Time Period: two months after ST:VI.

In the Kerjen universe: after The Race of Cain and What Good Came From It

Nightgown scene inspired by Marla's unposted Triads story.

Amanda stood at the main entrance of the newly rebuilt home and waited while it signaled the owner she was here. Two story windows ran the length of the house along the left; the late afternoon sun turned them into mirrors and revealed the desert at her back. That modern touch on the otherwise traditional looking house showed the restoration didn't merely copy what had been there before.

The door opened revealing Saavik, already in uniform. Naturally she didn't look surprised to see Amanda, despite the unexpectedness of the visit. She was Vulcan and the older woman tended to pop in whenever. She stood aside and gestured for Amanda to go in.

"I would have been here earlier," Amanda said, looking around. The orange, gold, and russet furniture had been a gift from her and Sarek. And what a fight that was. Because Saavik saw it as charity and got stubborn about it, until Sarek told her to give in to Amanda's arguments so they could all have peace in their lives again.

Amanda chuckled to herself. It wasn't exactly what he had said, but it was the essence of it.

Saavik fitted protective padding into a large packing crate. "As I did not expect you, I had no notion you were late."

"I wouldn't call it late, just not as early. I had a meeting with one of my strays, so to speak," meaning the people who needed the unique help Amanda could give.

Saavik didn't bother looking up. "I have yet to decide if that term is flattering or an insult."

Amanda sat on the couch lining the living area and lifted the violet head scarf from her hair. "Of course you like it. If you didn't, you never would have let me call you it for the last six years."

"Six point--"

"I don't need the full thing," Amanda calmly said. It was a mere fact, not a reprimand. "Wait, yes, I do. What is it?"

Saavik watched her, waiting for the other shoe to drop. "Six point nine three four years."

The smile a mouth could make would never be brighter than the one in Amanda's eyes. "And?"

Saavik reflected that light back. "Eleven hours, eight minutes, and twenty-nine seconds, Federation Standard Time. Thirty, thirty-one--"

"Thank you, that's fine right there."

"Your purpose for wanting the detailed answer after all?"

Amanda smiled warmly with her mouth this time. "I realized I wanted to know exactly how long we've known each other." She kept her smile the same for another second, then changed it to a twinkle. She straightened the long skirt of her dress around her. "As for my taking in strays, Spock once said you're my acolytes. Do you prefer that?"

Saavik had gone back to her packing, knowing full well Spock did not mean the term seriously. She lifted a stone trunk, carved by the artist T'Gav as a gift, with figures showing Vulcan's history. She put it inside the crate. "No, but I am certain you are considering it."

"It does have an appeal." Amanda smiled at the sight of Saavik in uniform. The younger woman had been on Starfleet's inactive duty list for a month, when she had been infected with a disease created to kill all of Hellguard's survivors. But now, the attacker had been caught, and as soon as Saavik returned to active duty, she put her uniform on again. She wouldn't admit it, but she had missed wearing it and all it meant. "Imagine it, Saavik. You could carry me on a divan chair."

Saavik looked over the large box. It stood as high as her chest. "I am not carrying you on a divan chair."

The sunlight struck her uniform insignia and glinted. Amanda scowled at it. Saavik was meant to be a lieutenant commander by now, not still a lieutenant, but the conspiracy with Cartwright and Valeris, plus being put on inactive duty, had made Command remove her from the promotion list twice.

Saavik had paid a higher price than her rank. Valeris, unknown to anyone but Cartwright, had sent forged letters ending Spock and Saavik's relationship and Saavik's transfer to the Enterprise. On top of that, Valeris had vaunted what she had done, even after she was revealed as a traitor. Face to face with the woman who did her nothing but good, she haughtily claimed the reason she took all that was of importance in Saavik's life was simple. She deserved those things -- the relationships; Enterprise; and Spock; first, last, and always Spock -- and Saavik did not.

Saavik looked down to where Amanda stared so darkly at the rank insignia, and understood. But neither of them could do anything to correct it.

And at least the rest is back to normal. Or almost.

Amanda took a second before she could talk lightly again. "It wouldn't be for day to day things, the divan chair I mean. And you wouldn't have to carry me alone."

"How gracious."

The older woman waved grandly. "I could be like T'Pau herself."

Saavik lowered a carefully wrapped item into the crate: the Twilight Eagle statue Amanda had given her. "If you reach T'Pau's position, perhaps I will then be your chair bearer."

"By yourself?"

The PreReform star charts were loaded next without deigning to give Amanda an answer.

"Are you nearly finished packing?" She followed Saavik's eyes to see what was left to do. The furniture made a beautiful blend with the dark, stone floor and light walls. Amanda had deliberately picked these pieces, because they matched the colors in her office and her favorite living area at home. Sarek's office had a tapestry with them too.

Saavik spoke from where she locked the large crate. "A majority of it is done, yes. As is preparing the house to be closed while I am away."

"Are you taking all of your things with you to the research team?"

Saavik lit with the fire of a Vulcan's and explorer's instinct to discover and study. "No, as it is a temporary assignment."

