Savages

A STXI fanfic

Chapter 23: At Your Will and Pleasure

Warnings: sexuality (ponn farr), creative license taken with ponn farr canon. This story is not suitable for underage readers. Purple prose, fluffy emotion, mild angst, Emo!Spock, idealism.

Disclaimer: Don't own the characters; everything else (plot, phrasing, etc.) is mine. Final chapter.


"How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved." - Sigmund Freud. Letter to his fiancée Martha Bernays (27 June, 1882, from the 1961 volume Letters of Sigmund Freud 1873-1939).


Nyota tried to get free, but Spock's strong grip kept her in place. "Put me down first, adun. Then I will answer your question," Nyota said with a sweetness she did not feel. "I'd rather not be draped around your neck and shoulders like a lamb being carried into the shearing shed."

"I ought to shear thee of that tiny gown and leave the boots on," he muttered, setting her down on her feet.

Lust slowed his reflexes, and Nyota skittered out of reach. They circled each other again, each with a restraint on one wrist.

Spock moved close enough for her to feel heat radiating from his body. It reminded her of the first time she'd stood more than an arm's length away from him at Starfleet one damp January afternoon. Some hint of openness and intimacy in his voice made Nyota's fingers tremble as he spoke to her, and she'd dropped her stylus. Spock hadn't touched her hand as he handed it back to her, but she felt his heat and every part of her seemed to absorb it. His warmth and the subtle, gentlemanly smoothness of his actions made her crave his closeness.

Now her body drank in his warmth again, in a new time and place, with the same feeling of attachment. High Vulcan speech, mating fever, none of it was enough to frighten her away. This was her bondmate, who she trusted despite his erratic behavior. Woman's intuition was an illogical concept, but Nyota felt safe. Safe enough to play.

"Stand still," she commanded. "Don't touch me."

Spock cocked an eyebrow at her, but he complied.

"Why aren't you naked yet?" she asked, outlining the hardness pressing against the front of his loose trousers with her fingers.

Spock's eyes closed and he sucked in a breath. Opening his eyes, he gave her a hard look. "Thou granted me neither the time nor the freedom to –"

"Pssshh. If you'd wanted me enough, you'd have asked me for permission. This is the strangest foreplay we've ever had."

Spock squinted at her, as though remembering something. "Permission? We are bonded…"

"Yes, but obviously there are things we haven't learned about each other. I'm not even sure this is you I'm talking to right now, my own Spock."

"I am myself, but…changed. " He extended a hand. "T'hy'la, thou art safe with me. What is the worst thing that could possibly happen?"

Her face grew hot as she admitted, "I'd act uncontrolled, wild…I'd become all feelings, all desire. You aren't the only one who has trouble handling emotions sometimes."

Taken aback, he asked, "Dost thou mean that despite our bond…despite our years together, thou hast been…" he switched to Standard. "As the saying goes, 'holding back on me'?"

Nyota's lips quavered as she answered, but she was honest. "Uh, yes. Sometimes. Unfortunately."

Spock gave her a look of mock severity which transformed into a wicked smile. "Ah, wife, I intend to collect on my debt."

In a flash of movement, he grabbed the handful of unused restraints from her hand. When Nyota tried to pull them back, Spock seized the restraint attached to her wrist. She grabbed the restraint attached to his own wrist. They scuffled without harming each other, trying to slip out of the other's grasp. Spock allowed Nyota to push him against the side of the elevated wooden platform. Recessed silver-colored hooks with rounded tips were inset in several places.

Spock held her close against him, slowly moving his hips in a way that made Nyota moan.

"I accept any choice offered to me," he said. His voice sounded strained. The expression in his eyes revealed only tenderness. "I will not think less of thee because of it."

Nyota held out her free wrist.

Spock pressed a kiss into the palm of her hand and slipped a restraint over her trembling fingers. He held out his own unrestrained wrist to her, and she bound it.

The soles of her boots scraped lightly against the floor as he moved her against the platform, securing her wrists so that her arms stood out slightly away from her sides. Every few seconds he made eye contact, as though checking to ensure that she was still comfortable with him.

"Mal (Legs)," Spock whispered, sinking to a kneeling position. After a long look at her legs and the boots, he touched her. He pressed kisses along the length of her legs, paused to bite the backs of her knees, squeezed her shuddering thighs and nipped at them, moved between her thighs to lick and tease. Panting, Nyota pulled at the restraints; Spock had left enough length and play on the straps so that she was able to seize a handful of his hair, stopping the movement of his head.

