“Damn!” grimaced Warfield, “you look like hell.”

Hoskins gave an irreverent snort. “And this time, it’s not just having the devil’s own pointed ears that do it.”

Warfield laughed.

Captain Dannan Stuart rolled her eyes at their behavior, but her mouth fought a grin, and her sarcasm only emphasized it. “Sure makes you glad you survived, doesn’t it?”

She was talking to Saavik who didn't bother to open her eyes. Dannan had a second of fear, wondering if the Vulcan was so hurt that opening her eyes took too much effort.

“Apparently, peace is,” Saavik paused to breathe, her fair skin almost translucent, “overrated.”

Stuart chuckled. She leaned forward to study her first officer’s face and ever so gently brushed the chestnut dark hair off of one cheek. She realized what she was doing, and pulled her hand away. The Vulcan had enough problems without having to keep her mental blocks at full because her shipmates stupidly forgot not to touch her. “Feeling better?”

One eyebrow arched weakly. “What do you propose--” Her inhalation rasped this time and even her control could not keep a wince, what would be a flash of agony on a human, from her face. “—as a comparison?”

“Death?” offered Warfield helpfully, and earned a good kick from Hoskins and a vicious glower from Stuart.

Saavik’s mouth gave a bare twitch, though whether from the pain or what Lauren said they couldn’t decide. “In that case. . .” again her lungs labored to expand, “no.”

Hoskins touched the sheet next to Saavik’s hand ever so gingerly. “Ambassador Spock is coming.”

Saavik’s fever bright eyes widened. “He. . . is in. . . session.”

Warfield grinned. “Hah. Not anymore he’s not.”

Saavik started to protest.

Stuart wasn't too thrilled at the thought either. She had made herself contact Spock because she knew that's what Saavik would want, even with her protests that he shouldn't leave his post.

For that matter, Spock would insist he be told.

Dannan wasn't sure why she still had some problem with the Vulcan ambassador. It started when it looked like he had cut Saavik off, personally and professionally, but that had proved to be Valeris, not Spock. Maybe it was because Stuart had the nagging belief that if push came to shove, Saavik's first priority was him. That shouldn't matter since it had never interfere with Saavik's friendship with Stuart or her duty to the ship.

But it still bugged Dannan. Do I think someday it will interfere?

She suddenly laughed inside at the thought. Illogical.

She crossed her arms and got that particularly stubborn glare. “Let him decide if the damn meeting can wait or not. He knows the situation better than you."

"Besides, the conference is already over," Hoskins added.

Saavik's eyes traveled slowly to Stuart who smiled. "I guess I could have mentioned that first. I also contacted Ambassador Sarek. Hold that interruption, Commander. I wasn't going to give him cardiac arrest by letting him find out you’re hurt when he hears some news comm.” A wicked grin won out on her face. “Which, by the way, are all reporting you amongst the dead.”

Warfield chuckled. It eased away some of the lines and drain from the long, sleepless vigil they had kept waiting to hear if Saavik would recover from her injuries. “Consider it an unscheduled shoreleave.”

“That thought. . . alone. . . is most. . . disturbing.” Saavik frowned at Stuart. “You. . . have not. . . corrected them?”

“Hell no. Then you’ll get absolutely no rest as there’s a whole line of brass screaming to know what happened.” She chewed her lip and lifted a suddenly wicked eyebrow. “You do know what happened, don’t you?”

Saavik’s pale forehead creased in confusion. “I. . . .”

“Damn.” Stuart grinned and gave the other two officers a wink. Both of them grinned suddenly like wolves and a sense of unease seeped through in Saavik's expression. Stuart glanced up at the monitors over the bed as if she understood all the readings.

“Well, the doc said that might be a problem,” she said airily, “though,” she peered down at Saavik’s still glassy eyes slyly, “with as much meds as you are on, I’m surprised you can remember your name.”

