Saavik walked down the middle of the street to avoid the crowd, carrying every one of her twelve years with a tired air. She clutched a group of school tapes in her right hand, her left wrapped around the strap of a carry bag slung over her shoulder. She was in no hurry to get home.

Home. The institution was no home, just a room with her issued bed and dresser, holding her few items of clothing. Usually, it seemed a paradise in comparison to what she once had, which was nothing. Usually, the thought of a bed, clothes, and safe place to sleep lifted her spirits. Today, the institution only reminded her of how different she was. Her ten years on Hellguard not only stripped her of a home and childhood, it caused her to try desperately to catch up with the Vulcan children her age.

She'd never make it! In two years, all that she’d learned was how far behind she was. The other children, on their desert homeworld so far away, had Vulcan families, Vulcan control, and seven extra years in classes. She wasn't even equal to the human children.

She came out of her troubled thoughts to see one small shop owner come out to arrange a display of fresh fruit. Her stomach growled at the sight of it. That was one thing she hadn't been able to overcome: not getting enough to eat or drink, or enough blankets at night. To her, an abandoned child of Hellguard, an abundance of such things was the true mark of the rich.

She took her credit voucher out of the carry bag and handed it to the middle-aged merchant, pointing to the piece of fruit she wanted. The man handed back her voucher, the computer having subtracted the amount, and her purchase already bagged. He eyed her with compassion. He had seen her walking by many times and, once in a while, she stopped to buy but never did he see her at play or with other children. It wasn't that she was Vulcan; he saw other Vulcan children periodically. But this one was so… alone.

"Wait! Here, I forgot this." He handed her another piece of fruit, her favorite. She shook her head; regretfully, he thought. "No charge."

Her eyebrows drew together in a scowl and he smiled at the sign of stubborn pride. "It's okay. After so many purchases, you get one free," he lied.

She accepted it solemnly. "Thank you," she replied as she had been taught.

"You're welcome." She began to move away. "Hey, little one," he called, "you'd better get home. A starship came in today, and the crew will be down on leave. Some of them can be rough after being cooped up. Your parents wouldn't want you around that."

For the first time, there was a spark of interest in her eyes. "A starship? From Starfleet?"

He nodded, surprised.

"Do you know which one?"

He took the time to remember since she seemed so interested. "It's the... Enterprise."

A smile burst out on her face, but was quickly erased. "Thank you again," she said, and practically ran off.

The merchant ran his fingers through his dark hair. What had brought that on?

Saavik watched the crewmen leave the transport station in a steady stream. She knew from watching other starships that only a skeleton crew would be left on board. She watched everyone intently, keeping a close track of the ship's staff while never losing track of the station personnel.

The last out was a small group of people. At the sight of them, she withdrew even further into her hiding spot. These were Spock's friends: the laughing captain and the smiling doctor who led them in easy camaraderie; the beautiful dark-skinned woman who watched the group protectively but happily; the excitable Russian who was waving his arms as he explained something; the Scot nudging the quieter Asian in a shared joke.

But Spock was not with them, nor had he'd been among any of the others. She frowned. Maybe he didn't want to see her. What now? How can I find out? The obvious solution was to go aboard the Enterprise and talk to him. She hesitated, then decided to do it. Either way, she had to know what he was thinking.

She watched as a bored crewman lined up supplies to be beamed aboard. Her honed instincts quickly assessed his behavior, comparing it to the Romulan guards she had once monitored so carefully. If the crewman was bored, his mind might wander. If he didn't pay attention, he might make a mistake. She was quick to notice that he didn't search the cargo containers, but simply transported them on automatics. They must have been searched and secured earlier, and the crewman didn't double-check. After all, it was a friendly port.

It was a mistake. Now, if she was quiet, as quiet as if the crewman was a Romulan guard, as quiet as if her life once again depended on stealth…

A mischievous air came over her as she slipped away. She grinned, then remembered she wasn't supposed to grin -- or feel mischievous -- anymore. But she could take advantage of the situation, and not let such an opportunity go by unused.

