Name of beta reader: Kerry
Character codes: Saa & Valeris
Summary: Sequel to "Seeds": The first signs of Valeris' future betrayal show, but even she doesn't see them let alone Saavik.
"-judicious application of extreme psychological response is mandated in the following instances--"
Valeris leaned close to Saavik and spoke lowly. "It means killing is acceptable," she translated down.
Saavik gave the other a look. "My intelligence tests do not mark me that far behind you. And the correct term is necessary, not acceptable."
Valeris tilted her head and her black hair caught the dimmed light from above as her eyes glinted, deliberately provoking. "There is a difference?"
Saavik winced. "Your sense of humor is sometimes more Romulan than mine."
"A defect that I shall strive to enhance."
Saavik sighed. "Do you wish to leave?"
"I was wondering when you would make the connection."
Saavik's eyes narrowed. "I believe I preferred your company before we became acquainted."
Valeris dipped her head in amused acknowledgement. "Are you coming?"
Saavik gathered her data padd and slipped smoothly from her seat. Valeris followed her out of the lecture hall into the corridor beyond.
"That was remarkably conducive to instilling sleep."
Saavik remarked dryly, "You did say you needed to meditate."
Valeris grimaced. "Striking my head on the floor when I fell out of the chair would be counterproductive to any enlightenment achieved."
Valeris gave Saavik a reproving glower. "It would be more time effective to simply tell me the lesson than convoluted lectures on the topic."
Saavik shrugged. "I must bow to the wishes of your teacher."
Saavik slid a sly glance over to the younger woman. "However, if you were to guess correctly, I would not be telling."
The corner of Valeris' mouth raised haughtily. "Are you not supposed to be my role model?"
"That is the singular most disturbing statement you have made all day."
"Because it is true or false?" Valeris asked innocently, enjoying herself.
Saavik gave her another look and then shook her head. "You are as full of traps as the Empire. What is he teaching you?"
Valeris pulled a face. "An endless monotony of ethics."
"And do you ‘skip class' for those as well?"
"As I note, you are with me. And I would prefer a kindred sympathy to a lecture."
"You have as much use for sympathy as I."
"And I have more incentive not to lecture you."
Valeris nearly frowned, confused. "Why not?"
Saavik's dark eyes glinted. "Because then you will fall behind me again."
Valeris looked away in mocked offense. "You are deliberately attempting to goad me."
"That does not nullify my success in using it."
"Is my competition that obvious?"
"Amanda noticed it."
Valeris' fair skin wrinkled in a scowl. "She does not approve of me."
"Your difficulty with humans is rather... noticeable."
"I prefer them to Klingons," Valeris nearly spat. Then colored at the improper vehemence. "Forgive my misbehavior."
Saavik dipped her head. "Strong emotion is not misbehavior, only the actions based solely on it."
Valeris breathed a long sigh. "He does not view it so."
"With all due respect to him, he has not experienced what we have."
Valeris moved instinctively closer to Saavik, feeling the chill of memory.
Saavik acknowledge the psychological nestling by allowing the proximity.
"I do not wish to talk about it," Valeris said suddenly.
"I have not asked."
Valeris colored and dropped her head again. "I ask forgiveness again."
Saavik stopped, forcing Valeris to stop with her. She waited until the black eyes slowly lifted. "We are still friends, yes?"
Valeris nodded hesitantly.
"Then know that I will not press you about that which causes you pain."
"They say it is for my own good," Valeris said softly, bitterly.
Saavik's face became a dangerous mask. "Your family knows nothing of pain or of your good. Their concern is for their own image, as it always was. Why do you let them dictate your state?"
Valeris' head lowered. "I find I cannot reject them the way you rejected yours."
"I did not say you should." Saavik shook her head and then gently laid a hand on Valeris' shoulder, surprising the younger woman into looking up. "Home is where you stand, with the family you select. Do not sacrifice yourself, your future, to find a place to belong." Her face softened into a wry teasing. "All competition aside, I would regret your loss."
Valeris blinked hard. "Truly?"
Saavik's eyebrow rose.
Valeris actually blushed. "I am not worthy of the effort."
"You confuse the ends with the means."
Valeris sighed. "Now you sound like him."
Valeris gave her a look. "That was not a compliment."
Saavik's mouth moved. "You are feeling better, I see."
The two shared a mutual glint in dark eyes.
"Have you time to take a meal with me?" Valeris asked.
