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All Tomorrows

Chapter Text

The first time Nyota heard about Vulcans, she was six years old. Sitting on her grandmother’s lap and looking up at the darkening sky, she had said, “Bibi, what’s out there?”

Bibi tilted her head. “So much, Nyota. Billions of stars, but none as bright as you.”

Nyota smiled. “What else?”  

“Oh, other planets. Starships. Aliens. There—that star there. Do you see it?”

“Yes, Bibi.”

“That’s the planet Vulcan. Vulcans were the first aliens to come to Earth.”

“The very first?”

“Yes, little one.” Bibi shifted Nyota onto her other knee, her old bones cracking in the quiet evening. “Before the Vulcans came, we didn’t know that space was full of other people.”

“What do Vulcans look like? Do they have tentacles?”

Bibi chuckled. “No, no. They look like us, but they have green blood and pointed ears.” She traced a finger across Nyota’s eyebrow and then up into her hair. “And their eyebrows are slanted, like this.”  

“I want to meet a Vulcan someday. Are they nice?”

“Well,” Bibi hesitated. “They are very good. They believe in peace. But they don’t feel like we do inside. They don’t feel happy, or sad, or angry. So sometimes they aren’t very friendly.”

Nyota was quiet for a long time. “I still want to meet one,” she decided. “A girl, like me. Are Vulcan girls pretty?”

“They’re smart, and that is much more important.”

Nyota looked up, up, up. “Someday I’m going to fly in a starship. Someday I’m going to go out there.”

Bibi tugged her a little closer. “I’m sure you will, Nyota. I’m sure you will.”

---

The first time Nyota heard about T’Pring, she and Spock were still together. Spock mentioned her in passing once and Nyota pretended to be nonchalant. She had figured that Spock had a childhood bond, but the knowledge of it made her uneasy anyway. Spock, still terrible back then at reading any kind of body language, didn’t notice her stiffen when he said T’Pring’s name, didn’t notice the strain in Nyota’s smile.

“Do you think you’ll complete the bond with her?” Nyota asked. Spock didn’t even look up when he answered.

“I am uncertain. I do not feel compatible with her. Our bond is shielded at all times, and I doubt she will want to tie herself to me, as I am considered undesirable by the majority of Vulcans.”

“Anyone should be honored to be with you, Spock.”

He looked up and his eyes warmed slightly.

“Thank you, Nyota. I believe the same about you.”

The problem, of course, was that as much as they respected and adored each other, they didn’t love each other, at least not in the way they pretended to.

Neither of them could quite shake the embarrassment they felt about how their relationship had begun; in hindsight Nyota cringed at how much she had simpered over Spock, how much she was willing to fade into his shadow. Sleeping with a professor was a dangerous game, one that risked the career she had worked so incredibly hard to secure.

And she knew Spock was ashamed of sleeping with Nyota while she was still a cadet. He admitted once that he felt he had let them both down: her for blurring the line of authority that protected cadets, and himself for compromising his rigid ethical values.

It was immature, on both their parts, and nothing about their relationship was worth what they had gambled to maintain it. For years after they broke up, Nyota’s face would heat when she remembered how they had touched and kissed on duty, an over-the-top performance that was completely unprofessional, unbecoming of two respected officers. She once gave Jim a hard time about not disciplining them, but he just blushed and mumbled something about not wanting to seem jealous.  

Later, Nyota would wonder why they had tried so hard, why they had been so determined to convince themselves and everyone else that they had something special between them. The sex was fine, not great, and most of their romantic interactions were stilted, minefields of misunderstandings. For two brilliant people, it took them an awful long time to realize that what they most enjoyed in their relationship was sitting around discussing science, languages, alien cultures, history—anything, really. Nyota should have known herself better than to stay with a boyfriend who got excited with her about difficult translations of archaic languages, but who never showed any real desire for her. Who had never fucked her with his eyes open and who had frozen like a broken computer the one time she suggested he go down on her.

She should have known better, but she didn’t. In the end, it took Spock breaking down over losing Jim and her having to stop him from literally murdering Khan with his bare hands to make Nyota realize that there was nothing that fierce or passionate between them.

She ached for Spock, but suddenly it was so obvious that what she felt was nothing more than sadness for a dear friend who was in pain. So she sat him down and told him that, in case he didn’t already know, he was in love with his captain and probably also gay. He slumped into her arms and it was the most tender touch they had ever shared, his relief at being understood, at being forgiven.

Every once in awhile, when she found Spock and Jim making out in a supply closet or finger kissing when they thought no one was looking, she would remember Spock’s betrothed and wonder what had happened to her. She had most likely died in the Va'Pak. But Nyota never remembered to ask Spock about it later.

---

The next time Nyota heard about T’Pring was 6 years later, this time from Jim. He had just flopped facedown on her couch and was whining like a petulant child. Nyota rolled her eyes and got them both a whiskey.

Four years into the five-year mission, Nyota was flourishing. Her career was on track to being legendary. In Spock she had the rare kind of best friend that barely felt like a separate being, and they relied on each other in a million different ways. It was so much better than when they had tried to fit their love into a romantic context; it was bigger than that, sweeter than that. She had also found other lasting friendships among the Enterprise crew that kept her from being lonely, that gave her something to do on Friday nights in the rec room when she was burned out from working.

It was something of a surprise to Nyota that one of the closest of those friendships was with Jim.

“Here,” she said, sitting on her coffee table and holding out a tumbler. Jim sat up reluctantly and took it, sipping through a pout.

“He’s so irritated with me,” Jim whimpered, “What if he calls it off?”

They had had some variation of this conversation for the past three nights. Nothing Nyota said had made any impression on Jim.

“He’s not going to call off your wedding, stupid. He’s irritated with you because you’re being irritating. I’m irritated with you. But he knows that you’re out of your mind with nerves and can’t help yourself. You need to at least try to relax.”

“How the hell am I supposed to relax? I have to get up in front of a bunch of fucking Vulcans and act like I deserve to be married to one of them. And I have to meet Spock’s other ex. She’s undoubtedly nowhere near as awesome as you and probably thinks I’m scum.”

Nyota’s brow furrowed. “His other ex? You mean T’Pring?”

Jim sagged onto his back, his head on the arm of the couch. “Yeah. I mean, they never really had a relationship, but I feel like she still counts, since they were bonded for most of their lives.”

“She survived Va'Pak?”

“Uh-huh. They broke their bond when Spock and I started to talk about bonding ourselves. She sounds ok, like I guess they’ve been chatting about science since they broke their link, but I guess they were really incompatible.”

Nyota wondered why Spock had never told her. But there were always some things, usually about his relationship with Jim, that Spock kept to himself.

“Yeah,” she said, “women tend to be pretty incompatible with gay dudes.”

Jim laughed, but sobered suddenly and flashed her a sad look.

“It’s too bad he’s gay. You were so much better for him than me.”

“Oh Christ, Jim. Can we not do this?”

Jim sat up and looked at her seriously. “Do you get that I’m only here thanks to blind luck and the fact that I have geniuses like you and Spock to help me? When they made me captain I was nothing but an overconfident prick. There were you and Spock, this incredible power couple, forging this mature relationship while I was busy flirting with people like an asshole whether they wanted it or not.” He looked away. “And now I have the best ship and the best crew, and your boyfriend. How is any of that fair?”  

Nyota was going to have to get Spock. She turned to the PADD lying next to her on the coffee table and subtly messaged him. Your boyfriend is freaking out in my quarters for the third night in a row. I know he’s being an annoying little shit, but he just descended into his Jim-Kirk-doesn’t-deserve-anything-and-especially-not-Spock mood so you need to come get him.

As she typed she said, “Jim, you’re here because you got yourself here. I don’t need to remind you that you’re also objectively a genius. You were young, you made mistakes, you hurt people. But now you try to do better. We’ve all done stuff we’re not proud of. Like this one time, I slept with my professor who turned out to be gay and destined for a bond with this obnoxious, insecure guy who wouldn’t listen to his communications officer even though he freely admitted she was a genius.”

Jim gave her a look that was a little annoyed but mostly appreciative. She grinned as smugly as possible.

A chime at her door told her that Spock had gotten her message. For being mad at Jim, he had arrived at her quarters pretty damn quickly.

“Come,” she said. When Jim saw that it was Spock, he actually ducked his head like a sad dog.

“Hey, Spock. Did you need me for work stuff?”

Spock strode into her quarters and exchanged a nearly imperceptible look of apology and gratitude with Nyota.

“No, Jim. I came to ascertain your status. And encourage you to come back to our quarters.”

“You told me to go away.”

“You know that I did not.”

“You had the irritated eyes that mean you want me to leave you alone.”

Spock shook his head in exasperation. “I will be quite relieved when we are bonded, Jim, and you will actually be able to read my mind, instead of incorrectly assuming what I am thinking and feeling. Come.” He held out his hand and Jim got up.

“Thanks, Uhura. Sorry I keep pestering you.”

She smiled at him. “Don’t be sorry. You know I’m always here.”

He gave her a small smile in return and grudgingly took Spock’s hand. Spock said, “Good night, Nyota,” and tugged Jim out of her quarters.

Chapter Text

The first time Nyota saw T’Pring was two days later, after Jim and Spock’s bonding ceremony.

Although only Nyota and Leonard had been allowed at the actual ceremony, Spock had arranged for one of the few large event spaces on New Vulcan to be available that night for the crew of the Enterprise.

Both Jim and Spock had insisted that they didn’t need a big wedding celebration, but they had been overridden by literally everyone else, who insisted that the crew would want to mark the occasion with something memorable. So they all beamed down and a truly massive party began.

Jim and Spock themselves were the last to arrive, having no doubt taken a few hours to acclimate to the bond and also to fuck each other’s brains out. By that time Nyota was already merrily drunk, Sulu teaching her the waltz on the crowded dance floor.

A sudden upswing in the noise level announced that Jim and Spock had come in, and Sulu and Nyota craned their necks to see Jim grinning madly, clinging to Spock’s hand. Spock himself somehow looked pleased and vaguely miserable at the same time.

After enduring only a few moments of congratulations from crewmembers, Spock whispered something to Jim and then escaped, disappearing into the crowd. Jim smiled after him and fondly shook his head, turning back to receive the attention of the officers for both of them. Nyota caught sight of Spock again a few seconds later, looking around for her somewhat desperately.

She wove through the mass of bodies, noting the visible relief on Spock’s face when he saw her, his emotional control weak today. She threw her arms around him and he fell wordlessly into her embrace.

“You ok?” she whispered into his ear.

“I am overstimulated,” he murmured, clinging to the sequined fabric of her dress.

“Like, bad overstimulated or sex overstimulated?”

Spock pulled away with a tolerant little smile. “The former. Obviously.”

Nyota grinned. “Come on, let’s find somewhere quiet.”

She located a small side door, and together they escaped into the night. Spock took a deep breath and briefly closed his eyes, tipping his head up to the black sky. Nyota slipped her hand into his, not sure it would be a welcome gesture on Spock’s wedding day, as close to a kiss as it was. But Spock’s hand tightened around hers and she felt him project thin tendrils of comfort and gratitude through their skin, probably unintentionally. She smiled and leaned her head on his shoulder.

“How does the bond feel?”

After a long pause, Spock said quietly, “Spo'Sha-ka-ri.” Like heaven.

Nyota closed her eyes and smiled, squeezing Spock’s hand. For a little while, she wondered what that would feel like—to love someone so much you wanted to literally crawl inside their mind and never leave.

She was broken from her rumination several minutes later by a familiar whine.

“Spaaaaaaaack!”

Spock and Nyota turned to find Jim hanging halfway out the door, his eyes wide and slightly panicked.

“All the Vulcans just got here,” he said breathlessly, as if he had been running around trying to find Spock, which he probably had. “I let you get out of talking to the crew, but I can’t do the Vulcans alone. Please come back, please?”

Spock squeezed Nyota’s hand and let go of her, and they both turned to go back inside. “Yes, Jim. My apologies.”

Jim turned his frantic gaze to Nyota. “Will you come, too? Sarek actually likes you, and your Vulcan’s better than mine.”

“Of course I will.”

Jim grinned and started to go back in, but Nyota reached out to grab his arm. “And hey. Congratulations.”

Jim’s grin widened, sunny and sweet. “Thanks, Uhura.” He grabbed her in a hug, lifting her off her feet, and she laughed, kissed his cheek. Maybe it was because she was a little drunk and nostalgic tonight, but for some reason Jim’s wasted, miserable face came suddenly to her mind, leering at her in a dingy Iowa bar. They had sure come a long way since then.

The three of them headed back into the hot, loud hall, where a small group of Vulcans were standing close together, looking distinctly uncomfortable.

Sarek stepped to the front and held out his arm for Spock, placing his hand on Spock’s shoulder when they reached him. It was a remarkably sweet gesture, and Nyota smiled. “Sa-fu t’nash-veh, zhel-lan S'chn T'gai Spock,” Sarek announced to the other Vulcans, “heh sa-telsu t’sa-veh, khart-lan James Tiberius Kirk.

Jim turned his brilliant smile on the group of Vulcans, who collectively raised their eyebrows.

Spock offered the ta’al and said, “Dor-tor oetwel la'es t’odular, osular.

Sep-wafikhan nash-veh,” Jim muttered vaguely, which translated as “agreement me.” He probably had no idea what Spock had said and was trying to agree noncommittally. His Vulcan was decent, but he must have been so nervous it was frying his brain. He had not only bungled the grammar, he had also forgotten to use honorific variants. Nyota saw Spock’s eyes close very briefly in exasperation, but he still reached out and took Jim’s hand.

The Vulcans were all nodding gravely anyway, so it didn’t seem like they were too offended.

Heh komihn-kosu?” asked a low voice, smooth like an oil slick. Nyota caught a pair of dark eyes looking at her from the back of the small group.

Sarek’s expression warmed more than was strictly appropriate.

Ot-lan Nyota Uhura, ashtaluhk thrah t’shif uzh-telsu eh pi-maat t’etek.

Nyota smiled warmly at him. There weren’t a lot of humans a Vulcan would call a “dear friend of the family.” Sarek’s eyes twinkled fondly in return. Raising the ta’al to the rest of the group, Nyota said, “Dif-tor heh smusma, osular.” She could tell the Vulcans were slightly surprised and impressed by the natural quality of her accent.

Osular, tizh-tor-voh la’ka-yem-tukh heh mon-tukhlar sanu,” Sarek announced, indicating the table of refreshments before he engaged a few of the older Vulcans in conversation. As the group thinned out a little, the person who had asked about “the human woman” emerged from the back, a female Vulcan with sharp, slightly fierce features. She was wearing a silver dress and had her hair in a style traditional for formal Vulcan occasions, studded with jewels and worn high up on her head.

Nadorotokau nash-veh tu, Spock,” she said in that honey-dark voice.

Spock accepted the congratulations with a nod, saying, “Itaren nash-veh tu, T’Pring.” His expression of thanks confirmed what Nyota had suspected: that this was Spock’s long-ago betrothed. She remembered feeling jealous of T’Pring when she and Spock were still dating and laughed to herself. It was a good thing jealous little Nyota had never been shown a picture of her—T’Pring was easily one of the most beautiful women Nyota had ever seen.

Spock gestured to Jim and introduced him more informally and (probably to Jim’s great relief) in standard, “This is my bondmate, Jim. Jim, this is Ortrensu T'Pring."

“Hi,” Jim said brightly. “I've heard a lot about you. It’s so nice to meet you."

“You as well, Captain.” Even though Jim should probably have been her focus, T’Pring’s eyes slid back to Nyota. Khevsurik Nyota,” she said quietly, surprised at herself. It wasn’t typical for her to give up her first name so easily.

Nafai. Nyota.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Nyota saw Jim and Spock exchange a glance. An awkward silence dragged on until Leonard came ambling over, slinging an arm around the shoulders of both grooms.

“There y’all are! I been looking everywhere! Jimmy, you ain’t even had one drink, come on—Scotty and Sulu are waitin’!”

Spock leaned slightly away from him. “Doctor, you are inebriated.”

“Damn right I am, you fuckin’ hobgoblin, it’s your damn wedding night! You don’t have to come, but I’m takin’ your husband sho’ ‘nuf.”

With that he grabbed Jim by the arm and dragged him away. T’Pring had watched the entire scene with both eyebrows raised up into her hairline. Spock sighed. “I must take my leave of you, T’Pring. I find I do not desire further separation from my bondmate.”

“Of course, Spock,” T’Pring nodded. “I would speak to you at a later time—I have written a series of papers on environmental control for deep-space agricultural laboratories and would appreciate your feedback.”

“I look forward to it,” Spock said with obviously genuine interest. “Will you join this disorderly drinking, Nyota?”

Although she truly didn’t know why, Nyota said, “I’ll be there in a minute.” Spock glanced briefly between her and T’Pring before nodding.

Tizh’uh ish-veh,” T’Pring said in parting, and Spock raised an eyebrow. Enjoy him. It made a shiver run down Nyota’s spine.

Dungi-tor,” Spock confirmed, and disappeared in the direction of the rest of the senior crew.

T’Pring’s dark eyes returned to Nyota, sweeping down her body and back up. It was overtly sexual—or it would be for a human, but Nyota had no idea what it meant coming from T’Pring.

“Your accent is beautiful,” she said. “Have you spent time among Vulcans?”

“Other than Spock, not much. I’m a xenolinguist, chief communications officer on the Enterprise.

“Ah, I see. So your mouth can breathe beauty into many languages.”

“Yes,” Nyota all but whispered. She was now pretty sure T’Pring knew exactly how sexual she was. She cleared her throat and tried to find the confidence she usually had when she was flirting.

“Your work sounds fascinating. I assume you’re in the sciences?”

“I have degrees in both atmospheric science and botany. My current work is concerned with finding ways to grow Vulcan-native plants on spacecraft. Starfleet requested a way to assist the Vulcan High Council with rebuilding efforts and the council was aware of my work with reestablishing Vulcan plant populations, so they sought my expertise. I am now developing methods by which starship crews can assist in agricultural stabilization, and creating new technologies to facilitate that work.”

Nyota was really glad she had known nothing about T’Pring when she was dating Spock. She was not only beautiful, but also obviously brilliant. Nyota switched back to Vulcan and asked a few questions about the papers T’Pring had mentioned to Spock, about what it was like working as a contractor for Starfleet. T’Pring asked Nyota about her favorite languages, her experience learning Vulcan with Swahili as her native language, and then suddenly an hour had passed. Nyota glanced at her communicator and realized she had been absent from her best friend’s wedding party for an unacceptably long time.

“Shit, I should get back to Spock and Jim. It was lovely to talk to you, though—I can see why Spock is eager to work with you. I didn’t know you two were in touch.”

“For many years, we were not. Our bond was a source of frustration and restriction to us both. When he contacted me with a request to break it, we spoke briefly of our lives and realized that, as scientists, we have common interests. Since then we have occasionally reached out to each other for peer reviews or assistance.”

“Oh, that’s great. He’s the most brilliant scientist I’ve ever encountered.”

“He is indeed brilliant. I had always assumed we were entirely incompatible but there are many similarities between us. If our correspondence continues at its current pace, I anticipate calling him ‘friend.’”

“Do you wish you could have bonded with him after all?” Nyota asked, even though it was an inappropriately personal question.

T’Pring’s eyebrows flew up, a miniscule expression of Vulcan amusement.

“Certainly not. We were never romantically compatible.” Her eyes roved lazily down Nyota’s body again. “Nor sexually compatible, as we both prefer our own gender.”

Nyota swallowed. Their conversation had never lost the soft heat it had started with, so she wasn’t exactly surprised by T’Pring’s obvious overture, but it was rare for a Vulcan to so casually approach a human for sex. Not unheard of, though. So Nyota switched to Vulcan again and said softly, “You are making an erotic advance.” She could have sworn T’Pring’s deep eyes darkened further.

Pabukh’uh nash-veh,” T’Pring said, although she didn’t sound very sorry at all. “I am tactless. But you are appealing and I desire you. I confess Spock has spoken of you often. I became curious.”

T’Pring took a step closer. She smelled like the flower of the Vulcan-native ka-ran-zhi cactus. Nyota breathed her in.

“I have discovered that you are more beautiful than a male homosexual can describe,” T’Pring said, the hard consonants and glottal stops of the Vulcan language suddenly incredibly erotic. “Do you engage in sexual intercourse without personal commitment?”

“Yes,” Nyota whispered. They were almost scandalously close for a gathering at which other Vulcans were present.

Nam-tor nash-veh sanoyalik.

T’Pring’s fingers found Nyota’s and trailed lightly against them. Nyota’s breath hitched, the heat of the room starting to feel overwhelming.

Just as T’Pring fully clasped Nyota’s hand, probably to lead her somewhere more private, a loud ding sounded and broke the electric-hot tension between them. T’Pring let go and reached into her dress pocket, withdrawing her communicator and reading a message blinking on the screen.

Ponfo mirann,” she swore softly and then looked levelly at Nyota, all her subtle expressions gone. “My sincerest apologies. One of my experiments is apparently growing at an unnaturally exaggerated rate and threatening my laboratory with an overabundance of vines. I must depart. Please convey my regrets to Spock and Captain Kirk.”

She turned to go but seemed to change her mind, looking back over her shoulder.

“I hope we will meet again, Ot-lan Nyota Uhura.”

“Me too,” Nyota managed to say, before T’Pring turned away and disappeared.

For a few moments, Nyota stood frozen. Then she shook herself—this was by no means the first time someone had approached her for casual sex but there had just been something… intense about T’Pring that had rattled her.

But she had lost the focus of the night for long enough, so she wove through the crowd to find the Enterprise senior crew, who were grouped near the bar. Sulu was dancing with Ben, who had flown in for the occasion, and Chekov and Scotty were drinking what looked like their fifth or sixth round. Spock—who had definitely been given a wedding-night-appropriate amount of chocolate—was sitting on the bar with Jim between his legs, Jim’s back plastered against Spock’s chest. Leonard was standing chatting with them, probably only tolerating their sappy cuddling because of the occasion.

Jim caught sight of Nyota and reached out an arm, but didn’t move from where he was curled up against Spock, drunk and happy.

“There you are! Where’d you go?”

“Sorry,” said Nyota, drawing up beside Leonard, “I was talking to T’Pring and lost track of time.”

Jim looked up at Spock. “You know, you’ve been with two, like, ridiculously hot women. No gay dude should have that much game with the ladies.”

“Perhaps I have ‘game’ with attractive individuals of all genders. I married you, did I not?”

Jim preened at the uncharacteristically effusive compliment, leaning up to kiss his new Vulcan husband. Leonard rolled his eyes. “I need another drink. I’ll get one for you too, Uhura.”

A few rounds later, Nyota dragged Spock away to dance, settling into the warm, familiar circle of his arms. They were both so tired and drunk that they just kind of leaned on each other and swayed, Nyota’s arms around Spock’s neck and her head on his shoulder.

“T’Pring wanted to fuck me,” she mumbled.

Spock hummed thoughtfully. “Why did you refuse her? She is very attractive, is she not?”

“I didn’t. One of her plants started taking over her lab and she had to leave. She sends her regrets, by the way.”

“Would you have accepted her offer?”

“Duh, have you seen her?”

“She is a scientific genius. You would be well-suited.”

“It would have just been a casual fuck, Spock.”

Spock nodded. “Of course.”

Jim ambled over when the song ended and demanded to take Nyota’s place, and Nyota headed back over to the others. Leonard was grinning and holding out another beer for her, and as she took her first sip she watched Jim and Spock over the rim of the glass. Jim leaned back, staring into Spock’s eyes, and said something that earned him Spock’s tiny Vulcan smile. Jim was playing with the hair at the nape of Spock’s neck, and Spock’s hands were fastened securely around Jim’s waist. They were holding each other like it was what they were made to do.

Nyota smiled and turned away. Scotty was saying something to her and she tried to listen, but she was distracted. There was still a faint buzzing in her fingers where T’Pring had touched her.

Chapter Text

The next time Nyota saw T’Pring was on the Enterprise, almost four months later.  

After the wedding, Spock and T’Pring had done a few more rounds of peer-review and even co-authored a paper, and eventually their casual academic relationship had evolved into an actual friendship.  

When Starfleet gave T’Pring funding for a full test-run of her deep-space growing system, Jim had requested that the Enterprise be chosen as the test ship. Not only was Spock now personally engaged in the project, Jim had a particular interest in agricultural science—specifically the prevention of famine—and was eager to bring a scientist like T’Pring onboard

Spock had commissioned a brand-new botanical sciences lab, and T’Pring and some of her staff were going to stay on the ship for the remaining 8 months of the mission. If they were successful, the Enterprise, upon the launch of its second 5-year mission, would become the permanent flagship lab of the project, with T’Pring in charge.

Nyota couldn’t deny that T’Pring coming aboard was a bit of a thrill. Spock said T’Pring had asked about her a few times since the wedding, and she was curious to see what would happen in the wake of their very brief flirtation. The day the team arrived from New Vulcan, Nyota wandered down to the new botanical lab, where she found Spock overseeing and assisting T’Pring’s staff as they acclimated themselves. He looked up when Nyota came in and quirked an obnoxiously knowing little smile. Jim was a terrible influence on him.

“Looks good,” she said.

“Indeed. The Greenhouse is the most impressive feature—you should observe it. T’Pring is there now.”

“Subtle,” Nyota said drily, but made her way to the large doors in the back of the main lab.

What had been named “The Greenhouse” was actually a series of other labs, environmentally controlled to simulate different growing environments. These labs had earned their name because they housed all of the actual plants—Sulu had begun spending more and more time down here as the specimen collection was shipped in ahead of the team’s arrival.

Nyota entered the first lab, a hot, dry desert environment full of cactuses and succulents. There was no sign of T’Pring, so she kept going until she reached the last lab, humid and sweet-smelling. T’Pring was alone in the very back, looking at a group of hanging plants and taking notes on her PADD. She looked up when she heard the door open, and her eyes warmed slightly.

“I had hoped you would find me.”

Nyota didn’t answer immediately—she was taken aback by the sight of T’Pring, even though she had prepared herself. Although T’Pring’s elegant wedding-guest attire and traditional hairstyle had been sexy beyond the telling of it, there was something incredibly beautiful about seeing her in a science-blue Starfleet dress, her long black hair in a simple braid, the green of her features exaggerated by the light filtering through so many plants.

“Hey,” Nyota managed finally. “Welcome aboard.”

“Thank you. I am eager to begin working in earnest. The labs are as exquisite as Spock promised.”

“Yeah, Spock doesn’t skimp on his science department. And Jim will give him anything he wants, obviously.”

T’Pring’s eyes twinkled with amusement. “Indeed. I observe they have reacted well to their tel.”

“Very well. They’re more annoyingly besotted than ever.”

“Their behavior is not normal for humans either, then?”

“Well, it’s not abnormal, they’re just… a little more obviously in love than most couples. They try really hard not to act like bondmates unless they’re alone or off duty, but they fail pretty spectacularly. They’re kind of in their own little universe—sometimes I think they forget anything else exists.”

Nom-tor au t’hy’la.

Ha. Ri wa’ken-tor nash-veh ashaya t’au.”

T’Pring cocked her head. “No, I suppose you could not truly understand their love—a telepathic bond is more intense than anything most humans experience. Although, to be fair, I do not understand it either, having known no other telepathic connection but the indifferent touch of Spock’s mind.” 

Nyota didn’t really know how to answer that, didn’t know if T’Pring was lamenting her lack of telepathic connection or if she was just stating a fact. She stepped further into the lab, closer to T’Pring. “This feels like a rainforest. I’m a little surprised Vulcan plants grow in this environment.”

T’Pring went back to touching the leaves hanging above her, her laser-like scientist’s focus familiar from watching Spock work.

“There were regions on T'Khasi that were more temperate than most, that experienced limited amounts of rain. Although they were not rainforests by any means, rainforests are present on Uzh-T’Khasi. I have replicated those environments and am testing in them plants which once grew in the wetter regions of our homeworld.”

“I see,” Nyota said, reaching out to touch a particularly green leaf. “Your work is so interesting—after you’re settled in, would you like to have dinner with me? I have really good Vulcan food programmed into my replicator for Spock so I could make you something familiar. I’d really like to hear more about your project.” 

T’Pring paused in her work. Her obsidian eyes bored into Nyota. “Ot-Lan Uhura, I believe you have just invited me on what Terrans call a ‘date.’” 

Nyota smiled, taking a deep breath. “I guess I did.” 

--- 

“Ok, but candles or not? It's too cheesy, right?” 

Spock was sitting neatly on Nyota’s couch, doing reports while she paced around her quarters. 

“Considering T’Pring has virtually no experience with Terran courtship, she likely has no frame of reference by which to determine if romantic candlelight has been overused to the point of being tawdry.” 

“Good point. Candles it is.” 

Nyota dug around in her closet, looking for a package of candles Jim had bought for her on a pleasure planet a couple years ago. 

“Ha! Here they are,” she said in triumph, turning the package over in her hand. “The smell is supposed to be ‘erotic’—is that weird? These are all I have.”

Spock looked up and held out his hand for the package so that he could read the ingredients. 

“None of these substances produces physical reactions in either human or Vulcan bodies,” he said, handing them back to her. “These are merely cheap souvenirs. How did you acquire them?” 

“Your husband gave them to me.” 

“Ah. Of course he did.” 

Spock watched her set up the candles on her desk, which she had cleared and set with plates and glasses. 

“Nyota, may I make a personal query?” He didn't wait for her to answer. “What is your ideal outcome for this interaction? You previously indicated that you desired casual sexual congress from T’Pring, but surely you could achieve that without so much pomp and circumstance.”

Nyota shrugged. Truthfully she'd been asking herself the same thing. “I don't know. But she's going to be here for eight months, maybe longer, and she's a brilliant, beautiful woman and I don't want to… I guess I just want to leave my options open.”

“Do you desire a romantic relationship at this time?”

“You offering?” she said, throwing him an obnoxious grin, “Wanna fan the old flame?” He pursed his lips in silent Vulcan disapproval and ignored her, waiting expectantly for her real answer. Nyota sighed.

“I don't know. Maybe? I mean, I don't ever want to feel… tied down. I know I don't want to have kids. But I haven't had a regular partner since we were together. It might be… nice. Maybe. I don't know.”

And would you want such a relationship with a Vulcan?”

“Of course. Why wouldn't I?”

“T’Pring is fully Vulcan. I am not certain she could provide a human partner with the emotional nurturing humans require.”

“I’m not a trembling daffodil like Jim, Spock. And besides, it's just a date!”

Spock tilted his head in acknowledgement.

The doorbell chimed and for a panicked second Nyota thought she had lost track of time, but then a familiar voice announced, “It’s Jim!” and she breathed a sigh of relief and commanded the doors open.

“Hey! I need a couple signatures before your date—oh, hey honey.”

“Good evening, sa-telsu.”

Jim handed Nyota a PADD. “I wanted to check in person that you were ok with Olsen and Qu’arth transferring out.”             

Not waiting for her answer, he flopped onto her couch and put his head in Spock’s lap. Without ever looking away from his reports, Spock lifted his PADD up until Jim was settled, and then began automatically threading his fingers in Jim’s hair.

“Yeah, it wasn’t anything stressful. Two spots opened up on the Horizon and they both wanted a chance to be closer to Earth.”

“Oh, ok. I’ll start looking for their replacements.”

Nyota signed the transfer orders and handed the PADD back to Jim. “You better get me good people.”

“Obviously. So anyway, I see you’ve made your quarters nice and cozy for your evening of lady-fucking.”

“Honestly, Jim,” Spock muttered, but Jim was of course undeterred, waggling his eyebrows at Nyota.

“I have no idea if there will be any fucking, but there definitely won’t be if you two don’t stop cuddling on my couch—go away, she’s gonna be here in twenty minutes. Go do some dude-fucking in your own quarters.”

“Ooh, good idea! Don’t you think, Spock?” Jim grinned up at his husband, who finally looked away from his PADD and down at Jim.

“If you are able to finish your reports in an efficient manner.”

Jim’s face fell. “Spock! I’ll do them in the morning or something, come on!”

Spock’s lips quirked. “I am, as you would say, teasing. I have already completed your reports with the express purpose of freeing our evening.”

Jim’s grin came back full-blast.

“Oh my god, get out!” Nyota commanded, and threw a pillow at them.

---

T’Pring was right on time, of course. Nyota was uncharacteristically nervous, almost stopped breathing as T’Pring looked around her quarters with that familiar expression of Vulcan appraisal. But then she gave Nyota a slightly warm look and said, “Your quarters are aesthetically pleasing. Thank you for inviting me for dinner.”

Nyota let out a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. “It’s my pleasure. Please, sit down.”

She had been worried that, without the charged atmosphere of a wedding party, without a little alcohol in her blood, they wouldn’t be able to recapture the easy, flirtatious tension they had built between them four months ago. But one of T’Pring’s tests had failed that morning and she was eager to talk about it, so they slipped easily into conversation. T’Pring was not upset, obviously, but logically displeased at the loss of one of her promising experiments.

She was upset, of course. Nyota poured her a glass of water to get her to stop talking and breathe for a second, then she listened intently, making intelligent but comforting remarks mixed in with the reassurances that no: it certainly was not illogical to be displeased and no: displeasure was not an emotion and yes: of course the project would be able to recover from the setback as long as T’Pring was in charge of it.

Spock didn’t give Nyota enough credit—she was fucking great at dealing with Vulcans.

By the time dinner was over and Nyota had poured them each a second glass of the chocolate wine she had bullied Jim into giving her (“But I was saving it for a special occasion!” “What special occasion? Having sex with Spock, like you do every day?” “No! I mean yes, but not everyday sex—special sex.” “Jim, I’ll buy you another fucking bottle of wine, give it to me!” “Send me that picture you have of Spock from the Academy.” “Ugh, FINE!”), T’Pring had relaxed about the experiment, the sharp set of her spine softening, her eyes darkening in Nyota’s direction.

“My apologies, Nyota. I have monopolized this conversation.”

“No, I don’t mind at all—I told you I want to hear about your project. We’re all pretty invested in the Vulcan restoration on this ship, so I’m hopeful that things will go well and you’ll be on the next mission with us.”

“Then you have already decided to renew your commission?”

“Oh, definitely. Almost all of the senior crew has. For most of us, this is home.”

“You do not miss Earth?”

“Sometimes, sure. But I would miss my friends a lot more. Jim and Hikaru and Bones and everybody else—and Spock’s basically the most important person in my life. We’re a family.”

T’Pring stood and picked up their empty plates, taking them to the recycler.

“Hey! You don’t have to do that!”

“It is no burden. Shall we move to the couch?”

Nyota was starting to think her chances of fucking T’Pring tonight were getting better and better.

As Nyota settled next to her on the couch, T’Pring handed her her wine and asked, “You and Spock were romantically involved, were you not?”

“Yeah, for a couple of years.”

“Did you end your relationship because of his homosexuality?”

“That, and how far gone he already was for Jim.”

“And yet you do not resent Captain Kirk.”

“Oh, no. I mean, I knew he was in love with Spock. I’m a communications specialist—I could read it in his body, his vocal tone, his eyes, as easily as reading a picture book. But he tried really hard to hide it from me, and that meant a lot. It changed my whole opinion of him, really. And when it became clear that Spock felt the same, well. I wasn’t going to stand in the way of that. For their sake, but also for my own. I deserve much more from Spock than he was giving me, and I got it by breaking up with him. I’m completely dependent on him now in a way I wasn’t—in a way I couldn’t let myself be—when we were together. So no, I never resented Jim. He kind of… set the universe back on the right course.”

