Summary: All that glitters isn't gold. After the iVengeance/i goes down, Uhura and Spock have a necessary conversation.
Characters: Reboot!Nyota Uhura, Reboot!Spock
Disclaimer: I don't write for money. Paramount owns the copyright.
Warnings: Fix-it fic written out of frustration with Hollywood's incomparable ability to reduce women to their romantic relationships, and then screw those up, too, while pretending they did a great job with them.
The space docks always made Nyota feel lonely. There was no particular reason for it: like a ship, they were all bulkheads, warning signs plastered on everything that could possibly fail, and the air ducts gave off a continual soft hiss, while every surface felt dry as a bone. Plastic or metal, they gleamed dully thanks to the work of legions of enlisted personnel who ensured that they remained so. But the whole facility seemed to echo around the ships docked there, and people seemed to rattle around in it.
Starships, she thought, felt fuller, more lived in, somehow.
Perhaps that was why she had come to the mess hall on one of the observation decks. Beyond the viewport, innumerable suited figures, illuminated now and again by the harsh, flickering light of arc-welders, crawled over Enterprise's damaged hull, patching the ship's wounds, making it spaceworthy again. It would, even with all their best efforts, take a year, the dockmaster had said.
That was the way of injuries. They just took time to heal. At least Enterprise and her captain would recover.
Not so, other things, for all they also took time. Nyota sipped her coffee, then looked down at her watch: 1610 hours. She had said 1615, which meant –
The door to the largely empty mess hall hissed open, then shut again; for a moment, nothing happened, but then she heard the sound of boot heels clicking on the deck plating as someone began walking toward her with a quick, firm step.
"Commander," she greeted him before he had quite reached her, but did not rise.
"Lieutenant," he answered, matching her, though he remained standing a moment before taking the seat opposite her. For a moment, they gazed at each other. Then:
"Add a little sugar, and the coffee here isn't bad," she told him. He glanced briefly at the cup in her hands, raised a brow, and then shook his head slightly.
"Your recommendation is always valuable, but I did not come to test the quality of the mess hall's coffee," he replied. "You asked to see me here."
"Yes, I did." She glanced around once more, confirming that there were no others to hear them, and even so, lowered her voice a bit to say, "Spock, I think we need to… review… our relationship."
"In what aspects?"
"All of them," she replied, as firmly as she could, and made herself look him in the eye. Nyota had always liked a man with a good voice, but she had found that with Spock, it was less voice than eyes that struck her: a brown so dark as to seem black, animated with the focus and intensity that Vulcans brought to most matters, and, unlike most men she had known, Spock had no difficulty looking her in the face when she talked. He wasn't one to be distracted – it had been one of the things she had first liked about him, that he didn't use their conversation as simply an excuse to titillate himself. Not that she didn't like a man's appreciative look, but it was tiresome to have to fight for a hearing all the time.
Today, though, she found herself staring at him and wishing he were less focused – that he gave some sign of discomfort or division of mind. Today, he was all too Vulcan and body language didn't give her anything to work with, or not much.
"Please continue," he told her, and Nyota sighed, letting her head droop as she leaned on her elbows, and she stared at the table a moment, tasting the irony of that answer, which, from another man, would be bitterness or affront speaking. From Spock, though… it likely was absolutely literally meant.
"Okay," she said, drawing a deep, calming breath, determined to keep matters calm and as logical as she could.
"I've been thinking," she told him, "about what happened on Qo'noS, when we were in that shuttle. And… I'm sorry, it was inappropriate to have that argument at that time. I should have been more attentive to the comm – I… " She paused a moment, grimacing. "My duty was to monitor the comm, to try to detect incoming transmissions or sonic anomalies, and I can't stop thinking that maybe, if I hadn't been arguing with you, I might've seen them coming. Maybe we could've gotten under cover faster, and so been overlooked. And if that's so…" She had to pause again, to collect herself, as memories of that firefight and its fear surfaced again, and with it, the bite of shame. "If that's so," she continued softly, "then all of those deaths are on me, because I could've prevented them. But I was… pursuing a personal argument, instead, with one of my commanding officers."
