Disclaimer: Still not mine. Regrettably.

Thank you for all of your support - it's been wonderful. For this, keep an open mind...

The dinner was not as formal as it had been last time Spock and Sybok had eaten with them, but the food was just as plentiful and delicious. Tapen, the instructor who had given their tour at the Defence Institute, had been convinced to join them after Sulu had promised to give him a demonstration of fencing.

He was reluctant until Kirk had told him that Sulu was the Academy champion and record holder. It seemed that like all Vulcans, he could be manipulated by their curiosity.

"I was surprised at how graceful some of the martial arts were," Uhura said as she cradled her tea in her hands. "Dance-like, really."

McCoy scoffed. "A deadly dance."

"Uhura is right," Sulu said, nodding in agreement. "The strength and restraint needed to perform some of the positions does make it appear quite graceful."

"And the synchronicity," she added. Watching the two Vulcans spar on the mat had been more like watching a performance than a demonstration. When one kicked, the other ducked, where once leapt forward, the other leapt back. She couldn't take her eyes off of them.

"If Uhura's reaction is a typical female one, then sign me up!" Kirk laughed, drumming his fingers on the table in a mis-matched rhythm.

She rolled her eyes but couldn't stop the smile tugging at her lips. "The only thing you're good for is fist fights. Besides, I'm allowed to appreciate it for what it is." She lifted her chin defiantly as she took a sip of the soothing tea. This one was sweeter than others she'd tried, and was a delicate violet colour.

"With the right motivation…" His laugh was booming when she narrowed her eyes at him. She caught Chekov grinning.

"Chekov, you get it, don't you? Didn't you tell me before that your cousin is a dancer for the Moscow ballet?"

He nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, Anatoly is really very good. He is the strongest man in our family. Muscles out to here," he held his hands a couple of inches out from his arms. "Lots of girlfriends. There is a holo of him holding a ballerina on each of his arms with one stood on his shoulders. I think in the dance he is meant to be a tree." He frowned.

"A tree?" Tapen was eyeing Chekov closely as if he had misheard.

"In ballet, the dances tell a story set to music. They are normally very fantastical," Uhura explained, hoping that he understood.

"Strange. Vulcans do not perform the kind of dance you are describing."

Uhura gave him a gentle smile. "If you are ever curious, watch some holovids. I think you will be impressed by the control of the dancers."

Chekov nodded again and had to brush his curls back from his face as they fell forward from the force of the movement. "Anatoly has to balance on his toes for ten minutes in one of the pieces. You can't even see his muscles shaking."

"I was not aware humans were capable of such feats." Tapen's dark eyes grew distant.

The Russian turned to her. "Didn't you say you did ballet before?"

She flushed as everyone suddenly looked at her.

"What's this? Uhura was going to be a ballerina?"

She gave an unladylike snort. "Hardly. I was never any good. My mama made me have lessons to teach me discipline – according to her I was a terrible child. Never stopped asking her questions and bothering her. I stopped when I came to the Academy though." She gave Kirk a mischievous grin. "Though it's why I was placed ahead of you in Combat Training, Captain."

Sybok set his dish down on its saucer and swept his gaze over them all. "So humans are not encouraged to have a certain level of mastery in all areas before they reach maturity?"

Uhura didn't really know how to answer that.

"They receive a general intellectual education which they proceed to specialize as they grow older. Physical activity is compulsory to a certain age of schooling, where it becomes extracurricular. The disciplines vary depending on their upbringing and culture." Spock turned to Sulu. "If I recall, Sulu is descended from professional fencers."

Sulu nodded. "It's traditional for members of my family to learn when we're young."

"I see." Sybok paused. "So if Lieutenant Uhura became proficient in ballet, and the Helmsman took up fencing, what physical activity did you partake in?" He looked to Chekov, who immediately blushed. "Your physique is not as muscular as other members of your crew."

Chekov swallowed audibly and the red flush didn't dissipate. "I enjoyed running but it was not competitive. I did it because it helped me to think and work out problems." His eyes brightened momentarily. "The formula that got me into the placed into advanced quantum mechanics two years early I worked out when I was running."

Uhura looked up to see Kirk smiling at Chekov with an almost brotherly expression. Chekov was too pure and adorable to not love.

"But," he continued. "In my family we played thinking games. My father was thought that intelligence was better than strength."

