It was well into ship’s night when they beamed back and everyone went directly to his or her quarters. Everyone that is except Spock who lingered in the transporter room after the others had gone. He hesitated uncharacteristically before deciding that bluntness was probably best.
“Mister Scott,” he addressed the engineer behind the controls, “do I seem...different?”
“In what way ‘ye thinkin’, Mr. Spock?” Scotty asked. “Diff’rent from most humans, I guess.” He regarded the Vulcan closely before adding. “I take it you’re referring to a more recent development?”
Spock put his hands behind his back and tried to appear as self-assured as he had once been able to do without even trying. “I am referring to my....rebirth, as it were,” he began, then paused as if at a rare loss of words. Scotty wasn’t one to second guess a superior so he simply waited for Spock to continue.
“Am I ...different...from before?” Spock finally managed.
“Aye,” Scotty answered. “I would say you’re more.”
Spock regarded him closely. “More human?” he suggested.
Scotty smiled and shook his head. “No, Mr. Spock,” he answered. “ Just more you. More the person ’ye were meant to be.”
Spock raised his chin in clear surprise and studied the engineer for some time. “Thank you, Mr. Scott,” he finally said before leaving the transporter room.
Saavik couldn’t sleep. Logically she should be sleeping, or at least in deep meditation, but at this moment both eluded her. Aggravated, she threw off the covers and padded across the room to change out of her sleep attire. Deciding that it was not logical to be tired and uncomfortable, she chose to put on her exercise clothes, a sleeveless top and form fitting pants that ended at the knees.
Stray sensations from Spock’s mind still lingered and she wondered if she was understanding them correctly. Despite his tutelage, telepathy was not her strong suit and she certainly had very little practice at it. It was possible that she was misinterpreting everything and the thought embarrassed her to no end. They needed to discuss the subject, and soon, before she thought too much about her own reactions. She glanced at the chronometer and sighed deeply. This was hardly the hour to disturb Spock, particularly if he was sleeping. But sitting alone worrying about it wasn’t helping either. She decided to go for a walk. Maybe a work out in the gym would help her sleep.
The corridors were nearly deserted at this time of night and the few crewman she passed seemed unconcerned about her attire or her bare feet. The walking was beginning to clear her mind somewhat and she began to look forward to her workout.
She entered the gym and looked around. She hadn’t expected to see anyone here at this hour but she could hear someone in the changing area. Before she could think about leaving, Spock stepped around the corner. He was dressed in similar clothes to her own, but his pants went all the way to his ankles and the shirt ended midway to his belly .He was also barefoot. Saavik could feel the heat rising to her face and knew she was turning a brilliant shade of green, but leaving now would have been more awkward than staying.
Spock smiled slightly and just stood there. She wanted to be angry at that, but she realized she also hadn’t moved and her gaze more than once traveled to Spock’s bare middle. Her face grew hotter still. If someone didn’t speak she may yet burst into flames.
“Saavik,” Spock finally said. “I was preparing to practice the suus mahna. You may spar with me if you wish. I trust you have maintained practice of the art?”
She just stood there gaping at him, trying to find an excuse to avoid physical contact, but wanting it all the same. He smiled that knowing smile at her again and she decided right there that a good ass-kicking would do him good.
“Certainly,” she answered confidently. “It is one of my best subjects.”
They moved together to the practice mat, crouching slightly as they circled and looked for an opening. Suus mahna was a defensive martial art, one that took years to master. Spock was accomplished in the practice and Saavik had considerable skill, though not as polished as he. They had sparred often and sometimes she even won. Her years of survival on Hellguard gave her a certain fearless advantage.
She did a practice lunge toward him, testing his defenses. She didn’t expect him to fall for that, but her next move left him completely off guard. She spun away from him, throwing herself to the ground and using her momentum to scissor his feet out from under him. He landed hard on his back but somersaulted away from her and regained his footing. He nodded slowly as they circled one another again.
“Indeed,” he said appreciatively.
