Title: Practicum in Tandem
Author: Farfalla the Butterfly-Kitten
Email: blueberrysnail at yahoo dot com
Website: www.cosmicduckling.com
Characters: Saavik/T'Amaya (f/f), (Kirk/Spock)&McCoy
Rating: NC-17, but just for the f/f. The sex scene is in blue, so people can skip it if they want.
Betas: Saavant, Hypatia, and Sensefille. I can't thank you enough.
Disclaimer: The entire Trek universe belongs to Paramount and will not suffer much from the poking and prodding of our curious collective imaginations. We mean our beloved characters no harm and think that quite possibly they enjoy the variety ;-) And T'Amaya is my creation and therefore my property, although if she's good I'll let her eat out of my hand :-P
Summary: The road to Saavik and T'Amaya's bonding ceremony is fraught with perils only Star Trek can truly provide
This is the third story in the 'Lessons in Infinite Diversity' trilogy, where Saavik and T'Amaya meet and fall in love.
Note: This story is part of the Femme Fuh-q Fest, round 12. The illustrations are by Mina, Lovin' James T., Karracaz, and me.

Practicum in Tandem

Sand stung Saavik's skin as the wind whipped past her at intense speeds. She pulled her simple raisin-colored cloak tighter around her body as she hurried through the Vulcan Science Academy campus toward the city's main footpath. Her trajectory would take her safely back home to Sarek and Amanda's, if the worsening sandstorm would allow her to walk the whole way. Unfortunately, that didn't seem likely.

Saavik quickly contemplated her options should the weather prevent her return home. She could duck into one of the campus buildings, but in that case she would most likely be forced to wait out the storm in an empty classroom with nothing to do and nowhere to sleep. Still, she would be safe. And there would probably be a place indoors from which she could notify Amanda of her location.

But when she started trying doors, she found most of them locked. It was evening and classes were long since over, and most of the labs where researchers spent long nights working were on the other end of the campus. With each prevented entrance, she tried harder and harder to think of another plan. It was getting almost too dusty in the air for her to see.

"Saavik!"

The most welcome voice in the world. Saavik turned behind her and saw the barely-visible outline of a flitter with an open door, the young woman piloting it waving at her frantically. "Saavik! Get in! Hurry!"

Saavik bounded into the flitter head-first and flung the door shut after her. She caught her breath and then turned to look at the driver as the vehicle zoomed away. T'Amaya's long dark hair was swept up into a high ponytail, and her shapely body was hidden under the formal black student robes of the VSA. She tried to keep her eyes on the path in front of her, but she was able to sneak Saavik a quick look from under her thick lashes.

Saavik had never before seen her t'hy'la in her school robes, their meetings mostly taking place under the private circumstances of T'Amaya's midnight shift at the VSA computer lab. She eyed the thick, heavily embroidered fabric curiously. A large, gold and silver IDIC with a jewel at the center sparkled from a pendant around T'Amaya's neck. Her lips were flushed brilliant and bright--she must have been eating something colorful recently.

"What was your destination, Saavik?" T'Amaya asked, enjoying the scrutiny.

"I intended to return home," said Saavik, "but that appears to be impossible now."

"The storm is too dense for the flitter," T'Amaya observed.

"Will we be safe if we land and wait?"

"My dormitory is not far," said T'Amaya. "We will be safe there."

Saavik silently calmed her heart-rate as T'Amaya steered the small craft through the campus towards the student housing. She hadn't said thank-you because one does not thank logic, but she hoped she would get an opportunity to express her appreciation in some other manner.

And... it was comforting to have the presence of a loved one nearby in a storm.

T'Amaya parked the flitter at the base of what Saavik could only assume was the dorm, because she couldn't see a thing through the windows. Then, bracing themselves, the two girls flung the doors open and ran like hell into the building. T'Amaya grabbed Saavik's clothed wrist and tugged her along so she wouldn't get lost.

Once inside, they sprinted up the stairs a short ways out of momentum before stopping halfway up to catch their breaths. "We made it," Saavik exhaled.

"We're safe," agreed her friend.

"Which one is yours?" Saavik asked, following T'Amaya up the rest of the way at a walking pace.

"This one," said T'Amaya. She had reached the top of the stairs, and she pointed to the door immediately across. She keyed the door open with her magnetic card as Saavik climbed the rest of the stairs and held the door open for her.

The room was small but efficiently designed, with two bunked beds along one wall, a sofa along the other, and a desk in front of each of these, opposite each other. "Where is your roommate?" Saavik asked, looking around the room at the firepot, the posters, and the small herb-garden in the window. She was reminded of her room in the Academy.

"T'Reen has gone home for the weekend," said T'Amaya. "Her sister gave birth to a boy yesterday and she is visiting her new nephew."

"How providential," Saavik said, realizing only as the words left her mouth that they meant more than one thing.

"Indeed," was all T'Amaya said, but her eyes swept slowly up and down Saavik's body, a gesture that had never failed to heat up the Lieutenant's blood.

"I require the toilet," said Saavik. "Where is--?"

"At the end of the hall," said T'Amaya, pointing out the door. "I will await you."

As Saavik tended to her body's immediate needs, she mentally inspected her current situation. She and T'Amaya had never gone any further physically than the formal finger-touch, except for one foray into the Human practice of 'kissing' that had been disastrously bland. The girls were planning to bond, and both knew that extended sensual contact between them might bring about such a bond spontaneously, so deep were their feelings. T'Amaya's parents were very conservative Vulcans, already dismayed by her friendship with the half-breed, Human-influenced Saavik, and T'Amaya did not wish to upset them any further. Bonding formally, and refraining from intercourse until after koon-ut-kalifee, was the least she could do to attempt to mollify them.

But it was difficult. Saavik herself had never been sexually interested in anything to a great degree before T'Amaya entered her life, but the sexy young physics student awakened in her the passions she had only read about in ancient poetry. Such thoughts ceased to be intellectual and now spoke in the rhythms of the physical. And T'Amaya did not make it easy to resist contact, because she herself wanted very, very much to couple...

Saavik splashed cold water on her face and looked at herself in the mirror. On impulse, she let her long brown hair down out of its twist, and it flowed down around her shoulders. She seldom wore it this way because it got in the way--but T'Amaya's bedroom was not a laboratory.

She returned to the dorm room, her cloak over her arm. Underneath she'd worn a loose, long-sleeved white shirt over her black Starfleet pants. She knocked on the door of the room, wondering what T'Amaya had been wearing under hers.

Whatever it was, it was gone now. T'Amaya opened the door wearing a light blue satin babydoll nightie, a flimsy little thing that exposed her cleavage and barely covered her panties.

It was Saavik's turn to stare.

T'Amaya pulled the speechless Lieutenant into the room by the wrist and slid the door shut. "I changed into something more comfortable," T'Amaya explained.

"It is difficult not to embrace you," Saavik stated bluntly.

"You may do so," T'Amaya said calmly.

Saavik paused in frustration. "It is dangerous. Your parents will resent me even more if we spontaneously bond. You must be logical."

T'Amaya looked around the room, then back at Saavik. "Then I wish to pleasure you." Saavik opened her mouth to protest, but T'Amaya added, "Unmelded. And I will pleasure you as you would do to yourself."

The two girls had never melded because of the potential danger to their mental chastity, so that part was only natural. But--"As I would do...?" Saavik repeated.

"Your own hands can serve as a lover's."

"I know that," said Saavik. "I have never known how, or felt the need." Until I met you.

"Do you burn for me?" T'Amaya asked, drawing near, her breasts nudging Saavik's. Saavik felt her hot breath gently falling upon her.

"Yes." Faintly whispered.

"Please, sit." T'Amaya gestured to the sofa. Saavik obeyed, her head floating in the clouds, and heat gathering between her legs.

T'Amaya pushed her back slightly against the cushions, forcing her to relax, and then took one of her hands in both of hers. She lavished care upon Saavik's hand with all ten fingers, then touched two of hers to two of Saavik's tightly. The air charged with their mutual desire, they remained locked in finger-contact for a few minutes.

Then T'Amaya slithered gracefully onto the sofa to Saavik's right, their bodies touching at the sides. "Your pants." T'Amaya looked towards Saavik's fly. Saavik hastily unfastened it.

T'Amaya slid her left hand inside Saavik's pants and cupped her vulva lightly. Through the other girl's underwear she could feel the dampness of an already growing desire. Saavik instinctively ground herself against T'Amaya's hand, seeking harder, targeted contact.

Breathing deeply with concentration, T'Amaya drew her other hand leisurely across Saavik's breasts. The Lieutenant's bosom heaved into her hand. "May I do this to you?" Saavik asked, breathless, looking with hunger at T'Amaya's chest.

"Touch me, Saavik," T'Amaya murmured, moving her breasts closer to Saavik's reaching hand.

Saavik gasped and writhed as her hand felt the beautiful fullness of T'Amaya's curves. She was dizzy with want, and continued to explore T'Amaya's flesh with her fingers. She caressed a hardening nipple through the satiny material of the blue nightie, and T'Amaya responded with a sharp moan.

