NINE


"We look up at the same stars,
and see such different things."
- George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords


#Friends

He didn't acknowledge her when they passed each other in the corridors or the times she worked by his side silently in the Science lab, almost as if afraid temptation would prove too great. He was the daunting, half-Vulcan Commander and she was a mere deleterious Cadet. From too close for comfort, they'd drifted to opposite sides of the world and she didn't know how, or if he even wanted to close the distance. Everyone knew better than to question his frigidity and her obvious absence at his side. Some things didn't need to be spoken, because sometimes it was impossible to forget.

He treated her formerly with a detachment he gave others, his eyes shadowed and composed. His eyes no longer seeking for hers, her presence no longer welcomed. She finally understood the empty void she felt in her heart, the crucial pain she felt every time he turned his back on her. It took her deliberately long for her to come to terms with her obvious need she had for him.

She loved him.

xx

It's quiet, the air heavy but crisp. Her heels are making a sharp sound on the pavement, the only noise around her, except for her breathing, the soft cadence of her heart. In the distance, she could see the seminar abuzz with students and instructors. Their formulaic chatter, their controlled laughter, the brisk clank of their wine glasses clashing together replaced the silence that had accompanied her.

The seminar is after hours, the evening's last rays pierced through the dark, looming over the broad terrace outside the lecture hall as it overlooked the main Academy plaza. The small sunlight provided did little to warm her as she walked briskly into the crowded assembly. She accepted the wine glass handed to her by a server, draining it rapidly before taking another; ignoring the baffled look the young man was giving her.

Her eyes swept over the mass of bodies before she spotted Spock, at the centre of a group of excited people. They exclaimed over him, and he responded with a serious, politely blank expression. Jim stood beside him, his face showing boredom, his eyes seeking for an escape.

Dahlia stepped forward but abruptly held herself back as it dawned on her. He would simply treat her as he did with everyone else, letting her know she wasn't essential to him anymore. Instead, heavy hearted, she walked to where Bones, Carol and Scotty were seated. She took a deep breath, willing herself to smile despite her best efforts.

"Hey everyone, how's it going?"

Scotty was the first one to gaze at her, his eyes widening as his head swiveled around toward Carol then back to her with a sly grin. Bones, who had been leaning back in his chair overbalanced and crashed to the floor. Many curious, startled eyes rested on them.

"Dahlia, what are you wearing?" Carol asked incredulously, her accent pronounced.

Dahlia gazed down, studying her dress. It was well fitted over her chest and waist, but flared out on her hips. It barely covered her thighs and three revealing triangles were cut out on the dress. One over her chest, the other two on either side of her waist.

"A dress," she answered slowly, her eyes traveling over the other women's dress attires. Her eyes slightly widen on seeing how almost everyone's dresses were long and flowing along the floor. The dark colors contrasting harshly against the bright red dress she wore. "Oh man, I guess I didn't get the whole strict attire thing, huh?"

"Damn straight! Dahlia, what the hell!" Bones harshly said under his breath, striding toward her and grasped her arm. He dragged her to a private corner, away from prying eyes. "What's going on, darling? Jim said you've been pretty out of it lately, and that's saying something coming from him." He stepped forward, resting his hands on her shoulders in a brotherly, affectionate way. "You've never been this disruptive before, intentionally of course. Come on, you can tell me. I know I said I'm a doctor and not a damn therapist, but I'll make an exception for you. Does this have to do with that uptight, green pointy eared bast - "

Someone cleared their throat. They both looked toward the intruder as he abruptly stopped, beholding the scene before him. Bones moved away from her, crossing his arms over his chest. "Pardon me. I see that I have intruded on a rather intimate moment. I came only to examine the Cadet's well bei - "

"Intimate my ass," Bones interrupted him.

Furrowing her brow, she turned to look at the half-Vulcan. For a moment her gaze rested on his lips, slightly damp, glistening...and kissable...and then she met his eyes. Cold, black and obsidian.

"Cadet Rose."

"Commander Spock."

Silence dragged. Bones shifted his weight from one foot to the other, obviously uncomfortable in the situation he had involuntarily embedded himself into. Dahlia ignored him, her eyes solely resting on Spock. He looked severe, controlled and still somehow looked worn.

She tried to straighten her stance. She wanted to show him she couldn't be intimidated by him. But she faltered in her stance, stumbling back slightly and righted herself awkwardly against Bones. She began to giggle at her own absurd mistake.

"You are intoxicated." He sounded alarmed. She gazed toward him. He is watching her closely, his face impassive.

