Written for Trekreversebang 2011; inspired by the terrific picture by Reflectedeve. Check it out at reflectedeve (dot) livejournal (dot) com/95860 (dot) html. The story is S/U, despite what the picture implies...appearances can be deceiving! The artist suggests the illustration may not be safe for work. Both illustration and fic rated R.
The second time Nyota Uhura wakes up, she doesn't try to go back to sleep. The dream is too vivid, too disturbing—not just because she has it twice, but because she has the uncomfortable sense that it is trying to point her to some elusive truth.
Not that she's ever been much of a believer in the soft sciences of human behavior—nor has she ever given much credence to the fanciful idea that dreams can be interpreted—but something about this dream, this recurring dream that wakes her, sweaty and tangled in the sheets twice in the same night, makes her pause.
For one, it is unusual as a dream because she was always aware that it was a dream…and not just the normal sort of lucid dream where she finds herself in a ridiculous or fantastic world she is able to manipulate.
This dream world was as clear-edged and detailed as her real life, as if she had stepped across a threshold into a reality as alive as her waking one.
The turbolift, for instance. She has never consciously studied its controls or design but in her dream she saw every panel, every indicator, in such clarity that when she woke she could still feel the imprint of the brake button on her thumb where she mashed it flat.
The lighting, too, had been as bright as the actual turbolift that carries her between the bridge to deck five and her quarters—not hazy or dimly lit as her dreams often are.
At least, as her sexual dreams often are.
Those are always dark, mysterious, incomplete.
This one, however—
The second time she wakes up she is so uncomfortably aroused that for a moment she stays prone on her back, disoriented.
She remembers closing her eyes earlier and finding herself suddenly on the dream bridge, just as she had been during her shift today, monitoring and recording the erratic signal from the only object still operating on the dead planet below.
Nine months into their shakedown cruise, the Enterprise picked up a faint signal from DL109, a nameless planet that had been researched a decade ago. Archaeologists concluded that the civilization that had built large underground bunkers were the last of the line of people whose highly-developed aesthetics included structures made from filaments so lightweight as to be almost invisible yet so strong they were used to construct observation platforms rising 50 kilometers into the atmosphere. Starships had visited the site intermittently since the initial discovery; not until the Enterprise picked up the faint signal did it merit a closer look.
For the past two days while the ship was in orbit around DL109, Nyota worked trying to translate the language being broadcast on an automatic transceiver—for a language it was and not some random code.
Normally that sort of task would have been welcomed—an excuse to work closely with Spock on a communications puzzle—but lately they've been tentative with each other in a way that has caught her off guard.
Their relationship began innocuously enough three years ago. He was her professor at the Academy twice before he hired her as his teaching assistant—and even then they had been careful not to acknowledge to anyone—least of all to themselves—their growing attachment.
They shared work hours and conversations and tea breaks and even meals off campus for months before dashing into Spock's faculty apartment one night after supper at a nearby deli, drenched by a sudden San Francisco downpour. Shedding their wet clothes had seemed reasonable, even logical, at the time…
Or not. At that point they were past caring.
For the rest of that school year and part of the next they lived a dual existence. In public, teacher and aide. In private, friends and lovers. The gap between those worlds had been dangerous.
And, Nyota realized later, exciting.
She was almost ashamed to admit it. There they had been, like strings on a ka'athyra vibrating at the same frequency, untouching, untouched when others were around, careful about what people might say, their public restraint fueling their private passion.
Until the unthinkable happened and Spock was brought before a disciplinary board on charges of fraternization. His career could have ended there—and hers, too—but fraternization was hard to prove. Had the Commander coerced a subordinate into an unwanted relationship? Or conversely, had he offered her special treatment, shown favoritism, because of his feelings for her?
His feelings for her—which he had not denied. When Admiral Komack grilled him, asked him how he, a Vulcan, someone from a culture dedicated to logic and rational thinking, had allowed himself to be caught up in such a compromising situation, Spock answered slowly.
"I was unable to control my feelings," he said.
If the nine human members of the disciplinary board were inclined to throw the book at a cold, rational Vulcan who should have known better, Spock's admission of a human failing softened the blow. The charges were dropped but he was advised to cease and desist in his relationship with his teaching assistant.
Naturally, of course, he disregarded that warning.
The months after the hearing were fraught with tension in some ways more intense than before. Any misstep this time would be dire, now that they were being, as Spock said, scrutinized.
That scrutiny, Nyota knew, was why Spock had assigned her to the Farragut—
But that was moot now. Once Vulcan was destroyed, their worlds, private and public, changed forever.