Wriggling herself from her own need, T'Amaya shifted her hand inside Saavik's pants and inched it underneath the waistband of her underwear. Ignoring the brush of hair, she slipped her fingers straight in between Saavik's nether lips. Saavik was slippery and T'Amaya felt the flesh twitch beneath her fingers as Saavik stroked her other nipple to hardness.

T'Amaya had explored her own body for years, but never another's. She drew her hand out of Saavik's panties for a moment to sniff her fingers. Saavik's lust smelled of fruit and hormones, and the smell served to arouse her further. T'Amaya licked one finger exploratively, and then pacified Saavik's incoherent pleading by replacing her hand to its former wet home.

This time her index finger found Saavik's clitoris instantly. Saavik yelped, and squeezed the breast beneath her hand. T'Amaya flicked the tiny spot methodically with her fingers, her swift, computer-expert fingers, put to work now on a far more attractive piece of equipment than any keypad. Saavik began to buck her hips in rhythm to her own waves of passion.

Riding T'Amaya's hand, Saavik began to undo the ribbons that kept the bodice of T'Amaya's nightie closed. As each layer of bows was released, the top grew looser and looser and Saavik could see more and more of T'Amaya's beautiful full breasts, soft and round, peeking from beyond the satin. Finally, the last ribbon undone, the bodice grew loose enough to fall. Blue satin melted down around T'Amaya's waist, exposing her bosom--creamy skin accented by perky nipples of golden-green. Saavik felt something within her accelerate at the sight, and the twitching of her clit increased.

Saavik pulled T'Amaya closer and T'Amaya thrust one of her nipples between Saavik's slack, open lips. With her mouth sucking on T'Amaya's breast, her tongue flicking against the delicious nipple, Saavik came. T'Amaya caught the orgasm in her skilled little hand and encouraged it, milking each rhythmic wave with a pulse of her fingers. She felt each spasm of Saavik's labia clutch at her, and felt the need for her own release.

T'Amaya leaned back against the sofa and moved her other hand toward her pussy, but Saavik's hand beat her there. Eager to reciprocate, Saavik eased her hand inside T'Amaya's panties, a small scrap of material that matched the nightie. T'Amaya was wet and what existed of the panties was soaked with her fluid.

Saavik remembered the place on her own body that T'Amaya had gently prodded to climax, and sought it here. "Yes," T'Amaya whispered, letting her know she had succeeded. "There."

Her fingers slick with female arousal, Saavik clumsily but dedicatedly worked T'Amaya's body until she came, convulsing with a throaty groan. She threw her head backwards and her eyes were heavy-lidded and swimming with sexuality. Saavik reveled in the beauty of the sight.

Independent of conscious thought, T'Amaya's hand suddenly floated up to Saavik's forehead. The need to meld, to join minds, had surfaced in the flames of the shared climax. Against her own desires, Saavik grabbed T'Amaya's wrist, staying her grasp. "No," she whispered. "We must wait." She moved their hands into a finger-touch, and helped calm her mate.

"I apologize," T'Amaya said once her faculties had returned. Saavik put her arm around the other girl's shoulders, and T'Amaya snuggled into the curve of Saavik's torso. "It is easy to forget myself."

"Your family will be grateful for your discipline," Saavik reminded her. "It is admirable."

"My family has much to learn in the ways of IDIC." T'Amaya's gaze fell on her pendant, now laying on her desk atop a few stray boxes of incense.

"Less than others," Saavik replied. "I must ask you--why does your mother disapprove of my heritage, but not my gender? If, as you say, she is truly a creature of the oldest tradition, should she not wish you to bond with a male and produce his children?"

T'Amaya waited a moment before speaking. "I can not bear children. I am sterile."

Saavik looked into her eyes deeply. "That is unfortunate."

"Did you wish us to raise offspring? I assumed, because of Starfleet--"

"I have other goals in life and have no urge to parent, and I do not particularly wish to share you," Saavik answered. "I spoke too vaguely. It is unfortunate, if *you* find it so."

"I do not," said T'Amaya. "I am not a mother."

"Then we are in agreement."

"So now you understand why our genders are not an issue with my parents," said T'Amaya. "Reproduction not being a factor, it is logical to seek companionship with the type of partner one desires most."

"That is true," said Saavik. "T'Amaya, I am curious why you are sterile. You understand, I have studied the biological sciences."

"An imbalance in my mother's hormones during my gestation destroyed my reproductive capacity," T'Amaya explained.

"Fascinating," mused Saavik. How fragile were the threads of biology. "What caused the imbalance?"

"My mother was bonded as a child, but the match was disrupted by--Saavik, do you smell something?"

Saavik sprang up from the sofa, sniffing the air. Her Romulan side betrayed an expression of alarm for one brief moment when she identified the odor. "Nerve-paralyzing gas," she hissed. "Follow me!"

T'Amaya struggled to replace the ribbons on her bodice, then gave up and threw Saavik's robe around her body. Saavik grabbed her wrist and dragged her towards the door, punching the controls to open it.

Nothing happened. "Open!!"

"Let me try." T'Amaya stepped forward and played with the keypad with her lightning-fast fingers. She fell back in disbelief. "The code's been changed!"

"What about the window?" They rushed to the opposite side of the room, but the windows had been locked down as well.

Saavik picked up a nearby geode and started banging on the pane, but T'Amaya stopped her. "The windows are an unbreakable plastic alloy."

Saavik's muscles relaxed. "So, we are trapped?" She was beginning to feel like her bones were made of jelly.

"Yes."

Saavik looked weak. "I can't... feel my feet..." T'Amaya caught her as she collapsed in an unconscious heap, and let her down gently onto the sofa.

Pulling Saavik's cloak tighter around her shoulders, T'Amaya struggled to make her way to her communications console before the drug overtook her system as well. "Call my mother," she gasped at the computer.

She had just enough time to gasp, "Help... Saavik and I... poison gas... in the dorm..." to her mother's face on the screen before she fell in a faint on the floor.

Captain James T. Kirk, formerly Admiral, and Captain Spock, formerly deceased, were fast asleep in bed. It was six-fifteen in the morning, and the brilliant lemony glow of sunrise was brazenly peeking into their window. They'd fallen asleep snuggling, but the entropy of sleep had rolled them away from each other into separate nests of blanket. The condo was toasty-warm, and conditions were favorable for a leisurely morning.

That is, until the emergency communications alarm sounded.

Kirk, instantly awake with the reflexes of his many years in command, sprang out of bed and hit the button. "Kirk here."

"Transmission coming in from Vulcan," said a calm, anonymous voice. Then a female face filled the screen.

Kirk's lips parted slightly in shock. "T'Pring?"

"Kirk," she nodded coolly.

"I've just received an emergency signal from your console. What's the matter?" Kirk swallowed and tasted his own morning breath, trying to pretend he wasn't standing there in his pajamas talking to a woman he hadn't seen in nearly twenty years--who'd once almost been responsible for his death--at Spock's hand!

"I have just received a transmission from a ship leaving the Vulcan system," said T'Pring. "My daughter has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom by parties unknown. Your lieutenant Saavik is with her and was also captured."

"What? Saavik was captured?" Kirk sensed Spock start to stir on the bed.

"She and my daughter intend to bond--somewhat against our wishes, as you might have predicted."

Kirk was incredulous. "T'Amaya is your daughter?"

"Saavik did not tell you?"

"I don't even think she knows herself!" Kirk spluttered. He glanced back over his shoulder at Spock, still lying in bed and out of the range of T'Pring's view. The Vulcan was watching the unfolding scene with expressionless discomfort.

"Captain Kirk, you must help them," said T'Pring.

"What have the Vulcan police been able to do?" Kirk had no real problem with helping Saavik, his husband's protege, but he had his doubts about the wisdom of getting mixed up in T'Pring's affairs.

"They work slowly," said T'Pring. "I require the insurance of outside assistance."

"What about a private investigator?"

"Kirk, you will help my daughter, or you will be faced with a lawsuit. It is no secret that I do not favor her relationship with your Romulan lieutenant and it may complicate her chances for escape."

"What? That's preposterous! And Saavik's only half Romulan."

"That fact is not important. What is important is my daughter's safety," T'Pring insisted.

"T'Pring--" Kirk paused. "Do the kidnappers know who Saavik is?"

"No," answered T'Pring. "They believe her to be T'Amaya's roommate. T'Reen is, I believe, out of town for the weekend."

"How were they captured?"

"The dorm room was gassed. T'Amaya notified me before succumbing."

"They probably took Saavik along to make it harder for your daughter to escape," Kirk admitted. "One girl, by herself, might be able to get out of their clutches, but she wouldn't leave her friend."

"Precisely."

"But it's--not Saavik's fault that she was there! T'Reen would have been taken, if she'd been there at the time."

T'Pring only blinked.

Kirk turned around to look at Spock, who was already dressed and had eaten half a bagel. "Arguments aside, the Lieutenant needs us," Spock said somberly.

"You have--there--on your lip," Kirk pointed out. Still dignified, Spock quickly wiped the dab of cream-cheese off his mouth.

Kirk swiveled back around to the waiting Vulcan matron. "All right, T'Pring, we'll do it. Have all relevant information sent to my Starfleet email and we'll find a shuttle that'll take us out."

"What is your email address?"

