Hasmonak, former Centurion and now a Customs Officer in the Romulan Star Empire, entered his darkened home after a long shift. Facial muscles twitched with strain around the patch covering the empty socket of his missing eye. He felt an echoing ache along his missing arm, as if it were still there instead of amputated and the sleeve pinned up. But he was long used to these pains from his old injuries, and his spirits on a whole were high.
The small house was empty, but then his children were grown and off on their own adventures, and his wife held her own duties. She'd be home soon enough.
He poured himself a drink, not fiery ale, not at this time of the night, but a more soothing lehe'jhme wine which put a warmth in his belly and eased his pains. He started a dinner, timing it for his wife's arrival, and went to check his messages.
Dropping in the seat before the computer station, he murmured his password as he pulled his new Honor Blade from his belt. He turned it in his fingers, once more appreciating the quality of its metal and its construction. He grasped it in his fist and pressed it against his forehead, feeling the old call of the Warbirds and the stars, things missing in his life for years now since his injuries had retired him. He carefully set the dagger on the desk.
The messages came up. News announcements flooded the list, all discussing the brief civil war that overturned that veruul Dralath and put the reputable Narviat in power as Praetor. Hasmonak took another swallow of wine, and felt the flush of patriotic pride beat once more in his veins. Narviat and his people meant good days for the Empire. Narviat meant honor.
The last message in the list made his remaining eye widen, and the muscles around the eye patch pulled up in surprise. The message's source was missing, and so was the name of the sender. He ran the standard checks against it as a precaution, but the message showed clean. He chewed his lower lip for a minute, decades of experience making him wonder if someone sent him some means of harm. An old enemy from his Centurion days? Some noble's brat who he had stopped at Customs? He ran the checks again, more thoroughly digging into the message, back checking its path for a source, but it remained a mystery and security checks came up clean again.
With a wry chuckle, he decided he had led a good life for the most part, and if he was to die now, well good for the person who managed to catch him off guard with this message. He keyed it open. It asked for identity verification, which he dryly gave and silently thought this had better be worth it.
A woman appeared on screen, and Hasmonak grinned with real pleasure. The Lady Evaste, he identified, and looking much better than the last time he saw her. How sweet of her to contact him, although why she went through so much trouble to hide herself... Surely she knew Dralath was dead and not a problem to her anymore -- not like the night Hasmonak last saw her when the erstwhile Praetor clearly had seduced the provincial woman and discarded her.
He sat back in his chair, making himself comfortable, and took another sip of wine as she started to speak.
Typical of her to call him by his old title. She really was a charming creature. He noticed she no longer wore the barbaric braids, and her voice was years older. He chuckled. She must be trying to impress him.
"I trust you remember me--"
Like he could forget her.
"--and this message finds you well. I have a few reasons for contacting you. On our last meeting, you swore me to three promises. I want you to know I have kept them. You told me not to make any decision threatening my life."
He certainly had. He remembered her that night as she started to her ship, wildly out of control, distraught, and eyes blazing with fury. He knew colonials were raised tough and by strict measures, and he had feared she'd seek death in Final Honor for putting herself in the position where Dralath had abused her.
On screen, she looked amused and he realized that until then, she kept herself in stern check, far different from the smiling, delightful woman he first met, and the woman who left with her teeth bared against the Fates.
"I was unsure," she said, "if I could keep that promise when you asked for it, but as you can see, I am well."
She spoke more formally too.
"Second, you asked that I go straight home. A detour intervened, but I did reach home and was eventually safe." Here she sobered. "Third, you swore me to not take any action against the Empire because of Dralath. I agreed and I have not done anything directly to violate that oath."
Anything directly? What did that mean? He put his wine down on the desk and frowned at her image.
Her expression grew troubled, and his smile died away. "I asked you for something as well. Your name so I may have something of honor to remember you by. You gave it. You will never know what that meant to me, or what all that you have done has taught me. You are a noble man, one of the first I met in the Empire. It is for this last reason that I have contacted you."
He felt his gut clench.
"My name is not Evaste, and I am not of noble birth, not even to a minor house such as Anat-Vorian. My true name is Saavik, and I came to Ki Baratan not as a healer, but as an agent, first for a personal reason and second to stop Dralath's attacks against the Klingons and the Federation."
