Chapter 1

"Johnson is dead."

Kirk scanned the Vulcans across the briefing room's table. Spock was seated, Saavik at his right shoulder in the typical position for personal guards, but with her being here as Enterprise's science officer, she had brought a second guard, Stron, as a backup.

He let his words hang there as bait, trolling for a response.

She answered first. "Admiral, I thought we were here to discuss--"

Kirk silenced her with an abrupt chopping motion of his hand. "We'll get to that. First, I want to talk about who murdered my Chief Guard."

Spock bristled and the obvious reaction startled Kirk. Vulcans were once a warrior race and many in the Empire were terrified of them. But they were equally renowned for their control so why did a simple statement like Johnson being dead bother Spock? He had brought them here to tease them with accusations, as always bullying against Spock's defenses for what affect he could get. He never suspected this large of an effect.

If anything, he thought Saavik would be the one to react. He knew her long enough to discover she allowed her Romulan traits to show because it made enemies deal with her as a stereotype and miscalculate her as a threat. Because of it, her control was usually weaker than other Vulcans. Giving reign to a Romulan's passions had a price.

"Do you suspect us of killing your guard, Admiral?" Spock asked defensively.

Kirk put aside his astonishment and jerked a finger at Saavik. "Lieutenant, it's a matter of record that you killed Captain Gustaf recently. How did you do it?"

She flicked a glance at Spock seeking approval; if he gave it, it was too subtle for Kirk to see. "Gustaf was going on leave and taking his woman with him. I discovered where he planned to stay and lay in wait under the bed. When he came in--"

"You shot them both through the mattress. I heard you almost emptied your phaser's energy pack."

"Yes, sir."

Kirk hid his smile. Hiding under the bed was such an old ploy, no one did it anymore so nobody checked there for assassins. He silently gave Saavik credit for thinking of it. Hell, even he now looked under his bed before lying down in it. "Johnson was killed in the same way."

Spock instantly interrupted. "May I remind you, Admiral, you and I have a personal truce? That pact between us enabled you to rise to the rank of Fleet Admiral and I--"

"Got captain of the Enterprise," Kirk bit out.

"This truce includes no more assassination attempts on each other or our staffs. If I abuse that truce, you have the ability to seek revenge personally, and the command of Sulu and Terrell to pursue retribution. If you abuse the truce, I have my position as Imperial Investigator which will bring Starfleet Command down on you."

A Starfleet Investigator assigned to a starship meant the captain, or in this case admiral, was under suspicion. If the Investigator died, even if the death was natural, the captain would be charged with murder. Kirk had avoided getting an Investigator assigned for years, always pushing Starfleet Command to the breaking point and stopping, but Spock had outmaneuvered him.

Kirk's face twisted in a sneer. "Sarek must still be a favorite of the Empress."

The warning in Spock's voice sharpened. "If you believe my father thinks enough of his illegitimate son to give me this position, so be it. You will be underestimating me."

So he got to stick the dagger in a bit of Spock after all. Not that Kirk cared about the late Amanda Grayson or that some family thing kept Sarek from marrying her despite all their years together. He just enjoyed whatever chance he got to get under Spock's craw.

Saavik watched Spock carefully from behind, but when she looked up again at Kirk, she showed nothing.

He hated Saavik. She had destroyed his Tantalus Field, and through her, Spock had foiled more than one of his plots. She was a bigger thorn in his side that he'd ever thought she'd be. In the years since she came aboard, he thought she'd be killed by now or that someone would have taken her away from Spock. Everyone had failed so far. She could not be distracted, seduced, or bought.

He leered at her body as he turned over the one word again: seduced. He realized if he ever got her into bed, she'd probably stab him in the heart before he got her clothes off. That meant he'd probably have to tie her down--

The flat of Spock's hand slapped the table. The sharp noise ended Kirk's lustful thoughts and made him wonder again: what was wrong with the Vulcan?