Warfield nodded immediately, joining in with a glint in her eyes, and arched a carefully controlled eyebrow. “So, I take it you don’t remember things like, say oh, the Aeh’lrh?”

Hoskins mouth twitched hard, but she crossed her arms over her chest and quickly gave Warfield a glower. “Oh please! There is absolutely no way she could forget a Romulan ship.”

Saavik’s dark lashes widened and she struggled openly to concentrate. “There was. . .a Romulan ship?”

Stuart kept her face perfectly straight. “Oh yes. And what gets even better was that you were on the Romulan ship.”

Saavik's eyes widened, and she could not say anything for a second. Both Warfield and Hoskins had to smother smiles as their normally lightning-thought commander tried almost vainly to understand. “I was on. . . .” Her brow creased hard and her fevered eyes unfocused as she tried ruthlessly to remember. “What. . .what was I. . .doing on a. . .Romulan ship?”

Stuart had to clear her throat to keep the grin off her face. “That’s what the brass wants to know.” She slid a glance at Hoskins. “And we’re not even warmed up yet.”

“Do you remember our ship’s last location?” asked Hoskins, all innocence.

Saavik’s brow creased hard. Something stirred faintly behind her expression. “We were. . . in the Raeganth System.”

Warfield immediately leaned closer to peer at Saavik’s face. “And?”

The something slid back into the mask of pain control and medication. Stuart felt a stab of guilt, but then Saavik looked from one woman to the other, and spoke much more like herself. “I do not. . .know.”

Stuart rocked back and forth on her heels. “A pity,” she said, the glint in her eyes growing.

“Maybe you remember the highly classified, top secret Starfleet bio-research labs on Corthos?” asked Hoskins. “The fourth planet in the system?”

“I. . . .” Saavik’s confusion marked her face openly now. “There are. . .labs?”

“Oh yes,” nodded Stuart quickly, “Nice ones. Really nice ones.” She cocked her head and narrowed her eyes at Saavik. “Surely a Vulcan would remember labs like those.”

“I. . . .”

Stuart sighed dramatically. “I suppose it’s just as well.” She lifted her eyebrows at Warfield.

Warfield snickered. “Yeah, seeing as you helped the Romulans blow them into all sorts of fascinating little pieces.”

Saavik’s mouth actually parted. “I. . . destroyed a. . .Starfleet facility. . . in aide of Romulans?”

Stuart had to bite her lower lip and put her hands on her hips. She looked at the other two with carefully drawn concern about the stability of her first officer’s mind. “Maybe we should just leave the rest of it out until you’re feeling better.”

Warfield and Hoskins grinned. “Might as well,” said Hoskins sweetly, “there won’t be a court martial until after the admiralty even finds out you’re alive, so what’s the rush?”

Warfield nodded. “That’s true.” She shrugged. “Might as well rest.”

The three turned to go.

Saavik struggled weakly to rise from the bed. “Wait. . ..”

Stuart and the others turned fast and dove to push their first officer back down before the monitors set off their alarms and caught anyone in a med coat’s attention.

“Stand down, Commander!” laughed Stuart, “Damn, we haven’t been able to get you like that for years!” She shook her head, grinning. “Whatever they put you on, we’ve got to get a stock for the ship.”

Warfield was near doubled over now. Hoskins was trying to wipe tears from her own face in between laughing.

Saavik stared at them all for several long minutes, and then comprehension slowly dawned across her face. She exhaled wearily and stiffly sank back down onto the bed with a look of sheer exhaustion. “I believe. . .under the Federation statutes. . .that constitutes. . .cruel and unusual. . .treatment.”

Stuart smiled. “Admit it, we had you going.”

Saavik gave her captain and fellow officers such a baleful look that it was only slightly diluted by her current state. “I will. . .speak with. . .my healer. Obviously. . .my medication. . .dosage levels. . .are interfering. . .with my logic.”

Warfield managed to drag herself upright. “We so had you!”

Hoskins was gripping her sides now. “You should have seen yourself!”