Amanda was actually making small talk until she found the moment to bring up what she came here for. Sitting there, though, made her notice again the last residual effects Saavik showed from being ill. It scared Amanda a lot, but she made herself remember the younger woman would return to full health. "So most of your belongings are going to the Aerfen?"

Saavik stood up from the crate. "Yes. They will store them for me until my post as science officer is once more open for my return."

Amanda nodded again. She caught sight of a bound book lying on the table around the traditional firepit. The living area, the whole house, blended old and modern Vulcan. From this conventional firepit, although not in the conventional place, to the contemporary double set of two story windows. One side revealed the beauty of the desert, the other displayed the glory of ShiKahr, and in between them, Saavik and her home.

Something now took priority over of what Amanda came here to say. "Is that the Life Album?"

Saavik stilled as she turned to look at the book herself. She moved to it and picked it up with great reverence. An acolyte at Mount Seleya couldn't do it better. "It is T'Pren's."

Amanda heard all the layers of respect, awe, and devotion in that voice. It warmed her as she watched the tall, strong woman with her fingertips just touching the cover.

Amanda waited before she spoke again, so Saavik had that quiet moment. "Sarek told me he brought T'Pren's parents to see you in his office this morning." Saavik gave a little nod, still quietly holding the book. "And how they have finally seen how wrong they were to keep you from anything to do with her. That's why they gave you her Life Album?" With everything about T'Pren, from birth to the last holopic taken of her in uniform, shipping out on VSS Diversity.

Which would be captured by Romulans. The same fate that happened to her betrothed years before.

Saavik couldn't turn away from the album. "They also gave me T'Pren's ahtía name."

The most important name, the secret name for self. A Vulcan would tell an offworlder it was their first name because of its significance.

"That makes me much happier with them. You should know her name."

A small nod of, not really agreement, but more like still in the afterglow that it had happened.

"Are you taking the album with you?" Amanda asked softly. "I'm only asking because things happen on starships. I could keep it safe for you until you return home from time to time."

Saavik unconsciously wrapped her arms around the book. "I believe it will be safe if I bring it with me."

Amanda's voice was gentle. "You lost important things to you on the Grissom."

"I cannot compare the loss of my belongings to the lives lost when it was destroyed."

"I'm not trying to do that either. I only thought about how these are the originals. My statue to you, your star charts, they can be replaced. This," Amanda crossed the room and her one hand moved with gentle strokes over the album, "this cannot."

Saavik finally nodded. "You are correct. Damage does happen on a starship and I have no argument to support bringing it." She paused. At last, she looked into Amanda's blue eyes. "I am illogical."

Because she didn't want to be separated from it.

"Of course you're not." Amanda pulled Saavik gently to a seat next to her on the couch. "This is T'Pren. This is the life of the woman who cared for you, who gave her life for you and all the others. She gave you the stars. She loved you so much, she was going to adopt you and make you officially hers, because that's who you were already in her heart and mind. Her parents just gave you this book. It is absolutely logical to want it with you and I should have seen that myself."

In fact, T'Pren was the reason for Saavik's house, for all the times the woman had pointed to one star: 'Home is that one, there!' So the universe-wandering Saavik put down roots here, just as she honored T'Pren's gift of the stars with the skylight over her bedroom loft; so she, T'Pren's "Little One", slept under them, never parted for long.

She wasn't only Saavik of Starfleet now. She was also Saavik of Vulcan; she had earned her citizenship. She planted her feet here with her eyes always above.

Amanda smiled. "If Life Albums weren't meant to be treasured, Vulcans wouldn't make them."

She could tell Saavik held each word close to her. "Then I will take T'Pren's with me while I serve on the nebula team. I will have less chance of danger at the research station. However, I will keep it safe here at the house while I am on the Aerfen. Except for this one." She opened the book and turned to an image of an intent woman with a fire in her eye wearing a Vulcan fleet uniform. "It is how I remember her. I will have a copy made of it and bring it with me to the ship."

"That is an excellent idea. You might want to start collecting photos of other people." Photo was a very old fashioned term for modern holopics, but some things -- and words -- always remained.

"Amanda, I have a strong memory capability like any Vulcan. I can easily recall people on my own. I keep these of T'Pren because I no longer have opportunities to see her due to her death."

"You're right. And you don't have to do it. For some of us, though, a photo isn't only about images of those who are gone. They can mark important moments, as an example. It's why I have the one of the two of us at the ShiKahr ball. Because I treasure you and that moment we had together."

She normally wouldn't just touch a Vulcan; she knew better. Those touch telepathic senses would be hit with her emotions and thoughts. But ever since Saavik survived the disease, Amanda needed the physical contact, no matter how light, to know the younger woman was safe and solid next to her.

Saavik allowed it. Although she probably gritted her teeth, so to speak, against the invasion, and had to strengthen her mental shielding to not overwhelm the vulnerable human.

But she did it for Amanda, who thanked her silently each time such as this, when she brushed a lock of dark hair behind an ear tip. "T'Pren isn't the only one who loves you."