"Thinking games?" Uhura tried not to laugh at the tiled heads of the Vulcans. She caught McCoy's eye and he shook his head as he looked to the ceiling. They were so predictable.

Growing excited at the thought of being able to engage the Vulcans, Chekov shuffled in his seat and tucked his chair further into the table. "Lateral thinking games. They engage the creative and problem solving aspects of your mind."

Tapen leant back a little in his chair. "Osu Spock and Sybok will be more proficient than me in this area. I may be able to best Sybok in a fight but I could never carve with his skill."

"Carve?" Uhura look at Sybok with interest.

"I make often make furniture. A number of examples of my work are in this building."

"I'd love to see some of it."

Sybok's smile was so wide it was almost deranged.

Kirk cleared his throat and made a point of not looking at Sybok, clearly still not comfortable with his expressiveness. It was almost a shame because he didn't mean any malice by it. "You didn't mention Spock – does that mean he has beaten you?"

"Osu Spock's deficiency in strength is more than made up for in agility."

Kirk's eyes widened in surprise and his hand reflexively went to his throat. Uhura was sure he was remembering Spock's attack on the Enterprise. The report had been woefully simplified, but she could only imagine what it would have been like. Kirk wouldn't have stood a chance. "Deficiency in strength?"

Spock nodded in a short, sharp movement. "Indeed. My half-human heritage has ensured that I have 78% of the strength of a full Vulcan. Even so, my human half ensures that I am more prone to creative thinking and empathy, which is what Tapek was referring to."

"Boy am I glad for that missing 22%." Kirk rubbed his collar exaggeratedly.

"Captain, I assure you that my intention was never to cause you permanent harm." Spock's eyes were bright as they met Kirks before landing on Chekov.

"Lieutenant, would you give us an example of one of the lateral thinking games? I am most curious."

Chekov rubbed his hands together as he thought. "You will enjoy the word puzzles. I will start with an easy one.

"If a red house is made of red bricks, and a blue house is made of blue bricks, what is a green house made of?"

Uhura got it instantly and pressed the tips of her fingers against her smile. McCoy wrinkled his nose and from his smug expression and folded arms, it was obvious he did too.

Sybok's slanted eyebrows grew more pronounced as he spoke. "I do not understand the difficulty. The answer is green."

When Chekov shook his head, Sybok stiffened. His eyes darted to her and she shrugged apologetically.

Spock arched his fingers and spoke quite calmly. "Sybok, he is playing with words. A green-house is used in place of 'arboretum'. The answer is 'glass'."

Chekov clapped his hands together with a wide grin. "Well done, Spock! But you did not find it difficult. We shall try again.

"A horse is tied to a rope fifteen feet long and there is a bale of hay twenty-five feet away from him. Even so the horse is able to eat from the bale of hay. How is this possible?"

This time Kirk was the first one to answer. "Leant this the hard way back in Iowa. Old man on the Ranch next door got senile and didn't know what was coming or going."

The Vulcans looked perplexed. "Unless the horse has a neck multiple times the average length, I do not know how this is possible," Tapek said, voice completely void of any intonation.

"The rope itself was not secure." Spock's head tilted to Chekov for confirmation.

"I am beginning to understand that you must challenge the base assumptions you have in these situations," Sybok said with a slight downturn of his lips.

"Yes you must. I was taught when I was a tiny child to think this way," Chekov sounded almost proud of himself for the first time that Uhura could remember, and she couldn't help but feel proud either. It wasn't every day you could say that you had outwitted a Vulcan. Even she hadn't worked the last one out as quickly as Spock had.

"This one was my grandmother's favourite. Every time we saw her she asked it and it made her laugh so hard she'd cough!

"There are six eggs in a basket. Six people each take one of the eggs. How can it be that one egg is left in the basket?"

"It is not possible," Tapek said, this time Uhura could tell that he was thoroughly frustrated. Sybok didn't appear to be attempting it, for his eyes were trained on Spock.

"The last person took the basket with the egg inside."

He blinked when Chekov laughed happily. "Yes, yes, very good."

"I fail to see how this would amuse your grandmother," Spock said with an elevated eyebrow.

"She enjoyed telling us to be greedy people and reminded us whenever she could. 'Pavel', she used to say, 'do not share your cakes with your brother. It is better to be fat than hungry' and then she would call us 'гуманитарный' and throw stones at us."

