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An Accumulation of Immense Brevity

Chapter Text

She sits with her back against his chest on the dewy grass.

For her, it is a romantic evening. For him, a scientific observation. They are both aware of the discrepancy of their aims, and both amenable to, and satisfied with, the contrast.

He had intended to watch the entire meteor shower. She had planned to doze in his lap.

She points at a bright streak, awed, and his lips are soft and warm on her cheek.

When she asks, he explains orbital mechanics. When he slides his arms around her, tight, she twines her fingers through his.

Above them, the Perseids arc, blazing.

Chapter Text

Andor is stiff, icy cold.

“It should be physically impossible,” Spock grumbles from his pillow, only a thin sheet covering his hips.

“Sorry.” She blearily blinks in the half light. She unwraps part of her snug cocoon she’s somnolently created, the frigid air rushing in. “Come here.”

His nose is cold on her cheek. The thick blankets drape over them, her hands sliding up his bare back. Her lips press against his jaw, his eyelids, his forehead, sleepy and soft and slow.

“Warm yet?”

“I believe more concerted efforts are required.”

She shifts closer.

“Recompense?”

His hands find her waist, slide down.

“Affirmative.”

Chapter Text

He sits at the edge of their bed.

“It is illogical for me to attempt to further clarify if you simply continue to disagree with my explanation.”

She spins on her heel, pacing.

“You are so…” she starts, her hands waving. “It’s like you don’t even…”

He sits, his hands on his knees, infuriatingly calm.

“You are being irrational,” he says.

“One of us is.” Her fists press into her hips as she stills, faces him.

His lips are a thin line. “You are not attempting to understand my explanation.”

It is not a question.

“You aren’t exactly trying, either.”

“This is illogical,” he says, stubbornly.

“Exactly.”

Chapter Text

His jaw is still set, but she’s beginning to focus along the strong line of it instead of the pulsing jump of the muscle.

“Perhaps I failed to fully discern the extent to which your argument, though not overtly congruous, was in and of itself not illogical.”

She reaches out and touches his sleeve. The material of his uniform is soft under her fingers, the hard heat of his arm radiating through the thin fabric.

“I’m sorry too. I didn’t mean to down play your-“

His hand is on hers, two fingers stroking the length of her palm.

“Oh,” she says.

The mattress is soft under her back, his hands buried in her hair and their legs tangling as they both scramble for purchase.

Chapter Text

Kirk pushes Nyota, messy and stumbling, into Spock’s chest. “This one’s yours,” he slurs, weaving away, his flower crown askew.

She is limp and slack, drawing a finger unevenly down his cheek.

“I trust Mr. Scott’s party was to your liking.” He holds her shoulders to steady her.

“I love you.” Her brow is furrowed, her tone serious.

“I am quite aware.”

He watches her straighten her witch’s hat, frown, try again.

“I want…” She licks her lips, leans towards his mouth, misses. She giggles into his chin.

“You are occasionally completely incomprehensible,” he says fondly. “I will bring you water.”

Chapter Text

The recruiter waits. She swallows. Says yes.

She pauses at his office door. Turns away. Turns back. Knocks.

They talk for hours. She makes herself leave. Eventually.

 

The exam begins. Her mind blanks. She panics, curbs it, starts writing.

She knows he’s waiting for some sign, some permission. She wonders if he would even recognize it. She thinks he might not.

She wonders if he’ll just keep waiting. She thinks he might.

She touches his jaw. He inhales sharply. She kisses him. He kisses back.

She can see them through the café door, smoothes her skirt, tucks her hair behind her ear.

Spock catches her eye, stands as she approaches.

“Nyota,” she says, holding out her hand.

“Amanda.” The other woman smiles.

She exhales.

“Relieve the Lieutenant.”

She’s dreamed about this.

Her palms are clammy. Her heart races.

“Yes sir.”

She sits, steadies her hands, makes her report.

She imagines following him onto the turbolift.

She imagines not.

She stands, crosses the bridge, steps close to him.

She holds the commission letter, looks up at Kirk.

“Please.”

She imagines doing it without Spock. This was never their plan.

She blinks stinging eyes, swallows, swallows again, says yes.

“Do it, do it.” Sulu’s voice is tense, strained.

She looks back through the glass doors, meets his eyes, throws the lever.

He disappears in a rush of ash and smoke.

She runs silently reviews verbs and pronouns, mouths past participles as Kirk hands her a phaser to tuck underneath her jacket.

Spock squeezes her hand. She squeezes back, walks out of the ship, breathes the acidic air of Qo'noS, keeps walking.

They will get home.

“Can you beam someone down?”

She needs him back. She needs them both back.

She doesn’t think, just moves.

Chapter Text

Her eyes keep closing, her voice trailing off.

"Do you wish to return to your dorm?" he asks, drawing a finger down her cheek so that she opens her eyes. She is warm and soft against him and he has no wish for her to move.

"Hmmm," she murmurs. He does not find this an adequate answer but does not wish to disturb her.

She shifts closer to him, her head nestled in the curve of his shoulder and her toes trailing up his calf.

Her weight cuts off the circulation to his arm. It is logical, he has lower blood pressure than humans. He does not move. Her breathing deepens. He does not wake her.

Chapter Text

Mitigating his objections was the only logical course of action.

 “All activity on the bridge is recorded.”

 “Communications officer.” She pointed at herself. “Turned it off.” 

“We are on-“ 

“We’re not on duty. We’re at Spacedock. The Spacedock Commander has responsibility over the ship. We’re on leave.” 

“The doors-“ 

“Are locked.” 

“The crew-“ 

“Gone.” 

She folded her arms, raised an eyebrow. 

He looked at the captain’s chair, looked back at her. 

“I’ll call you ‘sir.’” 

He frowned, looked at the chair again. 

She stepped forward, put her hand on his chest. “Commander.” 

She heard the pull of a zipper in the silence. 

“It is logical that we proceed with all due haste.”

Chapter Text

He yearns, desperately, to be more human for her. He tries, hopelessly, to be Vulcan enough to not feel that. She asks for and expects neither. She wants him for who he is and that is overwhelming, intoxicating.

She is a cadet, he a commander. She was his student. It is less than optimal circumstances.

He looks at her and understands why the sands of Vulcan were once stained green with the blood of those who fought and died for their mates. He looks at her and understands why when humans begin to love, they call it falling.

Chapter Text

He is nervous to turn down her application.

“Cadet Hohstadt is more qualified and is the logical choice for the posting.”

“Right. I’ll find a different research position.”

She rises, steps out of his office.

That night, she wraps her arms around his waist, pushes her face into his chest.

“Thanks.”

“You are not upset.”

“You never make me wonder.” She leans up, kisses him, pulls him close. “This could be so complicated, between us. It’s not. Thank you.”

“You are not mad.” He seeks clarification, assurance.

“I’ll work harder.”

“You,” he says, cannot find more words.

“Yes,” she agrees. “You.”

Chapter Text

Their kiss is careful, hesitant, but not uncertain.

“A traditional Terran annual observance?”

She thumbs his cheek. His forehead is warm against hers.

“Yes.”

His hand comes to rest lightly on the back of her neck.

“But not necessarily solely a yearly occurrence.”

“I hope not.”

He kisses her this time, soft and precise.

“I find I prefer this tradition to human’s predilection for pyrotechnics on this night.”

She smiles. “You didn’t see fireworks?”

She stands on her toes, cups his jaw, tugs him closer. Her lips part his. He amends his answer.

Chapter Text

It should be incongruous.

He eats lunch alone. She eats from his plate at dinner, his hand on her knee.

He is quiet, reserved, at work. His voice brims with excitement over tea on his couch.

He glances at her on the quad, greets her with ‘Cadet’, rests his forehead against hers in his entryway.

He folds his hands behind him as he lectures, grips her hips and pants into her neck.

It should be jarring. It isn’t.

She smoothes the collar of his uniform, he touches her cheek as they kiss each morning at his door.

“Nyota,” he whispers.

Chapter Text

“Oh my god,” she whispers, taking a step back and then another one and seriously contemplating just booking it down the street before the Commander can finish turning around.

“Cadet?”

“Oh my god,” she breathes again, instead of what she should do, which is either make a break for it or stand up straight and try to act as professional as she can.
She’s wearing heels. She’s not sure how far she’ll get. She’s also three Cardassian Sunrises into her Saturday evening and she’s not entirely certain that ‘professional’ is something she has in her.

She mostly has rum in her. And some Denubian brandy. And what she’s pretty sure is an increasing sense of doom as she feels her career crumble around her in the echo of the feeling of his shoulders under her hands and the eyebrow that is rapidly rising, the one she knows from lectures and isn’t something she should be seeing on the sidewalk outside of Mo’s on a warm evening when it wasn’t even supposed to be him with his back to her but McCoy.

She’s going to recommend to someone important - an Admiral maybe or the president of the Federation - that medical staff and science officers get different colored shirts. Or maybe she’ll just tell them that they shouldn’t have even issued McCoy one because he’s still a cadet, even if he’s also some hot shot doctor who from the back looks a hell of a lot like her Advanced Morphology instructor.

Or maybe he doesn’t look like him at all and that’s the shot of jack she wouldn’t let Kirk pay for talking.

She’s scrutinizing him, trying to figure out which it is when she realizes that he’s been speaking to her.

“Is there something that you require?” she hears him ask and really, really hopes that she hasn’t missed anything else he’s said. Or, actually, hopefully she missed an entire dressing down and now it’s over with and she won’t even have to remember it. She’s pretty sure that she can wipe the rest of this entire encounter away with enough Slusho mix, too.

“I-“ she starts, then from somewhere down deep, the same place that probably got her through her Academy entrance exams and every single interaction with Kirk and the Commander’s midterm paper, she clears her throat and says, “I was hoping to ascertain if you had received my application for the position of your teaching assistant next semester.”

“I did.”

“Excellent.”

She tries very hard to not let her hands fidget, which is harder than the pop quiz he gave them in class last week because at least then she had done the reading and now she’s suddenly aware of standing in front of him in a very, very short and very, very tight dress.

“Is that all?”

No, not really because she really wants to know what he’s even doing there and why he’s out on a weekend instead of in some lab somewhere and who picked out that sweater of his because it looks frankly delicious on him.

Which is irrelevant. Illogical, probably. She can ask him about it on Monday morning in class except for the fact that she is never, ever going to think about this moment again for the rest of her life.

Somewhere along the line she must have nodded and she just really hopes it wasn’t while she was taking in how well his slacks fit him, because he gives her one last inscrutable look before turning around again and continuing wherever he was going when she first saw him.

And jumped on his back.

While laughing.

She needs that Slusho mix. And also to not be staring at his ass like she is.

“Who was that?” she hears from behind her and turns to find Kirk also watching the Commander’s retreating back.

“Nobody.” McCoy is really only still a cadet because Kirk wouldn’t let him quit that first week, which basically makes this is entirely his fault, so she feels no guilt in saying, “We need more drinks. You’re buying.”

Chapter Text

The first morning she walks downstairs and dumps out the coffee Spock made for her, she gets a raised eyebrow.

“I don’t like the smell,” she tells him, rinsing out the sink as quickly as she can.

“That is the same type of coffee that you have preferred every morning for the entirety of our acquaintance.”

“I don’t feel well,” she tells him, deciding the sink is clean enough and there’s no other offending smells that are threatening to make her that nauseous. She walks over to where he’s sitting at the kitchen table and leans against him when he wraps his arm around her waist.

“Would you perhaps like a cup of tea?”

She looks at his mug, imagines sipping it and shakes her head. “No.”

“Something to eat?”

“No,” she says again, pressing into him and leaning her cheek on the top of his head. “But thank you.”

The second morning it happens, she throws up into the sink, right onto the puddle of coffee that’s still draining.

Spock is next to her in an instant but his hands on her shoulder and on her back are too warm and she bats him away, feeling clammy and sticky.

“Sorry,” she says as she rinses her mouth, feeling him still hovering behind her. “I’m sorry.”

“Would you like me to comm Doctor McCoy?”

“I actually feel fine now,” she says. She hadn’t felt all that great when she had woken up but it’s better now, the queasiness that she had carried with her most of yesterday and overnight finally slightly diminished. Not entirely, but enough that she doesn’t think she’s going to vomit again.

The third morning, she just says wipes her mouth on the back of her hand and says,

“No more coffee.”

“Understood,” Spock says like he hasn’t been making her coffee every morning after every night they’ve ever spent together. “Perhaps I should comm-“

“I’m fine. Some type of bug,” she says, then yawns. “I’m just tired.”

“You are certain?”

“I’ll call McCoy if I feel worse,” she promises, which she doesn’t do because she’s fine but which of course Spock does anyway because she’s also maybe, just possibly lying about that fact.

“Well,” McCoy says, staring down at his tricorder. “Well.”

“Doctor?” Spock asks.

“Well,” McCoy says again, then opens his mouth, then closes it, then smiles wide and brilliant.

“What is it?” Nyota asks, reaching for Spock’s hand and thinking that maybe she already knows and that Spock might as well or he wouldn’t be there with her, feeling that same slight tremble of nervousness and excitement that she is.

“Congratulations,” McCoy says and he’s still smiling and Spock is holding her hand too tightly and she feels a little dizzy and a little bit like she might throw up again.

“Um,” she says when Carol goes to open the bottle of wine. They do this every week, ever since they first shipped out on their five year mission all that time ago and Nyota had decided that they should get to know each other. And so every week they have dinner and wine and they complain about Spock and Jim and how short their active duty uniform skirts are and how badly they want rank stripes and discuss the intricacies of who’s sleeping with who but this week, Nyota presses her lips together and shakes her head at the bottle.

She’s a linguist and speaks the majority of Federation languages, but all she can get out is another, “Um.”

“Are you feeling well?” Carol asks, slowly putting the bottle back on the counter.

“I’m just…”

“Not drinking?” Carol asks, standing in Nyota’s new kitchen in her new house with its extra bedroom that’s empty and painted a bright, happy yellow that everyone Nyota and Spock know have asked about.

“Not drinking,” Nyota confirms.

“Not drinking for a while?” Carol asks and Nyota nods.

“For a while,” Nyota repeats, then drags her teeth over her bottom lip and blurts out,

“But please, we’re not really-“

“I don’t know anything,” Carol assures her since she’s a weapons specialist and probably knows more classified information than most of Starfleet’s intelligence officers do, and is the only other person who has even an inkling of what might or might not have happened between Spock and Nyota on an otherwise empty bridge one night involving the captain’s chair, a detail that was shared after far too much of the same brand of wine that Carol brought tonight.

“Thanks.”

“Of course,” Carol says, then smiles and pulls Nyota into a big hug.

“It’s nothing,” she says as she sits down at the table again, trying very carefully to not inhale the scent of anyone’s food. She wouldn’t have come to lunch except that it’s so rare to get together with the rest of the crew these days that it hadn’t seem worth it to miss it.

She might have reassessed that plan if she had known she would need to run to the bathroom twice, each time garnering quick glances, both at her and between everyone else.

“Of course not,” Sulu says, digging into the rest of his salad. He’s smiling, just a little.

“You ok?” Chekov asks as he takes a bite of his soup and when Nyota looks at him, he flushes.

“Hope you feel better soon,” Scotty tells her, grinning around a mouthful of sandwich.

She is either going to blame McCoy or Carol or maybe Spock for letting something slip. He’s so excited that she can’t really care though, not when half of the time when she looks at him he’s staring right back at her, his focus on her stomach.
She glances at him next to her, but this time his attention is on Sulu and Chekov slipping Scotty a handful of credits.

“Really?” she asks, shaking her head at them and sighing. ”That’s not very subtle.”

“As the creation of betting pools is against Starfleet regulation, I presume that you are undertaking the human tradition of collecting funds for a joint gift,” Spock tells them and when she skates her fingers over the back of his hand she can feel his hot, heady joy.

They all nod even though Spock isn’t their commanding officer anymore, hasn’t been since they got back to Earth and won’t be again until they ship out on their next mission.

Sulu suddenly has to get to the botany labs and Scotty remembers an errand he has to run and Chekov doesn’t manage to come up with an excuse, but does turn back after the other two have left to give Nyota a quick kiss on the cheek.

“What is the purpose of your call?” Sarek asks from the monitor and she grins at him.

She covers Spock’s knee with her hand, leaning her shoulder against his and feels his fingers lace with hers.

“We have some news for you.”

She imagines telling their son, their daughter, whichever it is that their grandfather very nearly smiled when he found out about them and for the first time it actually feels real.

“No, that’s great,” Jim says but he’s barely even reacted to what they told him and his words sound slightly strangled as he looks back and forth between them. “Awesome. Amazing. So happy for you two.”

She glances at Spock, but he doesn’t seem to have any answers as to why Jim’s reacting that way, not when they were both so excited to tell him.

“When?” Jim asks, settling deeper into the chair he always sits in when he comes to visit, the one in their living room that he’s declared for his own personal use.

“Summer,” she says. “Late June.”

“Nice,” he nods, then says, “That’s when the next five year mission is slated to start.”
She glances at Spock again. “We know.”

“Yeah.”

“Jim,” she says, then looks at Spock for a third time because they haven’t really talked about this or anything else, but there are also things between them that she just knows without either of them having to say it out loud. “Jim, we’re still coming.”

Except that as soon as she says it, she realizes that he might not be reacting to that at all, he might not know how to tell them that he can’t have them there, that it’s a liability, that it’s not safe, that he can’t have two senior officers be new parents, that they have to stay behind, that they can’t-

“Really?” Jim asks and she wants to tell him that he doesn’t need to blink that much.

“If that’s-“ She waits until Spock meets her eyes and nods. “If that’s ok.”

“Yeah that’s-“ Jim starts, then stops because he’s finally smiling. He laughs a little, his eyes crinkling at the corner as he scoots forward in his chair, then asks again,

“Really?”

“Really,” she says and Jim smiles wider.

“How long till June?” he asks.

Spock starts to answer, but she squeezes his hand and presses her other one to her stomach. “It’s not soon enough.”