She laughed self-consciously, cheeks heating, realizing she’d gotten a little more emotional than she’d meant to. But T’Pring just tilted her head, swallowing Nyota up with those dark eyes.

“I was most relieved when Spock asked to break our bond. I never desired him for a husband.”

Nyota’s guard went up, just a little. “Why not? Because he’s half-human?”

The shadow of a smile fell on T’Pring’s mouth at Nyota's poorly concealed defensiveness. “Perhaps, when I was younger, yes. Like many Vulcans, I was prone to xenophobia in a way I find disgraceful now. But my opinion changed drastically when so many of our people were saved by a cobbled-together crew of human cadets, by one young communications student who intercepted information that no one else could, setting in motion the rescue of Vulcans who would otherwise have perished, our race extinguished altogether.”

The heat in Nyota’s face spread down to her chest. T’Pring’s hand shifted slightly on the couch and her fingers brushed Nyota’s.  

“It is regretful that it was those events which changed my perspective on humans, and on Spock, but it was so, for me and for many Vulcans. But even after that, I did not want to be Spock’s bondmate—his notoriety only grew among our people after Va'Pak, and I knew that to marry him would be to play consort to a legend. I do not wish to be defined as someone’s wife. I wish to make my own impact, be known for my work—not for my bondmate.”

“That makes sense,” Nyota murmured. “I can understand not wanting to be with a man who would define you. Didn’t you say you’re gay anyway?”

She didn’t clap her hand over her mouth in utter embarrassment, but it was a near thing. “Oh, shit– that was– sorry—”

But T’Pring only moved her hand to fully cover Nyota’s. “No apologies are necessary. I do prefer my own gender, although I am not totally averse to others. I had a very satisfying relationship with a Vulcan male named Stonn for 1.62 years—he was a strong, incredible lover but he was also, frankly, as dumb as a rock.”

Nyota burst out laughing, and T’Pring’s eyes caught the candlelight, amused.

“But you aren't… opposed to humans now?” Nyota asked when she managed to stop laughing.

T’Pring shook her head. Her fingers started to move slowly against the back of Nyota's. “I did wish to apologize for… propositioning you so aggressively at Spock's bonding ceremony. I am sometimes accused of being abrasive, and I admit that my understanding of human sexuality is limited. I did not intend to convey anything but respect for you.”

Nyota turned her hand over and grabbed T’Pring’s fingers, earning a surprised gasp of arousal.

“You don't need to apologize. You weren't abrasive, and it was a welcome proposition.”

T’Pring’s eyes met hers. “Indeed? Would you like me to make it again?”

“Very much so.”

T’Pring lifted her hand to Nyota’s cheek, skimming her fingers down her neck and over her collarbone.

“I longed to touch you four months ago. I was deeply frustrated when I lost the chance.”

Nyota leaned a little closer. “I was frustrated, too. You made me so wet, and I had nothing to satisfy me but my own fingers.”

T’Pring jerked back a little, her eyes widening. “Your human forwardness is extremely stimulating.”

Nyota laughed softly. “My forwardness? You asked me for sex an hour after we met.”

T’Pring’s lips quirked and Nyota wanted to bite them until they were as green as leaves. “I concede your point.”

That was as much talking as either of them had patience for, and Nyota lunged forward, T’Pring’s mouth so cool, her body surging up against Nyota’s. T’Pring’s long fingers gripped the back of Nyota’s neck, already working at the clasp of her non-regulation dress. Not to be outpaced, Nyota slipped a hand under the hem of T’Pring’s uniform, rucking it up around her hips.

T’Pring got the clasp undone and unceremoniously yanked Nyota’s dress down to expose her breasts. She hadn’t bothered with a bra that night, and T’Pring broke their kiss to look at her small, tight breasts, nipples hard and straining for the touch of T’Pring’s fingers.

Slor-kohmin,” T’Pring whispered, and reached out to take Nyota’s breasts in her hands, rubbing the flat of a thumb against each nipple. Nyota gasped and curled up into T’Pring’s touch.

Olau nash sanokik ha?” 

Ha,” Nyota confirmed, pushing her hand farther up T’Pring’s leg and teasing around the edges of her regulation briefs. “Maut-sanokik.”

T’Pring dipped her head and took one of Nyota’s breasts in her mouth, sucking hard.

Ah!” Nyota gasped, and curled her free hand in T’Pring’s hair. She looked down and was drawn to the flushed green tip of T’Pring’s ear, reaching out a finger to trace it. She was instantly and forcefully reminded of Jim, leaning in her door that evening as she tried to shoo him and Spock out, stage-whispering “Go for the ears!”

Of course Jim would insert himself, albeit unintentionally, into this sexual encounter.

Aitlu nash-veh zahv-tor du,” T’Pring muttered in a low voice, instantly turning Nyota’s thoughts away from her captain. “Lau-nash-veh ha?” 

Ha, aitlu nash-veh ta, ihmfau nash-veh tu,” Nyota rasped, and T’Pring was on her knees almost instantly, helping Nyota shimmy all the way out of her dress. She ran her fingers over Nyota’s briefs at the cleft of her legs, gasping slightly at how hot and swollen she already was. As she slowly drew the briefs down her legs, she looked up and locked Nyota’s gaze in hers, Nyota’s breath catching at the alien hunger she saw there.

Sak’uh mallar t’du,” T’Pring murmured, even as she pushed Nyota’s knees apart and effectively spread her legs for her. She finally broke their eye contact and gazed at Nyota’s pussy, on display for her, and she blew out an appreciative breath.

Nam-tor du vaksurik,” she said lowly, and then leaned forward to lick a hot stripe from Nyota’s perineum to her clit.   

Hu'tegh!” Nyota swore in Klingon, momentarily forgetting which alien language she was supposed to be speaking, and T’Pring chuckled against her. She pursed her lips around Nyota’s clit and sucked, Nyota whining and writhing against her, until Nyota was hard under her tongue.

T’Pring’s fingers found their way to Nyota’s slit, rubbing firmly along the insides of her lips. Against Nyota’s wet, pulsing skin she said, “Nam-tor du maut-masupik heh nam-tor ko-lok t’du vaksurik-abulik. Sagwapau ish-veh nash-veh.”

Hal-uh svi’nash-veh,” Nyota said, and she didn’t know if it was a command or a plea. Either way, T’Pring obliged her, slipping two long, alien fingers inside her with no hesitation. Nyota moaned, unable to tear her eyes from the sight of T’Pring’s face between her legs, licking and fucking her. The ears caught her attention again, and she pinched one tip between her fingers, rubbing firmly. T’Pring sucked in a small breath without breaking her stride, and Nyota let her head fall back in satisfaction, rolling her hips against the perfect invasion of T’Pring’s fingers and tongue.  

She was already on the edge of her first orgasm, the anticipation of the night having accelerated her arousal. She spread her legs wider, abandoning T’Pring’s ear to grip her shiny black hair and increase pressure on her clit. 

Dungi-sarlah nash-veh,” she managed in warning, but T’Pring only went at her more enthusiastically, so Nyota assumed there was no problem with her impending orgasm. She let herself go, locking up against T’Pring as she exploded down every nerve.   

T’Pring licked her with ever-softening pressure until Nyota jerked a little, oversensitive. T’Pring looked up at her, face wet and slick, and Nyota plunged down to kiss her, shivering at the taste of herself on T’Pring’s mouth.

They collapsed into a tangle on the deck, Nyota shoving T’Pring’s legs apart with her knee and positioning herself between them. She slipped both hands under T’Pring’s dress, up and up until she found the wet heat soaking through her briefs. She pushed the fabric aside and got a thumb on T’Pring’s clit, rubbing circles into it. (Vulcan women, like humans, did have an external clitoris and an interior clitoral structure—she had gotten a crash course in female Vulcan anatomy from Spock earlier that day, although his knowledge was basic at best.) 

T’Pring whined helplessly. It was the furthest she had strayed from control so far, and Nyota reveled in it, biting deeply into T’Pring’s plush lower lip.

When she was satisfied that T’Pring’s mouth would still look kiss-bitten well into the morning, Nyota pulled her up enough to unzip her uniform, sliding it down her torso and then, once she had her on her back again, off entirely. Next were the black regulation briefs, and then she had T’Pring naked below her, green mottling her skin, neat black hair surrounding her viridescent pussy. Her blown pupils deepened the heat of her gaze as she stared back unashamedly. Nyota noticed that she had a few smatterings of dark green freckles—faint ones across her nose and more prominent ones on her shoulders, her stomach. Nyota kissed them, working her way down T’Pring’s body until she could push her legs even further apart.

The sweet-sharp smell of T’Pring was spicy and humid, a desert hothouse. Nyota licked her in slow, broad strokes, savoring the taste, and T’Pring wriggled impatiently. Nytoa clamped her hands down on the bony Vulcan hips, holding her in place. Nyota would speed things up in her own sweet time.

She suckled the hard protrusion of T’Pring’s clit, slightly bigger than in most humans. With one finger she teased T’Pring’s hole and found it winking and sucking, trying to draw her in. Moving slowly enough to give T’Pring time to object if she wanted to, Nyota slipped inside her, but T’Pring only bucked against her and gasped, “Weht!

So Nyota slid another finger in, rocking them in and out, in and out, licking firmly and insistently now at T’Pring’s ever-hardening clit. T’Pring was clearly as overcome as she herself was, because more of her spiced-honey slick blurted onto Nyota’s tongue, and Nyota moaned with filthy abandon.

T’Pring’s fingers found their way to her ears, tracing their round, diminutive shape. Nyota grinned into T’Pring’s pussy—the ear kink could go both ways, she supposed. Suddenly T’Pring was gasping, her little mewling whimpers probably escaping against her will. “Nyota!” she groaned helplessly, and pulsed her orgasm into Nyota’s waiting mouth.

For a few long moments they panted against each other, Nyota’s face buried against the inside of T’Pring’s thigh. But the buzz was building again quickly, and when Nyota sat up, T’Pring was already watching her hungrily.

“Shall we continue?” she asked, dark and rough. At Nyota’s answering grin, T’Pring lept into action and swung Nyota, three times weaker, into her arms. Nyota yelped but then threw back her head and laughed. T’Pring cocked an eyebrow, offering that sweet Vulcan not-smile that had always been Nyota’s downfall, and carried her to the bed.

---

T’Pring didn’t stay the night—she needed to meditate and get up early to check on an experiment. But she kissed Nyota near her door for a good three minutes, and touched her cheek with an unexpected gentleness before she disappeared into the corridor.

Nyota crawled into bed and drifted off, sleepy-warm and satisfied.

She found herself awake earlier than usual the next morning, buzzing with excitement—she had to tell Spock and Jim.

She knew their code, of course, so she sauntered into their quarters and found them both still asleep. Jim had his head on Spock’s chest, half-draped across him like an octopus, and Spock’s arms were tight around him as if, even in sleep, he was worrying about his fragile, reckless human.

Nyota jumped onto their bed and wiggled between them, untangling their limbs and shoving until she had made a spot for herself. Spock came instantly awake, of course, and Jim managed to open his eyes enough to establish who had just broken into their quarters, groaning and going instantly back to sleep when he saw that it was only Nyota.

“Good morning,” Spock said sardonically. “I am assuming from your smug expression that your date was successful?”

The word “date” must have penetrated Jim’s stupor, because he was suddenly awake too, his hand shooting out to grip her shoulder.

“Did you get laid?”

“I sure did.”

“That’s my GIRL!” Jim crowed, high-fiving her. Spock rolled his eyes at them, fuzzy and more expressive than usual in his first few minutes of wakefulness. Nyota laughed and snuggled closer to him, sighing in contentment.

---

T’Pring wasn’t in the mess hall during breakfast, but three hours into Alpha shift the bridge doors opened, and Nyota looked around to find T’Pring watching her as she crossed to the captain’s chair. She cocked her eyebrow in what Nyota easily recognized as the Vulcan equivalent of a friendly smile, and Nyota grinned back.

“Captain,” T’Pring greeted, handing Jim a PADD, and Nyota had a sudden fear that he would do something stupid, something to let T’Pring know that he had been filled in on her sex life. But he was the picture of professionalism, smiling politely.

“Good morning, Ortrensu T’Pring.”

“I have prepared the preliminary results of my team’s first ten days onboard, Captain. The project is progressing satisfactorily. Commander Spock has already reviewed and approved this report.”

“Thank you. I look forward to reading it.”

T’Pring nodded and turned to leave the bridge. She paused at Nyota’s station, hand resting on the back of her chair.

Na’shaya, Lieutenant. I will be running experiments through gamma shift tonight, but would you join me for recreation in my quarters the night following? At 2100?”

“I’d love to,” Nyota said, letting her back brush T’Pring’s fingers.

T’Pring almost smiled and then left the bridge, all long black hair and compact Vulcan movements.

Nyota glanced at Jim. His tolerance for professionalism had apparently run out, because he was staring at her, having probably watched the whole interaction, broadcasting his most annoyingly lecherous expression. He mouthed, “Recreation,” accompanied by air quotes. Nyota rolled her eyes and turned back to her station, but her cheeks were warm and her chest light.

Whatever this thing with T’Pring was, it was off to a good start.

Chapter Text

 

The 32nd time Nyota had sex with T'Pring, she realized things were getting serious.

They had just spent two hours undoing each other, pushing for more and more and more, until they were too exhausted to keep going. They were collapsed in T’Pring’s bed, naked and sweaty, the green flush slowly receding from T’Pring’s skin. She reached out and folded her fingers up with Nyota’s, her face soft and relaxed.

“I find you most stimulating,” she murmured. Nyota smiled sleepily.

“Oh yeah? I thought you’d spent the last three months fucking my brains out because you think I’m boring.”

T’Pring’s eyebrows furrowed.

“Not only would it be illogical to engage in frequent sexual congress with an individual I do not find compelling, I also believe I have had no physical effect on your cerebral matter.”

Nyota laughed and curled into T’Pring’s side, tucking her head up under her chin. “Sorry, I was being sarcastic.”

“Ah, I see. Three months among humans has not been enough time for me to recognize some of the more discreet meanings of your speech patterns.”

Nyota ran a lazy hand over T’Pring’s breast, making her shiver. “I know.”

T’Pring grabbed the hand in hers and started rubbing two fingers against Nyota’s, over her palm and the back of her hand. “I do, however, enjoy your human eccentricities.”

“Oh yeah? Have a bit of an alien kink?”

T’Pring kissed the top of her head. “Perhaps. Your warm skin is especially appealing.”

“Mmm, you’re like a little ukraluk eshikh curling up on a hot rock.”

“Indeed.”

Nyota laughed. Three months ago T’Pring probably wouldn’t have gotten that comparison, would have just stared blankly at Nyota, wondering if this stupid human actually thought Vulcans were lizards. Nyota enjoyed watching T’Pring slowly open up, melt into her as they became closer, more deeply involved.

She loved T’Pring’s seriousness, her logic. But she knew the emotions were there under the surface, controlled and catalogued but desert-strong, visceral, running back like roots to pre-Surakian Vulcan.

She could see it all shining in T’Pring’s eyes—Vulcan eyes were surprisingly expressive if one knew how to read them. She had watched Jim and Spock have entire conversations just looking at each other, even before they bonded, and she too could read Spock’s eyes like a scientific treatise on his emotions. T’Pring was harder to interpret, of course, but Nyota was learning, and T’Pring was becoming ever so slightly more expressive.

T’Pring’s long fingers came up to run through Nyota’s hair.

“I am gratified by our arrangement,” she said quietly. The warm, anxious shiver that went up Nyota’s spine was all too familiar, although she hadn’t felt it since she was a cadet.

This wasn’t just sex, or even a burgeoning friendship with an intelligent woman who was also an excellent fuckbuddy. She wasn’t just attracted to T’Pring.

Nyota was falling for her.

---

T’Pring started having dinner in Nyota’s quarters almost every night. They still hadn’t given a label to their relationship, but T’Pring was surprisingly aggressive about deepening their connection. Nyota felt like she’d somehow managed to acquire a very serious girlfriend without a single conversation about it.

She wasn’t complaining, though.

Their dinners were quiet and relaxing, absorbing conversations punctuated by comfortable silences. Nyota had always found the company of Vulcans agreeable; although she liked getting loud and crazy and messy with her human friends, there was also a part of her that thrived on Vulcans’ quiet simplicity and gentle humor.

One night, after a particularly long silence, T’Pring murmured, “I first saw you 7 years ago. On the news vids following Va’Pak.”

Nyota put down her fork. T’Pring had spoken about Va’Pak a few times, but only indirectly. Of her own reaction to losing her planet she had mentioned that it changed her opinion of humans, but nothing more personal than that. Nyota would never press her—the effect of the horrific loss was different for each Vulcan, and usually extremely private. Spock had rarely opened up to her about it, and Jim had mentioned that Spock struggled to talk about it even with him.

T’Pring folded her hands in front of her and looked down at them. “I was not on the planet. I was in space with the Vulcan Science Academy performing a botanical study of nearby star systems. My mother and sister happened to be off planet as well—my mother was at a business conference on Earth and my sister had accompanied her for leisure. We were thus spared, but my father, my other sister, and my brother were all lost. Most of my colleagues and, on a significantly lesser scale, much of my work. My pet sehlat, Taik-Luk.”

Here T’Pring stopped and took a breath. Nyota wanted to grab her hand, to come around the table and hold her, but she restrained herself. She remembered all too well trying to physically comfort Spock in a turbolift on that terrible day, how he had melted into her touch but also how closed off he was, how uncomfortable; the last thing a touch telepath needed in a moment of pain was a human’s skin against their own, a human’s thoughts against their own.

Tushah nash-veh k'du,” she said instead, and T’Pring nodded.

Itaren nash-veh tu, Nyota.

“For several days, I did little else but watch the news footage alone in my quarters. I was watching when the crew of the Enterprise arrived at Starfleet in shuttles. I knew Spock was alive because I had not perceived his death in the bond, and by then I had also learned of his role in preserving the High Council. So I looked for him, and imagine my surprise when he stepped off the shuttle with a small human woman clinging to his arm. At that time it was shocking to me to see a Vulcan engage in such a casual touch. But I do remember a short reprieve from my grief as I marveled at Spock—he was such an awkward child, but he had apparently obtained an unusually attractive human partner.”

Nyota couldn’t contain a short, surprised laugh. T’Pring finally looked up, her dark eyes sad but, at the same time, almost amused.

“You have always been a bright spot in the darkness, Nyota, even before I knew you. I am grateful that you are in my life.”

Nyota’s chest constricted pleasantly. “I’m happy you’re in mine, T’Pring.”

T’Pring nodded and started talking about a successful test she had run that morning, and Nyota took the less-than-subtle hint that the discussion of Va’Pak was over. But she reached across the table for T’Pring’s hand, and after a few moments T’Pring began stroking two fingers against Nyota’s palm.

---

Dating one of Spock’s employees was both annoying and kind of awesome. Awesome because Nyota had always spent a fair amount of time in the labs chatting with Spock, so she had a built-in excuse to go pester T’Pring with low-key flirting.

Annoying because whenever she wanted advice or had something she needed to talk out, Nyota usually went down and sat on Spock’s lab table while he worked. There were only a handful of things he couldn’t do while simultaneously talking to her, so she had poured many problems into Spock’s pointed ear as he peered through a microscope.

She would bring cups of tea for them and usually a message from Jim imploring Spock to leave the lab as soon as possible, and Spock’s deep, quiet voice would bring all of her problems into perspective. It was a calm, comforting ritual for Nyota, but one that she couldn’t really apply to discussing her relationship with T’Pring, who spent almost all of her time in The Greenhouse and the surrounding labs.

Luckily, there weren’t many problems to discuss. T’Pring was attentive, respectful, hot as hell, so during her lab chats with Spock, Nyota would sneak in whispered updates or questions here and there, but mostly they could stick to other topics in the science department.

“Do you desire a serious romantic relationship with her?” Spock asked quietly during one such exchange, removing a slide from his microscope and adding another.

“Yeah,” Nyota grinned into her teacup. “Yeah, I think I do.”

When she looked up Spock had abandoned his microscope and was looking at her, warm and affectionate.

“I am gratified, Nyota. There are few who are worthy of you, and a woman of T’Pring’s character is a rare find. I hope your relationship progresses as you desire.”

Nyota grinned wider. “Thanks, Spock.”

T’Pring emerged from The Greenhouse at that moment, effectively ending their conversation.

“Nyota,” she greeted, “Na’shaya.”

“Hey there. Sorry, I should have brought tea for you too.”

“Apologies are quite unnecessary. I do require nourishment, however—would you join me in the mess hall?

“I’d love to. Talk later, Spock?”

“Of course,” he said absently, back to staring into his microscope.

“Commander Spock,” T’Pring said, her use of his title indicating that she was talking about work, “I have left an experiment running in Lab 7. It will be finished in 2.37 hours. I will take time now for the midday meal with your approval.”

“Of course, Ortrensu T’Pring. I will ensure that your experiment is not disturbed.”

“Thank you. I will return in 35 minutes.”

Nyota hopped off the table and followed her to the mess hall, T’Pring’s fingers touching hers briefly but deliberately.

In the mess, they found Jim sitting glumly with Bones and Sulu. T’Pring put her hand on Nyota’s back and said, “Would you like to join your friends while I procure food for both of us?”

“Oh, thanks,” Nyota smiled, warmth pooling in her belly, “I’ll just have a slice of pizza and an iced tea.”

Nyota headed for the table and flopped next to Sulu, across from Jim and Bones.

“Hey, Nyota,” Sulu and Bones greeted warmly. Jim just pouted at her.

“What’s up with you?” She asked, stealing a french fry from his plate. It was a habit she had developed early on, after the first time she tried to steal a bite of Jim’s food and got a hard, stinging smack on the back of her hand. Jim had apologized repeatedly, practically in tears, but Nyota didn’t need her genius to recognize that Jim had strange instincts about food.

A little digging into his private file—what? Jim and Spock weren’t the only ones who could hack a system—had told her what she needed to know. She had started slowly but surely asking for stuff off his plate, accepting at first how he tensed and refused her. But then one day she announced, “Jim, I’m taking one of your carrots,” and reached out to grab it, quick enough to avoid the smack.

“What the fuck, Uhura?” he had exploded, drawing everyone else’s confused attention, but she just stared him down calmly, eating his carrot.

After several repetitions of this, he had cornered her in an empty hallway and whispered, “You know, don’t you? About… you know. About Tarsus.”

She nodded and took his hand. There wasn’t anything she could say, but she could keep stealing his food until he accepted that he wasn’t going to starve if he didn’t eat every crumb in front of him.

These days, he usually responded with nothing but a half-hearted swat, slow enough that Nyota could always dodge it.

“Spock’s in the labs,” he pouted. “I hate when he’s not on the bridge for Alpha.”

Sulu pointed a fork at him. “You get that my husband lives lightyears away, right? Am I supposed to feel bad for you that you can’t have yours every second of every day?”

Jim glared at him, “You don’t have to feel bad for me, I feel bad enough for myself.”

“Oh my god, Jim,” Bones said, “You are the most annoying person in the universe. I think I liked you better when you were loveless and unstable.”

Nyota and Sulu laughed and Jim punched his arm. “You’re such an asshole!”

T’Pring appeared and sat next to Jim at that moment, handing Nyota her plate.

“Hey, T’Pring,” Jim said, “When you go back down to the labs will you tell my bondmate to come back to the bridge?”

“No,” she said simply, taking a delicate sip of her barkaya marak. Nyota snorted.

“I like you, T’Pring,” Bones grinned over Jim’s shoulder, and T’Pring raised her eyebrow at him.

“I believe I am supposed to say, ‘thank you, Doctor.’”

Everyone laughed and T’Pring glanced at Nyota, her eyes pleased, as hot as two burning coals.

---

Much to Jim’s chagrin, Spock ended up staying in the labs most of that day and well into the evening. T’Pring was running experiments through gamma shift, so Jim and Nyota decided to hang out in his quarters. Jim replicated popcorn, they got an entire bottle of Scotty’s warp-core whiskey (as the crew had taken to calling it), and settled in, as they often did, for a nice, long chat about sex.

“Ok, but like—compared to Spock’s cock, which I’m sure you remember quite well—”

Nyota was giggling uncontrollably. “I mean kind of, our sex was pretty lame—”

“You shut your whore mouth, I don’t care if he’s terrible at using that thing on women, there is no way you don’t remember a cock that huge.”

Nyota nearly fell over laughing. They were halfway through the bottle at this point.

“Ok, ok, I remember it. Actually, one of the only things I loved about sex with Spock was sucking his dick.”

“Right?! Oh my god, I have sucked so many dicks—”

“Most sluts have.”

“Exactly! But his is like, on a whole ‘nother level. Vulcans, man. Vulcans. Oh! That’s what I was asking about—compared to Spock’s cock, how green is T’Pring’s pussy?”

“Um…. It’s pretty much the same, I think.”

“So it’s like, green green?”

“Oh, yeah. Gets greener the more swollen I make her.”

Jim flung himself halfway over the arm of the couch.

“Oh my god that is so hot.” He sat back up hastily, the expression on his face grim and serious. “What does she taste like?”

“A lot like Spock when his dick gets wet. Maybe a little less sharp—I think the Vulcan male lubrication has a slightly different chemical makeup than the female. But it’s very similar.”

“Vulcan-on-Vulcan sex must be so fucking amazing. Why the hell would they stoop to us?”

Nyota laughed, “I have no idea! But I’m not gonna question it—another one?”

“Duh,” Jim said, grabbing his glass from the floor and holding it out for her to fill.

“Do you think you would enjoy dicks that don’t self-lubricate now?” Nyota asked as she poured herself another drink.

“I dunno. Probably, a dick’s a dick and I love sex like, a lot. But I don’t miss them or anything. Did you enjoy dry dicks after you guys broke up?”

“Sure, I mean—I love any good dick, too. But there’s really nothing quite like getting your tongue just under his sheath and running it around until he starts to leak all over your face.”

“Ugh, I know,” Jim whined, letting his head fall onto the back of the couch. “Seriously, how did I ever manage to bag someone like him?”

Nyota looked at him sideways. That was the second time in as many minutes that he’d expressed disbelief about Spock wanting him. Nyota couldn’t tell if he was joking, or if something real was simmering under his drunken extolling of Spock’s sexual abilities.

“I mean, you have actually been pretty slutty in your life—in a good way, I mean. I doubt you’re a novice in the sack. I’m sure he likes sex with you as much as you like it with him—I know he does. He’s told me.”

Jim rolled his head to look at her. “Yeah?”

“Of course he has. I mean, he doesn’t talk about it the way we talk about it, he’s way less graphic, but he’s said stuff like, ‘I find Jim to be a stimulating and fulfilling sexual partner.’”

Jim giggled. He always found her Spock impression hilarious.

“And,” she went on, “He came to me that time early on when you asked him to slap you during sex. He had a full-on freakout at me about human kinks. Or about Vulcan kinks, really, because he desperately wanted to oblige you and was terrified that he could actually want to hurt someone he loved so much. I had to walk him through human BDSM and the fact that you’re a little sub at heart who just wants a man to take away his control in bed.”

Jim nodded sagely. “It’s so true.”

“That conversation had a lot of ‘Jim is such a pleasurable individual,’ ‘Jim provides sexual gratification of a quality I did not expect to experience,’ ‘Jim has very blue eyes, have you noticed?’”

They burst out laughing, leaning their shoulders together and sloshing their drinks on their pajamas.

“Thanks, though,” Jim said when they had calmed down. “Thanks for helping him with stuff like that.”

“That’s what best friends are for.”

“Yeah.” After a long, content pause, Jim said, “That story is especially funny because just last night he tied me to the bed and billy-clubbed me until I had bruises, and then choked me while me fucked my ass.”

“Choking, huh? I woulda thought he’d refuse that one after trying to strangle you the day you met.”

“Took me three years to get him to do it.”

“Well, it doesn’t sound like you should have any doubts about his attraction to you, Jimmy.”

Jim shrugged. “I dunno, a lot of the time I don’t really do much. Especially when I’m tied up.”

“Except surrender your body entirely.”

“I guess.”

Nyota bumped his shoulder with hers. “You’re too insecure.”

Jim shrugged again and didn’t bother to refute her. They both knew it was true.

“T’Prings nipples are greener than Spock’s,” Nyota said, an attempt to distract him from his funk.

It worked. Jim shot up and stared at her, unblinking. “Tell me literally everything.”

---

Nyota had the next day off, so she let herself sleep in, last night’s alcohol working its lazy way out of her blood.

T’Pring chimed for entry early in the morning, and Nyota woke enough to order the doors open and look blearily up when T’Pring appeared above her.

“How’d your experiments go?”

“They were satisfactory. I find, however, that I am fatigued and require sleep as opposed to meditation. As you were imbibing ethanol with the captain last night, I assume you need sleep as well, so I concluded that it would be pleasant to sleep together. Are you amenable?”

“Obviously,” Nyota said, scooting over and lifting up the covers, patting the mattress beside her.

T’Pring almost smiled and stripped off her uniform, crawling into bed naked. Nytoa tucked herself against T’Pring’s back and wrapped an arm around her slim, cool waist, kissing the back of her neck.

T’Pring sighed softly. Her body relaxed in Nyota’s arms and she seemed to fall instantly asleep. Nyota wondered when she had last let herself actually sleep instead of just meditating for a few hours before returning to work.

She drifted easily back toward the warmth of unconsciousness. Just when the first tendrils of dreams began to curl around her mind, Nyota whispered against T’Pring’s neck, “I think I’m falling in love with you.”

There was no answer, and T’Pring’s breathing didn’t change, so Nyota assumed she was indeed asleep. She shifted slightly closer against the cool Vulcan back and let herself sleep too.

Chapter Text

The hot, humid air of Nyota’s favorite lab—the tropical one at the very back of the Greenhouse—was the perfect complement to T’Pring’s hot, wet pussy, soft and delicious on Nyota’s tongue.

T’Pring groaned and leaned back against the bulkhead. Nyota had encouraged her up onto a mostly empty lab table and spread her long, long legs. She had pulled her underwear to the side, not even bothering to take it off, and that only added to the wonderfully filthy feeling of kneeling on the lab floor in the middle of alpha shift, in her uniform, eating T’Pring’s pussy like it was her most important duty.

To be fair, the captain of this ship probably wouldn’t disagree.

T’Pring gasped and put a hand on Nytoa’s head—Nyota absolutely loved when T’Pring just barely remembered to reign in her Vulcan strength, raw alien power thrumming under her skin.

Nam-tor beik,” T’Pring hissed, writhing against Nyota’s face. Nyota lifted her head, instantly replacing her tongue with her thumb so as not to break the rhythm of T’Pring’s climb toward orgasm.

Marom,” she praised. “Sharlah’uh na’nash-veh.” Then she took T’Pring’s clit in her mouth again, sucking once before she went back to licking it.

T’Pring’s strangled gasp was loud in the small room, and she locked up against Nyota’s face, pushing against the back of her head just a little too hard, just to the sweet edge of pain, and Nyota groaned.

When T’Pring’s grip loosened, Nyota wiggled free and wiped her face against T’Pring’s leg, tucking T’Pring’s ruined briefs back into place. She lowered her legs gently onto the desk, kissing her long and sweet through her aftershocks.

“You are extremely distracting,” T’Pring muttered after a while.

Nyota chuckled. “Right back at you, gorgeous.”

She rubbed circles into T’Prings legs and sides until T’Pring leaned forward against Nyota, trying not-so-subtly to get the same treatment on her back. Nyota smiled and gave her exactly what she wanted, rubbing the muscles along T’Pring’s spine in firm, slow strokes.

“I should get back to the bridge,” she whispered after a few minutes. T’Pring moaned weakly in protest.

“But you did not receive reciprocal pleasure. I wish to perform cunnilingus on you in return.”

Nyota leaned back and grinned, savoring the soft, fucked-out look on T’Pring’s usually stern face.

“You can pay me back tonight. I like the anticipation.”

T’Pring reached between Nyota’s legs and rubbed firmly against her soaked-through briefs. “But you will be so wet at your station.” She tutted. “Poor Nyota, wetting your chair, unable to concentrate…” She ghosted her lips over Nyota’s and Nyota grabbed her head, kissing her desperately.

Suddenly, the intercom buzzed and Spock’s voice filled the room.

Ortrensu T’Pring, is there a reason this door is locked?”

Nyota and T’Pring sprang apart. Nyota started giggling like a teenager and T’Pring’s mouth quirked fondly at her silly human display.

Nyota gave her one last kiss and a whispered, “Bye,” before unlocking the door and grinning as it swished open, revealing Spock's confused and then exasperated face.

He looked up at T’Pring with an eyebrow raised in reprimand, but T’Pring just raised hers back and stared him down, clearly with no intention of apologizing.

“Do you require something, Commander? I have work to complete.”

Spock sighed. “No. I had simply noticed your absence and was attempting to determine your location.” He turned away and strode back toward the main labs. Nyota jogged to catch up with him, falling into step at his side.

“Could you possibly refrain from engaging a member of my staff in coitus during her on-duty hours?” He asked, with the weariness of a Vulcan who had finally stopped hoping for humans to ever behave logically.

“Probably not.”

“You are aware that such diversions are inappropriate, unprofessional, and against regulations?”

“Right,” Nyota said as they exited the Greenhouse, “because you and Jim never disappear to have on-duty sex.”

“Captain Kirk and I are the commanding officers of this ship, Lieutenant. If we are simultaneously absent from the bridge, we are most likely engaging in private command matters.”

They rounded the corner toward the open door of Spock's office.

“Oh, of course,” Nyota said. “It's funny, though, because I seem to remember you on a conference vidcall at the Academy one time and I could swear I was under the desk with your dick down my throat,” Spock turned a vibrant shade of green, “but that must have been a different Vulcan who came like a freight train at how inappropriate and unprofessional it all was.”

“That is so fucking hot.”

They had arrived in Spock’s office to find Jim sitting on Spock’s desk, apparently having heard Nyota's reminiscence.

“Next time you're on a vidcall I'm sucking you off under the desk,” Jim said earnestly.

Spock ignored him. “Did you need something, Captain?”

“No, I just missed you,” Jim pouted. “Will you come back to the bridge?”

Nyota tried not to laugh as Spock closed his eyes and took a long, calming breath.

“Captain, I cannot shirk my duties as your science officer simply because you ‘miss me.’ On a related note, can you please inform Lieutenant Uhura that she may not leave her post for the purpose of coitus with Ms. T’Pring?”

Jim laughed. “Is that where you disappeared to when you gave Collins your post? Come on, Spock, we’re just star-mapping right now. You know Uhura would never leave her post if we had something important going on. Why shouldn’t she get a little on-duty pussy?”

Spock finally surrendered to emotionalism and gave a frustrated sigh.

“Please go away—both of you. I require a period of respite from humanity.”

Jim and Nyota giggled as Jim hopped off the desk, and together they scurried out of the labs.

---

Later that night, after T’Pring had thoroughly paid Nyota back for the one-sided Greenhouse sex, they curled together in sleepy contentment.

“Did Spock remain exasperated with us?” T’Pring murmured.

“Nah. He came back to the bridge after a while and he and Jim went off for some ‘private command matters.’”

T’Pring chuckled softly. “They are ridiculous.”

“Yes, they are.”

“I enjoy both of them on a personal level.”

Nyota raised herself up onto her elbow. “Yeah? I'm glad.”

“I never anticipated any positive relationship with Spock, and yet I find his platonic friendship quite satisfying.”

“Never? Not even when you were kids?”

“No. When we were very young I suppose I was ambivalent, but by our adolescence it had become clear how ill-suited we were as bondmates. I anticipated my future with dread, but felt I had no escape from my responsibilities to our families.

