Chapter 1: The Crash
Disclaimer: I do not profit from writing about these characters.
Nyota Uhura is the least superstitious person she knows, but when the morning newscast flashes images of a crashed hover bus across the vidscreen in the crowded Academy cafeteria, she feels such a shudder—such a frisson—that she sets her spoon back into her bowl of yogurt and pulls her comm out of her pocket.
Nothing. No messages since Spock's curt message last night that he had gotten safely back into San Francisco from his quick trip to Vulcan to visit his parents. He would see her in the morning when they tutored several regular phonology students.
The hover bus crash is rare and all the more spectacular for that. Already news commentators are suggesting that last week's earthquake is to blame—authorities suspect that cracks in the transfer station antenna may have compromised the software on the automated bus, causing it to hurtle 30 feet out of the sky and land upside down, crushing two ground cars and injuring several pedestrians. No one is sure how many bus passengers have been hurt, though the news reports vary from "few" to "many" critically injured.
Unable to finish her breakfast, Nyota piles her dishes on her tray and hands it to a kitchen worker standing beside the trash bins. Normally Nyota is breezy and appreciative of the students who are assigned kitchen duty, but today she hardly notices them. Instead, she keeps turning to watch the images of the burning bus, the changing tally of injuries scrolling across the screen.
Nyota pulls her comm from her pocket as she leaves the cafeteria and begins the uphill slog to the language lab building. She hesitates for only a moment before dialing Spock's number. If he answers, she can tell him that travel to campus is being delayed. Until the cause of the crash is determined, all hover craft have been grounded—leaving many commuters scrambling for trams or trains.
But he doesn't answer.
That's when Nyota feels the frisson again—an electric shiver that visibly shakes her. It's probably nothing, she tells herself—a dead comm tower, a power outage not yet repaired after the earthquake.
She walks faster and imagines laughing when she enters the lab and sees Spock there already working with a student.
"You'll never believe what I was worried about!" she will say, and he will look up and answer dryly, "Indeed," and then she will laugh again, and the student will look from her to him and back to her, trying to parse out what is so funny.
Except that when she gets to the lab, the dean is already there waiting for her, and in a moment Nyota Uhura goes from being the least superstitious person she knows to someone who will later wonder just how much warning the universe gives before it shatters around her.
X X X X X X X X
When Sarek calls him that morning, Dr. Christopher Thomasson is already en route to his office, but he turns his car around immediately and heads home to pack a bag.
"The shuttle from Seattle to San Francisco is just a 15 minute hop," he tells Sarek, "but getting through Starfleet security may take awhile."
Sarek's voice, even through the subspace connection, sounds calm and tempered. Chris isn't surprised. They have never spent that much time together, but Sarek has always been centered in a way that makes Chris feel comfortable. When he was a child, as much as Chris enjoyed his aunt Amanda's energy, he gravitated towards Sarek and sought out his company when the couple visited Amanda's sister's family on Earth.
If Sarek minded the attentions from Amanda's oldest nephew, he did not show it. In fact, he seemed to take great care to talk to Chris as if he were an adult, asking in detail what the young boy was studying in school and showing an interest in the science projects Chris conducted in a shed behind the house.
When Chris had graduated from the university and enrolled in medical school, Sarek had sent him a long note expressing something close to pride. When Chris had finished his residency and opened his own psychiatry practice, Sarek and Amanda had surprised him with a visit, touring his office and impressing his starstruck secretary who talked for days about meeting the ambassador.
So when Sarek calls and asks that he go to San Francisco, Chris doesn't hesitate.
"I expect the authorities will contact us soon," Sarek says, and Chris marvels again at the connection that Amanda and Sarek have with their son. Both had known immediately when the bus crashed—both had sensed Spock's surprise and pain—though both believe that he is not seriously injured.
"We are concerned," Sarek says, "with his silence. Most likely he has put himself into a healing trance by now. His mother, however, worries—"
And then Sarek himself is silent, and Chris understands that Sarek's unflappable calm is not as steady as it sounds.
"I'll have my secretary cancel my patients for the next few days," Chris says. "I'll call you as soon as I get there. He's probably fine. If you need to make the trip, I'll let you know."
"I'll have Starfleet send someone to meet you at the shuttle port," Sarek says before ending the transmission.
X X X X X X X X
Getting to the shuttle port is a bigger headache than Nyota had imagined it would be. The bus crash had happened right at the beginning of the morning commute, and now without any air travel, traffic on the ground is snarled.
Nyota catches a ride part of the way with an Academy cruiser, but she has to exit when it goes on out to the Bay and she has to trek east to the transportation hub. For a few minutes she tries to hail a ground cab—but all are full. Finally she begins walking the last three miles, hoping that she will find transport once she is out of the city center.
She's not the only one with the same idea. Men and women in all sorts of dress—from business professionals to restaurant staff to retailers—are walking to work on the crowded walkways. Eventually Nyota gives up eyeing the passing cabs and focuses on moving as quickly as possible to the shuttle port.
She will be late—she keeps looking at her chronometer—but the people she is supposed to pick up will have no other option than to wait for her. As she brushes through the crowd she tamps down her panic and tries to remember the names of the people she is sent to get—she remembers the dean meeting her at the lab and telling her that Spock had been in the bus crash, but after that she cannot remember what he said, except that Spock's next of kin had been notified and his cousin was flying in.
"Why next of kin?" she had asked breathlessly, but the dean had not responded. Or, he had responded, telling her that she was to pick up a doctor, too, someone named Thomasson. Was he a specialist? She thought she had asked that question, but if anyone answered, she doesn't recall.
Her own response startles her beyond belief. If this is how she reacts in a crisis—the shame of her distress and disorganization makes her pull herself together. An image of the burning bus flashes through her mind and she forces it out. She can't be any help to Spock if she falls apart now.
The crowd near the shuttle port is actually heavier than the crowd in the city, and Nyota tucks her right shoulder forward and shoves her way into the group gathered near the front door of the shuttle terminal. Like a cork popping out of a bottle, she is suddenly inside and she makes her way to the message board.
No one has posted a message for her so she looks around. The milling crowd is so thick that for a moment Nyota despairs. Her eye catches a bench along the wall near the message board.
"Excuse me," she says to the woman sitting on the end. "I need to stand here for a moment."
The woman in a thick brown coat pulls her bags closer to her and turns away, as if someone standing on a bench beside her was an ordinary event. Nyota hoists herself up and swivels slowly, looking for the telltale features of a Vulcan.
Most of the crowd are human--though she sees two blue Andorians and one alien of unknown origin. Suddenly she notices a tall black-haired man making his way through the crowd and she squints to make out his details. A Vulcan! Her hand is already in the air waving him over when she realizes that he is not a Vulcan after all—just a surprised man who looks at her quizzically before making his way to the other side of the terminal.
"Excuse me," a nearby voice says, "but are you from Starfleet?"
Nyota looks down and sees a pleasant-looking man wearing a neatly pressed jacket and trousers and carrying a small travel bag. His gray eyes are smiling—and Nyota realizes that his question is entirely rhetorical. She is wearing a red cadet uniform with a Starfleet logo emblazoned on the collar.
Nyota spares him another quick glance before craning her neck around the busy room again.
"I'm supposed to meet someone from Starfleet," the man says.
Nyota reluctantly steps down from the bench and says, "That's probably me. You must be the doctor?"
Even as she speaks she is abashed that she is being abrupt. She casts about in her memory and adds, "Dr. Thomasson?"
The sandy-haired man gives her an odd look.
"Please call me Chris. I was told you would take me to the hospital?"
Nyota nods quickly. The mention of the hospital tightens her throat and she has trouble speaking.
"Yes, though transportation is currently difficult. I'm also waiting on another passenger. Then we can leave."
