we drift deeper (as the rush comes)

Engaging in a relationship – if either "engaging" or "relationship" are the right words – aboard the Enterprise will, inevitably, turn out to be one of the more unsettling decisions that Spock has made in his entire life. Of this, he is irrevocably certain.

It's not that being with Nyota is unsettling. That is hardly the case. Nyota understands him and his eccentricities (her word, and a fitting one, but then again, she is a cunning linguist) and does not expect more than he is able to give. She expects his attention and his time, but does not grow angry if there is no poetry and understands that it is difficult to procure flowers in space. Their time together is amicable and he is grateful to find one individual in all the universes who seems to understand who he is.

Despite that, being in a relationship in space does lead to a fair share of fascinating circumstances.

The captain had seen them together in the transporter room before they were beamed aboard the Narada, and while Jim does not voice his thoughts until weeks later, when the crew is reassembled aboard the ship once more, it is obvious that he has been contemplating the matter.

"Spock," he says one day as they return from Engineering, "you're with Uhura, right?"

"Not at the present time, Jim," Spock replies, for she is on the bridge and they are somewhere near the turbolift on Deck 5.

"Good one," Jim says with a smile. His arm twitches at his side and Spock knows that, were he anyone else – Dr. McCoy perhaps or Lieutenant Sulu – the captain would hit him on the arm. But he does not, which shows a degree of respect towards his first officer's Vulcan heritage that Spock would have considered impossible weeks prior.

"If you are inquiring as to whether Lieutenant Uhura and I are engaged in a romantic relationship, the answer is affirmative, but I do assure you that it will not detract from our work."

Jim smiles. "I wasn't saying that at all, Spock. I was just curious."

He does not mention it again, and when the new rotation is made and both he and Nyota share nearly all the same shifts, Spock wonders what exactly the other man is about.

He does not, however, when it becomes apparent that it is merely Jim being…thoughtful. It allows them to build on their relationship, which had barely started when they were sent into space and which has suffered in the aftermath of the destruction of Vulcan. The new schedule allows for them to spend time together that they normally would not have. Spock finds himself grateful for this attention to his personal life, no matter how unwarranted it may be.

Things were different at the Academy. Being involved in a clandestine affair with a former student currently employed as a teaching assistant for his Advanced Phonology class meant that Spock could lose his positions both at the Academy and on the Enterprise. Hiding their relationship was the only option.

It was not exceedingly difficult to hide, however; while most members of the Academy staff interacted with him on a weekly basis, very few students did outside of class. He kept to himself save for social gatherings he was required to attend and those few invitations he willingly accepted. Most thought Vulcans an insular and haughty race and he had to do very little to reinforce that opinion.

There was also the added benefit that Nyota was his teaching assistant, and being seen in public with her was not at all unusual; many Academy instructors mentored teaching assistants who excelled in their fields, so eating together at an off-campus establishment was acceptable.

Most of their relationship was conducted in the safety of his apartment, which had become much more comfortable when Nyota started spending the night, sneaking out in the early morning hours, and leaving articles of clothing or jewelry behind. Before they boarded the Enterprise he found and returned two pairs of earrings, a pair of cotton underwear, and a shirt, all left in various locations around his quarters.

Being on the Enterprise is different, in ways good and bad. The crew knows that they are involved before they even show any outward signs of affection, and it is unsettling. They eat lunch and dinner together as often as they can, and try to remain discreet when they retire to one or the other's quarters for the evening. That, however, is difficult when there is always someone in the corridor or watching on the security feeds, and Spock finds it frustrating to feel as if he is being watched at every turn.

There are other things that are good, however. Working together gives them time together and allows Spock to experiment with human affection. He does not desire to create pet names for Nyota, nor does he particularly feel comfortable declaring his emotions through touching (in public, at least), but he does feel that there are some romantic notions that he might be able to accomplish.

He makes sure that Nyota's morning coffee is ready and at her station each morning when she arrives. He compliments her in ways he doesn't quite compliment the other crew. He sometimes touches her when at her station, two fingers sliding up her wrist in such a way that he can hear her breathing change next to his ear. He does these things, and others, because he enjoys seeing Nyota happy.

And she does her own things in return, usually in the privacy of their quarters, that ensure he is most satisfied.

....

