T’Pren wriggled her child’s body closer to Saavik. “And then what happened, Mother?”
Saavik brushed the black silk of T’Pren’s hair back behind the small upswept ear with the tips of her fingers. Her daughter grew her hair into a longer style, and it was in that awkward stage of hanging near her eyes.
“Yes, Mother,” said Setik urgently, leaning forward, “what was the next occurrence?”
Through the high open windows, the cry of a vhutkvkt, a night flyer, drifted in with the cool desert wind. Even with it at a distance, it made Saavik lift her head and recall the time with a slight frown.
Setik gave a soulful sigh. “It is time to retire for the evening,” he said, dutifully. T’Pren actually groaned, but started to rise.
It was T’Kel, who had feigned non-interest the whole evening, who suddenly set her child’s padd down on the tiles. She crossed her arms and gave her mother a darkly rebellious look. “I am not ready to retire.”
Saavik’s eyebrow ascended. “Your data will still be present in the morning.”
T’Kel’s eyes narrowed. “But you will not. Your ship leaves at 0400.”
“I fail to see your point. You do not require my presence for your project.”
Her daughter’s sharp chin lifted. “Does Father know the completion of the story?”
Saavik’s mouth almost twitched at the thought of Spock, in his somber Ambassadorial robes, faithfully reciting the end. “As his mother originally told the story to me, I assume she created an equal opportunity with him.”
“You assume,” T’Kel said in open disapproval, “you are not sure.”
Both Setik and T’Pren looked at Saavik with keen attention.
Saavik kept her face completely still. “Your teachers will not be pleased to find their students lacking their maximum attention from a lack of rest. ”
T’Kel made a noise suspiciously like a snort. “Undoubtedly, they will recover.” She gave her brother and sister a goading look. “As will we.”
Setik cleared his young throat uneasily. “T’Kel does speak logically.”
Saavik stared at her son, making him stop.
But T’Pren nodded quickly, the natural diplomat in her rising. “In addition, Mother, as this story arose from a class discussion, perhaps if T’Kel and I promised to report on the comparison in cultural versions, it would be an acceptable exchange?”
Saavik felt the twitch struggling at the corner of her mouth. T’Pren clearly spent a great deal of time with Sarek and Spock to have learned to speak in that way.
T’Kel almost ruined her twin’s efforts by stating, “T’Pren may report. It is unnecessary for I to do so as well. We attend the same class.”
Saavik gave all three a mock stern glower that had sent more than one trainee running to obey. “It would appear I have mutiny on my hands.”
T’Kel looked smug. “And no airlocks in visual confirmation.”
Saavik’s eyes closed in the universal sign of a parent seeking patience. “For the last time, T’Kel, I did not intend to space the--”
T’Kel’s eyes glinted. “That is not what Father thinks.”
Saavik’s lips thinned. “Indeed?”
Setik gave his younger sister a quelling look and she narrowed her eyes at him but obeyed sullenly. He came back to the side of Saavik’s chair, all boyish innocence. Which meant it was probably faked. “I am curious as to the completion of this story, Mother.”
T’Pren nodded quickly. “I, too, Mother.” She scooted closer, her dark eyes growing crafty. “Of course, if you begin now, it will be over sooner and then our retiring for the night will come more quickly.”
T’Kel crossed her arms again, her black lashes lowering deliberately over her eyes. “Unless, of course, you do not know the ending of the story. Father says you had a remarkable tendency to. . .be distracted.”
Saavik looked up at the estate’s ceiling. “And his mother said he was as demanding as the three of you when it came to these matters.”
Setik’s expression lit up with a whole new interest. “We exhibit Father’s traits, Mother?”
T’Pren leaned forward, her large eyes widened. “Do you see Grandmother Amanda in us as well?”
Her children’s brows drew together, waiting poised and intent as only Vulcan children can be.
Saavik looked back down, saw their eager faces, and reached to touch her son’s cheek. “Setik has Amanda’s eye coloring.”
He drew up proud.
“T’Pren has Amanda’s mannerisms.”
T’Pren shared a look with her brother. T’Kel grew stiff. “And I, Mother?”
Saavik heard the silent plea in that question. Recalling a memory, she said almost without thinking, “You, T’Kel, are entirely Amanda’s doing.”
Three small faces quickly gave her different versions of the same thing: confusion. Then T’Kel gave her a suspicious look. “How am I Grandmother’s doing?”
That is the lesson of not thinking before speaking. “Forgive me, that was a purely parental concept.”
T’Pren pressed, “Tell us the concept, Mother! We do not care if we are not parents.”
Saavik looked at her most wayward child, her eyes unfocusing as she remembered Amanda’s face that day. “Once, when I was apparently more. . . difficult than normal, the Lady Amanda lost control of her composure. And then she cursed me.”
Setik looked positively scandalized.
T’Pren’s small mouth opened. “Grandmother engaged in inappropriate language?”
Saavik’s eyes glinted in open amusement. If her children only knew how many times Spock had lectured her on not passing down her use of inappropriate language. “Not that definition of curse, my children.”
T’Kel tilted her head thoughtfully. “As in the curses of your stories?”
Setik and T’Pren both looked at T’Kel in a mixture of curiosity and unease.
