i. Window to the Soul
On the first day of Advanced Phonology class, Nyota Uhura is one of the only students willing to look Spock in the eye.
While the other cadets fidget, squirming under the weight of both his gaze and his reputation, Nyota doesn't look away. She keeps her expression neutral but steady, unwavering as her eyes lock on his—not challenging him, just letting him know who she is without needing to say a word. She's never been one to let herself be intimidated.
His face betrays nothing, emotionless eyes not even flickering as he watches her, but she notices that his gaze stays on her just a touch longer than on any of the other students.
On the eighteenth day of the course, she makes a witty remark during one of the classroom discussions, drawing a ripple of laughter from the other cadets. Thinking back later, she can't even recall what the exact topic was or what words she spoke. She remembers only that when she looked to the front of the room and met Spock's eyes, she saw a tiny but unmistakable glint of amusement that belied his ramrod-straight posture and stiffly clasped hands.
In that moment, she suddenly wonders what it would be like to see him smile.
On the last day of class, she's one of the final students to turn in her exam, lingering long past the early finishers who make it their mission to bolt from the classroom as quickly as possible. After she's double and triple-checked every answer she strides to the front of the room, her steps slow but purposeful, and hands the exam to her expressionless instructor.
He accepts it with an inclination of his head, and for a moment she shifts her weight from foot to foot, wanting to speak but finding the words suddenly and strangely lacking. She almost jumps when his voice breaks into the thoughts running rampant through her mind.
"Cadet Uhura," he says, tone measured and cool as always. "It has been a rewarding experience to have you in the course this semester. Your work has been exemplary and your contributions to class discussions most constructive."
Her eyes snap to his. She's still never seen him smile, but now, in the depths of his gaze, she can discern something even better.
ii. Louder than Words
Every time she enters Spock's office—which is fairly often these days, now that she's his Advanced Phonology aide—Nyota still finds her eyes drawn to the small book collection meticulously arranged on the shelves near his desk. Actual printed volumes are becoming obsolete now that texts can be quickly summoned on a PADD at the touch of a button, but some bound copies still remain, whether for traditionalists or for those who simply prefer the flutter of pages under their fingers.
Logically, Spock's collection is organized by subject matter: well-worn computer programming books first, followed by linguistics texts, then history, culture and politics. Of all the tidily shelved and perfectly aligned volumes, Nyota is fond of one in particular—a slim, handsome poetry anthology containing selections from numerous different languages and cultures.
"Where did you come by this book?" she asks Spock on one occasion, while assisting him in selecting passages for his lectures. Her fingers brush lightly along the book's spine, its leather-like surface smooth under her touch.
"It was a gift from my mother upon my graduation from the Academy," he replies. His eyes briefly follow the movements of her fingers before rising to her face. "Because it contains writings from varied cultures on topics universal to all species, she believed it an appropriate reflection of Starfleet's goals pertaining to peace among all of galactic society."
The corners of Nyota's mouth quirk upward. "She sounds like a very astute woman."
"Indeed." Spock inclines his head slightly. "However, her decision was likely also influenced by the fact that she enjoys many of the featured works immensely." He pauses a moment, his eyes sharpening almost imperceptibly. "Much like you, Cadet Uhura."
She holds his gaze for a moment, her lips curling further in a small smile before her eyes drop back to the book's pages.
He continues to study her face.
* * *
When she walks into his office one afternoon several weeks later, he is seated behind his desk working intently on his PADD. He glances up at her as she enters, acknowledging her presence with an arch of one eyebrow and a murmured "Good afternoon, Cadet Uhura."
She's about to return the greeting when she notices the poetry book resting near the edge of his desk, facing out and away from him. Her forehead furrows. He isn't the type to leave things lying around to collect dust.
"Did I forget to put that away the last time I was here?" she asks, indicating the volume.
"You did not." He sits back in his chair, looking up at her. "It is yours now, Nyota."
"I—" She blinks. "What?"
He sets his PADD down carefully in front of him, his eyes fixed on her face. "Is today not your birth date?"
She's never told him that. Her initial jolt of surprise triples. "Yes, it is."
"And is it not customary for Humans to receive gifts in celebration of such anniversaries?" His eyebrow rises even higher.
"Well, yes, but I didn't think—" She breaks off, starts again. "You didn't have to give me anything."
His lips purse and his eyebrows gather ever so slightly in a look that could almost be described as quizzical. "Of course not," he says. "It is a desire, not an obligation."
Tiny pinpricks of heat start to flare along her arms and shoulders, seemingly at odds with the goosebumps simultaneously rising on her skin. She clears her throat, refusing to be distracted. "I appreciate it, I really do. It's just that…"
"I do not understand your reluctance." He sounds genuinely puzzled. "Please clarify."
