Two chapters in one month? Bizarre!
"Go on without me."
"Uhura." Gaila stopped impatiently two steps above. They were going to the library, but Uhura had seriously misjudged how sore her legs were after her last lesson with Spock. Her thighs burned with every raise and press of her leg. Now, half way up the large set of concrete steps that lead to the library, she was admitting defeat.
"I'm serious, leave me, save yourself!" Bending and clutching her thighs, she squinted up at her roommate.
"What's wrong with you?" Gaila tromped back down to her and hooked their arms together, dragging a whimper from Uhura as they began to climb again.
"My thighs are killing me. Lessons with Commander Spock were a bit rough this week," she hissed, feet clumsy on the steps.
"Your thighs? Aren't your lessons about learning to ride a hoverbike? They haven't changed into learning to ride a Vulcan?"
"Gaila!" Uhura tugged her arm out of the tight grip and used it to lightly smack Gaila with annoyance on the shoulder.
"It's a legitimate question. You like him." Her tone was flat and she kept her eyes on the approaching doors of the library. Uhura shrugged, continuing to plod on despite her legs' obvious protest.
"Yes. I do like him. I think we're becoming friends." Gaila turned her head and gave her an impatient look.
"I mean you have feelings of a–" She paused, "Romantic nature toward him." Uhura frowned down at her boots.
"That…may be so…but he's still a superior officer. I'd much rather be his friend than have myself suspended indefinitely and to have his rank stripped." She turned to Galia halting their movement.
"I know you don't like him very much, but I really need for this to stay between us, okay?"
Gaila smiled her acknowledgement.
"It won't leave the steps." She grinned and gestured for Uhura to look, they were at the top at last, "I am very adept with distraction techniques."
Uhura laughed, there was no better distraction for her mind these days than anything involving her hoverbike lessons, particularly the instructor. She hooked their arms together once more and marched forward and into the library at long last.
"So how did you hurt your thighs?"
The stiffness lingered uncomfortably in her muscles for almost two days. Even after that her thighs still twinged when she climbed stairs. Contemplating her belittled strength as she looked down at her legs one morning, she decided it was high time to hit the gym and perhaps work up a little stamina before her next lesson.
That was how Uhura found herself in her grey Starfleet tee and blue shorts contemplating the main gymnasium for the first time without the intention of going to hand to hand combat class. Usually when she was feeling sluggish she just went for a run around campus, but what she needed now required machinery.
There were many cadets and officers strewn about in the expansive exercise facility, working out in their free time or practicing their combat on the mats. There weren't separate facilities for ranking officers and cadets, as Starfleet always aimed to foster team environments, and the gym was the perfect high traffic social arena.
Taking a bench near where a few cadets were wrestling in their similar blue and grey attire, she began to pull on her socks and lace up her running shoes.
It took a few minutes with all their turning and twisting but eventually she recognized one of the cadets in the sparring pair before her as the pitiful bar fly she'd met in Riverside last summer. Who was holding him in a half nelson and attempting to pin both his shoulders to the mat however eluded her.
As she stood the cadet- Kirk made an incredible racket as he somehow managed to get his legs into play and squeezed the other man's ribs while he untangled their arms and finally pinned his opponent to the mat with a triumphant thump.
"Aha I got you again, Bones." He grinned down at his huffing companion.
"Yeah, yeah. You've got a fair bit more practice getting out of a beating as I recall."
Uhura laughed quietly at that, irony always had a way of getting to her. The sound drew both of their attentions and it was clear the cadet recognized her.
"You!" He clambered off of his partner before pausing to help him up as well. His companion was clearly older than them both by quite a few years and obviously appreciated the extended hand up.
"You." She drawled simply, turning with the intention of leaving them both to start on her warm up run around the track.
"Uhura, right?" She paused and turned back to them, "I didn't get that first name of yours you know."
"And you won't," she assured him with a sweet smile.
"Lies. Uhura, I'd like to introduce my wheezy friend here, Leonard McCoy. Bones, Cadet Mystery Name Uhura."
McCoy stepped forward and offered his hand, Uhura took it politely.
