The ground was hard underneath Saavik's shoulder where she lay collapsed in a heap. The dust from the moisture-deprived soil stung her sensitive nose and began coating her lashes. They fluttered, and her inner eyelids closed in protection against the cutting grains of blowing dirt. A slow trickle of blood seeped along her scalp line, dribbling down her forehead to pool on a scrap of maroon cloth clutched in the hand lying under her face.

Her head throbbed from the wound, and her vision went from blurred to double. She had barely taken in the nearby stone formations before the slight movement drowned her in black dizziness. Her stomach rolled violently with nausea, and her mind fought her attempts to think coherently. It made it almost impossible to battle the concussion with her Vulcan disciplines.

She forced herself to react, spurred by one distorted thought that she was in danger. She tried to remember why. A planet, a battle, someone with a phaser, firing it... at Spock.

The scrap of cloth in her hand came from Spock's robe. The deep red -- almost the same as the color in her Starfleet uniform -- stained deeply with green blood. No -- wait. Her blood -- she thought it might be only her blood, and not her husband's.

Instinct and intellect told her she shouldn't be where her enemy expected her to be. But her concussed head limited quick action. She stood a slim chance of making one move -- one -- before she blacked out again--

Even as she thought this, another idea swam from the fog strangling her brain. She might not have just blacked out before... that phaser... she might have been shot--

She forced concentration, and tried using the bloodstained cloth as a focal point. The concussion fought her attempts, its side affects disrupting her ability to maintain a coherent stream of thought, spinning her thoughts into a typhoon of pain and illness. Teasing her with a sudden ease to be easily distracted.

But I cannot afford that. And she made herself stick to it. Since her indistinct eyesight was useless, she used her hearing and a Vulcan female's keener sense of smell in its place.

Spock...

Where was he?

No sound of movement, no scent on the warm wind. No indication that anyone -- not Spock and not his attacker -- was around her. And... wasn't there -- didn't she have a whole team with her?

Pain overwhelmed her control and her stomach again heaved. The sun beating down made her concussion worse, but she commanded herself to focus again

A footfall, the sound of its weight and tread familiar to her.... safe. Her addled mind grasped this and took hold of it.

"Spock..." It was a croak, a rough whisper. She didn't know it, but her fingers clutched the scrap of his robe. "Husband..."

But her bondmate didn't answer. He might not have heard her or... he might be in trouble. Under guard? With that phaser aimed at him?

I must think.

She gathered her strength to make that one move she had left in her when the wind shifted and brought the smell of perfume. The sun eclipsed on her eyelids. Someone was bending down, and Saavik braced herself. She made her fingers unclench enough to grab a handful of grainy dust, using her head, still lying on that hand, to cover the movement.

"No," a light, friendly voice said. "Spock isn't here. But we will help you."

Saavik opened her eyes, not believing her ears. The woman crouching over her stared back, looking like she didn't believe what she had just heard Saavik say either. The sight of the woman split into two and then tried spinning away as if the ground whirlpooled in a rapid circle.

"A healer is with me. Don't move, he'll be here soon. We've been searching for people missing since the sandstorm. We found others like you." The woman spoke in Vulcan. Blue eyes went down the length of the filthy Starfleet uniform and frown lines appeared, but the woman said nothing about what she saw. "The healer's with them now, but I called him. Stay still or you'll aggravate your injuries."

She spoke in level tones common to Vulcans even as she looked deep into Saavik's eyes. "Apparently we know each other, although I confess I don't remember you. At least, not looking like this. I am Amanda, Spock's mother."

But Amanda, Saavik reminded herself before blacking out again, was dead.

 

A sound came into the blackness, just penetrating the swirl of images and thoughts going on behind her eyes.

"T'Pring?" someone called.

T'Pring was here? Why? Her mind fought her, not putting together any coherent thought or memory, not even here in the fading oblivion.

"T'Pring!" The voice was firm now, commanding.

Training and deeply ingrained sense of duty made Saavik answer that command, even if it wasn't her name being called. Like it or not, she was Starfleet, sworn to protect Vulcan citizens like T'Pring, who turned this into Saavik liking this not. But it sounded like Spock's first bondmate was in trouble. So Saavik had to wake up.

