The balance of things had shifted between a fellow officer and herself. As a result, she had been unable to sleep until the wee hours of the morning. Nyota forced herself out of bed and into her bathroom to get ready for the day ahead of her on the bridge. Her mind went back to the day things had begun to change between herself and Mister Spock; and then there was the day after that, when they had truly shifted for good. And then the truth of everything came out and she felt like her world was crumbling. She had pulled herself together, gotten past it as best she could on her own and now…things had changed again.
The ship's party was for Ensign Cleary who was on her way to a new assignment. She had received a promotion to a bridge post on a new starship, the USS Potempkin. The congratulatory party was all Nurse Chapel's idea. Uhura hadn't really known the young lady all that well, but she felt obligated as a bridge officer to show up with a smile on her face and an appropriate parting gift. She told herself that maybe a party was all she needed to get her spirits out of the dumps.
Nyota had received bad news on top of more bad news the month before. First she learned that her brother's estate had suffered a devastating brush fire. They had gotten it under control quickly enough, but not before it consumed part of her brother's home. To make things substantially worse, a week later while trying to help clear the post-fire debris in the yard near the house her young niece had nearly died when she feel through a sinkhole in the ground. She was rescued in a timely manner, but Nyota felt worse than she already had for not being able to be there for her family during times like that.
Then she found out her best friend had suffered a devastating shuttlecraft accident on Alpha Centauri and was lying in a coma. The last straw was finding out about another old friend of hers from her Academy days that had died on an away mission with her starship.
Everything had happened, one thing after another, over less than two weeks time. But she had been unable to recover herself since then. She felt as if she were waiting to get one more call with just one more piece of bad news. Everyone seemed to notice that she didn't smile the way she used to. She also hadn't sung in the mess hall for weeks. She would go, pick up her meal, try to chat a little and that was it for being social. Most times she didn't even finish the meal on her plate.
Even while she was down, she remained guardedly optimistic. She kept telling herself that everything was going to be all right. Her brother's house was already nearly repaired. A few weeks more and he claimed it would be good as new. Her niece had recovered and she'd spoken to her the week before about all of the cards and gifts her aunt had sent to her while she recovering. Her brother said the little lady was already running around the house again wreaking havoc.
Her friend that had been injured in the near-fatal accident was already on the road to recovery having awoken from the coma within a few days of slipping into it. And she had to contend that her friend that had died on the away mission had signed up for the dangerous life just as much as herself. That could very well be her any day now, she always knew that.
So on the night of the party, she put herself into a nice dress, added a little make-up to her features and forced herself to practice her happy face in the mirror beforehand.
She attended the party like she had planned to and wore that smile on her face. Everyone seemed satisfied that she was herself again. She begged off with a sore throat when asked to sing. Because of it, she claimed, she was going to go and turn in early. Dr. McCoy asked her to come and have it checked out if it wasn't gone within a day. She promised she would do so.
Mr. Spock watched Lieutenant Uhura closely. She was there at the party, physically present. But he sensed she was most certainly not there in spirit. He wondered that those about her did not notice the lieutenant had still not returned to her previous state of being. In fact the entire ship had noticed her sadness nearly within days of its beginning. But most assumed that that state had lifted. He did not agree.
He noticed that her smile was put-on, her actions were a little too merry and she seemed to be forcing herself into an artificial state of happiness. He could not help but wonder, what had happened to cause someone so genuine and full of life to behave falsely while still deflated on the inside?
As soon as she entered her quarters she found her smile dropping and she sat down on her bed, exhausted. Being truthful with herself, she knew she needed someone to talk to. Then her chimer rang.
"Come in," she said as she forced herself to stand and pretend to be busy about tidying her quarters. The door opened. "Mister Spock?" she asked. "Is there something I've left undone on the bridge, sir? I can go straight there now," she said, making ready to grab her uniform.
He put up his hand to stop her. "You are, as usual, a very efficient officer. That is not the reason I have decided to pay you a visit this evening, lieutenant," he said as he entered her quarters.
As the door whooshed shut behind him, she stood there and found herself at a loss for words. She had been serving aboard the Enterprise for over four years and never once had the first officer come to her quarters. She had been to his a few times to learn how to use his lyre but that had been the extent of their social contact. "Sit down, please," she offered him a seat. Seeing him in her quarters was the first true inkling of curiosity she'd had in weeks. He found a chair at her desk, pulled it out and sat in it. Uhura sat down on her bunk and simply looked at the first officer. He was at least half a room away from her. "Can I get you anything, sir?"
"No, I am quite satiated from the refreshments at the social gathering we just attended, lieutenant."