Like a blow to his heart, the words stunned him, and he couldn't even comprehend what she was saying. His ears didn't register that she had dropped the Romulan colonial accent.
"When I left you, I went to Narendra III to warn them against the attack by Dralath's Fleet, but as I was... ill, I was shipped home. Therefore, as I said, I took no direct action against the Empire, but as my warning meant an attack against your Fleet, I am guilty of indirect action."
His anger flared as he thought of the warriors killed in that battle because of her.
"By now, you are wondering why the Klingons listened to me. They did not. I am not one of them--" She took a deep breath, and he felt her eyes boring into him even from a recorded message. "--but I am an officer in Starfleet. I contacted the Federation starship Enterprise with my warning. That is how they knew to be at the Klingon colony."
A Starfleet officer... he let a Starfleet officer loose in the Empire! Twice! His hand automatically clasped his Honor Blade from where he had laid it on the desk, and pulled it from its sheath.
"Centurion, you must listen to this whole message! You treated me honorably and most likely believe I repaid you with dishonor. You may swear a blood feud against me."
A second blow pounded into him. The thought he might declare a House war against her actually upset her. He saw the pain plain in her eyes.
"That is your right. I take the responsibility for my actions, and give you what you need to make the oath. I am Saavik of Vulcan, secret name Avrách'laba."
A third blow: the enemy gave him what he needed to make war on her.
"I have no House name except my husband's, but I declare him and his line, including the child I now carry, innocent of my actions. If you declare the blood oath, I ask for time to bear my child." Somehow, she grew more intense. "I also claim you innocent. If you view my actions as dishonorable, the blame is mine alone, not yours."
He tasted bile in his throat. He was the one to set her loose. She could claim whatever she liked, but he set her loose! His hand clamped tighter around his dagger.
A man's deep voice came over the message, somewhere off screen. It spoke in some other language, something almost understandable but still foreign -- of course, he cursed; Vulcan! -- and she answered rapidly in the same tongue. She turned back to the screen, and he saw more alarm.
Her husband, he guessed. She doesn't want him to find her. Because? Because I'd see him.
"You must wonder why I contact you at all if I am concerned for my husband, my child, and yourself. I do this because I meant what I said earlier. Your display of honor towards me is one of the most important events of my life. I will not answer that with the disgrace of keeping silent for my actions. If I had not spoken, you may still have learned my part of Narendra III and burdened yourself for my deeds. I cannot allow that."
He seethed as she paused. Who was this woman?
She finally spoke again. "You will think it impossible, but I sincerely meant the vow I gave you. I thought one such as you would see the dishonor in Dralath's attack and want it stopped if possible. That is why I swore to you, by the Eagle and the integrity it holds for you, to abide by your terms. Despite being who I am, I knew what that oath meant, and I believe I upheld it."
You can believe what you want!
"I want your understanding. I do not know if you will ever give it. If not, I reiterate that I take responsibility for what I did, and I thank you for showing me that true honor lives in your Empire."
The sour taste in his mouth grew, and when he saw her good-bye, he became almost physically ill.
She mocks me! I give this woman her life, my respect, and my name -- my name! -- and she mocks me!
He came close to putting his boot into the screen, smashing that last image of her, but stopped himself. Destroying his property didn't help things, but turning off the station in the normal fashion felt deeply unsatisfying.
He held the Honor Blade, its point towards him. Was he responsible? Did he need to cleanse his name with Final Honor? Possibly. Most likely. But that would leave her -- the cause of his disgrace -- alive and free of punishment.
But if he was to swear a feud against her, he needed to know more about her. She was Romulan obviously, judging by her name, and a traitor if she was of Vulcan and Starfleet. That made it more difficult; he was too long retired from the Fleet to have ties with agents in the Federation, but his children would take the oath with him, and he still had his old comrades who could help. Perhaps they had connections to use. He had time to put his plan together, strike at her, then claim Final Honor for himself. She was pregnant and he did not make war on infants, unborn or otherwise. Not like Dralath.
His hand shook on the blade. Dralath and his soldiers were dishonorable, and Hasmonak was against the attack on Narendra III. Truth be told, the warriors who died in that battle were cowards who deserved their deaths, and if anyone else had attempted to stop the Fleet before it had attacked, he'd have cheered their name as a hero to the Empire. Dralath had earned far worse a death than he had gotten.
