"For the Count"

Genre: Romance
Rating: T
Time Frame: ST XI
Characters: N. Uhura, Spock

Summary: The first had been an indulgence; the second a beginning. The third had been an assurance, while the fourth one had healed. The fifth was a promise . . . Five memorable kisses is Nyota's life.

Notes: There's a big ol' mush warning here, - all for the near and dear Jade_eyes. Oh my goodness, girl, but you have to know that your fluff spoils me . . . I'm returning the favor here. Thanks for the time spent looking over this for me, and for the suggestions that made it . . . well, long.

Disclaimer: I have burger king toys . . . and they talk. Who needs anything more?


.

"For the Count"
by Mira-Jade

.

The first kiss had been a wistful indulgence.

It had been a long night, one where their studies once again ran over long past curfew. Like a black and white film gentleman of old, he had insisted on escorting her back to her dorm, and her scant refusals had fallen away as they headed out with their arms loosely entwined. The touch, while merely chivalrous, was something that spoke of the friendship that they had worked hard to develop together – one, she could admit at least to herself, that she had come to cherish.

It had been raining, and instead of keeping to the walkways that would keep them dry, they cut out across the academy green. It was dark at this hour – darker than normal, even, with the storm cloud sky covered in splotching shades of violet and spilled ink black. The falling rain streaked the world in fading silver, coating everything in a tinkling pattern of pitter patters that felt heavenly on her skin.

She loved the rain.

Spock, meanwhile, was eying the falling drops with every sort of distaste. After two years of classes, and one year as his TA, she had become adept at reading him – and right now he seemed to glare at the cascading waters in a way that dared them to fall anyway near him.

Conscious of her movements, she ran her fingers down from where she had looped them around his arm to tangle with his hand, hoping to impart some of her joy and contentment over to him. After countless small mental brushes of the same nature, she was almost able to feel shadows of his thoughts in return – and now, surprisingly, she picked up on a contentment running through him that was deep enough to rival even hers.

It filled a part of her with a warm glow, one that she had been hard-put to fight after a time.

She squeezed her hand once over his, and did not let go when it became apparent that he wasn't going to either. After a moment of thought, she gave into a whole evening's temptation when running her thumb back and forth over the top of his hand. A whole night having just been spent watching those same hands work always ended in her fighting off a whole slew of silly little thoughts the whole time through. (Things like shrinking distances between them – the accidental brush of her hand against his sleeve when she pointed out a flaw in a calculation, or the almost tangible scent of him when he leaned over her shoulder to read off her PADD . . . all punctuated by looks that lasted longer than they should, by seconds only.)

Mindful of his perceptions, she stayed those thoughts as she always did, nothing lingering in the end but a little pang that she sadly hoped would fade in time. After three years, it was an empty hope, but it was still a hope nonetheless . . .

He drew up short next to her, staring at her in a way he did only his most baffling equations . . . ones that challenged his decidedly brilliant mind in the moments before he figured them out.

"You enjoy the rain?" he had asked softly.

She smiled widely, thoughts banished as she twirled a little next to him in order to more acutely feel the drops. "We only had seasonal rains at home," she remarked in answer to his question. "Those were so few and far between that we learned to cherish them every time they came."

"It never rained in Shi'Kahr," Spock murmured, the inflections in his tone suggesting that he was glad that it was so.

"That's a pity," she told him, darting her eyes over at him surreptitiously. It was nearing midnight, and the whole of the lights illuminating the campus had dimmed to hardly there flickers, further obscured by the rain's gentle insistence. The odd play of sharp shadows, and sultry mid tones on his face was a pleasing thing to watch, even more pleasing so when she observed the way the rain clung to his long lashes and trickled almost lovingly over the high curve of his ears.

She drew her eyes away once they lingered longer than was necessary on his lips – noticing the way the drops collected and gleamed there with something like envy.

Not wanting those thoughts to transfer to him, she had gently taken her hand from his under the pretense of sweeping her rain soaked bangs out of her eyes. He had watched her movements out of the corner of his eyes, that same kindling intensity there that she was just understanding how to read.

Seconds later, he paused mid stride and gently lifted his hand to push a few wayward strands of her ruined pony tail behind her ears for her. The gesture was something oddly human – tender, and intimate even . . . and it tingled at a secret place somewhere behind her heart.

His hand lingered, for just a moment, but it was a moment that spoke volumes.