Chapter Text

When he looks up at her, her arms are crossed and a smile he has come to recognize as bashful is crossing her face. The stars are shining bright behind her, the moon is reflecting off the water and Jim had deemed the beach suitably romantic and McCoy had told Spock – with eyes that were oddly red and his voice gruffer than normal – that he didn’t know he had it in him, to plan something like that.

“You were tying your shoe, I know, I know,” she laughs, waving him off, “Oh, God, never mind me, ignore me, I’m being weird, but Jim said, or kind of suggested… and then he got really blushy and stammery and told me to forget he said anything and… nope, nothing, never mind, let’s keep walking.”

His hand closes over the small velvet box in his pocket, the sand wet and slightly cold under his knee. There is an outcropping of rocks two tenths of a mile down the beach that he had intended to continue walking towards, but this is as logical a place as any.

Chapter Text

“If you could perhaps indicate your opinion on the matter,” he prompts to no avail. She has not responded to his inquiry and instead has simply raised her hands to press her palms to her cheeks, a gesture that he cannot parse the meaning of.

In his description of the proscribed sequence of events, Jim had not included any allusion to the possibility that she would remain silent and Spock finds such an omission to be a gross oversight.

"Would it be helpful if I clarified my earlier statements?" he offers even though he believes it might be difficult to bring himself to repeat his admission that she makes him happy, as voicing such a sentiment had proven to be a significant challenge.

The fabric of his pants under his knee is growing increasingly damp from the sand beneath him and she has not stopped staring at him, nor has she moved.

He is uncertain as to whether she has even blinked.

"It would be inappropriate to require an answer at this immediate a juncture," he finally says. It is irrational to ask someone to make such a significant decision about their future without offering proper time to contemplate the matter, especially when they are not expecting the question to be posed.

It is not the first time that seeing the logic of a situation has failed to comfort him.

The notion that she is formulating a reply in the negative is not one he will allow himself to entertain. Still, with no response on her part he finds no other course of action available to him than to stand up again.

Her hand is quite suddenly on his shoulder, her fingers bunching in the fabric of his jacket and he can feel the slightest tremor in her touch. While the contact halts his motion it provides no indication as to her current thoughts and he wills his psychosomatic response, the increase of his pulse and respiratory rate that he can feel, to cease.

She is unrivaled in the field of xenolinguistics, has proven herself articulate in the majority of Federation languages, and is able to remain calm and composed in circumstances most humans find physically and mentally paralyzing, the sum of which means that he finds her silence in this situation to be quite curious.

Also alarming.

"Nyota?"

Her embrace is so unexpected and so forceful that he barely manages to maintain his grip on the small velvet box. Her face, where she is repeatedly pushing it into the space between his neck and his shoulder, is damp, and when he tentatively closes an arm around her shoulders he finds them to be shaking.

"Why are you crying? Please desist immediately."

As humans often base interpersonal communication on such unreliable and questionable methods as physical gestures instead of simply voicing their opinions, it takes a moment for him to recognize that she is, in fact, nodding, and doing so over and over again, her face still pressed into his shoulder.

"You are certain?" he asks as he deems it wise to seek clarification on a matter of such import as this and he is gratified when she just begins nodding more emphatically. He expects that a confirmation of a reply in the affirmative will slow the rate of his heartbeat, but that does not seem to be the case.

He brings his other arm around her as well, unclear as to what to do with the ring as per Jim’s instructions she should already be wearing it. Due to how tightly she is holding him, he is uncertain that he will be able to persuade her to release her grip on him in order to access her hand, nor if he even should attempt to do so.

With no clear solution as to how to remedy that situation, he instead presses a kiss to her still-damp cheek, then to her ear, and then into her hair.

"You are entirely certain?” he asks again despite the irrationality in repeating a question that she has already answered. When she continues to nod, he kisses her hair once more. "Excellent.”

Chapter Text

“He was reading something on his padd,” she whispers to Jim on the second day, says it into her knees. The chair isn’t really big enough that she can sit like that with her legs drawn up and her arms wrapped around her shins but Spock is still pale and ashen and he hasn’t opened his eyes yet and if she stops holding her own wrists she’s going to try to reach for him again and there’s nowhere she can touch that isn’t bruised or burnt or bandaged.

“His padd?” Jim echoes. His voice sounds like its coming from far away and she doesn’t turn to look at him because she’s too busy watching Spock’s chest rise and fall, slowly, haltingly, and she has to keep watching it to make sure that it’s going to keep doing that.

“That night. I was trying to sleep. He was reading something and it was really bright and I wanted him to shut it off and I snapped at him about it.”

And then the klaxons had started blaring and the ship had pitched under them and they had scrambled for their uniforms and to get to the bridge where sparks were already flying and smoke was filling the room and she had never gotten to sleep, not that night and not since then, not really, not when staying awake has meant being able to listen to the sound of Spock breathing, raspy and uneven but there.

“Oh.”

“I wasn’t really mad,” she tells Jim because she can’t tell Spock that because Spock won’t open his eyes. “I was just tired.”

“I know,” Jim says because Spock can’t say it because he hasn’t said anything in days now and she really, really just wants to hear the sound of his voice again.

“What if-“ she starts, then presses her forehead to the top of her knees so that she can only see the shirt someone made her change into at some point because this shirt is clean and soft and warm and it isn’t covered in crusted, stiff green blood. It might have been McCoy. Probably was, since the last time she looked at Jim he was wearing clean clothes too.

“Stop,” Jim says, but she shakes her head against her knees.

“But what if – Cause I just wanted him to shut if off and what if now that’s the last-“

“Stop,” Jim says, louder this time and she stops. “C’mere.”

“No.”

He scoots his chair closer to hers and lays his arm across her shoulders and it’s not Spock, it’s not how Spock touches her but Spock’s arm is in a bandage that McCoy changes every twelve hours and Spock is just lying there, not sitting next to her and really the only thing that could make her feel better about Spock being in Sickbay is Spock being the one to sit with her while she waits for him to wake up, but instead it’s Jim who’s there and she curls in on herself and tries to breathe.

Chapter Text

She tries to decide if it’d be more uncomfortable to wake up and have to look at her clothes scattered on his floor, or if the sight of them neatly placed on his dresser is somehow worse.

The only conclusion that she’s able to come to is that she needs a cup of coffee. And a shower. And that she thought she was past waking up somewhere without a change of underwear, but she obviously miscalculated that one.

The bedroom door is shut and she stares at it for a long time, trying to figure out the chances that he’ll wander in. Or not wander, since Spock is not exactly someone who wanders, but if he might logically decide he needs something from his bathroom or bedroom.

Unlikely. Probably unlikely. Hopefully unlikely. Though it is his apartment and his belongings and his space and she’s the one who fell asleep there last night.

She hesitates another moment, then decides that if he didn’t want to deal with the repercussions of her being there in the morning then maybe he shouldn’t have given her such a boring padd to read, and pushes back the sheets and stands.

Her shower is longer than is probably necessary, but his bathroom is clean and his soap smells good and there’s something about standing there, her muscles loose and lax that she doesn’t want to think about too hard, so she doesn’t, just leans against the tile and closes her eyes and tries to not picture how his body looks. Or feels. Or the sound of his breath catching and holding, the way his eyes get so dark and soft.

She smacks off the shower. She needs to get going, she has work to do, and since she was never supposed to be there, let alone overnight, she shouldn’t be lingering in his shower. And she really shouldn’t be thinking about how nicely he kisses or the warmth of his body next to hers in bed because she should be thinking about verbs and conjugations and other things that have nothing to do with how his skin feels under her palms.

It takes her a full minute of looking at his toothbrush before she decides that if it’s really that big of a deal to him that she uses it, he can get a new one. Or he can use one of the autoclaves in some lab somewhere to sterilize it or whatever other logical course of action he’ll deem necessary. Or she can buy him ‘a thanks for helping her with her paper, and thanks for dinner at Jardinière, and thanks for driving her out to Pike’s, and thanks for all the sex that probably shouldn’t have happened but still did, twice’ new toothbrush and call it even.

No matter how much she smooths out the bedspread and sheets, she can’t get the bed as neat as he does and she finally just gives up. He can do it over again if he wants to, can tidy and straighten up behind her and return his bedroom to a state where there’s no evidence that last night happened, that she never came over for dinner, that she never jumped into bed with him again, than she didn’t fall asleep right there, burrowed into the pillow that she’s trying to adjust against his headboard in a sufficiently overly precise manner.

She takes a deep breath, turns away from the bed and doesn’t look back at it again. He’s at his desk when she finds him, his back to her, bent over his work like she’s seen him so many times, his focus trained the padd in front of him. That should be normal, maybe, to watch him work, his stylus in one hand and his other scrolling through his padd, and it is because it’s such a familiar sight, but not like this, with the morning light coming in his windows and the quiet of his apartment so early in the day, the softness of the moment, the silence between them as he turns to look at her and his eyes catch hers.

She wishes that he would just keep working and trade nothing more than a few words with her, but he sets down his padd and turns further around in his chair.

“Would you like anything?” he asks and his voice never needed to be the first one she heard in the morning.

She would. A cup of coffee and breakfast since her stomach has been growling since she woke up, and maybe the ability to slip into a parallel universe where she’s not waking up in her advisor’s apartment for the second time, trying to decide if her outfit looks suitably innocuous to walk back to her dorm in.

“No thank you,” she tells him and doesn’t let herself look at him for more than a second, so that there’s no chance she’ll start thinking about how his shirt is falling across his flat stomach.

“Did you sleep well?” he asks and she never did give him that talk about what are appropriate conversation topics for the morning after, not that she thought that she needed to because this was never going to happen again.

“Yeah, you?” she asks before thinking that maybe she doesn’t need to keep the conversation going in this direction, especially since she’s pretty sure she took up more than her fair share of the bed.

Not that she has a fair share to begin with since it’s his bed and she should really, really not be sleeping in it. Or doing anything else in it, for that matter. Or even seeing it or touching it or being anywhere near it, except that she was. Twice.

“I have to get back to the dorm,” she says, tucking her hair behind her ear and wishing she’d tied it back. She wonders if he minds that she used his shower. Or his toothbrush. Or that she slept there. Or that she met his parents, had dinner with them, and saw a picture of him a child.

“I am needed in the office,” he says and of course he is, it’s a workday and there she was fast asleep in his bed and probably delaying whatever efficient start to his day he normally enjoys, which is likely scheduled down to the minute for the sake of productivity.

“You are entirely certain you are not in need of caffeine?” he asks as he stands and begins gathering the padds he was working with.

“Yes,” she tells him, then squints at his back, considering. “Why?”

“I am simply curious.”

“I’m fine.” She resists the urge to fidget, to touch her hair or tug at her shirt as she wonders if now that he’s also leaving if that means she should wait and walk with him, or if he’s going to be a while doing whatever it is that he does in the morning, which is nothing that she needs to know about.

He’s not exactly making it clear either way, stacking up padds, but also still barefoot, and looking like he’s getting ready to go but he’s only in his uniform pants and a gray undershirt, with his instructors jacket nowhere in sight.

She looks at his feet against the carpet for a long moment, then at his back, which is still turned towards her.

“Thanks.”

“Pardon?”

“For-“ she starts, then nods over towards his replicator. “For offering.”

“I have been repeatedly informed that I should increase the attention I pay to Terran customs.”

“That’s good advice,” she says and takes a step closer to him, then stops because she has no idea where she’s even going, starting to walk across the room like that. “Bet someone pretty smart told you that.”

“Overly intelligent?” he asks and glances back towards her so that his shirt pulls against his back. “Rather, casuist.”

“Oh, please. Punctilious.”

“Sophistic, even.”

“Eleemosynary, if anything.”

“Pedantic,” he corrects and she can’t stop herself from laughing.

“Pedantic, Spock?” she echoes. “Go look in a mirror.”

She gets that eyebrow of his that she’s really beginning to think is a lot closer to a smirk than anything else as he brushes past her and puts his padds on the table by the door.

He is leaving soon, then. Which is good. She needs to go too, and probably should have left already, earlier this morning so that she wasn’t sleeping in and keeping him from heading to the office, or last night after they… Or last night after dinner, she corrects, then clears her throat. Or she just shouldn’t have come over at all, but she did, and now she’s there, wearing yesterday’s clothes and smelling his soap on her skin.

She doesn’t watch as he goes back into his bedroom because she doesn’t really want to think about how she obviously didn’t make his bed as neatly as he does. Meticulously, she thinks. Fastidiously, scrupulously, studiously.

Fussily, she thinks and finds that she’s smiling.

“What are you working on?” she asks when he reemerges. He has his jacket on, unzipped so that she can still see that gray shirt of his, now neatly tucked into his pants.

She looks away, focusing on the stack of padds, the one on Klingon warfare that she noticed the other day among them.

He doesn’t answer immediately, and when she turns to look at him again, he’s pulling on his boots.

Shoes. She needs her shoes, too, and also to probably not be watching him like she is.

“A computer program,” he finally says and she doesn’t let herself look at his hands as he fastens his jacket.

“About Klingons?”

“That should be apparent.”

“Do you speak Klingon?”

“Yes.”

“Really?” she asks, glancing up at him as she steps into her second shoe, trying to imagine him speaking it. It’s too ill-matched for someone like him, the thought of such a harsh language fitting into the particular grace he carries himself with too odd, what with the stillness and poise he has that seems to cling to him as he reaches past her and opens the door.

At least the composure that he usually has, since there’s definitely something about sleeping with him that very much ruins how put together he might seem in his uniform on his way to work, when only hours ago he had her pressed into the mattress, his body moving under her hands, in her, his eyes slightly unfocused and his breath unsteady.

Which she’s not going to think about.

She glances around once more to see if she forgot anything, but of course she didn’t because she didn’t bring anything else last night, because she was never intending to stay over. Again.

“I’m going to get my paper finished this week,” she tells him in the turbolift because it’s too quiet and the space is too small for her to not be speaking, with him only a half an arm’s-length away.

“Excellent.”

“So I’ll send it to you when I’m done.”

“Please do so.”

It’s bright outside, the sun shining through the usual morning fog so that the entire sky is lit up white and brilliant and she finds herself blinking as they walk towards campus.

“Have fun with the Klingons,” she says when they get to where she has to turn to go back to her dorm. She does want coffee, but the mess hall is the other way, towards where he’s heading, and it might be too strange to have turned down his offer and then to keep walking with him, when she told him she was going back to her room.

She also needs clean underwear and to be wearing something other than the clothes from last night.

“You do realize that there are no actual Klingons present.”

“What? Really?” she asks and he just blinks at her, which makes her smile.

“Have a pleasant morning,” he says, which only makes her smile wider because he is so, so much better at being considerate than he was earlier in the summer.

He’s also pretty considerate in bed, too, which she doesn’t need to be thinking about.

“I’ll see you later,” she tells him and takes a step away from him, towards the path that leads to her dorm.

“You will?”

“For my paper?” she reminds him.

“You previously stated that you would send it to me.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I assure you that I do not.”

“Well-“ she starts to explain, then tucks her hair behind her ear. “Never mind.”

“Nyota?” he asks and there’s something in the way he’s standing there in the morning light, his head tipped to the side and that look on his face that suggests she’s being unbearably human that makes her need to get out of there, right then, though she doesn’t find herself actually moving.

“Nothing,” she hears herself say. She needs to look away from him too but she doesn’t find herself doing that either. “Bye.”

He nods and turns and she thinks about calling after him to remind him that he didn’t actually say goodbye except that by the time she decides to do so he’s a little too far away, and she doesn’t know what would happen after that.

Nothing, probably. Definitely. She would tell him that, he’d get that half-exasperated look of his, and then he’d keep going to his office and she’d still be returning to her dorm, which she should just do now instead of coming up with ideas of how to extend their conversation.

He’s busy, obviously, and was waiting for her all morning to wake up so that he could get to work. She’s busy too and should be writing her paper instead of spending the night anywhere but in her own bed, wearing pajamas, without men who she shouldn’t be sleeping with anyway next to her.

She finds herself watching him until he’s out of sight around the corner of another dorm before she walks back to her room, blinking against the morning light.

Chapter Text

“Send me a postcard,” she instructs and he is rather unable to focus on her words as instead he is paying attention to the way in which she is still standing so near to him and has yet to move away to walk towards her dorm.

“I do not know what that is,” he hears himself admit as he lets himself look at her, the strands of her hair that are in slight disarray, indiscernible to most he is sure, but apparent to him after having spent so much time with her.

“Perfect research opportunity for you,” she says and he watches the way her mouth very nearly curls into a smile before she presses her lips together, her gaze sliding briefly from him and then back again to meet his eyes.

“I will take that under advisement,” he promises. He will, undoubtedly. He very much has come to enjoy learning of human customs from her. It would be something to speak to her about, later. When he is back, perhaps, or even while he is gone. He could contact her, ask her where to look for such information, and speak at length about the intricacies of such a Terran custom.

“You should,” she says and he cannot help but watch how she crosses her arms and looks past him, her focus somewhere over his shoulder.

She will soon enough be on her way to her dorm and occupied with her classes and her friends. Momentarily, really, as soon as their conversation is over so too will their summer together be at an end and he does not know what their future holds, if anything, so that this could be the last instance that he has any amount of her attention.

“Enjoy your weekend,” he tells her as he very much hopes that she does, that she spends it resting before the semester begins and does something she finds amusing with her roommate or her other friends as they return to campus. He thinks, briefly, about expressing that he would very much like to spend it with her, were he available to, before deciding against it. He will be gone, so it is an illogical statement, to tell her than he wishes otherwise.

“You better send me those edits pretty quickly so that I have something to do,” she says and he nods.

“I will endeavor to,” he tells her. He will do so tonight, after he is aboard the ship. He will have time, he is certain, even if it means forgoing some amount of sleep.

He contemplates kissing her. It is not particularly logical to imagine a hypothetical scenario but that does not stop him from picturing what it would be like to lean down and press his lips to hers, to pull her nearer to him and raise his hands to the back of her head to keep her there, her body closer to his and the light, effervescent trace of her thoughts against his own, not clear enough to perceive in any meaningful way but still very slightly discernible.

It would only be for a moment, though. It would be for a short, delineated amount of time and afterwards he will still need to be on his way to Headquarters and she will still return to her dorm and the fact that he is leaving will not have changed except perhaps to become more challenging than it is already, so he while he continues to consider kissing her, he does not do so.