"Bekh-tor. Wait," she said. "Unfasten my hand."

He did, his lips brushing the soft skin of her inner thighs. Wetting her fingertips, she reached down and rubbed behind his ears, then along the edges, making little circles around the points. Spock gasped and clutched her hips to steady himself, groaning.

"Nice," she murmured. "This version of you likes having his ears touched just as much as my normal Spock does, when he isn't in Ponn Farr. What would you do if I sucked the point?"

"I…I would…lose control of myself," he growled, rubbing his cheek against her vulva. Beard stubble rasped lightly against the satiny cloth. "Sanoi. Please do it, I beg thee."

"All right, but you must obey me. Release me and pull down a cushion." He did, grabbing a puffy rectangle from atop the platform. She knelt to face him. Spock was wide-eyed and panting, and did not resist as she pulled his head forward and sucked the pointed tip of his ear into her warm mouth. His hands clutched her bottom as his body responded.

"Mercy…"

"Are you serious? I haven't even had your other ear yet, Mister," she replied, moving her mouth to the other side of his head. This time she sucked harder. With a loud growl, he pulled away, lifted her, and tried to push her down onto the big cushions scattered over the platform. She wriggled out of his grasp; he caught her and moved her into a seated position at the edge of the platform and stood on the floor between her spread legs.

Spock took half a step back and unfastened his trousers, pulled them off, kicked them aside, moved in. Nyota placed her hand flat in the middle of his chest, and he stopped.

"Nash-veh aitlu (I want)," he demanded, scowling.

"Ri wi (Not yet)."

"Nash-veh tan-tor (give me)." He clutched her hips. Teeth nipped at her neck and shoulders, gently enough to avoid bruising but hard enough to let her know he was excited.

Nyota quivered with each love bite. Soon she could no longer keep still, and tried to bite him back. He grinned and leapt easily atop the platform, reclining on the cushioned mat. As she climbed onto the platform and reached for him Spock moved away. He taunted her, allowing her to land only a few bites on his body. Then she managed to nip the hollow of his hip, just to the right of the treasure trail of hair growing down his abdomen; he groaned and stopped moving.

"See what you're missing?" she teased, and leaned down for another, lower bite. One of the hard muscles on his lower belly flexed; then he pulled her onto his lap as he sat up. He bound one of her wrists to the platform.

"Let me go," Nyota breathed.

"Thou hast a free hand, and are at liberty to leave," he grinned, moving her legs apart and arranging her over his lap. His hardness brushed against her beneath the short hem of her slip. She felt herself heating, widening, growing wet at the contact.

"How kind of thee to forgo underwear." He pressed a kiss to the rise of one breast, and the light prickles of his stubble raised goosebumps on her skin. "Allow me to show my appreciation."

Spock caught the narrow strap of her slip between his teeth, slid it down and eagerly sucked her nipple into his mouth. Nyota cried out, then gave in to enjoyment of one her favorite things, something she never discussed and felt shy about requesting. Her free hand stroked and pulled at his hair; he growled and his lips moved to her other breast.

The restraint did part of the work of holding her in place - I'll gladly give a positive, anonymous customer testimonial, no question - Spock's strong arms did the rest. He left her hips free to rub against him. Beneath the fabric she felt him. Erect, bobbing, rising, moving close, but not close enough.

"Frustrated?" He smirked and relaxed his grip.

"Oh! You –"

As Spock let go, Nyota quickly used her unrestrained hand to slide the other free of the hook. She seized his wrists, lifted his arms over his head – he fought back just enough, not too much – and secured both wrist restraints to hooks near the edge of the platform. The remaining restraints fit around his ankles; she fastened his legs down and balanced herself over him on her hands and knees.

"Spock," she whispered, her forehead pressed against his. "Willing?"

"Want in," he groaned. "Let me?"

"Yes."

Vulcan-built, the platform proved just as sturdy as the bench they'd used during their second night in the cave. The telepathic mating bond made Nyota feel stronger, and she did not ride Spock gently. Fortunately, the platform seemed as sturdy as all of the other carved wooden furniture and was in no danger of collapsing under their weight.

The feverish sensations grew more intense, and she became more aware of his reactions. Nyota wanted to feel Spock's hands. Pulling away, she unhooked his wrists and ankles; he surged over her in a wave of joyful energy.