"After Spock left Vulcan for Starfleet we grew even more distant, and the prospect of actually completing our bond began to seem ridiculous. I feared we would be forced to bond by… circumstance, but as I had no other serious romantic prospects at that time and was utterly immersed in my work, I accepted whatever events would unfold. Kaiidth.”

Nyota ran her hand through T’Pring’s hair. “I'm sorry you had to endure that.”

T’Pring looked at her. “Regret is illogical. The events of my life are as they are, and have combined to bring me here, to your bed, to this moment. For that, I am grateful.”

The rhythm of Nyota’s heart stuttered. She leaned in to kiss T’Pring.

“Me too.”

---

16 Years Earlier
Shi-kahr, Vulcan

T’Pring’s mother tugged sharply on her hair with a comb, wrestling against its desire not to be twisted into a traditional hairstyle. T’Pring sighed and closed her eyes, employing her mental controls as skillfully as possible.

In the 10.7 years since their kan-telan, T’Pring had met with he-who-would be-her-husband twice a year. Spock had never commented on her hair. Spock had barely made eye contact with her in any of their 19 previous meetings. T’Pring barely saw the point in transforming herself into a traditional Vulcan bride for him when he seemed to appreciate it so little. It was an obvious deference to ancient ritualism and, frankly, T’Pring found it illogical.

“T’Pring,” her mother chided, managing to sound irritated without changing the inflection of her voice at all, “Please sit still.”

T’Pring straightened her spine and stopped fidgeting. Across T’Pring’s room, her younger sister T’Lesh was sitting on the bed, watching with mild interest. She was two years younger than T’Pring, 14 standard years of age, with curly black hair and freckles across her nose. She lacked T’Pring’s sharp features, but her eyes were just as keen and piercing, the set of her chin just as confident.

“Do you think Spock will be different than the last time you interacted with him?” T’Lesh asked.

“When I met with him 6.31 months ago he was awkward, shy, and struggling to conceal his emotions. I doubt that will have changed in so short a time. Furthermore, I have observed no change in him at school, and thus I cannot logically anticipate changes in his private demeanor. Ah!”

T’Pring’s mother had yanked her hair painfully into its final position, and was now securing it with pins. “I am nearly finished,” she offered, a pale comfort.

When she had completed her task, she rose gracefully, silk robe falling around her feet with a whisper. “I will leave you to dress. Please be ready to depart in 30 minutes.”

“Yes, ko-mekh.”

As soon as their mother had left, T’Lesh rose and closed the door.

“Do you think he will make a sexual advance this time?”

T’Pring snorted in amusement before she could catch herself. She crossed to the closet and took out her ceremonial robe.

“No, I do not. He has never shown any sexual interest in me—or any interest, for that matter—and I do not anticipate a change in that regard.”

“Do you believe he is sa-ka-ashausu?”

In the privacy of her mind, T’Pring thought, I believe it is I who may be ko-ka-ashausu. But out loud she said only, “I do not know. Perhaps, although he may simply be timid and immature.”

She slipped into her robe and T’Lesh stood up to help her with the fastenings.

“Perhaps you should make a sexual advance.”

T’Pring closed her eyes in fond exasperation. “T’Lesh, your fixation upon sexual matters, while biologically consistent with your age, is embarrassing.”

“You? Embarrassed?” T’Lesh teased. “I believed your emotional control to be stronger than that.”

“I am not embarrassed, I merely think you should be.”

T’Lesh hid a smile in T’Pring’s shoulder. T’Pring let her head fall briefly against her sister’s in a minute display of affection.

Then, with a sigh, she made a quiet confession. “I do not find Spock attractive. In demeanor or in physical appearance.”

T’Lesh came around to stand in front of her. “I am sorry to hear that, ko-kai. What will you do?”

“What I must. What is my duty as the eldest daughter of our family. I will marry him and bear his children.”

The very idea sent a shiver of disgust through her. T’Pring did not like children, nor did she especially like Spock. T’Pring liked plants, and T’Lesh. Her older brother Talvar, their little sister T’Vel. She liked science and her small garden. Or rather, she found objective satisfaction in those things; to like them would be to succumb to emotionalism.

T’Lesh squeezed T’Pring’s arms. “Perhaps your opinion of him will change over time.”

“Perhaps.”

T’Lesh pushed her gently toward the vanity. “You should apply your makeup. You are due to depart in 20.37 minutes.

---

Admittedly, Spock’s family possessed beautiful lands, and his mother’s gardens were exquisite. Observing the gardens during her private walks with Spock was the only element of these visits that T’Pring enjoyed.

T’Pring, her parents, and Talvar entered Spock’s family home and arrived in the main foyer, a large, echoing space decorated with spiritual statuary at intervals. Four members of the House of S'chn T'gai were waiting for them: Spock’s father Sarek, an incredibly severe-looking Vulcan whose countenance served only to make Spock’s mother, Amanda, appear more shockingly human.

T’Pring had never been able to deny that Amanda was beautiful in an exotic way, or that her warm eyes and soft smile put T’Pring at ease. Terrible things were said about Amanda at school, often expressed as sympathy for T’Pring that she would be burdened with such a kun-ko-mekh, but T’Pring did not share their disdain. Amanda had always been kind to her, and although T’Pring dreaded sharing her mind with that of a half-human, she could not bring herself to resent Amanda, even if she was the genetic source of that humanity.

Spock’s brother Sybok was also present and appeared, as he always did, displeased at having to be a traditional sa-fu t’T’Khasi, even for a few hours. He was rarely on the planet now, but his rebellious ways were so infamous that there was a running wager at school as to when he would officially join the V'tosh ka'tur. He smiled obnoxiously at her and T’Pring cast her gaze away with impatience.

And of course there was Spock, refusing to make eye contact as usual, staring somewhere over T’Pring’s left shoulder. His hands were clasped so tightly behind his back that T’Pring was mildly concerned for his circulation. His robes were just ever-so-slightly ill-fitting—he was excessively bony and lanky.

Both sets of parents raised the ta’al to each other, and the children copied them. This was followed by a period of interminable chatter, all but scripted now after millennia of ritual child bonding among the prominent families.

T’Pring lazily tried to make eye contact with Spock, just to see if she could cajole him into it, but was unsuccessful. She did notice, however, Spock’s occasional furtive glances at Talvar. Talvar was 20 years of age and quite aesthetically pleasing; he had received numerous offers of courtship and at school T’Pring frequently had to remove herself from conversations about him—her classmates enjoyed imagining Talvar in situations his sister did not want to contemplate. After glancing at Talvar seven times, a green blush had spread faintly on Spock’s cheeks. Interesting.

“Well!” Amanda said, finally. “Would you two like to walk in the garden while the rest of us sit down for tea?”

“With respect, Ko-mekh,” Spock said, his voice coiled tight like a spring, “I would not ‘like’ to do anything. But I will walk in the garden with my ko-kugalsu as per tradition.”

If T’Pring recalled correctly, the humans had a colloquialism about “trying too hard” that fit Spock’s current behavior quite well.

“Of course, Spock,” Amanda said, and T’Pring thought she might be trying not to sigh. She gestured further into the house, inviting T’Pring’s family to follow. “Please, the tea is waiting for us in the salon.”

Spock and T’Pring hovered awkwardly in the foyer until their families were gone, and then made their way outside in silence. These arranged meetings were the only times they spoke. Although they did see each other at school, they did not interact. Their social circles were entirely different—or rather, T’Pring had a social circle, Spock did not—and their courses of study only occasionally overlapped. Spock was focusing on physics and the technical sciences, while T’Pring was focusing on biology.

As they moved into the garden, Spock made no effort to begin a conversation. T’Pring suppressed a huff of frustration.

“Have you finished your application to the Vulcan Science Academy, Spock?”

He looked straight ahead, hands still behind his back. “I have. And you?”

“I have. My dissertation on nutritional supplements for replicated root vegetables is excellent. I anticipate no barriers to my admission.”

Spock actually glanced at her. “An interesting topic.”

“Indeed. I constructed an apparatus which can be easily attached to a replicator’s circuitry and which releases high-density nutrients into the basic cellular matter of replicated root vegetables. This technology will need to be expanded, obviously, to encompass more food types, but as evidence that I am qualified for the Vulcan Science Academy, it is more than sufficient.”

They had stopped walking and Spock had actually looked at her face for the duration of her description.

“That is indeed most impressive. If you intend to develop technologies, you will need more experience with the technical sciences—how do you plan to obtain that?”

“At the Academy, I will have a very specific course load tailored to my career goals.”

“What career do you intend to pursue?”

“I intend to work as a botanical and agricultural scientist.”

“Fascinating,” Spock murmured, before resuming their path through the garden.

At least they would have science to talk about when they were bonded.

---

They finished their walk at the little table in the middle of Amanda’s display of Terran cacti. Spock went into the house for iced tea, and they drank in silence for 7.87 minutes.

Her sister’s questions about sexuality were still buzzing in T’Pring’s mind. She tried to employ mind techniques to dismiss the thoughts, but the awkward silence hung so heavy around her that she was struggling to focus.

It was logical, anyway, to discuss this topic with her intended. They would need to engage in intercourse during their pon farrs and often enough to have children, and hopefully often enough to satiate their libidos. T’Pring suspected her libido was statistically high for a female Vulcan of her age group—she engaged in masturbation at least once every other day, and had lately added an hour to her nightly meditation to deal with the distraction of her more attractive female schoolmates. Was it not logical to inform Spock of her desires?

“Do you wish to engage in sexual intercourse?”

That was not entirely what she had planned to say, but it would have to do.

Spock nearly choked on his tea. His eyes went wide and his pupils dilated in terror. “E-excuse me?”

“Many of our peers have already participated in intercourse. We will be bondmates—it is logical that we engage in similar experimentation. I can procure birth control to avoid pregnancy.”

Spock was naturally quite pale, but by now he was downright ashen. “I do not– I do not think– I do not think that is an appropriate course of action.”

“Explain your reasoning.”

“It… it is most proper to wait. Sexual contact is only necessary for reproduction and for… biological necessities.”

“For pon farr, Spock. Surely you can say the words to she-who-will-be-your-wife.”

Spock made an aborted attempt to stand up, realized there was no logical reason to do so, and sat back down. The look of sheer horror on his face had not abated.

“Regardless, there is no need for us to engage in sexual contact now.”

“Do you never wish to engage in intercourse when it is not necessary? Do you not desire sexual pleasure?”

“I– I do not know.” Spock’s eyes were skittering over the garden in a desperate attempt not to look at her.

“Do you experience lust?”

At this Spock flushed green all over and looked down at his lap.

“I do not feel comfortable discussing this.”

T’Pring sighed. It was morally reprehensible to push him further. Although she could not help but wonder…

“Very well, Spock. We will cease this conversation. But I must ask you one question—are you sa-ka-ashausu?”

Spock’s head snapped up. He looked at her with desperation. His naked emotionalism was both fascinating and disturbing to T’Pring.

“No! Of course I am not.”

“It is not shameful—it is quite natural. But it would be beneficial for me to know.”

“I am not attracted to my own sex.”

“I am.”

This made Spock’s expression of agony finally dissipate, replaced by one of confusion and perhaps curiosity. After a long moment he managed to say, “Exclusively?”

“No, I do not believe so. I do not believe it will be an impediment to our bond.”

Spock nodded slowly. It was T’Pring’s turn now to look away. She had never confessed her homosexual leanings to anyone, not even T’Lesh. The experience was… destabilizing.

“May we return inside?” she asked, when the loaded silence became unbearable.

Spock practically leapt from his seat. “Of course.”

Before they could re-enter the house, Spock stopped her with a light, hesitant touch on her elbow. She turned and regarded him. He was blushing again.

“T’Pring, if you wish to engage in… sexual activity with others, I will take no offense. Whatever you may choose to do before we are fully bonded is… not for me to dictate or judge. If you desire coitus with others, I encourage you to seek it out.”

She was taken aback by his declaration. It was actually quite mature. “Thank you, Spock,” she said, vaguely surprised to find herself sincere. “I encourage you to do the same.”

With an awkward motion that was part nod, part shrug, part flail, Spock all but ran inside the house. T’Pring followed more slowly, turning their conversation over and over in the unsettled landscape of her mind.

---

Late in the night, T’Pring looked away from the PADD she was using to compare the petioles of seven different flower species. In its dim artificial glow, Nyota's face, still and tranquil in sleep, was almost ethereal.

T’Pring reached out to brush a stray lock of hair from the human forehead. She felt for Nyota. It was impossible to deny.

T’Pring sighed and returned her gaze to the PADD. Under her skin, the faintly agitated thrum of her blood pounded on, reminding her that she was running out of time to determine what exactly she wanted from Nyota. She had committed herself to logic; did she truly want to step away from it in this instance? Or had she already done so?

She couldn't help but wonder if the tight sensation in her chest was what Spock felt when he looked at Jim, when he touched the man who had transformed him from an uncertain, miserable boy into a confident, content, accomplished man.

No. She had no time for this. If what she felt for Nyota was something beyond admiration and physical attraction, she would have to grapple with that later.

As she refocused on her work, her blood beat in her ears like drums.

Chapter Text

T’Pring's doubts about pursuing a human were gravely reinforced the day she received two calls from New Vulcan. When the first call came in, T’Pring was deep in the Greenhouse with a patch of desert herbs she was trying to grow in a temperate climate.

Ortrensu T’Pring?” In such a small room, Nyota’s musical voice seemed to be everywhere, lighting sparks under T’Pring’s skin. She brushed soil from her hands and got up to press the wall comm.

“T’Pring here, Lieutenant Uhura.”

“There’s a call for you from the colony—it’s your sister. She says she doesn’t have a direct commlink for you besides your quarters. Want me to patch her through to your office?”

T’Lesh! T’Pring hadn’t spoken to her in 2.46 months, only an email or text every few days. It would be pleasing to see her face. She was expecting her second child and T’Pring had not been nearly as involved with this pregnancy as the last.

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” After a pause, she said, “Are you available to join me?”

There was a short silence while Nyota presumably obtained Captain Kirk’s permission by exchanging meaningful facial expressions, and then, “Yes, I am. I’ll be down shortly. I’ll transfer the call now. Uhura out.”

Anticipation warm in her chest, T’Pring left the Greenhouse for her office, sitting down to open the comm link on her computer. T’Lesh appeared and T’Pring all but smiled. The roundness of her sister’s face was more pronounced than usual, her abdomen distended. Her black curls were as soft and springy as they had been in childhood, when T’Pring would bounce them on her fingers before taming them into a school-appropriate hairstyle.

Ko-kai. I am gratified to see you.”

T’Lesh nodded. “I apologize for comming you during your on-duty hours—this is my only available increment of time today.”

“Apologies are unnecessary. You look well; how are you feeling?”

“Fatigued. My mobility is decreased at this stage. To be honest, I am quite uncomfortable.”

T’Pring felt a pang of guilt—she was aware not only of her familial desire to care for her sister, but also of her overall duty to her race. In this time of repopulation, pregnant Vulcans were precious and to be provided whatever support was most likely to yield a successful birth.

It was illogical, however, for T’Pring to long for home when she could not be there.

“Is Stelvoss caring for you appropriately?”

“He is, of course. He sends his regards. He was unable to leave the Council chambers at this time.”

T’Lesh’s eyes glittered with some of the mischief that T’Pring had rarely seen in her since Va’Pak. “Now that you have mentioned my bondmate, it seems an appropriate time to ask if your relationship with Nyota is progressing acceptably.”

T’Pring glanced away, coloring slightly. “Yes. Most acceptably. In fact, I have asked her to join me on this call so that you may meet her. She should arrive momentarily.”

T’Lesh raised an eyebrow. “It is a serious affair, then. I suspected as much from the tone you take when you mention her.”

The door opened before T’Pring could respond to this sisterly insight, and Nyota took one tentative step inside, hovering behind the computer. T’Pring stood and waved her over.

T’Lesh peered curiously at her sister’s human lover—such a contrast to T’Pring with her shy smile and soft posture, her expressive eyes.

“Nyota, this is my sister T’Lesh.”

Nyota raised her hand in the ta’al. “Dif-tor heh smusma.”

T’Lesh returned the gesture. “Sochya eh dif. My sister has spoken of you frequently in our recent communications.”

Nyota’s smile widened. “I’ve heard a lot about you, too. Congratulations—T’Pring told me you’re expecting a boy.”

“I am. Thank you.”

“And you already have a daughter—T’Kov?”

“Yes. She is 19 months old. She is asleep now, although I expect her to wake shortly. Your crew is quite well-known among our people, Lieutenant. Do you enjoy serving on the Enterprise?”

“I love it. I think it’s the best ship in the fleet, but I’m biased, of course.” She laughed a little nervously. “I hope we’re well-known for good reasons.”

“Of course. Your captain has been generous in offering his ship’s time and resources to the restoration effort whenever possible. Although there are still many who find him an… inappropriate choice for your first officer’s bondmate.”

Nyota snorted. “I’ve literally never met two people who were more suited for each other. They lose their minds if they’re apart for more than a few hours—if any couple has ever needed a telepathic bond it’s those two romantic fools.”

T’Lesh looked vaguely confused by her human colloquialisms, but she pressed on before Nyota could switch to Vulcan. “I believe it is simply because, in the midst of a population crisis, a human bondmate is considered wasteful.”

Nyota swallowed. T’Pring touched two fingers to the back of her hand. T’Lesh seemed to realize that she had caused discomfort and said quickly, “Although it is of course unreasonable to expect every Vulcan to procreate. Especially someone as homosexual as Spock.”

Nyota burst out laughing before she could stop herself, but both Vulcans just almost-smiled at her.

A distant cry emanated suddenly from the vidscreen, and T’Lesh stood. “Are you able to wait a moment?”

“Of course,” T’Pring said. “I wish to see T’Kov.”

T’Lesh disappeared and T’Pring slipped her arm around Nyota’s waist.

“I apologize if my sister’s remark about human partners was insensitive.”

Nyota shook her head. “That’s ok. I know a lot of Vulcans have that opinion.”

She paused, probably waiting for T’Pring to reassure her that she herself did not share that opinion, but then T’Lesh returned with a chubby Vulcan toddler and their conversation ended.

T’Pring did not smile, but her eyes lit up. “Tonk’peh, T’Kov!”

T’Lesh took her seat and bounced the baby on her knee. T’Kov smiled, no Vulcan controls yet developed, and Nyota made a cooing noise T’Pring had never heard from her. It was frankly quite charming.

Tar-uh tonk’peh na’ko-kuk t’du,” T’Lesh said, “eh na’Nyota.”

Tonk’peh, pi’veh!” Nyota gushed, and T’Lesh gave her sister a look of mild bewilderment at the high-pitched “baby talk.” T’Pring tipped her head in agreement—humans were strange, but often adorable. “Nam-tor du vaksurik, ko-kan-bu!”

T’Kov squealed in delight. T’Lesh raised an eyebrow. “Tishau ish-veh ish... ritsuri-spesaya.”

Nyota laughed and said to T’Kov, “Ri ki’zhu-tor du bahst-komihnsu, ki’du ha?”

Nam’tor gen-speshan t’du malatik,” T’Lesh complimented. Nyota smiled.

Itaren nash-veh tu.”

T’Kov began to fuss, and T’Lesh sighed just slightly. She resumed the bouncing of her knee, and the baby calmed, although it was obviously temporary. “I must feed T’Kov now, so I will take my leave of you.”

“Are you managing, T’Lesh?” T’Pring asked. She could not quell the worry for her very pregnant sister attempting to care for a baby, nor could she stop the rush of guilt.

“Oh, yes,” T’Lesh reassured her. “Stelvoss will be home soon, and then I will rest. Do not concern yourself, ko-kai.” She quirked her eyebrow in that same mischievous way. “Mothering is not as horrible as you think it is, T’Pring.”

T’Pring stiffened. “I do not imagine it to be horrible, it is simply not something I personally wish to pursue.”

T’Lesh looked as if she was willing to continue the argument, but T’Kov whined again. T’Lesh stood up. “It appears I may not converse any longer—it was pleasing to meet you, Lieutenant.”

“You as well—and you, T’Kov.” She waved at the baby who offered one last gurgle before T’Lesh ended the connection.

Nyota let out a breath. “Did I do ok?”

T’Pring shook her head and put a hand on Nyota’s face. “Anyone not impressed by you is unintelligent, and I assure you my sister is not that.”

Nyota grinned and leaned in to kiss her.

---

Nyota was playing poker with Sulu, Chekov, and Scotty that night, so T’Pring was alone when the second call came in, this time directly to her quarters. She recognized the call signature as that of her mother T’Karik, which was not unexpected, but when she opened the link she was surprised to see her brother-in-law as well.

Ko-mekh. Stelvoss.” A sudden spike of fear went through her. “Has something happened to T’Lesh?”

Her mother held up a hand. “No. We are all healthy and safe. We are merely calling to express concerns about your current relationship.”

Well. This was… not unanticipated if T’Pring was honest. She squared her shoulders. “I see. What has prompted this?”

“T’Lesh mentioned that you introduced her to the human woman,” Stelvoss said in his deep, flat voice.

“Nytoa,” T’Pring said, trying very hard not to speak sharply. “Her name is Nyota.”

Stelvoss nodded but did not correct himself. “In light of this, I spoke to T’Karik. We are both wary of the path you appear to be taking.”

“Our people are endangered, T’Pring,” her mother said. “I fail to understand why you chose to even begin such a relationship. When I first became aware of it, I believed you were engaging in a purely sexual affair, but it appears you are pursuing her seriously—are you actually courting her?”

T’Pring looked between them. “With all due respect, Ko-mekh, why are my choices the concern of either of you?”

Stelvoss sighed, as if in disappointment, “In this time of crisis, the choices of every Vulcan are of the utmost importance to the entire race. Your decision to pursue a non-traditional lifestyle may have been acceptable before the loss of our planet, but now you must do what is required of you to ensure the survival of the Vulcan people.”

“I am in charge of the largest and most successful Vulcan agricultural restoration project,” T’Pring reminded him.

“And who will benefit from that?” her mother asked. “If our species becomes extinct then all of your work is in vain. I had assumed you would not maintain your commitment to a childless life in the wake of our population emergency, but now I am uncertain. Do you plan to bond with this human, contribute no children to the repopulation, and dilute our cultural integrity with an interspecies union?” Her mouth tightened in poorly concealed disapproval.

Before T’Pring could respond, Stelvoss said quietly, “I was not surprised that Spock made the self-centered and emotional decision to marry a human—and a wild, uncontrolled human at that. But I expect better of you, T’Pring.”

T’Pring took a deep breath. She was becoming angry—there was no logic in denying the lapse in her emotional control.

“Stelvoss, you have been a gentle and caring bondmate to my sister, and thus I respect you. But to be quite honest, I do not make decisions based on what you may or may not expect of me. Furthermore, Spock and his human bondmate whom you have just disparaged have spent a considerable percentage of their current mission assisting restoration. Captain Kirk has donated time, Starfleet resources, personal resources, political influence, firepower, and the gains of his so-called uncontrolled temperament to ensure the future of our species. He fought to bring me aboard his ship and provide The Federation’s best resources to my critically important project. He has consistently worked to keep Vulcans at the forefront of the galaxy’s priorities. He has done more for us than many of our own people.

“Humans are not our enemy, and they are not incompetent. They are flawed in their own ways as we are in ours, but I am not ashamed to be pursuing one. She is one of the most intelligent and considerate individuals I have ever encountered.”

Her mother’s eyebrow had raised at the beginning of her speech and had not yet settled back down.

“T’Pring, your inescapably emotional defense of humanity is not relevant to our concerns. Humans have helped us, yes—but homosexual bonds with them will not produce offspring who can further the Vulcan species. Do you intend to bond with this woman or not?”

T’Pring tried to calm her breathing, slow her vibrating muscles and bones. “I do not know.”

T’Karik leaned forward. “Ko-fu, your time is upon you. You do not have the luxury of uncertainty. We ask that you return from the Enterprise and take a Vulcan bondmate with whom you can reproduce.”

Hot shame and embarrassment flooded T’Pring like a fever. She wanted to snarl, to sneer, to fight these duties that had been chasing her all her life.

“I will not leave my work.”

“You have a responsibility to your people,” Stelvoss said.

“And I am fulfilling it,” she snapped. She looked at her mother. “I have always been committed to fulfilling it. I was willing to enter the trap of a marriage you set for me with a notorious and detested boy who was obviously homosexual by the time we reached puberty—I was willing to bear the children he was willing to provide me, despite our mutual disgust at the very idea. I have consistently been committed to my familial and cultural duty.”

Her mother was utterly calm in the face of T’Pring’s outburst. “But now you are obstinate and emotional. You have determined your responsibilities for yourself and will hear no other perspectives on whether your contribution to the restoration is sufficient. I find your lapse in logic unpleasant to witness. Please take time to reestablish your control and then consider our request.”

She raised the ta’al. She had clearly decided the conversation was over, regardless of whether T’Pring wished to continue it.

Dif-tor heh smusma, T’Pring.”

T’Pring managed to clear her face of all expression and return the ta’al with a toneless “Sochya eh dif.” Then her mother cut the line and the screen went black.

---

T’Pring shivered in the hallway outside the captain’s quarters. She resolved to wear a sweater the next time she made a late-night trip from her quarters on Deck 4 to the command quarters on Deck 5.

T’Pring was calmer after a session of meditation, but still utterly unsettled. She had missed a vidcall from her sister while she was meditating, but had found a text apologizing for Stelvoss’s behavior—apparently T’Lesh had discussed her comm with T’Pring and Nyota only conversationally. She had been asleep during and totally unaware of her bondmate’s discussion with T’Karik and the subsequent comm to T’Pring.

T’Pring was relieved that her sister had not been involved in the ambush, but she also knew that while T’Lesh would always support her, she agreed with Stelvoss and their mother. She believed that T’Pring should have children—fully Vulcan, of course—and probably would prefer she find a Vulcan bondmate. T’Lesh could not help her in this moment. No, T’Pring needed to discuss this situation with perhaps the only other Vulcan who would understand.

She pressed the chime and announced herself quietly. The door opened almost immediately—Spock must have been awake as well—and she stepped into the dim quarters to find him getting out of bed. Beside him, the captain sat up slightly, mumbling something that sounded like, “Whoozit?”

Spock leaned over and kissed his head. “It is only T’Pring, ashaya. Go back to sleep.”

Jim made a vague sound of acknowledgement before flopping into his pillow and returning instantly to unconsciousness.

Spock came around the partition into the living area, gesturing to the couch. T’Pring sat and he joined her, offering a blanket when he noticed her still shivering slightly, these shared quarters warmer but still too cool for her. The environmental controls were obviously set at a compromise between human and Vulcan normal.

“Thank you,” she said, wrapping it around herself, and Spock nodded.

“Is everything alright?”

“I am uncertain. My family has contacted me, and is displeased with my lack of contribution to the restoration effort.”

Spock’s eyebrows furrowed. “That complaint is demonstrably inaccurate. You are almost solely responsible for saving most of our native flora.”

“Yes. That is not, however, the restoration with which they are concerned. They believe I should also contribute to repopulation.”

“Ah,” Spock sighed. “I have received similar admonitions. The role of homosexuals is fraught in the wake of Va’Pak. Or, perhaps more accurately, homosexuals who are unwilling to avail themselves of artificial means of procreation.”

“Your father appears supportive of your bond.”

“He is. In that, I am fortunate.”

T’Pring crossed her legs in the loshirak. She found it gave her a slight sense of peace even when she was not engaged in meditation.

“I do not believe the problem rests solely with our sexual orientation. I could still bear a child, although I have absolutely no desire to do so. More precisely, the choice of a human partner is seen by many of our people as selfish in light of our threatened population. And it is that choice on which my mother and brother-in-law are focused.”

Spock glanced at the still form of his sleeping bondmate. “Xenophobia will not see us through this crisis. We must open ourselves rather than close more tightly against the rest of the universe.”

“I agree. Although, do you truly care if your choice is selfish? Is there anything that would persuade you to leave him?”

Spock looked back at her, gaze dark and hot. “Nothing.”

T’Pring averted her eyes. Spock’s more extreme expressions of emotion still made her slightly uncomfortable, especially now when her own control was so thin.

“Perhaps you and I should restore our bond.”

She was making an attempt at the humor so favored by her human colleagues, but when she looked back at Spock his expression was horrified. It was all T’Pring could do not to laugh.

“Calm yourself, Spock. I have not seen that expression since we were sixteen and I propositioned you for intercourse. I was experimenting with making a ‘joke.’ Clearly my skills are underdeveloped.”

Spock’s face smoothed out and his mouth quirked. “Clearly.”

T’Pring sobered. “But we do have a duty to our race. That cannot be denied.”

“We are assisting restoration in our own ways. It is, frankly, ridiculous to suggest that you have not contributed enough.”

T’Pring looked hard at him. He was expressionless again but his face was soft; the taut-string tension of his youth gone entirely. His hair was messy—an extremely rare sight—and he was wearing a human-style t-shirt that read “Save a starship, ride a captain.” But he held himself with a grace and confidence that was fully Vulcan. He had found the balance that had always eluded him.

She considered telling him more—that she resented Stelvoss’s presumption that he could dictate anything to her, that her mother wanted her to bond, that pon farr was looming—but she could not find the will to expose more of herself.

“Thank you, Spock.”

“What will you do?”

“I do not know. I must meditate.”

“I am, as always, available should you require further discussion.”

T’Pring nodded and rose from the couch, folding Spock’s blanket. They murmured “rom-mu'yor” to each other and T’Pring slipped out of the captain’s quarters.

---

T’Pring huddled at her desk. She had not moved for… she could not calculate the time, but it had been many hours. There was muscular pain in her back, her neck, her legs, but it all seemed such trivial pain compared to…

To everything else.

She stared at the vidscreen in front of her, watched newsfeeds from various worlds, watched footage of her planet imploding again and again, watched Starfleet try to explain and distract, excuse after excuse. Look at this bright boy who saved Earth, who saved the few remaining Vulcans, with his insight and courage!

There were rumors that they might promote this human—barely more than a child—to a captaincy. It was ridiculous. It was the ultimate distraction, the youngest captain in Starfleet history, a radical choice, a topic for debate. He filled the screen again and again with his blazing blue eyes and his pouting mouth. He looked incredibly uncomfortable with the attention being paid him; he would talk of nothing but Vulcan, Vulcan, Vulcan, we must prioritize the restoration, no I don’t know what Starfleet has planned for me, no Commander Spock has not dropped the academic charges against me, no I don’t have a girlfriend, stop this! Stop asking about me, I’m nothing! Don’t you understand? This was genocide, how can you even—

T’Pring hated him anyway.

The 38th time that James Tiberius Kirk appeared on her screen in lieu of a report about her lost planet, T’Pring flung her computer across the room. That was the first and the only time that she cried, wailing and screaming until she choked, until she vomited. She called T’Lesh on her communicator and they sobbed together without speaking for hours.

In San Francisco, their mother found T’Lesh on the floor of their room in the Vulcan Compound, clutching her communicator, the voices of T’Karik’s two surviving children combined in a pitiful funerial wail.

“Stop this!” She screamed. “Stop this emotional display! We cannot lose ourselves in this, we cannot lose the Vulcan way along with our home! Stop crying, stop it NOW!”

She wrenched the communicator away from T’Lesh and ended the call, and that was the last T’Pring heard from her family for several days.

When she had nothing left in her and was too weak even to cry, she dragged herself up and ate a tasteless protein bar, took a shower. She repaired her comm unit, aware of the heavy, sinister silence on the VSA ship. Someone must have been functioning—piloting, keeping life support on, keeping them afloat. But from inside her quarters it seemed as if everything on the ship had come to a standstill, and the telepathic grief of every Vulcan aboard drifted from mind to mind, a floating web of emotions too great to control. They were primal, pre-Surakian, a ship full of raw beasts.

They were barely Vulcans at all.

When the comm unit was functional again, T’Pring returned to the newsfeeds. She watched as the Enterprise crew finally arrived back on Earth, climbing shell-shocked from their shuttles. She found her future bondmate among them, surprised to see a skinny human woman holding his arm—whether to offer or receive support T’Pring could not determine. A vague awareness that the woman was attractive penetrated the mist of T’Pring’s compromised brain, and she wondered if Spock was, as it appeared, romantically involved with an unusually beautiful human female. It seemed unlikely, given what she knew of Spock.

But even if Spock was with this human, he was paying her little attention. His eyes were fixed, fascinated and confused, upon a now-familiar figure. Kirk led the way out of the shuttles, through the press line where he delivered yet another beleaguered, impassioned plea for Vulcan aid, and then into Starfleet Headquarters. Spock never looked away.

T’Pring felt no more hate for the humans now, not even Kirk. In fact, she felt almost nothing at all. But there was no peace to the emotionless void inside her—only numbness, howling and empty. Her mother’s words circled her thoughts like a emergency broadcast played on a loop: We cannot lose the Vulcan way along with our home. We cannot lose the Vulcan way. We cannot lose the Vulcan way. We cannot lose the Vulcan way. We cannot lose…

T’Pring wrenched her mind from the meditative state. Her eyes flew open and she shot up from her meditation mat, the hum of the Enterprise quiet under her feet. Her mother was right. She was unbalanced. She had forgotten the responsibilities of a Vulcan woman. She had lost the way.

Chapter Text

After T’Pring’s memories of Va’Pak derailed her, she meditated through the night. She brought herself out of the trance as artificial dawn stole over the ship, mind clear and thoughts calm.

She dressed and ate a small breakfast, reviewing reports from her gamma-shift staff. Nyota would not be awake yet, and thus it was logical to postpone the admittedly unpleasant task ahead.

At 0700, T’Pring left her quarters and proceeded to Nyota’s. She was relieved to note the tranquility of her mind—she had been expecting anxiety at the prospect of terminating her romantic association.

She buzzed for entry at Nyota’s door, taking one last calming breath as she stepped inside. She had steeled herself to resist Nyota’s many temptations, should she experience them at all in this blissfully emotionless state of mind. She would still be able to achieve her purpose—

“Good morning! You’re here early.”

Nyota was brushing her long hair, dressed only in her black undershirt and boxer briefs. Her face was soft and so, so happy to see T’Pring, eyes glittering like two sparking coals. She tossed her brush on the desk and strode to where T’Pring had frozen by the door, and then suddenly her warm human hands were on T’Pring’s shoulders, hot human lips against her own.

Every psychic wall T’Pring had built around her emotions during the night crumbled, as if she were a starship with failing shields. She was swept into the warmth and chaos of humanity, frenetic and sweet. She gasped against Nyota’s mouth and, in a desperate attempt to regain control, pushed her gently away.

Nyota’s brow furrowed with concern. “What’s wrong?”

T’Pring took a deep breath, trying to ignore the faint echoes of warmth and electricity where Nyota had touched her. She found herself unable to meet Nyota’s eyes as she said, “I must discuss a pressing matter with you.” She sidestepped around her and walked stiffly to sit at the desk, ensuring that they would have a solid object between them as they spoke.

Nyota followed, lowering herself into the opposite seat with the worried expression still firmly in place.

“What is it, honey? Are you ok?”

The endearment sent fire licking all down T’Pring’s spine. Nyota had never called her something so… tender. Only “gorgeous” or “baby” and only in the context of coitus. T’Pring hastily engaged her mind in basic telepathic exercises, children’s games meant to order and calm the brain. Nyota reached out to take T’Pring’s hand but she pulled away, speaking more quickly and breathlessly than she had intended.