“I’ll-“ she says and as he watches she raises one hand to touch the corner of her eye. A curious gesture, one which he cannot understand any more than he can most of her other actions over the summer, or that night even, as whatever decision it was that she made that resulted in another instance of such intimacy is as mysterious to him now as ever.

She drops her hand and he watches it fall only to look back up at her, at how bright her eyes seem and how there is a crease around her mouth that is not typically there.

“Bye,” she says and that is understandable. Clear. Comprehensible and unambiguous.

Then she reaches out and touches his sleeve and he finds once again that he cannot parse her actions, not when they so fully contradict her words.

Her hand is so close to his. He could touch his fingers to hers, probe at the emotions that are evident in her expression but which he cannot identify.

He does not do so, not anymore than he lets himself move forward and kiss her mouth, no matter how strong the impulse.

“Say goodbye,” she instructs and it is so reminiscent of so many conversations they have had that he cannot help but light upon the memory of her in the Academy mess hall so long ago now, her eyes narrowed in anger as she expounded upon the ways in which she found him to be lacking.

Now her expression is soft, though her lips are tightly pressed together and she is blinking more often than is typical.

He thinks that he would very much like to see her smile again before he leaves.

“No.”

“C’mon.”

The notion of stating such a overt end to their time together is unpleasant to the degree to which he does not entertain the idea further as he is not entirely certain that he would be completely capable of actually articulating such a word with any conviction.

“I would prefer not to,” he tells her and when he feels the urge to move closer to her swell yet again, this time he is less successful in dismissing it. He attempts to nevertheless, searching for a cool, comforting thread of logic amid the compulsion to stay there longer with her, to touch her and speak to her further, and yet when he summons that thread of rationality it is not quite enough, so that he still permits himself to kiss her forehead, a pale semblance of the contact he craves.

His resolve is quite nearly lost when he feels the soft press of her fingers against his chest and he is only certain that if he does not leave in that moment, he will not do so. He is also sure that if he turns to look at her again, he will not walk away from her and so does not let himself look back, attempting instead to satisfy himself with the image he has of her in his mind rather than one last glance, as it will be available to him when he is gone.

Chapter Text

She likes to think that her face feels flushed because of how warm Spock keeps his office and not because of what they were doing or where they were or what went on the last time she saw him.

Which is all immaterial because she’s at work now and shouldn’t be dwelling on the fact that he kissed her. Or she kissed him, maybe. She’s still a little unclear as to what exactly happened last night, not that she didn’t spend a considerable amount of time that she should have been sleeping instead staring at the ceiling of her dorm room, thinking about it and avoiding Gaila’s questions as to why she was home so late.

It’s not a big deal, not at all. It was a kiss, nothing more. It wasn’t even that spectacular of a kiss, really just a peck.

Well, more than a peck, but less than what it maybe could have been.

Still. It’s making her cheeks heat just thinking about it and that’s not what should be going on at all, nor should her stomach be quite so knotted, nor should she be trying to figure out what a normal, casual way to greet him might be, since she’s perfectly capable of being composed and professional.

Probably.

She hesitates for just a moment in the door to his office before firmly telling herself that she is, in fact, a Starfleet cadet and is no longer in middle school and as such, she’s utterly and completely fine and able to be normal around him, no matter how much kissing happened the night before.

He’s not even there. She takes a second look around, just in case the way her palms are feeling a bit damp and her stomach is doing some sort of flip that’s really distracting has made it so that she didn’t see him at first.

But no, he either hasn’t been in yet or has stepped out for something and she’s alone.

Which is fine. Better than fine since she still hadn’t quite settled on what to say to him. Hello, obviously. But maybe she could add a ‘good morning’ or ‘how are you’, except that now she can’t remember if that’s what she normally says or not since all she can think about is the fact that they kissed and it’s blanking out her ability to actually choose words.

It’s ridiculous, really. It was a kiss and she’s completely capable of talking to people she’s kissed because she is an adult, not a school girl, and it’s just Spock. She’ll say something logical, he’ll say something back that’s equally logical and they’ll go about their work whenever it is that he gets there. She has spent hours and hours with him, both in his office as they grade papers and quizzes and tests together, and in the mess hall the many times she’s run into him there and they’ve eaten together, and more than once at that café down the street since he also just happens to go there on Sunday mornings more often than not, and most recently in his apartment because he had an actual paper copy of an Andorian epic poem that she had been wanting to see for weeks now and they had finally found a time.

And then kissed.

She went over to her boss’ apartment, who is also her former professor and current academic advisor knowing full well how he looks at her sometimes and how when she stands all too close to him he doesn’t move away.

Which is exactly what had happened so she really shouldn’t find herself surprised that she had been putting her coat back on before she left, and he had just been silently watching her with that look on his face, that non-expression that always made her stare back at him like if she just watched him long enough she’d be able to decipher exactly what was going on behind those soft, dark brown eyes, and that since for the first time they weren’t in public, weren’t in the library or on the quad or standing outside her dorm talking for an extra twenty, thirty, forty minutes even though they both had places to be and work to get to, instead they were completely alone and either she had moved towards him or he had moved towards her. She’s still not sure, since everything gets a little fuzzy in her memory after that, mostly because her only conscious thought was that they were really actually kissing.

And then he had smiled and any last shreds of coherent thought had promptly dissipated in that tiny quirk at the corner of his mouth, which had been fine last night since she had been so giddy that it didn’t matter that she somehow walked home without noticing that she had done so, but now she’s at work and she needs to finish marking the stack of quizzes in front of her, and needs to not be thinking about he had reached out and touched the back of her hand so, so gently.

She looks down at that spot on her hand now, which she had spent half the night rubbing her own fingers over, and then at his desk.

He’s in a meeting, probably. Or had something to do that morning. Pike might have called him, or maybe another officer had needed something and he got caught up with whatever it was and is on his way right now.

She grades three quizzes before she lets herself check her inbox to see if there’s anything in there from him, and then grades another two before she lets herself pull her comm out. There’s nothing, which is fine. It’s not like he normally keeps her up to date on the minutia of his day.

What he does normally do, though, is spend the morning in his office. She looks at his desk once more, his chair neatly pushed in and his padds from whatever he was working on yesterday arranged the way he likes them and tells herself that it’s nothing, there’s no need to even think about the fact that he’s not in yet and even more, there’s no reason at all to think that it might possibly be something to worry about.

He had smiled. And touched her hand. And kissed her – or she kissed him, maybe.

Unclear, she imagines him saying. Repeated trials may be necessary in order to formulate a hypotheses as to what occurred.

Her lip hurts and she realizes that she’s been biting at it. She’s being ridiculous. Really, really ridiculous and she’s going to get her head on straight and continue her work instead of dwelling on the fact that it is likely – not probable, but possible – that his absence this morning is related in anyway to him being uncertain as how to best tell her that there won’t, in fact, be any repetition of anything that happened last night.

But no, he wouldn’t delay in getting to work because of that, nor would he bring something like that up in the office.

Which means she’ll probably have to wait all day, no matter when it is that he does finally show up.

But it’s fine. She is going to be completely calm and composed and she’s going to concentrate on her work and nothing else, which goes great until he walks into the room and she looks up from the quiz in front of her so quickly she’s amazed she doesn’t hurt her neck.

She never did figure out what to say, which is made worse by the fact that he’s staring back at her and she’s not sure if either of them are actually blinking.

It is so, so quiet that she wonders if he can hear how her heart is pounding. She can, it’s loud in her ears and she can feel it in her chest and throat, can feel the beat of her blood in her making everything a little shaky, a lot shivery under the weight of his gaze.

“Do you not have a meeting?” he finally asks and all she can think about how is the last thing he said to her was ‘goodnight’ right before he leaned down. Or she leaned up. Either. Both.

“A meeting?” she echoes which was not what she wanted to be the first thing she said to him. “I don’t have a meeting.”

“With Cadet Kirk? Regarding the Xenolinguistics Club?”

“Oh.” Shit. Yes, she did have that. She also saw Kirk at breakfast and in between thinking about how nicely Spock kisses had informed Kirk that no, they weren’t going to spend all their funds on a trip to Delta, no matter how much fun it would be. She got her point across, she’s pretty sure, and really it’s just efficient that she did so early in the morning so that they didn’t have to meet later - which is actually right now.

“It didn’t take as long as I thought it would.”

“I see.”

“I was-“ she points to her desk. “Grading.”

He follows her gaze and nods, once. “How did the students perform on the quiz?”

“Really well.”

She tries and fails to think of something else to say. He’s quiet too, just looks at her long enough that she keeps waiting for him to ask something or to make some comment, before he nods again and walks over towards his desk.

And then of course - of course - despite the fact that she’s in the top of her class, and she is on track to graduate as a Lieutenant, and she managed to get this TA job over a handful of older students, and she has performed more than well - exemplary, Spock once said - on nearly everything she has ever done, she just has to in that moment be clumsy enough to drop her stylus on the floor, let it slip right out of her fingers like she forgot to actually hold on to it.

“Sorry,” she says quickly and kneels to get it except that it skitters away across the floor because she didn’t manage to pick it up, just knocked it so that it rolls farther away. It’s too far away to reach. She has to either stand up again or crawl over there and this is absolutely, hands down the worst moment of her life, except that then Spock’s holding it out to her, kneeling right next to her.

He hands it to her and she takes it, and when she does she can feel the heat coming off of his skin, though they don’t touch. Which is normal and how it should be because they’re at work, except that all she can think about is if it means something different, if he’s keeping his hand away from hers for some reason that she’ll have to wait all day to hear because unlike her, he’s actually capable of being completely professional and focused on his job and she’s not, since her brain cut out at some point last night right before they kissed and has yet to become fully functional again.

Which is why she probably shouldn’t go around kissing her bosses.

Boss. Singular. She has kissed one boss, once, who just happens to be the same man who is staring at her right now.

And who has really, really nice eyes.

“Would you like to have dinner?”

“What?” she asks and in her surprise and shock and something that feels a lot like excitement she draws back slightly. Which is the wrong direction, except that they’re at work so it’s the right direction and she should probably move even further away because she keeps staring at how soft his lips look and she can’t stop remembering what it was like to kiss him. Nice, it was nice. And sweet. And still makes her stomach flip around just thinking about it. “Yes. Dinner? Yes, we should-“ She stops, tries to get a grip on herself, can’t. “We should do that, definitely. Now?”

“Pardon?”

“No,” she says and raises her hand to cover her eyes. “I meant-“

“It is morning.”

“No, I know. Whenever you want to, I mean.”

When she brings herself to drop her hand, he’s sat back on his heels and is looking at her with an unmistakeable expression of amusement. It grows into a small, small smile and she presses her fingers to her mouth, smiles back.

“Perhaps not right now, as it will not then be dinner.”

“Logical,” she tells him.

There’s a pause and he’s just looking at her like how he does sometimes. “Tonight, perhaps, or tomorrow.”

“Yes. Whichever.” He’s still watching her and she’s still staring at him, so that she can see his throat work as he swallows. “Tonight, actually would be- that would be good. Best, really.”

“Excellent.”

She can’t seem to take her eyes off of him, which might be ok because he hasn’t moved either.

He is so, so good looking. And smart and kind and fundamentally a good person and he has an amazingly dry, sharp sense of humor which maybe nobody else even knows about but which always makes her laugh and he likes her. And they kissed and they’re going to go out to dinner and in the meantime, she gets to work with him all day.

Which means she should probably stand up.

She blinks at the hand he’s holding out to her and it takes her a long moment to realize that he’s already standing and that he’s offering to help her up.

His skin is warm and dry and she’s in the middle of thinking about how sweaty her palms probably are and what inopportune time it is to be human when suddenly her stomach feels warm and like it’s buzzing, and her entire hand is tingling and she’s instantly smiling so wide that her cheeks hurt and she laughs, just a little, because he’s so happy and she can feel it go straight through her, down to her toes.

“I had thought to change next week’s reading assignment to highlight more of Rousseau’s theories of articulatory phonetics,” he says and squeezes her hand before he drops it. He walks back to his desk and she sits in her chair and it’s like any other day, except that it’s not, not at all.

“You mean the paper he just published?” she asks as she rubs her thumb over her other hand where he just was touching. Her skin feels like it’s still prickling a little.

“That was my thought.”

He looks the same as he ever does, but there’s something in his eyes that looks a little brighter, and she now knows that underneath his poise and placidity there’s that ball of glee and delight and joy, exactly the same as what’s sitting in the middle of her chest and warming her straight through.

She gives him one last look before she turns back to her work, hoping - despite how illogical it is - that if she gets through it quickly, that will somehow bring about dinnertime that much sooner.

Chapter Text

He decides that if he is unable to look away from her, it remains that it is inappropriate to allow his attention to linger on the length of her legs or perhaps more specifically, the very edge of her undergarments which is revealed only by the way in which she must have turned in her sleep, the shirt she is wearing twisted around her waist so that despite its proportional length and size, both of which are much too great for her frame, it is not covering her as well as it might were it more neatly arranged.

He is aware that it is his shirt, but he can make no more sense of that than the very clearly discernible fact that she is sleeping on his bed, nor the reality of how limited his grip on himself is that he cannot seem to bring himself to find a more suitable place to look.

It is not that he is necessarily surprised to find her there, as her bag and shoes by his door and her glass of water on the table by the couch were indications enough that she had yet to leave. It is rather that he cannot quite understand the sight as he is unable to find a course of reasoning that would lead her to have fallen asleep like that, the issue of how she came to be in possession of his shirt aside.

The closure of the bathroom door behind him would bring a feeling of something like relief at being alleviated of the sight of her sleeping like that on top of his bedspread, if the emotion - as illogical as it is and as swiftly as he seeks to dispel it - were not countered by the sight of a damp towel hanging on the hook and the drops of water that cling to the walls and floor of his shower.

It is no matter. Nor is it unexpected, as she made clear her intention to shower when they spoke earlier.

He refolds the towel so that it will dry more efficiently, cleans his face and his teeth, and spends no more time thinking of her in the same space, neither conjuring up the image of her there only hours before under the spray of the shower, nor the memory of her hands gently unwrapping his bandage, or the way she pressed against him as he stood in the same spot he is now, his hands in her hair, her head tipped back and her mouth open under his, impatient and eager.

He sets his toothbrush down with more force than is necessary and turns on the faucet.

The replicated soup from the mess hall was, as ever, over salted. He fills the glass, drains it, and refills it once again.

While he was intending to meditate upon his return to his quarters, he does not wish to disturb her unnecessarily with the scent of incense nor the flicker of the candle, so he contents himself with reviewing the schematics of the Enterprise’s botany labs, preparing for staff evaluations, and returning messages.

When his inbox is empty and his desk cleared of work, he is forced to acknowledge that there is nothing else that immediately necessitates his attention. He is similarly aware of the fact that he is not entirely alert, a combination of a lack of meditation and the demands of his work over the past days and weeks.

He elects to dismiss the fact that since he returned to Earth he has not slept as regularly and as deeply as normal. It is not the first time that his human genetics have, for all intents and purposes, seem to have chosen to keep him from falling asleep in a timely manner. With sufficient mental discipline, his routine will return to a more typical schedule. His inability meditate tonight as a way to usher that occurrence along is less than ideal, but acceptable.

That the reason he finds himself unable to settle his thoughts each night happens to be asleep on his bed, he also chooses to ignore, and so too does he disregard the sight of her as he enters his bedroom and crosses to his dresser. No matter how often his thoughts turn to such, it does not do to dwell on uncertainty and especially not the continued undefined nature of his relationship with her.

If it can even be classified as a relationship, beyond the base definition of the word as surely the term applies to the connection between a professor and teaching assistant.

He finds his hesitation upon unzipping his jacket unacceptable. Acting without clear intention is illogical and inefficient, but so too is removing his clothing in her presence without her acquiescence to do so, and yet the notion of undressing in his bathroom seems peculiar and atypical.

It is simply his jacket. She has seen him in far less. Touched him, too. Stripped his clothes from him and pulled his body down on top of her own, her nails dug into his skin and her legs curled over his waist.

Compounding their shared history - which he wills himself nearly unsuccessfully to disregard as such lines of recollection are almost always dissatisfying in their existence as memory and not current reality - she did not elect to make an effort to fully dress herself, which certainly is of some significance, though he remains unable to discern what it might be.

He removes his insignia, places it where he always does on his dresser, removes his jacket and places it in his hamper the same as any other night.

His hands still, again, on the hem of his undershirt and he looks over his shoulder at her, unaware of when he turned away. It is not any other night. It is tonight and behind him, she is asleep on his bed.

Attempting to find the soothing and pacifying thread of logic in the situation is more difficult than anticipated. He again contemplates going into his bathroom and even reaches for a fresh shirt, only to pause yet again. It is his bedroom and she has chosen to sleep there, which does not necessarily mean that he should be expected or required to change his normal nightly routine. And yet, she is his guest and it is therefore incumbent upon him to ensure her comfort.

However, she is asleep and therefore unaware of his current actions.

Nevertheless, her state of consciousness in no way alleviates or excuses a lapse in propriety, especially as he continues to serve, as he did over the summer, as her supervisor.

Still, it remains true that she is not exactly dressed in a professional manner.

He changes his shirt in the bathroom and steps out of his pants before realizing that he did not obtain a garment to put on in their stead.

He opens the drawer as noiselessly as he is able in order to select the cotton pants he slept in at Pike’s, shutting the drawer after pulling them out, only to open it again and replace them. It would not, strictly speaking, be his preference to wear them, uncomfortable as they are. Doing so in a situation where he was required to sleep next to his advisee, when she was only his advisee and there was no indication of what was to come, was a circumstance quite unlike this current one.

Or nearly unlike. Similarities persist in ways that are so frustrating as to cause him to be nearly overwhelmed with a combination of dissatisfaction regarding the fact he remains her supervisor and the enjoyment he derives from the continued interactions between them the situation has made possible, no matter that those interactions have recently been stilted at best. They have existed and that is better than nothing, though less than what would be his preference, were his preferences all that mattered, which of course is not so as her wishes are of great importance, despite how unclear and unarticulated they remain.