Waking up reminded her of her injury. She opened her eyes to a maelstrom of sights, swirling and banging together in a nauseating display: a tarp close overhead, dust, sand and rocks outside the tarp, her crumpled body, and the woman.

How...? Impossible... but...

Yes, she was seeing Amanda, her hair the light brown and her eyes the sapphire blue they had been in her youth and middle-age. Her face unlined and staring down at her in concern.

Amanda...

Saavik's damaged brain flashed with another jangle of images barely related. Another experience taking place years ago but like this one, when her sabotaged ship fell back to the USS Enterprise making its way to the Babel mission.

And a man, a human, a scholar named Antiquita joking that his name had driven him to working in historical studies.

No, wait. That was wrong. Antiquita hadn't been on her ship. He had been... threatening... no, saying something was a threat, if put into the wrong hands. Better to destroy it...

Aiming a phaser at... something... but Spock...

Then a flash of a rough stone circle standing in the middle of rocky hills and dusty ground, its middle a time portal. The Guardian.

That's where she had been. And somehow ended up here... Vulcan? Had she fallen through the Guardian? That phaser shot-- and the ground erupting underneath her, exploding dirt and rock... when she pushed Spock out of its range...

Her body, bereft of her usual control, gave a reflexive jolt at the thought of leaving Spock and her team in that danger. Pain lanced through her head and down her left side. A fractured rib.

Amanda's hands came down on her shoulders. "No, don't move. You can't risk aggravating that head injury." The hands disappeared as she lay immobile again. "That's why I couldn't make you more comfortable, other than getting this canopy put over you. But the healer is on his way, and this will keep the sun off of you until then."

A winter sun: Saavik could tell from the temperature. Still, even that brightness had irritated her head.

Her eyes were slits since that first cacophony after opening them, but she saw Amanda was staring at her again. Of course she was, as Saavik recalled the horrible thing she had done: called Spock her husband in Amanda's hearing. The timeline... What damage had she done with that one word?

Amanda spoke in dry humor. "So, we have a little mystery on our hands." Her face was inexpressive, properly Vulcan, where Saavik would have expected a smile. The older woman looked up and down her while the object of her scrutiny pushed her mind to think of a way to undo the damage she had caused. It refused to work. "You certainly don't look the way you did the last time I saw you, T'Pring."

"T'Pring," Saavik whispered.

"Yes, T'Pring. After all, who else would be calling for Spock as her husband?" Amanda had said that calmly, her humor underlying it, but she suddenly looked concern. "The healer warned me that your concussion might cause amnesia. Are you having a difficult time remembering who you are?"

Saavik barely murmured, "No... amnesia" and swallowed. Of course, Amanda thought she was T'Pring. Her eyes closed with the effort of pushing out the only excuse her mind could form for her earlier blurting out the wrong thing. "Not... your... Spock."

A lie, but necessary and nothing in comparison with all that had happened.

She opened her eyes to the slits again. The enduring double-vision was terrible... although much better than all these years of not seeing Amanda at all.

"I thought the same thing at first," the older woman answered, "since Spock's only eleven. And, as far as I know, unmarried." Again, that same dry humor made with no expression. But, that would be how Amanda would address the proper T'Pring. "However, you do have one side effect from that concussion. You're broadcasting."

A Terran description for when a Vulcan's mental shielding was down and the mind transmitted the bonding.

Amanda glanced out of the corners of her eyes. "I know my son's presence, and it's definitely the one you're bonded to. And there's this." She pointed a finger around Saavik's collarbone.

Saavik suddenly understood and her hand flew to touch the necklace she wore. It was showing through a tear in her uniform, but thankfully hadn't been harmed itself.

Amanda's mouth worked. She wants to smile. Amanda, you don't have to hide it from me. It would be good to see it again.

But Amanda put it away. "Since you're wearing that, you know the women in my family have handed that down since the 19th century. I wouldn't give it to anyone but my daughter. So I know it's very much my Spock you called for earlier, even if I can't explain the rest of this."

