Disclaimer: Characters, places, etc. aren't mine. The beginning quote is, as I'm sure you've all guessed, Rogers and Hammerstein. Storyline's mine.
Author's Note: Thanks to my beta reader Darry.
"Let's start at the very beginning,
A very good place to start."
"Damnit, it's not fair!"
With a sigh of exasperation, Uhura pressed her thumb to the broad yellow pause button on her PADD, removing the headphones from her ears. Her face, however, registered only a mild spark of irritation as she looked up at her Orion room mate, sprawled on the opposite bed. "What's not fair now?"
"I got the freaking Vulcan."
Uhura blinked her dark eyes. For a specialist – or, at least, future specialist – in Xeno-linguistics, she was finding it oddly difficult to follow the conversation with her alien friend. "Sorry, but you'll have to start at the beginning. What Vulcan?"
"Commander Spock," Gaila enunciated. She turned her PADD to face Uhura, tapping at a line of text with a red lacquered nail. Leaning forward and squinting, Nyota saw that it was Gaila's timetable. "He's the half-Vulcan teacher, some kind of genius, and everyone says the guy has, like, no sense of humour. I got him for First Contact Protocol and Advanced Geological Analysis. Which I thought would be fun."
Nyota had heard nothing past 'half-Vulcan'. She blinked and shook her head, a half-smile of disbelieving excitement beginning to curl her lips. "There's a Vulcan teaching here and no one thought to tell me?"
Gaila frowned and shrugged. "You're a Linguist, he's a Scientist. Why would you know?"
She grinned and tossed her PADD negligently onto the bed. "I have studying to do, I'll be in the library." Standing, Nyota straightened her short skirt and walked briskly to the door. She paused briefly, looking over her shoulder with a hand on the door frame. "Spock, right?"
Gaila nodded. "Unfortunately, yes."
Three weeks later, Cadet Uhura found herself straightening her skirt once more. She then smoothed a hand over her silky hair, and smudged her thumbs up from under her eyes to remove any make up smears. While she knew that Vulcans placed far more emphasis on the internal workings of a person's mind than their outward appearance, Nyota could not help the instinct that first impressions were always important. Taking a deep breath, she raised her hand and pressed her thumb to the pressure pad that requested entrance to Commander Spock's quarters.
The minute and a half she spent waiting for the door to be answered was possibly the longest she had stood through since waiting for Starfleet's response to her application. Eventually, and inevitably, however, the door opened. Nyota allowed herself only a moment to regard the man – Vulcan, she mentally corrected – who stood before her. He was tall, broad-shouldered, with attractive facial features, by human standards: deep brown eyes, cupid-bow lips, a high, strong jaw line. His appeal was only very slightly damaged by the truly appalling haircut that all Vulcans seemed to favour. Commander Spock tilted his head slightly, revealing the delicate point to his ears that matched the upward sweep of his eyebrows, marking him out as something alien.
Quickly affixing a smile to her lips, Uhura took a deep breath and began the speech it had taken her three weeks to perfect. "Good evening, Commander Spock. I am sorry to disturb you," she recited in perfect standardised Vulcan. "My name is Nyota Uhura, and I am a student in Xeno-linguistics. It is my love-" She cut off immediately, eyes flicking to the right as she mentally re-played the phrase she had just spoken. "That's not right," she murmured, returning to lingua franca. "It is my..."
"Desire?" Spock supplied in Vulcan, eyebrow raised.
Nyota's smile was now embarrassed. "Thank you. Desire." She cleared her throat, determined not to let the slip-up ruin the over-all effect of the talent she knew could be developed with just a little bit of help. "It is my desire to specialise in Vulcan and Romulan dialects, specifically the ancient," she paused and breathed, preparing for the longer technical terms in the foreign tongue, "etymological divergences between the two standardised languages and their subsequent regional dialects." Nyota indicated the end of her speech with a small, proud nod of her head.
Spock paused a moment more than made her entirely comfortable, before replying, "This is a fine choice of study, cadet, but I fail to comprehend what would bring you to my quarters. I am a science scholar."
"And a Vulcan," Uhura quickly replied, following his lead and returning to the familiar lingua franca. "I have all of the technical and grammatical texts and teachings I could possibly need to do well, but to truly excel I need practice. How many Vulcan dialects do you speak fluently, Commander?"
She could tell from the slight upturn of the corners of his mouth that he was growing interested in her proposal. "Five," he replied.
"My most experienced professor is fluent in three, conversational in one and patchy in six. And speaks only standard Romulan fluently, none of the dialects – I'm doing my learning from tape recordings." She risked an extra step forward. "I understand that you're a busy man, but..." she shrugged lightly. "Any time you could spare me would be very much appreciated, Commander."
Spock considered for only a moment. "I will confer with your senior supervisor. If she concurs that this is an adequate course of action, then perhaps we could meet for one evening a week?"
The result was better than Nyota had dared hope. She beamed and had to physically restrain herself from approaching her senior officer. "Thank you, sir, thank you so much."
That odd quirking of his lips again, and he inclined his head. "Then I will bid you good evening, Cadet Uhura."
