A/N: So many, many apologies. I've been on vacation, then back at work, then sick, then plagued with a sick computer. Is there a swine flu virus for Macs? Again, big thanks to mrstater for her beta-read. I'm still working on Part Ten... I really appreciate anyone who's still up for reading this, after this horrible delay! I'm trying to get back on track, writing-wise.

In case you forgot: Nyota and Spock were at his apartment, when a call from Vulcan interrupted them. It was Amanda, telling her son about T'Pring. Nyota overheard. I also took Amanda's words that Spock quotes directly from Alan Dean Foster's novelization of the movie. And now, for the fallout....

Part Nine: Science Versus the Heart


"Yes, Nyota."


"It does not matter how many times you repeat it. Nothing has changed."

For one moment, Nyota wishes Spock would react to her temper. She stands up from his couch and paces across his living room.

"You appear to be agitated."

She inhales — very deeply. "I am agitated! I'm more than agitated!" She crosses her arms in front of her chest, staring at him with fiery eyes, breathing very hard.

They stare at each other for a few seconds. Neither of them move; neither of them speak.

"You should enlighten me as to the crux of your agitation."

A part of her wants to make him regret that invitation. She bites her tongue, holding back what she really wants to say. "You've been bonded," she starts slowly, her anger boiling beneath her deceptively calm surface, "to a woman named T'Pring since you were seven years old. And if you don't mate with her and complete the bond, you will die. Did I miss anything?"

"That is an overly simplistic restatement of what I have told you."

She cocks her eyebrow. Her nostrils flare.

"For now, though, it will suffice." His quick speech indicates that he wants to placate her. This is futile. Although Nyota picks up on the mellowness of his tone, it does nothing to assuage her anger. Instead, she holds up one finger, shuts her eyes, and counts backward from twenty.


She remembers that he is not of this world.


This is how Vulcans mate. It is part of his culture. It is tied directly to his biology and physical well-being.


He has revealed something intensely personal and private for Vulcans. Although he does not express discomfort with his face or words, it is there in his pauses and his breaths. And his eyes. There were more than a few times when Nyota saw conflict, the way he looked at the floor when she pressed him.


She opens her eyes and takes a breath. Spock stands in the center of his living room, his hands folded in front of him. He is perfectly still, waiting for her to finish. One would think he is not breathing. If it is not for the occasional blink, he would be mistaken for a statute.

She sits back down on his couch. The voice that comes out of her is calm and controlled, although there is emotion raging beneath the surface. It is rather Vulcan-like, if she is being honest.

"Spock, I'm angry that I didn't know about T'Pring before we started seeing each other. And honestly, I feel stupid."

"That was not my intention. You have no reason to feel like this."

Nyota holds her hand up. "That's the problem with feelings. They're irrational, and I can be very irrational. I feel you should be with T'Pring and not me. That I'm convenient because you're here and I'm here, and she's not. And you're biding your time with me rather than wanting to actually be with me."

He continues to watch her, saying nothing. Doing nothing.

She speaks again. "Like I said. Emotions. They're not logical."

Spock takes his turn, walking around the table and coming next to Nyota. He sits down next to her.

"Nyota, when you made your preference for me known, I reciprocated, did I not?"

"Yes. Although now, I'm starting to question your motivations."

Spock's mouth hardens as he blinks once. "Our actions have been at odds with Starfleet's ethical codes, and, indeed, our own convictions of what is and what is not proper behavior between an instructor and a cadet. I have struggled with how to reconcile that which I desire — a connection with you — with the rules of an organization that I have sworn to uphold. I have done so; in fact, we have done so despite the risks. Are these the actions of someone who intends for a relationship to reach a finite point?"

She does not answer his rhetorical question, although she can see his point.

He takes her hands out of her lap and holds them in his own. Nyota almost — almost — removes them, but she does not.

"In retrospect, I should have discussed the matter with you before we reached this stage."

"I'm glad you've realized that now." Her voice is dagger-sharp.

