Note: the girl running from Saavik on Tomed is a moment in Vulcan's Heart. I expanded on it in The Chase.

From space, Tomed had the black aftermath of a devastating fire with swirls of tan here and there as if someone threw sand on the flames to choke them. Very few lights left from its former cities glowed dully through the dust and smoke in the air.

On the ground, Spock found different revulsions. More bodies, some still amidst the rubble with most of them covered except for a hand, foot, or face exposed. Others laid on the ground shoulder to shoulder and covering entire fields as starships tried keeping up with clearing them. Buildings stood in ruin and some barely upright with only more wreckage. Deep gouges formed scars in the planet where ships used their phaser banks to strike from the sky. The dust infiltrated the air, created by broken buildings, ruined roadways, lifeless soil, and the dead. It soured the back of his throat and Spock thought about the nasal inhibitors in the supplies transporting down soon. He carried one inside his robe, but he intended it for Saavik. With a Vulcan female's extra sensitive sense of smell, the stench would be much worse for her.

Crews rushed everywhere in search teams for the wounded and the missing. They made the difficult decision to leave the dead in the rubble, even though to do it was profane. But the living must come first and they comforted themselves that all of the dead would be retrieved and sent home.

The rescued suffered from dehydration, exhaustion, and shock; their faces were sunken with it like demons hanging on them, pushing in cheeks and dragging down the skin there and under the eyes. Spock caught how even the Starfleet officers, no matter the species, wore the look in one way or another.

Except for one: Saavik. Not because she was Vulcan. Because she had seen him.

"Spock." She met him halfway. An unknown energy field blocked transporters and interfered with communications and shuttle flight controls. He'd beamed down right outside of it. He walked to her and took in the dust coating her field parka and even as a layer on top of her hair. The ground under her boots bore smears of blood in every color including green. A Vulcan or a Romulan?

Thankfully, not someone who is both. It was a selfish thought, but understandable.

"Saavik." The sight of her after wondering if she was wounded or killed made Spock want to say more, to say everything, but he couldn't now. Not with what surrounded them. "I am pleased to see you."

The light grew in her eyes. "I am pleased to see you as well."

Amanda had once commented, "If someone thinks Vulcans are unfeeling when they talk, then they aren't listening."

Their quiet pause on the surface masked everything they said between them underneath.

At the end of it, Saavik waved to a young lieutenant to come closer. His brown hair, darker tan skin, and his bone structure made Spock think the man was from an island culture on Earth. When he spoke, his accent confirmed it.

"This is Lieutenant Phillip Kettiman," Saavik introduced. "He will organize the distribution of the supplies you brought."

"Lieutenant," Spock said in greeting and explained the supplies were broken into groups around the planet and the ships above. "You will need others to aide you."

"Plenty of people will jump at the chance, Ambassador. Let me organize myself with it first." He took the inventory list and started reading it as fast as possible as the pile of supplies formed at their beam in point.

Spock used the moment to give Saavik the nasal inhibitor.

Shuttlecraft engines filled the air as they landed outside the blocking field and drowned the multiple transporter sounds. People who had been in the battle and the hard work of the aftermath watched as Starfleet personnel spilled out in rivers from the shuttles, carrying equipment, and more supplies like the others quickly beaming down in lots. New field hospitals shot up and dotted the ground.

The existing people cheered in a multitude of languages or simple shouts. Spock saw one veteran follow a shuttle with his eyes in utter silence, slow tracks of tears cutting through the dust on his sunburnt skin.

Kettiman squeezed his eyes to hold back his own crying. "Food, water, more tents to cover the wounded until they get to the hospitals-" He dug the heel of his hand into his eyes. "Sorry, ma'am – Ambassador – I'm just tired."

Saavik answered, "No apologies are needed." Then Spock saw her do something he'd rarely seen outside of him and a few others. Vulcan telepathy usually required physical contact, so their people tended to be wary of touching others. She brushed the lieutenant with her fingertips, although on his sleeve, gently pulling his hand from his tearing eyes. "This Is also unnecessary. And Mr. Kettiman, when you have completed your task, make use of one the bedrolls. I am listing you as off duty for eight hours."

"Yes, ma'am!" He picked up speed, the tears drying around the corners of his grinning mouth.

Enthusiasm, Spock thought. After all that Tomed had thrown at the young man, he keeps his enthusiasm.

Spock used this as an opportunity to introduce his aide and Saavik politely greeted him.

"Lieutenants," she said. Both K'Nusar and Kettiman snapped their attention to her. "I will be speaking in Vulcan with Ambassador Spock."

