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The Orion-On-Vulcan Method

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Gaila wakes to the sight of an unfamiliar ceiling. It's wood beams and plaster, intricate and alien. For a minute she just blinks at it, gathering her memories, locating herself in time and space. The air smells like wood smoke and spices. The slanting light tells her it's afternoon.

She turns her head and addresses the figure sitting in the chair beside her.

"How long was I sleeping?" Her voice comes out rusty and her throat hurts. Lots of her hurts, she realizes.

He looks up from the book he's reading. His hair is gray, his clothes are traditional Vulcan, but his eyes lack the traditional Vulcan flatness. "Two days," he says. "Do you know where you are?"

"Yes, the Vulcan colony world."

"Excellent," he replies, and even with the roughness of age, she knows his voice. She pushes herself up a little to try to see him better. He looks back at her, as if submitting himself for inspection.

"Gods, you really are Spock. I thought I dreamed that part. No offense."

He smiles--at least, more of a smile than the Spock she knows has ever managed in public. "None taken. I sometimes think the same."

She wants to say more, but that's all the energy she has. She lies back down; her head is heavy on the pillow. "My legs hurt," she says, or maybe she just thinks it. It's been hard to tell what's real, recently.

She feels the weight of a blanket placed over her body. Then there's nothing again, for a while.


****


The next time Gaila wakes up, she stays awake. Spock enters the room to find her sitting up in bed, looking around like she is expecting something interesting to happen at any moment.

"Hello," she says.

"Greetings. I am glad you are awake. Excuse me for a moment."

He returns to the kitchen and comes back with a tray. He places it before her, and she looks down at the steaming bowl.

"Plomeek soup," he explains. "It is very nourishing. You require food to speed your healing."

She takes a spoonful. "Oof," she says. "Any chance we can doctor this up a little? It's a bit--"

"Bland?"

"I was going to say 'Vulcan,' but yes, bland."

He smiles. His younger self mentioned that she is direct. "I will see what I can do," he says. In the kitchen he finds a jar of spices steeped in oil, and brings it to her. He finds her sniffing the soup in a disapproving way. She stirs a generous spoonful of spices into the bowl and tastes it.

"Better, thank you."

Spock sits with her while she eats her soup. When she finishes, he takes the tray and places it on the small table beside the bed. He settles back into the chair and folds his hands on his lap. She does the same, settling into her pillows and folding her hands.

"How do your legs feel today?" he asks.

Gaila flexes her toes experimentally, and he sees a flicker of pain cross her face. But she gathers herself, and her look when she turns back to him is as direct as her words. "Like they got attacked by Romulans, deprived of oxygen, and beamed onto a really crappy salvage ship."

"As expected, then."

She laughs. "Yes, exactly."


****


Gaila likes this room. It must be newly built, like everything else in the colony, but it doesn't feel new. Not like a starship feels new. More like an old-fashioned Terran dwelling, with wood-paneled walls and a floor of rough-set stone. There are old things here, too, things saved from Vulcan--like the curtains, heavy as rugs, that hang over the doorways, and the intricate woven cloth that covers her bed. In the corner there's a cabinet where Spock keeps his books. They're Vulcan too, leather-bound and ancient.

Spock is standing by the cabinet with a book in his hands, slowly turning pages, when she wakes from her nap. He's so engrossed in reading that he doesn't notice her watching him. After a minute she sits up, runs her hands through her long red curls, and clears her throat politely.

"So, you're Spock from the future."

He looks up then, eyebrows raised. She can see she surprised him, but like his younger self, he adjusts quickly to being interrupted. He closes the book and places it back on the shelf. "I am, yes."

"Do they know who you are? The other Vulcans, I mean."

"In a manner of speaking. They know that I am Spock, son of Sarek, that I traveled through time, and that the result was the creation of an alternate reality."

It's amazing to her how much he resembles the Spock she knows. Even the way he's standing now, with his hands folded behind his back, is so much like his younger self that it makes her feel weirdly homesick. He's quiet, too, like Commander Spock, but it's a different quiet--more like he's actually relaxed, and less like he's running calculations in his head.