"If there is one aspect of my character that you should understand, it is that whatever actions I engage in, I engage because I choose to."

"You could choose to be with me as a placeholder until you're reunified with T'Pring."

"That is not a logical choice. It would be illogical to enter into a personal, intimate union with another if one knows it will ultimately be terminated."

She laughs cynically; there are plenty of men and women, and other species, who would disagree with that sentiment. Looking at his impassive face, so different from the connection conveyed by his touch, Nyota takes a deep breath. "I needed to know about this, Spock. Before you and I began anything."

"It is not the Vulcan way to discuss such a private matter."

"But you're part human, and you're seeing me and I'm human. We have to be honest with each other, or I'm gone."

He stiffens considerably, and his nose and lips twitch. Imperceptible by other humans, but Nyota's eye catches the subtle movements. "I understand now.

"If we continue to see each other, this is going to become a big issue, don't you agree?"

"That is a reasonable assumption."

She still feels swells of anger within her. There is a sense that things have irreparably changed between them and she feels jabs in her chest, in her stomach. Unpleasant and unwanted.

There is no solving this tonight, but there are a million questions still running around in her brain. But she doesn't ask them; right now, she is too scared of the answers. Before this, Nyota thought that there was mutual respect and honesty between them. She thought that it was in his nature to speak the truth. The revelation shakes her. She does not know where she stands with him, and his touch does not help clarify matters.

Nyota's anger slowly gives way to a heavier feeling, something that falls into the pit of her stomach. She needs to leave here, and soon, because the last thing she wants to do is start crying in front of him.

"I… am going to go now." She is proud that her voice, although soft, is steady. She stands, and Spock follows suit.

"Is there anything that I can do—?"

"No." Nyota interrupts, her voice brisk and cutting. She grabs her bag. "I'm tired. And I won't like myself if I stay here any longer." Walking toward his door, she waits for it to slide open. She keeps her back to him and her chin begins to quiver.

"Shall I contact you tomorrow?"

"No. I'll call you." She doesn't turn around, she refuses to face him.


"Spock." Her voice reveals every bit of anger, frustration and sadness she is feeling. She knows that her eyes are watering, but, thankfully, the tears are not falling. Yet. "I'm going. I need to leave. And you need to understand that."

His mouth opens, but only slightly. He shuts it immediately, giving her the chance to finally walk out the door and out of the building.

Once she is a suitable distance away, Nyota finds an empty bench. She sits and runs a hand through her hair, her breath starting to shake.

One tear falls… and then another…

She cries earnestly. Painfully. She clutches her stomach with her hands, bends over and weeps. Her hands cover her eyes, as if to prevent the harsh truth from flooding her head. But her brain works against her and she continues crying so hard that she can feel her throat burning. She thinks the same thoughts over and over again—


She is bonded to Spock

T'Pring will be with Spock. When all is said and done, she will have him and I will lose him.


She is bonded to Spock…

Nyota wipes her wet cheeks, but the tears keep coming. Behind her, there is a rustle of something, as if someone is approaching her. She turns around.


No one is there. She feels like an idiot.

Sniffling, she reaches into her bag and pulls out her PADD. She touches the screen, transmitting a message that she hopes Gaila will receive.

And she does. Her roommate meets her there in ten, maybe fifteen minutes.

"Don't ask any questions, please. I just… I really don't want to be alone."

Gaila holds her hands up. "No problem," and waits for Nyota to gather her things. They walk back to the apartment. Their arms linked together, Nyota uses Gaila to hold her up when the same thoughts roar through her mind again.


Nyota is in the campus gym, using one of the Academy's combat training rooms and a poor, defenseless training bag. She sweats, wipes her brow, rears back and punches it — hard.



She grunts, ignoring Gaila as the Orion tried to get her attention. She clocks the bag violently, almost imagining it to be the face of a man with sharply angled eyebrows, black hair, pointed ears, and a penchant for misleading gullible, stupid cadets.

