"I can't believe we never thought of this before," Lynne Hoskins said.
The four officers sat around the small table in the captain's cabin having just finished dinner together. Stuart’s cabin revealed a different side to the woman who captained the USS Rider. Individual lamps, bolted down to surfaces, and not the overhead lighting lit the cabin with warm pools. It played across personal items such as the picture of Dannan’s long time lover, as well as the three humans and one Vulcan sitting together.
Saavik, who sat on Hoskins' right, drew her eyebrows together. "I am not sure I understand the concept."
Lauren Warfield, the ship's weapons officer, sat on Hoskins' left. She swept back waves of brunette hair, having let them loose once her duty shift was over. "Simple. Lynne will start. She chooses one of us and asks, Truth or Dare? If she chooses you and you reply Truth, you have to answer honestly to any question she asks."
Saavik lifted her eyebrows. "I do not lie."
"I know, I'm just telling you the rules. Anyway, if you answer Dare, then you have to perform a dare that Lynne gives you."
Lynne's most proper British tones sounded like she quoted from poetry rather than poking at the Vulcan’s formality. "An action such as you having to walk nude from here to the rec area."
Saavik's brow furrowed more. "Why would I choose to do such a thing?"
"Because you think the question is something you don't want to answer. But now you know the dare can be something you would never want to do."
"And this is considered a worthy pastime amongst humans?"
Dannan Stuart twirled her coffee cup around in its saucer. "In some cultures."
Saavik glanced at her. "This morning you asked me why Vulcans find humans so puzzling. Perhaps now you understand."
Stuart grinned and fixed a lock of blonde hair behind an ear. "Okay, I admit it. The game is played by teenagers, especially pre-teens."
Saavik turned back to Hoskins. "And yet you suggest we partake in this... game at this time? We are hardly adolescents."
"It'll be fun, you'll see. Don't look so skeptical. I'll go first, then Lauren and around to you. All right? So, I choose you. Truth or Dare?"
"Do you not have something more substantial to do with your off-duty hours?" Saavik asked. "An area of study or research perhaps to improve yourself?"
"I am improving myself. I'm strengthening our friendship by getting to know you better. You are my area of study. Now, Truth or Dare?"
"If you want to strengthen a friendship, wouldn't Mr. Warfield be a better choice?" Saavik continued.
"I already know everything about Lauren. We're best friends. Now! Truth or Dare?"
"I do not remember agreeing to play."
Hoskins appealed to her captain. "Dannan!"
Stuart seemed to be enjoying all this. She had a big grin spread over her face as she verbally nudged her first officer. "Come on, Saavik, be a good sport. And don't pretend you don't know the phrase."
Saavik looked between the two women. "I have changed my mind. This is infantile, not adolescent."
"True," Stuart agreed. "But we all still carry a bit of our childhood inside of us."
"I find that statement quite disturbing, Captain."
"Saavik, humor us and play the game."
Her science officer drew in a long breath and let it out. Lauren Warfield perked up with a grin. "Was that a sigh? I thought Vulcans didn't sigh."
"It was not a sigh," Saavik explained. "It was a deep breath. The temperature of the ship is too cool by my standards for your Dare. Therefore, I choose Truth."
"All right," Lynne said. Exactly what she wanted to hear. She had known Saavik for a long time. She liked her and considered her a good friend. But she knew so little about her.
She racked her mind for a good question, and finally remembered the "mail call" that came in during her shift as communications officer. "What's your relationship with Ambassador Spock?"
Saavik leaned back in her chair, quite calm. "We are friends and associates."
Warfield sagged in her seat. "That's it?"
"It is a great deal."
"I know, but... it just seems like there's something else."
Saavik seemed to consider that. "He was previously my teacher." She paused as Lynne gestured for her to go on. "And my commanding officer, both of these roles naturally have ended." She glanced between the disappointed faces. "I speak the truth, you may check the record to confirm it."
Lynne protested. "But whenever you two are together -- take back on Earth right before Kirk's memorial service and you--"
"I apologize for interrupting, but I have answered your question. Which would mean it is Mr. Warfield's turn."
