Unlike some WIPs that I may have started and then set aside, this one I have actually written all the way to the end. It's all rough and still needs to be read through, edited, and tweaked which is why I'm not just posting it all at once, but there's no chance I'll do something like get halfway through and then walk away! I promise! And I promise that I'll update as regularly as I can and as real life allows.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!
Nyota has her entire summer work schedule for her research paper planned out, with her notes collated and color coded for deadlines she plans to meet each week and with meetings with Dr. Carrick on her calendar. So, when Dr. Carrick's wife gets transferred to Alpha Lyrae III the day after finals end, Nyota watches her carefully constructed summer crumble around her.
"I'm going to find a new advisor for this paper. Somehow. It took me so long to even find Carrick in the first place, and then to decide to focus on pluricentric use of Standard and how it relates to theories of cultural relativism that I'm not giving up just because of this. And I'm going to submit it for publication and that would be just…" Nyota trails off, imagining herself with a published paper on her resume and thinking of the Enterprise's sleek lines, of commendations and recommendations from professors, and of Lieutenant stripes waiting for her even before graduation if she can manage to earn them. "I have to get this written this summer, I just do."
"You're crazy," Gaila says from where she's laying her bunk. She toes aside a pile of filmplasts and flexes her feet as she yawns.
Nyota ignores her, already adding names to a list. Lieutenant Weyer or Commander Amano, maybe, and if not him then Professor Engstrom is on campus for the break between semesters.
"I am not crazy," she adds as she looks up Amano's ID to send him a message.
"Tell that to the poor professor who gets stuck overseeing this project of yours."
"I will. As soon as I find them."
But finding a new advisor is slightly more challenging than Nyota thought it would be.
It turns out that Weyer got reassigned to the Antares and spends forty five minutes telling Nyota about it, long after she's slipped the filmplast with her proposal back in her bag.
Amano is on personal leave for personal reasons, taking some personal time, which Gaila immediately decides involves a clandestine trip to Risa.
Engstrom is already overseeing three other cadets' projects and while she glances at Nyota's outline and listens as Nyota promises that she barely needs guidance, just really a signature, she shakes her head and suggests that Nyota pursue an independent study in the fall.
"I'm already taking an expanded course load next semester," Nyota explains. "I was really hoping to do this over the summer in order to-"
"I'm sorry, Uhura. Good luck, though. It seems like an interesting project."
"Yes sir," Nyota replies, straightening her back when it threatens to slump. "Thank you."
Her Organian Society and Culture instructor, Lieutenant Commander Haught, is spending the break with his grandchildren and her Biolinguistics professor, Lieutenant Irani, is conducting research of her own. Professor Girbach who taught Xenoorthography says probably not, Commander Wakeman whose Intermediate Etymology class Nyota loved says maybe and then a day later regretfully says he can't. Her Advanced Morphology professor, Commander Spock, informs her he's not available before even listening to the topic of her paper.
"Beach," Gaila says that afternoon when Nyota gets back to the dorm. "Swimming. Guys. Girls. Dating. No research, no libraries, no papers. Really, Ny, they're all doing you a favor."
"Let's go get a drink. Let's get two. We can celebrate a long, long summer of fun, relaxation, and good old vacation here on Earth."
"No homework, just us at the bar. Happy hour. The happiest of all the hours."
"Hanging out with your friends."
"That'd be great."
"Listening to your roommate when she's having a conversation with you."
"Not having your nose in a padd during a discussion."
"Nyota," Gaila groans and Nyota finds the padd summarily pulled from her hands. "What are you even doing?"
"Finding an advisor for my project."
"They all said no."
"They all said no the first time," Nyota corrects. "I'm not done yet."
But trying different professors is even more disheartening, something she tries to ignore even as Gaila frowns at her with every increasing rejection.
Lieutenant Steiger sends her an apologetic email highlighting Nyota's academic accomplishments that would make her an honor to work with, which feels great, but he also sends his regrets that he's not available, which makes her want to grind her teeth.