Saavik had the passing thought that she had inherited the necklace before she married Spock. Their marriage added to its importance to her, but it started with Amanda choosing her to have it. But she pushed her hurting mind to what she needed to do.

My mind has become my enemy. It had failed to register that the rocks and sand here was Vulcan, not the Time Planet; had failed to register her home's heat and gravity; had failed to tell her that those familiar footsteps belonged to not Spock, but his mother.

But what could she expect when the blow to her head had caused her brain to slam to the opposite side of her skull? Her brain was swelling and bruised; her skull may be fractured. Her nerves most likely were damaged from being stretched and even separated from the brain tissue in the injured area.

How ironic that her mind could recall what a concussion was, but not much else.

She had to focus. She needed to fix the harm already done to the time line and get out before any more happened, just by her being here. And she needed to get back to Spock and her people.

She tried making connections, but her brain refused, preferring to focus on things like how different Amanda looked, dusty and dirty in her sandsuit.

Saavik pushed her mind to work on her problem and failed again. A concussion, even a serious one, was not the worst injury a Starfleet officer could encounter, but it was crippling with the way it took out the mind.

Amanda reached into a first aid kit barely in Saavik's once more blurring vision, and pulled out an antiseptic cloth. She paused, holding it up as she asked silently for permission, and then cleaned the dried blood and grit from Saavik's head wound.

The cool skin brushed against her temple, and the familiar scent filled her nostrils. Saavik's mind now refused to work on anything, and floundered in response to seeing Amanda alive and touching her.

"If I may comment once more," the older woman said, "on your bonding--"

Do not speak so formerly, Saavik implored.

"I can sense how strong it is. The fact that I can sense it clearly gives evidence of its strength. I am gratified by that knowledge."

Amanda...

"You're an adult, T'Pring, and most likely, you know I first opposed your and Spock's betrothal. Not because of you personally. I -- questioned any such match. You've shown me my objection was wrong, and I am gratified by that."

Mother... please.

With a Herculean effort, Saavik forced her mental shielding back up. Snuffing that out cut off Amanda's parental bond from picking up that small broadcast of her son's presence from his bondmate. She glanced down sharply at Saavik.

"Did I offend you?" she asked.

"No. Only... I must." I cannot risk more damage.

"You must what?"

Her concussion throbbed under her mind having to keep up those shields. "...I must."

"I don't understand any of this. How are you here as an adult? What's going on?"

Saavik only shook her head, a minuscule motion that sickened her stomach and increased the pain. She didn't care, just like it didn't matter that her hearing felt so sensitive and raw, Amanda's voice and the sigh she now gave jangled the nerve endings in her ears.

But Amanda must have seen the pain, because she leaned closer, her hands going on either side of Saavik's head to hold it still. "Don't move. Don't hurt yourself. I'll stop asking questions. I'll understand that, for whatever reason, you think you can't tell me these things." One corner of that unlined mouth twitched. "Who knows? Maybe I'm hallucinating. Maybe I'm the one under some tent and struck down by the sandstorm."

It would make this less dangerous. But I prefer it this way. That last part escaped, surprising Saavik even as she thought it.

"Maybe I'm dreaming this because I'm worried about the betrothal between you and Spock. Although I thought I had made peace with it by now." She brushed a lock of dark hair away from Saavik's wound. "I do appreciate having this time with you, T'Pring. Whether it's a dream or some accident I don't understand."

Saavik closed her eyes at those words.

Amanda misinterpreted the gesture. "Does it bother you if I keep talking?"

Saavik could only mouth "No" this time.

"Good. Because I do want a chance to know you better. As much as I can under these circumstances." Amanda's eyes darted around her features. "You don't look like what I would have expected. Your eyes seem a different shape. And the uniform, I never knew you were interested in joining the Science and Exploration fleet."

Amanda might have made that assumption even if the insignia and ranking weren't torn off Saavik's uniform. No Vulcan before Spock joined Starfleet, so not even a human living on Vulcan might assume anything but VSE spaceforce clothing.

