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The U.S.S. Kearsarge had been an extremely fortunate ship, as was her crew. Just before the Tholians had returned with massive re-enforcements, the starship had been able to leave with full shields and at maximum warp speed.
Now they were on their way to the nearest starbase. The communications staff was in the process of rerouting power supplies so that the ship could get back in touch with the rest of the universe, but mostly Starfleet.
Saavik felt that, finally, everything was under control. After postponing her visit to sickbay three times, she made an appointment for later that day. Also, Chapel had confirmed that there was no radiation sickness and only light casualties. Injuries consisted mostly of bruises, cuts, scrapes and a few broken bones. More importantly, there had been no fatalities. The engineering staff was equally optimistic. All systems were reported to be at nearly one hundred percent.
By far, the worst casualty had been Saavik herself. She wasn't feeling any effects from the radiation, but her command confidence had been shaken. Despite the fact she had been given a boost in morale by her science and first officers, the effect was only temporary. She was still second-guessing her decisions made during the Tholian encounter.
There was also something else which didn't help, Geoffrey, her science officer, but more importantly, the one who loved her. And that was the problem. She was not being fair to herself or Geoff. The relationship had been one of convenience. She needed someone and he had been there. No, that wasn't entirely true or fair. She needed exactly what he made available to her: fairness, kindness, sensitivity to her particular problems, and above all, trust.
After a very confusing and fruitless relationship with Spock, she had decided, enough. But just leaving without resolving anything had been a very big mistake. It seemed now that all she had succeeded in doing was to bring her 'excess baggage' into a new relationship. Because of that, her new relationship wasn't going well at all.
She thought about her last meeting with Spock. It was true what someone said about him. He had been changed. But it wasn't for the reasons that were generally thought of.
The consensus amongst Starfleet personnel was that the changes occurred as a result of his 'rebirth' following the Genesis incident, a reasonable assumption, and partially true. But she knew better. She had been there before, during and after the change. And while there where a few minor differences, he was basically the same person.
No, the change had been the result of something even more profound, something that was between his father and him, and related to the death of Amanda, Spock's mother. When she died, it left a gap in the lives of Spock and Sarek. Amanda had been the bridge between the very different, and yet somehow similar, men. She had been the bond that held them together, if only barely. Following Spock's return to Earth after the 'whale incident,' the two had begun to close that gap. Saavik had seen it for herself and felt there was hope. However, with the loss of Amanda, that gap widened considerably.
If that wasn't enough, Spock was further tested by the death of James T. Kirk. Spock's only true friend was gone. Whatever chance there had been for Spock to share his thoughts or 'feelings' were lost with his friend and his mother.
Saavik had tried to help over and over again, until finally, she could no longer tolerate being dismissed and even ignored. She left. No long goodbyes, no explanations and no more confrontations either. Maybe it was a coward's way out or maybe it showed she was not in control, or was it command, of her own feelings. But it was a lot easier, or at least it had been at the time.
She shook the thoughts of Spock, at least for the time being. Reaching to her console, she tabbed off the seemingly endless scrolling of reports and requests that she'd been reviewing for the past two hours. Whatever she needed was not in the computer either.
Actually, what she really needed was some sleep and now seemed like an excellent time. She got up from her duty desk and moved towards the bed in the other half of her command suite. She only got half way when the intercom sounded. "Bridge to Captain Saavik!"
It was communications officer, El-Qasem, now fully recovered and back on duty.
She turned back to her work console and tabbed the control. "Saavik here, have we contacted Starfleet yet?"
"Aye, sir, that's why I'm calling. Since we've been out of touch, they've been looking for us. We're to report directly to Starfleet Headquarters, no stops. You wish to re-establish contact and confirm?"
Saavik chewed on her lower lip a moment and thought about it. No sense in aggravating Command any further, "Not necessary. Send confirmation and give them an E.T.A., too." She then re-tabbed the comm panel, "Engineering, can we maintain maximum speed?"
After a brief pause, the familiar voice of Nakamura sounded over the intercom's speaker. "Aye, sir! Are you in a hurry to get to the starbase?"
"No, Starfleet Headquarters, Engineer, we've been recalled. Can we hold warp eight for an extended period of time?" Saavik already knew what the answer would be, but better to make certain.
The note of surprise and confidence was evident, "No problem, Captain. You've got warp eight until Sol goes nova. I can give you a bit more if you really need it."
The captain smiled, if Scott had been Kirk's miracle worker, then 'Suzi' was hers. "Thanks, warp eight will do just fine, Saavik out."
Once more, she activated the intercom, "Helm, best possible speed home!"
"All ready to go, Captain, just waiting for you!"
Saavik smiled to herself, the young lady's enthusiasm was evident, even over the intercom. "Thank you, Demora. Very well, Starfleet Headquarters at warp eight."