"'Jtkirk@1701.starfleet.gov'. No, wait. 1701A. Spock, is there a hyphen between the 1701 and the A?"

"Yes."

"Hyphen, A. Got that?" To Spock, he murmured, "I wonder if that old address still works."

"I have it," T'Pring confirmed. "You will receive the information shortly." Then she paused. "I have faith in your originality, James Kirk."

Kirk looked deep into her unmoving, beautiful face. "Thank you," he finally said after a long while. "I appreciate that. And don't let them find out who Saavik is, or they may try something funny. Kirk out."

Ex-bondmates having dismissed each other from the viewer, Kirk and Spock faced each other with waves of stunned astonishment undulating between them. "I can't believe it," Kirk muttered.

"Which part, Jim? Saavik in peril yet again, Saavik being engaged to T'Pring's daughter, or T'Pring's choosing to contact you for help?"

"I--wow." Kirk shook his head. "Are there any more bagels?"

"I believe so."

"Could you toast me one? I've got to call Bones."

"Yes, I was thinking that myself. It would be good to have a doctor with us in case either girl has been injured."

On the other side of the dead phone line, T'Pring was pacing around her living room. Stonn watched her from an overstuffed armchair, sipping tea and typing all the facts of the case into a small handheld computer console. "What are your thoughts, Aduna?" he asked, his eyes having followed her for many minutes.

"If that man can bring both himself and Spock back from the dead, he can surely retrieve a living woman," she answered crisply.

"That is logical," said Stonn. He kept typing.

Saavik seeped back into consciousness slowly and haltingly. She was only aware of the scent of T'Amaya's hair, clean and floral and familiar, and the comfort that came automatically from feeling the girl's head resting across her right shoulder. T'Amaya was such a sweet, studious creature--wait, why were they sleeping together? What was going on? Saavik frantically tried to pull her thoughts together as her eyes refused to show her anything but a frustrating blur.

Suddenly everything came back to her. She remembered racing around the Vulcan Science Academy dorm room trying to find a way out, but all entrances had been sealed and they had no defense against the neural gas. She remembered not being able to feel her feet, and now here she was, waking up--where? This did not smell like the dorm.

And then her eyesight returned.

Saavik looked around her with dull shock as she took in the heart-dropping sight of their surroundings--the small cargo wing of a two-man merchant shuttle. They'd been taken out in space. They'd been kidnapped.

She discovered her hands and feet were tied with a cord made of some kind of organic fiber, and she was fastened by another cord around her waist to a hook on the wall. Inspecting T'Amaya as best she could, she saw no sign of bruise or injury and breathed a bitter sigh of relief.

Muffled voices were coming from the other side of the sliding metal door opposite the captives. Saavik scooted forward as much as she could and strained her soldier's ears to listen. She hoped they were speaking a language of which she had some knowledge.

"There isn't any jam left."

They were speaking English. Probably Human. Saavik kept listening.

"Yeah, there is, you're just not looking hard enough," said a different voice.

"That isn't jam, that's that Vulcan mint shit!"

"Mint jelly isn't just Vulcan; people on Earth eat it with lamb."

"This isn't lamb, it's a piece of toast. I'm not putting mint jelly on a piece of toast."

Saavik wasn't as versed in tracking Earth accents as she would have liked to be, but something about both voices reminded her a little bit of Dr. McCoy. She guessed they were from the American South, or a colony mostly consisting of settlers from there.

"Will you shut up about the fuckin' jam? We'll get jam when we're done with all this. The first thing we do, we'll--"

"It has to be strawberry."

"Fine! Whatever. As soon as T'Pring gives our ransom, we'll dump the girls back on the planet and go straight to Risa. You can have as much toast and jam as you want." He sounded irritated.

"I want toast and jam and boo-tay," said the other voice, sing-song. "And better booze."

"We could ask T'Pring for better booze," said the first voice thoughtfully. "She's so rich from that L-CARS shit she probably could get us Romulan ale."

"Aw, man, you drink that shit? Last time I did that I passed out and woke up between two Klingon women."

"That's not my fault, is it? I know how to handle it, that's all."

"Those girls in there is fine," pointed out the man who wanted jam.

"You don't go near those girls, Richard," warned the man who wanted liquor. "They could fight back, someone could get hurt.... and then we're murderers instead of just, uh, borrowing them for a little bit."

"Okay, okay..."

"You're right, though. T'Pring's daughter is a pretty hot cookie."

"What about the other one?"

"....Eh....she could be hot...." He sounded doubtful.

"I thought she was hot," said Richard defiantly.

"She looks Romulan."

"There wouldn't be a Romulan at the VSA."

"I'm just saying."

There was a second or two of silence, then, "Hey, Bran."

"What?"

"How do we know she's the roommate?"

"Who else could she be? Vulcans don't have social lives!"

"Yeah, but did you see what the daughter was wearing?"

Saavik's cheeks burned. She didn't want those creatures talking about what she and T'Amaya had shared. Her mind raced to absorb what she had heard about T'Amaya's parentage.

T'Pring had once been bonded to Spock, since they were both only seven years old. But she'd broken the bond when she fell in love with Stonn, who was pureblood and therefore more desirable to her. So this was the disastrous bond of which T'Amaya had spoken. Saavik wasn't aware of the details of the koon-ut-kalifee, but she did know that Spock's then-orphaned pon farr had been satiated by Captain Kirk, finally consummating the passion of their friendship. Both men barely spoke of T'Pring. Saavik had gathered most of her information from Vulcan rumor, and she wondered if it were true that Kirk had come back from the dead to succor Spock's need. Knowing him, she didn't doubt it.

And T'Amaya had spoken of a hormonal flux that disturbed her growth in utero--

T'Pring had been carrying a child at that koon-ut-kalifee, and here she was! Saavik shook her head in wonder at the quirks of fate.

Almost as if she'd been gently stimulated by the caress of Saavik's eyes, T'Amaya started to wake up. "Saavik," she murmured groggily.

"Are you well?"

"I will be." Her eyesight must have come back more quickly than Saavik's, because she was already looking around the room, frowning. "Where are we?"

"We have been taken to a shuttle and are being held for ransom by two Humans," Saavik explained. "They are waiting for your mother to pay."

"She will not stand for this sort of terrorism," T'Amaya said coolly. "And I suspect it will not improve her view of Humans."

"Will she send the money?" Saavik asked.

"My parents will send help after me," said T'Amaya. "We shall be rescued, if their choice is a logical one."

"Who would they send?"

"I believe my mother would call Captain Kirk."

Saavik looked at her quizzically. "Your parents have met the Captain before," she pointed out.

"Yes," said T'Amaya. "Spock was once acquainted with my mother."

"Spock was once bonded to your mother."

T'Amaya licked her lips. "That is true."

"Do not be afraid," said Saavik reassuringly. "I do not blame you for her actions. You are your own person and I belong to you, not your family."

Saavik told her all about the conversation she'd heard between Bran and Richard, their abductors. "Their thoughts seem to be dominated by food and sex," Saavik commented after she'd repeated a few lines.

"My mother thinks that is the way of Humans," said T'Amaya.

"Perhaps after our bonding she will become better acquainted with Captain Kirk and my other superiors."

"It would be desirable," agreed T'Amaya. "And she may finally acknowledge her admiration of his originality."

"Pardon me for changing the subject, but the men in the other room do not know that I am connected in any way with Captain Spock. Should they discover this, they may decide to hold me for a separate ransom, and move the ship farther away from Vulcan." Saavik was working away at the cords binding her hands as she spoke. "Given that we live in an age of infinite computer banks, it is only a matter of time before they identify me as Spock's protege."

"In that event, we should endeavor to escape," T'Amaya said, biting her lip.

"The knots on my hands are not perfect. I will be free shortly, and can untie you as well." Saavik looked around the room. "But I see nothing we can use as a weapon to take over the craft."

T'Amaya thought for a moment, then cast her eyes down to the large metal IDIC she had slung back around her neck at the last minute before passing out. Then she met Saavik's eyes and raised her brow with significance.

"I do not understand. It is just a pendant."

"This is only a replica of the real necklace I was given upon my acceptance to the Science Academy," T'Amaya explained. "This is costume jewelry, easily dismantled. The silver triangle will come off if enough force is applied, and used--as a blade."

"That is convenient." Saavik nodded, with her eyebrows raised.

"I have an idea of a way we might be able to sneak out without being detected, so that violence will not be necessary." T'Amaya's eyes moved around the room, inspecting the panels. "If you can free me, I may be able to hack into the computer system of this shuttlecraft using the panels in this room. If I can trick the computers into ignoring the sensors from the escape pod, we could crawl through the air vents to the pod, trigger its detachment, and be rid of these men before they know we are gone."

"An excellent idea." The words were barely out of Saavik's mouth before both girls were startled by the sound of an opening door.

They clung to each other instinctively, for the mental support of touch-telepathy as much as anything else, as one of the humans entered the room carrying two tinfoil sacks. He was tall and skinny and wore a red shirt and khaki slacks, and his dark hair stuck out at several angles. "Hey, girls!" he called out cheerfully. Saavik recognized the voice as belonging to the one called Bran. "I broughtcha some food."