Earlier Spock theorized that repeatedly coupling in the same eight positions strained Nyota's thigh muscles. Now he remedied the problem by coaxing and bending them both into new positions, a few of which she knew they'd never tried before...at least not with each other. She didn't care where Spock had learned them before bonding with her, as she was now the sole beneficiary of those lessons.

Sturdy mats and cushions made from soft, resilient fabrics made their experimentation easier. Some positions made Nyota laugh, others made her gasp in surprised delight.

He rose up on his knees; she planted her feet flat against the platform and leaned back on one elbow to steady herself as he moved inside her. They held each other's free hands, so that her head and torso were suspended in the air. The position was difficult to hold for long, and Spock grabbed her waist when he felt Nyota's feet begin to slide.

One strong hand slid around her hips and lifted her so that only her head and shoulders rested on the platform as he rocked into her, bracing himself with his free hand. Nyota rested her arms on Spock's shoulders as he leaned forward to kiss her mouth and any other part of her he could reach. The position of their bodies made kissing awkward, and he made a frustrated sound before changing their positions again.

Finally they lay face to face. Their hands fumbled with the hem of her short gown, pulled it over her head, flung it aside. She wore the waist beads underneath.

"Aahh…that sound…" he sighed as he thrust and she moved.

"Which sound – us, down there?"

"Yes, that is good, but I meant the beads, the little rattle they make each time we move together. It is intoxicating." He smiled at her. "Listen to us."

She listened.

"I hear…the beads…our skin rubbing against the cushions. Heavy rainfall outside."

The idea of a rainstorm sweeping through the valley while they made love excited them both. Mental impressions across their bond showed Spock's attention focusing, plunging deeper into the enjoyment of their physical bonding. The last fragment of her reserve vanished as she tightened her inner muscles around him.

"Nyota,t'hy'la, yes…"

As they moved more wildly, their breathing grew louder, harsher.

Spock's long fingers sought her temples as his gaze met hers, asking consent.

She pressed his fingers to her skin.

Kashkau, Nyota…wuhkuh eh teretuhr

Our minds are joined, Nyota...together, and as one.

Familiar love, trust, and passion filled her mind. The altered version of Spock changed, merging with the man she knew, and her bondmate returned. Deep satisfaction and affection flowed from him, something other beings would call happiness.

Raindrops pounded against the stone face of the cave house. Inside, a sort of cozy happiness arced between Nyota and Spock like branches of lightning.

We made it. We survived Ponn Farr. Sudden fatigue weighted her eyelids as she lay on the mat, every muscle limp.

"Nyota?"

"Mmm. Sorry, I'm unconscious. Give me a minute."

"Ashayam, I need not remind you that your statement is illogical. Have I exhausted you?" He lifted the beads up, gently bit a spot on the small of her back.

Nyota peered up at him. "My husband's returned."

"I did not leave you."

She rolled onto her side and stared at him. "You weren't quite yourself earlier – you spoke a variant of High Vulcan, and you were more stubborn and whimsical than usual."

"Fascinating. My recollections, though not precise, differ. I grew restless while you slept and decided to examine the contents of this room more closely. You entered the room wearing boots –" he smiled "—and enticed me to engage in intimate play involving restraints, which I do not regret. It was most agreeable." He kissed her neck and shoulder.

"Sweetheart, one of us must be suffering temporary sex-induced delirium, because here's what I remember: I got into a weird argument with you about who was going to wear the restraints. Each of us had a restraint on one wrist. Then we worked out something consensual and uh, played a bit. You initiated a mind meld and I…sensed your return to your present state of mind."

"I am quite well now and there is no need for either one of us to be concerned. Did I harm you?"

"No. You didn't force me and you weren't violent."

"I gave you pleasure?"

Speaking of it aloud made her face grow warm with embarrassment, despite her enthusiastic participation. "Great pleasure, and I hope that I did the same for you."

"I experienced intense physical and psychological satisfaction during our activities. How delightfully contradictory you are, my ashalik bondmate. You bite and ride me fiercely, then exhibit demure shyness when I ask you to discuss sensual pleasures with me. It is a fascinating puzzle. Someday we should attempt to stimulate each other with words alone."

"Are you challenging me?"

"I am."

"Wait until we get back to the Enterprise, Mister. Have you forgotten that I'm a Communications Officer? Baby, words are my business. I'll talk you into a frenzy."

"Your challenge is accepted. You do remember that I am your Commander? I will seduce you with my voice...and you will like it."

Nyota smiled; Spock's voice was one of her favorite sounds in any galaxy. "You're on. When?"