Uhura laughed at Chekov's wistful smile.

"Your grandma threw stones at you?" McCoy was shocked, judging by his abnormally high pitch.

He shrugged. "She was funny. She would sit on her rocking chair by the front door and watch us playing. She used to scrape the ground with her cane until she had a pile of stones at her feet and when she wanted us to get her hot milk she would throw one. She had a very good aim. Never missed."

"What was the insult?" Sulu asked her, getting her attention by waving his fingers.

Her laugh was louder than she had anticipated and Chekov beamed. "She called him a 'liberal', a 'humanitarian'."

Sybok's eyes darted between them. "I fail to see what is amusing. The female sounds mentally unstable. Calling somebody a humanitarian is not an insult."

"You misunderstand, Mr. Sybok," Chekov said, the bridge of his nose growing pink under the Vulcan's attention. "My grandmother, she was very poor. In Russia, life is hard if you do not have a skill. She wanted us to keep the nice things to ourselves to enjoy because when she was young she did not have them."

Sybok didn't answer but Uhura could tell that he didn't understand the point he was making. She sighed. His life experience would never allow him to empathise with Chekov.

"How many languages can you speak, Lieutenant? You had no trouble identifying his words and their meaning." Tepak asked, head tilted slightly towards Chekov.

She sighed and stared at her cup. "Eighty-tree percent of Federation languages and seven Terran. Though Sulu is teaching me Japanese." She lifted her eyes in a friendly smile. "I am a Communications Officer, so it sounds like a lot until you put it into context. I couldn't tell you the first thing about piloting a ship or fixing a broken leg. How many languages do you know, Tepak?"

"Only three."

"And you, Sybok?"

"Certainly not as many as you and I doubt with such an impressive fluency." He smiled again and leaned towards her over the table. "You should be proud of your achievements, whether it is your position or not, it is still a great number," he added in Orion.

Only Spock understood and he stiffened noticeably in his seat next to hers.

"I am, thank you."

Sybok switched back to Standard. "I'm not even sure how many Terran languages Spock speaks. How many is it, brother?"

"I am not your brother. And aside from Standard, Swahili and French."

McCoy threw his hands in the air. "Of course he speaks French."

Spock's brow puckered into a slight frown. "Doctor, I do not understand." He looked to Uhura, and she explained. She was becoming an expert in Human-Vulcan cultural translation.

"French is considered a very romantic language for humans. Women are often attracted to men that speak it." She spoke in French purely to get him to speak it too. It was shameless, really.

"That is completely illogical."

"There's something about the sound of it that we find appealing – Don't you find some languages more preferable than others?"

He appeared to be thinking. After a moment, he answered. "If given the choice, I would prefer to never speak Klingon."

She smiled. "Close enough." She looked back to the others who were watching the exchange with a combination of expressions. Sybok and Tapen were largely passive, though Sybok's eyes flicked between them rapidly, making his dark irises blur. McCoy looked like he was sulking but the others seemed to be amused.

"I got dumped by a girl for a Frenchman once," McCoy said by way of explanation.

"French is my second language – my Nana taught me alongside Kiswahili. I hardly ever get to speak it and I've never been to France…"

Kirk slapped his hands down on the table. "We'll have to steer clear of any ballet dancing Frenchmen otherwise we'll lose Uhura for good!"

She laughed again and swatted the air. She was enjoying herself a surprising amount, considering how emotionally turbulent the last few days had been.

As she poured herself more tea, she studied Spock out of the corner of her eye.

He'd shown no signs that their conversation last night had even happened, but she doubted that he would admit to a moment of weakness. She sighed and he looked at her then, concern in his eyes.

"Would anybody like to play 3-D chess?" Chekov said, and Spock turned to face him with such speed that Uhura didn't even register that he'd moved before she blinked.

"I would enjoy the opportunity of playing you again, Lieutenant Chekov."

"Good. I shall get my set from my quarters." Chekov pushed out his chair and McCoy did the same.

"Hold up there, little Russian, I'll walk with you." He tugged at the long sleeves of his red shirt. "I've got to take this off. My under shirt will have to be enough for you people – I've been suffocating for the last hour."

He stomped off with Chekov following lightly behind.

Sulu looked to Tapen. "Would you like to see a fencing demonstration, or would you prefer to play chess?"

"The demonstration would be most preferable."