"Are we through here, Admiral?" Spock asked tightly.

Kirk thought fast. He definitely had Spock going and Saavik's control was worse than her captain's. What kind of mistakes could he get them to make?

He leaned in, talking to Spock as one friend cautioning another, darting looks at Saavik the whole time. "You know, Spock," he suggested, "you're right. You wouldn't kill Johnson. You violate the truce and the consequences slap you in the face. The same is true for me. That's why I never made any more moves against you."

That was a huge lie and they both knew it. He leaned back and flipped a switch at his computer. Immediately, a recording of Saavik in the agony booth started. In it, she howled in pain, cursed Kirk, and threatened vengeance on all of his people. In the room, she tightened as she watched the image, the strain of control evident in her body.

"Spock," Kirk went on, "maybe someone in your staff did this strike on her own. Not everyone honors ours truce as you do and Johnson was killed with the same MO as Gustaf."

This was the part where Spock would glance at Saavik looking for her guilt or just plain ignored the accusation in which case no gain, no loss. Instead, he stunned Kirk by putting his phaser on the table within easy reach. "You have one minute, Admiral, to give your proof."

Behind him, Kirk's new Chief Guard, Richichi, stepped closer, hand on his own phaser. Saavik immediately moved on line with Spock, boring into Richichi with her eyes. In their silence, the recording of her screams echoed in the room.

I don't get it, Kirk thought angrily. He had people watching Saavik and Spock since she came on Enterprise. That something personal was going on between them was something he recognized on her second day. She stood closer to her charge than any other guard did in Starfleet with a constant warning in her eyes that to get to Spock, his enemies had to go through her. It went outside the professional. And Spock had come to her rescue that same day as Kirk came close to killing her. The Vulcan didn't do that for anyone else. It didn't make sense for him to risk himself.

She even slept in his cabin on occasion, but the hidden cameras Scott placed for Kirk there only revealed Saavik sleeping across the door when she felt Spock was particularly threatened.

Spock had lovers in the past; so did Saavik, as Kirk found out, although they all ended up dead. So neither of them were asexual. He couldn't see his own flawed thinking. He judged his women by power and sex alone. Spock confused him because Saavik came from no power base and if they weren't sexual partners, why did the Vulcan risk things for her?

In his mind, he knew sooner or later, as discreet as the Vulcans were, he'd catch them and then they were vulnerable. Sex meant people were busy and not paying attention. After all, look at the late Captain Gustaf.

"No proof," he finally said tautly.

"Then do you have ship's business that requires us to stay?"

Kirk snarled, "I'll remind you, Spock, of what you admitted yourself. You are a captain, and I am your Fleet Admiral. This ship and you ultimately answer to me, and whoever murdered Johnson will have to do the same."

He tried to stare down the Vulcan, but couldn't. So without breaking Spock's glare, he spoke harshly to Saavik. "You are Science Officer in your spare time, aren't you, Lieutenant?"

"I do not take my duties as lightly as that, Admiral."

"Then report!"

She nodded but waited for Stron to take her place at Spock's shoulder before moving to the computer. She shut down the recording of her in the booth; Kirk imagined her back muscles eased as she did so.

He smiled to himself as he watched the strong lines of her back melting into the curve of her hips. Wanting every small victory he could get over her, he had ordered that she was unable to wear the newer uniforms, on the grounds that the maroon jacket would cover her POW tattoo. Even with her Imperial citizenship, she was not allowed to remove the mark that showed she was not only a daughter of Vulcan, but of Romulus, born to a POW camp and therefore once an enemy to the Empire.

It also meant that the bolero tunic that exposed her stomach and arms made her cold in the Enterprise's temperature set for humans. And he got to look over her curves. Unfortunately, he never thought of a good reason to keep her in a uniform skirt instead of pants.