Dannan's grin couldn't get any bigger. "She's right, Lynne. I'm getting more coffee. I want to be wide awake for this. Anyone else?"
Lauren muttered under her breath to Lynne, "Is that what she calls that sugar milk she's drinking? She's got a spoonful of coffee in there at most."
Stuart looked back over her shoulder. "Did you say something, Ensign?"
Across the table, Saavik pinpointed Lauren's Lieutenant Commander insignia with an arched stare. Lauren smiled and jumped back in the game.
"No more for me, thanks. Okay, my turn. Saavik, a lot of rumors surround your relationship with Spock."
Saavik said, "Are you choosing me? I have already answered Mr. Hoskins' question."
"I can still choose you."
"You did not ask Truth or Dare."
"Too bad! Just answer the question."
"You have not asked a question, you made a statement. Nor do I believe you should ignore the rules of the game."
Lauren took in a huge intake of air, and Lynne almost asked if she was sighing. "Okay," Lauren said. "Truth or Dare?"
Saavik considered this. "Truth."
Warfield spoke with forced patience. "I heard there were rumors back in the Academy about your relationship to Ambassador Spock."
Saavik got up and refilled her i'rtisi, a hot beverage of Vulcan herbs that Terrans usually translated as tea. "Where did you come by this information?"
"Hal Dawson in Engineering. He was in your Academy class."
Saavik's head snapped over at the peculiar emphasis Lauren gave that statement. So did Lynne. What was Warfield up to?
"Yes, he was," Saavik answered as she retook her seat. "In fact, he graduated first in our class. I did not know he discredited himself by repeating false facts."
"We can discuss why people gossip some other time. For right now, he said that some people said you were lovers."
"That is false," Saavik said. "Mr. Dawson and I were never sexual partners."
"Not you and Hal!" Lauren said. "You and Spock!"
Saavik eyed her from across the table, then pushed her chair back, rising to her feet. Her uniform braid was unfastened by the time Lauren got over her astonishment to ask, "What are you doing?"
"I have decided not to answer this question, and therefore am changing my choice to Dare despite the temperature. I am preparing to walk nude from the captain's cabin to the recreation deck."
Lynne barely got a chance to whisper, "Bloody hell, we should have known she'd do it," before Warfield barreled over it.
"You can't do that!" Lauren protested. "You can't switch after hearing the question. It's against the rules and you said you would tell the truth."
"I did not know the questions would be so personal."
"All right, we should have warned you. The questions are supposed to be personal. That's the point of the game." Warfield folded her hands on the table and leaned over them. "Saavik, we're all adults here and you said you would answer. Truthfully."
After a beat, the Vulcan said, "So I did." She closed her jacket again and straightened it to proper lines before sitting down.
Lauren chewed the tip of her tongue during this, and Lynne saw her make a decision. "Would you rather stop? It is supposed to be a game, not something... else."
"No, I agreed to answer the question and I have no difficulty in pointing out the rumor was false. And if you are accusing me of using sex as a means to obtain my commission--"
"I'd never even think that," Lauren said. "What idiot would? What about the rumor that you're related? Hal told me about that one too."
Lynne wondered when this had happened. And why Warfield even paid attention to such a thing.
Saavik stared at her, as if judging the same point. "I must remember to have a talk with Mr. Dawson. That also could be taken as my manipulating Ambassador Spock to provide me with favoritism. However, I do not believe you intended this."
"No, I didn't."
That same emphasis and intense stare. She suddenly nodded at Warfield, understanding the warning about Dawson, and Lauren sat back in her chair.
With that passed, Saavik lifted her eyebrows again. "You have also asked your one question for this round, Mr. Warfield, and I answered it. That marks the end of your turn."
Hoskins couldn't help it. She had to grin at the way Saavik weaved around them.
Warfield was grinning too. Altuism in warning the Vulcan about the rumors didn't mean she wouldn't like to find some things out... if Saavik would just oblige. "No, it doesn't. I said in the beginning about the rumors -- plural! -- from the Academy, so my question covers all of them. So are you Spock's cousin's second niece twice removed?"