"Certainly," Chris says, and Nyota turns around to step back up on the bench. Chris holds out his hand and she uses it to leverage herself up.
"Thank you," she says. "I apologize if I seem rude—it's just that I'm anxious. A friend of mine was hurt this morning in the bus crash, and I'm waiting on his cousin now."
She glances down at the man at her side and briefly notices a wrinkle crease his brow.
Chris reaches up and taps Nyota on the forearm.
"Are you waiting for Spock's cousin?"
"Yes," she says without looking down. Something about Chris' words strike her as odd, but then across the room she thinks she sees another possible candidate. She stands on her tiptoes and shades her eyes with her right hand.
"That's me," Chris says. "I'm Spock's cousin."
Nyota looks down so quickly that she makes herself dizzy.
"Me. Chris Thomasson. Spock's my cousin. His parents asked me to come."
Nyota realizes that she sounds like a broken record, but she cannot stop.
"You are Spock's cousin?"
"Shouldn't we go?" Chris says, taking Nyota's hand and tugging her down from her perch on the bench.
Two shocks in one morning prove too much, and Nyota sits heavily on the edge of the bench. The woman in the brown coat leans back and scowls.
"I'm sorry," Nyota says. She leans forward and puts her palms on her cheeks. Her face is hot, fevered. She thinks she may throw up if she moves.
Chris kneels down and looks her intently in the face.
"Are you okay?" he asks, and Nyota says, "I will be...in a moment. I'm just—"
She doesn't finish her sentence. What can she say? Until now she thought she knew Spock as well as anyone at the Academy—or at least as well as any other students did. Since becoming his lab assistant she has spent meals with him—has teased him—has scolded him for not understanding human traditions and habits.
And there she pauses. She can't think about that now.
"Yes," she says, standing up suddenly, giving Chris a weak smile, "we do need to get going. The hospital is on the other side of town."
And with that she surveys the crowded room and nods toward the door.
A/N: This story happens immediately after the action in "Slips of the Tongue"—though each story stands alone. If you leave a comment, you are a gem! Your notes keep me going!
Chapter 2: Mailman
Disclaimer: Spock and Uhura are not mine—I just record what I see them do.
Chris has never been inside the Starfleet medical facility, but it is laid out much like the civilian hospitals where he has worked. The trauma unit is on the ground floor where emergency transport can access it easily. The operating theaters are in the basement. Rehab and outpatient therapies occupy the bottom two floors. The most serious cases are housed on the top two floors near the helipad.
The maternity section is smaller than in a civilian hospital, as are the waiting areas for family. The xenobiology section is larger, which is one reason Spock has been airlifted from the city hospital where the bus crash victims were initially taken.
Against all odds, Chris and the young cadet sent to meet him had managed to snag a ground cab soon after leaving the shuttle port. The ride to Starfleet was chaotic—several streets were still closed because of power lines ruptured in the recent earthquake, and traffic was detoured around hover bus stops while inspections on the transfer stations get underway.
The cadet was unusually quiet in the cab, and Chris revisited their conversation in the shuttle terminal to see if he had upset her somehow. Clearly Cadet Uhura—Nyota—had gotten faulty information about whom she was meeting. Anyone would be startled that two people were really one and the same—but she seemed more distressed than merely startled.
He tried to make small talk in the cab to smooth things over, and Nyota seemed to calm down a bit, her nods less abrupt, her replies softer.
"Spock's really much closer in age to my two sisters," he told her, and Nyota stared straight ahead and nodded as if listening from a great distance. "Rachel’s a year younger, and Anna a year older.”
And then, because Nyota looked so...stricken...he added, "You'll have to get him to tell you about some of the tricks they played on me. Or, that my sisters played on me...and forced Spock to go along with."
He smiled and tried to make eye contact; briefly she glanced up and nodded.
"At least, that's what Spock claims. Maybe he was the instigator."
Still no word from Nyota. Chris reached out his hand and wrapped it around her wrist.
"He'll be okay," he said.
When they take the elevator to the top floor, Chris makes a decision that later he will consider the most important thing he does while he is in San Francisco. At the nursing station the attending physician asks for his identification and without missing a beat, he introduces himself as family—and adds that Nyota is family, too. She looks up at him quickly.
The physician pulls up Spock's charts on the screen and Chris scans through them—a concussion, a broken wrist, bruised ribs, and burns on his hands and chest. He sighs in relief. The wrist will be the most trouble—misaligning the bones can mean arthritis later—but the new electrical-stimulation cast will require only a couple of weeks of inconvenience. The burns will hurt like hell—as will the bruised ribs—though Chris notes that the doctors have prescribed a strong pain medicine that should keep Spock comfortable.
"Well," Chris says at last, turning to Nyota. She is standing so tightly wound that for a moment he thinks she might fall if he touches her. "He's not going to feel great for a few days, but everything looks okay."
To his astonishment, Chris sees two large tears arc down her cheeks—and then she bends forward and sighs so loudly that it sounds like a sob.
The nurse behind the station stands up and looks over the counter.
"She's okay," Chris says. "It's been a hard day. Perhaps we can see him now?"
Nyota is frantically wiping her face as the nurse steps around the counter and leads them to the end of the hall. Chris steals a glance before motioning her forward into the room.
Even with his practiced eye, Chris is shocked. Spock is on his back, his broken left wrist held aloft in traction, his hands bandaged so that only the tips of his fingers show. A thin silver coverlet is pulled up over his chest. Most alarming is how pale he looks, his skin tinged green with bluish streaks under his eyes. His hair is matted and smells strongly of the oil from the fire.
Spock's eyes are closed, his lips slightly parted. Tiny beads of sweat glisten across his upper lip and brow. If he hadn't been looking at the monitors above the bed, Chris would have sworn Spock was dead.
Nyota stands behind him as he looks up at the monitors.
"What do they mean?" she whispers, and he understands what she is asking. He turns quickly to glance at her.
"I'm not sure why, but he doesn't seem to be in a healing trance," Chris says, pointing to the indicator on the far right. "Those brain wave patterns aren't right—"
He hears a catch in Nyota's breathing and he turns again to look at her.
"That's nothing to be alarmed about," he says swiftly. "In humans it would be expected, but Vulcans—well, they have the ability to go into a trancelike state that aids in their healing. He hasn't done that."
Nyota moves to the side and peers at the indicator.
"Because he's….half-human? Is that why?"
"I don't know," Chris says.
A rustle from the door announces the attending physician, and Chris steps back to talk with him. From the corner of his eye he notices Nyota moving closer to Spock's bed.
"Has he regained consciousness at all?" Chris asks, and the physician shakes his head.
"We've put in an all-call for a Vulcan healer," the physician says, "but I'm not holding my breath. We'll just have to wait and see."
And then the physician is gone. When Chris turns back towards Spock he is shocked to see a look of fury on Nyota's face.
"That's it? That's all they are going to do?"
Chris has practiced psychiatry long enough to recognize an imminent meltdown. He moves towards her and takes her arm.
"Here," he says, "sit here."
She sits in the slim chair that has been pulled up next to Spock's bed. She leans forward, and Chris watches her carefully as he steps around the foot of the bed and sits in the chair pulled up to Spock's other side. She is almost quivering in anger, and Chris begins to talk quietly.
"When we were kids and Sarek and Amanda would come for a visit, my sisters and I loved to play this with Spock."
Nyota's lips are pressed and her nose is flared—she is still upset, but at least she is listening.
"We called it mailman," Chris says, and as he does, he gently lifts his fingers to Spock's broken wrist. "We'd see who could send the clearest message, and who could receive one."
Nyota is watching him closely as Chris brushes his fingertips across Spock's bandaged ones.
"Spock," he says aloud, "we're here."