Saavik turned to her wide eyed. "You are saying you love me?" She got no response, but couldn't recognize the obvious reason why. She frowned and cocked her head to the side. "...Amanda? You are staring at me, did I misinterpret your meaning?"

Amanda was staring, in utter disbelief. "No, you did not. I am simply speechless."

Saavik remarked drily, "You can hardly be that as you are speaking."

"How can you be surprised by what I said? I thought I made it clear."

The smoothness melted, even as Saavik did not look away. "I would not presume."

Amanda's eyes went over that face that could have such confidence and lack of self-worth at the same time. She laid a hand on Saavik's wrist. "Presume."

Those dark eyes quickly darted to gaze at her before the equally dark head nodded. Saavik then returned to looking down at T'Pren's Life Album and spoke in a Vulcan's way of being casual. Or at least she tried: Saavik couldn't do casual, so it was awkward and Amanda loved her all the more for it. "Then returning to your original point of photos, perhaps you have one of yourself you could spare."

And people wonder why I love Vulcans so much. She wouldn't trade Saavik in this moment for a million non-Vulcans who really could casually -- or with great meaning -- ask for her picture. Because Saavik had to go a great, internal distance to be able to ask this at all, something no one else had to do, not to this length. "I know just the one, something of the two of us. I'll make a copy for you so we both have it."

"You are kind." Saavik took T'Pren's book and started to pack it.

Amanda thought, I could really hug her right now. "Speaking of kind, Rrelthiz knows you're all right? That you're cured?"

Saavik had said she would call the Carreon healer, one of her closest friends. "I contacted her immediately."

"And this Archernar?" The Romulan who had been integral in getting them information about the disease and did it all for Saavik. He also once gave her a Romulan gold coin. Amanda still hadn't heard that whole story, but she knew the coin would be packed in one of the crates.

Saavik gave her a dark look. "Unnecessary. He will contact me when he wants to collect his favor."

"Do I need to tell you how the thought of that keeps me up at night?"

The winged eyebrows drew together. "Why? He has made no claim of a favor with you."

Amanda sighed. "Presume."

She saw it work its way through Saavik's mind. "I understand. You are concerned for me, for what he may demand."

"Yes, exactly. Although, I must give him credit. He was honestly concerned for you. You could almost say... devoted to helping because it was you."

"Let us not indulge in exaggeration. I acknowledge the critical help he gave, but I also know what he is not."

"Just be careful." Amanda smiled and her whole manner brightened as she teased. "You know, despite his saying you owe him, I think you're the one who could demand anything. Simply crook your finger and he'd come running across the Neutral Zone. With all his charm and good looks."

And I don't want him anywhere near you.

Saavik stared. "At times, I question how you use your intelligence."

"As well you should." Amanda watched the younger woman lock the smaller packing crate that would go with her to the nebula research team. "Sarek said you wrote a message to be read out loud at T'Pren's family shrine?"

"Yes," Saavik answered matter of fact. "A life with Starfleet means I cannot guarantee I will have a chance for my katra to make it home."

She stopped and looked up to meet Amanda's eyes in shared pain. She had inadvertently brought up Spock's death. The heartache was different between them. Amanda lost a son. Saavik lost... the person who formed the other half of their unique relationship.

McCoy had said he once asked just what was that relationship. Saavik had said, "I am Saavik and he is Spock. If it makes no sense to others, it suits us well."

And it's evolving.

Amanda cleared her throat. She still had lost her child, and that hurt never went away. Not even with the joy of getting him back. "So you had her parents read your message to T'Pren, so they can tell her what you said when their katras go to the Hall of Thought. It was very smart. I know what I would tell her."

Saavik's controls now held back a different pain. "Amanda."

Because no human had the ability to transfer their soul, so to speak, like a Vulcan did to the Hall. It meant she would not have that next life with Sarek and Spock. But she still smiled through her own sadness. "Don't be surprised if I show up somehow."

"Please," Saavik murmured. "Do."

And Amanda knew it was time for what she came here to say. "Saavik," she patted the spot next to her, "come sit with me."

The other woman did and turned in the seat so they faced each other. "I should have done this on the very first night. Saavik... I want you to tell me what was in the letter Valeris sent you, the one she forged from Spock."

Saavik was up before she had settled back against the cushions.

"Please," Amanda insisted, but gently, "listen to me."

"It is unnecessary." Saavik kept a distance between them. "Spock and I have discussed it, and Valeris cannot interfere again."

"It can still hurt you."

"You are wrong, Amanda. How could you not hear what I just said?"

Amanda took a breath, organizing what she wanted to say. "If I had asked you the night you got it, I could have spared you all the pain Valeris put you through. It's my job to keep you safe and protect you from these things. And I failed you."

That brought Saavik closer again. "Amanda, you did not fail me. It is not your job, as you call it. Perhaps with Spock, he is your son."

"And I failed him too. You're right, he's my child. But I still have a responsibility to you. You're my friend."

"You have no reason to chastise yourself."