He's still standing there patiently, waiting for her to continue. Gaila recognizes the Vulcan conversational technique of saying nothing, to indicate that the other person is welcome to speak.

"What's it like, being from the future?" It's a crazy question, probably unanswerable, but she's curious.

He gives it some consideration, complete with a familiar tilt of his head. "All my past is gone," he says, finally. "Or rather, it exists in a reality from which I am gone. I had many friends there who I will not see again. That is difficult to adjust to. Without believing myself to be proud, I was accomplished, and had work that I felt was important. I was a member of the Vulcan Science Academy and Starfleet, and I was an ambassador for the Federation."

"You're still an ambassador."

"True. But from the perspective of those in this reality, I have done little to merit the distinction. My own past is unknown, and my younger self is only beginning his life. His path may be similar to mine, or entirely different. In any case it will not be my past. Both of us must make our own way."

She considers that. "You know so much. You could change the course of history."

He nods. "In certain ways, yes. I was able to give Montgomery Scott the equation for trans-warp beaming somewhat before he would otherwise have discovered it. I might not have done so ordinarily, but it was necessary to save the Earth. I may also be able to use my knowledge to prevent natural disasters, such as the supernova that will destroy Romulus--or rather will not, if I am able to prevent it."

Something connects in her mind. "It's a secret that you're here. It would be dangerous if people knew." These aren't questions. She sees plainly how it must be.

He nods again, and she detects the traces of a smile. "Your assessment is correct. Only my fellow Vulcans and a few members of the Federation and Starfleet are aware of my identity. If it were known to outsiders that someone with knowledge of future events and future technology is in the Vulcan colony, the colony would not be safe. This is important for you to remember. If you speak of me to anyone off-world, you must refer to me as Ambassador Selek."

"Selek. Okay. Can I still call you Spock around the house?"

"Please do. That is, if it is comfortable for you. I am aware that you are a friend of my younger self and may find it strange to call someone else by that name."

"Actually, I usually call him 'Commander.' Or The Commander, if I'm talking about him." She smiles at the memory. "That drove Nyota crazy. She hated being reminded that he was an instructor and off-limits. Until he wasn't off-limits anymore, then she was fine with it. Once they were doing it she probably started calling him 'Commander' herself. I know that's what I'd do. What are honorifics for if you can't have fun with them in bed, right?"

A brief silence follows her speech. He looks at her, blinking, and she realizes she probably just said way too much. But he doesn't look offended, just--slightly perplexed. "I apologize," he begins, "I am unfamiliar with this practice. Vulcans do not--"

"Don't say Vulcans don't have sex for fun. I already know that's not true." As soon as the words are out of her mouth, she wants to snatch them back. Wasn't that something Nyota said, that she should think about what she's saying before she speaks, instead of after?

"I was going to say, Vulcans do not generally use honorifics. 'Ambassador' is a Federation title, and I have not used it, as you say, 'in bed' before; therefore I am unable to determine whether I agree with your statement."

It's Gaila's turn to be silent. Then--she can't help it--she bursts out laughing. "Gods!" she says, "Vulcans!"

He doesn't look displeased. He simply nods, as if he's had the same thought. And she's pretty sure he's definitely smiling, though he's doing his best not to.

"So," she says, pulling her features back into seriousness, "what you said before, about the colony not being safe--that's why you're hanging out at the agrarian settlement instead of at the Vulcan Science Academy with the other geniuses. You're keeping a low profile."

"Yes. I visit the Academy as often as I can, but they receive many off-world visitors at the moment, so I must be careful. Someone with my areas of expertise would have been well-known within the Federation prior to the destruction of Vulcan. For me to appear without explanation at this time could raise questions. It is a risk we do not need to take."

"I guess this is kind of a backwater for you, too, then."

It's not a serious question, but he gives it serious consideration. Finally he shakes his head. "It does not trouble me. Wherever I go, I am always myself."

She thinks about that. "Me too," she says.


****


"You were able to save yourself and four others. That is impressive."

Gaila glances up for a second, then back down at the cards in her hand. She takes her time with her selection, and places it on top of his on the table. Only then does she look at him fully, and give a small shrug.