Despite the cool air in the room, Chris feels himself flush. Part of the allure of this game was how taboo it was. Although no one had ever forbidden it, the four children had somehow known that the adults would not have approved…using a touch telepath this way—for their amusement—and the way it emphasized Spock's otherness.
Chris looks at Nyota and is pleased that she is no longer frowning. Impulsively he says, "Take his other hand. Like this."
He holds his palm up and slides his fingers forward until the pads touch Spock's own. The traction around Spock's broken wrist makes holding the position awkward and Chris lowers his own hand in a few moments.
"Try it," he says, but Nyota shakes her head.
"I don't…I can't…."
Chris sits quietly and waits. The monitor above the bed blips a syncopated rhythm.
And then slowly Nyota reaches out her hand, palm up, and slides it carefully under Spock's right hand.
"Can you feel it?" Chris asks, and she looks up in wonder.
"That tingle was always part of the fun," Chris says, but before she can respond, Spock opens his eyes.
"Nyota," he says once, and then his eyes close again.
X X X X X X X X X
In the cab Chris chats comfortably about his sisters and Nyota realizes that Spock has a life with people about whom she knows nothing. With a stab of remorse she thinks about how she had overlooked Chris at the shuttle port—ignoring him—and with a deeper stab she remembers teasing Spock on the subspace comm recently, when he had gone home to Vulcan—to a human mother—about not understanding how important keeping in touch is for humans. How arrogant her comments seem now.
As if he needed instruction in what it is to be human.
Is she the only person at the Academy who didn't know that Spock had a human parent? She thinks back to the few times in his formal lectures where he mentioned something personal—had he said anything about his mixed heritage?
She can't remember a single comment about his family—or about his own upbringing on Vulcan. Now that she considers it, she realizes that what she had taken for personal commentary is actually rather vague and general information about Vulcan—its capital, Shi'Kahr, for instance—data about the number of businesses and people there, what the arts are like and where the Vulcan Science Academy grounds are situated. Why hadn't she realized before how absent Spock is from what he shares?
What an idiot she had been to think she had known him!
And yet she does know him—his relentless curiosity, and even more endearing, his quiet, witty sense of humor. She has not imagined those things.
All the way to the hospital her image of herself and Spock shifts and slides until she can no longer recognize who they are.
For months she has struggled to understand her own feelings—her attraction, of course, but something else that both pulls her and keeps her at bay when she thinks of Spock. In the cab ride to the hospital Nyota realizes what she has denied all along—that she has been able to keep her distance because she has deliberately courted a bias—telling herself the same lie that humans told about race hundreds of years earlier—that differences matter more than similarities.
She has been able to keep herself apart this way, safe this way.
Now she isn't sure.
When they first arrive at the hospital Nyota walks in a daze, but Chris—Spock's cousin!—seems to know where to go. As she follows him mutely through the halls, she feels that she has been handed the last piece of a puzzle she has been working on, without knowing that she was missing any pieces at all.
And then she sees him—and she hears the alarm in Chris's voice. And more than that, she hears the resignation in the voice of the doctor.
The rational part of her brain knows that her present anger is unjustified. She is furious with herself, with Chris, with the doctor. Mostly she is furious with Spock for letting himself board a bus that could crash.
She is furious that he has hidden his humanity from her.
She is furious that their relationship is in jeopardy—that their tentative friendship may not survive the hurricane of her emotions.
She is sure that for him it is friendship and nothing more.
That is, she is sure until their fingers touch.
Chapter 3: The Trance
Disclaimer: Spock and Uhura are not mine—I just record what I see them do.
"I know what's wrong!" Nyota insists, and Chris leaps up from his chair beside Spock's bedside.
Nyota's fingertips are still cupped under Spock's right hand. She places her other hand on top of his and says, "The pain medication is keeping him from going into the trance. He's too sedated!"
Chris glances at the monitor and nods. For a moment Nyota is afraid that he will not do anything, but then he presses the bedside alarm and the attendant appears within moments. Nyota is barely listening as Chris argues that they should cut back on the pain medication—the doctor is worried that the pain itself will interfere with the healing, but eventually he changes the orders.
While they wait for the sedative to dial back, Nyota and Chris sit beside Spock's bed and talk quietly. Since opening his eyes that one time, he has not opened them again—though as first one hour passes and then two, Nyota starts to notice small signs that worry her—grimaces from time to time, and a steady crease between his brows. If Chris notices, he says little.
Nyota steps out into the hall to call the department chair to make sure Spock's tutorials and classes are covered. By the time she remembers to call Gaila, her roommate is irate.
"Girl, I've been worried sick about you! Where are you?"
"I may not come home tonight," Nyota says, looking back into the room as Chris stands up to adjust something on the monitor.
"That's my girl!" Gaila says, laughing, and despite her exhaustion and worry, Nyota laughs, too. The sound catches Chris' attention and he turns to look at her.
"Look, I've got to go," she says as she walks back into the room and sits again in the chair. Chris points at the monitor and straightens.
"At last," he says. "He's in the trance. Now you can go get some rest."
"No, really, why don't you—"
But Chris is standing.
"He won't come out of this for quite some time—days, maybe. You need to rest while you can. He's going to need help when he leaves the hospital—you better get ready for that."
Nyota gives him a quick look. Something in Chris' voice implies a familiarity that embarrasses her, as if he were the telepath who could read her thoughts.
She looks at Spock then—he is still as battered and bruised as before, but the expression on his face is different—more peaceful, or at least, less in pain. How has she been close to him for so many months without recognizing the expressiveness of his face—or rather, recognizing it, but not wanting to see how it affected her?
Suddenly she is very, very tired. She has so much to think about—but mostly she wants to sleep.
"What are you going to do now?" she asks Chris, and he shrugs.
"I have friends in Monterey—I can probably grab a bed there for the night."
"Oh, no," Nyota says, "the transport will be impossible. Ordinarily it wouldn't be a problem, but with the hover craft out of commission—"
Chris pulls his wallet from his back pocket and starts sifting through papers there.
"Here it is," he says. "I hate to ask, but do you mind being my escort so I can get to the campus housing?"
For a moment Nyota is flustered. His escort? What is he talking about? She rubs her head and starts to speak, but Chris goes on.
"I still have Spock's key code," he says. "If you don't mind carding me through to the faculty housing, I'll stay in his apartment tonight. That makes more sense, actually. Tomorrow I'll see someone about getting a card so I can let myself on and off campus."
This is not what Nyota wants to do. She wants to go to her own room and lie down—she needs time to think about so many things—or to not think about things for awhile. She's confused and close to being falling-down-tired—but then she looks at Chris and feels a rush of gratitude that he had said, "try it," and she had done the thing she had longed to do forever and had touched Spock's hand—no, not his hand, but his mind—dazed and in pain, to be sure, but aware of her, and relieved that she was there—and more.
She wants to go home and lie down and think about the more that she felt, that she saw, when they touched. She wants to remember the image of herself as he sees her—as if he is standing behind her, as he often does as she works in the lab, with her face looking back over her shoulder, looking up at him, her hair slipping across her back as she moves—his fingers holding a strand and twitching it across his palm.
And this, she knows, is his imagination—for he has never dared to touch her this way—would not do it—and knowing that he wants to—that he fantasizes about it—has shifted something elemental inside her. She needs to lie down to think about what this elemental shift is.
But Chris is standing there, and he won't be able to get onto the campus without her. And she really is glad he is here.
"Okay," she says tiredly. "But you owe me some dinner at least."
"My treat," Chris says, holding out his hand to pull her up from her chair.
X X X X X X X X
Throughout the long evening Chris has watched Nyota as closely as he has watched Spock and the monitors.