So -- Hasmonak swallowed against the hard insight -- he didn't care that this Saavik brought Enterprise to Narendra III. It was just a damned shame she didn't bring others.
But she was still guilty of a false pretense of honor. He was letting her go that night; she didn't need to take his name, but she had. He gave it to her because she so desperately wanted it, and her claiming now that it meant a great deal didn't change the fact that she stole it.
Why the hell was it so important to her anyway? She was one of his own people. Why did she act like no one gave her such heed before?
He snarled at himself. Who cared about her reasoning? He only needed to know how to get to her.
His skills rusty from disuse, he started the computer station up again, and carefully prepared a query, looking for information on this Saavik of Vulcan, and set it to spread covertly through the system, reporting its results quietly to him. He sat back satisfied. Rusty, but still quite adept.
Commander Charvanek and a squad of soldiers were at his house with the first light of morning.
Hasmonak stared at the famous face as she expertly swept her gaze over him. Famous before the battle that put her at the helm of the Empire; famous before her marriage to Praetor Narviat. It had been her personal emblem on the card that gave him his proud new Honor Blade. Ironic she was going to be the one to kill him now.
"You must be wondering why I'm here." Her smile didn't hide her coming accusation.
He stood at attention. "Commander, first... I swear that my wife is innocent of what I did. I ask --"
Charvanek held up a hand, cutting him off. "I accept that. In fact," she turned to her aide, a young soldier Hasmonak had seen by her side in a few broadcasts, "M'ret, take this honorable woman along with our people into the other room. I will speak alone with our friend here."
M'ret looked him over. Clearly, he thought the one-eyed, one-armed old man no match for his Commander, and he escorted Hasmonak's wife out with the squad. She looked back at her husband and he nodded reassuringly, sure that he was going to die, but equally sure his wife was not.
"So," Charvanek draped herself into a chair and gestured for him to sit across from her, "a bout of curiosity attacked you last night. Want to tell me why?"
It really wasn't a question, but he refused to be bowed by all this. Certainly someone like the Commander would understand what he did. And his children could carry on after his death.
"I needed the information for a blood feud, Commander."
Charvanek's head came up in surprise. "Against this woman you were looking for? Why?"
"The obvious reason. I found out she did me a great dishonor."
"I see. May I ask what?"
"Through her, I twice abandoned my duty, and as my reward, she took my name."
"Well, I'd certainly kill her for that." Charvanek frowned for a second, thinking, and then asked, "What happened last night that told you this? Or at least told you who she was?"
He stood and noticed she watched him totally without fear of threat. He didn't know whether to take that as a compliment to his loyalty or as comment on his disability as a warrior. He crossed to the computer station and brought up Saavik's message.
Before he played it, he said, "I received this, Commander. I ask, whatever happens, that my children be given this so they may carry out my feud."
She agreed and he opened the message.
On Saavik's calling him Centurion, Charvanek nodded slightly. On hearing of the three promises, especially swearing on the Eagle not to take action against the Empire, her eyes darted in his direction. When Saavik said she understood he might swear blood oath and she accepted the consequences, Charvanek raised her eyebrows in surprise, and when she heard Saavik's self-name, her eyebrows hit the ceiling.
Hasmonak squirmed on that last part. On this second playing, he appreciated what it took for Saavik to give that most sacred of names, and he wondered if he should have so casually given it to someone else.
But he had no time to think more about it. The Commander blandly received Saavik's statement of her husband's innocence, but on the pregnancy announcement, her eyes narrowed. They returned to normal when Saavik claimed Hasmonak blameless for anything she did, and when that male Vulcan voice came over the message, Charvanek seemed to still.
The message was finishing with Saavik's fervent statement that Hasmonak's display of honor was one of the important moments of her life. Charvanek eyed him curiously during that. She returned to watching the screen, hearing Saavik's resolve that she understood the integrity of the oath she made to him that night. On the good-bye, Charvanek's eyes flew wide again, and then she shook her head with a chuckle.
"So!" She smiled and leaned back in the chair. Something went on behind her expression that he couldn't identify. He took quick notice that she was a bright presence in the simply furnished room. Behind her chair were the medals and citations he earned as a Centurion. They made a good backdrop for her.