"Well, wha'd'ya know, he does have some manners after all," he said with a raised brow as they shook. Uhura laughed again and they stepped back. "Don't let us keep you." He turned his attention back to Kirk.
"As I recall there was promise of some weeping resulting from a beating I have yet to see, Jim." McCoy proved to be an apt distraction allowing Uhura to get on with her way to the track.
"Hey wait! Oh there will be tears…"
She chuckled and stepped out onto the track their banter and rough housing falling quickly into the background. After a few laps, just enough to get her blood moving and her muscles warm she pulled out of the lanes and walked back towards the mats where she could proceed with stretches.
Fully limber she made her way over to the complex hybrid stationary machinery that took up a good portion of the floor space. She found a free weight training machine and tapped the computers console drawing up a list of exercises she wished to go through, adjusting the rep counts and weight limits while ignoring the other moving bodies around her and computerized voices reminding them they only had four more curls left.
Overall it was boring and a bit painful, but it gave her some much-needed time to think as she sat and did leg curl after curl, press after press.
When she finally finished with all she could do for the day, she wiped down the machine and decided a small reward jog was in order. Upon the track again she barely made it half way around when she was called up short.
There was no mistaking that voice, even as it was slightly out of breath. She turned and gave Spock a polite smile as he deactivated the treadmill he'd been running on.
"Commander. Don't stop what you're doing because of me." She held up her hands in an attempt to halt his progress but he was already stepping down from the machine with a PADD in hand.
He wore exactly what Uhura would have assumed him to wear while running, a black fleet undershirt complete with long sleeves and a set of black track pants that rustled amusingly when he moved. What wasn't so expected however was the sheen present to his face and the tell tale rings of moisture soaking his shirt even darker down his front. His hair stuck to his forehead and sweat beaded down the sides of his face.
"I have completed my necessary physical exercise quota for today, I was lingering only to finish your paper." He held the PADD up before him, his chest expanding and contracting distractingly.
"Oh you read it…" She looked quickly at the machine he had just vacated and back up at him, "Here?"
"Yes," he pulled the towel that had been hanging on the supports of the machine into his fist and swiped swiftly and efficiently at his face and neck with it. "I was adamant I would deliver my opinion upon it and found this to be my only available time."
Uhura watched slightly blankly as he upswept his hair off his forehead making him look strangely human for a moment.
"That's…very efficient of you." His hair resettled in dark imperfect clumps and she had to wonder in horror what her own hair looked like at the moment. Uhura cast her eyes downward.
"My opinions are not fully culminated, but the paper is well structured and strongly supported by scientific means. Lieutenant Commander Torre was indeed correct in submitting your writing to the Aielurin Sol Rotational." Uhura perked up at that, twisting her hands together behind her back to avoid the appearance of over eagerness.
"Really? Coming from you I take that as a high compliment." She pressed her lips together in a smile and backed up as he moved with the intention of walking away from the machinery.
"It is not a compliment, merely the truth."
They walked abreast, taking equal strides; Uhura's mind whirling over the seemly very official finality that her paper really was making an impact. Strangely it'd taken one usually science focused Vulcan to force the realization. She licked her lips and suddenly felt entirely out of place, walking in step with Spock, CommanderSpock. She shook her head.
"Thank you for letting me know- that you read my paper," she said awkwardly, talking a half step so their strides fell out of synch.
"It was a fortunate turn of circumstance. Had you been just beginning your exercise I would not have interrupted you." He turned his head, a somewhat puzzled look upon his face.
"You…saw?" She guessed feeling acutely embarrassed.
"I was not aware of your presence until you began your final run. When it was clear you were already experiencing muscle fatigue I deduced you had been here for some time and would not object to my cutting your run short."
"Right." They emerged from the machinery and track, and continued towards the facility locker rooms, "You guessed it," she laughed lightly.
"It was not a guess." They bypassed the combat mats and rings. "It was a logical conclusion with an error margin of approximately 3.78 percent." Before she could retort however they were halted by the necessity to continue in opposite directions.