"The only reason we made it is we were already in the transporter room. I was showing them how to lock onto a ship outside the sector, and I'd just put the coordinates in when the attack started. If I'd known we were going to end up beaming there, I would've picked a better ship. Like a hospital or something. Salvage ships are just--ugh."

Spock looks down at the cards on the table. The small metal lantern casts a pattern of flickering shadows over the surface, and over the green skin of her arms, giving her a slight dappled appearance. The game is one of mathematical reasoning, at which--unsurprisingly--she excels. He can already see his defeat coming, six moves ahead, but he is unconcerned. He enjoys this evening ritual, now that she is able to sit up in bed without too much pain.

He lays two cards on top of hers, and glances up to see her reaction. She purses her lips, then smiles; she sees his defeat coming, too.

"It was not simply chance that saved you," he continues. "You showed great presence of mind under fire."

She had been running her fingers over the faces of her cards, but now they go still. "Yeah, well. There was no order to evacuate, so technically I'm probably a deserter." She stares at her cards for a moment, her brows pulled together. She draws one out, puts it back, takes another. She lays it on the table, still frowning.

It is not the card he expects. He recalculates, wondering what her strategy is, knowing she has one. "Does this trouble you, that there was no order? I understood the bridge had already been compromised." He plays his cards, not taking his usual time to do so. He is curious where she is going.

"The whole ship was compromised, so yes, that's true. I just never thought I'd have to decide that for myself."

"Your decision was the correct one. You saved four lives in addition to your own."

"Hmm, I guess," she says, but she smiles, and the eyes that meet his have a mischievous gleam that is curiously arresting. She lays her cards down, neatly covering his. "In that case, I win."


****


After a week, Spock comes home from the Academy to find Gaila out of bed. She is standing at the stove, stirring several pots. The house smells like spices, like his mother's kitchen on Vulcan. It is strangely comforting.

"I'm making some Orion food," she announces, by way of a greeting. "You're killing me with that plomeek stuff."

She is wearing the shirt from his meditation clothing. It hangs halfway to her knees, exposing the scars on her legs. They are raw and purple, in sharp contrast to the green of her skin.

She notices where he's looking. "Don't worry. It hurts, but I'll survive. I've actually had worse. The first time I escaped from the brothel, I got caught. But see, you can't even tell now." She pulls up one sleeve and displays a smooth, unmarked arm to him.

He touches her skin lightly, and a memory of searing pain enters his mind through his fingertips. "I am sorry," he says.

She shrugs. "I'm just saying, I'm not soft. It takes more than a few broken bones to keep me down."

"And yet plomeek soup will be the death of you."

"Are you listening? I said broken bones. I never said I was impervious to poison."

That evening they eat at the table on the veranda. It is pleasant--the temperature is cooler than on Vulcan, but the air has a similar dryness, and the roses in the garden emit an appealing scent.

When they are finished, they remain at the table for some time. "So," Gaila says at last, "was I right that Orion food is better than plomeek soup?"

"I agree it has many excellent qualities. Thank you for preparing the meal."

The lantern casts delicate shadows on her face when she looks at him. "You're welcome," she says. "Any time."


****


One day while Spock is away at the Academy, Gaila drags a blanket out to the garden and lays it down between the roses. She needs the sun; she hasn't been outside properly since before the Battle of Vulcan, and she can feel the deprivation in her body. It's almost as uncomfortable as her actual injuries.

Luckily, if there's one thing the Vulcan colony has a lot of besides dust and Vulcans, it's sunlight. She strips down to her Starfleet-issue underwear and stretches out on the blanket, sighing contentedly at the sun's rays heating up her skin.

She must have drifted off, because she doesn't hear his footsteps on the path. Only when he clears his throat politely does she open her eyes to see Spock standing there, dignified as usual, regarding her with one eyebrow raised.

She sits up fast, embarrassed. "Excuse me, I didn't think you'd be home so soon. I was just getting some sun. You know that Orions--"

"You require sun for dermal photosynthesis. It is a remarkable adaptation to famine conditions on your home world." He sits down at the other end of the blanket, observing proper personal distance, as Vulcans do. Although she's not sure Vulcans would consider any personal distance proper, when the other person is an Orion in her underwear.