Gullible, stupid cadets who wanted to take their relationship further without all the facts…

If there is one thing she hates above all else, it is feeling gullible, stupid…


And misled. By someone she cares about.

"Hey! Warrior Princess!"

Nyota freezes, her arm reared, her fist ready. "What?"

Gaila holds the bag still. "Get a grip, all right? I don't think the Academy'd be all that happy if you pummel the stuffing out of their best training equipment."

Instead of backing down, Nyota gives the bag another punch and storms away, with Gaila following close behind her.

"I know you're not going to tell me about what happened Saturday night—"

"And you're right!" As soon as the words escape Nyota's mouth, she feels a hand around her arm.

"That doesn't mean I'm going to just let you go on a tear. Nyota, give me a little something."

Nyota stares at her roommate. "Look. all I want to do is kick and hit things. Kicking and hitting things'll make me feel better. Kicking and hitting things means I can pretend I'm hitting him and I won't be court martialed!"

She wrestles her arm out of Gaila's grasp and walks over to another practice dummy. She bends her legs and stiffens her hands, bracing her body for the first kick. She lets loose a furious blow, her foot making impact with a loud SMACK!

"He pissed you off so much that you're imagining this is his face?"

Nyota slams her heel into the firm pad. "You wouldn't believe how much." She grunts as she kicks again.

Gaila stands watching Nyota, her hands on her hips. "I don't understand what he could've done that's so terrible you're wishing for his decapitation."

Nyota gives the bag two more kicks and retreats, hopping back and forth on both feet. "Can't tell you," she huffs in between panting breaths.

"Fine. Don't give me specifics. Give me a quick run-through."

Nyota glares at the Orion. She stops moving. "If I talk, will you leave me alone?"

"It depends on what you say."

Breathing hot air through her nose, Nyota walks over to grab her towel and water bottle. She wipes her face and neck and drinks until she feels slightly refreshed. Gaila never takes her eyes off of her.

Nyota throws her towel into a laundry receptacle and heads to the entrance that leads outside into the main area of the gymnasium. They enter the main floor of the large gymnasium complex. Nyota looks around to see how many people are nearby. It is busy, as it is a weekend. Everyone is in their own little world, going to workout classes, training rooms, or meeting friends. To the left of the women, a large group of cadets are hanging around another training room, pointing and commenting about something inside. They slowly make their way over to the throng, talking as they walk.

"I'm not going to tell you specifics, but, suffice it to say that males of any species are all capable of pulling the exact same bullshit." Nyota rolls her eyes. "They'll lure you in, make you feel really good about where your relationship's going, and then — WHAM!" For impact, she hits the palm of her hand with her fist. "They completely blindside you and forget to tell you a massively important detail that can affect the future of your relationship."


Nyota leans toward her friend and whispers to her. "It's not my place to say. But I'd probably be justified to end it right here and now."

The Orion woman's eyes practically burst out of her head. "No way! Are you sure it's not just, you know, a big interspecies misunderstanding and a little make-up nookie will make everyone happy?"

"That's the problem. We almost — took our relationship to the next level." Nyota drops her voice low so the growing mob in front of them will not hear them. They do not have to worry about that; the crowd is fully engrossed in whatever is going on in the training room in front of them.

Gaila hears every word, and she gasps at the confession. "No!"

"Uh-huh." Nyota sinks her cheeks inward, chewing on them as he tries to keep her feelings in check. "He would've been just fine with it without ever letting me know about this 'something'."

"Maybe you should give him a tiny bit of leeway."

Nyota glares at her.

"Will you hear me out, before you decide to bash my head in?"

Resigned, she gestures for Gaila to continue. The Orion clears her throat and adopts a pedantic expression. "This is probably the commander's first foray into a serious human relationship."

"No," Nyota interrupts, "his mother's human."

"If your relationship with him is anything like his mother's, then… ew!"