The cargo containers weren't locked. She rode in one to the ship, then stole away to a lift before the bored crewman -- a match to the one on the planet -- got around to storing her particular container. She knew the senior officers lived on one deck and, by using the nameplates, she could find which cabin was Spock's. She searched the walls, found it, and hastily ducked inside before someone saw her.

He was there, seated at his desk, his head bent over his work. He didn't look up right away, but finished whatever small detail he was completing. When he did glance up, it was obvious he wasn't expecting to see her. "Saavik! How did--" He stopped himself, a bit amused. She hadn't forgotten everything from her past. He'd have to ask her how she had stolen aboard. The Federation's flagship and a twelve-year-old -- granting this particular twelve-year-old's experience -- had smuggled herself all the way to his cabin.

"I came to visit you," she said, nervous. There was no reason to believe he might still be interested in her life, and he was frowning over whatever he was thinking.

"I tried to contact you at the institution," he said in way of an explanation, "but you weren't there. I was going to try again later."

"You were?"

Odd. She sounded as if she didn't believe him. "Of course, but now you have saved me the trouble. You are well?"

She nodded, pleased with his interest. "There is food and things to drink, and I do small jobs at the institution so I can buy things once in awhile. Look!" She swung her bag onto his desk and carefully laid out the two pieces of fruit. "I was… fortunate today. After eight purchases, I received one free." Her excitement over her good luck was evident -- that, Spock mused, must be a point of contention with her teachers -- but he noted with approval that her lapses with words were less, and her grammar had improved. She spoke in Standard, obviously trying to impress him with her learning another language. At least she didn't growl anymore.

"It is good you brought these. I did not have my dinner." He reached into a small cupboard and withdrew a small plate and paring knife, both of delicately wrought metal and having the dull sheen of great age. Her eyes widened at the sight of them, but understood why he used them. "Better to do so respectfully than lock them away," he had once said to her.

Spock sliced the fruit and took a sample bite. The fruit, beisha Saavik called it, was new to him. He found it delicious: a crisp, sweet, cinnamon-like taste. With a nod of appreciation, he finished his slice. He wondered how much Standard she could speak. Knowing it was better if he made the switch than if she had to admit to a lack of knowledge, he spoke in Vulcan. "If you do not mind, Saavikam, I do not often get the chance to speak my native language."

She eyed him, wondering, then nodded. What surprised him most was how true his own words had been, not that she had almost seen his ruse. "How are your studies?"

Dutifully, as she would inform any of her other tutors, she reported on her progress, but he detected a lack of animation. "Is something wrong?"

"No, I'm not having any trouble." She began to play with the food on her plate. "I...just don't think I'm learning enough."

"You will have to be patient, Saavik."

"But will I be ready on time?"

"I do not understand. On time for what?"

"I don't want to be behind forever. I want to go to the Academy the same time when everyone else my age will start."

She had expressed such a desire before, Spock knew, and he was pleased to see she hadn't changed her mind. "I cannot guarantee it will happen, Saavik, but neither do I have any doubts. And taking an additional year or more in your studies before the Academy is not a disgrace."

"Yes, it is! People will say I failed, that I am not as good!"

"You cannot allow other people's judgements--"

"You know what it's like, Spock. You know!"

He stopped, caught as always; not by her logic, she was not arguing out of logic, but from pain. Instead, he was stopped by the union of one half-Vulcan to another. "Yes, I know." He paused again, in thought. "I also know you will be successful. Do not doubt it."

"But I have so much more to learn! How will I be ready?"

"Trust yourself, Saavik. There's a reason why you have been so successful with your studies, and why you were able to look past what Hellguard had taught you to leave with me. You are quite skillful and innately intelligent. That will aid you in your efforts."

Her head still hung low. The future loomed too large and the past too painful to have faith in what she could not see in herself. Spock wondered just how many points of contention Saavik experienced with her teachers. After all, he had dealt with many in his own childhood, and he had started schooling at the proper age with his parents' support and guidance from birth. He had not been dropped into Vulcan culture at age ten with his only experience being violent survival.