"Sneak attack."

An anticipatory thrill curled up her spine. "It's a deal."

Both had enough energy left to wash, dress, and tidy the cave house.

"My communicator's working again," Nyota said as she pulled it from its charger. "I thought that it was broken when I checked it earlier; the screen was blank, it wouldn't power up."

Spock picked it up and quickly examined it, opening the back, closing it, powering it up and running diagnostic program.

"Nothing appears to be amiss. I will ensure that you receive a new one upon our return to the Enterprise."

"Honey, there's no need to go to the expense. It's just a quirk, I think. It happened just before I went into that room and found you in a bit of a state."

"A temporal anomaly of some sort may have occurred. Perhaps this place is a p'laaka, a place where unusual, unpredictable, and illogical events happen."

"Hmm. Earth has places like that," she mused. "Reminds me of a small valley outside New Nairobi where people claimed to experience 'time slips'. Hikers or drivers would suddenly see images of people driving herds of cattle or goats, but the people wore clothing and hairstyles from hundreds of years ago. Drivers found themselves passing villages not marked on any maps." She pressed her hands against the small of her back, stretching.

"Time slips? They are likely illusions." Spock examined his own communicator, silently entering a mandatory request for a replacement communicator for Lieutenant Uhura.

"Ah, but not everyone believes that they are illusions. Sometimes the mysterious people speak or wave hello, and later vanish. Of course, none of the people, cattle, or villages are visible when the drivers or hikers return to the valley, trying to show others what they'd seen." Nyota touched his cheek.

"So, a p'laaka. Perhaps we shouldn't remain here too long, then. I prefer this version of my husband, not a time-traveling, time-slipped one."

...

Later, they stood side by side in companionable silence in the kitchen, opening ready meals and brewing tea. Spock suggested that they eat on the small balcony, which they did, breathing in the fresh air. Few signs of the early morning rainfall remained, but Nyota noticed bright spots of color – tough, weedy wildflowers - among the short grass and rocks.

"Shall we explore our surroundings?" Spock suggested, noticing her curiosity. "There is a way to climb to the top of the small hill this house is carved from."

Broad steps hewn into the rock formed a rough staircase curving around the far side of the hill, the back of the cave house. Small plants and flowers grew out of cracks. They stood on a small, level area on top of the hill and looked around at the valley. Other cave houses were scattered through the valley, and roads and small streams curved through the rough terrain.

"It's remarkable," Nyota said. "This place has a kind of severe, special beauty."

Spock looked at her. "Indeed," he replied.

"Oh, tal-kam, I have an idea. Maybe we could watch the stars from here tonight?"

Spock almost responded with a calculation of the likelihood of slipping and falling on the steps in the dark, but decided that it would be illogical to say so, as solar-powered lights were set into the ground near each step.

"Perhaps, if you do not feel tired. It is an intelligent suggestion. Our distance from the city lights makes this an excellent location for recreational stargazing."

She smiled, brushing his hand with her fingers, and he realized that she knew quite well what he'd chosen not to say.

"Gaila?"

The screen switched away from audio-only mode, revealing a towel-clad Gaila in her quarters. Her red was hair coated with some sort of deep conditioning product, and she held out one hand with fingers spread as though her nails were wet.

"Nyota! Thank the Gods and everything, I was getting worried about you."

"Hey, sweetie, how are you? Is this a convenient time?"

"Maybe I should ask you that question? Are you holed up with that hot husband of yours someplace?" Gaila cocked an eyebrow in an exaggerated impression of Spock.

"Uh, it wasn't exactly a lover's rendezvous, but we're both safe and well. He's meditating, I'm sort of resting."

"Yeah, I'll bet you're resting. Hey, what happened with that criminal, that asshole you had me translating for?"

Nyota summarized the crime, the effort to frame Sarek, the pursuit and arrest of of T'ober, and Spock's willingness to provide a blood transfusion for his father. "Amazingly enough, everyone's still alive. The Enterprise crew are safe and back aboard ship. Sarek is healing well from the surgery – I'll contact him next – and Spock's all right too, he survived the Pon –" Nyota's hand flew up to cover her mouth. "Oh, no, I didn't mean to mention –"

"Ny, it's all right, we're on a secure connection, and I added a few filters of my own; comes in handy for long-distance relationships, so you can, uh, show certain things to the other party during a call. Anyway, don't worry. I think I know what you were about to say, and I won't tell anyone."

