Spock watched Saavik and their year old son, Setik, out in the snow. The boy was well bundled against the shocking cold, but even so, he burrowed into his mother’s thick coat, nestling his back against her chest. Obligingly, Saavik knelt down as he settled himself. Her dark red Starfleet parka, with a bit of Setik’s blue snowsuit peeping out, made a lively spot of color in the white snow, gray sky, and beautiful starkness of leafless trees and evergreens.

“I just pray to God the boy grows into those ears.”

McCoy stood on Spock's right, looking out through the same large picture window, frosted around its edges by chill and falling flakes. A cup of hot cider steamed in the old doctor’s hand. He blew on it before taking a careful sip, a shock of white hair dropping down.

“Really, Spock, look at them. Those barn doors on the side of his head have to be as big as yours, and the boy’s only what? One?”

McCoy knew very well how old his sa-fu-tél was so Spock made no answer, only returned to watching his wife and son out the window. Setik looked up into the falling, gentle storm, snowflakes catching in his dark hair as it did his mother’s, lighting on his black lashes and melting over his blue eyes. At least, Spock surmised that was what happened, based on his son’s furious bit of blinking. The words, “Close your inner eyelids, Setik,” nearly passed his lips, paternal instinct almost overriding the logic that his son couldn’t hear him.

Saavik leaned her head next to her child’s, their dark hair falling and mingling together, probably saying exactly what Spock nearly just did. Setik was born with a small, unusual birth defect. The nerves that controlled the clear, inner eyelids didn’t have the automatic response of other Vulcans. Luckily, the nerves did work, so the boy could close them, except it was a response he had to learn. Like now.

But instead of doing that – or maybe besides doing that – Setik ducked his head under his mother’s chin. He muttered something to her, and Saavik closed her coat’s seal around the two of them. And from this little cave where she formed his roof, his walls, and floor, he peeked out warm and secure, and triumphantly watched the white flakes fall down around him.

Intelligent boy, Spock admired.

“I mean, lookit him,” McCoy went on happily. “One good wind catches those ear sails, and he’s gone!”

Hardly.

Spock grew concerned over Saavik kneeling in the snow. Her insulated pants protected her, true, but they were not watertight. He thought he already saw damp spots growing around her knees. If that seeped through, she could get sick and…

As if she heard him, Saavik shifted to sitting on her haunches, and then went back to enjoying the distinctive silence of a snowfall in the wilderness.

“Spock,” McCoy said. His voice was warm. “Thank you.” He tapped on the window and Setik turned towards the sound. He bounced inside his mother’s coat at the sight of the doctor. A black gloved fist broke out into the open and reached toward the cabin. “It means a lot to me that you came here so I could show – well, I guess he’s too young for me to show him much – but so I had Setik here for Christmas. I still can’t believe someone thought of bringing my family together out here, but I’m actually looking forward to it... that’s old age for you. And the boy is…”

Spock supplied the rest of the sentence. “Setik is part of your family.”

The doctor smiled back at him, a smile that held some surprise as if McCoy had just figured that out for himself. “Yeah, yeah he is. Guess that’s what happens when you get mind-linked with a kid. But Christmas isn’t your holiday, so I appreciate you letting me share it. I know you’d show up sometimes when we had the parties on Enterprise, but that was different. You were there. But making time to come out here when Vulcan or the Federation probably needs you to go somewhere else, well… thanks.”

Spock stared down at his old friend. When he chose McCoy as Setik’s Sa-mekh-rá, a relationship that dated back before Surak and was practically non-existent now, he did so because of the man’s experience and wisdom. It made him a strong, human role model for Spock’s part human son. What he didn’t expect was the effect this relationship would have on McCoy himself.

“Setik is your sa-fu-tél,” he said. “Christmas is a part of your life as a human, just as Captain Uhura plans a trip with him to the Serengeti and the Festival of Living Treasures.” McCoy let out a long, satisfied sigh that Spock had to spoil. Naturally. “I will, however, call attention to the fact that she also seeks to understand the Vulcan implications of her role as she teaches Setik the song ‘Taa Mekh-rá Vutau’.”

McCoy grinned. “So what? So do I. Who plays Vulcan patty cake better than me?”

He meant the gestures that accompanied the song about a lost child, cut off from his parents, who calls out to the guardians his mother and father forged through House Alliance. In the chorus, Setik touched his hand from McCoy’s forehead to his own, followed by touching McCoy’s chest to his side. The motions were in time to the words:

For we are bound
Mind to mind
And heart to heart.

Spock raised an eyebrow, his voice dry. “It is not Vulcan patty cake.”

“Whatever. I like it… as long as I don’t have to sing by myself.”

“Doctor, we all prefer you do not sing.”

He was answered by some mysterious sound that was part snort and part laughter before the old human mimicked his precise speech pattern. “May I remind you that you insisted I teach it in English after you said I was – let me make sure I’m quoting you directly – committing a crime against an ancient culture by butchering its language with my accent.”

“I stand corrected.”

McCoy chuckled into his cup as they went back to gazing out the window. The lights and ornaments from the decorated tree in the corner reflected in the glass, and splashed bright spots on the doctor’s dark green sweater and Spock’s indigo tunic. The tree was real and potted to be planted outside after the holiday. McCoy made sure of that after Setik asked why his Sa-mekh-rá would kill a living plant for the sake of a custom. At least, that’s how Spock translated his son’s infant speech and McCoy protested the translation was slanted.

“You know,” the doctor said after a moment. “You’re a lucky bastard.”

“My parents were married at the time of my conception and birth.”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it.”

Spock nodded, now answering the earlier comment about his life’s fortunes. “I know.”

“Maybe if I had waited to get married and be a father until a few years ago, I’d have done it right.”

“I am gratified by the sentiment. However, I must point out, human physiology would make it difficult for you to conceive a child at your age. Although, there have been instances--”

“Don’t you lecture me on human physiology.”

“I would not lecture if you would not make illogical statements.”

McCoy snorted. “Always told Jim you were impossible to talk to.”

The fire in the old fashioned stone fireplace popped and crackled, its pleasant aroma filling the room and mixing with the spice from McCoy’s drink and the live pine. The warmth from both the heat and the combination of dark and light natural colors made for a picturesque setting with the snow and forest outside. Joanna McCoy had done well by her father’s specifications for a vacation retreat.

McCoy broke the quiet. “I’m worried about her.”

Spock’s eyebrows drew together. Since Joanna was so recently in his mind, he almost asked about her, but McCoy could not have known his thoughts. “To whom do you refer?”

“Saavik.”

That was an even more surprising answer. He waited to see why it was said.

McCoy didn’t take his eyes off the two figures outside. “Is she okay? And don’t give me some stock answer. She’s been through a lot lately – that last battle with the Armstrong defending that colony alone, then everybody pointing fingers at each other, ending with this reassignment on top of it. Is she all right?”

Saavik shifted Setik’s weight, and Spock wondered how much longer could she sit on her heels. “She is adjusting.”

“I said no stock answers. I take it by your silence that you’re worried too. Don’t bother saying worry is an emotion and therefore illogical.”

Spock remembered standing in the colony’s command center as the comm officer shouted to his CO, “Armstrong reports that the last strike hit the bridge! Repeat! Their captain and first officer are down!” And Spock learned the definition of helplessness.

“It was a difficult situation. Saavik did what she thought she had to do. She is, despite your protest, Doctor, adjusting well to her new assignment. In fact, she does so more rapidly than I originally estimated. She even finds the advantages to it. She will be studying Taelonon’s new practices at the Science Academy.”

“The Academy got Taelonon to teach?”

“With the stipulation that he chooses the group. It is not so much a class as further development of his practices. They will present their findings next year.”

McCoy whistled. “Damn, even I’m jealous of that. You must be eating out your liver wishing you could be in that group.” But his expression made it clear he still didn’t like the basic situation. He sipped his drink and stared at the woman outside. “Saavik at a desk job. That only sounds a bit less ridiculous than Jim Kirk at a desk job.”

Spock silently agreed, but Saavik had been adamant about accepting the post. “It is not a desk job, Doctor. She is second in command of all Starfleet forces assigned to Vulcan. That includes all ships and personnel guarding the planet itself, the Customs division for ingoing and outgoing traffic, and security for diplomatic missions. Not to mention—“

“Bull! Vulcan, for all its importance to the Federation, is too quiet a place for Starfleet Command to take the commander there seriously. It’s a job they give somebody who’s marking time to a safe retirement or someone they’re pissed at. Saavik’s in the second category. She got made a scapegoat for some idiot on the station who got himself killed because he refused to evacuate his quarters when he was told to!”

It was the same wing where Spock and Setik had been temporarily housed while they rendezvoused with Saavik. When she had later burst into the command center, covered with blood that was both hers and Howes’, she had the announcement about the housing wing being hit heavy in her mind. As he had the announcement about injuries to the Armstrong’s first officer heavy in his.

However, despite his own thoughts, Spock refused to give in to what McCoy was saying, realizing he did it because Saavik refused to do so herself. “She was specifically chosen by the current commander to change the position from what you just mentioned. Already she works with the High Command--”

“Yeah, yeah, and she’s to be bumped up to Commander of Vulcan Starfleet Forces with the rank of captain when the current guy retires.” McCoy stressed the word hard. “Good for her. But it’s a glorified desk job.”

“She will not allow it to remain so.”

“I bet she won’t. I’m still worried about her. I think she should have fought it.”

She was going to when Starfleet Command pulled the trump card. “They would have blamed Captain Howes for the death if she had.”