"Yes," she says, relieved that she doesn't have to explain that part. "I think it'll make my scars turn green faster. Also I just like the sun." She looks down at her legs, trying to decide if her scars look any less purple. Hard to say. But her skin everywhere else is definitely greener.

He doesn't reply; he seems to be considering her legs also.

"I wore underwear," she offers, as if maybe that's not apparent. "I thought you'd appreciate it. Or, I guess, that any passing Vulcans would appreciate it. I didn't want to offend anyone with my Orion breasts." She watches his face for a reaction, feeling genuinely awkward for the first time since she's been here. "Um, you're not offended, are you?"

His eyes move from her legs to her face, and she's relieved to see the corner of his mouth curl up in his Vulcan approximation of a smile. "'Where no offense is intended, none is taken.' It is a Vulcan expression. However, I cannot speak for my neighbors. I received a number of comments this afternoon about your state of undress."

"Huh. Word gets around fast."

He nods. "It is a small settlement, and you are--noticeable." He speaks seriously, but she can see his amusement now, in the slight crinkling at the corners of his eyes. His neighbors may be scandalized, but he's not.

She feels something leave her--some tension she hadn't known she was holding on to. She wiggles her toes happily as she slips her arms into her robe and gathers up the blanket. She looks down at her legs again, and smiles.

Her scars definitely look better today.


****


His father comes to tea. It is--an interesting visit.

Sarek is plainly flummoxed by Gaila. No words could be clearer than the look on his face: He would say something to Spock, as his son--a subtle warning, most likely, about the appearance of impropriety; yet as Spock is technically his elder, he cannot.

Spock is sympathetic, of course, to Sarek's point of view. Tired of her Starfleet-issue clothing, Gaila has taken to wearing the undergarments of a woman's Vulcan dress--a corset-like gown with a stiff front panel--but without the traditional overgarment, which she finds too hot. The combination, while not indecent by Orion standards, exposes the fullness of her breasts rather more than is considered approriate among Vulcans. Spock does not blame Sarek for his difficulty in ignoring it.

Once, when Gaila is out of the room, Sarek makes an attempt. "Spock," he begins, "your companion--"

"My guest," Spock corrects him.

"Your guest, yes. Have you informed her that her...er...garment is intended to be worn beneath another?" His expression does not change, but Spock knows it cost him some effort to be this direct.

Spock nods. "I have. She thanked me for the advice. I believe she does not intend to follow it, however."

Sarek nods in return. He appears to be remembering his own experiences with female stubbornness. "I see. Yes, perhaps as she is not Vulcan--"

"Precisely," Spock says, as Gaila returns with the tea.

Gaila herself is unconcerned. She clearly regards her friendship with Commander Spock as a solid basis upon which to bond with his father, and she serves him tea with great cordiality--forgetting, in the process, most of the suggestions Spock made regarding traditional Vulcan etiquette.

Yet Sarek does not seem to mind. It occurs to Spock that his mother must have made many errors in the early years of their marriage, before she mastered Vulcan social customs. Perhaps his father is making allowances on that basis. Perhaps he is simply remembering Amanda's cheerful presence. Whatever the reason, Sarek's customary hauteur seems to have gone missing. Spock, for one, does not regret it.

As he is leaving, Sarek turns to Spock once more. "I see there is a new fence around your rose garden," he says. His voice, like his expression, is carefully neutral.

"There were rodents," Spock explains.

Sarek regards him for a moment in silence. Then he nods, agreement and acceptance. "Yes," he says. "That is what I understood, also."


****


"I've been meaning to ask you, what's the deal with Vulcan sex?"

Spock looks up from his PADD, surprised. It's evening, and they're sitting on the veranda drinking tea while he works on a report for the Vulcan Science Academy. At least, that's what he means to be doing. But Gaila's mind is restless, and now that she's raised a topic she enjoys talking about, she doesn't plan to drop it.

He puts his PADD down. As usual, he gives her his full attention. "Is there some aspect, in particular, that interests you?"

"Yes. What's the seven years thing? I know you don't just do it every seven years, because Nyota and The Commander do it constantly. So why seven years? What's that about?"