He stares at the bed - not at her, but in the general direction of the bed itself.

Perhaps most significantly and above all other considerations, he cannot divine an instance in which it would be appropriate for a supervisor to join their supervisee in a bed, the circumstances of the summer notwithstanding. Nor can he answer why she elected to sleep with so few articles of clothing on, or to sleep at all, and on his bed of all places, not under the blankets as would at least be more typical, if similarly inexplicable.

Her chest rises and falls slowly, the rhythm matched to the other times she has slept in his pretense, both at Captain Pike’s residence as well as the nights she has spent in this very bed. Then, her skin was slicked with sweat, the sheets twisted and creased much as her - his - shirt is, and the impression of her touch had still been burned upon his skin so that with her beside him, he had been unable to distract himself from the memory of her fingers on him, her mouth pressed to his.

He retreats to his couch, sits, and examines the small pillow set against the arm. It is the one she leaned against when she napped there over the summer, the memory of which forces him to acknowledge that she has a certain propensity for falling asleep in various locations, at various times, and in various instances when it did not appear that she necessarily intended to - right here on his couch, with the lights on and her book in her hand at Pike’s, and in his bed reading job descriptions, her words mumbled when she protested him removing the padd from her grip and her body soft and slack against his, her hand curled over his arm and her breath whispering against his shoulder.

The blanket his mother made for him is sufficient covering and he can increase the heat in the room - the living room, not the bedroom as it is already well above Terran norms - if he grows chilled. It is a logical decision and moreover, preferable to not sleep next to her.

Or not preferable, precisely, but appropriate. Proper. Punctilious, even.

What is more, he is not entirely certain that even without the fact of their ranks and the relation of their positions, he would necessarily be welcome to sleep next to her, her lack of clothing and presence on his bed and in his apartment aside. Her displeasure with him earlier in the evening was… apparent. Overly so. Obvious in a way that left no room for misinterpretation, no matter her apology or the fact that she did not remove his hands from her person.

Which she did not, a fact that he was not entirely able to predict. Not that his uncertainty in the welcomeness of his touch would have dissuaded him from reaching for her, nor did it, as the urge to take any action, no matter how rife with risk that it would be ill received, was compulsive to the degree to which he did not believe himself capable of remaining still while she so clearly displayed signs of distress.

He thinks, as he did repeatedly during the course of the meeting he subsequently attended, of the way her shoulders shook, curled in on herself as she was, the sight of tears on her fingers as she attempted to wipe them away, and the way the moisture darkened the fabric of her skirt.

He had found the memory as intolerable now as he did during the meeting, and had similarly found it unbearable to not take the opportunity to call her, hence the need to meditate so as to better maintain control over those impulses.

Which he cannot do, as she remains asleep on his bed.

He wonders if she is cold, unclothed as she is and what with the way that human’s temperature decreases while asleep.

It is perhaps more probably that she is not and will awake overheated. That may very well be the reason she forwent obtaining more clothing.

If that is the case, she could quite likely become dehydrated, and while she clearly appropriated a glass of water at some point during her evening, she failed to bring it into the bedroom with her, leaving it poorly placed to be of any use to her.

He sets it within easy reach, should she awake, and takes a moment to attempt to ascertain her level of comfort with the current temperature, which is difficult as he simultaneously attempts to not allow his attention to linger on the length of her legs.

Meditation would be of great use in successfully achieving that goal. Necessary, even. Obligatory, it seems.

She shifts, turning more fully onto her back and he pulls his gaze away before he is tempted to observe the new ways in which the fabric of her shirt shapes and contours to the lines of her body.

It is inappropriate to remain. She is his assistant, his former advisee, former student, and will in all likelihood be under his command upon her graduation and probable assignment to the Enterprise. That she is sleeping in his apartment, having showered, having pressed her face into his shoulder and covered his hand with her own, having cried in front of him, called him while he was away from Earth, smiled at him, kissed him, changed his bandages, listened to the details of his life he had disseminated, guessed far more about his past than he would have ever thought to tell her, and shared a meal with his parents is of no consequence.

Without touching her skin, he carefully pushes the strands of hair that have fallen across her forehead back from her face, tucking them behind her curved ear, feeling her breath on his wrist and the softness of her hair under his fingertips.

He does not move when she turns her cheek into his touch, his attention on the rise and fall of her breath to ensure that she remains asleep, on the ways her eyes flutter, those long dark lashes blinking nearly open before closing again, her mouth working before slackening once more.

He edges the blankets back under her shoulder and reaches over her to similarly pull them down on the side of the bed that she is not occupying, the side on which he slept the nights she has shared his bed with him.

“Sit up,” he whispers and she makes a noise he believes he accurately interprets as discontentment as he eases his arm under her shoulders, her body so light and slim as he shifts her enough to tug the sheets down.

He covers her to her waist, pulling the blankets up to overlap the bottom of her shirt and waits, motionless, as she turns once more on her side, her hand and forearm sliding under her pillow and her other hand stretched out across the bed.

Tomorrow, when she wakes, her long fingers will be put to use opening the assessment that was sent to her, and the calm that has come over her expression will in all likelihood - certainty, really - be replaced with the strain she at times carries around the corners of her eyes, the tightness of her mouth that he would truly prefer to never again see her display.

Her desire for perfection is as admirable as it is illogical, and as much as he anticipates the ways in which it will only bring her continued distress, he cannot help but respect her persistence. It is one of many estimable qualities that differentiates her from all others he has met, and which makes him entirely unable to set aside his continued aspiration for her enduring and permanent presence in his life.

If the way in which that manifests is only to ever remain professional, that is acceptable. Not preferable, but acceptable nonetheless.

He recognizes the upwell of emotion that rises through his stomach and chest as a familiar one, though not one that is welcome nor comfortable, no matter how accustomed he is to the feeling of emptiness that he understands is a psychosomatic reaction to loneliness. Even as he detaches himself from the sensation and wills it to recede, he acknowledges that it is simply the anticipation of such, if Nyota is to be stationed on the Enterprise with him and their interactions are to be collegial and distant.

Now, though, he is not alone and he forces the feeling to ebb. She is in his quarters, where she elected to go above other options available to her, and she answered his call, and she, for whatever reasoning seemed rational to her at the time, felt a degree of comfort that led to her choosing less than complete attire which while not necessarily a harbinger of the type of relationship with her that he aspires to, is still greater than a wholly professional reserve and reticence, with which he might have otherwise been faced upon his return home.

She was not sitting on his couch bent over her work. She was, and is, asleep in his bed, having showered and dressed herself more comfortably than she does during the workday.

He crosses to the empty side of the bed and pulls back the sheets further, pausing to determine whether the movement wakes her. When she does not stir, he pulls them back entirely, then shifts his weight onto the mattress with the intention of disturbing her as little as possible.

That he is successful in not rousing her he chooses to view as a positive, despite a part of himself - which he dismisses as soon as it arises - that would have wished for her to open her eyes, to see the dim light fall across her face as she awakened, and to ascertain if she might have been compelled to smile at him.

He lays so that her hand, spread as it is across the bed, does not brush against him, though he is less successful in keeping his gaze from her fingers as he is his touch. He wonders, not for the first time and frustratingly probably not for the last, precisely what it is that she thinks, her views and opinions and desires for what exists between them.

It is similarly not the first time, nor likely the last, that he reasons that it is better to not know than to face disappointment, which dispels the urge to ever ask her, or to continue to dwell on the connection he could form across a touch to her hand or, more greatly and clearly, her meld points.

Instead of entertaining a possibility in which he broaches the subject, he instead compels himself to be content with her presence next to him, her hand stretched towards him, and the nearly imperceptible dip of the mattress towards her weight, a detail that is so small as to nearly be not noteworthy, and yet one which has been absent since before the semester started and he was called away for so long.

It is possible that this particular scenario will not again reoccur, so in the time that it takes for him to fall asleep, which is longer than is acceptable, he focuses on memorizing the moments he spends laying next to her, each one counted out in the soft sound of her breaths.

Chapter Text

“You’re going?” she asks, lowering her tea before she manages to take a sip of it, because she’s too busy staring at him. “Seriously?”

“I assure you that I am completely serious.” He’s still reading his padd and she watches him sitting like that, bent over his desk and not looking at her. “And I believe I made my intention clear.”

“Tonight?”

“That is when they are scheduled for.”

“But why?” She leans back in her chair, or the one she likes to think of as hers, the one that she sat in when she was his student and came to his office hours, and then the next semester as his TA, and now as his… friend, maybe. If that’s what it is that they’re doing, these evenings they spend together, these long hours and meals and cups of tea in his office after classes are done for the day, a habit that developed when she worked for him that hasn’t dissipated with the beginning of the new semester. He’s not exactly complaining about the number of days that end with her coming by, so she hasn’t exactly stopped doing it.

“I wish to attend.”

“There’ll be people there,” she points out.

“I am aware.”

“Crowds and crowds. And it’s loud. And you can see them well enough from here.”

“I am aware of those facts as well.”

“Besides, it’s the same show every year.”

“That is not, strictly speaking, entirely accurate. There are slight variations.”

She does sip her tea this time, staring at him and how he’s still scrolling through his padd. “Just… Fireworks, Spock? Really?”

“My intention of informing you of my plans was to ascertain whether you wished to join me, not to instigate an inquisition.”

“I’m just curious.”

“If you do not wish to come, it is by no means incumbent upon you to do so,” he says and still doesn’t look up and doesn’t stop scrolling and doesn’t stop reading, and she thinks of him lit up in golds and reds and blues, those dark eyes that are focused on the quiz he’s grading turned up towards the sky above them.

She leans over and taps her finger against the edge of his padd to get his attention.

“I’m coming,” she says and he’s still reading, but now he’s smiling too.

Chapter Text

There was a time she thought that dating a half-Vulcan might mean that a lot would slip past him. Some things do - gift wrapping on a present, the difference between wanting to go the gym and wanting to want to go to the gym, the utter necessity of knowing how that girl asked Gaila out, what she said and the way she said it, specifically. That comm call had lasted a while, and next to her where she was curled up on his couch pressed against him, her comm balanced on her knee while Gaila talked and talked, Spock's forehead had knit ever tighter as she plucked apart the intricacies of the invitation.

Some comm calls don't last that long and some things don't get by him.

"They can't come," she says, drops her comm on his table and doesn't care when it skitters away, slides dangerously close to the edge.

Or, rather, she does care but only in the sense that she shouldn't be used to letting it fall from her fingers like that, after conversations like those.

But that would only happen in a different life. Or if she were with a different him, but she wouldn't want him any different, any other possible way other than exactly how he is, along with everything that that means and brings.

"Cannot?" he asks.

She's a linguist. Semantics are her specialty.

She trails her fingers along the edge of the table, and when her throat tightens, hard, she raises one shoulder in a shrug and presses her lips together since her mouth keeps threatening to twist and tremble.

"It's not a big deal," she says instead of voicing that it's not can't, it's won't. She swallows, blinks back the burn in her eyes, and fixes him with a smile. Tries to at least, because it's him and she never wants to see that expression on his face that he has right now, the one she's seen all too often in these situations, her comm silent and dark after a call, and him crossing to her, looking at her like that.

"You are crying."

She's not. That involves tears actually falling and she raises both index fingers to press the back of them to her lower lashes so that doesn't happen.

"Nyota-"

She's not crying because she's not sad, because being sad doesn't accurately encompass the crushing sickness that's settled in her stomach, and she's not thinking about that because if she did, she might have to also think about the silence that came through over her comm once pleasantries were over and she had brought herself to ask, again, whether her parents had made travel arrangements for her graduation.

She had put on his sweatshirt while she spoke with them, the one he never wears because he doesn't wear sweatshirts, but she does, apparently, because she needed to be wrapped in something to make it through that conversation, and his arms weren't an option because there was no circumstance in which she was ever - is ever - going to subject him to listening to that. She tugs the sleeves down over her hands, wipes at her cheeks and lets him fold her into him like that, her forearms pressed to his chest and her head tucked under his chin.

"I'm sorry," she say, her voice wet and thick, speaks it into his neck because she absolutely can't look at him right then, can't even begin to have to see the softness he gets in his eyes when this - this shit happens, which it does, always, ever since she first pushed back the hammer of her heart in her ears so that she could hear herself tell them that the boyfriend she kept mentioning was not, strictly speaking, quite as human as they had assumed.

After that, all she had heard was her own heartbeat and the crackle of static in their answering silence.

"You are sorry?"

"It's not you," she says, presses closer, shoves her face into his neck and feels his hands rub over her back as her breath shakes.

She can practically feel him want to disagree with the accuracy of her statement, or however he'd say it, probably in a way that would be trying to get her to smile, but it's not him, not at all, because he got her an actual paper copy of her favorite book last month for her birthday and because he had walked with her to the gym even though it was out of his way because he wanted to listen to the rest of her explanation, and because the next time Gaila had called to discuss the details of the beginnings of a new relationship with a different person, he had listened just as attentively.

"Your parents are going to come, right?" she asks into the collar of his shirt. "Still?"

"Of course," he says because it's been five minutes, maybe, since she shoved the 'send' button and called her childhood home, and what could have changed in their plans since then, and because Sarek and Amanda have taken her out to dinner, sent her presents over the holidays, hosted her in their house twice now, and written with congratulations after all of her accomplishments in the last years, no matter how small. "I do not know what could possibly induce them to miss it."

She fists her hands in his shirt, rubs her cheek into the damp fabric over his collarbone. "Please don't think this is because of you."

He crosses his arms over her back, squeezes her the way she likes. "It is not because of you, either."

Chapter Text

The space next to Nyota at the bar is empty for maybe five seconds after Gaila goes to approach that Trill she’s been eyeing all night. Maybe three. She gave up counting a long time ago. Gave up looking at who’s come to stand next to her, too, since it’s just easier not to.

This guy, though, doesn’t say anything, which is odd. Nice, but he’s still standing there and she’d rather he didn’t.

He’s just ordering a drink, she hopes, though she swears she feels him looking at her and nope, he’s got a drink already, sweating on the varnished wood, a napkin placed neatly under it.

Too neatly.

“Good evening,” Spock says and she might find a way to respond to that if it weren’t so hard to reconcile the sight of him there, the din of the crowd around them and the underlying beat of the music when she’s used to seeing him in his office, his classroom, the mess hall, the library, the gym, that cafe, the one they go to with the scones she got him to try that one time, smiled as he picked at it with those long fingers of his which are now wrapped around a glass of what very well might be water.

It’s hard to calm the thrill that’s started up in her stomach at the sight of him, but she’s willing to blame her speechlessness on his sudden appearance and not the warmth it’s causing to spread through her. It happens. She’s used to it. Mostly. Wishes, sometimes, that it would go away but finds that it never does, just sits there and grows steadily until she often feels flushed when she’s around him, which is enough hours every week that she’s fairly resigned to feeling like this more often than not.

She could see him less. Doesn’t, though, won’t and wouldn’t want to.

“What are you doing here?” she finally gets out, makes herself sit up straighter and push her hair back, twisting it around her hand and trying to remember how to not stare at him. But he’s next to her. In a bar. And has been here long enough to have a drink and - as she watches him run his fingers over the edge of it - a napkin, and to have found her in the crowd.

She pulls her hand away from her hair, smooths her skirt, and finds that she’s smiling. “Also, hi.”

“I may very well ask the same of you.”

“Preemptively celebrating the end of midterms,” she tells him, making herself look away from the shirt he’s wearing.

She thought it was hard enough to sit next to him with that damn instructor’s jacket. This is…

She takes a sip of her drink, stares down at the ice and tries to not look up again.

“Midterm examinations have not yet begun.”

“Then it’s perfect timing.”

The collar of his shirt is laying against his neck just so. It looks soft. The shirt. His skin, too.

She drains the last of her drink, sets it on the bar with a hard clunk.

Her unrelenting and unshakable crush is mostly manageable when they’re working, whether it’s in his office or over lunch or in that cafe they seem to be going to more often than not lately which she tries not to obsess about too much, since with padds spread between them and the formality of their uniforms, she can more or less convince herself that she’s really mostly interested in that mind of his and the attention he pays to their work.

It’s not just that, not at all, but thinking about him any other way makes her heart pound in a way that feels sickening sometimes, too much and too fast.

“I have a favor to ask of you.”

“Of course,” she says, straightening further. An explanation of some drink, or her interpretation of some custom or idiom he stumbled across that he doesn’t understand, or some joke he heard, since he likes to repeat them back to her in order to learn what, precisely, is so funny. She likes that too, the way he says them in that dry way of his and there’s no way, no possibility at all that he’s lacking for a sense of humor, his confusion over Terran comedy aside, because more than once she’s been all too aware of his office door being open and how loudly he makes her laugh.

Or. Well, it’s a bar. And it’s the weekend. And he’s here, wearing that, and they’ve not exactly talked about their personal lives but they’ve not exactly not talked about the subject, either, and he’s single which she never really needed to know about him but she does - and wanted to, desperately - and it is entirely, utterly and horribly possible that of all the things about Terran culture she’s explained to him, this is about to be another one.

Her drink is empty. She satisfies with chewing on a cube of ice, the crunch satisfying under her teeth.

“It is rather personal.”

Her stomach twists. It’s not pleasant.

“Anything,” she promises.

“You may decline.”

“You helped me study for that xenobio exam, this can’t be worse than that,” she reminds him. It can, though. Is, maybe with that way he’s looking at her. “Tell me.”

“My companions,” he says and she’s not sure if she’s more surprised at the thought that he came with others than the notion he might have come alone. That he’s there at all is enough to addle her, and that he’s there next to her is doing the rest of the job so that she mostly just feels scattered, unsure of what exactly it is that she thinks she knows about him if he’s in a bar with a drink, in that shirt, one which she didn’t even know he owned.

She follows his gaze to where he’s looking behind him at a group of men, all human except for a tall Andorian who is grinning right at them.

“Friends of yours?” she asked though he’s never mentioned them, not once, no word of buddies of his that he apparently goes out with to bars, drinks with and who know him well enough that they’re all there, now, watching the two of them.

“The crew.”