He kept his eyes above waist level where she kept the collection of Imperial insignias hanging from her belt sash. He loathed the sight of them, each one taken from someone she had killed in the line of duty. He knew better than to wonder if Johnson's was there. She wasn't stupid; she wouldn't take the pin if she thought it'd backfire on her.

Saavik started her report, the computer showing a tall, cylinder device with its technical specifications streaming down the right hand side. "Three point five three years ago, Enterprise seized this device, the Genesis torpedo, from spacestation Regula I. The device was seen as an ultimate weapon, capable of destroying the population of an entire world while reforming it for Imperial colonies."

"Tell me something I don't know," Kirk said.

"Current speculation is destroying the Genesis science team was perhaps premature, Admiral."

"Ancient history," he grumbled, his visage darkening with memory. Carol had ruined their son, weakening him, making him an embarrassment. "They deserved it. Their usefulness was over."

"As you say, Admiral. I was stationed elsewhere at the time. However -- and I apologize for repeating more history -- the Genesis torpedo has one flaw: it is based on protomatter. The test world it created became unstable and unusable to the Empire."

"And your job was to fix that problem, Lieutenant."

"Aye, sir. My science team has worked on little else since Starfleet Command reassigned us this project. No one, not in my department or at Command, has been able to extricate the protomatter from the Genesis matrix. It is impossible."

"So you admit you're incompetent."

He saw the Romulan in her burning behind her eyes. "Admiral, I admit Starfleet Command projected the protomatter inextricable. I also admit I discovered two points that Starfleet Command has ignored. First, the test world did not meet the conditions set by the Regula team and could very well have created the instability. The possibility exists the device will work under proper conditions. Second, the Empire does not suffer if Genesis only destroys worlds. We still have an extensive weapon in our hands."

Kirk mulled this over. "All right then. Let's take it for another test. I want everyone here for a briefing at 0800 tomorrow morning. That includes," he said to Spock, "your people, Sulu's, and Terrell's. A Romulan colony, close to the border, is the first target. You'll find out the specifics at the briefing. " He added perversely to Saavik, "Hope it's not anyone you know, Lieutenant."

Spock shot to his feet, his chair almost toppling over. "Are we dismissed, Admiral?" he asked sharply and stalked out on Kirk's curt reply.

In the corridor, he fought to push down the aggravation building in him. Lately, everything seemed to provoke him. If it weren't for his taking up the Federation Kirk's challenge to overthrow the Empire, he would be settled in his duties as science officer instead of captain of the Enterprise.

Thinking of his former function took him to Saavik and the aggravation eased. He trusted her fully, even to work independently for himself and his cause. As his Chief Guard, she had to organize operations without his intervention. Plus, Johnson may have personally attacked her sparking a personal counterattack. So despite what he said to Kirk, he asked her, "Lieutenant Saavik, was Johnson one of our strikes?"

She answered immediately, not hesitating to speak in front of Stron. "No, Captain."

He hit the comm panel, requesting Sickbay. "McCoy here."

This was not going to help his increasing testiness. "Doctor, what can you tell me about who killed Chief Johnson?"

"You're kidding me, right? Oh, of course not. It's you." The sarcasm dripped heavily. "But you might as well be. First off, hardly anything was left of Johnson and second, a standard issue phaser is indicated by the burn."

"Very well, Doctor." He went to switch off the comm panel, but McCoy wasn't done squawking yet.

"Wait a minute, Spock! You're late for your physical. When you coming down here?"

"When I see fit to, Doctor."

"You'll do it when I see fit to! If you don't, I'll have you pulled out of your rank so fast, you'll meditate for a month before you realize what happened. Don't screw with me, Spock!"

"Never would I want to, McCoy. Spock out."

He returned to Saavik. "He could not tell us anything. If I asked you to speculate?"

"Captain Sulu," she suggested. "He still resents you. Despite the Excelsior's transwarp drive, the Enterprise is still Kirk's flagship. That makes you the more important captain. Sulu wants Enterprise."

