McCoy explained, "So we spin to see how many spaces. Go ahead, Boy."
The 'we' meant him, Uhura, and Spock's nearly three-year-old son Setik who stood next to where his father was seated. Everyone else sat on the floor around the low-level table with the built-in game interface. Right now, it displayed a popular children's game 'Chutes and Transporters'.
Saavik suddenly peered at the figures. "Are they Vulcans?"
"Yeah," McCoy answered. "I got a programmer to change the miniatures to look like the kids. Then the rest are just a mixture of species. OK, Boy, you know what number that is?"
Outraged, Saavik struck back. "Of course, he does."
"Will you calm down?" the doctor replied. "Overprotective mothers, unbelievable."
"Five," Setik answered.
"That's right, Boy, it's a five. So, move your piece five squares. Good job!"
"That makes it our turn," Sulu stated. His daughter Demora sat on his left with Saavik and Spock's oldest twin, T'Kel, on her lap.
Demora picked up the infant's hands and lifted them above her head victoriously. "Banzai Team Baby Sister!" using her nickname for the little girl, Sulu's 'goddaughter'.
T'Kel, being an infant, was too young to repeat the words so she gave a serious "Aaaaaaa!" instead. They too got a five and Hikaru Sulu dutifully counted out each number.
Saavik's former captain, Hunter of the Aerfen, lifted infant T'Pren's arms and chanted, "Team Phoenix Eagle!" And indeed, the younger twin had a small russet eaglet feather in her hair just like her godmother, a sign of acceptance from the large sentient Eagles on Hunter's homeworld. "We're recruiting people to our crew, so Pavel's with us now."
"An honor, ma'am," Chekov answered grandly.
Saavik interrupted as her son rolled again. "This game is illogic as well as dangerously incorrect. It teaches false details such as transporters only teleporting in the Up direction. You do not need the Chutes at all."
"It's a game," McCoy stressed. "They always have their own environment such as using a chute to go down and a transporter to go up. And it has important lessons right before you use a chute or transporter. Look at this one. The little boy is stopping the duck family from crossing the street without looking both ways."
"Are the ducks sentient that they understand his words?"
"That's not the point."
Spock decided once again that the best part of playing these games was the entertainment of the children's Mekh-rás and his wife. McCoy, of course, knew everything about Hellguard and Uhura knew almost all of it. Sulu and Chekov had a good idea that Saavik's background was atypical, an orphan of a violent Empire, so they understand her confusion and reluctance with games when her childhood lacked that mentality and environment.
Which was why they teased as they coaxed her trust in them to… well, trust them.
Despite "They're taking candy from a stranger?"
Sulu soothed, "The stranger has no dark intentions within the game."
"You are teaching them to hunt other children?!"
McCoy insisted, "It's not like that."
"How isn't it that way?"
Spock decided he needed to handle this one, but the doctor signaled he would. He spoke softly, "Because it's not. That's all. The lives you and Spock make for them don't make it anything else but a simple game. Isn't that good?"
Spock watched it sink down each layer of his wife's mind. Setik, T'Kel, and T'Pren. They could run after another child and have that child run after them for the total, benevolent reason of playing. Saavik was cheated of it, but her children didn't have to be too.
She answered at last, "Yes, Doctor. It is quite good."
Yes, the lives Spock and his wife made for their children created all that Saavik hoped for. Plus the set of mekh-rás and assistants who apparently were the reason the game said 'Ages: 3 and over.'
"All right," Hunter announced, "the twins need their bottles and it's snack time for Setik. So, they have their things and we all have our grownup 'juice', right? From now on, every time a kid lands on a transporter, their team does a shot. That means you drink your juice, Setik, and so would McCoy and Uhura."
"We're never standing up," Uhura chuckled.
"Kid!" McCoy bellowed for Kyle Nachson who had been taking care of a few things in the other room. The doctor had deemed Saavik's somewhat protegee to be the children's Fun Uncle. "Get in here! You're on our team. You get to help us up at the end too."
"That's if I can stand," Nachson mentioned idly, after hearing the rules. "There's a lot of transporters on that board."
Hunter gave beautiful, savage grin. "Two can play at that. Ruanek! You should be able to hear me in Sarek's office. Come join your partner and our little eaglet! Don't worry, I won't tell your wife."
The erstwhile Romulan fought for a straight face and everyone glanced at Saavik for her reaction, but she scowled as she read over the game's guide. "The rules do not mention teams or drinking."
"Ve're teaching the kids how to be flexible," Chekov joined in. "Setik, you go first."
One quarter of the way in, the rules changed again: McCoy insisted the kids needed to get outside and run around.
"We'll teach them Tag," he suggested. "That's a Classic."
Saavik's gaze dropped to her lap and Spock knew her thoughts. Tag: learn how to hunt and be hunted by other children.
"Or," McCoy back peddled, "we could play Hide and Seek."
Learn how to hide from the person hunting you and how to sit in wait before striking.
Spock swore again he needed to remind his wife that the point remained that these things continued to be nothing but games.
But her eyes came up with a glint before she looked to her son. "A pastime I can teach you." She reached for his small hand who abandoned everyone to get to his mother. "I can teach it to you definitively."
Hunter looked around the group. "We're going to lose. Badly."
Ruanek spoke with confidence. "I'm not worried."
Spock knew Saavik and Ruanek once only related to each other through him. That changed, but certain self-imposed rules didn't: they never sparred and they never were partners for martial arts practice. They might decide that this game came too close to that line too.
But they didn't and Spock unabashedly enjoyed watching Ruanek shift on his feet when that glint in Saavik's eyes turned to him. "Perhaps you should be."
Uhura stood up. "I'm staying in the house."
McCoy struggled up. "So am I."
Hunter shouted with laughter, "Leonard! You started this!"
"I know I did." The doctor looked back. "Sorry about leading you into Waterloo. We'll tell great stories in your honor." He held out his arm to escort Uhura. "And when you come back, we'll try something comparably calm like the Kobayashi Maru."