Author's Note: See bottom of page. Otherwise, read on. :-)
In hindsight it was inevitable that I found myself in such a situation. We seemed to spend a lot of time together though it was always in the context of the instructor-student dynamic. But it was time spent together nonetheless.
When I supervised the language lab, she was often there. At first I simply thought that she was diligent, but I soon noticed a pattern. As the number of students dwindled during an assignment period, presumably because more and more completed their assignments and saw no need to come to the lab, Uhura spent more time at the language lab, not less. The was an inverse correlation between the chances of other students being in the lab and the chances of Uhura showing up. It was almost … predictable.
If there were no other students around she would frequently engage me in conversation, often in the guise of practicing her Vulcan or Romulan. To her credit she always chose an interesting topic and often I found myself debating a particular point with her. It took me a while to notice that she seemed to consider it her mission to get me to the point where I forgot myself—the awkwardness, the uncomfortableness of speaking in such a way—and became completely engrossed in the ideas that we were discussing.
It did not escape my notice that neither one of us managed to get much work done on these nights. I began doing my work ahead of time so that I would have time to debate with her, not because it was furthering her education (although I was sure it was), but because I found our conversations enjoyable and having conversations at all, on a regular basis, was somewhat of a novelty in my life since joining Starfleet. I had found that few humans (or, to be complete, any other species) were willing to engage me in conversation other than that necessary to carry out their duties. Uhura was only one of a handful of exceptions.
Uhura's assignments were always submitted on time, but never early though I suspected they could have been. Once an assignment was submitted she had no plausible reason to be in the language lab so her assignments, predictably, were submitted mere hours before the deadline though the time stamp on the files often indicated she had finished within the first few days of the assignment period.
She was not afraid to make a mistake in my presence, nor was she afraid to point out an error in my logic (though I thought those were few). On this occasion she noted my—as she interpreted it—pleasure at proving her wrong on a particular point of Andorian culture after she had been sure that her point was unassailable and I had almost conceded defeat.
Almost reflexively I reminded her that Vulcans were not emotional creatures. That was my first mistake.
She muttered something under her breath that I didn't quite catch, but sounded suspiciously like "Bullshit."
"Did you say something, Cadet?"
Perhaps my voice betrayed my amusement, because she simply glared at me and then said, with great deliberation and enunciation: "I said that's Sehlat excrement."
I should have allowed the conversation to end there, allowed her to sulk silently, but instead I pushed her. That was my second mistake.
Sitting on the second chair at the console she was using for her alleged work, I questioned her.
"Am I to infer that you disagree with my assertion?"
"Vulcans aren't emotionless and you know it."
The assertion was not unlike ones that had been levelled at me all my life by those who determined, without consultation with anyone least of all myself, that I was not fit to be called Vulcan. The topic, paradoxically, was an emotional one for me. Perhaps that was why I assumed she was accusing me personally rather than Vulcans in general.
"Are you saying that I have acted emotionally?"
For a moment she looked confused, as she sometimes did when I took one of our debates in an unexpected direction, and then I watched realization dawn and she corrected my impression but I saw that she had already catalogued and filed the information that I had just revealed for further study. She often did that, as if I were an anomaly she was exploring. I did not fault her for it as I found myself doing the same for her. I wondered in passing if I was still as much of an anomaly to her as she was to me.
"I'm saying," her tone somewhat wary, "that there are way too many Vulcan words to name and describe emotions for a people who claim not to experience them. On this planet, some cultures have over 60 words for snow and 100 words for white. Do you know why?"
Not waiting for an answer she leaned forward and lowered her voice.
The first time she had done this during one of our debates I had thought that she meant to impart sensitive information not to be overheard. I was mistaken. This body language frequently preceded dry wit or sarcasm on her part. Why she leaned closer when she did this I had not quite worked out, unless it was to more easily gauge my reaction to her words. I grew to tolerate the invasion of my "personal space" as humans called it because I knew she would not reveal her thoughts otherwise and they were usually worth the intrusion.