When she expected him to draw away, he surprised her, instead trailing his first two fingers over past her temples, to the high curve to her cheek. There was something softly reverent to his touch, as if he were touching a rare artifact - something infinitely dear that would crumple under the slightest pressure from him. Slightly, as if anything more would scare him away, she leaned into the barely there caress with a sigh. When the whole of his hand pressed against the side of her face, she imagined that it just may have been one of the most intimate touches she had ever felt.

She reached up to lace her hand over his, holding him to her, at the same moment when he dipped his face slightly towards hers. He seemed to loom in her vision – impossibly large, even more encompassing than the rain around them. He hovered there for a moment, before her hand tightened over his with permission – a yes, finally sort of feeling that reverberated from her mind to his, and then he kissed her gently.

The only thought making its way through the haze that had suddenly claimed her mind was soft. He kissed her without any apparent hurry, simply tracing the edges of her lips over and over again with a certain sort of tenderness to the way he was memorizing her. He tasted like rain and something more spicy underneath – something all completely him that she soon decided that she can become completely addicted to. He had taken to running his thumb along her jaw, as if he appreciated how well her face complemented and fit with his, before reaching back to tangle in the ruined remains of her hair. Her own hands had come to hook around his neck as if to hold her to him with a tender sort of desperateness that should have taken her by surprise.

It completely took her breath away until there was just the rain cold at her back, and him warm against her chest, and the scent of him swirling in her nose, and fireworks going off behind her closed eyes . . .

It is the end of a perfect moment when he drew away, and gently rested his forehead against hers, as if unwilling to completely give up contact. She pressed into him with a contented sort of sigh, not willing to yet break back to reality.

Tomorrow she can think of the repercussions of this – rules, and no fewer than seven regulations broken in less than twenty seconds, and careers, and what ifs. But for now, there is something bright and heady and warm running through her veins, and she is quite unwilling to part from it just yet.

.

.

The second kiss had been a beginning.

At first, she had thought that it wouldn't be so – after all, she had dreaded going back to his office the next day, sure that she'd be met by professionalism and clinical politeness. She had formed her defenses in the mirror that morning – she had been high on the moment, with the headiness of the rain, and the nearness of him, and not enough sleep, and too much coffee, and . . .

. . . plain and simple (and surprisingly intense) affection. Something of which she would not tell him of at all.

She had made arguments to the rules as her booted footsteps rang in the halls of his building.

Forbidden relationships between students and teachers – how convenient he was no longer her teacher. The gray areas dealing with relationships between professors and aides – she would switch her aideship, and even if she didn't - she'd like to see anyone try to argue that a close attachment would lead to him being biased in any way. Either way, she was graduating in just a few short months, and was aiming at a position aboard the Enterprise . . . a ship that he was most conveniently going to be stationed to . . .

At the very worst, they could wait to figure out . . . whatever this was between them.

That thought immediately evoked a deep swell of feeling inside that literally made her nauseous. There was a hitch to her step as she drew up short.

A moment, and then she was composed again. As he surely would be as well.

When she made it to his office – a full four minutes later than she normally would be, she found Spock at the window, looking at the still lingering silver gray sky beyond. He had the glass panels open, and the slight breeze brought in the cleansing scent of rain and a far off sea wind.

His work was spread out over his desk with an uncharacteristic disorder. Nothing having really been touched since the night before.

Maybe, just maybe, she wasn't the only one completely taken away by all of this.

She braced herself for the worst, anyway, and opens her mouth to begin her arguments.

"Nyota," he stopped her, and the simple inflection of her name on his lips – Nyota, not Cadet or Uhura, hit at something deep inside of her that she had tried hard all morning to repress.

Just like that her carefully construed plans were torn asunder.

And yet, it didn't matter when he turned to her a moment later, such a conflicted look in the deep sepia of his eyes that even she could see, and said, "I find it necessary to inform you that I spent most of the night in thought."

She steeled herself.

"Sleep, it seemed, was fleeting and an altogether useless endeavor to begin with," he murmured. When his eyes met hers, they were darker than she's ever seen. "While I can recite many reasons for this to not work," - this is said with an unsure modulation on the word, one she hears as a linguist and embraces - "I can also cite many as to how I would . . . wish for it to." Another unsure stress on the word. "If you are amiable to the idea, I would like to present both cases to you, and let you decide. I shall honor your decision, and can assure you that I will look at you with no judgment in either case."

If she didn't pride herself on her professionalism, she may have melted right then and there.

As it was, she thought that she was doing pretty good when she merely walked around his desk to join him over by the window. With a small smile, she reached out and gently took his hands in hers, letting her emotions flow untempered to him. A moment later, he moved his hands slightly higher on her wrists to the fabric of her uniform, looking decidedly off centered.