An inquiry to Commander Kiani comes back with the standard 'Fleet form response when an officer is on a long haul voyage and out of contact, and Professor Nylund never gets back to her, which figures because Nyota's really scraping the bottom of the barrel with him.
Engstrom says no, again, Irani really is too busy, and Girbach, it turns out, isn't actually qualified to oversee such a complex project, so even while Nyota congratulates herself on finding research that is above the skill set of a commissioned officer, she still feels a sinking in her chest at the thought of yet another professor who can't work with her. Commander Spock returns a one-line email saying he remains previously engaged for the summer months and she groans and tosses her padd on her bed, scrubbing her hands over her face.
"You know how in first year orientation they list all the things that make a good Starfleet officer?"
"Nyota, they all said no."
"Dedication, perseverance, patience, endurance."
"Ny, do it next semester. Do it next year."
"Diligence. Willingness to see a project through."
"You are ridiculous."
"I'm going to ask them all again."
"You are not."
"No, I am. I'm one of the best students in our year, my topic is interesting and relevant to the current focus of research at the Academy and Starfleet, and with all the new trade routes opening up because of the Ras Alhague Treaty we just signed with-"
"-I am not listening. Mostly because my ears will bleed if I hear anything else about politics-"
"- The Ambassadors from Saiph Prime, Starfleet could use more officers trained in sociolinguistics. You're the one who's always saying this, that we rely so heavily on Standard and we assume everyone speaks it like a native speaker does, but-"
"-I cannot hear you-"
"-Well, take the pillow off your head. And it's an important treaty, Gaila, without it the Saiph's wouldn't be in the Federation, and-"
"-You're fine. It's just, it's important. Really important that if we're all out there on these missions that we're taking into account biological, social, and cultural differences in our speech patterns and word choices and-"
"I have some choice words for you. Bar. Beer. Wine. Tequila, Nyota. Tequila. Consider it Orion for 'you are going to have a nervous breakdown if you never relax.'"
Nyota sighs and sits heavily on her bed. "When I find an advisor, we'll go out to celebrate."
"Really?" Gaila asks, perking up. "Or is this that thing where you say you'll go out and have fun but you actually go to the library instead?"
"That is fun," Nyota mutters.
"As much fun as badgering professors into working with you?"
"Shut up," Nyota sighs, which just makes Gaila smile at her.
"Nah. Orions are biolinguisticsocialculturalxenoly predetermined towards talking. Good thing I got stuck with a communications track cadet for a roommate."
"It is a good thing. Also, that's not a word."
"Wow. Really. It isn't? That's not a word? I had no idea, Ny, so, so glad that you-"
"Are so proficient at linguistics that not only can I identify made up words my insufferable roommate creates, but also find an advisor for my research project? Thanks, Gaila. I love you, too."
Leaving Gaila watching a holvid, Nyota tries Lieutenant Cantos, Professor Trussot, and Lieutenant Commander Damadr's offices, but they're already shut up for the summer, which leaves Commander Spock as the only instructor in the xenolinguistics department who might still be around. Not that she's asked him, since he doesn't exactly engender casual discussion in the break room, but she's pretty sure that whatever he's working on is here on campus.
Still, she hesitates before walking down the hall to his door but finally decides that the worst thing he can do is say no a third time.
When she gets closer, the chatter of conversation coming down the hall is nearly impossible to attribute to his office, since while other professors often have bits of dialogue playing or snippets of recordings playing, or are hosting students or other professors for a meeting, walking past the Commander's door is usually an exercise in listening to near silence. But when she reaches his office, she finds the door open and more people standing in his office than she's ever seen in there. The handful of times she went to his office hours in over the last semester to talk about a paper or quiz, she got the distinct impression that nobody else ever stopped by.
She recognizes one of the Ambassadors from Saiph Prime, and to her surprise, standing next to the tall, willowy humanoid, is none other than Captain Pike.
"Sorry, sirs," she immediately says when he and the Commander both turn to look at her. She tries to back away before she can intrude further. "I'll come back another time."
