Chapter One: Connotations

Disclaimer: I don't own or profit from these characters! I just eavesdrop on them!

Tiny warning: Rated T—sexy without being graphic. (This story stands on its own, but in my timeline, it follows "Slips of the Tongue" and "The Visitor.")

The evening has turned chilly and the rain has stopped by the time the last student finishes his language tutorial and signals that he is ready to leave the lab. Nyota Uhura glances up briefly as the student—a first year cadet named Yee or Lee…Nyota mentally scolds herself for not remembering-scoots his chair to the console and waves on his way out the door. From her own console where she has been researching a subset of Davorian dialect for an advanced xenolinguistics class, Nyota keys up the student console, checks to make sure the tutorial is finished, and closes down the computer.

She turns her own computer off, too, and palms the switch near the door to turn out the lights in the lab. At the far end of the hall she can see that the light to Spock's office is on, and instead of heading for the stairs, she goes in the other direction.

He is, indeed, still in his office. As soon as she places her hand on the doorframe and looks in, he sits back in his chair where he has been writing on a PADD and meets her gaze.

"The last student just left," she says. Spock neither nods nor speaks, but Nyota doesn't expect him to. She understands his aversion to commenting on the obvious, and though she occasionally teases him about it—"It wouldn't kill you to be polite"—she knows that sort of social interaction feels unnatural to him.

"I'm starving," she says. "Could I interest you in joining me for something in the cafeteria?"

Nyota watches him carefully as he places the PADD on the desk and stands. Lately their easy camaraderie has been colored with confusing overtones that leave her feeling unsteady, as though everything they say is fraught with too many meanings.

An invitation to a meal, for example, is no longer a simple commentary about being hungry. Now it is weighted with something else that Nyota cannot quite name.

Ever since Spock's trip home to Vulcan over the school break, his demeanor toward her has changed, though if she were pressed to explain how, she would be at a loss. He seems both more wary and more drawn to her, more careful with her when others are around but less formal when they have quiet moments alone in the lab.

Twice she is convinced that he initiated physical contact—brushing her hand when they passed each other one morning while opening the lab, and another time letting his fingers meet her own as he handed her a stylus. Both times she had felt something akin to an electric shock jump across the contact, and with it, an image of herself and a sense of perspective that left her dizzy.

She hates feeling shy around him now, but there it is. Part of her is hoping he will turn down her invitation and she can relax with a quick bowl of soup before retiring to her dorm and a hot bath.

He is silent for another moment and Nyota is about to turn on her heel and head out when he finally says, "The word you mean is hungry, and as I have not eaten today, I will be happy to join you for a meal."

Nyota laughs then and steps back into the hall to wait for him. She feels a bubble of relief that he is joking with her—perhaps she has been reading too much into their interactions lately.

When he closes the office door behind him and matches her step in the hall, she darts a quick look up at his profile and says, "The word I mean is not hungry but famished— and if you haven't eaten all day, you are, too."

Without pausing, Spock tilts his head down at her and she sees amusement in his eyes. She knows what is coming next—or at least, she hopes she does. It is the kind of verbal jousting they both enjoy.

"I am neither starving nor famished—and neither are you," he says, touching her elbow to steady her as she takes her first step down the stairs and reaches for the handrail. Again she is surprised—this sort of casual touch is new, and she isn't sure what it means. That he is more comfortable, certainly, but why now?

Something has happened. He has said little about his recent trip home except that his parents were well and he was able to take care of some necessary business. She doesn't want to intrude on his privacy, but if the opportunity arises to find out more-

A few stray rain drops fall as they make their way across the quad. The windows of the cafeteria throw large rectangles of light onto the wet lawn and sidewalk, but despite clearly being open, most of the serving lines are dark. Nyota picks up a tray inside the door and makes her way to the one line still staffed with servers. There the only options available are meat and carbohydrate casseroles. Even the salad bar is empty.

"Well," she says apologetically, "I've dragged us here for nothing." She replaces the tray in the stack near the door and without speaking they head outside.

"The deli near the faculty housing does not close," Spock says, and again he touches Nyota's elbow, this time to indicate the direction they should walk. He lowers his hand almost immediately, but it is enough for Nyota to feel that strange spark, and with it, an image of herself as if she were seeing herself from above, the top of her head angled back and the shimmer from the streetlamp rainbowing in her hair.

With a start she realizes that she is seeing herself as Spock sees her. Does he sense her thoughts as well? She flushes.

The deli is a small, nondescript corner of a local food market, outfitted with four or five tables pushed against the wall. Spock and Nyota select vegetable wraps and drinks from a large refrigerated unit and make their way to the farthest table. Both eat for a few minutes without talking, and then Nyota says, "For someone who is neither famished nor starving, you look like you are enjoying your meal."