Her anger had caught him off guard, though he thinks he understands it. The doctor hadn't meant to be flippant—but Nyota must have thought he was dismissing Spock in some way. Chris had seen that same anger in his aunt's face when she spoke to her sister about the bullying on Vulcan—though at the time he had assumed that Amanda might be exaggerating. Certainly Spock never mentioned anything about being bullied.
He's not quite sure what to make of Nyota's intense telepathic communication with Spock. She seemed to indicate that this was new—hadn't she protested that she couldn't touch him? Or was it that she didn't want to? Chris can't remember.
His own sense of Spock had been much hazier—as it had been when they were children—as if he were listening to muted voices from the end of a long hallway. Yet Nyota seemed to understand Spock clearly, was certain that he was in distress because he was overly sedated—and she had been right.
She is a communications specialist—surely that plays into things in some way.
Or maybe that is a side issue entirely. It might be interesting to find out.
Dinner is a good excuse to talk to her at length—but Chris realizes that they are both too tired to visit much tonight. Instead, they stop by a fast food place next to the hospital and order take-out.
The campus gates are closed by the time they walk up the street from the hospital, but Nyota's card opens them. Faculty housing is on the far side of the campus—and Chris and Nyota walk in silence most of the way.
When the faculty housing looms into view, Chris asks innocently, "Is it this first building? I've only been here a few times."
He watches to see Nyota's reaction and is surprised that she seems embarrassed.
"I believe so," she says, and then she adds, "although I've never been inside."
"Oh?" Chris says, and she averts her gaze.
Her card swipes them entrance through another gate and then Chris pulls out his slip of paper and keys in the building code on the key pad out front. He pushes open the door into the apartment building hallway and Nyota hangs back a moment.
"Come on in so we can eat," he prompts, and she steps through the entryway and follows Chris to the first door on the left. The door has louvered insets that are closed. All of the lights are off.
Chris keys in the code to Spock's apartment and the door squeaks open when he pushes it back. Behind him Nyota stands in the hall, and once again Chris has the impression that she is afraid or shy about coming inside.
"The kitchen's to the left," he says, touching the light pad beside the door. "See if he has anything to drink in the cooler."
Chris heads down the hall toward Spock's bedroom and hears the front door shut. Dropping his travel bag on the bed, Chris sees his reflection in the mirror over the dresser and rubs his hand across his jaw. Something in his motion reminds him of Spock—of the time they had found Chris' dad's straight razor and had experimented with it—with varying success. He laughs at the memory and he hears Nyota say from the other room, "What's so funny?"
That's the first happy thing he has heard her say all day.
"Just remembering getting in trouble with Spock one time," he says, walking back down the hall. Nyota has poured them something light purple to drink and has set the bag of food on the table.
"I feel like a voyeur," she says, but Chris senses that she doesn't mean it seriously. Instead, she seems less exhausted and more curious than anything else.
"I don't think he will mind," Chris says, and Nyota curls her feet under her on the sofa and reaches for the bag, pulling out a wrap sandwich and picking up her drink.
"I never thought about Spock having a family," she says after a moment, and Chris nods companionably.
"How long have you known him?"
She takes another bite of her sandwich as though she is hesitating. Perhaps he is pushing her too hard—or invading her privacy. He isn't sure what sort of relationship she and Spock have, but it is obviously shrouded in some mystery.
"Actually," he says, changing tactics, "you haven't told me anything about what you are studying. I know you work with Spock in the lab, but that can't be all there is to know about you."
Nyota takes another bite and laughs quietly.
"I'm not really that interesting," she says.
"I know when I'm being told to shut up," he says, but he smiles to show her that he doesn't take offense. "We're both really tired tonight. I'm sorry I butted in."
Nyota starts to say something and then stops.
"No, really," she says, reaching out her hand and touching her fingers to his arm, "you haven't done anything wrong. As you say, it's been a hard day."
She pulls her hand back and crushes the sandwich wrapper into a ball and stands up. From his perch on the chair Chris watches the way her eyes slip around the sparsely furnished room—and then she moves toward a bookshelf and picks up a holovid of Spock and Amanda, obviously taken a few years earlier.
"This is his mother?" Nyota asks, holding up the picture for Chris to see.
"My aunt Amanda, yes."
"She's lovely," Nyota says.
"Yes," Chris agrees. "I need to call her later to fill her in. I spoke to Sarek earlier."
"Spock is their only child?" Nyota asks, and Chris thinks he hears a note of apology in her voice, as if she is afraid that she is imposing by asking personal questions. He will have to consider the implications of that later—and what it says about Spock's life here at Starfleet.
"I think they lost several children," Chris tells her, and he feels rather than sees her turning toward him. "Before Spock was born. And maybe a baby later, too. I'm not sure. Spock stayed with us one summer when Amanda was sick—I always assumed she had had a miscarriage, but Vulcans are really private about those matters."
"But his mother is a human," Nyota says, and Chris answers, "That's true, but she has decided to live as a Vulcan. She made that choice when she married Sarek. I couldn't live that way, but she seems happy enough."
And then, because he is really very tired and wants to finish up his meal and head to bed, he stands up and opens the door for Nyota, saying as she makes her way over the threshold, "And happy enough isn't so bad."
Chapter 4: Lost and Found in Translation
Disclaimer: Spock and Uhura are not mine—I just record what I see them do.
The intercom buzzes as Chris is stepping out of the shower, and he nearly slips on the tiled floor rushing to press the latch that will let Nyota enter the faculty apartment building. He hurries to pull on his trousers and wrap a towel around his shoulders before moving toward the door to let her into the apartment.
Through the louvers in the door he can see her shadow as she waits. When he pulls open the door she looks up, surprised—he realizes later—by his state of undress.
"I'm running late," he says by way of apology, motioning her to come inside. "I had trouble falling asleep—and then I overslept this morning."
Nyota walks quickly to the sofa and sits, nodding once and placing a small brown bag beside her.
"I brought you a bagel," she says, not looking at Chris. He takes the towel from his shoulders and ruffles his hair, hard, watching Nyota from the corner of his eye. Something is making her uncomfortable.
"Did you bring one for yourself?" he asks, and she shakes her head and folds her hands in front of her.
"Let me grab my shirt and shoes and I'll be ready to go," he says over his shoulder as he walks back to the bedroom.
"You don't need to hurry," she calls. "He's still in that...coma..."
So she has been to the hospital already. That explains her distress.
"Not a coma," Chris says in as matter-of-fact voice as he can muster. "A healing trance. That's a good thing. He's getting better faster this way."
As he buttons his shirt he walks back into the living area and settles himself on the seat opposite the sofa. When he looks up, Nyota meets his gaze for the first time. Her eyes are so large and dark that Chris is momentarily taken by surprise—the sunlight coming in through the window behind her makes her look luminous; a strand of hair has sprung loose from her ponytail and falls over her ear.
This morning she looks older than she did the night before—perhaps because she is wearing a simple pair of pants and an untucked blouse instead of her Starfleet cadet uniform. Chris is startled to find himself wondering how old she is—and thinking that he must be at least ten years her senior.
Those thoughts are out of line. He feels his face flush, and to hide his embarrassment he reaches for the bag and takes out the bagel she has brought him.
"How was he this morning?" he says as he takes a bite. Nyota swallows hard.
"The same. I didn't see the doctor—I don't think they've found a Vulcan healer yet."
"That's not a surprise," Chris says, leaning over and pulling on one sock and then another. He takes another bite of his bagel and sets it down before picking up a dark sneaker and placing in on his foot.
He glances up at Nyota and is surprised to see the same anger on her face that he had seen the night before. When she catches his eye she says, "It isn't fair."
Chris isn't sure how to respond to that—of course it isn't fair, but it is what it is. Despite their historical importance to the Federation, Vulcans are relatively few in number on Earth—and healers are rare, even on Vulcan. Chris has met only three in his medical rotations—and none were interested in living here permanently.