He caught her arm as she came in for another pass, launching her clear over his left shoulder. She rolled out of the fall as he had done, kicking high into his chest as she rose again. He ducked away from the blow and managed to land a kick of his own on the outside of her right knee. She grimaced but crouched and launched herself at him like a wildcat, wrapping both legs around his waist and throwing her torso down and back so that he was thrown forward over her as she disengaged and turned to face him, standing again. He scrambled to his feet as well, but she could see him favoring his left shoulder that had taken most of the surprise fall. He didn’t hide the surprise from his face but landed a kick to the side of her head before she could comment on it.
She staggered under the blow but cartwheeled onto her hands, kicking him full in the chin with both feet. Spock was pushed back completely off the mat, but he jumped back into the fray immediately, with a brief predatory look in his eyes. With a swiftness that she didn’t think his tall frame could manage, he ducked under her sudden rush at him and caught her bodily under one arm. He held her suspended for a moment, maybe to prove to them both that he could, before dashing her down on the mat. He leapt on top of her, pinning both of her legs with his own and holding both her wrists in front with one hand.
“Surrender?” he asked with a slight smile. She raised her chin in defiance of that word, using all her strength to break her hands free from his grip and box him on the ears. The shock of that was enough for her to wiggle out from under him and return to her feet before he had time to react. She did regret hurting him and realized that it was unwise to spar without protective gear. McCoy and the captain were not going to understand the sudden injuries.
But the fire of the fight was in her and as Spock stood she didn’t see regret in his eyes. Don’t pull your punches, they agreed silently, but do refrain from a killing blow.
They continued the violent dance, alternately giving and gaining ground. Each of them spent more time on the mat than not, but each time they managed to regain their feet if not their dignity. Spock’s greater skill coupled with Saavik’s comparative youth made for an almost even match. But it was late and both of them were beginning to tire.
It was then that Spock made a fatal error, stepping forward when he should have stepped back. She caught the back of his foot with her own, sending him careening backwards onto the mat. Before he completely landed she was already on top of him, the heel of her hand against his throat in a simulation of a ritual killing. He looked at her with some surprise then spoke the words from ancient days:
“Hiyet! Tor k’ me u’ du istaya.”
Enough! Do with me as you wish.
Saavik started to speak the ritual words in reply, even as other thoughts entered her mind.
But at that moment the rec room doors opened and Captain Kirk entered. He too wore workout clothes like Spock’s. Fires of Seleya! Doesn’t anyone sleep on this ship?
Kirk paused as the doors shut behind him, taking in the unlikely scene of the Vulcans doing...what? Both were breathing more rapidly than normal and each appeared to have new injuries. He tried to mold his face into a look of complete innocence and slowly ran his hand through his hair.
“Spock....Saavik...” he began, clearing his throat. They both seemed frozen in time, he flat on his back and Saavik astride his exposed belly. She had removed her hand from his throat but looked suddenly confused where her hands belonged. Kirk could hear McCoy’s gossip in his head but he shook off the notion. Obviously the Vulcans had been sparring and for whatever reason, had ignored basic safety. He would have to have a talk about that.
“You...ummm...should get to sickbay for those injuries,” he suggested, wondering why they hadn’t yet moved. Shut up Bones! he said in his head.
“Of course, Captain,” they both answered as Spock rolled Saavik off himself and they both stood. They looked somewhat disheveled, but that wasn’t really unexpected after an intense workout. Kirk watched them go and slowly shook his head. Even after all these years, Vulcans still confused him.
Spock and Saavik entered sickbay together and were not surprised to see McCoy there. It was getting close to ship’s morning and the doctor had always been an early riser. He looked at them inquiringly and raised an eyebrow.
“Something I should know?” he asked with a hint of teasing.
Both Vulcans raised an eyebrow in response and Spock drew himself up in what he hoped was a dignified pose. “Our workout was more intense than we had intended,” he said evenly.