"Who? Me? No, never," Dahlia said, her words slurred together. She had not realized her escalating state as the alcohol began to coarse through her. Her head became fuzzier, her body light. "But let's not talk about me. No, let's talk about how you're going to leave tomorrow to some mission to escort some of your people to New Vulcan for I don't know how long. Why wasn't I told?"

Their eyes locked as she stood on her wavering legs, and for a moment, his eyes betrayed him further - he looked away from her for the briefest of seconds.

"It was not my intention to do so. We had agreed to interact only if it was essential to our professions. It would have been illogical to inform you of my personal affairs," Spock merely replied, composing himself and gave her a vacant look. He clasped his hands behind him dutifully. "Observing you in this inappropriate state, I find the general propensity of you toward alcohol consumption to be rather alarming. You should remove yourself and seek medical attention at once."

She stared at him, her lips slightly trembling. "Is that an order, Commander?"

"It is a strong suggestion," he returned evenly. His eyes swept over hers as if she were a mere foreign complication he found rather aggravating.

This was all too much to feel, and suddenly she was so warm that she couldn't breathe. She looked behind her to see that Bones had retreated at some point and was now standing next to Jim, having a serious whispered conversation. She rubbed her throat that suddenly felt constricted, heat spiraling throughout her body as the music and loudness began closing in on her.

She pushed past Spock who simply stepped aside to let her pass and through the crowd of bodies until she arrived at an exit, sliding out the door and down the steps until her forehead was against the cool brick of the building. It was so dark. Voices in the distance were the only company she had and she knew it was stupid for her to be out here all alone.

She could feel the pulsating rhythm of the music from the inside push into her skin through the wall, making her heart race that much faster from the heaviness of it. She didn't know what kind of panic attack this was, but she felt like she needed to run. Run until her lungs were burning, her sides aching ..until he was far away from her and the reality of this situation was even further, left behind her by miles of pavement.

She held the tears inside her, determined not to let them spill as her fists clenched against the wall, the brick cutting into her knuckles and easing some of the pain that was building inside her. She heard soft, precise footsteps in the distance and she knew it was him.

She doesn't say a thing when Spock approached her. His immediate presence somehow soothed the emotional turmoil inside of her instead of alleviating it. "Dahlia," Spock said carefully, dark eyes assessing her with thoughtful calculation. Studying her like some unknown, risky puzzle. "Are you harmed?" and when he asked, his voice sounded almost aghast.

Spock's eyebrows furrowed. His gaze is narrowed on her and his shoulders are tight with questioning. She moved forward, finding his concern for her reassuring. Careless hope flared inside her again. She wrapped her arms around his neck and felt the slide of his smooth cheek against her own as her head came to rest on his shoulder.

Spock, not expecting the sudden movement, stumbled backwards before he regained his posture. His hands are resting against his sides as he made no move to hold her. Dahlia gave a frustrated sigh. "Spock, please," she begged. "I need you."

He stiffened. He prided himself from her touch, his fingers grasping her shoulders as he held her at arm's length away from his body. There is a definite disapproval in his dark eyes.

"You do not know what you are saying."

"Yes I do, Spock. I need you," she said, her voice breathless. She reached for him, but his grip on her was steeled, keeping her away.

"As you said," he said softly that she had to strain to hear him. The light from the lamp post fell across Spock's face, giving his eyes the same intense color she noticed earlier.

"Spock," she said, finding her courage. "You know it, I know it. We both know it. You were right. There's something going on here." She started, waving her hand between their bodies.

He looked at the space between their bodies, his eyebrows moving together infinitesimally. "I do not believe I comprehend your meaning."

Spock tilted his head, his eyes hard and weary. He is detached. She can see it in his stiff posture, his slightly narrowed eyes, hear it in his sharp sentences. He is not pleased to have her so near. Not anymore. She ruined that.

"There's always been something between us and I've been so blind to see it or much less feel it. Spock, I love - "

He gave her a look which stopped her. "Please do not patronize me. I am able to detect it when a falsehood is spoken." His eyes are hard, his face a smooth blank mask.

"Spock," she began again, taking a deep, steady breath. "Can I tell you the truth?"

Spock's eyes flared. "I expect nothing less," he said coldly.

"When I accidental initiated a mind meld and I felt your emotions, I was overwhelmed and surprised. I was confused and I didn't know what to do. I let you walk away and it was the worst mistake I've ever made. Please, Spock you have to understand. I feel the same. I've just been lost and - "

"Cadet, you are in an advance state of intoxication. It will be in your best interest if you escort yourself to your quarters to rest." His eyes remained downcast when he spoke.

She tentatively raised her hands, reaching to touch his cheek. His hands came up quickly and covered hers. "Regulations states ..." he began but stopped when she eliminated the space between their bodies.

