Disclaimer: Characters aren't mine, and neither are the lyrics, which are from So Far Away by Staind.
Author's Notes: Huge thanks to everyone who's beta'd various chapter through the course of writing this, but particular thanks to Dave, Darry and Kimberley for their immense support throughout. Conversational Vulcan is now officially complete! But please stay tuned for the sequel, which will be posted in the next couple of days, entitled 'Time for Bed, Uncle Spock'. And finally, thank you so very very much to everyone who's been kind enough to leave feedback. You have no idea how much it means to me. Thank you!Stardate 2258.44
"Now that we're here it's so far away, and I feel like I can face the day,
I can forgive, I'm not ashamed to be the person that I am today"
Uhura's first seventeen hour shift. If the scrawls on the Fleet Bar bathroom walls were anything to go by, she was now an initiated Starfleet officer. Scrubbing one hand over her face, and avoiding the small pot-holes left in the corridor by the recent skirmishes and narrow escapes, she walked down the corridor to her newly assigned room. Five days she had been aboard the Enterprise, and estimated she had spent about six hours total actually in that room. It had, therefore, not been as romantic as perhaps it should have been when, following the destruction of Vulcan, Spock had asked to move into her quarters to make room for the Vulcan refugees.
To the best of her knowledge, Spock was still technically relieved of duty and so should be in their quarters – though he was more likely to be with his father somewhere.
However, when she punched the door code and the door opened, she could see the room within was dimly lit. Spock stood at the window, his back to her, staring out into space. The Enterprise was limping back through the solar system towards Earth, barely managing impulse power, and most of the Alpha shift had been encouraged to try and catch some sleep before they docked.
"Spock?" she said.
He glanced over his shoulder at her. "Nyota. You must want to sleep. Do you wish me to leave?"
Uhura walked slowly to him, resting a hand on the small of his back. She still wanted so badly to fix everything for him – even though there was no possible way to fix it and even though he had made it clear he didn't need it to be fixed. "Never mind me, when did you last sleep?"
He frowned very slightly. "Five hours before my previous shift," he said softly.
"OK, and you were relieved of duty ten hours ago? Eleven? That's around twenty-eight hours Spock. That's too long – even for a Vulcan – and you're half human. Come to bed, you need to sleep."
He took her hand so tenderly. Nyota would never fail to be amazed that, at this moment when his world had literally shattered, he still took the time to be tender to her. "It would be an exercise in futility." He took a breath, his eyes sliding back towards the window. It struck her that he was facing out towards the Laurentian System, the direction in which Vulcan should have been. "My mind refuses to calm itself into an appropriate pattern for sleep."
Uhura nodded slightly, her fingers tightening around his. "Humour me, OK? And if you still can't sleep, you can find your Father or run diagnostics somewhere or something."
Spock did not answer, but let Uhura pull him towards the bed. She shimmied out of her skirt and sat on the bed. Spock just stared blankly at her. "You can't sleep in your uniform," she told him.
Numbly he nodded again and pulled his shirt over his head, folding it neatly and placing it on the end of the bed. Uhura smiled slightly at the smooth planes of his chest, his complete comfort with his body. It was rare to find a man so content in his own skin. She held a hand out to him. "Come here and lie down." She manoeuvred him against her. He lay partly on his side and partly on his front, his head pillowed on her abdomen and arm wrapped around her waist. The rest of his body was perfectly straight, and Uhura wondered how he did that. It couldn't possibly be comfortable. But his breathing was soft and steady, and his brow had relaxed out of its frown. She wasn't about to complain.
Her hand ran down his back, palm flat against his spine. He was slender, but Uhura was pretty sure he still had some puppy fat alongside the muscle. Fingers reaching the small of his back, she swept to the side and pressed a little harder against the softer skin and tense muscle. Running diagonally back up to the top, she grazed her nails over his skin, then kneaded her thumb into the muscle of his shoulder. Spock expelled a breath against her stomach, and she smiled. Looking down, his eyes were open, but were at least lidded now. "Stop thinking," she whispered. "There's nothing to do and no where else to be for the next six hours. Sleep is the only logical course of action."