"She will no do!" the Ambassador says, pointing a long, tapered finger at Nyota and turning shrewd, dark eyes on her that feel strangely piercing.
"I apologize," Nyota says carefully in Saiphian. She's only studied the language a bit since the Academy library only has padds with introductory levels on it, but it's simple enough and the lexical tones aren't that hard to master, so she squares her shoulders and soldiers onward despite how off putting the Ambassador's words were, plus how disconcerting the race is in general, with their leathery gray skin and completely black eyes with no discernable irises or pupils. "This one does not know the offense this one has caused, but this one apologizes for the interruption," she says as politely as she can, hoping she used the correct word for 'interruption' and not 'table.'
The Ambassador tilts her head slightly, her long, black hair swinging with the motion, before she turns from Nyota to look at Captain Pike again.
"She is solitary. As is your Commander. We expected better options from your Federation," the Ambassador says, her voice tinny through the translator.
"Your Excellence," Captain Pike says, slow and careful. "You requested that you work with a Vulcan, specifically. Commander Spock is among our most esteemed officers and he-"
"No!" The Ambassador's tone is cold and sharp through her translator. "He is forsaken."
"He is… what?" Pike asks, glancing at the Commander, who just looks back at him with a blank expression.
"He will not do. You will not do. She will not do," the Ambassador says and shakes her head, her hair swaying across her back. "I will depart."
"Ambassador, please," Pike says. "Perhaps if you explain, we can-"
"Bring me one who is combined!"
"I'm not… I'm not sure as to-"
The Ambassador makes a clicking noise and the universal translator gives an error beep instead translating it, but Nyota gets the distinct impression that it's akin to a sigh.
She glides out, her robes billowing, and Nyota hastily steps to the side to get out of her way.
When she's gone, her footsteps fading down the hall and her robes snapping behind her as she turns a corner, Pike rubs at his forehead for a long moment.
"Damn dilitium crystals," he mutters. He squeezes his eyes shut for a moment. "Mr. Spock."
Pike brushes past Nyota and is through the door before the Commander can finish saying 'yes sir.'
Complete silence follows his departure and Nyota stands with her back pressed against the doorframe, wondering if she has to say anything before she, too, leaves.
Before she can decide, the Commander looks up from his desk and pins her with that sharp gaze she remembers so well from his lectures. He's intimidating on the best of days, and though his steady gaze is reinforcing how he doesn't incite the type of rapport and ease she enjoys with other faculty, she tries to focus on how he's always been helpful and patient with any questions she's brought to him.
"I'm sorry, sir, I can come back another time, sir. I didn't intend to interrupt."
"You have already expressed that sentiment, Cadet."
The silence stretches and she runs her finger along the edge of the filmplast hand, before she realizes she's doing it and makes her hands stay still.
He hasn't looked away from her and doesn't look like he intends on dismissing her, so she swallows and says, "I came to ask you, again, whether you'd consider serving as an advisor for my project, Commander. Lieutenant Carrick had to transfer quite suddenly, and without him I don't have a professor to work with on this paper."
"I am aware," the Commander says, his voice so cool and so dismissive that she considers just giving him an apology and stepping backwards through the door, letting it close between them.
It would be so easy to just walk away from the slight discomfort and awkwardness of the room, but that would also mean walking away from one of her last chances to do this paper this summer, so she tightens her grip on her filmplast and straightens her back.
"I don't need much oversight, just really someone to sign the forms for the department, and-"
"I am not predisposed to advising a project without an opportunity to provide adequate input and guidance. Perhaps another faculty member would allow you the flexibility you desire."
"No, sir. I mean, of course, but I just meant that if you don't have a lot of time, I don't necessarily need-"
"If I have not made myself clear, I will continue to explain the matter. However it should be apparent that I cannot serve as your faculty advisor," he says with that same, smooth tone he takes with students who have clearly not done the reading, the tone that suggests that not only does he not have any interest in the current discussion, he has no intention of allowing it to continue.