Especially since the Starfleet tribunal wasn’t sure who was in command of the Armstrong when the victim died. The time was too nebulous to pinpoint exactly, falling into the gray area of Howes’ injuries causing his removal to Sickbay, and Saavik rising from her own injuries to take over the captain’s chair.

McCoy’s temper turned his face a mottled red. “If this dead guy wasn’t married to some big wheel that threatened chewing out Starfleet in the press, nobody would pussyfoot around about saying he got himself killed! Instead, somebody else had to take the blame. I still can’t believe Command sunk so low by giving in to that!”

Neither could Spock. But once Command threatened her captain, Saavik took the fabricated charge on herself.

McCoy’s tirade spluttered down into a tired worry. “She never told Howes, did she?”

“No.”

“Did Command at least keep their promise not to blot her service record with this crap?”

“As agreed, it is a silent accord between Saavik, Starfleet Command, and the victim’s—” so hard to say that word when the dead man was a victim of no one but himself. Even for a Vulcan who valued life – or perhaps because he was a Vulcan who valued truth. “—family that she is not to be given a ship’s assignment for an unspecified amount of time. The victim’s wife took this as suitable punishment, seeing it as Saavik being unable to command another mission where civilians might be killed. The woman was not told Saavik was given an authoritative position in Starfleet.”

Saavik refused to let him interfere, but Command had sweated knowing they couldn’t give in to the prosecution’s demands that Saavik be completely stripped of rank and commission. She was a good officer with a strong service record; still, they might have done it if she didn’t have a powerful family by marriage herself. Not that she ever brought it up, but Starfleet knew. Spock would not keep quiet about so harsh an undeserved punishment. And neither would Sarek.

As it was, San Francisco shook under McCoy’s wrath, and rumor had it the responsible admirals were scurrying out of Uhura and Sulu’s way.

“And you think,” the doctor still argued, turning his frustration once more on Spock, “that she’s adjusting from all that?”

Outside, Setik squirmed so Saavik unsealed her parka. He sunk to his hips in the snow with his first step, and she plucked him out, carrying him towards the house.

“It is what,” Spock answered quietly, “she tells me.”

McCoy said nothing more, and instead gave an understanding nod. Almost comically, he smoothed his features into a casual expression when Saavik came in the door, and bent down with his arms open for the toddling Setik. Like most children with easier, sedate temperaments, the Vulcan boy was late with his motor-development skills, such as walking. But also true to type, his social skills were ahead of schedule, so long ago he learned things like eye-to-eye contact. He made it now with McCoy as he tottered step by step, fighting for balance with the thick, insulated suit that made walking difficult. Snow dropped from his boots onto the hardwood floor and matching dark brown area rug, but the doctor didn’t seem to care.

“How’s my godson, huh? Didn’t I tell you that you’d like snow? It’s in your blood, boy. Buried somewhere underneath that desert sand running through your veins.” He pushed back Setik’s hood that his mother had covered him with once he left the security of her coat. “Of course, it might snow somewhere in the Romulan Empire so we’re killing two birds with one stone here.”

Spock waited, even McCoy poised for some protest from Saavik over that comment, but she only shook her hair clear of melting snow, and tucked the locks behind her ears.

Her quietness bothered Spock, ever since it began when she left the Armstrong crew. The long discussions he used to enjoy with her were something he had to force out of her now, and he didn’t want that.

Still, some of the tightness was gone from around her eyes and mouth, and she seemed less tired. Maybe this break would work after all.

She heals at her own pace. I cannot do it for her.

Spock half-heard the crumpling of Setik touching the wrapped packages under the tree. McCoy sat on one of the two facing fawn colored couches perpendicular to the fireplace. To see the child, the doctor had to sit at an end close to the roaring fire. That went against the purpose of laying the room out the way it was. The cabin was kept at a pleasant temperature suitable for McCoy since it was better for the Vulcans to bundle up than make the human sweat at their temperature. But the fire was kept high, making – as the doctor put it – a “pocket Forge” that enclosed the area right in front of it and half the couches. McCoy usually sat at one of the other ends where it was cooler.

But then he couldn’t lecture Setik about the tree and presents. “Now this is about the secular part of Christmas. Ask your dad what secular means, he enjoys that sort of thing. And when you’re older, I’ll tell you about the time your mother got mistaken for an elf--”

Saavik was peeling her gloves off, so Spock stopped listening to McCoy before he missed his chance to ask her, “Would you indulge your husband by walking in the snow with him?”

He was just admiring the attractive soft green flush on her cheeks from the cold, and the way her eyes crinkled at the corners from his suggestion when Setik shattered the moment.

“Atahya!”

He was staring at his mother, his eyes wide and fearful, and his mouth issuing fretful sounds. He tried hurrying around the furniture to reach her, stumbling, but still moving faster than the stunned adults adjusting to his outburst.

He grabbed one of Saavik’s hands in his own, fussing in Vulcan, “K’lay!”

McCoy reached Setik’s side and looked up at the two equally concerned parents. He frowned both over what was happening and translating the words. Setik usually didn’t say something until he knew how to pronounce it, but he still had trouble with guttural stops and the odd habit of not using the k sound in the middle of words. In fact, he seldom used words, his vocabulary usually being gestures and different pitched squeals. Spock was about to interpret when McCoy got it. “Why do you think your mom’s hurt, boy?”

In answer, Setik held up Saavik’s hand and then glanced up again at her, begging, “Nirsh, Me’ina. Nirsh!”

Spock heard his son pleading with Saavik to please not be hurt while he looked at his wife’s hands. Setik rarely showed any extreme emotion, usually going about at his quiet pace. What set the boy off? Saavik was as confused as Spock because she was fine. She took Setik’s hands, accidentally dropping the gloves she had just removed and they fell with a soft splat, painting the floor with a soggy smear. She glanced up at Spock, understanding dawning in her eyes, but his eyebrows only clamped together as he tried to figure it out.

He took a quick look at the damp gloves that had triggered something for her. She didn’t have her Starfleet issued pair and made do with the cloth ones McCoy had conjured up for her. Snow and cold leaked through them, but they were better than nothing. Her hands were tinged green like her cheeks, nose, and ear tips.

Spock at last understood. Saavik was crouching down in front of their son when he explained to McCoy quickly, “It is the flush from the cold. Setik believes she is bleeding.”

When Saavik had come into the colony’s command center after the Armstrong’s battle to save it, Setik had snuck out of bed and, unknown to his parents, had seen her bloodstained from her injuries. Now with her uniform parka and blood tinted skin, the boy relived that moment.

McCoy asked in a near whisper, “Is this what you were telling me about?”

Spock nodded. Seeing Saavik hurt had distressed the small child, making him literally cling to her. He had grown frantic if someone tried to separate them. He had finally settled down with Saavik home and healthy for a long stretch of time, and now this.

“Well now,” McCoy said to Setik, his voice boisterous and confident, “there’s nothing wrong with your mom! She’s just a little cold from being outside, that’s all. Here, watch!”

With a glance of warning, he took Saavik’s hand and began to rub it briskly between his. After a moment, he stopped and held her hand tightly in the comparable warmth of his, then repeated the procedure with her other hand, back and forth between them. The whole while he gave a generalized lecture on why skin changed color in the cold and how it had nothing to do with being hurt. Most of the words meant nothing to Setik, but the soothing tone and basic, often-repeated phrases that he could understand sunk in.

Saavik patiently underwent the treatment, and Spock could tell from her concentration that she was speeding up the blood delivery to her hands, warming them faster, while trying to shield her mind from the psi-points in her fingers being repeatedly touched.

“So it’s just a natural reaction, nobody hurt,” McCoy repeated. “See, there you go! All warmed up and fine.”

He held up Saavik’s hand in triumph and Setik turned it over and over, poking it and inspecting her carefully. She murmured to him and brushed away his frown lines with her fingertips. Spock knelt next to him, and McCoy backed off to leave the child with his parents, but Setik grabbed at his pants leg and kept him close.

Spock noted that, but put it aside for the moment. He took over stroking Setik’s forehead and down to his cheek. His son was too young for psi development and the mental disciplines, so it was up to his parents to send the calming flow into his overwhelming emotions.

With the upheaval over, Setik pulled at Saavik to follow him back to the enticing tree. She darted a wry glance at Spock. “I believe our walk is postponed.”

He in turn gave his son a pointed, dark look that only fell on an uncaring target.

As he sat down, he and Saavik now taking the couch ends near the fire, McCoy cleared his throat.

“Uh, I couldn’t help but overhear what you just said, about the walk. That leads to something I was going to ask. Joanna and a few others in the family are coming in tonight, but they’re staying in town to pick up some things for tomorrow. They’re going to the midnight mass tonight and asked if I wanted to come. Now, we’re not a big church going family, but a midnight mass on Christmas Eve… I haven’t done that in years. The thing is… I want to take Setik. I’m not looking to convert him or push something on him, but he’ll like the lights and colors, and if I’m going to show him Christmas, then I should—“

Saavik interrupted this run-on sentence. Her right arm leaned against the back of the couch with her fingers threading into her hair as she supported her head. She looked across to where McCoy sat on Spock’s left, and her voice dropped an octave with a touch of a whisper. Spock wondered if this was the old stillness brought back by Setik’s outburst, or was she only relaxing and answering McCoy’s unspoken question softly.

”Doctor, no one is arguing with you. If Setik remains calm and will leave without me, by all means, let him accompany you. Spock and I appreciate the time alone you are offering.”

McCoy blew out a big pent-up breath. “Well…” He grinned. “I was going to invite you two, and you’re still welcome to come if you want.”

Spock couldn’t believe McCoy’s relief. The child grows so important to him, he actually feared we would refuse his request.