He looked down at her. For a long breathless moment, she got lost in those eyes. She leaned up and brought her mouth just up to his. And then stopped short.

He drew a little breath, just for a moment, and then, he tilted his just a little and brought his mouth down on hers. The kiss was gentle, just their lips meeting, very lightly, and their hands entwined. After the first brief kiss he lifted his head a fraction and his eyes met hers. And then, by mutual consent, she roused up and he lowered his head again, and they kissed again, this time stepping into each other's arms. She could feel his breath against hers, the rise and fall of his chest, the warmth of his arms encircling her.

Their noses brushed against each other, their eyes closed, basking the presence of the other. She was grasping for his touch and he was seeking for her mind with his delicate brush. When their lips separated, she took in a sharp, intake of breath as their foreheads rested against each other.

"You're so hot," she said under her breath, feeling his much warmer skin.

"I assume," Spock began, his voice low and smooth. His breath whispered against her cheek. "You mean that my core temperature is higher than your own."

"Surely you know the double meaning of the word hot in human terms, Spock," Dahlia said, stepping away and saw him raised his eyebrow. Green tinted lightly on his cheeks. She giggled at the scene before her. "What? What's wrong with giving you a compliment? You are hot. Hot. Hot."

"You have stated such a fact."

"Oh, oh, I didn't know you were conceited, Spock. How long did you know you were hot?" She asked teasingly, leaning toward him and batting her eyelashes.

A dust of green descended over his ears. He went slightly rigid. "I merely meant the continuity of you stating such an absurd - "

She tilted her head back, her cascade of curls trailing over her shoulder. She gave a loud sigh. "Okay, less talking and more action." She stepped toward him again but she had waited too long, his clarity had returned.

"You should depart at once." His fingers untangled from hers, releasing her from his touch. She felt empty. "Please, Dahlia, do not continue to make it inexplicable. You must restrain yourself."

When he made a move to retreat, she held onto him. Her fingers grasping the thick fabric of his shirt. "I'm intoxicated, you can't permit me to be on my own. You have to keep watch over me. What if something happens to me?" She gasped. "What if I fall down the stairs and die?"

He gave her a sharp look. "I do not find it amusing when you assert to such improbable scenarios to befall upon you."

"Wow, you're so hot when you get angry, did I already tell you that?"

His lips formed in a hardened line, his obsidian eyes flickered to the side before he took a deep breath through his nose. She was sure he was going to let out a frustrated sigh, she was waiting for it, but it did not happen. He simply took her elbow in his palm and pulled her alongside him.

Her vision was filled by him, her mind not paying attention to the destination they were heading. She willingly followed him as they boarded the lift. On their way up, she stole quick kisses from him. He did not object.

The doors swished open, granting them access to the level her dorm was located. This time, she pulled him alongside her. His grasp on her faltered but she tightened hers more security.

She turned sharply toward him, pushing him against the wall and pressed herself against him. Her lips nuzzled his neck, kissing his heated skin. She heard a deep, startled intake of breath followed by a tortured groan.

"Dahlia, please do not do that."

She leaned up, her cool fingers casting his chin downward so she could place one chaste, slow kiss on his lips. "Join me, Spock. I want you to spend the night with me."

Her teeth grazed her lips as her fingers traced the hard lines of his cheekbones, his eyebrows, his lips. He didn't move. His eyes were focused on her. After a few seconds, his hands held hers and stepped away from her touch.

"I cannot. I find myself needing time to process my thoughts and perplexing emotions. I do not enter into relationships lightly, Dahlia. The Vulcan in me is seeking a katelau where I must complete the kal'i'farr with. A ceremony that is equivalent to a marriage in human terms. It is something I cannot ask of you. You are still young, impulsive, and at times extricates my patience. You are not ready for such a commitment. Friends will be a much viable way for us to remain."

"What if we date or - " she began but he lifted his hand to stop her.

"I apologize, Dahlia. That is all I am able to offer you."

Her eyes locked with his and her vision became blurry, her lips trembling. She just wanted him, but he wanted so much more. She wrapped her arms around his neck, her head nodding in understanding. His hands slid from her waist all the way around her back. He held her tightly, almost desperately for a few seconds before letting her go.

"I must take my leave. As you have discovered, I have a prior engagement that will call me away for an undetermined length of time."

She nodded slowly, swallowing the turmoil that was building inside her. "So, friends?"

"Friends."

She had never been good at remaining as friends. But she will.

For him.

Because that's what he needs.


A/N: So, more or no? Can I hear your thoughts? Review, please, with a cherry on top.