"It goes to show how little we know each other." Amanda dabbed again at the head wound with the cloth. She looked down into those barely opened eyes, hidden by lashes, with a special light in her own. "We'll have to rectify that. We are going to be family. I think one of the best things about Vulcan is how there's no word like in-law, the way my native language has. I must have told you by now how much Sarek and I wanted a daughter."

A few drops of her perspiration fell into the open gash, the salt a sharp sting, but it's not what caused Saavik's caught breath.

Amanda immediately apologized, cursing herself for contaminating an open wound, and said to wait a moment. She cleaned all the sweat off her hands, neck, and face -- anything in danger of falling into her daughter-in-law's -- daughter's -- injuries -- and then took a fresh, clean cloth out of the kit.

"I'd like to close these lacerations -- the ones I could without the healer -- but I don't know if I'd be closing something he needs to see." The cloth cleaned with a gentle touch every exposed area Amanda could find. She gave a wry shake to her head. "I still cannot get over how much you've changed. Look how tall you are! When you're such a petite child now."

The cloth suddenly halted. "You are T'Pring, aren't you?" She tried to penetrate the lashes that were used like walls around Saavik's eyes. In a moment, she gave up. "Of course you are. Like I said before, who else would be calling my Spock her husband?"

Amanda, I cannot answer you. I cannot tell you your future.

"Do you have children? You look about an age where you might."

Do not ask me. I cannot answer!

An almost smile floated across Amanda's mouth. "Even if you didn't start as young as I did, you might have children. Most Vulcans do once they're married. And I think Spock would want one. Tough to tell when he's only eleven."

You must see I want to tell you. I have a great deal I want to say -- to ask -- but I cannot endanger us all. You must understand.

In that other time accident, the Saavik and Spock there had at last risked talking about the future, knowing all that knowledge was going to be wiped away. But Saavik in this time was injured and she had an honest concern about how she was going to repair all this.

Amanda was waiting for a response. "Is this something else you can't tell me?"

Am I still broadcasting? Judging by the lack of reply, Saavik guessed not. That made the silent answers in her head safe. Then I can answer you in this way. We have three children. A son and twin daughters.

Unable to hear that silent answer, Amanda did a good job of hiding her disappointment, if Saavik didn't know her so well and couldn't see it. "Well, I'm sure that if you do -- or if you ever do -- he is a good child who does well by you."

Saavik remembered a time when Amanda once said she enjoyed using that elegant Vulcan expression as a way of saying someone's offspring wasn't a brat.

"He, she... them." Another slight smile. "If you do not have children, I offer this only as a comment, not as something to pressure you. I would very much prefer being a grandmother at some point in my life." She lifted the cloth so Saavik could see she was teasing. "Again, only a comment."

Setik has your eyes and your sense of fairness. T'Pren has your personality as a layer over Sarek's abilities. Spock comments that she is more your and Sarek's child than he is, which is obviously far from the truth.

And T'Kel -- you once said, in that other accident of time, that T'Kel has your knack for finding trouble. I believe you were only being kind to me.

Mother, I make so many mistakes with them. Setik is seventeen and my daughters are fifteen. They no longer believe I have all the answers and they are correct. How do I know if I am doing right by them? If I could only ask you, but I cannot. Time is not played with lightly.

For Saavik knew Amanda never had an experience where she met an "adult T'Pring" hurt in a sandstorm. If she had, she surely would have said so at some point.

This experience had to be wiped away, like that other one when she and Spock, along with her crew and their children, fell back to the Enterprise, a young Kirk commanding, and Sarek and Amanda on board.

At least her other self had given those memories to Spock before erasing the events and returning Time to what it had to be. Although, those copied memories never felt real to Spock or her, as if they happened to other people, not to them. Which, in reality, was the truth.

He should be having this experience. Not I.

Saavik heard the sound long before Amanda reacted to it. "Oh, the healer's here. Good."

She went out into the open, coming back with a middle-aged Vulcan male who looked vaguely familiar beneath his robes and brown hair paled with dust. Saavik caught the way Amanda almost called her T'Pring, but fortunately stopped before exposing their whole predicament. "This is Healer S'ntiska. S'ntiska, this is the woman I told you about. From what you told me to look for, I think she has a concussion, severity grade three. That's based on her damaged mental status lasting longer than fifteen minutes and her experiencing a loss of consciousness for-- "

But Saavik wasn't paying attention once she heard the healer's name. S'ntiska... why do I know that name? Frustration wanted to overwhelm her. Why was the man so familiar? If only the disorientating affects from the concussion would clear!