Saavik regarded him with all the disgust her Romulan half could muster, while T'Amaya sat expressionless. "You have taken us in violation of Vulcan law and will be dealt with by the authorities," Saavik stated coolly.

"Only if they catch us, honey! And that ain't happening." Bran approached T'Amaya ungracefully. The distance between them quickly grew too small for her comfort, but she gritted her teeth and endured it as he untied her hands. "Okay, T'Amaya, you can eat, and I want you to feed her also," Bran explained. "If you do anything that looks like you're trying to hit me or escape or anything, I'll sock her, okay?"

"Sock?" T'Amaya said blankly. The man who did her family's laundry was called Sock...

"He means that if you are disobedient he will hurt me," Saavik explained, a little embarrassed that she was being used to control T'Amaya's behavior.

T'Amaya inhaled slightly. "I do not wish her to be harmed," she told the kidnapper.

"Fine! Fine," he said, lifting both his eyebrows as he tore open one of the metallic bags. The smell of apples filled the air. T'Amaya, who had never smelled it before, peered into the bag curiously.

"They are apples," explained Saavik. "It is a fruit."

"I see." T'Amaya removed one of the pre-sliced chunks from the bag and smelled it.

"They are safe," Saavik reassured her. "They are not a poison."

"Some Earth fruits contain glucocyanins," T'Amaya mentioned with concern.

"The harmful compounds are only in the seeds," said Saavik. Then she looked at T'Amaya closely. "You have been reading about Earth botany."

"If I am to accompany you on Starfleet missions, I wished to know the chemical properties of Earth's plants," T'Amaya explained. "If you say the apples are safe, I will eat them, and feed you."

She placed one of the apple slices into Saavik's open mouth gently and then nibbled on one herself. While they ate, Bran tore open the other bag. T'Amaya furrowed her brow at the unfamiliar smell, but Saavik knew what it was and recoiled in horror.

Bran looked at them with bloodshot blue eyes. "What? It's just beef jerky."

"You really do know nothing about Vulcans, do you," Saavik told him flatly, looking at him with disgust.

"What?" He seemed completely bewildered.

"I told you, you jackass!" shouted the voice of Richard from the shuttlecraft cockpit. "Vulcans don't eat meat!"

"All that stuff is so complicated! You can't expect me to remember every little thing. They'll eat whatever I'm giving them!" Bran shouted, half to him and half to the captives. "It's all we've got! I'm not giving them my momma's homemade bread, not on your life."

"Will you please just hurry up in there!" Richard whined. "I can't read this Orion gibberish on the control panel."

"Well, it's not like I can read Orion either!"

"Yeah, but you sort of have the color-code figured out."

During this exchange, T'Amaya was staring at the tinfoil bag of processed meat with horror. "You'll have to eat it," Saavik told her gently.

"It's flesh," T'Amaya murmured. "That came from an animal."

"We both need our strength," Saavik countered. "We do not know when we will eat again." Please, t'hy'la, if we escape we might not find food for days... But of course, she could not say this out loud, and as they had never melded, there was no mind-link.

"I will not eat flesh," T'Amaya persisted. She carefully ate another apple slice, and then held one out to Saavik.

"You must let me eat it, then," Saavik told her through a mouthful of apple. T'Amaya looked at her, her face showing nothing but her aura very, very scared. "I promise you I will not enjoy it," Saavik added pointedly. "I was a child on the street. Meat is an experience from a time I do not wish to remember."

T'Amaya considered the options. "It is logical for you to eat the meat, since I will not, and you can tolerate it," she finally agreed. But she waited until all the apples were gone before hand-feeding the beef-jerky to Saavik.

"Jim." Dr. McCoy was leaning against the side wall of the shuttlecraft the three men had rented, his arms folded across his chest.

Jim was looking over the piloting controls. "We should be at Vulcan in another day. What is it, Bones?"

"How do you think Saavik's going to react when she finds out who her future in-laws are?"

Kirk considered. "Well, I...think she has the intelligence not to condemn T'Amaya for her mother's personality," he said diplomatically.

"That's not even the issue!" McCoy exploded in a flurry of waving hands. "I know she didn't have anything to do with the kalifee, she wasn't even born yet. I'm just concerned about what it'll mean to have T'Pring so close to her."

"T'Pring will not be accompanying them on Saavik's next mission," Spock pointed out. "And she is far too busy developing L-CARS to significantly interfere in her daughter's relationships."

"Spock, you've never had in-laws," said McCoy. "They don't have to be there to be in your hair. And have you both forgotten what it was T'Pring *did*?"

"She sought to dissolve our bond in such a way that ensured the safety of the father of her unborn child," Spock replied. "She behaved in a perfectly logical, if somewhat unethical, manner."

"She almost killed Jim! You green-blooded--"

"Bones, Spock," Kirk shushed them both with a wave of his hand. "Are you both that bored? We can always sing 'ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall"..."

The kidnappers' shuttlecraft hung peaceful and silent in space, orbiting a moon in a system near Vulcan. Richard was asleep in the co-pilot seat next to Bran, who was lazily monitoring the equipment. Neither man was very good at approximating the meaning of the Orion symbols on the screen, but Richard had gotten it into his head that Bran had figured out more than he had. Bran hoped he was right as he stared blankly at the hieroglyphs and square dots.

Inside the other compartment, Saavik had worked herself completely free of her knots and was cutting the cords to T'Amaya's bonds with the silver triangle pried off of the IDIC pendant. It wasn't difficult; she had been tied less tightly than before after they'd finished eating, most likely because of their apparent acquiescence to their fate.

T'Amaya remained crouched to the ground after she was free, visually inspecting the cabin so that actual movement could be kept to a minimum. This way, she would only walk around and risk making enough noise to be discovered once she'd actually spied a panel suitable for her task. The gold circle of the broken pendant hung crookedly around her neck, and Saavik slipped the silver piece into one of her pockets for safekeeping.

The Lieutenant waited patiently for ten minutes, then fifteen, then twenty as T'Amaya made her mental calculations. She was running over the blueprints for a shuttlecraft's computer framework in her mind, and looking for a physical weakness that could be exploited. Saavik hoped she would be able to find something.

Suddenly T'Amaya rose to her feet and walked very slowly to the opposite end of the room. She was careful to place her feet across the floor in a soundless manner, and held her robe up close to her to cut down on even the sound of moving fabric. When she reached the wall, she ran her fingers delicately over the panel, then found the spot she sought.

Saavik licked her lips and watched, still crouched on the floor, as T'Amaya pulled the panel open as quietly as possible and began to play with the keys and wires inside. She hoped the hack would work, and that the default signal from the escape pod would continue to pulse through the system even after they had ejected themselves. T'Amaya was also adding a mathematical signature to the craft's functions, one that Kirk and his friends would be sure to recognize. Both girls agreed that even if they escaped unharmed and intact, their abductors needed to be caught and punished.

The minutes ticked on, and Saavik waited patiently. Finally, T'Amaya stepped back, her eyes fluttering around like dove's wings as she checked her handiwork. "I believe I am finished," she murmured.

"Is it safe to leave?" Saavik asked, with her brow furrowed.

"Yes," said T'Amaya, adding, "I hope so."

Saavik sprang to her feet. "We must hurry." She took T'Amaya's hand and pulled her over to the escape pod. "You have programmed the signature as well?" T'Amaya nodded, so Saavik proceeded with her actions. She punched up the controls for the escape pod and then seized the large crank that opened the hatchway. It took all her strength to pull it open, but she was a trained Starfleet officer and soon it gave way. They both winced at the noise of the door swinging open, but it was unavoidable.

Swiftly they slipped into the tiny compartment and closed the door in on themselves. It was cramped inside, and smelled of chlorine disinfectant, but the urgency of the situation dwarfed other concerns. T'Amaya's fingers flew on the control pad as Saavik settled into the closest approximation of a comfortable position. The forced, accidental full-body contact with T'Amaya was physically pleasing and mentally comforting, and they helped settle each other's nerves while waiting for the pod to detach.

With a disruptive jerk that made Saavik's head swim, the escape pod broke away from the shuttlecraft. The girls held each other for support, and calmed the atmosphere by their slow, steady breathing.

"We are free," said Saavik, gazing into T'Amaya's rich dark eyes. "Your abilities are laudable."

"I thank thee," said T'Amaya, "my t'hy'la." She had broken into more formal Vulcan speech as a kind of meditative calming mechanism.

They studied each other's beauty in the dim, cold light of the pod. "Thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts its clusters," quoted Saavik in a gentle murmur.

T'Amaya's eyelashes fluttered. "I am honored to please you. What is that from?"

"It is from an Earth religious text," explained Saavik. "The fruits of the palm are called coconuts, and their white fluid is often referred to as 'milk', although it is not."

"The syntax of the sentence is strange, but it pleases me." T'Amaya settled back into the crook of Saavik's arm as the pod headed automatically for the nearest known class-M planet.

"So we went to this little Italian place the other night," Kirk was saying to Bones. "We'd been there before, but they changed owners and then we... had other things to think about." Like resurrecting dead Vulcans, said his unspoken thoughts. "We thought we'd check out the new menu, have some wine..."

