DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2022 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.

It's in the Spaces Between That We Fall in Love

by Djinn



Part 10: How We Were Betrayed


Days move into weeks. A new normal begins. Him on the ship with La'an. Christine on Earth—when she isn't with his father—with Saavik and Valeris.


Saavik wastes no time in beginning her wooing of La'an, taking his suggestions for a florist to use and which flowers La'an might like, La'an's office becomes home for a constant rotation of beautiful arrangements.


"She's relentless," La'an says, but she looks pleased.


Jim backs off with grace, as Spock knew he would. "Your girl's got game, Spock."


"She is difficult to deter once she is on a path."


"Like father like daughter." Jim grins. "And your cousin is doing great. Matt can't stop raving about her."


"She is still number one in her class." Valeris is a source of pride for him—how different would her life have been if she had stayed with his brother, if she had been cast adrift with criminals after his death?


Missions fold into missions. Months into months. They are in space, and then they are back on Earth. Space, Earth.


This time is different though. Change is in the air as Jim might say.


La'an walks beside him as they head for the apartment. Saavik moved back in with Christine when she left Gol.


But that will change. She and La'an are apartment hunting. La'an will not be on the ship for much longer, is being assigned as deputy chief of security for all of Starfleet.


He is happy for her, for Saavik, for Christine, who forgave him for not being there for her when she needed him once he brought her daughter back to her.


A daughter who now seems to love with even more of herself—perhaps just as he did, once the austerity of Gol was purged. Only the focus of his love was with another.


Saavik is not so cursed. La'an fell before the onslaught of flowers and calls, of poetry she mentions but will not share with him that Saavik writes for her.


Just as Saavik fell for a little girl La'an fell in love with on one of their last missions. A toddler who is now home with Christine and Saavik. Who was the last of her tribe on a world where those without tribes were killed.


He agreed they could not leave her to die, and so La'an beamed her out with them, and she and Saavik have become too enamored with her to give her up to the orphan facility the Federation runs.


Besides, she would be the only Callarian at the facility. Better to be with outsiders who love her if there is no chance she can be with her own kind.


Callarians are empathic but also highly resistant to being read telepathically. Spock remembers how strange that was the first time she touched his hand and he felt nothing coming back from her.


He has grown used to making use of his gifts without even thinking about them. Or not until they are suddenly of no use.


La'an and Saavik have named the girl Manua, after La'an's brother. She is too young to tell them what her own name was.


As they walk toward the entrance to the apartment, Spock allows his focus to turn to Christine, to let her know they are there, to feel her answering joy.


Part of that joy is for her new grandchild. But she is very ready for her to be a grandchild who visits, not lives with them. If only so she and Spock can fully enjoy his time home.


She is waiting at the door, allowing La'an through then pulling him into the powder room near the entrance and shutting the door, pushing him against the wall, and kissing him hard and fast and with passion that seeps into him from both where her fingers touch his skin and the bond.


"You have missed me?"


"I have." She nuzzles his neck. "Also"—she pulls out a scanner and laughs at the results—"I can't believe I felt this before you did." She shows him the readings.


"Nor can I." The Pon Farr? He is fortunately in the early stages. "I was more reactive than normal to everyday frustrations." But no one has commented. Now that she has named it, though, he can feel the hormones mixing together to make the generally inconvenient soup of love and desire to possess.


"I took the liberty of booking a place. Just in case I was right." She pushes back his hair. "Are you all right? It worries me that you didn't notice this?"


"I always miss you when we are apart. I greatly anticipate our reunions. The bond keeps me feeling part of you. Perhaps all these things masked the underlying issue. Wanting you is not a new thing." He pulls her back to him. "Where is this place you have booked?"


"The mountains. Very private. Very discreet. Your parents went there the last time... Your mother was telling me how nice it was, for if we were ever in need of such a place."


He does not wish to hear of his parents doing this. Especially when his mother is getting older—will there come a time when she cannot? It is not something one asks one's parents.