He tilts his head as if considering the question. "I could tell you. However I would then have to kill you."

She stares at him. "Oh my gods," she says, laughing. "Did you just use humor?"

"Apparently."

"Don't think that's going to distract me. Seven years, what's the deal. Be honest."

"I am always honest. You are referring to pon farr. It is a cyclical event in the lives of Vulcans, during which we experience altered brain chemistry, resulting in a temporary loss of emotional control. This is accompanied by an intense desire to join, physically and mentally, with one's bonded mate. If this need is not met in a timely manner, the individual may suffer symptoms of illness, or even die. It is therefore quite a serious matter among Vulcans, though, as you have observed, it is not openly discussed."

Gaila tries to imagine Commander Spock without his emotional control. It's sort of unthinkable--but on the other hand, incredibly hot. She wonders if Nyota knows what she's in for. "And this happens to all Vulcans?"

"To all sexually mature Vulcans, yes."

"Does it happen to you?"

"Yes."

She waits for him to elaborate. Apparently he doesn't think it's necessary.

"Well, does it ever stop? Do you get too old for it after a while?"

It occurs to her, too late, that this might not be a tactful question. But he doesn't look offended. She's beginning to wonder if it's even possible to offend him.

"That has not been established. Elders have experienced pon farr well into their third century of life. In my own case, I am only one hundred and fifty-five years old. In the context of a Vulcan lifespan, I am what humans refer to as 'middle aged.' While no one has said so explicitly, it is expected that I will take a mate and contribute to the reestablishment of the Vulcan population while I am here."

"Really. No kidding."

"Yes, and my father as well. He is still in mourning for my mother, but in time he will do what is expected of him. Sarek is even younger than I am, and while he will not get over my mother's death, he cannot live a solitary existence." His gaze has wandered off into the distance, and she wonders what he's thinking about. His mother, probably.

"What about you?" she says. "Can you live a solitary existence?"

"I have, in the past."

"Your younger self doesn't," she points out.

"That is true. His path is very different from mine."

"I'll say. He gets laid like crazy."

She's pretty sure that, by Vulcan standards, he just laughed. "Yes. I concluded that."

"I hope that's not rude."

"Not at all. I find your candor refreshing after a day spent deciphering oblique Vulcan communications."

"So, every seven years. When are you due?"

"I had not thought about it. I suppose I should. It will be soon, I think. Perhaps six months from now? Unless something happens to change that. Pon farr may be triggered at a different time--for instance, if one bondmate goes into pon farr, that usually induces it in the other. Or it may be brought on by illness, or by mental tampering."

"Fascinating."

"Indeed."

"You haven't had sex in six and a half years?"

He just looks at her, eyebrows raised. "Is that what you infer?"

"Sorry, rude again."

"I do not find it rude. I am simply trying to understand the source of your fascination. I hope you were not disappointed in some way by my younger self."

"Oh, gods, no! He was one of my biggest supporters at the Academy, and he never, ever wanted to have sex with me. You'd think that would hurt my feelings, but it was actually flattering. And it wasn't because he's some cold Vulcan or something--you can see that now, how he is with Nyota. And did you know? He wasn't a virgin when they got together."

Again with the raised eyebrows. She enjoys feeling she's surprised him. He's usually so well-informed.

"I know, right? I felt the same way when Nyota told me. I don't know the details--something about how, when he was first at the Academy, he wanted to learn about his human side. But I guess he learned enough, or else somebody scared him, because after that, seven year dry spell before he and Nyota finally got together."

"I cannot see that either experience did him lasting harm."

"I'll say. I just wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that. Deflowering a Vulcan must be so dramatic!"

He looks off into the distance, his eyes amused. "Indeed."


****


He's meditating.

She shouldn't be surprised. She's always suspected Vulcan calm isn't completely natural. But it's one thing to think it, and another to walk into Spock's room and find him kneeling on the floor, his eyes closed, tendrils of fragrant smoke unfurling around him. It's so unexpected, she forgets to do the polite thing and back out quietly. She just stands there, staring, until he opens his eyes.