“Nyota, after our conversation with T’Lesh, I was contacted by my mother and Stelvoss, T’Lesh’s bondmate. My family is concerned because I am not contributing to the repopulation effort. In light of the endangerment of our species, they believe I am putting my own desires above more important priorities.”

Nyota narrowed her eyes. T’Pring could not determine if she was surprised that this was the matter at hand. “You spend nearly all of your time making sure the Vulcan plant population survives. That’s not enough for them?”

T’Pring did not look directly at her. “No. My mother pointed out that if our species succumbs to extinction, the survival of our flora will be meaningless.”

“They want you to contribute offspring to the repopulation? But you don’t want kids.”

“Regardless, yes. They do want me to procreate. More specifically, they believe that the most logical action is to marry a Vulcan man with whom I can conceive. I admit that I find value in their argument that bearing children is an essential obligation.”

Nyota was silent for a long time. T’Pring glanced at her, finding her brow still furrowed and her eyes hot.

Finally she said, “Well, that’s just bullshit,” and T’Pring’s eyebrows shot up. But before she could answer, Nyota went on.

“Of course repopulation is important, but to call you up and demand you come home—to be honest, that’s fucking disgraceful. As if you building this incredible career and using it to fight so hard for Vulcan’s flora is some silly adolescent rebellion they’ve just been tolerating, but now they want you to get serious and come home to be a baby machine. Jesus!”

She shot up and started stalking around her quarters, incensed. T’Pring was confused by her reaction—she was angry, certainly, but was that anger directed at her? Illogically, T’Pring felt the need to ask forgiveness. She suddenly longed to curl up in the heat of Nyota’s arms, to pour into her pretty round ear the stories she had held in secret, or revealed only in vague detail. She wanted Nyota to know her, to know how long she had bowed to duty, and how long she had then spent renouncing it. How much it hurt to fall to her knees once again at the altar of ancient and irrelevant Vulcan traditions, even for an essential purpose. She did not want Nyota to be angry. She wanted the anger to fizzle away into one of her big human smiles, she wanted to receive her gentle comfort. She wanted—

T’Pring squared her shoulders. She had anticipated the possibility that Nyota would express anger at her for ending their relationship. She had prepared herself for this. She had to maintain her strength.

“Repopulation is more than important, it is vital.”

Nyota turned back to her. Strangely, all traces of anger were gone from her face. “Oh, I know. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to minimize that, truly.” She came and sat back down, leaning in toward T’Pring as if they were conspiring together. “Please don’t think I’m being callous about repopulation. But the idea that every Vulcan woman must devote herself to reproduction just doesn’t sit right with me. We go from world to world and on so many of them—too many of them—the genders that bear children are the ones that get trampled on. Pregnancy shouldn’t be leveled like a weapon. You don’t want kids, T’Pring. I mean, that’s what you’ve told me, what you told your sister yesterday. Has that changed?”

Her face was earnest, almost pleading. T’Pring was so rattled by how quickly she had lost her resolve that she was struggling to interpret what seemed to be radical shifts in Nyota’s mood. Was she not angry after all?

“No,” she managed. “That has not changed.”

A fresh fire lit Nyota’s eyes. “And to insist you marry a man! My god, T’Pring!”

And the anger was back. In this moment, any headway T’Pring had made toward understanding humans seemed lost. She mentally grasped for the tranquility she had found overnight, but it was out of reach now.

Nyota shook her head and took a deep breath, as if in her own human way she was also struggling to be calm.

“Ok,” she said finally. “Ok. I’m so sorry, T’Pring. I’m sorry they treated you like that. What can I do?”

T’Pring faltered for an answer. Let me leave you. Don’t let me leave you.

When she didn’t respond, Nyota went on. “Do you want to brainstorm? I mean, if you really feel that you have to contribute offspring, there are so many other options. You could donate eggs to a surrogate, or use an artificial womb and adoptive parents. Hell, if your mom wants you to have kids so badly, you could give her your eggs, let her grow the babies however she wants, and then she can raise them!”

“There are other factors.”

“What other factors? T’Pring, conserving species is what you do. If you need to do this, do it your way. You don’t have to go home and sacrifice your independence—Vulcans are one of the most evolved species in the galaxy. There’s got to be a better solution than sending a desperately needed scientist back to the colony to become a… a glorified breeding animal!”

T’Pring balked at the almost grotesque metaphor. “There are factors that you, a human, cannot understand. It is not for you to tell me that I should not fulfill my Vulcan duty, or to so easily dismiss my family’s concerns.”

Nyota’s gaze was still intense and urgent. “You’re right. It’s true that I don’t understand the full context as a Vulcan would. But this just… it isn’t you, T’Pring. You fight, you don’t acquiesce. You do things on your own terms.”

T’Pring’s jaw tightened. “Sometimes strength lies in admitting one has done wrong and taking the advice of others who can perceive the situation without bias.”

Nyota stared her down for a moment and then her eyes widened, as if she had just realized something. “Are you… are you going to do what they want? Is this… are you trying to break up with me?”

“After much meditation I have concluded that if Vulcan culture is truly to be preserved, I must strengthen my commitment to logic and the purging of emotion. Furthermore, I must bond as soon as possible. In conclusion… yes. I intend to take a bondmate and produce children.”

“Wait—why is it such a timely matter?”

T’Pring shifted uncomfortably. “There are certain… requirements that Vulcans have of their bondmates. Needs that a bondmate must fulfill. I am… approaching a time when those needs will be relevant.”

“Oh,” Nyota said, drawing a sharp, quiet breath. “You’re going into pon farr.”

T’Pring’s face heated. She could not bring herself to meet Nyota’s eyes. “Not immediately. I anticipate its onset in approximately five months.”

Suddenly, Nyota was on her feet again. “T’Pring, don’t you see what they’re doing? They’re using your pon farr to manipulate you! They’re.... They’re punishing you for being so close to your most fertile state! They’re punishing you with your own sexuality!”

T’Pring had started shaking. Having her meditative work so instantly and utterly undone, exposure to Nyota’s confusing human emotions and loud voice, being forced to admit that she was approaching her Time—it all was beginning to overwhelm T’Pring. She was struggling to think logically, which was in itself disturbing and disorienting.

“You cannot know what is in their minds. I find it vaguely offensive that you are so quick to disparage my family and the Vulcan way.”

Nyota stopped pacing and came to kneel in front of her. She did not try to touch her.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I’m being offensive. I’m just… from my perspective you’re letting your family make your decisions for you. This is no different than you being forced to marry Spock. Why should your brother-in-law get to dictate to you? Because he’s a man? That’s ridiculous, T’Pring. I’m worried about you. It's like... like you're just giving up. And, to be totally honest, I'm being selfish too. I don’t want to lose you.”

“Would you consider bonding with me?”

Nyota gasped. T’Pring looked up at her, shocked at her own words. She had not intended to pose that question. It had not even occurred to her before this moment.

Nyota opened and closed her mouth a few times. Finally she reached out for T’Pring’s hand and this time, T’Pring let her take it.

“Have you heard anything I’ve just said?” Nyota asked, but her voice was gentle. “We’ve only been sleeping together for six months. We’ve never even put a label on what we are to each other. I’m not ready to marry anyone, and I’m not going to enter a Vulcan bond after only six months just to satisfy some patriarchal system. But I’ll see you through pon farr, I’d be honored to do that. And then we can reevaluate everything else after.”

It was a rejection. There was no denying it.

T’Pring tried to keep her voice toneless as she said, “I require a bondmate. Pon farr in the absence of a bond is… unseemly. It is more animalistic than a mating time shared between bondmates. It is… it is inappropriate.”

“But you know when your pon farr’s coming, so you must have gone through it before, right? What did you do then?”

T’Pring closed her eyes. It was humiliating to discuss this, but she pressed on. “I endured it with Stonn.”

“So you don’t need a bond to break the fever.”

T’Pring wrenched her hand away. “What do you know about the mating time? What you have heard second-hand from Spock, what Kirk has salaciously confessed to you in his base, human way?”

A frisson of anger crossed Nyota’s face. This time, T’Pring knew it was directed at her, and a heady panic started pooling in her brain. “If you find humans so distasteful, why did you even get involved with me?”

"I do not know!" T'Pring exploded. "You are so beautiful—I merely wanted to engage you in casual sexual activity! I did not expect to... I did not expect... this."

The anger faded from Nyota’s eyes, replaced with… something T’Pring had no ability to identify.

“Didn’t expect what?”

T’Pring faltered. “To be so… committed to you.”

“You didn’t expect it because I’m human? Are humans just… playthings to you?”

“No! Because I was pursuing only a sexual arrangement—I believed anything beyond that would distract from my work.”

“Did it? Or is this still just about sex for you?”

“Of course not,” T’Pring said through her teeth. “My work has flourished in your company.”

Nyota’s eyes bored into her, still unreadable. “I can’t tell if you still find me distasteful because I’m a human, or if you’re trying to say you’re in love with me.”

T’Pring looked away. She would not answer that question, not to Nyota nor even to herself.

Nyota took a breath. “Well. Either way, I’m in love with you. Just because I’m not ready for everything a Vulcan bond stands for, it doesn’t mean… T’Pring, please don’t leave me, ok? Let’s work this out together. We can figure it out, just… don’t leave me.”

She reached out for T’Pring again, but T’Pring’s brain had stuttered to a halt. Nyota was in love with her. Nyota had offered her body for pon farr. Nyota would not bond with her.

The wild swing from Nyota’s rejection to her confession of love was too much. T’Pring could not do this—she could not grapple with these emotions. This was why she was committed to logic. She did not want this confusion, this pain.

Her thoughts tangled and skipped like code in a damaged computer. She staggered up out of her chair and said, “I cannot love you.”

It was not a lie, because she wanted it to be true.

“I am a Vulcan. My actions must be dictated by logic, and if they have not been previously, they will be now.”

The deep, dark hurt on Nyota’s face brought T’Pring closer to a loss of control than anything else in this disastrous conversation. She steeled herself with the remaining scraps of her strength. “I am ending our romantic and sexual relationship.”

She fled, leaving Nyota still kneeling on the floor, utterly alone.

---

Nyota went to the bridge in a daze, and worked without really thinking about it. It took Jim only a few hours to figure out that something was wrong. Nyota felt an irrational flutter of annoyance that he was such a savant in so many random fields. She was the observational genius—did he have to do everything better than her?

She was self-aware enough to know that the real reason she was mad at him was that he was better than her at one very specific task: keeping a Vulcan partner.

“Hey,” he said quietly, grabbing her arm as she tried to leave the bridge at the end of Alpha. “Are you ok? Did something happen with T’Pring? You’ve both been acting really weird all day.”

“We broke up,” she whispered flatly. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

She tried to pull her arm away but he tightened his hold.

“Wait, Uhura, let me—”

She wrenched her arm out of his hand. “I said no, Captain. Back off.”

Nyota didn’t wait to see his expression, or Spock’s for that matter—his superior hearing ensured he had overheard their conversation. She entered the turbolift and stared at nothing until the doors closed.

She went directly to her quarters and worked—worked aggressively and efficiently, trying not to think. Her comm pinged eventually with a message from Spock, which read, “Nyota, I am sorry to hear about your difficulties. I will not approach you in regards to them again, as you have expressed a desire not to discuss them, but please know that I am available should you desire company.”

Nyota didn’t realize she was crying until she put her communicator down. Spock was so thoughtful, so understanding. Could it really be impossible for T’Pring to have even a fraction of his emotions? He followed the Vulcan way, he had solid emotional control, he was undeniably Vulcan. Had she been an idiot to expect that T’Pring might be similar?

Part of her was certain T’Pring was buckling under the pressure of her family, that the soft emotions Nyota had been perceiving in her were genuine. But another part, loud and demanding, wondered if she had just been seeing things in a human-centric way. If she had misinterpreted every moment of their relationship. How much did she really know about how full-blooded Vulcans experienced attraction?

She texted Spock back, “Thanks for offering, but I just want to be alone right now. But thanks, Spock.” She didn’t want company. Nyota hadn’t cried in front of anyone since Jim died, and only a handful of times before that. She had raged, she had screamed, but never cried—emotional frailty was a luxury that a small, conventionally attractive black woman couldn’t afford if she wanted to be taken seriously. Her weaknesses were for her alone to explore. If Spock came to her quarters now she wouldn’t be able to hold back the tears, and he would probably be great about it, would hold her and rub her back and be a solid, silent force of comfort, but she couldn’t have that. She wouldn’t let anyone—not even Spock—know that the fierce, unbreakable Nyota Uhura was unraveling over a woman she had been seeing for only six months.

No, she would endure this pain and then she would pack it up neatly and put it away. She would get on with more important things.

---

Over the next month, Nyota didn’t see T’Pring very much. She mostly kept to her labs as she always had, so they didn’t run into each other often. On the rare occasion that they did, T’Pring was cordial and respectful, and Nyota tried to be too, but it was clear that both women preferred to keep their distance.

T’Pring didn’t go back to New Vulcan, and Nyota had no idea what her plan was. Her pon farr wasn’t due to start until after the mission was over; maybe she was planning to return to the colony then and take a bondmate. Maybe she had already chosen someone, arranged the marriage over comm. Maybe a Vulcan man was waiting to claim her, body and mind. In any case, it wasn’t Nyota’s business now.

Nyota had rarely been lonely on the Enterprise, but it was only after they broke up that Nyota realized how much time she and T’Pring had been spending together. She missed T’Pring’s warm body next to hers at night, she missed their intellectual conversations and friendly debates, she missed the way T’Pring had always been touching her—a hand on her back, fingers in her hair, an arm around her waist.

T’Pring had truly seemed as smitten as Nyota felt, even if her expression of it was more subdued. Nyota knew it had only been about sex for both of them at first, but it had grown so quickly into something else, something bigger. Or, she thought it had. That T’Pring had been feeling nothing the whole time but a calculating appreciation was difficult for Nyota to grasp.

Nyota had always prided herself on her ability to read people, to interpret non-verbal communication. She found herself questioning her professional skills—how could a supposedly brilliant communications specialist have so gravely misinterpreted this situation? Hundreds of hours of work studying alien body language wasted, forgotten as soon as her emotions kicked in. She felt hollow, stupid, and embarrassingly human.

T’Pring had proposed to her. T’Pring had insisted she couldn’t love her. Nyota could not reconcile those realities.

She continued to refuse discussions about the breakup with others, although she let Jim drag her to crew parties and card games, accepted the less-than-subtle increase in Spock’s invitations for chess or academic projects. She knew that Spock and T’Pring were still close, and wondered vaguely if they talked about her, but she didn’t really care. She would never do something as petty as making Spock choose between two friends.

Jim and Spock didn’t push her, but she caught them watching her with worry whenever she drifted out of a conversation, staring into space. It annoyed her, even though she knew that wasn’t fair. At the end of each day she felt agitated and grumpy, tired from trying so hard to seem normal and not attract unwanted, if well-meaning, attention.

But one day, Jim entered her quarters without his usual grin and a social invite that he would inevitably oversell. Nyota was working at her desk, but Jim’s serious, almost grim expression took her aback enough that she put down her PADD.

“Is T’Pring in pon farr?”

Nyota blinked at him.

“How the hell should I know?” she said finally, her voice a little weaker than she intended.

“Is that what happened between the two of you? Did it have something to do with your split?”

“Jim, why do you think I’m going to talk about this with you? It’s none of your business.”

He took a few strides closer, and she noticed he was very much in his “Captain Kirk” mode. “It just became my business. She almost attacked an engineering ensign during gamma shift last night before collapsing and passing out. The ensign is fine, but T’Pring’s in sickbay now, in restraints. Bones is pretty sure it’s pon farr but she won’t talk—she made a request that we bring her to New Vulcan. We’re already on our way to Beta Heddon III, but as soon as that mission’s over we’re going straight to the colony.

“If my crew is being threatened, I need to know why. And if one of my contractors, who is my husband’s friend and, most importantly, a Vulcan, is dying, I need to know why.”

“Dying,” Nyota repeated in a whisper. T’Pring’s pon farr had come early. It had come early and there was no one to comfort her, to bring her back from the fire.

“Bones says she has three weeks at most,” Jim went on. So little time. A sharp, panicked helplessness rushed up Nyota’s spine. “She claims that she’s fine to return to duty, that she was taken by surprise by something she was expecting to happen later. Now that she knows what’s going on, she claims she can control it with meditation. I don’t know why she won’t talk about it, at least to me—it’s not like I don’t know about pon farr. But she won’t, so if you know something I need you to tell me.”

Nyota understood what was happening. Jim hated being powerless, hated when sentient beings were in danger and he just didn’t know how to stop it. But still, she didn’t owe him her personal information.

She didn’t want Jim to know that she had already tried to solve this problem. That she had offered her body only to be rejected, to be reminded that her humanity made her insufficient. She didn’t want Jim to know how desperately she wanted T’Pring to love her.

“She has a right to her privacy,” Nyota managed to say. Her voice had a slight tremor that she tried to control. “If we’re going straight to New Vulcan after we leave Beta Heddon III, why not just keep her in restraints until we get there? Then there won’t be a threat to your crew.”

“Bones is already recommending I release her. She’s been meditating for hours and he says she’s demonstrably improving. She’s already asked—demanded—to go down to Beta Heddon herself as planned. She doesn’t want to send any of her staff. I can’t order her to stay unless my CMO approves, and he won’t, he won’t believe me that she’s just being a stubborn fucking Vulcan!”

“Christ, Jim, you’re the captain. You can order her not to go down with or without a medical reason.”

“No, I can’t! I can’t override the CMO’s recommendation because of a personal suspicion. I need to know whether or not she’s in pon farr. Because if she’s anything like Spock, T’Pring will push herself past her limits, and I don’t want to take that chance if I don’t have to.”

“She’s nothing like Spock,” Nyota muttered, looking down and fiddling with her stylus.

“Nyota,” Jim said firmly. He almost never used her first name. It had become a kind of code between them—when he used it Nyota knew things were deathly serious, and that Jim was taking control. He rarely had to exert authority over her; they understood each other so well and she was unfailingly respectful of him as a captain, rarely letting their friendship compromise her professional obligation to him. But right now, Captain Kirk needed information, and his subordinate wasn’t giving it up.

Nyota wanted to throw her PADD at his head.

“What I suspect is happening,” Jim when on, “Is that T’Pring doesn’t want to tell me she’s in pon farr because it has something to do with why you broke up. And that because I’m your friend, she’s worried I’ll tell you something she doesn’t want you to know. So I’m not getting the full story due to a private conflict, which means I can’t make an informed decision about how to handle this.”

A hot sludge of anger and fear was boiling in Nyota’s brain. She felt so helpless—Jim had no idea that she wanted nothing more than to be able to help T’Pring, to give him the solution he wanted. He was chipping away at her with every invasive question, threatening to uncover her soft, weak regrets. He had no right to push her like this. He was supposed to look out for her, not tear open all her barely healed wounds. “Captain, if she says she’s fine and your CMO confirmed it, it’s not your place to pry further.”

Without warning, Jim slammed his hand down on her desk. Nyota gasped and instinctively recoiled from him. The anger and the fear burned hotter, pounding in time with her blood.

“I will not lose a Vulcan life on my watch!”

Nyota stood. She was shaking. “You know what, Jim? You’re out of line. T’Pring’s health is her business, not yours. You don’t get to decide for Vulcans what they do with their bodies just because you’re worried about them, just because you’re constantly trying to prove yourself to Spock.” Jim twitched, his eyes darkening. Nyota knew she had hit his flash point, but he had hit hers first, whether he meant to or not. “It’s not my damn responsibility to give you someone else’s private information; in fact I’m pretty sure you’re breaking about three regulations right now.”

“I assure you I’m not,” Jim growled, fury shadowing every word. “If I have a legitimate concern about the ship or any of the beings aboard her, I’m well within my rights to ask any question I damn well please.”

Nyota backed away. She felt tears threatening, and she desperately needed to get Jim out of her quarters.

“You should know better than anyone,” she said, voice wobbling, “that I can’t help her.”

And then suddenly she was shouting, everything she’d been hiding spilling over, out of her control. “We’ll never be enough for them—we’re just stupid humans with pretty heads full of air for them to put bonds in, dirty human bodies ready for the flames of pon farr! That’s all we’ll ever be!”

She gasped for breath and then, realizing with horror what she had said, clapped her hands over her mouth. But it was too late. Jim looked like she’d punched him in the face. Right now she kind of wished she had, instead of saying those things.

After a stunned moment he whispered, “Fuck you,” and suddenly Captain Kirk was gone, replaced by her sensitive friend Jim, the one who had told her a handful of secret, drunken times that he had never felt good enough for Spock, that he sometimes worried Spock didn’t know how to love at all.

He left without another word. Nyota sank to the floor and just sat, unmoving, staring at the rug.

---

T’Pring was released from sickbay the next morning. They swung into orbit around Beta Heddon III ahead of schedule, arriving in the middle of Alpha shift. T’Pring was on the bridge, practically vibrating with anticipation—the Heddons had a massive collection of alien botanical specimens from all across the galaxy, including the seeds of a Vulcan-native flower T’Pring hadn’t been able to get her hands on since Va’Pak. She was too wrapped up in her academic fervor to notice the captain watching her, obviously ready to stun her at a moment’s notice, or Nyota pointedly not looking at her at all.

While Nyota was deliberately ignoring T’Pring, both Jim and Spock were deliberately ignoring her. Nyota knew she deserved it. She still thought Jim had been out of line, prying so aggressively into her business, but that didn’t justify what she’d said. The sadness and the guilt sat heavy in her chest like a smooth, cold rock.

T’Pring left the bridge after they achieved orbit, probably to meditate once more before she beamed down. Against the recommendations of Jim and Spock, she was still insisting on going herself because of the importance of this mission to her project.

Nyota couldn’t help but glance at T’Pring as she stood waiting for the turbolift—the hand holding her PADD was shaking just slightly, and she shifted uncomfortably a few times when she would usually be utterly still. Nyota looked away as a surge of guilt and terrible, terrible fear went through her. What if T’Pring died? Should she have bonded with her anyway, even if she didn’t want to? She still wasn’t even sure that was what T’Pring had wanted.

She got up and left the bridge without really even thinking about it. She saw Jim watch her leave out of the corner of her eye, knew she should have asked permission, but neither of them acknowledged it before the turbolift doors closed and Nyota requested Deck 4, where T’Pring and her staff were being housed.

She was going to convince T’Pring not to go down to the planet. It was stupid, and reckless, and so clearly driven by emotion—academic excitement and pride in her work. Nyota needed to at least mitigate the danger if she could.

T’Pring’s doors opened just as Nyota turned the corner into the hallway of guest quarters, and Spock stepped out, walking purposefully toward the turbolift but stopping when he saw her. She hadn’t even noticed him leave the bridge.

“Nyota,” he said evenly, his face blank.

“Hey, Spock. What are you doing down here?”

“Attempting to convince T’Pring not to beam down today.”

Nyota laughed without humor. “Me too.”

“She is immovable. I doubt you will be successful.”

“Well,” Nyota sighed. “Can’t hurt to try.”

Spock resumed his course but paused next to Nyota, not looking at her.

“I am hurt by what you said to Jim,” he murmured.

Nyota took in his slightly flushed cheeks, his eyes downcast and worried. What a terrible position she had put him in. The stone in her chest grew heavier.

“It is extremely difficult,” Spock went on, “convincing Jim that his insecurities about my devotion to him are unfounded. Has he told you that we almost never shield our bond? That was my decision. I want him to be constantly aware of how deeply I love him. My hope was that, after a prolonged period of such exposure to my emotions, he would finally be reassured. It is exhausting for me to be so constantly open telepathically, but it is work I consider valuable. It is work you have managed to undermine in a handful of moments. I tell you this in the interest of honesty, because you are my closest friend and I treasure you, but that is precisely the reason that this is such a painful slight.”

“I’m so sorry,” Nyota whispered. “I didn’t mean it. I was just… letting what I feel about T’Pring bleed over. I didn’t mean to make it about you, too.”

He glanced sideways at her. “I know that. I know you are well aware that my love for Jim is genuine, that he is so much more to me than just a human body and a human mind. It is him who cannot be convinced. Furthermore, it is deeply unpleasant to hear such accusations directed at me by my dearest friend, even though I understand rationally that you did not mean them.”

“I know. I know. There’s no excuse for it, Spock, I’m so sorry. I’ll talk to Jim, I’ll try to fix it, I’ll—” One small sob escaped against her will. She was just so helpless, so tangled in mistakes.

Spock sighed. “I suggest you focus your efforts on T’Pring for now. When you are less distressed by that issue, you, Jim, and I will work together to repair the damage to our friendships. It is not undoable.”

He touched her arm briefly and then whisked away, leaving Nyota in the middle of the hallway, head spinning. The last thing she wanted to do was face T’Pring with her composure so utterly shattered, but what choice did she have?

T’Pring was slow to answer her chime, but finally the doors swished open and Nyota stepped into the hot, dim quarters. T’Pring had the lights way down and the temperature hotter than usual, and Nyota balked a little at this evidence of T’Pring’s unbalanced state.

T’Pring was standing in a meditation robe near her mat, and when she saw that it was Nyota she straightened up.

“Nyota. Will all due respect, I must ask you to leave.”

It stung, but Nyota spoke anyway.

“I’m here to convince you not to go down to Beta Heddon III today.”

“Spock has already attempted that, and you will be no more successful than he. Now please, I require meditation and your presence is particularly agitating.”

Nyota couldn’t help but gape at T’Pring. She might be emotionless, but she had never been cruel.

“Seriously, T’Pring? You can’t even stand to be in the same room with me?”

It was petty, she knew—T’Pring had life-or-death decisions to make right now, and certainly didn’t have time for emotional discussions with a spurned lover. But Nyota hurt. She just hurt so much, and she was losing control.

T’Pring cocked her head, eyes boring into her with that familiar intensity.

“No, Nyota. It is precisely the opposite. I want you, and that desire is weakening my control. As you do not wish to bond with me, I request that you avoid my presence in order to increase my chances of arriving at New Vulcan in time.”

Nyota was shocked into silence for a very long moment. Finally, she wrapped her arms around herself, edging toward the door.

“Ok. I’m sorry. But if the situation is that dire, please don’t go down to the planet.”

“As long as I am able to meditate, this away mission will not accelerate my condition.”

“But what if something goes wrong?”

“It is a simple mission, if monumentally important. The likelihood of a significant problem is less than 5.78 percent.”

“This is the Enterprise,” Nyota insisted. “The likelihood of problems is always higher.”

“That is an illogical and emotion-based statement. Please leave.”

Nyota was relieved to oblige—she was barely able to keep herself from crying until she was safely hidden in her own quarters.

Chapter Text

In her quarters, Nyota washed her face and calmed herself down as quickly as she could, but it was some time before she returned to the bridge. Jim glanced at her but didn’t comment on her extended absence.

As she sat down, scanning her readouts, Jim said, “Lieutenant Uhura, please contact the surface of Beta Heddon III for a status report from Commander Spock.”

Nyota looked back at him in surprise. “Commander Spock is on the surface, sir?”

He stared her down, eyes flat and tired. “Yes, Lieutenant. He accompanied Ms. T’Pring to ensure her… successful return to the ship.”

Nyota swallowed as she turned back to her station. Jim couldn’t have been happy that Spock had put himself in a potentially dangerous situation.

“Lieutenant Uhura to Commander Spock,” she called through the interminable darkness between ship and planet.

“Spock here.”

Nyota turned to Jim. “Go ahead, Captain.”

“How are things going down there, Commander?”

“Satisfactory, Captain. We are approaching the botanical storage facility now. Ortrensu T’Pring will be contacting the ship when we have secured the waneti seeds.”

“Very good, Mr. Spock. Be careful down there.”

A few heads turned—there was no reason for the captain to fuss when Spock was on such a simple mission. Nyota’s cheeks heated and she looked away, closing the channel after Spock’s murmured, “Of course, Captain.”

About twenty minutes later, T’Pring hailed the ship and asked to have her seeds beamed up. Nyota’s eyebrows furrowed. “Will you and Commander Spock be beaming up as well?”

“Negative, Lieutenant. I wish to remain and observe the botanical sanctuary for a short time.”

Nyota looked around for Jim, who was already staring at her.

“Are you sure that’s wise, Ortrensu?” he said, in the captain’s voice he had carefully cultivated to mean, Don’t do the stupid thing you want to do.

“Certainly, Captain,” T’Pring’s voice was audibly annoyed, and it sent a spike of fear through Nyota. She had almost never heard T’Pring sound so emotional. “Otherwise I would not be doing it. T’Pring out.”

And the connection was lost. Nyota and Jim exchanged one more awkward glance before Nyota turned away. She worked, trying to distract herself, but her concentration was broken a few minutes later by Chekov swearing under his breath.

“Something wrong, Ensign?” Jim asked.

“Aye, Keptin. Our orbit was just… jostled.”

“Jostled? I’m gonna need more specifics, Ensign.”

“Just a moment, sir… Ah, I see it now. Its was some kind of... geomagnetic pulse. It altered our orbit by 36 degrees. And it also caused seismic actiwity on the planet, Keptin.”

Jim stood up. Nyota saw his jaw tighten. “Seismic activity? Spock didn’t detect anything like that before they went down.”

“It appears to be sudden, Keptin. I am not sure it could have been predicted.”

“Severity?”

“I am not sure yet—”

But he was interrupted when a shock wave rolled over the ship. Nearly everyone was flung out of their seats, Nyota included. Personal tension temporarily forgotten, she and Jim looked to each other. Jim’s eyes hardened.

“Get me Commander Spock.”

---

Spock had to admit he was charmed as they entered the botanical sanctuary on Beta Heddon III. It was an iron and glass greenhouse which stood in rather whimsical contrast to the advanced conservation technology inside it. Many rows of clean, white storage units lined the fragile walls, each compartment glowing with a neat electronic label. There were many plants out of storage as well, serving as both decoration and objects of study.

The lack of protection was strange, though. This was a rare collection of botanical matter from 734 different worlds, so surely it necessitated better defense than a delicate glass greenhouse?

He was distracted from his concern by T’Pring, who had just let out a soft Oh!, and when Spock glanced at her he found her face expressive, almost excited. It did not bode well—she was not in complete control of herself.

“This is most beautiful,” she complimented Polnatch, their Heddon guide. The alien, squat and dark purple with several waving antennae, smiled at her.

“Thank you very much, Ortrensu T’Pring. That is high praise coming from you. Please, the waneti seeds are just over here.”

T’Pring followed him eagerly into the depths of the greenhouse, Spock trailing behind with a cautious eye on her.

The Heddon opened a small storage compartment and withdrew a vial filled with seeds, sealed against oxygen and other damaging elements. T’Pring held out her hands, which Spock noticed were shaking. The Heddon must have believed her to be trembling from excitement, because he gave her the vial with no hesitation. T’Pring cradled it, staring with naked reverence. Her hands began to shake more intensely.

Spock went quickly to her side and put his hands under hers. She jolted at the indiscreet touch, looking up at him with her eerily demonstrative eyes.

“Your hands are shaking,” he said, “I wish to prevent you from dropping this specimen.”

T’Pring took a sharp breath, as if she did not realize how far she had strayed from her control. She nodded, and let him take the vial from her.

“We should return to the ship,” he said.

But T’Pring’s eyebrows furrowed, almost petulant. “I would like to further explore this facility. I will have the seeds transported to the ship, and then I will continue my observation.” She seemed to remember at the last moment that she was a guest on an alien planet and glanced at their host. “With your permission, of course.”

“Certainly, Ortrensu!” Polnatch said, bouncing on the balls of his four feet. Spock thought he seemed enamoured of T’Pring, although he was uncertain if he was drawn to her prominence as a scientist, her beauty, or her distinctly non-Vulcan expressiveness.

T’Pring nodded, smiling with abandon. Spock feared he was watching her unravel before him.

She flipped open her communicator and hailed the ship, but shivered visibly when Nyota answered. Spock belatedly realized he should have gone outside and made this call himself to prevent T’Pring from hearing Nyota’s voice.

“Lieutenant,” she managed to say without stammering, “Please inform Lieutenant Commander Scott that the waneti seeds should be beamed aboard immediately, from Commander Spock’s coordinates.”

There was a pause before Nyota said, “Will you and Commander Spock be beaming up as well?”

“Negative, Lieutenant. I wish to remain and observe the botanical sanctuary for a short time.”

There was another pause and then Jim’s concerned voice came on the line. “Are you sure that’s wise, Ortrensu?”

T’Pring rolled her eyes. Spock was vaguely surprised she even knew how to perform such an action. “Certainly, Captain,” she snapped. “Otherwise I would not be doing it. T’Pring out.”

She flipped the communicator closed and put it away, waiting to make sure her seeds were beamed up safely. After they disappeared in the humming glow, she turned away and smiled at Polnatch again. “May I see your rarest specimens?”

He lept into action. “Of course! Just over here, Ortrensu.”

Spock followed them for 17.612 minutes, ignoring the Heddon’s commentary although he would normally have found it quite interesting. Polnatch was in the middle of showing T’Pring a large, blood-red cactus when he suddenly froze, all of his antennae standing up straight and sharp. He dropped the cactus, its pot shattering on the floor, and yelled something that neither T’Pring nor Spock could understand before racing out of the greenhouse, four legs skittering.

They stared after him and then exchanged looks of confusion, their eye contact broken when a low rumbling under their feet became detectable. Spock took out his communicator but had no time to hail the ship—a sudden lurch sent them both to the ground. And then, with a great howl of mechanized movement, the sunlight filtering into the greenhouse began to recede as a massive metal dome erected itself around the fragile structure. Soon the light was blotted out entirely, leaving Spock and T’Pring in dimness with only the faint glow of the electronic storage labels to see by.

“W-what happened?” T’Pring asked in a small voice, a totally illogical and pointless question, given that Spock had the same quantity of data she did. He ignored her, getting up to retrieve his communicator, which had slid across the floor when he fell. It buzzed as he picked it up, the Enterprise having no doubt detected the tremor and Jim no doubt fretting over his safety.

“Spock here,” he answered, but all he got back was garbled static. He adjusted the frequency and managed to catch Jim’s voice calling “Spock? Spock!”

“I am here, Captain. Do you read?”

Nyota’s voice then. “We read but --- faint. Can you --- frequency ---”

Spock huffed impatiently and continued trying to improve the signal, but whatever had just encased the greenhouse was clearly disrupting communications.

“Stand by,” he instructed, and thought he heard a frustrated grunt from Jim’s end, although he might have imagined it.

Spock began to survey the structure around them more closely—hopefully there was a means of exit. But then he noticed that T’Pring had stayed on the ground and had curled in on herself, arms around her knees and cheek against the cool stone floor.

“T’Pring?”

She looked up at him, her eyes helpless.

“I cannot— we are trapped here— I need— I cannot get to New Vulcan, I cannot— I need—”

Spock knelt beside her and put a soothing hand on her back.

“T’Pring, there is as yet no evidence that we are trapped. I must examine the structure—”

Sudden wrenching sounds from somewhere outside suggested another tremor had occurred, although within the greenhouse they felt only a faint rumble. This suggested that the dome was some kind of protection against natural disasters or other threats, the reinforcement Spock had found lacking when they first arrived at the facility.

Even muted, the tremor had caused T’Pring to tighten in on herself further, whining through her teeth.

“I cannot be imprisoned here when the fever comes!” she said desperately. Spock began rubbing her back.

“T’Pring, it is imperative that you remain calm. It is unlikely we will be confined here for an extended period of time. If you maintain your composure you will be able to hold off the fever for weeks yet. But if you panic, you may send yourself prematurely into the plak tow. Practice meditative breathing while I examine our current predicament.”