"I had a really awkward conversation with Nurse Chapel today," Nyota tells him one evening. He looks up from his PADD and turns to face her across the room. He is intrigued by this conversation, as Christine Chapel has always had impeccable "bedside manners" for a nurse, and this seems abnormal, especially during what was supposed to be a routine physical exam.

"What did your conversation entail?" he asks carefully.

From her seated position on the bed, Nyota says, "She was asking all the routine questions about my reproductive health and then she made a comment about Vulcan physiology." Nyota seems uncomfortable, and in the dim light of their cabin he cannot tell if she is blushing or not. "She wanted to know if we've…She asked about Pon Farr," Nyota finally declares, looking down and away from him.

"I am intrigued that Nurse Chapel is aware of a Vulcan rite of passage that even Vulcans do not talk about until it is necessary," Spock states.

"Well, she's taken a lot of advanced xenobiology courses and I just guess she was interested…Though it felt sort of personal." Nyota draws her legs inward, curling her knees towards her chest.

"Undoubtedly so," he says. "Pon Farr is a difficult subject for most Vulcans to discuss, even when it is imminent."

"Mate or die, right?" Nyota asks. "That's what it boils down to?"

"You are correct," he says, standing up. Nyota's change in posture indicates discomfort, and he settles onto the bed next to her. "It is essential for Vulcans to reproduce."

"So every seven years, you become sex-crazed," she says, looking over at him. "Will I get advanced warning?"

"Two years, I think," Spock quickly calculates. "And while I cannot give you advance warning, I can assure you that you will know."

Nyota laughs. "How are you so sure about that?" she asks, drawing him in for a kiss that lingers, until she falls backwards onto the bed and pulls him with her. His mouth travels down her neck to her collarbone.

"I assure you once again, Nyota," he says, kissing his way back up her neck, "You will most certainly know."

When they first visit the Vulcan colony, it is several months into their five-year journey and his relationship with Nyota is common knowledge to the crew of the Enterprise.

It is not common knowledge to either his father or his…elder self. So when Chekhov says something to a member of the welcoming party that merely hints at their relationship, it soon becomes a rumor that spreads throughout the High Council.

His father is not entirely encouraging. He does not say that Spock has a duty to help Vulcan repopulate, though Spock knows the thought has crossed his mind. And he does not say that his son should not follow his heart, because it would be illogical to give advice that one had not followed himself. Instead, he merely asks to meet Nyota at their earliest convenience, preferably outside of a diplomatic context.

His other self, when he learns, calls it "fascinating."

"Did you know Nyota in your timeline?" he asks the elder man, feeling strange at prying into his own alternate life.

"As a colleague, yes, but not in the romantic way you surely know each other." His elder counterpart smiles. "I did not meet her until we were assigned to the Enterprise but I take it that you met her before that?"

"I supervised her thesis research. She was my teaching assistant," Spock says, hoping the older version of himself does not judge him harshly for violating Academy protocol about relationships between students and instructors.

Instead, he just smiles.

"I am glad you have her companionship," he tells Spock, "and I am certain she is grateful for yours."

"Would you like to meet her?" Spock asks. The elder man shakes his head.

"Just because I was not romantically involved does not mean it will be any easier for me to see this Nyota," he says. "She would be yet another reminder of what I have lost."

When they go to bed in their quarters that night, he holds Nyota closer to him than ever before. He cannot imagine not caring for her, and does not want to imagine a world where she is lost to him.

Morning is his favorite time of day. There is no morning in space but still he feels like he can tell when it would be. He tells himself that it is mere nostalgia from Earth and from Vulcan and it is true that he misses pale pink and yellow bursts of color dotting the horizon line. But that is not the only reason he loves morning so much.

Morning brings promise.

Promise can be found in the lazily way Nyota drapes her arms around his neck, pulling him deeper into another sleepy kiss, or the way that her body moves underneath his. There's promise in the taste of her skin against his tongue and the way she threads her fingers through his hair or how he feels all of herself laid out before him through their bond. There's more promise in the early hours of each day than he can even fathom, and he revels in it.

There's promise in the brief moments of mediation that compose him, in the smell of Nyota's shampoo and the whisper of fabric as she dresses for the day. Soon they will go to the bridge and there will be new promises of redemption or salvation, alliances to be forged and wars to fight.

As Nyota brushes her lips against the back of his neck, ending his mediation, he thinks he finds all of this absolutely fascinating.