"Of course, ma'am," the Caitian replied. "I understand. I'm hoping I'll find someone of my own people too. It's been… a long time. Phillip, I'll help you."

Her eyes went back to Spock and her expression changed from being so pleased to see him to Uh oh as McCoy would put it.

"Spock, when will you ever listen to reason in these situations? You place yourself in danger when it is unneeded. Indeed, it is illogical."

For someone not a member of Security or Tactical, no one matched Saavik for… vehemence where protection, especially his protection, was concerned. Once, when attached to Sarek's diplomatic party, she created a protective screen around Spock's father that the Federation president swore outdid his.

He said, not at all perturbed, "In what way am I illogical?"

"With you here, we must now extend our resources for your safety and needs when they are too far extended now. The same is true for each member of the Council who arrives in your wake."

"We bring our own resources. Once I am established here, I will have them transported. You must also see the logic of a member of diplomatic service being at the crux of the matter. This confrontation with the Empire is not a sterile, minor trade agreement."

"I can calculate you insisting on being the one at the forefront of a dangerous crux as ninety-"

Spock didn't stop listening, but he focused on the simple pleasure of Saavik, alive and lecturing on 'his ideological campaigns'. It was an argument they had multiple times and only surpassed by the one on Unification. The sound of her as she voiced her mind's intelligence with the intensity she had for him made up for his earlier concern. And so beautiful, Tomed's dust and marks became part of her strength.

Saavik caught on to his divided attention – although not why – and with no one looking, she gave him the small smile that she reserved for him. "Lieutenant K'Nusar, may I assume the ambassador lectured you on the reasons why he especially needed to be at Tomed?"

"Yes, Commander." The Caitian's ears flicked. "Are you saying it wasn't true?"

The smile was only in her eyes now since they had an audience. "No, it is true. That is the damnation of it." She suddenly gave K'Nusar a piercing stare, cutting through his stunned reaction over the curse. "However, if the Ambassador is harmed while under your watch, I will hold you responsible. To me."

His tail froze.

Saavik switched back to Vulcan and Spock realized she did it so she wasn't questioning his authority in front of people. "Spock, this communication you plan-"

He frowned in curiosity. "How did you know I was doing so?"

"I know you. To do so from here, you will acerbate the situation."

"I am well aware of the dangers. I do not seek to worsen them or make any action blindly. Have faith."

He did not point out that she, more than anyone, should want his getting the Romulans to agree against such madmen attacks again because that insulted her. Obviously, she wanted that as much as she held faith in him above anything else.

In fact, she said now, "You know I do. It is always foremost in my thoughts and actions." She then dryly lifted her eyebrows. "It does not, however, preclude argument."

He lifted one brow himself. "It never has. You said you were pleased to see me."

"I can be pleased at seeing you and remain concerned for your safety," she responded ironically. "Vulcans are, after all, multitaskers."

He took a step closer when a harsh shout broke the moment.

"Hey!" a young lieutenant commander yelled from where he stood with a group of other human officers. Dust and grime streaked a face most likely in his early thirties. His light brown hair looked darker with it. His tunic collar and jacket braid showed the gold for the operations division, which meant he was helm or in engineering. "Commander! You know that sounds rude, don't you? Talking in the Rom language out here!"

His pack of followers congratulated him in wordless praise and pats on the back. Fed by it, he shouted out more. "Maybe that kid you chased down wouldn't have screamed in terror if you didn't talk like that! 'Course, you still look like a Rommie. Since you are one." He smirked.

Spock began to reprimand him but Kettiman flew forward like Saavik's aggravated little brother. "Hey yourself, Myers! You know they're talking Vulcan so shut it!"

Myers was about to come back when his eyes grew exceptionally wide. K'Nusar brushed past Spock: his muscles swelled and his fur stood on end; his claws were out on hands and feet as his tail lashed like a whip.

Spock never expected the Caitian would speak in another language, lips drawn back exposing his long, sharp canines. But it was the language itself that riveted Saavik on him too.

Myers tried for bravado. "What was that?"

"I spoke in Romulan." K'Nusar snarled in a low growl. "I said do you claim anyone who speaks the language is one of them? Then come say it to my face and teach me a lesson. All of you."

"And when you're done that," Kettiman jumped back in, "let's talk about that girl. You couldn't get her. You couldn't get half the people your team claims you did. You had to bring in someone every single time including a Vulcan kid to save you. But that girl? She's up on the ship telling stories about what a hero the Commander is and can the Commander find a second to talk to her. And!" Kettiman leaned forward, fists ready. "She's one of the dozens of people up there and down here asking the same thing. Nobody's asking for you!"