It should have been a relief, the merging of the two. Giving up the steady fear of being found out should been like shaking a pebble from a shoe. Instead, it felt like the loss of a tooth—something familiar and even stabilizing suddenly gone, its absence explored more now than when they had taken its presence in their relationship for granted.
Is it really this simple? Now that they can sit across from each other in the mess without anyone raising eyebrows, can come and go from each other's quarters with no one saying a word, is she just bored?
Or not bored, but disappointed at how conventional things have become?
Or how stymied—not moving forward, either—a result of Spock's reluctance to bond with her. Nyota understands his hesitation. His experience with an unsuitable bondmate in T'Pring makes him gun shy…and now the rising cultural and political pressures of settling the survivors of the genocide keeps all Vulcans in a peculiar sort of limbo.
Through the mental touches they do share, Spock shows her these things and more, tries to tell her that now is not the time to make decisions that cannot be easily unmade.
She understands this, but she doesn't like it. If not now, when?
Is it time to re-evaluate her assumption that they will be together in the future?
Is that the message of the dream?
As she slips on her clothes after waking from it the second time, she goes over the details of the dream again—the way she had felt herself on the bridge at her station, part of her mind focused on the signal being recorded, the rest of her thoughts considering what had happened the night before.
She and Spock hadn't quarreled—not exactly—but their conversation over the evening meal had been, at least for her, disappointing. A scheduled shore leave on Risa had the crew talking on their off hours—plans so explicit that Nyota felt her face flush when she overheard them.
"Do you want me to book one of the beach cabins," she asked over supper, "or did the mountain resort appeal to you more?"
Spock speared an unappetizing-looking orange vegetable on his fork before looking up at her.
"Choose the accommodation that suits you," he said, his face set in what Nyota has come to call "Vulcan neutral," a giveaway that he is going to tell her something unpleasant. She sat up straighter and braced for it.
"You aren't coming, are you?" she said, and he looked up and said, "The odds are high that I will not be able to join you. Knowing the captain's…predilections, I suspect he will spend the entire time on the planet's surface. My presence on the ship will be required."
Before she could stop herself, Nyota blurted out, "That's not true! You could assign duty to any of the other officers. There's nothing that says you have to be here the whole time."
She saw something flicker in Spock's expression.
"I plan to use the time to recalibrate the sensor array," he said. "That process requires 67 hours to complete, and unless I am here to monitor it, the recalibration could be compromised."
Silently she fumed. He was right that he was the best person to recalibrate the sensor array—and he was also right that if he left partway through the process, it might not get done as well.
But it could get done. Maybe not to his standards of perfection, but done well enough to serve the ship—
And there is the rub. She will never be able to compete with the Enterprise. Not really.
Even thinking that—putting herself in the scale against the ship—makes her feel foolish and dramatic. Her duty to the ship comes first, of course. Holding Spock to some different level of accountability is unfair.
In the dream she thinks all these things, too—struggles with her uneasiness about shore leave, about Spock's seeming indifference to spending it with her.
"I'm heading to get some lunch," the captain in her dream says, standing suddenly and stretching. "Sulu, you have the conn."
Glancing at the chronometer on the screen, Nyota is startled to see that her own lunch is overdue. Normally she is careful about meal breaks. Not consuming enough calories while traveling at warp for extended periods can make someone light-headed, irritable.
The Enterprise isn't at warp right now, of course, but in a standard orbit around DL109. Still, missing a meal isn't a good idea. And the monotony of watching the signal transmission upload is beginning to make her less attentive than she likes.
"Wait, Captain," she says, motioning to Hannity to replace her at the communications console. "I'm heading that way."
Kirk smiles his trademark smirk, the one Nyota has overhead Leonard McCoy describe as being "smooth enough to charm the birds out of the trees," though the image has always been somewhat baffling to her.
She supposes Kirk is handsome, in a rough sort of way, and charming, too, if being able to talk himself in and out of trouble in equal measure counts as a skill.
But she has never found him particularly attractive—not sexually, the way she knows so many crewmembers do. Perhaps because she has known him for so long as an annoying fellow cadet?
"Hey, Sally!" he liked to say when they ran into each other on campus, his tip of the hat to her vaunted privacy. The only serious argument she had ever had with Gaila was about Kirk and what Nyota saw as his using her roommate to further his own goals.
"He's up to something," Nyota warned when Kirk's attentions to Gaila picked up at the same time that he scheduled his third attempt at the Kobayashi Maru.
"Well, I'm up to something, too," Gaila retorted, but they both knew that they were talking at cross-purposes.
