Vulcans never talked of private matters - there was not even a proper rendering of the term in the Vulcan language. Thus, it bordered on an unspeakable issue. Many Vulcans who had lived in Terran societies were appalled, even disgusted at the human need of exhibiting and speaking of their most intimate feelings to one another.
For these reasons, Saavik was surprised and dismayed when she felt the need to speak. This need – for it had gone beyond a wish – was not directed towards just anyone. She knew that her latte-drinking female classmates would happily listen, sigh and say, ‘oh darling, that’s so awful’ in an attempt to make her feel better. She only felt disgust at such flaunting of one’s problems. Still, she thought that possibly, it would be easier to them than someone who would genuinely understand her trouble, but it was so Vulcan in its privacy that this was nothing she could discuss with an off-worlder. The fact that there was only one Vulcan residing in San Francisco whom she knew of with unsettled her. Still, the itching dull ache in her head was driving her into desperation and had stretched her controls to their limits. She decided upon her actions even as she loitered after the tactics seminar, rearranging her folders and PADDs slowly as she noticed the last few cadets leave the room. Captain Spock was standing at his desk, looking through a document on a PADD. Then he picked up his belongings and seemed about to leave, when he spotted her.
‘Is everything in order, Cadet?’ he asked, still in English. His tone of voice, she noticed, had something distinctly un-Vulcan about it, something bordering on amusement or fondness (she was not trained in telling emotions apart).
‘May I speak to you, sir?’ Saavik queried. An eyebrow shot up. ‘It is… a private matter.’ The word seemed foreign in her mouth. As if considering it, Spock watched her for a moment.
‘I am afraid I am due to a meeting with the admiralty in 18 minutes precisely, and after that I will be occupied with the assessments of the applications for next year. However, if you are not otherwise engaged and it is, as you said, a private matter, perhaps the evening would be more suitable?’ She had not thought he would accept this so easily, and did not know whether to be relieved or afraid.
‘I have no plans,’ was all she answered. Spock nodded and retrieved a stylus from his stack of PADDs.
‘If I may…’ She offered him her note-PADD and he wrote something on it. When she retrieved it, she saw that it was a jumble of the Latin alphabet and the Vulcan script: first the address “Bay Street 27”, written in English, then the Vulcan logogram for “stair” and the numeral five. ‘I think eight o’clock would be convenient,’ he then said, slipping into Vulcan, as if the act of writing had reminded him of their common language.
‘Thank you, sir,’ she said, put back the PADD in her pile and with a nod left the room hurriedly.
Saavik spent the first part of the afternoon in the library, but the required reading she tried to concentrate on seemed uninteresting and irrelevant. At last she left it and took a long walk around Golden Gate Park. The playing children and the kissing couples seemed to be placed there by some malicious power just to annoy her and to remind her of what she had lost. Still, that made her angry at herself, as she had never wanted what had been thrust upon her, and despite that she mourned it. Had only the loss made the idea desirable, or had her desire to be in Starfleet only been an illusion? Perhaps she was as traditionalist as her adoptive father.
She seldom thought of that as she had been raised by ambassador Sarek and his wife effectively made her and Spock sister and brother. The thought seemed alien to her; Spock was in no way her peer, and their relationship was only professional. Had he any other role than that of teacher, it was the role of a mentor; someone to look to as a fellow Vulcan, but always keeping a polite distance. For a moment she remembered an ancient Terran story where Mentor was the name of a man the warrior goddess disguised herself as when aiding the hero’s son. The thought of Spock as only being the disguise of Sha’kitarek, one of the ancient Vulcan goddesses of war, was faintly amusing, but the appeal of the idea passed quickly, as that of everything had recently. For the past two weeks, she had found no solace in studying, in reading or in meditating; she had lost her appetite and her peace. It was in the role of mentor she hoped Spock could act this evening; perhaps his insight in her family – their family – would prove useful.
Despite her discomfort and her illogical worries, the chronometre soon indicated that it was quarter to eight, and she set off towards the indicated address. The house in question was simple but elegant with its big windows and rounded alcoves. She ascended the stairs, and noticed that the house was not built for Vulcanoid – particularly Romulan – hearing. She heard someone practicing the piano badly, two persons arguing, the sound of a holovid and the echo of voices she thought were familiar. When she approached the door on the fifth floor, she wondered whether Spock had a family. On Vulcan, it was uncommon that men of his age were unmarried, but she assumed he did not have children. Still, she wondered if someone other than he would open the door, or if she would see the blend of many people’s belongings. Stepping close to the door, she tentatively rang the door-bell.
The door automatically opened, revealing a big room to her. It was airy and still managed not to look empty. Spock stood in the middle of it, greeting her with a Vulcan salute, which she returned.