As if on demand, a flash of memory connected. She saw Norman Antiquita pointing with the phaser at the Vulcan timestream going by in the Guardian: "Look there, Spock, that's S'ntiska! Young, right when he'll become the first Vulcan to suggest time travel was possible! His daughter will dedicate her life to studying it, and she'll be on the first team out here after you discovered this place!"

In fact, T'Gau wrote the principles for using the Guardian and the sanctity of any time travel.

"And yet someone could wipe that all away with one small mistake, Spock! Just one! Don't you see? I do this to save the Federation, to preserve Time!" That's when Antiquita fired at the Guardian to destroy it, and Spock ran to stop him, almost getting hit himself before Saavik leapt at him, landing too close to the blast area and falling into the timestream showing S'ntiska.

Who had apparently at one point in his life worked with an Amanda of Vulcan, rescuing survivors of an unexpected sandstorm.

The same Amanda who now made a noise deep in her chest. "Excuse me a minute," she said before ducking back out of the low canopy.

S'ntiska's examination didn't keep Saavik from seeing a boy's pair of slender legs hurrying up to Amanda. She didn't see their faces, but she heard the older woman's words.

"What are you doing out here?"

"I came once I heard your message, Mother."

Spock! Damn!

Amanda seemed to be thinking the same thing for obvious different reasons. "That message was meant to inform you and your father of where I was, not for you to come after me. It's too dangerous out here, Spock."

"Logic would indicate," her son began and Saavik fought against a rising sense of amusement, "the danger is greater for you than me. After all, I have passed my survival tests in the Kahs-wan whereas you have never taken such training."

Amanda made a last ditch argument. "And will your father agree with this logic? I think not."

"On the contrary, I believe he will. He is with the team arriving soon with new supplies. I went ahead of him to inform you of their arrival."

Amanda made another strangled noise.

"Mother, you have said I must be a gracious loser. Does this principle not apply to you as well?"

Saavik certainly had heard such 'logic' from her children plenty of times. Which meant nothing when she saw the young Spock begin to dart under the canopy.

"Father and his party also bring transportation for everyone you have found, as well as more healers. Perhaps we should--"

How to stop Spock from seeing her? Saavik's eyes darted around and found S'ntiska. Fortunately, her mind stopped focusing on its interest in seeing her eleven year old future bondmate, and gave a possible solution. Yes -- the healer could deny all visitors, saying she needed quiet and rest.

But Amanda saved her by whisking her son along in her path away from the canopy. "There's your father. If the two of you really want to help instead of rushing out to me in some testosterone induced drive - as much as I appreciate it -- you should help search the canyons."

"Mother, the male hormone in a Vulcan is not caused testosterone. Nor do I see what hormones have to do with--" The protest faded in the distance.

The hiss of an injection into her arm agitated Saavik's hearing, but in the next second, it faded her pain and dizziness. S'ntiska nodded with approval.

"You do suffer from a grade three concussion. I need to repair the neurological and muscle damage to your brain," he informed her. "I can do eighty percent of the procedure with my instruments here. You will be admitted to the hospital for your full recovery."

Eighty percent would get her back on her feet with hopefully enough mind to finish her duty. She wasn't sure how much longer she had before the Guardian recalled her -- if it recalled her instead of her trying to find the portal she fell through to Vulcan. If the Guardian still existed at all. If Spock managed to stop Antiquita... if her husband was still alive. Fortunately, her injured mind hastened away from that thought.

She may be stranded here for good.

S'ntiska said, "You will also need a slight meld, nothing more than a mind's touch, to ensure your brain has suffered no loss."

She answered immediately, for the same reason she kept young Spock away from her. "I prefer waiting until the hospital, healer."

"An understandable choice. You are already weakened from your injuries. Amanda explained about your earlier loss of mental shielding. You will be better prepared to control the meld after some rest."

Which is what she thought he'd say.