Spock does not answer right away and Nyota can tell that he is considering how to phrase what he says next. When he is being playful, he often gets that particular look on his face—not as intense as when he is calculating an equation or reading a difficult text, but a look that belies the care he takes in everything he says.

"Enjoy is too strong a word," he says, and Nyota laughs. She holds up her own slightly limp sandwich and wrinkles her lip.

"Checkmate," she says.

They finish and pay quickly and head back across campus. The walkway leads straight ahead to the student dorms, with two smaller paths leading to the faculty housing nearby. Nyota pauses at the intersection of the three paths and is starting to tell Spock goodnight when a loud clap of thunder is the only warning of a tremendous downpour.

Instantly they are both soaked. The rain is cold and miserable, and Nyota can't help but laugh at Spock—he looks as uncomfortable as a cat.

"Go on!" she says, and she reaches out and gives him a nudge towards his apartment. "I'll be okay!"

She turns to run toward her dorm on the far side of the quad.

Before she can, she feels a warm bracelet circle her wrist and she looks up in surprise. Spock pulls her toward the faculty apartments and in a moment they are standing together under the front door awning.

They are both shivering as he keys in the building code and pushes open the door. His apartment is the first one on the left and he quickly opens the door and steps aside for Nyota to enter.

Every time in the past that Nyota has been in Spock's apartment, she has been uncomfortably hot, but tonight she is glad for the heat. She slips off her wet boots and then perches on the sofa, her arms crossed and her feet tucked underneath her, as Spock flicks on lights and heads to the bathroom at the end of the hall and returns with towels for them both.

For a few moments they are occupied with wiping the dripping rain from their faces, and then Nyota pulls the band from her hair and shakes it loose so that she can towel dry it. She can hear Spock in the kitchen heating water in the kettle, and when he returns in a few minutes, she takes the mug of tea from him gratefully.

He leaves her again and goes back down the darkened hall. Nyota hears him opening drawers or doors—he must be changing into dry clothes—so she is not surprised when he returns in a long-sleeved singlet and loose pants.

She places her mug carefully on the table beside the sofa and folds the towel she has been using to dry her hair. Spock is standing near the sofa quietly, and when she looks up, Nyota holds the towel out to him.

"I think the rain is stopping," she says. She can, in fact, still hear the rain hitting the window, but she feels that she is intruding in Spock's private space in a way that is making him uncomfortable—he no longer looks amused or playful. Instead, his face is a blank—his eyes are shadowed by the lamp and her inability to read his expression makes her nervous.

She stands up then, intending to pick up her boots and slip them back on at the door, but Spock takes a step toward her and she hesitates.

"You are shaking," he says.

She smiles and says, "I'm just cold," and then as she watches, Spock reaches out his left hand and touches her upper arm. Nyota catches her breath—there again is the electricity, a faint buzz that she feels in her mind and on her skin.

She closes her eyes and tries to see everything as he sees it—his fingers on her arm first, then trailing up her jaw and spreading across her cheek, and underneath that his image of her, small and dark, and a neediness and urgency that startle them both. She feels herself responding to his warmth and his hand, and she moves closer until they are standing only inches apart.

She opens her eyes and looks up. His eyes are closed, his breathing ragged. His other hand reaches forward and he places his palm against her own, their fingertips touching.

Abruptly he drops his hand from her face and pulls his hand away from hers. Spock's eyes fly open and he takes a long breath.

"Forgive me, I—"

Nyota is shivering again but this time not from the cold. She leans forward as he says, "We could be censured if we continue," and she nods.

"I know," she says. "But I want this."

With a start she recognizes at last the source of their recent awkward dance around each other. Spock is right—they are breaking regulations and risking punishment, but they have been spiraling towards this moment for a long time.

She tips her face up for a kiss but he meets her forehead with his own instead. Again she feels that sense of urgency, this time overlaid with a tingle of amusement as an image of herself, naked, pressed against the wall and entwined with him, flashes through her mind.

So this is his imagination, she muses, and she turns and tugs him down the hall to the bedroom.

There she is only too glad to shed her wet clothes, but once she does, she stands self-consciously while Spock pulls his singlet over his head. The motion dishevels his damp hair and Nyota laughs.

The sound interrupts the seriousness of what they are doing and she needs a moment to stand apart and simply look at him. Unbidden, she recalls seeing him cut his finger as he had prepared a recent meal—-and she revisits her shame at how she had recoiled at his blood, dark and alien. The man standing before her now is beautiful, his pale skin and dark hair a study in contrast, his brown eyes warm and human. He lifts his gaze and meets her own.

