Security of the Exterior Saavik leaned across the table, eyes unflinching. “Unacceptable.”

The white walls of the meeting room threw those openly cringing diplomats of various worlds into stark relief. Murmurs of agreement, however, came from various members of the Federation Council, and from the Romulan and Andorian ambassadors, the latter two looking dryly amused.

Ambassador Spock’s eyes narrowed and his tones took on a deep rumble. “Peace is never unacceptable, Admiral.

Her knuckles paled to a white-green as her fingers tightened on the edge of the table. “What you are proposing is not peace, it is capitulation, Ambassador. And no amount of gilding it will ever make that acceptable.”

The Klingon ambassador growled his agreement, softly.

“That sector is uninhabited, withdrawing from it leaves no worlds inside at risk.”

“That uninhabited sector is a buffer zone. Withdrawing leaves seven worlds in the adjoining sector open for easy attack.”

“Then relocate a portion of your Starfleet forces to guard them.” His jaw tightened. “I believe the Federation has allotted more than sufficient funds to the Defense Budget.”

Spock saw the Federation president's eyes travel back and forth between husband and wife -- Ambassador and Admiral. He said nothing, his Trill pattern of spots not even showing a sheen of sweat. Perhaps he thought what Spock himself was beginning to see: how inevitable it was that he and Saavik would be faced off in a battle of diplomatic corps versus Starfleet.

Listening to her though, no one would have thought Saavik knew him other than in their professional relationship. “I will not send my forces into unnecessary risk. Perhaps if the ambassador had studied the buffer zone more thoroughly, he would have noted it contains spacial extremities of Class V ratings. It is why the defensive perimeter is in the other sector.”

But Saavik did know him; he was her husband. Why didn't she believe him? How many times must he argue peace was possible with a previous enemy before the people closest to him took him at his word? Jim over the Klingon peace after Praxis, Saavik over the Romulan re-unification... why didn’t she believe him? Or, at least, believe in him as she once did?

But she didn’t, and he was forced to argue back. “Hostilities will cease if the Federation withdraws.”

“Hostilities will cease when the K’tk stay within their own territory.”

“Your actions will extend the war.”

 A simulated breeze came throught the holopicic window, stirring the banners along one wall. Too many important personages sat in this room to leave it open to an outside attack through real windows. It was only a coincedence that one of the banners stirred from its former lines was Vulcan's flag.

“Your actions will open the Federation for a far greater one, Ambassador. The K’tk have shown no regard for any previous boundaries. What reason can you provide establishing they will keep this new one? The next sector’s worlds are mineral rich. They are also the route into the heart of the Federation itself.”

Some small part of his memory recalled Jim’s words when Spock argued for peace with the Klingons: Let them die.

“The K’tk have given their word.”

That drew outraged shouts from the Andorians and Tellarites as well as dark glittering looks from the Romulans. The tension rang at odds with the room's comfortable furnishings of dark wood table, brass fittings, and thickly cushioned chairs.

Saavik raised both eyebrows high. “Their word? Perhaps the ambassador missed that the K’tk recently gave their word to both the Romulan and Andorian ambassadors?” Her eyes abruptly narrowed. “Or the destruction of four Starfleet ships as well as two from Vulcan who aided Starfleet’s attempt to reclaim those stolen territories?” Her voice took on a terrible edge. “Or perhaps the ambassador finds the Defense Budget’s funds more than sufficient to negate such minor losses?”

Spock's eyebrows came together. “That is uncalled for.”

“Yes, it is. Four thousand three hundred and fifty-four.” She stretched out a hand, tapping it for emphasis. “Not counting the losses suffered by both the Romulan and Andorian peoples.”

He heard her stressing the one word just as she previously had on Vulcan, but he wasn't sure why she did it. And didn't she see how she protested on behalf of their Romulan allies, allies because he had believed it was possible.

“And not counting,” she was saying, “the populations of those seven worlds we would expose to the same fate if we capitulate to the K’tk. Or that of the entire Federation beyond them.”

His lips thinned. “That is a reactionary conclusion.”

“That is the logistical analysis of previous experience.”

“You cannot base policy on a probability.”