"Yes, I do. Because I am Amanda and you are Saavik and this is who we are." She could see Saavik recognized the paraphrase of her words to McCoy. "I could have talked to Spock. You said he was fine with the contents of your letter once he knew. So you would have avoided thinking he rejected you. And he would have talked about how he got a letter supposedly from you. So all that pain would have been avoided too. Valeris would have been revealed back then for who she was. None of the rest would have happened. You would have been on the Enterprise the past three years and you'd be the science officer on the next one."

Saavik did her training proud, because she hid how very much she wanted the life stolen from her. Amanda could only tell by the careful way nothing showed. "It's illogical to discuss what might have happened when it didn't."

Amanda wanted more than anything for Saavik to understand. "Keeping it a secret is what makes it dangerous. It's what gives it the power to hurt you and causes so much trouble. If it's out, it can't bring anymore suffering."

Saavik swung on her. "What would you have me do? Violate my privacy for anyone who asks?"

"No. Don't disrespect yourself. I would never say that. But stop thinking that -- whatever this is -- will bring you rejection."

Saavik keeping herself in check was becoming visible. "I told you. Spock and I have discussed this. It cannot hurt us anymore."

Amanda folded her hands in her lap. If she kept calm and spoke softly, it might, might, spread to the other woman's sense of defending herself. "It will if you think anyone finding out is going to treat you that way."

"You are wrong."

"Am I? Then why won't you tell me?"

"Amanda, you do not want to know."

"Because you think I will reject you."

"No. Because it is about Spock and it is private."

Amanda walked over and gave the tension a second in the air to drop, even a touch. "I think I know what it is."

"You cannot." But Saavik watched her.

"I said I think I know. Please stop bracing yourself like I'm going to hurt you."

"You exaggerate."

"But it's true. And I would never think so negatively of you."

Saavik's expression carefully turned blank. "You did, not so long ago. I gave you reason for it."

When Amanda nearly ended their relationship over Saavik's near brutality in her confrontation with Valeris. It made Amanda truly see the violence from Saavik's past that still attached itself to her Romulan half.

"I was wrong to attack you the way I did," said Amanda, regretting it deeply.

"As I said," Saavik answered in a whisper, "I gave you reason to do it."

"No, you didn't. Be upset, yes, but I should have talked with you, not pushed you away. Not hurt you."

"We talked in the end." Dark brown eyes lifted, maybe with relief. Whatever it was, it allowed Saavik to ask quietly, "Why are you doing this, Amanda?"

The older woman moved closer into the other's personal space, doing everything to radiate caring and peace for Saavik to feel. "Because, my most favorite stray," the love in her voice turned it to an endearment, "I don't want it to hurt you anymore, because you think someone will despise you for it. You're afraid of me knowing for that exact reason."

No answer but silence. "Saavik, what if I said you don't have to tell me what it is? Only tell me that you know I will not disapprove if I found out. That it really is a matter of privacy, nothing else."

Saavik gave her a wary look. "It is a matter of privacy."

"Good." Amanda returned to her spot on the couch -- it was her favorite with the different views of the house -- and sat. "I'm glad you know I wouldn't reject you for whatever it is. And just as important is you knowing no one would if they found out."

Saavik watched her for a moment, still wary, before she turned back to her packing.

I need to tell her though. "Would it bother you--" Amanda began to ask before changing her mind, "--I should tell you, to be honest with each other, that Sarek knows."

Saavik paled and Amanda hated that she had caused it. The younger woman strengthened her controls. "How does he know?" Her eyes narrowed. "You told him your suspicions."

"No, I promise you, I didn't."

"How else could he learn of it?" Saavik insisted.

"When he prepared his statement for Valeris' tribunal, he watched the security footage of you confronting her. You know that Valeris -- taunted you with it."

"Why did Sarek not say something?" She took a calming breath which made the next words sadder to hear. "He disapproves, of course."

"No! Saavik, no!" Amanda leaned forward from the edge of her seat. "Just the opposite. I told you, how could we disapprove?"

Saavik didn't look at her for a moment, then that head turned and those eyes grabbed Amanda's so the older woman couldn't look away. "Did he tell you?"

"About your letter?"

"Yes."

"He said he wouldn't tell me, and I should not watch the security video myself. You had to be the one to tell me, if that's what you wanted."

Saavik was still insistent and firm. "Is that what this is about? You want to know, so you seek a way to invade my privacy?"

"I know I'm not giving you any reason to believe me, but no. I honestly don't want you to be hurt again by this."

Saavik had the natural ability to take all of her formidable personality and focus it into her eyes. Amanda had seen other people held by the power of it; now she knew what it was like. But she sat there with complete calm.

At last, Saavik spoke. "Very few people could sit there and ask me these things without my walking away or telling them never to return."

"I know how private a person you are."

"You do not show it tonight."

"That's fair. I haven't and I'm sorry." Amanda suddenly thought of a different way, one that may be better. "Let me ask you this. Do you know what's in the forged letter to Spock?"

Calmly, but without forgetting what they both had just said, "No. He offered, but I said I'd rather not know."

"Because?"

The slanted eyebrows drew together so tight, they nearly formed a straight line. "You saw my reaction to the forged letter to me. I do not want to know what I could possibly have said to cause the same reaction in him."