And he was not branded a child of the enemy, a child of rape.

He pushed himself away from his desk and motioned for her to come around. He was about to seat her on the desk when he noticed that, standing, she was taller than him sitting. It was a surprising reminder that she would not be a hero-worshipping child forever. Somehow, that did not bother him.

"Perhaps you require a better look at yourself. If you will allow me," he said, preparing himself, if she agreed, to join with her mind.

She nodded, as honored as the other time he had done this. Instead of touching her face, however, he guided her hand to his. She was dumbfounded. She had never initiated contact before, had little experience with melding at all. She was trained, though; the Vulcan teachers had wanted her to learn control of her psi-abilities as soon as possible.

Determined to do it properly, she recalled her lessons from T'San, and brought as much of herself as she could under calm control. She spread her fingers along his face at the psi-points and gently made the first mind-touch.

This was the worst part for her. Her strong survival instinct rebelled against the loss of privacy and self. Before Spock had eased it away, but he was leaving it entirely to her this time.

She resolutely pushed the rebelling instinct aside, repeating to herself, This is Spock. I have nothing to fear.

He waited for her to conquer the apprehension, and then slowly answered her original call. Encouraged, she pressed forward and slowly joined them together.

Surrounding her efforts was his confidence in her, and she saw it wasn't limited to their meld. He dwelled on her accomplishments, not on what she had yet to learn. She saw, for the first time, what he saw: her potential and the respect he had for her overcoming the obstacles in her path to learn anything at all.

That confused her. How could he respect her? She had only done what she had to do while he had done so much more.

Then he was showing her something even more incredible. He saw in his battles a pettiness when compared to hers! Not talking with his father for eighteen years over a career choice, as well as his struggle to accept the human influence from his mother, seemed small next to Saavik's rejection and abandonment. She lacked a home while he'd had everything and still wished to be a whole Vulcan.

She was shocked. He was not that shallow, and she could not let him think he was. She rushed to convince him, the tirade of thoughts almost overwhelming both. Hurriedly, she regained control before there was damage done.

He did nothing but let her calm before he continued. Do me a favor, Saavik. Return with me into your past. I can show you what I mean. He knew he asked a great deal since she avoided all references to any time before her present life, but she agreed and waited although he imagined her muscles stiffening as if to ward off a blow.

Slowly, he drew her back through the past two years, recalling each of her accomplishments no matter how small, a task easy for him since she gave him free access to her memories.

Serik, her linguistics tutor, teaching Vulcan’s language: how to read, write, and speak it. "If you are to be Vulcan, you must know our language. If you are to live in the Federation, you must learn their Standard speech."

And T’San showing the controls and disciplines so much a part of Vulcan nature: "You will learn to have no more anger, no more pain… only calm and peace. It will take much self-control and time, but it is the core of being Vulcan."

And Seran who patiently explained everyday life: "Sit in the chair at the table, not on the table itself… do not run in the halls… use the eating utensils, not your fingers… It is perfectly safe to sleep at night; no one here will ever attack you. You may also sleep IN the bed, not under it. You do not need to hide your presence."

And finally T’Jielen telling her she would be learning in actual classes now, not just learning behavior so she could attend classes. Now she discovered the Federation, its works of art, literature, sciences, and Vulcan – Vulcan, world that was hers and never hers.

Spock paused at the time just before they had met to let her look back at those victories.

Saavik was quiet as she contemplated the point -- it was one that had never occurred to her. That ten-year-old savage would have snorted in disbelief if anyone had told her what she would do in two years.

Like the fact that I do not snort anymore, she thought.

Spock raised an eyebrow. That is humor.

It is? She considered the statement. Why?

Spock's brows now drew together. I do not know. I am still learning the concept myself. I can, however, recognize it in conversation.

He moved them on before she answered. Surprisingly, he went back even further in her past, although more quickly so as to spare her.