When she started taking shaky but measured breaths, he rose to begin a thorough study of the protective structure. It took him only 23.664 minutes to determine that there was no route of escape. Unless their communication ability improved or someone removed the dome, they were trapped after all.

Spock glanced over his shoulder at T’Pring. She was sprawled on her stomach, opposite cheek on the floor now, as if she was trying get as much of her shivering body as possible against the cool stone. He heard her murmur, “Nash-veh ni fal.”

I am so hot.

Spock took a deep breath. It would seem there was no deferring it.

T’Pring had gone into pon farr.

---

When their attempts to reach Spock returned little more than a static-y confirmation that he was alive—just him, Nyota couldn’t help but think, not T’Pring—Jim ordered her to contact Polnatch, the Beta Heddon who had been with Spock and T’Pring on the planet.

Nyota had difficulty finding him, but finally she managed to get a comm through to his personal device on a weak signal. His face appeared on-screen, moving and jumping and if he were walking and holding up his comm at the same time.

“Polnatch,” said Jim sternly, seriously. “We registered an earthquake on your planet and now we can’t get in touch with our officers on the surface. What’s going on down there?”

“It was an earthquake, yes, Captain,” Polnatch exclaimed as he gasped for breath. “I was in the botanical sanctuary with them—I told them to run but they did not! They are inside it now—”

He broke off, speaking in his native language to someone they couldn’t see. He appeared to have stopped walking, as the picture had stabilized.

“I am in a safe place now,” he informed them, and Nyota felt a ripple of irritation. Frankly, she didn’t much care if he was safe; she just wanted to know about T’Pring and Spock.

Jim seemed to feel the same, gritting his teeth as he said, “What do you mean, ‘they are inside’? Inside where?”

“There is a defensive system constructed around our sanctuary. Sudden, unpredictable earthquakes are common on our world, and the botanical specimens must be protected. But they need natural sunlight, so an impenetrable dome is set to enclose the greenhouse at the first indication of an earthquake.”

“And Spock and T’Pring are inside it?”

“Yes. They did not exit the greenhouse quickly enough.”

Jim swallowed. Nyota could tell he was trying to keep his composure. “Is there oxygen inside? I mean, are they safe?”

“Oh, yes, Captain. They are perfectly safe, although we will not be able to retrieve them for 41 hours.”

“41 hours?” Jim said sharply. “Why the hell not?”

Polnatch’s purple antennae curled nervously. “Aftershocks continue for that amount of time, so the defensive system is set to remain in place. Can Vulcans not survive that long without food? There is water in the greenhouse…”

Jim shook his head, “No, I mean, they can, but...” He glanced over at Nyota. “There are other factors. Can you override the system? We need to get them out.”

“There is no override, Captain. I’m terribly sorry.”

Jim was vibrating now with the effort of remaining diplomatic. “We can’t contact them. We at least need to speak to them.”

“It is difficult for communications to get through the dome.”

“Well, FIND A WAY,” Jim shouted, finally losing his composure. The Heddon flinched. Jim closed his eyes and took a shaking breath.

“I’m sorry, it’s just that I must know the status of my officers. Is there someone we can work with down there who can help our comms get through?”

The Heddon nodded quickly, clearly relieved to have placating information to offer. “I will have a communications specialist contact you.”

Jim nodded. “Thank you. We’ll wait for their hail. Kirk out.”

Nyota cut the line. Jim put his face in his hands and stood still for a moment, the bridge silent and watching him. Finally he ran his hands through his hair and looked up, not meeting anyone’s eyes. “Lieutenant Uhura,” he said tonelessly. “A word, please.”

Nyota rose and followed him into his ready room just off the bridge, the hiss of the door closing behind them the last sound before an awkward silence settled like a chilly, unnavigable fog. Jim’s back was to Nyota and she hovered by the door, uncertain.

Finally he said, “You’ll work with the comms specialist. Try to get through.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to tell me now. Is she in pon farr?”

Nyota rubbed her arms, looking down. “Yes. She wasn’t supposed to be. It wasn’t due for 4 more months. I guess it came early.”

Jim’s fists clenched, but Nyota could tell he was afraid rather than angry. “Bones said we had 3 weeks. She shouldn’t reach the plak tow in 41 hours.”

“You know more about it than I do; I can’t really say.” She took a deep breath. “Is she a danger to Spock?”

Jim shrugged tightly. “I don’t know. It depends on whether she thinks he’s a threat or not. A Vulcan in the plak tow is jacked up on adrenaline and super strong, but totally irrational. Even a nerve pinch or a stun blast would only last a few minutes on her in that state. Trapped in a small space like they are? If she started seeing him as a danger for some reason, she’d get him eventually.”

Nyota had to sit down. She barely managed it without falling.

“And then she would die, too.”

“Yeah.”

Nyota breathed around her desperate urge to cry. She wouldn’t. Not now, not in front of Jim.

“You’re right, though, she’s still really far from the plak tow. Let’s just hope it stays that way.”

Jim didn’t answer, but he sat down next to her. After a few more minutes of silence, Nyota said softly, “I know it seems really small right now, but I want to— Jesus, I’m just—” she huffed once and collected herself. “I’m so, so sorry for what I said to you. It was awful, and I didn’t mean it.”

She put her head in her hand, pressing against the headache suddenly pounding there. “You really pissed me off, Jim. Pushing me for information like that, especially about something you know I’m hurting over. But that doesn’t justify what I said. And it wasn’t true, anyway—Spock loves you, you’re everything to him. I just… well, I’m sorry.”

Jim didn’t answer right away, letting several long, painful moments stretch out between them. But finally he said, “I know you didn’t mean it. It was a shitty thing to say, but you’re right. I was pushing too hard, and I put you in a bad place. I’m sorry, too.”

But the air didn’t lighten. It still felt like they had been knocked out of alignment; everything between them a badly translated message, vital but impossible to parse. Nyota shifted her hand to cover her face. Neither of them moved to go back to the bridge.

Eventually the Heddon communications specialist contacted them, and Nyota patched the call into the ready room. At first, Jim stood by as she and the Heddon tried to jury-rig a frequency that would penetrate the thick protective dome, but in the end it took almost two hours. Jim returned to the bridge but came back several times, growing more and more frustrated the longer it took.

But finally, finally, Nyota’s “Enterprise to Spock,” was answered with a scratchy, “Spock here, Lieutenant.”

Nyota sat back in desperate relief.

“I’ll leave the line now,” the Heddon said politely, and her signal disappeared.

Nyota paged the bridge with a shaking finger. “Lieutenant Uhura to Captain Kirk. I have Commander Spock.”

Jim was through the door before she even finished speaking.

“Spock?” he gasped, rushing over to the ready room’s little comm unit.

“I am here, Jim.”

Jim sank into a chair next to Nyota. “Are you okay? Fuck, Spock, I’m freaking out.”

“I know, ashaya. I knew you would be. I am unharmed, as is T’Pring, but she is… in urgent need of escape from this enclosure.”

Nyota’s stomach dropped. Suddenly it was hard to breathe, hard to think.

Beside her, Jim took a deep, slow breath. “Is she in the plak tow already?”

“No. But it will not be long, I expect. The fever is progressing rapidly due to her anxiety about our current entrapment.”

“We can’t get you out for another 38 hours, Spock,” Jim said, as if the words were sharp in his mouth. “It’s a defense system that’s triggered automatically by earthquakes. The dome can’t be manually opened.”

There was a distressingly long pause on Spock’s end. “I see.”

Suddenly T’Pring’s voice was in the background, unintelligible. “No,” Spock said firmly. “Allow me to finish speaking, T’Pring. Go back to the front of the greenhouse. Go. No, T’Pring, I said—”

“Nyota?”

T’Pring’s terrified voice was high and reedy. Nyota closed her eyes and tried to find some composure.

“I’m here, T’Pring.”

T’Pring sobbed once. “I am so frightened, Nyota. I do not know what to do, I need you, please, Nyota, I want you, I want you. Nyota, please—”

“T’Pring!” Nyota said, in what she hoped was a firm voice. “Listen to me! I’ll be here for you. You just need to hang on, ok? We’re going to get you out as fast as we can, and when we do, I’ll be waiting. I promise. Can you try to hold on for me?”

“I will try,” T’Pring whispered. Then her voice got slightly louder, as if she had crowded closer the communicator. “I will not burn with him, Nyota. He thinks I belong to him, they all think I belong to him.”

The ready room seemed suddenly charged with the force of Nyota and Jim’s panic rising as one.

“T’Pring,” Nyota said, “Spock is not trying to hurt you in any way. He knows you don’t belong to him. Spock is not a threat to you, do you understand me?”

There was a long pause, but finally T’Pring said, “Yes, I understand. I am… Nyota, I am having trouble remembering… what is real…”

“I know you are, honey, but you need to try really hard to remember that you’re safe with Spock, ok?”

“I will try, Nyota.”

“Go sit down, T’Pring,” Spock commanded, but his voice was gentle. “Continue your attempts to meditate.”

After a pause, presumably while he waited for her to be out of hearing range, Spock said very quietly. “There is little chance she will last 38 hours, Jim.”

Jim’s breathing had taken on the tremor it had whenever he was trying not to cry. “I know. Just… just do what you can.” He paused, but then said quietly, “I love you.”

“I love you, Jim. Try to stay calm. Now, please expand on the Heddons’ explanation—”

But then the transmission cut out with a teeth-rattling screech. Both Jim and Nyota jumped.

“What happened?” Jim shouted. Nyota quickly started trying to get the signal back, tapping any combination of buttons she could think of to retrieve the frequency.

“I don’t know! I mean it wasn’t a very strong signal—”

“At least try! Get him back!”

Nyota whipped around to him. “Sir, if I could get him back don’t you think I—”

But when their eyes met they found mirrored expressions of fear and grief, and they both deflated.

“I’ll keep trying,” Nyota said softly.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured. She nodded and got back to work.

They never retrieved the signal. All they could do was wait in the agonizing uncertainty of radio silence.

---

Nyota stood outside Jim’s door for a solid three minutes before she worked up the nerve to ring the chime. When he didn’t answer, she took a deep breath to clear the tears from her voice and announced, “It’s me.”

It worked. The doors opened and Nyota entered to find Jim lying in bed, curled into a miserable ball, watching her.

“Hi,” she said, and then burst into tears. Jim sat up, surprised—he’d never seen her cry before.

“I’m so sorry,” she sobbed. “Jim, I’m so sorry. I was just— hurting so much and I wanted you to hurt too— because I was s-stupidly jealous that you made it work with Spock and I can’t make it work w-with— with T’Pring. But that’s no excuse, it’s really not, I’m so sorry, I don’t—”

Jim got up and strode purposefully to her, and then suddenly she was in his arms, face smashed against his chest. She let herself go limp and clung to the back of his shirt.

“It’s ok,” he rasped, and Nyota wondered if he had been crying too. “It’s ok.”

“It’s not,” she wept, “You’re my… my b-best friend! I c-can’t hurt you just ‘cause I’m angry.”

“Maybe not, but it’s ok to make mistakes. I made a mistake too—you were right, I was hounding you so hard about T’Pring, and I knew it was tearing you up inside. I wasn’t respecting anybody’s privacy. I’m sorry too, ok? I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok,” she managed. “I know you were just worried.”

Jim’s arms tightened around her. “Every once in awhile, we get passes with each other, right?

“Right,” she whispered.

“Now stop crying, you’re freaking me out.”

His watery voice made her suspect that “freaking me out” was code for “making me want to cry too,” so she took a shuddering breath and tried to calm down.

“Can I stay with you?” she asked softly.

Jim pulled away and nodded, staring at the floor. “I don’t want to be alone, either. I’m… I’m scared.”

“Me too.”

So they flopped into Jim and Spock’s bed, exhausted. After a few minutes of silence, Jim said, “Do you want to tell me what happened now? With T’Pring?”

She was too tired to say no. There didn’t seem any point now, anyway.

“That day her sister called, and T’Pring asked me to come down and meet her—do you remember that?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, it went really well, or I thought it did. I was… excited. I thought it meant things were getting serious. But then later that night her mom and her brother-in-law called and chewed her out for not contributing to the restoration effort.”

Jim looked at her skeptically. “She’s literally in charge of the flora restoration.”

“I know. But I guess it’s not enough if she’s not bonded to a man and popping out his full-blooded babies.”

“Jesus.”

“Yeah.”

“So… what was she going to do?”

“I don’t know. The next day she came to my quarters and I think she was trying to break up with me, but I didn’t get that at first. I was trying to help her, come up with suggestions,” she laughed derisively at her own stupidity. “But then I realized that she was going to give in and do what they wanted. And I tried to talk her out of it, and then she asked me to bond with her, but I obviously told her I wasn’t ready for that, but that I would see her through pon farr and that… that I loved her. I begged her not to leave me. But she did. She did.”

Jim was kind enough not to look at her, but he squeezed her hand once.

“I’m sorry.”

“I get that restoration is important but she shouldn’t have to cave to this archaic system.”

“Even traditions that were going out of fashion are invaluable now. All the Vulcans are struggling to find their place and balance restoration with day-to-day life.”

“And I get that! I respect her culture—fuck, I want to help her navigate that balance. But she said she couldn’t love me. Not that she didn’t, but that she couldn’t! That’s just not fucking true! Is it?”

Jim sighed. “I can’t speak for her specifically, but yes, most Vulcans can love their partners. But Nyota, you can’t expect her to express it in a human way. Especially not this early in your relationship. She’s very traditional, but obviously something about you was compelling enough for her to go outside her comfort zone, and you have to be patient if you want this. And I mean, she does too—she can’t dive head-first into a bond with you the minute things get rough. She’s learning how this love thing works from a Vulcan perspective and it takes time.”

“She left me, Jim. I wasn’t given a choice.”

“I know. I’m just. I guess I’m just saying don’t give up on her. You heard her today—as soon as panic set in it was you she wanted. I’d be willing to bet that she does love you, just in her own very Vulcan way. You guys have to meet each other in the middle, you know?”

“That’s what I was trying to do, Jim! I can do interspecies relationships. Or I thought I could, but then I fell so fucking hard for her, and now I can’t make this work!”

She finally looked over at Jim and found him staring at her.

“It’s not easy,” he said flatly. “You get that, right?”

The headache Nyota had been nursing all day was starting to get worse. “It was easy with Spock,” she whispered.

“It was easy with Spock because there was nothing at stake.”

He wasn’t usually that blunt about her relationship with Spock; he must have felt justified at that moment since it was his brain about to be torn apart if they lost him.

A rogue tear escaped and she turned away, onto her side. He’d already seen her cry too much tonight.

“You make it look easy.”

“Well, it isn’t. I know I joke about how different Spock and I are, but it’s true. I drive him nuts. He drives me nuts. We have to run a fucking ship together and it’s the goddamn hardest thing I’ve ever done. If we fight on the bridge, or if I do something reckless that pisses him off, or if he undermines my authority—even if we end up screaming at each other in front of admirals or aliens or something—when we get into our quarters we just have to drop it, like none of it ever happened. We have to hug and say sorry no matter how mad we still are and we’re both proud, stubborn bastards and it’s impossibly hard. But it’s worth it, so we do it anyway.

“I joke about him because I’m so fucking scared that one day I’m going to push him too far and he’s going to realize that marrying a human was the only stupid idea he’s ever had, and that he’s going to run away and do Kolinahr like the other Spock did. I’m terrified all the fucking time that living with my emotions in his brain is so agonizing that he’ll eventually want to get rid of emotions altogether, that he’ll meditate me away and then someday I’ll see him again and his eyes, and his head, my head, will just be empty, and I swear I think it would kill me—”

He broke off with a choked sob, and Nyota heard him turn away too, their backs to each other, Jim as ashamed of his weaknesses as she was of her own.

But suddenly Nyota didn’t care if Jim knew how much she was hurting. Nobody but him could understand it, so why should she hide? She turned around and curled herself against his back, wrapping an arm around him, burying her face in the nape of his neck, and she cried, cried until she had nothing left. Jim grabbed her hand and clung to her, and then he was crying too, wracking sobs in a broken rhythm with her own.

It was a long time later when they lay silent, drained and exhausted and used up.

“He’s never going to leave you,” Nyota whispered against Jim’s neck. “You have to stop being afraid.”

“So do you,” Jim mumbled, and Nyota had nothing to say to that.

They slept.

Chapter Text

6 hours, 27 minutes

In the gloom of the greenhouse on Beta Heddon III, a few bioluminescent plants had added their light to the that of the specimen labels, casting an eerie, liminal glow.

Spock and T’Pring were sitting side-by-side in the coolest corner they had been able to find. T’Pring had asked him to search the plants for Denobulan Blackweed and, after 37.55 minutes, he had finally found a sample of only three small leaves. She was chewing one of them now, fists clenching and unclenching.

“What effect does this plant produce?” Spock asked. Given the level of her agitation, he had not wanted to question her when she made the request.

T’Pring ran a shaking hand through her hair. It had been braided when they beamed down, but she had fussed with it so much that it was tangled and snarled now.

“It produces a mild tranquilizing effect in Vulcans. It is nowhere near strong enough for my current needs.”

Spock nodded and sighed. “It is, as the humans say, better than nothing.”

T’Pring replied with only a noncommittal “Mmm.”

“May I see to your hair?”

T’Pring glanced over at him in confusion, eyes huge and helpless.

“It is tangled,” Spock clarified. “You have not removed the tie at the end of your braid but you have been running your fingers through it, causing tangling.”

T’Pring reached up and touched her hair and then nodded vaguely. “Oh… yes, thank you.”

Spock moved behind her and removed her hair tie, gently beginning to undo the tangles with his fingers. He was careful not to touch her skin and invade her mind with his own thoughts—her telepathic shields were undoubtedly weakened.

As he worked out the knots, he felt T’Pring relax a fraction. She had been swinging in and out of lucidity for most of their confinement, but for now the plant seemed to be helping. After several minutes she said quietly, “I do not wish to hurt you. I… cannot trust myself to be logical in the coming hours… please do what you must to protect yourself.”

“Do not concern yourself with that.”

“My body will not cleave to yours. Do not attempt to offer it to me, no matter how desperate I become. In my most basic thoughts you are a potent symbol of everything I have been forced into by virtue of being born a Vulcan woman. Such an offer will increase the likelihood that I will perceive you as a threat.”

Spock ran his fingers through her hair, ensuring he had found every tangle. “I do not recall implying that I would offer you my body.”

He hoped she would pick up on his teasing tone and, thankfully, she did, turning to look at him over her shoulder with a small smile.

“Surely our Captain would not begrudge me the sexual use of your body to save my life?”

“Surely not. Although I doubt my body would cleave to yours regardless of either of our hormonal states.”

She chuckled quietly. She may as well have been giggling hysterically for all the times Spock had seen her laugh, and he reinforced his shields to prevent any of his fear from slipping into her mind. But her laugh became a sob almost instantly.

“I hated you,” she whispered, voice strangled. “I blamed you for the entirety of my dissatisfaction. You were as much a victim as I and yet I despised you.”

Spock sighed. He began braiding her hair. “T’Pring, we can discuss our childhood in depth at another time. For now, do not concern yourself with me.”

“Please confirm that you will kill me, if you must.”

“Do not assume we will reach that eventuality, ko-kai.”

With no warning other than a sigh, she leaned back against him. He jerked, surprised, but after reinforcing his shields yet again, put his arms around her.

Du karik, T’Pring. Dungi palesh-tor du. Dungi palesh-tor etek teretuhr, kuv bolayatik.”

T’Pring shivered and sobbed once. Spock tightened his arms. They waited.

---

10 hours, 42 minutes

Spock was attempting to meditate, but T’Pring’s intermittent whimpers were making it difficult. He had moved away from her when his presence had begun to increase her agitation; they were both still near the coolest corner, but Spock had stopped touching her 1 hour and 21 minutes ago.

Brought out of meditation once again by an atonal whine, Spock opened his eyes and glanced over at T’Pring. She shifted uncomfortably, her skin pallid and shining with sweat.

“Can I assist you in any way?” Spock asked.

“No!” T’Pring snapped. Spock nodded and let her be, but a few minutes later she said in a small voice, “I want Nyota.”

Spock sighed. It did not seem especially wise to engage T’Pring in an extended conversation about why she and Nyota had parted ways, but he was fumbling in the metaphorical dark without knowing the context of T’Pring’s desire.

“She made it clear that she is waiting for you,” he said carefully.

T’Pring wasn’t looking at him, but two tears slid down her face. She didn’t wipe them away, just sat with her fists clenched on the ground, body held precariously as if she was trying to avoid the touch of the floor against her genitals. Terror and pain were evident in the set of her expression.

Spock swallowed a rush of selfish fear. He would not be so foolish as to separate himself from Jim when his own pon farr was approaching. He would almost certainly never experience what T’Pring was now enduring. Still, he could not stop an image coming to his mind of himself doubled over in agony, flames licking up his legs and around the painful pillar of his cock, penetrating him. Screaming for Jim but unable to find him.

No. Jim would be there. Jim would put the fire out with his cool human body, his smiling ice-blue eyes the beacon Spock would follow out of the burning underworld.

Spock shook the thoughts away. T’Pring had covered her face with her hands now and was crying without restraint.

Uncertain, somewhat awkward, Spock offered, “Endure a while longer, T’Pring. You will be with Nyota soon and she will take care of you.”

T’Pring finally looked up at him. Her eyes were furious and fully dilated. “I can never be what she wants.”

“I do not believe that is true, but it is at this moment irrelevant. She will see you through the fever. That is the only relevant detail.”

“She will not bond with me!”

Spock opened his mouth in surprise but closed it again before asking gently, “Did… you ask her to bond with you?”

“Yes! It was… not my intention. But at the time it seemed a better alternative to returning to New Vulcan and taking a man into my head.”

There was much information Spock would need to parse later, but that would have to wait.

“Humans rarely enter commitments as serious as a bond after so short a courtship. That she is not yet ready to bond with you does not mean that she is not willing to cool your fever. She is quite clearly in love with you, and you with her.”

T’Pring stared at him with those hard, sad eyes. “I cannot experience that emotion.”

Spock tilted his head with indulgent skepticism. “T’Pring. Please.”

She pulled her legs up against her chest and laid her head on her knee. “How does one know? When one is in love. How did you?”

Our home was destroyed but I was still thinking about his eyes.

Spock did not say that. Instead, he took a breath and searched for words T’Pring would understand in her current state. “I observed that during our first year serving together, I had come to desire Jim’s company, to crave his approval. I dreamed of him. He terrified me. He… inspired physical reactions in me that,” he almost said “Nyota,” but thought better of it, “that women had failed to inspire. Even so, and though I did suspect that I was developing a romantic attraction to him, I did not accept that I was in love until he died. My reaction to facing a future without him rendered it impossible to deny the precise nature of my emotions.”

T’Pring closed her eyes. “I am facing a future without her.”

“Has that imparted any clarity as to your emotions?”

“Yes.” She sighed in resignation, apparently too tired to lie to herself or to him. “I am in love with her.”

Spock smiled, just a little. “I am certain she will be most relieved to hear that when you are reunited.”

T’Pring uncurled her body and slipped down to lie on the floor, arms and legs akimbo as if she was avoiding all skin-to-skin contact.

“I require water. Will you bring some?”

Spock procured a glass of water from the sink in a small room tucked at the back of the greenhouse. When he handed it to T’Pring she drank some of it, but let the rest pour out and over her body, groaning at the fleeting relief.

Her cheeks were flushed like two limes, her usually faint freckles dark and standing out in sharp relief. Her hair was tangled again.

Spock checked his chrono. 30 hours before they could be beamed home. Although he lacked the data to precisely predict timing, T’Pring’s descent into the plak tow was clearly imminent. Spock would nerve pinch her if necessary, but he doubted it would be especially effective. His phaser was locked on stun, but a phaser blast would only give him approximately 15 minutes of T’Pring’s unconsciousness.

Spock estimated their chance of survival at less than 21.7 percent.

---

20 hours, 44 minutes

Nyota and Jim woke up the next morning in a haze. Jim seemed all too familiar with the creaky hangover of a night spent sobbing, but Nyota hadn’t cried herself to exhaustion in a long time. She whimpered and pulled the blanket over her head, pressing her face against the warmth of Jim’s back as if it could make her headache disappear.

“How many hours?” she muttered, hoping he could hear her.

“Little less than 21.” He was counting.

Bones took them both off active duty for the day, and Scotty assumed command. For a few hours they tried to reestablish contact with Spock, to no avail. Eventually Nyota found herself stuck under her panel on the bridge, only her legs visible to the officers on duty, afraid to come out because she was going to break down again, cry in front of the crew who saw her as an example of rigorous professionalism. She lay there for quite some time, an hour maybe, before she heard Jim’s voice somewhere near her left hip.

“No luck, Lieutenant?” he asked, although he already knew the answer.

“No. I can’t get them, Captain.”

“That’s ok. Why don’t you come out now?”

She belatedly realized that she was paralyzed by a full-blown panic attack. She had never had one before, but she had heard Jim describe the terrifying tightness in the chest, the lightheadedness, the crippling fear that life would never go back to normal. Realizing what was happening only made it worse, and she found herself gasping for breath, sure that her brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen and that she was going to slip into unconsciousness.

“I– I can’t,” she told Jim.

“I know it feels like that,” he said, quietly and without judgement. “But you can. When you come out, I’m going to take your arm and help you up, and then you and I are going to go straight to the turbolift. As long as you can keep control for just a couple of seconds, no one will suspect anything.”

Nyota took a few shallow breaths, but surrendered. She pushed herself out from under her console and, just as he had promised, Jim grabbed her elbow and pulled her up, then steered her across the short distance into the turbolift. As soon as the doors closed Nyota gasped and started to fall, black dots popping in her eyes, head spinning, but Jim caught her.

“I know,” he said. “I know.”

They went to her quarters rather than Jim’s and sat on the floor drinking whiskey, even though it was barely afternoon.

“So,” Jim said eventually. “If you can, you’re really going to go through pon farr with her?”

“Obviously. What else am I going to do? Let her die?”

“Is that the only reason—to save her life?”

Nyota was silent for a while, sipping her drink. “No,” she said finally.

Tipsily, despondently, Jim chanted, “Uhura and T’Pring, sittin’ in a tree, f-u-c-k-i-n-g. First comes love, then comes pon farr, or so we hope unless our Vulcans are dead.”

Nyota burst out laughing. Jim gave her a bemused grin.

“You’re fucking awful, Kirk, you know that?”

“Bet now you wish I really was just a dumb hick who only has sex with farm animals.”

“Oh my god, you have no idea!” Nyota laughed, but her hysterical giggling was quickly becoming hysterical crying, her breath coming up short before she even realized what was happening. Jim reached out and grabbed both her hands.

“Fuck, Jim,” she hissed. “What am I going to do?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted, his eyes helpless and scared. But then he schooled his face into an attempt at confidence. “Well. Since all we can do right now is wait, let’s prepare for the best just in case we get them both back in one piece.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re going to need... let’s see: food, water, towels, as much lube as we can find, and we should probably rig some specialized locks for your quarters so she can’t get out and wreak havoc on the ship, but you can get out if things go south. And we should gather all of the toys we have between us in case she wants to be restrained or like, whipped, or something.”

“Do you have a whip?”

“Is that a serious question? Of course I do.”

They giggled desperately.

“Ok,” Nyota agreed. “Let’s get ready.”

---

T’Pring did not know where she was. These leaves and flowers and seeds, this damp air, it was all wrong. The little corner where she sat was hot and burning, full of flame. She could swear she felt sand under her fingers, each grain sharp and painful. But no desert stretched before her, no trace of the red dunes she used to sneak out of school to visit.

She would climb those hot hills to stare out across the great Forge, the vista winking and wobbling in the extraordinary heat. Sometimes she would lie down and lift her robes, reach into herself. Explode upon the crest of the dunes, her climax a flash of fire even hotter than the desert.

She had cherished those moments, so sweet in their transience. But now, in this wrong, dark place, the sun-hot agony of desert orgasms would not leave her, persistent and unyielding.

The heat was unbearable, but T’Pring still longed for her homeworld. She could not remember why, but she knew deep in her bones that her desert was forever unreachable, and the knowledge left her agitated. She wanted to sink into the sand and let this heat burn her up until she was part of the desert itself, nothing but smoldering ash.

Her vulva was swelling, labial skin too tight and sensitive, and the touch of the floor against it was unbearable. She humped the stone tiles, just a little, and came unexpectedly with a surge of wetness between her legs. It was maddening and offered no relief. She whined through her teeth.

Somewhere a man’s voice was pattering, raining down on her heavy and hard. Why was there a man? Was it Stonn? She had been here once before, in this terrible, hell-hot place, and Stonn had been there. Big column of fire sliding in and out of her, broad fingers all over her, pinching her nipples raw, warm soft mouth sucking her, licking into her.

The voice hammered again. No. It was not Stonn. But it was familiar, oppressive. It was a voice she had always associated with this time because she had always expected it to be the voice leading her through it.

Spock.

But she did not want Spock to see her through this. She had not chosen him, he was not soft and cool, he could not take care of her. He would possess her with empty eyes and a clumsy body.

His voice again. She banged the floor with her fists, growling in frustration.

The voice disappeared.

She rubbed out another orgasm on the floor and cried. She was not supposed to cry, but she could neither remember why nor find the energy to care.

---

26 hours, 17 minutes

Spock had moved to the opposite corner of the greenhouse from T’Pring. She was still in the cool spot, shivering, although clearly not from cold. Spock could barely see her through the plants and tables between them, but a corner of her face was visible, her desperate, terrified eyes staring at nothing. He could also see one hunched shoulder, and could perceive the tremors that wracked her every few seconds.

Her smell was heavy in the air, pheromones and sweat and something Spock suspected was ejaculate. She had been muttering ceaselessly in Vulcan for the past hour, and had started casting furtive, suspicious glances at him.

Spock stood up and went to get a glass of water, hoping she wouldn’t realize he was only doing it to get a better look at her. She was shining with sweat, her hair matted and tangled with it. She was rubbing her genitals against the floor now, probably attempting to relieve some of the pressure but undoubtedly just making it worse. A pool of her slick was creeping out around her, and she had reached around to her back to rub at her swelling chenesi.

Spock was watching T’Pring’s slow but unyielding transformation from austere Vulcan scientist to primordial, pre-Surakian savage. It was disturbing and terrifying and made Spock desperate for the safe shelter of his bondmate’s mind.

Suddenly she seemed to realize he was moving around, and her head snapped in his direction. Her dilated eyes were hot and angry.

“What are you doing?” she said sharply.

“I am only procuring water. Would you like some?”

“No! You will not gain my favor with kindness. I will not let you weaken my vigilance and then assault me.”

“Under no circumstances will I assault you, T’Pring. I am not a threat to you. It would be wise for you to stay hydrated—I will leave a glass of water on the floor for you and you may retrieve it if you wish.”

“If I want anything from you, I’ll ask for it!” T’Pring shouted.

Spock just nodded and continued on to the sink. He poured two glasses anyway and left one where she could access it, far away from him. 12.372 minutes after he had resumed his seat, T’Pring scrambled over to the water and drank it desperately. When it was gone she collapsed on the floor and sobbed until she was mostly quiet, only whimpering here and there.

Spock hoped she had managed to fall into a fitful sleep, but the sounds of her rustling 34.3 minutes later sent his hand to his phaser. No, too early for that. He dared not look at her, lest she perceive it as aggression.

It was perhaps for that reason that he did not respond quickly enough when she launched up with no warning and rushed him, adrenaline-fast.

She took him down easily, Spock’s head smacking on the floor, and was on top of him in an instant. As Spock reeled from the impact, T’Pring’s hands closed around his throat, vice-strong and unyielding.

There was a dull, obsessive focus to her eyes that terrified him; none of the sparkling intelligence and curiosity that was usually there. Spock only barely managed to get a hand on her shoulder and nerve pinch her. She slumped over him, grip loosening, and he held her against his heaving chest for a moment.

He was so very tired. But rest was nothing more than a glimmer of hope, still 14 hours away.

---

The hollow of her belly was filled with want. It was all she knew, all she could focus on, the hunger making her sick. Her vulva was on fire, sharp flames filling her up, burning her from the inside out.

She knew what she needed but, like the desert, it was out of reach but she did not know why. She needed calm, thin hands; strong arms; thick, powerful thighs. Bright eyes, sharp mouth.

Her blood beat with it. Ny-o-ta. Ny-o-ta. Ny-o-ta.

Nyota’s mouth on her, talented tongue taking her apart again and again. T’Pring’s swollen breasts ached for Nyota to rub them, chew on her painfully hard nipples. She longed for Nyota’s human heart, so freely given.

“So wet, baby,” Nyota would say. And then, “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, don’t be afraid, here I am.”

Humans did not burn. Nyota was the only safe harbor in the vastness of space.

T’Pring sobbed. She sobbed until she had no breath left, but her tears did not cool her. Her vision swam and she almost thought she could see the desert blurring in and out of existence.

But then it snapped into focus before her, that lost desert, red and gold. A female figure was approaching slowly through the shimmering, shifting air, dark against the fiery horizon.

“Nyota!” she pleaded, and as the figure got closer, she could make out Nyota’s smiling human face, her body naked and ready to take T’Pring within her.

Nyota reached for her, hands so cool they glittered with ice crystals. She could extinguish this terrible fire boiling T’Pring’s bones, she would slide those cold fingers up inside her, she would soothe the burn, she would—

But then the undesired voice was back, a meteor shower of words T’Pring did not want to hear.

Nyota’s beautiful head turned toward Spock’s voice as if he held her on a string. Her expression lit with a delighted glow, and then suddenly Spock was visible as well, looming huge and shadowy over her.

No! Nyota was not his! How dare he take all things from T’Pring—her body, her independence, her human.

But Nyota was smiling big and bright, and T’Pring recalled the vague, shredded memory that Nyota had been Spock’s, once. Spock had held her, fucked her, loved her, but he had surrendered it all like a fool. Of course he wanted to take Nyota from her! How could anyone not mourn the loss of Nyota’s mind and body—

her body, her body—

Spock took Nyota in his arms and oh, how willingly she went. How well their mouths fit together. He pressed her small, bare frame against him, one hand on her breast and the other slipping between her legs.

As his fingers penetrated her, Nyota threw back her head with a moan. She twisted her long arms around his neck, spreading her legs. Spock was expressionless as he wrenched his fingers out of her, reaching into his robe to withdraw his penis.

That terrorizing column of flesh. 20.32 centimeters that had determined T’Pring’s entire life. She had been bonded as a child to ensure the survival of that cock, to be the wet hole when it burned. But she burned. She needed the wet-sweet body, Nyota in and around her.

Spock was lifting Nyota up by the buttocks, ready to slide her onto him. A hot tide of rage swept over T’Pring’s already burning body and all she could do was scream, lunge for them. But Nyota disappeared like mist in her hands and she howled, left alone in the desert with Spock.

So be it. She had always known it might come to this. She would fight him on the sand, fight for Nyota. She would be her own champion.

Her life stretched behind her, every moment leading to this one. On these ancient lands, she would find her freedom in death—Spock’s or her own.

T’Pring’s blood beat a fatalistic rhythm. The ceremonial bells began to ring.

---

38 hours, 2 minutes

Spock awoke to hot breath on his face, and he jumped instinctively. T’Pring was crouching over him, eyes slitted and mouth a curved snarl.

Spock cursed himself—it was irresponsible not to have remained vigilant, but his head ached from being smashed against the floor and maintaining consciousness had become difficult.

