A/N: Forgot the disclaimer, and caught some typos that having a beta (hooray for mhgood!) will render less likely in the future.
Disclaimer: I don't own Star Trek, or the Enterprise, or the Academy, or Uhura, or Spock, and I don't mean to imply that I do.
The Cadet had been right on time, as ever, though he sensed that she had rushed. Her heart rate was elevated and she was perspiring very slightly from the exertion, but she entered the room exactly on the hour and greeted him quietly, as she always did. He let out a very slight breath as he looked up at her, feeling a sort of tension release from his shoulders as she smiled her hello. Her company was enjoyable; he was pleased she was on time. Even if it was only to read over Romulan tragedies from the mid-22nd century. Better to read it with her than to read it alone. Unpleasant activities are improved by pleasant company.
Her insights would undoubtedly prove fascinating, and he would endeavor to avoid causing her to lose her temper. As he had the day before, and the day before that. And three days prior. He was making a bit of a habit of it, truth be told, even though his voice maintained his practiced evenness.
Ten minutes into the work, however, he somehow (and later, he would never be able to explain how; the mental oversight was peculiar, he was not given to distraction) found himself looking not at the book between them, but at the side of Cadet Uhura's head.
A piece of her ponytail had somehow, incredibly, improbably, slipped free from the elastic and hung from its origin halfway down the crown of her head and over her shoulder. Tangled, a bit, looped. Disorderly.
There appeared to be no logical explanation for this: how it broke free, how it pulled from the elastic. Her hair was too long and thus heavy for such accidents to be likely. He examined the possibilities individually.
Perhaps she had missed it this morning, arranging her hair.
Unlikely. The Cadet was very thorough in all regards, and he was certain, despite a lack of direct observation, that she was well-practiced in the areas of human female grooming.
Perhaps the slip had been deliberate, a new fashion for female hair.
Equally unlikely. The Cadet was not given to fashion, by his estimation, and he could not recall other human females sporting such a style. Though he admittedly did not make a habit of analyzing the hair of other human females.
Perhaps it had caught on something, pulled, and she had not yet realized...
He refocused and looked to her face, practice and habit preventing him from jumping at the sound of his name, unprefaced as it was by the usual formalities. He had been, unequivocally, staring. She had likely noticed. The Cadet was very observant, in her quiet, thorough way. It was one of the qualities of her personality that he found appealing. She possessed an appreciation of detail lacking in most humans.
She was flushing, a bit, appearing surprised at her own use of his name, inappropriate as it was.
It was rare for him to be caught unawares, like this. He considered an appropriate response. She likely noticed the pause: her aural sensitivity was unparalleled. His Vulcan education and cultural immersion had simply not prepared him for such a situation. A Vulcan would never leave a hair so glaringly undone. A Vulcan would never refer to him by his name without the requisite title. A Vulcan would never use his name in the form of a question in the first place, title or no. Such a thing was a uniquely human, and maddeningly imprecise, query. How did one respond to such a question? What was she asking?
How would an average human respond?
His observations of humans were by no means complete, but he had the distinct impression that a full-human male might change the subject, distracting the Cadet from his unusual behavior with talk of the weather, or of translations, or Romulan tragi-comedy, as might be more appropriate in this situation. He rejected this option. Such a response was not ideal because it was not the type of response he would offer under normal circumstances. If he were carefully analyzing an object, such as the errant strand in question, he would comment on the object of his attention, not on unrelated objects, such as the book between them. If the object in question were unimportant, he would not pay so much attention to it that he became distracted from the task at hand. Distraction signifies concentrated thought, signifying an object worthy of comment or correction. Talking about the translation when he was staring at her head represented inconsistent behavior. She would notice the inconsistency.
Sufficient seconds had passed that there was no logical response to her ill-formed question that would adequately address what he now perceived as awkwardness.
Her brow furrowed at him, confused. Concerned? Teacher and student-turned-assistant had been bent over the book, of which he had, regrettably, only one copy (perhaps he should make additional copies for future assistants, to download to their PADDs? The possibility of not simply sharing, as they were, had never even occurred to him), preparing notes for the following week's lecture. She turned to him, and the hair (the hair!) slipped now, over her ear. Hanging loose down the front of her blazer. He realized, now that his thoughts were wandering, that they were physically closer than was typical for a superior and inferior officer. Superior and inferior officers, working in close proximity under normal operating circumstances, maintain, on average (he estimated, quickly), a minimum distance of 50 centimeters. By contrast, their knees were within several centimeters of touching under the table. The sensation was pleasant, if unusual. She looked down, and then up. She did not move. She had noticed, too. Did they always sit so close? He was unsure; he had not been paying attention in their earlier meetings; he only noticed her argument, her laughter. Her precision. He chided himself for the oversight.