“I gathered,” the doctor answered dryly as he directed them to the biobeds behind him. He went to Saavik first and began applying the regenerator to the angry bruise on her cheek. Her right knee had swelled considerably, and he turned his attentions there next. Spock waited patiently while the doctor repaired any obvious injuries on Saavik, but the furtive looks between the Vulcans did not go unnoticed. For once the doctor did not comment.
Spock’s ears were still ringing from the boxing, and his shoulder was aching from a likely dislocation but he made sure Saavik was taken care of before he allowed any of McCoy’s attentions.
McCoy assisted Spock in removing his shirt so he could properly assess the shoulder, and he noted Saavik’s increased heart rate at the sight of the Vulcan’s bare chest. He would have noticed anyway even if she hadn’t still been sitting on the biobed and the readings gave her away. He cocked an eyebrow at her but she looked away and quickly got off the bed.
“My shift starts soon,” she said with a business-like air. “I must go to my quarters to change.” And with that, she strode toward the door without looking back. Spock watched her go with a visceral appreciation that was clear in any culture.
The doctor turned off the tool he had been using and stepped back. “You can go too,” he told Spock. “I wouldn’t want you to be late for work.”
Spock stood and put his shirt back on. The shoulder was stiff but functional.
“Thank you, Doctor,” he said, pinning him with a look that thanked him for his discretion. Then he too left sickbay. McCoy shook his head and laughed softly to himself.
“Vulcans!” he murmured quietly.
Spock got cleaned up and changed and was on the bridge before Kirk arrived for his shift. They exchanged a glance.
“It’s good to see you looking better,” Kirk said. Several of the bridge crew overheard the remark but he wasn’t inclined to expound further, and they didn’t presume to ask. Spock inclined his head but didn’t comment.
“Uhura,” Kirk addressed the communications officer as he sat in his chair and swiveled toward her. “I’d like you on the landing party. The Derilians have some unusual means of communication and I’d like your first hand input.”
“Aye, Captain,” she answered smoothly.
Kirk sat in the center chair a moment watching the planet on the viewscreen. Sitting and waiting was not his favorite thing. He got up and went to stand beside Spock at the science station.
“Is there anything about the Derilians in the database that we should be aware of?” he asked the Vulcan. “Any more rituals that some bureaucrat forgot to mention? I’d rather not be caught with our pants down again.”
If Spock knew the idiom, he pretended that he didn’t and slowly raised both eyebrows while he considered his captain.
“I am not aware of that particular ritual, Captain,” he said innocently. Kirk pursed his lips and stared at his friend. Spock wasn’t being obtuse as most humans would assume. He was joking. Kirk smiled and chuckled softly.
“Let’s hope no one suggests it,” he said, then added. “Is there anything relevant that we should know before the talks begin?”
“Nothing relevant in the database, Captain,” he answered, “nor in the logs of previous visitors.” Spock had of course committed everything to memory. Kirk was once more impressed by a Vulcan’s ability to retain information.
“Good,” the Captain said. “Have the landing party meet in briefing room B at 0:300. We want these talks to go as smoothly as possible.”
“Yes, Sir,” Spock answered as he turned to relay the message. As he was engaged in the task, the turbo lift doors parted to reveal Saavik reporting for her duty shift. Kirk noted that her injuries had been attended to and she was looking much less disheveled but no less on edge. She chanced a glance at Spock as she made her way to the navigation station. As if sensing her presence, Spock turned and caught her gaze, his dark eyes unreadable. Kirk noticed but didn’t know what to make of it.
Damn that McCoy and his crazy ideas.
“Mr. Saavik,” Kirk addressed her formally, “how are you feeling?”
“Feeling, Sir?” She asked, as deadpan as Spock ever was.
Kirk managed a slight smile. He had many years of dealing with Vulcan evasiveness. “Physically, I mean,” he added.
“I am fit for duty,” Saavik answered evenly.
“Excellent,” Kirk said and glanced back at Spock one more time. Perhaps two Vulcans on the same ship was too much of a good thing.