1. Kyreya – n. trauma; an emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage.
Outside, the heavens are silent; the Enterprise hangs in the void. Stunned.
Like a dying star, Nyota thinks as she trudges to her temporary quarters. Our star, sullied now and blackened by war.
The acrid stench of battle permeates the ship, bleeding out through cracks and breaches in the hull along with the innocence of her once virgin crew. Reality stands on its head, six billion souls lost in the time it takes to draw breath. They have snatched a Pyrrhic victory from murderous jaws, but so much has been destroyed it's difficult to comprehend the enormity of their loss.
Shock permeates the ship. The Endeavour and the Wellington reached them an hour ago, flooding the Enterprise with real officers – older, experienced officers, tight-lipped with anger. Their guilt is bitter as smoke, for all they can do is relieve the traumatized cadets when it is too late to save a life or fire a shot.
Nero is gone. Vulcan is gone. The graduating class of 2258 has been slaughtered. All that remains is to sweep up the pieces, but there are so few left that Nyota can't imagine where they'll begin.
She sets her own sights lower, drifting with the smoke past knots of cadets with haunted eyes and low voices, in pursuit of a personal mission. One man only fills her thoughts, her focus narrowed to an individual tragedy among the billions. But what comfort can she offer him? He has lost his mother and watched his planet die before his eyes. She has known him six months, been intimate for only three weeks; she doesn't know how their fledgling relationship can survive the savagery of this assault. But he has no one else, he has lost everything, and so she has to try…
The voice comes from behind and she turns to seek Kirk striding toward her. His face is bruised and bloodied, sweat matted into his hair, yet he walks with a swagger that speaks of confidence rather than arrogance. The boy King, she thinks, assuming his throne. Of all the people she met at the Academy he is simultaneously the last and only person she can imagine filling the captain's chair and, despite everything, she can't keep a smile from her face; the leap from calling him a jerk to calling him a captain is smaller than it looks.
"Sir?" she says, watching him slow as he draws near. There is a seriousness in his eyes, a weight he carries that is already reshaping the boy into a man.
He scrubs a hand through his hair, the uncertain gesture beguiling. Then he nods to a door and takes her elbow, guiding her toward it. "In here..."
She finds herself standing with him inside an empty room. Through the small window she can see the sweep of the Endeavour's hull curving above them. Kirk is silent, wipes his hand across his lips, and fixes his eyes on hers. "They just announced the Farragut," he says, in a tone she's never heard from his glib mouth. "Lost with all hands."
Beneath her feet the deck cants. "Gaila..."
"I'm sorry..." There's a choke in his voice and for a moment the captain disappears and she sees the boy again; she sees the bright summer sun and the glitter of the blue Pacific, long nights at Cochran's and a world of dreams and hope. All lost now, like Gaila, blasted into the void.
Nyota puts her arms around him and they stand together, her head on his shoulder, his head on hers. Gaila is gone. They are all gone.
Six billion souls. A culture. A language. A world.
"How do we get past this?" she whispers into his shoulder. "How do we even breathe?"
"In and out. One breath at a time." He hugs her tight, then pushes her back with his hands on her shoulders. "What else can we do?"
There are tears in her eyes, knotting in her throat, but she doesn't want to cry now – not in front of her captain. "One breath at a time," she repeats with a firm nod. "I can do that."
"I'm counting on it." He gives a small smile, a glimpse of his youth, then frowns. "Look, I wanted to say— I know it must have been hard for you, what happened on the bridge between me and Spock. You had divided loyalties, but you stood by me and I appreciate that."
"Professionally," she says, "it was the right thing to do."
"Yeah, but still..." He pauses. "Is he gonna be okay?"
She looks away, out toward the Endeavour. "How can he be? He's lost everything."
She stills, wary. Her relationship with Spock is devoutly private and she's uncomfortable discussing it – or him – with anyone. Least of all Kirk. But in this new and shattered reality Kirk is the closest thing she has to a friend, and so she finds herself saying, "I'm not sure I'm enough."
He studies her for a minute, face serious, and she finds herself staring at the red welts on his neck. Her heart does a little dance of fear. So much rage, so much violence in those gentle hands. Then Kirk says, "I was with him on the Narada. He was ready to give his life for Earth."
"So were you."
He acknowledges the point with a nonchalant shrug. "Yeah, but I was only thinking of the glory – he was thinking of you."
She stares. "How do you know?"
"Because he told me."
"He told you?"
"Staring death in the face tends to focus a guy's mind." He gives a wry smile. "He didn't program that into the Kobayashi Maru, did he?"
The Kobayashi Maru. It's a lifetime away, a shadow of the test they faced today. Irrelevant.
