The silence of the Academy is suffocating. It was, Uhura's eternally active mind pointed out, terribly ironic that after years of wishing for nothing more than a quiet corner of the campus to call her own, she would now willingly trade anything, even her viciously fought for assignment on the Enterprise, for the halls to again echo with the yells and banter of over excited cadets. It would be another week before the newly graduated crew set out on their first official mission to uncharted space. Seven more days of peaking into her dorm room, still checking from force of habit that her roommate wasn't in mid coitus with the cadet of the week before daring to enter fully. Another week of then standing numbly in the doorway as the barren half of the room reminded her that the green, intolerable, self-center, beloved female was no longer among the living.
She decided after the first day back that for the next one hundred and sixty eight hours, she will live in the communications lab. She spends nearly every waking moment listening to the voices and troubles of people so far removed from Earth and the Academy that they may as well exist in another reality. Many of the few remaining cadets shake their head at her behavior, their words echoing painfully through hollow halls. They think her heartless, that the destruction of most everyone she had known for nearly half a decade has no affect on her. They say the ice queen is simply returning to duty as usual. She refuses to use even one of the ten thousand and eighty minutes of her remaining time at the Academy to correct them. She almost thinks they find comfort in her apparent apathy: one unchanging entity in a world that has been altered forever.
An Andorian merchant vessel six thousand light years away is reporting difficulty with one of its engines to a passing Federation vessel. Uhura closes her eyes, imagining herself on the bridge of that distant ship, a place where the destruction of the Vulcan home world and an entire graduating class of Star Fleet students is nothing but an interesting, if somewhat tragic, piece of gossip. Where the greatest concern is whether the delay caused by the system malfunction will result in the late delivery of their merchandise. The ship's captain releases a rather impressive string of curses in seven distinct languages and the woman nearly smiles. He and Kirk would get along famously should they ever meet.
She sighs with the thought, the inconsequential woes of an unknown captain and crew ending as she removes the ear piece before leaning back in her chair. Kirk. Her newly appointed Captain had been going through his own kind of mourning since their return, suffering from some additional sense of loss that she neither knew nor understood beyond the fact that Spock seemed to relate.
She knows the loss of Spock's world, of his Mother, is not something she can understand despite any grief they may share over the loss of the Academy. She has lost her friends. He has lost his home and his purpose of being. Now it would seem that, through ways she cannot begin to imagine, their Captain, the loud, persistent, idiot farm boy, understands his pain. She should be jealous, she supposes, that the one she considers herself closest to is finding consolation with another. Or perhaps she should feel hurt, or angry, or any number of other powerful, human emotions which would be completely justifiable, if not entirely logical, given the situation. However, one did not find love with a Vulcan by being overly emotional, so Uhura feels none of these things and wastes no time dwelling on thoughts of her loneliness. Instead she returns the transmitter to her ear, shifting the trajectory of observation to a quadrant that did not include the stranded Andorian vessel. The alien Kirk would have to make his way without her.
It is well past midnight by the time she considers herself tired enough to return to her quarters, her thoughts finally dulled to an ignorable hum by sheer exhaustion. She barely notes the absence of the whispers and late night revelry that had been standard practice in the barracks only days before. Only one hundred and sixty seven hours of silence left until the Enterprise departs.
It is another testament to her exhaustion that it takes two attempts of inputting her access code to the room before she notices the computer isn't responding to her commands. She peers at the screen blearily, the tired fog clearing somewhat as she realizes someone has overridden the normal security protocol with one of their own. The crisp letters cheerily flashing 'Say Please' from the wall leaves her little doubt as to whom this someone may be. The debate of whether to hunt down and kill her irritating Captain now or in the morning is a swift one, her weariness winning over annoyance as she sighs the word "Please" into the audio receptor.
"Anything for you, beautiful." The recorded voice of the soon to be deceased James T. Kirk chirps at her from the consol. "And don't worry about thanking me in the morning. Consider it payback for letting me borrow your boy toy for the last few days." Her brow knits in confusion at the sudden muffled sound of pounding in the background of the recording. "On second thought," a slightly more amused version of Kirk's voice picks up a moment later, "you can thank me a little bit and make sure I don't die before we launch. Deal?"
The recording pauses and she sighs again, shaking her head. The things she had to go through for a simple nights rest. She was half tempted to simply go back to the lab and attempt a nap in the chair. It certainly wouldn't be the first time she had done so, and with her recent insomnia she'd probably get the same amount of rest as should would in her bed. But then Kirk would have succeeded in keeping her from something, an out come her pride refused to allow.
