It was not a social call; I knew that from the fact that she had not called from the transporter pad for me to pick her up in a groundcar. Instead she had walked from town, as only ritual visits required. She was out of uniform as well, wearing robes of soft red silk, the current fashion in the city.
"Saavik," I said, hoping I sounded unsurprised. She had been on Vulcan a number of times in the last few years, to see my son, but she had rarely come to the house alone.
"Sir," she replied, bowing her head. "May I enter? There are things I would ask you."
"You are always welcome," I said, stepping aside to let her enter. "You should know that by now."
The afternoon sun slanted through the windows in the sitting room. She did not seem to be in the mood for either human small talk or the few ritual pleasantries that even we indulge in; had she been a guest, there would have been ritual offers of food and drink to break the silence, but she was more family than guest, and instead I waited for her to speak.
"What have you come for, Saavik?" I said finally into the silence. I turned to look at the grandfather clock, to give her privacy to compose her thoughts. Its soft chimes had never marked the Vulcan hours, and there was little logical reason not to stop it when there was not anyone in the house who required a chronometer. Still, it would eventually cease to function properly if it did not run.
"Sir," she said finally, "Spock and I wish to be married."
It was in many ways the logical arrangement to make. Saavik was old enough to wish to marry, even by Vulcan standards, and with her mixed blood she had, I suspected, been in reality an adult for some years. The line would eventually require an heir. They held each other in esteem, and though she was nearly family, there were no actual ties of blood between them to forbid the match. Very logical, and yet I had never expected it to happen.
I had certainly not expected him to ask my permission, whatever he did. After all the battles that lay behind us, sometimes I thought that for him the most rewarding thing in his rank and position was that he rarely had to ask my permission for anything. I should have known it would matter to her, though. I appreciated the irony of it. Half-Romulan, having never set foot on Vulcan until she was ten, she was a truer child of the House than my own son.
“I do not suppose he knows that you are here.’
“He did not ask where I was going, sir. And I did not volunteer the information.’
She knows how things are between my son and I. It is almost a pity; someone innocent of the situation might have insisted he come with her. Still, it is better for her that she knows there are minefields between us, even if it makes it less likely that they will ever be crossed. I sighed.
“Saavikkam, little cat, I would gladly claim thee as kin. If you want it, I will arrange for you to be adopted to the line of Surak, in my own House.’ That pleased her, I could see, but she shook her head.
“I must make my own way,’ she said. That was no surprise. I had asked before, and she had refused before, but it was the only way I could soften what was to come. I was still not sure how to speak to her so that she would not think it was her blood or some flaw in her I objected to.
“Walk with me in the garden, Saavikkam.’ She came willingly, and we walked out into the sunlight. It was pleasant weather, and pleasant to have her walking quietly beside me, full of the warmth of family. At that moment I very much wished she would marry my son and make her home here, and yet I did not see how I could in good conscience encourage it. In the shade we stopped, and sat under the thorny trees.
“I warn you,’ I said. “I will speak bluntly and ask impertinent questions and otherwise act as a father would. If he is to be your husband, then that role must fall to me.’
“Yes, sir,’ she said, not sounding displeased.
"You are still unbonded."
"We have chosen to wait for the ceremony, before witnesses." It was a proper answer, and yet it did not please me. There were too many shadows lying over this joining, I thought, and so little honesty so far. At least the bond would put an end to secrets.
"It is not an experience one necessarily wants to share with onlookers."
"We will be bonded according to the traditions," she said, a stubborn note in her voice. I wondered which one of them had insisted on that. There were so many interpretations to put on it if, as I suspected, it had been his idea.
Perhaps his time training for Kolinahr had given him more respect for the ancient traditions than he had showed in his youth. Perhaps he thought it would make his chosen mate more acceptable to the House and the People. Perhaps he was afraid of the intimacy of the bond and wanted the demands of public behavior as a shield between them. I wished I knew him well enough to either put such thoughts out of my mind or have proof of them.
“I know what happened on the Genesis planet,’ I said, and watched her freeze, her hands tight on the stone of the bench. “Amanda told me. Does he know?’
“No, sir,’ she said, politely and furiously. She was so transparent, and so much younger than he.
“It displeases you that she told me.’
“I spoke to her in confidence,’ she said, her voice on the edge of breaking. “No one else was to know. Especially not him.’
“To the best of my knowledge, my son still knows nothing about those events.’ I looked away, allowing her the time to regain control.
“It was never my intention to bring dishonor on the House,’ she said finally.
“You acted well. Life is occasionally more important than propriety, despite our cultural bias to the contrary.’ She bit her lip, as if she were not sure whether I meant that as humor. I was not certain myself.
“I was uncertain what your analysis of my actions would be.’ And Spock has of course taught her that I am a harsh judge, harsher than he would ever be to her. Logical of him, to judge based on his own experience.
“Kadiith,’ I said, half to her and half to my own thoughts. What is, is.
“He would have felt himself to be under certain obligations to me.’ She rose from the bench and ran her fingers across the thorns of a branch. “I could not allow that.’ She is too much like him, in this as in all things, and there is no one to blame for that but me. I am responsible, now, for all the silences that have come from my teaching him silence.
“You must understand that there can be no secrets in the marriage bond.’ The stiffening of her body showed her anger. It was unfair of me to read her with a century´s practice, I thought, when I knew she could see so little in my face.
