she had called the hospital for an examination date. She had not told him she was finally going to let it be done. She wanted to surprise him.
And now she was sitting here, and the tension built up to maximum while her eyes followed the digits of the chronometer as time went by.
With the same intensity she had expelled every thought about her Vulcan family she was now thinking about them. Although her fears had not completely disappeared, she was looking forward to contact them, cautiously, careful, with all due respect...
The steps stopped next to her, and she raised her head to meet the eyes of the doctor.
"T'Sai Saavik, the results are here. Follow me."
T'Parl at the reception nodded slightly, thus announcing that she would take care of Syreen for some more minutes, and Saavik followed the physician.
They sat down on the table, and Saavik felt her throat tighten. After all these years - now it was to come...
"I have to inform you that your genetic scan result does not match any of the relevant samples."
She looked at him in disbelief. His words pierced through her mind as if in slow-motion, and a part of her simply denied what they implied.
"Repeat," she stated blankly.
Though he was not accustomed to patients who did not listen to his statements, he dutifully delivered his diagnosis once more.
"I have to inform you that your genetic scan result does not match any of the samples we have. Therefore, we can state with a 99.45 % probability that neither of your parents was part of the Vulcan crews that had disappeared in Romulan space at the relevant time."
She didn't recall later how she had managed to leave his office and fetch Syreen. Only when they stepped out into the hot midday air of ShiKahr did she awaken from her shock. Painful hollowness dispersed itself from the middle of her chest, where equally fear and hope had rested in struggle for months. Hollowness and the desperation of irreparable loss, only shaded with an irrational anger about Spock whom a part of her claimed guilty for talking her into the scan. She had given up the idea for so long and had finally felt at peace with her decision - now it was as if a part of her future had been taken away from her. Fate laughed in her face once again...
Small fingers pressed her hand, and she looked down, meeting Syreen's gaze. Her big eyes were full of questions she let go unvoiced, sensing the turmoil of her mother.
"Let's go home," Saavik said, forcing back the tears that were pressing dangerously hard behind her eyes. "Let's go home, my daughter."