Saavik ignored the background sounds around her like everyone else on the station's concourse and stepped down into the small lounge. The man seated at a table along the large windows perked up when he saw her.
"There you are!" McCoy rose out of an old sense of gallantry and pulled out her chair for the same reason. She used to insist it was unnecessary, but it was illogical to continue when the other person ignored her.
"Did you think I would not arrive, Doctor?"
"No, I know better." Their plans intersected here above Earth at its orbital station and McCoy had suggested getting together before they had to go their separate ways.
The civilian scientists blended in with the lounge's neutral coloring of light and dark grays, unlike the red Starfleet uniforms, even with the white lights in the table surfaces. No starship was docked right outside the windows, opening the view to the station's full interior. If the spacedock was its own universe, their window would be one distant star.
Someone yelled, "Turn that up! Computer, elevate the ninth input!" and a newsfeed took the center large screen on the far wall.
"Repeating our special bulletin -" The human woman - white, blonde, and middle-aged - announced, "Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan has left negotiations on Kachides to return home due to an illness. The diplomatic party's physician revealed the premier envoy has contracted the Ehines Virus, a sickness that can be fatal to Vulcans. We will bring you further details as we find them."
In that one second, all the other news feeds reported the story, adding the ambassador's son returned no calls but had left for Vulcan. Members of the Vulcan's staff gave no further details either but continually emphasized that Sarek had left his post and he did it because of an illness fatal to his people.
Saavik stared at the screens. So did McCoy. With no word, they each turned their head from the news to each other. With the same quiet, in unison motion, they stood, pulled out their communicators, and marched from the lounge, hard and fast, joining the flow of other Starfleet uniforms.
"This is Commander Saavik. I require the quickest passage to Vulcan."
McCoy equally shouted orders. "Clear everything on my schedule. I'm going to Vulcan – haven't you heard about the ambassador? I need a ship!"
The man on the opposite end of Saavik said he was sorry, but they had nothing to meet her needs. Except they did: the USS Kelkonn. It was fast, had a flight plan to take it to Vulcan, and it left immediately.
A commander's rank was high up and she had the record and reputation to back it. But it was still a commander; not enough to get an instantaneous seat on the departing ship.
Which made it very fortunate to have a certain doctor with her. She simply held her communicator closer to him. "Yes, THAT Leonard McCoy! I'm the only Leonard McCoy in the fleet. No, I'm not going alone. I have Commander Saavik with me. Get us-!" She pointed out a name on a board to him. "-to the Kelkonn!"
The ship in question cleared her moorings. He talked faster.
"If that's the way you want to play, then I remind you it's Admiral Leonard McCoy. And if you have a problem with her coming along – which you had better not – contact Ambassador Sarek's or Ambassador Spock's office. But I'm warning you. I'm not putting you back together when they find out you prevented her from coming!"
Station doors opened for the leaving starship. The same station where Kirk and the others had stolen the Enterprise and disabled the Excelsior.
Saving her and Spock.
The man on the other end of her line rushed back. "Commander, you're set for the Kelkonn. But your luggage was already sent to your original ship. We're trying to find it to beam it over."
McCoy was being told the same thing. He patted the medical kit he usually carried. "Got all I need if it comes down to it."
"Agreed," Saavik said into her communicator. "Our belongings can follow us if they must. They are merely clothing. You must transport us before the ship enters warp speed outside the station."
"Standby to beam out," both communicators announced almost in harmony.
"It's going to be alright," McCoy said quietly.
Saavik thought he reassured himself, but right before the transporter took them, she realized he meant it for her.
The thought followed her as she became solid again aboard the ship.
The premier envoy has contracted a sickness that can be fatal to Vulcans.
Saavik pulled her disciplines into place. She served Sarek – and Spock – no good otherwise and with that, she told the doctor she would check in with him shortly. She followed the ensign to her cabin and researched what she could. She entered McCoy's quarters soon after that. The ship's captain had told them he pushed the engines to the limit, but Vulcan was 16 light years from Earth.
McCoy sat on the pale gray couch under the center portal in the sitting area. He shot up to his feet. "Any word?"