"I'm not saying that. He was raised by his mother. And he's lived in San Francisco for several years now since he entered the Academy. He's very aware of human behavior and what is and isn't acceptable."

Gaila stares flatly at her. "Are you sure? Because it took me awhile to figure out you didn't like it when I had my partners in our apartment. And other things that humans think are bizarre or completely taboo, but are perfectly acceptable on my home world."

"That's different."

"Is it? I've found ways to manage my pheromones and my appetites here, but if the elderwomen on Orion saw me on Earth, they would think I've lost my way, that I've given up the Orion way of life. Spock's found ways to navigate within human culture. And part of that, apparently, is deciding to be in a relationship with you. That comes with a learning curve."


"But no. You have to remember the two of you are from different worlds. Just as he's learning, you have to exercise patience and understanding. And he'll do the same for you."

Nyota is silent for a beat. Finally, she whistles and she looks at Gaila, reluctantly impressed. "Damn. Someone just found their inner relationship advisior."

"Correction: my inner intergalactic relationship advisor."

With a heavy sigh, Nyota intones, "Yes, I guess you're right."

"Wait, what's that?" Gaila pushes closer, her finger against her ear. "I didn't quite catch you—"

Nyota shakes her head. "I said I guess you're right."

Gaila looks at her, immensely proud of herself. "Yep, I do believe I am."

The two women reach the crowd, and upon approach, they are surprised to see Janice Rand and Christine Chapel standing right at the front. Christine motions for them to come over.

"What's going on?"

Christine turns Nyota toward the glass room in front of them. "You might be interested to see this."

Nyota stands before the large glass walls. In front of a training dummy with long poles sticking out from it is Spock. His strength, speed, and endurance are all on display as he demonstrates the most extraordinary martial arts skills she has ever seen. He twists and darts. He strikes the device with sharp, fast hands, with such strength and force that Nyota would have thought the training dummy would break.

"By the Great Goddess Anyanka!" Gaila breathlessly exclaims.

Around her, Nyota can hear the clamor of cadets straining to see as much as possible of the Vulcan. But her eyes remain focused on Spock, who is dressed in sleeveless black from head to toe. She watches his body, his muscles, the movement of his hands, the unbelievable precision of his kicks. His arms, lean and powerful, move faster and more assured than is humanly possible. And though he sweats, though he fights with superhuman sureness and speed, she can see his face. He remains as stoic as ever.

Kick. Thrust. Strike. He whirls and her eyes barely catch how he attacks the post. Watching him move in ways no human is capable of performing, with an agility no human possesses, Nyota thinks back to the conversation she just had with Gaila.

"You have to remember the two of you are from different worlds. Just as he is learning, you have to exercise patience and understanding. And he'll do the same for you."

Amidst all her anger and sadness and humiliation, Nyota realizes that she has not been as understanding as she should have been. And worse, she has missed him even though it has only been a few days since they last saw or spoke to each other. She did not contact him the Sunday following their fallout, and she actively avoided routes that would take her past his office and his classrooms. Only a couple of times did they pass each other in the hallways. Nyota would stiffen her body and pointedly look forward, even though her eyes betrayed her to catch a fleeting glimpse of the commander.

And she would see him doing the same. Both times she had to take deep breaths to calm herself; it felt far too much like a breakup and such a thought brought tears to her eyes.

"Maybe he should teach our hand-to-hand courses," Christine offers, her soft voice cuts through Nyota's memories and observations. She does not know what is going on between her and the commander presently.

Janice taps her playfully with her elbow. "Nyota, you are one lucky girl. Nummy!"

"That's what I say!" Gaila pipes up.

"Would you two shut it?" Nyota says, annoyed. "And who told you about us?" she asks Janice in a harsh whisper.

Janice scoffs. "Well, no one did. I guessed. I'll forgive you for not telling me."

Nyota hisses at her. Janice and Christine share a silent laugh. Gaila gives Nyota's arm a gentle squeeze.