"Was he comfortable in asking you about it?"

Saavik shook her head. "No, he was not. Despite my telling him I would never reject--" She blinked and looked nowhere in particular as it sank in. Then her head turned to Amanda who looked back with only softness. "--reject him."

Amanda couldn't lean forward any further, so she did it with her voice. "Do you think he believes you? That if you found out what's in his letter, you wouldn't reject him?"

"Amanda, I wouldn't. Whatever it is."

"I know, but does he believe it?"

Saavik closed her eyes and just -- thought. "I do not know." She opened her eyes and only looked ahead of her, seeing...? "It holds the power to hurt him because the secret holds reign over us. That's what makes it dangerous. It affects his actions towards me, because he believes I could reject him for it. And he is concerned others, such as you, will believe he did something wrong if you were to find out. So his actions may also change towards anyone if they get near this truth."

Saavik took a breath. "Your argument has a flaw. We, Spock and I, could learn not to think people would reject us without our having to explain what the letters hold."

"That would be wonderful. I'd be happy for both of you if it didn't take any more than that. Honestly, Saavik, I would."

Saavik hadn't moved and it looked like she had frozen. McCoy told Amanda that he thought of it as a Vulcan pause. That it looked like the Vulcan shutdown for that tiny moment while the cause of it sank down each level of control. It was a good description and Saavik came out of this one.

When she could let out a breath without it needing to be controlled, she spoke to Amanda. "You said you believe you know what Valeris put into my forged letter?"

So it was her fighting her sense of privacy. That was the reason for the pause. Amanda took an equal breath for the same steadying reason. She made a silent wish that she did everything right. "The letter is about Genesis?"

Saavik started to look away, but consciously refused to let this be something painful. "Remember: you wanted to know this. Yes, it was. Past tense. I burned the paper copy and deleted the file."

"Good." Ever so gently: "You and Spock were intimate."

Amanda couldn't tell if the storm came back or if Saavik intensely wanted to tell her, "It is obvious that you do know, so let me be clear. This was pon farr. I do not want you to think that I--"

"What? Showed how important Spock is to you? And vice versa?"

"Took advantage of him in that mental state!"

Amanda kept that same gentleness in her voice. "I didn't think you did. But I know the fact it was Spock makes a difference. It was him."

The cold temper was held back, but it was there. "He was and he wasn't. Regardless, you have your answer. No one else would ever be concerned."

Amanda had to warn her, "Your shipmates might ask, Saavik. They saw you get that letter, they know it hurt you despite you not showing it. They'll want to know what Valeris did, because they're angry on your behalf."

"It is not their business!"

"And that's what you say to them. You tell them Valeris found a past decision you made and turned it into something wrong when it wasn't. And believe that yourself, hold yourself high in knowing it, because it is true."

"Then we are done. No, wait." Saavik stared hard at Amanda. "Is this why Sarek brought T'Pren's parents to me? Out of obligation for what he sees as my saving Spock? He said as much."

"First of all, no. He did this to right a wrong they have been doing to you for years. Second, you did save Spock. So whatever Sarek said about it was true, but it's still not his reason for what he did this morning."

Amanda watched those eyes flicker about in the air as Saavik again tried to figure out why Sarek would bother. Granted, up until now, the two of them related to each other only through her. But that had changed in the past couple weeks.

"Saavik," she whispered, "presume."

The dark eyes stilled in thought and Saavik at last nodded. She put her hands on the packing crate; maybe she thought of the relief it'd be to leave Amanda and her personal questions behind.

Please not that.

Saavik asked, "Are we through with this now?"

Amanda answered, "Yes, we are. And look, I didn't reject you. Sarek didn't. No one did."

She waited and then she got what she hoped for: Saavik looked back at her with a warm light that had been missing since this talk started. But I'm sorry, my poor girl. I do need to take you through one more thing.

"Saavik," she began and saw the body inside the Starfleet uniform stiffen. "No, it's not that. It's something else. Please, trust me for a while longer." She got a very slow nod. "The hospital gave you tests to see if you would go through pon farr yourself. Or if the Romulan part of your genome would prevent it. Did you get those tests back?"

Those dark eyes narrowed again; Saavik thought she knew where this was going. "I did. They theorize I will. Theorize."

Amanda knew the next question was not at all what Saavik thought. "Genesis... the reports said it was violent."

Still suspicious: "Yes."

Delicate, Amanda knew. She needed to be delicate -- because it soon was going to get ugly.

So she asked the question delicately. "That violence... I don't know..." She had the words earlier in her head, all set for a speech. But she floundered for some reason. "What I'm saying is, I don't want you to have concerns about this. I don't want you thinking that this--"

Saavik stared at Amanda like she actually did wonder about the woman's intelligence. "You cannot be seriously giving me a talk about what sex is."

"No, of course not, that's ridiculous." Somehow, this brought calm back to what Amanda wanted to say. Just like their discussion in the hospital a few weeks ago. "I don't know if it was a violent experience, and you don't need to answer that. But I don't want you to be scared if it was. If you do end up going through pon farr, don't base it on what may have happened this past time. It can actually be--"

"Amanda," Saavik answered simply. "No, I have no concerns about pon farr and being harmed."