When she doesn't respond, Kirk's smile fades. "Look, about what I said to him on the bridge... I swear I had a reason. I wasn't just being an asshole."
"I know why you did it," she says, though she can't help flinching away from the memory of the shame in Spock's eyes. "I understand."
"Then you forgive me?"
She shakes her head. "It's not my forgiveness you want, is it?"
He gives a bleak laugh and folds his arms across his chest. "Do Vulcan's ever forgive?"
"Only when it's logical," she says, half teasing. "You should talk to him."
"I think he's avoiding me."
"Maybe," she sighs. "He might be in sickbay, with his father. I'm just heading there."
Kirk reaches out a hand and opens the door, letting in the buzz of noise from the corridor beyond. "I'm pretty sure he'd rather talk to you than me."
She hesitates before she leaves, unsure of the lines between friendship and professionalism that are being drawn between them – they're so new, she's not sure where they lay. She could hug him again, but instead she stands to attention. "You did good today, Captain."
He shakes his head with a self-deprecating smile. "You too, Lieutenant."
Leaving him to stand and watch her go, she heads back along the corridor toward sickbay and the tiny contingent of Vulcan refugees.
2. Kwes – n. filled with regret or concern..
Sarek is standing next to the wall. His face is impassive, like a sculpture. But she has learned to read Vulcan features, and even if his eyes are less human than his son's she sees the black pit in their depths and knows it to be despair.
Memories of their last encounter are fresh, but despite them she feels pity for this man. Only a monster could feel less; he has lost his wife and his world. All he has left is his imperfect son.
She hesitates on the threshold, but then catches sight of McCoy wielding a tricorder and realizes that her presence isn't an intrusion into grief. Yet the weight of loss is palpable in the silences, in the overt struggle for control, and she finds herself averting her gaze from their faces, holding her hands tight behind her back.
It's clear, immediately, that Spock isn't there. So she heads toward McCoy to ask if he's seen him. Halfway across the room, Sarek speaks.
"You are seeking my son?"
Bracing herself, she turns to face him. "Yes, sir."
He watches her intently, as if trying to read her mind, and she wonders if he's succeeded. "Spock spoke of his intention to return to his quarters in order to meditate." He says, an expression of doubt touching his features. "However, in present circumstances, we are all struggling to achieve tvi-sochya and his mental disciplines are eroded through lack of practice. I do not imagine he is meditating."
Nyota bites back a retort and reminds herself of all that Sarek has lost – and of all that he is. His words, she realize, are not an insult but simply an observation of fact. "I believe," she says, "that Spock no longer relies solely on kohl-tor to seek peace of mind."
"That is probable," Sarek agrees. "In that, he is fortunate; there is much in him of his late mother."
Nyota stares, unsure she's understood correctly, but gathers herself enough to reply with the traditional Vulcan condolence. "Tushah nash-veh k'odu. Your wife was a lovely woman."
"Tushah nash-veh k'dular," he replies in kind. "We have all lost today. Starfleet gave much in the defense of our home and it is a debt we cannot now repay."
"There are no debts among friends."
He inclines his head in acknowledgment, then after a pause says, "I hope you understand that concern for my son has always been paramount in my actions. However, notwithstanding that fact, I do not reflect with satisfaction on our previous meeting."
Nyota says nothing, wary of this conversation taking place in public; though she doubts the secret can be kept for long, she would prefer her relationship with Spock to remain private.
Sarek, however, is unperturbed. "Were my wife here," he says, "she would demand that I apologize for my interference and, in her memory, I do so."
Vulcans are not adept at reading subtext, and she knows from experience that she must be clear in her answer. "I accept your apology," she says, sliding a glance toward McCoy; she is sure his ears are twitching. "And I hope you understand that concern and affection for your son will always guide my own actions. We have that in common, if nothing else."
From the corner of her eyes she sees McCoy freeze.
Sarek folds his hands before him. "Then you will not impede the choice he must now make."
He glances around sickbay, his eyes running across the remnants of his people. "My son has always been a child of two worlds, now he must decide with which his duty lies." It is clear from his expression that Sarek is in no doubt of Spock's answer. "Perhaps ten thousand of our race remain, Lieutenant. Logic dictates only one course of action."
Nyota feels cold, ineffably weary.
"Ambassador?" It's McCoy, stepping between them without looking at Nyota. "Your quarters are ready now, sir. Crewman Nai can take you there and you can rest."
With Sarek's attention diverted, Nyota backs away. Her eyes meet McCoy's for a grateful instant and then, as the Vulcan refugees gather, she slips out into the smoky corridors once more.
3. Lak'tra - n. grief
She finds him in her quarters, and is not surprised. He stands near the small window, looking out into the black. His hands aren't behind his back, but hang loose at his side. When she touches his shoulder he says, "I did not know where else to go."