He left it as an unspoken thought and looked across at his wife. “I have already seen such a service. If you prefer to attend--”

She was already shaking her head. “I have attended one in the past as well.”

An eyebrow rose. “Indeed? When?”

“With Amanda, forty two point zero one three years ago. I believe Doctor McCoy is correct. The atmosphere of the people along with the setting’s color and music will attract Setik’s interest.”

Spock agreed, but hearing Amanda’s name caught him more. “My mother took you to a Christmas service? I do not recall you ever mentioning it before.”

Saavik leaned her head further back on her arm, and her forehead furrowed. The lights from the tree behind her threw slashes of color in her hair’s thick layers. “I did not realize I never told you. It happened in the years when you and I were not speaking.” That dark time when Valeris and Cartwright split them apart. “So I would not talk of it then. Afterwards, I suppose, I did not think to mention it.”

So her frown was only her puzzlement in not bringing up the experience before, not remembered hurt over their unsettling separation. That was too many years behind them.

Saavik’s forehead smoothed at the tender memory. “I was near Earth, and Amanda asked that I meet her for the service. As I was curious, I agreed.” A decided glint entered her eyes. “She stood next to me and sang loudly in my ear. I told her if she continued to do so, I would sustain a 2.15% hearing loss.”

Spock pictured how Amanda must have looked up at Saavik’s comment, the blue eyes sparkling with a smile that didn’t need to reach her lips. “She most likely told you she could not control her volume when she loved a song.”

McCoy suddenly chuckled, and Saavik turned to him in silent question. But Spock answered. “Dr. McCoy has the same problem. Captain Kirk often put a buffer of three or more people between them on such occasions.”

The doctor laughed a bit more. “He’d even tell people he didn’t know me. So it’s settled then. If the magnetic field gluing Setik to Saavik can be broken, I’ll take him with me. Joanna is just going to eat him up.”

Miraculously, once it was explained to him what was going on, Setik had no problem with going with his Sa-mekh-rá sans parents. As long as, they finally figured out, Saavik did not leave the cabin. For some reason only logical in the child’s mind, his mother was safe if she stayed indoors.

So much later, after Setik took a nap in preparation for the late night -- McCoy too – Spock and Saavik were alone for the next hour. They took their postponed walk, in direct defiance of their son’s orders, keeping their torchlights off in favor of the moon on the white landscape. Their booted feet on the softly packed snow made hardly any sound to break the silence. The crisp, clean air swept through each breath with cold refreshment, although Spock asked if it stung Saavik’s more sensitive sense of smell. They talked of little things only important to them, as couples were wont to do, such as Setik wanting to bring his sehlat, Ko-Kan, along leading to McCoy’s fear that “the boy’s going to try to pet a grizzly, I just know it”. They amused themselves about what it would be like to face a roomful of Leonard McCoy’s extended family the next day until they reached another clearing. The rebuilt wilderness framed a sparkling night sky, and inevitably Saavik’s head lifted towards to it. Spock stayed by her side, silent, watching peace sweep over her features. Her stars, given to her by T’Pren.

And taken away by Starfleet Command?

Saavik shifted her position as she always did, her eyes finding unerringly one point in the sky. Her fingers brushed against Spock’s palm, and he followed the path of her gaze to Vulcan. They stayed that way a moment, and then he dropped his eyes back to her. The same calm, the same ownership… if Hellguard could not separate the stars and Saavik from each other, a new Starfleet assignment never would.

At least, that was his wish.

She tugged on his hand, walking back in their footsteps so as not to ruin the pristine white ground any further. The cold was hardening the top layer and their footsteps made deep, muffled crunches. She brought up Spock’s next mission, and he asked for her opinion on the situation, the discussion lasting all the way back to the cabin. Just as the stone and timber house came into sight, its windows spilling warm, yellow light in slanted squares on the ground, Spock brought up her work. More importantly, all the decisions she made recently, wondering if she wished differently now.

His Vulcan eyesight, bred for a moonless world, saw her face clearly in the shadows, but more importantly he heard her light tone. “Have you ever known me to be capricious when making decisions?”

Hearing her good humor after a long, shared conversation made this entire trip worth it for Spock. But he kept recalling McCoy’s concern… and his own. “Never. However, if you do prefer things differently, it is not too late.”

Her light tone only grew. “Some of my decisions, Husband, are rather too far along to be changed.”

She opened the door, and at the same time, closed one on their discussion. She asked him to build a new fire while she shrugged out of her coat and other outdoor gear. When he turned back from the fireplace, he found her making herself a comfortable nest right behind him. An excess of overstuffed, large black pillows laid about the room, and she took these along with the red, black jagged striped blanket to lie out close to the fire. She sat up against a cushion leaning on a couch end and read from a padd. He checked her trouser legs and socked feet for dampness from their walk in the snow. She told him, with more emphasis to entertain herself than he thought necessary, that he shouldn’t be like his son and think her so fragile, no matter the circumstances.

Spock peeked at the antique clock on the mantle, making sure it matched his own time sense; McCoy should return with Setik in fifteen minutes. He settled down on the couch above her head with the preliminary reports for his next mission. At one point, he glanced at the text in her hand and noticed with something akin to envy that she wasn’t working, but reading a Terran seafaring novel. A gift from Captain Howes, most likely. Another sign that she yearned for a life back out in deep space again? He barely spoke the question when the comm station chimed. He answered it.

“Spock!” McCoy was outside on a street with a surprising number of people bustling in the background for such a small town at this time of night. “We’re talking about poking around here for awhile. They have a bunch of things going on, caroling and a candlelight procession… But it’ll be a few hours before I get back. Is that okay?”

“Setik—“

“Sound asleep. Wait.” McCoy turned and called out to someone behind him. A large man, his exposed face the color of walnut, grinned and brought his sleeping bundle closer to the comm station. Setik was completely out. “He’s having a ball.”

For old time’s sake, Spock almost asked how his son could give birth to anything, let alone a ball, but McCoy didn’t give him the chance.

“You can see he’s got everyone wrapped around his finger. I haven’t had to pick him up once.”

That was a relief. The boy’s denser Vulcan weight made him too much for the older McCoy to carry for long.

“I’m figuring he’ll be up the second he hears the carolers though. And I promised to take him to the big tree here, but I can always do that tomorrow. So what do you say, Spock? Do you want us back?”

Spock easily converted the Terran time to Vulcan, and confirmed his suspicion. To Setik, it wasn’t much past his usual bedtime at home. He had napped and McCoy would never do anything unhealthy for the child.

“Enjoy your evening, Doctor. It is, after all, your vacation.”

McCoy smiled. “I’m retired, Spock. Every day is a vacation. How’s Saavik?”

“She is—” Glancing to his left, he saw his wife had obviously overheard the conversation. She had put aside her padd and spread out her nest to fit someone next to her. She crooked her finger at him, her expression lustrous with something he easily recognized. He managed to keep his tone even. “—quite well.”

“Good. Then I’ll see you in a few hours.”

Spock turned back. Saavik was slowly rising and coming towards him, pulling him towards the cozy bed she had made. Obviously, she had some other physical activity besides talking in mind, while he wanted to finish getting the answers he sought. It clearly would come down to who was more determined to have their way.

He lost.

Afterwards, he admitted he hadn’t fought her off very hard. If he had, Saavik would have stopped as she did any time she saw he lacked interest. In fact, not only didn’t he resist for any length of time, he readily gave in when she asked him to rub the tense lines running along her neck. She leaned into the touch, rolling into his palms. His argument about where their focus should lie died out as he eased his fingers into her thick hair and massaged her scalp, his thumbs circling her temples. Her lips parted as he caressed down past her ears, stroking the pressure points right behind them, then the curve of her ear up to the soft, pointed tip back down to the lobe. The shields around her mind opened for him, and she washed across his senses. He went adrift in her, that part of her taken and put into his mind when they bonded responding to her mental presence, leaping across the bond and taking him to her. The part of him in her answered, and they became immersed fully in the other. Like the securing points of the bond itself, they became a unique being that was Saavik/Spock with only small tendrils anchoring them into individuals. He felt his warm touch through her skin, both soothing and exhilarating. Smelled through her enhanced sense the different scents of his skin and hair mixing with hers, and blending into the layers of firewood. Felt as she lived through his hands her textures of silken skin and smooth muscle. They tasted their new mental colors and shades as well as everything so deeply familiar. He experienced her new makeup formed from the lost Armstrong and the court martial, just as they both bore the wonderful lesson learned in a hard way of how much they clung to the life in each other.

Through this came a rising breeze circling their joined minds, a surprising waft of Saavik’s purpose and acceptance for her new place on Vulcan. Why? he almost asked, but the bonding was too enticing and carried them out of conscious thought. She arched under his one hand as it raked lightly up her spine and rewarded him by capturing in her mouth each fingertip, one by one, on the hand that still cupped her face. Her lips, tongue, and teeth caressed his sensitive skin teasing him into a sharp, ardent current that sparked everywhere along his body. He was hers.

So he did not mind that he lost.

They didn’t sleep, but lay entwined afterward, basking in their glow and staying linked to enjoy the lingering physical affects. At last, he turned her so she was spooned against him and they said nothing except with slight touches and wordless murmurs. He raised himself up on one arm so he could look down on her. He kept her closest to the fire, taking the cool room on his back rather than hers. Her hair smelled of the flames’ wood aroma, and their arms lay together on top of the blanket. They had turned out all the lights, even the tree, and kept to the familiar glow of the fire. It still burned high enough and she was safely close to its heat that he felt no qualm in pulling away the blanket to watch the flickers of light and shadow on her skin. His fingers played in idle patterns on her belly as he did ever since she was pregnant with Setik. She stretched languidly under his touch and he paused to enjoy the display, then stroked her again, shoulder to hip so she’d arc under his hand again. Her eyelids lowered halfway, and he thought she might drop off to sleep. He considered going up to their bedroom, but it shared the same common thermostat with the rest of the cabin and lacked a fireplace. The warmest, best place for them was right here until McCoy came back.