"Gaila," he says, blinking. He looks a little lost, as if his mind is still elsewhere.

"I'm so sorry," she says. She's flustered, and the way he's looking at her now is actually making it worse. "I didn't hear you come back. I was outside. I was just going to--" She stops, embarrassed.

His eyes stay on her face while she's speaking, then shift downward, to the jar of roses she holds in her hands. His brows come together, as if he's puzzling over it. "You were bringing this to me?"

"Yes." Her cheeks are hot. All of her is hot. It takes her a moment to realize that it's not just her. The room is hot, the atmosphere close and smoky. She doesn't blame him for seeming slightly delirious. She's starting to feel that way herself.

The jar of roses is heavy in her hands. "I'll just--put these here," she says, setting them carefully on the table. "I'm sure you have things to do so I'll, um, talk to you later." She waves her fingers vaguely, turns, and bolts.

She's sitting in the kitchen, debating the likelihood that Vulcan meditation is an even bigger secret than Vulcan sex, when he emerges from his room and joins her.

"Greetings, Gaila," he says. "Would you like some tea?"

He's still in his meditation clothes, and the smell of incense comes with him. "Yes, thanks," she replies, and he goes to the stove to prepare it.

It occurs to her, as she watches him, that she's never seen him before without his traditional Vulcan clothing. The effect is surprising. Freed from those stiff, concealing layers, his body is slim and upright, and his movements have an unexpected grace. He's not exactly like his younger self, but he's less different than she would have predicted. She understands now what he meant, when he said that for a Vulcan he's not particularly old.

"Gaila," he says, and there's something in his voice that makes her look up. He is standing by the table, holding out a cup of tea. "Please do not be concerned that you disturbed my meditation. I require neither peace nor quiet for this practice. I wish you to know that you are welcome in all rooms of this house, at any time, without regard to me or my activities. Is this understood?"

"Yes, thank you," she says, as she takes the steaming cup from him, feeling oddly shy.

She sips the tea; it tastes like incense and flowers. She holds it against her lips to hide her smile.


****


"--So, once you've connected the red and green wires, reinstalled the photon-generating cell, checked all your connections, and made sure you haven't reversed the polarity on the terminals of the electron storage unit, you're all set. You put the cover back on, and fire it up. Any questions?"

Gaila looks expectantly at the small circle of Vulcans gathered around her. She has just finished demonstrating the repair of the settlement's supply transporter, and is waiting for a response. It occurs to Spock, upon reflection, that he should have warned her that "Any questions?" is a query most Vulcans would find impossible to answer.

She smiles brightly and claps her hands together. "No? Terrific! Now, I know this transporter is old and you're probably used to more cutting-edge tech, but now that you know how to fix this, you should be able to handle any other type of transporter. Underneath, the principles are all the same. Commander Spock taught me that, when I was his student at Starfleet Academy."

The atmosphere in the room had been, if not cordial, at least neutral, but at the mention of Commander Spock, there is a marked change. A few of the Vulcans look down; the rest develop a sudden interest in something happening in the middle distance, over Gaila's shoulder.

Gaila glances at Spock, a look of exaggerated disbelief, then back at the Vulcans in front of her. She slaps the transporter with the flat of her hand, and all eyes snap to her instantly. "Okay," she says, "I get it. He's half human, and you don't like it. And he turned down the Vulcan Science Academy, and he told the Council of Elders to fuck off. And he's not here impregnating your women, not that you ever wanted him to before. But could you guys just get over it already? It's been eight years. I can't believe you don't have something new to be scandalized about."

There is silence for a moment as all the Vulcans, in unison, look down again. Gaila sighs and shakes her head. "Fine. I'm just saying, the next time I speak to Sarek at the Vulcan Science Academy, I don't want to have to tell him this community doesn't have its priorities straight. So learn to fix the transporter, okay? And get over yourselves. Class dismissed."

"It was a spirited defense," Spock says, joining her where she stands, still fuming. "Although lacking in certain logical elements, I found it persuasive."

Gaila lifts her chin defiantly and glares at the backs of the Vulcans who remain. "I don't care if it's logical. They're not being logical either."