She feels her cheeks heat and draws a deep breath, trying to push the angry, embarrassed jump in her stomach down.
"Of course," she makes herself say.
She slides her filmplast back into her bag, focusing on situating it between two padds she needs to return to the library and the third padd holding the rest of her research she had hoped to show to the Commander. When she's sure she's calmer and less flustered from his rebuke, she looks back up at him and says, "Have a pleasant summer, Commander. And if you think of anyone who might be available for this project, if it's not too much trouble I'd love to know."
He nods, and is already turning back to his padd as she walks out of his door.
Only when she's a half dozen steps down the corridor does she allow herself to close her eyes and let out a long breath. She knows on some level that Gaila's right that if she really can't find a professor to work with her, there's not much she can do about that. But that doesn't temper the burning itch that this project has produced in her, nor does it ease the anxious jump in throat every time she thinks about an unproductive summer. She knows how that will look on her resume, a gaping hole of several months of either no work, or less consequential work even if she can find something so last minute. Other cadets might be content with time off between semesters, but Nyota's not. She came to the Academy to do her best for four years, and to graduate either at the top of her class or as near to it as she is capable of. The idea of something so happenstance as her advisor's wife being transferred to a new assignment makes a knot form in her stomach.
She's so lost in thought that she doesn't hear the chime of her comm until it's rung at least twice and by the time she digs it out of her bag, it's ringing a third time. She flips it open, scanning the automated message sent from the Academy Library that one of the texts she has checked out has been requested. She's not surprised to see that it's the Saiphian cultural reference and dictionary she picked up earlier that week, since it's been in high demand with all the Saiphs who have been coming to Earth ever since the Ras Alhague Treaty was signed, but she is surprised to see the ID of who requested it.
She turns back down the empty hall, retracing her steps even as she digs into her bag for the relevant padd.
"Here," she says, wrapping her knuckles on the Commander's doorframe to announce her presence, not that he couldn't have heard her coming since the building is so silent with so many cadets and officers gone for the summer.
Commander Spock looks down at the padd she lays on his desk, and then up at her from beneath slanted eyebrows.
"I was not aware that you were the cadet in possession of that padd."
"I figured it was rather timely to learn their language. And speaking of timely, take it now so that neither of us has to walk to the library."
"It will still be checked out under your name."
"Don't lose it," she suggests. "Consider it a little extra efficiency in your day, since I hear you're pretty busy this summer."
"You hear I am…" he trails off, a small crease forming between his eyebrows as his head tilts to the side. "You are aware I am involved with other work this summer. Is that what you are referring to?"
"Uh, yes." Her fingers tighten on the strap of her bag and she tries not to wince at her own flippancy. "It's a saying, an expression. I guess I was being a bit… sarcastic."
He pauses for a moment, still just watching her with those dark, piercing eyes. "I see."
"I'm sorry, sir, it was out of line."
"You are distressed because you have not found an advisor for your project," he says and it's not really a question so she doesn't nod.
Instead, she ignores his guess – his correct guess at that- and gestures to the padd.
"If you're requisitioning that to look up the word that the Ambassador kept repeating and which the universal translator didn't have a reference for, it amounts to the Standard definition of 'single', as in someone who isn't involved in a relationship."
His gaze drops to the dictionary so that she can't see his reaction, not that she imagines there would be much of one. He thumbs on the padd and she watches him flick through the chapter she had most recently been reading.
"I'll… leave you to it," she says eventually when he shows no sign of looking up at her again. She backs out of his office once more, the hall as empty and quiet as it was the last time, her footsteps echoing dully as she walks away.
It isn't until she's pushing her dinner around her plate in the mess hall and trying to focus on the conversation Gaila's having with her that she really allows the despondency to settle in.
"This isn't going to work," she says to her salad, stabbing at a tomato that just rolls to the other side of her plate.
Gaila picks up the tomato, takes the fork from Nyota's hand, and spears it on the tines for her.
"There you go."
