AN: Since I've gotten a lot of feedback about it, I'm posting this story as a T rating, edited to that level. I'm not completely finished yet, but I need the room in my document folder for new stories, so I'll be posting as I go.
WARNINGS: The 'f' word appears I think, twice in this story, and there is violence. Nothing beyond kissing is explored in graphic detail. (In some ways I think the 'toned down' version of some of these chapters are actually better.)
i. This is un-betaed so I'm sure you will encounter the occasional typo. Sorry!
ii. This story is only very mildly AU - it's more or less compliant with the movie.
iii. ROMULANS - when I started this story I'd recently re-watched the first season of TOS, namely the first episode with Romulans - episode 8 'The Balance of Terror'. In that episode Kirk et al get their first look at a Romulan since apparently no one saw one one during the war a century previously because they didn't have visual communications. (a LIKELY story! Shifty Romulans!) So when they see the Romulan Commander, (amusingly played by the same actor who later played Sarek), they are all like 'OMG, they totes look like Vulcans!' and Spock is all 'Wtf yo?' *raises eyebrow* (I'm paraphrasing). In the 2009 movie Spock knows about the connection between Romulans and Vulcans, but as the beginning of this story, set 3.5 years previously it's not common knowledge.
iv. I'm not american - I write in british english. My grammar, punctuation, spelling and use of some words might jar US readers. Sorry about this. Please google what you think are typos before you pm me about it. :)
v. It's sappy and trope-y, but I hope not too OOC. Anyway, you have been warned.
Winds against a Star
"The darts of toil and sorrow, sent
Against your peaceful beauty, are
As foolish and as impotent
As winds that blow against a star"
- As Winds That Blow Against A Star by Joyce Kilmer
Application to Starfleet academy is open to all citizens of federation planets. Despite this fact, 78.2% of students are human. 68.2% of these humans are of Caucasian decent and 72.9% are male. For these reasons, the presence of two female cadets - an Orion and a human of African descent, stood out in Lieutenant Commander Spock's first 'Advanced Phonology I' lecture during the second year of his tenure as a professor at the Academy. The two females also counted among only twelve first year students taking his class which indicated intelligence or dedication beyond that of their peers.
Although he gave them no especial attention, he was pleased by their presence. He had noted a small but steady increase in both non-human and female cadets since his own arrival from Vulcan six years earlier. He hoped these newest arrivals, the female Orion especially, (to his knowledge there were no other female Orions either at the Academy or serving in Starfleet), would graduate successfully. Greater diversity amongst Starfleet officers could only strength the service. Spock made these idle observations over the course of only a few seconds as he scanned over his newest cohort of students before beginning his lecture.
Beyond that initial idle speculation, Spock did not give additional thought to either female until 87 days, 7 hours and 16 minutes later.
The Campus was empty during the mid-semester break. Most students had returned home or banded together into groups to journey to Los Angeles or Tijuana in the south for a week of what Spock's mother would call 'Ill-informed drunken debauchery'. 'Debauchery' seemed too strong a word for the particular excesses the students usually indulged in, (for the most part unpleasant terran beer and short term sexual relationships), but Amanda Grayson was prone to hyperbole. Spock had no doubt many of these revellers would be absent from his lectures or sit bleary eyed and yawning when classes resumed.
He had marked the assessments from three of his classes and was part way through his 'Advanced Phonology I' assignments. These took longest to mark since the curriculum for languages subjects required both oral and written assessment. Although the material tested was simple in his estimation - introductory courses in the three languages of the Federation's founding members apart from standard - the testing for his Advanced Applied Warp Thermodynamics class was far more straight forward. For the most part automated marking was sufficient and he was able to grade his entire class within hours of their final test. Xenolinguistics in contrast, did not lend itself to automated marking. Multiple choice or problem solving tasks didn't accurately test the cadet's knowledge, and so Spock had to mark each cadet's assignment personally.
He noted that the Orion from his initial class, one Cadet Gaila U'Aidat according to her file, had performed well above the average of the rest of the class. Her success pleased him. However he quickly moved onto the next PADD in his stack before he could linger illogically on Cadet U'Aidat's performance simply because she was an Orion. He was slightly surprised to find it belonged to the Cadet's friend, the human female of African descent, one Nyota Chausiku Uhura according to her file. Realising he was staring at her identification holo, Spock quickly flipped through the data to her written assignment. It took him only twelve minutes to thoroughly read through her essay and by the time he was finished he was pleasantly surprised to find it perhaps the best written piece he had ever received whilst teaching Xenolinguistics.
