A/N: Firstly, I just wanted to say how overwhelmed and humbled I am by all the reviews and hits. Thank you so much for reading and enjoying this, I can't tell you how much it means to me. Also, I just wanted to clarify: this particular story is finished. I will not be adding chapters, however, I do fully intend to continue to write for Spock and Uhura in the context of this new head-canon that I am conceiving for them. My thoughts and the scenes I picture for them are just too sporadic to put into a chaptered story, though. I do hope you all continue to read them as I write them.
Additionally, I love how my browser's Spell Check actually recognizes "Spock". Lanes out.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek. Just the arrangement of words in this particular story.
The lashes lidding his stoic eyes flicker against the harsh fluorescence now flooding the small office. His back, conformed tautly to the embrace of his chair, stands erect—professional—though no one else occupies the room to make note of it. His gaze shifts. The blinds are still closed.
And he still does not know what to make of this newfound revelation.
Air fills his nostrils, air that is stale with the taint of tea and hints of spices, too cool now to drink. Even when it had been hot enough to enjoy it had tasted of swill, though it is no alarming feat considering his lack of sensitivity to anything not remotely seasoned to flavour. The sound of his own breath reaches his ears—a short, vacant sigh—followed by the scraping of his cup against the cold metal of his desk. He blinks, his lips purse—so fast, so unnoticeably, a reflex—while his finger taps lightly on the tabletop; once. Twice--thrice. Again, and stops. His hand hovers over the empty workspace, head cocked ever so slightly as if in thought.
The bright glow of these particular numbers has become the new normality and as soon as his eyes—and his mind—register their meaning, it is as if the day has only now just begun. He takes a deep breath through his nose, chin elevating along with his pronounced, pointed brow into a nonchalant, passive expression. Most would take such an expression on a Human for arrogance, or apathy. But he is no Human. Not wholly.
It has been a week now since the start of the new semester. Before, the segue into the new term had always been relatively easy; the students came and went, and he—the Academy's esteemed graduate and Commander, Instructor of Advanced Phonology and Interspecies Ethics—had taken his duties in stride with a routine that had, in short, become effortless. Students came and they went—always at his pace, or never at all—along with their stresses and their woes and their relief at finally being free of his tutelage, but every term had always been relatively the same in pace, and in functionality.
This one...feels different. It has only been a week and still he can sense a change. But he does not know what to make of it, nor does he have any notion as to its origin, which is the most puzzling realization of all. He is a rational being, a man of logic, of exploring every option made available to him with the most unbiased and critical of eyes. Why, then, does he find nearly seven minutes of his morning—every morning—clouded by a feeling he cannot explain, even to himself?
Hmm. A feeling. One that brings him no satisfaction. He shivers.
And gives pause. ...Odd.
"Computer." His confident voice permeates the previous silence, his eyes shifting confidently but curiously to the sensor blinking at him from the top of his desk. "What is the current temperature?" he inquires, though he suspects he already knows the answer will not be to his satisfaction either.
"The current temperature is twenty-one point six eight degrees, Celsius," a smooth, slightly electronic voice replies, leaving him just as dissatisfied as he had postulated. It would seem the condition of his work environment has been altered from the more bearable twenty-six point one his Vulcan physiology prefers. Perhaps that is the change he has felt, and he is momentarily appeased by that conclusion. And then it strikes him—as his head tilts again this time in the strictest of contemplations, and he wonders—how had he managed to let such a drop in his climate, in his comfort, in his routine, go so profoundly unnoticed?
"Interesting," he muses, certainly to no one in particular as his brow furrows and lips curl again, that instinct within him to repress and to weed out this discomfort with logic. And yet...he makes no effort to correct the computer, to reestablish order, order that he must have. Instead he sits, and savours this frozen feeling with a brittle regard, reaching slowly for the stylus to his PADD.
Only to find it missing.
And for the first time in a week, his eyes dare to drift to the empty desk sitting in the opposite corner of the room.
It is late afternoon before he is granted reprieve—again, terms dictated to him by no one but himself. The day has passed at a steady pace, though quiet—more quiet than it has ever been. His ears, attuned as they are to even the most delicate sounds of his surrounding, find nothing but noise in conversation and note the severe lacking of intellectual stimuli.
A disheartening revelation, as he distinctly recalls a time when his day revolved around it.