Saavik wisely spoke: earlier would have worsened things, but now maybe she could do something. "We have all had difficult days. The battle alone marked each one of us and we now face the aftermath. We must remain strong if we are to help these people and one another."

"Fancy talk," Myers sneered. He nodded in the direction of the laid out bodies. "But it's only the Vulcan who are cold enough to handle the dead. I bet Rommies would brag how many they got. I bet you're doing both."

Saavik stared hard into Myers' eyes. "Look again."

Everyone turned but her. "Humans, Mr. Myers. All from Earth, like you. They, however, study the philosophic and religious groups where meditation is emphasized for serenity and emotional control. They are joined by others of similar disciplines from around the Federation. They volunteered for the same reason as the Vulcans, to spare those who do not study such ways. They will, however, need to be spelled, only at a later time. The number of dead here prey eventually on everyone."

Her assigning him to spell the teams going body to body hung in the air. She had every right to punish him with what he scorned.

After leaving it hanging between them, she spoke, "Take your team, Mr. Myers, and aid in distributing supplies in the next section. Ensure each of you receives food, water, and a bedroll if you are staying on the surface. It is a cliché, but the truth holds we cannot help anyone if we collapse."

She gave him nothing to use for ammunition; that wouldn't necessarily stop him.

He surprised them when he answered her, "Aye, ma'am." He signaled his buddies, each like a clone of him, to follow.

"Lieutenants," Saavik said again to Kettiman and the Caitian. "You have my gratitude for your support. Mr. K'Nusar, if you could aid Mr. Kettiman until his team is prepared, I will escort Ambassador Spock."

Only Spock heard the returned weariness in her voice. He wondered if he could chase that away again. Before he could try, Saavik called her lieutenant to her.

"You stated the girl from earlier is asking for me?"

Kettiman winced. "Yes, ma'am I'm sorry, I meant to tell you. But she said she understands that 'you're finding people' so you don't have time to talk. And her name's Leena."

Spock saw Saavik make a resolution to reach out to the little girl.

"Oh! She said thanks for the cookies!" Kettiman grinned. "She ate so many, she got a bellyache. She's fine now."

Saavik dismissed him and he rushed back to the supplies.

"Cookies?" Spock asked.

"She wanted to know my favorite food, one familiar to her. I told her about the ones that Amanda learned to make from your grandfather."

Spock's stomach gave a pleased rumble. Those had been good.

Unfortunately, they must discuss something unpleasant now. "That man, Myers?"

They started walking. "Jacob Myers, helmsman. One of the captain's and first officer's favorites. They share a belief system."

Spock controlled his reaction. That belief system consisted of bigotry against Saavik. It would usually include himself and it might still. As evidenced by Lieutenant Stiles on the Enterprise on the historic mission where a Romulan was first seen by Starfleet.

Imagine if Saavik had been aboard. It was the same reason she moved to the top of her ship's hate list.

"Saavik, when you said it was difficult on your ship, I failed to understand it was to this level."

She looked resolutely ahead. "You failed at nothing. We had to end our talk because of the new orders to redirect to Tomed." She paused. "Tempers are agitated with the current situation. The issue may improve as the situation does."

"He has not acted this way previously?" She said nothing. "Saavik."

"I know." She half-turned her head, her eyes dulled. "As do you."

Yes, he did. He wanted to whisk her to safety and take her enemies on himself, but they both knew too well that people like Myers were everywhere. Still, Saavik deserved a ship that respected her, like when she had been under Captain Hunter or Captain Stuart. One that would also return her career to where it belonged instead of the two steps backward she was forced to take since Dannan Stuart.

A sound made them lift their heads; in fact, people turned eyes skyward everywhere. A sound missing for days: birds. Tomed's birds returned to home nesting areas. It was a good sign.

It was life.

Spock now grew conscious of others sounds and sights he hadn't focused on before: companion animals from throughout the universe, including two sehlats, called for help, dug through rubble when they could, and helped Starfleet teams pull owners to safety. A woman nurse pressed a hypospray to a man stretched out next to the other wounded; his pet laid with him, guarding, and the man shared his water. Others cried into fur or scales or feathers, the stress released into the constant, unconditional source of love. Children carried smaller pets against their chests, refusing to give them up, not able to take one more nightmare. Some animals refused to leave the bodies of their owners and some gave their lives so their owners survived. They were cried over too.

The sight made Spock remember when he came back through the Guardian after he and his sehlat I-Chaya had saved his seven-year-old self. He told Kirk that a pet had died, and Jim had answered, "A pet? Well, that wouldn't mean much in the course of time."

