As guests and with their past service records, Lynne Hoskins and Lauren Warfield earned the full welcome party. They asked for and got a shuttle instead of the transporter. The two women looked around with professional eyes as they stepped out and shook the captain's hand.

"Thanks for agreeing to the shuttle flight," Warfield told him. "It's been a long time since we saw a starship. The tour around the exterior was wonderful."

Hoskins smiled. "She's beautiful."

"Thank you. Quite frankly, we love showing her off. Let me present my officers." Howes introduced them, starting with the lowest ranking in the chain of command to the top. He was a little older than when he and Saavik first started on the Armstrong, his hair going gray, but he still had the rest of his fair looks and remained in magnificent shape. "And of course, you already know Commander Saavik. Best first officer there is."

Lynne spoke with a hoarseness and Saavik noticed the wane coloring. Even her makeup was barely there, almost emphasizing her pallor. She looked so different. "I remember when another captain said that." But she did smile now. "Hello, Saavik."

Saavik. Not Savage.

Warfield was the same woman – physically – that she had been, except her dark hair was straight. Her bold makeup emphasized her blue eyes and strong mouth.

But, the woman she once was would have greeted Saavik with a lot of enthusiasm. This one said, "Commander."

Not even my name. It was the first thing Lauren had said to her since the Rider.

Howes and his other officers exchanged looks and Warfield picked up on it. People didn't go through three starships, facing battle on a near daily basis, and decades of years together only to talk to each other like strangers.

So, Lauren forced a grin. "Where's the Boy Toy?"

That was more like it. "Mr. Nachson is not a Boy Toy."

Hoskins responded, "I don't know. He is a lot younger than you."

"He is my protegee." He actually was Saavik's stray, but she didn't want to have to explain the term to the other officers who had never met Amanda.

Warfield spoke in aside to Howes, "Is that what we're calling it these days?"

"Regardless," Saavik wrapped up, "he does not serve on the Armstrong although I estimate that will change in the upcoming year."

Truman Howes gestured to start the tour of the ship. The other officers scattered back to their duties, leaving Saavik and the captain.

"I've heard of Mr. Nachson from Commander Saavik," he said as they walked down the corridor. "Is that how you know him?"

Lauren explained, "No, I met him when he was in the Academy. He reminded me a lot of myself at that stage, actually. Including the 'about to get kicked out' part. I mentioned him to Lynne. She's the one who called… Saavik about him." She forced another smile. "Rest is history as they say."

He gestured for them to proceed him and they thanked him. He asked Lynne, "London?"

"The accent? Yes, on the outskirts."

He looked to Warfield; she smiled. "A little bit of everywhere. Now, just to show you I keep up, this is a Belknap class starship. Right?"

"Exactly right. We're the second Armstrong to be in the fleet. The first was a science vessel, an Oberth class."

Howes was paged to the bridge a short while later. He was showing their guests around Tactical because of Warfield's past as Weapons Officer. Saavik said she'd take the call to the bridge for him, but he said no.

"You three have a lot to catch up on. But," the captain continued to his guests, "I hope you'll join us for dinner."

They both accepted happily and watched him leave. The happiness dimmed.

"Maybe," Hoskins suggested, "we could just go to our cabins. We have debriefings and our plans for tomorrow."

"Of course, this way."

They walked hushed until Saavik took them into Warfield's cabin first.

"Wow," Lynne exclaimed as soon as she got in the door. "Guest cabins have certainly approved. Look at the size of this place and the size of this porthole. You can't even call it that. It's a full window! We didn't have all this in our own cabins."

"It became standard in the latest refits," Saavik explained. When they said nothing else, she went through the rest of room quickly and turned to the door.

But she stopped and gave a bare glance over her shoulder. "You did not come to my betrothal ceremony."

Warfield shrugged it off as she inspected the cabin. "I was surprised to get an invitation."

Saavik turned. It meant they faced off against each other and she wondered if she should move. "It was important to me."

Lauren floundered under her gaze which was why she fired back. "Well. If you had bothered with what we were doing with our lives, you'd know Lynne was really sick. It goes both ways, Saavik!"

Hoskins tried interrupting. "Lauren-"

"You can't point a finger at us and say we're not there when Lynne's going through life and death and where are you? You couldn't visit?! You couldn't contact her?!"

"Lauren!" Lynne pushed strength into it. "She did."

The bombshell dropped over Warfield leaving her gaping. "What?"

"Saavik visited me and she called. She even got me that doctor, the one everybody said I needed to see, but he already had a full caseload already. She had Doctor McCoy speak with him and take me on." Her laugh was more exhale than laughter. "Who thought we'd see the day she used her influence with someone?"

"Why don't I know about this?" Lauren demanded.

Hoskins said it for Saavik. "She did it when you weren't around."

The Vulcan watched Warfield. "I did not want add to her stress with the conflict between us."

"It's why I didn't tell you either," Lynne talked in a whisper. "It also means she knows we could have come to her engagement ceremony. Did… did any of… us come, Saavik?"

"Captain Hunter and Chief Jakobs."

"Mal?!" Lauren nearly shouted. "He came after what happened?!"

Saavik thought of pointing out she didn't lie. If it had been years ago, she would have, but not today. "Yes, he did."

Warfield was left with nothing to say.

This is what we have become. It was her fault.

She retreated for the door. "I will leave you to your debriefing. Captain Howes expects you for dinner and tomorrow begins the talks with The Dulkkia. I will excuse myself from tonight's engagement, however, I am assigned as your escort for the talks. The captain will see no reason to reassign me."

The door closed behind her. She paused in the corridor and then changed direction, getting back on the lift. She sat in her cabin within minutes. She did a few calculations, figuring out what time it was on a certain world.

He'd be out of sessions for the day.

She put through a live connection and waited until he answered.

"My-" Spock took in her eyes, how she sat, everything. "Saavik, are you all right?"

She stared down at her desk like she needed to think about it. She glanced back up and he reached out with a hand at her expression. "No, I am not."

She leaned forward and pressed her head to his hand.

Read Chapter 2