"Aye, sir, helm out!"
'Now,' she thought, 'to the bunk for a few hours--'
The chime sounded on her cabin door. Against her better judgement, she acknowledged the call, "Come!"
Doctor Chapel stood waiting as the door snapped open. "Got a minute, Captain?"
"Sure, Doctor, come on in."
"You look like you could use some rest, Saavik."
"Is that a personal or a professional opinion?"
The ship's captain was about to tell her about the interrupted sleep plans but countered with an observation of her own. "You've got a lot of nerve. Have you looked in a mirror lately?"
The ship's doctor broke into a smile which changed to a genuine laugh shortly afterwards. "Touche', Captain."
"What brings you here, Doctor?"
The answer became obvious when the sly doctor produced the traditional black bag, which had been hidden from view. "Came to give you the once over. If Mohammed won't come to the mountain--," she left the quote unfinished.
"Christine, I said I'd be down later."
"You said that four times today and before you cancel the latest appointment, I thought I'd beat you to the punch, so to speak."
"Really, I'm fine, the radiation--"
Chapel cut her off. "Don't give me that. Your heritage may mean that you're affected differently, but that doesn't mean you're immune. Besides, from what I've been able to piece together, you were exposed longer than anyone else. And don't try to argue. This is doctor's orders. I'll put you on report otherwise. Just lay back on your bunk and I'll be out of here in ten minutes. Then you can get some much needed rest, which will be part of my prescription."
Taking Saavik by the arm Chapel led her, under protest, to the bunk. Finally, Saavik submitted. Any protest with a ship's surgeon was futile anyway.
Exactly five minutes later, the exam was concluded and Chapel began packing her instruments without a hint of the results.
Saavik looked into the doctor's eyes and asked the absurd. "Will I live?"
"Probably a lot longer than anyone else on this ship," came the dry reply.
"Have you heard? We're going back to Terra. Command probably wants to tack my hide on Walking Bear's wall, or something like that."
When the doctor didn't respond to the attempted humor and conversation, Saavik tried the direct approach. "Have you decided yet?"
Chapel concluded packing her medical instruments and looked towards Saavik, now sitting upright in her bunk. "Yes, I have. I'm going to finish my current tour, then resign from Starfleet." Her tone was quiet and reserved, tainted with just a hint of regret.
Genuinely tired, Saavik wanted to sleep, but she had to get a handle on the doctor's feelings. After all, the two should have some insight into each other. They had both pursued the same Vulcan for years, without success, "Are you sure?"
The ship's Chief Medical Officer plopped down next to Saavik and let out a deep sigh. "I've been talking to that hospital back home again. They've upped the offer. Not only will I be a practicing instructor, but I'll also be on the Board of Directors. So I'll have a say in making policy and keeping the facility current and relevant."
Saavik was visibly disappointed. "So that's it I suppose. Starfleet will lose one of its finest surgeons and hardly anyone will know why, will they?"
Chapel was on the verge of tears and Saavik knew she was pushing her friend, but it was necessary to be sure the decision was sound. Softening the tone of her voice a bit, the captain continued. "Aren't you going to tell anyone about what you're feeling, except me?"
When the doctor didn't answer right away, Saavik continued. "Since leaving the first Enterprise, you've held many positions in Starfleet and didn't 'feel comfortable' in any of them. So one by one, you got out, transferred to a new department or area of interest. You were successful in each of your postings. Yet you left just the same, not really sure why, only a feeling of not being... happy?"
Chapel looked at Saavik and straightened up. Yes, that was it, not happy, or maybe more accurately, not completely fulfilled. "Saavik, I really thought getting back to shipboard duty would be the answer, but it wasn't. I guess I was just trying to be sure."
"No harm in that, Christine." Saavik tried another approach. "I think that you're one of the best M.D.'s I've ever known. In fact, I only know one that's better."
With that comment, Chapel finally smiled and named the obvious first choice, "McCoy."
Saavik laughed, "Yes! Why don't you talk to Leonard. He's got a pretty good handle on the medical field. More important, he knows you personally and you trust him. In any case, I'll bet he'd like to hear from you."
Christine kept the smile and even brightened considerably. "Yes, I suppose that's a good idea. I'll give it some more thought."
"Well, stop thinking about it and do something, that's an order. And one more thing, Doctor,"
"Get out of here and let me get some sleep before I fall over. It's your prescription, remember?"
Laughing again, the doctor grabbed her bag and headed out of the captain's quarters with a new bounce in her step.
As the pocket door hissed shut, Saavik rolled back on the bunk. "Computer, lights off."
The lights in the area dimmed obediently and she smiled at the thought of finally getting some much needed rest.