Thinking about Gaila saddens her, as always, waking or dreaming. In the dream she lets her expression fall and instantly Kirk's face grows more serious as he stands and holds the door of the turbolift open for her.
"You okay?" he says, and Nyota hesitates. Is she? Of course not. Like so many losses in the past year, this one is still too sharp to speak about casually. If she is angry at Kirk for his casual mistreatment of Gaila, she's even angrier at herself for insisting that Spock change her posting from the Farragut to the Enterprise without once thinking that Gaila wanted and deserved an assignment here as well—
And something she barely acknowledges for fear that Spock will sense it—her anger at him—illogical, she knows, and completely unjust—that the stroke of his stylus sent Gaila to her death.
The vagaries of a random universe. She knows this, believes this.
It doesn't lessen her anger or her guilt.
"You okay?" Kirk says again as she slips past him into the turbolift, and she makes eye contact at last and nods.
The doors shut then and she feels the motion damper kick in.
"So," Kirk says, crossing his arms and rocking on his heels, "I haven't seen you at the poker game lately."
It's such a transparent effort at idle chitchat that Nyota can't help but smile. She looks up and is surprised that he is still looking serious, concerned—not at all as breezy as she expects him to be.
She's been selling him short, she realizes. That's unfair, and it isn't like her.
"Thank you for noticing," she says. "I've been…busy."
"Hey," Kirk says, a note of cheer in his voice, "if you're too busy for poker, then I need to have a talk with whoever is making your duty assignments."
They both grin at that. Spock, of course, sets the duties. Kirk's double entendre—duty assignments, indeed—hovers in the air, conjures up the absent Vulcan so forcefully that when the turbolift stops and the door opens to admit Spock himself, Nyota bursts out laughing at the irony.
Spock's eyebrow quirks up and he scans Nyota and then Kirk carefully.
"Captain," he says. "Lieutenant. I seem to have interrupted something."
He steps into the lift and it begins again.
The turbolift ride would never take this long except in a dream, Nyota thinks. An opportunity offered by her subconscious?
"Yes, you have," Nyota says to Spock, watching his face closely. "I was just getting to know the captain better."
If she was looking for some spark of jealousy, some indication of emotion on Spock's face, she is disappointed.
Kirk, on the other hand, looks amused.
"Indeed," Spock says, his voice inflectionless. They might have been discussing the weather.
"He says he's been missing me at the poker games."
From the corner of her eye she sees Kirk react—not quite a protest to her characterization of their conversation, but close. He uncrosses his arms and lifts one hand.
Which Nyota slips into her own after pressing her thumb on the button to halt the turbolift.
"I need to get back into the game," she says, her glance darting to where Spock stands behind Kirk. "It's nice to be missed."
In the reality of the dream she isn't cruel or teasing or manipulative or evil—but justified in what she does next.
Stepping forward, she presses her thigh to Kirk's and notes his surprise. Another glance at Spock—and this time, she sees his eyes narrow and darken.
"Uh, Lieutenant," Kirk says, and Nyota turns her attention to him. Up close he is actually very appealing. Why hasn't she noticed that before?
Almost of its own accord her hand drifts up to his face and strokes his ear. Without looking, she hears Spock's sudden intake of breath.
"What are you—" Kirk says, but Nyota silences him by slipping her fingers under the hem of his shirt and edging it upward.
She leans into him harder and his eyes close.
To her astonishment she feels herself becoming aroused.
Perhaps she really does need to get back into the game. Maybe that has been the source of her disquiet recently.
Over Kirk's shoulder she sees Spock watching her—and that, too, is arousing.
"I really have to—" Kirk says weakly, and Nyota feels him flinch. She looks down and sees Spock grasping the captain's wrists, his meaning clear.
If this is what you want—
She knows this is a dream because she hears Spock's unspoken words as clearly as if they were bonded, their minds linked in exactly the union she has longed for.
Spock's expression would be unreadable to anyone else but she sees how close he is to losing control. Fury and possessiveness that he keeps hidden most of the time make his eyes hooded and black.
Yet he keeps his hands on Kirk's wrists, immobilizing him.
If this is what you want—she hears him say again in her mind, and she considers.
It is exciting—she can't deny it.
But is it what she wants?
What she wants is be cherished in a way that Spock may not be able to—chosen over the sensor array recalibration, for instance.
A relationship with him will always be a series of silent compromises.
But what she wants is not Jim Kirk, not even casually, playfully. If Gaila were alive here and now, the Orion would give her blessings without reservations, Nyota is certain.