But she hadn't expected to hear, "We have another problem." He was looking down at his medical scanner, his eyebrows drawn together. "Scans are showing an anomaly in your blood."

The Romulan characteristics! How could she forget?

"I have never seen this before." Of course he hadn't; no one would see a Romulan face for years to come, and the opportunity to study their biology was even farther in the future. "Has it been diagnosed?"

She seized that opportunity. "Yes... in my one parent's line..."

"Indeed? Did they explain its cause?"

She used her concussion to her benefit. "I cannot remember... it's benign..." Which was something she'd never thought she'd say about her Romulan side.

"No, of course you're having troubling with memory. Still, as it's benign, I can move forward with treatment." He spared a last glance at the blood scan. "Fascinating."

As the soft whine from an infuser began, Saavik strained to hear if Amanda was leaving with her family to search the canyons. Long minutes passed where she wondered if eighty percent of her health was enough to even attempt a meld with the other woman. At the same time, she forced acceptance over the thought that, today, Amanda would welcome a meld with... T'Pring, and that she'd be taking advantage of that desire.

Saavik saw, even from beneath the canopy, a growing haze in the distance and she wondered if it was real or a result of her faulty vision. The sound of leaving vehicles and voices from the Vulcans around her hit her ears. She was almost convinced Amanda was gone and was thinking of ways to request she return when the other woman came back in sight. She stopped just outside the canopy that flapped in waves with the increasing wind, turning back when someone called her name.

Another pair of legs in another light gray sandsuit. "The storm has shifted," a man's voice said. "It returns this way. You must join Sarek and his team. We will meet you as soon as we have packed our equipment and the patients."

"Sarek is already gone. Let me see if I can aid S'nistka with this patient, and then I'll be out to help with the evacuation." She ducked under the tarp. "S'nistka, you heard?"

He didn't waste words. "I need eleven more minutes."

The problem with older equipment.

Amanda was answering the healer. "I don't think we have that. We'll be racing the storm, and the odds are we'll lose."

S'nistka moved into Saavik's vision. "Since you are awake, the decision is yours. I can continue treatment in the vehicle. However, moving you and the unstable movement of the car puts you at further risk. You are stable here, but you heard the wife of Sarek. The storm is approaching, and we may not have time."

Worse, somewhere around here was the portal back through the Guardian, and she didn't know where it was. If she left the area, could she find it at all? Not to mention, the Guardian itself might try to recall her. If she was too far away to make her return window, she was lost.

If it was only her life at stake, she knew her decision: risk her life with the storm to connect with the Guardian. But it wasn't just her life. S'nistka and Amanda both had a place in history. Which had the greater odds: outlasting the return of the storm or leaving?

She made her decision. "I cannot calculate how much of a safety margin we have here, Healer. You must do it. At that point, we must leave. I will not risk your safety." But I will not be leaving with you.

Amanda demanded, "How at risk is she if we move her too soon?"

"Inconsequential," Saavik argued. "The choice is mine, I have made it."

Her logic at least satisfied S'nistka who went back to work on her worst injury. "Amanda," he said, "we have more than one vehicle at our disposal and you need not stay."

Saavik started to ask her to do just that -- she must remove the damage she caused -- when Amanda said she wasn't leaving yet. She'd help evacuate the others first. She moved closer, watching the healer work, but mostly watching Saavik who could only look back, steady, and memorize Amanda all over again.

Then she had an idea. She should have asked this at the beginning; another sample of just how badly the concussion affected her. "Amanda, what is our exact location?"

The other woman ducked out and came back with a field computer. She brought up a geographic grid, pointing out where they were in one of the canyons. Saavik recognized it; S'nistka's "repairs" were already working.

"And the storm's path?" she asked.

Amanda displayed that over the same grid, and Saavik added more details to her plan.

Amanda was out re-packing the computer and issuing instructions to others for their departure when Saavik became aware of the healer bandaging her worst lacerations. "We need to leave," he explained. "But I do not want your injuries open to the dust. You have sixty percent of your previous capacity and your ribs are healed. I will finish what treatment I can during transport."

