Chapter Six: Delivery

Disclaimer: I neither own nor profit from these characters. I do, however, eavesdrop shamelessly on them.

Nyota is taking only one course this semester, an advanced xenolinguistics class that meets on Fridays for four hours. The professor is a retired admiral—a stickler for rules and regulations and not someone inclined to be generous with praise. Because the study groups usually meet in the afternoons or evenings after the class, Nyota does not work in the linguistics lab at all those days.

It is the one day of the week that she and Spock rarely see each other. Ordinarily this means that the day is less interesting than otherwise—despite her genuine appreciation for the challenge of the coursework—but today she is relieved to head to class and a scheduled group work session afterward.

When she settles into her seat and pulls out her PADD to download the notes for the lecture, she tries not to think about the evening before. Jarrod had actually had the temerity to leave her a message on her computer—typical of him to think she wouldn't object—but she has had no word from Spock. Good.

For the first fifteen minutes of the lecture she focuses on the admiral's description of a language sub-group discovered among a species of Eldorian tree-apes who apparently communicate only with verbs.

Soon enough, however, she realizes that her attention is wandering.

Spock's expression as she had yelled at him—"You don't own me either!"—replays like an endless video loop in her head.

Nyota had seen a mother in a market once turn toward her small child and slap him in the face. Spock had looked equally pained…and shocked…and betrayed.

This memory is uncomfortable enough that Nyota tries to call up her anger again to banish her guilt—she can still feel the buzz as their fingers had touched….his anxiety about her safety first and foremost, but underneath that, a chaotic reservoir of images of them sharing meals and jokes, walking and working together—and still further sublimated, a sexual longing and a panic about losing her that frightened her with its intensity.

She understands the possessive feelings lovers have for each other, but this is something else….something….inhuman.

And that's the source of her fear, she realizes. Part of her is still keenly aware of their differences—and uncomfortable with them.

The rest of the lecture is as much of a washout. She hears almost nothing of it—and what she does hear makes little sense as she follows one rabbit hole and then another through her thoughts. Her work group gathers briefly outside after class to decide where to meet for lunch and Nyota begs off, telling a rare lie-that she has a headache and needs to take a break.

Instead of going back to her dorm, however, she heads to the language lab. She has no idea what she will say when she gets there—she just knows that they have to talk, and she trusts that the words will come when she sees him.

But she doesn't see him. The lab is dark—not odd considering how few students schedule their extra tutorials for Fridays—and Spock's office is locked, despite a notice showing his regular office hours.

Professor Artura and his aide are sitting in the break room, but neither has seen Spock today. With a sigh, Nyota thanks them and debates whether or not to call him.

Perhaps he would agree to meet her somewhere to talk—at the very least, she could reassure herself that he is okay.

When Spock doesn't answer his comm, Nyota feels a rolling mixture of worry and annoyance. She is reasonably sure that he is busy doing something ordinary—and that he has simply forgotten—again!—to turn on his comm.

This doesn't, however, solve the problem of The Talk. For as she tries to track him down, The Talk becomes an imperative. Suddenly waiting until tomorrow to share what she is feeling is intolerable. Her worry shortens her breath and she heads across campus towards the faculty apartments.

Without his key code she cannot get into the building, so she presses the intercom and waits for him to unlock the outside door. Nothing. She presses again, but the electric switch does not come on.

Even if he is angry with her, Nyota cannot imagine Spock not answering his door if he is home. Such churlishness is not his nature at all—unless, of course, he is unable to answer. She imagines him lying sick or hurt inside and has a moment of panic—but she tells herself to calm down.

More likely he is out, but where? And then she knows.

The door to the market deli across the street is belled and makes a delicate tinkle when Nyota opens it. She looks toward the tables in the back at the same moment that Spock looks up and makes eye contact. With a sigh of relief, Nyota closes the door behind her and makes her way down the crowded aisle.

The table is small—no more than a meter in diameter—and Spock has covered it with student assignments and his personal computer tablet. Nyota wrinkles her brow—she has never seen him working in a public place this way. Normally he avoids the distractions of noise and motion when he works, staying in his office or coming home to his apartment. She can't help but comment.

"I didn't realize that you enjoy working here," she says, picking up a stack of folders from the only other chair and sitting down.

Spock looks at her steadfastly, his eyes hooded and his expression neutral—a look he usually reserves for people he doesn't know well. His formality is surprisingly hurtful, but Nyota tries not to feel upset.

"Enjoy is too strong a word," he says, and Nyota smiles. She tries to recall the last meal they had shared here—hadn't he said something similar about their wilted sandwiches?

"I've been looking for you," she says. Spock says nothing but continues to watch her. For a moment she hesitates; then she presses forward.

"I'm not sure what happened last night," she says, "but I never meant to hurt you. It's just—"

She falters. What does she mean? That he has no right to feel what he feels, that his emotions keep overwhelming her? That as secure as she is in herself, she isn't so secure that she isn't worried about being consumed by the passion that she knows lies under his quiet demeanor?

Or is that even true? Can they ever have a common vocabulary to discuss what this…relationship…might become?

Distant thunder rumbles—La Nina has made for a wet winter along the Pacific coast this year—and the lights flicker briefly. Spock leans over and closes his computer tablet and gathers several of the student folders into a pile.

"Nyota, I…should not have intruded into your thoughts…last night, or…before. We are not….you are not—"

His discomfort is painfully clear; Nyota feels a pang for him and starts to reach out her hand to his. He darts a glance at her and picks up the folders, keeping his hands occupied and away from her. This is a rebuke of sorts, or a withdrawal. Either way, Nyota is more alarmed than upset.

"Don't pull away," she says. "Not that. If you do, we won't ever know—"

Spock looks down.

"Perhaps if I had better control," he says with what Nyota recognizes as bitterness in his voice.