He walks the Communications lab, his hands clasped firmly behind his back; the students have long since filed from the room and yet they leave far too much evidence of their presence for his liking. The odd, misplaced chair; the stray earpiece left beside its dock; the occasional forgotten book or stylus—he organizes these with little more than mild annoyance at the minute lack of respect, but he says nothing. He barely spares a moment to ponder, only registering that this task takes him twice as long as it used to. And is only half as tolerable.
The chill follows him through the room, yet the action to call upon the computer and request the temperature once more seems lost on him. He already knows the answer to his query, and therefor finds it illogical to ask yet again. No, he remains silent. Doors swish open automatically as he strides purposefully into the hall, where students' laughter and the shuffling of their standard issue boots create rhythms that his mathematically inclined mind interpret through his ears. These sounds are the backdrop of an unsung alma mater, speaking more volume than lyrics to any academy anthem could ever convey. He finds it soothing in its raw, undiluted truth.
Another swish of the motorized doors and beams of light assault his eyes, the sounds of the halls of the buildings now replaced by the hum of nature—a light rustling of twigs and branches of bare trees in the distance muffled by the wind whipping against the side of his head, the tips of his ears. He can almost taste the approaching season, the smell of Spring in the air too heady and promising of warmth to disregard.
And then he sees her, just barely through the touch of sun, the rays on his cheeks. It thaws him.
She struggles with a stack of PADDs and what looks like loose leaf paper, her back to him, and from a quick assessment of her angled stance and attempted pace he concludes she had exited the building just before him, with her destination being the Engineering Annex across the quad. Taking into account the terms of the next independent study they had discussed the previous semester, this assessment was the most logical conclusion. Despite her acute distress, she seems unbothered.
His feet do not give pause.
"Miss Uhura," he greets in his approach, shoulders straightened and hands tugging firmly—once—at the hem of his jacket. Her head shoots up from the stack of PADDs in her arms, the papers crumpling in her grip beneath them, but her eyes are alight as she struggles to stand at attention.
"Commander," she returns in greeting, lifting a knee slightly to hold the PADDs in place as the wind whips the locks of her long ponytail into her eyes. She squints, and for a moment he is at a loss until by some gift of extreme coordination she jerks her hand against her hair and her face and the problem is alleviated. And her eyes are upon him again, her shoulders as straight as she can possibly muster. "I was just on my way to Stephandom Hall, Sir."
His brow furrows slightly. "Interesting," he says, his eyes glancing quickly over the load in her arms and only giving a small nod to relieve her of her formal stance. "Given the evidence, I had assumed an alternate destination." As his hands clasp themselves behind his back she seems to regard him, blinking, mouth open slightly in confusion. And then it seems to dawn on her, and she laughs—heartily, throatily, her teeth gleaming against her grin in the sunlight, and he knows what it feels to be a snake, charmed.
"Well I have to hurry and get these to Admiral Garvin in the Engineering Annex if that's what you were referring to," she adds in a friendly tone, shifting the weight of the PADDs in her arms. "I've got a whole other stack waiting at the office that I'm going to have to carry over to Stephandom just to get them done," she starts and cuts herself off as her head turns to look at the much closer structure of Stephandom.
"That's quite a detour," he observes, having calculated the distance she would have to cover to make the walk from the Communications labs to the Engineering Annex and then all the way back to Stephandom—which was just the next building over. Again, she does not seem bothered.
"It's not that bad," she grins, scrunching her nose slightly—a detail that is not lost on him. "I actually don't mind too much, working with Admiral Garvin is unbelievable," she continues, finding her sure footing. He notes this easily and falls into stride next to her, as if to encourage her not to allow him to keep her from her duties. They walk for a moment before her mouth opens—she takes in a short breath, then stops, as if contemplating words—and turns to look up at him. "I actually meant to stop by," she starts again, and when he does not answer she goes on, "I wanted to thank you for your recommendation. I probably wouldn't have gotten that aide position for Advanced Acoustical without it."
"That is a highly illogical statement, Miss Uhura," he interjects. "Taking into account the statistics of the top percentage of your graduating class, you were the cadet most likely to benefit Starfleet as a whole in such a position. Had my recommendation not been formally requested, it would not have been necessary and I would not have given it, as your marks alone would have spoken for you."
He thinks he hears her smirk. He does not look.