"That wasn't Mama Anna's kitchen, was it?" McCoy inquired, uncrossing and then re-crossing his legs in the other direction. It had been a long journey, but they were finally nearing Vulcan. It was Spock's turn at the controls.

"No, no, it was... well, it used to be Tartamella's, but she sold it and married some guy from the UK. Last I heard they were opening up a new place on Altair." Kirk paused to take a drink of water. "I can't remember the name they're using now. Anyway, we ordered our food. We got personal deep-dish pizzas, and Spock ordered his without meat. Their 'default' had pepperoni and sausage on it. But we never usually have a problem getting vegetarian food for him, not in this day and age."

"And not in San Francisco," McCoy added. "You can get anything from jellyfish to deep-fried sand in that place."

"Deep fried sand with hot sauce, my friend!" Kirk chuckled, remembering that experience. "So, our food came, and Spock began to cut his--"

"He would eat pizza with a knife and fork," McCoy interrupted.

"It was a deep-dish, Bones, that's how you eat it."

"I don't believe in deep-dish."

"How can you not believe in deep-dish pizza? Do you consider it a mythical food item?" Kirk, whose throat was getting dry from the recycled air, took another drink of water. "Well, Spock noticed that the pizza had a few pieces of sausage still on it, and some pepperoni slices, too!"

"Damn kids in the kitchen," McCoy muttered.

"So naturally, we sent it back, but when they brought him his pizza again--instead of taking off the meat or making a new one, they'd just dumped more sauce onto the pizza, to hide the meat! Can you believe it?"

"I hope you didn't leave a tip," McCoy muttered sympathetically.

"What if he'd been allergic--"

"Jim, Doctor," Spock interrupted suddenly from the controls. "I believe someone is sending us a message."

Both Humans sprang up and darted to his side. Kirk squinted at the screen. "What's that signal?"

"This is coming in on and old-fashioned radio frequency," Spock said slowly, as if he didn't believe his own words.

"Radio?" spouted McCoy incredulously.

"Maybe it's a distress call from a civilization at that level," Kirk postulated.

"In that case, they would not be out in space," Spock pointed out. "And, Captain--I believe this was intended to catch our attention."

"Oh? Why's that?"

"Because the frequency is 1701 megahertz."

Kirk and McCoy shared a look. "Where's it coming from?" Kirk asked.

"A small, two-man cargo shuttle," said Spock, staring into the panel. "Orion, from the design."

"Orion?" Kirk said with alarm. "They took Saavik?"

"This shuttle is a type the Orions manufacture and market for low-budget, off-world sales," Spock corrected.

"So it's a flea-trap they sell to poor colonists."

"And criminals, apparently," added McCoy.

Kirk grimaced. "Spock, follow that shuttle!"

Saavik and T'Amaya's escape pod steered itself towards where its limited memory banks knew there to be a class-M planet, one suitable of supporting humanoid life without space suits. They held each other for mental and physical support as the red lights came on inside, signifying entrance into an alien atmosphere. The sudden introduction of natural gravity into the pod made Saavik slightly queasy, and she looked at T'Amaya to see if she, too, was affected. Unfortunately, the other girl seemed to be headed for listlessness. "It will be over soon," Saavik told her reassuringly.

"I do not think I am well," T'Amaya responded, troubled. Spaceflight had been a rarity for her during her formative years, and the events of the past days had been physiologically stressful.

"I will help you if you need it," said Saavik. They both knew this meant a healing meld, and T'Amaya bravely struggled to pull herself together to prevent those desperate measures.

The pod's red lights started flashing to let its occupants know they were about to touch ground, and the craft met the surface of the planet with a sudden, jarring bump. Saavik let out her breath with relief--the anti-gravs on this piece of trash worked after all. T'Amaya let herself be lolled over a little too far than natural by the displacement. "T'hy'la--" Saavik murmured in alarm, watching her from beneath a furrowed brow.

She was temporarily distracted by the hiss and snap of the doorway as it opened automatically and let a broad shaft of hard white sunlight into their darkness. A wave of heat filled the small space in the next moment. Stabilizing her senses, Saavik unfolded her knees and stepped out into the light, onto a prairie of tall, dry grass. She turned around and reached for her intended.

T'Amaya stood up shakily and tried to exit the pod, but her legs collapsed in on themselves and she landed in a trembling heap, spilling out of the pod and onto the prairie soil. Saavik rushed to her side and placed her arms around her.

As she looked into her eyes she suddenly realized what was wrong. "You have not eaten in days," Saavik pointed out, "only fruit, and that was hours ago."

T'Amaya's eyes darted around. "They did not feed us," she attempted to argue, but she knew her own cultural limitations were almost just as much to blame.

"It is wrong to eat the flesh of another animal," said Saavik, "but it is illogical to sacrifice one's well-being for the sake of a creature that is already dead." She studied the girl, whose heart was beating more rapidly than usual as she panted in the heat. "Can you stand? We are marooned in a desolate landscape, and must get to civilization."

T'Amaya shakingly rose to her feet, resting one hand on the pod before the heat of its surface became uncomfortable to her hand. Saavik took the emergency communicator out of the escape pod and, just to test it out, tried hailing Captain Kirk.

"Do you really think he's out there looking for us?" T'Amaya questioned.

"We can have no way of knowing. You are convinced your mother would seek his assistance. Let us hope you are correct." Saavik placed the dormant device into one of her pockets, and surveyed the landscape. "From what I understand of topography, water flows downhill and gathers in areas of lower elevation. Finding water is of the first importance, and following water is the best way to find civilization."

T'Amaya watched her, not moving at all herself to conserve her own calories, as she put her Starfleet skills to use and eyeballed the change in elevation. "We must go this way," Saavik finally said, pointing.

They left the pod and began to cross the prairie.

"Captain, sensors indicate that there are only two life-forms aboard that shuttlecraft, both Human."

"What? What happened to Saavik and T'Amaya?" Kirk furrowed his brow in concern. His heart-rate raised slightly with anxiety.

"I believe they have escaped. There is a large gap on the rear of the shuttle where an escape pod is usually docked, in this particular model." Spock punched some more commands into the keypad. "It is likely that they also used that opportunity to signal us with the frequency of the Enterprise's serial number."

"If they escaped, why aren't the kidnappers looking for them? They're just hanging here in orbit around that moon."

Spock turned his head to face Jim. "I do not think they are aware of the escape."

"What?" McCoy had been leaning against the wall, but he unfolded his arms and joined them by the console. "What kind of kidnappers are that lax with their hostages?"

"Amateurs," said Kirk, examining the readings on the screen. "I see what he means. Both men's heart rates are low and steady. One of them could even be asleep. They don't think they're under any kind of stress at all."

"T'Pring's daughter was skilled in computers, according to the materials we received from Stonn," said Spock. "It is possible she could have disabled the connection between the escape pod and the main console, allowing them to leave without their abductors' knowledge."

"We'll see," said Kirk. "Let's brazen our way through this and see what happens. Spock, can we dock with them if we need to?"

"I believe the pairing units on our crafts are compatible."

Kirk opened his mouth to speak, then paused for a second to smile at Spock's subtle double-entendre. "Pairing units..."

"What did you have in mind?" McCoy asked.

"Well, they're expecting a ransom from T'Pring, aren't they?" Kirk grinned.

Richard the improvised kidnapper was napping in the co-pilot seat of the cheap shuttlecraft. His mentally clumsy friend Bran sat beside him in the main chair, nervously staring into the control panel. He was hoping beyond reason that nothing would change in the blips and bleeps on the screen, because despite Richard's confidence in him he had no idea what any of it meant. But it had been hours, and of course, nothing had happened. It was probably time to wake Richard up and make him watch the screen for a coupla hours.

But then the event he'd been dreading happened--the colors changed. A light-blue square started flashing in the corner of the main screen, and a series of Orion symbols scrolled by rapidly. It jolted Bran out of his reclining position in the chair, and he thwapped Richard's limp arm maniacally. "Richard!! Hey!"

"Money's in the nightstand.... buy y'self a drink...." Richard mumbled without opening his eyes, then seemed to return to sleep.

"Wake up! I ain't some dumb whore, Richard, it's me. Wake up, the screen's going crazy."

Richard opened his eyes. "Whuh?" He swung his body upright and rubbed at his eyes slowly with both fists.

Bran pointed to the screen. "There's a blue thing, and a... what's that?"

The outline of something that was either a dolphin, a dildo, or another shuttlecraft was slowly coming into focus on the screen. "Hey, we've got company." Richard frowned and stood up.

"Now what?"

A big, flat button on the horizontal part of the panel had just started glowing in insistent pulses. "I think that means we're being hailed," Richard offered.

"Yeah, if they were attacking us, it would be red, right?"

"You're assuming the Orions use red as their alert color," Richard pointed out. "Well, let's see what's up. It could be our ransom!"

"Yeah, that would be sweeeeet." Bran grinned, and leaned back in his chair again as Richard pressed the button.

The picture of the dolphin, or shuttlecraft, dissolved neatly into a view into the interior of the other craft. A middle-aged man with poofy blondish-brown hair and sideburns was regarding them coolly. "Hello? Is my transmission coming through?" he asked in a slick voice.

"Yeah," said Richard. "We hear you. Whaddya want?"