Saavik vaulted her eyebrows and looked at her eldest daughter. “She cursed me to have daughter just like me.”
She waited to see how her young children would take this.
T’Kel blinked and then her small chest swelled. “I am like Mother.”
Saavik barely managed to keep her mouth straight. If only Amanda had lived long enough to have met T’Kel. Of course, the rueful thought intruded of the wicked glint that often appeared in Amanda’s eyes. She had no doubt she would have never lived it down.
Sarek certainly took pleasure in his grandchildren giving their parents all the trouble he had received as a father.
She studied her daughter anew. And found, curiously enough, that she would not have minded Amanda’s ‘I told you so’.
Setik’s eyebrow lifted skeptically. “What purpose would Grandmother’s curse possibly serve?”
T’Kel’s head whipped around and she gave her brother an ugly look.
Saavik settled back into her seat. “What better way to learn of myself – or to come to fully appreciate those who tended me? Self-experience is often the best provider of understanding. That is why the ancient stories have such supposed ‘curses’ in abundance. You have noted how the curses bring freedom to the various characters, yes?”
All three children nodded immediately.
“By forcing a conceptual change to occur,” said Setik. He cocked his head so very much like his father as he considered first T’Kel and then his mother. “Grandmother was very wise,” he concluded.
“Yes,” Saavik said. She reached out and extended her fingers. And as was their tradition since Setik, the children immediately touched her fingers with their own small ones. The warmth of their familial bond was instantly almost tangible.
“Perhaps,” said T’Kel hesitantly, “perhaps you could extend your time here?”
Saavik’s eyes softened. “I cannot, I am called.”
“By the stars?” asked T’Pren quietly. They often took part in their mother’s ritual of watching the stars at night.
Saavik shook her head. “By duty. There is a threat to one of the Federation stations and I am sent to aid in its defense.”
T’Kel said, “But you do not wish to go.” She slid next to Saavik, leaning her head against the chair arm.
Saavik noted how the ends of the black hair curled ever so slightly in light wisps. “Your grandfather sent word that he will be returning home to attend you.”
T’Pren brightened. “He is teaching me the art of negotiations.”
Setik winced and looked at his mother. “Perhaps I should go with you.”
T’Pren narrowed her eyes at her brother and T’Kel lifted an eyebrow in amusement.
Saavik found quite a bit of pleasure in the thought of her propriety conscious son on the bridge of her starship. “No, I would have you here safe, my son. Besides, who else would keep your sisters in caution’s path in my absence?”
T’Kel scowled. “I did not intend to ignite Ko’Kan, Mother.”
The sehlat’s disagreeing low grumble echoed down from the hallway.
Saavik sighed. Her gaze lifted slowly to the night outside. Then she looked back down at her children gathered around her: Setik guarding her side with his young boy’s dignity, T’Pren curled against her side, and T’Kel leaning against her thigh, and felt an irrational wish to halt time itself.
“If there are hostilities, it may be some time before I am able to return home.”
Her children looked up at her curiously.
She lifted an eyebrow back at them. “It would be illogical to require you to wait for the continuation of the story.”
Eyes brightening, they immediately shifted themselves closer to her. Her brows drew together in thought. “Where were we?”
“The woman named Beauty was agreeing to the Beast’s hostage demands upon the agreed release of her father,” T’Pren prompted immediately.
Setik nodded. “A logical response to secure her House.”
T’Pren wrinkled her nose. “I would have fought him.”
Setik gave his sister a brother’s look of correction. “That would not be logical.”
T’Kel considered his words. “Agreed. I would have waited until Father was safe and then escaped.”
T’Pren gave her sister a reproving sigh. “And what of your word? Honor must be kept, even to an enemy.”
T’Kel’s eyes narrowed. “According to whom?”
“Surak,” said Setik stiffly. “Perhaps if you attended your studies more carefully, you would recall him.”
“As I recall, Surak was killed by the enemy,” said T’Kel back. Her black brows drew together suddenly and she looked at her mother in alarm. “The Beauty will not die, will she?”
Setik lorded his entire two year age difference by scoffing at such an immature suggestion. “Mother tells us this story to show its correlation to Sikan and T’Risa. Did T’Risa die? Or break her word by escaping? Or fight?” He aimed this last bit at T’Pren.
“Mother,” T’Kel replied with some force in the face of his smugness, “said the fables were similar. The word implies differences.”
He turned to Saavik. “Are they not the same?”
“As is the Andorian The Prince Trapped in Monster Form?” T’Pren added. Probably to keep on her mother’s good side by showing she paid attention to her literature class.
Saavik lifted her own eyebrow in tolerant amusement. “How will you know if I continue to be interrupted?”
T’Kel gave her a scowl but dropped to the floor, arms folded across her chest as she sat, waiting. “I am expecting an ‘And They Lived Happily Ever After’ ending, Mother. In any cultural form.”
Saavik looked down at her children and realized she was trying to memorize them. Illogical. The conflict ahead is not so great a threat.
But she of all people knew any mission could turn deadly within a second.
She reached out and gently touched each child, feeling the bond she had with each one seem to sing out at the contact. For a perilous moment, she found her control wavered, but she gripped it firmly. “So am I, my daughter,” she said softly.
And she continued with their story late into the night.