Saavik nodded. "I arranged my accumulated leave to correspond with yours in length."
Valeris' eyes widened in honest delight. "You... did?" Then her brows drew together. "Why? Amanda will be most displeased that you did not spend the time with her."
Saavik tilted her head. "I will brave her temper."
Valeris winced. "You are indeed more Romulan than is wise."
"I am ignoring that comment. Have you an establishment of preference?"
"Not a Starfleet one. Or Vulcan."
Saavik's lips pulled into a knowing line. "I know of a place that fits the perimeters."
They checked their data padds into Stores and entered the easy sunshine outside, heading for a shuttle line. Saavik chose a path through the quad's main lawn, raising Valeris' eyebrow.
"There are such things as sidewalks," she said disdainfully, eyeing enviously the way Saavik seemed to be so obviously enjoying the rich grass beneath her boots.
But Saavik was unashamed in the slightest. "When you take ship duty, you will understand. You are fortunate that he civilized me sufficiently to retain my shoes in public."
"I shall remember to thank him," Valeris said airily, sliding a covert glance at the green beneath her own feet.
"What is your opinion of the Academy?"
Valeris winced. "Very... human."
"Starfleet being a human established force does have that effect."
"I find it... difficult at times to retain my lessons in control." She gave Saavik a glower. "And yes, I am well aware of the maxim in regards to patience."
Saavik's eyes crinkled at the corners. "It is worth the effort to interact with them."
Valeris made a derisive noise. "While I admit the humans have their uses, I fail to see the need."
"Consider it a study of IDIC."
"I have never understood the value of such a principle. To celebrate difference is to embrace conflict."
Saavik's eyebrow rose. "You have the most intriguing twist of logic, Valeris."
Valeris frowned. "One of the admiralty said similarly during my cadet interview. Do you think this will hinder my placement in the fleet?"
Saavik tilted her head, considering. "Perhaps. Which admiral was it?"
"I am unfamiliar with his personality. Did he seem unsettled?"
Valeris thought back. "No. Indeed, he seemed... pleased. Perhaps because I was honest in my thoughts?"
Saavik shrugged. "Humans value honesty. You could always inquire further of him if you wish to know."
Valeris nodded. "I will seek him out."
"I do not see how that would harm anything."
They walked past the main administration offices and down the gentle slope on the other side.
"I have heard that you are projected to place high in your class standing."
Valeris straightened in pride. "My academic scores are superior." She eyed Saavik slyly. "Perhaps I will surpass you?"
Saavik's mouth twitched. "A very real possibility."
"It does not... trouble you?"
"Why would the success of my friend trouble me?"
Valeris studied Saavik's face a long moment. "You should be more... possessive."
"You forget, Valeris, I was a thief first. If a thing may be taken from me, why place importance in it?"
The younger Vulcan sighed and shook her black hair. "I do not know how you have managed to survive Hellguard and yet retain such... naivete."
Saavik frowned. "I fail to see how this is unacceptable."
Valeris' lips curved. "On the contrary, it is quite acceptable. Just not to you."
Saavik's brows pulled down.
"Am I moving too fast for you?" Valeris asked with wide child eyes.
Saavik snorted. "Which pace? Verbal or your progress in walking?"
Valeris took a deep breath in satisfaction. "I have missed your company."
"Of course, my pain tolerance is one of the highest recorded."
"I have also missed your presence."
"It is said without enemies one cannot know oneself."
Valeris sobered and dropped her eyes. "Thank you for coming."
"I will always come."
Valeris raised her eyes and the black depths where intense. "Your word?"
Saavik's eyebrow rose in curious surprise. "Yes."
The young shoulders relaxed.
"Is there something over which I should be alarmed?" Saavik asked.
Valeris' raised an eyebrow wryly, but suddenly ducked her head. "No. I just... have no wish to be alone."
"Left you alone."
Valeris caught her lip between her teeth in genuine chagrin. "I had not meant to- forgive me, I was not thinking--"
Saavik shook her head, the dark hair catching the breeze. "Leave it. Why seek to change what gives you your desire?"
Valeris lowered her gaze. "There is no success in default." She lifted her eyes and they were full of challenge. "I prefer to win."
Saavik caught Valeris' gaze with her own, her dry amusement easing the contest. "Are you as unsettled as I when we agree?"
Valeris' own eyes flickered. "I am."
"Then there can only be one recommended course of action."