"Thanks, Gaila. Spock probably wouldn't hide it if pressed to answer, but we'd like to keep it quiet."

"You're really all right? Not hurt or anything?" Gaila looked serious.

"I'm okay. It was pretty intense, but we survived. He didn't hurt me. He tried to be careful, and I…well, it wasn't exactly a hardship to be wanted so much, and to want him in return."

Gaila rolled her eyes. "In other words, you two behaved the way you normally do, just several times a day. Didn't you think I noticed how many mysterious off-campus 'errands' you had those last two quarters at the Academy?"

"Gaila, it wasn't like that. I've told you we were careful about the teacher-student sex thing –"

"Depends on what you think sex is."

"Indeed," Nyota said dryly. "Speaking of which, one of the last times we had a private conversation you weren't happy. Are you okay now?"

"Relationship foolishness. I wanted to date two people; each of them thought that I should date only one, that one being themselves. Meanwhile they wanted to date as many others as they liked. Woulda been fine if they hadn't put restrictions on me. Nobody owns me. Just once I'd like to be with somebody who'll listen and understand why I'm the way I am, instead of telling me what to do. How is it, loving someone?" Gaila asked abruptly.

"Oh, It's…hard work. Difficult. Always listening, as you say. Trying to care for the other person, but not wearing yourself down so that you have nothing left to give. But…being happy, too, and comfortable. Acceptance, I guess. I'm not sure I can be philosophical about it, because it takes so much effort. But it's good, it truly is. Someone is right for you, somewhere. Keep trying."

"Huh. I thought you were going to tell me about happy endings," Gaila said.

"No, because it's never over. Kind of like when archeologists find thousand-year-old footprints in a riverbed. People make impressions in your soul, some more powerfully than others."

"Now you do sound like a philosopher."

"Didn't mean to," Nyota shrugged.

"Hmm. Anyway, I'm single this week."

"So I'll contact you next week, when you aren't single anymore. Gaila, most people like you even if they don't want to sleep with you."

"Ha! If only that were enough; I hate feeling lonely." A chime sounded. "There's the timer. I have to go rinse this stuff out of my hair now. Glad you're all right."

"Let's try to meet up next shore leave. Take care of yourself. Yourself, not some sweet talker who doesn't treat you right," Nyota urged her. "Stay safe."

"I'll manage. Best wishes to the hubby. Stay safe."

New Vulcan's night skies were rich with stars, planets, and even a moon. Spock's fingers traced the outlines of the more notable planets and constellations over Nyota's chest, belly, and thighs as he described them to her. The couple lay on a thick blanket, spread out on the flat area atop the cave house. Lights shone from the windows of a few other cave houses in the valley. Around her shoulders Nyota wore a soft, dark red shawl, a surprise gift that Spock had brought with him to the valley.

A muscle in Nyota's thigh quivered in response to Spock's outlining the elliptical orbit of an icy nearby planet. "Perhaps my description of that eternal winter was too vivid?" he teased. "If you are cold, we can go inside."

His hand felt warm through her skirt. "No, sweetheart, you're hot enough for me. It's just some residual effects of the mating bond, I think. Considering how much we were…together this week, I should be able to control myself by now."

She could not see his smile in the darkness, but heard it as his voice pitched a bit deeper. "Please do not feel compelled to control yourself when we are alone."

She stroked her fingers across the back of his hand. "Oh, I am so lucky to have you. This may sound odd, but there are still some men out there who suspect that their wives aren't virtuous enough, or faithful if they enjoy physical intimacy."

Spock's head turned toward her in the darkness, and she sensed appalled curiosity. "How did you learn this?"

"I knew a couple of women who found out the hard way…one almost got divorced because she asked for it too often, and the other's partner said she moaned and talked too much."

"Obviously these men are not Vulcan," Spock replied disapprovingly.

"Really, honey, surely not all Vulcan men are so accepting of their bondmates' libido."

"The wise ones not only accept it, they nurture it," Spock replied. "Were these women bonded with humans?"

"Yes; one woman's husband was from Earth, and the other husband grew up on a space station-based colony."

"It is a pity," returned Spock. "Certain attitudes about gender and power prevent advanced human sexual development."

"Oh, forget it. I'm not arguing with you about this. After all, you're the only man I want, and I think you're happy with my desire for you…are you?"

"Happy may not be the precise term, but…I find our closeness most agreeable."

A cool breeze moved over them, and Spock changed positions so that his body sheltered hers.