“That’s-“ she starts, turns back towards the bar, grabs for her drink, though it’s still empty. “That’s Captain Pike.”

“Indeed.”

“They got you to come here?” she asks and he somehow shrugs without actually moving.

“Yes.” He turns his glass in a neat circle, spinning it against the bar. “Furthermore-“ He pauses, turns his glass again. “They suggested that I speak with you.”

“They did?” she asks, half turning to look at them again.

“Specifically,” he starts, picks up his glass and takes a sip. She doesn’t watch how his mouth looks or the way his throat works as he swallows. “Captain Pike, ah, offered in exchange for three days of leave, if I were to approach you and inquire after your communicator ID.” He says it quickly, in a rush, faster than she’s heard him say anything, ever.

She blinks at him.

There’s only one small part of this that makes any sense to her at all, that she can cling to and understand and respond to. “You have my comm number.”

He has now for ages, calls her sometimes in the evenings after work or on the weekends with something he read, or with a question for her, and once even though she waited for a reason or an excuse for why he called for their entire conversation an explanation never came up and she forgot to ask after it until afterwards, when he’d already told her goodnight and she had slowly folded her comm closed, unable to stop herself from immediately replaying their whole discussion over to herself.

“That is correct,” he says, takes another sip of his drink.

She’s still not watching the way he looks when he does that because she’s all together too focused on what he just said.

“I thought you didn’t take leave.”

“We negotiated.”

“And?” she prompts, picks up her drink again, but it’s still empty, so instead of taking a sip she watches as he turns over his shoulder again. The Andorian is still smiling at them and Pike looks up too.

“I told him I preferred a new bioneural polarization modulator.”

“Yes, well, what we wouldn’t do for a bioneural polarization modulator,” she says, trying to get her words to feel less thick in her mouth. “And you need this for…”

“Geological analysis.”

“Of course.”

“Indeed.” He finishes his drink, puts the glass on the bar and stands upright, like how he looked that first day she ever saw him, slightly stiff and very reserved, before she ever saw that tiny smile of his, learned anything at all about him, spent the hours together that they have and certainly and absolutely and definitively before he ever walked up to her in a bar and informed her that his buddies had sent him over there. “It is naturally not necessary that you comply as, as you yourself stated-“

“-No, no, it’s fine, I just-“

“-It is illogical,” he says and that makes her shake her head, makes her want to reach out and touch his hand, there, where it’s spread palm down on the bar, but she doesn’t.

“No, that’s not- I was…” She stares behind her, turns around again because she doesn’t actually want to be looking over there. “You’re really here with your friends?”

“It is my birthday,” he says, picks at the damp edge of the napkin in front of him, stares across the bar at the bottles of liquor, all neatly lined up and not deserving of the scrutiny he’s giving them.

She should have known, maybe, or guessed, or something because she’s known him for nearly a year now and it had to be sometime. He knew, he remembered it from some form or application and had brought her a cup of tea that made her go warm inside for no reason having to do with the steam curling up from it and asked after her plans, whether she was doing anything with her friends that night. She was, but she had lingered in the door of his office, her hand still curled around the mug because she hadn’t finished it yet, had found it nearly impossible to take the last sip since then it’d be gone and she’d be gone too, out into the night without him.

She should have asked him to come, knew it back then and knows it now as surely as she knows he’s not really seeing any of those bottles he’s staring at.

“Birthday boy wants a new geology lab?” she asks, keeps her tone light and watches his eyes slide over to meet hers.

“Bioneural polarization modulator,” he corrects.

“Bioneural polarization modulator,” she echoes. “Don’t we all.”

He brought her a cup of tea. She grabs a stylus from her bag and a fresh napkin from the stack on the bar and writes ‘happy birthday’ on a napkin, watches him fold it in half and put it into his wallet, feels as he does so the eyes of his companions on them.

“You’ll have to send me the lab results,” she says to keep him there a minute longer, to delay the moment he walks away, rejoins all of them. She’ll… find Gaila, maybe. Or go home. Pay for her drink and slide off the barstool, pull her jacket on and go back to her dorm, her bed, get up in the morning and study for midterms.

“Another?” the bartender asks, pointing to her glass, then Spock’s, and she finds herself nodding and he’s not shaking his head so they end up with two new drinks.

“Thank you,” Spock says to the bartender over the clamor of the crowd because he’s always so polite, always so careful to be courteous and and well mannered and kind in a way that never fails to get to her, down deep where it seems to settle in her stomach and stays there so that she’s ended up comparing most everyone else she knows to him, started noticing how and in what ways nobody else even comes close.

“Same tab?”

Spock looks behind him again. She doesn’t, just wraps her hand around her glass and feels the slick cold against her palm, steadying and grounding.

“Please,” Spock says.

“Thanks.” She meets his eye as she says it and he nods, short and abrupt as he stirs his drink, looks up at her, back down again.

She takes a deep breath. There’s that flutter in her stomach that took up residence the first day she walked into his class that hasn’t ever ebbed. Instead it’s grown increasingly stronger so that sometimes she’s not even sure she can talk to him, gets caught in staring at him and stumbling over words in a way that would be embarrassing if her mind didn’t blank every time it happened.

Her thoughts are buzzing now, too, watery and indistinct and rushed, tumbling this way and that, but she still manages to turn to him, gets her hand to reach out and nudge the barstool next to him out, pushes out the words to say, “You should stay and drink that with me.”

Unless you have to get back, are her next words but he’s already sliding onto the stool with all of the grace of his, that way he holds himself that she’s tried to and failed to get over.

“That was…” he starts and she waits to see what he’s going to say but he doesn’t finish the thought. Odd, for him, but ok, maybe, because she’s not exactly in fully control of her faculties either. She could blame it on the drink, but that’d be unfair.

He finally just gestures to his wallet and then says, “Kind,” and then takes a long swallow as she tries to not watch, but doesn’t bother trying hard enough.

“I can do better, you know,” she tells him and watches the way he lowers his glass again.

“Better?”

“Draw some balloons. A cake. Candles, even.”

“I did not know you were so artistically inclined.”

“I’m not,” she promises. “But I have a feeling that maybe you didn’t have any cake today and what’s a birthday with no cake.”

“Acceptable?”

“Hardly,” she says, and his mouth twitches and maybe he’s thinking about what she is, that first time that he said that to her in his office, when they’d been sitting there talking for an hour, maybe more, and when it had made her smile - something in the way he said it or his timing or just how he looked - he had smiled back and the memory of it is making her as warm now as it did back then, that first bloom of hot happiness that she hadn’t quite known what to do with.

She doesn’t know what to do with it now, but the answer probably isn’t going to be found at a noisy bar.

“Bet that cafe’s still open,” she offers, takes a swallow of her drink, steels herself, then gets herself to relax. He’s here next to her, not over there at that table where he was, not in his office or apartment but right there, close enough that maybe she can imagine being closer, still. “They have those cupcakes.”

“Such diminutive cakes? Is that an adequate substitution?”

He’s smiling. Not a lot and maybe not really even what can be termed a smile, but it’s there and it’s directed at her and she stands, pushes her drink away, shoves her stool in and nods towards the door.

“No. But let’s go get some anyway.”

Chapter Text

“There she is,” Pike says, gesturing up above them into the Iowa sun, so that they’re all staring up at the Enterprise rising out of the cornfields and backed not by a setting of stars but a bright blue sky and trails of clouds against it. What will someday be the whistles and pings of the computer, voices crackling over comm systems, and the ringing of klaxons seem far away with the sound of workers and welders and technicians calling to each other, the whip of the wind past them, and the staccato fall of boots against the ground, gravel crunching under foot until the even rhythm stops only feet from their group.

“Captain, do you have further direction as to where the-“

The turn towards him feels slower than it needs to be, a winding down of the moment they’re in, the space between his words stretching out, caught and held heavy in the air around them as she sees those eyes of his as they come up from his padd, as clear and as brown as she remembers, blinking at her from the same pillow, creased in amusement he wouldn’t admit to, soft that first night they kissed, gentler than anything she had ever seen. Has ever seen, since then, all that time ago and it’s still seared into her memory, etched there and chiseled in, how he always looked at her.

He seems thin. Or maybe not, maybe it’s just been a year since she’s seen him and he’s always been that slim, or maybe it’s his uniform, not instructor blacks but that blue of his science shirt he had traded for instead. The gray jacket she was so used to never fell loose around his waist like that. Instead it crumpled, ended up creased and wrinkled on his floor, let fall from fingers that were busy and searching and grasping so that it was left in a rumple next to his bed, forgotten.

That second, thicker stripe on his cuff seems to glint in the sun, too vibrant, too vivid and brilliant and it had been, hadn’t it, a reason enough to set off for the stars. They would talk, they promised, his whispered words still too bright in her mind, his lips and breath against her ear and his hand curled around his arm with how much he meant it, his thumb rubbing back and forth across her skin just how she liked. He had meant it, in that earnest and honest way of his. She had too, and they did talk and then they didn’t, and now they don’t, at all, a slow slip and slide into nothing, everything that was anything between them trickling away in a creep so prolonged that she had thought maybe the gradual fall of it all would be relief enough from how it did - still does - claw at her.

How much she misses him knifes through her, lodges beneath her ribs and twists her breath in her chest.

“-Replacement coil for the axial transition sensor might be found?” Spock finishes and she feels time wrench back into action in the hammering, drumming of her pulse that is pounding through her, the hot chill racing across her skin and that flutter, that certain jumping race in her stomach that always - always, since that first day and now, still, apparently, all this time later - starts whenever she sees him.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” Pike says, beginning to guide them all away and Spock doesn’t answer which is good because his voice.

As she moves past him she thinks for a moment that she can smell him, all clean laundry and soap and incense so that the memory of his apartment floats up in how the sun used to dapple the walls of his bedroom on sunny mornings, the way the varnished wood of his table felt under her nails as she drummed her fingers on it while doing her work, the particular feel of his carpet under bare feet, the wash of warm air whenever she opened the door, stepped inside to find him there waiting for her, already and always rising to greet her.

He doesn’t live there anymore. Moved out, emptied out the rooms, left on the Lexington and left her curled up in her bed, staring at the wall with the impression of their last kiss still burned into her.

She feels his eyes follow her and she feels herself hang on the precipice of a decision, the possibility of meeting them rife in the air around them both as she walks away.

Chapter Text

He’s fidgeting. He turns off the car rather abruptly, disengages his safety belt and then rests his hand on the door handle before opening it, a pause in his usual economy of movement, one which makes her watch him as he rises.

She’s had ample opportunity to observe him lately, each occasion as treasured as the next. They have been to dinner twice, to the beach to watch the fog roll in, to museums and concerts and even to a movie, prompting a discussion on the prevalence of Terran cinema and the lack thereof on Vulcan. They’ve covered topics from the intricacies of Andorian history to the latest parrises squares match and once, over a discussion of the new dilithium mining operation on Rigel V, he touched her wrist, laid his fingers over the fabric covering her skin. It felt like a confirmation of what they were doing with this time spent together, the warmth seeping into her so as she had walked home that night, her own hand had covered that spot on her sleeve. In turn, she has touched his shoulder, and twice taken his arm to point something out to him, something she could have used her words to draw his attention to but instead rested her hand on him so that she could feel how he turned towards her. There’s something delicious about the pace they have together cultivated, something frustrating and nearly painful in how it’s drawn out, makes her thoughts catch on the idea of him when they’re not together and ache for when they are, each word and action between them laced and layered with meaning in a way that it’s never been with anyone else.

He makes time feel elastic, minutes stretched and strung out in their long, winding conversations and hours that rush by so that they’re here again, outside of her dorm when she swore they just left, no matter that the sun that was hanging high in the sky has set and darkness has blanketed campus, leaving her feeling very much alone with him.

“Thank you,” she says as he crosses to her door, opens it, makes her think not for the first time that he researched Terran customs and manners and has been making judicious use of them.

He doesn’t respond but he often doesn’t, speaking no more often now than he ever did, back when she would find reasons to spend afternoons at his office hours and then later, prolonged evenings at her desk and he at his after they had finished their work. It’s always been more important to take note of what he doesn’t say and she appreciates the rest it gives her from the constant chatter of her profession.

It is not the first time they have stood so close together, so that it’s not the first time she feels the patter of her heart pick up in response to his eyes on her, the suspension of time and the world around them so that when he finally steps back it leaves her half surprised that anything else still exists, that campus remains the setting in which they are standing, with how thoroughly the whole of it is pushed out of her mind when he looks at her like that.

This time, he doesn’t step back very far and this time, his hands rise to close over her elbows. His hands aren’t shaking but she doesn’t think she would be surprised if they were, not with the watery tremble that his touch has started in her.

His kiss doesn’t come as a surprise but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some uncertainty to it, a hesitation and delay in how their mouths touch for that first time. He hasn’t done this before. She knows that - knew that - an unspoken and tacit understanding hanging in the air between them for some time now, one which is confirmed in how his nose bumps against her cheek, the too light and slightly misaligned brush of his lips on hers.

She wants to remember it forever. She wants his soft inhale to be seared into her memory, wants to carry with her that first impression of the sweep of warmth from his face so close to hers, wants to hold close how his thumbs press into the inside of her forearms, wants to tuck that somewhere deep down in her so that it’s with her always.

The desire to see what he’ll do next nearly keeps her still and unmoving, but she’s always met him halfway. His cheek is smooth and soft and two fingers pressed there is enough to hold him in place as she kisses him once and then twice and then until he responds to her, his fingers tightening and his head tilting into her touch.

“Goodnight,” she whispers to him when they part, keeping the words soft enough that she’s able to catch the shiver in his exhale, the sound this throat makes as he swallows. The slight distance between them does nothing to diminish how soft and gentle his eyes are, how his hands haven’t left her and how he hasn’t done anything to move away from her fingers, pressed now to his jaw.

She touches her thumb to his lips, thinks about at the time that will pass until she’s with him again, tries to hold that in the moment of being here with him now.

The crunch of the pavement under her boots is too loud as she walks away from him. She knows without looking, though she does, turning back at the door, that he waits until she’s inside before he leaves.

Chapter Text

The conference room falls silent when he enters. He cannot prevent the pause in his step that the quiet causes, though he hopefully adequately masks so as to not appear overly discomposed as he selects a seat next to Commander Amano.

“Commander,” Amano says and if he is scrutinizing Spock in a way that seems rather overt, it is neither here nor there.

“Commander,” Spock responds, placing his padd on the table and busying himself with flicking it on and reviewing the message Ho had sent that morning.

It is a needless action, as he committed her agenda for the faculty meeting to memory as he read it. Still. It is preferable to meeting any of the stares directed at him.

“So,” Lieutenant Irani says and Spock resolves to read more slowly, lest he reach the end of the message prematurely.

Nyota had said the same, a placeholder of a word, inefficient and entirely needless, uttered into the dark of the sidewalk as they had let the other officers walk away from them. When she had said it, it had carried none of the nuance the Lieutenant’s tone does, no layered and half-hidden implications, just a simple preamble to a handful of lighthearted remarks.

He is under no illusions that Irani intends anything but unconcealed and undisguised meaning and despite the amount of time he has spent cultivating better understanding of human diction and his longstanding desire to be even more proficient at such, he cannot help but wish he had been slightly less attentive so that he could more thoroughly disregard the weight behind the Lieutenant’s single syllable.

“How was your weekend?” she asks and he does not need to raise his attention from his padd to know that Amano is not alone in examining him.

He does not let himself prevaricate, neither by swallowing or scrolling farther through his padd, nor does he allow himself to ignore her all together. Similarly, he sets aside the brief hope that Ho will choose that moment to arrive and begin their meeting.

“Acceptable.”

“Sorry I missed you on Friday,” Irani continues.

He is not particularly sorry of the same, leaving him stymied as to how to best respond. Silence, as habitual as it is, seems the easiest avenue. It is not the first time he has employed such with Irani. It would simply be more fortunate were it more effective.

“Heard it was a good time,” she adds.

Her chin is propped on her hand and she is smiling, an expression of no ill intent but far more amusement than seems particularly appropriate given their current location of the department’s conference room. Engstrom has the grace to look away when he shifts his attention to her. Amano is still staring at him, his eyes slightly widened in what Spock takes as confusion, but might be something else all together.

Cretek… Cretek does not bear thinking about.

“It was passable,” he responds, though not before weighing whether continued silence might dissuade Irani more efficiently.

“Apparently,” she says, displaying the particularly human ability to speak while continuing to smile. “Would have been fun to be there, you know?”

Spock does not know, nor did he find the evening particularly enjoyable. Discrete segments of it certainly were, some of which he has dwelled on in the intervening days to a degree that threatens to be unreasonable, but as a whole it was not how he intended to spend the beginning of his weekend, nor how he presumed the night would unfold.

“Didn’t realize you frequented Moe’s.” Irani continues to stare at him, her mouth remaining in a smile, and now Engstrom has abandoned her pretense of studying her own padd and has turned to Spock as well, leaving him sure that a response is required and yet being unable, as ever, to begin to guess what an appropriate one might be. He does not frequent the establishment, as a single other occasion during his second year as a cadet surely does not qualify. Nyota might often be a patron there, though he remains unsure as to how, precisely, she spends the time she refers to only as ‘going out’, a label that he has heard other humans use and one that seems to be able to be applied to a variety of experiences.

“Amano,” Irani says when Spock continues to examine Ho’s agenda. “You should join us next time.”

“I had plans,” he answers, which only makes Irani’s smile grow wider. She exchanges a look with Engstrom that Spock is at a loss to translate.

“I heard that too.”

“And this week we have-“ Amano begins, then waves towards Spock in one of the overly effusive and ambiguous gestures that humans employ too often.

“We do, we do,” Irani says. “I can’t wait, especially to see who will be there.”

He dismisses, as best as he is able, the desire to lean further over his padd and chalks the urge up to a psychosomatic reaction to the rather overtly cajoling tone of the Lieutenant’s statement.  If Irani choses to dwell on the personnel in attendance this coming Friday, that is none of his concern so it follows that his response is unwarranted. That she wishes to engage in such a discussion should not and does not surprise him as his personal life has always been a matter of interest among his colleagues.  