Yontau nash-veh, Spock,” T’Pring hissed. “Bezhunlar t’nash-veh yai. Khaf-spol t’nash-veh yai. Hi vukhut t’nash-veh zadik. Nash-veh ri t’du.”

Spock refrained from answering her in Vulcan, hoping that Standard might distance him from the primeval landscape to which her mind had retreated.

“I know, T’Pring. I do not want you. I am your friend.”

She pressed her face closer to his. “‘Thrah’ t’nash-veh. Nem-tor du thrahlar t’du svi’razhlar t’au ka’a aushfal'esk.”

Spock shook his head. “No, that is not what I mean, I—”

Ahmau tu ish komihnsu ‘thrah,’ ish-veh dungi-nargitolau tu svi’yon! Ken-tor nash-veh terai t’du, Spock!

“No, T’Pring!” Spock said firmly, trying to sound calm, “Jim is my husband, my t’hy’la, he is more to me than a friend, it is different with you—”

Heh k’Nyota?” she whispered, cocking her head slow, like a predatory cat, “Vesht nam-tor ish-veh t’hy’la t’du? Rai, hi wi vi'kwital du vukhut t’ish-veh, vazgal ra t’ish-veh eh t’nash-veh, ka’a dungi-provulau tu nem-tor nash-veh. Hi dungi-stau nash-veh tu, Spock. Dungi-grazhau nash-veh hineklar t’du svi’mazhiv t’koon-ut-kalifee fa’abutsuplau nash-veh na’tu.

She was almost on top of him now, awful heat rolling off her. A scorching wetness trailed down his leg and Spock realized that her vagina was drooling slick onto him. He swallowed. “I do not doubt it, T’Pring. But I will not try to take your body. I am not a threat to you.”

Lok t’du wi masupik k’ish-veh, vazgausu, grohkeh! Dva-tor du eh ek’sasular t’T'Khasi nam-tor kosular ri'el hi veltra t’skilsu, hi dungi-yontau nash-veh k’ri’sasu!

Spock realized he was gasping for breath, from both fear and the claustrophobic proximity of her burning skin and cloying smell. Then she stumbled up and away from him, taking her preternatural heat with her. As she stared him down, she ground out what Spock suspected would be her last words in Standard for some time.

“As it was in the dawn of our days, as it is today, as it will be for all tomorrows, I make my choice. I choose her and I will always choose her! Kal-if-fee!”

Spock raised his shaking hands in surrender. It was clear that T’Pring had lost any grip on reality and no longer knew if she was fighting for herself or for Nyota. “She is yours, T’Pring. I will not fight you for her. And I will not touch you. You are safe. You are safe.”

She stared at him for a moment, snarling, pupils blown black. Then, with a howl, she flung herself at him, hands going back to his throat.

Nam-tor nash-veh skilamu t’nash-veh!” she screamed. “Nam-tor nash-veh skilamu t’nash-veh! Nam-tor nash-veh skilamu t’nash-veh!

Spock managed to knock her hands away, flipping her over and trying to pin her under him. It quickly became clear that although it was perhaps the only way to restrain her, it was the wrong choice. He attempted to nerve pinch her but it had no effect, and she bucked and screeched beneath him, no words now, just furious, terrified animal vocalizations. She smashed her head into his own and stars burst in front of Spock’s eyes, his grip loosening enough for T’Pring to slither away and then kick him in the chest. He fell back gasping, but she was on him again before he could catch his breath. She spun him around and delivered a targeted punch to each of his chenesi, and he went down to his hands and knees with a scream of pain.

But this position only made it easier for her to strike him again, this time with a kick to his left chenesi. Trying desperately to ignore the agony, he managed to roll onto his back and kick her away from him. He scrambled to his feet and reached for the phaser on his hip, but she launched herself at him again and grabbed him by his hair, bringing his head down to crack on a nearby plant pot. His could feel his right eye socket shatter with an explosion of blood.

“T’Pring,” he gasped, although there was no logic in appealing to her reason now, “Stop this! Kroikah!”

She kicked him again, this time in his ribs, and he was fairly sure she broke at least two. The kick forced him to stagger back, and he finally managed to get a clumsy hand on his phaser. As she rushed him once again, he shot her at close range and she crumpled to the ground.

Spock stumbled. It was difficult to breathe and he theorized that his lung was being impacted by one of his broken ribs. From his damaged eye he could see only a hazy suggestion of the tepid green blood spilling down his face. He sank to the floor with his back against a storage container.

For an unmeasured amount of time, Spock stared at the broken form of this woman whose complicated presence in his life had so stubbornly persisted. He was frightened: he did not want to die, and he wanted even less to leave Jim alone. But he felt no anger for T’Pring, just an ancient, sympathetic understanding that was etched into his very DNA. No Vulcan was truly safe from the horrible fire that was burning T’Pring alive.

---

38 hours, 57 minutes

Spock could not sleep. He could not allow the pain in his head to drag him under no matter how desperately tired he was, no matter how long it had been since he ate, not matter how his bond throbbed more violently with each passing hour.

Perhaps a shallow meditation. He needed it—his body was sluggish after the injuries he had sustained at T’Pring’s hand. No, he could not chance it. He was quite probably concussed and could not recall the risks of falling asleep in such a state, which was in itself evidence that his brain function was compromised. Furthermore, T’Pring would not remain unconscious long. Spock closed his eyes, whining slightly at the fire-white agony of moving his wounded eyelid, and tried to simply breathe restoratively.

When T’Pring awoke next he was ready, and when she reared up from the floor and charged him, howling, he fired his phaser.

She collapsed mere centimeters away. He was fortunate to have aimed correctly given his limited mental faculties.

Spock sucked in a few ragged breaths. Every rush of fear and adrenaline left his compromised brain even more inefficient. He attempted to calculate how much blood he had lost from the lacerations around his broken orbital socket, but found himself incapable.

A sickening realization hit him—without the ability to make calculations, Spock could not safely use his phaser on T’Pring. He could only stun her so many times without causing permanent brain damage or, in the worst possible outcome, death. But those imperative computations were utterly beyond him.

Spock gingerly rested his head against the storage unit and clumsily flung his consciousness into the ether, searching for Jim. They were likely at too great a distance for telepathic communion, especially with his greater psionic abilities weakened, but he tried nonetheless.

A warmth seemed to pulse in his bonding center, but Spock could not be sure if it was real or imagined. Regardless, he tried to project a message through the black: I love you, do not grieve.

If Jim sent anything back, Spock’s brain was too weak to perceive it.

Spock gathered his strength and crawled as far away from T’Pring as possible. Perhaps distance could gain him time.

She stirred eventually, moaning. Spock was not certain she was actually awake until, through the leaves, he saw her sit bolt upright. Her head swiveled and she found him immediately, lip curling in disgust. But she made no move toward him, and Spock looked submissively away.

She began grunting and moaning several minutes later, and based on the accompanying slick-slick sound, Spock assumed she was masturbating. He wondered if it would tamp the flames or fan them.

She came screaming only 2.3 minutes later, dissolving immediately into frustrated sobs. There would be no relief for her alone, and the unsatisfactory orgasm seemed only to agitate her. She got up to pace, murmuring a constant stream of senseless Vulcan.

Spock took shallow breaths around his growing panic. With T’Pring up and moving, she was sure to attack again. How many times did he dare risk stunning her when he could not remember the safety limit, when he could no longer calculate how long they must wait before rescue?

Spock struggled with the ethical implications of killing T’Pring versus allowing her to kill him. As always, his personal priority was Jim, and he knew his bondmate would fall apart upon his death. But he could not stomach the idea of killing his friend, their relationship still so tentatively significant after years of resenting each other.

Before his brain could limp further through the philosophical quandary, he became aware that T’Pring was slowly approaching him, slipping between plants and tables to stay mostly out of sight. She was stalking him.

Spock assessed his body. No, he was simply too weak to resist her physically. He waited as long as possible, until she was hovering behind a plant immediately to his left. She remained there, utterly still, for what felt like minutes but could have been any amount of time.

At her first twitch of movement, Spock shakily raised his phaser and stunned her.

Once more, maybe twice. Any subsequent use of his weapon and he could not guarantee that T’Pring would live; even if she did, he would potentially be forced to deliver a brain-dead husk to Nyota’s arms.

Spock’s mind drifted. He knew it was crucial to stay awake, but it was so very, very difficult. He found himself imagining that Jim was with him, keeping him conscious as he had done on so many away missions, as Spock had done for him.

Just a little while longer, babe, ok? You gotta stay with me, Spock. Can you hear me?

Yes, ashaya.

That’s Captain to you, mister. No going poetic, you’re not that bad off yet.

Jim, I believe I am—

No! You’re fine, everything’s gonna be fine…”

Spock’s mind slipped and slid. The pain had long ago become unbearable. He thought it likely that, if he survived at all, he would lose vision in his right eye. His breathing was becoming increasingly more labored, and based on the wet sound accompanying each intake of breath, he surmised that his lung was slowly filling with blood.

When T’Pring next regained consciousness, it was clear that she was weakened. Spock had not moved away from her this time, and he watched her shudder and tremble as she came awake. But she did not try to get up, just lay sprawled on the ground, mewling pathetically.

“Nyota,” he heard her whimper, “Sanu, Nyota. Sanu. Pabuk’uh nash-veh. Pabuk’uh.

Eventually she staggered to her feet again, and Spock could not contain one helpless sob of fear. She seemed so weak, however, that he let her approach him, waiting to see what she would do. But even debilitated she was strong, and her fist came down heavy toward him. He managed to shield his face with his arm, sobbing again as his he felt his ulna fracture.

Sanu, T’Pring,” he begged, struggling to remember Standard himself now. “Sanu, kroikah!

It was useless, and she raised her fist to strike him again.

At that moment, however, a great wrenching sound exploded throughout the greenhouse, and they both looked up in shock as a crack of blinding light flared above them.

T’Pring screamed, totally unaware of what was happening. Spock took the opportunity of her distraction and stunned her one final time, summoning the last of his strength to lurch up and catch her as she fell. He hefted her into his arms and waited, hoping that his quaking legs would hold.

But the electric whine of the transporter engulfed them almost immediately, Jim ever-vigilant, and Spock let go of his remaining cognitive faculties, left them behind in the greenhouse on Beta Heddon III.

Chapter Text

After a few hours of restless sleep, Nyota and Jim went to the transporter room. There was still more than half an hour left until the dome around the botanical sanctuary on Beta Heddon would recede and they would regain transporter access. But neither was in the mood to wait, so they took up a vigil on the floor in front of the control panel, staring in the general direction of the transporter pad.

“Wanna make sure the controls are working?” Jim said after 20 minutes of silence. They had already checked them when they came in.

“Yeah, ok.”

Bones showed up around the time they hit the 5-minute mark. By then both Nyota and Jim were nearly out of their minds, and whatever Bones saw on their faces when he walked in made him raise his eyebrows and refrain from sarcastic commentary.

M’Benga followed behind him and, without a word, they each pushed a wheelchair to the edge of the transporter pad. There they sat, empty and waiting, an ominous and clinical preparation that filled Nyota with dread.

Jim shot up and went to stand at the controls, ready to activate them as soon as it was time.

Even though they were literally counting the seconds, they still jumped when Jim’s communicator dinged. He fumbled opening it and nearly dropped it, but got himself under control enough to answer, “Kirk here.”

“Captain Kirk!” It was Polnatch, calling from the surface. “The dome is lowering—you should be able to beam your officers now!”

Jim barely managed a “thank you,” before he tossed his communicator aside, reaching shakily for the transporter controls. But Bones shot a hand out and grabbed his wrist.

“Take a deep breath, kid. You don’t want to screw anything up.”

Jim closed his eyes and nodded, sucking in a breath. Nyota wrapped her arms around herself and edged closer to the beaming pad. It was perhaps not the wisest choice, given their total ignorance of what state T’Pring would be in when they beamed her up, but truthfully she didn’t care. She crept closer and closer as Jim activated the controls and the hum started resonating in the otherwise silent room.

It seemed like it was taking too long. Jim swore and she looked at him in utter terror, but his focus was completely on the panel before him.

“Signal’s weak,” he ground out. But then the pad fired to life with a single beam of light and Nyota nearly fell to her knees. Why was only one of them beaming up? Who was it? Who did she even want it to be?

Finally, finally, the stuttering column of light resolved into Spock, battered and bloody and holding T’Pring’s limp body.

Nyota and Jim cried out as one, and all four humans leapt into motion. Closest to the transporter pad, Nyota got there first, instinctively reaching out for T’Pring. Spock didn’t hesitate to hand her over, letting her spill heavy and lifeless into Nyota’s arms. As soon as he let go, he began to collapse himself, but Jim had gotten there by then and caught him.

Nyota clutched T’Pring’s body against her and when she felt her breathing she nearly wept with relief. She held her helplessly, no idea what to do, and looked up at Spock for any kind of guidance.

Only then did Nyota notice that half of Spock’s face was covered in blood, his eye sitting strangely in its socket. He was listing to one side, clinging to Jim with weak fingers. Her stomach dropped and she swallowed the urge to be sick.

She glanced instead to M’Benga, who was looking T’Pring over with a grave expression on his face.

He met her eyes and said, “You’d better hurry.”

Steeling herself, she stepped down from the pad and struggled to secure T’Pring’s lax, dead weight in one of the wheelchairs. She spared a moment to say loudly, “We’ll be in my quarters, Captain,” and Jim looked up briefly from helping Bones and M'Benga steer Spock toward the other chair. He nodded.

“We’ll be monitoring your frequencies,” he promised. “We’ll know if something goes wrong.”

Nyota forced her concern for Spock away and hurried out of the transporter room, pushing the wheelchair toward her quarters as fast as she could.

They were almost at Nyota’s door when T’Pring began to regain consciousness, and when she realized she was being pushed somewhere against her will, she screeched and flailed, lurching out of the chair until it flipped over completely. She landed hard on the floor and then struggled up to her hands and knees, glancing around with fear and rage in her too-bright eyes.

But then she caught sight of Nyota and any trace of aggression disappeared in an instant. “Nyota!” she whined in a small voice, and started crawling toward her, slow and wobbling. She sounded so helpless, so weak, that it took Nyota’s breath away. She was almost too late. “Bolau… bolau… sanu, Nyota...

“Shh,” Nyota whispered, rushing to her and gently urging her up so she could could get one arm under her back, the other under her knees. “Ka’i, T’Pring, nam-tor du i’ek'manik. Fai-tor nash-veh ra bolau tu.

T’Pring sobbed and sagged against her, and Nyota hefted her up. Molten heat was pouring off her skin and Nyota had to force herself not to let go, afraid of being burned. She couldn’t have anyway; T’Pring was clinging so tightly to her that Nyota was sure she was leaving bruises. She was making a high, desperate keen; Nyota was shivering herself now, apprehensive of the work ahead, terrified of T’Pring’s declining condition.

Sanu,” she said in that same small voice, “Sanu, Nyota, sanu.

Nam’uh hayal,” Nyota soothed. “Dungi tan-tor nash-veh ra bolau tu.

It was going to be impossible to get T’Pring back into the wheelchair, so she stumbled through the few remaining hallways toward her door. Once they were through it, she put T’Pring gently onto her feet and went to engage her soundproofing and all of the specialized locks she and Jim had put in place.

When she turned around, she finally paused to really take T’Pring in. Her dress was torn and filthy, and green splotches were showing at her hairline as if she had been pulling on her hair, now a tangled mess. The insides of her legs were glistening all the way down to her bare feet—T’Pring always got incredibly wet during sex but this was on another level entirely. She was standing with her feet far apart, although Nyota wasn’t sure if it was because she was so wet or for a different reason.

She whimpered, reaching for Nyota again, her face disturbingly expressive in her helplessness. Nyota flew to her with a shaking sob, holding her burning body as tight as she could.

“I was so scared,” she whispered. “So scared I was going to lose you.”

T’Pring’s hands slipped down to rub herself desperately between her legs. She was practically chewing on Nyota’s neck. “Sanu,” she moaned. “Bolau, bolau.

Nyota took a deep breath and put her own emotions aside for now. T’Pring couldn’t wait any longer. “Ma nash-veh tu,” she whispered as she unzipped T’Pring’s ruined uniform, letting it fall to the floor and kicking it aside when T’Pring stepped out of it.

The first glimpse of T’Pring naked shocked Nyota into stillness. Her breasts were bigger than usual, flushed with blood, bright green even in the low light. Nyota could now see why she was standing with her feet apart—her pussy was so swollen that she couldn’t close her legs all the way. Her clitoris was visible even from this angle, poking out between her puffy, distended lips. Come was pouring out of her, dripping down her legs continuously. She smelled so strongly of pheromones and slick that it made Nyota’s head spin. T’Pring started rubbing at herself again, body heaving with little whining sobs.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Nyota breathed, before shaking herself back into action. She had to get T’Pring clean—she was soaked with sweat and come, grimy with rock dust and dirt. But it was clear that she was going to have to multitask.

“Come here,” she said, holding out her hand, and T’Pring let herself be led into the bathroom. She whined when Nyota dropped her hand to turn on the shower, and gracelessly pressed the length of her body against Nyota’s and rutted into her, nearly knocking her over. Nyota steadied herself then reached back one hand to stroke T’Pring’s side reassuringly, and with the other tested the water. It was cool but not cold—perfect.

She steered T’Pring under the stream, and her eyelids flickered with relief when the cool water hit her burning skin. Nyota stripped off her clothes and joined T’Pring, putting an arm around her to hold her up—she didn’t seem like she’d be able to do it herself much longer.

When Nyota’s bare body slid against her, T’Pring’s eyes flew open and she started moaning again, rutting in vain for something to rub her swollen vulva against. Nyota shoved one of her legs between T’Pring’s and she instantly started riding it at a frantic speed, burying her face in Nyota’s shoulder. As Nyota grabbed the soap and started scrubbing T’Pring down, her scorchingly hot pussy slid against Nyota’s leg, slicking it with come. Nyota’s own body started to buzz a little—she was mostly focused and worried, but it was impossible to watch dispassionately as T’Pring, so hopelessly debauched, fucked herself on Nyota’s thigh.

Nyota ran her soapy hands over every bit of T’Pring she could reach, and had just started rubbing shampoo into her hair when T’Pring locked up against her with a pathetic, sobbing scream.

“There you go, baby, that’s it,” Nyota said as a hot gush of slick poured over her leg, abandoning T’Pring’s hair for a moment so she could hold her through her orgasm.

T’Pring shook violently in her arms, face still pressed against Nyota’s neck. She was sobbing in earnest now, so unlike herself, so lost. Nyota rubbed along her spine, backing them up a little so the cool water could wash over T’Pring without getting in her face.

“It’s ok, honey, you’re ok. I’ve got you.”

The orgasm seemed to give her a brief respite and she finally looked up at Nyota, tears streaking through the dirt on her cheeks.

It was clearly difficult for her to talk, and Standard seemed beyond her, but she managed in a trembling voice, “Pabuk’uh nash-veh, pa-pabuk’uh nash-veh sanu. Ashau tu, a-a-a-ashau nash-veh tu, ugau nash-veh tor nash-veh, pabuk-uh—

“Shhh,” Nyota cut her off. “Ashau nash-veh tu isha. Ri’tor kvichau. We’ll talk about everything later. Right now, I’m just going to take care of you, ok?”

T’Pring clung to her, eyes terrified and pleading, and nodded shakily. She had started rutting against Nyota’s leg again, and when she realized it she sobbed once, slumping against Nyota. Nyota went back to washing her hair, eager to get her out of the shower and lying down.

“Oh, you’re so tired, aren’t you, baby? I’m almost done, almost done.”

Nyota propped T’Pring against the shower wall so she could wash her legs and the front of her body. She cleaned her face gently with two fingers, making sure not to get soap in her eyes. As she brushed T’Pring’s meld points, hot hurricanes of lust projected out at her, T’Pring’s shields nonexistent.

She finally got to T’Pring’s genitals, worrying it would be stressful for her to be washed there. She coaxed her legs a little farther apart, getting a better view of the swollen mess that was T’Pring’s vulva. Her three sets of labia were all dramatically engorged, bright green with the extra blood flow. Her clitoris was huge and erect, pearly with come and twitching.

As Nyota rinsed her vulva with just a little bit of soap, T’Pring started panting and grunting, and when Nyota got to her clitoris she orgasmed again with a burst of come that hit Nyota in the face. She couldn't help but moan hungrily, licking the musky slick off her lips before washing the rest off. T’Pring’s taste was stronger than usual, intoxicating.

T’Pring was whimpering pitifully now and thrusting at nothing, clearly needing something more intense than hasty clit orgasms. Nyota quickly washed T’Pring’s sweet, puckered asshole and then turned the water off. She got T’Pring out of the shower and dried her off, patting her with the towel when rubbing it against her oversensitive skin made her yelp.

“Go lie down, baby,” she commanded, and at T’Pring’s hesitation, “Hal’uh—dungi tra’nam-tor nash-veh maut-ak.

She was somewhat surprised when T’Pring obeyed but she did, wandering dutifully out of the bathroom. She had probably exhausted herself into submissiveness; Nyota doubted a Vulcan in pon farr would be so compliant otherwise.

She quickly dried off and slicked herself up with another layer of lube, just in case. She tied back her hair, gave herself one last look in the mirror, took one last breath. There was no more time to waste now, no more time for her. For the next few days, she was a vessel for the flames and nothing more.

She had a sudden memory of Spock in the volcano on Nibiru, accepting the flames that would consume him. She hadn’t understood it then. She did now.

Nyota found T’Pring in bed, chest against the pillows and ass in the air. Her pussy was on full display, swollen and drooling. She was presenting, Nyota realized, like an animal in heat. She was watching Nyota desperately over her shoulder.

Sanu, Nyota,” she pleaded.

Nyota positioned herself on her knees behind T’Pring. “What do you need, baby? Can you tell me?”

Bolau nash-veh tu svi’nash-veh!” She was almost shouting now.

“Ok, ok,” Nyota reassured. She rubbed a finger between T’Pring’s labia to get it wet before slipping it inside.

Rai!” T’Pring yelled. “Whet!”

Nyota added another finger. T’Pring reared up and slammed her hands on the mattress.

Rai! Rai!

Nyota put her other hand on the small of T’Pring’s back, trying to calm her down.

“Ok, sweetheart, ok.” She took a deep breath. This wasn’t normal sex. She didn’t have to warm T’Pring up—hell, it seemed like trying to was torturing her.

Slowly, but insistently, she pushed four fingers in. T’Pring screamed through her teeth but it was different now, less frustrated.

“Is this what you need, sweet girl?

Ha! Ha! Nyota, ri trasha’uh nash-veh, sanu, ihmfau nash-veh pabukh'es, nam-tor nash-veh kafusik na’ash'yalar t’du—

Nyota grabbed T’Pring around the chest and yanked her up against her, their hot skin sliding together.

Kroikah. Rim t’ta. Nam-tor du buhfik. Dungi-ri trasha tu, T’Pring. Worla.

T’Pring sobbed, so heavy in Nyota’s arms, so helpless. Nyota released her and T’Pring collapsed onto the bed again, clutching the sheets in her fists. Nyota shoved her fingers in and out, rubbing T’Pring’s asshole with the thumb of her other hand. But it seemed to satisfy T’Pring for only a few moments.

Whet,” she begged. “Sanu, whet!

Nyota took a deep breath and slipped her thumb into T’Pring with the rest of her hand. T’Pring moaned low and long at the stretch, but she was significantly looser than usual. Nyota had fisted her before, with much more preparation and much more muscle resistance, but now T’Pring’s body seemed to want to devour any part of Nyota it could get.

Nyota steeled herself and shoved her entire fist in, until T’Pring’s burning vagina closed around her wrist. T’Pring arched her back with a barbaric howl, rolling and rocking her hips. Nyota found a good angle and started to fist T’Pring hard, pumping and punching up into her. The slip-slide of T’Pring's pussy never went dry, and the hot slick pouring out of her was running down Nyota’s arm now, pooling in her bent elbow as she fistfucked T’Pring as hard as she could. T’Pring was wailing, spreading her legs farther and trying to get Nyota in deeper, deeper. As Nyota pounded at her internal clitoral structure, T’Pring starting coming, ejaculating more and more slick onto the bed as one orgasm after another rattled her body.

“Good girl!” Nyota praised. “That’s it, come for me, come on. You can do another one, come on. Come on—good! Good girl, there you go!”

She rambled away, pretty sure T’Pring couldn’t really understand her, but hoping it was encouraging nonetheless. She kept her free hand on the small of T’Pring’s back, still rubbing firmly at her hole. She was starting to feel a little drunk, a little out-of-control, and she guessed that T’Pring was projecting unintentionally through the touch of their skin. She let the ache and the need swallow her up.

She watched her hand fucking in and out of T’Pring, then lifted her thumb so she could also see the little green furl of T’Pring’s asshole. With a groan, she leaned over and licked it, holding T’Pring’s hips in place with one hand, careful not to disturb the rhythm of her fist. T’Pring screamed into the mattress, coming all over herself yet again. Nyota dipped her tongue past T’Pring’s flexing muscles, enjoying the sensation of T’Pring clenching around it.

She alternated between fucking her tongue in and out and withdrawing it to lick warm, broad stripes. T’Pring’s pussy contracted around her hand in arrhythmic waves as she wailed into the pillow.

She had to abandon T’Pring’s asshole when she rose up onto her hands and knees with a particularly pathetic shout and started fucking herself back on Nyota’s arm. Suddenly Nyota had to hold the center of a squirming, desperate Vulcan, trying to push her over the edge of more orgasms without being pushed off the bed in return.

She dug her knees in, just trying to stay in place and keep her arm steady while T’Pring slammed back onto it again and again. It took all of her Starfleet-accumulated strength, but she managed to stay steady enough for T’Pring to have an explosive, screaming orgasm that soaked Nyota’s knees.

T’Pring collapsed shaking on the bed, and Nyota withdrew her hand slowly, slowly. She grabbed one of the many towels Jim had left around the bed and wiped off her hand and arm, not that it did much good. T’Pring was already rutting into the bed again, sobbing and exhausted.

It was then that Nyota noticed the swelling on T’Pring’s lower back. She had been distracted before and had failed to see the two angry-looking welts protruding from T’Pring’s skin, puffy and bright green. She reached out to touch them but T’Pring rolled onto her back, reaching up for Nyota. She had stopped speaking entirely now, just mewling and whimpering like a sick animal.

T’Pring pulled Nyota down on top of her, snuffling at her neck, clinging so hard that Nyota felt her skin break. She was so out of it that the pain served only to spin their combined desperation to a keener pitch.

T’Pring’s hips had started wriggling and squirming as if she was trying to rub the swollen knots on her back against the bed. She threw back her head to look pleadingly at Nyota.

“What do you need, sweetheart?”

T’Pring whined, incapable of answering. Nyota reached down and put a tentative finger against her clit, but T’Pring jerked away with a frustrated sound.

“I don’t know how to help you,” Nyota said, and she was surprised to find a needy sort of anxiety creeping into her mind. It was hard to tell now, but she thought it was her own, not T’Pring’s.

She struggled for reason through the smoke in her mind. All those months ago, when T’Pring and Nyota had had their first date, what had Spock told her about Vulcan women? Nothing about their backs, nothing.

Then suddenly she was hit by a scrap of memory. One of the many times she and Spock had fumbled their way through intercourse, she had reached around him and stroked his back, just above his ass. Spock had screamed and come hard, then jumped out of her and backed away from the bed until he was practically across the room.

She had apologized, tried to figure out what was wrong, get him back so she could get off too. But Spock had just begged forgiveness in a fluster as he dressed, and then left her alone in his apartment.

She had asked Jim about it many years later—what did he say, what did he say? Her thoughts crept sluggish and vague as T’Pring whimpered beneath her.

He had laughed, Jim always laughed, and he had said… something crude… something…

“Those are his balls, dummy. Vulcans call them chenesi and touching them during sex is super taboo outside of pon farr. God, he’s such a nerd. Well, he loves having them played with now, just so you know.”

Maybe females had their own chenesi? They wouldn’t be testicles, of course, but maybe something like ovaries?

“Flip over, baby,” Nyota commanded, grabbing T’Pring by the hips and helping her onto her stomach.

She put two firm thumbs on the swollen bumps, but T’Pring yowled and jumped away. Nyota instantly withdrew her hands.

“Ok! It’s ok, I’ll be more gentle.”

T’Pring was watching her suspiciously over her shoulder but slowly lowered herself back down. Nyota rested her palms, feather-light, on T’Pring’s hips and started rubbing gentle circles. She worked her way toward the flushed green welts, massaging the skin around them. T’Pring whined, leaning back into her touch.

She clearly wanted the contact but was too sensitive, so Nyota approached the chensi like she would an oversensitive clit, rubbed gently around them in ever-shrinking circles until her fingers were whispering over them directly. T’Pring flinched, but Nyota persevered, slow and soft.

T’Pring whined in frustration, stuck on the knife’s edge of wanting more stimulation but unable to handle it. Nyota pressed a little more firmly, keeping her rhythm even as T’Pring flinched again.

“It’s ok, baby,” he soothed, hoping she was right that the more she rubbed, the less it would hurt. “Just relax, it’ll be better in a second.”

Her hypothesis seemed to prove correct, though, and T’Pring started moaning and pressing back harder into her touch. Nyota increased the pressure again, and the swelling began to recede, T’Pring humping the air now and making little grunts.

Then suddenly T’Pring screamed and locked up, another wave of come exploding over Nyota’s lap. The chenesi all but disappeared. “Oh fuck,” Nyota swore as her fingers slipped from T’Pring’s back, and she ran her hands through the musky slick, rubbing it into her skin and then up onto her breasts.

She looked up to find T’Pring watching her over her shoulder again, and in Nyota’s increasingly disoriented state, the feral quality of T’Pring’s eyes made her clit pulse, her belly ache.

“T’Pring,” she whispered, and quite suddenly and definitively the balance of power in the room shifted. T’Pring reared up, grabbed her by the hips, and then Nyota was flung onto her back. Three burning hot fingers shoved into her, and if it hurt she was too far-gone to notice.

T’Pring’s body pressed heavy on top of hers, and Nytoa wrapped her arms around T’Pring’s neck, burying her face against her skin.

Ri trasha’uh nash-veh va'ashiv,” she gasped. T’Pring’s only response was a rough kiss, hotter than a supernova, but it was answer enough.

---

T’Pring tasted so good, Nyota thought distantly. She opened her mouth a little wider, flattened her tongue against T’Pring’s hugely swollen clit. She was on her back in the tangle of blankets, the bed musky with sweat and come. The smell was transporting, hot spice in an ancient desert.

T’Pring was perched above her, fucking her face, rutting against her mouth again and again. Every time she came it soaked Nyota’s hair, her forehead. Nyota had clung to T’Pring’s ass for while, but finally her arms had gotten tired and started to slip. T’Pring had stopped briefly, sitting back on Nyota’s chest and roughly pinning her arms to the mattress.

Shom’uh, shau-yehat komihnsu,” she had growled, before shoving her pussy back in Nyota’s face.

So now Nyota was just lying back and letting T’Pring do what she needed, drowning in her taste, her smell. Nyota’s edges were dissolving, drifting past the borders of T’Pring’s ignited body. Telepathic waves moved between them like rocking, boiling water and Nyota began to lose sense of who was who, so much so that it took her a few long, slow moments to realize that T’Pring had slipped away and was now between Nyota’s legs, licking and suckling at her.

Nyota moaned, hypersensitive. T’Pring grabbed her legs behind the knee and swung them up over her own shoulders, licking deep into her and, at some point, adding two fingers. Nyota wasn’t sure when.

Nyota couldn’t count the number of times she’d come. She was overstimulated and inundated now, and her orgasms were no longer explosions with a terminal point, but rather sharp-sweet shimmers that washed over her from time to time.

Another few fingers, or maybe T’Pring’s whole hand, pushed into her, and Nyota drifted, split in two by the relentless sandstorm fever.

---

T’Pring writhed on the bed, impatient and agitated, while Nyota fumbled through the toys she and Jim had arranged in neat piles but which were now strewn in disorder.

Vitila’uh khrikhakeshtan-ur t’nash-veh IWI!” T’Pring screamed, her voice high-pitched and hoarse.

“I’m going as fast as— Hal-tor nash-veh vah sahris vah possible— I mean, as fast as tor-yehat— I mean— UGH! Fuck, ok, here it is, just a second, baby.”

Nyota yanked her harness and strap-on out from under a pile of lace-trimmed restraints Jim had lent her.

(“Jim,” she had said, bewildered, “She’s not going to want to be restrained with frilly handcuffs.”

“Well, I doubt she’s going to notice in the middle of the plak tow. And it’s not my fault you only have one pair of ‘classy, understated’ velvet handcuffs.”

“All of your toys are so… pretty.”

“Thanks.”

“That wasn’t really a compliment.”)

IWI!

“I know, I know, I’ll be right there…”

Nyota struggled into the harness, dildo already secured in place. She had fitted and adjusted it before they got T’Pring back, so it shouldn’t have been much harder than putting on underpants, but her muscles were weak and wobbly. She tripped once, knee dragging raw against the rug. She hissed but dismissed the pain—she was so full of adrenaline she barely noticed it.

She managed to right herself and get the harness on, stumbling over to the bed and climbing on. She vaguely registered her knee leaving a bloodstain on the blankets.

T’Pring was on her back, wiggling her ass like a cat in heat, holding her bent legs against her chest and chanting “Sanu, sanu, sanu, sanu!

“I’ve got you, I’ve got you,” Nyota promised, swaying as she ran a hand through T’Pring’s come and then slicked the dildo with it.

She shoved into T’Pring, not even expecting resistance now, all of her carefully cultivated sexual skills reduced to brute, bestial force.

T’Pring howled, arching up, and Nyota gathered her strength to pound her hard and unyielding.

“That’s it,” Nyota praised through the haze of her exhaustion. “So good, taking me so good, baby, I’ve got you…”

She slid her hands up T’Pring’s taught, sweaty abdomen, squeezing and rubbing her breasts when she reached them.

The forward momentum was too much for her, though, and she collapsed on top of T’Pring, curling up against her and directing all of her energy to pumping her hips, driving into T’Pring again and again.

T’Pring’s hands came up, shaking, to stroke her hair. Through the ash cloud of the fever she seemed to recognize how tired Nyota was, stammering, “Rom, rom, r-r-rom, rom-ko-kan, rom-ko-kan t’nash-veh, rom…

Nyota pressed closer against her, face in the burning juncture of her neck.

Aitlu nash-veh nam-tor rom-ko-kan t’du,” she whispered, figuring T’Pring wouldn’t even hear.

But T’Pring put her arms around her—too tight, but Nyota didn’t care—and in a rough approximation of gentleness said, “Nam-tor du.

Nyota’s rhythm faltered at that, and T’Pring took up the slack, slamming her hips upward onto the column of Nyota’s silicone cock. So Nyota let herself doze with relief—T’Pring would wake her up when she was needed.

---

Nyota’s mouth was hot and dry. She flung an arm toward the bedside table and cast around until she found one of the water bottles Jim had left. She drank what she was able not to spill while lying on her back, and then looked down at T’Pring, who was straddling her and slowly, idly rubbing against her pubic bone.

“T’Pring,” Nyota rasped, “You have to drink some water.”

She held the bottle up weakly but T’Pring grunted, ignoring her. She dragged herself up until they were both sitting, T’Pring aimlessly humping her lap and whining when she lost the point of contact with Nyota’s hard pubic bone.

“Iss ok, you just gotta drink a lil,” Nyota knew she was slurring, but it was the best she could do. She guided the bottle to T’Pring’s lips, holding the back of her head and trying to make sure she actually took some in.