She must have sensed this through their lingering mental touch. “We will lose our privacy in an hour.” Her voice was throaty.

He shivered suddenly, a draft coming from somewhere and striking his shoulders. She rolled onto her back, and tucked the blanket up higher on him, laying him down level with her. He toyed with her tousled hair, gently running the tendrils through his fingers.

“Saavik,” he whispered, “You never answered—”

Her fingers came down with firm, gentle pressure on his lips, silencing him. We have so many opportunities for that discussion, adun, he heard her murmur into his mind. We have precious little time alone remaining to us tonight. The problem with involved careers and becoming parents so soon in their marriage: little time alone. Do not use it inefficiently. Her lips parting in the small smile was a warm wave of mental laughter. She caressed his cheek with hers, stroking their psi-points together in a favorite gesture of hers, before burrowing against his neck in her favorite spot. Her breathing evened.

He lost again.

Spock decided he used to win more arguments before becoming a husband. Saavik and their son seemed to barrel over him whenever they pleased. When had he lost control?

The next second shattered the mood as Saavik was bolt upright next to him, and they exchanged suddenly wide-awake glances. Outside came the unmistakable sound of a transport containing an elderly doctor coming back too soon.

McCoy greeted Spock in a loud stage whisper when he saw the Vulcan in the doorway. “Hello!” He finished struggling to get out of the car. “I thought I’d better get the boy back. He was starting to fuss. Too much time away from you too soon, probably. After that scare he had this afternoon.”

The same dark man Spock saw before carried a sleeping Setik out of the car. The boy lolled boneless in the man’s grasp while a young woman of medium build came along carrying packages. He stepped aside so she could enter.

“You can put those inside by the tree,” McCoy instructed. Spock watched him take in the room with everything properly in its place and both adult Vulcans equally presentable. The doctor gave Spock a look of disgust. “I thought you two might be upstairs,” he whispered pointedly.

Spock looked back over his shoulder to his wife who met this comment with mocking raised eyebrows. Decades of responding to red alerts had paid off. He thought he saw Saavik’s mouth just barely curl on one side. “Unnecessary. We were quite comfortable down here.”

“That’s not the point. Stupid Vulcans... Can’t figure out what being left alone means!” In a more normal volume, McCoy introduced the young woman with dark brown hair hustling around the room putting down the bags. “Spock, Saavik, this is my cousin, somewhere around eight times removed, Deá Gritzelli. And that’s her fiancé, Roger Zhao, carrying Setik. Dee, these are my friends that I told you about.”

The woman’s big smile and blue eyes were all McCoy as she greeted them. “It’s so good to finally meet you two. I admire your courage facing this mob. I almost didn’t come and it’s my family! Somewhere around eight times removed.” McCoy snorted and Deá winked at him before turning back. “We’ll get a chance to talk more tomorrow. In the meantime, I think this is yours.”

Setik was being carried in the door, and Spock took him. The boy woke up enough to see who had him and then look back bleary eyed at his previous carrier. “Herini,” he barely murmured and was out again.

McCoy was sitting down and pulling off his boots. “Oh, yeah. We’ve got a little miscommunication going on. Apparently, Setik thinks anyone with Uhura’s skin tone and rounded ears speaks Swahili.”

Roger’s white smile gleamed in his dark face. “And I don’t know a word.” His voice held a strong accent Spock couldn’t identify, except that it wasn’t African. “He’s a wonderful kid. Taught me a lot.”

“We should go,” Dea said. She dropped a kiss on McCoy’s forehead. “See you tomorrow, Uncle Len. Or later today actually. Merry Christmas.”

Roger leaned over the sleeping boy. “G’night, Setik. It’s been educational. Uh… asante sana.” He only got a sleepy noise in return, which made him grin again. He waved good-bye and followed Dea out.

McCoy called from the door, “Thanks again for bringing me home, you two! Careful driving back. “ He watched the lights trail off in the distance, and then turned back into the house.

Spock was taking Setik upstairs when he heard behind him, “Stupid, dense Vulcans.”

Bright sunlight bounced off the snow outside and streamed in through the windows when Spock came downstairs in the morning. The brightness dimmed the effect of the tree lights. No fire was lit yet, which Spock had suspected, smoothing his dove gray tunic over a black insulated shirt. He thought briefly of their trip from Vulcan when they first put Setik into long sleeves and thicker pants. The boy never wore such heavy clothing before and found it restrictive. He had stared at his parents in bewilderment, clearly asking why he needed to be tormented this way.

Surprisingly, Spock heard McCoy’s voice in the kitchen talking to -- most likely -- Saavik since she was missing from their bedroom. He hadn’t checked the doctor’s because he figured his friend would be sleeping in after his long night.

When will I learn not to make deductions regarding Leonard McCoy’s behavior?

The doctor could be heard before Spock got halfway down the steps. “What kind of sadistic woman makes her kid wait to open his presents this late on Christmas?”

And then Saavik’s voice, heavy with forced patience, “Doctor, Setik does not know any different, and will never know any different unless you force your attitude on him.”

“What are you talking about? He can’t stand waiting, look at him!”

Spock rounded the corner of the stairs and was able to see Setik sitting quite peacefully in McCoy’s lap, carelessly playing with some game. He glanced up at his Sa-mekh-rá and then dismissed the adults in favor of his toy.

McCoy suddenly changed the subject, smirking as he hugged the boy. “He’s got my eyes, you know.”

The patience in Saavik’s voice thinned. “It is Amanda’s shade of blue, as you well know. And as I have told you previously, I have a sufficient number of rumors surrounding my life. Your adding one by suggesting Setik has inherited your genetic characteristics helps not at all.”

McCoy’s open mouth went from giving her a blistering reply to remarking on Spock entering the light blue and gray kitchen. “It’s about time! Now Setik can get into his gifts.”

Saavik, dressed equally warm in a black sweater, flashed her eyes on her husband, clearly passing over all McCoy debates to him. He nodded. “Doctor, I thought we were waiting for your family to arrive.”

“He’s a kid, stop torturing him! If I had known, Spock, that you were going to sleep the day away—“

“I worked the remainder of the early morning after you retired to bed. I have only been asleep for the past two hours to arrive at what you call the late hour of 8:00 am. Moreover, I believe it is you who feels tortured, Doctor, not Setik.”

“Well,” came the grumbled reply, “who wouldn’t feel tortured with you two killjoys around? At least let him open one, for Christ sakes!”

“Is it not considered blasphemous to curse in that manner? Especially on this holiday?”

On closer look, Spock saw Saavik wore his black sweater, obviously keeping with the theme that started after their wedding. Her robe was accidentally packed with his things while his got left behind in her ship's cabin. She confessed later she found the mistake something she wanted to keep, since wearing his robe wrapped his scent around her. He could have called her illogical since they were bonded, always touching even when parted, and after all, he couldn't wear her robe. But by packing it, her scent had drifted on to his clothes, so he thought of the whole thing in the same light as she did. When numerous cleanings removed that important personal smell, she traded for his new robe the next time they met and were separated. Apparently, his black sweater now took the place of that.

McCoy was glaring at him as he put Setik on his feet. “Go get one of your presents, boy. You know, one of the boxes I showed you, choose any one you want. Bring it here. I’m telling you, Spock, you’re going to ruin this kid if you keep—now look at that! He’s bringing me a tricorder, you already got him programmed to be your little science officer! For the love of—oh wait, it’s mine.”

Spock raised an eyebrow in a clear message of “See?”

McCoy barked, “Don’t get so smug. He just doesn’t know the difference.”

Saavik’s eyes narrowed, but before she could utter one word in maternal defense of her child’s intelligence, Setik pulled out the detachable Feinberger and pushed it into McCoy’s hand. Both his parents gave mocking glances to the doctor who had the grace to look chagrined.

“I still wouldn’t get cocky, you two,” he said. “The boy can’t walk across the floor without falling down at least once. Now why in hell did he bring me this?”

Spock finally took a seat at the table, pulling out the cushioned metal chair across from McCoy and on the right of where Saavik sat on the end. He could smell the spiced tea in the mug wrapped in her hands. “You told him to bring you a box of his choosing. Obviously, your tricorder is his choice.”

“Yeah, but why? When all those packages were in there?”

Setik shoved at McCoy’s hand with the Feinberger until he pointed it at Saavik. Giving his Sa-mekh-rá encouraging nods and noises, he slapped at the tricorder’s front, but it refused to come alive with any information. He picked it up awkwardly in his small hands and squealed at the old human.

McCoy glanced between Spock and Saavik’s faces, frowning just as much as they were. “Let’s go over what happened on that colony again, all right? Setik sneaks out of bed and follows Spock to the command center with anyone who sees him thinking someone else is going to get him. But they don’t, and he hides under a console. Saavik walks in, bleeding, sees you, Spock, and then what? You two see the boy?”

They both shook their heads, their eyes not leaving the child in McCoy’s lap. Spock answered, “Not immediately. Our attention was not drawn to him until—” In his mind, the sequence of events from that day raced by: Saavik coming in the door, the blood on her skin and darkening her uniform; the solid feel of her in his hands reassuring him even as he opened her jacket, checking to see how much of her emerald blood was spilled. She started telling him I am well when— He glanced sharply at her across the kitchen table. “Saavik collapsed against me. I caught her before she fell.”