"I am deciding on contingency plans, wording reports, imagining possible eventualities. My mind has plenty to keep it occupied," he said against her.
"But none of it needs to be done now, Spock." Her hand came up to his head, stroking over his hair. "Try something for me?" He did not argue, which Uhura took to mean he had agreed. "Can you hear me breathing?"
"Yes," he said, his hand tightening imperceptibly against her waist.
"I want you to count my breaths – in your head, not out loud. But in a sequence, so it goes: one – one, two – one, two, three – like that."
He glanced up at her, a movement that shifted his torso closer to her side. Uhura smiled very slightly, sweeping her hand over his shoulder blades. She wanted to kiss him, but didn't want to displace him if he was comfortable. She settled for sliding her left hand over his where it wrapped around her waist. She felt his chest hum gently against her leg, and her smile widened. "Your suggestion is designed to occupy the logical half of my mind and allow the presumably tired human half of my mind to take over and let me sleep?"
"Exactly. My Mom used to make me do this when I was stressed out about exams."
"The circumstances are hardly comparable," he muttered.
"But the effect should be the same." She pressed his head back down against her belly, fingers running gently over his jaw. "Do the count up to twenty. If you're not asleep, you can go do whatever else you want to do, because at least I'll know you've rested for a while."
"Agreed," he said softly, hot breath puffing over her stomach.
Uhura counted with him, trying to keep her breaths long to make sure he'd have to concentrate. When she reached twenty-two and he still hadn't stirred she smiled slowly. Her hand still stroked up and down his spine, worried that if she stopped it would wake him. She shimmied down very slowly, very gently, and he still didn't move. His deep breathing and dead weight was a relief, but trying to slide into a comfortable position in which to sleep was not easy. Eventually she lifted his head into the crook of her shoulder and, leaning slightly over him, relaxed enough to fall into a deep sleep.
Five days later, things could almost be described as normal. They were back at the Academy. All the 'cadets' (who were now technically officers but without the scrap of validating paper) still had to go through the charade of attending classes, even though they could tell their professors a thing or two about reacting in a crisis or detecting the possibility of an ambush in a seemingly uninteresting sub-space transmission.
When Spock and Uhura dropped the pretence of practicing Vulcan together, no one – neither Uhura's friends nor Spock's colleagues – made any kind of protest. On the contrary, Captain Pike slapped Spock on the shoulder, and Spock imagined that the only reason for the gesture was to express pride in Spock's success at initiating and maintaining a relationship. When Gaila needed to get hold of Nyota in the evenings, she buzzed Spock and pointedly wouldn't look at the comms screen when they accept the transmission, just in case. The couple were still discrete, simply because they were discrete people. But there were no arguments when Uhura requested a half-day leave to join Spock when he went to the grass-land north of the city where the Vulcan Elders erected a memorial to those lost on Vulcan.
Rows and rows of white desert stone, the closest that could be found to the pale sandstone that made up the bedrock to the Vulcan deserts. The precise total had not yet been calculated, but they spread wide and deep over the green field. They surely could not even make up a small percentage of the number of the dead. Whole families were lost, leaving no survivors or friends to remember them, to request or engrave a stone in their name. Spock's family was fortunate in that respect, leaving two men behind to remember the lost – Sarek's brothers and their wives and children, and of course Amanda.
Spock left her without a word, holding a dozen thin white candles in his hand. Head bent, he walked along the rows of perfectly aligned stones. His father had preceded him a few days previous and, she suspected, directed him to the headstones he wished to visit. Spock did not pause or linger at any but those places at which he bent to light a candle and kneel for a few moments.