Sulu reached under the table and brought out his sword in its case. He caught Uhura's eye and gave her an apologetic grin. "I feel exposed if I travel anywhere without it."

She laughed but said she understood. For her it was reading material. For Sulu it was a sword. As far as she knew, Chekov kept a small stuffed wolf in his travel bag, the last thing his mother had given him before he left for the Academy. Small things that made you feel at home were nothing to be ashamed of.

"Lieutenant Uhura, whilst everybody is selecting activities, might I suggest I show you the carvings that I promised you earlier?" He was staring at her without blinking. She avoided eye contact by looking at the space over his shoulder.

"I would enjoy that."

She got up and followed Sybok out into the hallway. A quick glance back showed Spock watching them and Kirk leaning to tell him something, his blue eyes also following them as they left the room.

"It is not far," he said, his smile showing his pointed teeth to such an extent that she had to look away.

They entered a large state-room of some sort that smelt pleasantly of soft flowers.

"It is considered very un-Vulcan to take pride in your accomplishments, but I must admit to feeling proud of this piece."

It was a large cabinet with a set of cupboards at the bottom and a series of shelves above that were currently filled with books and pottery. The wood was a similar colour to mahogany, and when she ran her hand over it she found it was warm to the touch.

Onto the doors of the cabinets there was a scene precisely carved into the wood. It resembled a forest, the way that the wood was smoothed in places and rough in others, depicting the trunks and sharp lines of the branches. The base of the cabinet showed twisted and interweaving roots, and she stood up from a crouch to follow the story, how the branches of the trees crept up to form the shelves of the book case, and the animals that lived there. Birds and mammals akin to squirrels and mice that she didn't know the name of and insects crawled and perched on the shelves.

She looked back to Sybok to find him staring at her intensely, so much so that it made her shudder. "Sybok, it's beautiful, truly exquisite. I've never seen anything quite like it." She gave him a gentle smile before running her hand back across the wood, enjoying the contrast between the bumpy and smooth and the natural grain and whorls beneath her fingertips.

"I have never heard such high praise for my work before."

"You deserve it." She studied a bird, amazed that when she got close she could see the individual feathers that had been shaped into its wings.

"You know that Vulcans do not approve of external affirmation."

She frowned. "That doesn't mean that it shouldn't be heard. Compliments don't hurt anyone."

"Indeed. Lieutenant, I find you fascinating."

She turned around to find Sybok in the same place where she left him, but the intensity of his gaze had become impossibly stronger. She saw his fingers twitch and she remembered what Spock had said about him being a strong telepath.

"I find the way that you speak Vulcan fascinating. You interject the words with emphasis like I have never heard it before." She tried to keep him engaged in conversation so that she could get further away from him.

His head straightened and his mouth opened a little. On a human it would have been a grimace but on a Vulcan she had no idea how to interpret it.

"Compliments have a way of binding two people together, don't they?"

Her stomach lurched and she felt her heartbeat increase. He hadn't moved any closer but his presence seemed to grow bigger. She forced her voice calm. "I don't think that bind is the right word. It is more a sense of acceptance for the traits or actions of others." She looked around the rest of the room. "Have you got other pieces in this room? That small table beneath the window has beautiful legs – they look like petals."

"You accept me, Lieutenant Uhura?"

She really did not like where this was going. He had taken a step towards her and she took a few steps towards the table. Her breath was quickening. He was in between herself and the only door to the room and that knowledge alone made her feel vulnerable.

He was expecting a reply, she could see it in the way he leant towards her and how his head had tilted again. "In a manner of speaking, I suppose so."

There was a low rumble and it took her a moment to realise that it was coming from him. A sinister glimmer in his eye and the angle of his head made his smile look even more twisted, even more deranged. He took a slow, measured step towards her, like she'd seen lions do when approaching their prey.

"Sybok," she said as she raised her palms in an attempt to placate him, but hearing his name made the steady rumble even louder. He took another step forward.

"Sybok. Stop."

She choked out a sigh of relief when Spock appeared in the doorway, but it didn't last when she saw the fear plastered all over his features.

"Brother, she accepts me."

"She did not mean it in that way. She is human and does not know of our ways."

Sybok lowered his posture, his back hunching in a posture of either defence or attack, she wasn't sure. She curled her hands into fists to try to stop them from shaking.

"It is my time. You cannot stop this."