McCoy’s eyes went wide. “You collapsed?” he asked Saavik.

Her head came up and her mouth, which was about to drink, thinned in response to his words. “I had suffered injuries and blood loss, not to mention—“

“I wasn’t criticizing. I just didn’t know. All right, what happened then?”

Setik picked that moment to look at her, holding up the tricorder, waving it in her direction. Her scowl disappeared, and the warmth in her return gaze and her small nod reassured him he was on the right path. He began punching the tricorder’s controls with his fingers again.

“Dr. Rhys approached me,” she answered McCoy.

That cleared everyone’s remaining confusion. The doctor switched on the Feinberger and its whir made the boy glance up with a happy peep. “With his magic tricorder, right?”

Spock watched his son snuggle up to McCoy’s chest and wait for the rest of the miraculous box to work. “Setik made a noise as Dr. Rhys arrived. I found him under the console and brought him out as the doctor led Saavik away.”

McCoy was watching him watch Setik. “And when she comes back, she’s all better. Clean uniform and all, I bet.” Saavik nodded. “Then yesterday, she looks like she’s hurt all over again, and I supply the fix this time.”

Spock remembered Setik grabbing the doctor’s, not his father’s, pant leg, keeping him close by… in case Saavik was still hurt. He remembered being as small as his son and thinking Sarek was this large, immortal figure capable of all miracles. Only the slight tightening in his jaw betrayed the thought that Setik learned too early his father wasn’t the hero who could put things right all the time.

“Then this morning,” McCoy continued, “the boy finds my magic box and I’m supposed to wave it at Mom and make sure all is right with the world. So now we know his thinking. Dad is Mr. Invincible who doesn’t get hurt, but catches Mom when she does. Saavik can be further comforted in her vulnerable role that when she is hurt, she is so important that the universe brakes to a screeching halt until one of the wonderful Fix-Mom people like me shows up. At least we all know our places.”

Two pairs of blue eyes peered at Spock, but he focused on the younger set. He remembered the feel of Saavik collapsing into him, holding her for that eternity of three seconds until Rhys arrived, and then yesterday, when his son shouted she was hurt, Spock’s hand naturally going around her waist and resting in the small of her back.

Illogical to grasp at a chance to be large again in his son’s sight. He was who he was, and he was nothing less because he was not a doctor. But the hero worship in those eyes, hooded like his own but with Amanda’s color, aimed at him for being so indestructible… how could it hurt that Setik learned his parents’ fallibilities later in life?

He met the older pair, his old friend and a fellow father, and they shared an understanding.

McCoy gave the slightest smile before straightening in his chair, adjusting Setik’s weight. “Okay, so the next course of action is giving Saavik a follow-up exam so little bitty pointed ears can rest easy on their pillow tonight. Let me see that tricorder, boy. I’m going to teach you all the tricks of the trade. We’ll just turn this on and—”

Saavik raised questioning eyebrows to Spock. He knew what was coming as much as she did. With a minute shake of his head, they let McCoy find out for himself.

“Now these,” he was saying, “are her normal biosigns.” Setik stretched to get a peek at the monitor, and it was lowered to his level. “This is respiratory –that’s your breathing, boy. You know, breathing.” He demonstrated. “Then her temperature which you can tell by this number here is also normal, and then we go down to the abdomen for the heart rate…” For one second, the only sounds in the room came from the medical tricorder until Saavik decided to stop waiting and sipped from her mug. McCoy snapped out of it. “Put that tea down and stand up.”

Spock leaned forward, folding his hands on the table. “Even if she were to do so, you would still read more than one heartbeat, Doctor.”

A slow smile split the aged face wiping years from it. “Is this my Christmas present? You kept this as a secret to tell me?”

Spock cocked an eyebrow. “We waited for the proper moment to tell you. It is not, however, your present.”

“Wait a minute! When I left you two alone last night--”

Saavik cut him off in a tone only slightly above the one she used to reprimand Setik. “I was pregnant before we left Vulcan, Doctor, as you supposedly know from your medical degree. A fetal heart does not beat until the third week of gestation.”

He grimaced. “Do you have to make it sound like one of your pet science projects? Even with the genetic soup that goes into your children.” He gave the lie to this disdain by dropping a kiss on Setik’s head. “At least get your facts straight. Hearts beat in the fourth week.”

“In humans perhaps. In Vulcans, it is the third. The end of the second, beginning of the third actually. The baby’s last scan was done on the first day of the third week and the heart was already beating.”

McCoy dropped his chin into his hand. “The baby, did you say? I did hear you right, didn’t I?” he drawled. He glanced over at Spock. “Then I have an unknown fact for the king and queen of all medical knowledge.” He asked Setik if he could ‘borrow’ back the tricorder and banged it down so it faced them. “Not one baby, my dears, but two.”

Three lines of peaks and valleys danced across the small screen: Saavik’s and two more rapid paced trails below hers.

Spock barely realized he was mindlessly quoting, “Multiple births are extremely rare for Vulcans. The odds against it are...” His mind wouldn’t work to calculate the number or even pull it from memory.

“Well, congratulations then!” McCoy grinned. “You’ve won the lottery! C’mon, this is good news! The boy’s happy, aren’t you, boy? You’re going to be a big brother.”

Setik blinked at him, having no clue about what he just said. Spock unconsciously provided the Vulcan word for brother and Setik nodded at McCoy.

“There you go! That’s one thumbs up. You said you wanted two children.”

Saavik blinked the same way her son just had. “We meant two total.”

“So now you’ve got a spare. Merry Christmas!”

“No, wait...” She shook off some of the stunned feeling as if it came from a phaser. “Why did the other scan not register the second heartbeat?”

“Could be a few things. Like you said, hearts may not start until sometime in the third week. Could be one started before the other. Or twins being twins, they were laying naturally enough that they registered as one, and now one of them has tumbled out into the open. It’s got to be beating pretty strong now for the tricorder to pick it up.” McCoy snapped off the Feinberger and his magic box, much to Setik’s disappointment. “I’m not an obstetrician, so I don’t know how late the fetus can split, but maybe that’s why you read only one before. That’s if you’re carrying identical instead of fraternal twins.”

Spock had traveled the universe, witnessed its marvels, and used that one word in so many different ways, never hesitating once in thinking it or saying it.

Twins.

He examined twin quasars, once considered a mirage.

He researched with Saavik a twin jet nebula that she initially encountered in the first decade of her career.

He once specialized in a presentation on the twinned life forms of Balay Vonserwin that were born whole, separated into bitter enemies during adolescence, and rejoined in middle age for shared understanding or face death.

Twins.

Such a small word to freeze two such accomplished minds as his and his wife’s.

Saavik was staring into space. “It would explain…” She laid her hand on Spock’s, her first two fingers alone slipping into his palm. He felt the slight mental connection and they shared something that hadn’t affected them so much since having Setik. It translated roughly into the words she spoke when they were first alone with their newborn son: What ever made us believe we could do this?

“It explains the sensation I had two months ago. The distortion in the mental contact.”

Spock almost forgot McCoy was there. “We thought it merely different for this pregnancy.”

Without being conscious of it, she lapsed into soft Vulcan. “It was their separation into the two of them. But they are both so young, I misjudged the slight additional contact as being an enhanced one instead of a developing two.”

Her fingers gently stroked his palm, and he hoped she heard his mental whisper, My wife.

“Nirsh!” Setik slapped the table, and when it only got his parents’ meaningful stares, he did it again. “Nirsh!”

McCoy chuckled, and drew the boy back up against his chest, disapproval scrunched up in the small face. “He is a little prude, isn’t he? It’s your payback for being such pains in the ass rule sticklers all these years. You got a kid that’s going to make you walk the straight and narrow, and that includes how much you touch in public.”

Spock opened his hand to let Saavik’s go, but when Setik saw her joined fingers against his father’s, his disapproval washed away, recognizing the gesture. “Wa'tnai!” he called, struggling across the table to put his hand in between theirs as he started to do recently. Satisfaction settled on his face with the same ease he settled on the table, content with his hand bound in their touch.

“Just wait until he figures out he’s only a little over two years older than his brothers or sisters. And you’re supposedly worried over rumors,” McCoy chided Saavik. He waggled two fingers in front of her. “Two years instead of seven. I don’t know… think of your reputation.”

“Doctor,” she said, “please achieve some level of maturity.”

He laughed. “Okay, I deserved that.” He waited while Setik squirmed down into his mother’s lap, reprimanded by his father to not sit on the table. “Now don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you’re getting a sonogram for Christmas, my dear. You should check out these readings with the kind of equipment that’s meant for the job, and make sure everything’s okay with the one twin just showing up now. Twins,” he said under his breath and gave a small, disbelieving laugh in the same way. “I’m sure everything’s fine, but I’d rather you do it now than wait until you get back to Vulcan.”

“Doctor,” Saavik rebuked, but it was said with too much liking to be taken wrong. “You are too used to ordering people to your sickbay. It does not exist here.”

“The town’s got a decent hospital, they can take care of you. Do it for me, if not for yourself, or I’ll nag you the rest of the time you’re here. And you’d better let the Science Academy know. And Sarek. Everybody’s getting their share of this gift.”

Spock volunteered to contact the hospital. He was at the comm station in the next room, waiting to be put through to the obstetrics department when he heard McCoy say to Saavik:

“You know, it might be those Romulan pheromones you give off when your pregnant that’s making me ask this. After all, as thrilled as you are to inherit anything from across the Neutral Zone, the pheromones are meant to make males protective over women in your condition. But whatever’s causing it, I’m worried about you, seriously.” Spock could tell that without being able to see him. “Aren’t you rushing things? You’re barely settled into a job that I still can’t believe you took. Now you’re pregnant the minute your suitcases are unpacked.”