"I'm glad you came here," she says, and leans her head against his back.
He does not move, does not turn and take her in his arms. She knows that he can't, that it's taking all his control to keep from crumbling beneath the weight of his loss. Tears are hot against her cheek and she slips her arms around him. "Have you eaten?"
There's a pause. Then, "I do not recall."
"You should eat. There's only field rations, but I've got—"
"I am not hungry." He snaps the words, anger simmering so close to the surface she can feel it scald. Beneath her cheek and arms, his muscles harden. She understands.
"How can we eat?" she whispers. "How can we eat when they're all gone?"
He doesn't answer, doesn't move. She presses her lips against the fabric of his shirt, then lets him go. "Would you like to be alone?"
Another pause. "I do not know."
She watches him, the stiff set of his shoulders and the uncertain weight of his arms at his side. He's lost and Nyota makes a decision, reaching out to take his hand. She curls her fingers around his with deliberate care and when he starts to pull away she resists. "Tushah nash-veh k'du," she reminds him. I grieve with you.
He turns then and looks at her; she has to brace herself against the darkness in his eyes. She touches his face, feels the heat of his skin beneath her fingers and through them the ghost of his bitter grief. His eyes close, lips parted. His restraint is slipping and when she pulls him into her arms his fingers bite hard into her back and his breath is hot and fast against her shoulder. "I am losing control," he whispers and she doesn't think he realizes he's slipped into his native tongue.
"You're entitled." She holds him tighter, threading her fingers into his hair, gentling the back of his neck. "Your mother was human – mourn her like a human."
"I do not know how."
She lifts her forehead and rests it against his; she hopes he understands her intention. "Let me show you."
"I am afraid..."
"I know. It's okay."
"Nyota..." And then his voice chokes and breaks, and she is falling into his scarlet grief. It churns around and around, contained by granite walls he cannot breach; the pressure threatens to crush him. His arms are a vise, his whole body rigid as she seeks within his mind for the release he needs; it comes in the form of a word, carved bright into the dark.
Beloved. She hears it through his ears, in his mother's voice, her loving touch soft upon his brow.
Lost forever, she slips through his fingers and falls into crushing oblivion.
The pain intensifies, a fissure that spiderwebs across his mind, crowding around those three elegant syllables engraved in the stark walls of his reason. Engraved and burning. Fear smothers his chest, he cannot suck air into his lungs. She feels his panic rise, but does not relent.
"Nyota," he pleads. "Mother..."
And then he breaks, shatters. The walls explode and the light is blinding, scorching; she gasps as grief and rage storm through her mind like a hurricane and leave her wrecked in their wake.
Shaking, she lifts her head and the link is severed. His eyes are shut, his dark lashes wet where they fan against his cheek, and his shoulders shudder with each breath. She holds him until it passes, then guides him to the narrow bed and they lay down together, his arm pulling her back against his chest and his breath unsteady against her ear.
They do not speak, but his sadness flows out in waves and she threads her fingers though his, touching her lips to his knuckles until sleep takes her away.
She is woken later by his voice, quiet in the dark. "Nyota?"
She rolls onto her back, difficult on the narrow bed, and looks into his face. He lies on his side, one arm curled beneath his head, watching her. His eyes gleam in the low light. She lifts a sleep-heavy arm and traces a clumsy path against his cheek. "Hey."
"You were sleeping."
His expression is anxious. "Among all that occurred today, I have only just realized that you might have died."
"We all might."
"No." He frowns. "I am referring to the fate of the Farragut."
The name carries its own grief and she takes a breath to steady herself. "Don't think about that."
"I must. You know why I assigned you to the Farragut; my reasoning was flawed, it was influenced by a desire to protect our professional reputations from unfair aspersions. But if you had not objected—" His voice fades. "If I had lost you too..."
"Shhh," she presses her lips to his. "Shhh."
"It's okay, I'm right here."
He pulls her hard against him, fingers tangling in her hair as he holds her close. And then he's seeking her mouth with raw, urgent kisses and she feels it too, a desperate need to touch life again, to beat back death's shadow and ground herself. They are on the edge, precarious between grief and despair, and their desire ignites from nothing to consume them both. It is primal and reckless and more intense than anything she has known; every touch is drawn in vivid color, a snatching of life from death's cruel hands, and when he climaxes it is fierce and heartbroken.
She feels tears on her cheeks and does not know who shed them.
Later, as they lay together, far from sleep, he speaks again. Her head rests against his chest and his hand is in her hair, keeping her near. "I spoke to my father today."
"So did I."
He stills. "About what?"
"You, of course." She traces a finger over the muscles in his chest and does not explain further. "We came to an understanding."