"That one," she said to herself about Saavik, and he heard grudging respect in her voice, "continues to be a mixture of complication and surprise." To him, she spoke, "I appreciate your honesty. And clearly your query wasn't the Security breach I first thought."
He tensed. "Understandable, Commander. A traitor contacts me and then I seek the traitor. It's a wonder you allowed me to explain at all."
"We just lived through an upheaval. Enough of us are dead without first finding out their loyalties. I think yours earns my returning it."
She went to the station, rapidly bringing up a file through her security access. "Don't think yourself inept for not getting this yourself. I set an alarm for this and similar files. No one can access them without my knowing it. I'm sure you understand."
She went back to the chair. Hasmonak recognized the seal for the Intelligence division displayed boldly and solitary before it faded to the appropriate content. Whoever this Saavik was, she had earned the Empire's full attention. But then, what traitor wouldn't?
He gazed in rigid silence at her image in its Starfleet uniform, and barely paid attention to the initial data spewing out about her until one bit slammed into his brain. She wasn't a Romulan-turned traitor. She was a half-breed, of those first so eagerly created by the Empire and then abandoned by it.
Damnation! He remembered the horror stories about Thieurrull and wondered how she ever survived it.
After that, other details came that constantly see-sawed him. A series of commendations and awards to make any warrior proud while he disregarded those received for scientific achievements. She was at the hated battle of Tomed among other conflicts with the Empire on record, but her captains had exhausted the Federation language with praises for her. She was married -- Hasmonak's breath hissed between his teeth -- to Spock of Vulcan, one of the most despised enemies of the Empire, ever since -- the old centurion suddenly couldn't look at Charvanek -- ever since he stole an Imperial cloaking device.
And this half-Romulan, this discarded eaglet and seed of the enemy, held his name. And he hers.
He looked at Charvanek, totally confused.
She dipped her head sympathetically. "That's how I'd feel in your place." She stood up. "I think we're through here."
He blinked in surprise. "Then, I am free?"
"I can't see either of us having a problem with that. In your place, I'd have done the same. I just wouldn't have been caught at it." She smiled. "Just be careful in the future. Be as honest in your search for information as you were with me a moment ago."
"Then if I can ask another honest question?" He jabbed a finger at Saavik's record, his finger hitting Spock's name hard. "She's married into a powerful House. If I succeed with my feud, what about the consequences?"
Charvanek's brow furrowed. "Meaning will Ambassador Spock seek revenge?"
"Will he use his position to have the Federation attack the Empire?"
Her voice turned hard. "And the reason why you imagine I understand Ambassador Spock's way of thinking?"
Too late, he realized his mistake, and he looked and sounded ashamed. "None, Commander! I ask because you and the Praetor speak for the Empire, and I will not let my feud hurt my people!"
The storm in her expression cleared. "Ah, of course. In that case, if you manage to kill -- and I think that is a large if -- this Saavik, it is a personal vendetta. The Empire knows nothing of it, and you and I never had this conversation. However, two things. One, I don't think you'll attack until after her child is born. That gives us time for the Federation to cool their anger over the Narendra III attack. By that time, killing one Starfleet officer -- even a notable one -- will hopefully not draw a diplomatic conflict. Second, I doubt Ambassador Spock will seek a war over your feud, but he'll very much be looking for you personally."
"I'd welcome the chance to fight our enemy." He mistook her reaction for approval. He stared at Saavik's photo and tried to reconcile her with the woman he remembered. "Commander, what -- what would you do?"
"As one old eagle to another?" He might have smiled if he didn't think it disrespectful. She was hardly near his age. "Well, we certainly can't have Vulcans thinking they can run around the Empire, can we?" Her eyes sparkled at his emphatic wince over the idea. "On the other hand, she seems sincere, and as my husband likes to say, honor can be a genuine nuisance sometimes."
She laughed softly at his shocked response. "And after all, I knew you let her go that night. That's why I gave you that Honor Blade. Through her, I discovered Dralath's treachery at Narendra III. Without that, our people might still be under his thumb and Emperor Shiarkiek his victim. So if I were you, Centurion, I'd be furious over the duplicity, but I'd think long and hard on whether she caused me dishonor."