"I have changed my earlier decision," Saavik said, just as Amanda came back. "As I need further treatment in the hospital regardless of what you are able to provide en route, I will wait to receive all further treatment there. I believe it is the logical choice rather than placing either of us through the stress of a procedure done in a jolting vehicle."

He nodded in agreement and began packing his kit.

"I also would prefer riding with Amanda." Blue eyes snapped to her face, searching it. "You have other patients, Healer, who need your attention as we hasten away from the storm."

"Greater than you," he said with a Vulcan's even statement of fact.

Without looking away from her, Amanda addressed him. "The two of us can take one car loaded with all the non-medical equipment. That will leave you the larger vehicle for other patients and another healer."

"Logical," he said. "I suggest we make these arrangements in all haste."

Re-packing the ground vehicles didn't take long and Saavik stood behind Amanda's shoulder watching the others take off. As the last one sped away, its engine's sound blending with the approaching storm, Saavik spoke just loud enough to be heard.

"Mother."

Amanda's voice was flat. "You're leaving."

Saavik looked down at her. "Yes."

Amanda turned around and looked up into the other's eyes. "You have to go back. You don't belong here."

"Yes."

"And you can't let me remember any of this. That's why you maneuvered everybody else out of the way, right?"

Saavik didn't answer. The question sounded like such a harsh accusation, and even though this must be done, she didn't like that implied censure, not from Amanda.

The smaller woman answered for her. "Of course right. We don't always like what we have to do. Not even Vulcans get that luxury. What's going to happen?"

Saavik wished for more time but the storm grew too close. Besides, no amount of time was going to change the situation, especially as, Amanda said, they knew and accepted it. "We are close to the family's mountain retreat."

Amanda nodded. "Where I go if the summer gets to be too much for me."

"It is safe off the storm's path. I will implant the suggestion in your mind that you and the woman T'Prin decided to wait out the storm there, followed by your helping me home to the Ta'lendow district as I preferred seeing my own healer. In two days, another suggestion will activate, making you believe I contacted you saying I was safe and resuming my work offworld. That will answer any questions S'nistka or others may have regarding my disappearance. S'nistka may mention a blood anomaly. If so, you will remember a scientific paper that traces a blood characteristic to a PreReform condition." It was similar enough to satisfy the healer. Sixty percent of her mental ability was so far enough. "If anyone has any more questions, you will honestly be unable to answer them."

Amanda argued, "Do you mean to tell me that you're staying here? With this storm coming?"

"The way back to my home is here." And if I cannot find it or if it no longer exists, I cannot remain with you no matter what we prefer happen. I will have to isolate myself in this time.

"Your home..." Amanda echoed and then frowned. "T'Prin?"

"An approximate to T'Pring in the event someone overheard you talking to me."

Amanda's eyes twinkled. "Logical. And I suppose it would be illogical to ask that you show me images of Spock and any children you might have when you'll have to remove them anyway."

Images of Spock, Setik, T'Kel, and T'Pren were upper most in Saavik's mind ever since she faced the peril her husband was still in and the thought of never seeing her family again. Keeping them from permeating the upcoming meld with her mind weakened was going to be difficult.

Amanda licked her dry lips. "Answer this one question. Please. It can't do any harm."

Saavik knew she should say no. "If it will not do any harm."

"Is Spock happy? I'm sorry, I mean is he--?" She floundered for the proper term.

"You can ask if we're happy. The answer is yes."

Amanda nodded at the soft answer. "And Sarek?"

Thoughts of Sarek with Perrin came to mind. "Yes."

Amanda drew in a long, satisfied breath. Then the impish spark came back. "I've gone against my promise about one question. I won't break it further by asking again about any grandchildren. I'll see them on my own anyway."

No, you will not. Another injustice of life.

"Mother."

Amanda's whole being glowed. "I like hearing that."

"Then I will say it again. Mother."

Saavik could not tell Amanda, but she liked saying it as much her mother liked hearing it. Reluctantly, she returned to duty. "Mother." She held out her hand, but not close enough to touch and start the meld.

Amanda watched her, eyes flicking back and forth. Then she smiled. "I won't say goodbye."