“G’girl.” She let the bottle fall on the floor and her body fall back onto the mattress, and T’Pring resumed her exhausted, hypnotizing rhythm against Nyota’s very bones.

---

She was nothing but fire now, hot ash and cinders. The flames licked in and around her, but there was a cool draft blowing in, the tongues of flame dancing slower, weaker.

Hot hands were tangled in hers, scorching mouth on her neck, pounding heartbeat against her stomach. She was on the wrong world, she knew that somehow—this was an alien fire, she had been abducted to this inhuman heat.

She had grown up in a hot place, star girl with her bare feet on the sun-baked dirt of her backyard, walking to school on the blistering asphalt, searing under a cloudless sky.

But this was hotter, too hot. Even growing up in Kitui—the town whose name meant ‘where iron is worked,’ the town that had made her into iron, unbreakable—had not prepared her for this, to be forged into a new thing in this alien wildfire.

But like the cool breeze that in her childhood had heralded the rainy season, she could detect the faintest whisper of relief drifting in. As a girl she would run to the edge of the road to watch the rain come toward her over the horizon, and then she would lift her face, waiting for the sweet shock of cold.

And so as the flames beat against her now, she turned up her face and tried to turn herself into rain, cool water to put out the fire.

---

Nyota woke up in her bed with no sense of what time it was, what day it was, or how long it had been since she locked her doors and surrendered to T’Pring’s immolating fever.

Her mouth was dry and she ached in every atom of her body. She thought about sitting up, but the smallest movement sent pain rippling up her back, so she groaned and sank into the pillows. She managed to grope around for T’Pring, but she was alone.

“T– T’Pring?” she rasped, voice scratchy and raw. When no one answered she started to panic, and it was only then that she realized just how desperately strung out she was. “T’Pring!” she managed, a little louder this time.

She heard her approach and then she was stroking Nyota’s head with infinite gentleness. Nyota struggled to open her eyes, but when she finally succeeded she found T’Pring leaning above her with a worried expression, dressed in a light Vulcan sleeping robe, her hair down and brushed. She was almost unrecognizable from the snarling beast Nyota had fallen asleep to, but wherever her skin was was exposed, Nyota could see bruises and scratches, and there were deep green shadows under her exhausted eyes.

T’Pring,” she sobbed, reaching up for her, and T’Pring let her clutch weakly at her neck.

“I am here, ashaya, I am right here. Tell me where you are experiencing pain.”

But all Nyota could do was cry, and T’Pring’s eyebrows furrowed in pity and concern. Nyota just needed T’Pring to touch her more—there had been so little softness between them since T’Pring’s fever swept them under, only bruising urgency and want as they violently sought relief in each other’s bodies.

“T’Pring,” she whimpered again, and T’Pring seemed to understand, crawling into bed beside her and taking her gently into her arms. She didn’t seem unnerved by Nyota’s emotional display, just held her tight and rocked her, whispering, “Shh, shh, du ek'manik, maf’uh vah-mau vah bolau tu, shh.

Eventually Nyota managed to calm down, too exhausted and achy to cry for very long. “I’m sorry,” she said against T’Pring’s shoulder.

“What could you possibly have to apologize for?”

“For crying and… being so weird.”

T’Pring was still rocking her slightly. Nyota edged back toward sleep.

“All of your reactions are quite normal and experienced even by Vulcans who must see their partner through the mating time.”

“Is it over?”

T’Pring shifted. “The fever has broken, yes. But I will likely still need… an increased frequency of sexual encounters for perhaps another day. But not at this time—right now you must continue to rest.”

In a small voice, Nyota found herself saying, “Please don’t leave me again.”

T’Pring rested her cheek against the top of Nyota’s head. “If you are able to forgive me, Nyota, I will stay with you as long as you will have me.”

“Of course I forgive you,” Nyota said, clutching weakly at T’Pring’s robe. “We need to talk stuff out later but… but I want you to stay. Please.”

T’Pring started stroking her hair. “We will discuss it further, yes, but understand that I want to be nowhere but at your side.”

“You… when you were in the plak tow you said… that you loved me. Is that, um. Is that true?”

“Yes, ashayam. Taluhk nash-veh k’dular. Ashau nash-veh tu k’ek nam-tor nash-veh. Ri vet-tor ta.

Nyota turned her head so that she could press her face into T’Pring’s neck, breathing her in. “Ashau nash-veh tu isha,” she whispered.

T’Pring shifted her gently and reached for a glass of water she had left on the bedside table. She brought it to Nyota’s lips.

“Are you able to lift your head? You require hydration.”

Nyota managed to take a few sips before her neck could no longer hold the weight of her head and she dropped it back against T’Pring’s shoulder. T’Pring put the water down and pulled the comforter up over them, making sure Nyota was snug.

“You should sleep now,” she said, running her hand up and down Nyota’s aching back. “I will be here when you wake.”

Nyota sighed against T’Pring, still shaky and unsettled, and let the tug of unconsciousness take her.

Chapter Text

Spock woke in a dark room with a weightlessness in his limbs. He did not know where he was, and his thoughts were slow. Was he still on Beta Heddon III? He remembered beaming back up to the ship… or had that been a hallucination? He was not in extreme pain but he was disoriented, and he could not help a whine of frustration.

“Spock?”

It was Jim’s voice: quiet, hesitant. Spock managed to open one eye—the other, he discovered, was held down with a bandage. He turned his head slightly to find Jim sitting over him, stubble on his face and his neon eyes rimmed with red.

“Jim,” he croaked, lifting his hand vaguely until Jim took it. “Are you alright?”

Jim laughed brokenly, “Of course I am, stupid. You are, too. You probably don’t feel like it right now, but you’re going to be fine.”

He squeezed Spock’s hand, a little too hard, and Spock struggled to process what he had said.

“But… T’Pring... my eye is severely injured.”

Jim pushed his hair away from his forehead. “Bones saved it. Took him 11 hours in surgery but he managed to preserve your vision. You’re gonna have to wear the eye patch for a few more days, but it looks hot on you, don’t worry—I always thought you were a bit of a pirate at heart.”

Spock lifted one side of his mouth; it was all the amused reaction he could muster. Jim’s eyes filled with tears.

“Spock,” he whispered. “I was so scared.”

“I know, ashaya. I was as well.”

Jim put his head down on Spock’s shoulder. “I heard you. Through the bond. When you said you loved me and that I shouldn’t grieve. I didn’t tell Uhura; didn’t want to scare her. But I thought I’d lost you for sure then.”

“I am sorry I frightened you. At that point I believed my survival to be quite unlikely.”

“Don’t apologize. Bones said much longer down there and you would have been dead. Or if she attacked you again. So you weren’t... you weren’t w-wrong.”

He sobbed once against the fabric of Spock’s medbay gown and then collected himself. “She also broke four of your ribs and your forearm, and gave you a pretty severe concussion. And bruised your chenesi, which just seems insulting, really.”

Spock sighed, managing to turn his head enough to kiss Jim’s forehead.

“She was in utter agony. It was incredibly disturbing to witness. How is she now? How is Nyota?”

“T’Pring’s out of the plak tow—we have biomonitors in Nyota’s room to make sure neither of them is in life-threatening distress. It’s kinda invasive, I guess, but we had to make sure they were safe somehow. They’re both ok, not in any immediate danger.”

Spock sighed, closing his eye. “That is a significantly better outcome than I was expecting.”

Jim started stroking his head again. “You should sleep. You’re on a lot of drugs.”

“Oh. Is that the reason I am not experiencing pain and my limbs feel… fuzzy?”

Jim laughed softly. “Yeah, babe. That’s why. You get some rest, ok?”

Spock could indeed feel himself drifting back toward unconsciousness, his thoughts becoming disjointed.

“Jim?”

“Hm?”

“You will burn with me, correct? I will not be alone like she was?”

“Oh, Spock.”

Jim’s lips were on his then, light and fretful, as if he was worried about hurting him. Spock didn’t open his eye but managed to find Jim’s hand again, squeezing it and then running two fingers against Jim’s skin.

“You will never be alone like that, Spock. I’ll be there, you know I will. We’ll get through it together. You don’t have to be scared—I’ll make sure we’re ok.”

“Thank you, sa-telsu,” Spock murmured, feeling more sleepy by the second. ”I love you.”

“I love you too, sweetheart. Just sleep now.”

His fingers continued their slow progress against Spock’s scalp and Spock let himself slip away into sleep, still holding Jim’s hand.

---

T’Pring waited for Nyota’s fitful breath to even out as she fell more deeply asleep. Since the fever had abated, Nyota had consistently slept for at least 2.73 hours each time she drifted off, so T’Pring reasoned that she could safely steal away for an hour at least.

She had not yet been outside of Nyota’s quarters; the bright light and cold, cold air nearly made her retreat back into the darkened sanctuary. But instead she put Nyota’s heaviest sweater on over her off-duty clothes and, holding it tight around herself, hurried through the corridors to the medbay. It was the middle of gamma shift, and she thankfully encountered no one.

She took several deep breaths before entering the double doors into Doctor McCoy’s domain. There was a nurse on duty, and he raised his eyebrows at T’Pring when she appeared. He was the first individual other than Nyota that she had encountered since the plak tow ended, and she instinctively flinched away from his gaze. By refusing to look at him, she managed to say, “I wish to see Commander Spock.”

He hesitated before finally saying, “He’s in the private room. Captain Kirk’s in there with him; you’ll have to check with him if it’s ok.”

T’Pring nodded without ever looking away from the floor and hurried to the private med unit reserved for high-ranking officers. She knocked lightly and Kirk’s tired voice answered, “Come.”

She opened the door and met his dull, exhausted eyes. He was seated at Spock’s bedside but stood immediately when she came in.

“T’Pring! Are you ok?”

She held up her hands. “The fever has gone. I am not a threat.”

Kirk sat back down. “I know. We had biomonitors in Uhura’s quarters for safety. Sorry.”

T’Pring balked slightly at the invasion of privacy, but she knew it was a logical choice that had been implemented largely for Nyota’s protection, and thus could find no fault with it.

“Apologies are unnecessary. I merely wanted to see Spock, to a– ascertain his condition,” her voice broke unexpectedly and she curled in on herself. She was far from restored to her fully logical state.

“He’s gonna be ok,” Kirk said, and there was an undeniable—and undeserved, T’Pring thought—kindness in his voice.

T’Pring had not yet let herself look at Spock, but bolstered slightly by Kirk’s words, she moved farther into the room to stand next to him, raising her eyes to where her former betrothed lay sleeping. One half of his face was bruised dark green, yellowing around the edges, and there was a bandage over his eye concealing the worst of the damage. He looked ashen and frail. Tears burned in T’Pring’s eyes and she was utterly powerless to prevent them from spilling over.

“You were correct,” she whispered to Kirk. “I never should have gone down to Beta Heddon III.”

Kirk shrugged. “I’m used to dealing with stubborn Vulcans by now. And you were already pretty fucked up when you made that decision. I should have found a way to keep you on the ship.”

She shook her head, agitated. “It was no one’s fault but my own. I apologize with everything that I am, although it is not enough.”

Kirk sighed. “He’s not mad, T’Pring. He’s just worried about you.”

“I will apologize to him when he is awake, but that apology was directed at you, for putting your bondmate in danger.”

“Oh. Well, thanks. I accept your apology.”

She sobbed once. She was trying so very hard not to, but it was difficult in her current state.

Kirk reached out and touched her forearm through her sweater sleeve, a gesture of comfort that was very human but, without skin-to-skin contact, still considerate of her Vulcan nature.

“It’s ok, T’Pring, really. Are you alright? Is Uhura?”

After a long moment, T’Pring said, “Neither of us sustained permanent injury and we are both physically stable. The emotional impact remains to be seen.”

Kirk squeezed her arm before letting go. “Yeah, of course.”

They stood silently for a few moments, T’Pring shivering now as the chill air penetrated the sweater and crawled under her skin. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Jim glancing at her.

“Do you want me to wake him up?” he asked eventually.

“That does not seem wise.”

“He’s out of the woods now. Bones is even letting him come home tomorrow. A few minutes won’t hurt.”

He leaned over Spock, stroking his forehead with one hand and gently tapping his chest with the other. T’Pring watched them. They were always so easy, as if it were normal to so obviously be t’hy’la, just a simple thing.

“Spock, honey,” Jim said quietly, and Spock’s uncovered eye blinked slowly open. He turned his head toward Jim, scanning his husband’s face as he came fully awake.

“Jim. Are you alright?” His voice was too low, scratchy.

“I’m fine. T’Pring came to check on you.”

Spock looked around, gaze coming to rest where she stood shivering by the side of his bed.

“T’Pring. I am pleased to see you well.”

She could not understand their kindness.

“I’ll give you guys some privacy,” Kirk said, and touched two fingers to Spock’s before leaving the room.

T’Pring lifted her chin, trying to stand strong in her accountability, although all she wanted was to look away in shame.

“Spock. Although no words are sufficient, I wish to express my sincerest apologies for the violence I inflicted upon you. My memories are imprecise, but I believe I very nearly killed you. There can be no excuse for the crime of which I am guilty. Should you wish to bring legal proceedings against me, I intend to offer no defense.”

Finally she could no longer endure eye contact with him and looked away, sucking in a rough breath as she tried not to cry. She did not want to undermine her own words with emotionalism, and she certainly did not wish to incur Spock’s sympathy.

She heard Spock drag himself into a sitting position. “T’Pring,” he said softly, fondly, “I appreciate your apology and your remorse but, as my bondmate would say, do not be ridiculous. I would never bring charges against you—you were delusional when you attacked me, and had no control of yourself.”

“That is no excuse,” she hissed. “You warned me not to leave the ship.”

“And I chose to accompany you when you refused. I was aware of the risk. That is not your responsibility.”

T’Pring’s legs were shaking. She realized she had probably pushed herself past the limit of exhaustion. Spock seemed to notice and reached out to take her elbow, steering her down to sit in Jim’s vacated chair.

She still could not look at him.

“There is no logic in continuing to castigate yourself, T’Pring. No Vulcan should blame another for what happens when they burn. You were not yourself.”

“That does not matter.”

“But it does. When you chose to leave the ship, your cognitive reasoning was already impaired. That impairment became more critical once you descended into the plak tow. Your decisions were driven by biology, not by your own will. And if I am honest, the scenario could so easily have been reversed.”

“Explain,” T’Pring whispered.

“I should have broken our bond much, much sooner. I certainly knew early in my tenure at the Academy that I had no intention of marrying you. But I did not, for the sole reason that I feared what would happen to me should I enter pon farr. It was selfish and cowardly to remain tethered to you, even as I engaged in romantic relationships with others.”

T’Pring stared at her lap. “I did burn when we were still bonded, I was simply at too great a distance to compel you to endure it with me.”

“I felt the pull—I could have come to you, but chose not to. And yet I kept our bond intact, to preserve the option of succoring myself in your body should I enter the plak tow.” And what would have happened to you if I had done so? In the best-case scenario I would have sexually assaulted you.”

T’Pring closed her eyes. “Before Va’Pak, I likely could only have escaped that assault by the kal-if-fee. Thus your life would have been at risk in almost all conceivable scenarios.”

“Indeed,” Spock quirked an eyebrow and said with poorly concealed disgust, “It would be have been illogical to exempt Vulcans from our class from the old laws.”

“I would have declared the challenge,” T’Pring whispered. “I would have abhorred the violence, buy I am unwilling to sacrifice control of my own body in any circumstance.”

“That would have been the only correct choice,” Spock said gently. “There would have been no logic in surrendering yourself for a man you barely knew, who had left the planet years ago, ignored your own pon farr and never considered you in any personal decisions. I did not spare you even a cursory conversation until I was sure that Jim and I would bond. Until I was sure that I would be safe should the fever come. T’Pring, I am deeply sorry for that.”

T’Pring finally raised her eyes to Spock’s. “Your slights are certainly balanced out by my own, Spock. I suppose you are correct—pon farr has always been what forced us together and yet what kept us apart. We have each hurt the other in an attempt to mitigate the horrors of the fever.” She shook her head. “Our people should be ashamed. We have built terrible, violent traditions around pon farr.”

“Yet another reason,” Spock said, “that intimate association with other species can benefit our threatened population. Traditions are not more meritorious simply because they are more ancient. If Vulcans want to emerge from the ashes of our world a better race, we would be wise to consider the ideas of aliens.”

He leaned closer to her, almost conspiratorial. “Or perhaps more conservative Vulcans should listen to those of us who have already discovered the pleasures of humanity.”

T’Pring could not help an amused twitch of her lips. “A logical observation.”

She realized suddenly that the shaking had spread to her whole body, exacerbated by the cold which had now completely stolen in under her sweater. Spock took an extra blanket from the end of the bed and wrapped it around her, letting his hands rest briefly, reassuring, on her shoulders.

“Who saw you through the fever then?” he asked curiously. T’Pring was admittedly relieved to move away from the emotional discussion of their history.

“Stonn.”

“Ah, of course.” He huffed a tiny laugh. “What a testament to the incompatibility of our bond that you could be seen through pon farr by another while the link between our minds was still intact.”

“Indeed. You must have been… affected at that time—how did you endure it?”

Spock was silent for a moment before saying carefully, “I am not certain you would be comfortable with that answer at this time.”

Ah, yes. Seven years ago, Spock and Nyota would have still been together. T’Pring expected jealousy, but none came. She merely felt a weary thrill that Nyota had, in a way, experienced both of her pon farrs.

T’Pring reached out and took Spock’s hand. He jumped slightly, but then gripped hers in return. A current of affection, forgiveness, and resolution buzzed between them.

“Thank you, Spock,” she murmured. “Itaren nash-veh tu na’pabukh'es t’du, eh na’thrah'es t’du.

Spock nodded. “Nam-tor nash-veh klem-bosh ki’nam-tor du ek'kat svi’ha’kiv t’nash-veh.

She released his hand. “I should return to Nyota.”

“Yes, of course. Has she agreed to resume your romantic relationship?”

T’Pring stood and took the blanket from around her shoulders, folded it back in place on the bed. “I believe so. She is still somewhat disoriented, so further discussions will be necessary when she is fully recovered.”

“If she wishes, will you stay with her?”

“Yes. She has said that she wants very much to be my partner, and I want her. If she maintains her desire once she has totally regained her faculties, I see no sense in denying ourselves that which brings us mutual contentment, regardless of what others may think of our union.”

There was a glint of amusement in Spock’s eyes. “Logical. Flawlessly logical.”

“I am honored,” T’Pring said sarcastically.

They exchanged tiny expressions of amusement before T’Pring slipped out of the room, anxious to return to Nyota and the warm safety of her quarters.

---

It had been two days since Nyota woke up to find T’Pring released from the plak tow, and still she had barely managed to get out of bed. Fatigue hung heavy on her body, muscles still sore, torn skin healing slowly. This was the longest she had been awake yet—she had actually stayed conscious since breakfast four hours ago.

Spock was stable; T’Pring had apparently visited him at some point while Nyota was sleeping, but she wouldn’t give any more details than that. She was being almost excessively careful with Nyota, striving not to overwhelm her body and mind. Nyota wanted to be annoyed, but she was so exhausted that she was forced to admit T’Pring was treating her exactly as she needed.

With T’Pring’s help, she had just managed to get up and take a shower, but that had used every last reserve of her energy. Now she was sitting in bed with a brush in her hand, totally incapable of raising it to her head.

T’Pring emerged from the bathroom with Nyota’s silk robe, coming over to help steer her limp arms through the sleeves.

“Do you require assistance brushing your hair?” she asked softly.

Nyota closed her eyes. Not being able to take care of herself was maddening. “If it’s not too much trouble.”

“Of course it is not,” T’Pring said, a hint of reproach in her voice. She settled behind Nyota, taking the brush and beginning to run it gently through her hair.

“I’m sorry,” Nyota said. “I hate being so helpless.”

“Nyota,” T’Pring chided, “you are recovering from the major ordeal you undertook in order to save my life. Please allow me to care for you.”

Nyota smiled. It had been so long since they had been normal together, not estranged or trapped within the flames of pon farr. She had missed T’Pring so much.

“Okay, fine,” she acquiesced, and T’Pring hummed, mollified.

When she was done she drew Nyota carefully down into bed, curled up safe against her with her head on T’Pring’s chest.

“We should talk,” Nyota muttered, even though her thoughts were slow and fuzzy.

T’Pring’s fingers stroked her scalp. “It does not seem as if you have energy for a difficult discussion at this time. There is no rush.”

“Isn’t there?”

“No. Your health is of greater importance.”

Nyota sighed against T’Pring’s collarbone. “I’m tired, but I’m not sleepy. Can we just… chat? Are we back to a place where we can chat?”

“I am not adept at chatting,” T’Pring said into her hair.

Nyota laughed. “You’re great at chatting.”

“Am I?”

“Yep.”

“Fascinating.”

Nyota snuggled closer. “But I mean… is it ok to… act like we used to? Before we broke up, I mean.”

“I would relish the opportunity to be so comfortable with you, but only if you find it acceptable.”

“Of course I do. I want to be… like girlfriends again. Are we girlfriends? Can I say that?”

T’Pring stiffened and cold fear wormed through Nyota’s slow, tired brain.

“I had not intended to discuss this until you were fully recovered, but—” T’Pring started, and Nyota realized she was about to be broken up with again. Now that the pon farr was well and truly over, T’Pring was probably going to take it all back, run off to New Vulcan like she had planned, be with someone else…

This wasn’t what Nyota had expected! T’Pring had said she loved her, wanted to be at her side.

Nyota rolled away from her, trying not to cry. She was still too wrecked from the pon farr to be her usual self, composed and collected.

“Nyota?”

“Just say what you have to say,” Nyota ground out.

There was a short silence, the sound of T’Pring swallowing, and then she went on. “I am uncertain how much you remember from your first periods of consciousness after the fever abated, but you expressed a desire to resume our romantic association, and reaffirmed your declaration that you… love me. I hope very much that those statements are both true, but I fully understand if, because you were not totally competent when you made them, you now wish to revise or retract them.”

Nyota turned back around. T’Pring was slightly flushed, and her eyes flicked uncertainly to Nyota’s.

“Wait, is that it? You just want to make sure I meant it when I said I love you and that I want to be with you?”

T’Pring nodded slowly, as if she was slightly confused as to what else Nyota might have expected.

“Of course I meant it! T’Pring...”

She didn’t really know how to express herself, didn’t feel there were any words strong enough. T’Pring had been nervous, worried that Nyota would reject her. It was so absurd Nyota could barely process it.

She dragged herself up and over T’Pring, ignoring her protesting muscles, until she was straddling T’Pring’s hips, long curtain of hair trailing over one of T’Pring’s shoulders, tickling her ear.

“T’Pring, I love you. I want to be with you, as long as I can have you. I’m not ready for a bond right now, but don’t misunderstand me: if that’s where you and I are headed, I want to get there.”

T’Pring closed her eyes briefly in relief before she reached up and took Nyota’s face in her hands. “Oh, Nyota. Your desires are entirely consistent with my own. I love you as I never thought I could love anyone.”

Nyota leaned forward and kissed her, her Vulcan mouth so cool now that it wasn’t full of fire. But her muscles started to shake and T’Pring pushed her firmly away, steering her down and onto her back. She propped herself on an elbow above Nyota, a protective arm around her waist.

“You must be gentler with your body,” she said sternly, and Nyota laughed. T’Pring’s eyes flashed with Vulcan amusement.

“I am serious,” she chided, but her tone was softer.

“I know, I know. Sorry. I just needed you to understand how misplaced your worries are.”

T’Pring tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “I greatly appreciate that. In answer to your question, then, yes—we are most certainly ‘girlfriends.’”

“I thought maybe you were going to break up with me again.”

T’Pring gave a small shake of her head, eyes almost sad. “I was not.”

Nyota smiled up at her. For the first time in days, even though she had now totally exhausted herself, she felt light. T’Pring curled over her and kissed her again, a little slower. Nyota sighed against her mouth.

“I think I do need a nap now,” she said when they broke apart.

“Of course.” T’Pring settled down next to her, arm still around her waist. “We will have much time later for ‘chatting.’”

Nyota chuckled softly, leaning deeper into T’Pring’s hold. She was asleep almost instantly.

---

“I wish for you to be seen by Dr. McCoy,” T’Pring said the next day. Nyota was feeling stronger, had been awake for six whole hours and had taken a shower by herself. She was lying on her stomach in bed, naked, PADD in hand. She wanted to get caught up on what she had missed while she was off duty, although she was far from being ready to go back to work.

She looked over at T’Pring, who was standing behind her and staring at her still-aching shoulders. She had seen them herself in the mirror this morning—they were covered in scratches, as was much of her back.

When she didn’t answer, T’Pring looked up and met her gaze. “Is something wrong?”

Nyota looked away. “I don’t want anyone else touching me,” she muttered.

The bed dipped as T’Pring sat down beside her.

“Because you have been touched so excessively? Would you prefer that I reduce the frequency of our physical contact?”

Nyota shook her head. “No, no, I want you to touch me. I… need you to touch me. It’s just… I don’t feel like anyone else should. I feel like I’m only for you right now. Ugh,” she scoffed. “That sounds stupid.”

T’Pring reached out and gently ran her hand over the broken skin of Nyota’s back.

“It does not sound stupid at all. Vulcans—and their non-Vulcan partners, in our case—are quite dependent upon each other after pon farr. The fever creates a world of its own, inhabited only by two individuals. It is difficult to leave that shared space. I assure you, if we venture to the medical bay, I will not part from you for a moment. But these lacerations will scar if they are not treated soon.”

“I don’t care.”

T’Pring leaned over and then her lips were on Nyota’s spine, just above her tailbone. She started kissing each of Nyota’s vertebrae in turn, working her way up. Nyota shivered.

When she got to her neck, T’Pring said softly, “It is your choice, of course, but I would consider it unfortunate to see your body permanently altered by my loss of control.”

Nyota looked over her shoulder again. “Don’t say it like that, like you did something wrong.”

T’Pring hummed a bit skeptically, guilt in her downcast eyes. Nyota rolled over onto her back.

“I mean it. I chose to be with you through pon farr, and I knew what it entailed. I was honored to do it. And besides, you don’t look much better than me, and I don’t have any excuse other than getting swept up in what you were feeling.”

T’Pring met her eyes. “It is more complicated than that—I was projecting telepathically. You were not simply aroused by my arousal, you were directly experiencing it.”

“I know,” Nyota said gently. She pulled herself into a sitting position. “Here, take your robe off. Let me see you.”

T’Pring let her sleeping robe fall from her shoulders and Nyota took her in. Her breasts were back to their normal size and color, although they were mottled with hickeys, her nipples raw and dry. There were hickeys along her neck and collarbone as well and, when Nyota leaned forward to peer around her, she found a matching set of scratches, deep and green, all down her back.

“I guess we should both get looked at,” she said reluctantly. “If we’re this banged up on the outside, who knows what’s going on inside. Shit, I can’t even remember the number of times I fisted you.”

T’Pring’s eyes glinted. “I do not know a precise figure, either, but we certainly engaged in that particular act many, many times.”

Nyota grinned at her. “But you feel ok? I mean, your pussy does?”

T’Pring blushed and looked away. “That word is so vulgar.”

“I know,” Nyota said, leaning forward to ghost her lips over T’Pring’s ear. “That’s why you like it.”

“Please, Nyota,” T’Pring gasped, “Do not tempt me—surely you cannot be ready for sexual activity at this time.”

Nyota drew back. “I don’t think I’m ready for anything inside me, but an orgasm would be nice. Just… being close to you would be nice. And I know you’re still uncomfortably horny—do you really think I didn’t notice that you keep disappearing into the bathroom to touch yourself?”

T’Pring’s blush deepened. “Heightened arousal in the wake of pon farr is expected.”

“I know,” Nyota leaned back into T’Pring, this time licking her neck. “So let me help you with that.”

T’Pring’s hand came to the back of her head. “Nyota, I used your body for three straight days, and then several more times after that. Our coupling was very nearly violent. You are under no obligation to feel comfortable engaging with me sexually.”

T’Pring let her forehead fall onto T’Pring’s shoulder. “God, I don’t feel obligated. I feel… safe. With you. Even after your pon farr. It was rough, and it took a lot out of me, and I’m gonna need extra hugs for a while, but I never felt unsafe. And I don’t feel unsafe now. I don’t want you any less.”

“Nyota,” T’Pring whispered. Nyota lifted her head and kissed her, and T’Pring’s touch, which she had so clearly been trying to restrain, became insistent.

Nyota slid her hand to the back of T’Pring’s neck, holding her close. Her mouth was cool and open, muscles tightening under Nyota’s fingers in anticipation.

T’Pring gently pulled them down onto their sides, curled up together, and traced the cuts on Nyota’s shoulders, rubbed at the sore muscles along her spine.

Nyota relaxed into her touch, sliding one hand down to rest lightly on T’Pring’s breast. She didn’t pinch and squeeze like she normally would, just rubbed it gently with the heel of her hand. T’Pring arched into her touch.

They were slow and tired, skin oversensitive, each trailing touch electric.

But T’Pring was already desperate, the embers of the fever still warm in her body. Her little grunts against Nyota’s ear were needy, hips squirming.

“I’ve got you,” Nyota whispered, and T’Pring curled closer, their breasts pressing against each other.

Nyota reached down and hooked her fingers behind T’Pring’s knee, pulling it onto her own hip, opening T’Pring up to the air. T’Pring whimpered as Nyota’s hand slipped down into the heat of her pussy, rubbing gently.

“I want you inside me,” she hissed.

“You sure?”

“Yes. I am not experiencing pain. I need you, I need to feel you in me, please, Nyota, please—”

“Shhh,” Nyota soothed, mouth against T’Pring’s. “You’re ok, nam’uh hayal.”

T’Pring was already wetting the insides of her thighs, drooling slick onto Nyota’s hand. Nyota made sure her fingers were coated in it before she slid two up inside T’Pring, earning a soft Vulcan whine.

“There you go. How’s that feel?”

“Perfect, perfect, it is perfect,” T’Pring chanted, grabbing Nyota’s bicep and clinging to her as Nyota began to pump her.

Nyota didn’t fuck her hard—not as hard as usual, anyway—but she eventually added another finger and moved steadily in and out, in and out, while T’Pring slowly unraveled at her touch. Their faces were close together and they stole kisses throughout, breathing against each other and lapsing into silence, punctuated only by their quiet moans and gasps.

Nyota’s brain was still fuzzy enough that her awareness homed in on the feeling of T’Pring clenching around her, the wet-sweet smell of her, the slightly rough drag of her chapped lips.

“I love you,” she heard herself whisper, and neither of them had ever said it like that, casual, unceremonious. The rhythm of her fingers faltered as a burst of anxiety went through her, but T’Pring just humped harder onto her hand and slurred, “I love you, I love y–you, Nyota, ashau nash-veh tu, ah, ah—”

Nyota closed her eyes and rested her forehead on T’Pring’s, basking in the relief of it, of being here with T’Pring in this way.

T’Pring came on her hand twice before she jerked away, too sensitive. She writhed through the aftershocks and Nyota stroked her ribs, her hip, her face, murmuring “Good, that’s good. You’re so good, T’Pring, so good.”

As soon as T’Pring’s jerking muscled stilled, she gasped a few lungfuls of air and then shuffled eagerly down the bed, gently arranging Nyota on her back, legs over her shoulders.

She licked into her so softly, so careful with Nyota’s still-healing body. She soothed Nyota’s clit with the flat of her tongue, held her open with two attentive fingers.

Nyota groaned and let herself sink deep into the mattress, heavy and tired, awareness still reduced to the sensations in her body. She drifted, humped T’Pring’s face weakly, reached down to hold her head. She was already so wet and hard that she came pretty quickly, T’Pring moaning against her as Nyota poured a bone-rattling orgasm into her mouth.

T’Pring crawled back up the bed and they collapsed, T’Pring steering Nyota’s head onto her chest.

“I’m gonna fall asleep,” Nyota mumbled, already halfway there. “Can I take a nap before we go see Leonard?”

“Of course, ashayam,” T’Pring said, stroking her hair. “Rest now.”

“You’ll be here when I wake up, right?”

Kwon-sum, Nyota.”

Always.

---

The next night, Nyota managed to leave her quarters by herself. Being away from T’Pring made her shivery and anxious, but she pushed through it. She was keenly aware that the last time she had spoken to Spock he had been mad at her, and that she had come dangerously close to losing him before they could have another interaction.

Outside the captain’s quarters, Nyota took a deep breath, then two, then three. She rang the chime.

“Come,” she heard Spock say, and the door swished opened. Nyota slipped in and found Spock on the couch, reading a PADD. Jim was curled up next to him, looking tired and strung-out. Spock’s face was bruised and there was a patch over one eye, but he was light years away from the broken, bleeding nightmare he had been when Jim beamed him up.

He stood up as soon as he saw Nyota and they went to each other thoughtlessly, instinctually. Nyota slumped into the safe, reassuring circle of his arms, too tired to pretend she was strong, that everything was fine.

“I’m sorry,” she said, but at the very same moment Spock said, “I wish to apologize.”

She drew back and looked up at him, confused. “What do you have to apologize for?”

“For our conversation outside T’Pring’s quarters eight days ago. I was much too hard on you, I—”

“Spock,” Nyota shook her head. “If you were, I don’t care. You were right—I screwed up. But that feels so long ago now, it doesn’t matter—”

“It matters to me,” Spock interrupted gently. His arms were still around her, and tightened at his words. “That conversation was very nearly our last, and I experience anxiety when I consider that possibility. You are my dearest friend, and I conflated a relatively trivial slight with a grave offense. That is unacceptable. I became… too defensive because Jim was hurt, while refusing to acknowledge that he had also hurt you. As you well know, remaining logical in matters relating to Jim is a particular weakness of mine.”

“Yeah, we were dicks,” Jim said from the couch. Nyota looked over and found him picking at a cushion, not looking at her. “We get too caught up in each other sometimes. Too tangled together. We forget that we have other priorities besides each other. I was an ass to you, and you had every right to snap at me. I’m really sorry.”

“As am I,” Spock said softly.

Nyota was tired, and fucked out, and full of emotions she was usually good at controlling. She sighed, let a couple tears fall, looked up at Spock and silently dared him to think less of her. He just reached out and wiped the tears away. She smiled.

“Thanks. I’m sorry too, I am.” She looked over at Jim. “But Spock, when you were down on Beta Heddon, Jim said ‘we get passes with each other.’ And we do. Who else can we occasionally be nasty to when things get tense? We can… always come back from little fights like this. Right?”

“Absolutely,” Spock said without hesitation. Jim looked up and smiled. Nyota gave him a watery grin in return.

She must have started leaning more heavily on Spock, because suddenly she was being steered to the couch and pushed none too gently down next to Jim.

“Nyota, you are clearly exhausted. Please do not stand for long periods of time.”

“I’m fine,” Nyota protested reflexively, but didn’t make any move to get up.

Spock sat down on her other side and Nyota let herself sink into the couch, cozy and safe. It had been too long since things had felt easy with anyone—with T’Pring, with Jim and Spock, with herself.

Jim leaned over and put his head on her shoulder.

“Are you ok? Post-pon farr, I mean.”

“Yeah, I’m ok,” she said, letting her head fall to rest on his. “I’m still kinda… unsettled, I guess. Clingy. And you know how much I like to feel weak.”

“You’d rather fight twenty Klingons with nothing but a fork?”

“Exactly.”

“Are you guys gonna stay together?”

“Yeah.”

Jim reached out and found her hand, squeezing it.

“I’m really glad.”

She huffed a small, tired laugh. “Jesus, me too.”