That she isn't here stays Nyota's hand. She knows it is foolish, but she can't help how she feels.
And not just about Gaila. She darts a look at Spock.
His hands gripping Kirk, keeping him there for her—he would do that if she wanted him to. That means something, surely.
She steps back and puts her arms at her side.
Both times that she has the dream, it ends there. The second time that she wakes up, she dresses quickly and slips around the corridor to Spock's quarters. He's off duty today, she knows, though he might not be in his cabin. Often he spends his free time in one of the science labs overseeing the multitude of projects that constitute the Enterprise's raison d'etre.
To her relief he answers the chime immediately, quietly stepping aside to let her enter.
"Are you unwell?" he asks as soon as the door shuts behind her, but instead of answering, she moves into his arms and buries her face in his shoulder. His scent is musky, familiar. She presses her nose into his shirt and breathes in deeply.
For a moment they stand there and then Spock pulls her into an embrace so tight that she struggles to catch her breath. As if he senses her distress, he releases her, slightly, and presses his chin to the top of her head.
"Something is troubling you."
His voice is uncharacteristically stricken and she leans away enough to look him in the face.
Unlike in her dream, Spock's eyes are warm and brown and human—and the expression on his face shows obvious concern.
"It's nothing," she says. "Just a silly dream."
He pulls her close again for a moment and then shepherds her to his bed, pulling back the thick duvet. Neither says a word as they slip under the sheets and slide towards each other, their faces only inches apart, Spock's hand stroking her waist, her thigh, and pulling her leg up until her knee straddles his own.
When he reaches up to touch her psi points she jerks back, feeling his surprise by the way he pauses.
"Later," she says, partly to reassure him but also to dodge him until the dream has time to evaporate, foglike, into the thin air of her memory.
If he is disappointed he hides it from her, letting his arm pin her to the bed in a loose embrace. Within minutes she is so warm that she falls sound asleep.
X X X X X
The last thing he recalls before he steps into the dream is estimating the temperature differential between his wrist and Nyota's waist as he listens to her breathing slowing and becoming so regular that he knows she has drifted to sleep.
5.785 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale, at least. Nyota's skin is cool, almost uncomfortably so, under his arm.
And then in the world of the dream, he notes with surprise that his wrist is not pressed against Nyota's waist at all but is touching the slick surface of the wall next to the call button for the turbolift. With a start he stands upright, tucking his hands together behind his back.
He knows in the way that one knows things in dreams that he has been in the engineering room working on the preliminary prep work for the signal array recalibration. For some reason, engineer Scott had been less than enthusiastic about the proposed work, arguing that taking the array offline was unnecessary.
"She's doing fine," Scott had told him earlier. "A tweak now and then until we can get her back into spacedock is all she needs. I don't like tearing down a major system all the way out here."
"Your concern is unwarranted," Spock said, and Scott made the face that Spock has come to associate with extreme annoyance in humans. "I will personally oversee the entire refit while the Enterprise is at Risa."
"Affirmative. The recalibration will take approximately 67 hours—"
"But," the engineer had spluttered, "I was hoping to get down to Risa to check out—"
"Your leave should not be impacted in any way," Spock said, but he heard Scott mutter, "You'll not be touching my sensor array without me being there…"
The sensor array recalibration has become a point of contention in his relationship with Nyota as well. When he mentioned it to her, he saw her react with anger and disappointment—and though he has tried to think of a way to lessen her unhappiness, he is at a loss to know what to do.
Lately he has often felt at such a loss. The only other human woman he has ever known as well was his mother, and she, too, would sometimes chastise him for what she called his social blindness.
"Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to," she told him more than once, "for no other reason than because it makes someone else happy."
He wishes, as he often does when he thinks of his mother, that he could ask her advice now.
Not that he doesn't want to go to Risa with Nyota—he would find much about that shore leave pleasant—but he senses that the real issue is something more, something weightier.
The distance he senses in Nyota began before anyone knew the Enterprise would take shore leave on Risa, had started a month earlier, in fact, when she caught him off guard by asking if New Vulcan was, as scuttlebutt had it, one of the next destinations on the shakedown cruise.
"Starfleet has not set the time," he told her, "but we will almost certainly be there within the next 60 days. Why do you ask?"
"We could find a healer then," she said, and he understood what she was suggesting—that they make a commitment to be bonded.
He has no desire for any other intimate companion than Nyota Uhura, cannot, in fact, imagine living apart from her—but making that commitment formal and final brought him up short in a way that she picked up on at once.
His reticence dismayed her, more deeply, he suspects, than he knows. Hence her quietude since, and her willingness to spend more nights in her own quarters, alone.