"Yes, commander," she said in Vulcan. "Good evening."
The door slid shut behind Uhura. She had already begun her way back down the corridor, a spring in her booted step. Gaila could say whatever she liked about Commander Spock's sense of humour, if he was willing to take on an extra student out of the goodness of his green heart, he was alright by her.
Back in his quarters, Spock frowned at the grey panel of his closed door. Or, at the least, his eyebrows were drawn together very marginally, and his lips slightly pursed. This was as extreme a reaction as Spock ever allowed himself, to any kind of situation. "Singular young woman," he muttered to himself before, with a slight shake of his head, he returned to his quarters and his not insignificant pile of marking.
It had taken Nyota much longer than she had anticipated to decide whether to wear her Cadet uniform to her first tutorial with Commander Spock. Most cadets wore them all the time, even to the local bars and through free periods or the rare unscheduled weekend, but it had always seemed a bit arrogant to her. Star Fleet was Uhura's love and her primary ambition, but it did not define who she was. Then she remembered that, even in his private time, Commander Spock had been wearing his black uniform, gold insignia polished and gleaming. It would be best, perhaps, to allow him to set the tone. If she turned up and he was in a smoking jacket and carpet slippers, she could always adjust her appearance next week.
The image that thought conjured raised a small, nervous smile. She spread lip gloss across her lips, pressed them together and pouted at the mirror. Subtle make up, hair in a simple pony tail. Uhura was anxious to please her new teacher in any way she could, and hoped her appearance gave her an air of capable efficiency.
Gaila was out on a date – naturally – but had left her a note wishing her luck. Her room mate called her a glutton for punishment, but wished her luck all the same. With a small smile, Nyota tucked the note away in her jewellery box. With a final check in the mirror, Uhura turned on the spot and marched from her quarters.
A brisk walk and three flights of stairs later, she stood once more outside the blank surface of Commander Spock's door. She pressed the panel beside the door and waited, no less nervously than she had a week ago. This time, however, the door opened almost immediately. "Come in, Cadet," the familiar, level voice called from within. Nyota took a quick breath, and stepped over the threshold.
As she had expected, his quarters were spartan, and contained no furniture but the standard Star Fleet issue. The room was, however, much larger than hers, initially opening into a living space with a counter top that, she assumed, served as a kitchenette. It was at this counter that Commander Spock stood, with his back to the room. "My human colleagues usually request coffee on their visitations. I took the liberty of assuming this would be amenable to you also." He glanced over his shoulder to gauge her reaction.
Nyota nodded and smiled. "That's very kind, thank you."
"In standardised Vulcan?" he prompted, returning his attention to the percolating coffee pot.
Uhura paused only a moment, surprised to feel a small thrill of academic excitement at the challenge. "Thank you for your consideration," she said, her diction and pronunciation flawless even to her own critical ear.
"Please make yourself comfortable," Spock said, in a slightly different dialect – unfamiliar, yet recognisable and translatable, with a little effort.
Uhura smiled, certain now that she had made the best possible decision for her academic future. She perched nervously on the long, cushioned stool at the centre of the room. In front of her stood a glass coffee table, a PADD lying atop it. Twisting her head and leaning forward, Nyota read a few lines of Earth poetry – John Donne, if her memory served her right. "The metaphysical poets intrigue me," Spock murmured as he walked towards her, cup of steaming coffee in his hand.
Nyota shot upright, trying to keep the guilty expression from her face. She had only been in his room for five minutes, and already he'd caught her prying. "I'm sorry, sir," she said quickly.
"Converse in Vulcan during your time here, please," he said, his voice as flat and even as ever. It was almost hypnotic, really, the soft inflections and cadences that her ear had been trained to pick up. Like the voices on her recordings, but different; caused perhaps by the human emotions that must exist, however well suppressed, beneath each and every one of his words.
"Yes, sir," she replied softly, "My apologies."
"'Sir' is not adequate to the situation at hand," he said, stooping to sit opposite her. He steepled his fingers before his face, brown eyes watching her intently. "I am not a teacher in this situation. I am ... an informed third party. As such, there is no need for formality within this room. You may call me Spock."
That would take some getting used to, and Nyota knew it. There was something about the Vulcan that demanded respect, and the best way a linguist knew to show respect was by using their title. Still, he was the boss. "Very well, Spock. You may call me Uhura."
He tilted his head, expression inquisitive. "I remember that to be your second name. Is it not Earth's custom to use first names in approximately eighty-five per cent of informal occasions, dependent upon the region and circumstances?"
She could not, of course, speak for the specifics of his statistics, but she trusted that his figures were accurate. "My first name doesn't suit me," she said, cleverly including a colloquialism she had noted in the library just that morning. She picked up her coffee cup and blew lightly on the liquid's surface. "It's Nyota."
"Then I must beg to disagree. Nyota suits you very well."
If Uhura didn't know any better, she would swear Spock was performing whatever passed for his version of a smile. She was glad for the low lighting, or there might have been a reasonable chance that Spock would see her blush. As it was, she smiled demurely and sipped at the coffee – which wasn't bad, considering the man who made it had probably never drunk a cup in his life.