He is silent, then says, "I believe we also came to an understanding. He told me something unexpected." He shifts, pulling back until she lifts her head to look at him. His expression is intent. "He told me that he married my mother out of love." When she doesn't reply, he adds, "He had previously implied that their marriage was merely a matter of logic."
Nyota finds herself smiling, though it is bittersweet. "I suppose," she says, "it's logical to marry someone you love."
"Not always." His expression is serious and she shies away from the meaning in his words. He takes a breath. "Today, when I believed my death to be all but inevitable, I wished you to know..." He touches her face and she turns silver inside, a bright liquid sensation. "Taluhk nash-veh k'dular," he confesses, with more emotion than she's ever heard his language spoken. "K'hat'n'dlawa."
Her heart breaks and soars all at once, and she kisses him – his lips, his face, his jaw – then holds him tight and whispers, "K'hat'n'dlawa."
Half of my heart, half of my soul.
"That will always be so," he promises, his words stirring the hair at her temple and his arms like iron around her. "Whatever decisions the coming days must bring, wherever my duty must lie, I will cherish you above all others."
She does not answer, only holds him tighter, but she can already feel him slipping away.
4. Dahshaya – v. parting; the act or process of separating.
It is two days after their return to Earth when he asks her to meet him at Mubin's.
Neither of them order food; she drinks chai, he black tea. It is late and only a few patrons linger in the corners. Nyota is surprised that he would choose such a public place for this conversation, until she realizes that he is afraid his resolve might falter were they alone.
She understands his logic, even if she cannot admire it.
From across the small table he looks at her. His hands are in his lap and the steam of their drinks rises between them. "I have thought of little else for the past forty-eight hours," he confesses, "and I am forced to conclude that my duty lies with my people at this time."
She is aware of the waiter moving about, wiping down tables. Someone laughs. A door opens and closes.
He is watching her, waiting for her to speak, but she has nothing to say. His brow creases; he thinks she hasn't understood. "I have decided," he explains, "to resign my commission with Starfleet and assist in the rebuilding of my race on the new Vulcan colony."
The pain in her chest is no metaphorical ache, it is harsh and visceral and it's difficult to draw breath. She stares down at the table because her eyes are swimming and it's not fair to let him see her cry, even though she wants to. "I understand," she says, with control even a Vulcan might envy.
He reaches across the table to touch her hand. "Nyota..."
"Don't." She pulls away, taking perverse pleasure in the way his lips tighten. After a beat, she says, "When do you leave?"
He hesitates, as he always does when he's unsure what to say. "The first shuttle is scheduled to depart tomorrow morning."
It's so fast it's dizzying, and she realizes he's asked her there to say goodbye. Hurt makes her angry, and she's glad because it dries her tears and forces the knot clogging her throat down into her chest, making it easier to talk. She looks at him. "So this is it?"
He's uncertain. "I thought a protracted farewell would only increase the pain of parting."
She is not feeling rational, nor generous. She gets to her feet, the chair scraping loudly against the floor and drawing eyes toward them. He is watching her with intent focus. "Goodbye, then," she says. "I hope—" Her voice cracks and she stops speaking, balling her fingers into fists to keep from losing it completely.
He is awkward with her standing there and people watching. Nevertheless, in a soft voice, he says, "You know that I regret—"
"Yeah, me too," she snaps, this loss on top of so many others overwhelming. "I regret I ever met you!"
With that she snatches up her jacket and walks away, out the door and into the empty street. She intends to keep walking, but guilt and shame stop her only a few steps from the restaurant. A few minutes pass before he follows, and she knows he's taken the time to pay for their drinks. When he sees her waiting, he stops and she can see both relief and pain in his eyes. "Forgive me," he says. "I have hurt you."
"No, it's not your fault." She wraps her arms around herself because she can't wrap them around him. "I'm sorry. This is so hard."
"Yes." He takes a step closer, then stops with obvious effort. "I cannot turn my back on my people."
"If I only had my own wishes to consider, my decision would be different."
"If Nero had never existed..."
His face tightens. "Yes. Then everything would be as it should."
She knows she should walk away, not make it any more difficult, but he is right there in front of her and she aches – her whole body aches – for him. One last time, she tells herself as she lets his gravity draw her in, one last time...
He breathes her name as he takes her in his arms and she can't let go. The night stretches bitter and sweet before them, and rationality is impossible. There is no future, there is no past, there is only now.
They make love in his rooms, and it is shattering. His control is still fragile, raw from the loss of his mother, his world, and the specter of their parting yet to come; when his mind touches hers the jagged edges of his turmoil cut deep. His desire for Starfleet, for her, and for the thrill of exploration are pitted against the overwhelming weight of his duty to his father's people. Nero, she thinks, has stolen more than his mother and his childhood home. He has stolen his future. That truth makes her weep.