Someone came on the line and Spock explained why he was calling. Even with an ear kept on the conversation in the kitchen, he only made out snatches of Saavik’s answer. He knew she was taking McCoy as seriously as he had asked, but she was more or less saying she didn’t know why he was so surprised. He knew they wanted more than one child.

Spock remembered his lonely childhood years and that old belief that a sibling, someone who knew what it was to be so unique, would have made things easier.

Meanwhile, he got the distinct impression he was ruining the holiday of the young man taking his information over the comm station. He certainly was getting a sour look as he was told to “Hold on while I see if anyone is available” and then “Ambassador” as an afterthought. While he was again made to wait, he heard McCoy clearly.

“I know you wanted a couple kids, and I was only kidding about waiting for… well, about the seven years bit. I shouldn’t have joked about that. It was rude.”

“I know you too well to be offended, Doctor.”

“I’ll remember that. C’mon, Saavik, it’s me. Tell me what’s going on.”

“Why do you insist anything is ‘going on’? We planned for a second child. I am in a position that makes it easier to have the child now. Children…” Her voice tapered off as the impact of having twins rose up again.

Spock’s sour contact chose right then to come back on the comm. “You’re in luck, Ambassador.” He was fairly sure that meant the young man found someone else to take Saavik’s sonogram. Brown-blonde hair fell across a freckled forehead and a beaming face obviously headed out the door for the holiday. “Dr. Kilbstein is going to take you, and she has Healer T’skaba to assist her.”

Spock’s eyebrows hitched up. “A Vulcan?”

“She’s studying human obstetrics before going home, so Dr. Kilbstein wants her around when you get here. But that’s only if you can come now. The doctors have a break between deliveries and can squeeze you in. We can arrange a beam out if you want.”

Spock considered facing Leonard McCoy’s wrath over transporters versus driving Saavik over rough terrain. Not normally something he hesitated over. His wife was right; she wasn’t that delicate, but as McCoy pointed out, those pheromones worked very well on males. He remembered his concern over her kneeling in the snow yesterday.

He arranged a transport time and gave the coordinates. He signed off as Saavik finished saying, “It gives me access to contacts I may need later. If I were still on deep space assignment, I would be seeking the same connections. This position gives me a more direct access.”

McCoy was losing patience. “Contacts with who?”

“The Vulcan High Council and Command. The same for the Federation and Starfleet.”

“What the hell do you need those fo-- oh, hell. I just got it.”

Setik must have left Saavik because he came careening into his father, butting against his legs in the longest stretch Spock ever saw him walk without falling. He reached down to pick him up.

“It’s about Spock and Unification, isn’t it?”

McCoy’s words made him freeze just as he got his hands under Setik’s arms. And then came Saavik’s answer in the same calm, single-minded purpose he had sensed in her mind last night.

“Do you know of the opposition building against him, Doctor? Even now before he has put into practice any of his theories? The day Spock seeks out a refusion with the Romulans, he may be branded a traitor and face as much difficulty here as he will in the Empire. When that day comes--”

“When? You’re so sure it will?”

Did she nod? She must have. “When it comes, I will need those connections in order to garner support or face that opposition.”

Spock heard all over again T’Lar’s words to Saavik at their wedding ceremony: "Thee shall be guardian."

In that long beat of silence from the kitchen, Spock wondered if McCoy struggled against so many things to say as he did. Setik tapped on his leg, patiently waiting, and Spock dropped to his knees next to his son. But his attention was still at that kitchen table.

“Do you know,” McCoy said in some odd tone, “I’ve never heard you say you’ve changed your mind about Unification. You never used to believe in it.”

Saavik didn’t answer right away, and when she did, Spock pictured how her face showed nothing but calm, except for her eyes. Her eyes would show the same intensity as her voice. “I believe in my husband.”

Spock’s eyes closed and his bowed head rested against his squirming son’s.

“Are you sure that’s enough?” McCoy asked. “With all you’re putting on the line?”

She didn’t say anything, and Spock wished he could see her, because whatever gesture or expression she used stopped McCoy. Slightly. His explosive exhale was as easily heard as his words.

“That’s even why you’re having this baby – babies – so soon, isn’t it? So Spock has as much time as possible to be with the kids he wanted before he goes off to – to…”

“To do what he must, Doctor.”

He grabbed Setik tighter and looked into those bright eyes that lit up under his father’s attention. How much time did he have to give before his calling for reunification drew him away?

Saavik was preparing for it. During an eye in the storm of their last pon farr, she had asked him about all this. And now with her decision made, she moved forward without a second thought, despite her opposing viewpoints and previous goals. That commitment she gave…

Deserves that I be absolutely sure I am correct in my beliefs.

He should go in. He picked up Setik and started heading for them, thinking of how he could smoothly enter after hearing what he did. His son’s wordless sound at getting near his two other favorite people took care of that.

McCoy watched as they came in and he found a smile. “You know, I can just see you two thinking, Setik’s a good kid. This parenting stuff is easy, we can handle another one, no problem.”

Saavik’s head cocked to the side, curious. “Are you saying something is wrong with that theory?”

McCoy chuckled. “Only that every parent who says that lives to eat those words. Oh, you are in such trouble. I can just see you getting cursed with some demon now.” His chuckle became full laughter. “No wonder you’re having twins. Do you have any clue at all about what you’re doing?”

Spock glanced from his contented son with the medical tricorder, calculated how many mistakes he had made as a father, then looked at his wife and saw her matching response. “No,” he answered.

His old friend sighed. “If only I could have recorded that.”

 

When they returned to the cabin much later, people jammed the livingroom and kitchen to bursting proportions, and more were playing outside. The previously unsullied surface of the snow was now pockmarked with all the activity.

“What happened?” McCoy demanded the moment they stepped foot back in the cabin. “Did it go smoothly?”

His question had to be yelled over the accumulated noise, which included greetings to the newcomers. Setik blinked at so many people, then relaxed when his Sa-mekh-rá grabbed him, and with getting reacquainted with Deá and Roger, who greeted him with an enthusiastic Swahili, “Jambo!”

The more familiar Joanna McCoy, managing to look both casual and chic in a green jumpsuit, maneuvered her way over to them. Her hair was steel gray instead of her father’s white, but she exuded his same energy. “It’s good to see you again. How did it go at the doctor’s?”

Saavik turned sharply to McCoy, especially when those people in earshot echoed Joanna’s question. He shrugged.

“I had to tell them where you were after making a big deal about you being here today. So what happened?”

Resigned to having her private life bandied amongst strangers, Saavik answered, “Twin girls, both healthy.”

The cheers this announcement brought was stunning, even knowing Leonard McCoy so well for so long. He asked them, “What took so long? You’ve been gone for hours!” He looked down at Setik. “You held things up, right? Wouldn’t let go of Mom? You know, that’s a pretty interesting set of rules you have there, boy. It was all well and good that you went out yesterday without her, but you wouldn’t let her do the same today.”

“T’skaba agreed with your diagnoses,” Spock said, as he saw a few of McCoy’s relatives ask Saavik if they could touch the gentle swell hidden by her sweater. Obviously thinking she’d be rude if she refused, she agreed, but it meant she’d have to shield the twins from so much contact. “That it was better to cure Setik of this overattachment slowly rather than force the discipline of not allowing him to have it so much his way.”

“Told you so.”

“However, she also supplied an excellent solution for during the visit.”

McCoy lifted an eyebrow. “She’s a child psychologist too?”

“No. However, as her family has moved to Earth while she studies here, let us say all her family was moved. She had a sehlat.”

McCoy laughed softly and shook his head. “I guess you’re right about those bears.” Then louder to the people touching an about to be brutally honest Saavik, “That's enough. Pregnant women aren’t a petting zoo!”

Spock gave him a nod of thanks. “All Vulcan children learn one lesson eventually, Doctor. No one is stricter in discipline, more unable to be coaxed, and fiercer in his or her guardianship than a sehlat. Not even the child’s parents. However, no creature better represents security to a Vulcan child either.”

As was true for centuries. The semi-sentient sehlats linked their existence with Vulcans back to the nomad days on the planet. Trained sehlats watched children and hearth, and then followed their masters into battle, almost causing their extinction. In more peaceful days, the domesticated breed was too ingrained with Vulcan lives to be returned to survive in the wild. So they kept their guardian rights.

A grin was aimed at Saavik. “Let go right away, did he?”

“Without, as you would say, a backwards glance,” she agreed. “Since a sehlat also has infinite patience in keeping a wavering toddler on his feet, Setik spent the day strengthening his walking. And with Healer T’skaba’s two children. He was quite satisfied. The exam took more than the usual time as the healer contacted the Vulcan Science Academy. The problems I had with Setik were checked for in the twins. As much as could be examined at this stage in their development.”

Most people had gone off about their business, leaving them in a small, enclosed pocket.

“She is,” Spock commented, “being more genial about the exam now than she was in the last few hours of it. She at one time remarked to me that if she must have Romulan pheromones, they could at least work on female healers to get her released from the medical bed.”

The narrowed eyes he got from his wife warned him, Wait until I get you alone. He wasn’t concerned. If her revenge was that bad, she wouldn’t wait.

McCoy didn’t miss the exchange. “I know better than to say anything about that. The doctors were good then?”

“Most impressive,” Spock answered. Joanna went by again having taken care of their coats. “It is therefore a loss that they will separate after Dr. Kilbstein studies Vulcan obstetrics on our planet.”

“She called it,” Saavik added, “Healer T’skaba’s revenge for the years of Terran cold.”

