Before and After

Note: These stories intertwine, somewhat, with Comforts of Home, if you need a pleasant change of pace.

Disclaimer: Standard ones apply.

Theris

Nyota would go to his apartment, and Spock would make her tea.

She thinks of it as 'Before,' and remembers:

In his apartment, he keeps several that she likes; he calls them 'Terran' and the term makes her smile. He gravely hears her desires, and reaches for the pot. And as he brews it, the steam rising, she begins to recognize this small thing as a Vulcan ritual of hospitality - even, perhaps, acceptance.

She loves to hold the fine cups he keeps just for this purpose, and to take in the delicate scent before the first tiny sip.

One day she says "Surprise me," and he makes just one pot. Both of them will share his tea: The fragrant drink from his homeworld whose heady, spicy scent, through long association, has permeated his rooms - and maybe, even, his skin.

She takes one tiny sip and the pale liquid explodes in her mouth with a complexity she could not have dreamed possible. Seeing the ghost of confusion reflected in her face, he adds something to it that he takes from a very small packet: An herb to be crumbled between long pale fingertips - and even while she's thinking that she's never seen him touch, before, something she would consume - she sips – and finds the welter of flavors subdued into an understandable whole.

She sips her tea and imagines she's drinking his home, his culture, his knowledge. She sips and imagines she's drinking him.

He drinks his matter-of-factly; but enjoys it, she suspects, none the less.

She comes over on an afternoon when a package arrives from Shi'Kahr. As he moves to open it, the absurdity strikes her - She laughs and teases him: "Seriously? The fearsome Vulcan professor receives care packages from his Mom?"

And Spock just nods, with his usual solemnity, and opens it with deliberate hands. He lifts out the contents: A hand-woven something, a note, a real book, a bottle of dark liquid, a folded tied packet, some smaller ones.

She boldly declares her place in his life by trying on the scarf, picking up the book, swirling the ink; and he watches her without comment. She does not touch the note, but follows him into his kitchen, and watches him as he puts the small packets away. He lifts down the carved wooden canister which holds his tea; empties the larger packet into it. She notes that it is not refilled, and wonders at the amount his mother has sent: Just enough, it seems, to last him until next time.

Nyota marvels that she understands her son so well.

Nyota is there, too, when the next package arrives, and this time she says nothing superfluous. She follows him to the kitchen, and he empties the tea into the canister. She knows, then, that he has told his mother that Nyota shares his tea, and, perhaps, his life: She has sent twice as much as before, and a little extra. And the packet of the herb that makes it make sense is fat, as he places it on the shelf.

Nyota learns something else, then, about Vulcan acceptance, and she feels much more at ease.

After - she goes to his quarters. He is standing in still silence, but then moves to welcome her with tea. His hands reach for the carved canister, and she stops him with a touch.

"I think," she says, "Earl Grey." Her voice sounds as ordinary as she can make it.

Without comment, he lifts down a second pot, and prepares for her what she has requested.

She wonders whether he questions her attachment, in the face of this evidence of one more incontrovertible change. But she cannot bear to explain; so she curls up in his lap, inhales his scent deeply, and kisses him - though for him, this is not, perhaps, the way to show affection. "I," she says, with a single kiss, "love" kiss "everything" kiss "about you." Kiss, kiss, kiss. And he accepts her kisses, and her words.

But when she moves off of his lap, to drink what he has made for her, she watches him: She sees his long pale hands lift the delicate cup, she sees him breathe in the fragrance. She sees his lashes drop to his cheeks as his eyes close – and he takes one tiny sip.

She watches him, and marvels, once more, at Vulcan acceptance. But she knows that there is still one lesson yet to come, and she dreads it - just as she dreads the silence every time his voice will not say the name of the place of his birth.

Nyota watches the level go down in the canister, and wonders what will happen after.