He cued the recording of the oral part of her assessment wondering if her enunciation of Vulcan, Andorian and Tellarite was as well developed as her apparent understanding of the languages as written. The cadet started in Andorian, speaking at a high - if slightly accented - level of fluency. Her Tellarite was to a similar standard. When she swapped to Vulcan for the final portion of her assessment, Spock felt a sudden flush spread over him. His heart beat a fraction too fast, and he swallowed compulsively. Before he realised what he had done, he had paused the recording.
He focused his mind, seeking out the sudden source of his unease. He did not feel ill. He had eaten sufficiently. He was well rested. He could sense his mother and father along their familial telepathic bonds, distant on Vulcan, but unharmed. There was no apparent source to his distress. With conscious effort he willed his heart rate to return to its normal speed and waited for the odd giddiness he felt to pass.
Recomposed, he resumed playback on the recording.
For three and half minutes Spock sat stiffly listening to cadet Uhura speak flawless Vulcan. Through sustained effort he was able to stifle his odd reaction to her voice. The recording ended and he sat quietly attempting to understand his reaction. He saw two possibilities. Either the recording itself was causing it, or the cadet was. He flicked his PADD back to Uhura's ID. According to it she was 20 and born in Nairobi. She was attractive, but Spock had not given her particular attention since noticing her and Cadet U'Aidat at the beginning of term. She often asked questions during lectures and her voice had caused no response on those occasions, so it was clearly not her that was causing his discomfort.
'Computer: Replay Audio.'
Spock listened more attentively as the recording repeated.
The content itself was unremarkable. The Cadet responded to a series of randomly generated questions and prompts ranging from polite conversation to technical jargon and inquiries common on board starships, her voice contrasting starkly against the tinny computerised voice questioning her.
'Kilko-tor ne-stukh-sviribaya'. (Report subspace communications.)
'Vesht patal-tor nash-veh sasaya ri-fainu…' (I detect an unknown transmission.)
She was more proficient in her Vulcan then she was in Andorian or Tellarite. Her words were only slightly softened by what he assumed was the accent of her native tongue. Swahili most likely. He wondered at that. Vulcan was, in theory, the most difficult to master of the three languages. Even in the common dialect many words were considered unpronounceable by humans. His own full name for example. The cadet had most likely had a native speaker as a private tutor at some point.
'Computer: Replay Audio.'
Spock listened to the recording a further six times before he determined what was so unnerving about the cadet's delivery. The only other person he had heard speak Vulcan so fluently, but with such delicate emphasis, was his mother. The cadet, like his mother, was able to able to inject emotion into a language which had evolved over millennia to be devoid of all such overtones.
He felt an overwhelming sense of relief at this new understanding.
He was not having an emotional, irrational response to an attractive student, but to his mother. Such a reaction, whilst unacceptably emotional, was infinitely preferable to one caused by a young female student.
It took only moments to grade the cadet's assignment. He deducted points for her slight mispronunciations of Andorian and Tellarite, but left her full marks for the Vulcan segment. 88.7% overall. It was the highest grade he had awarded for any of his linguistics classes. Occasionally one of the more gifted students would receive 100% for one of his hard science classes, but it was rare for him to award more than 70% outside of the physics or mathematics departments.
In an uncharacteristic fit of some sort of human emotion he could not quite define, in the comments section of cadet Uhura's grade, after mentioning the errors in her Andorian and Tellarite, he wrote that her Vulcan fluency was as near to perfect as he had ever encountered in a human. Although this was true, he stared at the PADD for a long moment in contemplation, wondering if he should re-word the phrase.
He had been told on numerous occasions that students required positive as well as negative feedback, yet it still felt unnatural to him. The cadet's grade would clearly indicate the calibre of her work, reiterating it seemed pointless. Perhaps he could discuss it with his mother. Her experience teaching humans had been an invaluable resource to Spock when he first took up teaching duties.
He decided to surprise her with an unscheduled subspace call. His reaction to cadet Uhura's Vulcan assignment would amuse her. She always enjoyed it when something flustered him.
Nyota Uhura returned from Nairobi a full three days before her classes resumed so she could go over her results and begin to prepare for her classes. Her mother had complained, her father had teased, but both were proud that their youngest daughter was so committed to her education. Nyota's sister Zanta had dropped out of her studies at the University of Nairobi and her parents made plain their dissatisfaction on the matter. For herself Nyota was thankful for her elder sister's willfulness. It made her choice of career look pretty great in comparison.
