"What a Lovely Way to Burn"

Genre: General, Romance
Rating: T
Time Frame: Post STXI
Characters: N. Uhura, Spock

Summary: "For a genius, he can be remarkably daft at times." Spock, Nyota, and the progression of a relationship.

Notes: This is something that I have been working on for a few months now, and yesterday's release of the film made me get my butt in gear and start posting.

This is a collection of linear vignettes that progress through the first year of the Enterprise's five year mission, all exploring Spock and Nyota's relationship. The majority of these will be light, and either humorous or lightly romantic in nature. Drama for drama's sake, and outright angst will be posted elsewhere, for those of you who like that sort of thing. You know who you are. ;)

And as always, a huge nod of thanks goes to Jade_eyes - my beta reader, and the most accomplished shipper of my acquaintance. This beast would not live without you, hon!

Now that my rambling is complete . . .

Disclaimer: Star Trek does not belong to me. I am simply dabbling in their universe.


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Part I. (A Year Marks the Day)

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It was remarkably quiet on the bridge.

They were between planets in a far out quadrant of known space. All around them stretched nothing, while the mass of far out stars formed a kaleidoscope of silver light on black as the ship traveled lazily at a low Warp. Between the patterns of starlight, swirling shades of nebula gas lingered – and they were about all that was available to look at. Even the comm lanes were silent this far out, minus the occasional transmission from a deep space trader or the occasional moon miner.

By all means, it should have been a peaceful scene, and yet, she was inexplicably jittery.

Her fingers tapped at her console, playing out a flustered little cadence, while her left leg was bouncing up and down from where she had crossed it over her right - hardly noticeable, she hoped; but it was unusually out of place to anyone who knew her. Her job, usually so calming, was not doing anything to help assuage her nervousness.

The Captain, from where he was playing with an old world yo-yo, and doing his best to try to talk his First Officer into playing a game of 'I Spy', noticed.

Of course he noticed.

His voice abruptly hit her, switching mid-sentence from where he was discussing the logicality of "such a triviality of a pointless exercise" with Spock, to addressing her.

"So, Nyota."

There was a smile in his voice as he said her name.

She rolled her eyes, unseen by him, and vehemently wished that he would go back to his bickering/bantering session, and leave her in peace. "Yes, Captain?"

"You seem a bit flustered."

She willed her body into a state of calmness as she swiveled around in her chair. Raising a brow at the smirking man, she said, "I have no idea what you are referring to, sir."

"Sure you don't," Kirk agreed. "And yet, I am sure that I have detected no fewer than five sighs in the last three minutes. And . . . are you actually bouncing, Lieutenant?"

She glared at him. "I was neither bouncing, nor sighing, Captain."

Kirk glanced over to Spock, who was watching their interaction with a politely interested gaze. "C'mon and back me up on this – she was, wasn't she?"

Spock tilted his head, and then looked over at her. There was a very faint glimmer of concern in his mind, brushing past hers, and she tried her best to project as much calm and contentment as she could.

No use.

"All factors would point to a heightened level of stress," Spock honestly, and carefully spoke.

"See," Kirk said triumphantly, like a child whose parent had just intervened on their behalf. "You can't argue with that man's logic."

The look she gave him could have made a Klingon wither.

Kirk backpedaled. "I'm not saying that it's a bad thing. I'm just trying to look out for my crew, here."

Another stare. "Thank-you for your concern, sir, and yet - I am fine."

"You sure? 'Cause you know, Bones is one of the best docs in the fleet, so . . . if you feel like you're coming down with something -"

She sighed, and decided to give a bit. While she was just starting to get used to Kirk as an unexpectedly efficient leader and a surprisingly decent man; one month on the same ship with him was not nearly enough for her to go crying on his shoulder just yet.

"I'm merely tired, sir," she hedged. It wasn't completely a lie . . . it was simply just a side effect of a much larger issue.

And that was something, under no circumstances ever, that she would talk to Kirk about.

Ever.

Kirk smiled sympathetically. "There's going to be a lot of the same old, same old for the next few shifts. You're relieved from duty if you want to get some rest."

She taped her nails against her console, considering.