Though, that there is now something to discuss is another thing entirely.

He is certain that there must be a way to diffuse the conversation, to turn Irani’s attention from him and to redirect it to more pertinent matters, such as the business of the department, their classes, or the imminent approach of midterms, though try as he might to land upon a topic that is suitably benign, he grows ever more certain that due to the fact that the only commonality between himself and Irani is the cadets they teach and supervise, as well as based on her clear enthusiasm for the subject, he will likely be unable to entirely alter the course of the conversation and may very well end up only encouraging her.

What is more, even as he attempts to focus on summoning something to say, he can feel his thoughts returning to the well worn path of the memory of Nyota’s hands on his shoulders, her mouth soft and responsive under his, the touch too brief to be in any way satisfying.

He is uncertain if it is relief he feels when Ho abruptly arrives or an irrational disappointment that he does not have yet another opportunity to linger on remembering how the streetlights played over Nyota’s eyes as she had opened them.

“Next semester,” Ho says without preamble, before she has finished arranging her padd in front of her and pulling her chair into the table. “Engstrom, you’re taking over Advanced Morphology.”

“Can I have Uhura?” Engstrom asks as Irani speaks her over to say, “I thought the Commander had that covered.”

He trains his attention back to his padd, willing himself to ignore Irani’s immediate snort of laughter as well as the ill disguised cough from Amano next to him.

“Well,” Ho begins and to her credit manages to prevent the smile that is clearly threatening.

“Sorry,” Irani says though Spock is hard pressed to find evidence in her tone that she is truly apologetic.

“The Commander is transferring to Computer Sciences,” Ho says simply and he cannot help but be appreciative that she does not dwell on the fact that he is not supposed to be in the department this semester in the first place. It was impulsive, at best, to offer to teach on such short notice, especially when combined with his other duties. Still, he cannot bring himself to regret it, no matter how full it renders his schedule.

At the conclusion of the meeting, he gives Irani no second chance to question him about his personal pursuits, though his hasty departure leaves him less than settled as he approaches his office, rendering him distracted as he opens the door.

It is not uncommon these days to find Nyota there, bent over her work in concentration, her back angled to the door and her legs neatly crossed, one foot idly tapping against the leg of her desk, but that does not mean he is entirely inured to it.

There was a time that he was quite able to dismiss the jump in his stomach that is currently threatening to rise. Of course, there was a time when she did not smile at him like she is now, when her expression was professional and cordial, edging towards a certain coolness that is at striking odds with how her eyes currently shine.

“Hi,” she says, does not greet him as ‘Commander’ or ‘Sir’ or anything else that has the trappings of their ranks and does not reach for him, though the motion before she shifts her stylus to her other hand leads him to believe she contemplated doing so. Once, he would have chalked that up to wishful thinking, pushed it aside and told himself to not read into mannerisms he is less than adept at understanding. Now, he is more certain of his ability to properly translate the hand she lays on the back of her chair and the way she turns to follow his movement towards his desk.

“How was your morning class?” he asks which is not enough, nearly, for all he wishes to know regarding how she has spent her days since they last spoke by comm, her voice filling the quiet of his bedroom, but as she answers him, he acknowledges to himself that it is at least more of a discussion than may have happened had they missed each other, her on her way to her next class and he detained as he often is by the schedule and concerns of other officers and students.

The past weekend was not sufficient time together either, an all too fleeting evening spent with her and the unfortunate company of others, which was followed by the knowledge that no matter how rarely he encounters her by chance on campus, there was no possibility of doing so while he was on board the ship, rendering the corridors and turbo lifts somehow more empty than it is typical.

There’s never enough hours in the day, Puri used to tell him, slinging his bag onto his bunk at the end of a weekend, their dorm room suddenly full of his presence in a way that it never was on Saturdays and Sundays, often the only times he and Arlene could spend together interrupted. Then, Spock had presumed it was an over exaggeration, the type of which Puri was - and still is - prone to.

Now, he is more willing to entertain the notion that the Doctor may have had a salient point.

“I just finished these,” Nyota tells him, uncrossing her legs and rising to place a stack of filmplasts on his desk in so efficient a manner that he cannot help but wonder if he alone wishes that she had not completed her grading so quickly.

Illogical, he tells himself firmly. Among Nyota’s many qualities is her speed finishing tasks while managing to not compromise the caliber of her work, a skill that is as clear now in her grading as it was when she took this same quiz as his student. He cannot help but recall how she had come to his office hours in the wake of it, bearing a question regarding her sole incorrect answer and he allows himself a brief reminiscence of her presence in his office then, an occurrence that at the time had seemed entirely innocuous and now in reflection strikes him as much more prescient. It had been mere weeks later that she had appeared again, first to approach him regarding her paper and next with her hands twisting together intermittently as she had proposed what seemed nothing other than an ill-advised practical joke.

He wonders if she too remembers that first day she came to his office, if the memory of it is at all as meaningful to her as it is to him. It is possible. He could ask her, perhaps, at a time they are not at work. She may well be amenable to such a discussion and he cannot help but imagine the tone of fondness her voice might take on as they recollect that day together.

It is one of the few memories of the spring that he is at all partial to. Those months had left him prone to bouts of disquiet interspersed with impatience as he faced the imminent dissolution of his bond and the unplanned future of what personal relationships might await him. He had been unable to picture how it might be to be freed of the responsibility to T’Pring that had been laid upon him at the age of seven, which admittedly rendered the particular shape and color of his best student’s eyes less distracting than they might have been, had he not been so wrapped up in his own thoughts.

Not that he did not notice. He had simply been more adept at not becoming nearly as preoccupied as is threatening now.

Voices rise in the hallway. He has the sudden urge to return to the door and close it, one that grows as Nyota’s attention shifts from him to the sound and then down to the stack of filmplasts under her hands. Illogical. The conversation between Irani, Cretek, and Engstrom is not sufficiently loud to compromise his focus on his work, nor will it last much longer as their offices are just beyond his.

He reviews the first of the quizzes in front of them as they walk past, so he remains unaware as to whether any of them take the opportunity to look into his office.

“Thank you,” he says when they are gone, tapping the filmplasts into a neater pile.

“I have a study group,” she says, her expression tightening into a grimace, one he chooses to believe is aimed more at her imminent departure from his office than the idea of reviewing her work with her fellow cadets. “So have a good afternoon.”

“You as well.”

She pauses once she has gathered her belongings, coming to stand in front of his desk once again.

“I’ll see you on Friday,” she says and with a soft tap of her nails against the surface of his desk, she is gone.

That first time she came to his office, he had no reaction to her departure other than the opportunity to resume his own work once more. Now, he listens to the rhythm of her footsteps until they are indiscernible, lost to the bustle of the hallway, and attempts to convince himself to will away the brief surge of warmth her words leave him with rather than give into the urge to savor it.

He was so uncertain last spring as to what being with a human would entail, and then spent what he found to be too long of a time attempting to imagine a more specific scenario in which Nyota was the human in question. Such thoughts left him with more questions that he would have thought possible, incomplete scenarios he mulled over, and internal debates over how such an experience would play out. Anecdotes from Puri and his other acquaintances were not sufficient to truly fill in the picture of what it was, precisely, that he was seeking. But perhaps, he thinks, as he lets himself look towards where her chair is imperfectly pushed in, allows himself to replay her words to him, and permits himself to remember how she hugged him, held his hand, pressed her knee to his, called him and asked him to join her - perhaps this is what it is like. Perhaps this is it, a string of theses moments that they spend together, the way each builds upon the next, his increasing certainty that there will be more to come and the chain that they form will be enduring, and the fact that when she sees him now, she seems reflexively compelled to smile, the corners of her eyes creasing as her expression lights up.

He will be with her on Friday, the thought of which greatly eases the fact of the event for the Enterprise that looms ever larger the closer it draws near. He saw her the previous Friday as well, no matter that it has apparently become the subject of some intrigue in the meantime. What was once a fragile, tenuous thread of hope that such instances would happen has grown into a much more substantial resolve to find a way to ensure that they continue to do so. It is entirely possible - probable, even - that what was a few discrete occurrences might now repeat themselves again and again and onwards into the future, that what began as a visit to his office months ago might move fully and entirely into an association that has little - or nothing - to do with their professional lives.

What is left, then, is to make certain that following the event for the ship, it is not yet another week until he sees her outside of his office for a similar social occasion. He lets out a long breath - an overly unrestrained gesture, but one which he finds he does not stop - and commits to land upon how, exactly, he will bring such an occurrence about.

And, he resolves, letting himself touch the edge of the postcard that remains on his desk, he will continue to contemplate, what, precisely, to write to her.

Chapter Text

“So,” Puri says as he pulls the chair out next to Spock’s.

“Yes?” Spock decides that he looks entirely too pleased with himself, especially considering how the Doctor had spent the entirety of Friday lamenting the scheduling of a meeting for a Sunday afternoon.

“It was a good game,” Puri says in a manner all together too calm and with a smile all together too large.

“Was it.”

“We won.”

“Did we.”

“You had Uhura up here.”

Spock calls up the document with the meeting agenda that Pike had sent around that morning. He has reviewed it, but not with the thoroughness needed.

“I did,” he acknowledges only due to the fact that Puri has yet to turn his attention elsewhere.

“Nice.”

There is no response Spock can land upon that is logical and as such, he elects to remain silent.

It is, as ever, the wrong choice.

“What did you two do?”

“She wished to see the ship,” he says which is succinct and accurate and unfortunately therefore unlikely to assuage the Doctor’s curiosity.

“Come on,” Puri says predictably, in a tone that Spock interprets as cajoling. “I need something more than that.”

“You do not,” he says, resolved to share none of the myriad of details that he has been mulling over since she left.

“What did you show her?” Pike asks and Spock shuts the screen of his padd off. If he did not notice the Captain’s arrival it is the fault of attempting to review pertinent documents while also attempting to maintain a conversation with Puri and as the Doctor is not easily dissuaded, it will not be the first instance in which it has affected Spock’s attempts to complete necessary tasks.

“Sir,” Spock says.

Puri chooses to not greet the Captain but instead exchanges a smile with him that Spock would prefer to at least not witness, even if he cannot prevent its occurrence in the first place.

“Well I hope it was fun,” Pike says when Spock continues to not speak. The consequence of such silence is a look from Puri that Spock has seen before, one that is often accompanied by the Doctor informing him that he knows well what it is that Spock is doing and that employing such diversionary tactics is not welcome nor appreciated. For the sake of efficiency as they are, in fact, at the beginning of a staff meeting, Spock chooses to not meet Puri’s eyes lest the unspoken become spoken and Spock is once more forced to ensure the Doctor that that is not necessarily what is occurring.

“What was fun?” Hawkins asks as he too arrives and Spock very nearly turns his padd on again when Puri answers entirely too quickly.

“Spock had Uhura up here for the weekend.” Puri smiles at him after saying it and then adds in a way that is considerably less than convincing, “Sorry.”

“That is fun,” Hawkins says and Spock’s assumption that the topic would ebb due to the need to begin their meeting is proven false as Pike leans back in his chair, looking right at him.

“Quite the weekend, then, wasn’t it, Mr. Spock,” Pike says. “Between that and Friday.”

Spock is unsure how to answer and while he is not often relieved to find McKenna walking towards him, the other man’s presence and Olson’s behind him does serve to divert the Captain’s attention, an occurrence he finds fortunate. Or would have, were it not apparent that the two men heard enough, if not the entirety, of the conversation to that point.

McKenna gives him the same look that he has on every occurrence in which Nyota’s name has arisen, one that Spock is at a loss to parse and one which he is not entirely certain that he wishes to, were he able.

“Had the ship to yourself, didn’t you,” Olson says in a tone that Spock does recognize and as such chooses to not spend an undue amount of time focused on.

“I’m just glad the calibration actually got done,” Pike says causing Puri to laugh in a manner that Spock can only term a snort. The Captain’s statement has the unfortunate secondary consequence of provoking Spock to open his mouth to inform him that he would not have overlooked such a duty, only to close it again, unwilling to actually engage in the discussion.

“Spacedock’s engineering department was able to complete repairs on the starboard electromagnetic degeneration coil over the weekend,” he says instead and furnishes Pike and Olson both with a filmplast detailing the update. He would give Puri one as well but he is resigned to the fact that it would not be nearly sufficient to dissuade him from his preferred topic.

“What’s worse,” Puri says later, as they file back out of the conference room. He trails Spock down the corridor to his quarters. Spock stops in front of the door without triggering it to open, sure that the state of the interior will only provoke Puri to further unwanted commentary. “Or best, maybe, is that now you’ve left it all up to our imaginations. I’m going to spend the whole day thinking about this. Thank you for that, Spock, truly. Generous of you.”

“I would suggest you apply such enthusiasm to your work, Doctor.”

“If by work you mean wife, then you and I are on the same page, my friend,” Puri says, aims another smile towards Spock’s closed door, and leaves him there in the hall, lamenting the fact that due to the machinations of the Academy housing lottery Puri was introduced to his life in the first place.

He enters his quarters only when the Doctor has exited the corridor, taking in the sight of his bed, imperfectly straightened, and the used dishes left on the corner of his desk. Later, he will change his sheets, return the plate and mugs to the mess hall, and procure a dinner for himself that is likely to be entirely lacking of the flavor combinations of what Nyota brought. The hours will pass filled with his work and eventually sleep and tomorrow he will return to Earth, to sunshine and fog and the bustle of the city and his life there that he has created for himself, fuller now than he would have ever anticipated could be possible. Now, he sits at his desk in the perfect silence of his quarters, the quiet only broken by the clink of the dishes as he sets them further aside, and his focus only interrupted by thoughts of the night before and what waits for him in the future, time stretching out unduly and illogically long, and his work inexplicably tedious as he pulls his padd towards him to begin.

Chapter Text

The lights that they dimmed are enough to echo the lateness of the hour and to give the impression of Earth’s night despite the perennial darkness of space beyond the window and the harsh brightness of the corridor. With her laid out before him in the center of his bed, sheets and blankets twisted into the pile they have been kicked into at the foot, and a smile playing over her mouth, he decides he is content with the inability to tell the time from the glow of the sky or the sounds of the city, the stillness of the ship and consistency of the subdued light lending themselves to the sense that for this night, in this room, time is not passing.

Illogical, he acknowledges, fanciful and irrational. He hooks a finger under the length of hair that spreads across her bare breast, pushes it over her shoulder and watches as her smile widens, her eyes blinking slowly under his touch.

“And this one?” he asks, his finger next pressed to a mark on her knee.

“Learning to ride a bike.” Her skin is as soft there as it is everywhere else and he feels a tendon move as she shifts. The scar is not large, only a tiny sliver. She points to a longer one halfway up her thigh and he touches that as well, then covers it with his palm, his fingers wrapping around the top of her leg. “That one is from that training exercise out in Yellowstone. I slipped and fell on a stick.” Her nose wrinkles slightly. “I wish it were a better story.”

She licks at her lips when his fingers trace up her thigh and despite how her hips shift against the bed, he continues the path upwards, counting out her ribs with a fingertip pressed to each one, finding the softness at the inside of her elbow, the hard and delicate ridge of her collarbone. Along her waist, a light touch pressed there makes her squirm and he follows the movement of her body as she twists on the sheet, her hand slapping lightly at his side in what he assumes is a signal to stop. He does, but not before she laughs, her stomach tightening and every muscle there tensing with the motion.

“You are ticklish,” he states, her nod a confirmation of that new fact. She catches her bottom lip between her teeth as she continues to smile at him and he looks away only to examine the spot on her skin that elicited such a reaction.

“Don’t,” she instructs when she correctly guesses his desire to touch there once again.

He does not, but his fingers do find a similar place higher on her ribs, her response stronger this time with how she twists away. The sound of her laugh is one he has grown accustomed too, but the sight of it written out in her body remains new, something to be studied, categorized, and committed to memory as details he once did not even know to wonder about and now contribute to his ever expanding knowledge of her, filled in here with these hours spent in his bed, the meals they have shared together, and their lengthy and winding conversations that serve to add to his understanding of the intricate details of her. With each interaction it seems that there is always more to uncover, features to her that leaves him wondering if he will ever understand her completely or if it will always be like this, every new fact learned uncovering a new question to ask.

Her skin is damp with sweat and when he bends to kiss next to her navel, it is tacky under his lips and tastes of salt. Her fingers scratch through his hair and he stays there for longer than he had intended, ignoring how his back protests at the position in favor of her nails light against his scalp and how her thumb rubs at a spot behind his ear that causes his eyes to fall shut.

He moves only when he hears her yawn, but she is already shaking her head, answering the question he has yet to voice as to whether she would prefer to finally sleep.

“Come here,” she says when she drops her hand where she has pressed the back of her palm to her mouth. Her kiss is soft and slow when he meets her halfway, her propped up on an elbow and him kneeling over her. She lays back again when he shifts further forward and kisses him harder and more insistent when he switches from lightly stroking over her stomach to firmly palming her waist, the top of her thigh, down to her knee and then back up again, her leg rising into his touch. Her knee falls outward when he presses at her inner thigh, her teeth catching at his lip. She breaks their kiss when his fingers find her, her throat working in a swallow and her head falling back into the pillow.

So too is there more to learn with this, every movement of his eliciting a reaction in hers, some that he is able to anticipate and yet always the possibility of an undiscovered response. With a touch here, her breath hitches, and there, she draws in a short, sharp inhale. He slicks his thumb, presses and her chin tips up towards the ceiling, her mouth working soundlessly. Her hips shift against the bed, moving with his touch. The stimulation to his fingers is enough that he has fisted his other hand into the sheets without realizing it, only loosening his grip when the strain is enough to be noticeable above the unfurling, coiling pleasure that has taken up residence in his hand, his stomach. He wonders if he will ever grow used to this and in the moment that the thought coalesces he immediately dismisses it, not as he might once have due to an uncertainty as to the enduring possibility of their future together, but the categorically unequivocal reason that to do so would be impossible.