He almost asked her if she had met Saavik personally; she didn't sound like she had. But then, how did she know about Saavik's gathering Dralath's information on Narendra III? Or traced it to his meeting with Evaste that night? His veteran's instincts, honed by hundreds of campaigns, hushed that question before it crossed his lips.
She left immediately after that, scarcely giving him time to salute. He heard the soldiers scrambling to follow her.
He asked his wife for a moment, after which he'd tell her everything. He forwarded Saavik's message to the near end and watched her good-bye once more.
"I swear to you that I hold you in the highest respect and do not abuse your name given to me with honor. I make this vow first on all that I hold most important to me, and second by the terms you hold dear. Know that I have given this gesture to no one else and take it with the high regard I give it to you." She saluted him in the manner of his people, the ones who cast her aside and who, she said, he gave her some respect for. "I make this salute on your terms. By the Eagle."
Saavik tucked her one-month-old son, Setik, into his crib. He was already deeply asleep, the events from his Naming day having exhausted him. And her as well. She'd crawl in next to him if she could fit. As it was, if she was lucky, she'd have quite awhile before he woke up. Or even better, she thought with pleasure, she could convince Spock it was his turn to get up with their child, and not concern herself about it at all.
She watched with contentment as Setik's delicate chest rose and fell with his breath. She laid a hand there and felt the simple sign of health and life.
As she stepped away, his sehlat, Ko-kan, took her place, protectively sitting between his crib and the door. Saavik reached down to scratch behind the pet's ears, and gave her a word of approval. The sehlat sniffed once at the sleeping baby, checking him, and then lay down.
The house was quiet, their guests either in their rooms or in the main room away from this wing. Sarek had already said he would play host to any guest or family still about, and the staff, necessary for so large an estate especially on such a day, vacated this area of private rooms.
Saavik passed down the hall and found her husband in their study, deeply engrossed in preparation work for his next mission. He sat forward in the chair, giving her room to sit on the arm and lean against his back.
"Is Setik asleep again?" he asked.
"Yes. It was a new experience for me, cradling a child while discussing ship's business with my captain."
"We do have people who can help with such things."
"I know. However, it did not interfere with my work, and Captain Howes wanted to see Setik. As long as I can be there for our child, I will be. I believe, however, it does earn you the next turn."
"My wife, if Nature endowed me with the ability to feed my son, I would do so."
"My husband, what Nature has not given you, modern convenience has. I have prepared bottles, they await you in the kitchen."
He raised an eyebrow. "Then I will check on our son when the time comes."
"As you would have anyway."
She laid her cheek on his hair and he rested against her.
"Tired?" he asked.
She nodded. "And you?"
"Yes. Agreeably so."
"Indeed." They enjoyed the pleasant moment in harmony before she spoke again. "Will you be long?"
"Another hour, but do not wait for me. You have had little rest since Setik's birth."
She looked at him fondly. "I am hardly so delicate as you make me out to be. Nevertheless, I will seize this chance. Join me when you can, husband."
He held out his two fingers and she brushed them with hers. "As soon as possible."
She made it to the door when he called her back. "Curious..."
"A message for you has just arrived with no sender or source. It does, however, pass by security checks." They exchanged a significant glance. "Do you require privacy?"
She nodded and replaced him at the desk. Seeing him linger, she held out her paired fingers again. "I will be fine."
Somewhat of a lie. If this was what she thought it might be, she was going to be watching her back from now on lest a Romulan stick a dagger in it. At least, she thought, he gave me time for the baby to be born. And he did not kill himself.
The latter remained an unknown for these past long months, so any message from him was a relief in that way. Never could she accept his blood on her hands.
The familiar bird of prey emblem blazed on the screen, the twin homeworlds held in the eagle's talons, and then faded to a prompt asking her, "The term of honor I know you by".
She cocked her head, thinking. Definitely Hasmonak, but by term of honor, did he mean he believed her? Or ridiculed her sincerity?
Only one way to find out. He knew both her names, but he'd use the more revered one. "Avrách'laba," she whispered to the prompt. If Spock was still in earshot, he would truly have cause to wonder now.
The elder Romulan appeared on screen, stern with a flinty gaze. She was surprised to feel her heart hammer as she waited for his verdict.
He spoke with no preamble. "I congratulate you on the birth of your son, Setik."