"Well, thank you anyway," she finally says, and there is no hint of ire in her voice. Then again, he has never been one to boast the ability of differentiating projected emotions. But when he cocks his head at her, he sees her looking down at the PADDs in her hands as she walks, teeth still gleaming in a beaming smile, a silent laugh. Curious.
"Your gratitude is neither required nor relevant--"
"And yet, I give it," she interrupts firmly, and though a moment after there is a spark—a crackle of energy in the air as they both realize what they do not say, that her actions to speak out of turn belie her position as his student—she does not seem afraid of consequence. And he finds he is not offended. "I just wish I hadn't needed to give up one aide position in exchange for the other."
He contemplates this. "Your course load has nearly doubled this term, if I am not mistaken."
"Mmm," she nods, before correcting herself. "Yes, Sir."
"All of them in Communications?" he inquires, and she scrunches her nose again, shifting the PADDs in her arms, the loose papers crumpling audibly beneath them.
"Most, given a few exceptions," she answers. "It would be more convenient if I didn't have so many breaks between them. I've been trying to get used to hauling my work between buildings all week, and I still can't manage to make it everywhere on time."
"A most troublesome dilemma."
"Indeed," she grinds out in a slightly deeper tone, and he detects that it is one of jest and satire, possibly a caricature of another authoritative figure. Possibly a caricature of him. "It's kind of nice actually," she adds, her voice returning to normal though taking on a more serious note. The doors to the Engineering Annex open with a swish, and her next words are amplified by the acoustics of the emptying halls. Or perhaps they are amplified by something else. "It's cooler in here for one--"
"--Yes I have often made note," he interjects, feeling the immediate chill in the building's air currents.
"--and--" she starts again before giving out a short, unintentional laugh at his interjection "--I do have my own office. It's not much, but I don't have to worry about common courtesy, I can practice for Chorale while I'm grading." Her eyes are alight now as she steals a glance at him. "I know you probably hated it every time I started humming."
He takes a moment's pause as she slips ahead of him, and he thinks for a moment. He cannot say he recalls ever noticing. And that bothers him. He does not say so.
"I had not realized that you had an affinity for music at all, Miss Uhura," he says almost softly as he takes longer strides to catch up with her. She stops for no one, moving to her own pace. Intriguing. "Though now that I am presented with the fact, it does hold rationality."
She grins, unabashedly, but her gaze stays straight ahead as they find the stairs and she begins climbing. "'Rationality'?"
"Well, yes," he asserts, with a slightly confused furrow to his brow. He would have thought that to be obvious. "After all, the mathematics involved in bar construction are quite time consuming as well as intellectually challenging--"
She halts at the top of the stairs and turns abruptly, a tight lipped smile on her face, and he is rendered immobile by her position before him. Above him. He blinks and meets her eye. They are still laughing at him, and he cannot ascertain why.
"My 'affinity for music' has nothing to do with mathematics, or rationale, Commander Spock," she says to him, tilting her head to regard him. Gently. His eyes seek hers out in exploration of an explanation, but finds none to satisfy him. He lifts a foot on the next stair and tilts his chin up to her.
"I find that difficult to believe, Miss Uhura," he replies, equally as gently, and even in their disagreement the air between them is thick with respect.
And for a moment he is warm.
She breaks eye contact first, turning to continue along her purposeful path offering him no explanation other than-- "You can't expect me to be logical all the time." --her voice echoing lightly ahead of him as he falls into pace behind her, making their way down the new hall. No he most certainly could not. And that stunned him briefly, enough to silence him if only for a moment. It was as if until that moment, he had almost forgotten that she—his bright, promising protegé—was, after all...Human. With all the implications that lie therein. If anything, by nature, she was given to instinct and emotion first, logic second, and still...experience and observation had proven her more than merely acceptable in intellect. Much more.
He does not yet know what to make of this.
His silence carries him with her to her office that is not far from the stairs and he stops, taking note of this new environment. Her own office, yes, but so far from her classes and her extra-curricular activities.
"This is an extremely inconvenient location," he offers as he stands outside the door, listening to the swish as she steps inside and piles the PADDs onto the small desk. As she had mentioned before, he can see the other PADDs sitting idly nearby, ready to be collected. She does not move for them but instead backtracks to continue the conversation. "Perhaps speaking with the Admiral, I could arrange for a more acceptable—if not beneficial—office locale."
"I couldn't ask you to do that," she replies, shaking her head with her hands on her hips.
