It is eighteen months into their five year mission and over a game of tri-d chess that Jim finally, really asks his first officer the question that has burned in his mind ever since the veritably world-shaking events that demanded it be posed.
"Spock, seriously. You and Uhura. How did that happen?"
The moment stretches out between them. For so long in fact that Jim begins to wonder if Spock has reached some event horizon, a point of no return with regard to this particular topic, if perhaps there will be some dire consequence far beyond the longstanding tradition of an immediate and curt shut down of the conversation.
Instead, Spock makes a move (an obnoxiously excellent one as usual) and is as even of expression and tone as ever when he speaks.
"Lieutenant Uhura was enrolled in my Advanced Phonology class during her first year at the Academy. She was one of my best students and certainly the one with the most potential in her chosen field. She performed admirably in all aspects of the course and, for her part…professed to favoring me as an instructor."
Jim tries extremely hard not to picture Uhura sitting on a desk with her skirt riding up, legs crossed, offering a shiny apple as a preface for far more delicious, forbidden fruit. He tries harder than he's ever tried to do, well, a lot of things, which makes it all the more disheartening when he fails miserably. Imaginary Uhura winks and takes a bite out of the apple, and Jim blinks rapidly and tries to concentrate on his next move in the increasingly doomed game. It's certainly not the first time that sort of thing has raced through his head, but he really has stopped thinking of her in that way (mostly) and it's not his fault if the entire situation lends itself to such prurient imaginings. Absolutely not.
If Spock senses his discomfort, he gives no indication, continuing his story.
"Upon completion of my course, Lieutenant Uhura requested that I act as her academic advisor. Suitably—though not in reaction to her request, given her outstanding academic credentials—I extended to her an invitation to act as my aide, a post which she took up at the commencement of her second year of study."
"I…see," Jim says when Spock falls silent for another stretch. Though this time the Vulcan looks, to his eye, contemplative, and Jim is quite proud of himself for his vastly improved ability to read his friend's expressions. Sometimes. (If you could call them that.) Given that it's still Jim's move and, tragically, he still barely poses a challenge to Spock at tri-d chess, it's highly unlikely that Spock's considering the game.
As such, Jim determines, with no dearth of contained and wholly dignified excitement, the point of consideration must be the (obviously scandalous) events that led to Spock, of all people, ending up married, bonded, or whatever they wanted to call it to Nyota Uhura. Nyota Uhura whom—and Jim was fairly certain that this was in no way hyperbolic—no less than half the student body at Starfleet Academy, most notably himself, had tried for and with whom that same number had completely and irrevocably struck out.
Spock seems to come to a decision and Jim hears the slight hint of a change in his tone. The strains of emotion that sneak into his speech on the few, rare occasions that Jim has heard Spock call Uhura by her given name.
"Eight months, two weeks, six days, and thirteen hours into our professional association, Lieutenant Uhura confessed to having developed romantic feelings for me. She also presented me with a written argument outlining the probable positive and negative effects initiating and maintaining a non-platonic relationship would have on most aspects of our lives." He pauses as if expecting some response from Jim. For his part, Jim has absolutely no idea what to say to that other than a protest that there had to be some really important (likely sexy) stuff left out in the middle there.
"After some consideration, I determined that Lieutenant Uhura's feelings were fully reciprocated and that there was but one…desirable course of action to be undertaken."
"So…" Jim begins, dragging out the vowel sound. "She just walked up to you and said, 'Let's be in a relationship' and you just went, 'Yeah, okay. Sure.'"
He doesn't raise that eyebrow of his, but Jim knows he is considering it.
"After a fashion, yes, that is a reasonably accurate summation," Spock allows.
"But how- You-" Jim splutters and Spock asks, "Did you have another query?"
Jim huffs irritably, unsure whether he is more annoyed by the sudden aura of smugness that has settled around Spock or by having all of the interesting bits cut out of the story—or perhaps them having never occurred to begin with because that was just boring.
"I don't claim to know much about Vulcan emotional control, but it seems like, I don't know, there are some rules or something against just…" He makes a gesture that is, all things considered, less crude than it could be. "Going for it."
"You are acquainted with Lieutenant Uhura."
It is not a question, but Jim answers anyway. "Yeah."
Spock inclines his head slightly, ostensibly studying the chessboard but, due to many months of close observation, Jim is able to catch his mouth turning up almost imperceptibly at the corners for a split second.
"I am half-Vulcan, Jim, not half-dead."
The worst part is that, despite nearly two years full of opportunities, Spock neatly beats him to that joke.
The second worst part is the fact that he loses the chess game. Again.