It was a look she could get used to when his eyes darkened even further like that – turning to an almost complete shade of black that was all the space between stars and the pause between syllable and sound.

When she stood on the tips of her toes to kiss him this time, she knew that there would be nothing to blame it on later – no rain or late hour or any silly excuse that she had been using earlier. When she pressed her lips against his it was with a firm sort of emotion that spoke of sealing deals and childhood pacts.

I'm in, she thought as she raised her hand, cupping the side of his face much as he had done to her the night before – fingering the high curve of his cheekbones, and the arrogant thrust of his jaw, before settling on the exotic curve to his ear and lingering there. There was a marked difference in this kiss – all explorations and beginnings, where last night had been revelations and wonderment.

When she pulled away, her breathing was slightly faster, causing her pulse to begin thrumming violently in the long sweep of her neck. He passed the tips of his finger over it with something like reverence, a curious glow lighting his eye. His touch lingered there, pressing in with a fascination when he watched it leap as he moved his other hand to thread through her hair again.

She pulled him back down to her before he could say "fascinating", and smiled at the surprise on his face before moving on to more meaningful things – practice making perfect, and all that.

She was happier than she had been in a long time, having filled an emptiness inside that she didn't even know that she was lacking until just the night before.

.

.

The third kiss had been an assurance.

It had been a late evening in his quarters, one where he was pouring over lines of code and she was lounging lazily on the bed. She didn't expect him to turn the lights out any time soon, nor did she ask him to. But she did prop herself up on a pillow and lean over to observe his work with a light sort of smile.

"How's it going?" she said, the annoyance in her tone more at Kirk ruining her evening more than it was any real vexation over Spock's single minded attention when it came to some things.

If the academic board didn't skin Kirk alive, then she was going to . . .

"If you are inquiring as to my progress," he said, his tone of voice indicating that he was only half paying attention to her, "I can update your knowledge of the situation by saying that I have found the break in the loop. What I have not yet found is the root of the intercepting command." There was a small line to his voice that she had came to know as annoyance through the years.

Her eyes narrowed. "So he did cheat?"

"To be certain," Spock muttered. There was a long silence between them, only broken by the small chirps of the computer as Spock moved through the layers of encryption.

It was surprising when Spock asked her a moment later, "How well is your acquaintance with Cadet Kirk?"

She looked up at him with an odd look in her eyes, trying to decipher just where his question was leading. While normally he was near impossible to read, he was even more so when he actively sought to shield his intentions from her. And yet, she was versed in languages – be they spoken or unspoken, and the tight corners to his eyes and the monotonous inflection of his tone spoke of an annoyance of some kind.

Her eyes narrowed. It was not an annoyance so much as it was an aggravation, a vexation that almost bordered on . . .

Ah.

Subtly, she moved closer to him, sitting upright, and going as far to lean her head on his shoulder. After a few months, he had grown accustomed to the frequency of her touches, and the intimacy of them. Whether it was something inside of him that was human and suppressed, or a reaction to the logicality of securing her comfort, and thus his own, she was grateful for it.

"Kirk is . . ." she paused, pondering over the right word. "Kirk is . . . one of the most arrogant, aggravatingly flippant excuses for a cadet that I have ever met." And well . . . that much was true. "And yet, he's also brilliant. He's street smart, with an eye for tactics and negotiation if he can stop chasing skirt enough to put his mind to it," here her voice layered with a more personal irritation that she hoped she screened out enough.

Hoped, anyway.

Spock turned to her rather sharply, and this time there was no mistaking the tone of his voice. "He has pursued you romantically?"

She fought the urge to wince. She was trying to reasonably explain Kirk's character here, not get him expelled by an irked superior officer. . . . sometimes, she understood the gray areas of the regulations that they sidestepped so very well.

"Technically," she hedged. He hadn't pursued her romantically so much as he had in other ways, but . . .

Spock's expression was not softening.

"He . . . he sees me as a pretty girl who said no. I'm a challenge to him – a rare girl who won't even give him her name, let along fall into his arms. I am nothing more."

"I see," his tone was still hard. Harder than she had ever heard it.

She pressed tighter against him, raising her hands to massage the tension out of his shoulders gently as she corralled her happiest thoughts of him – adoration, peace, comfort . . . and something more, even – and pushed them to the lingering shadow of his mind at the back of hers; a side effect of being so close so often to a telepathically inclined being.

"Nothing more," she repeated, looking into his eyes. The harsh lines about them were fading, just slightly. "Kirk, at heart, is a good man, please remember that. He just . . . has some refining about the edges that needs to be done."