"I'm ready," he says, tying his other shoe and finishing the last bite of his bagel. But Nyota doesn't rise. Chris takes his hands off the arms of the chair and sits back to wait.
For a moment Nyota is silent, and then Chris hears her expel a long breath. The sound makes him uneasy, and he thinks again about how vulnerable and small she appears tucked up on the sofa.
Finally she begins.
"I've been wanting to ask you something," she says, and Chris tenses. He can't imagine what she will say next, but he feels guarded somehow.
"Yesterday you told the hospital that you are Spock's cousin," she says, and Chris nods.
"Uh huh," he says. "Our mothers are sisters."
She looks up at him then, as if she is processing something, and continues, "And you told them that I'm family. Why did you do that?"
Chris realizes that he was expecting her to ask something personal—or something embarrassing—and he is momentarily flummoxed. He purses his lips and blinks.
"Well, I thought it would be...easier...that is, that the hospital staff wouldn't question your being there...I wasn't sure they would let a cadet in to see him—"
Again Chris is startled by her response. She seems paradoxically relieved and disappointed with his answer.
"I didn't mean to offend you," he says quickly, but Nyota shakes her head and motions her hand dismissively.
"No, no," she says, darting a glance his way, "I wasn't offended. I just wasn't sure—"
And then Chris sees what has concerned her. She is afraid that he knows something private—though he isn't sure what she is afraid that she has broadcast to him. Her obvious affection for Spock? Is that a problem, somehow? Or are they more than instructor and student? He thinks not—her surprise at meeting Chris, her unfamiliarity with the apartment, her questions about Amanda—all suggest a cordial relationship but not an intimate one.
Unless, of course, Chris is seeing what he wants to see. He will have to think about that later.
"Anything else?" he asks, and Nyota smiles quickly and says, "No. We should go."
X X X X X X X X X X
Spock looks exactly as he had when they had left him the night before, exactly as he had looked when she had come by the hospital early that morning. The sounds of the hospital—the steady rush of air, the constant murmuring of the staff, the beeps and blips of instruments, are a water torture of noise in Nyota's ears.
When Chris suggests that they take a pager from the nursing station and leave after only a few minutes, Nyota is relieved. They make their way through the maze of halls and lifts and settle at a small table in the hospital cafeteria. The room is chilly and both sit with their hands cupped around paper coffee mugs.
"You don't have class today?" Chris asks, and Nyota pauses. He picks up his coffee cup and gestures toward her.
"Oh," she says, suddenly understanding. No uniform. "Just one. But I sent the professor a note. I wasn't sure--"
She looks down at her coffee cup and considers how to start the conversation she has rehearsed in her mind all morning. Chris seems to sense her hesitation and he sits back, one foot perched on his other knee.
"So," she says, "how long does this….healing trance….usually last?"
Chris takes a sip of his coffee and considers.
"Hard to say," he says. "I'm not an internist, but I think not that long—he's mostly just banged up. Vulcans are pretty sturdy."
Nyota looks carefully to see if he is joking, but Chris has a thoughtful look on his face. She hears him take a breath and he says, "Look, I'm going to be here for a few days. If you need to go to class—"
Nyota starts to speak but Chris rushes on.
"I told his parents I'd stay until I was sure he could manage on his own. Really. And the hospital can have a nurse check in on him for awhile once he's back in the apartment. You don't have to—"
"I don't mind," she says quickly. Chris leans forward and puts his cup on the table.
"Well," he says, "that's probably good. He seems to be able to communicate with you better anyway."
And here Chris touches on the thing that Nyota has wanted to ask him about—but now she isn't sure how to begin.
"You and your sisters?" she says. "You used to….try to touch Spock's mind?"
"Don't say that too loud," Chris says, laughing. "We tried to keep it a secret. We were never very good at it. But you—you don't seem to have any trouble."
In the pit of her stomach Nyota feels a strange flutter. She wonders briefly if she should hold back her question, but Chris' laughter reassures her that he doesn't mind talking.
"It was….strange," she says, and she watches Chris closely for a reaction. He looks amused but not surprised, so she continues. "It's a lucky thing that I could remember the Vulcan word for sedation. I can't remember why that word came up in the course I took with him last semester—it must have been in something we translated. Otherwise I might not have known what he was trying to tell me."
Now Chris does look surprised.
"He was thinking in Vulcan?"
Nyota nods, and Chris says, "Hmm. I forget that Standard isn't his first language. Well, that probably explains why you were able to understand him and I couldn't."
Of course, Nyota thinks. She feels a pang of disappointment that surprises her.
"Listen," Chris says, "why don't we go ahead and get that key card made so you don't have to keep squiring me around. I've got the pager—" he says, holding it up, and together they pick up their cups and head out of the cafeteria.
X X X X X X X X X X
When Chris first sees Spock in the morning he is careful not to let Nyota see his shock. He had half expected to see Spock already awake and cranky, ready to get up or even leave. Nyota seems restless and Chris suggests that they get coffee, not because he needs or wants it but because he is concerned that she is becoming upset.
Clearly she needs to talk but is reluctant to. Chris is used to waiting for people to reveal what bothers them—he's a good listener and doesn't mind silence. Still, Nyota is a cipher to him—she seems more distraught than he would have expected a lab assistant to be.
She seems even more distressed when he suggests that she might want to leave for class, or that she might have other responsibilities that need tending to.
"It was….strange," she says when Chris asks her about the mind touch the day before—and he thinks briefly that strange is a good word to describe the peculiar buzz that seems to leap from the end of a touch telepath's fingers.
"It's a lucky thing that I could remember the Vulcan word for sedation," Nyota continues.
Ah—so that explains a great deal…Chris thinks about his own sense of Spock through the mind touch—like a distant voice that he couldn't quite hear.
When Nyota tells him that Spock was thinking in Vulcan, Chris has a flash of insight. "Well, that probably explains why you were able to understand him and I couldn't."
The truth of this seems so obvious all of a sudden, and Chris turns to Nyota to say so. Her face, however, stops him. She is upset again—sad, in fact. How is being able to speak Vulcan cause for sorrow? And then it hits him. She wants the touch to mean something else.
That thought bothers him—and the fact that it bothers him bothers him more.
He has to get some distance here. The suggestion to get the key card sorted out is for his own comfort as much as to stop inconveniencing her.
The walk back to the campus is short and swift—Chris keeps the pager in his left hand and follows Nyota though the front gate and towards the administration building. By now the campus is busy with cadets striding to class or milling around in small groups talking. Many of them look up and greet Nyota—she gives a wave but says little—and they seem to know that she is preoccupied and make way for her.
Except for one blonde young man who steps in her path.
"Okay," he says breezily, "you are just the person I want to see."
Nyota slows down but doesn't stop. Chris trails a pace behind.
"What do you want, Kirk?" she says, and Chris thinks he hears a note of annoyance in her voice.
"So," Kirk says, matching her pace and looking at her as he talks, "I'm all ready to go into the simulation and the proctor says it's been cancelled. What's up with that?"
Nyota crosses her arms and continues walking.
"The world doesn't revolve around you," she says, and Chris sees Kirk smile broadly.
"Not that it shouldn't," Kirk says, and Nyota flashes him a look. "But—that isn't fair. Here I'm all psyched up to take the Kobayashi Maru and pass it this time—and suddenly it's off. What do you know? Did you get a notice about this earlier?"
The administration building is a few yards ahead and Nyota slows to let Chris catch up.
"I'm sure you will survive," she tells Kirk, and he grins as she turns to push open the door of the building.
"I still want you on communications when they reschedule," he calls back.
Nyota huffs and Chris follows her down the hall to the administrative aide's office, but as she reaches for the doorknob, the pager goes off.