She walked into Saavik's hand and reached up, touching it with her own, and then pressed the fingers to the right position.

Saavik thought, unsure if Amanda could hear her, You have the fortune of our years of friendship ahead of you. And I have the fortune of keeping today's memories.

Then she hastened to remove those same memories from Amanda's mind before the storm grew any closer.

Epilogue

Spock snapped off the tricorder on the last image of his wife watching his mother leave. Still in the soiled robes from battling with Antiquita, he stared at The Guardian, his thoughts circling around what he had just viewed.

A voice spoke from behind him. "Do not think I felt no temptation."

Her voice was the only sign that Saavik had managed to come up quietly. He turned to her right away. "Are you well?"

She nodded, and he had to agree. The medical staff here not only healed her remaining injuries, but cleaned her up. She was even in a new uniform.

She took the last steps to his side and restarted the images on the tricorder, beginning at the end. Spock had isolated this recording from the full one used to double-check with the Guardian that everything was as it should be.

Saavik paused the display on the image of her entering the portal back through the Guardian. "For what little good I did you," she said to Spock.

"On the contrary, as I have said, you caused Antiquita to surrender."

When Antiquita had seen Saavik fall into Vulcan's past, he had yelled "No!" in utter agony. In trying to preserve Time, he had possibly destroyed the true line. The distraction had made him no longer a match for Spock or for Saavik's Starfleet team. The captured man had kneeled in the dirt, taut as a stretched wire, until Saavik returned and the timeline was declared unharmed. Then the famous historian had sagged between his captors, his eyes flat and dull. "Spock." The word had been spoken in exhausted suffering. "The Guardian's too dangerous. Destroy it before someone uses it to destroy us."

"His surrender," Saavik argued as she rewound the recording further, "was made through no action of mine. However, as it was accomplished, especially with no harm done to you or our people, the point is moot."

Spock watched her and his voice gentled. "He did you harm. I do not forget that point."

She glanced up at him, her own expression softening. No more words were necessary so she bent down over the tricorder again, and paused it once more when it showed the meld she made with Amanda's mind.

She held the device out to Spock who only cupped his hand around hers. "Your temptation," he murmured.

"Yes," she said, just as soft.

"Anyone would be." He gazed down at that bowed, dark head. "I would have been. And many would have given into the desire."

She said nothing for a long moment. "I thought of it," she spoke at last as if confessing to a sin. But one that she knew he understood. "I thought of showing her how you are now, what the children are like, and then taking the images away with everything else. I thought of showing her everything and burying it until a few moments before her death." Saavik stopped.

Spock finished it for her. "So she would know I am well. That we are all well -- you, me, the children..."

"Yes. And Sarek."

Just as it had with Saavik, a picture of his father with Perrin flashed across Spock's mind. He put it aside. "But, in the end, you did not give into that enticement."

"No." Her voice trailed off and she looked again up into his eyes. "You know why."

Yes, he did. Too well. It was the same reason why he couldn't stay by her side while the doctor healed her injuries. Things had needed doing, and he had to do them. "Duty."

Her eyes lowered to that frozen image of she and Amanda again. "Time is too fragile. What if I gave her the memories she wanted and then unknowingly did not fully remove them because of my injured capacity? As it was, her image of me was sufficiently erased, ensuring that if a suggestion of the memory remained, she merely would be surprised when T'Pring chose Stonn."

Spock added, "With the idea that another wife was in my future. All of which corresponded to the real time line, minimizing the risk."

"But not if a suggestion of our children or I remained. The same is true if I gave her the memories to be unburied shortly before her death. I did not have enough details of her final hour to know if you were touching her or sensing her thoughts."

"If I had been, I would have seen my future. With you. And I could not know any more than my mother could. Some change may have occurred jeopardizing our present. You made the right decision."

She laid the tricorder with its paused image into his hands. "Even if it was not the decision we preferred."

He looked with fixed eyes at that image. "My wife, I envy you."

He was aware of her looking around the empty compound, seeing that they were alone, before she came closer to his side. Her fingers brushed his temple.

"I know," she said. Then with gentle care, she made the mental connection and her memories of her time with Amanda flowed into him.