"Why does he look familiar?" Bran hissed. Richard ignored him.

"We've got something for you," said the man in the other shuttle smoothly. "Mind if we dock ships?"

"Uhh.... can this thing do that?" Richard asked Bran.

"Hey, I know who he is, that's Admiral Kirk from Starfleet!" Bran exclaimed, ignoring Richard's question.

"Captain," Richard corrected, nodding. He'd wondered why the man looked faintly familiar.

"What?"

"Captain Kirk. He got demoted. Don't you read the news?"

"Why'd he get demoted?"

"I don't know--sodomy, I think." Richard turned back to the screen. "Who sent you? And how do we dock the ships?"

Kirk had somehow kept a straight face through this undignified dialogue. "We come to you at T'Pring's request," he answered. Over in a corner, out of sight of the kidnappers, Dr. McCoy was smacking his face with his hand and stomping around at their supreme stupidity.

"Wonderful," Richard said in an oily voice.

"Mr. Spock's going to transmit to you the instructions for docking shuttlecrafts," said Kirk, waving Spock onto the screen.

Bran gaped. "Spock!? Okay, he was dead. *That*, I know."

"Not anymore," said Richard, pointing to the screen at the Vulcan.

"But--but--"

"Don't you read the news?"

"Vulcans!" exclaimed Bran in frustration.

"Sodomy," muttered Dr. McCoy in the other ship, equally perturbed.

"Saavik." It was a small moan, and the voice trembled.

The white alien sun had risen high over the prairie hours ago, and the girls had walked miles under its unforgiving rays. Though hungry, thirsty, and tired, T'Amaya had managed to put up a brave effort. But now her strength waned.

"We must continue," Saavik urged. "There is no water here. If we allow ourselves delay, we shall die of thirst. And if this prairie is truly a desert and lacks precipitation, it logically follows that the nights here would be as cold as the days are hot. We would not survive a night of such frigidity."

"It is hotter than home," T'Amaya replied in gasping disbelief, and it was true. "How can these grasses live?" It was a plaintive, almost bitter question--for a Vulcan.

"They are natural to this place. They have developed here," Saavik reminded her.

They trudged onwards for a little while, but T'Amaya had come to the end of her resources. "Saavik... Saavik..." she mumbled, standing still and swaying slightly. "I cannot move."

Saavik stopped walking and held her gently. T'Amaya's face was flushed green and damp with sweat, which only proved how badly her body was reacting to the ambient temperature. Vulcans usually did not sweat. She was also shivering.

Her eyes rolled back in her head slightly and Saavik closed the embrace around her body as she fell into a semi-conscious faint.

"You must leave me here," T'Amaya whispered. "Find water... save yourself."

"I will not leave your side," Saavik insisted softly, gathering the girl's entire body into her arms as if she were about to cross a threshold. She was not light--Vulcan bone density being higher than Humans. But Saavik was half-Romulan, and also a Starfleet lieutenant.

"I will slow your progress..." T'Amaya mumbled into Saavik's bosom.

"Progress would be useless without you."

Saavik carried her through the cruel prairie, clutching her to her chest protectively. She realized only too well now the lessons she had learned from her experiences with the Enterprise and the adventures of the past year. Both Spock and James T. Kirk had left impressions on her young mind, teaching her fundamental truths of life and love and friendship. From Spock, she had learned to put the needs of another before herself, and she stumbled through the grasses ignoring the heat that burned her face. From Kirk, she had learned never to give up, and that even beyond seeming hopelessness there could always be a path to salvation.

Her years on the streets as a youngster had taught her how to survive. Her years with the Humans had taught her how to live.


"Do you believe these men?" McCoy muttered to Spock under his breath as Kirk steered the shuttlecraft towards its docking position.

"They are not what I would consider prime specimens of humanity," Spock agreed. "Although he *was* aware of my relationship with the captain."

"You call that 'aware', Spock? I would not call that 'aware'," said McCoy pointedly. "What he said was rather offensive, at least to my old-fashioned ears. The suggestion that Starfleet would--"

"These men are most likely from a colony extremely far from Earth," Spock soothed. "What knowledge they have of galactic current events is guaranteed to be limited."

"Spock, you'd argue with me even if I said 'your name is Spock'!"

"I would not," Spock argued.

"Cut it out, you two. We're about to dock." Kirk waved them quiet with one hand, the other still on the controls. The two shuttles met with a clang and a jolt.

"Pressurizing," Kirk announced. "I suggest you do the same?" he added, urging on the technically inept men on the other side of the viewer.

When the panel on Kirk's side said that it was safe, he cranked the lever to open his side of the trapdoor between the crafts. As it rose, he could see the other door rising as well, and two pairs of scruffy shoes running around preparing for their meeting.

Kirk and his friends prepared as well.

When both doors had slid open, Richard and Bran stood in their doorway with phasers drawn. Spock and McCoy stood behind Kirk, also pointing phasers. Kirk stood in the middle, regarding the abductors with a condescending grimace.

"Ya got the money?" Richard asked simply.

"That depends! Are the girls safe?" Kirk asked, knowing full well by now that the girls weren't even aboard.

"Yeah," said Richard uneasily. He was starting to remember all the fragments of things he'd heard about Admiral--Captain Kirk before, and suddenly felt out of his league. "Bran, go check on them?"

"Hey, uh, Richard..."

"What?"

"Come over here a sec."

Richard and Bran squinted into a dial on the wall near the closed-off cargo compartment, and then Richard's eyes widened dramatically. Kirk could almost smell their body temperature rising a few degrees. "How could you be so goddamned stupid?" he heard Richard hiss.

"What's going on?" Kirk mumbled to Spock.

"That back compartment contains no oxygen," Spock told him in an almost imperceptible whisper.

"They must have been hiding the girls in there," Kirk whispered back.

"Well, they're not there now," said McCoy.

"Thank goodness they got out!" Kirk hissed, just in time to meet the gaze of the kidnappers. Bran and Richard had finished freaking out over the atmospheric settings and were staring them down again.

"They're asleep," Bran blurted out. Richard looked extremely uncomfortable.

"Oh," Kirk said in a puff of disdain. "Can we see them?"

Bran and Richard blanched.

"I have the credit chip with the ransom money," Spock suddenly bluffed. "If you will permit me, I will insert it into your computer and begin the transfer. I must enter the password myself or the transaction will not go through."

Bran and Richard shared a look. The Vulcan seemed ready to go ahead and give them the money. "Uh, sure!" Richard nodded, still a little shaken.

Kirk and Spock crossed the barrier into the other shuttlecraft. McCoy stayed behind, guarding their shuttle and keeping his phaser ready. Richard escorted Spock over to the computer, and showed him where to put the credit chip. Spock pretended to be having trouble with the machine, and Kirk used that opportunity to distract Bran. "How long've you had this shuttle?" he asked casually, resting against the wall near the closed-off compartment.

"Uhh...." Bran's eyes darted around nervously. He didn't like how close Kirk was to the controls for the door. "We bought it off the Orions a few weeks ago."

"I once nearly got stabbed to death by an Orion," said Kirk chattily. "Wound up in sickbay, of course, but Bones saved me." He cocked his head over at Dr. McCoy, who was still standing on guard in the other shuttle.

As predicted, Bran turned his head instinctively to follow where Kirk was indicating, and in that second Kirk acted. One fist of lightning flew out and Kirk decked him soundly. Bran flew back into the wall, hitting his head with a startled groan.

Spock immediately hurried over and put him out of his misery with a neck-pinch.

Richard saw what was happening and pointed his phaser at Kirk, but Kirk's leg snapped up and kicked it out of his hand. Spock picked it up and scurried to the compartment doorway. He quickly keyed in the command to release the door.

It slid open with a whuff, revealing an empty chamber.

"What the fuck??" Richard exploded in disbelief. He turned back to Kirk, who was going at him with his fists. As he fended off Kirk's attack, it occurred to him that he might have been smarter in pointing his phaser at Spock originally, and not Kirk himself...

Saavik and T'Amaya had finally found water and were resting by the side of a small river. Saavik spread T'Amaya's robe across the ground and laid her down across it gently, after making sure there were no rocks beneath it to disturb her tender skin. Saavik cupped her hands in the stream and brought the cool water to T'Amaya's face, letting it drizzle in a thick rain between her parched lips. She kept going back and forth from the river to her love, not stopping even after T'Amaya's breaths became healthier once again. Rehydration was not complete even after the immediate danger was passed; that, she had been told many times at the Academy.

"You saved my life," T'Amaya said quietly. Saavik took her hand between her own wet ones, her arms strained by her travels with the limp girl in her arms, and gazed into her eyes.

"You engineered our escape," Saavik reminded her. "So we are both the hero." She scanned the sky with uneasy eyes. The sun had flirted with the horizon for hours and now seemed dangerously close to accepting its improper proposal for the night. Saavik did not relish the prospect of having to spend the night outside in a strange world for the second time in her life, this time with no phasers, no David Marcus, and a temperature that was dropping rapidly.

"What will we do when it gets dark?" T'Amaya's eyelashes fluttered nervously.