With a final kick and slice of his hand, Spock stands back from the dummy. He inhales, and brings his arms together, touching his fingertips and holding them in front of his chest. He remains close-lipped and focused on something ahead of him, only blinking, never showing the physical strain of his workout.

All around Nyota, the girls who had been watching the last portion of his workout start applauding. Even Gaila and Janice join in. Christine smiles and pats her on the shoulder, momentarily snapping her out of her trance.

Spock shifts his head toward the clapping. Several of the girls are still going at it, even daring to shout out a couple of catcalls. Nyota glares at Gaila and Janice; of course, the loudest whistling comes from them.

He scans the crowd — and he sees her. His eyebrow angles up only millimeters; it is the only movement his face makes.

Spock emerges from the training room. He is no longer sweating. He is as calm and as collected as ever, even as he stands before them. "I was not aware that observing officers during their training sessions warranted applause, much less an audience."

Several of the cadets murmur awkward apologies and excuses, all lost on the commander, as well as Nyota, who has turned sharply on her heels. She walks toward the entrance of the gym. She can still hear Spock; his voice sounds slightly sharper than normal. "As you were."

She is not sure if the edginess to his voice is apparent to anyone else, but she does not stop to observe. Nyota approaches the entrance to the gym. She steps outside, hearing footsteps, strong and purposeful, following closely behind her.

Once outside, she moves off the sidewalk, letting others pass. She keeps her back turned away from the entrance, feeling her heart pounding from anticipation… waiting to hear, to see him…

The door slides open again. There are four more footsteps. "Good afternoon, Cadet Uhura."

A shudder runs through her upon hearing Spock's voice. "Commander," she says. She turns around slowly, making sure she looks as professional as possible.

He eyes her for one-point-five seconds. "You appear to be doing well."

Her lips twitch upwards; she almost wants to laugh because, right now, she appears to be doing her best impression of a Vulcan. "Appearances aren't all they seem, Commander."

A small shadow that moves across his face; it immediately disappears. "I have done as you requested and have not contacted you. If I am crossing any lines of personal impropriety by talking to you now, I shall go."

Nyota does not say anything, but her brow briefly drops as she considers how to answer this.

"By admitting that appearances are not what they seem, does that mean you are not actually well?"

"Sp–Commander," Nyota says, correcting herself; they are out in public after all. "I saw you working out in there." This does not answer his question, but she does not want to reply at the moment.

His head inclines towards the gym. "Several of your peers applauded at the end of my training. I did not understand their reaction. Was such a display from the other cadets necessary?"

Nyota thinks about her response. Her face shows nothing of the emotions that she feels, the things she wants to say. "They were impressed because you don't move like… like a human. Or like any other humanoid."

"I am aware of the differences between Vulcans and other species. Certainly, as Starfleet cadets, they too are aware of these variations."

"They are, but their emotions get the better of them. Curiosity, awe, envy... they feel these things and they react accordingly." She stops talking, but for only a moment. "Regardless if it is right or wrong."

Spock nods twice, slowly. "Is there a reason that you show no emotion?"

Nyota stares at him, confused. "What?"

Spock takes two steps closer to her. "Saturday evening, when you left my apartment, you were visibly upset and angry at me for the information that I withheld from you. From the time you left to the moment when Cadet A'baa'ntan walked you back—"

She is startled by this admission, realizing with horror that he saw her cry. "You followed me?"

"I had a responsibility to make sure you would be safe. I remained and observed you until you had an escort to your home. I took into account your warning to me prior to your departure that evening. I concluded it would have been unwise to make you aware of my presence."

The admission makes her tremble, and she presses shaking fingers against her mouth. Spock continues, his voice even but not the same soft, gentle tone that he uses when it is just them.

"Your reaction to seeing me today is unexpected. You show no emotion, either positive or negative, toward our encounter. Please elaborate as to why."

A small hiccup escapes from her as she lowers her hand. "I'm actually feeling a lot of different things, Commander. Things that I can't discuss with you right now."