“When you feel better, I want the sex details.”

“Duh. There was a lot of fisting.”

“Huh! See, that was my guess and Spock told me I was wrong.” He reached across her and poked his finger into Spock’s chest. “Shows how much you know about women. You owe me a blow job.”

“What a terrible burden,” Spock said, deadpan, and Nyota started laughing, laughing until she couldn’t stop. It made Jim start laughing too, and Spock just shook his head at both of them, which only made them laugh harder.

They howled and howled as ship’s night fell around them, the Enterprise shifting, everything settling back into place.

Chapter Text

They went back to work three days later. Nyota was nervous and slightly embarrassed; no one but Jim, Spock, and the med staff knew what had happened, but still, she was self-conscious. When workaholics like Nyota and T’Pring disappeared for more than a week on an unspecified joint medical leave, rumors filled every corner and jeffries tube on the ship.

But unexpectedly, Nyota found easing into her usual routine a great relief. By the end of her shift she felt more settled than she had in weeks, if a bit overeager to get back to T’Pring. She went straight to the labs without bothering to check T’Pring’s quarters—T’Pring was undoubtedly drowning herself in work until she got caught up.

Nyota found her in the Greenhouse as expected, near the back in one of the desert environments. Surprisingly though, T’Pring wasn’t working frenetically or even efficiently; she wasn’t really working at all.

She was sitting at one of the tables, which was empty except for one small potted plant, beginning to sprout, just staring at it.

She looked up when Nyota came in and her eyes warmed, but as Nyota drew up next to her and slipped an arm around her thin Vulcan shoulders, there was an undeniable sadness about her. Her cheek was flushed green and smudged with dirt.

“Hey,” Nyota said. She brushed the dirt off T’Pring’s face. “You ok?”

T’Pring nodded. “I am. I am simply reflecting on the cost of bringing this plant onboard. The cost of saving one species.”

Nyota looked at the delicate green shoots. “Is this the waneti plant?”

“Yes.”

Nyota rested her head on top of T’Pring’s. She herself had made sure that T’Pring’s staff safely retrieved the waneti seeds while T’Pring and Spock were still stuck on Beta Heddon.

“Want to share your thoughts?”

T’Pring sighed, leaning against her. “I was willing to risk so much in order to hold the seeds of this plant in my own hands. To recover something of my planet that would otherwise be lost. I nearly ended two Vulcan lives to achieve that goal.”

“You’re both ok now,” Nyota said. “I think it’s ok to pay a high price for saving anything of Vulcan.”

T’Pring hummed a little doubtfully. Nyota kissed the top of her head.

“I... love you,” T’Pring said quietly. Sometimes the words were still awkward on her tongue but she insisted on saying them several times a day anyway.

“I love you, too.”

After a few long moments, T’Pring murmured, “Nyota, are you currently willing to discuss some of the issues which drove us apart five weeks and four days ago?”

Nyota leaned back and took T’Pring in. “You mean the stuff about your family and all that?”

“Yes.”

“Well, of course. But I admit I feel pretty freaked out at the idea of fighting with you.”

T’Pring looked up at her, eyes sad.

“I have no intention of instigating an argument. I merely wish to tell you what I plan to do, and obtain your opinion. I value your perspective tremendously, and in the midst of all this, it has several times been more logical than my own.”

Nyota squeezed her shoulder. “Go on then.”

“I wish to follow a suggestion you made on the day we separated. I can think of no reason that I should not offer my reproductive material to the biological scientists on New Vulcan. If my ova are fertile, I have no reservations in donating them to the cause of repopulation, as long as further involvement is not expected of me.”

Nyota closed her eyes. It was such a simple solution, really, and she was relieved T’Pring had accepted it. She hugged her, probably a little too tight, but T’Pring leaned eagerly into it. “I think that’s a great idea.” She pulled back, leaving her arm around T’Pring. “Have you told your family?”

T’Pring shook her head and looked away, coloring slightly. She stared stubbornly at the waneti plant. “Not yet. I have only spoken to them briefly, one day after the end of my pon farr. Nyota, I must inform you of something… After I terminated our relationship, I allowed my mother to arrange a marriage for me. I had intended to finish my allotted time onboard the Enterprise and then return to New Vulcan—briefly—to address my pon farr before returning full attention to my career.

“As soon as pon farr was no longer a threat, I informed my mother that I would not enter that marriage after all. I spoke to T’Lesh as well and asked her to ensure that the engagement was cancelled. I have been granted another seven years to determine my future, and this time, I will not squander those years until pon farr is an imminent emergency. My mother was displeased, but acquiesced after I informed her that I had already gone through the fire.

“I was still not certain at that time if you would wish to resume our relationship, but regardless—there is no circumstance, other than the necessity brought on by the mating time, under which I intend to bond against my will.”

She still wasn’t looking at Nyota.

“Hey,” Nyota said softly. “Are you feeling guilty?”

“I am not capable of that emotion.”

“Uh-huh. You said you loved me like two minutes ago so I’m gonna go ahead and disregard that statement.”

T’Pring closed her eyes. “I do not like discussing the fact that I nearly bonded with another despite the fact that I was—and am—still very much in love with you.”

“I didn’t expect anything else, sweetheart. You had to deal with your pon farr somehow and you made it clear you wanted a bond to do that.”

“Despite the turmoil of how my Time occurred, I am deeply relieved that that outcome did not come to pass.”

“Me too.” Nyota leaned down and kissed her flushed cheek. “But you shouldn’t feel guilty that you arranged a marriage.”

T’Pring finally looked up at her again. “Thank you, Nyota.”

Nyota sighed. There were stirrings of jealousy inside her, but she ignored them. They were irrelevant now. “Who were you gonna marry?”

“I do not know. I did not wish to know. There is no man on New Vulcan with whom I could be content, so what did it matter?”

“Oh, T’Pring.”

She pulled T’Pring to her again, head against her collarbone, and T’Pring leaned heavily against her. A faint current of relief drifted under Nyota’s skin, T’Pring’s shields lowered and relaxed in her presence.

“I think donating your eggs is a really brave choice. I know that you have to, in some way, fulfill your duty to the Vulcan people, and that’s no small offering. But you shouldn’t have to sacrifice every part of yourself.”

“I know,” T’Pring said quietly. “I should not have dismissed your human perspective so easily.”

Nyota took a deep breath. She pulled out a chair next to T’Pring and sat down, staring hard into her eyes.

“T’Pring, when I was with Spock—”

T’Pring flinched. Nyota tapped her hand gently and then took it in her own. “Stop that now, I just tolerated the whole thing about you marrying someone else, it’s your turn.” After a moment, T’Pring sighed and tilted her head in acquiescence.

“When I was with Spock, I made a lot of mistakes. I was… well, frankly, I was terrible at communicating with him in a Vulcan way. You’d think I’d be better at it, given what I do, but when my emotions get involved, sometimes I let them take over and give them too much control.

“I asked more of Spock than was reasonable. I demanded emotional reassurance and connection that he just couldn’t give me. I see how Jim does it now—it’s not like he ignores his own human needs, but he’s patient. He approaches Spock as a Vulcan and waits when Spock can’t respond as anything but a Vulcan. He never expects Spock to just know what he wants, what he needs emotionally, because that isn’t fair.

“Jim communicates with Spock. He doesn’t wait for him to read his mind, even though he literally can. I wanted Spock to just… know how to be a good boyfriend, even though he had never dated a human and I wasn’t giving him any advice on how to do it.

“Spock and Jim make it look really seamless, but when you were on Beta Heddon, Jim and I talked about all this, and I’m only just now realizing how hard they work at it. When I was Spock’s girlfriend, I didn’t know how to do the work. I wanted him to do it.

“I’m not going to make that mistake with you, T’Pring. I don’t expect you to be a human. I’m not going to wait around for you to know how my human mind works. That day we broke up, I was too quick to dismiss your mindset and your concerns for you race. I wanted you to see things from my human perspective, and maybe I had some good insight, but I wasn’t willing to temper it with your Vulcan perspective. That wasn’t ok, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

T’Pring stared at her. There was so much emotion in her eyes it almost rendered Nyota’s monologue moot. But finally she took a breath and schooled her face back into Vulcan impassiveness.

“What is the human phrase? We must ‘encounter each other at the center’?”

Nyota smiled softly. “Meet each other in the middle.”

“Yes, that is it. You and I must meet each other in the middle from now on.”

“Definitely.”

They lapsed into silence. Eventually, Nyota gently untangled their hands and stood up. “Have you eaten anything today?”

T’Pring looked up at her with a faint expression of surprise.

“Has the morning concluded already?”

“Baby, Alpha just ended. How much work did you do before you sat down to stare at the waneti plant?”

T’Pring looked back at the little pot, blinking hard as if trying to reset her internal calculations.

“Not enough.”

“I doubt that. Come on,” Nyota pulled her up from her chair by the elbow and then linked their arms together. “Let’s get you some food.”

She steered her out of the labs, and T’Pring went willingly.

---

“Captain Kirk to Ortrensu T’Pring.”

It was late, well into Beta shift, a few days after Nyota and T’Pring had gone back to work. They had just finished their first round of sex for the evening—T’Pring’s libido was still so high that Nyota had taken to calling every fuck a “pon farr aftershock”—and were curled up naked in bed, doing reports.

Jim’s voice sounded a bit panicked and they exchanged a confused glance before T’Pring stood up to hit Nyota’s wall comm.

“T’Pring here, Captain.”

“I’m guessing you aren’t expecting this shuttle from New Vulcan with all your family on it?”

Excuse me?” T’Pring looked wildly to Nyota.

“Uh, yeah. There’s a shuttle requesting entry. The guy flying it said he’s your brother-in-law and that he has your sister, their baby, and your mom onboard?”

T’Pring listed against the wall. “Ponfo mirann,” she swore. Nyota’s eyes had gone as wide as saucers.

“They did not alert anyone of their arrival prior to now?” T’Pring asked desperately, hoping that perhaps she had missed something during her pon farr and that her entire family was not ambushing her in her place of work.

“Nope. I, uh, kinda need to let them aboard—it’d be pretty impolitic not to, but… you ok with that?”

T’Pring closed her eyes. Embarrassment and shame and a niggling sense of duty fought for prominence in her mind, all overshadowed by a vague attempt at controlling those emotions. “You should let them aboard, of course. My apologies, Captain.”

“That’s ok. You, uh, wanna come down and see them?”

It was quite obvious that he was not actually asking, but rather ordering her to come and deal personally with her own family drama.

“Yes, I will proceed to the shuttlebay immediately. T’Pring out.”

Nyota watched as T’Pring started searching for her discarded clothes. She found her uniform dress and yanked it on, forgoing her undershirt, and then paused, taking a deep breath. “I anticipate this interaction being deeply unpleasant.”

“Do you want me to come with you, or would that make things worse?”

“Your presence would be greatly appreciated, but I do not wish to make you uncomfortable.”

Nyota snorted, getting up and retrieving her dress from where T’Pring had thrown it. “Oh, fuck that,” she said as she slipped it on. “They don’t scare me.”

She met T’Pring where she was hovering by the door. She looked so uncharacteristically nervous that Nyota couldn't resist giving her a hug.

“They do not want me to be with you,” T’Pring said quietly.

“No shit. Do you want to be with me?”

“You know that I do.”

“Well, that’s all that matters. Come on, let’s go fight some Vulcans.”

---

By the time they got down to the shuttle bay, T’Pring’s family had already disembarked. They were clumped together with T’Karik at the forefront, and Jim stood near them at awkward parade rest.

Everyone’s head turned as T’Pring came hurrying over, Nyota a few steps behind her. Jim looked downright shell-shocked. Nyota drew up next to him, and they let T’Pring plant herself firmly between the human officers and her Vulcan family.

Nyota wasn’t surprised that Spock was nowhere to be found. These were, after all, the people who had once been his in-laws.

“Mother!” T’Pring said, slightly out of breath. “No one was expecting your visit.”

“Obviously,” T’Karik said with a raised eyebrow. “We did not inform anyone of our intended arrival.”

Nyota had seen holos of T’Pring’s family, so she knew who everyone was: T’Pring’s mother T’Karik, tall and imposing. T’Pring had obviously inherited the severe cut of her cheekbones and her intense, magnetic eyes.

Stelvoss was tall with a still, serious face, skin a few shades darker than Nyota’s own. He was handsome, and T’Lesh, the sister T’Pring so obviously cherished, was adorable—soft and slightly plump where T’Pring was skinny and sharp. The couple’s combined attractiveness had obviously been a genetic boon, since T’Kov was even more beautiful a baby in person than she had been on the vidscreen.

“We have come to discuss—” Stelvoss began, but T’Lesh held up her hand.

“Surely we can wait to discuss our purpose here, sa-telsu.”

T’Kov, perched precariously on her very pregnant mother's hip, chose that moment to start fussing, frustrated that no one was paying attention to her. Then she caught sight of Nyota and, apparently remembering their vidcall, threw her arms out toward her and squealed in delight.

After an uneasy moment of silence, Nyota laughed awkwardly and waved at her. But T’Kov was not satisfied, reaching again for Nyota and switching to a petulant whine.

“She appears to remember you, Lieutenant Uhura,” T’Lesh said finally. She gave Nyota a look that was very nearly apologetic and Nyota laughed uncomfortably again.

Tonk’peh slor-ko-kan,” she said quietly, and it subdued the baby for the moment.

“Captain Kirk,” T’Karik said, a note of strain in her otherwise toneless voice, “I request that you provide us with a private space where we may converse with T’Pring as a family.” Her eyes flicked to Nyota. “Away from the influence of outworlders.”

“If that is possible on such short notice,” T’Lesh amended. “We apologize for the inconvenience of our unannounced arrival.”

“Oh,” Jim said awkwardly, clearly not thrilled to be brought back into the conversation. “It’s ok—I can set you up in a conference room or guest quarters.”

T’Pring’s gaze had never left her mother’s face. “I will not have this discussion without Nyota present,” she declared softly.

Her mother’s eyebrow shot up. “Ki’shetal du ni’naseestal bai’komihntra ta kal-tor du s’panusu svi’awek-pavaribetlar t’pi’maat t’etek?

"Lu paribau eifa pavaribetlar tatayan-komihnsu, ha."

Svi pi’maat, nam-tor ek ralash-fam'es,” Stelvoss reminded her evenly, and Nyota heard Jim snort lightly beside her, too quiet for the Vulcans to notice.

Ri nam-tor ba'taklar t’etek na’komihnsular,” T’Karik agreed, “Khart-lan t’ish yel-hail ki’vi-kwital svi’iyula t’etek; ri dungi kal-tor nash-veh wuh'ashiv dungi zahal-tor ish-veh.”

Jim stiffened, but didn’t say anything. Nyota wondered if T’Pring’s family realized that Jim was fluent in Vulcan. Certainly T’Karik knew that she was, but simply didn’t care that she understood the xenophobic things she was saying.

Ko-mekh,” T’Lesh chided.

T’Karik dismissed her. “Ri kupp-ken-tor ish-veh.

In an icy voice, Jim said, “Stariben nash-veh Vuhlkansu. Nam-tor nash-veh putel-tor na’Vuhlkansu."

At that, they descended into the most awkward silence yet. Nyota noticed that Captain Kirk had decidedly taken over for Jim. Jim was slightly scared of Vulcans and usually had Spock for a buffer, but he didn’t take well to being needlessly insulted on his own ship, especially by those who had forced their way aboard her.

“Well,” he said when the silence had gone on too long, “let me show you to guest quarters.”

He strode toward the corridor, obviously assuming everyone would follow him. T’Pring grabbed Nyota’s arm—she apparently had no intention of allowing her to be excluded—and they hurried to catch up with the Captain.

They all marched in an agonizingly silent parade toward Deck 4. In the turbolift, crammed together, T’Kov finally got near enough to Nyota to all but fling herself out of her mother’s hold toward her. Nyota caught her out of instinct and T’Kov, obviously quite pleased with herself, settled happily in Nyota’s arms, lifting one tiny hand up to grab her nose.

Despite the painful discomfort of this encounter, Nyota couldn’t help but giggle and glance at T’Pring, whose eyes glittered fondly at her. She put her hand on her niece’s back and ran a finger over the soft curls at the nape of her neck.

“She is not typically so comfortable with strangers,” T’Lesh said to Nyota. “You must have made quite a positive impression on her during our vidcall.”

Stelvoss and T’Karik both turned to glare at her, but T’Lesh just stared resolutely back. Nyota wondered what precisely T’Lesh’s part in all of this was: she certainly didn’t seem fully supportive of her mother and husband.

The turbolift released them and Nyota returned the baby to T’Lesh. After another period of walking in heavy silence, they finally arrived at an empty set of guest quarters.

“You can have both of these rooms,” Jim said. “They connect with a bathroom. If you need anything, you can page me on the wall comm.”

After giving Nyota an apologetic look, Jim turned and strode away without saying anything else.

T’Pring’s family had already started filing into the quarters, so Nyota followed. They stood in an awkward circle for a few moments before T’Lesh handed T’Kov to Stelvoss and took hold of T’Pring’s shoulders.

“It is pleasing to see you, ko-kai. Even in these uncomfortable circumstances.”

“You as well,” T’Pring rested her hands on the round protrusion of T’Lesh’s belly. “Are you healthy enough to travel?”

“Hopefully,” T’Lesh said, with a faintly accusatory look sideways at Stelvoss and T’Karik.

“We did suggest you remain at home, T’Lesh,” Stelvoss said, but there was no heat behind it.

“This is a discussion for our entire family,” T’Lesh insisted. “If the discussion must be had, then I will be present for it.”

“But do sit down, ko-telsu t’nash-veh, please.”

His concern was obvious and, as T’Lesh sat down on the sofa, Nyota felt a frisson of annoyance. She couldn’t help but think it was hypocritical for Stelvoss to come here and insist T’Pring abandon the human she loved for a dutiful Vulcan marriage, while at the same time fussing affectionately over his wife.

But then again, Stelvoss and T’Lesh were full-blooded Vulcans producing full-blooded babies, so if they were too fond of each other, it was probably politely ignored by their fellow Vulcans.

T’Karik turned to her wayward daughter. “We have come in light of your recent refusal to complete your bond.”

“The bond, as well as your visit, is unnecessary,” T’Pring said tonelessly. “The plak-tow”—the other Vulcans twitched at her candor—”demanded my attention much sooner than expected, so I no longer required the bond I had intended to form. Is it not logical, now that I have more time, to pursue someone of my choosing for a mate, someone with whom I am compatible?”

“It would be logical,” T’Kark said, “if you intended to pursue a Vulcan man, rather than a human woman.”

Nyota could practically feel the effort it took T’Pring not to lash out at the insult to Nyota. She had to admit that T’Pring’s fierce defense warmed her.

“I intend to make a biological donation of ova to the New Vulcan Medical Academy,” T’Pring said, voice tight. “That will be my contribution to the repopulation of our people, and I will otherwise remain here, on the Enterprise, leading the flora restoration.”

“I was unaware of that decision,” T’Karik said.

“Perhaps if you had contacted me before sieging the Federation’s flagship, you would have been privy to that information.”

She was clearly unable to fully restrain the sizzling flash of her defiance. Nyota couldn’t help a little intake of breath.

I’m so gone for you, she thought, although T’Pring couldn’t hear her mind. I didn’t expect to love you like this, but I do. I never stood a chance.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence, or perhaps their minds were quietly, imperceptibly, starting to fold in on each other, but T’Pring glanced at her then. Her eyes mirrored everything Nyota felt.

T’Pring,” T’Karik snapped, before turning to Nyota. “With all due respect, Lieutenant, I must ask you to leave now.”

“No,” T’Pring said, calm again, calmer, perhaps, than before. “Nyota will not be leaving. Whatever you must say to me, you will say to her. If it is too unkind to say in her presence, perhaps you should not say it at all.”

T’Karik was not deterred. “You have allowed your time among humans to corrupt you. You have followed Spock’s irresponsible example, but it is a more grievous slight for you, because your blood is pure.”

“It is interesting,” T’Pring said lightly, “that you find Spock so objectionable. Surely if I had married him as you desired, he would have been a greater influence upon me?”

T’Karik ignored her. “You could be a greater asset to our people.”

T’Pring’s eyebrows flew up. “Greater than I am now? How much of our culture would have been lost without me? How much of our collective memory? I single-handedly saved the theris-masu plant—you would have never had another sip of tea were it not for my work. I nearly gave my life to save the waneti plant because I could not bear the thought of never smelling it again. Every time a taste or an aroma brings your katra, however momentarily, back home, you owe a debt to me.”

Nyota reached out and touched two fingers to hers, and T’Pring steadied herself with a breath and went on.

“I acknowledge the wisdom of your insistence that I contribute reproductive material. Amid a population crisis there is no logic in wasting healthy cells which contain the potential to create life. But I will not give all of myself. I will not abandon my work, and I will not abandon Nyota. I will discuss this no further.”

A long, long silence stretched out. T’Kov started to whimper, unused to raised voices and her aunt’s fiery temperament. Stelvoss, who clearly had nothing to say, seemed all too glad to flee with her into the bedroom to calm her down.

“I see it was a mistake to come here,” T’Karik said softly.

“Yes. It was.”

T’Karik sighed and finally looked away. “We will stay the night. T’Kov and T’Lesh are too fatigued to travel. Is there a doctor aboard who is capable of ensuring T’Lesh’s stability before we depart?”

“There is. Doctor M’Benga specializes in Vulcan physiology.”

“Very well. Please inform him that T’Lesh will visit him tomorrow.”

The conversation was very clearly over. T’Pring didn’t even bother to respond before she took Nyota’s hand and led her firmly out into the corridor.

---

It was nearly 0300 by the time they finally got back to Nyota’s quarters, and Nyota was exhausted. It was just as well the command crew were on Beta shift the next day, because Nyota didn’t think she’d be able to wake up in time for Alpha.

She and T’Pring fell into bed and curled around each other. Whether or not T’Pring stayed up reflecting on what had just transpired, Nyota didn’t know—she was asleep almost instantly.

She woke up late the next morning, stumbling out of bed to find T’Pring, Jim, and Spock all sitting around her desk having breakfast.

“Good morning, Nyota,” T’Pring said as she came around the partition, rubbing one eye. “I replicated coffee for you.”

“Thanks.” Nyota flopped next to her and gratefully took the warm cup T’Pring offered her. “Party in my quarters I didn’t know about?”

“We wanted the gossip,” Jim explained unapologetically. “I’m glad you’re up; T’Pring’s version is boring.”

T’Pring looked witheringly at him but her eyes were clearly amused.

“T’Pring was a badass,” Nyota said with a yawn.

“Yes, that much we did surmise,” Spock said. “T’Pring has never been especially humble.”

“Humility is illogical, Spock, as you well know.”

“Indeed.”

Jim rolled his eyes fondly and Nyota laughed. Before she could give any more details, however, her door chimed and, after she gave permission, opened to reveal T’Lesh and baby T’Kov. T’Kov squealed when she saw Nyota.

“Forgive me, Lieutenant,” T’Lesh said, and then, as she took in everyone at the desk, “And, ah. Captain Kirk. Commander Spock. I visited my sister’s quarters but when I could not locate her, a passing crewmember told me I could likely find her here.”

“No need to apologize,” Nyota said. “Please. Come in.”

She stepped uncertainly into Nyota’s quarters, the doors closing behind her. T’Pring stood up immediately and went to her, and T’Lesh sat T’Kov on the floor so that she could open her arms and enfold T’Pring in them. They very nearly giggled trying to fit T’Pring around T’Lesh’s belly, and Nyota’s heart rose in her chest.

On the floor, T’Kov was waving at Nyota and smiling. Jim looked rather genuinely shocked by how cute she was. She tipped herself forward onto her hands and knees, crawling clumsily toward Nyota. “Oh my god,” Jim whispered softly.

“I must ask forgiveness, ko-kai,” T’Lesh was saying. “I should have warned you. They insisted upon visiting you this way and would not hear my objections. But I should have warned you anyway.”

T’Pring shook her head, running a hand over T’Lesh’s curls. “No, pi’ko-kai. I would not want to set you at odds with Ko-Mekh and with your bondmate. It is more than enough that you accompanied them to support me, especially at such a late stage of your pregnancy.” She drew back and looked T’Lesh over. “Are you alright?”

“Yes. Your Dr. M’Benga was very kind and reassured me that I am healthy enough to return to New Vulcan. But he suggested that I leave today to ensure that I give birth there, and not aboard a shuttlecraft.”

T’Pring sighed. “I am certain Ko-Mekh will not want to stay longer anyway.”

They were distracted by a loud, delighted laugh, both suddenly realizing that T’Kov had made her way over to the desk, which she was now sitting on. Nyota was holding her under her arms to make sure she didn’t fall, Jim was playing peek-a-boo with her, and even Spock was leaning in toward her with a slight smile.

T’Pring let go of her sister and returned to Nyota’s side, lifting T’Kov into her arms.

“Come here, buhfik pi’ko-bath t’nash-veh. I have had no chance yet to see you.”

T’Kov seemed slightly miffed at being taken away from the extremely amusing humans, but T’Pring nuzzled her cheek with her nose and T’Kov cooed.

“She is so cute,” Jim said to T’Lesh.

She nodded, “Thank you, Captain.”

He stood up. “Please, sit down! You must be exhausted.”

Although she moved toward the desk, she looked uncertainly at Nyota. But Nyota smiled and patted Jim’s vacated seat. That was certainly all the encouragement T’Lesh needed, and she collapsed in between Spock and Nyota with a sigh.

“It is pleasing to see you, Spock,” she said. “I offer congratulations for your bonding.”

“Thank you, T’Lesh,” Spock said, clearly a little relieved that she had initiated the conversation—Nyota guessed they probably hadn’t seen each other since they were teenagers. “And I for yours, as well as for your children.”

“Thank you. I trust you are much happier with a man than with my sister.”

Jim and Nyota laughed in surprise and a very uncomfortable eyebrow shot into Spock’s hairline.

T’Lesh,” T’Pring scolded in amusement.

T’Lesh looked up at her, confused. “Was that inappropriate? I refer to the fact that he is a homosexual.”

T’Pring buried her face in T’Kov’s shoulder to hide her smile, and Jim started laughing so hard he had to bend over. T’Lesh turned to Spock.

“Do forgive me, Spock. I am not familiar with the human customs onboard this ship. Also, to be quite honest, I am far too pregnant to care if I offend anyone.”

Spock waved his hand. He looked slightly strangled. “There can be no offense where none is taken.”

T’Lesh glanced at Jim, who was now leaning on Nyota’s shoulder and crying tears of laughter into her pajama shirt.

“Is he well?” she asked Spock with mild alarm. “He does know you are homosexual, does he not?”

“Yes,” Spock’s cheeks were bright green. “Humans are simply quite illogical, and my husband especially so.”

T’Lesh turned to look at her sister. “T’Pring, are you certain this is the course you wish to take?”

T’Pring, bouncing T’Kov on her hip and not even trying now to hide a small smile, glanced at Nyota. Her human was grinning broad and sweet at her, eyes alight.

“Absolutely.”

---

They saw the Vulcans off two hours later. As boarding preparations were made, Stelvoss and Nyota actually had a fairly pleasant conversation about T’Kov, who had fallen asleep on Nyota’s shoulder, before Nyota reluctantly handed her back to her father. Stelvoss gave her a kind nod.

T’Lesh drew up next to her husband and offered Nyota the ta’al. “I am gratified that I was able to meet you,” she said. “I am certain we will be seeing more of each other.”

Nyota smiled, grateful for T’Lesh’s unspoken acknowledgement that her sister’s lover wasn’t going anywhere. “Me too.”

They climbed onto the shuttle and Nyota looked over to where T’Pring was standing with her mother.

T’Pring held out a small medical transport container. “I assume you will see this is safely delivered to the Vulcan Medical Academy.”

T’Karik took it with a slow nod. She said something so quietly that Nyota couldn’t hear, but T’Pring looked slightly taken aback. Nyota heard her say, “Nemaiyo, Ko-mekh,” and then T’Karik turned away, heading for the shuttle. She paused briefly in front of Nyota.

Dif-tor heh smusma, Lieutenant Uhura.”

Sochya eh dif, Osu.”

She nodded once more and then boarded the shuttle without looking back.

As they walked to Nyota’s quarters, Nyota slipped her arm into T’Pring’s.

“What did your mom say to you?”

A tiny smile lifted T’Pring’s mouth. “She said, ‘I will think of you when I drink my morning tea.’”

---

They had dinner with Jim and Spock that night, just the four of them in the captain’s quarters. At the end of the meal, Jim raised his glass.

“To the joyous occasion of T’Pring not having to talk to her family anymore today. And to the end of these last few months, which were pretty terrible.”

They raised their glasses and drank deeply, relief and alcohol sinking into their blood as one. As Nyota put her glass down, she noticed that Jim had a mischievous glint in his eye, and she was suddenly nervous: that was either very good or very bad. She raised her eyebrows at him but he just grinned wickedly. She looked at Spock but he too gave her a small, teasing smile.

“I have something for you, T’Pring,” Jim said mysteriously, standing up and grabbing a PADD from his desk. Spock stood and followed him, so Nyota and T’Pring did too, glancing suspiciously at each other. Jim held the PADD out to T’Pring, who looked down at it in confusion.

“I got in touch with HQ,” Jim grinned. “In light of your exceptional career and scientific expertise, they accepted my recommendation that you be allowed entry into Starfleet without academy attendance. You’ll have to take a couple of courses on your own time, but the commission is yours if you want it. Lieutenant.”

Nyota’s heart dropped into her stomach. T’Pring looked up from the PADD and stared at Jim in unconcealed surprise.

“Captain—Jim. This is… I find myself struggling to express… thank you.”

Jim’s lopsided grin widened. “No need to thank me. It would be a privilege to have you on my crew, T’Pring.”

She took the PADD with a deep breath and looked over at Nyota. “I will need to discuss it with Nyota first, of course, as she will be serving the second five-year mission and my presence may complicate—”

Nyota shut her up by throwing her arms around her neck. “You don’t need to discuss it with me, stupid! Come with us, please, I want you here!” She took a deep breath, hesitating only a moment before leaning forward and whispering in T’Pring’s ear, “I want you here, with me, forever.”

T’Pring’s arms came around her, strong and sure.

“In that case, I gratefully accept this commission, Captain Kirk.”

Nyota pulled back in time to see Jim grin at Spock, who reached out and took his hand, casting his warm eyes over Nyota and T’Pring.

“Welcome aboard, T’Pring. It will be quite a relief to have another Vulcan serving on our second five-year mission.”

Nyota and Jim laughed, and when Nyota turned back to T’Pring, she found her staring at her with naked reverence.

Nyota took T’Pring’s face in her hands and kissed her, kissed her.

Chapter Text

Six Years Later

Bright winter light poured in through the picture window, another chilly morning rising over San Francisco Bay. Nyota tugged her sweater a little tighter and sank more deeply into her chair; later it would warm up and she wouldn’t need as many layers, but for now she relished the bite in the air.

She had spent so much time in space that now, with two five-year missions behind her, Nyota made sure to enjoy the small pleasures of planetside life: cold mornings, rainy days, fresh food. She was relaxed but, if she was honest, a restlessness shivered under her skin, refusing to be ignored.

T’Pring’s chair was empty next to her, and Nyota reached down to pick up the cat—a little jet-black thing they had acquired at the very end of the second five-year mission—and put her in T’Pring’s seat. She had been happily dozing in a patch of sun on the floor and gave Nyota an affronted look, but they both knew T’Pring would need her warmth on this cold morning so she grudgingly stayed put.

T’Pring appeared from the kitchen a few minutes later with their tea, handing Nyota both cups so she could sit down, arrange the cat on her lap, and settle in.

“Hiya, sugar,” Nyota grinned, and T’Pring’s lip quirked as she took her cup back.

“Good morning, ashaya.”

Nyota pointed at one of the many plants hanging from the ceiling. There were countless others on every surface and corner in their flat. “I think I forgot to water the Nah'ru vine yesterday.”

“It is of no consequence. I will take care of it.”

“Thanks, darling.”

T’Pring reached out her free hand and Nyota took it, and for a few minutes they sat together in silence, looking out over the bay. T’Pring fired up her PADD eventually and scanned the news.

“Jim is in the holos again,” she murmured.

Nyota shook her head fondly. “Read me the headline.”

“Six Months After End of Second Five-Year Mission, Admiral Kirk Still Has Not Assigned a New Enterprise Command Team.”

Nyota sighed. “I’ll hassle him again today. T’Kov won’t stop messaging me to remind me that she wants to be able to tell her schoolmates that her ko-kuklar are in command of a starship.”

“She has been sending me similar messages. I told her that bragging is not becoming of a Vulcan.”

“Oh, come on babe, she’s only 8.”

“Indeed. She must learn to discuss herself factually, including impressive aspects of her character or her life.”

“So you mean brag about herself and then insist she’s just being accurate, like you do?”

“Exactly.”

Nyota snorted and leaned over to kiss her cheek.

After another few minutes of silence, T’Pring said quietly, “When I met Spock for lunch yesterday, he assured me that there is no doubt the third five-year mission will be offered to us. Are we secure in our decision that we will accept it? We have only just begun settling into our lives on Earth.”

Nyota smiled at her. “Definitely. I love it here, but I want to be back in space. We can come to visit often enough. Jim and Spock can look after any plants we can’t squeeze into our quarters.” She reached her free hand over to scratch the cat’s head. “And we can bring Paka with us. If Admiral Archer could have a dog, we can have a cat.”

“We will no longer be able to see Spock and Jim as often as we do.”

“I’m sure they’ll find a million excuses to conduct inspections on the Enterprise, or to be conveyed by the ship to ‘diplomatic engagements.’ Make sure we aren’t ruining her.”

T’Pring smiled softly. “You are correct, that is a likely scenario.”

Nyota shook her head. “They’ll probably be so excited to be onboard but not in command that they’ll be all over each other. We’ll have to drag them out of supply closets to stop them making out.”

“That was already one of our regular duties when they were in command.”

Nyota laughed. “Good point. They sure did manage to squeeze a lot of sex in between running a ship together. Do you think we’ll be able to? What if we’re too busy?”

T’Pring’s eyes turned hot and reassuring. “That will never be the case.”

Nyota leaned over and lifted T’Pring’s hand to her mouth, kissing slowly down one of T’Pring’s fingers until her breath hitched. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Together on the bridge every day, pretending that I can keep my hands off you? I’ll need to eat you alive once we get back to quarters every night.”

T’Pring licked her lip, running the tip of her finger along Nyota’s tongue. “Indeed.”

“We’ll have to be careful, though,” Nyota said, serious again. “Your pon farr’s due in a year, we’ll need to make sure we plan ahead.”

T’Pring nodded. “I will never again allow it to overtake me without preparation.”

“I know you won’t, baby. I just mean we should make sure we can get to a tropical planet, or back to New Vulcan or something.” Nyota squeezed T’Pring’s hand. “I know you’re nervous about it, and that’s why I want to make sure we have the best pon farr possible. No stress this time.”

T’Pring sighed. “Thank you Nyota. We should set aside time as soon as we receive our mission assignment.”

“Good idea. Anyway, are you sure? About taking the Enterprise?”

T’Pring turned to look at her, eyes warm and light. “Yes, my wife. I have always felt at home among the stars, and as long as I am at your side, I will be content.”

Nyota smiled. “I love you.”

“I love you, Nyota.”

They squeezed each other’s hands and then T’Pring turned back to her PADD, Nyota back to the window. The bond thrummed soft and secure between them. Possibilities stretched out before them: the endlessness of space, the luxury of more tomorrows.