His voice lost its edge on that last statement, so she did the same. “I am basing policy on a reality.”

“I have spent the last four point six five standard months with the K’tk. They have given me no cause to doubt their agreement to the new boundary.”

“And I have spent the last nine point four three months in the battle zones. And they have given me more than enough cause to doubt.”

“Are you certain you do not allow your emotions - and past - to color your judgment?”

Her head jerked back. The Klingon ambassador’s eyes went wide and he covered his mouth with his hand, looking at Spock as if he was insane. Several of the attaches inched backwards.

“You believe so?” Saavik asked very, very calmly.

Spock shifted, then folded his hands in front of him. “It is a possibility.”

Her piercing gaze seemed to strike his very soul. “Are you certain it is I?”

He drew up inside his robes, but said nothing.

Saavik straightened, tugging her uniform into place. “Very well.” She turned her head and bowed it to the President of the Federation. “I move that the decision to withdraw or remain be given to the Federation Council for majority vote.”

The President's eyes went one last time between them, then took in everyone else before he grimaced and sighed. “Accepted.” He forced his shoulders straight and spoke to the entire room. “While the Council convenes to discuss this matter, would all non-Council members please move to the chamber ready rooms?” He motioned to his four aides.

The other ambassadors growled and muttered, but allowed the aides to file them out.

The great doors of the room shut and Spock found himself face to face with his wife. At long last, he could ask her, his voice soft.

“Why do you fight me?”

Saavik’s long lashes lowered and when they raised, Spock found to his surprise that her eyes were moist and full of barely contained pain. “T’Kel and Sihahs had been transferred to one of the Vulcan ships the K’tk destroyed.” She swallowed hard. “T’Pren was on board one of the Romulan warbirds with Aerek. Trying to be like her father and bring peace.”

Spock leaned heavily against the bulkhead. “But. . . but I did not feel the bonds break.”

Saavik gently laid a hand on his shoulder, sending him strength. “Nor did I. My fleet is searching for them now.”

Spock felt something terrible try to rise. “Why did you not speak of this inside?”

Saavik shook her head, mournfully. “It had no place.”

“They are our children-our children’s chosen mates!”

Shadows appeared under eyes. She gripped his shoulder, taking as much strength as she gave. "I know." She straightened. “But I am Commander, Security of the Exterior, Spock, and I am Vulcan. All of those Starfleet and Vulcan ships held my children.” Her mouth turned wryly bitter. “And with T’Pren's choice of consort, even the Romulan ones now. Who ever thought I would make such a statement?”

"My wife..." He covered the hand on his shoulder with his own.

"I tried to reach you with the news of our daughters. Previous attempts aroused suspicions so I sent a message with deliberate false news. As suspected, the K'tk monitored all your communications. With that discovery, I could no more tell you of our daughters through that means any more than if I had spoken during the meeting. Word would have gotten to the K’tk. The media also agreed to my request to keep their identities from all broadcasts. If the K'tk hold our daughters and their consorts, if they know they hold them. . .”

Spock’s shoulders sagged. “What now?”

Saavik sighed. “We wait the Council’s decision. If they agree to maintain the current borders, a covert team awaits the order to attempt a rescue. I will go with them.”

"They used me." He turned from her, his head moving side to side, unable to look at anything as he focused at the horrible knowledge he saw inside. "The K'tk used me well. How did I not see it?"

She brushed his face with her fingers. "You are a person of peace. No one forgets how you brought the alliance between the Klingons and the Federation, or how so many in Starfleet fought against you to stop it. And I do not forget how I thought you wrong in your goal with the Romulans. Perhaps someday, you will bring peace between ourselves and the K'tk. Perhaps the buffer zone will be as obsolete a need as the previous Romulan Neutral Zone." She cupped his chin. "But not today."She turned and motioned the Romulan and Andorian aides to come join them. Then she looked at Spock craftily. “And we make our own preparations.”

Instantly, he moved closer, dark eyes brightening. “What would you have me do?”

Then her eyes became very Romulan. “Do the K’tk trust you as much as you have trusted them?”

The corner of Spock’s mouth began to curve.