He bows his head, his ears moving, pressing against his temples. "I understand." He pauses for three seconds exactly; Nyota counts it in her head. "Cadet Uhura, I will not keep you any longer. I hope you find the rest of your week satisfactory." With a final, salutary bow, he turns and walks away. Nyota watches him, her eyes focused on the back of his impeccably trimmed hair as a gentle breeze catches the strands.

"Commander! Wait!"

Spock stops immediately at the urgency of Nyota's voice. She jogs until she is closer to him, allowing herself to take in the pleasant scent of him, even after a workout.

"Are you available Friday evening?"

She catches Spock's eyes, indeed his face, as they soften. "I have no obligations."

Shaking but steeling herself so she can ask him her inquiry. "Would it be all right with you if I came over to finish our discussion? I'll take care of dinner."

There is a slight shift in Spock's face, as his mouth, cheeks and eyes ease up. "That is an acceptable proposal."

"We can meet at our spot at 1900."

Without giving anything away, he gives her one nod.

"Good. Friday evening it is then." She manages to give him a fleeting smile, and she wants to stay longer, to take him by the hand and have that conversation here and now. This gives her a little more time to think about what Gaila has said, about Spock's mistakes, and about her own. The mistakes should be discussed, but they should not prematurely end what could be something good, something special for the both of them.

Nyota feels a sense of peace envelop her. Smiling, she pivots and walks away.

They approach Spock's apartment silently. He carries the containers Nyota brought that are filled with a lovely vegetable and tofu curry, something she knows he likes. There is not much said between them as they walked. Nyota finds her mind preoccupied with dueling, persistent thoughts.


He will be hers and I will lose him…

"You have to remember the two of you are from different worlds…"

Spock allows her to enter his apartment first. She places her bag on the floor and removes her shoes. Spock stands next to his door. Pressing a button on the keypad, the soft notes of the Vulcan lute begin to play.

He points his finger up, as if gesturing to the notes. "This is an old Vulcan folk song that I knew well as a child.

She nods. "It's beautiful." Her voice is surprisingly calm. She takes the food from him, and walks into his kitchen. She is familiar enough with the space to know where the dishes are, and glasses and utensils.

She lays what they need on the brown stone countertop.

"You went to Dosa?"

Nyota nods. "I did."

"You selected my preferred dish."

She smiles. "That was on purpose."

Spock looks at the spread. "Though you went to much effort to prepare this, it may be best to commence our discussion about T'Pring and my bond with her."

Nyota stifles a choking sound. "Y-you don't mess around, do you?"

"I think it would be wise to begin this conversation early into the evening, in the hopes that an acceptable solution can be reached sooner rather than later."

She nods and moves past him, into his living room. She goes to the left corner of his couch, and smoothes the back of her skirt as she takes a seat. Spock follows her into the room, and he sits in a chair close to her, but allows a reasonable amount of space between them. To Nyota's surprise, he begins to speak, using the tone he reserves solely for when they are alone.

"I remember the times when my mother and my father would have disagreements. They were not frequent, but they did occur."

Nyota regards him steadily; her eyes never leave his.

"There was one occurrence, at the learning center. My parents argued — correction," he says, stopping himself. "My mother argued. My father discussed. She said to him, 'When Vulcans get disgusted with each other, they never just walk away, do they?'" His eyes are open and full of something Nyota thinks might be regret or sadness at the memory. "She would then walk away. Her absences were never long. They never exceeded what would be two hours by your clock, but they gave her enough time to temper the conflict. I know it affected my father in ways he could not tell me."

She blinks at this stark confession. "I see."

"I say this because I believe I now know what my father endured when she would leave. And as I did not see you for days, the affect upon me was in direct proportion to the duration of your absence."

The admission takes her breath away for a minute. "You missed me?"

Spock bows his head. "Profoundly."

Nyota feels tremors course through her body. She remains composed, although it is difficult. "I don't know how to respond to that."