"Thank you," she whispered. They watched the sky for some time, each lost in thought. After several minutes Nyota asked, "You spoke to Sarek earlier today? Is his health improving?"

"Yes, to both questions."

"Did he speak of the crime…of T'ober, or Thelev?"

Spock's fingers tensed into a loose fist, then relaxed against her forearm. "Full confessions were obtained from each. They now await separate trials. New Vulcan is not free of crime, and several cases precede them. By the time we return to the Enterprise, their trials will not have begun; no matter, as we have both given full reports and are not required to return to New Vulcan for the trial." He sighed. "According to Sarek, there is a long list of previously scheduled trials for smuggling, public disorder, and fraud. All have slowed down the court process."

"Even a new world has its problems. Especially a new world, maybe." Nyota shook her head. "Believe me, I didn't look forward to being in the same place with either one of 'em again, but I do wonder what will happen to them."

"Personally, I am not concerned with the fate of either one," Spock said sharply. "They committed criminal acts. The woman behaved as a v'tosh ka'tur, as an illogical, emotion-driven Vulcan. She was motivated by greed, selfishness, and disregard for the lives of beings different from herself. All of these factors threaten social cohesion on New Vulcan. Our society can no longer be described as monolithic. In addition, she expressed disdain and everything short of hatred for you. No, I do not care." Spock's voice was raw and harsh, as she had rarely heard it.

Nyota reached up and cradled his face between her hands, kissed him. "Easy, honey, easy now." Through their bond she felt him trap his anger, control it, push it away.

"She also said horrible things about you, adun. It made me angry, but I knew she was goading me so I didn't let her bait me. The palm of my slapping hand did itch around her, I'll admit."

"Yet you controlled yourself despite provocations that would anger even a Vulcan woman. It is regrettable that neither one of us is a stranger to insult. I have been insulted by strangers and acquaintances many times, as have you."

"Yes. I think that's one of the reasons we understand each other so well."

Nyota remembered random shouted or sneered insults during her travels on Earth, often a familiar two-syllable English word that everyone on the planet seemed to know. Sometimes they paired it with the familiar one-syllable word that too many women heard directed at them at least once in life. Sometimes actions replaced the two-syllable word: storekeepers followed her in shops or watched her more closely than they did other customers. There were hundreds of other small, speaking actions that stung her psyche like little darts, but she'd tried to harden herself against them. Sometimes it worked. Often it didn't.

Spock's skin was in contact with hers. He sensed her memories, and she knew that he emphasized with her even if he couldn't completely understand.

"We have spoken of these things before." He stroked her arm.

"Yes. It's part of our life together, and at the same time it isn't part of our personal life. "

"That is imprecise."

"Yes, but it is true. Together, we deal with it. As the saying goes, 'a triple-braided cord is stronger'. "

"An interesting choice of metaphor, tal-kam. You, one cord." Spock stroked the side of her face. "Myself, another. The third...?"

"The third is other people, our families and friends. Sarek's willingness to accept me. My parents' acceptance of you. Our friends on the Enterprise. I know that luck is illogical, but we are lucky to work with people we call friends. I know that Leonard yells at you sometimes but he admires you so much, and he's kind in his own way. Scotty, who tries to understand and help people, more than he ever lets on. Sulu's a good friend, he stands up for people and tries to see the best in them. Even Jim, as wild as he is, has some pretty solid ethics and values and you can trust him. So many other crewmates, too. I pray every day for the people on that ship, because they try so hard to do the right thing on each mission."

"Understood. I also appreciate our 'third cord'. My life has changed in ways I could not have calculated."

From the west, a distant cry – a squeal, really – sounded, followed by laughter. Spock and Nyota looked around. The voices sounded again, laughing and shouting in Vulcan.

"Come here, I want your delightful plump thighs!"

"You must catch me first! Will you bite them?"

"Uh, maybe we should go inside and give that couple some privacy," Nyota said, rising to her feet.

"Agreed. It is the polite thing to do, despite their illogical choice to chase each other around the outside of the house."

"Hey, to each their own," Nyota said. They rolled up the blanket together to the accompaniment of more squeals and laughter. "Chase me some time, Spock. I won't object, as long as you give me a head start."

Spock held his breath for a second. He'd had fantasies about doing exactly that, but finding the right time and place to tell Nyota…he would wait.