Saavik eased his aggravation, but these constant political games did not. "True. And if he causes problems between the Admiral and myself, he might succeed in overthrowing me. Who on board would work with him?"

Saavik looked at Stron, thinking aloud. "Chekov stayed under your command rather than transferring to another ship. He has no loyalty to Sulu and helping overthrow you gains him nothing. Perhaps worse -- Sulu may make Uhura first officer here as he did on Excelsior. That would causes Chekov to lose his exec position on this ship. So while he may seem the obvious choice, I do not believe he murdered Johnson. Mr. Scott is the same way. He has no loyalty to anyone but Enterprise itself; he does not care who is captain. That leaves us with someone in the lower ranks."

"And we constantly sweep for security problems, sir," Stron said.

Spock nodded. He ordered the lift to stop and addressed the air. "Mr. Fathiyya?"

Instantaneously, the Andorian woman who served as his Security Chief answered. Like all Starfleet vessels, listening devices where everywhere including turbolifts. Fortunately, Fathiyya, Sulu's replacement, was loyal to Spock and a part of his buildup to overthrow the Empire. "Sir?"

"In your duties, who on this ship is loyal to Captain Sulu?"

"Currently, no one. Lieutenant Saavik killed Commander Inderjit and Ensign Nikita last month. They were the last of Sulu's spies, sir."

"Lieutenant Fathiyya is being modest, Captain," Saavik said. "She helped me with those particular removals."

The Andorian chuckled. "She's the one being modest. They never saw it coming. And stringing their bodies in Sulu's shower was a masterstroke. He not only knows his spies are gone, but that your agents can enter his quarters."

Spock arched an eyebrow. How like an Andorian to brag about the strategy. No Vulcan, not even a half-Vulcan like he and Saavik, would do such a thing. Logically, Sulu's spies had to be removed. It was done. Bragging served no purpose.

Although, Sulu's expression had most likely been very entertaining.

Puzzled by his sudden bloodlust, he asked Saavik. "You killed both?"

"Necessary, Captain. As you know, Commander Inderjit swore loyalty to you. Obviously, that oath meant nothing to him."

"And Ensign Nikita?"

"Tried to kill me. Her death was then essential, Captain."

He agreed. "As you say. Outside of Sulu, who would murder Chief Johnson?"

"Kirk himself." His eyebrow raised higher at her suggestion. "His people mean nothing to him and to throw suspicion on you, he'd sacrifice one of his guard."

Yes, he would. The time when Spock didn't care about Kirk's murders was gone. The time when he had no concerns outside of being science officer was gone. Instead, waiting for him was the constant battle of seeking allies such as the Andorians. One warlord was ready to support him, but he was weaker than his compatriots. If Spock sent Saavik and a squad to eliminate one of the stronger warlords, his ally would rise in power, but he'd be playing the system he was trying to eliminate.

Fortunately, Saavik's voice broke into these thoughts. "Permission to speak freely, Captain?"

The formality was for Stron and the listening Fathiyya. He signed off from the Security Chief. "Granted."

"Why did Kirk bother you today?"

Thinking about Kirk's behavior made the irritation swell again. "His treatment of myself and of you warranted my response."

She frowned, confused. "But, sir, it was Kirk."

"�Where offense is meant, offense is taken'," he quoted Surak. "He slighted me with his inference that I continue our private war when I have not. He insulted you with that recording."

"A fake as you well know, Captain. You made it with Stron's and Soluk's help when you rescued me from torture in the booth. Although I force myself not to wonder how many times Kirk has watched it or imagine what he does while he watches it, it is still a fake."

Spock's lips thinned in an incensed line. "He offended you with his demeaning attention and prejudgment."

"But, Spock, it's Kirk. If he was not leering or insulting me, I would think someone substituted a double in his place."

He set his jaw, ending the argument. "Even he must learn the limits to his behavior."