No surprise that Romulan agents lived in the Federation, or that they took note of a part Romulan child born of reviled enemies. She accepted Hasmonak's point that he not only found her, but he made ties with the agents that could easily strike her.
"As you probably guessed," he said, "I agree not to pass any judgement to your son. I don't even put it on your husband, the hated Spock. The Imperial death sentence already waiting for him is enough punishment. I don't need to add to it."
Which added another notch to Saavik's secret alarm for her husband's life if he pursued Reunification. Not that the argument would stop him.
"As for my judgement on you -- it has honestly taken this long for me to decide what to do. I give you credit. You have an impressive and formidable reputation, even if you do serve the accursed Starfleet. You are, if nothing else, an honorable enemy." His one eye narrowed, and with the weathered patch over the other one, he struck a fearsome appearance. "But I thought I knew you."
Hardly. No one knew her better than Spock, and with marriage and a child, they were both learning new things about the other and themselves. This old centurion who met her so briefly, though intensely, stood no chance.
"Even for the short times we met," he was saying, "I thought I recognized exactly who you were. A colonial, bedazzled and overwhelmed by Ki Baratan, so certain you knew it all only to have it all blasted to Erebus. But then, that is exactly what you are, aren't you? You probably hate us all and the truth is, if I was in your place, I'd be spitting with revenge for my birth."
She frowned. Perhaps he knew her better than she gave him credit for.
He sighed deeply. "And so the Fates put us in each other's path. Where you tell me that I gave you one of the few bits of honor you ever got from my people. And to mark that importance, you took my name with the idea being you knew how to respect it."
Saavik, with care, kept herself in control. She never thought she'd give so much significance to a Romulan's view of her.
Hasmonak blew out an explosive breath. "The damnable thing is, I believe you. I've called myself every bit of an old, blind fool and worse, but I saw you that night. I can still hear how you said to me, 'Give me some term of honor to remember you by'. All right, you have it. And I have yours. That links us, forever. Abuse my name in this life, and I will find you in Halls of Erebus where I will once more be a whole warrior. Do not underestimate what I gave you."
As if she could.
"Treat it with respect and then, Saavik, daughter of the Eagle and of Vulcan, I will not only glory in finding you after this life, but I will have one of the few bits of honor ever given me from one of your chosen home. I swear this by the Eagle and-- Akhh!" He sighed again. "Just take my wish for a long and prosperous life. May the Fates protect you."
The screen went blank.
Saavik sank back into the chair and exhaled slowly. A footfall sounded nearby and in the next second, a hand lay on her shoulder. She took it in hers. "I thought you were giving me privacy, husband."
Spock answered. "I was concerned." He paused. "Do you wish to talk about it?"
"Can wait until morning."
"May I be spared speeches for Unification?" she asked with some amusement.
"Perhaps." He brushed her cheek with their joined fingers. "This man, you mentioned him to me before, but not the possibility we may enter into a blood feud."
"If he swore one, it'd be on me."
"And you believe I would leave you alone to face it?"
She looked up into his eyes. "I believe that, as an Ambassador, you are a civilian, and should let me stand in the way of your dangers as an officer must. And I believe we have a child, and one of us must survive for his sake."
It was one of the rare moments when Spock allowed his dark eyes to be windows into himself. But then, she saw into him anyway. "You should believe I am your husband, civilian or otherwise. And because of our son, who has the intelligence to realize you are the center of his universe, you will remember whatever dangers you face, we face together."
She squeezed his hand as the tightening in her throat strengthened the husky undertones in her voice. "In any event," she said, "the message swore no feud."
"For which he earns my gratitude and respect for his nobility." He nodded towards the station. "He is important to you."
"And it was necessary you contact him despite the risk."
He frowned. "Are you certain you want to discuss this? I will understand if you do not."
"But I do." She stood up, and as they moved to their room, he pressed her to his side. "Perhaps you can explain why I did so earnestly seek his name, why anything he did was so important to me? Not that I was myself. I was already losing control to the Fires by the time I reached Ki Baratan. However, just as I learn I still harbored hatred against the Romulans, I meet that one and eventually give him my self-name. Why?"
They stepped into the bedroom.
"My wife," Spock said gently as he closed their door, sealing them in privacy, "it is illogical to tell you what you already know."