Kirk made a pointed motion with his yo-yo, drawing her eye to the skeleton crew that was manning the bridge at the moment. Behind him Spock nodded slightly when she caught his eye, making up her mind when she felt his concern once again loitering at the edge of her senses.

Better to be irritable and restless away from people, then.

"Thank-you, Captain," she said formally, placing her ear piece down, and moving aside for the ensign Kirk had called up to relieve her of her duties.

One last glance at Spock, and Kirk by extension, she made her way from the bridge with a barely audible sigh.

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Kirk took a moment to watch Uhura walk from the bridge with an appreciative smile, before snapping around to meet the gaze of his First Officer. "C'mon, Number One, I have something to talk to you about."

Spock's stare was slightly withering. Kirk took a moment to wonder just how obvious he was about watching Uhura's departure before brushing the concern away.

"As you wish, Captain," Spock acquiesced, making a few last minute adjustments to his console, and then stepping to the turbolift. Kirk made quick work of giving away the con, and then followed him.

Spock was staring straight ahead when the doors swooshed closed. The electric blue numbers started to flicker in a soothing rhythm as the floors rushed by.

"So," Kirk started.

Spock raised a brow, waiting.

Going into this, Kirk knew what he wanted to talk about, but now that the moment was upon him, he really wasn't sure how to word what he wanted to say. It wasn't technically his place, or any of his business besides, but . . . Since when had that ever stopped him before?

Here went nothing . . .

"So," Kirk tried again, "today's a pretty big day, huh?"

Another raised brow. No further sign of recognition or agreement.

Kirk could work with that. "You'd agree, wouldn't you?"

"I have no idea what you are referring to, Captain."

Of course not.

"You know . . ." Kirk continued as casually as he could. "You . . . Nyota . . . hitting the one year mark . . . Truly an accomplishment there."

Spock's gaze turned from polite interest to hesitant curiosity. "I am personally aware of the date's significance, and yet I find myself curious as to how you came to be aware of such."

Kirk waved a hand. "Uhura. I was being annoying. She slipped."

Spock did not inquire further. Kirk wondered if he should be insulted that just that explanation was enough to make everything understandable.

Kirk tried not to sigh. "So . . . what are you doing to celebrate?"

A stare that Kirk was quickly coming to equate as a Vulcan version of an eye role was on him. "I was not planning on anything more than our usual routine, Captain, although I am not sure how that information would be of interest to you."

Kirk raised a brow of his own, and felt slightly triumphant at the gesture. "You're telling me that you're not doing anything different? Really?"

He could see the gears in his First Officer's mind whirling. Then, very hesitantly, Spock inquired, "Should there be something different?"

Kirk tried his best not to smile broadly. The question, while cornered into, spoke a bit of the point they had reached. Now, the next step would be for Spock to ask him that, and not sound so trepidatious about the outcome of his query.

"Of course there should!" Kirk informed him.

Spock blinked. "The observation of such dates is . . . important to humans?"

Kirk looked at him. "Of course it is." He brought himself short of actually asking if Amanda and Sarek had done something similar, but refrained. Instead, he boasted: "And thankfully, since you are in the presence of a master here, you have nothing to worry about."

Spock raised a brow – again. "You have often been to a point in a relationship where a full year's passing would need to be marked?"

Kirk faltered at the thinly veiled insult. "Um . . . no. But! One needs not have experienced something to be well versed in it. And if I'm well versed in something, it's women."

Spock took a second to consider, his head tilted as he brooded thoughtfully. Kirk had the faint impression that he was the last person that Spock wanted to talk to about this, and yet, his choices weren't very varied at the moment.

And then there was Uhura for him to consider. . . obviously out of sync the whole day through, wanting something but not precisely sure how to ask for it.

Kirk fought the urge to smile. Interspecies relationships were always interesting to watch as they unfurled. Humorous, as well.

Finally, Spock ended the war in his mind, and turned to face him as the turbolift doors hissed open. As they began walking together, he asked in a voice that he would usually save for his more complicated science experiments: "How would you go about observing such a date?"

Kirk fought the urge to draw this out, miking the situation for all that it was worth. He knew that a month ago, there would have been no question. But now . . .