A/N: Kirk has taken the Kobayashi Maru once and failed it at this point. His second try is temporarily sidelined by the hover bus crash—which makes Spock unable to supervise. You already know what happens when he takes it the third time.
Thanks for taking a moment to comment!
Chapter 5: All Things Bright and Beautiful
Disclaimer: Spock and Uhura are not mine—I just record what I see them do.
Spock is a terrible patient. Most men are, Nyota thinks. She remembers her brother moaning for days with a sprained ankle, her father demanding silence in the house when he was felled by occasional migraines.
From the kitchen she can hear Chris arguing with Spock who is propped up on the sofa.
"You wouldn't be so uncomfortable if you had let the nurse change your dressings this morning," Chris says, and Spock murmurs, "I do not need a nurse."
"You obviously do," Chris retorts, and Nyota hears him moving around the room, shifting something heavy. "Nyota and I can't stay here with you every minute."
Spock says something else that Nyota doesn't catch as she takes the kettle off the stove and pours the boiling water into the teapot with a handful of mildly-fermented herbs to steep. It smells faintly grasslike—not unpleasant, but not appealing, either. She stirs it once and pours out a cup and carries it to Spock.
Chris has pulled the oversized chair next to the sofa and is sprawled across it. Spock is lying sideways on the sofa, his head propped up on pillows on the armrest, his legs covered with a light sheet. When Nyota comes into the room he bends his knees up to make room for her to sit at the opposite end of the sofa.
"Here," she says, handing him the mug. "You heard the doctor say you have to stay hydrated."
He looks at her like someone amused instead of properly abashed by a scolding, and she frowns.
"I'm not kidding," she says, and he takes a sip.
She turns to Chris and asks, "Was he always this stubborn?" and Chris laughs.
"I'm not telling," he says. "The next time his parents are in town, you should ask them instead."
Nyota feels a rush of embarrassment at the mention of Spock's parents—at the presumption that she would be asked to meet them. Spock, however, doesn't seem to notice her unease.
"They will tell you," he says slowly and with slightly labored breath, "that I was an exemplary son."
Nyota smiles at that, but she shoots a glance at Chris. She thinks about the evening before, when together they had brought Spock from the hospital, parking him sternly in the bed and waiting for him to fall into an exhausted sleep before they arranged themselves in the living area and ate another take-out meal.
They had spoken softly as they ate, Chris asking about Nyota's childhood in Africa, she wanting to know about Seattle, about medical school, and then, hesitantly, about what Spock was like when he was younger, and mostly, why he is here at Starfleet.
"That surprised us, too," Chris had told her. "Everyone thought he was headed to the Vulcan Science Academy, and then suddenly he ended up here. He and Sarek had a falling out—though neither will say much about it. Or at least, they haven't said anything to me."
Nyota had gotten up briefly to refresh their drinks and Chris continued. "I'm fond of Sarek, but I wouldn't want to cross him. He would be quite formidable."
"What do you mean?" Nyota asked, and Chris said, "It's hard to describe, really. He's reserved and it's tricky to get to know him—though he was always kind to me. It's probably different with your own kids—you know, you have so many expectations for them. My dad was upset when I settled on psychiatry."
Nyota raised an eyebrow in surprise. It was hard to imagine anyone being disappointed with Chris—he'd been attentive and easy to be with—and last night as they had talked she felt a surge of appreciation for him.
"He wanted me to be a surgeon," Chris said with a grin. "That reminds me. Ask Spock sometime about our experiments with my dad's straight razor. I'm sure he remembers. That's probably when I decided against being a surgeon."
Now as she looks from Chris to Spock she thinks she sees the resemblance in the cousins. In every other way Spock is phenotypically Vulcan—but when she looks at Chris' sly smile, she can see shades of Spock there.
Nyota realizes with a start that both men are staring at her and she flushes.
"So what did you do to poor Christine to run her off this morning?" she says, and Spock takes a long sip from his mug before answering.
"As I said to you both before leaving the hospital, I do not require the services of a nurse. She was—intrusive."
"Don't say I didn't warn you when you can't get in the shower without help tomorrow," Chris says, but it is Nyota who responds.
"You aren't leaving tomorrow, are you?" she asks, and Chris nods.
"I have patients in Seattle who actually follow my advice," he says, "unlike the one I have here."
She isn't sure why Chris' announcement is upsetting—perhaps because talking about Spock's personal life has been easier while Chris has been a part of the conversation. She wonders if Spock will draw back within himself later—if moments such as these will become rare.
But she steals a glance at Spock as he turns to put his mug on the small table beside the sofa and she remembers that image of herself in his mind—the detail of her cheek when she looks up at him, the curve of her ear, the shiny filaments of her hair cascading across her shoulders.
Spock has dark circles under his eyes, and he sits awkwardly with a protective posture where he holds his elbows close to his side.
He's here, though, and awake, and that's all that matters for now. She pushes back her worry about what will happen after Chris leaves and looks at Spock until he turns and meets her gaze. She stares back for a moment before having to lower her eyes—and then Chris offers to walk her back to her dorm on his way to the train station where he will catch a ride to Monterey and to his friends who have insisted he spend the night with them.
"Do you need—" Nyota starts to ask, and Spock stops her.
"I will see you both in the morning," he says, and as if to prove to her that he can manage alone, he pulls himself upright and stands while they exit the door.
X X X X X X X X X X
Because he has never gotten a key card, Chris waits outside the front gate of the Academy and watches the cadets coming and going, keeping an eye out for Nyota. She has agreed to meet him here and take him to Spock's apartment before she heads to tutor his students.
Even across the commons he notices her—her light step, the way she holds her shoulders back as if she is announcing something important. The early morning fog has finally lifted and the sun makes everything brighter by contrast. Nyota's red uniform seems to glow as she lifts her hand and waves at him. Chris smiles despite himself.
If Spock isn't pursuing her, he's stupid.
Her hair is swinging from side to side and she is smiling—a welcome change from her expressions in the past few days. She swipes her card and pulls back the gate and Chris joins her for a quick walk across the grass to a large building adorned with slim columns and marble steps.
"I'm going to run inside and leave a note just in case any of the students come by before I get back, " she says, and Chris starts to apologize for needing her card to get into Spock's apartment building when he looks up and sees Spock himself standing at the foot of the steps.
Nyota stops abruptly and takes in a breath.
"What are you doing here!" she says loudly, and Spock raises a brow.
"The same as you," he says. "Meeting the students who are scheduled for the tutorial."
Chris looks at him carefully. He is slightly hunched over and his wrist is bulky in the cast, but his color is better and he seems—if not happy, at least content. Nyota eyes him up and down and crosses her arms.
"I think this is a terrible idea," she says, and Chris laughs at her imperious tone. She really does sound annoyed, he thinks—but when he meets Spock's eye, he realizes that her performance must be a practiced one, that Spock has seen her mock indignation before. Nyota takes a step and closes the gap between them.
With a sudden impulse, Chris pulls his comm from his pocket and snaps a picture.
"To prove to your mother that you are okay," he says when Spock catches the sound of the shutter and glances to the side.
Suddenly the moment is awkward and Nyota steps away; Spock nods at Chris and then starts up the stairs.
"Well," Chris calls, "I guess I've been dismissed. Since I have a flight to catch, I'll just be on my way."
Spock does not look back but something about his posture tells Chris that he is listening. Nyota rushes to follow Spock up the stairs but she pivots and waves goodbye before disappearing inside.
Later on the short flight back to Seattle, Chris pulls out his comm to call his secretary and he sees that he has not logged the picture of Spock and Nyota to send on to Amanda and Sarek. He pulls up the program file and is thumbing through for the right address when on a whim he enlarges the picture and scrolls through it.