She felt terribly. Had he been there? She hadn't even noticed. To be honest, she hadn't noticed anyone there except…well…no one. Was she still that much in a fog? "What brings you by this evening, sir?" she asked with a polite smile.
"The morale of the crew, lieutenant."
Confused, she asked, "What about crew morale, sir?"
"It has come to my attention that one of the officers that seem to bolster crew morale has not been behaving the way she usually does and everyone seems to have noticed," he said with one rise of his eyebrow.
Uhura found herself smiling at him genuinely. "Thank you, sir, I appreciate the concern, but I'm fine now. I went to the party and I feel much better."
"That is unlike yourself, as well, lieutenant. Three times tonight I have heard you speak a falsehood."
"Do you have proof of that?"
"I do not believe you have a sore throat, you are not, as you have stated 'fine now' and you most certainly do not 'feel better'."
Uhura wondered what had suddenly gone awry in the galaxy. Mr. Spock was in her quarters claiming to understand human behavior, in particular her behavior. "Sir, do you have any reference for knowing these things?"
"Lieutenant, I have seen my mother feign happiness many times. I did not understand why until this evening. You do not wish to burden others with whatever it is that is troubling you. However, I also cannot help but notice that others at the party were taken in by your behavior. They believe you are well. I do not," he said simply.
She looked down at the tops of her legs and wondered, "Sir, I'm sorry, but I still don't understand what brought you here this evening."
He waited until she looked up at him again. As his eyes held hers, he admitted, "It brings me great discomfort, lieutenant, to know that there is something troubling you so severely you have ceased to behave as yourself. We have previously had limited social contact, however as your superior officer I cannot allow you to continue to suffer in silence. Perhaps there is something I can do for you to alleviate your situation, whatever it is."
She turned her face away from looking at his as her eyes filled with tears. This was a superior officer wanting to know why his subordinate wasn't doing so well. Is that all this was? "Sir, I don't think you're capable of giving me what I need."
He had not expected to hear those words come from her. Ordinarily, he supposed, they would not matter to him. But something about the state of mind he was in…upon hearing those words, they stung. "Is there some reason you believe that to be true, lieutenant?"
She sighed and thought what I need is a shoulder to cry on. Someone who's not going to call me 'lieutenant' or just by my last name. I need a true friend who's going to ask how I am simply to ask how I am and not just because he's my superior. That's what I need. "I just do, sir."
He stood then, ready to go. But before he exited her quarters, he stopped in his tracks, his back still to her as his face turned slightly. All she saw was his side profile as he said, "If there is anything you need, lieutenant, feel free to come by my quarters. I will do my utmost to help you."
She went to bed that night as soon as he was gone. It had lifted her spirits, somewhat, that he noticed she was unwell and had gone out of his way to check up on her. Well not out of his way, she kept reminding herself, his quarters weren't too far from hers. But still, it felt good to know that maybe Spock someday and she could become closer friends.
And then the next day arrived and her world was turned upside down.
It was her day off. She still didn't know what she was going to do with that day off, but she knew she still wasn't feeling completely like herself. She decided, at first, that maybe she would spend the day inside after all.
After finding herself slipping back into melancholia, Uhura forced herself to get up, into the bathroom to get cleaned up and got into her uniform. As she was exiting her bathroom putting the finishing touches on her hair, her chimer sounded. "Come in!" she called as she put down her brush. She was only halfway surprised to see Mr. Spock entering her quarters. "Sir?" she asked.
"I have come to enquire as to your mood today, lieutenant."
"As my superior officer," she said as she sat down on her bed.
Did he detect sarcasm in her tone? "Yes."
She found herself rolling her eyes. "You don't have to worry about me anymore, sir. I'll be fine, all right? I'm sure you're a busy person and you don't need to check up on me anymore."
"Lieutenant," he said as he stepped closer, "do I detect anger in your voice?"
She felt instantly ungrateful. "Sir, I'm sorry, I just-" She sighed tiredly. "It's been a bad few weeks and I haven't had a chance to get it all out and…I'm sorry."
"If you would perhaps avail yourself of me, I could be of assistance."
The mischievous side of her came to the fore and she figured she would call his bluff to see just how quickly he went flying out of her quarters. "Sit down," she said as she patted the spot next to her on her bunk. She was surprised when he took the offer and sat down almost directly next to her. She wondered how far she should take this and then said, "I would feel much better if you called me by my first name. If I'm going to spill my guts to you I at least want to pretend we're real friends."
He seemed taken aback. "I was under the impression, Nyota, we were at least on the path to a true friendship."