She shook her head. "I cannot speak with anyone except for the same diplomatic aides. They have no more news than earlier reports."
He sunk back into his seat, his hands folded, and his head drooped. The only sound between them now was the ever-present hum of the ship. She watched the stars streak by and listened to the engines, even felt the oh-so-tiny vibration in the deck under the carpet. But her mind focused on a spot far away.
"Penny for your thoughts."
Saavik understood the idiom and McCoy knew that so he didn't explain it. She crossed to the desk opposite them and ordered. "Vulcan news channel."
She also activated the Universal Translator. "The news channel did not give the information I expected."
"You figured less drama, more facts."
"In a matter of speaking, yes. The only difference is the new discussion on Sarek's age and how it may affect the illness. They made it clear Sarek is not the geriatric others have made him. In addition, they reported the Kachides leadership bears no ill will for Sarek's leaving. In fact, they encouraged him to do so, saying they had completed the major points. Our remaining diplomatic party is doing well despite his absence."
"All right, that's the logical thoughts. Now let's hear the illogical ones." She began to protest, and he waved it away. "We're not saying you're giving into them. We're only saying what would they be if you had them."
She admitted after a moment, "Sarek could be… dying." When we lost years acting against each other. When he was here at last and they surprised each other by needing that.
"Yeah." McCoy sounded the same as her. "Hard to believe that's even possible." But he'd lost such people before. She felt when his eyes came back to her. "Something else too, isn't there?"
She stared at a spot on the carpet and her mind transported back decades ago and an empty place next to a bedside. "I did not reach Amanda before she died. …I… do not want to repeat it with Sarek."
McCoy leaned forward as far as he could to be near her. "Do you know what a human would say about thinking like that?"
Saavik replied, "'Don't worry about things you can't control.'"
"That's true, but I was thinking of-"
"'Worrying will never change the outcome.'"
"'Worrying does not take away tomorrow's troubles, it takes away today's peace.'"
"Another good one, but-"
"'Worried thoughts are notoriously inaccurate.'"
He chuckled. "I surrender." She dipped her head. "Are all those from Earth?"
"Hoisted by my own petard then!" The chuckle drifted off. "I do wish Spock would answer. I don't get why he doesn't." Saavik gave him a pointed stare. "I know what you're saying with that look, but even if Sarek was bad off, that's even more reason for him to talk to at least one of us."
"If Sarek is 'bad off', it is more reason why Spock is unavailable."
She could try someone else in the family. She knew several well and they may tell her more. Surprising that no one in the media or diplomatic channels hadn't done it.
If only T'Pau-
But the Elder had been gone for decades and it was illogical to wish otherwise.
Saavik considered having McCoy contact the head of Sarek's family. After all, he saved James T. Kirk's life at T'Pring's challenge, and by that, he saved Spock too. Then he brought Spock's katra home making the rebirth possible. Vulcan, let alone the family, held McCoy in the highest regard. As Amanda used to say, he could demand anything, what the doctor called 'playing the fal tor pan card'.
Logic and those Earth sayings stated that Saavik had been given what information was available and nothing would change it.
The doctor sighed. "Sixteen light years never felt so long."
Saavik looked back at him and lifted her own eyebrows.
"That's what you say," he rejoined.
The coordinates Saavik gave the Kelkonn's transporter chief put her and McCoy right in front of Sarek's home. Like any Vulcan house, it wasn't locked, but the high-ranking envoy must have security. A security sensor, therefore, caught Saavik and the doctor as they rushed past and informed Sarek and Spock's staff someone was here, who they were, and that they had clearance. Once past the panel, they entered so quickly, they caught the diplomatic staff running to meet them.
Saavik recognized some of them and fired off orders. "We need an immediate report on Ambassador Sarek's condition and time with his physician if he is present. Inform Ambassador Spock we are here and require speaking with him. Sarek, however, is the priority. We will have further queries for you afterward."
One young human started to argue, but another man next to him grabbed his arm and said, "Come on."
McCoy said with a mock calm, "So, you can tell the staff here what to do?"