The lift arrives with a whoosh and he is startled to see Nyota and Kirk already inside, laughing. Their easy familiarity with each other has always been a barely acknowledged source of disquiet, but today his feelings are heightened.
"Captain," he says. "Lieutenant. I seem to have interrupted something."
He steps into the lift and it begins again. The feeling of acceleration is imperfectly dampened, the lights not quite as luminescent as in the real world.
The dream, still. He marvels that for a few moments he was completely immersed in the reality of it.
"Yes, you have," Nyota says to Spock, her large dark eyes watching him with the kind of intensity that invariably leads him to consider how to get her into his bed. "I was just getting to know the captain better."
He is too astonished to react.
She knows Kirk better than she knows most of the other crew members on the ship, has known him since her second year at the Academy. She cannot know him much better…unless she means that she is getting to know him more intimately than before.
Once she told Spock about a sexual overture Kirk made towards her at the Riverside shipyard. At the time he dismissed that story as irrelevant, in the past, but now it seems likely that Kirk has been waiting to continue his pursuit.
Getting to know the captain better.
The recent nights they've slept apart—he had assumed she was working through her disappointment over his hesitation about bonding, or her irritation with shore leave.
Perhaps she has been getting to know the captain better then.
"Indeed," Spock says, draining his voice of any emotion, frantically lowering his racing heartbeat. If he loses control—
"He says he's been missing me at the poker games."
From where he stands behind Kirk, Spock can see Nyota reaching to press the halt button and then grasping Kirk's hand, her slender brown fingers fluttering across his palm.
The eroticism of her touch drives Spock to a despair only a telepath could know.
"I need to get back into the game," she says, looking up at him. "It's nice to be missed."
Her message is pointed, her intentions clear. If Spock cannot commit to her, she will move on.
As if to symbolize that decision, she steps forward and presses her thigh into Kirk's.
They've done this before. When Nyota looks in his direction, he is certain.
The blood rushes to his face with a roar.
"Uh, Lieutenant," he hears Kirk say, and Nyota snakes her hand up to Kirk's ear and runs her fingertips along the curved, human pinna.
Spock clenches his hands to keep them from trembling. For a moment he can't breathe, his chest is so tight.
"What are you—" Kirk says, but Nyota silences him by slipping her fingers under the hem of his shirt and edging it upward.
She leans into Kirk harder.
To Spock's horror, he is unable to look away. Nyota glances back at him—and in an instant he weighs the years of getting to know her better when she was his student and then his aide—the months of living in fear of being found out, the shame of the disciplinary hearing when they were—not to mention the shock and grief of losing Vulcan and his mother—weighs all that they have been through, all they have been for each other, and sees in that instant that Nyota is what has kept him steady, his anchor, the person who leads him home, Polaris.
If he has lost her, he's truly lost indeed.
The part of his mind that deals with rational thought stops working then.
"I really have to—" Kirk says weakly, and Spock reaches forward and presses his fingers in a vise around his wrists. To his shameful satisfaction, he sees the captain flinch in pain.
You may not, Spock thinks, and he squeezes the eight slender bones of Kirk's wrists until he hears the captain gasp.
You may not!
Just a little more pressure and the captain will exit the turbolift incapacitated with two broken wrists. Spock recalls the intense annoyance he felt when he broke his own wrist months ago in a hover bus accident—the aggravation of the hard cast, the difficulty maneuvering with his arm immobile.
Imagining Jim Kirk with two broken wrists is…pleasing.
But then Nyota steps back, the expression on her face unreadable.
She's aware that he is going to hurt the captain and she wants to prevent it—to keep Kirk safe, to spare him pain.
Her concern for the captain—her affection—is the deepest blow yet. Spock releases the captain's wrists and gasps, awake.
For 12.45 minutes he lies in his bunk unmoving, watching the gentle rise and fall of Nyota's shoulder as she sleeps.
Logically, of course, the dream has an explanation. Nyota had mentioned being disturbed by a dream—had, in fact, come to his cabin because of it—so it isn't that surprising that he would have one in turn. The power of suggestion, after all.
That the dream highlighted his own worries about losing Nyota is no surprise, either.
That Jim Kirk has figured so prominently is disturbing, though Spock isn't sure why.
He drifts off to sleep soon enough and dreams the dream exactly as before—the same possessiveness overwhelming him, the same grief when he thinks he has lost Nyota to the captain.