Spock takes a step towards her and she raises her arms to circle his neck. He trails his fingers from her shoulders across her breasts and slips them around her waist, pulling her close. She hears her breath escape in a hoarse sigh; dimly she is aware that he is leaning her onto the bed, one hand holding her thigh, the other pushing her arm back and sliding up to grasp her hand over her head.

A flicker of surprise flits across her consciousness as he lowers himself onto her. Almost immediately she cannot catch her breath, as if her lungs are full of something heavy like honey or oil, and she is drawn down into a darkness that is both terrifying and thrilling. She slips her palm from his and holds it against his chest, willing him to slow down.

Now that both of his hands are free, she feels his warm fingers slip up to her cheek and temple. In an instant a brilliant flash rushes through her, and she imagines herself lit up like the silhouette of someone caught in a lightning storm. She knows that this is his idea and not her own, that the boundaries between their minds is dissolving into a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds, alien and familiar, distant and near.

For a second she lies motionless and struggles to hold onto her separate thoughts and emotions, but then the heat of his body becomes almost unbearable and the urgency she had sensed earlier returns like a wave.

So this is what he feels—-and she feels it with him.

For a heartbeat longer they are still, and then he rocks forward and bears down. Without conscious thought she arches up to meet him, her arms thrown back over her head like someone in surrender.

He presses forward once more and they arrive at the moment that defines them as lovers at last, without prelude or preamble, a Rubicon they cannot uncross. Both are astonished into stillness by what they have done; they lie adrift a fraction of time that is both infinite and infinitesimal - and then they begin to move.

In the landscape of their minds Nyota sees Spock's equation of who they are—lean, clear numbers and symbols arranged in mathematical beauty, poised before a calculus of tension and release. The honesty of the image causes her heart to skip a beat, like stepping into soft sand that gives way suddenly, and she climaxes into uncontrollable shudders as Spock echoes her motions.

When they are still again, Spock rolls them so that they are on their sides facing each other. Nyota's heart is racing, her breathing labored, and Spock slowly lowers his hands from her face and she feels his thoughts withdrawing. The loneliness is terrible and swift and totally unexpected.

But it is also a relief to have her own thoughts once again.

When she trusts her voice she says, "Is that…how it always is?" and Spock circles her with his arms and does not answer. He is being deceptive about something, she thinks, and she leans her face away so that she can look him in the eye.

His expression is cloudy—so he is hiding something. Perhaps he is troubled by her hesitation, or her surprise, or her blossoming confusion.

"I mean," she says, "that was…fast—and intense." She is nonplussed with herself—usually she is able to express herself well-—but she needs time and distance to consider why she is reluctant to admit how overwhelmed she feels.

Her words seem to call him from a distance and he says, "The word you mean is efficient."

His teasing calms her slightly and as her breathing steadies, she is able to think more clearly.

"The word I mean is instantaneous," she amends.

They have to talk. She needs to know if this pace….this intensity…this loss of herself in his own mind…is how it will always be.

But for now she needs time to consider what she will do if he says it is.

A faint chiming jars her attention and she struggles to sit up. Spock keeps one hand on her hip and she is unable to rise—his strength is another disconcerting realization—but when she bats at his hand playfully, he lets her go.

"I think someone is calling my comm," she says as she stands up and retrieves it from her uniform which she has left puddled on the floor.

"Your comm has been signaling for the past 12.4 minutes," Spock says as he gets up and walks toward her. She checks the comm log—Gaila has called multiple times. Nyota feels a prickle of worry—why hadn't she heard it?

She dials Gaila but gets no answer.

"I'd better go," she says, finally looking up at Spock. He is gazing at her with a slight frown—his concerned look, Nyota knows—and she picks up her soggy uniform and smiles ruefully, slipping on the tunic and then the jumper. The chill of the cloth helps her hurry her actions. That's probably a good thing, she thinks—otherwise she would be tempted to angle to stay here awhile.

She feels rather than sees him follow her down the hall to the front door, and when she turns around before placing her hand on the knob, he is closer than she expects. Once again she raises her face, a vague notion to kiss him flitting through her mind, and once again he leans into her and touches her forehead instead. The buzz of his mind is there, even in this light contact, and she hopes she is projecting her pleasure and not her concerns.

Spock unhooks a folding umbrella from a hanger near the door and hands it to her. She looks back once and walks out into the wet, cold night and heads to whatever is waiting for her back at her dorm.

A/N: The only detail alluded to in this story that you might need to know from the first two in the trilogy is that Spock recently traveled to Vulcan where he and T'Pring engaged the services of a healer to facilitate their annulment.