But Saavik obviously didn't see the discussion as closed. "Do you have second thoughts on keeping him alive?"

He thought about that. Did he regret that decision made years ago? "I need him alive for the time being." Much of the underground he built was cleverly hidden, and if found, all evidence pointed to Kirk being its leader. He not only needed the Admiral as a primary target for assassins, the man was his scapegoat. If the Empress discovered the underground, she'd be so busy punishing Kirk, Spock had time to salvage what he could for rebuilding.

He ordered the lift to continue. Saavik started to say more, but stopped herself and once more looked at Stron. His other guard's behavior was even more curious: he was staring, searching her over before turning thoughtful. Spock felt his irritation growing by the minute.

Saavik was certainly beautiful, intelligent, and strong. Stron easily could be attracted, but he also had a bondmate, T'Mes, who served in Saavik's science department. And Saavik deserved someone equal to her, and no matter how highly he thought of Stron, Spock did not see the other male as her equal.

Saavik pulled her modified tricorder, searching for lifesigns outside the lift. She motioned Stron into the point position and took her place in front of Spock. Spock watched. If she was taking such precautions for his security, Johnson's murder affected her more than she was saying.

Soluk was on duty outside Spock's cabin, protecting it from someone entering. As Spock started to go into his quarters with Saavik by his side, Stron stepped in the way.

"Sir, may I suggest Lieutenant Saavik remain out here?"

Absolutely stunned, Spock almost grabbed the man's agonizer to slam it on his chest. Only Stron's obvious unease recalled all the years the man served well and stopped him from getting punished. "I can imagine why you want her to stay out in the corridor with you, Mr. Stron, but I will not allow it! Mr. Saavik, with me."

He flung himself into his quarters, the calm atmosphere failing to soothe him.

Saavik instantly spoke. "I am Stron's immediate superior, Captain. Allow me to reprimand him."

Spock caught himself pacing. If he hadn't removed Kirk's cameras from the room, his weakness would have been telegraphed to the admiral. "What was he thinking?"

"In all honesty, I find it equally confusing. I cannot fathom the cause for his behavior."

Spock stood stock still. She did not know. She did not see the effect she had on Stron. But Spock did and his irritation was now full blown anger. He took a deep breath. "I know the cause." She tilted her head, curious. "However, I cannot fathom his blatant disregard to duty by showing where his mind was focused."

She stepped closer, losing the formality. "I will deal with Stron, Spock."

The thought of her and Stron alone for that discussion put his insides at war. "Perhaps I had better speak with him myself."

She stiffened. "I know my duty. I can manage my people."

He laid a hand on her shoulder. "Do not misunderstand me. I am not criticizing you." The body heat from her exposed shoulder licked at his fingers. Swimming under her skin was the powerful current of her mental presence. It was intoxicating.

He removed his hand, shamefully realizing he should have done it at once. "I know you will perform the duty well. And Stron is of good service. I never had cause before to question his actions. His House and mine are deeply bound to the other, and his following me into the Fleet shows he stands by his personal oath to me."

What was he saying? She knew all this. His eyes narrowed. "But he must take care not to overstep his bounds."

"Of course."

He dropped behind his desk, steepling his fingers. First Kirk, and now Stron. "About the Genesis torpedo, can you override the protomatter?"

She shook her head. "No one can. The matrix collapses."

"For my own purposes, I wanted the Genesis torpedo to create worlds. Newborn planets are good incentive for my new allies."

She stood in front of his chessboard, contemplating the latest move he made in their game. "My team believes Genesis may yet work. The torpedo has never been tested in the manner meant for it. The first planet was formed by a starship exploding within a nebula."

She made her countermove on the board, and sat down across from him, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear, oblivious to him watching. "I am more concerned about Kirk having the torpedo at all. We rid him of the Tantalus Field and now he gains this."

"You destroyed the Field -- at great risk to yourself," he corrected.