"Good, because with the right partner--"

"There it is." Every line in Saavik's body grew taut. "I knew you were leading to this."

"You're wrong," Amanda tried to say calmly. "Everything I've said was for its own sake. So is this. I did not maneuver what we've said just to come here."

She made herself take another breath. It's my only chance. Saavik shipped out tomorrow and her orders may not allow her time to return home between the twin jet nebula team and the Aerfen. Which made Amanda sadder than she had said, because she would feel that absence horribly.

But at least let her put this fear to rest.

Saavik verbally drew a line in the sand. "We have already had a discussion on this."

It always got Amanda's hackles up when Saavik acted this hardheaded. "No, we had an argument over it. To show you the difference, Saavik, we're about to have another one. I am no longer going to act sweet and gentle."

"That is your definition of sweet and gentle?"

The smaller packing crate stood between them and Amanda wondered when they had gotten here. "Saavik, I told you then, Vulcan has people for this. You can get a partner from one of them to sleep with."

How was Saavik able to put both ice and fire in her eyes? "Amanda, I already know these arguments. You attempted using them before. I know about the people to whom you refer. I already know it is called the Time of Mating. And you very well know this is not about sex. It is about -- we already discussed this!"

It was about Saavik telling her the last time, I will not be my Vulcan parent! Made vulnerable by pon farr and having no choice but to have someone in the room; who stirred the Fires until she was forced to respond. It was like her Vulcan parent back on Hellguard, but it also wasn't. If Amanda could only get Saavik to see that.

"Why not ask someone you know? That's not at all what happened to your parent."

Saavik looked at Amanda, refusing to budge. Not about this. "I will not change my mind."

"You just did this for Spock! How is it wrong for you then?!"

"Genesis was different!"

"So you wouldn't be there for Spock now?" Amanda had said a few weeks ago that she sooner or later would have to push some real world sense into that magnificent head. It was time, at least for this.

All the fight physically drained out of Saavik. Amanda lightened her voice. "You would be there, wouldn't you? For him."

Saavik kept her face turned away and Amanda knew exactly why. You do not want to say it out loud to me. I'm Spock's mother -- it forms a line you won't cross.

But if you only understood, when I think in the abstract like this, when I focus on you, I can talk about it. Because you're right. This is not about sex.

"Have you told Spock?" Amanda asked, just as softly.

"Told him I would help him not die? I believe it speaks for itself."

"No, told him why he could ask you and you would be there?"

Startled eyes swung back and quickly away again.

Oh. It's not me. You can't say it out loud at all. Maybe if Valeris hadn't interfered, hadn't severed Spock and Saavik's relationship...

Amanda hoped Valeris rotted in that cell forever.

The older woman tried to gently coax the younger one out of that negative place and unknowingly foreshadowed the talk Saavik and Spock would have years from now. "You could ask him, you know, when it's time. I'm sure he'd say yes."

Now those eyes bored into hers again. "You mean, out of obligation. You think that is the solution I would choose. To be the Romulan, in this case, and he the Vulcan."

"No. I think it'd be the same reason why you helped him."

"Because it was the only, real choice, Amanda."

"Liar. Because--"

"Liar?"

"You may have convinced yourself it's true, but it's not. It was personal. Maybe you would have done this for any Vulcan, but you can't tell me it'd be the same if it had been someone other than Spock."

Saavik gave all the signals of being ready to slam the walls down around her privacy. But she didn't deny what was said. It would be a lie.

Tread carefully, Amanda told herself. She had gotten this far because of Saavik's faith in her. The older woman even knew the younger one's ahtía name. Amanda's whole expression and voice returned to soothing. "Saavik, there's no shame in that."

Saavik started up the staircase to the bedroom loft, her back stiff and her jaw tightened in a silent No more. Amanda panicked that she'd never get her to listen.

I can't let her go without-- Amanda blurted it before it was a conscious thought. "I'm afraid you'll die!"

Saavik stopped, still. Amanda crossed the room and slipped by that quiet figure on the stairs, who let her pass. She went up another step so she could look into those eyes. "Saavik, I'm afraid."

No answer, but it didn't surprise her. "I can't lose you. I almost did just weeks ago."

She moved up another step so she could bow her head over that dark one and placed her hands on the staircase railings to steady herself. With something like deflating, Saavik leaned closer into that square of personal space formed by those arms, to the point where Amanda almost held her. Like when she had gone to the older woman after being pushed away for her violence with Valeris. Saavik let herself be held then, because she knew it was what the human needed. Maybe because she needed it herself too.

This was different. Amanda was the one coming to Saavik, begging not to be turned away. So it was Amanda who was held, despite their physical positions, while still giving Saavik the distance she needed.

And then, Saavik's hands were laid down right in front of Amanda's on the railings. That voice was a whisper. "I told you before, Amanda, emotional support is not one of my strengths."

"And I told you, you do just fine." In fact, they stood so close together that the bowed heads mixed the silver hair and the sable together. "Promise you will at least think about it. Saavik, please, that's all I ask."