"A refining can begin with learning that cheating is unacceptable." His voice was firm, but it had lost it's harsher edge. She relaxed just slightly, comfortable with the thought that any punishment that Kirk would receive would be from academic justice, and not a more personal vendetta.

There was still something odd about his expression though, something off about the stiff set of his hands . . .

Understanding hit her, and she leaned into him to mumble against his shirt. "As if I could be interested anyway," she whispered softly, tenderly, "when I have you right here waiting for me." Once again, she found his presence in her mind, and thought along with her words, willing him to understand her words as the absolute truth.

He relaxed slightly, and did so even further when she turned his head so that she could kiss him, the hard press of her mouth against his an assurance as much as anything else. There was a new intensity to their embrace, but she didn't mind it so much when he kissed her like that, his lips a bit unforgiving and his touch a bit possessive.

It was the sort of thing that could make a girl giddy. As it was, she was smiling stupidly when he finally pulled away in order to turn back to work.

Twenty minutes later, he found the code Kirk had planted, and looked almost smug about it.

With an amused roll of her eyes, Nyota congratulated him, and asked him if he could turn the light off now.

.

.

The fourth kiss had healed.

In the wake of Nero's destruction and the return to earth, the whole of the remaining cadets had been swept into a whirlwind of paperwork and litigation.

She hadn't realized before how much red tape went into saving lives.

Between graduations, and promotion ceremonies, and assembling the team that would be ranking just beneath her - she had hardly seen Spock in the weeks that followed. It struck something deep inside her as painful, knowing that this was a time when he needed her more than most, even if he was silent about it. He himself was found in much of the same duties swamping her - on top of meetings with the Vulcan high council - which he was neither required nor particularly wanted to attend.

She could not blame him, but she could worry for him in the privacy of her own mind.

Two weeks before the Enterprise was set to fly again, Spock met her outside of her dorm room – one she kept to herself now, and hated the silence in it for – with a haunted look to his eyes that she had not seen since the day in the transporter room.

"I have requested and have been granted a personal leave for one week," he started on a low mutter. "The idea had been to . . . center myself before entering a command position again, and yet . . . I now find myself unsure of where to go."

There was a assortment of emotions against the bond that had grown rather drastically in the days since Vulcan's destruction. While not a true bond, she could feel his bewildered pain and uncertainty . . . Vulcan would have always been a place for rest and mental peace, and it was gone now.

The word gone echoed from his thoughts to hers, pinching at something deep that was getting easier and easier to name.

Furiously, she racked her mind for places on Earth that would be an easy rest, and immediately she had an idea. "Have you ever been to Europe?" she asked. "Little slow paced cities . . . galaxy renowned art . . . cafés where you can try to figure out my addiction to espresso again . . ." she laughed lightly, reaching out her hands to tenderly rest over his shoulders out of habit as much as anything else.

He was looking at her intently, perhaps out of her assumption that she would drop everything and come with him rather than the suggestion itself.

"You would accompany me?" he asked.

"Of course," she said. "If you would have me." There was an unspoken always that was starting to linger on the edge of her words more often than not as of late.

He said nothing, but the unnatural stiffness to his shoulders seemed to start to trickle away as he wrapped his arms loosely around her. He leaned his forehead to rest against hers as she gently tried to conjure up thoughts of hope and contentment, and push them over to him.

His arms tightened gently around her, her only sign that he had felt and appreciated her gift.

"Paris?" she suggested next. The city had been declared a historic site, and much had been preserved from centuries ago, catering to the historian and artist both – and, of course, to love struck couples the whole galaxy 'round.

Even as thoughts of moonlit balconies and coffée on the Seine assaulted her, she told him, "We can stay just outside the city, where it's quiet. And there's enough of the arts there to keep even you satisfied, I think." She tried to keep her voice calm, and not let some of the excitement she was feeling through.

There was the beginning rumble of a chuckle that never made it past his lips. "And of course, your cafés and your moonlight."

She smiled sheepishly at him.

"It is acceptable," he said slowly, and she was aware of a certain weariness about him then.

Knowing that he had probably not slept in days, she gently drew him into her room, and sat down on the edge of the bed without a word. He followed her equally as silent, and when she tugged on his uniform to get him to lie down next to her, he did not protest. She fit around him perfectly, tucked in against him, with her hands threaded through his from where they were sandwiched between them. If she was grasping too tightly, he said not a word for it.

She could feel him breathe against her neck, could feel his heart beat slower and slower at her hip, and is thankful for a minute when he relaxed completely against her.

When she kissed him gently, for all of the world, it felt like healing.