Gingerly he gets up from the bed and makes his way to the corner of the room where he has placed his asenoi, his large, clay meditation pot, on a tripod. In a moment it is lit and he sits cross-legged on the floor, his eyes focused on the flickering light, his heartbeat gradually slowing, the dream finally receding.
"Come back," Nyota says a few minutes later, and he turns, surprised that she is awake, reclining on one arm, her hair falling over her shoulder and across her exposed breasts.
Instantly he is so aroused that he doesn't try to pretend indifference. He stands quickly, snuffs out the asenoi, and slides into the bed beside her, placing his leg over hers and then, when she reaches for him, slipping his right hand to her temple while he rests his weight on his left elbow.
This isn't how he usually approaches her mind—in a hurry, without preamble. His need for her is too insistent, his mood after the disturbance of the dream bordering on anxiety. Usually he waits to link with her until he senses that she is ready to open up to him, mentally as well as physically.
But tonight he presses forward.
Come back, she says again, this time wordlessly, and he shows her what he knows to be true—that he has never left her, not really, despite her growing dissatisfaction the past few weeks.
Not dissatisfaction, she says, correcting him. Uncertainty.
Vulcan crumbling beneath his feet, his frantic scrambling to reach his mother's outstretched hand—
He shows her this, an image so freighted with guilt and shame that until now he has kept it for himself.
He does not say nothing is certain, for he doesn't believe that—the laws of physics are immutable, bedrock—but he lets the image speak to the part of his life that feels perilous and impermanent.
Forgive me, he thinks, knowing that Nyota needs more than he can offer her. In reply she arches her hips underneath his, an invitation he accepts with a rocking motion of his own.
Come back, she echoes in his mind, and he loses himself then, her cool limbs surrounding him, pulling him closer, his teeth grazing her shoulder, her collarbone, until he hears her gasp in his ear and he feels her shudder beneath him.
When he follows her at last they are so sweaty that the duvet is an unwarranted burden. Nyota kicks it off the bed and they lie in each other's arms, breathing hard, their fingers intertwined, the drying sweat making them sticky, salty. When he lowers his hand and withdraws his mind from hers, he's made a decision.
"When we get to New Vulcan," he says, brushing the hair from her face, "I will ask my father to help us find a healer."
With a quizzical look she pulls away enough to meet his gaze.
"A healer? Are you certain?"
Instead of replying he tugs her next to him again, feeling her heartbeat against his chest, the only thing certain in an unforgiving universe.
X X X X X X
He notices the difference as soon as he reaches the bridge. Spock and Uhura are sitting side-by-side at the communications console, heads bent over a display, quietly conferring. Something has brightened their mood. After a couple of weeks of dreary silence or perfunctory replies, the couple seems…happy…with each other again.
That's a relief in more ways than one.
Kirk steps from the turbolift and makes his rounds past navigation and helm before gravitating to the captain's chair.
"Maintaining standard orbit," Sulu says, glancing backward. Kirk nods.
"Mr. Spock," he says, "any progress in translating that transmission?"
"Indeed, captain," Spock says, scooting his chair back and standing up, PADD in hand. "Lieutenant Uhura and I have determined that at least 80% of the transmission is a detailed explanation about a technology in use at the time, a probe that was able to access a person's subconscious thoughts and emotions and then amplify them into dreams."
"Dreams?" Kirk says, frowning. "I thought that's what dreams were anyway—crazy stuff swirling around in our subconscious—"
"The dreams amplified by this technology were different in nature from the normal types of dreams that most sentient species have," Spock says. "The dream weaver—which is a rough translation of what the people of this planet called it—didn't just read individual minds. It looked for connections between individuals and gave them shared dreams."
"What's the point of that?"
"Lots of reasons," Uhura says, running her finger across a dial on her console and removing the transceiver from her ear. "Some of the recordings are from medical personnel who hoped the dream weaver would help them with patients suffering from mental trauma. It's not quite clear how. Helping them relive an unpleasant experience, perhaps, only this time with what their subconscious wished had happened."
"Law enforcement also hoped to track criminals by linking them to their victims through dreams," Spock added. "And, of course, the technology offered many possibilities for pure entertainment."
As he listens to Spock and Uhura, Kirk's sense of uneasiness that started as a moment of déjà vu in the lift to the bridge blossoms into a pounding heart and sweaty palms, as if he has just finished running a race.
What's going on? This isn't like him.
And then he remembers the dream.
It woke him twice in the night, the second time with an erection so painful that he had to relieve himself in the shower, something he hasn't resorted to in…well, in forever.
The dream began here, in his chair on the bridge, a growing hunger signaling an impending lunch break. A quick trip to the mess hall was in order. He felt himself rise and walk to the turbolift. From behind him Lieutenant Uhura called out.