She was human. What would a human do? He remained unsure. He knew quite suddenly what he wanted to do, however, which seemed, of all the rapidly depleting options, to be the next most desirable response. The hair was out of place; it should be put back into place. He reached up with his right hand, the hand that had been placed so close to her own, he now noticed, and pushed the offending piece back behind her ear. The style remained incomplete, but at least it was a bit neater.
He did not miss how her eyes widened at him as he did this, his fingers, warmer than what she was likely accustomed to, sliding behind the ridge of her ear. Eyes widening in a human female could accompany any number of responses. He considered the possibilities.
She could be afraid. This was unlikely. His hands passed near vital areas of her person, her neck, several important nerve pathways, but he moved slowly, softly, so as not to frighten her. His gesture, while uncharacteristic, was certainly not threatening, and his touch was deliberately gentle. She was unlikely to interpret this small, strange movement as dangerous.
She was, with a high probability, surprised. It was out of the ordinary for an instructor to touch a student, deliberately, in a manner that he calculated perhaps a moment late was quite intimate, even to a human, accustomed to indiscreet behavior. From him, part-Vulcan, understood to be distant, by human standards, it represented behavior that was wildly out of character.
Her skin was cooler than his own, he observed, and very soft. The sensation was enjoyable, and he found himself following the same unlikely instinct that caused him to touch her in the first place and trailed his fingers down the side of her neck as his hand returns towards the table. He heard her breath catch.
Human females might react this way when aroused. This was improbable. He was unattractive to the majority of human females, his manners foreign to them, his features and personality strange. Cadet Uhura was a very attractive and intelligent human, she possessed numerous options for a romantic or sexual partner. Human partner. The Cadet moreover possessed an admirable understanding of and respect for regulation, and he was an instructor, and a superior officer. There was a low probability that she thought of him in a sexual context. There was a low probability that she thought of him in a romantic context, or even a friendly one. This was an incontrovertible fact, even if he found himself looking ever more forward to their meetings, even if he enjoyed finding new and more challenging readings for her, even if he found himself moving ever more slowly to end any given afternoon together. Even if she had the previously-unobserved ability to almost make him laugh.
He realized with a quick flash of understanding that his own behavior had been out of the ordinary for several weeks, at least.
Still, he had not said anything. She had spoken his name, as a question, and he had not responded. He had touched her, intimately, and observed her response, inexplicable as it was. But he had not responded. He searched for something, anything, to say.
She had said his name.
"Your first name is Nyota."
This was an admission that he had looked up her personal record, which was not within the standard protocol. Somehow, his carefully organized world had begun to unravel, and he found himself at a loss to explain how.
"Yes." Her response was a whisper, though he had not asked a question. This was an unfamiliar sensation, feeling as though he had stepped out of his body, as though he were watching himself perform these strange and unfamiliar actions from across the room. He wondered if this was his human psyche manifesting unexpectedly. He realized he had been leaning towards her as his hand slid down her neck, to her shoulder, down her arm, almost to the elbow. She shivered. He noticed.
Maybe she found him attractive after all. Improbable, but not impossible. There were centimeters between their faces now, too.
His voice was low.
"Nyota, may I pose a personal query?"
"I am unable to properly calculate the nature of your likely response. I apologize in advance."
She looked him in the eye, now, studying him. At some point between his calculations he had come to a decision; the rational portion of his brain observed that this was most out of the ordinary. No matter. How to ask? Was it customary to ask? His education in human habits was evidently lacking in several regards. He was nervous, which was rare. He was not often nervous. Before important examinations or trials, he might suffer nerves, which he suppressed. One must remain calm while performing important tasks or one will not perform to one's ability. One practices such tasks in advance to avoid nerves, to perform well under pressure.
He had never done this before.
His analyses proved unnecessary, it turned out, as his estimations of time and imperceptible movement and breath proved very slightly inaccurate. Her now extreme proximity had unforeseen effects on his almost entirely shredded self control.
His lips meet hers aeons before he has the opportunity to finish asking for permission.