The skin around Saavik's eyes tightened, and then she looked resigned with the whole thing as if she had been through this too many times before. "No, I am not the very convoluted, totally impossible example you have given. As we are playing this game for supposed educational purposes, you should know it was once considered an insult to make such a suggestion. For some Vulcans, it still is."
Lynne was too stunned to say anything as Dannan's cup rattled as she dropped it back in the saucer. Lauren blinked rapidly. "You're kidding... why? Because what? You're half-Romulan?"
"In an extremely simplified summary, yes."
"But that's ridiculous! I mean, doesn't your family get insulted by that? By people saying it's insulting to be related to them? Not that I ever met your family, but I'd be angry if it was me. But then, I'd be angry if I was half-Romulan and people were saying I only got ahead through sex and family connections."
"You may add to your list that inferring I 'get angry' is also insulting," Saavik mocked. "However, your questions are not part of your rumors topic, so it is not a violation if I do not answer."
Lauren stared at her before her smirk came back. "The people who say you're a walking computer are so damned wrong. I get a lot more answers from the computer."
Dannan dumped the spilled coffee from her saucer back into her cup. "That makes it my turn. Truth or Dare, Saavik? Oh the hell with it, pick Truth. It's an order."
Lynne interpreted the first officer's glance at her captain as "Et tu, Brute?"
"You are ordering me to follow your change in the rules, Captain?"
Dannan smiled. "Benefits of command. So, Truth. My question is a two-parter like Lauren's. How long have you known Spock and how did you first meet?"
"This preoccupation with my connection to Spock hints at a psychoneurotic obsession on everyone's part. If I may speak so freely, Captain."
"Nice of you to ask after the fact. You just keep everything such a secret, even after all these years, that you make us die of curiosity."
"Is that humor?"
"Somewhat. So, part one. How long have you known Spock?"
"If you insist on continuing this obsessive curiosity-- with all due respect, Captain -- twenty-one years, two hundred and five days-"
"The years are enough," Stuart interrupted. "You've know each other that long?"
"I answered the question truthfully, Captain."
"Wow," Lauren said. "I didn't know that."
Saavik's sidelong glance could have been sarcastic. "I believe that is the object of the game."
Lynne considered the answer sarcastic too. "But that's incredible. You must have known him all those years he was on Enterprise."
"Not all," Saavik said.
"How old were you, how did you meet?" Hoskins asked.
"It is not your turn," Saavik replied.
"How did you meet?" Dannan asked.
Saavik settled back in her chair again and folded her hands in her lap. "That, Captain, is classified."
"Classified?" Dannan's cup rattled again. She put it down on the table. "Classified?" she repeated in surprise. "How can you have a classified relationship with someone?"
"Both under the Privacy Act and a security seal established by Vulcan," Saavik said.
"Come off it! Vulcan put a security seal around how you met Spock? I don't believe it."
"Do you accuse me of lying?"
Stuart jabbed a finger at her. "I'm checking those records!"
"You will find them exactly as I have stated, Captain."
She's much too satisfied with herself, Lynne thought.
Dannan said, "Ok, I concede. Your turn, Saavik."
"Truth or Dare, Captain?"
Stuart got a wicked grin as if she was pictured what Saavik could come up with for either choice. "Fair's fair. I'll take Truth."
"The question has three parts, depending on your answer for part one. Part one, may I be dismissed?"
Dannan gave that a gleeful No.
"As I expected," Saavik said. "Part two, do you have an alternative reason for playing this game? I ask because the questions have centered on my association with Spock."
Lauren whistled between her teeth. Amen, Lynne thought. True, Dannan Stuart, like their previous captain, used Warfield and Hoskins to distract someone before she blindsided with the hard questions. And true, Dannan did think Saavik had put her friendship with Spock over the one with her captain a couple of times. But still...
Leave it to you to actually bring it up.
But Stuart only shook her head. "No, no hidden agenda. Just having fun. I'd ask how that question relates in any way to the first part, but I'm sure you have some answer."
"Part three," Saavik went on, "is this game over now that we have each had a turn?"