He hears a squeal outside the bathroom door. Manua is there, tapping softly on the door, making the noise she often does when anyone makes romantic overtures. Her empathy seems far more tuned to loving vibrations at this point than to anger or fear.


"Our granddaughter wants in. I cannot wait for them to get their own place." She pockets her scanner and opens the door, bending down to whisk the child up and then she holds her between them, blowing on her neck until she laughs in effervescent joy.


Manua reaches over to him and he holds out his arms, letting her move to him. "She has grown considerably."


"She was way too thin. But now she's good. We had her at the doctor last week. He thinks she's the equivalent of an eighteen-month-old. I've downloaded everything I could on Callarians. She seems totally normal for that age."


He feels her joy, knows his own mirrors it. He is happy for La'an and Saavik. Thinks it is probably preferable that a foundling will be their first child, since they both were that—and it might take any strangeness out of bearing a child later if they choose to go that route. A buffer between the child Saavik forced herself to carry and one she or La'an might want to create.


Then again, given the energy level of the small being who now wants to return to Christine, one might be sufficient.


He does not doubt that Christine is ready for this bundle of energy to have a place more suited to her needs.


"Do you have her in there?" Saavik asks from outside the door. "Because we're about to head out to look at places and I can't find her anywhere."


He opens the door. "We have her."


La'an studies them. "Do we want to know what you're all doing in there."


Manua suddenly laughs outrageously and La'an's face transforms in a way he would not have thought it could. Such adoration on her as she reaches out and takes her child from him. "Little monster."


Manua rubs her hands over La'an's braids, cooing softly.


"Okay, monster, we have to go." La'an hands Manua back to Christine. "Your grandparents will take good care of you. Or else they will hear about it from us." She glares at them both. "Ixnay on the eunionray exsay."


"At least until she's napping," Saavik says with a grin. Then they are gone.


Christine shows him where they have put Manua's toys in his office closet. "It's only temporary, but we needed the room. Between me and Amanda, this kid might have a few too many cute clothes taking up the other closets."


He can well imagine how much fun she and his mother have had dressing the child up.


"Oh and she's prepared to take her to the beach house while we're gone tending to your biological issues." She has a sheepish look. "I know it's probably weird that I told her, but we're going to need a babysitter. Saavik and La'an are not going to be easy to please on apartments so it will take them forever to find a place. For two who travel light they have the weirdest checklist of 'essentials' for their new place."


"Indeed." He has seen La'an's side of the list. "I believe if the child were not in the picture, they would not be so exacting. They wish to do right by her."


"They're nervous nellies."


"To be fair, you and I have never had to raise a toddler. She may not be as reasonable as Saavik and Valeris were—or as inclined to avoid danger." He does not wish to think about all the possible things that could harm a young child.


"Here, take her. I need to pack." He knows she will pack for him too. He keeps enough clothes here to not have to carry things between the ship and home.


He takes Manua to his office and watches as she pulls toys out of his closet and lays them carefully out in a pattern only she can understand.


Then she meets his eyes and smiles in a way he finds almost more charming than he can bear.


"Very well done," he says, touching her cheek.


She leans into his hand, then goes back to what she was doing.




He lies in bed next to Christine, sweat drying as a cool breeze wafts in through the screens on the windows and sliding door.


The burning has come sooner than he thought, given that his body went through it on the Genesis planet. Then again, his body aged decades on that planet so he may, in fact, be once again overdue.


Christine reaches for the cooler they placed near the bed and pulls out a water container, and opens it over him, letting the condensation drip onto his chest and stomach. It feels wonderful.


She shivers from the feel of it. The bond is open wide between them. The meld he has had in near constant engagement dying gently.


"I regret that our leave is taken up with this."


"With nonstop lovemaking?"


It cheers him that she considers it that and not nonstop rutting. "You had no choice."


"Sure I did." She lets him drink from the bottle, then recaps it and puts it on the floor. "I could have dropped you in the middle of a desert and flitted away." She laughs as she pulls him on top of her. "Or I could have put you in a deep-sea submersible and left you way, way down at the bottom of the ocean."