Move quietly so they don’t hear you… stay still, don’t draw attention… watch what they do, so you know what they think… don’t pick the wrong battles… you lose, you di---

Spock slipped away from the thought and she was younger, younger, back to birth… cold, confused, a breath of air filling her lungs for the first time, noise assaulting her ears… someone holding her, the sensation of touch, the warmth of their hands wrapped around her back easing the chills, the shadow of them bending over her easing the light striking her eyes… her first sight of another being… and for a second, peace. Then--

Spock stopped. It was not a childhood anyone would want, but it too was an accomplishment. She had survived, learned her environment and the way to endure. She broke the mental contact, quietly ruminating.

"Saavik, I took my kahs-wan when I was seven and it only lasted a few days. Yet, it is an honored test, a measurement of honored skills. If I can be commended for achieving its goals, you should at least give yourself credit for doing things many children, Vulcan or not, never face. And Saavik?"

"Yes, Spock?"

"You just initiated and controlled a mind meld."

It felt wrong to agree with him, and it felt wrong not to. If she had ever been told what she would have to live through and learn, she would have thought it impossible. But she had done it, and somehow had gained Spock's respect.

More importantly, though, he still had to be told how his battles were not petty, even if he had only exaggerated for her benefit. Spock saw a stern look come over her face, and he had an odd feeling he was about to be lectured.

"Spock!" James Kirk burst through the door, its sound, as it opened, giving only the barest of warnings. Saavik dove behind the desk before he saw her and Spock honored her choice. "I thought since you couldn't reach that friend of yours, you'd come down with the rest of us."

Saavik was edging her way out; Spock quickly spoke to keep Kirk's attention. "I thought you had already transported to the surface, Captain."

Kirk thought he heard the door open and close behind him, but that was ridiculous. "I did, but I was sent back with express orders to get you," he laughed.

Spock started to decline, but realized it would only arouse more curiosity. "I cannot join you now, but I will meet you in two hours." That would coincide with Saavik's curfew at the institution.

"All right, but if you get me in trouble, you'll hear about it!"

"I would not want to cause you trouble, Captain; I will be down as soon as possible."

Kirk grinned and waved as he left. Spock waited for a moment, but Saavik didn't return nor did Kirk yell from the corridor asking who this child was.

The Vulcan went out and glanced down the hall. The lift was just taking Kirk away, but of Saavik, there was no sign. His eyebrows drew together in a frown. If she had taken a lift, she could be anywhere in the ship, perhaps even lost. There was nowhere on this deck she could go except the cabins and...

He turned around abruptly and walked in the opposite direction of the lift. He should have thought of it before since he had planned to show it to her. He found the room he was looking for, its wall plaque showing it was an observation point.

Saavik was standing right up to the portal, her hands pressed against it as she watched the stars in tireless fascination. She glanced up as he came next to her, a small smile playing on her lips, her eyes and her face glowing. "You were right, Mr. Spock. I will make it. Somehow I will be ready in time, and then you will not fly without me anymore."

One eyebrow rose, but she no longer watched him. He thought of telling her the reality of Starfleet placing them together but decided against it. No sense in diminishing her confidence.

Years passed.

Spock walked down the corridor of the Enterprise, NCC-1701A. He was again searching for Saavik, but knew not to look in the set observation spots this time for she had a special place of her own.

In the deep levels of the ship was a small room. No one could guess what its original purpose was since it was no larger in length than a walk-in closet and only slightly wider. It did, however, have a porthole, but the ship’s personnel rejected it because of the cramped space.

For Saavik, its merits outweighed the problems. It was private and there was no light to distract from the stars’ beauty. So when a bench was removed from the ship's garden, Saavik commandeered it and managed to squeeze it in.

No one else knew but Spock --although McCoy and Uhura would ask where she was hiding-- and he kept this secret with the others.

She sat there now, stretched out with her arms lying across her middle. She didn't look up. "Do you need me, Spock?"

"I’m not here on ship’s business." He thought of making an excuse, but she didn't need one.

She eyed him curiously, and nodded.