"K'hat'n'dlawa," he murmurs later, as they lay together, warm and naked in the dark. "I would ask something of you."
"The Enterprise will soon be embarking on her first mission, and you with her. When your duties permit, and when subspace communication is possible, would you write to me of what you discover?" His hand stills against her bare shoulder; his yearning is palpable. "And, if you can, of yourself."
It's so little, so inadequate. And so very wrong. She pictures him aboard the Enterprise, vital and alive, and knows his place is on the bridge, not trapped in the dull conformity of his broken, grieving people. She doesn't say as much, though she thinks he might sense it in her mind. All she says is, "Of course, if you'll do the same."
There's a telltale, considered pause before he says, "You should be aware that I will probably be required to take a mate and—"
"I know," she says. "You can spare me those details."
"Very well." Another pause, then, "Perhaps you could do likewise."
It takes her a moment to understand his assumption that she'll start another relationship. She supposes it's possible – likely, perhaps – though at the moment she can't imagine it at all. "You'll be a hard act to follow," she sighs, though she does not smile and neither does he.
After a while he says, "Earlier, you expressed regret. You implied that, had our relationship never developed, we would have been spared this additional sorrow. I have considered your words, and find that I cannot agree. Although prematurely ending, our relationship has enriched my life beyond measure. I cannot regret it, Nyota."
Ashamed of her words, she turns her head to kiss him. "I didn't mean it. I don't regret it either, I only regret that it has to end."
Something close to a smile touches his eyes, provoking a stab of longing; she's missed his smiles. "There is a poem that speaks to the point," he says, "by Alfred Lord Tennyson."
She thinks, then says, "Better to have loved and lost?"
"Yes," he agrees. "Sentimental, perhaps, but there is truth in it nonetheless."
They say nothing more until the sky begins to pale. It is an indecorously bright dawn, inappropriate and brash. They dress in silence and he does not offer her breakfast. They embrace for a final time, holding on until the waiting to say goodbye becomes too painful and she is forced to pull away. But he cannot let go and cups her face with his hand. "Rom-halan," he says softly. "Farewell, Nyota. I wish you peace and long life."
She nods, covering his hand with hers and lowering them until they hang in the space between them. Tears blur her vision as she runs her fingers from his wrist to his fingertips and then away. Her arm falls to her side and she watches his fingers curl into his palm. "I love you," she says. "And I hope you'll be happy."
She walks to the door on leaden legs and it opens with a harsh hiss. Outside, the light hurts her eyes. She pauses, blinks, and knows she shouldn't look back, but she can't help it. He's watching her with impassive features and his heart in his eyes. She can still feel his warmth and she thinks it would take two steps to be in his arms again. There's a moment where she hesitates, suspended, and then she turns away and starts walking.
She doesn't stop for a long time.
5. Vas – n. relief; something that alleviates pain or distress.
Because she can't bear to watch the shuttles leave, she leaves first. There's a line, but she doesn't mind because it's inside and far from the shuttle terminals. She hands over the coordinates and her card and says a silent farewell to the Academy. Gaila is not there to see her off and she feels it like a blow, again. She loved her time at the Academy, but those memories are sullied now and she thinks it will be years before she can look backward without tears. There is only the future now and her next transport will be from Mombasa to the fleet yards to officially sign on to the Enterprise, and from there the horizon is limitless...
She just wishes it didn't look quite so barren.
The heat hits her as soon as she leaves the building at the Central Transport hub in Mombasa. Humid, it envelops her like her mother's arms and she feels the intense relief of coming home.
And then it is gone, in a flash, as she thinks of Spock and how he will never again feel the heat of his home. How he will never show her the harsh mountains of Shi'Khar...
"Yoti!" Her father is waving to her from across the road and she can see his concern in the lines on his face.
She hefts her bag over her shoulder and braces herself; she has seen a world destroyed, her class decimated, and doesn't know what to say to her father. Luckily he all he wants is to hug her. She lets him. "I missed you, Mbuyu."
There are tears in his eyes, but he smiles despite them. "It's good to have you home, Yoti. It's good to see you well." He frowns then, and she knows he can see her distress. But all he says is, "Come, Mamako is making chapatti na sukuma wiki, just for you."
They drive home in silence. The familiar vista looks strange and alien, and she longs for the Enterprise, for the companionship of those who know – and she longs for Spock. She tips back her head and stares up at the cloudy sky; she wonders if she will feel the moment when he leaves Earth's orbit.
She has forty-eight hours to spend with her parents before she must report for duty. She spends most of the first twelve asleep, and when she wakes the first thing she thinks is 'he must have left by now'. She thinks she should feel his absence, that there should be some sensation of loss in her mind that has touched his so intimately, but there is not. Somehow, he is still there.