"I will try to protect us both," Saavik said with a sigh. She continued to sit by T'Amaya's side, rubbing her hand comfortingly and scanning the landscape for anything that looked edible. She wasn't sure how much longer the other girl, weakened already by heat and what had been thirst, could last on an empty stomach. But none of the nearby foliage looked edible by humanoids. Like Humans, Vulcans could not digest cellulose, and nothing looked like it seemed to be fruiting. And Saavik knew enough not to risk eating strange roots. Even Earth carrots were poisonous after they'd flowered.

She tried the communicator again, just for the hell of it.

"Saavik," T'Amaya hissed suddenly, clutching at her arm. Her eyes grew wide.

"What is it?" Saavik followed her gaze. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw the creature.

It was the size of a large bear, and if it had been on Earth she would have identified it as mammalian--but this being an unfamiliar world, it could really be anything. Its fur was a sort of dirty white, almost beige in places, and its muzzle was flat like a bulldog's. It was sniffing around the foliage some yards away from them, and both girls froze in self-preservation.

"Maybe it eats plants," T'Amaya offered hopefully, in a tiny whisper.

"Look at its claws," Saavik answered, worry in her voice.

The beast sneezed, giving them a house-seat view of its ferocious-looking teeth.

"We are in danger," Saavik stated simply. She felt waves of fear coming from T'Amaya's Vulcanly placid face.

Saavik the Lover was slipped deftly into one pocket and, with one hand in the other, she took out Saavik the Starfleet Lieutenant. "What's that?" T'Amaya asked, and Saavik showed her. It was the triangular silver piece from T'Amaya's mutilated IDIC pendant.

Afraid to move and catch its attention sooner, Saavik waited, crouched like a lioness, guarding her mate. She weighed the metal blade carefully in her hand, testing its movements subtly with flicks of her wrist.

And in the efficient woman she was watching, T'Amaya saw the beauty of the brave warrior, a forgotten poetic image from Vulcan's past.

"T'hy'la..." she murmured, an ancient word.

Closer and closer the wild beast sniffed, until it finally picked up their scent. They were unwashed from their days in captivity, and the scent of stress, too, was on their bodies. Saavik knew its approach was inevitable.

But her stomach still jumped when it suddenly lowered its body and prepared to pounce.

Saavik met its leap mid-air, fur and bone colliding with skin and fabric. She aimed the triangle at its neck, hoping its biology was similar enough to Earth and Vulcan beasts for that to do some good. Its claws lashed out at her and she whipped her head from side to side to avoid its horrid-smelling bite. She kicked at it, and punched with both fists, trying to push it away long enough to get a clear aim on its throat. Cool dusk air rushed in and assaulted her scratched skin as its claws began to rip her shirt to shreds.

And all the while, all she could see in her mind was David Marcus, back on the Genesis planet, grappling with the Klingon soldier who had just been about to kill her...

"Doctor, please help me restrain this individual," said Spock, dragging Bran's comatose form into Kirk's shuttlecraft. He said individual as if it were the most contemptible Vulcan insult.

"With pleasure, Mr. Spock." McCoy's displeasure at the kidnappers was growing exponentially. He didn't quite understand what the exact significance of the lack of oxygen in the compartment had been, but he had a feeling that had the girls stayed in the shuttle and waited to be rescued, they'd have died. "Spock," he asked, binding durable plastic wire around Bran's body, "what happened back there with the compartment and the oxygen and all that?"

"If Saavik and T'Amaya had not escaped when they did, they would have been dead within a few hours," explained Spock.

"Yeah, that's what I thought," said McCoy, "but why?"

"Apparently, our captive selected the wrong setting on the atmospheric controls for the cargo hold," said Spock. "The air filter was no longer calibrated to ensure an oxygen content of twenty-one percent. Instead, once the girls had depleted the oxygen supply in the room and escaped, it filled up completely with nitrogen--and, as it turned out, water vapor."

"Water vapor? You mean it turned the room into a model of primitive Earth?"

"As the Captain stated earlier, amateurs." Both men looked over into the other shuttle, where Jim Kirk was still beating the tar out of Richard.

"Do you think he needs our help?"

"He seems to be enjoying himself," Spock observed. McCoy shot him a look.

Kirk finally dragged Richard over to the path between the shuttles and flung him, whimpering, into Spock and McCoy's arms. They threw him roughly down next to his friend and, as McCoy began to tie him up as well, Spock neckpinched him.

Kirk followed, breathing heavily. His face was damp with sweat. Spock met him as he entered the craft. "Spock," he gasped.

"They are secured," Spock reassured him. He laid one hand on Kirk's arm. "You are unharmed?"

"Please." Kirk laughed it off. "He could barely fight. I was just trying to keep him from weaseling away from me." He took a drink from a bottle of lemonade he'd been nursing all day. "Now that we've got the link from the other shuttle, we can use the homing device to find Saavik and T'Amaya."

Saavik lay motionless on the ground, her hair splayed out over her face. Beside her, the white beast lay dead, its fur sticky with freshly oozing dark blue blood. T'Amaya knew Saavik was not dead, because she could still sense her. But she had no way of knowing how serious were here injuries, and she had not the strength to lift her own limbs and rush to her side.

Weakly, she tried the communicator again. "Calling James Kirk." She wondered if they had found the kidnappers yet, and what Kirk was going to do with them. Fueled by her mother's stories of his miraculous "resurrection" at Spock's koon-ut-kalifee, she'd spent her childhood following news articles about this living legend. That was why she had decided to trust his resourcefulness almost with a faith beyond logic.

Or maybe she was just too hungry to think straight...

The communicator slipped out of her hand and onto the ground near her side. They had been in space for days without proper food, and yes, she had been foolish in refusing the preserved meat. It is difficult to un-learn such a highly integrated cultural practice, especially when one has never really disagreed with said practice.

Saavik was beginning to stir on the ground, picking herself up clumsily. She winced at the pain of her wounds and bruises, and as she stood up shakily T'Amaya could see that her shirt had been significantly shredded. Blood both green and blue was beginning to dry across the white linen. Her pants were full of mud, and she tried to brush it all off as she walked haltingly back to T'Amaya.

There could be no words. "Saavik," T'Amaya sighed, bosom heaving.

"T'Amaya." Saavik knelt at her side and held both her hands.

But they were Vulcans. Saavik reluctantly dropped one of her beloved's hands and picked up the fallen communicator. "Saavik to Enterprise."

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy sat at the rickety card-table they'd set up in the shuttlecraft, devouring the contents of an old-fashioned picnic basket. Dr. McCoy had brought it along and stashed it in cold-storage until now, and Kirk and even Spock were extremely happy with the food. There was chilled roasted chicken (which of course, Spock didn't eat), a salad made of chopped cucumbers and peppers marinated in vinegar and lemon, and thick slices of buttermilk bread. There was also a large blackberry pie with a crisscross crust, homemade in the best of southern traditions by McCoy's daughter Joanna.

While they were eating, they were also monitoring the controls that were now searching for Saavik and T'Amaya. One computer searched for the signal of their escape pod, and the other constantly tried their communicator frequency. Spock kept dashing up from his seat to tweak the equipment, then returned to eating. It had been a long journey and an energetic fight.

The two captive kidnappers watched them eat with resentfully hungry eyes. They'd been given a loaf of slightly stale French bread to share between them, and Kirk had tossed them a carton of milk that had somehow gotten wedged into the bottom of the picnic basket unawares. It wasn't exactly Mother's Finest Strawberry Jam.

"Hey," Bran called with a whimper. "Can we have some pie?"

Kirk ignored him, his mouth crammed full of chicken breast. Spock merely shot them a look and returned to cutting himself another slice of pie. But McCoy decided to give them his full attention.

"What makes you think you deserve pie," he growled at them deliberately and slowly. "Your blatant disrespect for Vulcan law and your technological ineptitude nearly cost two young women their lives. Your concept of 'news' is an insult and slander to one of the most beautiful relationships this galaxy's ever seen, and you don't even know how to maintain a bearable atmosphere!! No, my friends, you cannot have any pie."

"Well, put, Doctor," Kirk murmured into his chicken.

Just then, there was a clicking and beeping at one of the consoles. Spock sprang up, quickly swallowing his mouthful of blackberries, and punched buttons rapidly. "Spock to Saavik, Spock to Saavik."

"Spock," came a female voice through the computer, weary but determined. "Spock, we are here. We are alive."

Because they were only a shuttlecraft, and not a starship, the three men had to land on the planet in order to retrieve the girls. Saavik was sure to tell them to follow the trail of her communicator and ignore the stronger signals now coming from the discarded escape pod. McCoy couldn't get over how far the girls had traveled. "On foot?" he exclaimed.

"I carried T'Amaya part of the way," Saavik added.

"Is she all right?" Kirk asked, concerned.

"She is suffering from severe hunger and heatstroke," Saavik explained. "We were not fed sufficiently by our abductors."

"Why you insensitive--" and McCoy launched into another tirade directed at the wilting Bran and Richard.

Kirk steered the craft down into the river basin as close as safely possible to the girls. It was almost night on the planet, and they were shivering together under T'Amaya's Vulcan robe. Spock and McCoy quickly ushered them inside the shuttle's trap door and threw blankets around them both.