"It might, to some," Spock had answered.

The wounded man sharing his water gave a guilty start when he saw Spock noticed. "It's my water. I'm not taking anybody else's."

The Vulcan held up a staying hand. "I understand."

He caught Saavik watching him, some of the weariness gone. "You want us to take the resources out of the supplies for you and the incoming diplomatic service."

"If there is an issue."

The one corner of her mouth moved slightly. "I will take care of it." She swept the animals in a glance. "They have been equal to tricorders and ship sensors. In fact, with the dampening field, they have been better."

Spock took a last look, seeing a sehlat laying down, sheltering a small Vulcan girl who had finally collapsed between his paws. A Vulcan adult male, the girl's father or brother or cousin or simply someone who connected with her in the destruction, slouched on the animal's hindquarters, equally asleep. It appeared that even the bravest souls skirted around the three at the sound of sehlat's warning growls.

Spock got a sudden mental image of being cradled in such paws with Sarek and Amanda relaxing on the ground near them, reading. A quiet family moment where he would have bet an entire Empire couldn't get past the monumental forces of his parents and his pet.

How blessed to have a childhood where that hadn't been proven wrong. Like this girl.

Or the woman walking side by side with him now. He imagined the reactions of the people here if they were told that as bad as things were, someone had lived a life infinitesimally worse.

Someone ran up to them from behind. "Commander!"

It was Myers.

Spock didn't realize he drew protectively closer to Saavik.

The man skidded to a stop, panting a bit. "I wanted to say I'm sorry." He screwed up his face. "I was way out of line. It's just – everything happening here."

She accepted his apology.

"You could've made life hell," he went on. "So, thanks."

She accepted that graciously as well and sent him back to his post. Watching him run off, Spock lifted an eyebrow.

"I give him credit for that maturity, at least." She agreed. "Saavik, the girl Leena."

She stared ahead of her, reliving it as she told him, "She did run from me in terror because she took a quick glance and thought I was Romulan. I had to… hunt her down, as I once was hunted at her age."

"Saavik, you know it was for her best interests. She must have learned you were Vulcan because she praises you to everyone and wants to copy all your behavior."

"I know."

It wouldn't erase the girl screaming in terror or being the unwavering hunter.

Saavik looked at him. "I hope…"

He waited. "That Tomed does not dominate her life?"

"Yes, and—more."

He suddenly grasped what it was she didn't say. That Leena does not learn her hero is half the enemy.

Spock put a supportive hand on her arm. Like years before as his fingers first rested against her, when she first met Rrelthiz, he experienced a powerful rush of physical, emotional, and mental intimacy, and felt the warmth of her skin beneath the fabric of her uniform.

Back then, he had hastily removed his hand, worried Saavik might have sensed what happened. Today, he lingered with his touch and hoped she shared this intimate moment with him.

She looked into his eyes; still weary, but she could carry it.

They started walking once more, moving down what had once been a side road, until Saavik stopped in front of a small building more intact than the others on the street. "This is your embassy. The ground level is livable, but the root has holes. Our repairs will keep the rain and other elements out, however, I would not test it by spending a significant portion of your time upstairs."

She gave him the security codes and they went inside. "Power is restored," she continued, "and we removed debris. You will notice, however, we did a minimal amount of cleaning."

A few pieces of furniture sat in each room: battered, not enough for standard functions such as desks for the systems, and he would have to share what was here when more diplomats came in.

"It is fine," he reassured her and it was. He hadn't expected this much.

Saavik glanced at him from the corner of her eye that held a gleam. "I had a new communication unit installed as well as the computers. Remember, the dampening field is in effect here."

"If you prefer, I could help those who already search for a source and a solution."

She agreed. "When is the next ambassador expected?"

"Two point three seven hours."

She gave a bare nod. "I will return then., but I will send your Mr. K'Nusar in the meantime."

"The next ship will bring equipment and personnel for the embassy. Do not concern yourself. McCoy is also scheduled to arrive tonight."

Her gleam grew. "Yes, of course."

"However." He did not touch her, he couldn't use such freedoms that didn't belong to him. He was not hers. Instead, he hovered his fingers near her chin and when he moved them, she turned to face him. "You are giving everyone else time to rest and eat. When do you give yourself the same necessities?"

"You know we can endure longer without food and water or sleep."

"My understanding does not preclude argument."

She took on a glow that he returned.

"I look forward to you returning."

Her eyes traveled between his like the physical gesture he had given her. "So do I."

With that, she turned.

Read Chapter 3