"You still have 3.7 years remaining, Sybok. You are not entering Pon Farr. You are experiencing lust."

She was lost, but she gasped at the admittance of 'lust'. Her eyes darted between Spock and Sybok.

"Sybok, you can control yourself. You do not want to do this. She does not want this."

"She accepts me. She understands. You do not know."

Spock let out a growl of irritation that surprised both her and Sybok. He turned to look at him, releasing her from his gaze.

She seized the opportunity and with a racing heart took a few steps towards the door, but Sybok span back to face her, his face crooked.

"She comes to me."

"Sybok, I don't understand," her voice was shaky and she lifted her hands again to try to calm him down. "I don't know what you want from me."

He looked to her raised hands and stretched out his fingers. "Let me show you."

She snatched her hands away as she heard Spock shout "Captain!" louder and with more desperation than thought he was capable of.

"Spokh," she said, pleadingly, scared and confused. Why wasn't he helping her?

"He will be gone soon, taluhk." He reached out to her and she kicked his hand out of the way, keeping her own hands as far out of his reach as possible.

"I am not your taluhk, Sybok. Listen to me. I am not yours."

"You are not yet, don't worry, it shall be soon." His lips were parted and his eyes were intense. He looked frighteningly like one of the masks on the wall. He still approached her with deliberate slowness and she still backed away. She turned her head and saw she didn't have much room before she would be trapped against the wall.

"Sybok, you're not listening to me. Stop. Now. Please." He did stop, but she did not and she kept moving back. He tilted his head and for a moment she thought he'd seen reason. She heard a cracking sound but didn't dare to look away. She kept her eyes on his and she knew she was failing to keep her panic from her face. She felt it stretch her brow and mouth in a sharp wince.

"Now is the time. It has to be now, can't you tell? Can't you see that I'm burning?" He lunged for her then and she darted out of his reach. She took advantage of his loss of balance at grasping thin air and kicked his shoulder, sending him stumbling sideways and crashing into the low table, splintering it into pieces.

She moved as quickly as she could, not taking her eyes off him. He staggered to his feet, clearly confused.

"Talunhk, what is wrong? We will no longer be alone, we will be connected by the white." He drew himself to his full height and stepped towards her with more determination this time. Gone were the measured steps. He lunged again and she turned, tried to duck out of the way but his fingertips caught the back of her shirt.

The force of it threw her to the ground, but she caught herself on a hand and a knee.

"I have hurt you?" He said as he moved towards her, fingers outstretched when she heard the distinctive sound of a phaser firing.

She pressed her eyes shut and breathed deep and heavy.

When nothing happened, she opened her eyes and saw Sybok was lying prone on the floor beside her, several singed holes in his robes.

She looked up to see Kirk breathing heavily, his phaser still pointing at Sybok.

Uhura rolled over until she was sat on the ground, not trusting herself to stand just yet. Kirk made to go to her, but Spock held out an arm to stop him.

Kirk tried to slap it away but his arm was unmoving. "What the hell, Spock! What happened? Why didn't you help her!"

Uhura sat numbly, watching, waiting until she had got her breathing back to normal before she tried to speak.

"I could not." There was a crunching and a clattering sound as hundreds of shards of wood fell to the ground as Spock released his hold on the wooden cabinet. It was destroyed, crushed by his grip.

"Why not?" Kirk was shouting now, but Spock wasn't letting him past.

"He was attempting to take her for his mate. If I had acted, I would have initiated kal-if-fee. " The strain was evident in his voice.

"What the hell is that? And don't give me that-"

"It is a challenge to the right to bond with a female. Lieutenant Uhura would have been forced to choose a champion or else we would have had to fight to the death." His precise speech was shaky. To an untrained ear it would have been missed, but neither Uhura or Kirk was convinced by his attempt at serenity.

She turned to him and blinked but still couldn't bring herself to say anything.

Kirk let out a bitter laugh. "Primitive! That's what it is! Barbaric!"

Spock looked at him then, but still did not lower his arm. "You have just witnessed what happens when our emotions are not controlled."

"I've seen you out of control-"

"Captain, you have seen a half-Vulcan act out of anger, not a full Vulcan attempting to claim his mate."

Kirk sighed and paced, rubbing his palm over his face. "What am I going to say? What even started this?"

"As far as I can tell, he mistook her apparent understanding of him as an acceptance to be his bondmate, and did not realise that he was experiencing lust and not - I did not witness everything." He stumbled over his words and his eyes darted to Uhura.