"Amanda, you are manipulating me again. You did this before, when I was ill, and you wanted me to stay at your home."

"And why did I want that?"

A long breath. "You were afraid I'd die."

"I'm not manipulating you now, Saavik. I'm not. I'm trying to do the same thing that I did then. Find a way to watch over you so you'll be all right. I only--" What else could Amanda say?

Saavik's head lifted and the dark eyes looked up into her blue ones. "I will think on what you said."

But will you change your mind? Amanda didn't get a chance to finish the thought, because Saavik took the step up so they were at eye level again.

"Now, it is you who must promise me, Amanda. You will think on what I have said."

"So I'll change my mind?"

"No. So you understand what you ask for, when you want me to change mine."

Amanda wanted to fight that. She couldn't stop the thought that Saavik would be drawn home to Vulcan, where she, Amanda, if she and Sarek weren't away with their work, could--

Could what? Force someone on the woman? No, never that. It was exactly what Saavik fought against.

"I promise, I'll look at it from your point of view." Amanda meant it. A half-born idea -- nightmare -- of what it'd be like if she had Saavik's birth and childhood. Or -- she tried shoving it back into the darkness -- of a world where she and Sarek became perverse versions of themselves and she was the Romulan in Saavik's story.

But Amanda still felt that fear for Saavik risking death in pon farr when it wasn't necessary. And she still had Spock to worry about too.

If you two would just see...! If you would just speak up! Because Amanda knew, she could see what was between them, that had been damaged and how they now stayed careful with one another, too frightened of losing each other again.

Amanda smiled into that beloved, beautiful face and kept her word not to say more tonight. She had put the poor woman through enough. She could see the tired drain around Saavik's eyes. The only comfort was knowing that physical sign wouldn't be there if the Vulcan wasn't still healing from her illness; it wasn't Amanda who put it there.

"Come on, you said you still had to pack your clothes." Amanda led Saavik up the rest of the staircase to the open, bedroom loft. Its sleeping platform, dresser, and other simple and elegant furnishings, were all in black, rich browns, and contrasting creams. And, of course, the large skylight opened the growing night above to the entire loft.

Amanda turned at the top of the steps to offer an olive branch. "Out of all my strays, you are still my favorite."

She practically held her breath waiting for the response.

Saavik looked down at her from the difference in their heights. "May I abdicate the position to someone else? So they may be the one who must deal with you being 'sweet'?"

We're all right. It made Amanda smile. "I'll ignore that."

She turned back into the loft, noticing the things stacked on the bed for packing, and looked around to see if anything else needed to be done. A meditation platform jutted off the loft outside: suspended in mid-air, small flame jets set all around the perimeter, no railings or walls to stop Saavik from being open to the desert on her left, the ShiKahr skyline on her right, and the sky above her.

Amanda hated it. She knew it wouldn't happen, but she was afraid Saavik would fall off it. Not that she had said that. She wasn't stupid, but the two of them had talked about it, with her suggesting a meditation stone like Sarek and Spock had at home. She had lost.

She had promised no more for tonight, so Amanda said nothing about the platform. She was just as tired as Saavik anyway, more so actually. She left like one raw nerve, so she brought up the disciplines she had learned for moments like this. She also brought up a safe, happy topic. "By the way, Sarek and I are keeping your room for you."

"That is kind of you to maintain a guest room for me. I assume you mean if, for some reason, I cannot stay here at the house?"

Or for those times I find a way to have you stay with us. She liked having Saavik close at hand. Although Sarek had noted he used to be able to meditate in his own house before Amanda and Saavik lived under the same roof. Such a liar. "It's not a guest room. It's your room. No one else gets to stay there."

Saavik glanced up from her packing, her face alight with something they didn't need words to express.

Amanda came over to the bed to help out: another safe, quiet thing to focus on. Or so she thought. She handed over the things closest to her to be put in the duffel bag, until it dawned on her that something was missing. She looked on the floor in case they fell. "You said you had everything out to be packed. Where are the clothes you sleep in?"

"I do not wear any."

What? Amanda couldn't have heard that right. "Wait. How long have you lived in my home after Spock's fal tor pan? Don't answer, it was rhetorical. Then there's the shore leaves -- although you take those rarely -- and just now when you lived with us when you were sick."

"Is there an actual question you want answered?"

"Yes! Have you been nude this whole time?"

Saavik gave an offhand, "Yes."

I'm ready to trade her now. "My husband lives there."

Saavik frowned at the obvious statement. "I am well aware of it. I am also aware Ambassador Sarek would never violate my privacy by entering my bedroom unasked, even if that bedroom was in his own home. Nor did I venture out of my room while undressed. Therefore, the question is a nonissue."

"My son has been there at the same time as you!"

Saavik held back from saying it, but Amanda was suddenly struck by the fact that Spock had seen Saavik nude already. That took the abstract out of their shared pon farr, so Amanda pushed the thought away. Or it made her more upset about the lack of sleepwear issue, she wasn't sure. Maybe it was the raw nerve feeling being aggravated again.

Maybe all of the above.