"Okay, here's what you do," he started, his tone oddly focused. "She's not going to be expecting anything, right?"

Spock tilted his head. "We have not discussed the date's significance."

Kirk snorted. "You have a good woman there, let me tell you."

Spock looked at him oddly for speaking the obvious, and Kirk rushed on to continue before he could comment on it, "Anniversaries are usually marked by a few very trademark things. A fancy dinner, usually. And the exchanging of gifts. The gifts usually get more fancy as the year wear on – diamonds and gold are big hits with the girls. Flowers - chocolates even, would work here, especially since this is last minute. Next year you can get something fancy in advance."

Spock was nodding, his face oddly focused, giving Kirk the uncomfortable impression that every word he was speaking was being mentally recorded and systematically dissected.

If this ended up not going well . . .

Kirk pushed that thought away.

"Dinner, you say? We usually partake of meals together in the evenings."

Kirk sighed, remembering that he was dealing with a true novice here. "Yeah, but that's every day. Fancy dinners – you know, candles, china, crystal, music - the whole shebang. Something not replicated would be perfect . . . Can you cook?"

"I am proficient enough in the art."

Kirk snorted. Of course he was. "That's good. I've eaten Uhura's cooking with Gaila before, back at the Academy, and it was . . ." his voice tapered off, and he shuddered.

Spock did not argue the point with him at all. But he did not agree either.

Smart man, Kirk gave.

"And as for gifts," Spock continued, ". . . humans usually exchange dead plants with each other?"

Now Kirk was really starting to stare at Spock as if he was from . . . well, you get the idea. "Back up a second here," Kirk faltered incredulously. "You're really telling me that you've never bought her flowers before?"

"Should I have?"

Kirk smacked his head. "Man, be glad she sees something in you, really." He shook his head, one more time before collecting himself. "And yes, flowers are beautiful, smell good, and are simply a nice gesture – remember that one for when the fights get bad, too. They'll put you one step closer from getting out of the dog house."

"The dog house, Captain?"

Kirk waved a hand. "Figure of speech, Spock."

"Ah," the Vulcan gave, still puzzled.

"So . . . Dinner. Candles. Flowers. Gift. That should be enough for year one . . . you can get more creative over the years."

Spock nodded. "I do believe that that will be reasonable to accomplish."

Kirk smiled. "Good man. You'll blow her away."

Spock frowned.

"Figure of speech," Kirk explained again before the science officer could comment on it.

Spock nodded. His eyes were focused, his whole manner speaking of a tightly controlled tension – it was the same behavior he showed during a crisis, telling Kirk that he was completely out of his element. "Nyota," Spock started slowly, "did not inform me on any of these . . . rituals, and I will confess that I have little paid attention to other human couples. There was never any reason to do so."

Kirk fought the urge to smile at the unspoken question. "She probably did not want to make you feel uncomfortable. She's not the type of girl who will not ask for more than you're prepared to give."

Spock frowned. "And yet, her comfort brings my own. I am . . . thankful that you brought this to my attention, Captain."

"Any time," Kirk assured him, and surprised even himself at the sincerity in his own voice. He patted the Vulcan on the back, and fought the urge to laugh when he stiffened, and turned a pointed glance on him.

Kirk put his hands up. "Sorry. I just thought that we were at that place."

Another raised brow.

"That place, Captain?"

Kirk held up a hand. "Just forget I said anything."

Spock, with the same stare that he was really beginning to equate with and eye roll, shook his head. "Thank-you for the advice, Captain, I shall put it into practice."

Kirk did roll his eyes now. "Knock her dead."

Spock didn't even bother asking this time, didn't even think to, really as his mind wandered off to other more pressing matters.

Kirk watching him leave and, shaking his head slightly as he went over the last month in his mind.

Well . . . the man was a genius, but he sure could be a bit clueless at times.

With a bemused chuckle, he wished his new friend the best of luck.

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Nyota had been in her quarters for a total of two hours and forty-seven minutes.

She'd tried everything she could think of to keep her mind busy – ancient translations, music, listening through transmissions from home. She'd even tried picking up the few things strewn about her otherwise immaculate quarters.