"Nothing," he replied as if completely innocent. "Simply taking note of it."
The upper windows - open to take advantage of the still cool morning breeze coming from the desert - suddenly closed as the sky darkened and winds picked up, signaling a storm coming through. A young Vulcan male in aide's dress dutifully asked if the ambassadors expected them.
McCoy answered, "They should. It's only logical."
The aide didn't know what to do with that.
"Spock!" Saavik cut through this and the foyer when she saw him, so that she was immediately in front of him in full force. His eyebrows shot up at the sight of her. "What is Sarek's medical status? Why have you not answered our attempts to speak with you?"'
His brows drew together. "You have not heard the public reports we made?"
McCoy answered, "They don't say a hell of a lot and they haven't changed one bit since the first one. Nobody knows anything."
Spock returned to Saavik. "And you hurried here?"
"Yes, I hurried here," she nearly snapped. What else would he expect? Why didn't he just answer? "He has become a father to me. Of course, I immediately… came… here." She realized what she had said. Even with his indicating it was all right, she needed to tell him, "Spock, I naturally do not compare his being your father to my association with him."
He searched her gaze before he verbally answered it was all right, and she held on to his with hers. She breathed easier already, now that she had reached him.
"Make eyes at each other later!" McCoy broke in. "Spock, how is Sarek?!"
"Sarek," another deep voice answered, "is healing well."
The man in question stood there in a light nightgown with red piping and a thin white robe over it. He cupped one hand over the other in front of him as he often did. His pallor was good, but Saavik noticed he moved a touch slower than normal and had slight yellow spots on his eyelids. She had stopped using a nasal inhibitor this morning for this exact reason and picked up a medicinal smell about him as well as something sour, ugly, and foreign: the virus.
Still, Sarek stood straight and strong as if the illness was something he'd easily shed when he changed his robes.
McCoy got in first and Saavik decided she didn't mind. He'd know the best questions to ask.
"It's good to see you, Ambassador. I'm sorry for being blunt, but It's been light years since we knew what was going on. What's your doctor say?"
"You may ask him yourself." Sarek gestured and another Vulcan male came forward, as slim as Spock and with his coloring. He frowned over this summons to a random pair of people but clearly said nothing as his patient respected them. He watched McCoy as if he had seen the doctor somewhere.
"Healer," Spock spoke, "may I introduce Doctor Leonard McCoy? You will likely know his connection to our family."
The confusion cleared. "Of course, your reputation is well known. My apologies for not recognizing you and your interests in the situation." The healer touched the controls of his Vulcan tricorder and handed it to McCoy. "Those records will inform you of all you need to know."
"I read up on Ehines Virus, but I'll need to ask you some questions."
Saavik decided not to wait any longer. "An overview perhaps for the rest of us? Should you," she asked Sarek, "be out here rather than your room?"
"I would still be in my room," he replied, "if I had not heard a raised voice ordering my staff."
"I did not raise my voice," she protested.
"Perhaps volume is in the ear of the beholder as beauty is in the eye."
She could be equally stubborn. "May I take this as a sign of good health?" Let me take it as a sign, she pleaded silently.
"The staff listened, by the way," McCoy spoke in an undertone.
Sarek's expression grew warm. Apparently, he understood this odd verbal notation. His physician remained quizzical even as he gave his summary, but the most important sign was how McCoy relaxed as the reports finished. He'd never do that if Sarek was seriously ill.
The healer concluded with, "The virus was caught early, waylaying any chances of it becoming fatal. Sarek is responding well to treatments."
McCoy asked, "So you have to let it run its course at this point?"
"Yes, along with making the patient comfortable. Sarek could have remained on Kachides, but the major negotiation points were completed, and the leadership insisted he'd be allowed to recover in his own home with me accompanying him. However, his regular physician will replace me, and I will return to the conference."
The quick blast of the tempest outside subsided and the inner demon that had tried crawling past Saavik's controls fell away as if the storm had caused and fed it. Sarek is fine.