"Deal." She snaps, rolling her eyes as the door finally swishes open. In six and a half days she was going to smoother that man-child in his sleep. Or perhaps a shot to the groin would be more appropriate…
Considerations of the pros and cons of various methods of retaliation flee her mind at the sudden movement in the room before her. The figure that had been seated, head bowed over steepled fingers, elbows resting on knees, on her bed rises quickly to a rigid standing position. The door seals shut behind her with a slight hiss.
"He locked you in here." She states flatly, eying the apparently stoic Vulcan before her.
"Indeed." Spock replies, the barely perceivable shifting of weight from one foot to the other broadcasting his discomfort to her as clearly as though he had blushed. "It would seem Captain Kirk has attempted an exercise in humor at my expense. I apologize for the intrusion; I assure you it was not my intention to disrupt your privacy." He doesn't glance at the door. Actually looking at the door would be an expression of his desire to escape the situation, of his embarrassment at being discovered uninvited in her bedroom, and Vulcan's don't feel such useless emotions. She knows he's thinking of the door fairly intensely, however. She doesn't move from her position of blocking it.
"What were the two of you doing in my room?" Her voice is as carefully detached as his, and she wonders how long he must have been sitting on her bed before she arrived. Hours, possibly. She had been gone since dawn, silence induced insomnia driving her from the room after only an hours rest, and it was very nearly time for the sun to rise again. Possibly for long enough that her bed would smell like him.
He stares fixedly at a point somewhere above her head as he replies, still trying to hide from her. "Kirk…" He pauses, letting out a small breath of air that, for him, passed as a heaving sigh. "Regardless of whatever ruse the Captain may have executed to orchestrate this event, the fault is mine for allowing such a manipulation. I can only offer my sincerest apology once more, and assure you that his reasoning seemed sound at the time in which it was presented to me."
"It always does." Kirk must have been planning this for at least a day to have a security override ready to seal Spock in quickly enough. Considering the brilliance of the plans the man managed to come up with off the cuff, Uhura had no doubt whatever scenario he had concocted for the poor Vulcan had made entering her room seem nothing short of logical.
"You are fatigued." He observes after a few moments of tense silence. They had hardly spoken in the past few days. His voice sounds more strained than she remembers it. "I will leave you to rest."
He steps forward towards her, obviously expecting her to move out of the way and clear his path to the now unlocked door. She continues to stare at him, unmoving from her position.
"My roommate's dead." She whispers once he's stopped, standing only a foot away from her now.
"Yes." He replies, titling his head to look down at her face.
"I can't sleep anymore." Her voice remains in its pained whisper as she focuses her gaze at a spot just above his heart "I stay up all night, listening for her to mutter in her sleep. To breathe." She shakes her head, denying the wetness gathering in her eyes, "But there's nothing. Just silence. I can't…" She swallows thickly, fighting the first hot tear from making its way down her cheek.
The silence hangs heavily on the room for several seconds. She mentally curses herself for pushing her grief onto him, demanding he deal with her emotions when, despite his time with Kirk, the Vulan obviously has yet to get a grip on his own.
"I understand." He says finally, and her tightly restrained tears overflow at his words.
His shoulders relax slightly and she takes the invitation for what it is, stepping forward to wrap her arms around his neck, face pressed firmly into his shoulder as his hands come up to rest on her hips.
"I understand." He states again as she sobs. He doesn't move, doesn't stroke her hair or rub her back as a human might. He doesn't kiss her or whisper sweet nothings. He is only there, solid and real and understanding, even if he cannot express such grief himself. She's waited days for him to reach some level of peace, and only now that he's returned to her does she grieve.
"Stay with me." She whispers at length, keeping her face buried in his now damp shirt.
He nods against the side of her head and she steps back, pulling away slowly as his arms fall to the side. They don't speak again as she prepares for bed, slipping off her shoes and jacket, locating a spare pillow and blanket for him to use. They don't share her bed. Despite previous physical contact, he is still a Vulcan and their relationship is new. There are lines that he isn't prepared to cross and she doesn't want to push him over. He takes her former roommates bunk instead, lying flat on his back on the base mattress, hands folded on his chest as the dawn filters in through the window.
Uhura closes her eyes and smiles into her pillow as the barely audible sound of another life's breathing fills the air for the first time since her return to the Academy. There are one hundred and sixty six hours before the Enterprise departs. If she could spend even a small percentage of them listening to him quietly breaking the silence around her, she just may be all right.
Though, she muses idly as sleep finally overcomes her, she would still need to punish Kirk in the morning.