"It would not need to be asked," he says in rebuttal, his eyes flickering from side to side briefly in thought. "For example, were you to resume your office hours in the Communications building, your productivity would increase exponentially, completely eliminating unnecessary traveling between Annexes. Giving you more time for your work—or your music if you so wish."
"Yeah," she nodded, "I already talked to the Admiral about that before, and he checked but there just aren't any available in that building unless I wanted to be stuck in a stuffy janitorial cubicle, which...I suspect would be hardly conducive," she says with a purse of her lips and a shrug. "I'll just have to deal with it." His eyes shift back to her, brow narrowing.
"There is still an empty desk in my office," he says, and though his tone suggests his mere stating of fact, there is an odd feeling within him that strikes him as something more. She seems to pick up on this before he does, her eyebrows arching slightly in question. "You could...reoccupy it," he says finally, as if that is the only logical choice. To him, it is.
"I don--" she starts, but has no room to speak as he straightens and interjects immediately before she can fully object.
"The office is small but contains sufficient space to prevent either party from being counter-productive to the other, as we have already discovered," he says fluidly, his hands held firmly behind his back. She opens her mouth to interject again, but he does not allow it. "And as your musical inclination obviously did not affect my own work before, I see no reason as to why it would now. Furthermore," he continues, "while the irrefutable logic of the academic advantage of the location still stands, I suspect that there is also irrefutable evidence stating that since you have been reassigned...the temperature has dropped significantly in my work environment." And he pauses as he meets her eyes. For the first time, they have stopped laughing. In fact, he finds them unreadable. The halls are silent, devoid of any footfall.
She has not attempted to interject again.
"I therefor conclude," he continues before she can gather her own words, "that this is not only a direct result of your absence, but it would also be counter-productive in itself to not resume cooperative working space as I have detected an increase in the misplacing of my own belongings, a phenomenon that I cannot quite fathom..." he trails off, eyes unfocused on the wall next to her head for a moment before he is shaken by the clearing of a throat.
"Permission to speak freely, Sir."
He looks back at her to find she is no longer looking up at him.
"You have done so this entire time, Cadet, I see no reason for you to cease now," he asserts.
She raises her gaze and meets his eyes with a curiosity that even he is sure he cannot match with his own. "Are you..." she starts, the air in her lungs audibly catching as she is now the one to pause, as if regarding her own words with great care. "Are you trying to say you miss me?"
This was not expected. But it feels... it feels.
"I am...familiar with this turn of phrase," he states, blinking down at her, "however I am not certain I am fully comprehensive of its meaning within the particular context." He thinks on this, and then a breath-- "To miss first implies a loss, a disappearance of an object or even an idea that was either misplaced or perhaps never conceived or attained to begin with. It often refers to the noted absence of something of value--" and he stops, the angle of his head ticking slightly as it dawns on him, warms him as he takes in the softening, amused smile on the woman before him. "Yes," he says softly, almost as a breath, and then a nod. "Yes I believe your conclusion is accurate."
"With all due respect, Sir," she says with a tentative crane of her neck and furrow of her brow. "You...are a strange man."
He contemplates this. And inhales sharply with his shoulders straightened, a cool and calculated visage upon his face than anyone could easily mistake for arrogant ignorance. She doesn't. She smiles almost tenderly.
"I find your assessment neither complimentary nor critical," he states easily. "As Vulcan" --half-human on his mother's side, and though his mind vaguely thinks to, he does not state this-- "I am foreign to Earth, 'alien' by archaic terms, and thus 'strange' by definition--"
He is stopped completely by a gentle warmth against his cheek. He cannot see her now, she is no longer in his line of direct sight, but he feels her palm and her fingers splayed calmly against the side of his face. And then he feels the gentlest pressure against the opposing cheek, and a rising heat before him. He realizes she has closed distance between them. Distance that should always remain, and yet now...now it does not, with the slightest touch of her lips to the hollow of his cheek.
Silence engulfs them as she pulls back, her upper lip now curled contemplatively—consequentially—behind the bottom one as she avoids eye contact, removing her hand and crossing it over her own chest to grip her arm. But it is only for a moment. In another, she is standing at mild attention, but still. A smile—as ever—in her eyes.
"If there's nothing else I can do for you, Commander," she says, and he lifts his head to regard her.
He is still warm.
"Of course," he says, nodding at her. "Dismissed."