Uhura held only one candle. And she knew where she was going. The only non-Vulcan privileged enough to be included in the memorial was left to the peripheries. Sarek, who had led the Memorial Committee, might have been angered at the relegation of his wife. Except, of course, Vulcans didn't get angry. And it helped that, while technically on the fringes of the symbolic cemetery, Amanda's stone was at the corner and easily identifiable. Almost every visitor saw it as they passed – the only stone to bear a name in both Vulcan and Federation English.
Lighting her candle from one of the dozen others that surrounded the stone, Uhura placed hers among them. The flames flickered in the sparse breeze. She heaved a deep breath. She mourned on Spock's behalf, and a little for herself, for the only woman who could have given her insight into the man she was fast growing to love. "I would have liked so much to have met you," Uhura whispered, standing up. Her eyes were dry, as they had been at her own mother's memorial service, and the sadness within her was softer, and felt mostly for Spock who could not express his grief as she had.
"It is unusual to see a human here," said a voice behind her.
Looking around sharply, Uhura saw a Vulcan man. He was Spock's height, but a little slimmer across the shoulders. His age must be advanced, though it was difficult to tell with the extended Vulcan lifespan. His face was lined and his hair was gray. There was something odd about him, though. Odd and familiar, around the lined eyes.
"Did you know her well?" he asked, gesturing with one hand towards Amanda's grave.
Uhura shrugged, crossing her arms across her chest. She responded in Vulcan, in Spock's native dialect. "We wrote to each other sometimes. She was my boyfriend's mother," she said, repressing any embarrassment she felt at referring to Spock – or anyone – as her 'boyfriend' – but neither her Federation English nor the Standard Vulcan dialect provided a suitable alternative.
His eyebrow raised – an extreme reaction compared to other pure Vulcans, even given her extraordinary statement. "You mean Spock?" he asked her, his voice stressing the name.
"Yes," she replied, with more than a little pride. "Do you know him?"
And unless she was very much mistaken, that was an almost-smile on the old Vulcan's lips. "Not nearly as well as I would like." He bowed his head slightly, tilted just barely to one side. Something twisted inside her, like a stab of déjà vu. "Would you walk with me? I'm looking for a particular stone and my eyesight is not what it once was." He paused, regarding her steadily. "You seem to have a firm grasp on our language."
She nodded slowly, and turned to walk at his side. "What name are you looking for?"
"Her name was T'Pring."
"I'll tell you if I see that name. Traditional spelling, I assume?"
"Of course." There was a definite note of humour in his voice, and Uhura wondered if some Vulcans relaxed their emotional control late in life. She had always assumed it got stronger, rather than diminish with age.
They walked together in silence briefly, both of them glancing at Spock occasionally when they were not scouring the names on the stones. He had made his way to the other side of the site and had knelt before one of the many identical white stones. "I confess myself to be surprised, Miss?"
"Uhura," she replied smoothly, eyes scanning the next two rows of stones as they passed.
"Uhura," he repeated. The humorous tone lingered. Perhaps it was just the way he spoke. "I had not realised Spock had been fortunate enough to grow close to anyone during his time at the Academy."
"Spock has been helping me improve my regional Vulcan and Romulan dialects over the last couple of years. We found we had quite a lot in common." She glanced up at him. "Do you disapprove?"
"Not at all," the Vulcan replied without pause. "You seem a very capable young woman. I knew Amanda well enough to know better than to underestimate human women."
She was satisfied and rather pleased with his answer. Though a weight flattened in the pit of her stomach as she recalled not everyone shared this man's sentiments. "I think Spock intends to leave with his father. It's his responsibility to help re-build."
"Do you think so?" he asked.
The question was a surprise, enough so to make Uhura pause. "What I think doesn't matter. Spock will follow his logic. If his logic tells him 'go to Vulcan Beta' instead of 'have a glittering career in Starfleet doing what you've always wanted to do', then he's going to choose Vulcan. As he should." She stopped again, pointing at a stone three rows over. "That one says T'Pring. Is there only one?"