"Amanda," Saavik pointed out calmly, "if I don't wear clothes to sleep and there is a red alert, I can be in uniform and to my post more quickly versus the time it would take to remove clothing."

"Wear a nightgown! And put your uniform over it!"

"I do not understand this prudish streak, Amanda. A moment ago, you spoke of pon farr. Now you are bothered by this conversation?"

It did sound foolish and Amanda didn't care. "I'm human. I don't need to make sense."

"That is an excuse to not attempt reason. It is a common pretext with you."

"What if there had been a fire? Or something like it and you had to run out of your room?" Which was equally absurd, and Amanda still didn't care.

"I would have dressed first. I can do so quite quickly, including the time saved since I do not wear sleeping attire."

Amanda buried her face in her hands and made an exasperated noise. "I was going to ask you to stay the night at our house."

"Are you revoking the offer?"

Amanda peeked out from her hands.

Saavik gave an equal look. "I believe I understand now why humans sigh. I will find a nightgown as it means so much to you."

"And a robe."

"May I get only the robe?"

"Saavik!"

"And must it be a nightgown? Or would any form of sleepwear do? I only ask because a nightgown seems to have the hazard of tangling around the legs--"

"JUST GET SOMETHING!"

Saavik made a point of pulling back as if Amanda was an explosive about to go off. "The first thing I see, I will 'get'."

Grumbling about did that have to be so difficult? Amanda looked down from the loft into the living area. But she let it go. She had won this one, so she should be gracious. She let out a loud exhale and deliberately changed the subject. "Now that you have the house shut down, where are you sleeping?"

"At your estate."

Blue eyes blinked in surprise. "You are?"

"I estimated a 94.89% probability that you would ask. So I prepared for it." Saavik suddenly drew up inside her uniform. "Was I wrong? Have you revoked it?"

"Don't be silly. I was about to ask. It just makes me wish I had asked earlier." Amanda started to descend and then pulled her foot quickly back. "Wait, 95% is low. Did you take points off because we argued tonight?"

Those eyebrows being raised was her only answer.

Amanda scowled, hard. "How many steps in this staircase?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Because, Saavik, I'm going to push you down them and I want it to be a satisfying number."

"Amanda, you would not push me or anyone else down a staircase."

"I might. It's a very gratifying mental image."

"Regardless, it is immaterial, since I am going down them before you." Having said it, Saavik dashed down the staircase, demonstrating the speed she used for red alerts.

Amanda called down, "At least I made you run."

When the older woman reached the first floor again, Saavik had put her duffel bag on top of the large packing case going to the Aerfen. Amanda returned to the couch and watched the Vulcan buzz around her office systems. When Saavik was like this, it was best to just get of her way.

Night was falling and the lights of ShiKahr framed her as she worked.

Amanda wondered, just wondered, if she had gone too far today. She didn't think so; the younger woman would still show signs of it. Saavik had her own way of doing that and Amanda had learned to read those years ago.

But she might have.

So when Saavik blasted by on her way to do who knows what at the back of the house, Amanda said, her voice raised to be heard, "I pushed you pretty hard tonight."

"Yes, you did," just as the younger woman went into the kitchen. "Despite your saying so, it was not 'pretty'."

Amanda swallowed and gripped her hands in her lap. She felt herself grow old as she sat here; older than her years to the age her trials and concerns made her. "You know, I only do these things because I care."

"Yes, I know." It drifted down the hall, and then Saavik was back, focused on gathering what things she would take with her tonight. She pulled her duffle closer, ready to go.

Amanda spoke softly, mostly to herself. "You're just so important to me."

Saavik immediately went still as she had done on the stairs moments ago. Her back stayed to Amanda with her hands on her bag. The quiet went for one second, two, three...

But Amanda didn't break it. Its very feel wasn't of either of them being uncomfortable, but of Saavik needing time.

She turned around to look directly in Amanda's eyes. That effort to cross the distance of the walls surrounding her showed under the surface. She innately held a strong sense of privacy, they had both said so tonight. But then the barriers: built by the horrors of Hellguard, the anguish of T'Pren's death, the misery of Valeris' betrayal, and the agony of losing Spock twice, her heart had built this distance to protect itself. A few times when she pushed down those walls, Saavik had been hurt and the walls became thicker. She had opened them more than once today and Amanda was right to love her for it. Like the other cherished times it had happened.

The struggle disappeared, just like that. Calm and sure of herself, Saavik had decided, and when she made a decision, she committed to it completely. She came over and reached out with a hand, letting it hover for a second to let Amanda know what she was about to do.

Amanda held her breath at the miracle happening. She didn't know if she wanted to cry or handle this with dignity. So she did both; tears in her eyes, she sent quiet, warm thoughts out to the younger woman's senses. The same thoughts and feelings that the Vulcan would know directly soon, along with everything else that made up the older woman. And Amanda would directly know everything that Avrách'laba, Saavik's secret name, represented.

Lightly placed fingertips whispered on Amanda's forehead in a gentle touch, softer than a feather, making the mindlink.

"Amanda," Saavik said out loud. "Presume."