"I thought your point about impregnating their women was--memorable."

She laughs, finally. "That was good, wasn't it? Please don't tell him I said that--he's so private about sex, he'd probably never show his face here again if he knew."

"He is not alone. It is a subject few Vulcans would voluntarily discuss."

Gaila rolls her eyes. "I know. Everyone wants to repopulate, but nobody wants to talk about it. I don't know how you guys reproduced before, but a little more frankness wouldn't hurt now."

He cannot help smiling, though he is full view of a number of disapproving Vulcans. "Indeed. If I am consulted on the matter, I will be sure to convey that message."

She laughs again, and rests her hand for a moment on his arm. It is brief, almost nothing, just the pressure of her fingers through the cloth.

It is curious how long he feels them there, after she takes her hand away.


****


Gaila wakes up suddenly, a nightmare still fresh in her mind. For a moment she's unsure where she is; then things resolve a little and she realizes Spock is there, standing in the doorway, looking at her with concern.

"I'm sorry, was I loud?" She pushes her hair back from her face and sits up. "I was having a dream about the ship, where we didn't make it." She reaches for her pillow, but it's cold and wet--she must have been crying. She throws it to one side and pulls the blanket around her instead. "Don't worry, it was only a dream."

He tilts his head. "I believe that is what I am supposed to say."

"I know, I just wasn't sure that was in the Vulcan lexicon." The dream is wearing off now. She touches the small lantern on the table and it springs to life, throwing patterned orange shadows on everything around it. He's holding a book, she notices, and he's fully dressed, as usual. She wonders, absently, if he ever sleeps, and if so, what he wears to do it.

"I have observed that the Vulcan lexicon is constantly evolving," he says. He places his book on the table and sits down in the chair beside her. "One never knows when a new expression might be added."

"Really."

"Yes. For example, I understand that 'fuck off' and 'get over yourselves' were recently introduced."

She laughs. "I see. Vulcans are using these expressions?"

"I could not say. But stranger things have occurred in this colony, some even recently."

There's something happening between them. Gaila knows it; she feels it. It's present in the room now, in the form of a slight tension, a sense she can't explain that there are words behind words. It's not something she has a lot of experience with; it's never been her style to let sexual tension build, when the means to dispel it are so easy. But she knows attraction when she feels it. She knows interest.

What she doesn't know, quite, is what to do about it. Leaving it alone is not an option; she's already decided that. They're both single, and over the age of consent--in his case way over--and nobody's here to judge. They deserve something good, after what they've been through. And she knows it would be good; her instincts are never wrong about that.

Normally she wouldn't even think about it, she'd just throw herself in, and trust that men of all species are pretty much the same. That's the Orion method. But he's Vulcan, and he's Spock. He's reserved, and dignified, and she's pretty sure he has no idea she likes him back. She can't just inform him that she wants to have sex with him. She has to work her way up to it somehow. But there's no time like the present to start trying.

She shifts her position on the bed to sit closer to him. "You could say something new to me, if you want. You might surprise me."

He raises an eyebrow. "I doubt it is possible to surprise you."

"I can think of a few things I'd find surprising."

That connected. She sees something flicker in his dark eyes. "Perhaps I am--unsure what would please you. Surprises are not always welcome. Perhaps you could--provide guidance."

She's impressed; for a Vulcan, that was very direct. "Well," she says, feeling the tension ripple slightly. "I could. Or maybe I could surprise you first."

She sees the corner of his mouth curl up, just a tiny bit. Maybe she underestimated him; maybe he sees through her more than she realized. His gaze is just as level, his posture unchanged, but she has the distinct feeling he knows where she's going with this. It's a little exciting, thinking that he might--that behind that calm expression he's reacting to her in some way. She wonders what it would take to make him show it.

"What would you do if I kissed you?" She doesn't mean to blurt it out, but it's effective--there's a definite visible reaction. His eyebrows go up, and she thinks she detects a little flush on his ears.

"I would--receive the kiss, with pleasure. I would reciprocate, if that is your wish."

"It's customary to reciprocate," she points out. "It's considered a bit rude not to."

He accepts this with a slight smile. "I apologize for my uncertainty. I am not as familiar as my younger self with human sexual customs."