She wraps her legs around him and he groans at the sensation.


"Or I could have put you in stasis, ready to go when I felt like waking you. Or—"


He kisses her and puts an end to all the ways she could have avoided this. She is laughing under his mouth and he can feel her joy, it surges in the best way.


"I am glad you did none of those things."


"Yeah, they would suck for you. Although stasis might not." She closes her eyes as he moves inside her. "Having you mad for me at a moment's notice. Oh wait—I already have that. Even without the burning."


He murmurs something agreeable and keeps moving, lost in the feel of her. Soon she is lost in the feel of him, too. Then they are moving faster, calling out, then finally collapsing against each other in quick succession.


As they lie quietly together, she says softly, "Sarek wants you to join him on our next mission."


He waits, unsure where she is going with this.


"I know I said I didn't want you on his team, but I've been rethinking that. Do you think Jim would loan you out from time to time?"


"If Sarek wishes it, he will take the request high enough that Jim will have no say."


"Not if I say not to."


"You have that much sway over my father?" Even Michael did not show such confidence in controlling him.


"He values my input. And if he doesn't, I make him." She pulls away so they are eye to eye. "I don't want him doing this if it's not what you want."


"Is it what you want?"


"I miss you. I'd love to have you with us every so often. I'm starting to really enjoy diplomacy—I think you might too. And we know we work well together."


"It is true." He smooths back hair grown damp over the course of the burning then runs his finger down her cheek, to her lips. "We could try it. Once. It is not working with you that concerns me. It is working with my father."


"Technically, while you're learning, you'd be working for him."


He sighs. "True."


"Is that too much to contemplate?"


He can feel through the bond that she wants it not to be. That she wants him to try, for her. And for himself. To have another career path open to him.


And perhaps his mother was right? How long should he serve in the same position on the same ship? Jim is grooming Sulu for captaincy. Might he not appreciate Spock being gone from time to time so Sulu can be first officer for more than just a few hours or days?


"All right. You said he has something in mind?"


"I can't tell you about it. It's very preliminary. But it's based on what happened inside the Great Barrier. And with whom."


He lifts an eyebrow. There were Romulans and Klingons both on that planet—he barely interacted with the Romulan but he was on the Klingon ship.


Could it finally be time for peace with the Klingons?


Could he be part of that?


"I find myself very interested. Tell my father to request me."


"And you'll work for him?"


"Until such time as I no longer need his immediate instruction. And then I will work with him. Or, perhaps, on my own even."


"Two more stubborn men..."


"But you serve as intermediary between us so very well."


"I do, don't I?" She rolls him to his back. "Now, where were we?"




He does not just enjoy diplomacy; he finds it fills a hole in himself that he did not realize was there.


His father is pleased with him. Not just with his willingness to be mentored but also at the progress he is making getting the Klingon leadership to trust him.


Jim is less pleased. At first Spock was gone infrequently but now it is more and more.


Although you cannot tell he is unhappy as he sits in a wetsuit near a surfboard at the beach house while the ship is in for routine refits, talking to Valeris who is on leave before her first assignment.


She is also near a surfboard and in the same kind of wetsuit Jim is wearing.


He walks down to join them.


"Grab a board, Spock. You need to learn to do this too."


"I lack the protective swimwear you and Valeris have."


"I know. I might want you to freeze. Payback for never being around anymore." He winks at Valeris who bites back a smile. "Okay, we do this on the sand first. You have to master the pop-up, the rise from lying down paddling to up on both feet. None of this going-to-the-knee-first crap. Got it, kiddo?"


"I am too old for that name."


"I'll always be older so that's a load of crap. You ready to pop up?"


"Sir, yes, sir."


"Okay, together." He does it easily and since she is young and agile, so does she.


He looks at Spock. "Get a damn board."


"Vulcans and water do not mix."


"Says the man who swam with whales. Get a damn board—that's an order."


As Spock walks over to the surfboard stand, he hears Jim talking softly to Valeris about her new captain—her first assignment will be on the Buteo, a fast frigate. He's giving her some quirks to avoid triggering Captain Par'avan, some things to do to excel.