Nyota grins despite herself, shaking her head at her roommate who is looking back at her with her chin propped on one green hand.
"Is your entire summer ruined because the Commander's too busy?"
"Ruined all of next year, too?"
"Being a third year cadet will exist in the shadow of not having a published paper," Nyota agrees, wrinkling her nose at her tomato. "All because I couldn't convince Commander Spock to work with me."
"I can't believe you couldn't convince him," Gaila drawls. "A Vulcan who meant what they said the first time they said it. Astonishing. No, wait, fascinating."
"Thanks for the support, Gaila. Really," Nyota mutters, laying down her fork and grinding her thumb and forefinger into her eyes until she sees stars.
"You're welcome," Gaila says cheerfully. "And you know what? Life goes on, an old Terran saying, as you very well know. So Doctor Carrick had to move, which is too bad, and you don't get to do one single project while you're at the Academy. It'll be ok."
Nyota sighs again and goes back to rubbing at her eyes.
"It's just… it's huge, you know? If I can get it published, then I'll have that and my grades, and -"
"-There's something as important as your grades? Because really-"
"-It would make my resume really stand out and could get me a posting right away. Even maybe the Enterprise, if I can keep my grades high enough. Can you imagine? I'm sure they're only going to take a handful of cadets and if I have the research background to be really strong in understanding sociolinguistics, I could have a real shot at being on that ship for her maiden voyage."
"This won't make or break your career, Ny. It's ok to relax once in a while," Gaila says gently.
"Commander Spock wasn't even interested in hearing about my topic."
"Yeah and you know what he's like, today he was so-"
The flare of pain from Gaila's boot against her shin is nothing compared to the horror of if she had finished that sentence the way she wanted to.
"Sir," she says, looking up at where he's appeared next to their table.
"Please point to the relevant passage."
"Um," she says, looking blankly at the padd he's dropped next to her plate. "Sorry, what?"
"The word you referenced in my office regarding the mistranslation of the universal translator."
It takes her a moment to find the section she's looking for, which the Commander spends just standing there and Gaila spends in abnormal silence, staring up at him.
"That is not the word she was speaking."
"Not it's not," Nyota agrees, fishing her stylus out of her bag and using it to highlight a section of text so that she can keep her hand away from any chance of brushing against his as he scrolls through the page she points to. "But this is about their hive mind and the ways their language has come to depend on their psionic biology."
"That is not relevant."
Nyota bites back her response that if it wasn't relevant she wouldn't have brought it up.
"Actually, sir, if you read anything about their culture, they historically refuse to work with non-telepathic species and even then, they struggle with individuals who aren't in a relationship." She pauses, not exactly wanting to get into the minutia of the Commander's personal life, but then again the Ambassador basically pointed out that neither she, nor him, nor Captain Pike were seeing anyone. "According to one article I read about them, they're notoriously difficult to work with outside of the societal parameters they deem acceptable."
"And by difficult you mean time consuming?" Gaila guesses and Nyota frowns at her, wishing she hadn't shared anything from her visit to Spock's office.
Spock just glances at Gaila and says, "That is accurate."
"That's too bad, sir. Nothing like having a project just not come to fruition." The Commander looks like he's actually trying to determine if there is in fact anything like that when Gaila continues. "So how did we even sign the treaty anyway?"
"The logical deduction is that whoever was in the diplomatic envoy was in a committed romantic relationship."
"Well, isn't that convenient." Gaila taps a finger on the padd and looks over at Nyota with a gleam in her eye that she recognizes all too well as her roommate's rampant, zealous excitement about something. "Hey, Ny, how'd you know all that? I mean, I know you read dictionaries for fun, but isn't that something, Commander? That Cadet Uhura here figured all that out?"
"A well reasoned conclusion," he allows and Gaila grins.
"Good thing Starfleet has her big brain," Gaila says. "Otherwise we'd never know that working with the Saiph envoy would be like a million times easier if you were dating someone, Commander."
"That is not mathematically correct."
"Ah, well, it's summer, sir. Can't be blamed for not being on par with Uhura."
