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Uhura hesitated outside Spock's quarters, and hesitated again when she got inside. He rarely required much from her in the way of preparation, but then again, there was that kiss. Even though Sulu had been the one to cross the line, she had been the one to let him, and it was against Spock's personal orders to her. Games were permitted; this was not.

A voice in her head whispered, maybe he doesn't know about it. But she knew better. Spock knew just about everything. And confessing to him right away would mean that Sulu wouldn't be able to use this against her somehow. Spock would forgive, probably, but not if she stayed silent.

So, she would tell him, and he would punish her, and all would be well. She hoped.

Moving with a confidence she didn't feel, Uhura went to the box Spock kept. Some of what was in there she had never seen in use; some, she didn't want to. But the items on top were ones she knew what to do with. The collar snapped easily into place around her neck, loose enough that she could breathe, tight enough that she could feel the pinpricks of the neurostimulators. Wrist-cuffs slipped carefully on and snugged tight; they would lock together on contact, so she was careful to keep her wrists far enough apart from each other that they wouldn't do so before she was ready. And then a flogger, Spock's favorite. The rest of the punishment would be his choice, but this would set the tone.

Footfalls, outside, and the murmur of voices. One of them was Spock; she didn't recognize the other, but it didn't matter. Spock would know enough to not enter his quarters accompanied. That gave her enough time to kneel in the middle of the room, set the whip in front of her, and put her hands together over her lap. The wrist-cuffs locked together, audibly and tangibly.

She closed her eyes, took a breath, and waited.

The door swished open, and then closed. "What is the meaning of this?" Spock asked quietly.

Uhura said nothing. The confession would come later; punishment first. It was the way things worked.

"Look at me," he said, voice slightly sharper, and her eyes snapped open. "What is the meaning of this?" he repeated.

Uhura met his gaze for long enough that it wouldn't be disobedience to look down at the flogger that was coiled in front of her. "I have disobeyed your orders, sir," she said quietly. That should have been obvious, but she didn't dare say that. "You will punish me as you see fit."

Spock picked up the flogger, staring at it like he'd never seen it before. The tips twitched, like a live thing hungering for blood. His grip tightened, and he cast it aside. "No."

Uhura started trembling; she couldn't help it. He already knew about it, then, and would not forgive her. Would not -- "Please," she said, the words spilling out in a desperate rush. "You must. Spock, please. I didn't mean anything by it, I knew it was wrong, it won't happen again, but you must punish me for it. Please."

He crouched beside her, stroked her cheek. "Nyota," he said, almost a murmur. "I--"

Whatever he said next was lost to her, as his drifting hand brushed against one of the trigger points for the collar. Pain lanced through her, blinding and paralyzing and pure. and she arched into it. That was better, much better, and if she was still shaking when her mind cleared, it was a normal reaction. Only human.

Spock had taken his hands away, and was looking at her with an expression she couldn't read. It almost looked like disgust. Uhura tried to keep her breathing as steady as possible. "Please," she said again. It was the only thing she could say. "Spock, sir, please."

He got to his feet and started to pace. His face was expressionless, but Uhura could read the agitation in his movements. Finally, after an eternity of silence, he spun on one heel and picked up the flogger again. "You want this," he said slowly.

"Yes," she said. Oh God, if he didn't forgive her-- but she couldn't think of that. He was still considering it. Still considering her. And, from the way he was looking at her, part of the punishment would be to make her ask for it explicitly. Very well, then. "Please, Spock, I want you to whip me, I want you to hurt me. I am yours, and I disobeyed you, and you need to punish me. I want you to punish me. Please--"

"Enough," he said finally, and even though his face was closed off to her, he was still holding the flogger, which was a good sign. "Get in position."

Which position, she wanted to ask him, because he had several that he alternated between, but then she thought better of it. This was a test. Silently she got to her feet, swaying a little, and then walked over to the wall. There was a bar, about a foot in length and at a height where she could barely reach it; the wrist-cuffs locked on to that, and she could also get an awkward grip with her hands, more for psychological reassurance than actual stability.

Spock gave the whip an experimental flick, and then another, the tails coming so close that she could feel the swish of air but without the sting of contact. "Are you quite sure you want this?"

Uhura closed her eyes. God, what did he think she had done, that he was so reluctant to do this? "Please," she said. Her voice cracked. "Spock, I-- I need--"

Another flick; the tails caressed the back of her thighs, and she gave a little sigh of relief. It wasn't enough, but it was a start.

"--need this, need you, please, sir--"

The next swing wasn't anywhere close to full-force, but it was a glorious sting, and she quivered. For a moment, Spock just stood at her side, watching her, analyzing; and then he got into a rhythm. Slow, at first, and too gentle, not enough, and so she begged him, "more," and "harder," and gradually the blows came faster and more varied. He finally settled into a rhythm, some sort of figure-eight cross that landed on her buttocks and the front of her thighs. Occasionally it would swing up, smacking against her breasts and her shoulders, and then it would go back down.

She had to bite her lip to keep from crying out. "More, please," she said, and his expression darkened slightly before he complied. It felt better than it should, but at least he was doing it, was forgiving her, and the relief of that spread through her along with the stinging warmth from the flogging.

It was too soon before he slowed, and she was about to ask for more when he stepped closer and put his hand deliberately against her collar. Necks could not be flogged safely, but this was a good enough supplement, and pain flooded through her again. Her legs were unsteady enough that she couldn't stand, and her shoulders and wrists hurt from being suspended from the bar, but then Spock was there, running his fingers against the wrist-cuffs until they found the release, and he caught her as she stumbled. The places he touched hurt, and even with his support she fell to hands and knees.

Spock touched her face, wiping away tears she hadn't realized were there. His face, amazingly, had tears as well. "Nyota," he said, "oh Nyota," a world of regret in his voice, and even in the hazy aftermath of the flogging, she felt a spike of fear. Was this the end?

Well, if it was, asking would lose nothing. And so she whispered, "Do you forgive me, then?"

"Yes," he said, "always," and all was right with her world.