He stepped neatly over the rows and peered more closely at the stone and those surrounding it. His gaze paused on the one to T'Pring's left, which read, 'Stonn'. "This is the T'Pring for whom I search. Thank you."
"You're welcome. I'll leave you alone." She smiled briefly, tightly, and turned to walk back towards Spock.
"One question. Why do you wish for Spock to remain in Starfleet? Even if he did so, there is no guarantee you would be commissioned to the same vessel. And, without wishing to sound rude, Spock is very young. He may yet prove inconstant in some respect."
Uhura smiled at the thought. "I know, I'm cradle-robbing by Vulcan standards." She sighed and shrugged. "Spock's so dedicated, and he has qualities no one else in Starfleet possesses. I can't help thinking that staying on a colony and saturating himself in Vulcan culture would be a waste, when he could be spreading Vulcan culture across the cosmos."
"I believe you may be right," the older Vulcan said, with that almost-smile again. "I shall speak with him on the matter."
"That's sweet of you, but I think you and I are fighting a losing battle." Uhura had privately suspected for some time that the reason Spock had relaxed their social arrangements was because he was unsure how much longer they would have together.
"I have reason to believe he would accept my counsel." He nodded to a distant point behind Uhura. "Spock seems to be looking for you."
She glanced over her shoulder. Spock was, indeed, walking towards her, his hands now empty. "Thank you," she said quickly, and turned and walked briskly in Spock's direction.
He took her hand in his immediately, and she felt the rolling green turbulence of his grief. Swallowing, she squeezed his hand. "All done?"
"I have visited the stones of my childhood friends and relatives. Shall we return to the Academy?"
"You don't want to stay for a while, talk to anyone?" Uhura checked. "I don't mind."
Spock shook his head slowly, steering them back towards the city. "I have already made contact with my father's acquaintances and expressed the correct terms of empathy. This is not a place for, as humans say, 'small talk'." He glanced at her. She half-hoped to see his small smile, but his human eyes only looked sad. "With whom were you speaking?"
"Oh, I didn't get his name. But he said he knew you and your parents. He it sounded like he knew you well. It was strange, actually. I said I was your ... girlfriend," her eyes flicked guiltily to his, but he was impassive as always, "and he asked me to help find a stone for someone called T'Pring."
Spock's eyebrow rose. "How odd," he murmured.
From the other side of the cemetery which held no bodies, only white non-Vulcan stones that stretched as far as the eye could see, Spock watched himself walk away. It had been a long time since his own days at the Academy, but he was certain he had not even laid eyes on Lieutenant Uhura until they were both stationed on the Enterprise. It was surprising how such a painful, cataclysmic event could spark a small wonder.
His logic, which had not sustained any ill-effects from the ravages of time, back-tracked through the parallel lines of the two Spock's lives. Had the Nerada not intercepted the Kelvin, it would be another twenty-five years before the humans encountered any Romulans. The sudden disaster had, no doubt, spawned an immense interest in Romulan culture and formulating intelligence on the Romulan culture. Of course a dedicated Xeno-linguistics student would want to gain practice in such a rare language, and it was only logical that she search for the best teacher of the language: the only Commander in Starfleet who had the correct physiology to pronounce the language accurately, if not proficiently.
Had he encountered Lieutenant Uhura while they were both young, before either had been hardened by the inevitable tragedies one encountered on a starship; had they not been so entirely involved in their own fields of study to look up for long enough to notice each other. Perhaps their timeline would have held more similarities.
Spock was satisfied with the life he had lived. It had been long, and he had achieved great things as well as making many friends. But he had never loved – not in the way he suspected his counterpart did or would. His own arguments were perfectly logical. It was possible they would be stationed apart, though he very much doubted it. The timeline seemed determined to right itself, and he had kept a close acquaintance with Uhura for many years after the completion of their initial mission. He was fairly sure that he could persuade the younger Spock into remaining in Starfleet. Though, whether Spock achieved as much in love as he would in his career, only time would tell.