He is studying the sight of his hand on her, in her, fingers wet in the dim light, when he feels her eyes on him. Her hand pats at his shoulder, curves around the back of his arm and pulls him forward. There is a familiarity with this that takes him aback, the slide of her knee up his side, the grip of her thighs at his waist anticipated and expected, perhaps even before he knew to predict it. He is well acquainted with breath she lets out against his cheek when he pushes into her, as is he to the heat that immediately takes up residence at the base of his spine. He might have expected it to be more muted now, less insistent and unremitting, but repeated exposure to the stimulation that seems to be firing all of his synapses at once in a way that leaves him reeling, seems inadequate to diminish the need that crests in waves and breaks through him with every movement within her.

Her hands knead through his hair and her leg tightens over his waist and he bends to kiss her, attempting to focus on the progression of sounds she makes, how her body begins to tremble, controlling his own response to her skin pressed to his and how her hips move with him, and also the necessity of breathing. When the latter becomes too pressing of a demand, he drops his head to the pillow next to hers and listens to the soft gasp against his ear, the low, cut off whine that follows it. It is a sound he has heard before, one that he has memorized and long remembered, the timber and pitch unique as it is to her. His previous familiarity to it does not lessen his focus on it now, and serves only to center his attention upon it and the accompanying way in which her fingers scrabble at his back and her entire body tightens.

Afterwards, when he has stilled and his breath has yet to even out, her legs do not loosen from their hold on his waist. Her hand cups the back of his neck, the other sweeps down his back, up again, and down once more. She presses a kiss to his cheek, the corner of his jaw, down the side of his neck to his shoulder where her lips touch over and over. He knows there will be no mark there in the morning, not from the soft touch of her mouth on him, but that does not outweigh his certainty that he will bear signs of tonight all the same, laid down deep within him, immutable and fixed, lasting in a way that he might once have believed impossible and now carries with it a surety of the future he still finds difficult to truly comprehend, no matter how confident he is of it.

Chapter Text

They reach for the padd on his desk at the same time.  His hand is hot and dry and his fingers bump hers and she’s sure, then, in that heartbeat space of an eyeblink that her breath stops and her pulse too and that the world hangs still around them.  She can see the way the light falls over her hair, the corner of her own mouth, the shadow of her earring laying on her neck, just below the spot behind her jaw that nearly pricks with how he’s staring at it.  She hears the tick of the sounds of the math of his mind, the order of his thoughts and the stillness like oil on water, thick glass over a turning, churning, eddy of all of him that he holds back, hears it fracture and bend and break as he realizes what she now knows, a crashing, deadening silence before his skin is gone from against hers and he’s halfway across the room, his boots striking and falling against the tile and his eyes not on the sweep of her hair but on a filmplast that she knows he’s not really seeing.

He taps it to his palm, picks up two more and is gone from the room as her mind repeats to her ‘professor’, followed by ‘officer’, followed by all the questions and all the wonderings and all the half formed dreams she won’t and hasn’t and will try to continue to not allow herself, the entirety of her focused on the empty space in the door he left through and the receding buzz of him in her mind that she doesn’t want to let fade.

Chapter Text

“You could lose your job,” she says because they should be talking about this rationally, sensibly, not sitting with silence stretching between them as he continues to scroll through the announcement sent out by the Academy deans that morning.

Their stated intention to ‘reassess approved interactions between commissioned and noncommissioned individuals’ is all well and good if it didn’t affect her or, more specifically, Spock, who has yet to touch his food and apparently no intention to.

“Eat,” she says, pushing his plate towards him across his table that they sit at nearly every night, the meal that he made her still steaming. Her favorite, for no particular reason other than that it’s Tuesday and she likes the way he makes curry and he likes to make it for her.

She chews, makes herself swallow, and doesn’t blame him when he barely glances at the bowl.

“Only if they decide to change the regulations,” he says and she wants to push a laugh past the knot sitting in her throat, wants to hear it come out strangled and hurt because then that’d be something, at least, some sound to break the quiet they’ve been sitting in, the hard silence of his quarters that is always so peaceful at the end of a day.

Now the rooms feel too small, the ceiling too low, and time too short.

“They won’t,” she says. They will, she knows.

He knows it too, looks up at her across the table, the one she did her homework at for months, the one they spread papers and padds and food across night after night, the one he leaned across too few weeks ago to kiss her right in the middle of their conversation, kissed her as she smiled and cupped his head in her hands and kissed him back, knew as she did so that this was it, with him, for good, for what she imagined then to be forever because how could that even begin to be enough time.

“Will you-“ she starts, has to try again to get the words out without them sounding too choked. “Will you eat? Please? With me?”

She’s about to shove the padd away from him when he does it himself, drops it on an empty chair, out of sight, and as he dips his spoon into his dinner, she tries to think about how happy she is, always, to be here with him like this, not that these nights might - do - have a number on them.

Chapter Text

Officers don’t sit with cadets on these types of shuttles, which is fine because officers don’t date cadets either, and Nyota doesn’t date professors to begin with, which doesn’t go very far to explaining how she has been doing exactly that, but does account for why, despite what is now two dinners and three lunches and one touch of his hand to her back that set her heart racing, she’s two rows behind him, staring out the window and wondering what, precisely, it is that they’re doing.

Returning from Spacedock is the easy answer, another training sim successfully completed and a weekend of homework waiting for her, though that doesn’t erase the entirely more intricate and complicated and deliciously messy fact that he had very much and very slightly smiled at her when she had gotten done and that he could have left for Earth already but had instead waited for her and her shuttle and her similarly alphabetically disadvantaged classmates that had them returning to campus later than anyone else on a Friday afternoon.

She shuts her eyes and smiles and lets out a breath that she tells herself isn’t a sigh, over which she hears the Lieutenant next to him say, “I think I slept the entire way back from my first space jump, too.”

“Enduring the gravitational forces can be fatiguing.”


“Listening to Johnson explain the procedures is fatiguing,” the Lieutenant says.

“And necessary.”

“Sure.”


There’s silence again and the soft sounds of her classmates dozing like she might if he weren’t there so near to her, and then, “Any weekend plans, Commander?”

“Perhaps,” he says and she lets the corner of her mouth curl, lets herself entertain the idea of giving in to that flip in her stomach.

“That, uh-” It must be the Lieutenant shifting because Spock wouldn’t do that, make his chair flex like that enough that she could hear it, someone turning around to check behind them.  “That one?  In Comms?  O’Conner said… That’s your girlfriend?”

There’s a pause.  “Yes.”

“Nice,” the Lieutenant says and Spock doesn’t say anything else and when the shuttle lands her heart is still a pounding flutter.  She finds him in the crowd where he’s lingering in what she’s sure is a very logical way and watches how his eyes brighten when she smiles at him.

She can nearly see the dance around each other that they normally do.  She’ll ask what he’s up to, he’ll have some reason to walk back towards campus right then and her dorm will be on the way, and when they get close to somewhere that serves food one of them will mention being hungry and the other will say they’re not in any rush to get wherever it is that they’re going that they’ve ended up walking together, again, like they have so often now.  She can almost hear it, the delicacy and the prevarication and the careful casualness that hasn’t felt anything other than earnest and important and more significant than most other things she’s ever done, ever since that first time that she admitted to herself that he makes her smile in a way that nobody else has.

“Dinner?” she asks and it’s as easy as that because he nods and they leave the shuttle behind them as they walk away together, the night stretching out in front of them with an openness that makes her heart pound as surely as does his presence beside her.

Chapter Text

He finds Nyota in the privacy of the stairwell off the large function hall in the middle of removing her left shoe.  As he watches, she delicately toes it off and raises her foot to rub at her heel.  There is a blister forming there and while he is not beyond admitting a certain… interest in the aesthetic appeal of her chosen footwear, he does acknowledge that the type of shoe worn for an event such as this is entirely less practical than the boots that accompany her cadet uniform.  Of course, she is not in her normal uniform and though he has found a similar preoccupation with the dress she has chosen as with her heels, her actions at the moment are sufficiently distracting from even that.

When he finally raises his attention from how her fingers rub against her foot, he finds her watching him, though the way her mouth is pulled into half of a smile is quickly replaced by a yawn.

“Sorry,” she says, her hand rising from her foot to press the back of her wrist to her mouth.  “I just wanted to get some air.”

“You are tired.”

“A little,” she says and accompanies the admission with a lift of her shoulders that he is certain is intended to diminish it.  The fact that she yawns once again belies any further dismissal and when he crosses to her, he cups her bare shoulders in his hands.

“You are not required to remain here.”  In retrospect, the fact that he was so thankful that cadets were also invited to this function should have perhaps been tempered by the realization that due to the numbers of officers attending, he would have entirely too little opportunity to be in her company in any meaningful way.  He pushes away the disappointment that wells up in him.  They spend as much time together as they are able, and wishing for more is a markedly useless pursuit as neither are able to make any significant change to their schedule that would result in the type of substantive shift in their availability that he is willing to admit to himself that he desires.

“No, it’s ok, Gaila’s-“ Nyota yawns again and waves the hand she raises to cover her mouth once more in a gesture that he interprets as meaning that her roommate is currently occupying their room and is in need of continued privacy.  “And you need to stay, anyway.”

As he cannot disagree with that fact, he remains silent.  She creates enough space between their bodies to remove her remaining shoe before stepping into him and wrapping her arms around his waist.  With her in bare feet and him in the shoes that accompany his dress uniform, the difference in their heights is exacerbated to the degree that it is simple, and therefore entirely logical, to press a kiss to the top of her head.  When he does so, she tightens her grip on him and he is able - with what he believes is a fair degree of accuracy - to picture the smile on her face that accompanies the motion.  As it is, her head is tucked against his chest in a way that prevents him from seeing her expression, the delicate and meticulous way she has arranged her hair instead taking up his view of her.  He touches the twist of one braid before deciding that given the degree to which her dress exposes her shoulders and upper back, he would much prefer to replace his hand where it was.

“We can go back in.”  Her voice is soft enough that he finds it reasonable to bend down closer to hear it.  “I’m awake.”

He threads his fingers beneath the thin straps of her dress and does not resist the urge to repeatedly pass his thumb over the shape of her shoulder blade beneath.  “I am not entirely sure that is accurate.”

For longer than is strictly necessary, given his required presence in the function hall behind them, he continues to hold her against him.  It is when she sinks further into his chest, relinquishing more of her weight into his body, and when she yawns once more, that he rubs his hand down her back and bends towards her to say, “If you would like, you should drive my car back to my quarters.”

“I don’t want to leave you here alone.”  It is a response he can anticipate before she began to voice it, and it comes quickly and resolutely.

He touches her cheek with the back of his finger.  “I will manage.”

She shifts enough to peek up at him.  He does not remove his finger.  “How will you get home?”

“I believe that given the thoroughness of my Starfleet training, I have gained the skills necessary to find a solution.”

“Hmmm, I don’t know…”  She takes a half a step back, though even with the distance now between them, he does not remove his hands from her.  Her own palms smooth down the front of his dress jacket, followed by her eyes as she studies the same path.  She smiles, the tip of her tongue caught in her teeth.  “I’m not entirely sure I want to leave you here looking like that.”

He attributes the peculiar sensation her hands elicit to the unhurried nature of her touch, though when she repeats it, this time her fingers tracing over his chest, he allows that her scrutiny of his attire might be a compounding factor.

He clears his throat.  “Perhaps you are not as tired as you initially appeared.”

Her earrings graze her neck as she tips her head back to laugh.  “In that case-“  Her finger hooks into his collar and she gives it a light tug before she is quite suddenly readjusting the straps over her shoulders and bending to retrieve her shoes. “-You better hurry to get done here.”

The touch of her lips to his is entirely too brief, though she does remain near to him as she whispers “Thank you” before slipping away.  He allows himself the indulgence of watching her descend the stairs, and even when she is out of sight remains where he is long enough for her footsteps to reach the ground floor, and for the door there to open and then close behind her.  Given the remaining time he must spend here in attendance, the inefficient route of the bus and distance from the bus stop to his apartment, she will likely be asleep when he is able to join her.

Though, he could walk home.  Quickly.  Or take a taxi, which is an uneconomical use of both credits and resources given the availability of public transportation.  

Or simply excuse himself from the event early.

He presses her ID on his comm.  It is, as always, easily found at the top of his recent contacts.

“Ten minutes,” he says when she answers.  She laughs again.

“I”m going to start counting now,” she says and he once again conjures the image of how she might be smiling.

As he reenters the room with the aim of leaving again as quickly as is possible, he tugs at the hem of his jacket.  The imprint of her touch and his own awareness of her particular attention in that moment has yet to entirely fade, and he straightens his jacket once again as he begins to calculate how quickly he might conclude his obligations and rejoin her.

Chapter Text

“We’re boring.”

“I am nearly finished.”

“No, I mean that you and I are boring not-“ She waves towards their consoles, lit up bright like the rest of the bridge, despite the late hour. “This.”

Though it is. She leans back in her chair and lets out a breath. Spock barely looks up from the screen in front of him.

“You are not required to wait for me.”

She crosses her arms. “I know.”

It’s just that there’s not really anywhere else that she’d rather be, and the fact that she’s actually content sitting at her console on a rare free evening is making her annoyed. She kicks at the floor, her boot squeaking against it. It would figure that of all the nights that they don’t need to be on the bridge, of all the evenings she could have gone with Scotty and McCoy and the rest of them to enjoy the offerings of the space station they so recently arrived at, she would have decided that she was tired enough that keeping Spock company while he finished work was somehow preferable. And the worst part is that it is better.

Which probably means she should go. It’s not too late, except that even the thought of changing into anything other than her pajamas makes her close her eyes and sink further into her chair.

When Spock finally completes his work, he turns his chair towards her and tips his head to the side. “What is the matter?”

She points to herself, and then to him, and then to the otherwise empty bridge, bright lights winking over unmanned station. Everyone is out drinking and eating and enjoying some time away from the ship. Nyota mostly wants a cup of tea and maybe for Spock to rub her back for a little while. “We got boring. We used to-“

She just gestures to the air again. Go out to dinner. Go to plays and concerts and museums, new restaurants and different cafes and out to lunch on a weekday just because. And even though those aren’t really an option on the Enterprise like they were during those years at the Academy, she still thinks about it sometimes. Not maybe the schedules they kept back then, never enough sleep and hardly enough time together, but the rest of it, everything they would do together to fill the scant time when they weren’t working, squeezing each other into the edges of each day, finding minutes here and there amidst their meetings and classes and responsibilities and constantly packing in so much with each other that she would end weeks dizzy with exhaustion and not nearly finished spending time with him, always waiting to see what they would do with each other next.

Tonight, she has laundry to do, and she’s pretty sure that Spock is nearly out of clean socks too.

“Mr. Sulu repeatedly extended an invitation to you to join him.”

“No, I know, that’s not the point.” She rubs at the bridge of her nose.

“I could accompany you.”

She gives him a small smile. Could, not would. He doesn’t want to and she isn’t going to ask him, not now any more than she did when they were back on Earth. Then, they would eat dinner together before she went out with her friends and more often than not she’d crawl into bed with him in the middle of the night, her dorm room both too quiet and too full of Gaila when she could be curled up next to him, the long walk through campus entirely worth it to slip between his sheets and find him there warm and waiting for her.

“Remember that time you came and picked me up from that club downtown?” He nods because of course he remembers even though it was years and years ago, back when her friends had been shy around him, the tall Vulcan Commander she was seeing, the one who was so quietly funny and bordered so much on something that seemed a lot like playfulness when they were alone that she couldn’t figure out what others found so terrifying about him. He remembers everything, always, and is very likely - or at least hopefully - remembering everything else about that night, the rain that she hadn’t wanted to walk home through, his offer to come get her, and the… opportunities that being alone in a car together in a deserted parking lot provided. She squeezes her eyes shut. “It’s you and me. Spock, we’re going to go back to our quarters and have sex for ten minutes and I’m going to go to sleep and you’re going to find some other work to do until you fall asleep too.”

He blinks. His head tips further to the side. “It is longer than ten minutes.”

“Is it?”

Since the first time she met him - her hand shooting in the air to ask a question about his slides - she’s always loved that look that he gets when he thinks, that inwardly drawn focus, how his eyes track back and forth, how his lips push outward slightly. Now, a crease appears between his brows. “Technically while the average might be-“

“Spock.”

If she didn’t know better, she would think that he sighs. “It is not an inaccurate approximation.” And then, quietly, “Are you unhappy?”

“No, Spock-“ She slips out of her chair and towards him, crowding into the space between the outward curve of their console and his legs, the spot that she never stands while they’re on duty but always thinks she would like to. “That’s not what I meant at all.”

The corners of his eyes crease. “I do not understand.”

“I just sometimes miss how it was.” She means before everything - Vulcan. Khan. The wasteland that was made of San Fransisco, that city where they had grown to love each other - but also the rest of all that has happened, all the nights they’ve slept next to each other until it wasn’t rare and new and special, his weight dipping the mattress, his eyes on her in the dark, and their whispers crossing the small span of pillow between them, or the meals they’ve shared, some of them forgettable in their banality where she used to hardly remember to eat, she’d be so busy talking to him, or back early on, so, so early before they hardly knew each other at all when her messages would light up with a paper he had sent her or a stray thought he had after one of their conversations that stretched on for so long, when now it’s reminders that he’s working late and not to wait up.

For a moment he just watches her before leaning forward, his head coming to rest against her stomach. She can feel his breath through her uniform and the heat and weight of him against her. She runs her fingers through his hair just how he likes, scratching lightly at the back of his head where it’s short. She hadn’t always known that, how much he enjoys being touched like this, having his neck rubbed, her fingers exploring over his scalp. The first time she had done it she hadn’t been thinking, had just been staring at the late morning sun coming through the windows of that apartment he had at the Academy and had been enjoying the way his legs tangled through hers when she had realized that his eyes had slipped shut and his mouth had grown so lax that his lips had parted.

She bends down and kisses the top of his head.

“What do you miss?”

“You know,” she says, drawing the words out. He arcs slightly into her touch and she runs her nails over the back of his neck. “Like that time we went swimming.” Skinny dipping, actually. He hadn’t known the Terran phrase for it and now she’s not sure that she ever got around to telling him. “Or when we went out and watched the Perseids.”

“The next morning, you took a midterm exam after three point two hours of sleep.”

