Chapter One: The Adjunct Professor
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters; I just borrow them.
"Commander Spock isn't here," Professor Artura says in his lisping Andorian dialect.
"Oh!" Nyota says, genuinely surprised. Slipping her backpack from her shoulders, she sets it and her PADD on the round table where Professor Artura is nursing a cup of coffee.
The Andorian professor is usually the first to arrive at the language building and consequently the one who makes the first pot of coffee for the break room. Nyota walks to the counter and is careful to pour just half a cup—she likes her coffee strong, but Professor Artura likes it thick.
"He must be running late this morning," she says, stirring powdered creamer into her cup.
"Perhaps he had a busy night," Professor Artura says, and Nyota shoots him a look. She can't be certain, but sometimes the professor seems to enjoy startling her. From time to time he drops an innuendo or a double entendre about her relationship with Spock, though he has never said anything to her directly. "Actually," the professor says, "he was here earlier, but the dean called him away."
"Oh!" Nyota says again, sitting down and taking a sip of her coffee. "Did he say why?"
"The new adjunct professor is here," Professor Artura says, "and the dean wanted Commander Spock to show her around the campus."
"I didn't know the language department was getting a new professor," Nyota says, putting down her coffee cup. "I hope she's teaching one of the outer ring languages! Since Professor Xintha left, I've forgotten all my Malthurian—"
Professor Artura tips his antennae forward—which Nyota has come to recognize as the Andorian equivalent of a laugh.
"That's too bad," Professor Artura says, "though I imagine you will pick it back up when you have another instructor. However, Dr. Stoddard isn't teaching in the language department. She teaches interdisciplinary humanities—I believe by training she is a historian."
"Is Commander Spock showing her around? You haven't heard anything about the new adjunct professor?"
Professor Artura tips his antennae again and blinks slowly.
"Ah, yes, I forgot that you weren't at the faculty assembly yesterday. The dean introduced her then. Quite impressive—and stunning. That's the word in Standard that means aesthetically pleasing, correct?"
Now Nyota knows for certain that Professor Artura is teasing her. She finishes her coffee and holds out her hand for his cup.
"Care for more?" she asks, and Professor Artura shakes his head.
"Thank you, but I must return to my office to prepare for this afternoon's lecture."
He toddles out of the break room and turns the corner toward his office. Carrying both her cup and the professor's to the sink, Nyota listens to his footfalls growing faint. He hadn't answered her question—why would Spock instead of someone in the adjunct professor's own department be showing her around the campus? That doesn't make sense. Perhaps Professor Artura was making a joke—or was mistaken.
Picking up her backpack and her PADD, she heads to the lab, unlocking it and palming on the overhead lamps. Normally she enjoys the routine of preparing the lab for the morning session, but today she is distracted. She's never been a jealous person, but she thinks again about the professor's observation: Quite impressive—and stunning.
This is ridiculous, she tells herself. Pull yourself together.
But a few minutes later she scrolls through the latest Academy notices looking for information about Dr. Stoddard.
There it is—a short article in the faculty newsletter detailing Sarah Stoddard's academic background and accomplishments. Four university degrees and a long list of published works—and more, too—collaborative research projects funded through Federation grants and an honorary appointment to the Commission on Higher Education.
And she's only 33 years old.
Nyota reads the biographical information again. Can that be right? But the article is clear. Sarah Stoddard was born in Phoenix 33 years ago. The woman must be a genius.
Glancing through the rest of the newsletter, Nyota looks for a photograph of the new professor but sees none. That's odd. All of the other articles have several pictures each. She'll have to wait until she sees the new professor to decide for herself if Professor Artura's assessment of stunning is an exaggeration.
The morning drags by unusually slowly. Twice Nyota pulls her comm out of her pocket to answer what she is sure will be messages from Spock, only to be disappointed. Even the number of students who come to the lab is lower than normal—probably because of the surprising break in the weather, sunny and warm for the first time in weeks.
By lunchtime she is so restless that she decides to leave the building and walk across the campus to the cafeteria instead of eating the sandwich she had stored in the break room refrigerator. The air is warm and dry; puffy storybook clouds scud across the blue sky, and by the time Nyota reaches the squat cafeteria building, her mood is more cheerful.
Nyota looks up in time to see Jim Kirk, an apple in his hand, walking out of the cafeteria door. She meets his gaze and despite herself, laughs.
"Yes, you, Sally!" he says, tossing the apple from his left hand to his right. "Want me to join you for lunch?"
"Looks like you've already eaten," Nyota says, pushing past Kirk. He stops on the steps and she feels him watching her.
"What about dessert?" he calls, and she laughs again.