My third mistake, but not my biggest.
"They have so many words for snow and describing snow because it's all around them. They can't get away from it; it's an integral part of their lives so they have to have a way to talk about it accurately."
I leaned forward, intending dry wit of my own by mimicking her body language, and replied: "Fascinating."
That was my fourth mistake. It was a tactic that I had previously considered but had not yet employed. In hindsight this particular debate was not the best choice for testing the tactic.
"Isn't it though," she said with her nose mere inches from mine. Having leaned forward I realized that retreating would indicate defeat and that I was now committed to finishing the debate in this position. A tactical error that I had not foreseen.
"Do you know how many words humans have for anger?" She asked and then without pause answered her own question. "The most in any language is 39."
"You have yet to make your point," I reminded her, cataloguing the subtle shades of brown in her eyes. There were flecks of gold I had not previously noted, something to ponder at a later date.
"If humans are such an emotional species and Vulcans are so emotionless, then why do Vulcans have three times as many words for anger as humans do?"
"We were once a violent species, before we found logic." It was yet another reflexive comment, one that would have swayed other humans and often did. Most humans did not give as much thought to the Vulcan rejection of emotion as she did. Curious.
"And yet the full range of those words referencing anger persist in modern Vulcan not just High Vulcan. So those words are still in use and the only reason they would still be in use is if the emotions were still experienced."
"Logic is a choice, not a genetic affliction," I said. I watched her blink and catalogued the image of her with her eyes closed. For what purpose? No immediate answer came to mind—something to meditate on later.
"So you're saying Vulcans are genetically emotional creatures."
"Yes, but we use logic to eradicate emotion making us emotionless."
"That's an interesting word choice: eradicate. Is it really eradicate or is it control? Because I'd believe control but I wouldn't believe eradicate."
I had not previously considered the semantics in Federation Standard. In Vulcan, of course, the distinction was clear but the distinction was muddled in Standard something my mother had recognized as a mistranslation that had yet to be corrected. My own control was slipping so close to Nyota (as I thought of her within my own thoughts). I entertained curiosity about her skin that I had not considered before.
"Spock?" I realized that I had been silent for too long, lost in my own ruminations on the topic. Her voice was tentative as if she inferred from my silence that she had overstepped the boundaries of acceptable topics which I adjusted only for her. Because she was interesting.
"It is control. You are correct. I misspoke. Few humans notice such sloppiness. I should have considered that you would."
It was at this point that I made my fifth mistake.
I stayed where I was, nose-to-nose as I was considering her point and wondering if I should change the way I expressed the Vulcan ethos in future. She misread my lack of withdrawal as invitation.
I was startled to feel her lips brush gently against mine. Without giving it any consideration I broke the contact and backed away at the unexpected, though not—after some thought—unpleasant, contact. As is my nature, I resorted to the only logical comment that came to mind:
"Nyota, you forget yourself," I said getting up from where I had been sitting at her student console. I saw a flicker of disappointment in her eyes behind the mortification that dominated. I believe she was as surprised as I was by her actions. She avoided my eyes as she gathered up her belongings.
"It's late; I should go," she offered and was gone before I could do anything other than agree that it was late, though I had not yet decided whether I agreed that she should go.
Yes, I know: Glaciers move faster than I upload updates to this story. Real life keeps smacking me upside the head is my reason. Thanks to everyone who was interested enough to review or favourite this story. I appreciate the feedback and agree with critiques that were made.
Anyone worried that these two are going to jump into bed with each other can rest assured no one is getting lucky any time soon. Frustration can be smutty too.
A note for the picky: The vocabulary statistics Uhura quotes are pulled straight from my derriere (translation: I did not look them up and they are, without a doubt, wrong). If this is your area of expertise, I apologize for the cringeworthiness of the "facts".