He feels a surge of satisfaction at how invested Jim is in her. Even if he and she still play their game of never having met when they pass each other in public.


He thinks it appeals to the troublemaker that lies at the heart of both of them.


With a sigh he brings the board over. "I would like a wetsuit if I'm to do this."


"You're not going to actually get in the water, and we all know it. But you will do your land-work or it'll be KP for a month."


She laughs at the archaic punishment.


"You think I don't have actual cooks on my ship? Replicators are great for some things but you can't beat a home cooked meal for others."


He takes after Chris in that way, even if his cooks work primarily on special events—whether diplomatic, Starfleet brass, or even crew special events—and Chris enjoyed cooking for those closest to him.


Spock puts the board down and tries to pop up the way Jim has shown Valeris. He fails and uses his knee instead to ease himself up.


"You look ridiculous," Christine says, as she pushes him off the board and back up to the house. "And your father needs us."


Jim makes a face. "Wow, he spoils even my fun time. Good thing he doesn't need you too, kiddo. I'm going to have you surfing like a pro in no time with all this one-on-one time."


Valeris looks thrilled at the idea of having him all to himself.


If Jim were not such a gentleman about her ongoing—if better hidden now—infatuation, Spock might be worried.




Spock sits next to Christine on a small shuttle that the Klingons have approved for entry into their space. She used to be nervous when they made this trip, but no longer.


She too believes in the possibility of peace. She too believes that they can bring it about.


It is hubris, he knows, on both their parts, but his father, who does not stand for unqualified arrogance, has never told them to adjust their expectations. He too is pleased with their progress, miniscule as it is.


"Three steps forward, two steps back" is how Christine characterizes it but without rancor. It is how she says Emergency Ops often was as they tried to help while waiting for the diplomats to make a lasting difference.


He loves serving with her. Loves that he has essentially commandeered her to his team when he is working, that his father lets her go with grumbling but no real resentment. He thinks his father worked too hard to get them back together to complain now that he succeeded.


Also, his father values efficiency and results, and with the bond between them, Spock and Christine are a team in full rapport. And she is as results driven as he is.


It is why she has stayed on Sarek's team long past when her original rotation would have run out. Starfleet says nothing—but as his mother said, they are always looking for diplomats. Christine will make an excellent one although he wonders if she will want that as a career path or if she will be ready for new challenges as she has been in the past.


The downside of a mind as quick as hers is the tendency to get bored. If they were not working with the Klingons, with the resulting secrecy and excitement, would she still wish to be doing this?


"Did I tell you? Valeris is moving to the Gallorette?"


"That ship should come with a promotion."


"She didn't say it did, but there was that excitement she can never fully hide when she has a secret she's dying to tell us."


"Ensign Valeris becomes Lieutenant Valeris." He sighs in contentment. "She integrates effortlessly."


"Well, it doesn't hurt she's got the new deputy commander in chief of Starfleet in her corner. Matt's beside himself at the promotion—he wasn't sure he'd go any further."


"Why not?"


"Aged out or something. I don't know. Once Bill was assigned as CINC, though, it was pretty much a done deal in my book. I can't imagine him picking anyone but Matt as his deputy."


Sometimes Spock forgets how immersed Christine was in Starfleet politics simply by proximity to Cartwright and others she worked with. That she refers to the new CINC by his first name is testament to that.


"We're being hailed," she says, suddenly all business.


"On screen."


It is never the chancellor. Not at first. They will go through several channels of intermediaries before Gorkon shows up on the screen.


But less go-betweens than when they first started this. They are making progress, even if it might not be apparent to the casual observer.


Fortunately their progress is not being judged by the casual observer, but by his father. Who is pleased with him.


It is a state he finds he enjoys. He wishes sometimes he could go back and tell the unhappy and rebellious boy he was that there would come a day when he and his father will see eye to eye—even enjoy each other's company.


That boy, however, would no doubt not believe him.