“I am not in the habit of keeping secrets from Spock,’ she said. Her voice was quiet and clear. “What I was before he met me, he knows, and what I am, he made me.’
And what he asked, she would do. She spoke of obligations, but in payment of her own debts she had handed him her heart on a sword´s point.
“And how much do you know of him?’
“Spock has never lied to me,’ she said, her chin high.
“I am sure that he has not. I am also sure that he has not always told you the entire truth.’
“Have you always told everyone the entire truth?’ she said, with a half-smile, and I knew it was not going to be easy for me to refuse her anything.
“No. I even kept secrets from Amanda. That I regret, and bitterly. What I regret more is that I had to shut her away from my mind in order to do so.’ She perched on the end of the bench again, looking interested against her will.
“Is it so important? The bond?’ A child´s question, but I was sure when she was a child Spock had not spoken to her of these things.
“It is completion. To be whole.’ I was mildly startled at the strength of my emotions, and stopped for a moment to compose myself. “On Earth there is a legend that each soul is split into two bodies, and that one searches one´s whole life to find the missing half. I am not sure it is so at one´s birth, but it becomes true, I think, when the bond is made.’
“´The world is our forge, and we forge the world,´’ she quoted Surak, and I nodded. Lessons and recitation. He has taught her well; she is Vulcan. And yet there is a fire in her when she speaks of him that we so seldom recognize, or cherish.
“´And we must be equally careful, what we make and what we become,´’ I finished. “He sees in you what he has made, Saavik. He takes pleasure in having wrought well.’
“Should I prefer that he were displeased?"
I have spoken before crowds of thousands and before angry men who wanted me dead. I have arranged treaties in a hundred languages when war or peace turned on a single phrase. I have argued with my wife and with my son, which sometimes seemed more challenging. I am not a stranger to words. And yet I found this conversation supremely difficult to manage.
“It has always seemed to me that his regard for you is the feeling of a father toward a child.’
“People change,’ she said, the human cliché ringing strangely in Vulcan. I found myself wondering irrelevantly if Vulcan clichés, too, sounded like elliptical poetry in translation, and resolved not to let my mind stray from unpleasant matters. “I am not a child.’
“And you believe he has changed?’
“He believes that this marriage is the logical course of action,’ she said. “Are the precise nature of his feelings a logical element of that decision?’ Unanswerable, of course. I did not try.
"Saavik, why do you suppose he has never chosen to marry in the past?"
"It has never been my place to speculate," she said.
"It has never been through a lack of suitable candidates." I am not entirely sure what characteristics women find attractive in a mate, but my son has always seemed to attract attention. I had long since ceased delivering to him offers of marriage tendered to me as Head of House when he made it clear that he would not respond, but I had not ceased to receive them.
"You have not chosen to remarry, and surely there is no lack of appropriate women who would." My impulse was to reply that it was none of her business, but that would soon cease to be true if she married Spock.
"Were I to bond with another, I would only resent that she were not Amanda."
Saavik said nothing; there is nothing to say to such illogic. It is a failing in me, not to be able to better accept what is. Understanding one's own shortcomings thus is a necessary part of wisdom.
The sun was lower in the sky, and there was a chill in the early evening air, but she did not seem to feel it; she was used to the chill of starships, I supposed. I chose my words carefully. "Is it that you think he has simply never met another with whom he is as compatible?"
"I don't think he's ever been in love before, if that's what you mean," she said defiantly in English.
Amanda often used to criticize the veil of privacy we lower over the truth. She said the very word c'thia, logic, comes from the same roots as our word for truth, and yet our culture rested, she said, on a foundation of lies. I believed in those days that lying was not the same as the decision not to say anything at all, and that to speak the blunt truth would do too much harm. Amanda used to say that silence itself does harm, and I have come to think she was often right.
"Love is a human concept," I said, knowing as I said it that the words I used to veil the truth were close to a lie. Ask, little cat, rip the veil; strike the first blow against his privacy yourself, or I cannot drive in the knife.
"Wanted to bond with someone, then," she said.
"Saavikkam, what precisely are you asking about? Emotions? Intentions? Actions?" All I have are rumors and suspicions, I thought, but that is more truth than you have, and far less truth than you deserve.
"I am not asking anything," she said.
"You would not be here if there were not something you were asking." It would spare her pain to find out before their bonding that he has been bonded and widowed without ever being wed; that there is an emptiness in him that will never be filled. He will resent you, Saavikkam, for not being another; he is, in the end, more like me than either of us likes to think.
"Only your permission," she said. "No more than that."
"You are both adults, and capable of choosing wisely," I said. "And I do not disapprove of you; you are more than worthy. So I will allow it." I allowed a flicker of amusement to show. "Not that I imagine for a moment that anything I said would prevent this marriage from taking place."
The sky was stained the color of a human's blood, and the branches overhead cast long dark shadows; she seemed to glow with her own inner light. "We will hold the ceremony as soon as we can both get leave, then. May we do it here?"
"As you wish," I said, and knew I would say no more about my doubts. If there had been a time to speak, I had missed it and it had gone by. Perhaps there had never been a such a time, or I had missed it years ago.
We sat and watched the sun set, the chimes ringing softly in the evening wind. The last light shone crimson across the sky, and then at last there was darkness.
Later, after she had gone, I came back out to the garden. The night was dark and still, and the garden seemed to belong less to the living than to the dead. I did not stay long. The stone of the bench had grown cold, and the lit lamp in the window was no substitute for the sun.