Not that her father Zuberi needed convincing. He oversaw the small Starfleet Spacefield in Nairobi. It was more or less a management 'desk' job, but Commander Uhura had spent a decade serving on different ships all over the galaxy. He understood her dream of sitting on the bridge of a starship perfectly well.
In contrast her mother Tamu had made it extremely obvious she would have preferred it if her daughter had chosen a career in the Diplomatic Corps. In her opinion it offered all the same opportunities to see the galaxy with a much smaller risk of being blown up by Klingons. She'd even arranged a junior diplomatic attaché role for her straight out of university. She'd not been pleased when Nyota chose Starfleet over it. But then Zanta had dropped out of university and disappeared to Orion with a girlfriend. Tamu was quite supportive of Nyota's career goals after that.
Nyota had enjoyed the week with her family unwinding after the stress of her first block of exams. Unsurprisingly she had found that her previous studies at University had put her well ahead of the rest of the first year students, and she had not had to over-exert herself in anything, save her Subspace Engineering course. Luckily she found learning about the technology behind Starfleet's communication systems intriguing. She was enjoying the challenge in comparison to her linguistics classes, for which she was woefully over qualified. Even having skipped the first year modules she was still too far ahead of the other students to really enjoy her classes.
As such her results for the first semester did not come as a surprise to her. 97% in Communications Systems Management, 96.5% in Subspace Engineering Systems, 96% in Combat Analysis and 88.7% in Advanced Phonology I?!
Nyota quickly pulled up the individual results for her Phonology class.
96% for her written assessment – as expected if a little low. 81.4% for her spoken assessment?! How was that possible? She was fluent in Andorian, Vulcan and Tellarite! She'd spoken all three since she was a child! Been taught by native speakers at that!
She had heard that Lieutenant Commander Spock was tough, but giving her 81% when she was fluent was beyond tough, it was unfair. She resisted a childish urge to throw something at her computer console.
Nyota glanced at the time. It was mid-afternoon. There was a good chance that the Lieutenant Commander was on campus. Such a perfectionist would no doubt want extra time to prepare for his classes.
'Computer Locate Lieutenant Commander Spock'
'Lieutenant Commander Spock currently located in Laboratory L175'
Clutching her PADD Nyota stood, shoved her feet into a pair of shoes and made her way angrily across the campus. L block was home of the physics faculty. She had not had classes in the particular lab mentioned, but it was most likely one of the computer labs reserved for post-graduate study.
The campus was large, but without crowds of dawdling cadets to slow her down Nyota was standing in front of L175 fifteen minutes later. Since the door was shut she pressed the comm panel.
'L175 is currently unsupervised. Access code required.'
Nyota sighed. Either the comm was malfunctioning or she'd just walked across the campus for nothing.
'Computer locate Lieutenant Commander Spock'
'Lieutenant Commander Spock currently located in the Gymnasium Level 4.'
The gym was nearby at least.
With another sigh Nyota turned away from the locked laboratory and headed towards the turbolifts.
The gym was almost deserted. Few people were on campus, and fewer still chose mid-afternoon as an opportune time to exercise. There were a couple of cadets in the weights room, judging from their massive size they probably never left, holidays or not, and two middle aged women chatting as they jogged on treadmills. It was only as she stepped into the lift and pressed the button for Level 4 that Nyota recalled that level 4 was taken up entirely by a pool.
For a moment she paused, wondering if it was appropriate to seek the Lieutenant Commander out in his spare time like this. He was on campus, and she did feel she had the right question her grade, but perhaps she would be better off sending him a comm message first?
Before she could come to any decision, the lift opened with a ping.
Straightening her shoulders, Nyota stepped out onto the tiled pool area.
A lone figure was swimming laps, a pale blur with a black cloud of hair. Butterfly stroke. The sound of his strokes echoed loudly in the cavernous room. He reached the far end of the pool and turned beneath the water, kicking powerfully off the wall and re-emerging some distance down the pool, swiftly heading back to the end where she stood motionless. For someone from a desert planet her instructor seemed pretty confident in the water.
Suddenly Nyota felt like she was intruding. She should have just messaged him, not barged in on him off duty. Even if he was on campus, it was mid-semester break. She should've waited. Perhaps she could just turn and leave? Had he noticed her? Most likely. Vulcans had more acute senses then humans. But perhaps he hadn't recognised her? He could hardly have gotten a good look at her.