Spock and Nyota are backlit by the morning sun, a nimbus of light around them in a way that joins them together. Chris has caught them at the instant that Nyota moved closer to Spock, and for a moment he thinks that her motion may have blurred the image. But no—when he looks again, he sees that what looks like a smudge is really Nyota's fingers touching Spock's own—a brief interlude that could not have lasted more than a few seconds.
Chris looks away, as if he is intruding in a private moment. He isn't sure what Spock and Nyota mean to each other—perhaps they themselves do not know.
But he decides to leave this moment for them alone. With the flick of his thumb he deletes the picture and leans back in his seat, looking out the window at the distant scenery.
A/N: One more chapter to this second part of the trilogy!
Chapter 6: Epilogue: Flashforward and Back Again
Disclaimer: I don't own Spock or Nyota. Alas.
Almost a year from now, they will get caught.
Facing the disciplinary board, Spock will marvel how in every other area of his life, he has plotted and calculated the risks and rewards of his actions.
Even in moments of great anger—his backhanded acceptance to the Vulcan Science Academy, for instance, and the public snub of his mother—he has kept his wits about him and weighed his present actions against future consequences. He is here in Starfleet because in that heated moment before the Vulcan council, he had thrown in his lot with his human heritage—and though it was not the future his father had planned for him, it was one Spock had already explored in his imagination and found acceptable.
He rarely makes a move without some kind of cost-benefit analysis. He is the consummate planner.
Except for his relationship with Nyota Uhura.
He will confess to the nine men and women of the disciplinary board that he has not been logical or rational—that he tumbled into his relationship with Nyota without realizing that he was even falling at all—but once he had, he was lost.
As her former teacher and current supervisor, he could point out their intimacy is not as rare as the Academy would like to believe—and is, if inappropriate, only marginally so according to a strict interpretation of the regulations.
But he will not offer that defense, nor will he challenge one board member's assertion that as his subordinate, Nyota has been coerced into an unwanted relationship.
Although he is appalled by the suggestion bruited about by a clearly-sympathetic admiral that blatant prejudice is at work—"Why is this interspecies couple singled out for reprimand, I want to know?"—Spock will say nothing in response.
Except for the one thing that ends up saving him.
When he is finally asked to speak, he will offer no apology and his explanation is spare.
"I was unable to control my feelings."
If the nine human members of the disciplinary council are inclined to throw the book at a cold, rational Vulcan who should have known better, Spock's admission of a human failing will soften the blow. He will be given a formal reprimand only, with no loss of rank or privilege.
It is, in effect, a slap on the wrist, but to Spock it is a humiliating admission of his own lack of control—not because he has broken rules and regulations, for he isn't so hide-bound that he believes rules are sacred—but that he had let his emotions dictate his actions in a way no Vulcan ever would have.
Even more humiliating is his private admission to himself that he doesn't care. Despite the warning, despite the disapproval of most of the board members, he has no intention of ending the relationship with Nyota. They will be distant in public and circumspect in private, but they will be.
But that will come much later, months into the future. Right now, days after the bus crash, they do not know that they will become friends and lovers, or that their relationship will sustain them in times darker than they can imagine.
All they know right now is that they want to share an evening meal, and perhaps a quiet moment to talk about what it means that twice in the past week they have found occasion to pass so close to each other in the lab that their fingers have grazed, astonishing them both at the beauty of the hurried brush-strokes of each other's minds.
X X X X X X X
Although he tries to hide it, Spock is irritated by the cast on his left wrist to the point where he is seriously contemplating removing it a week before it is due to come off.
The bus crash that had broken his wrist is old news by now, the software glitch that sent the bus falling from its path 30 feet in the sky repaired. No one had been killed in the crash, though several humans are still in the hospital recovering.
Spock's own recovery is taking far too long by his accounting. The cast on his left wrist is bulky; it turns his arm at an awkward angle; it limits his ability to use simple tools, such as scissors or kitchen knives.
The kitchen knife in his right hand slips and nicks the two fingers of his left hand he is using to press the winter squash to the cutting board. The pain is momentary and he says nothing, but from the other room Nyota calls out, "What happened?"
Instead of waiting for an answer she comes into the kitchen and sidles up close enough to see what he is doing. For an instant he tries to angle his body away so that she doesn't see his cut fingers, but she is too quick for him.
"Go take care of that," she says. He is about to protest when he feels a tendril of her concern through her fingers as she reaches around and takes the knife from his hand.
The bathroom down the hall is the only place where he keeps topical antibiotics and skin adhesives. As he opens the medicine drawer in the bathroom, he thinks that perhaps keeping a small supply in the kitchen would be more efficient. How odd that he had not thought about doing so before.
Or perhaps not so odd. He rarely cooks for himself, preferring instead to eat whole fruit or grains—or when he is busy, whatever is on hand that he can get to quickly.
Since his recent visit to Vulcan, however, he has imagined cooking a meal like the one he helped his mother prepare—or like the ones she said she had shared with his father in restaurants on Earth. Something about the stories she told him about those meals gave him a sense of warmth and connection that he hadn't even realized is missing.
And so he has chosen a recipe that he thinks will work well in the red clay tagine his mother had given him years ago. He has faithfully carted the decorative pot and its cylindrical top through multiple housing changes, including three dorms and two different apartments, without ever using it.
The rind on the winter squash is particularly tough, and when he returns to the kitchen, he sees that Nyota is still struggling with it. He starts to reach around her for the knife and she shrugs him away.
"Nope!" she says. "You are the walking wounded. You aren't allowed to cook."
Spock can tell that she is teasing him, that her irritation is not real, but he steps back before answering.
"My intention was to prepare a meal for you," he says, "not have you prepare it for me."
"For us," she retorts without turning around. She slices the last of the squash and picks up a bunch of something that smells faintly of cilantro. "Unless I'm no longer invited to share the meal?"
Then she does turn around, looking up into Spock's face. For a moment he thinks she is about to say something else—her lips part a fraction and she takes a breath—but then she glances down before turning back to the cutting board on the counter.
"You're crowding me in here," she says. "Why don't you go sit on the sofa and do something productive—like grade your students' assignments."
Spock looks down at the cast on his wrist and decides that she is right—he's not much help in the kitchen and since the bus accident, he has gotten behind in student assessments. A stack of PADDs is piled near the sofa and he lowers himself gingerly—several ribs are still tender—sideways across the cushions. In another moment he stretches out his legs and leans his head against the armrest.
The sounds of Nyota's movements in the kitchen are oddly comforting, and soon Spock relaxes and picks up a PADD from the floor and switches it on. He has finished marking several errors in the first student's assignment when Nyota walks out.
"Okay, all the chopping is finished. Where's that recipe?'
"I have several you may choose from," Spock says. "I posted them to the kitchen monitor."
Nyota rolls her eyes and pivots back to the kitchen.
"Which one were you going to use?" she calls, and Spock replies, "The first was one my mother indicated that she and my father had tried before they were married. She seemed to have fond memories of it."
Even as he says this, something niggles at the back of his mind. How peculiar. The strange episodes of distraction and forgetfulness that had troubled him before his recent trip to Vulcan are still in play, apparently. He knows he should remember something about the recipe—some critical element in the story his mother had related.
Certainly the accident has shifted his recent memories. Spock picks up another PADD and reminds himself that worry over the unavoidable is illogical.
X X X X X X X X X
Nyota feels like an interloper when she comes into Spock's apartment. She has been here so rarely—and only today with Spock alone—that she has trouble feeling settled and finds herself stepping around the sitting room darting from object to object, listening out for Spock's movements in the kitchen.
She has agreed to dinner here not because she thinks it is a good idea for him to be up and moving around after his recent bang up in the bus crash, but because she cannot think how to tell him of her concern without sounding like a nag—or worse, like someone with a claim on his attention.