Over breakfast, her mother asks her about Vulcan. She tells her the facts, more or less, and her mother frowns and glances at her father with worried eyes. To their credit, neither ask her to refuse her posting to the Enterprise.
"I'll be an old lady when you get home," her mother laughs, though her expression is sad.
"You'll never be old," Nyota assures her.
That night, when she can't sleep, she goes outside to watch the stars. They are brighter here than in San Francisco and the air is warm. She thinks Spock would enjoy it, standing in the balmy night air looking at the stars. She misses him so much she can't breathe.
"Kuna nini?" Her mother asks from the doorway. "Unasikitika."
The language of her childhood is gentle in her ear, comforting. "I'm okay," she lies. "But it's strange being here, so different. I miss..."
It's been thirty-six hours since they parted.
She can hear her mother's footsteps cross the porch, the way she sighs as she sits down on the steps.
"I've lost a lot of friends," Nyota says as the stars blur through her tears. "It's hard to be here, safe at home, when they can never go home."
Her mother's disapproval is a click in the back of her throat, and her hand pats the wooden step in invitation. Nyota is too weary to resist and comes to sit at her mother's side. "What secrets have you been keeping, Nyota Uhura?"
She slides her glance sideways. "Secrets?"
Her mother takes hold of her chin, gently. "Who do you grieve so hard, hmm?" She presses her hand to Nyota's chest. "Who do you grieve here?"
She looks away, down at the paving beneath her feet. She hasn't told her parents about him, it was all so new and unexpected and she'd wanted to choose the right moment. It never came. "His name's Spock."
"It's Vulcan," Nyota says, looking up toward the city lights.
Her mother's sigh is a breath of dismay. "Oh Yoti..."
"He wasn't killed," she says quickly. "He was on the Enterprise when it happened." Barely. "But now he's had to return to his people, he had to leave Starfleet."
"And you?" her mother asks, a warm hand on her shoulder. "He had to leave you too?"
Nyota nods and can say no more. Her mother pulls her close and they sit and watch the stars together until dawn pales the western sky.
It is the start of Nyota's last day on Earth for five years.
She sleeps from dawn until noon and when she gets up she sees her PADD sitting on the chest of drawers under the window. It's switched off and she resists the urge to turn it on and check her messages. She already has her travel orders for the Enterprise and there's only one other person she wants to hear from...
The disappointment of there being no message from Spock would be equal to the pain of reading another farewell, and so she turns away from the PADD and spends the afternoon in her parent's pool. It's been too long since she swam and she does over fifty laps, all the time aware of her mother's worried gaze from the kitchen and her father sitting in the shade, pretending to doze.
That night there is a small party, a surprise send-off from her family and friends. She tries to hide the fact that these friends, who know nothing of Starfleet or Vulcan, know nothing of her anymore; she tries not to feel lonely in the crowd.
The next morning she dresses in her new uniform and says goodbye to her mother in the kitchen. They hug for a long time and she promises to call and write as often as she can. She tells her mother that she'll hardly know she's gone. It's a lie neither of them believe, but they let it stand between them because it makes the parting easier. Her father drives her to transport hub, kisses her on both cheeks and the forehead and does not hide the tears in his eyes. "Come home safe," he tells her as he lets her go.
"I will," she says, and means it.
This time, when she walks away, she doesn't look back. She takes her place in line, shows her travel orders, and leaves Earth in a stream of photons.
She still has not switched on her PADD and does not know there is a single, urgent message waiting to be read.
6. Hakau – v. to heal
The fleet yards are frenzied, as they always are, and as soon as she's off the transporter pad she's walking fast, her heartbeat rising. This, she thinks, is what she's been missing: the action, the pace, the sense of being at the heart of life.
She sees the shadow of Vulcan on every face, but there are no tears and there is no grief. Here, there is only action and commitment. Life goes on, because they make it go on. She feels energy returning to her sluggish blood as she hefts her duffle over her shoulder and weaves through Starfleet personnel hailing from a hundred nations and two dozen worlds, searching the boards for Enterprise's docking information. She finds it straight away, with a flare of pride.
Enterprise is her ship and she's earned her place on the bridge. They all have.
A shadow falls over her brightening spirits – his loss, she thinks, will always haunt her – but she walks on toward the sunlight. Kirk will be waiting, and McCoy. New friendships will be forged in this adventure of a lifetime. So focused is she on the future that she doesn't notice a glimpse of the past as it crosses her line of sight.
There are, after all, many science officers in the yards.
But one halts, standing still amid the flow.
She sees black hair, but it's the curious tilt of his head that stops her in her tracks. People shove past her, around her, obscuring her view. But she's sure that he's making his way toward her, pushing against the flow.