"What are you talking about?" Nyota says, leaning towards him with a vague sense that she is tethering him to his chair. Obviously he is planning to make his escape—he has gathered up all his materials and seems ready to stand up. "You have more control than anyone I know—"

"Nyota," he says, almost sharply, "no Vulcan would have forced a link with another the way I did you—no Vulcan would have used force as a first resort as I did last night."

"But you didn't hurt him! You just threatened him—"

"I was fully prepared to break his wrist. If he had not let go, I would have."

She can see that this admission is costing him. His face is as cloudy as she has ever seen it, his expression dark, his posture ramrod straight. She reaches out again to brush his arm and he adds, "I wanted to break it. I was disappointed when he dropped his hand."

So.

She isn't sure what to think. They sit in silence until another peal of distant thunder rattles the ground.

The bell on the door tinkles again and several cadets in red come in. Nyota drops her hand from Spock's arm.

"Look," she says, "we haven't solved anything yet. I want to talk about it. We need to talk about it."

She tries to smile. Spock glances up as the cadets make selections from the refrigerated unit and head towards the little tables pushed up against the wall.

"Okay?"

Spock says nothing but she can tell that he is considering it. His eyes take on an unfocused look and he tilts his head slightly.

"Spock?" she says. "Can we at least talk? Maybe somewhere quieter?" She motions with her shoulder at the cadets at the next table.

"The word you mean," Spock says softly, his expression lightening a degree, "is private."

"Even privacy can be noisy," Nyota quips, relieved to fall back into their familiar banter. "The word I mean is secluded."

X

The apartment is a mess.

Books, tablets, and blankets are strewn on the sofa and the floor around it. The heat—always uncomfortable—is oppressive. Nyota takes a gulp of hot air and heads to the kitchen to get some water.

Glasses—some empty, some half-full—line the counter and fill the sink.

"What happened here?" she calls as Spock scoops up the majority of the mess from the sofa and carries it down the hall.

He doesn't answer and she comes back into the living area, a large glass of water in her hand, and heads to the temperature controls beside the door.

"Do you mind if I turn down the heat?" she calls, but Spock answers from right behind her.

"Adjust it to make yourself comfortable. Do you need something to eat?"

She turns back from the controls and is instantly aware of how close he is standing to her. They look at each for a moment and then he steps back and she follows him to the sofa.

"I'm not hungry," she says, slipping her back against an armrest and tucking her feet up in front of her on the cushions. After a moment Spock turns toward her, his back against the opposite armrest, his legs folded in a lotus position. Nyota wiggles her feet forward and rests them on his knees.

Time to talk, she thinks. Yet now that they are here, she finds herself thinking about the bedroom down the hall instead. The heat rises to her face as she flashes back to the intensity—the heaviness and breathlessness and loss of herself—when they had made love before.

She looks up and sees Spock waiting for her to begin. She does.

"Last time—you said you forced yourself into my mind?"

Spock looks as abashed as she has ever seen him. She hastens to add, "But I didn't feel forced. I wanted you there."

His eyes flick up.

"It was fast—that was a surprise. Maybe we could…slow down?"

She says this with a question in her voice, but they both know it is a condition for continuing.

Spock says nothing but she can tell that he is both surprised and cheered. She reaches forward and taps his knee, and he puts his finger on the top of her hand.

The buzz jumps across and Nyota laughs.

Spock turns his hand so that two of his fingers contact hers. Instantly the buzz becomes a hum, and Nyota feels a warmth flow into her.

"What is that!" she says, still laughing, and Spock says, "You might call it a Vulcan kiss."

"Ah!" she says, scooting closer. Spock stretches his legs out in front of him as they sit facing each other on the sofa; Nyota hops up and slides down between his legs, her own wrapped around his waist.

His eyes widen in surprise. She links her arms around his neck and touches her lips lightly to his.

"You don't like this, do you?" she says, teasingly. "Is it my imagination, or do you pull away when I try to kiss you?"

At this, Spock does pull back and turn his head to the side.

"What's wrong?" Nyota says, a note of genuine concern creeping into her tone.

Spock's breathing is labored and she lowers her arm and takes his hand in her own.

"Tell me what's wrong," she says. This time she feels nothing through his hand—and that, too, is alarming. "If you don't tell me—"

He closes his eyes and she feels his thoughts rushing back—his images of them here now, entwined on the sofa, and his longing to carry her to the bed and swamp her with his heat and motion, and his stronger resolve not to do so—at least not yet—and she echoes back a tiny feeling of disappointment—and he shows her another image, of them kissing at last, and how fearful he is that he will lose all control and mark her as his own.

"You do not own me either," she had said, and he had known then that this would be the greatest challenge—not to consume her, to possess her body and mind, to bite her—

"Oh!" she says aloud, startled. His shields are up in a flash and she has to coax him back.

"I'm sorry," she says. "I guess we still have a lot to discover about each other—"

And she feels his happiness swell and she thinks, "let's try that again," as the thought echoes in his mind.

She feels his breath inhumanly warm but not unpleasant beside her ear as he leans forward. She doesn't move, letting him come to her now at his own pace. And then she feels the soft brush of his lips against her cheek. His fingers drift across her lips like a blind man's exploration, and then his lips follow.

"That's a start," she says.

He presses his forehead against hers and he answers, "The word you mean is destination."

X

Later when the rain begins in earnest, they remember that Nyota has left Spock's umbrella in her dorm room. Naturally she has to wait to leave until the weather clears—which it doesn't do all weekend.

A/N: And so this little story ends. It's the third part of a trilogy—"Slips of the Tongue" and "The Visitor" being parts one and two. Keep an eye out—I may drop back into their lives again to see what I can catch them doing for a new story. Thanks for reading and reviewing!