She watched the conversation with little interest. Feeling calmer, though still shaking from the adrenaline coursing through her, she pushed herself up onto her knees and to her feet. She swayed slightly, but caught herself.

Spock still would not let Kirk go to her.

"Spock," he said as quietly and calmly as he could. "We need to make sure she's alright. If you're this upset, think how she is feeling."

She blinked at them, dazed.

He hesitated before lowering his arm. At that moment, Tepak and Sulu entered and Sulu froze in the doorway, surveying the room and searching her eyes for reassurance that she was alright. She couldn't bring herself to smile.

Wordlessly, Tepak strode to Sybok and hefted him over his shoulder as if he were a bag of flour.

"What happened here? Uhura?" Sulu asked, resting his hand on his foil case. "Tepak thought he heard something – we were only gone for twenty minutes."

Had it only been twenty minutes? She took a step to the side to stop herself from falling.

"Uhura, you need to tell us that you're alright." Kirk was looking at her like you did with a crying child, eyebrows high and eyes big, speaking slowly and clearly.

She closed her eyes and nodded. "I want to go to my quarters."

"Bones needs to check you over, make sure that you're okay."

She looked at him then, though she was a little unfocused. "I want to go to my quarters, Captain."

"If you're sure. I'll send him to you in a while. Do you want me or Sulu to walk with you? Spock, you can't."

As quickly as she could manage, she walked over to Sulu and put her arm through his. He put his hand on top of hers and squeezed as he led her back out into the corridor.

She picked Sulu because she knew he wouldn't say anything. And he didn't. He just squeezed her hand tighter as she leaned against him and pressed his lips into her hair as she unlocked her door. She stumbled in after letting go to Sulu and let herself fall onto her bed.

She didn't know how long she lay there, staring at the wall until she heard a knocking on her door.

If it was McCoy, he would be able to override the system so she didn't bother moving to open it.

The knocking grew more insistent and a pang of anger surged through her with an abruptness she wasn't used to.

Shoving herself up, she swung her legs around so that she was sitting on the edge of her bed when the door finally slid open.

It wasn't McCoy. It was Spock.

She stood up reflexively and he strode in looking as if a brick wall wouldn't stop him. He stilled a foot away from her, his eyes roving over every inch of her and she felt the anger build up until she couldn't keep it in any longer.

"What are you doing in here!"

"Computer sound proofing." He didn't stop inspecting her. His arm began to lift and she knocked it away with her forearm. The shock of it regained his attention and he moved back slightly.

"Spock." She sounded dangerous. Her hands were fists and her nails were digging into her palms. She could feel them nearly tearing the soft skin. "What are you doing here?"

"I- I had to see that you were unhurt. I couldn't – I couldn't-"

He turned his back to her when the words wouldn't come.

She was not in a forgiving mood. "When you couldn't what? Stop your brother from forcing himself on me?"

"He is not my brother." He spat the words with more venom than she'd ever heard but she didn't stop.

"That's what he was trying to do, wasn't it? And I wouldn't have had a choice in it. But you let him! You just stood there and held onto the cabinet that started this whole mess and -"

"If I had interfered then you would have had no choice at all." His voice was wavering, he was speaking between clenched teeth and his body was taught, tense, like a spring.

She laughed, cold and bitter. "I tried to fight him off and he wouldn't stop! I've never felt more helpless and you watched it. I didn't have my phaser because I feel safe with you around, Spock. I thought that you'd be at dinner and so nothing would happen because my crew and you would be there."

"You felt unsafe when you were with Sybok? You thought that there was a chance of something happening to you?" He turned his head and his eyes were darker yet brighter than before.

She threw her hands up in frustration. "Of course I did! I'm not an idiot!"

"You knew there was a chance but you went with him anyway." It was a statement, not a question and he shifted his stance to face her fully.

"Everything about him screamed unstable but I didn't think that anything could happen! We've been getting that off of both you since we got here but you certainly haven't done anything!"

"You are too trusting."

"I didn't think he would try to make me his mate! How could I? All we'd done is talk and walk around an art gallery."

"He thought you could end his loneliness."

She paced towards the desk and pounded her fist on the chair. "Don't make excuses for him!"

"I am not. I am merely stating a fact."