“Sounds like my kind of people,” McCoy said. “Did you call Sarek?”

Saavik replied, “Sarek is unavailable in a negotiation session. And once we discovered the twins’ gender, the news became too large to leave as a message.” Seeing his confusion, she explained further. “Female children are credited to the mother’s line, as males are in their father’s lineage. However, I decided not to only record myself as the bloodline.”

McCoy almost came out of his seat. His mouth opened for a second before he could get the words out. “You’re finally taking the genetic scan? You’re going to find your Vulcan family?”

She shot him a glare equal to the one she just gave in warning to Spock. “No. I am crediting my daughters to Sarek’s mother and Amanda as well. It will show in the surnames.”

“That will make them,” Spock said, “the first females of that line since my grandmother’s birth. And she was the only female of her generation. My father deserves to hear such news in person.”

McCoy smiled. “I’m glad you realize that. Does he deserve to hear your earlier wish that your children come with instruction manuals?”

“That part will not be repeated.”

“Didn’t think so. Those surnames are going to be a mouthful though. Well, anyway, just so you know, I got on the horn to everybody with the good news -- Sulu, Uhura, Chekov... you know, everybody. You’ve got a ton of messages waiting for you. You can tell them the twins are girls when you call back -- unless you can be decent about it and let them be surprised.”

In unison, Saavik and Spock began, “Doctor--”

“But you can do that later. It’s about time Setik opens his gifts. Everyone else already did. Some people don’t torture their children on Christmas.”

Spock’s reply that McCoy had insisted on Setik going with them to the hospital fell on deaf ears, because their wearer was too busy orchestrating a mound of presents that reached higher than their receiver did.

“Doctor—”

“Don’t be stingy, Spock, and that goes for you too, Mrs. Scrooge. It’s Christmas. Let your kid enjoy it.”

Spock decided in the next few minutes that it was going to be impossible to do so. Setik enjoying Christmas apparently meant, to McCoy, getting him every obnoxious toy possible. The worst had to be one that taught Federation Standard from Vulcan; educational, yes, but the problem was Setik left his finger down on the picture control for “The sehlat says” in both languages followed by a full roar.

Saavik eyed each sirened, belled, whistling, flashing toy in the growing pile and told McCoy, “They go home with you. All of them. He can play with them there since you find them so amusing.”

Setik interrupted this debate by once more bringing out the medical tricorder. Except this time, he dragged it to his new things and kept it.

Ignoring Saavik’s pointing out the poor practice of keeping such equipment within a toddler’s reach, McCoy grabbed for the Feinberger being twisted in small fingers. “Give that over, boy.”

Setik glanced up with his usual aplomb and then went back to the very interesting med scanner.

“That’s for doctors, boy. Remember? Doctors! Spock, how do you say doctor or healer in Vulcan? There you go, boy, did you hear him?”

Setik looked at him again, and said a small word.

“What does that mean? Had to be good. Your parents look like they saw a ghost. Come on, in Standard. What did you say? In Standard.”

After a pause, Spock supplied the translation. He couldn’t believe he did. “He said me, Doctor.”

“Me?”

Setik now nodded, holding up the Feinberger in triumph. “Me.”

“But it’s not yours. God, I forgot how hard these arguments were. It’s mine, because I’m a doctor, remember?”

Setik nodded, completely decisive as only children can be. He went back to the Feinberger. “Me.” And then something else, in Vulcan.

Spock drew in a long, deep breath. Saavik gave him a look of support... or was it sympathy? “He is trying to say the word ‘mine’. Of course, that is not true--”

Wait a minute.” McCoy drew a hand over his face, like it would fall off in astonishment otherwise. “Spock, do you think he could mean... Boy, do you think you’re a doctor?”

“He is only a year old,” Spock protested. “It is merely a child’s fantasy. He cannot comprehend--”

“Shut up, Spock. Setik, you? You want to do like I do? Use the Feinberger like a doctor?”

The child looked up, watching McCoy gesture his question over again. Then in dismissal over the controversy, he reached for the tricorder. “Me,” he repeated.

McCoy sat in stunned silence, then smiled so widely, Joanna said she could count his teeth. “Kid, you have made my day. My life! Ha!” He jabbed a finger in Spock’s chest. “A doctor!”

“Doctor, he is merely saying he wants to keep the Feinberger.”

“Because he’s going to be a doctor, that’s why! Your son wants to be like me! I could die happy right now!” Startled faces turned towards him. “Not that I would, but I could! A doctor!” He dragged Setik in his lap. “Damn, this is a good Christmas! I love this kid!”

Despite that, they pulled the medical tricorder away, and put Setik back amongst his gifts. Numerous speeches of how Setik was too young to grasp the concept of a future career were answered by McCoy on discourses about Vulcans who couldn’t stand to lose, and a vow to find the best children’s version of a medical kit before Setik left for home. “And it will go back on the ship with you! I’d better not hear that his Mother pulled strings and got it failed through Customs!”

Joanna leaned over to Spock, with a big grin at the wall of toys surrounding his son. “I swear the kid got more than I ever did.”

McCoy had an arm around Setik as he disarmed the boy from his new little hammer and toolbox that was turning out to be not such a great idea. Spock realized he never thought of the effect of Setik and McCoy’s relationship on Joanna, such as watching her father give so much attention to a child that wasn’t his. But Spock’s apology was met with a chuckle that she got from her mother.

“I’m too old to be jealous of a toddler. Besides, I wanted to thank you. You have no idea how much good it’s done him. My dad, I mean.”

But Spock did.

“And I can’t begin to tell you how much it’s gotten me out of the doghouse for not providing grandchildren.” Joanna waited while Spock diplomatically shared Setik’s gifts with the ring of hungry eyed children watching his son. “Not that those little devils don’t have enough themselves. Speaking of which – Dad, I think there’s something else under the tree.”

“Oh yeah. Uhura sent that along, just from her.” Uhura being Setik’s Ko-mekh-rá. “Just about everything is from the both of us, I told her I’d take care of it--”

“You would think she’d have learned better,” Spock said in an aside to Saavik.

“-- Except for that Vulcan-Standard speech toy. That’s from me,” McCoy continued.

“Of course,” Saavik remarked back to Spock.

They had been driven from the center of things by the rows of children and their parents surrounding Setik and his first Christmas presents, not that their son seemed to miss them. This one from Uhura was in a cloth wrap: a mint colored bulb that when pressed opened like a flower to the sun, made for reuse like all other wrapping and boxes. Setik loved it at first sight – the cloth box, not the gift. That was put aside for this wonderful thing that blossomed every time he touched it. As long as he had it and his language toy, but regrettably not his little toolbox, he did not care that the other children shared in his gifts. Their parents returned this generosity by tactfully – and sometime forcibly – reminding their children to include him in their circle.

McCoy gestured Spock to come over closer. “You know I got gifts for you and Saavik, but I thought you’d rather wait? Joanna’s the only one staying overnight, the rest of this mob is going back to their rooms in town after dinner. So…”

Spock nodded. “Later would be preferable. In fact, I need to make an addition to my gift to Saavik. I can utilize this time to do so.”

McCoy smiled. “I thought you might. Go ahead. She’s talking to somebody I’ve never seen before in my life, and we’re supposed to be related.”

So Spock rescued the present and slipped away. He came back as dinner was being served, sliding into the spot next to his wife. She drew him into the conversation she was having with the unknown relative who turned out to be working on a civilian project for a new deep space probe. Their talk passed the rest of the time quite nicely. He even played for a while on his lytherette.

The whole day was enjoyable and Spock saw Saavik thought the same way as the cabin emptied of everyone but McCoy, Joanna, themselves, and Setik who they found curled up in a ball asleep, clutching his new possessions. He woke up, fuzzy for a while before wanting to rejoin the evening.

Joanna unpacked into the last unclaimed bedroom and puttered in the kitchen to leave them alone in the livingroom. But the one person who usually was most protective of their privacy, Saavik, told the older woman not to be concerned as she rebuilt her cushioned spot in front of the fire. She settled Setik in the space between the couches, and the child played in his own world, putting things in his petaled box, closing it, and then watching it open again with endless fascination.

Anything, Spock thought, other than the unbearable toys. One more “The sehlat says” and he’d regret ever allowing McCoy into Setik’s life.

He headed for the remaining seat in front of the fire, where his lytherette still leaned on the couch arm and across from Saavik. McCoy stopped him as he passed by. “Do you know,” his voice was low, meant for just this one set of ears, “this is the first Christmas we celebrated since Jim died?”

He knew. Some of the former Enterprise crew had gotten together once in awhile to celebrate the holiday, but Spock never attended. Not without that one figure, usually with McCoy in tow, bursting into his cabin, grinning. “Come on, Mr. Spock. Party time. Captain’s orders.”

But this Christmas meant so much to McCoy, Spock couldn’t refuse.

The doctor insisted they open his present to them first. He pulled a package from under the tree, and handed it to Saavik. Spock could tell from the way she held it that the jade colored package had some weight to it despite its size and light packaging. She first pulled off the pair of watertight gloves used as a sloppy bow.

McCoy grinned. “Picked those up last night.”

The side panels of the triangular casing fell open by touching the top point, instantly drawing Setik’s attention. She kept her son from taking it by giving it to Spock. He lifted out the small sculpture inside, and then handed back the box to be passed to Setik. They barely noticed as he took it to add to his other one.

Spock raised his eyes. “It is beautiful, Doctor.”

“I got to admit, I cheated a bit with it. I wouldn’t have, but...”

Barely enough to fill Saavik’s palms, the pale stone carving was of three hands, the two adults touching paired fingers in the usual gesture between Vulcan couples, but the third, a child’s hand, lay in between – like Setik did with his parents.