She looked away from him. Why had she liked the way he said her first name? Oh damn. How long had she been on the same ship with him and escaped becoming infatuated with him like half the female crew members? Then she decided that lying to herself was not healthy. She had certainly noticed him on many occasions, had a little bit of a crush on him, too, but she had simply marked him as 'unattainable' in her mind and as a result had gone on about her business without giving him another thought. So why now, while he was sitting on her bunk next to her, was she suddenly having these thoughts about him of all people? She had been trying to bluff him and here he was, bluffing her back!
"You're right, Spock," she said. It felt strange to not add 'mister' to his name. "Anyhow, this is the situation."
Since he was there wanting to hear of how she was doing, she figured she would really let him have it. She told him of everything that had happened the month before and how she'd found herself sinking into a depression afterward. She saw him sit there, taking it all in, and wondered what was going through his mind through it all. "You must think I'm terribly weak to have come apart over all that's happened. But I'm sure with more time I'll be back to my usual self and I've made sure my work on the bridge hasn't suffered, either. I just wonder sometimes, if I were to go tomorrow on an away mission or something, besides a career in Starfleet, what else am I getting out of my existence?"
His head cocked to the side as he thought of what she had just said to him. "What would make you assume I would find you weak for your reaction and your thoughts surrounding the many misfortunes that have plagued your friends and family members?"
She shrugged. "To tell you the truth, sir, you seem so strong and steady. I could never see you coming apart after so much bad news. It would be business as usual for you, at least on the surface. It's not that I don't think it would affect you. I know it would. But you would be able to make certain no one realized that it had affected you and that takes real strength. I just don't have that kind of strength," she said almost casually with a wave of her hand.
"Nyota," he said, as if her words had struck him deeply, "you are one of the strongest people I know. And despite all that has happened, your work has remained up to par and constant. That is due to your strength."
"But if only we could all be more like you, Spock, and not show our feelings," she said as she turned to face him directly. "I made the mistake in the past of assuming you didn't have any. But I know better now. If only we could all learn to control them the way you control yours. Life would be a lot more orderly."
His left hand was resting next to hers on her bunk. As she looked down at it she realized how attractive she found his fingers; and before her eyes she saw his fingers inch over and slowly begin to stroke hers. She looked up at his face to see that his eyes were staring into hers. "You are already complete the way you are, Nyota. Never wish you were any other way."
She could barely breathe. Spock's fingers were brushing against the backs of hers and her heart rate jumped. She found herself turning her hand over and offering him her palm. He laced his fingers together with hers as their palms caressed and she felt bursts of emotions from him, admiration…protectiveness…desire. "I think I've misunderstood you on many levels," she realized as she felt his fingers then unlace from hers and begin rubbing along the insides of her palm. She was beginning to tremble inside and she forgot in those few seconds that this was her superior, a fellow bridge officer, that he was a Vulcan and that this supposedly should not be happening between them.
"Are things more obvious to you now about my thoughts concerning you?" he almost whispered as his deep eyes held to hers.
"No," she admitted. "I'm even more confused."
"Then I must clarify the situation further," he said as his face came close to hers, slowly.
Before contact occurred, she wondered for a split second if she were in a strange dream. She wondered if he was infected with something making him act abnormally. She wondered if she had slipped into an alternate universe and this Mr. Spock was the promiscuous lady killer and not the captain. As his face came close to hers and paused for a split second, all she had time to wonder was if his lips were as soft as they looked.
As his mouth met hers, her thoughts melted away and she found herself swept up by his soft lips moving carefully against hers. His face was still very close to hers as he murmured, "I must leave." His breath had noticeably increased by then.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean for this to-"
His fingers reached up and gently fluttered over her lips. She felt a burst his emotions from that action, too. Adoration. "Do not apologize, Nyota. I am unapologetic about what has happened between us. Are you truly sorry for this?" he asked as his eyes chained themselves to hers.
"No," she found herself saying boldly. Even if this never happened again, she would always cherish having had the feel of his touch just this once.
"I must go on duty, it is the only reason for my departure now," he said as he stood.
Before he could make it to the door, she found herself saying in a low tone of voice almost to herself, "What just happened here?"
Having heard her, of course, he felt obliged to turn and answer. "I do not know. But I do not think it would be wise for either of us to pretend it did not happen. Are we in agreement, Nyota?"
She only found herself nodding once in the affirmative.
"I see the uncertainty in your eyes," he said. "Come to me when it has passed. And then we may speak of this together." He didn't wait for her to answer, he simply left.
After that, she spent the day in deep thought. She had not seen this coming. He had told her to come to him when her uncertainty passed. And that day it had not. It almost had, by the next morning, though. And she decided after her shift on the bridge she would go to his quarters so they could figure things out.