He sits in his quarters while McCoy attends to Valeris's wrist. He broke it when he knocked the phaser out of her grasp.


He broke worse when he rampaged through her mind, seeking information.


He was so proud of her. And had been pleased and surprised when she had shown up on the ship, just in time for this mission. He should have been suspicious.


He is, at times, a fool.


She is breathing slowly, deliberately, but through her mouth, the way one does when in pain. He does not think it is her wrist that causes the reaction.


It is what he did to her mind, how rough he was.


He made her cry out in agony. The girl he once wanted to never harm—he went above and beyond punishing as he searched for the information they needed.


But he had to. The needs of the many.


"Why, Valeris?"


McCoy moves between them, as if in no worry for his own safety. Valeris could break his neck without a thought. "Give it a rest, Spock, until I'm done."


"You have disgusted the doctor, Spock." Her tone is mocking even if the words come out a bit haltingly.


But with more surety than they did right after the meld. He has harmed her but not irreparably.


"She's not wrong." He scans her wrist and then moves to her head.


"You cannot help what's wrong there, Doctor."


"I can give you something for the headache."


"He will not want that."


McCoy looks at him, the question in his eyes.


"Go ahead, Doctor. Then please, leave us alone."


He loads a hypospray and shoots it into her arm, then says, "I'll be in sickbay if either of you need me."


Once he is gone, she says, "He is kind."


"Yes. It is often his downfall."


"Well, it will not be yours. Or Jim's. One word from him—just your name—and you were on me. The two of you planned to get the information from me—whatever it took."


"Would my brother and Angel have done any less?"


"So you admit you two are criminals? Standing in the way of patriots—and what could have been a universe free of the Klingon scourge."


"I admit nothing, Valeris."


"Why do you have a pet name for Saavik but not me? Why am I never Valerisaam?"


"Is that important now?"


"Do you have somewhere else to be? Something else you would rather discuss? Such as how you might want to watch your pillow talk with Christine from here on out."


He is alarmed—is that how the conspiracy knew what was going on? "The apartment is swept for bugs regularly." This had started when Christine worked in ops and had never stopped.


"Yes, and I set up a procedure on the home alarm system to let me know when Starfleet security was entering the apartment building. I could send the bugs I planted into sleep mode before they even crossed the threshold." She walks to him. "The two of you are quite amorous, even after all this time together."


"Do not, Valeris."


"No, it was charming. I think it set a benchmark for what I will want in a partner."


"You speak as though you have a future."


"We are not at the conference yet. And you may save no one." She studies you. "Your disappointment in me is curious. I have consistently shown that my upbringing colored my actions—and my ethics. You have always tolerated that."


"Until it turned to treason, yes. I was willing to make allowances."


"Because of the guilt you felt over my father? You were a child when he was sent away. What could you have done?"


"I knew where he was much later in life. I met Angel, as you know. I could have tried to stop him then."


"You did what you could."


"I do not know if you believe that or are trying to play me."


"I would never have come to you if I believed you betrayed my father. And he would not have let me come—other than as revenge. I imagine he would have wanted me to kill Christine."


His gut tightens at the thought.


"Which I would never do. She is more a mother to me than Angel or T'Vashti ever were." She touches his hand gingerly. "Feel the truth of that."


And he does, he feels her love for Christine. And for him, even if he also feels a certain terror still raging through her system.


"You are not what I thought, Spock. I was counting on the fact that you would never hurt me that way. Even for a good cause. I misjudged. I will not do that again."


"Again you speak as if you have a future."


"Until you succeed, I do—and you don't even know what is to happen that you must prevent. Because I do not know so you could not rip it out of me. Operational security is a bitch, Spock. West used to say that to me when I'd complain of gaps in my knowledge."


The door chimes and he says, "Come", then hears the familiar cadence of Jim's footsteps.


"Ah, the other one." She backs up though, as if somehow Jim is a bigger threat to her than he is.


"Ah, the little traitor. I was blinded the same way your cousin was. You were so good at making us root for you."


"Cousin." She starts to laugh. "He's never told you the truth about me. That's so surprising given your legendary friendship."