.

.

The fifth kiss was a promise.

They had been celebrating the conclusions of peaceful negotiations with the planet of Alveria. The evening had been spent with ceremony after ceremony that started out in full dress uniform, and ended as a wonderful excuse for her to wear an evening gown that was gathering dust in her closet and decidedly not regulation(being a gift from Gaila, and all that).

She had the distinct satisfaction of drawing Spock's eye for precisely seven and a half seconds longer than would be considered appropriate by social standards. Kirk, who's eyes had snapped away earlier in a sense of acute self preservation, had the great honor of elbowing his first officer none too gently in order to needlessly(effectively) snap his head out of the clouds.

He had chuckled good naturedly as Spock had claimed the first dance with her, his stare still staining her cheeks a deep shade of red that stood out against the ivory material of her gown. The heavy fabric fell down her legs in accentuating drapes, kicked up and around as he effortlessly led her into an easy rhythm that was a tad more alien than a waltz. She remembered him teaching her the steps months earlier back at the academy – her mercilessly stepping all over his feet, and his patient indulgence to her butchering of the art.

The end of their dance led to them finding a balcony just past the hallway threading around the ballroom. The fresh night air, heavy with the promise of rain, felt perfect around them.

Above, clouds were gathering as a thin sheen of an almost gauze like glimmer amongst the thick band of stars dotting the night sky. The almost transparent clouds were streaked with nearly see-through bands of violet and deep pine green, glowing almost silver and pink in places where lightning was gathering.

It was beautiful - one of the most beautiful sights she has seen on their travels thus far.

She eyed the spectacle with a smile, drunk on heady things like the thickness of the stars above – close enough to touch and hold, all combined with the whole of the rain just starting to mist gently against them. Softly, she let loose a deep breath that puffed as mist on the air. "It is so lovely," she whispered.

Spock eyed the gathering clouds above them. "It is indeed a fascinating conundrum - one caused by a hight quantity of xathlidine gases in the air, and the quadric formation of the base layers in the water; resulting in -"

"Spock," she interrupts gently, a small laugh loitering on the edges of her voice, "it's beautiful. Shall we leave it at that?"

He tilts his head as he stared at her, his expression oddly soft, his eyes unusually dark. "I agree that it is aesthetically pleasing."

There is a wry twist to his lips that almost constitutes a smile, something soft and lilting that lets her know that he isn't only talking of atmospheric phenomenons. She can feel the weight of his gaze in the heavy sweep of it over her face, lingering down her neck and over the sways of the damp fabric of her dress. She traced watermarks at her side with her fingertips, weighted down under the intensity of his eyes.

The rain – a barely there mist before, was now becoming more insistent, pelting against them with little pitter patters that splattered against their skin. Through the barely there mists of the storm clouds above, the stars twinkled teasingly at her, glinting on the drops that started to coat them with a renewed vigor.

When her mind was transported back to that first kiss, so long ago, she is not surprised when his is too. The warm feel of his hands cupping her face was as welcome as the kiss that he brushed against her lips in an exact mirror of the one in her memory. While the wonder was still the same – something tangible that tingled in her fingertips, the intimacy was deeper, intensified by all that had happened between them until she was tracing little words against his lips - pressing the thoughts into his mind like little secrets that she trusted him to catch and keep safe behind a hushed whisper.

In the end, it was not the enticing mix of his kiss and the rain that did it – it was the rush of white hot heat about her mind, combined with the telltale press of his fingers against the sensitive points of her face. While not a true mind meld, there was enough of her mind opened to his – and his in return to hers – for her to read his thoughts and feelings like an open book.

The thoughts she knew were there before, were cherished and treasured held close to her like this – smoldering embers that were fanned and flamed to life upon coaxing.

A moment later she breathed in deep as the connection flickered and faded to something soothing in the back of her mind once again. Her forehead was resting against his chest as she took in deep breaths to steady herself, the coolness of the rain at her back doing nothing to sooth the heat running through her veins like flames. Her hands were fisted in the front of his uniform, while his hand tangled one at the ends of her once immaculately styled hair, and the other at the low curve of where her skin met the dip of her dress.

His breathing was increased, and his eyes were glazed over in a way that thrilled her to her toes.

When she reached up to kiss him one last time, a thank-you as much as anything else, there was a promise lingering behind the touch. Thoughts of yesyesyesyes, and love you now, and then, and in years to come, and ever – sentimental things that will not yet escape her lips, but will linger in her touch and in the small places of her mind.

A moment, and then he kissed her in return.

Around them, the rain continued to fall.

FIN

~MJ