McCoy said, “I, uh, I saw something like it on Vulcan awhile back and Sarek got them to put in the boy’s hand when I asked about it. So it’s probably more from him,” he ended in a mumble.

Saavik couldn’t take her eyes off of it. “He would disagree as we do. It is your thought, and he was merely your vehicle.” McCoy protested quietly, and even Spock’s eyebrows shot up as she said, “Thank you, Leonard.” It was the first time she’d ever called him that.

McCoy blushed to the roots of his hair. “Glad you like it. Now that makes it my turn.”

Originally, he had said he’d understand if they didn’t exchange gifts, with him or each other. “Look, you coming out here is enough. I’ve got the boy taken care of, don’t worry about that.”

That part certainly turned out to be true. But both Spock and Saavik maintained they would bring gifts, and it looked like McCoy lied anyway since he was cheerfully breaking the box’s seals around his present. Even as he lied more, protesting that he had gotten so many great surprises today, he didn’t want anything else. He threw back the lid and froze. “Goddamn…”

Saavik turned to Spock, brows lifting. “Does that mean he approves of our choice?”

He watched those weathered hands reach reverently into the box. “You stipulated that we must give Christmas presents, Doctor.”

McCoy’s actual words had been, “This isn’t an excuse to upgrade your damned computer systems! It’s a Christmas gift! Remember that!” He had went so far as to say he had to approve what they gave each other, and then almost fainted when Spock asked for consent over what he chose for Saavik.

Out of the box came the large antique book, as long as McCoy’s forearms. The gold lettering over the artwork of silhouetted figures against Earth’s moon had faded from too many years, but still was easily read: T’was the Night Before Christmas.

McCoy swallowed, and Spock thought it might be the first time he ever saw his friend reign in positive emotions.

“You said,” Saavik began, “that it was a favorite of yours since--”

“My father read it, every Christmas Eve when I was a kid.”

“You said the two of you would paint in the art,” Saavik continued, her voice the same pitch as his in respect for his memories. “We could not find such a version with anyone who dealt in antiques.”

“I remember that book,” Joanna broke in. She grinned at her father. “I saw it as a kid. All the pictures were already done, and I was mad none were left for me until you showed me I could erase them and do my own.” She said to Saavik, “You wouldn’t find it in an antique store. It was a coloring book on a padd. We lost ours – oh, sometime over the years.”

Most likely, Spock interpreted, when her parents divorced and their possessions shifted around too many times as they settled things.

“I apologize that I misunderstood,” Saavik said.

McCoy said hastily, “No, this is fine. Really. I was always bad at staying in the lines anyway. This is…”

Spock waited for more, and when it didn’t come, saw Joanna place a hand on her father’s shoulder as she sat closer. “Emotional overload?” He nodded and she smiled. “You’re such an old sap, Dad.”

He cleared his throat. “Ain’t it the truth? Now, you’re probably going to demand I read this thing.” The book’s spine very softly cracked as he opened it with careful hands.

Spock waited again before he spoke up. “We tried to give this to you last night. However…”

A small smile eased the tightness in McCoy’s throat. “But I wouldn’t let you. I said all gifts on Christmas. Doesn’t matter, what’s one day?” He called down to Setik who was totally immersed in trying to put one gift package in the other. “Boy, come here. How about I read you a story? Yeah, you can bring those things with you. Get up here on my left, Joanna’s laying claim to the other side.”

Spock picked up his present from Saavik as the first lines from the story were spoken. She surprised him by having a card on top, or the modern equivalent of one. The small display built into the box lid bore his name before changing to artwork.

Had she guessed what his gift to her was? Because with the artwork for her ‘card’, she copied two lines from a Shakespeare sonnet:

So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet-seasoned showers are to the ground;

They faded and were replaced with:

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck
From thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And constant stars in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive
.

Setik gave one of his noises and Spock had to stop to explain to his son that he couldn’t grab at the antique the way he did with his interactive story padds.

Saavik said nothing, only waited, and Spock was able to get back to her gift when Setik decided to suck on his fist instead and McCoy wouldn’t let anyone correct him.

As he opened the box, he first thought Saavik gave him an antique book too until the loose pages almost fell out. He caught them as carefully as possible, and the lines and orchestrated dots grabbed his eye. Sheet music, real sheet music on paper, each one as historic and as valuable as McCoy’s book. Their metal folder kept them flat and protected, accenting the old creases from musicians who could once handle these casually, and the years of Earth’s last war and dark times that almost destroyed these sheets for good.

Except for one. Right after the first song’s collected pages was the braced, bleached fabric once used for writing on his homeworld. By comparing it to the sheets, Spock saw the music was rewritten for a Vulcan lyre. It was the only song done that way.

He looked up at his wife who deliberately misunderstood. “I know you enjoy challenges. The rest of the songs are for you to translate. That one is merely to show you my expectations.” Her eyes and cheeks heated with a glow.

He reached out with his joined two fingers, and McCoy, seeing it over the book, lifted it so its height blocked Setik from seeing and running over to join them.

The only gift left was Saavik’s from Spock. He saw her eyebrows draw together with confusion as she pulled out his family’s collection of bound holopic frames. Then she saw the new ribbon marker with both their names, an emerald green separating it from the other ribbons, each marking when a couple started a new section. He picked green for the same reason his mother choose red with white Vulcan script spelling out her name and Sarek’s.

Spock was surprised at how much he anticipated his wife’s reaction. When it came, he relaxed against the couch cushions with satisfaction. If McCoy’s present stopped her, this one stilled her breath.

The holopics ranged in years, the first one actually from decades ago, snapped by some inquisitive reporter drawn by the crowd at the bottom of Mount Seleya, waiting to hear about Spock’s fal tor pan. Saavik was leaving with the others, and the holopic caught her in flames from nearby torches, bathing her in oranges and reds. Then another holopic a few years after that, this one with Amanda at the ShiKahr ball. In fact, this particular holopic had sat in his mother’s office, and when he helped unpack it from Saavik's belongings - because she inherited it from Amanda -- to their room, he rediscovered the poem stanza attached to the back:

Not very long after we met, I found your wit, and your goodness, I found your character and your beauty, Most of all I found your loving heart.

The daughter I found in you…

That gave him the idea to add to his family’s holopics that spanned a set of binders, this particular one starting with Amanda’s last years. But Spock went further and added a poem or its selected lines to each image, representing his thoughts about his wife and Setik or what he saw in the picture. It meant that not only was he, Saavik, and their children recorded with his family’s personal history, but his thoughts for his family were noted as well.

The frames were the latest technology with controls to animate any record with the few seconds of motion that lead to the still image. All of them could be rendered three dimensionally as well at the touch of one control.

He took that first one of Saavik in torchlight and inscribed George Simeon’s quote around it:

I am at home everywhere and nowhere.
I am never quite a stranger, yet I never quite belong.

When he first read those lines decades ago as a much younger man, he saw only the lonely truth in them. Later, after V’Ger, he saw their pride. To be a part of a larger whole, two larger wholes, and yet still be so uniquely something that he existed in a world to himself.

Saavik lived there too, in that world. She filled it with her unique presence, and now they brought Setik into it, and soon their daughters, their children of three heritages. If Spock rewrote the inscription around the holopic into his own words, he’d use the ones he once told a nodding Kirk about Saavik: “She brings out the hybrid in me.”

He moved Amanda’s poem with the picture of his wife and mother to second after this page. A number of others followed, such as those of the two of them with words of Vulcan:

To be One... To increase in meaning...To be whole for once
A meeting of minds, a quiet shift of my perception, a glimpse behind your mask, and we are reborn…

Ones of her alone and of him, and even one image trimmed so only her eyes showed, leaping powerfully from the page. In that single glance, Spock saw every battle she had both lost and won, every dream and every hope shattered or built, and the striving and fire that ever was inside of her. It was everything for which he respected her. She was her own success. One whose state was not determined from where or who she was, but what she made herself to be.

Lady was not a title. It was a state of being. Something, he believed, Amanda gave her. Because of it, because it was everything she was, scars and triumphs and what she gave him so uniquely in recognizing who he was, he underscored the holopic with a simple line from Shakespeare:

If I could write the beauty of your eyes…

More of her with Sarek taken on the Armstrong years ago, respect showing on Sarek’s face as Saavik made her point. For that reason alone the holopic was one of Spock’s favorites, but it held another meaning. Not long after this, Sarek asked his son if he ever considered Saavik as a bondmate.

Then images of their son and now the sonagram of their unborn daughters inscribed with a fitting line he found in a story:

And through our children, you will have the childhood you lost.

Then Setik captured with his father and grandfather who did not see him reach with a toddler’s stubby fingers for the carved wooden lytherette made by Spock’s grandfather, Skonn: I speak for the generations that are you, for you a thousand generations wrought...

He watched Saavik take all this in, each holopic, each written word, and basked in the subtle signs: her normal breathing catching for a moment -- the movement in the slim column of her throat -- her fingertips stroking each page.

Joanna’s made a noise that sounded suspiciously like pssst. She nodded to the sight next to her. Setik was asleep, an afghan bundle in McCoy’s lap. The doctor’s head was back with snores just starting to break the silence.

“Coffee?” she asked. They requested tea instead and she left the couch, moving so she didn’t disturb the sleeping pair. She took the book almost falling from her father’s lax hands and put it safely away.

They were alone. The fireplace crackled and popped, and Saavik stretched out so her feet tangled with her husband’s. He watched her settle back and take her time with each holopic.

She was healing.

Spock picked up his lytherette and lost himself in the antique sheet music.

The above quotes are (in order of appearance):