Spock feels a sinking in his stomach.


"But given how my father stole your ship, I can see why he'd keep my real identity from you."


He has to give Jim credit; he does not even react. "I knew that already, Valeris. I just didn't care." And then Jim looks at him and he sees it is true. "I asked Chris. She's a terrible liar—at least to someone who really knows her." It is a dig at him, a reference to when she shared his bed instead of Spock's, but Valeris will not realize that. This is for him only.


"Aren't you curious, sir, why he didn't trust you with that information?"


"Not really. Spock can have secrets. Like, you know, this whole fucking mission." He begins to pace.


"Ah, not so copacetic." She is clearly enjoying this.


"Matt's my friend. He always had a hard-on for the Klingons but it was... How the hell did we get from not liking them to here?"


"People can surprise you."


"You certainly did. From number one in your class to this? You'll be a case study for security for decades to come."


"Always nice to be remembered."


He shakes his head. "Your skill with a quick comeback is unharmed by the meld. Glad to see that."


Another chime sounds at the door. He opens it to two armed security guards. "The phasers are set on kill."


"That is a lie. I am too important to you."


"You're not wrong." He takes a phaser from one of the guards, turns it up to a higher setting, and says, "Stun but in the 'painful as fuck' range. I don't want you getting away when they move you to the brig, and let's just say I have some anger management issues at the moment." And then he fires and catches her as she falls. "But I do have limits. No need for a concussion."


He tosses the phaser back to the guard and picks her up. "I feel a strong need to put her in the brig myself. You no doubt want to meditate. I'll be back in a bit."


He knows Jim is not taking her solely for the satisfaction of getting her into the brig, where cameras will record everything that she does. He is also doing it to protect her from the guards—she did, after all, kill two of their colleagues. And there are corridors that have no surveillance, where anything could happen. She proved that when she killed those men.


Jim does love her, in his way. Even if she nearly got him killed.




Spock follows La'an into a small room in the security holding area in the bowels of Starfleet Command, a room that is behind a false wall of an interrogation area—they can see into the space but he assumes whoever is being questioned cannot see them. "Why are we here?" They are supposed to be saying goodbye to Valeris—but where is Christine?


"I want you to watch." She picks up a communicator and says, "Bring him in and then let her in. Stay alert but not too obviously. And don't interfere if they hug."


Security officers bring Cartwright in. He looks defiant—the way he has since he was arrested. Although he could not defy a Vulcan meld, which his father was called to do rather than Spock.


He feels cheated. He wants to make this man pay, and ripping the names of other conspirators from his mind would have been a good start.


He realizes his hands are clenched and tries to relax.


Then Christine comes in. He did not even know she was here. "What is she doing?"


"Stay calm, Spock."


"Matt, I've been so worried." Christine rushes to Cartwright, hugging him as if he has not ruined their daughter, and he sees her pass him something, which Cartwright quickly slips into his mouth and swallows.


"What is she doing?" He wants to break through the wall, but La'an puts a hand on his and he feels her serenity—her total lack of concern. He meets her eyes and says, "She is not part of the conspiracy?"


"She is not. Just watch. I couldn't get you access to his mind, but I can give you this."


Cartwright sits and Christine takes the chair across from him. There are monitors in the room Spock and La'an are in, monitors that allow them to have close-ups on both of them. He recognizes the look on Christine's face and marvels that Cartwright does not, after all this time working with her.


She is playing him.


And yet he smiles at her and says, "You're ongoing faith in me will save me."


"You'd think so, huh?" She leans forward, her look earnest. "In return, tell me two things? First, where is the pill for my daughter?"


The guards suddenly look confused, one of them even beeps for La'an, who says, "It's okay. Look interested but don't do anything to stop their conversation."


"The pill, Matthew. The one I just gave you."


He looks panicked and Spock relishes the fear he must be experiencing.


"Why just one? That's not how this little job was presented to me. I was given the 'Save them both from the horror that is Rura Penthe' pitch. Not the one where we just save you."