"Wait, Captain. I'm heading that way."
His truce with Uhura is hard-fought, borne of cajoling and jollying her out of her deserved suspicions about him. Even in the nine months of the shakedown cruise she has been hard to get to know—harder, in many ways, than his inscrutable Vulcan first officer.
She'll never forgive him, he suspects, for acting the cad the first time they met.
And for Gaila, of course.
In the dream he gave a rueful smile—a surrender flag, an offer of a truce.
As she walked toward the turbolift he thought, as he always did when he watched her move, that she was the most beautiful woman he knew, that her dancer's grace and lithe movements were so unconsciously erotic that he had to remind himself not to stare when she was on duty.
How Spock ever ended up with her—
That line of thought was a frequent rabbit hole, too. Better not to go there.
Today her face was unaccountably sad—or if not exactly sad, then wistful.
"You okay?" he said, and Nyota hesitated. Her expression flickered like clouds scudding across the sun.
Was she upset with him? Had he slipped and said something suggestive, or compromising? Frantically he tried to remember their comments to each other since she came on duty earlier in his shift.
He tried again.
As she slipped past him into the turbolift, he caught a whiff of her scent—something spicy, almost musky. When she met his gaze, he had to look away.
The doors shut then and he felt the motion damper kick in.
For a moment they rode in awkward silence.
"So," Kirk said, crossing his arms and rocking on his heels, "I haven't seen you at the poker game lately."
Finally he saw her smile—reluctantly, to be sure, but a smile. Whatever had weighed on her these past two weeks seemed to be lifting.
"Thank you for noticing," she said. "I've been…busy."
"Hey," Kirk said, trying to sound cheerful, "if you're too busy for poker, then I need to have a talk with whoever is making your duty assignments."
It was a wicked pun at Spock's expense but it did what he intended. They grinned together like guilty children.
When the turbolift stopped and the door opened to admit Spock himself, Nyota burst out laughing.
Spock's eyebrow quirked up and he scanned Nyota and then Kirk carefully.
"Captain," he said. "Lieutenant. I seem to have interrupted something."
He stepped into the lift and it began again.
"Yes, you have," Nyota said to Spock, her voice unmistakably mischievous. "I was just getting to know the captain better."
Because he was watching her so closely, Kirk saw her exchange a knowing look with Spock. They didn't seem tense with each other at all. In fact, they looked inordinately pleased about something.
"Indeed," Spock said, his voice so flat that they might have been discussing the weather.
"He says he's been missing me at the poker games."
Nyota's tone was so unlike her that Kirk looked at her quickly. He uncrossed his arms and lifted one hand.
With a sudden motion, Nyota pressed the turbolift halt button, grabbed his hand, and rubbed his wrist with her thumb. To his astonishment, her touch made his breath hitch.
"I need to get back into the game," she said, her glance darting to where Spock towered behind Kirk. "It's nice to be missed."
Stepping forward, she pressed her thigh to Kirk's and to his dismay he felt himself respond. He tried to back away but Spock was right behind him.
Without wanting to, he remembered Spock's fingers around his throat nine months ago, holding him immobile on the navigation console—Kirk helpless to move, to breathe, certain that at any moment the furious Vulcan would tire of watching him suffocate slowly and would snap his neck.
The thought that Uhura was inviting that same fury now was terrifying…and…arousing.
With one part of his mind he was detached enough to find his predicament humorous.
"Uh, Lieutenant," Kirk said and Nyota turned her attention to him. Her lips were full and parted, her eyes large and luminescent.
Her breathing was throaty; his own was raspy. Behind him, he felt Spock's breath on his neck, inhumanly hot.
When Uhura reached up and stroked his ear, he was sure he was going to die.
"What are you—" Kirk said, but when Nyota slipped her fingers under the hem of his shirt and edged it upward, he shivered and lost the power of speech.
She leaned into him harder and his eyes closed. He felt her, warm and damp, against his thigh.
Why wasn't Spock saying anything? Was it possible that he didn't mind, didn't care? Had Kirk been misreading their relationship all along? Had Uhura been available—willing even—all this time?
"I really have to—" Kirk said weakly, and then was gripped so hard that he really did lose his breath.
Like burning manacles, Spock's fingers circled his wrists—and Kirk's entire body was on fire.
There it was again, that connection he felt when Spock tried to kill him on the bridge the day Vulcan fell—his fingers around Kirk's throat, his fury and grief flooding Kirk's mind through his touch.