Her eyebrow lifted. "Indeed?"
"Yes. We must swiftly find some subject on which we diverge to restore the proper harmonic balance."
Valeris' nose wrinkled in good humor. "That should not be difficult."
Valeris tilted her head, thinking. "Narrowing down the vast array, however, is."
"True. Select the first thing that comes."
The other gave an outright grimace. "Perhaps the second would be better."
"That would be the Klingon ‘peace'," Valeris said, her tones taking on supreme revulsion. Then she slid a wicked glance at Saavik. "Although, technically, we are united again in general principle." At the other woman's look of disbelief, Valeris continued. "We merely diverge on the particular party."
Saavik sighed. "You are full of such pleasant revelations. I find this line of thought most uncomfortable."
"Then you deny the validity of my words?"
Again a sigh. "I regret I cannot."
Valeris looked extraordinarily pleased. Then she, too, sighed. "One would think that one of us would manage to convince him of the fallacy of his logic."
Saavik's eyebrow rose. "Surely you jest - or have you somehow overlooked the reality that his stubbornness exceeds our own?"
Valeris nearly smiled fondly. "This is so."
"Besides," Saavik pointed out, "Starfleet would declare any such attempt to be treason."
Valeris snorted. "That is ridiculous! How can saving the Federation be treason?"
Saavik shrugged. "If you do not realize the danger, how else can you respond to the disruption of believed peace?"
Valeris shook her head adamantly. "No, I do not believe even humans would be so blind."
"Not blind. Innocent." Saavik stared down at the grass beneath her feet. "A state I prefer they remain in."
"Even when it will give them to the very states which will destroy that innocence?"
"I know of no other way."
Valeris' face hardened. "I will find a way."
Saavik studied her, disquieted. "Even if it costs you?"
Her chin rose. "I am not afraid." She shivered in the sunshine and her eyes were as black as Saavik had ever seen them. "I know what the Klingons are capable of."
Saavik's face softened. "Just do not become them."
Valeris looked over, startled.
The other shook her head mournfully. "I have lost enough to ‘the good of the many'."
"You will not lose me," vowed Valeris suddenly. Then a self-mocking tone replaced the intensity. "Although, I should think you would prefer otherwise these days."
"You should not remind me."
They found the shuttle pickup point and sat together on the conveniently placed bench. Cadets with their laughing families meandered about, taking holos and telling the year's exploits in outrageous exaggerations. The two Vulcans watched in silence.
"Valeris?" asked Saavik abruptly.
A black eyebrow rose. "Yes?"
"Tell me about Spock."
Valeris studied her. "You follow his record."
"His record does not tell me what I wish to know."
Valeris shrugged. "He remembers very little of you still, if that is what you are seeking. Why?"
Saavik looked away.
"Why?" the younger woman pressed.
"If... he ever does... you will tell me?"
Valeris' eyes narrowed. "You do not trust me?"
"Then I will wait."
Valeris continued to study her. Saavik's hair stirred with the wind, her perfect lines seeming at strange unease. "If you enlightened me, perhaps I could... prove useful."
Saavik shook her head. "Continue with him, that is enough for me now."
"And when it is not?"
Saavik's dark gaze slid back. "Then we will readjust."
Valeris' eyes narrowed even further.
Saavik merely lifted her chin and returned the look.
The younger woman's lips moved. "I sense a challenge."
"I will win."
"You lack sufficient... willingness to follow through."
Saavik's narrowed eyes glinted. "We shall see."
Valeris' eyes warmed. "I have missed this. The Academy lacks certain... stimulation. Are you certain you cannot take a posting closer? I would be... pleased to have your company."
Saavik cocked her head in wry humor. "‘Keep your friends close-‘"
Valeris finished the quote lightly. "‘--and your enemies closer.'" The black hair caught the wind. "And have you chosen which I am?"
The shuttle hummed around the street corner, heading their way.
Saavik stood and looked down at Valeris, a graceful brow arcing in the sunshine. "How can I? You have not yet chosen which you are."
Valeris dipped her head, accepting it. She rose and the two women stood eye to eye.
"And when I do?" asked Valeris intently.
"I will be ready."
Valeris nodded. Then she tilted her head. "I am curious, what do you believe will make my decision?"
The shuttle slid to a humming stop before them and its side door began to open.
Saavik spoke almost sadly. "The same that began us."
And they stepped into the shuttle and took their seats together in silence.