‘Please, make yourself comfortable,’ he said in his mother-tongue as he stepped to the side to indicate to a couple of kneeling cushions on the floor. He was in civilian clothes, dark velvet robes which cascaded down his shoulders and arms all the way down to the floor. It made her feel strangely out of place in her uniform, and she wished she had taken time to change. Now, she only nodded thank you and sat down. Spock did not join her. ‘I will be with you momentarily.’ In a flurry of black, he disappeared from the room; behind one of the walls, Saavik could hear the sound of a kettle. She took the opportunity to look around the room, and found little in it which seemed to correspond to her mentor. There was the occasional Vulcan figurine and artifact, but most of the things displayed on the shelves were Terran and quite old. She spotted old-fashioned chronometres, navigational equipment in metal, models of ancient ships and displays of archaic-looking weapons. Behind her, there was a fire-place, which was lit and made the room comfortably warm. The exterior architecture was noticeable even here; overlooking the Bay, there was a tall alcove, partly made of glass. Two armchairs were placed in front of it; in one, a real bound book had been left, as if the person reading had discarded there when getting up.
Spock reappeared within a few minutes of leaving, now carrying a tray, which he placed between the cushions, and knelt.
‘I have been taught by my human acquaintances, especially by my mother, that tea makes any problem half-solved,’ he said, pouring tea into the round cups he had brought, ‘as does ateya, but that is my own opinion.’ She looked at the tray and realised that there was a a place of sweet Vulcan confectionaries.
‘Thank you, sir,’ she said quietly, accepting the tea and taking one of the cakes, feeling self-conscious about eating in front of him. He sipped his tea and let her eat the ateya before he spoke.
‘When you approached me after the seminar in such an uncharacteristic fashion, I surmised that there was something… troubling you.’ She was about to interject and say that Vulcans were not “troubled”, but then she realised to whom she was speaking and bit back the comment. Still, she could not deny that sometimes, Spock seemed quite human. It did not make her respect him less, but it made him alien, despite seeming so familiar. She did not realise that she had been silent for a long time until he spoke again. ‘Has something happened, which causes you distress?’ She remembered the humans whom she had seen in the park, and pain stabbed through her gut.
‘Yes,’ she said, thankful that her voice was still controlled. ‘I received news from home yesterday, although I had known of it for 2.1 weeks.’ She paused as the pain distracted her again.
‘What did this news say?’ Spock asked. She clenched her hands around the tea-cup and hoped he would not notice.
‘Satok, my fiancé, was killed in a shuttle-accident close to Shi’Kahr.’ When she said it, it sounded blatant and clinical, almost unimportant, like something cut from the news-in-brief. Still, she saw true pity in Spock’s face, which made him seem even more human.
‘I grieve with thee, Saavik,’ he said, then asked: ‘Your future bondmate…Of your own choosing?’ She jerked her head sideways, the Romulan equivalent of a shake of the head.
‘We were bonded at the age of ten.’ A line formed and deepened between the captain’s fine brows.
‘I was not aware that my father still believed that the bonding of children was a proper endeavour.’
‘I believe he wanted to give me the stability of a Vulcan bond. He thought it would help in my integration into Vulcan society,’ she said. She had not reflected over that Sarek’s decision might be strange, but she understood why it troubled Spock. Even if she should not know, and indeed she could not remember how she had learned out it (because Spock was seldom discussed in Sarek's house, even if Amanda occasionally had spoken warmly of him sometimes), she was aware of Spock’s engagement in his youth, which had ended in a rather scandalous divorce. He nodded slowly at what she had said, but still looked troubled by it. ‘Sir… I am not a telepath…’
‘But you felt it,’ he said. She nodded. ‘Do you still feel it?’
‘The bond – what is left of it – causes discomfort,’ Saavik admitted. ‘Why, I do not know. I never knew him…’
‘Your mind knew his,’ Spock pointed out calmly, his fingers steepled as if in meditation. His gaze unsettled her slightly, not because it rested intently on her, but that it looked so pained (human). ‘It is never easy when a bond breaks, whether we wish it or not. It is painful, sometimes even unbearable.’
‘I always thought I did not wish it,’ she said, a brief sense of embarrassment rising within her. These were things Vulcans did not discuss. ‘Since an early age I wished to join Starfleet - I had no desire to become his property.’ Spock bowed his head while listening. That his human gaze, coming from Vulcan eyes, was averted made the task easier. ‘But ever since Satok’s death, I have found myself grieving for that life.’
‘That is natural,’ the older man said, unclasping his hands and pouring more tea. When she had tasted it, he pushed the plate of ateya closer to her, something in his manner reminded her of Amanda. That was a comforting thought. ‘Whenever a path closes for us, we wonder where it would have lead.’ He tasted his own tea and admitted: ‘I believe there is no way to stop such speculations. We must learn to live with them, even if they can be unsettling.’
‘But what if I in reality should have lived that life?’ Saavik asked, still keeping her voice and face under control. It was illogical to consider such possibilities, but some Romulan fatalistic streak must have possessed her. Still, Spock’s answer was calm, albeit laconic.
‘With Satok, that path is closed and ended, as it must be – he cannot be brought back from the dead. But that does not mean that you will never marry, Saavik.’ She frowned.
‘What other way is there?’ she asked and could have sworn that for a moment, Spock had actually smiled. Were he human, she would have called the expression fatherly.
‘Have you not considered that you might marry out of love?’ She only answered with what she had thought many times over the past two weeks.