Her heart does not stutter or trip or flutter. It is entirely still. An announcement is made, the words stretch and blur and she does not comprehend their meaning because she can see him clearly now, weaving his way through a crowd she knows he must hate. And his eyes are fixed on her with a confused and urgent expression that she doesn't understand. But that's no surprise because she can't understand him at all; he's meant to be on Vulcan, but he's here, in his uniform, heading toward her with a precision of purpose that steals her breath. When he reaches her, he stops and they form a stubborn island around which everyone is forced to navigate.
"Why are you still here?" It's only when she hears her own waspish tone that she realizes how angry she is. They've done this already, they've parted and torn each other to pieces, and now he wants to do it all over again?
His brow twitches into a frown. She hates how much she loves the expression. "You are angry?"
She turns away, starts to walk. "I can't say goodbye to you again."
"Nyota." He seizes her arm, his fingers uncompromising on her bare skin. "You did not reply to my communication."
She stares, still angry. "What communication?"
"I sent you a message this morning." His gaze slips away, eyeing those flowing around them as if he's only now aware that they are on public view.
His touch is warm and she feels a flash of anxiety, recognizing it as his own uncertainty. It cools her, makes her look him in the eye. "I had my PADD switched off."
A flicker of disbelief crosses his face, bordering on exasperation. His fingers are still on her arm and he begins to walk, not letting go. "I have much to tell you and this is hardly the place."
"I have to report to the Enterprise," she objects as he diverts her from the main thoroughfare and into a quieter corridor.
"I will not detain you long." He puts his hand to a door pad and ushers her into a dark room. "Lights," he orders as the door slides shut.
Perhaps it's a briefing room, but she hardly notices. "What's going on?" she asks, trying to read the answers in his face.
"It would have been better if you had read my message," he says with a frown, releasing her arm. She misses the contact as soon as it's gone. "There is insufficient time to explain the complexity of the—"
"Spock!" she exclaims. "Tell me why you're still here."
"I am endeavoring to explain."
"Perhaps if you were to cease interrupting…?" His mouth tilts toward a smile, his eyes glitter. It's the old Spock, the one she knew before the world ended, and she feels like laughing. Or crying. "A full explanation will have to wait until another time," he decides. "Suffice to say, I have decided to listen to the advice of an old friend concerning my future."
And now her heart is stuttering and fluttering and everything else. Her voice is stretched tight. "What advice?"
"To, in this instance, dispense with logic and do what feels right."
Though his lips don't smile, his eyes are shining. "To pursue a career in Starfleet."
Her duffle hits the floor with a thud, her hands pressing over her mouth to stifle her shock. "For real?"
"Oh." She's never known a feeling like it; heartfelt relief colliding with absolute joy. She forgets to breathe, her vision blurs with happiness. "Oh my God..." And then her arms are around his neck, she's burying her face into his shoulder, and for a moment the great wave of her emotions washes her away.
"Forgive me," he says, his arms closing around her. "My indecision has caused you distress."
She shakes her head, pulling back and taking his face in her hands. There is only one question to ask and very little time. "Enterprise?"
"That is my hope, but..." He frowns. "I have yet to submit my application through the correct channels and the Enterprise is due to depart in less than—"
"Screw the correct channels!" Nyota exclaims, earning a surprised quirk of his eyebrow. "Go straight to Kirk."
There's an uneasy pause. "I doubt I would be his preferred choice for Chief Science Officer."
"Are you kidding?"
"It is hardly the time for humor."
Ignoring his jibe, she says, "Look, I don't know about Chief Science Officer, but I know for a fact that he's got no First Officer."
Spock's gaze turns sharp. "Is that so?"
"Yes, it is." She releases her hold on his face and takes a step back. "I'll even give you a character reference, if you need it."
He doesn't answer but there is that ironic smile again, curling the corners of his mouth and brightening his eyes.
With difficulty, she resists the impulse to kiss him. Instead she picks up her bag and slings it over her shoulder. "We depart at 1400. Don't be late, Commander."
He lifts an eyebrow, accepting her challenge, and watches her as she walks back out into the corridor. She can't hide her grin, it comes from far too deep inside, and she doesn't care who sees it because he is back, he is smiling, and she has no doubt that he'll take his place aboard the Enterprise.
It feels like sunrise, the start of a new day, and she is lighter than air as she reports for duty at docking gate E and takes her first step aboard the Enterprise as the new Chief Communications Officer.
Spock, however, leaves it until the very last moment and she is starting to worry when he at last makes his appearance on the bridge, emerging from the turbolift with his customary purposeful stride. He spares her a single look as he passes, a heated promise that provokes a highly unprofessional grin. She's forced to look away, though she can feel his presence like sunshine against her skin.
