After the staff meeting the landing party beamed back to the planet. The official talks wouldn’t begin for several hours yet, but the Enterprise crew wanted to use the time for cultural observation. Uhura wanted to see the museums and concert halls, McCoy went to visit the medical facilities and Kirk went straight into the city to meet people. Spock and Saavik also received permission to visit the caves again to study the strange minerals and perhaps determine why their communicators had not functioned there.
As the official talks drew near, everyone returned to their planet-side accommodations to prepare. Everyone except the Vulcans.
“You let them go out there together?” McCoy hissed, amused and exasperated at the same time.
Kirk stared wide-eyed at his friend. “What are you talking about...”
“And I suppose you believed that story about ‘studying’ the caves?”
Kirk stared at McCoy a long minute. “Bones,” he said impatiently, “they’re Vulcans.”
McCoy threw up his hands. “Vulcans aren’t immune to these things, Jim,” he explained, “why, there’s enough sexual tension between those two to slice with a lirpa.” He studied the captain a minute. “Don’t tell me you still believe that seven year myth?!”
“I don’t guess I gave it much thought,” Kirk hedged as the realization that McCoy might be right dawned on him.
“Well half the crew can’t stop thinking about it,” the doctor informed him. “Why, there’s even bets on who asks whom, and when!”
“But she’s his ward, Bones,” he tried to reason.
McCoy laughed. “That’s hardly an impediment to romance, even on Earth,” he said. “Besides,” he added, “it doesn’t take a recent mind meld to figure out what’s eating Spock.”
Kirk rubbed at his chin. “And everybody knows about this,” he said with a touch of irritation, “but me?”
“Well, not everybody,” McCoy drawled. “ I reckon Jones down in xenobiology probably is so into research he doesn’t know what day it is, let alone who has the hots for whom...”
“Bones,” Kirk cut him off, “I’m the captain. I should know what’s going on with my crew.”
“It’s not your job to know everyone’s mental state. That’s my job,” the doctor reasoned, then gave the captain a pointed look. “I did try to tell you.”
The captain pursed his lips and let out his breath loudly. “Well,” he said, clapping his hands together. “Let’s go find our wayward Vulcans.”
Saavik was growing increasingly frustrated..
“Tor bogozh k’ wuh trensu t’ gol heh ish-veh kre’nath sa-fu!” she muttered under her breath.
Spock looked at her with stern reproach: “Swearing will not change the situation, Saavik-kam,” he admonished.
“Perhaps not,” she answered through gritted teeth. “But it pleases me.”
He studied her closely but made no other comment. He often had to remind himself that her early upbringing was considerably more difficult and fraught with danger than his had been. He decided to overlook the outburst. In any case, he had nearly sworn himself less than a standard hour ago.
They had visited the cave again where they had spent the night and made a thorough study of the mineral found there. It did indeed inhibit the workings of their communicators but they had yet to determine the cause. In any case the tricorders did not seem to be affected and they were confident that they would solve the mystery once they had time to study the data.
They discovered more caverns further up the embankment and decided there was time enough for a cursory exploration before they had to return to the city. The ground was soft here and they picked their way carefully while searching for the best entrance.
Spock realized his error a second too late. The ground he stepped on with Saavik didn’t look any different than the surrounding terrain, but he had felt a sudden updraft of air, as if the place wasn’t as solid as it appeared. As their boots landed on the spot, the turf and sod gave way quite suddenly, sending them careening down a hole barely larger than they. A mine shaft, Spock deduced, though what was mined and when was open to conjecture. This appeared to be an old evacuation and any connections to the mine proper had long been filled in by nature or the miners themselves.
“Are you injured?” he asked sharply as he scrambled to his feet in the deep narrow chamber.
“No,” Saavik answered, rising to stand unnaturally close to him in the dim light. The close walls were smooth and hewn of the same mineral that was in the cave. The ground beneath them offered enough space for two people to sit or stand upon but little more.
They tried their communicators first, each suspecting the useless result, then began exploring the area for any possible hand or foot holds. Saavik could feel the heat from Spock’s body as they inched around their vertical prison. Logically there was no better moment to discuss their current relationship, but she suddenly couldn’t think how to broach the subject.
Spock took a deep breath and apparently came to a decision. “The captain will presently note our absence and be able to find us with the ship’s sensors. We need only wait.” He sat down with his back resting against the wall and his knees drawn up in front of him.