"Stop being so obtuse!" She strode over to him until they were less than a step away. He was still as ever but she couldn't contain herself. "All I want to do is understand, but I can't because everything here is so full of secrets! We're here to report to Starfleet to update them and maybe help you if we can-"

"You have been given all of the information that you have asked for."

She huffed and waved her hands so forcefully the tips of her fingers skimmed his robe. The conversation was rolling out of control and she couldn't bring herself to stop it. "At the endless institutes, maybe! And we both know the difference between information and well-being. You can spout off as many facts as you like and hope that it will hide that you're all struggling. All of you. And you're not letting yourselves grieve!"

"You have just been forced to see what happens when we lose control. How can you suggest-"

She interrupted, glaring at him with as much challenge as she could muster. "You said yourself that it was a Vulcan attempting to claim his mate. You don't know what would happen if you let yourselves express that one emotion."

He was physically shaking now. "You do not know what you are saying."

"Don't dismiss me! Last night you said it was illogical to ignore advice well-meant-"

"And that was before you were nearly taken away right in front of me!" He was shouting, though his face did not contort like the masks or like Sybok's had. It was a more severe, more dangerous expression than a human was capable but the muscles in his face did not move in isolation. His eyes narrowed, his nostrils fared and his mouth widened to show teeth that were rounded, not sharp.

"Spock," she said, much quieter but no less heated as she closed her eyes and flexed her fingers. "I want to understand. I want to understand what has happened to you and what has just happened to me." She opened her eyes and scowled into his. "Who are you protecting? Because it's certainly not me."

His breathing was heavy as he closed his eyes. "It would not be like with T'Saria."

"I know."

"You may not be able to manage what you experience."

"I know."

"It is best done when both parties are calm."

"Well that's not going to happen any time soon."

He opened his eyes and all she saw was surrender.

"Try your best to keep your emotions from me."

She nodded as he lifted his index and middle fingers and she did the same. Taking a deep breath, she pressed their fingertips together and let herself feel what he felt.

And then she was falling into

Uncontrollable anger so violent it was constantly brewing, coming in waves that yanked you away from your thoughts and reason. Bottomless heartache that was so dark it was horrifying and ever-present and too much... Aloneness so severe there was no recollection of there ever being another way. Fear that this would never end. Guilt, so much guilt. Betrayal that cut so sharply. Regret and unfulfillment and an aching need. Terror at the thought of losing her too and helplessness to stop it-

He gently prised his fingers from hers but she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him across his cheeks, across his nose, along his neck, anywhere there was skin. He was unmoving as she kissed and kissed and she panicked but she couldn't stop and she finally kissed his lips and she stayed there, pressing her lips to his and making it last as long as she could before she could bring herself to face what she'd done.

But then there was pressure pushing back, the slightest, lightest pressure but her heart leapt and she pulled him tighter to pull him closer.

And then it was over and his forehead pressed against hers and her breath was coming in short gasps and she didn't know what to feel.

"I am sorry," he said, so low she barely heard him. "I transferred my emotions onto you and it prompted a reaction out of your control-"

"No you didn't."

He opened his eyes and they were so close. The warm brown was so gentle, so tentative that it made her exhale a sigh.

He removed his forehead from hers and she frowned at the loss but he didn't move away. He pressed his face into her shoulder and let her hold him. She didn't run her hands through his hair like she wanted, or move to cup his face like she wanted, but kept her fingers firmly on fabric. She couldn't ruin it by accidentally making him feel what she did.

After who knows how long, he pulled away and she let him, though she grabbed hold of some of the excess material on his sleeve so he couldn't leave completely.

"I'm tired," she said, so wearily that she didn't sound like herself.

"You need to see the Doctor." He studied her closely. She closed her eyes so she wouldn't have to see it.

"I can see him in the morning."

Spock went to distance them but she tugged on his sleeve. "Please stay, Spock. I cannot bear to be alone."

He stayed still until she was sure that he wasn't leaving and she let go of his sleeve.

Without bothering to change, she crawled under her covers and watched as Spock moved to sit in the armchair like he had the previous night.

"Computer, dim lights to 15%."

He was watching her, she felt it, and she listened to the sound of his breathing, so much slower than her own, until after what seemed like hours, she finally succumbed to the pull of sleep.

Sorry, it seems like all I do is end chapters on Uhura falling asleep.

Reviews are love - Please, let me know what you think.