He glances at the guards.


"Yeah, they're listening to this. Just answer the fucking question."


He is clearly taken by surprise. "You wish her to die?"


"I'm just wondering why you get to take the easy way out and she doesn't?"


His expression as he watches her changes, grows warier. "And your second question?"


"Why did you target her?"




"Oh, you prefer 'groom'? You took a child and turned her into a murderer and a traitor."


"Groom? And child? She was eighteen."


"You said she told you her true history. Did she leave out that she's two years younger than her identification documents say? Sixteen—still, legally, a child. And you were fucking with her head, with her fears and anger and pain."


He looks too surprised to have known the truth. But he bites it back, showing again the defiance of before. "That's not really how it went. But you'll never believe me because you're too angry."


"I'm her goddamned mother. Of course I'm angry."


"She's a patriot. She came ready to believe in our cause. I did nothing that the Klingons and her father and mothers hadn't already done to her. You're her guardian, Christine, not her mother, and a pretty absent one at that."


"Nice insult. You know just where to strike." She leans back and says, "Do you really think you can mind-fuck me? After all this time, Matthew?" She laughs and it's a slightly terrifying sound, even to Spock. "You don't know this about me, but in my early days, I had a group of friends, and we made it our mission to cull those who prey on women."




"Oh, I don't mean kill. I mean mark them so they can't hide in plain sight as if they are decent people. We did all sorts of things. Genetic changes, mainly." She smiles and laughs softly. "Silly, really and who knows if they worked.


"Like, in your case, I might have 'I prey on children' just randomly show up on your face. But there are unintended consequences—and prisoners have their own unique code of ethics. I want you to stay alive at Rura Penthe to suffer, not be killed because they think you're some kind of pedophile."


"But the pill." He touches his throat, almost unconsciously.


"That time-delayed suicide pill you think you just swallowed? I handed it and the person who gave it to me over to security. What you swallowed was not that."


Cartwright is sitting very still, but his rage is clear.


"Be ready," La'an says into her communicator and the guards move slightly. She hits a switch and says to Spock, "I just raised a shield between them, but he won't realize that unless he tries to get to her."


"What did you give me?" Cartwright asks in a dangerously low voice.


"It's a tracker—but not machinery. It's based on your genes—super complicated stuff, even I barely understand it. But the long and short of it is that if you ever do manage to escape, which given what Jim said of the place is highly unlikely, you'll set off alarms and sensors anywhere you go. I wish I could claim credit for that but I can't. It's been a while since I played with genetics at that level. But my friends are still at it. You go near a fucking exit at Rura Penthe and you'll probably set off their alarms. My friend isn't terribly discriminating when vengeance is on the table."


A vein in his forehead is pulsing but his voice is calm. "Valeris will be there with me. She's strong and I've made sure she knows everything she needs to survive—and keep me alive there."


Spock allows himself a smile. He knows what is coming.


"Valeris isn't going to be remanded to the Klingons. Kirk and Spock talked to Azetbur, pleaded her case. Turns out she doesn't want to put the Architect of Klingon Peace's daughter in a Klingon penal colony, after all. Especially not when she had such a troubled childhood caused by, well, her own people's violence. So she will be going to Ankeshtan K'til for rehabilitation."


For the first time Spock sees fear on the admiral's face.


"Your protector will be Ambassador Nanclus, who I seriously doubt will be there for you when the chips are down. Do not ever fuck with my children."


Cartwright launches himself at her but is brought up short by the force field, screaming in pain and then falling back in a half faint.


"I may have turned it up all the way," La'an murmurs, and Spock allows himself a smile of satisfaction.


The guards take Cartwright away and Christine sits, all the bravado draining away as he watches.


"Let's go get her. You two need to say goodbye to Valeris. She really is scheduled for transfer later today—I wasn't using that as an excuse to get you here for this."


He follows her out and Christine is waiting in the hallway for them. She goes to him and he holds her even though they are in full view of many security officers.


"I couldn't tell you. La'an's still rounding people up. It's a long shot, but the person who gave me the pill might know more than Cartwright thought."