When Kirk gives the order and Sulu engages the engines, she risks a glance in Spock's direction. His attention is fixed straight ahead, though when he feels her gaze on him he darts a look toward her and offers a smile only she would recognize. Then the stars blur as they accelerate into warp and she tries to imagine this moment, this beginning, without him. She fails.
He's not on the bridge when her shift ends, but is sequestered with the captain. She eats alone in the mess hall with a stack of personnel reports to review; the communications team is vast and it's management is not a little daunting. It will take some time to get to know them all.
When she's finished her meal she picks up her PADD and heads toward the officers' quarters, tired and eager for a shower – even if it's only the sonic variety. But as she rounds the corner she sees the captain approaching, Spock at his side. It's a strange encounter, but she doesn't pause as she walks toward them. Instead she studies the two men. Kirk walks with his usual swagger, gesturing as he talks. Spock, hands behind his back, is listening intently. Neither have seen her yet. She slows, but does not stop.
It's Spock who notices her first, of course, his gaze meeting hers without any apparent change of expression. Nyota, however, can see tension tighten the line of his shoulders. She braces herself as Kirk, noticing his First Officer's distraction, sees her too. He smiles and she doesn't miss the mischief in his eyes. Neither, she imagines, does Spock.
"Lieutenant Uhura." Kirk's greeting is expansive. "Here we all are again."
She slows to a halt in the quiet corridor, the two men joining her; they are like chalk and cheese, she thinks, each the inverse of the other. "Captain," she says, keeping it formal. "Commander."
"Lieutenant," Spock says, back straightening.
Kirk gestures between himself and Spock. "We've been talking shift patterns and reporting schedules."
"It sounds fascinating."
"Like you wouldn't believe."
There's a pause. Nyota doesn't look at Spock, he doesn't look at her. Kirk smiles and claps Spock on the arm. "So, I guess I'll leave you two kids alone."
Spock's lips tilt somewhere between irritation and exasperation. "Captain—"
"You're off duty, Mr. Spock," Kirk says, turning his smile on Uhura. "Lieutenant."
And with that he strolls away and they are alone in the empty corridor. Spock keeps his hands behind his back, but she knows that he wants to touch her. She can see the desire in his eyes. He glances once along the corridor, after Kirk, then says in a low voice, "The First Officer's quarters are substantially larger than standard officer's accommodation."
Nyota smiles. "I'll be there in ten."
"Do not be late."
She is there in five and he is waiting as the doors opens. Like her he is already out of uniform, and she understands the importance of this divide between public and private. They will have two lives aboard the ship, running in parallel and never allowed to cross; outside the privacy of their quarters they are colleagues and officers, within they are friends and lovers.
He walks toward her, unhurried despite the kindling fire in his eyes. When he touches her, he touches her face and not her hand; a human, not a Vulcan gesture. She wonders how the two are balanced in his mind, now that he has made this choice. "It has been fifty-six hours since we parted at the Academy," he says in that quiet voice she has grown to love so much, "and I do not believe a single one has passed in which you have not been upmost in my thoughts."
"I missed you too," she says, stepping into his arms and pulling him close. He feels solid and warm, and she sighs as his arms wrap around her. "I wanted to show you the stars from the porch of my parent's house. The night was so warm, I thought you'd like it there."
"I believe I would," he says, and though neither of them say it she knows they are both thinking of his lost home.
She kisses him, to ease the moment, and realizes it is the first time their lips have touched since the terrible morning they parted. There is a gentleness at first, but it soon succumbs to the heat that flares between them. His hands are quick to find the bare skin beneath her shirt, his mouth eager on her lips, and there is an urgency in him she recognizes as an aftershock of loss. Nevertheless, it is the first time since Vulcan that they make love with more joy than grief. Together, they are carving happiness out of catastrophe. When their bodies join and his mind opens, she feels the depth of his passion, unfaltering despite all that he has endured, and she knows that they have won. Nero hasn't destroyed them after all.
Later, they lay in silence and watch the stars stream past the window. There is no sensation of movement and yet she can feel their headlong rush toward the future as if the wind was in her hair. It feels right.
His fingers trace the lines of her face, their telepathic bond lingering. "It is right," he says aloud. "I believe this is where we are meant to be."
Outside, the heavens blur as the Enterprise speeds through the void.
Like a shooting star, Nyota thinks. Our star, bright and fierce with hope, streaking toward a glittering horizon...
nash-veh k'dular¬ – lit.
I grieve with thee (formal).
Taluhk nash-veh k'dular – lit. I cherish thee; I love you.
K'hat'n'dlawa – n. (lit.) Half of my heart and soul; beloved.
Thanks so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed the story! :)