Most of the objects in the sparsely furnished apartment are familiar—a bookshelf with a few actual books but with many more digital copies; a holovid of Spock and his mother, and two of Vulcan scenery—red rocks and a deep purple sunset, and more surprisingly, a row of cabbage-like vegetables in a mound of sandy soil, someone's well-tended garden. His own, perhaps? She makes a note to ask him later.
The hallway is dark but Nyota drifts past the entrance and looks to where she knows the bedroom is—she and Spock's cousin Chris had helped get Spock situated there after the accident and she had spent several days ferrying materials back and forth until he was able to leave his apartment on his own.
So the hallway and the bedroom are no mysteries—she can picture the ceramic firepot on its tripod in one corner, the bare dresser with a mirror hanging on the wall above it, the heavy duvet pulled up over the bed.
Somehow she feels that knowing these details is wrong now—that Spock's accident had made her familiarity a necessity but not a choice for him…she feels a prickle of heat of embarrassment on his behalf.
She turns away from the darkened hallway and starts to sit on the oversized chair when a sudden silence from the kitchen alerts her that something is wrong.
"What happened?" she says, even as she hurries inside.
The blood across his fingers startles her—not just because it is oozing but because it seems unreal—so deeply emerald that it looks black in the light.
She is instantly deeply ashamed of being startled this way—but there it is. In moments such as this, she has to admit that their differences are a gulf that cause her discomfort.
To cover her surprise she becomes direct and bossy—"take care of that" she says, and she lifts the knife from Spock's hand. But even as he relinquishes it, her earlier sense of him as alien, green-blooded, is replaced by her larger worry that he is hurt.
As she listens to him walking down the hall and flicking on the bathroom light, she hurries to finish cutting the squash and is surprised at how difficult it is. She has to lean into the squash to slice it into thin slivers, but by the time Spock returns, she is almost finished.
The apartment is a few degrees too warm for her to be comfortable—asking him to adjust the temperature in his own home seems rude and so she says nothing—but suddenly she feels a flash of heat across her shoulders and neck and she realizes that Spock is standing behind her.
She flushes furiously and feels instantly exposed. Surely he knows that he is making her nervous.
First she tries to joke him away with a nudge and a mock scolding, but he stays so close that she feels the heat from the back of her neck spreading across her chest and arms.
This won't do. Without knowing exactly what she will say, she turns toward him and is suddenly overwhelmed.
Her earlier banter seems silly now, or foolish and flirty. She abandons another witty comment and decides to tell him a half-truth instead.
"You are crowding me in here."
She means it symbolically—that she isn't sure how close she wants to be—or how close they can be. She looks intensely at him, willing him to understand her—but the look of amusement in his eyes tells her that her seriousness of purpose has eluded him.
That he takes her suggestion to heart and agrees to grade student assessments rather than maintain the illusion of control in the kitchen is a revelation—she had prepared herself for an argument. He must be more tired than he lets on.
After the vegetables are chopped and she has the recipe posted on the kitchen monitor, Nyota opens the cabinet over the sink and pulls out the rest of the ingredients. The recipe he has referred her to sounds strange and exotic—and with a combination of things she would never have imagined on her own.
Cinnamon, for instance, with thyme and basil. The cinnamon is the random element—and not something she would have expected Spock to like. Doesn't cinnamon affect Vulcans oddly? Or is that chocolate? Somehow she thinks that both make them sick, or tipsy, or something….but perhaps Spock's human heritage protects him from Vulcan food sensitivities.
Unbidden, an image of his bleeding fingers come to mind, and her earlier shame makes her cheeks flush again. How hard this is—seeing past their differences—much less celebrating them.
At once she feels parochial and small. She thinks of Gaila, and of the Andorian Professor Artura, and the other non-humans she has come to know and admire while she has been at the Academy.
She has no trouble saying that she loves Gaila—even when she sometimes wants to kill her.
Perhaps she is simply being too hard on herself—seeing past Gaila's Orion alienness had taken time.
She and Spock are still new at….this. Whatever it is.
That thought cheers her and she finishes sorting the ingredients and begins measuring them and arranging everything in the tagine. The cinnamon is fresh—she has to prise the new bottle open—and she sprinkles a little extra across the top of the vegetables before covering the tagine and setting it on the cooker burner.
In the meantime she busies herself with making a green salad with odds and ends in the cooler. By the time she has found a large bowl to toss it in and has poured drinks, the main course is ready. Nyota lifts the tagine top carefully and takes a deep whiff of the spice.
The easiest way to serve everything is to place it on the counter top with several plates handy. Then they can carry their plates to the sofa and the chair and use the small table at the end as a makeshift dining area.
Nyota strides quickly to the living area to tell Spock to come fix his plate and she is stopped in her tracks.
There on the sofa he is sound asleep, a blinking PADD prone on his chest, a stylus still in his fingers, his head bolstered by the armrest.
She takes a breath to wake him but the light from the lamp on the table casts dark shadows under Spock's eyes and from her angle near the foot of the sofa, she can tell that, even asleep, he is favoring his wrist.
For three days now he has come to work as though he were unaffected by his injuries. With a pang, Nyota realizes that she has willfully ignored his exhaustion, so happy she was to have him back in the lab, life normal again or nearly so.
For a minute she stands as still as she can, hardly daring to breathe, and watches him sleep. Then she moves forward quietly and slowly, slowly, lifts the PADD from his chest and winkles the stylus from his hand.
She considers waking him and imagines trying to convince him to go on to bed. He will be mortified, however, and will insist on getting up and being company for her.
Instead, she goes back into the kitchen and covers the food and puts it in the cooler. Part of her is hoping that the noise will wake him and he will join her for the promised meal, but a larger, kinder part of her is glad that he doesn't. When she is finished, she turns out the light in the kitchen and moves softly to the hallway and beyond, to Spock's bedroom, tugging the duvet from his bed and gathering it in her arms.
Putting it across him is tricky—the time when he is most likely to wake—so Nyota is as gentle as she can be. For a second she thinks she has broken his sleep when a grimace flashes across his features.
His fingers are curled around the cast on his wrist and Nyota stretches out her hand to touch them, but she hesitates and pulls back. Then she leans forward slightly and brushes her fingertips across his brow instead, and in a moment he settles again and she is able to finish covering him.
In the end she decides to leave on one small light—when he wakes she knows he will be disoriented enough—and then she pulls the door to and takes a chilly walk back to her dorm.
X X X X X X
Three hours and thirty-nine minutes later Spock comes to with a start—stiff from sleeping on his back on the sofa and hot and tangled in the duvet. The silence in the apartment confirms what he suspected as soon as he awoke—Nyota is gone.
His disappointment surprises him. He takes a breath and reminds himself that regret is a waste of energy.
Mostly, though, he is ravenous, and a quick inspection of the kitchen leads him to the tagine and the cinnamon-laced vegetables.
Despite his intention of leaving enough to take to Nyota when he sees her in the lab that afternoon, in a few minutes he is scraping the bottom of the empty tagine….and quickly discovering that his human heritage has not protected him from the unusual food sensitivities that have made Earth-going Vulcans shy away from chocolate bon bons and cinnamon rolls.
But that's a story for another day.
A/N: Readers of "Slips of the Tongue" will recognize the red tagine (Spock's looks remarkably like mine). When it shows up in my kitchen, it's called a pot. When it shows up in Spock's kitchen, it is called a literary motif.
The last of this trilogy is "The Word You Mean," when Spock and Nyota finally stop dancing around the question of where this relationship is going. It's six short chapters that I will post daily. Then the sequel to that is "People Will Say," a long fic which covers the year that they think they are being more discreet than they really are.
If you are still reading, I appreciate hearing from you!