“I’d do it all over again.” They had taken dinner with them, but had forgotten a blanket and had ended up shivering on the wet grass with damp clothes and she had been utterly sure she had never been so happy. “Also, I’m pretty sure I still scored better than Jim did.”

“You did.”

“See?” She slides her hands down his neck so that her fingers slip beneath the collar of his undershirt, his bare skin as hot as it always is. “We used to be so much fun.”

He leans back, but not far enough to dislodge her hands. “Should I anticipate that you are going to suggest that we spend the remainder of the evening exploring Jeffries Tubes? Or perhaps commandeering a shuttle?”

She smiles down at him. “We don’t even have to fly it anywhere, we can just have our fun with it still in the shuttle bay.”

“Noted.”

She taps the toe of her boot against his. “I like now, too, you know.” Of course she does with him looking up at her with those clear, brown eyes, the ones she couldn’t look away from in a long ago lecture hall and now are so soft as he blinks up at her. Her chest aches, heavy and too full and she nudges his foot again.

“I do as well,” he says and she takes his face in her hands and touches the edge of his smile with her thumb before bending down to kiss him. This, she’ll never get tired of. He tugs at her bottom lip just how she likes it, and then tips his face back further and opens his mouth for hers. He’s always been so good at this, so incredibly precise in a way that has always made her think - no, know - that he gives kissing her nothing other than his full attention, and having that entirety of his focus turned on her is nothing short of intoxicating.

That first time, she had been so sure that it couldn’t possibly be happening, so long spent hoping for it and dreaming about it and playing the possibility over and over, that to have him bending down to kiss her seemed unimaginable. Even now, she sometimes thinks the same, the rare times she comes to bed after him and gets to watch him sleep, or catching sight of him in the halls of the ship when she didn’t know he’d be there and feeling her chest light up when he comes around the corner, or having him at hand during every bridge shift, his elbow right there for her to tap with a question or with something for him to look at, his eyes turning from his own work to look right at her. Unbelievable, still, always, and likely forever, that she gets this with him.

She tightens her fingers, running her thumbs back and forth across his cheeks just in front of his ears. Their kiss unfolds slowly, carefully, and she starts to feel pulled into it, the languor of how his mouth moves, and the silence around them other than the soft, wet sounds as she changes angles and presses closer.

“You mentioned returning to our quarters?” he murmurs when she pulls back for a breath.

“I did,” she whispers but instead kisses him again. He doesn’t seem to mind because his hands find her waist and then to her surprise, slip a lot lower, down to the bare skin of her thighs that her skirt reveals.

Their mouths make a smack when she pulls back again. “What-“

She’s cut off when he lifts her onto his console, rising in one smooth motion and setting her down on the control panel he spends eight hours a day tapping at. He stares down at her and she stares back and then he’s kissing her again, harder and hurried and she’s twisting his shirt in her hands and letting him hold her there, sure that she’d slip without his grip on her.

The screen behind her is bending her neck at an odd angle that isn’t helped by his weight on her, pressing her down, but that’s fine because she has him up against her, his tongue running over her bottom lip, and her knees gripping his thighs. He feels so good. He always feels good, always has ever since that first time and now is no different, slim and strong and hot and making her shaky in a way that still seems impossible, no matter how she should have grown used to it by now.

“What,” she hears. “Are you two doing.”

She freezes. For too long, she and Spock just look at each other. Then, he turns over his shoulder.

“Captain,” he says evenly. Her fingers are claw-tight in Spock’s shirt. She tries to figure out how much of her thighs Jim can see from where he’s standing. “How detailed an explanation do you require?”

The back of her hand pressed to her mouth isn’t enough to stifle the burst of laughter that escapes her. It sounds too high pitched. Jim just squints at them.

“We were just-“ She yanks at her skirt the moment Spock steps away from her. “-Uh.”

She wipes at her mouth, smooths her uniform and doesn’t quite look at Jim.

“Analyzing statistical trends,” Spock supplies.

Jim holds up a hand, palm out. “I do not want to know.”

Silence hangs nearly palpable, a tangible presence in the room as the three of them stand there. Spock tucks his hands behind his back. Jim presses his lips together and looks anywhere but at them.

Nyota runs her palms down the front of her dress again, takes a breath, and turns on her heel to face Spock. “Would you like to continue this discussion elsewhere?”

Spock nods. “I would. Especially as a more useful set of descriptors than simply the average value would take into account not only the median and mode, but distribution across quintiles and perhaps even a longitudinal examination of change over time.”

She also nods. “How logical.”

“Oh, God,” Jim mutters.

“I believe that it is also reasonable to take the time to refine pertinent definitions of the activities in question.”

She purses her lips, considering. “Perhaps it would be efficient to explore relevant avenues as soon as we’re able.”

“Affirmative,” Spock says. His shirt is still rumpled from her grip on it. “Further consideration is therefore not only necessary, but even obligatory and doing so in the immediate future is therefore the only reasonable course of action available to us.”

“Have a nice night, Captain,” she says and ignores how Jim rolls his eyes upward because she’s too busy following Spock from the bridge and down the corridor that leads to their quarters.

Chapter Text

Really, it’s her own fault that Spock is smiling at her. Or, not smiling, not exactly, but that his mouth is curved upwards and his eyes are bright and his eyebrow is threatening to rise.

She rocks back on her heels, grimaces, and tries to focus on the fact that they’re in his office with his desk and padds and work.

“I have to go,” she says again except that it just makes his mouth twitch and if she wasn’t too absorbed with watching him, she would probably groan at herself and bury her face in her hands.

It had been such a good idea to insist on things like boundaries. Decorum. Professionalism. But best laid plans and all, how was she to know that due to the machinations of the turning, grinding gears that is Academy scheduling, she’d be saying goodbye to him for her winter break in his office of all places, the room where she had made him agree that they would never, not ever, be affectionate with each other.

The worst part, really, beyond the fact that she’s not going to see him for fourteen days, is how much he’s enjoying this. Not the impending separation - he made his thoughts about that known just that morning and the memory of it is nothing if not fresh in her mind - but that he’s not above watching her struggle with her own self imposed rules.

But they made sense. Really. At the time.

Now… She takes a deep breath, tells herself to get on her way to the transport station, and finds herself - again - summarily unable to move from where she’s standing. She has to get going. No, she had to go five minutes ago. Now, she has to run and yet she still isn’t leaving.

“I’ll see you soon,” she says, even though hearing herself say it, she’s sure that she’s repeating herself, and damn him he’s still smiling.

No kissing. She had been so adamant about it, even if he hadn’t cared as much as she had. No hand holding, no touching, no fingers finding shoulders or arms, no nothing because they had his apartment to do all of that in, and she couldn’t have possibly guessed that there would be a time that she might at all feel differently about it.

She makes fists at her sides, bounces on her toes and tries to get herself to leave.

“Have a safe trip,” he tells her and just the way he says it makes her know that he knows that she’s going to give in.

Well, she’s not. She’s sticking to her guns. Standing her ground. Resisting how he’s an arm’s length away and reminding herself that just because her shuttle was rescheduled and she has to leave sooner than either of them planned, that’s no reason to go back on what she decided. It’s logical, or something. Even if she’s saying goodbye to him for two weeks.

His hair is soft under her fingers and his mouth is pliant and warm and then his arm is tight around her waist and she’s not actually sure that the door’s shut.

“I’m going to miss you,” she whispers and kisses him again.

He can only nod in agreement because she’s holding the back of his head too tightly for him to pull away to be able to speak. For too long, she keeps him there, trying to soak up the moment for when she won’t have him with her for so many hours of each day.

“You must go,” he murmurs when they finally release each other and he’s holding her bag out towards her and his thumb is running under her lip to neaten her lipgloss and it’s a good thing he’s doing the sensible thing of pushing her towards the hallway, because she would much, much rather stay.

When she turns back for one last look, he’s still smiling.

Chapter Text

Spock is certain that this is what could be termed an awkward moment. Nyota is stock still in the wake of Cadet Barrett’s rather ill-advised question, Cadet Hannity is staring between the two of them and then at Spock, and Cadet Gaila is by all appearances attempting and failing to not laugh.

“No,” Nyota says, her firmness a contrast to the prevarication with which Barrett asked her if she would join him for dinner.

In the wake of his rather abrupt departure, Gaila does laugh, Hannity touches Nyota’s arm with her elbow and says “You can’t have them all, you know,” and Nyota reaches for Spock’s hand, which she holds for a moment in which he can feel her abject shock and growing ire at her classmates audacity that mingles with her disbelief that he somehow was not clear as to the nature of her and Spock’s relationship. Spock certainly is, which is why he does not mind the moment when all three of them must leave for their next class, Nyota silent as the other two recount what just occurred, and Spock’s hand still tingling with the trace of her touch.

He is not unaccustomed to the notion that Nyota is the recipient of an undue amount of attention. It is no matter, inconsequential to the degree to which he is only bothered if she is, which is why he is able to complete the remainder of his work with the same equanimity as any other day. If he is distracted, it is only due to the fact that it is not precisely ordinary for Nyota to extend her hand to him in the middle of the campus quad, nor is he particularly accustomed to the company of her classmates in such moments, a penchant for privacy between the two of them that Spock has always appreciated.

As such, it is with all the normalcy as any other night that he opens the door to his quarters when Nyota arrives from her last commitment for the day, the smile she offers slightly diminished with fatigue, and her movements slow as she hands him her bag to hang up and toes off her boots.

“So.” She tips her face up for his kiss, her hands framing his cheeks before she settles back onto her heels. “That was weird.”

He trails her into his bedroom and waits as she begins the familiar process of sorting through his bureau, her eyes finding his before quickly sliding away.

Tonight she pauses halfway through her routine and asks, “Are you jealous?”

He studies her where she stands in the middle of his bedroom, barefoot and holding a shirt. His shirt. In a moment, she will remove her uniform, retie her hair with none of her fastidiousness of the morning, and spend the remainder of the evening swathed in a too large shirt that will pool around her frame when she tucks herself on the corner of his couch. There, she will read, a mug of tea curled into one hand, or they will talk idly of subjects of no real import, the only significance to their discussion that it occurs at all.

“I am not.”

She raises an eyebrow at him in what he is sure is an approximation of himself. “Good.”

Then she shakes her head and laughs softly and begins the process of unzipping her skirt.

“What?” he asks, seating himself on the edge of the bed.

“Nothing,” she says and then stops with her sweater half removed and shakes her head again. “Gaila and Hannity thought that was hilarious.”

“That was apparent.”

It is when she has pulled her sweater mostly off, so that her voice is muffled, that she clarifies, “Hannity said- I think she has a thing for you.”

“‘A thing?’”

“No, never mind, forget I said anything.” Nyota’s hair swings across her back as she shakes her head a third time, efficiently resuming her movements in with a focus that does not invite further conversation.

As she exits his bedroom without another word, he is forced to rise and follow her in order to ask, “Are you-“

“No.”

“Because it would seem that-“

“-Should we cook?” she asks, stopping before his replicator. “I’m starving.”

From behind, he catches her by the waist. By the time he has pulled her to him, she has let out a sigh, and relaxed back into him, her hands closing over his forearm. Still, despite the slackness of her body against his, her voice remains determined. “I am not jealous, that’d be illogical.”

“To be sure,” he agrees and she does not pull away and he does not release her. Beneath his arm, his own shirt is warm from her body. Her hands slide up and down his forearm repetitively, slowly, over and over again, tracing from his elbow to his wrist in a manner that eventually causes him to close his eyes. The back of her head is directly before him and when he rests his forehead there, she leans minutely further backwards.

“Dinner,” she says at length and he nods in agreement and releases her, but not before he has pressed a kiss to her hair, keeping her close to him for one moment longer.

Chapter Text

Nyota snags Jim’s sleeve and tugs until he turns. “We’re going to head out.”

“Yeah.” His arm falls heavy around her shoulders in a rough squeeze. She eyes the liquid in his glass, the slosh of it rising nearly to the rim. “We’ll find you two later.”

The grin he shoots at Spock isn’t abnormal, but the look Spock gives him in return is, a sharpness to it that he hasn’t had around Jim in so long now. Ages, really. But it’s gone before Nyota can really catch it and in the end she forgets to ask about it, her drink still bubbling through her and Spock’s hand warm in hers as they wind their way through the crowd of the party.

“Sorry,” she says and slips into the chair beside Scotty as quickly as she can, as if sitting down fast will make up for the fact that everyone else was seated at dinner long before she and Spock managed to arrive.

“No worries,” Scotty says and lifts his glass towards her. “We know how to locate you if you two hadn’t shown up.”

It’s enough to make her cheeks heat. Of course the Yorktown’s computers would pinpoint them in their quarters. She just doesn’t need Scotty announcing it to the table.

Spock levels a look at Scotty that tells her he’s thinking the same thing as her, that nobody really needs to draw their attention to their tardiness, but instead of being cowed by the sternness written across Spock’s face, Scotty just grins at him and tips his glass towards Spock as well.

“Thank you for submitting this,” Commodore Paris says. “A very thorough synopsis of the mission, Mr. Spock. Down to the last detail.”

Spock’s nod is as crisp as ever. “Of course.”

“And you must be Lieutenant Uhura.” Nyota shakes the Commodore’s outstretched hand. “Glad to have found you at last.”

“I’ve been here,” Nyota says to Spock when the Commodore has left. “I think I might have even met her at Jim’s party. Didn’t I?”

“Human memory is often faulty.”

“Be nice,” she says. “And I do remember her now, she was-“

“-It is rather curious,” Spock says, his hand on her shoulder steering her away from where she’s watching the Commodore’s retreating back.

“Up for a run?” she asks Chekov, pushing away her work when she’s sure she’s not really reading it anymore. “There’s a route I haven’t tried, out past the central square.”

“If you can’t remember your way back, we’ll find you,” Sulu says.

She frowns at him. “Why wouldn’t I be able to find my way back?”

“You two get to chatting, the run goes a bit long.” Sulu shrugs. He’s smiling right at Spock, who isn’t looking at him. “We’ll get you, don’t worry.”

Now she’s watching Spock too, his focus slightly too intense for the padd in front of him. “I’m not worried.”

Chekov is laughing as they head out, though even two miles in, he won’t say why.

“I have located you. Commander Spock said you would be here.” Jaylah gives a sharp, short nod. “He would know.”

“Well, we spend a lot of time together,” Nyota says. Though now that she thinks of it, she’s not sure that she told Spock she was going to stop by Yorktown’s communications bay this afternoon. “He sent you here to find me?”

“The Academy requires I pass a Standard proficiency exam.” Jaylah sits. “Montgomery Scotty said that you would assist me.”

“Oh.” Nyota blinks. “Of course. But did Commander Spock-“

“I am already proficient.”

“It’s only a formality. But yes, I’d love to help you.”

“Tomorrow, then. I will locate you.”

“You can just call my comm,” Nyota says but Jaylah has already walked away, leaving Nyota staring after her.

“That.” McCoy taps at his own throat. “Has to go. No Vulcan wizardry around my biobeds, I just got these configured how I want them.”

“How’d you know it was Vulcan?” she asks as she takes the necklace off, leaving it in a pool of silver and turquoise on a tray near the door.

“Dehydrated. And your blood pressure’s slightly elevated. Of course, mine would be too, all that time around Spock.” A tendon appears in McCoy’s neck, accompanying his grimace. “I’ll see you back here in two weeks for another physical. Can’t have you and the rest of the crew out of commission when we’re finally ready to leave this plastic ball. And don’t think about skipping it just because you’re feeling ok.” McCoy waves his tricorder towards her. “Otherwise I’ll have that Commander of yours track you down again.”

“Again?” she asks, not yet pushing herself down from the exam bed. “When did he track me down the first time?”

But McCoy doesn’t answer, his head shaking and that tendon still tight, so she grabs her necklace and gets out of there before he can launch into the diatribe she’s sure is coming.

“There she is.” The smile Jim gives her nearly takes her aback. It’s one she hasn’t seen in too long now and it occurs to her how much she’s missed it.

Beside him, Spock isn’t exactly smiling, but he’s not exactly not smiling either.

“You happy to be heading out again soon?” she asks.

“Just happy to have found you,” Jim says, though when he wags his eyebrows at Spock, Spock looks away.

Nyota crosses her arms. “What’s going on?”

“I’m happy to see you,” Jim says, though it sounds far more like a question. He turns towards Spock again. “We are happy. Right?”

“What do you mean you found me?”

“You know.” He waves to the corridor and then to her. “You’re here.”

“I know I’m here.”

Jim grins again. “And Spock knows that too.”

“What is this?” she asks, though when she tries to catch his eye, Spock won’t quite look at her.

Jim’s brows knit and his lower lip sticks out. If he didn’t look so innocent, she’d take his confusion for something entirely more playful. “You really don’t know?”

“Know what?”

“Your-“ Jim points at her throat and she touches it, but all that’s there is the collar of her uniform and the familiar weight of her necklace beneath it. “How do you think we found you? And Sulu and the crew?”

“A scan?” She resists patting at her collarbone as if there might be something else there. “Triangulating our transmission?”

“Uhura,” Jim says. “Spock put a homing beacon on you.”

She blinks. Jim raises both eyebrows. Spock studies a spot just past her left shoulder. “You found us with-“ She taps at her neck. “This?”

“It’s radioactive too,” Jim says.

“Insignificantly so,” Spock says.

“Still.” Jim holds up both hands, palms out. “It’s kind of cool.”

“My necklace is a homing beacon?”

“More like a tracking device.” Jim claps Spock on the shoulder. “I’ll let you handle the rest of this.”

“I don’t know if that’s sweet or slightly creepy.” Spock isn’t blinking, even with Jim gone. “The entire crew knows?”

Spock shifts his weight. “Admittedly, it was rather convenient.”

“Convenient,” she repeats. She traces over the shape of the pendant and then she sighs. “I’ll go with sweet. But I might have to come up with something of my own, you know.”

“Is that so?” he asks and can’t quite mask the measure of relief that colors his words.

When she curves her hand into his, he squeezes back. “Don’t worry. It’ll be something nice.” She runs her thumb over those long fingers of his. “I have some ideas already.”