‘The engagement bond guaranteed marriage – love does not. As I am not a touch-telepath, the odds that any Vulcan would favour me for a mate are vanishingly small.’ Spock lifted an eyebrow quizzically.
‘Your logic in this question is without doubt flawed,’ he commented. ‘Firstly, you are surely doing yourself an ill-favour by assuming that only such qualities might make you a good spouse. Secondly, you are assuming that only Vulcans would be interesting in a relationship with you. Thirdly, your assumption that your lack of telepathic abilities would ultimately count against you is indeed illogical. I might remind you that both my father and I myself are bonded to non-telepaths.’ Saavik tried not to show her surprise.
‘I was not aware of that,’ she admitted. At least the surprise had erased the embarrassment she had been feeling; speaking of such things as love with her mentor, who seemed so far removed from both Vulcan and Terran society, seemed strange. ‘I did not mean to cause offense.’
‘You have caused none,’ he assured her. ‘Bonds are private things, Saavik, and I – we – have chosen discretion, as some bonded couples even on Vulcan do. It proves practical in this line of work.’ She nodded, but could not help listening a little more intently to the sounds in the background. When she did so, she heard someone moving in the rooms within the apartment. Surely those slippered feet must belong to his bondmate? She knew curiosity was inappropriate, especially as he had admitted that he favoured discretion. Discretion did not mean secrecy, but doing such an un-Vulcan thing as prying felt wrong.
‘What am I to do, Captain Spock?’ she asked. ‘If I were to ask your advice.’ Spock bowed his head slightly and then said:
‘There is little else to do than to learn to live with this loss. The wound Satok’s death inflicted on you will heal; I might be able to alleviate some of the discomfort, to make the process easier. Concerning the other matters we have discussed…’ Once again Saavik thought she saw him smile. ‘…Have patience. By the standards of our people, you are still very young, even if you, unlike most of your male peers, have reached maturity. Humans flaunt their emotions – Vulcans do not. That is our custom. I will not claim that abstinence and suppression is important, or even preferable, as that can be harmful, as I have come to learn –‘ she noticed that comment, and wondered what he was referring to, ‘-rather, be open to every possibility, and remember that certain things – certain relationships – will not be what they first appear to be. Just as a friend might prove an enemy, an acquaintance might prove a lover.’ That last word had been in the masculine, and tended to be used only with a male counterpart. For a moment, she wondered at his use of that ancient word, but guessed it might be due to the frequent use of that word in poetry and had thus fitted well in the elaborate juxtaposition.
‘I see,’ she simply said at his advice, not knowing what else to comment on. ‘I would appreciate your help with the broken bond.’
‘I must have your thoughts, in that case,’ Spock said, putting down his tea-cup. Saavik wondered whether she had anything she did not want him to see - her slight disdain at some of his human mannerisms, despite her sincere respect for him; that she found human males appealing to the eye; that she would much rather have been wholly Vulcan and not be polluted by Romulan blood; that she thought Admiral Kirk had a pleasing profile. Despite not being a telepath, she knew how to shield her thoughts, so she hid these particular reflections.
‘I am ready,’ she said and closed her eyes as she felt his fingers position themselves on her face. They were cool to the touch in the warm room, and she thought she could feel the telepathic energy coursing through them. He did not enter her mind, but only reached and touched it. She had not realised how high up in her consciousness the severed bond lay; her preoccupation with it must have drawn it up from the recesses of her thoughts. Saavik felt how he soothed it; it was like closing off the blood-flow to a wound and comforting a hurt child with touch. “Very young” he had called her – in his eyes, perhaps she was merely a child. She would never see herself as such; in a year, she would be starting her command training. She expected to earn the rank of lieutenant in less than two years. But perhaps for someone of his age, rank and experience, she did not seem older than that. Before he drew away, she caught a glimpse of his mind, which seemed to expand in every direction, much like space, hosting uncountable stars and planets which hid secrets more precious than life itself. Saavik had only melded with a small number of Vulcans, but she thought his mind seemed different. It took her a while before she could discern what it was, and then she realised that it had felt complete in a way she had not encountered before.
The meld lasted for less than a minute, and when the captain ended it, the broken bond seemed like yet another part of her mind, and not like the earlier painful bruise it had been.
‘It seems to have been successful,’ she noted and then added: ‘Thank you.’ Once again he bowed his head in acknowledgment.
‘I hope it becomes easier to bear, even if such a thing nevertheless can be daunting. Hopefully, I will have been able to provide some help.’
‘Indeed – I am grateful that you took time for my private matter,’ she said, echoing that expression deliberately. He nodded and then rose. Saavik followed his example, feeling strangely relieved as the trouble which had pressed upon her the last two weeks lifted. As Spock said that they would surely meet at the seminar next morning and she answered affirmatively, she reflected that it had been an interesting visit; despite the embarrassment of the conversation, his help had been welcome and his advice happily received. He saluted her once again and she mirrored the gesture as she turned to leave the apartment with its intriguing displays.
She left without noticing the jacket with the rank insignia of admiral thrown over one of the armchairs.