. . . she'd ended up curled in bed, one of Spock's forgotten uniform shirts balled up as a pillow under her head. She was being ridiculously sentimental, she knew. And yet the knowledge of how illogically her mind was treating the whole situation only served to make her mood even darker.

She could have told him, she knew. She could have told him about the silly human tradition, and he would have embraced it, she knew. He would have been perplexed, and awkward, but he would have done it for her.

. . . she just didn't know precisely how to ask.

She, who knew a dozen upon dozens of alien tongues, and could figure out dozens more as she went along, was not quite sure how to talk to him.

She had an odd moment of wishing that Gaila was alive. For all of her wantonness, her Orion roommate had really known how to get to the heart of things when it came to relationships . . . interspecies relationships especially. She would have been a truly admirable Counselor . . . if she could get past the whole sleeping with those who needed her help.

The thought made Nyota snort with an empty humor, rolling her eyes at the memory of her friend.

She was about to make the final desperate, time honored tradition of lunging for her hidden stash of Betazoid chocolates when the computer chimed that there was an incoming message for her.

With a disgruntled sigh, and a longing glance at the drawer that contained the hidden delicacy, she turned over and sat up. "Computer, accept incoming transmission," she muttered glumly as she shoved the uniform top under her pillow in order to hide it from view.

Spock's face appeared on the monitor on the wall.

She sat up straighter, and forced a smile.

"Ah, you are awake," he said, sounding pleased.

"Yeah," she gestured in the affirmative. "Your shift over?"

"Yes," he replied. "Actually, I was contacting you in order to ascertain your availability for the evening."

She looked at him blankly. They usually spent their time after their shifts together . . .

Right now though, she just wanted to curl up with some sweets and a good black and white holo.

She shrugged. "Not much is happening," she told him, just an edge of bitterness in her voice.

Spock seemed pleased. "Could I request your presence within the next quarter hour?"

She nodded, feeling a slight warning bell go off in her mind. While not fully bonded, their minds were close enough that she could sense his emotions when he wasn't actively screening them . . . and right now she wasn't picking up anything from him . . . even though his image fairly radiated as much anticipation as he was apt to show.

Something was up.

Narrowing her eyes, she said, "Yeah, I'll be there."

"Perfect. I shall see you then."

His image winked out, and she took a moment to stare at the monitor, her thoughts whirling in a thousand directions. She darted a glance at the drawer and it's chocolates, thought for just a second, and got to her feet with a sigh.

This had better be good.

She took five minutes to wash up and change into a fresh uniform. She waited precisely fourteen minutes to head out of her quarters.

. . . not that she was being childish or anything.

. . . because she wasn't.

. . . on second thought, maybe she should have broken into the chocolates before she came . . .

With a sigh, she waved her hand through the chime outside of his suite, and the doors immediately swished open to allow her entrance. She hesitated a moment, took a deep breath against the heavy feeling that was collecting in her gut, and then headed in.

As soon as she passed through, the coolly circulated air around her turned into a thousand bewitching scents in her nose. Her eyes widened as she fell up short.

She stopped.

She stared.

. . . and she stared some more.

At first she didn't even look up. The lights were dimmed, and the soft glow of candlelight flickered around the entire room. She stared down at her bare arms, entranced by the patterns the dancing flames made. Around her hung the bewitching aroma of her favorite Mediterranean dishes – oils and garlics and pine nuts crusted over chicken and rice and salads.

She smiled at the giddy feeling that welled up inside of her as understanding lapped gently at her consciousness.

She clasped her hands together in front of her mouth, casting her eyes from one point of the sitting room to the next with greedy eyes.

The low sitting table, usually commandeered at this hour by both his work and hers was covered with an immaculate spread – graceful flutes of an amber colored liquid, and sprigs of baby's breath intermixed with pale pink rose buds (real, honest to goodness flowers!) resting in a crystal vase that threw the candlelight this way and that.

Candles . . . there were hundreds of them, lingering in strategic alcoves and standing on gently twining stands everywhere. There was an eye for design, coupled with elegance and simplicity in the placements, and the thought put into it touched her more than a room full of rose petals ever would.