The Lieutenant Commander had stopped swimming and was wading towards the ladder at the side of the pool. The water came up to mid torso on him. Nyota had an impression of a lean well-muscled chest before she studiously made eye contact and maintained it. Reading his face was nearly impossible, but she thought he looked surprised at her presence.
He turned and pulled himself up the ladder. Suddenly Nyota had nowhere safe to rest her eyes. He was wearing standard issue swimming trunks, dark blue against his pale slightly greenish skin. The muscles in his arms and shoulders flexed and defined as he pulled himself out of the water. He had a wonderfully toned body with magnificent broad shoulders tapering down to a lean waist. Nyota realised she was practically leering and looked away, feeling blood rushing to her face in embarrassment.
Gaining his feet Spock turned to look at her. His hair was pushed back off his face. He was far more handsome than she'd given him credit for in class. He had beautiful dark eyes. He walked over to her and she met them once more, refusing to look anywhere below his chin. Lieutenant Commander Spock, her young, handsome, extremely... VulcanPhonology instructor was more or less naked no more than three feet from her. And dripping wet. Coming as they did from a desert planet -Vulcans didn't sweat - they radiated heat through their skin and consequently were warmer to the touch than humans. Nyota half expected to see steam as the water evaporated off him. It was like a scene from a particularly clichéd romance holo.
One delicate Vulcan eyebrow raised in what Nyota interpreted as confusion. His head had tilted slightly to one side. The gesture reminded her of a bird. A great big, wet, naked... sexy... bird. She screwed her eyes shut tightly for a moment and silently berated herself before meeting his eyes in what she hoped was polite interest as opposed to interspecies lechery.
The eyebrow was still way up there.
Oh. She hadn't responded to his greeting. She had been too busy admiring his pretty eyes. Oh lord.
Clutching her PADD to herself she opened her mouth with no idea of what she should say. In hindsight she was certain seeking him out had been a terrible idea.
'Osavensu Spock. Forgive my intrusion. I sought you in L175 to discuss my assessment for Phonology...'She trailed off, not sure how to explain how she went from quite reasonably seeking him in a classroom to ambushing him half, (more than half! Mostly!), naked during his rec time.
The Lieutenant's eyebrow went skywards once more. 'This is not Laboratory L175 cadet.' He paused for a heartbeat -. 'This is the gymnasium swimming pool.'
If he'd been human Nyota would have taken that as a joke, but his face remained utterly still and serious. She felt as if she was going to spontaneously combust from shame. She was painfully aware of the expansive vista of toned Vulcan flesh just to the south of where her eyes were glued. It was proving near impossible not to look.
Vulcans were said to have such acute senses and powers of observation that even without the help of their touch telepathy most other races were more or less open books to them. He was probably perfectly aware how he was affecting her. To make matter worse her voice was humiliatingly breathy when she found it.
'Forgive me Osavensu Spock. I should have sent you a comm message I was just so… surprised by my assessment results. I don't know what I was thinking coming here, it was inappropriate to encroach on your personal time.' It would have to do, she didn't have a better explanation.
As she spoke Spock stiffened, his expression tensing slightly as he assumed his customary stance, hands clasped behind his back. Wet and in swimming trunks, it gave off a distinctly different air then that of his usual cool detachment. Nyota swallowed and focused on not looking lower than his face. Nyota thought perhaps he was angry, but she was unable to read him accurately. He was Vulcan after all. Hopefully he was just mildly irritated.
'You are indeed the first student to seek me out in such a fashion.' His voice was utterly cold, devoid of all emotion. It was far more intimidating then human anger.
Nyota held her breath, restraining the urge to just turn and run. Spock was the Chief Instructor in both Advanced Phonology and Interspecies Ethics. She'd remain in both departments for the next three and a half years. She couldn't afford to offend him further. Especially if she wanted to get her grade reassessed.
'I will be in L175 tomorrow 06:00 hours to 14:00 hours. You may bring your query to me then.' He nodded in dismissal and switched from Vulcan to Standard. 'Good Afternoon Cadet.'
At his sharp dismissal Nyota gave a hurried salute and tripped over her words slightly. 'Yes thank you sir. Good Afternoon Lieutenant Commander Sir.'
She stared for a moment as he stalked back along the side of the pool away from her, admiring the play of muscles across his shoulders. Resolutely she turned before her eyes could drift down to the dark swimming trunks.