Stuart grinned and shook her head again. “Damn, that was so perfect.” She crossed her arms. “And it serves you right, for scaring the living hell out of us like that.”

“Besides,” said Warfield, at last getting some measure of control, “we seriously owed you one.”

Hoskins tilted her head and frowned. “Or is that two now?” Her brow furrowed.

Saavik’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “For future reference. . . I refuse visitor access. . . to my person. . . while under medical care.” Suddenly a look of very raw pain crossed her face and a sweat broke out on her pale skin. Her eyes unfocused and she swallowed dryly. “I. . . am thirsty.”

The three sobered instantly and Stuart snatched a glass from the tray nearby while Warfield and Hoskins ever so gently adjusted Saavik’s position so she could take slow, small sips without the threat of choking.

But Saavik had started shivering by the time she had managed not even a few ounces, and they eased her back into her bed.

One level on the monitor rose sharply, and Hoskins gently touched Saavik’s face. Alarm widened her eyes instantly. “Her temp’s rising fast, Captain.”

“Damn it to hell! Go, Hoskins!”

The communications officer took off instantly for a healer.

Warfield immediately readjusted the bio-bed’s heating controls, and Stuart quickly added another blanket and tucked it into proper place around her first officer.

“Stay with us, Commander. I'll make it an order if I have to.”

Saavik’s face now openly held a strain to control agony that made both the women’s hands tremble, and the labor of her lungs now seemed to fill the air with a loud, frightfully watery, rasping sound. For a Vulcan to show pain in even the slightest amount spoke of a level that would cripple a human. The agony that showed was staggering.

Stuart gripped the bed rails hard, her knuckles going white. She wished to god she knew what to do. “The healer is coming.” Her voice took on a soothing lowness, “we’re here.”

She wondered if that helped.

Saavik’s eyes began to dilate in instinct as her lungs refused to draw air as they should. Her near translucent skin had now flushed a terrible emerald bronze and her lips began to change color.

Warfield hit the bed’s restraint shields a bare instant before Saavik’s body bucked.

Then a stern-faced Vulcan was there with a hand-wringing Hoskins in tow, and immediately began pressing a run of hyposprays against Saavik’s throat. He activated the bio-bed’s respiratory shield and the smooth arch slid over Saavik’s chest. His long fingers triggered the programmed electronic overrides and his dark eyes turned to her monitors.

The shield activated, taking over control of Saavik’s respiratory system, and Saavik’s head threw back in absolute suffering.

There was a terrible long minute as the hyposprays’ meds and the shield fought her body. Then the monitors showed the shift and Stuart leaned heavily against the bed as Saavik’s biosigns dropped slowly back into safety levels.

Saavik’s dark lashed eyes started to close. Warfield released the restraint shields and Saavik’s body began to ease.

Secured that his patient was stabilized, the Vulcan healer gave the three human women a most displeased look. “I find your continued presence in this facility to be counterproductive to my patient. You will relocate your persons immediately and no further visitation rights will be granted.”

Stuart straightened instantly and her eyes flared challenge, and both Warfield and Hoskins protested.

“You can’t--”

“We won’t--”

With a supreme effort, Saavik stirred, forcing her eyes open again. “No,” she rasped.

The healer’s eyebrow lifted sharply and he turned his attention back to his patient. “Your physiological state and the resultant medications are impairing your logic. You require an undisturbed state for proper healing."

Saavik opened her mouth to counter, and Stuart couldn't believe that the next voice she heard was her own.

"He's right." Every pair of eyes swivelled on her in different degrees of surprise, except for Saavik's. She stared into the air with not enough energy to shift even that much to look at her captain. It made Dannan's fingernails dig hard into her palms.

We did this to her.

"We shouldn't have teased you. At least, not like that. Your body couldn't take it after what it's been through. We didn't mean it, but he's right. We should have known better."

Hoskins added softly, "No matter how stressed we are over what's happened, it was a wrong way to relieve it."