Of course everyone knew that Vulcans were touch telepaths, that their minds were, so to speak, at their fingers' ends—but Kirk had never thought to experience a shared link, particularly not one forced on him in anger.
But there it had been, Spock's mind as sharp and angled and clear as a calculus problem, and as illuminated as a bonfire. When his hand receded at last and he left the bridge, Kirk had spluttered and caught his breath and felt an astonishing feeling of loneliness, of being bereft, of losing some better part of himself.
So here it was again—that window into Spock's mind beckoning him in a way that was both intensely emotional and sexually charged—
And suddenly he realized that Uhura and Spock set this up—her following him onto the lift and Spock stopping it on deck seven.
The three of them together—here—now?
In his wildest dreams he couldn't have imagined this embarrassment of riches. He'd be crazy to turn it down…
He felt Spock tighten his grip on his wrists and he almost cried out. Uhura leaned forward and nipped his earlobe until he bucked his hips, so congested that any motion was torment.
And then he woke up. Twice.
"Captain? Are you alright?"
"I was just…thinking," he says, "about what you were saying, Lieutenant. What about the other 20%?"
"Spock said that 80% of the transmission is an explanation of how this—dream weaver—works. What about the rest of the transmission? Have you translated that?"
"Still working, captain," Spock says, moving to the science station and sitting down. "The language in that section is slightly different from the rest of the transmission, suggesting it is the last of the transmission to be recorded. Most of the text seems to be some type of warning about unforeseen negative ramifications associated with the dream technology."
"But how can dreams be dangerous?" Kirk says, and then more quietly, he adds, "Oh."
A chirp from Uhura's subspace monitor catches his attention and he listens as she lifts the transceiver to her ear. Her gaze becomes unfocused for a few moments and then she says, "Aye, sir."
Turning to Kirk, she says, "Starfleet Command. They've ordered us to finish up here within the hour and proceed to Risa for shore leave."
"Hallelujah!" Kirk says, grinning, and he's pleased to see Uhura grin back. Darting a glance to the science station, he notes Spock watching him with undisguised curiosity.
"I for one," he says, "can't get to Risa soon enough. I need a vacation. And I know you are ready to get that sensor array recalibrated, Spock. You've mentioned it in every staff meeting."
"Only in the last three," Spock says, "but Mr. Scott has agreed to oversee the work on the sensor array."
This from both Kirk and Uhura at the same time, with the same note of surprise.
"Yes, captain," Spock says with what sounds suspiciously like mock indignation. "I trust Mr. Scott's expertise."
"I didn't think you were planning to take shore leave," Kirk says.
"I have…reconsidered," Spock says, and Kirk knows better than to ask him for details.
The whoosh of the turbolift draws everyone's attention and Leonard McCoy strides onto the bridge.
"Will someone tell me what's going on?" he says, his arms flying in the air to punctuate his words. "I've got half the crew stopping by sickbay to get something to help them sleep so they can get back to their dreams, and the other half wanting something to keep them awake so they won't have nightmares."
"It's the dream weaver, doctor," Uhura says. She gives him the thumbnail sketch of how it works and Kirk listens, impressed again at how bright she is, how expressive.
"Well, did anybody test this thing?"
"What do you mean, Bones?"
"I mean, you're taking the word of this transmission that it can make people share dreams. Shouldn't you be surveying everyone who reports one of these dreams and see if we can correlate it to another—"
This time Kirk and Uhura and Spock all speak at the same time. For a moment McCoy stands, nonplussed, his hands on his hips.
"I mean," Kirk hastens to add, "we have orders to leave for Risa right away. You wouldn't want the crew to have to wait any longer for shore leave, would you, Bones?"
Kirk sees the wheels of McCoy's attention twirling. On one hand, the dream phenomenon is of scientific and medical interest, and tracing the effect of the alien technology on human subconscious thoughts and emotions might be valuable.
On the other hand—
"Well, no," McCoy says, "this crew is overdue for R & R. If you don't think—"
"Oh, I don't," Kirk says, looking toward Spock. "Spock? Lieutenant? Do you need more time to sort the transmissions? We can stay in orbit longer if you think we do."
"Negative, captain," Spock says.
"We have enough data," Uhura says.
"More than enough, I think," Kirk says, careful not to look at either of the others. "Enough to drive someone crazy."
A/N: I hope you enjoy this story and the other great stories posted on LJ's Trekreversebang 2011.
For readers of "Crossing the Equator," the next chapter should be up soon! I've been out of the country but StarTrekFanWriter has been busy! Check out her latest additions to "Tapestry" and "The Appearance of Impropriety" in my faves.