"Saavik! You're hurt!" Kirk gasped, when he saw the stains all over her ripped shirt, and the injuries beneath.

"I fought off a beast. He sensed us by scent."

"Here, have a drink." He handed her a glass of water. She downed it in one gulp and he was ready with another. "Bones, check her out, she's been hurt, " he said, and moved over to make a wary assessment of his prisoners.

"In a second, Jim. T'Amaya's systems are completely out of whack." McCoy knelt over the reclining demoiselle, who had collapsed gratefully into Kirk's cot. "I think she needs an IV."

"We haven't got an IV," Kirk pointed out.

"I know that. How fast can you get to Vulcan?"

"Two point three hours," said Spock.

"Well, don't just stand there, Spock, do it!" McCoy stepped over to Saavik, sitting in a folding chair. He checked her injuries slowly and thoroughly, then began to treat them with the equipment he'd brought.

Kirk and Spock completed their checks of the craft and engaged the engines and antigravs to lift off. For the next few minutes they were absorbed in guiding their ungainly bird into flight. Their ascending height afforded them a spectacular view of the planet's terrain, from prairie to river, and Saavik blinked a few times in surprise at how far she had carried her friend. Soon, they rocketed out of orbit and settled into a pre-programmed course to Vulcan.

T'Amaya was staring at Kirk in silent admiration, so, smiling at her from the liftoff controls, he said hello.

"Captain Kirk," she said. "We are grateful for your assistance."

"We are grateful you were able to get Saavik and yourself safely away from that death-trap over there!" Kirk cocked his head in the direction of the other shuttlecraft, left behind in orbit as space-junk.

"Death-trap?"

Kirk explained about the atmospheric snafu in the compartment, and T'Amaya's eyes widened.

As the shuttle wended its way to Vulcan, Spock left the controls to Kirk and sat down beside Saavik. "Your intended bondmate has many admirable qualities," he began.

"She is intelligent, and sympathetic," said Saavik. "And she is not limited by the prejudices of her family," she added, lifting her eyes to meet Spock's.

"I was not about to accuse her of T'Pring's treachery," Spock reassured her. "I merely wished to ascertain if you were aware of her parentage."

"I was not, until these recent events."

"Why have you not shared your souls? It is not safe to wait until koon-ut-kalifee to first discover a bondmate's mind."

"We feared that melding would cause a spontaneous and uncontrollable bond." Saavik winced as one of her wounds started throbbing again. "It would have further shamed me for her parents."

"I suggest a meld within the mind of a third party, who can help you keep your distance but still know each other."

Saavik regarded Spock with her clear brown eyes. "When you say third party, are you offering yourself?"

"I have known you for many years," said Spock. "I care about you. And this is long overdue."

Saavik was pensive. "I shall ask her," she said, finally.

Thirty minutes later after Spock had meditated, the three Vulcans sat side by side on Spock's cot. Kirk shot a glance at them every once in a while from his pilot's seat. T'Amaya was propped up against every pillow in the craft, but her eyes were bright at the prospect of safely knowing Saavik's soul at last.

Spock first turned to Saavik, and asked her if she was ready. She nodded, swallowing. He carefully placed his fingers across her forehead and murmured the hypnotic words.

"My mind to your mind."

A body was clutching at Saavik's flesh, an animal body, clad in a long black robe. It cried out with urgency and Saavik tried her best to help, gritting her teeth at her own pain. Her boots scraped against the dirt of the Genesis Planet as she struggled to not lose her nerve. Somewhere nearby, David Marcus was patrolling with a phaser. She hoped he would stay away for at least another five minutes, for Spock's sake as much for hers.

The memory faded away. "That was not you," Saavik murmured aloud.

"I am still grateful," Spock answered. "I apologize for your physical distress."

"It was worth it. I have had few friends, and none like you."

He calmed her with his presence, and helped her sort out her soul in preparation for her contact with T'Amaya.

Then he turned slightly to face the only full-blooded Vulcan present. T'Amaya swept her eyes across his face expectantly, her scientific mind wondering what it would be like to mingle with not only Saavik's Romulan alienness, but also his Human alienness. And would she be able to feel Kirk through the bond as well?

His fingertips were gentle and comforting across her face. "Our minds to your mind," both he and Saavik said together.

She felt Spock's noble, silently commanding presence enfold around her, and lead her to Saavik's mind. They were instantly drawn together like two magnets pressing up against either side of the aplastic barrier of Spock's mind. Saavik expressed her deep affection and satisfaction at the relationship they had found, and T'Amaya wrapped her devotion tightly around Saavik's consciousness. Their essences blended together in a measured dance, true bonding held at bay by their careful chaperone. And Saavik knew that when they were finally bonded, theirs would be a strong one.

They emerged gradually from inside each other's brains. T'Amaya uncurled herself mentally from Saavik's addictive reassurance, and waited until Saavik and Spock were separated. "I treasure thee," she told Saavik once she knew they were free.

"My t'hy'la," was Saavik's reply.

Kirk relinquished the controls to McCoy, since they were on auto anyway, and appeared at Spock's side. "What do you think T'Pring's going to say about all of this?"

"She has no choice in the matter," said Spock. "T'Amaya is a grown woman, and can do as she wishes."

"T'Pring shouldn't have any kind of problem at all with Saavik," Kirk huffed. "She's smart, she's capable, she's good in a fight... Dependable... She saved her daughter's life! What more does she want?"

"In Earth folk-tales, the crown-princess is often awarded to the knight who rescues her," T'Amaya piped up. Everyone aboard the shuttle turned to stare at her. "I've been reading," she explained sheepishly.

"T'Pring shall have to respect the wishes of her daughter," said Spock. "She may even learn to like Saavik. In some ways she is more Vulcan than I am."

"I learned from you," said Saavik, a little embarrassed that this once had been a compliment for her.

"We shall all speak to T'Pring," Spock continued, "and we shall use IDIC as our weapon."

Saavik and T'Amaya both glanced down at the broken pendant that T'Amaya still wore. Their eyes met, and they shared an internal mental spark of energy that in humans would have meant laughter.

Lieutenant Saavik of Starfleet and T'Amaya cha'T'Pring stood facing each other on the silky sands of Vulcan. Sunlight glimmered on the reddish mountains, and a hot breeze swirled tendrils of brown hair. T'Amaya's dress, a straight silver gown, shone brilliantly. Saavik wore her full dress uniform.

In front of them, the priestess T'Janna stood in a flowing robe of forest green. She intoned the solemn, ancient words that would bind their minds together forever, souls linked by the promise of love. Her fingers were splayed out over both their faces, and none of the three had blinked for minutes.

T'Pring and Stonn stood to the side, silent in their acquiescence to the logic of their daughter's choice. T'Pring would certainly have preferred her only daughter marry another fullblood and remain at home in ShiKahr, but with Saavik she would be protected as her adventurous spirit took her beyond her home planet. At her side, Stonn watched the ceremony with one eye and kept shooting glances at Captain Kirk with the other. He had watched him die, so many years ago on these same lands, and yet here he was, and so was the also-previously-dead Spock...

Yes, it was definitely logical to let the mind expand to accept new ways of thinking.

Captain Kirk, Captain Spock, and Dr. McCoy stood with Amanda and Sarek on the other side of the family area. Kirk wore his uniform, and Spock, Vulcan robes--the same as they had worn on the day of their own bonding. The nostalgia was lost on neither man, and as Kirk watched the young women join souls, memories of that day floated through his mind like cherry blossoms. He nudged Spock's thoughts gently, and they felt the beauty of their closeness as they stood together on the sand.

T'Janna turned around majestically on the sand, her arms outstretched to the observers. "It is done. They are a bonded pair, each the satellite of the other, orbiting a common focus. Let that focus be their bond, and may their lives enrich it and be enriched by it."

There was respectful nodding from everyone present. McCoy felt thankful that he had been present at Kirk and Spock's ceremony so that he knew what to do and didn't start applauding spontaneously. He certainly felt like it. Saavik was a damn fine woman, a good soldier--Starfleet was proud to have her. And he felt happy for her because he knew that T'Amaya was proud to have her as well.

T'Janna escorted the newly bonded women deep into a crevice in the rocks, lit only by the straightest rays of sunlight. There, in the privacy of their own love, they would step naked into the bonding bath. They would meld, and in the leisure afforded newlyweds truly get to know each other both physically and mentally. There would be many shared orgasms, but to climax was not the goal. It was simply another flavor of the exploration. The water they would pour across each other symbolized the high degree to which one held a bondmate above all others--worth washing lavishly in precious, rare water.

"Their bond is strong," Spock commented to his friends as he watched the girls be led away. "Their devotion will serve them well, and they will continue to learn from each other."

"Amazing how two individuals from such different backgrounds can come together and make something so beautiful," McCoy agreed.

"I'd have to agree with that," Kirk said, grinning.

Spock didn't smile, but looked slightly beatific.

"Love," Kirk continued, starting to lead his friends away towards Sarek's house, "can be an excellent motivator for self-improvement. It encourages us to open our minds and propels our growth." He glanced at Spock's IDIC pin. "Love teaches us lessons in infinite diversity."

~END~

Note: The Biblical quote Saavik recites to T'Amaya in the escape pod is Songs 7:7