She brushed the credit aside. "Even though he cannot use Genesis as he did the Field, it is still a powerful weapon. "

He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I want Kirk away from the testing myself, but I cannot think of a suitable possibility."

She was quietly facing him, saying nothing, and he wondered what made her so deep in thought. The truth surprised him. "You look tired," she noted delicately.

Her concern flooded him with warmth. "I have not had time today for my meditations," he said.

She stood up. "Then I will leave you to them." She looked back from the door and spoke gently. "Try to rest. If you are in need of anything..." She let it trail off.


She left. He heard her say, "Mr. Stron, with me" before the door cut her off. Spock closed his eyes and let out a long sigh. He was tired, but he felt so restless, he could not cross the last barrier into sleep. Wearily, he rose to try meditation.

In her own quarters, Saavik spun on her second, her tone hard. "I gave you my trust, Mr. Stron. Was I wrong in doing so?" When he seemed to not understand, she stepped deliberately into his personal space. "You stood in the way of my duty with Spock a few moments ago. Do you challenge me?"

Face solemnly calm, he took out his dagger and handed it to her, pressing its point over his heart. "I gave you my trust as well. I give it to you again now. Kill me if you wish. I am yours to do with as you please."

She hunted his expression, finding nothing but his commitment to her. She flipped the dagger around expertly in her hand and held it out to him. "Then why did you act as you did?"

He shifted in his stance and focused his eyes at a point over her shoulder. "Have you... not recognized the Captain's behavior?"

She frowned and shook her head.

He swallowed and his discomfort was painful to see. "Irritability, loss of emotional control, displaying aggression around men... The other day, he ordered the ship's course changed to Vulcan. Fortunately, he corrected himself immediately afterwards."

The truth dawned on Saavik. She suddenly recalled the earlier touch of his hand on her shoulder. She had put its heat down to her comparative chill from being exposed to the ship's cool temperature. "He's challenging other males..." Icy tendrils gripped her spine. Pon farr. Spock could die...

...if he didn't mate...

"When you are around, Lieutenant," he corrected. "I believe you aggravate his condition. You are an unbonded female and you are close to him." Her head snapped up, startled. "You trigger the male heightened protection/possessiveness." He finally noticed her surprise, but put it down to her inexperience. "It is Nature's way of making sure a female lives long enough to reproduce."

She didn't need the explanation. She might be unbonded, but all Vulcans studied the symptoms of the Time of Mating.

But his meaning finally sunk in. Spock was protecting her against who he saw as challengers. He had been jealous of Kirk and Stron. Something ancient within her thrilled at the thought, primitive instincts swelling and overpowering logic. She clamped it down.

"You have," Stron said hesitantly, "melded with him, correct?"

She resented him making it sound sullied. But then, she might only be imagining it. "Yes, especially during my tour of duty here. With Kirk onboard, we needed an unbreakable way of communicating privately."

"That mental link only draws him more." He darted a glance at her. He was still uneasy talking about this at all, but she saw he was not going to back down with her. "You must limit your time around Captain Spock. Others can take your place as personal guard. As science officer, you'll have to be careful." He spoke with heavy emphasis, "You understand the repercussions if you do not."

Now she was uncomfortable as he was but for different reasons. She dipped her head, agreeing. She walked to the other side of the room. In front of her was her weapons collection, spanning across the wall in an artful display. In her sleeping quarters was the large stellar map on the wall next to her bed, a recreation of the ancient charts made by PreReform Vulcan's warrior tribes. The flames from her firepot danced across its surface. It was a gift from Spock.

She clenched her hands behind her back. "This is not the first time Spock... has gone through this. I know of his aborted bonding with T'Pring. That could not have been the only time, surely?"

"Soluk has served longer than either of us." Of course he had. Soluk might have her job if he wasn't so psychotic. He was too loose a cannon to work independently. That he could still so faithfully serve was amazing. "He tells me Captain Spock normally chooses a woman and the guards bring her to him."