From hidden speakers, she could hear old world Terran jazz filling the air. She swayed slightly, closing her eyes to the familiar notes of 'Fever', humming the lines under her breath. It had been the song playing at the jazz club outside of San Fransisco the first time he had officially taken her out on a date – the day that she marked as the beginning of their relationship. He had asked her to dance, and surprised, she had acquiesced. Her amusement at him leading through the song's sultry steps had faded by the time she realized just how right him with her felt.

A lovely way to burn, indeed.

That was the day that they remembered now.

To top everything off . . . there was cheesecake in the next room.

She smiled smugly, mentally laughing in the face of the temptation that the paltry bag of chocolates had held for her earlier. And at the edge of the table, actually shuffling his weight from one foot to the next was Spock. His hands were clasped behind his back, and he was staring straight ahead, but she could see how strained his posture was, and how his hands were held more tighter than could pass for normal . . .

He was nervous. The tight leash he had held on his emotions through the day slipped a little as she once again felt his mingled hesitance, anticipation, and pride. And, alongside all of that, there was such a searing feeling of adoration that she could feel so strongly that she once again wondered at it coming from him rather than from her.

She smiled broadly at the feeling, not hesitating to wear her heart on her sleeve to assure him of how much she appreciated the lengths he went to for her.

"You remembered!" She tried not to gush, she really did, but the drugging cocktail of emotions running through her made it next to impossible for her to hide how truly touched she was at the moment.

He inclined his head, a blush staining the tips of his ears green as he hedged, "While I remembered the date's significance . . . I shall admit that this was not what I had in mind when I started the day."

She blinked at him. "You didn't?" she asked, confused.

The nervousness was more pronounced. "As your . . . discomfort became known throughout the day, a mutual friend informed me of the human custom of observing such anniversaries."

She made a mental note to thank Kirk, even as she stepped over to Spock. Without speaking, she wrapped her arms around him, and rested her head against his chest. As always, it took merely a second before he relaxed enough to return the embrace; resting one hand at her hip and another high on her back, tangling with the trailing tendrils of her hair.

"You didn't have to do this for me," she whispered against his shirt.

His grip tightened on her, just noticeably. "Yes. I did," he uttered softly. "While there are many . . . differences between us, I never want you to believe that I do not put every highest regard onto our relationship. If candles and chocolates and roses reassure you of this, then that is what I will do." He tilted her head to look into her eyes. The honesty she saw shining past the carefully blank pools of sepia touched her as it always did. "However, do not doubt that just because I did not immediately perform such gestures, that this day's importance was not at the forefront of my mind."

She was going to turn into a large, sloppy melted puddle of goo in just a moment. She really, really was.

Taking a deep breath, she tried to control the mad swirl of tap dancing butterflies, spinning out of control somewhere right next to where her heart was. Perhaps . . . in a relationship such as the one she was in, the rarity of statements such as these only made them that much more powerful when spoken. That much more true and infinitely dear.

She smiled crookedly. "You could have settled for simply saying 'Happy Anniversary," she told him, trying to quell the frantic flutters of her heart.

He raised a brow. "And then I would be left with a surplus of cheesecake on my hands," he drawled. His hands came up her body to grasp her own, holding them tenderly, brushing his thumbs back and forth over her skin. She was familiar enough with the motion to know that he was taking every moment to imprint the myriad of thoughts and emotions running throughout her mind with the touch.

"We couldn't have that now, could we?" she quipped.

"It simply wouldn't do," he agreed.

Still smiling, she stood up on the tips of her toes to kiss him quickly, and then he led her to the table, even going as far to pull out her chair for her and serve her personally. Some of his movements were awkwardly hesitant, and while a good many of them spoke of last minute coaching, enough of them were so purely him that she couldn't stop smiling inside the whole evening through.

One year, she couldn't stop thinking delightedly. One year, and they had come so far. The path had not been smooth, by any means, human stubbornness coupled with Vulcan pride and simple cross communication being what they were . . . and yet, there had been enough moments like this along the way to make everything truly worthwhile.

Sighing deeply, she met his eyes over the candles, and happily looked forward to another year of moments just like these.

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~MJ

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