Leaving the cave house was bittersweet. As Starfleet officers, both were anxious to return to the structured environment and adventure that filled their lives aboard the Enterprise. As a couple, they already missed being able to revel in physical and emotional closeness during days structured by sunlight, not chronometers. As members of New Vulcan society, they had fulfilled their role; Spock survived Ponn Farr, as did his bondmate. With Spock's Ponn Farr ended, Vulcan society had nothing to fear from a virile, physically powerful, and physically satisfied half-Vulcan man.

Spock's hand rested on the dashboard of the transport vehicle. He turned to Nyota and stroked his fingers across the back of her hand.

"I love you," he said quietly.

The smile on her face made his heart pound in his side. For a moment he wanted to pull her out of the vehicle, carry her back into the house, and sprawl across the large bed, kissing her until she agreed to his impulsive plan to leave Starfleet and live on New Vulcan. Or perhaps somewhere outside New Nairobi instead. Or in San Francisco. Anywhere they could be together without people constantly whispering and staring and judging.

That place would be nowhere in any galaxy, he knew. Their life together would always be challenging, but he wanted to stay with her.

"I love you, too," she said, and kissed him. He felt the truth of it, exhilarating and reassuring. She wanted to be with him, be his steady partner in love… and in Starfleet. Already she thought of them working together on the bridge, trusting and helping each other. This wasn't the right time to suggest running away together.

Reluctantly, Spock ended the kiss and started the vehicle.

The drive to the city seemed longer than Nyota remembered. "Spock, where are we going?"

"I wish to show you something before we return to the city." He drove into a different valley, this one also dotted with cave houses.

Spock pulled the transport to the side of the road. "Please take note of the cave house fifty-five meters away from us."

"Oh…it looks charming. There's even a garden behind that fence, those tall plants look as though they go all around the house. It's different from the cave house we used, but very nice in a different way."

"It is gratifying to know that you find the house acceptable, because it belongs to you."

Puzzled, she turned to stare at him. "Sweetheart, what do you mean? I've never even been to this place before."

"I purchased it for you two days ago while you slept. I became aware of your fondness for the cave house; you verbally expressed your approval of its aesthetic and physical qualities. After researching similar domiciles I selected this one. Unfortunately it is still occupied at the moment, so we cannot go inside. A caretaker will maintain the house while we are away. However, when we return to new Vulcan, it will be unoccupied, with a few basic furnishings, including a large bed…" he lightly pressed his shoulder against hers. "If you ever wish for us to enjoy solitude during our visits here, the house awaits. New Vulcan legal code permits ownership by offworlders with tangible connections to the new society. Even if you leave me, this house belongs to you. You are not required to let me enter unless you desire my presence."

"Oh, Spock. It's almost too much, I…" Nyota hugged him. "Thank you. I'm a bit overwhelmed. Nobody's ever bought me a house before, so pardon me if I'm at a loss for words."

"Are words always necessary? It pleases me to please you." Warm lips met hers. "I cherish thee."

Their last few days on New Vulcan were filled with a social whirl. The communications system at Sarek's home held more invitations than the suddenly fashionable couple could possibly attend. Their sudden disappearance so soon after the pursuit and arrest of a titled Vulcan lady did nothing to help Vulcan society forget Sarek's half-human son and his human bride. Instead, as they were dismayed to learn, people's curiosity intensified.

Nyota managed to block out a few hours of solitude, using the time to purchase a surprise gift for Spock at the carpenter Donstelralth's shop and donate blood at the hospital where Sarek had been treated. Enough human guest workers now lived on New Vulcan to make her donation useful. After consulting with Spock, she agreed to a recorded interview with a Vulcan cultural historian from the national archives, speaking about the positive – and, as politely as possible, some of the negative – aspects of her experience as a human in a changing Vulcan society.

T'Pau approached the couple during the intermission of a poetry and music performance. As they often did at public events, Spock and Nyota stood near Sarek and his small entourage; increased interest in the couple did not result in an increased number of friends.

Holding her breath, Nyota smoothed a hand over her dress. It was a modest new creation by T'Voria. Its drapery hung a little loosely on her as a result of the weight she'd temporarily lost during Ponn Farr.

They greeted T'Pau, who gazed at them imperiously.

"You both survived, I see. Good," she said, then turned and walked off.

The remark was so vague that all who overheard might assume T'Pau referred to the crime and their role in solving it. However, the greenish flush along Spock's ears told Nyota that the woman somehow knew the real reason for their disappearance from New Vulcan social life.

"Tabia ni ngozi," Nyota sighed.

Spock paused, quickly translating the Swahili proverb. "'Habit is a skin'?"