"Your mother gave this to you," she blurts out.
He pauses a moment before answering. "Yes, she did." He tilts his head, still looking up at her. "However, I have observed that when you read from this book, your breathing rate increases by ten point five percent and the muscles in your face relax, especially around your eyes. It is clear that you garner more enjoyment from the volume than I do, and therefore it is only logical that you should have it. In addition…"
He seems to hesitate suddenly, and his gaze locks on hers, watching her for so long that the world begins to blur at the corners of her eyes. When he finally continues, his voice is softer. "I do not believe my mother would object."
And for the first time in a long time, Nyota doesn't try to fight the warmth spreading throughout her body.
iii. Everyone Becomes a Poet
Nyota's ponytail swings behind her as she exits the building, the fading rays of sunlight warming her face and glinting in her hair. After a few steps she pauses and looks over her shoulder, waiting for Spock to catch up with her. She normally doesn't stay at his office until this late in the afternoon, but with the semester nearly half over she currently has a seemingly infinite number of midterm examinations to grade.
He falls in step next to her as they make their way across the courtyard in the direction of the dormitories. The surrounding area is almost entirely deserted—at this time of day, most of the cadets are either eating dinner or locked away in the library, feverishly cramming for looming midterms. In the distance, the sun seems to melt into the horizon like gold in a crucible, spreading streaks of crimson-orange and dusky pink across the sky.
Nyota's footsteps slow, then stop as she takes in the view, her mouth relaxing in a soft smile. Spock also halts next to her, and as she steals a glance at his face, she sees him watching her with one brow slightly quirked.
"Pretty sunset, isn't it?" she says by way of explanation, before he can inquire as to why she stopped walking.
He blinks once before dutifully directing his gaze to the horizon. "It is indeed visually pleasing," he remarks after a moment.
Her lips twist a little, laughter in her eyes. She isn't entirely sure whether the thought would ever have occurred to him or if he's just humoring her, but she isn't about to press the issue.
As they linger, just the two of them surrounded by the sunset's picturesque glow, Nyota can't help but suddenly notice the moment's almost clichéd perfection. Like something out of a fairy tale, she thinks with a grin of amusement. Or one of those old romantic comedies.
She casts a sidelong glance at Spock. If her life were a fairy tale, and if he were the typical leading-man type and she the weak-kneed heroine, this would be the part where he would take her in his arms and kiss her, while the sweeping violin music swelled in the background…
She cuts off the internal monologue with a quiet snort and the slightest shake of her head. He isn't, and neither is she, and she wouldn't have it any other way, regardless of the numerous fantasies she's harbored over the past year and a half.
Nyota lets her eyes drop to Spock's hand, holding his PADD at his side.
In all the time they've known each other, from the first day she saw him in Advanced Phonology class to the many times they've met in his office as instructor and aide, they have never touched each other—not even the casual handshake she automatically exchanges with her fully-human professors.
Her throat tenses, her breath quickening just before she makes her decision. It's a risk, she knows, but she's never been one to hesitate, never allowed herself to wallow in indecision.
She lets her knuckles brush against the back of his hand, the touch so light it's almost imperceptible.
A long, long moment passes before she senses rather than sees his fingers tighten, knuckles clenching white around his PADD.
"We should continue," he says, his voice impassive, and he steps away from her, his long strides seeming to cover the ground more quickly than they had before. The wave of disappointment threatens to wash her away, and for the remainder of the journey she wishes the sun would just set already, the better to hide her burning cheeks and throat.
* * *
She dreads going to his office the next day, but the notion of shirking her duty as his aide is one she can't—won't even consider. She lifts her chin as she stares at herself in the mirror, pulling her hair back so tightly it almost hurts, and reminds herself that her career is infinitely more important than any unrequited crush.
She composes her face into an expressionless mask when she reaches his office door, only to bite back an involuntary exclamation when she finds him waiting directly inside rather than seated at his desk across the room.
"Nyota," he says, and she finds it almost astonishing how all her carefully composed indifference can evaporate at just one word. "You should know," he continues, "I found sleep to be most evasive last night."
His voice lacks its usual cool modulation, and his eyes are darker than she's ever seen them. Almost before she's registered what's happening, she feels his palm press against her own, his fingers entwining with hers.
She stares down at their joined hands, feeling almost lightheaded. The gesture is so simple, something so common and innocent among Humans, yet in this moment she feels as though she's been given a gift more intimate than any other.
* * *
He is fascinated by her hair, drawing his fingers through the damp strands as delicately as though they were strings of a Vulcan lyre.