But in the end, it is he that walks away, with the telltale swish of her office door echoing through the empty halls to his ears.
He enters the communications lab at precisely oh-seven-five-six, or rather stands stark still just inside the door. Empty, as per usual, as it will always be at this time for the rest of the term. But the fluorescent light does not sting his dark eyes, and his brow does not furrow to shield him from the momentary flicker. The heels of his boots thud softly across the floor, his hands behind his back, shoulders straight. One, two, three, a few more steps and he pivots. And waits.
He forgoes his morning tea. The walk to his office is slow, deliberate, leaving no logical amount of time to spend contemplating a cup he will never drink. Upon entering his office, he almost completely disregards the darkness and makes his way to his desk, with steps taken so carefully one could mistake them for being known by heart—a clever ruse since after all this time they still are not.
His usual tone, wrought with confidence and precision, is soft today. As is the touch of his forefinger and middle to the top of the table now at his side. He taps, lost in some train of thought—one...two...--and stills his hand against the cool metal in pause. His eyelashes flutter just lightly and it takes him a moment to realize it is not of their own accord. A clinical tone alerts him to the time, now the top of the hour. And as he sits, he feels the chill in the room.
And the blinds are still closed.
He straightens. Enough of this.
"Computer--" he starts, and then there is the sound of a swish—the door—in his ears. He turns his gaze sharply, curiously, hears the clicking of boot heels against the floor before he sees the deep maroon of the standard issue uniform before him. He says nothing—there is nothing quite yet to say—as their eyes meet, and she stands in front of his desk with purpose, with confidence. With tea.
He eyes the mug in her hand as she offers it to him, her gesture more of a command than a suggestion. His eyebrow raises; the expression on her face is as unreadable as it was the day they first formally met, mirroring his own in every way just as much now as it had then. And yet there is something different in her eyes. There is always something different in her eyes.
"You are late," he finally deigns to say, tilting his chin ever so slightly in a nod that could have been conceived as condescending.
"Yes, Sir," she says with no hint of trembling shame, nor smug satisfaction. She simply stands at full attention except for the mug in her hand, and her eyes—eyes that are set on his.
He takes the tea. And it is warm and spiced and pleasing to him.
"Though this term you are technically not my charge," he says after giving pause, his eyes flickering out of focus for a moment as he deliberates his words, "I trust that your tardiness will not be made a habit, Miss Uhura."
She lets her arms fall gently to her sides and purses her lips, brow furrowed ever so slightly as she tilts her head, her eyes so gentle. "Nyota, Sir," she says, and this time her voice does tremble, though part of him thinks perhaps he imagined it. It is—after all—too soft, too subtle to warrant notice. Logically.
He does not repeat her words; aloud.
He takes a deep breath through his nose and blinks, palming his desk. "I seem to have misplaced my--" he starts, tapping his PADD when he is stopped again, this time by the blur of a hand out of the corner of his eye. Looking up once more, he sees her neatly manicured hand hovering over his desk, the PADD, extending a grey stylus. His eyebrow quirks, the corner of his mouth tilts, and there is the trace of a dimple on his cheek as his eyelids narrow at the tool in her hand.
"I had a spare," is all she says, her dark mane of hair sweeping into view as she cocks her head completely to the side, and there. There is that smirk, that smile, that laugh in her eyes as he reaches up and takes the tool from the grasp of her fingers. He does not thank her. But from the effort she puts into keeping her lips pursed, the hollows of her cheeks giving way to the gentle laughter in her eyes, he suspects she knows all the same. "Computer," she continues, a distinct, jovial heat in the lilt of her voice as she turns on her heel and shrugs her bag from her shoulder. Her steps are confident on the marbled floor as she makes her way to the desk opposite his, a cubicle that he realizes has been vacant for far too long. "Open the blinds--" she says; the computer acknowledges, and a spill of sunlight caresses the room in ways that the manufactured fluorescence never could. "--And raise the room temperature to approximately twenty-six..."
He does not hear her orders. He only sees her presence, watches her shuffle with purpose around her corner of the office, sprawling her work over the desk and committing herself to task. He feels the tea, hot against his hands, and smells the spices that he has missed—missed—the entire week prior.
He takes a sip, savours the taste, and gives a tilted nod in appreciation of the warmth as the soft sound of a humming tune reaches his ears. His eyes wander and he sees her smiling, illuminated by sunlight.
And he shivers.