"A guess would be that you have decided to begin scheduling weight training time to improve your lower body strength and eliminate stiffness of your thighs after your most recent lesson."
Uhura gaped. Spock took a step backward.
"But it is only a guess." He turned, and without looking back strode down the short corridor and disappeared into the men's locker room.
"I'm never going to make this jump!" She wanted to smack or kick something but the bike was solid, and of the two of them, she would most likely give way before it did. It was almost a week since their conversation in the gym, and even though Uhura's muscles weren't protesting any longer she still wasn't any closer to defeating the obstacles.
Their lesson had started well, finishing up the walk through of the obstacle course had been simple. Her first slow solo journey was merely to show him what she had forgotten and needed review on. It was quickly out of the way but then of course it was time for Spock to stand on the sidelines and Uhura to conquer this thing for herself.
The first half always went well, the second half rougher, with longer holds and quicker thinking required to avoid spinning out over the anti-grav fields and awkwardly placed protrusions. Eventually she was moving smoothly through even those elements and it was only the energy sapping grinders she was required to jump that she just could not surpass.
Every time she got close to the glowing carpet of electricity she just couldn't put the energy into the bike that it needed to avoid making that horrible screeching noise and completely cut power, clunking heavily into the sand.
The first time she had failed she actually thought she had damaged the bike, quickly scrambling off of it and apologizing again and again but the bike was unharmed. Spock was mildly irritated and only because she had disrupted her own lesson. He explained that the grinder was usually used only by law enforcement to halt chases of low flying hovercraft. It was like what a row of spikes would be to rubber tires. To restart the vehicle the grinders merely had to be deactivated.
"Negativity is not optimal for this situation," Spock said into his comm as he stalked over to where she sat atop the large lump of currently useless metal and plastic. He crouched, pulling the end of the grinder out from under the bike and hitting the switch so it returned power where it belonged.
They went through the now familiar steps of rebooting the machine and sliding it out of the course so Spock could turn the grinders back on, but this time Uhura felt defeated and it showed. She had lost count how many times she had attempted the jump and failed. It was embarrassing and frustrating and she wanted to quit but every time she looked up and saw Spock watching her, her pride just wouldn't let her stop.
"Do not feel defeated because you are faced with what appears to be an insurmountable challenge. Each attempt increases your skill, and theoretically your confidence." She guided the bike back to the starting position as he spoke, barely hearing his words. They were the same as they had been the last however many times they had done this.
"Nyota." She looked up to find him standing next to her and she slipped off her helmet to hear him naturally. "Youare doing an exemplary job." He reached out and turned off the thrusters, leaving her buoying in the air.
"I…it's not going as well as I wanted it to."
"As a novice your progress is well ahead where even my own level of skill was, at the same hourly amount of instruction." Uhura squinted up at him, the morning sun glinting brightly behind his dark head.
"Who taught you?"
"My father. I was approximately sixteen Terran years old." Spock turned, blocking out the sun, "I did not respond as well to his teaching methods as you evidently do mine."
"It must be your mother's fault then," Uhura smiled even as Spock looked down at her with suspicion. "You said she was a teacher didn't you? You must have inherited some of her charm." His eyebrow began to creep up his forehead.
"A debate of nature versus nurture would surely result if you were to pursue this line of theorization."
"Well…lets get back to practice and then maybe we can avoid it." Spock bowed his head in acceptance of her terms and stepped back allowing her to resettle her helmet. With him just out of her peripheral, she took a deep breath and contemplated the course again.
As she ran over what needed to be done in her head she couldn't help but feel a tingle of something warm in the center of her chest. Spock had seen fit to give her a pep talk. She grinned within her helmet and twisted the throttle with purpose.
Later as they sat in the diner huddled into a booth talking animatedly over Spock's PADD containing Uhura's paper and all of his extensive notes made upon it, she would smile just for a moment feeling extraordinary.
Her paper sent off to be read over by the brightest minds in her field, one of the academy's most well known and yet still mysterious instructors sharing tea with her in a friendly way, and of course making that jump after all– Uhura was on top of the world.