He sat next to her and felt himself relax, although he doubted he had the look of lazy strength she had now. Her Vulcan control, once just a veneer, a mask based on a template of Spock himself, was now more a part of her. Its roots reached deeper, showed more of her own persona, and mixed with the fine edge of maturity. It was no longer an act for her Vulcan teachers’ approval.

But it was softened at this moment, not to reveal the savage or confused child she once was, but this person, still so very much Saavik. A different facet, obviously grown from experience and changes he was just now noticing. And made of something else as well. Perhaps it was the fact that her want for this place came from her Romulan soul with its the need to feel the freedom of flight. Maybe it came from her budding friendships with a few others, the least not being Amanda, who filled a spot long empty.

But her control was softened… The part of him that was once her teacher knew he should make known this point of contention.

Point of contention, a recollection spoke and that quickly, his memories overwhelmed him. In his struggle to return to the Spock he once was, before his death, he encountered the unusual experience of a kaleidoscope of memories falling into place, each burst of recall rifling quickly. Many memories were in place although he would -- quite illogically, he thought -- forget he had them until some experience drew them from his subconscious. And he would pause, reliving the memory, making it a part of his conscious self.

And from the time when McCoy carried his katra were the impressions and patterns from that experience, not wholly his but including the doctor's as well. McCoy found it all highly amusing and called it "a taste of his own damned Vulcan medicine".

And the most shadowy of all were the memories his mind had stored from rebirth on Genesis to the Refusion itself. Mostly they were dim recollections of cold, hunger, and confusion with the exception of suddenly clear images, standing out from the shadows.

Point of contention…

His teachers pointing out where he failed in being Vulcan, his own concern that Saavik was experiencing the same.

But as Spock had learned, for hybrids such as he and Saavik, a strict Vulcan path was not the only way. It was more than denying half of herself. If she lost herself in only being Vulcan, as he himself had once tried to do, he would miss the closeness they shared. A closeness based in understanding, not only the part of them that was Vulcan and not Vulcan, but the part of them that could not be separated into halves, the part of them where their traits mixed like their blood.

Saavik caught him watching her, and he realized he had been looking her up and down, searching for …

He turned, confused.

He had come here to settle the memories as he had with Jim, McCoy, and the others. But that had been easier. With Saavik, he had to settle the shadowy memories from Genesis.

Saavik wrapping his own robe about him, shielding him from the cold…

…and her brief touch on his cheek which he had returned, causing her to pause and her Vulcan mask to slip…

With the others, Genesis was only the brief burst from the physical contact of Jim picking him up as they beamed up to the Klingon ship; of McCoy touching his body and his katra jumping in recognition; and the doctor grabbing Saavik's arm and a jolt…

Like lightening and the thunder in the cave… Saavik's first two fingers pressed to his own, him collapsing into her arms, her mind brushing his, soothing… a relief, a caring touch, a haven…

"Spock?"

Her voice, her concern, stopped the whirl of memories, and brought him back to the present. He came here to talk and had lost himself in the very thing he wanted to discuss.

It wasnt as if he wasn't comfortable with her anymore. It was simply that so much had changed in so short a time. With the changes and memories were powerful… feelings, which, like the memories themselves, he had to get under control.

It hadn’t been any easier with Jim or McCoy. In fact, he hadn’t spoken of it with them either, just let their history settle into place. And with Saavik, how did he discuss those memories of…

Thunder… lightening… a cave… a storm… and a storm within… a haven…

He shook his head. How many times did his mother fondly tell him to "Grow up", a memory which, unfortunately, McCoy had now and brought up frequently.

It would be pleasant to not struggle with words, and, instead, enjoy this peaceful moment of watching the stars.

I will make it… and then you will not fly without me anymore.

Still, if he admitted to it, he would like to see one small sign, something he knew like the side-glances she was casting at him now as if she were trying to read his thoughts. Something to tie together past and present as Jim’s grin and McCoy’s jibes, their individual humor, had done.

From beside him came a low, soft growl as Hellguard's children were want to make the few times they were content.

He relaxed in the seat, put aside talk for now -- Grow up, Spock -- and settled into their harmony…

a haven.