"T'sai T'Pau has been a, shall we say, direct communicator for most of her life, true? She's not about to suddenly shower hugs and kisses just to make us feel better. In an indirect way, she may have just given us her blessing. It's nice to have her approval of our survival as a couple." Nyota winked.

Spock half-smiled. "I suppose that we can expect a much warmer 'welcome back', complete with hugs and kisses, from the Uhura family."

"Hugs and a warm welcome, all of which you secretly enjoy," she said quietly, continuing in Swahili, speaking close to his ear in the noisy room.

He spoke to her across their bond, the emotion in his tranquil facial expression easily read by anyone who truly cared for him.

As a child, there were times when the fact of my human blood weighed heavily upon me. As a man, I begin to understand the benefits. I am ready to spend many more years learning with you.

Cool air wafted through the hall from a pair of open balcony doors. Night sounds of the busy new city and its unpredictable combinations of voices, music, animals, machines, and conveyances crept in.

Spock extended two fingers to meet Nyota's in the ozh'esta, the traditional Vulcan finger kiss. Together, they walked out into the silvery light of the New Vulcan moon.

The End

...

EPILOGUE

Sulu never needed to brag, and so he did not openly discuss his personal activities on New Vulcan. His memories provided pleasant daydream and fantasy material during lonely nights in deep space. Workplace flirtations were a bad idea, he thought…but even Sulu had weak moments.

The interpersonal shenanigans aboard the Enterprise usually led Leonard McCoy to comment wryly on the mismatch between hormones and common sense; however, he couldn't help smiling the next time he saw the Commander's fingers brush lightly against the Lieutenant's in the turbolift. If only he could meet someone nice during his next shore leave. He might finish fewer bottles of whisky and play fewer hands of poker. Filling his free time was becoming expensive.

Scotty, although cautious about a shipboard romance, quietly took a risk and felt something bloom.

Jim Kirk explained to the seductive Vulcan woman, T'seau, that he wasn't sure he'd keep in touch, explaining, "It isn't you, it's me." Unsurprisingly Jim discovered that T'seau's communication devices automatically rejected his attempts to contact her when he made a return visit to New Vulcan.

Spock and Nyota's love, trust, and support of each other grew a little more each day, but they had difficulty imagining life without Starfleet or the Enterprise. They began discussing the future: finding a semi-permanent home/homes, or living a semi-nomadic life in space.

Interplanetary demand for her 'intimate accessories' and Ponn Farr supplies skyrocketed after T'voria expanded her product line. In addition to restraints with safety releases, the line included specially designed pillows and lingerie sized to fit a wide range of Vulcan and off-world body types and shapes. Anonymous customer testimonials from Nyota and influential Vulcan women boosted sales through word-of-mouth. T'voria's company became a quietly respected employer and exporter on New Vulcan. She is now too busy to accept most of the invitations to parties she receives from those who previously snubbed her, and is admired for her charitable efforts on behalf of low-income Vulcans and alien guest workers.

T'voria found enough spare time to collaborate with Nyota, Sarek, and the Uhura family, establishing an interplanetary project intended to reduce bigotry. Beings of varied racial and ethnic backgrounds work together on education, housing, and food aid programs. She and her family look forward to joining Nyota and Spock during a future visit to the United States of Africa.


Thanks very much to the very patient readers who have followed this story through to its end. I appreciate the reviews and comments! Still new (story #3) at this fanfic genre & trying to refine my writing skills.

The translation of the Swahili proverb, "Habit is a skin", is from the Center for African Studies/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign website.

"A triple braided cord is stronger" = Ecclesiastes 4:12.

Glossary

Adun = husband. Vulcan.

Adun'a=wife. Vulcan.

Ashayam = beloved.

Sanoi = please. Vulcan.

Tal-kam = dear one. Vulcan.

T'hy'la=lover, close friend. Vulcan.

T'sai = Lady (as a title). Formal form of address.

p'laaka

Term referring to places that are prone to unpredictable events. (TOS novel: Crossroad)

The "time slip" that Spock & Nyota experience may be an indication that the cave house they occupy is a p'laaka. They choose not to return to the location for that reason.

v'tosh ka'tur

Term for "...Vulcans without logic." Viewed as outsiders to the traditional, Vulcan way of repressing emotions and practicing logical behavior. (ENT episode: "Fusion")

Thanks to Memory Alpha, the Vulcan Language Dictionary (VLD) & the Vulcan Language Institute for the vocabulary resources.