Saavik made a low sound dangerously close to a growl and continued to look for a way out. She didn’t like tight spaces and she certainly didn’t like the implication that she calm down. She purposely didn’t look at Spock even as their bodies brushed together in the confining space.
Spock watched her almost frantic explorations. “Saavik,” he said, “you should meditate. It will help.”
She didn’t stop her searching and he could hear more muttered curses. Not since he had first found her had she been so!
“Saavik-kam, come here,” he said firmly. She made another sound, perhaps a curse, but turned and sat in front of him, her legs embarrassingly close to encircling his. She looked at him defiantly.
He met her gaze but his face softened. “Jim, will come,” he repeated. “You must settle your mind.”
She looked like she might leap up again but she held her place and instead looked away. “I can’t,” she admitted. The claustrophobic entrapment coupled with his nearness was warring with her-- admittedly late-- training in the mental arts. She wrapped her hands around her knees and suppressed a sigh.
Spock studied her with concern and reached out to tilt her head up so he could see her face. “I can help,” he said softly.
She silently stared at him, not certain what he wished her to do, but when he touched her face, she gasped aloud. He drew his hand back immediately but kept it poised in the air between them.
“It is not a meld,” he assured her. “I only mean to focus your thoughts.”
She nodded after a short pause and let him proceed. His hand was hot on her face and her heart beat rapidly when she sensed his presence in her mind. He did not intrude but only sought out the illogical fears, replacing them with calm and reason. She vainly fought the transformation, for fear had been one of her constant companions on Hellguard and one of the things that had kept her alive. It was disconcerting to lose it. But slowly her mind and body began to relax and she closed her eyes in relief.
Kirk was feeling rather annoyed at the moment and didn’t hide it. Someone in Starfleet had decided the Derilians should join the Federation, and Kirk was tasked with the job of making that happen. But now two of his best officers had apparently eloped into the countryside, the communicators weren’t working again, and they were all perilously close to missing the very meeting that they had come here to attend. After advising Uhura about the situation, they all climbed into the small aircar that Uhura had hired earlier for her sight seeing trip, and headed in the direction where Scotty assured them were Vulcan sensor readings.
“We canna beam them up,” Scotty had said, sounding rather peeved about the situation. “They’re sittin’ too close to some peculiar mineral deposits for me ta risk it.”
Just great! Kirk thought sourly. “Did you say they were in a hole?”
“Aye, Captain,” Scotty had added with a touch of humor, “and a wee one at that. Unless you have a long rope handy, I’d better send down some anti- gravity boots to get them out.”
Kirk had half a mind to leave them there until they started behaving like Vulcans again but he accepted Scotty’s offer anyway. Now, boots in hand, they were flying into the countryside and whatever Vulcan mystery it held.
Uhura set the flyer down a safe distance from the coordinates and the three officers carefully made there way to the now open shaft. Peering down they could see Spock sitting on the ground with his knees pulled up in the narrow space. Saavik had turned around and was leaning against his chest, Spock’s left arm wrapped around her holding firm to her hand, his other hand against the side of her face. They appeared to be sleeping.
“Well I’ll be,” the doctor declared, smiling broadly. “Never doubt true love, Jim!”
Kirk stared at the unlikely sight but couldn’t shake the cloud of doom that had descended on him.
“Mister Spock! Mr. Saavik!” he commanded.
Spock had indeed been aware of their presence when they first arrived but it was unwise to rouse oneself from deep meditation too quickly. He also had the added burden of drawing Saavik back to consciousness before he could stir himself. He vaguely considered that Jim would not be pleased with the delay. The situation could not be helped in any case, regardless of the captain’s ire.
“Attention!” the captain demanded.
That and the sudden removal of Spock’s hand from her face startled Saavik to wakefulness. She scrambled to her feet, and felt the heat rising to her skin. Bad enough that the humans would find this situation compromising, but she had also failed to instantly follow a direct order from her captain.
“Llhusra!” She muttered in her native tongue, too low for the humans to hear. “Fvadt !”
At once Spock was on his feet behind her. “Hiyet! Vokau ik du nam-torl!” he commanded sternly in Vulcan, and perhaps louder than he had intended.
Everyone except Saavik stared at him a long minute. McCoy and Kirk glanced uncertainly at one another, unsure about the meaning of his words or the sudden change in his attitude. But Uhura instantly understood the outburst and she was a good enough lip reader to recognize the Romulan curses on Saavik’s lips.
Well, well... she thought.