"They found women from Vulcan or they served on the ship?"

"The women weren't Vulcan. And none of them served on board Enterprise. The captain prefers -- not to see them afterward."

"Does that not make it more awkward, Stron? Having to explain to a non-Vulcan about -- about everything?"

"Nothing was explained."

Appalled, Saavik asked, "They brought her to him ignorant of the condition?"

Stron once more looked away. "The woman's mind was wiped of what happened afterwards."

This shook her. How could Spock... but she pushed the thought away. Who was she to judge? All her sexual partners were people she had needed to kill and she had used sex as the weapon against them. Some she had melded with to gather information before killing them. At least, Spock did what he had for the sake of his survival.

Still, her voice was uneven. "And this time?"

"I do not believe the captain realizes his condition. Therefore, he hasn't indicated any woman as of yet. It will be difficult. We are not near any ports or starbases. If only he'd choose another bondmate."

Saavik was finding it harder and harder to talk about this. For her to bring a woman to Spock...

But pon farr's indignity was not sex: it was the stripping of emotional control, of logic, of being anything but a primeval creature worse than their warrior ancestors --

And to fight against it meant death.

She would do what she had to. "If the woman needs to be from Enterprise, so be it. We can transfer her afterwards."

"But it means covering her disappearance as well as Spock's."

Of course! Why didn't she see it before? How to get Spock time to go through pon farr without Kirk, Sulu, or anyone wondering why he was away? Especially now with the Genesis project and Kirk looking over their shoulder. They couldn't simply turn the ship over to Chekov; it'd arouse suspicion. "You must discuss all this with Spock. He needs to make these decisions immediately."

But Stron stiffened. "I will not offend his privacy. He will realize his situation for himself."

That was one time too many for her to take. How dare he feel free to come here and tell her what she needed to do, but refuse to do the same with Spock! She was pained by his advice, but she knew her duty. She ground out her orders, flinging the words like blades. "I remind you I am Chief of Spock's personal guard. You are a senior member of that guard. Our foremost priority is his life and that life is threatened. I will not let your embarrassment risk him further! Control yourself! This needs to be done and, as you indicated, I cannot go to Spock myself for his orders."

He stubbornly insisted Spock would realize his condition without interference.

"Inadequate! Start preparing contingency plans. Get me a list of suitable women and suitable means they are someone who will not kill him when he's most vulnerable." Stron started to argue and she cut him off. "Remember, Spock's life before everything. No matter your discomfort." Or mine. Her duty overrode her personal concerns. For Spock, she'd do even this.

Down the corridor, Spock kneeled in meditation, erasing his agitation through Vulcan disciplines while going over the events of the day. He faced its problems knowing it was the only way to understand and be free of them: Kirk's insults and lustful gazes at Saavik...

...his own bloodlust over the personal attacks wishing for the moment he had been there to punish Sulu with the deaths...

...and Stron's jealous behavior...

And as he once more grew furious over Stron, the urge to punish the man filling him like a hunger, Spock's eyelids flew open. No, not Stron... his jealous behavior! The desire to hurt Kirk for his arrogance and challenges, and Stron for looking at Saavik -- not with desire but because he saw Spock's changed attention. His order the other day to set course for Vulcan... that alone should have signaled him that the Time of Mating was again on him.

Despair rose in him and he fought it back. He needed the meditation and all its disciplines so he could hold on until he could deal with the Fires.

But the meditation only brought the knowledge that he allowed, for the first time in years, a woman to grow important to him. And with that knowledge came the longing for her. His mind ached for the exhilarating touch of Saavik's. His instincts whispered she was his to command. Why not just make her his?

If she accepted him... which she'd never indicated.

Of course, he could order her to his bed. She was his to command, and he had done this with other females.

He hesitated, then slumped on his meditation stone. He was once more caught in the disgusting game he had played too many times before.

He felt sickened.

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