Spock was drowning and Nyota didn't know how to save him.
Vulcan had no oceans. From space, the planet had seemed one massive expanse of desert. It had taken a keen eye to spot the scattering of seas that had pockmarked the surface. Not many days at the beach for Vulcans, and Spock hadn't learned to swim until he'd come to Earth to attend the Academy. From there, he'd made it priority, as Starfleet regularly conducted operations in aquatic theatres. Nyota had gone with him a few times; he'd had a flawless technique.
His technique on emotional matters, however, was anything but flawless. The counselors had warned that the survivors of Vulcan could, possibly, develop some form of PTSD. Vulcan psychology was an inscrutable discipline, made all the more so by the cultural rules of silence, and when Nyota had asked, Elizabeth Dehner had made it clear that it was also little more than an educated guess. Especially where Spock was concerned as it was far more difficult to judge how much of an effect his human biology might be having.
"Score one for Starfleet Medical, huh?"
Nyota looked up. "Mind-reading, Captain?"
"No mind reading," he said, pulling a face. "I've had enough of that to last me a lifetime. And let's just go with Jim right now, okay?" Steaming mugs in hand, he sat down across from her, pushing one mug her way. "Drink up."
She raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
"You look like you need it," Jim said. He rested his elbows on the table, turning his own mug in a slow circle.
Bringing the mug to her lips, Nyota sipped cautiously. Tea. It was tea, and not the food slot equivalent either. "You made this?"
He nodded. "Got Bones through second year finals on it." He took a generous swallow of his own tea and sat back in his chair, apparently content to watch the crew as they moved in and out of the mess hall.
Nyota looked into her mug, but the tea leaves offered no help whatsoever in terms of answers or escape. She had a padd with her, sitting just at her elbow, but her department's duty roster held no escape. She ran fingertips up and down the mug as she stared at the padd. The silence might have been comfortable for the captain, but she was uncomfortably aware of every second that ticked by between them.
"You can just say it," she said, finally. "You're worried about him too."
"I could. But I thought the mind-reading reference took care of that." He put down his mug, reaching for her padd. He thumbed his way through the duty roster. "Hey, you scored Palamas? I thought she went in for archaeology."
Nyota looked at him. "Minor in linguistics. I'm sharing her with Science." She and Spock had thought it a good idea to let Carolyn and a few others keep a foot in both worlds. Having extensive cross-training would be better for their careers, not to mention maximize crew efficiency. "It might be useful with joint expeditions."
"Sounds good to me."
"You're trying to change the subject," Nyota said. "Why?"
"I'm not. I'm giving you an out." He looked at her, eyes serious. "We're not exactly best friends, Lieutenant. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't want to talk to me about this." He made an awkward attempt at a smile. "Your relationship is none of my business."
Except the part where it was. Spock was the XO and they were both department heads; their relationship impacted the crew whether they liked it or not. Starfleet had never adopted the fraternization rules of previous military organizations (try telling Vulcans they couldn't remain emotionally detached) but there were guidelines, and Jim was being generous in giving her that out.
Nyota sipped at the tea again. "This is really good."
"Thank you." He smiled. It was less awkward this time, less forced, and Nyota didn't return it, but she let herself relax a little. "Does he talk to you?"
She started to shake her head, then reconsidered and shrugged. "Less and less. He's hiding."
It didn't seem like grief, or anger, but it was something. Spock was retreating, hiding from everyone, and Nyota didn't know what to do about it. She felt like she was standing on the shore, watching him go under for the last time.
The simple answer was confronting him, but that was deceptive. It wasn't a good idea to corner Spock about anything. She risked either alienating him further, or worse.
She sighed. Or worse.
Curling her fingers around her mug, she looked up at Jim. "I'm afraid of losing him."
It felt bizarre to confess that to him of all people. Jim Kirk was not someone she'd ever expected to have heart to hearts with, but he was also the only person on the ship who cared about Spock as much as she did.
Still, part of her held her breath, waiting for a dismissive smirk or an idiotic comment.
Instead, he nodded. "So am I."
He squared his shoulders, adopting the stance she'd seen him use on the bridge. Captain Kirk looked at her for a long moment, then said, "For the record, both Lieutenant Uhura and Commander Spock have demonstrated appropriate objectivity in the performance of their duties. Captain Kirk, therefore, has little concern that their romantic relationship will prove to be a hindrance to ship's efficiency." He smiled, the captain disappearing again and leaving a friend in his place. "If that doesn't work? I'll put it in writing. I know it's probably crazy to think we can out-logic a Vulcan, but he's not really thinking clearly right now."
Nyota rubbed her thumb against her mug. "No," she agreed. "He isn't." She didn't realize how disheartened she sounded until she saw the worried look on the captain's face. There wasn't much hope of covering it up. Whatever else she thought of Jim Kirk, he didn't miss much and he certainly hadn't missed that.
She looked at him.
"I know people always say this, but it will be okay." He wasn't smiling when he spoke. He wasn't joking, laughing, or anything that she liked to associate with him. Instead, he was leaning forward with an almost earnest expression on his face. "I mean it."
"I'm not so sure," she admitted, getting up. "But I have to do something."
"Spock might be the most stubborn bastard in the galaxy, but he's got nothing on you and I think he's depending on that." Jim did smile then, but it was almost somber in a way. "We all are."
When Nyota was a little girl, she'd gone to one of the museums that had sprung up in the early days of the Federation. They'd been Earth's attempt to fill in the blank spots that littered the decades before the Eugenics Wars and WWIII had torn the world apart. They'd cobbled together historical records, firsthand accounts, and anything they could find in the attempt to piece together the story.
She'd stood there, her hand in her mother's, listening to one of the anthropologists talking about the African states' relatively quick recovery after those wars and their subsequent emergence as a global power in Earth's politics.
While everyone else had been talking about the reasons and ramifications, Nyota had stared at the pictures of the bombing of Johannesburg and cried.
Even now, it was difficult to imagine that the city she loved had been rebuilt from such devastation and it had nothing on Vulcan. Spock had no ruins to cry over, but Spock wouldn't cry. He would isolate himself from everything and everyone that mattered, walling himself up behind logic and discipline, but he would not cry.
Spock was drowning and she didn't know how to save him, but she was damn well going to save him anyway.
With a quick nod at the captain, she left her tea and the mess hall behind. Spock would be in his quarters at this time of night, finishing up the day's reports before he settled into the evening's meditations.
Standing before the door, finger on the chime, she squared her shoulders and waited.
He wasn't getting rid of her that easily.