Written for the prompt "rules and regulations" at the Journey to Drabble challenge at LJ, I wanted to explore how Spock and Uhura's relationship might have begun with him as the initiator of their rather illicit little romance. Since this is movie!fic, I've used movie!canon, which has Spock teaching phonology, though I realize this deviates a bit from TOS. Thanks again to Jncar for her beta work! Feedback welcomed and appreciated!
All in the Mind
Nyota Uhura normally would not have been at all surprised to hear Commander Spock's voice address her as she made her way out of the lecture hall with her Advanced Phonology classmates. It had become something of a regular occurrence for him to call her aside after class to follow up on a particular point she had raised during the discussion, or to elaborate on a point that had piqued his interest in one of her research papers. However, she was rather surprised to be singled out by him now. She hadn't handed in any coursework since he'd returned her last essay on the Cognitive Processes in the Development of Early Vulcan and Romulan Dialects. And during today's lecture on Changes in Phoneme Inventory Over Time, which directly related to that essay, he hadn't called on her once.
If she didn't know better, Uhura would say Spock had ignored her. Intentionally. In fact, she might say it anyway. Because, while the first time he'd glanced at her with her hand raised while calling on another cadet might have been unintentional, the second, third, and fourth times couldn't have been.
At first she'd thought maybe he just wanted to give other students a chance to contribute. She had to admit she did tend to monopolize class discussions in what she considered her best subject. Then again, Spock normally indulged her expertise, encouraged her to engage in discussions, and even seemed, in his restrained Vulcan way, to enjoy it. To the extent that Uhura had begun to entertain the hope that maybe, just maybe, she'd finally met a man who, unlike the Jim Kirks of the universe with their jokes about talented tongues (she'd lost count of how many times she'd been called a cunning linguist), could want her for her mind.
If he hadn't been her teacher and superior officer, of course.
Not that it mattered, as today proved she'd been sadly mistaken. Probably she'd talked too much, as was always her problem with men. Leave it to her to be too intellectual to attract a Vulcan.
She told the cadet she was walking with that she would catch up with her later, and, ignoring the smart-ass remark about teachers' pets Dee made under her breath, turned to her instructor. Her chin tilted slightly upward as if to physically force the heat rising upward from the collar of her uniformnot to fill her cheeks with incriminating color, despite her negative thoughts.
"Yes, Commander Spock?"
"I believe you do not have a lecture during the next block. Is that correct?"
That Spock was conscientious enough to remember her schedule from the times their post-class discussions had bled into the next lecture period, when the hall was needed by other teachers and other students, prompting them to continue in his office or over a cup of coffee in one of the campus lounges, was not remarkable. But it didn't do anything to help Uhura's struggle against her self-conscious blush, either. She reminded herself of the apparent lack of interest he'd demonstrated in class.
"That is correct, sir." The detached tone she managed was satisfying. Vulcans didn't have sole claim on being able to control their emotions.
Spock gave a curt nod. "Then if you have no other obligations at this time, there is a matter I would like to discuss with you."
"I'm free," Uhura replied eagerly -- too eagerly, she feared, given her earlier fear of Spock having had enough of her loquaciousness. But if that were the case, why would he ask to speak with her? Encouraged, she waited for Spock to begin.
He did not.
Instead, he gestured to the door as it swung shut behind a final cadet, his nose buried in his PADD, no doubt cramming for an exam next hour. "Shall we?"
Even as she stepped into the corridor, resonant with the voices of cadets and faculty en route to their next lectures and labs, Uhura's brow furrowed. It was atypical of Spock to suggest a change of venue before a conversation was underway.
As if reading her mind, he said, explained, "It is a personal matter, and I would prefer our discussion not be interrupted.