Commander Spock looks like it's not out of the realm of possibility that he would blame her for something like that but instead of saying anything, he just picks up the padd, tucks it under his arm and turns on his heel.
"I like him," Gaila grins, watching his tall form cutting between the half-empty tables in the mess hall.
"I'm pretty sure he just told you that you can't count very well."
Gaila shrugs and Nyota's troubled to see that the manic gleam hasn't quite dissipated from her eyes or her smile.
"So." Gaila pats the table with her hands, practically bouncing. "It's obvious."
"It's logical. It is so incredibly logical. He's not going to even be able to turn you down because of all the logic."
"Commander Spock is, what, the smartest professor on campus?"
"Unmatched academic background, recently returned from a deployment with Captain Pike, recently promoted to first officer of the Enterprise? He, even more than Doctor Carrick, would be the best advisor for your project and also a great professional connection to make?"
"So," Gaila grins. "He needs bunch of dilithium crystals? That's what the Saiphs have, right? The whole point of Starfleet getting involved with them? They have all those dilithium deposits and their refinery technology is far more advanced than ours?"
"I guess so."
"And the Saiphs won't work with him because he's not dating anyone?"
"Yeah, you heard him, it sounds like it's going to take him forever to make progress with them and is going to spend all summer- Oh. Oh, Gaila, no."
"This is going to be great."
"I'm not… you can't be serious."
"I have never been so serious in my entire life," Gaila says in a low, solemn voice that is completely ruined by the way her eyes are shining.
"I am not, I repeat, not, going to pretend to date Commander Spock so that he can get his dilithium crystals and I can get help on my paper."
"The best part is that you are so obsessed with this project that you totally are."
"He won't even- this isn't… this is insane, Gaila."
"I cannot wait for this to happen. I'm pretty sure I've never been this excited," Gaila grins, practically squirming in her seat and her hands fluttering over the table.
"Well, enjoy the thought of it as a hypothetical, never going to come to fruition, completely theoretical scheme you cooked up."
"Published journal article," Gaila squeals. "Meeting all of the senior officers of the Enterprise."
"They'll think I'm, oh my God, Gaila, they'll think I'm sleeping with the guy to get a position on the ship! Commander Spock of all people!"
"Oh, please, it's the 2250s. Nobody thinks that anymore, or I would never have approached Captain-"
"Mmm, she was good. And look, Ny, it's a perfect opportunity to show off that big old brain of yours and impress the Commander with all your skills."
Nyota drags her hand across her face, slowly shaking her head.
"Gaila, I love you very much, and you are a wonderful roommate except for all the ways in which you're not, but just… just let this go. I am never, ever going to walk into Commander Spock's office and suggest that we pretend to date for an entire summer. Even the thought of it, I just…" Nyota shudders and shakes her head again with a grimace. "Not happening."
"Ok," Gaila said, still grinning.
"Stop smiling. I'll come up with another plan."
"Sure you will."
"Stop it, seriously. I'll forget about the project, I'll work on the Farragut for the rest of my career coding universal translators and updating dictionaries."
"I have professional mores, Gaila. Standards of conduct that this… just, no. No."
"I mean, he's not… I couldn't even spend that much time with him, nor would I want to. He's so… he's just really… "
"If you say anything about him that suggests you are holding him to inappropriate interspecies cultural relativism standards, such as that his Vulcan demeanor comes across as rude, or that the fact that he's Vulcan is what's holding you back, so help me Nyota, I will bring back that guy with all the tentacles and do it in your bed."
"Do you look this stuff up in my textbooks? And I was not going to say that," Nyota says primly. "And, also, the tentacles left slime all over our room, which you barely cleaned up."
"I did too!"
Nyota goes back to her salad and ignores the grins Gaila shoots her, but at least Gaila shuts up about her idea and starts talking about the benefits of multiple appendages during sex which, while not Nyota's favorite topic does detour the conversation from Gaila's plan which Nyota is just not going to give a second thought to. At all. Ever.