"I understand." He imagines his father or some other Vulcan extracting the information and feels such anger toward a man he has never met that he knows it is right they are keeping him from the prisoners.


He would surely rip their minds apart to find any scrap of information. And he would not regret it.


Christine takes his hand and they follow La'an to the holding cells. Valeris looks up and sees them. She studies them for a long moment, then gets up and comes to the force field.


"I want to go in," Christine says.


La'an shakes her head. "I can't let you."


"I won't hurt her," Valeris says.


"You might, when you find out you're not going to Rura Penthe with your great guru." La'an's voice is soft despite the mocking tone.


"What do you mean?"


"You'll be at Ankeshtan K'til instead. Rehabilitation and release is possible if you cooperate with the program." Spock meets her eyes. "I...I wish to apologize for—"


"For tearing my mind apart?" She slams her hand on the forcefield and pulls it away again so fast she barely registers the pain. "You had your chance to apologize on the ship. If you think I'll grant you absolution now, you're wrong. And I don't want to go anywhere but Rura Penthe. I have to protect the admiral."


"No, sweetie, you absolutely do not." Christine moves closer. "He used you."


"You're so blind. He loves me. He's a better parent than you two have ever been."


"Oh, honey. That's what everyone in a cult says." Christine sighs. "It's my hope you'll understand someday how heinously he used you."


"I need to go with him." Valeris's voice breaks. "I owe him that."


"Not anymore," Spock says as gently as he can. "You're leaving for Ankeshtan K'til today."


"So I come full circle. Do you think they'll give me my father's old cell?"


"They do not have cells there."


"How the hell would you know?" She practically spits the words at him. "I had a purpose with the admiral. A role and trust and a future I was fighting for."


"They were lies. What he fed you were lies. He took your pain and turned it into a mission." Christine clearly wants to touch her; her hand hovers dangerously close to the forcefield. "La'an, please let me go in."


"If you let her in, La'an, I really will kill her."


"Christine, I'm not letting you in." La'an glances down the hallway where one of her officers is standing. "And it's time for her to go." She moves to a controller by the door. "Go lie down on the bed, Valeris."


"Fuck you."


The words sound so wrong coming from her.


"Lie down before you fall down. I'm going to sedate you for transport."


"What part of 'fuck you' wasn't clear?"


"Suit yourself." She hits a switch and gas floods the compartment. A moment later, Valeris collapses to the ground. "And this is why we have padded everything, including floors. No one ever wants to cooperate." She turns to them. "You should go. I'm sorry for how this all worked out."


"As are we."


"For what it's worth, you weren't absent parents. Sometimes...sometimes people do things out of pain no matter how well treated they were after the trauma they went through. I definitely know how that goes whenever I think about Una. About what I did."


He nods. "And yet we will probably always wonder what we could have done differently."


"Yeah," Christine whispers. She pulls La'an in for a hug. "We'll see you and Saavik soon. I need some quality time with Manua."


"And she needs some quality time with her grandmother."


They leave and follow a security officer out. As they exit the building, he can tell she is about to lose control and steers her toward a green space where there are benches facing away from the buildings.


She is crying by the time they sit. "I hate Matt so much. I wanted to kill him with my bare hands."


"As did I."


"But he'll suffer for what he did. She was an innocent."


"I'm not sure she was, Christine. You saw Angel. My brother was duplicitous at times. And set on his way. Perhaps it was in her blood to turn out this way."


"You just don't want to blame us."


"You are right. I do not." He sits helplessly as she cries quietly.


"I do love her."


"I know that."


"But it was never enough. Because she saw me with Saavik. And she wanted that."


"Yes. And Cartwright no doubt knew that and made sure to make her feel as if she was the only person in the world. Which we could not do. But Saavik was with us when Valeris came to us. If she could not share, that is on her."


"Doesn't make it better."


"Sadly, I realize that."


They sit in silence for a long time, then she composes herself to some extent and they head home.


While their daughter is taken way—possibly forever.


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