It was the first explanation he had ever made that left Uhura more baffled than she had been before. And increasingly uncomfortable. Ordinarily she clipped along these corridors beside him with ease, too absorbed in their academic discourse to heed the noise and bustle, except to be proud that her fellow cadets might to see that one of the most respected members of the Starfleet faculty was engaged in what she had to say and as stimulated by his student's opinions as she was by his. Now, the din of dozens of conversations that were not her own served to heighten her acute awareness of the lack of communication between her and Spock. Maybe he was weary of her, and was going to tell her--
"Please, Cadet Uhura," Spock's even, but not cold tone interrupted her monologue the door of his office slid open and he stood aside for her to enter ahead of him. "Make yourself comfortable."
Mumbling her thanks, Uhura moved mechanically toward the pair of modern armchairs in front of his sleek, expansive desk. She chose the one on the left and sat at the edge of it, her back as rigid as if she were at attention.
"That posture hardly looks comfortable," Spock observed from across the office as the door slid shut behind him. "You usually demonstrate a greater aptitude at following directions. Should I have said, 'At ease, Cadet'?"
The gentle teasing unnerved her not because it came from a Vulcan, but because it indicated an attitude contrary to the one she had braced herself to encounter here. Not relaxing a muscle, Uhura looked up at him, scrutinizing his unreadable face as he came to stand behind the vacant chair, his long fingers curving lightly over the back.
"And usually you sit here," he said.
"Yes, well, sometimes you just say to hell with habit, today I'm doing something different."
One slanted eyebrow arched. "Indeed."
"Like not call on me in class today?" Uhura blurted, and immediately winced. Great. Now he would think she talked too much and was an attention-seeking brat.
To her astonishment, rather than stepping behind his desk and reprimanding her insubordination, Spock tried something different as well. He slipped around the chair Uhura normally occupied, angling it conversationally toward her -- and closer to her -- as he lowered himself into it. When he spoke, his tone was more subdued than the self-assured one with which she was familiar.
"Clearly my actions today have made you feel slighted, and for that I sincerely apologize. It was not my intent. I make no attempt to excuse my behavior, although I do hope our ensuing discussion will illuminate my reasoning behind it."
"It's certainly your prerogative to call on whom you wish in class, Commander."
The corners of his lips twitched, and his gaze briefly turned inward, as though he were laughing at some private joke, or at himself. If Vulcans did that, of course.
"I am afraid that in this case, Cadet, it is not my prerogative. My wish would always be to call on you. Alas I must bear in mind that the Advanced Phonology class consists of forty-seven other people than you and me."
Once upon a time -- this morning, in fact -- words such as these, uttered in such a demeanor as this, would have made Uhura's pulse flutter wildly in the numerous points of her body, stolen her breath and made her light-headed. Even now she felt herself responding to this highest of compliments -- and what almost seemed like flirtation. But she willed her body not to give in to what could only be a silly schoolgirl crush. If Spock could shut down whatever preference he had for her as a student, then she could do the same for these feelings for him, which she shouldn't have anyway. Despite the handicap of not being half-Vulcan.
"I see," she said. "You wish to avoid the appearance of favoritism."
"As usual," Spock replied with a deferential nod of his head, "you demonstrate acute understanding. However, I think you misinterpret my motive."
In spite of herself, Uhura was intrigued, as she always was by a puzzle. "Do I, sir?"
Spock's fingertips twitched where they rested on his knees, almost in what she would interpret in a human as nervousness. His voice revealed no such emotion, though she noted with some surprise that his gaze did not quite touch hers.
"I sense an underlying element to your regard for me," he said. "You do not view me in merely a professional light."
So much for control. Uhura drew in her breath sharply. Certain that her face must be as red as her uniform, she had never wished harder for a passing starship -- friend or foe, it didn't matter -- to beam her up and away from this encounter. She wasn't embarrassed so much as ashamed, and the worst of it was that she knew it would be impossible to lie to Spock.
God, how would she ever face him again? And the semester was scarcely half-over.
Eyes on the toes of her boots, shined above and beyond dress code requirement, she replied, "I'm sorry, sir. I know my feelings are inappropriate for a cadet. I never intended to act on them."