"My turn," Lynne said. "Still with you, Saavik, and you pick Truth." She waited for an argument, but got none. "No protest?"
"You would have the captain override it. Whether I want to or not, I am forced to be a part of this puerile endeavor."
"The definition of a good sport." Lynne grinned, and then leaned forward. "Have you ever slept with Spock?"
Even Stuart stared at her in surprise. "You got guts."
She shrugged. "I've answered questions like it in the past. Saavik's never found it offensive when you or Lauren asked me such things or has ever left the room so she couldn't hear what I said. And I don't mind that. We're friends. So," Lynne asked Saavik who had oddly said nothing. "Have you ever slept with Spock?"
Lynne found out people's mouths could literally hang open in surprise. Hers did. So did Lauren's and Dannan's.
"What?" Lauren managed to ask.
Saavik merely nodded. "The answer is yes. The first time--"
"First time?" Lauren spoke again. It came out as a squeak.
"Yes. The first occurred during a training mission. I was Beta group's leader, Spock led Alpha group. During the first evening, the mission simulated a loss of power. To conserve resources such as wood for heat, we slept back to back until it was my shift on guard duty. Following this--"
Dannan Stuart burst out laughing even as Lynne spluttered, "I didn't say sleep together! All right, I did, but--"
Saavik's lofty expression just made it worse. "It was almost your exact wording."
Hoskins gritted her teeth as Dannan's laughter subsided to chuckling and Lauren was back to muttering under her breath. "The question is, have you ever had sex with Spock? And don't tell me you don't understand the question or I'll have the Universal Translator give it in Vulcan."
"Is this another rumor circulating amongst the crew? I was unaware our people paid so little respect to the Federation's ambassadors."
"Just answer the question!"
She had missed the underlying warning in what Saavik had last said. She couldn't miss how that gaze drilled into her now. "Do you have any understanding of how you invade my privacy with this question?"
Lynne opened her mouth, but reality sunk in and her sarcasm rightly died. "You're right. I didn't consider that. I've never seen you open up with us before so I supposed I got carried away with you talking now. I didn't mean to invade your privacy. I supposed I'm just used to talking about personal things. As your friend, and I hope you do consider me a friend, I didn't mean to hurt you by my question. And as my friend, I hope you know that."
Saavik's gaze now dropped and she said nothing. Then she placed her folded hands on the table and leaned against it as her eyes locked again Lynne's.
Bloody hell again, Hoskins thought, what is she going to tell me?
"Astrometrics lab to Commander Saavik," a male voice came over the comm.
She leaned over to the close at hand computer station, as always taking the chair nearest it. "Saavik here."
"We need you down here right away, Commander. Sorry to interrupt your dinner."
"No need for an apology, Mr. Sert. I am on my way." She rose to her feet and looked around the table. "I thank you for teaching me this game. However, I see no reason to play again as this was a thorough experience. Captain," she said with a nod and left the room.
Stuart chuckled at Hoskins. "Lynne, Truth or Dare?"
"Truth," she muttered.
"Do you think she was going to answer you?"
Lynne exchanged a glance with Lauren and grinned. "Yes. She was going to tell me, as a friend, to mind my own damn business."
Engineering section on the USS Rider
Hal Dawson was just about to walk away from his duty station when Lauren Warfield contacted him.
"Hal! Good, caught you before you left. Do you remember the other night when you were discussing Saavik and some rumors about her in the Academy? I overheard you. I was a couple tables over in the rec area."
He swallowed at her look.
"You really shouldn't repeat those kind of things, even if they were true which I just confirmed that they're not. Makes you look petty, Hal, like it bothers you that Saavik's done better even though you ranked above her in the class. But that's not what I'm really calling about."
He didn't trust her smile.
"Listen, Hal, you might want to -- I don't know, hide for awhile."
A voice came from behind him. "Mr. Dawson." He turned to see Saavik, arms folded and back ramrod straight, in Engineering's main entrance. "I need to speak with you. Now."
Lauren sounded cheerful over the comm channel. "Too late. Good luck, Hal."