"I require no response."

His reply surprises, almost shocks her. Nyota blinks quickly and finds her words. "As much as I thought, and still think, you were wrong for not telling me about T'Pring—" She surprises herself; saying T'Pring's name feels easier than before. "I was wrong too."

He raises his eyebrow at this. "You were?" Nyota gestures in agreement.

"I didn't let it sink in that this bond was extremely difficult for you to discuss. With me in particular because I am not a Vulcan."

"That is true."

"And I am the first, and only, human that you have discussed the matter with. Correct?"

Spock nods once. "Yes."

Nyota takes a deep breath through her nose. "I realized I had several problems with accepting this new information. I told you it made me feel stupid, like you're biding your time with me. I know that's not right, but it doesn't stop me from feeling this way.

"I also realize that what hurt me was that we were close to—" She has no idea how to phrase this. "We were close to becoming more intimate with each other." She leans forward. "I wanted you that night, and I would have taken that next step with you without knowing about T'Pring."

His expression flattens out, like he has realized something integral, that he has discovered some unknown variable that solves a mysterious equation. "I see now why the news had a strong affect on you."

Nyota reaches for his hand; he is close enough to offer it to her. "Sex, Spock, is not something I take lightly. I've made mistakes before, and I don't want that to happen with you." Her voice thickens. There is emotion building behind her sentiments, and it is going to hit her at any moment. She keeps it at bay; she doesn't want Spock to see her like this. Not now, at least.

"I told myself that the next man I choose to have sex with, I want to make sure it's for real and that I know him and I know him well."

This is such an odd way to carry on a conversation with a member of the opposite sex, Nyota thinks. Stark honesty, memories to represent and signify emotions, not a hint of obfuscation or innuendo. They both reveal themselves to the other person, and they offer themselves as they are.

That is all they can do. And hope that they can make this work. At least, that is what she wants.

"It was my mistake to not tell you about T'Pring, and I see how my failure to do so compounded and complicated your own feelings regarding the direction of our relationship." Spock's fingers gently rub the back of her hand. "On Vulcan, the bond is seen as a biological imperative by the elders. While we do not speak of it, it informs much of our behavior and our interactions with each other."

"How do Vulcans handle relationships that occur outside of the bond?"

Spock's expression lightens, the equivalent of a facial shrug. "The relationship ends if the female chooses marriage with her bonded partner, or if she invokes the koon-ut-kal-if-fee."

Nyota looks at him steadily. "The fight to the death."

"Between the bonded male and a male of her own choosing, typically the rival for her companionship." Spock clarifies. Nothing in his voice shows any apprehension or fear about this outcome. He is as stoic as ever.

She does not say anything dramatic like, "But you could die!" or, "Don't do it! Stay here with me!" Horrible clichés that are in movies that Gaila likes to watch during their girl nights while drinking wine. Instead, she simply breathes. "Then, it's in the hands of the females?"

"She commences the kal-if-fee, and she selects the male against whom the bonded will fight. If the bonded male emerges victorious, then he may keep her or release her."

"There's no other alternative?"

"With bonded Vulcans, there is little else. Intensive meditation will only be effective for a period of time, as the plak tow that takes hold of us during our pon farr can intensify with every occurrence."

Nyota speaks carefully. "From what I overheard, T'Pring wants to sever the bond with you. Is that something you would prefer?"

Shutting his eyes, Spock nods once. "It would be my preference."

"And if they cannot sever the bond prior to your pon farr, she will choose the koon-ut-kal-if-fee."

Spock nods again without hesitation. "That is the logical assumption."

"You could die." Her tone is deceptively calm, matching his demeanor perfectly.

"I might not."

"Or… you would kill? You would kill another Vulcan or humanoid or whomever to end the bond?"

His response is immediate. "While I recognize the moral objections, indeed even the repugnance you may feel as a human, this is understood by the Vulcans as the proper and logical means by which the bonding process can be fulfilled or rejected."