She turns her head and sees him standing in the middle of the milling crowd, one hand raised in supplication, the other still holding his apple.
"Not for you!" she says, laughing, and then she turns and walks through the door so quickly that she almost bumps into Spock.
He seems as surprised as she is—and something else, too. Discomfited? Embarrassed? Before she can think why, Nyota notices the woman standing to his side.
Of course—the new adjunct professor.
Stunning does not do her justice. The professor is the most beautiful person Nyota has ever seen. Almost as tall as Spock, she is dressed in a simple dark tunic that sweeps the floor but does nothing to hide her statuesque figure. Her thick auburn hair is pulled back loosely away from her face. Her skin is so pale that her dark eyes, by contrast, look black.
But most startling of all, she is a Vulcan.
"Cadet Uhura," Spock says after what seems a very long time, "I would like to introduce you to Dr. Sarah Stoddard. Dr. Stoddard, this is my teaching assistant, Cadet Uhura."
Dimly, Nyota is aware that students exiting the cafeteria are having to detour around them, but she doesn't move.
"How…nice to meet you," she says, trying not to stutter. Sarah Stoddard? Not a traditional Vulcan name—and born in Phoenix? Nyota tries to keep the confusion from her face.
"Dr. Stoddard begins her classroom duties next week. I am helping her become oriented with the most relevant parts of the campus."
"Perhaps you would care to join us," Dr. Stoddard says, but Nyota shakes her head.
"Thank you, but, uh, no, I'm just on my way in to get some lunch."
She looks from Spock to Dr. Stoddard and adds, "Good luck getting settled in. The Commander will be a good tour guide."
Dr. Stoddard inclines her head slightly and Spock motions her forward and down the stairs. As he passes Nyota, they make eye contact—and for a fleeting moment Nyota considers brushing his hand to reassure herself that all is well.
But the moment passes, and she moves on into the crowded cafeteria as Spock and Dr. Stoddard leave.
"Who was that?" Gaila asks, sidling up to Nyota as she walks to the salad line.
""You're up early," Nyota says, nudging Gaila with her shoulder. "It's only noon."
"Answer the question," Gaila says, reaching past Nyota and picking up a cherry tomato from the bowl on the counter. "Who was that with Commander Spock? I've never seen her before."
"The new humanities professor," Nyota says. "Dr. Stoddard."
"Humanities?" Gaila says, wrinkling her nose. "Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure," Nyota says, picking up the salad tongs and scissoring some lettuce onto her tray. "Professor Artura told me that he met her yesterday, and I read an article in the faculty newsletter about her. Why do you ask?"
"Dunno," Gaila says, leading the way to a table near the window. "Except that I've never heard of a Vulcan teaching anything but science or math."
"Yeah, me neither," Nyota says, frowning. She follows Gaila and sets her tray down on the table before pulling out the chair and settling herself.
Gaila reaches across the table and taps Nyota on the arm. Nyota gives a start and picks up her fork.
She's never been upfront about her relationship with Spock with anyone, not even Gaila—in the beginning because it was too confusing, and now because they have too much to lose.
Yet Gaila suspects they are more than teacher and aide—or at least Nyota assumes she does. The grins, the looks, the offhand comments about spending so much time in the language lab—
"Nothing's wrong," Nyota says slowly. "It's just—I wonder why the dean assigned her orientation to Spock?"
"Racism," Gaila says breezily, "or whatever you want to call it. She's a Vulcan—he's a Vulcan. The dean figures they belong together."
Spearing her last cherry tomato, Gaila adds waggishly, "And you have to admit, with those ears, they do make a nice couple."
A/N: And we're off!
Gaila's flip comment about "racism" isn't meant to offend anyone; some of my other fics bring up the idea, too, though in the way people in the 23rd reboot universe talk about it (remember Sarek's comment to young Spock that "Emotions run deep within our race...in many ways, more deeply than in humans.") Race equals species in this fictional world, though the prejudice cultivated around it seems the same as in the real one, or at least, Spock suffers from both overt prejudice (the school bullies calling his mother a "whore") and the more pernicious soft bigotry of low expectations (the VSA minister's astonishment at Spock's success despite the "disadvantage" of a human mother.) Given Vulcan prejudice and human assumptions, the dean might be forgiven for assuming that Dr. Stoddard would prefer a Vulcan companion.
In my little corner of the Star Trek universe, this story comes after "The Word You Mean," when Spock and Nyota have finally taken that last forbidden step and become lovers. It and other S/U stories are listed in chronological order in my profile, if you are interested in reading more.
Thanks to StarTrekFanWriter for her feedback!