"Indeed? I would have expected more sound logic from you."
Uhura looked up. "Forgive me, sir, but I fail to see what is unsound about wishing to avoid personal embarrassment and especially the academic ramifications that could be the result of harboring such feelings. I take my education and my future career very seriously--"
"Which is why," Spock interrupted, rising to his feet, "it is illogical that two consenting adults with proven track records of not allowing emotion to interfere with responsibility should not indulge a mutual regard."
After a lengthy silence, during which Spock stood in front of his desk, dark eyes resting on her unblinkingly, Uhura found her voice.
"Excuse me, Commander, but did you just say..." She could hardly shape her lips and move her tongue to form the word. "...mutual?"
A crisp nod. "Your aural recognition is in order."
Uhura was not at all sure her aural comprehension was.
"But I wonder," Spock continued. "Might we not dispense with formality in our private interactions...Nyota?"
At the sound of her name coming on his lips and tongue, Uhura thought not even a Vulcan would be able to quell the inner palpitations she was currently experiencing.
And then Spock added, "I cannot conceive of addressing one another as Commander and Cadet over dinner."
The fluttering stopped. "Are we going to dinner?"
Leaning back against his desk as if he had not anticipated this response, Spock answered, "I had assumed that would be the natural outcome of this discussion, should my assumptions about your feelings prove correct. Have I somehow misconstrued your meaning? Have I not made mine clear that I hold your intellect in the highest esteem and would like to be more frequently in your company?"
He looked so genuinely perplexed that Uhura had to reassure him. Standing, she said, "You have...Spock." Though she had thought his name without his title in her mind thousands of times, it felt strange to say it aloud, as if she were uttering a deep secret. "But..."
In her hesitation, he supplied, "But you have not arrived at the same logic as to how to proceed?"
"It's not that."
Uhura frowned, thinking. In all the times she had dared let herself daydream about the possibility of, as Spock put it, his 'mutual regard,' she had never imagined a scenario that differed greatly from this one. She did, whole-heartedly, agree with his logic. Why shouldn't two people like them pursue a romantic relationship, regardless of rules and regulations about student-faculty interactions?
That was the thing: Uhura had always wanted a man who would want her for her mind. Now that she had, apparently, found one, romance seemed to be missing from the equation. Not that she expected overtures, or even slight emoting, from Spock. But knowing that, contrary to popular belief, Spock did feel, she had not been prepared for cold logic to win the day.
"What is it, then?" he asked in a way that said he would do whatever was required to assuage her misgivings. Which, in and of itself, did help. But...
"You esteem, say, Captain Pike's intellect, don't you?"
"And you like being in his company?"
As Spock processed this, Uhura thought she saw something almost like a crease form between his eyebrows. If it had really appeared, it almost immediately vanished, his features smooth and serene with understanding.
And something almost like a smile.
He leaned toward her, his face so near that she felt the warmth of his breath on her forehead, as solid and evocative as any touch of the hand. "The difference, Nyota, is that there is no part of my wanting to be Captain Pike's company that stems from finding him physically stimulating."
The flutterings throughout Uhura's body resumed. She had never imagined she would get the Spock equivalent of saying she was hot. "Then I would love to go to dinner with you."
The subtle change on Spock's face, a slight parting of his lips and the slow rise and fall of his chest, clearly signified relief. He straightened up and stated that he would contact her with information as to the time and venue of their date.
As she turned to leave the office, Uhura felt that she was in an anti-gravity simulation. It seemed that, contrary to what the Jim Kirks of the universe had led her to believe, she didn't want to be wanted for her mind, after all.
Not just her mind, anyway.
She stopped in the doorway and turned back to her teacher, catching his eyes following the swirl of her long ponytail over her shoulder.
"Favoritism or not, I expect you to continue calling on me in class, you know, Commander."
"That is only logical for a woman of your intellect. I look forward to your contributions to Monday's lecture, Cadet."