"Excuse me, I'm Orion."

"True," he says. "However if we were proceeding according to Orion custom, I think you will agree this conversation would have begun differently."

It's a fair point; if they were proceeding according to Orion custom they might not be having this conversation at all. A part of her brain she can never turn off flashes through the events of the last few weeks, replaying them as they might have gone, if she'd done things the Orion way: She sees herself, pulling him into bed the first night they played cards; him caressing her as she lies, melting with pleasure, among the roses; the two of them in his room, delirious and sated, while the smoke from his meditation swirls around them.

When she gets to the tea with Sarek, she stops herself. Picturing it as a threesome seems disrespectful, even by Orion standards. But the images she's already conjured are more than enough; she's turned on and determined, a deadly combination.

Spock is quiet, watching her, and she knows he's waiting to see what she does. His expression is perfectly calm, but there's a darkness in his eyes she hasn't seen before. It makes her feel bold. She leans across the space between them, closes her eyes, and kisses him.

His lips are firm and soft, and he tastes like tea and incense. And he's hot--unexpectedly so, like there's a fire banked inside him. She opens her mouth gently, coaxing him to do the same, and feels a shivery thrill when his tongue touches hers. He makes a sound in his chest, like a growl, or a purr.

She pulls back a few inches and looks at him, pleased. "I didn't know you do that."

"Surprising. I thought we had discussed all aspects of Vulcan sexuality in some detail."

"Hmm," she says, feeling warm all over just thinking about what that conversation would be like. "Not true. I still have questions."

"Such as--?"

"If I'm still here in six months, will things get really interesting?"

He blinks a few times, like his control just faltered a tiny bit. "It is likely, yes," he says.

"Are they getting interesting now?"

"Does the definition of 'interesting' remain constant in these questions?"

"Yes."

"Then, I believe the answer to that is also yes."

Gods, this has got to be how The Commander seduced Nyota. She probably thought she was seducing him, too, until he started talking. It's something in the voice--the careful neutrality, the perfect calm, and then underneath it this other thing, otherworldly and sexy and Vulcan. He's turning her on like crazy, and she wonders if he knows. And then she thinks, he must.

She pulls in a breath, trying for calm, not really achieving it. "Can I ask you something else?"

"Of course."

"What are you--like?"

"What am I like, with respect to--physical intimacy?"

She's starting to really love this directness. "Yes."

He considers it. "I hardly know. I am Vulcan. I have had little opportunity to compare myself with others."

"Vulcans are much stronger than Orions. Do you think you might be--"

"Too strong for you? I do not think so. Your recovery is well advanced. Also, I have no difficulty--restraining my strength, if that is necessary."

"Oh," she says. The thought of him restraining himself with her is strangely, paradoxically exciting, and she clenches her hands on her knees to control an urge to squirm. Something else occurs to her. "Don't think this means I don't respect your mind."

He smiles. "Understood. I respect your mind as well."

"I know."

There are ways this could go, she thinks. It's only a foot from the bed to the chair; she could cross it right now and there they would be. She'd fit her knees on either side of him, find her way down through all that Vulcan clothing, peel away every confining layer. He could take her, just like that, and it would be amazing. He'd give her what she wants, and make her come, and make her cry. He'd accept it the way he accepts her, because he's zen for a Vulcan, and he likes her.

That would be the Orion-on-Vulcan method. And it has many attractive qualities that she'll be sure to investigate fully.

But just now he wants her in a different way--she feels that, too. Not in the unbridled, do-it-where-you-are way; not like she did Kirk in the captain's chair of the simulator, or Suresh over the table in his office, or a hundred others in a hundred different places. Not like that but sincerely, respectfully, and with a desire to really look at her while they're fucking. And she's never had that before, but she gets it, because she feels the same way about him. Maybe it's just--logical.

Their eyes meet, and she's ninety-nine percent sure he just saw everything that passed through her mind. He smiles, and she almost laughs. "How long does it take you to get out of those clothes?"

"It varies," he says. "Not long."

She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. When she opens them, he's still there. "Good. Show me now, please."

"As you wish," he says.