Without thinking about it, she leaned towards Spock and he looked down at her. He brushed the back of his hand against hers and she stretched her fingers to his. Ever since Tomed, where they had promised they would be there for each other for pon farr, they touched each other. She felt sure it was so subtle that no one saw.
Sarek saw. So did McCoy. Neither gave any sign that they had, so Spock and Saavik remained oblivious.
Instead, the doctor asked, "Why haven't the news reports said anything about this?"
The young Vulcan aide, named Sek, answered, "I made the facts clear. Sarek is ill with the Ehines Virus and returned to his estate. At times it is fatal to Vulcans."
McCoy interrupted, "You didn't say if he was a fatal case!"
The aide cocked his head. "Exactly, Doctor. I did not say Sarek was a fatal case because he is not."
Saavik internally shook her head at herself. "Sek is correct. If Sarek suffered at a terminal level, it would be announced. If the Kachidens took issue with his leaving the negotiations, it would be announced. Without these statements, Sek informed us Sarek recovered from an early stage of the virus with the Kachidens' approval to leave."
There was a time when she would never have said this next thing to Sarek, but that was long ago. "I beg pardon. I allowed my personal thoughts to cloud my judgment and misinterpreted Sek's reports."
Sek appeared ready to chastise her. So young. With her people's long-life spans, she was young too, but not like him. Her maturity and experience far outpaced his.
But Sarek made it clear that reprimanding her was not going to happen. McCoy spoke right after that.
"I did the same thing, Ambassador. I guess I should have seen it, given my experience."
Sek asked, "Did you make the mistake for the same reasons, Doctor?"
"That and just being human."
Sek frowned. "I do not understand."
Spock responded, "Do not look for logic in Doctor McCoy."
The doctor snorted. "You can say that again."
That made it worse for the young aide. "You did not hear him the first time?"
Seth Russell, the man who had followed Saavik's wishes, came up from behind the young Vulcan. "While we're apologizing, I'm adding mine. I asked Sek what he was doing for news releases, but I didn't read them or follow up. I'm sorry, Ambassador."
"More importantly, Mr. Russell," Sarek said, "let us release another report, this one with all the asked for information. Aide Sek, I suggest you increase your Xenology studies with a focus on communication."
The young Vulcan nodded and followed Russell, but Spock interceded.
"Sek, explain why you did not allow Saavik or the doctor to speak with me."
The aide returned to being confused. "It was per your instructions, Ambassador Spock. You stated you must focus on your Kachides studies and do not allow interruptions."
No one can say Sek does not follow orders.
Spock was forced to nod. "Correct. However, we will later discuss who can and cannot interrupt me."
With the aides gone, Saavik asked Spock, "Kachides studies?"
"In the event, they wished an ambassador of higher ranking, after all, I would go in Sarek's place."
"So that's why you came back to Vulcan," McCoy said.
But Spock shook his head. "I arranged my return home when they contacted me to say my father was ill. It was during my travel that we discussed the Kachidens."
With that pleasant announcement, Sarek gave Saavik a feigned light glance. "What are your plans now?"
He seems… apprehensive.
"I extended my leave as I did not know what I would find here. My plans were to travel to my house for clothing and then, if you will agree, I will stay in my room here until you are well."
He appeared to relax at the news she'd be here in the house. So did Spock.
"If you don't mind, Ambassador," McCoy tacked on, "I'd like to stay too."
"By all means, Doctor. We will have your room made ready as well."
"Thank you. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll call a few people."
That left Saavik, Spock, and Sarek. She began to leave too to get what items she'd need while she stayed here. "I shall return within the hour," she said and stopped, side by side with the older ambassador. She said nothing for a long moment. "I once promised Spock that if he were lost, I would find him."
"Part of a larger story. Consider it symbolic."
He slowly nodded. "I know you would find Spock." He captured her eyes. "I would go after you. And I know you would do so for me."
Her eyes sparkled. "Assumption?"
"No." Master diplomat that he was, he combined warmth with teasing in an answer to the challenge in her gaze. "You have done so today when you came after hearing I was ill."
"Just so," she said softly and left for her house.