Nyota inhales deeply. "It is self-defense. It is totally self-defense. I know it would be considered self-defense here." Again, her eyes meet his, and she can feel hers starting to water. "Not that humans have any say in Vulcan society." She shuts her eyes, wiping them as the first set of tears spill out. "Just this one." She looks at her wet fingertips.


He does not embrace her to comfort her as the tears fall. Instead, he stands up gracefully from his chair and he makes his way toward the couch, sitting down less than half-a-foot from Nyota.

"Expressions of emotions are important, necessary for your kind. You should not apologize for them. I do not require it."

She cries as she laughs and she chokes on her words. "It's embarrassing."

"It is human. And as Vulcans embrace logic, humans should embrace their passions."

Nyota lifts her head up, sniffling. She swallows again, and she thinks she may have regained her composure. "You don't think less of me?"

"Never." At Spock's firm tone, Nyota chuckles and bats the water from her cheeks. Spock speaks again. "I will understand if you want to reconsider personal interactions with me, in light of these admissions."

As soon as she hears him say this, she feels herself shaking her head, instinctually, reflexively. "No. I want to continue this. I missed you. A lot. I like spending time with you. I like you. But… thinking about you dying…"

She cannot finish the thought. He remains silent.

Nyota breathes in through her nose. "This was a huge obstacle, but I want to work through it, okay?"

His mouth gives a hint of an upturn. "That is what I would prefer."

"Good." She is feeling slightly better, but she also feels emboldened to tell him what she needs to. "I'll tell you two things. I want to know if you think you'll be able to comply with them."

Spock gestures in agreement. "You may proceed.

Nyota clears her throat before she begins speaking. "Will you, in the future, be honest with me about whatever occurs with T'Pring? Will you tell me if anything changes and if anything will affect us?"

He considers her point, finally bowing his head. "That is reasonable."

She moves closer to him. She draws herself up and looks at him with gravely. "Second, if you do bond with T'Pring, you'll have to understand that I won't allow myself to be the other woman. If it comes to that, I will end this."

She watches his mouth press hard into a solid line, and something flashes in his eyes. Nyota feels his hand touch her check, and that surge, that electricity that courses through her every time they touch returns. Her eyes fly open and she looks at his face. No emotions register there, not that she expected it. But she revels in the contact and focuses on his eyes.

His voice is even, deep. "I cannot, I will not allow that to happen."

It is the words he chooses that hit her. From a human male, they would sound slightly possessive, harsh. From him, because he does not speak in terms of feelings or emotions, it takes on a far different resonance. He means that he will do what he needs to do, to make sure she stays. He will be here for her.

Her heart pounds against her chest. She opens her mouth to say something… but she places her palm low on his torso, feeling his heart beating in a place so different from hers. With no other words, she kisses him.

Spock remains still, his hand still on her cheek. Her lips glide over his, gently pecking the corners of his mouth, and then returning to the center, pressing against his. Spock's response increases, and when his lips part, she feels herself sink into him.

They clinch for several minutes, not breaking this contact because it does feel amazing and incredible and Nyota wants him. Somehow, they end up tangled on their couch, as a week's worth of emotional turbulence and the thought of reconciliation feeds into their desires. It is when she realizes that her hair is mussed and her hands are touching his chest and his body is positioned between her legs that both of them need more. In her mind, which is filled with a million simultaneous thoughts, it is the predominant one.

Spock pulls away first, but only barely, regaining control of his breath. His fingers caress her cheek, pausing slightly as if he wants them to linger there, seeking something that he has not yet asked for. His eyes never leave hers, and he touches his forehead to hers.

It takes him two inhalations before he can speak, and his tone is as calm as ever. "You still desire more from me."

This snaps Nyota out of her reveries. "There'll be time for that later," she says softly, giving him a final peck and standing back up to straighten her clothes. She walks to the kitchen, her step slightly lighter than before. "But for now, let's go eat."