"We're sorry," Warfield said. "Especially that you had to point it out to us."

The healer nodded, and returned to Saavik. "Then we are agreed. These humans--”

“Will be. . . humans.” Her gaze seemed to burn with something more than fever. “They will. . . be true to their nature and apologize when it takes... a wrong path. They will... stay.” Saavik’s eyes became something that rivaled T’Pau’s.. “Or. . . I follow.. my nature and... refuse. . . further treatment. . . at this. . . facility.”

For a Vulcan, he looked outright shocked. “Your condition requires--”

“That you follow your... healer's nature... by giving a patient what she... requires in the way of... psychological health....Or watch..the patient... leave.”

He hesitated, making Stuart bite her lip while both Warfield and Hoskins looked anxious.

Saavik's chin came up. It took effort, but she did it. "If it...happens again, we can... revisit your... suggestion."

"It won't," Warfield swore.

He ended up giving the three human women a firm and reproving look. “If you value her health, you will not repeat any improper behavior.” Then he nodded once more and vanished.

Stuart whistled softly and looked down at Saavik with a grin. “Damn. He actually believed you would do that.”

Her first officer’s eyes held a faint glint in spite of their complete exhaustion. “I. . .had him. . .‘going’.”

Both Warfield and Hoskins had to suddenly clap hands over their mouths to keep control. Stuart’s grin broadened, then she sobered.

“We’ve been worried.”

Saavik nodded once, matter of fact, and struggled not to yawn as the medications’ sedative effects began to gain the upper hand. “And so. . .should Starfleet. . .without my presence. . .to mitigate. . .your tendencies.”

Stuart’s grin returned. It softened to a small smile. “Glad to have you back.”

Warfield and Hoskins nodded, each of them drawing closer to the bed in a circle, but respecting Saavik's needs and not touching her.

“Missed you, Savage.”

Saavik sighed deeply, though this time she didn’t seem displeased at all over her nickname, and her long lashes began to lower again. The others dragged chairs over to her bed and made themselves comfortable. Stuart propped her boots on the edge of Warfield’s chair, while the other leaned against the nearest table.

“So,” Hoskins asked as she squirmed in her chair, trying to find a good spot. “What do we do to pass the time?”

Stuart and Warfield suddenly grinned at each other over their first officer.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Stuart wickedly, “How about a little game? Who's up for a little Truth or Dare?”

The door suddenly opened and Spock rushed into the room. Saavik opened her eyes a sliver, and her features subtly shifted into what Stuart was learning was a Vulcan's smile.

"Spock," she said simply, but it was the way she said it.

He started drawing closer when her next words in her normal voice stopped him. “Have... them removed.”

She didn't need to say who them was. Stuart and the other two were on their feet and protesting, even though Dannan realized they were getting too loud in doing it. But really, what was Saavik thinking? She had just argued with the healer to get them to stay!

Those barely opened eyes landed on Stuart who didn't need for them to be opened wide to see the glint in them. "Violation... of treaty... through suggestion... of improper pastime."

Dannan argued to stay again, although this time their promises of "I swear we'll behave this time!" was made through laughter and declarations of "I thought you were asleep!".

Spock merely flicked an eyebrow at Saavik's instruction and moved forward to carry it out. Stuart didn't know how he did it, but it seemed like she blinked and suddenly found herself escorted to the other side of the door. It closed on their protests, and the sight of Spock turning around to head back towards Saavik.

Dannan blinked, really wondering how he had managed that trick, when Hoskins and Warfield started laughing again.

"You can't say she didn't warn us," Hoskins said, and still chuckling, pulled her communicator for beam out to the ship for some much needed sleep.

"Smooth," Warfield said in admiration. "Very smooth. That'll show us." She gave a jaw creaking yawn, and asked Lynn to tell the ship to hurry up. She had a date with her bed.

Stuart gave the closed door another look. A slow grin spread across her lips. "Damn."