Spock considered this a moment, before replying: "I agree with your assessment. You do not, however, bear sole responsibility. I allowed myself to be goaded into response, and as executive officer, my lapse in judgment is the more grave."
"I know," she said. "And that's why I have to ask whether it's a good idea for us to continue." There, it was said, much as it hurt to say it.
Her lover did not answer immediately. But after a moment, he looked away, out the porthole towards the Enterprise – the first break in his composure. It was brief, however, and when he spoke, there was nothing to betray feeling in his voice.
"I cannot find fault with your reasoning in this matter," he said, and then admitted: "In retrospect, it was imprudent to pursue our friendship as we did, given that Starfleet's cultural bias is human: it lacks the institutional structure to support a partnership between student and teacher or commander and subordinate that Vulcan society has evolved."
Nyota bit her lip, but she nodded, ducking her head a little, unwilling that he see too clearly what was in her face. For, a part of her – a large part, if she were honest – wanted to slap him for being so cool about this, for sounding as if this were nothing but a conclusion to an interesting sociological problem.
But that wasn't fair: that reaction was, she knew, precisely what had helped get them into an argument that should never have occurred. It was a part of their problem – one she had been trying very hard to ignore for quite some time.
"Nyota?" His inquiry got her head up again, and she found him watching her with that disconcertingly intent stare, and now she could see it: it was a subtle thing, Vulcan upset, betrayed in the barely noticeable lines of tension about his mouth, in the slightest narrowing of his eyes, and in the fact that he was now leaning just a little closer.
"It's all right," she told him, waving off his concern. "I'm all right."
He cocked his head slightly. "You are angry, though."
"Reading my mind?" she demanded, unable to resist baiting him a little, and she watched both brows shoot up this time.
"I reiterate: I would never violate your tru – "
"Spock, I'm just… that was a joke," she settled on after a brief hesitation, unwilling to enter into a more complicated explanation.
"Yeah. Tension relief. You know," she said, and when he simply stared, she sighed and added: "Or maybe not."
He sat back a little then. "I apologize, if I misinterpreted. Vulcan custom and training does not include – "
"I know. Spock, please – please," she repeated, a little more urgently. "I don't mean to have another go around about Vulcans and humans. That's not what I'm talking about. I mean, yes," she admitted, impatiently, when she saw him about to protest, "the joke was aimed at that, but the rest…"
She paused, and then, needing him to understand her, she reached across the table and very deliberately laid her hand over his, grasping firmly. He shut his eyes at that – reaction, in the face of unexpected skin-to-skin contact, but she pressed on: "I wish I could blame our problems on cultural differences. I know it's not particularly praiseworthy, but it'd be… easier, in a way. But that's not our problem – not really. Look at me, Spock."
He obeyed, and for a long moment, neither of them spoke – Spock, undoubtedly, because he sensed she had more to say, and Nyota, because she needed to find a way to say it. Ironic, that – here she was, a fully-fledged communications specialist, a bridge comm officer fluent in half a dozen non-human languages, including his, and several human languages, and where were the words when she needed them?
"I was born in 2233," she said at length, falling back on the comforting solidity of numbers. "You're only three years older than me, in terms of human reckoning – less, under Vulcan's calendar. Your people live longer than mine do, so if I'm young to my people, to yours, you're even younger, relatively speaking. Isn't that right?" she asked.
"That is correct." He paused. "I thought, however, that you were arguing that this was not about Vulcan and human differences?"
"I am," she replied. "My people say maturity takes time." She gave him a wry, self-deprecating smile.
"Spock, I was upset because you didn't seem to care about what your death would do to me. I actually said that, and I meant it – you had to correct me! And I feel like an idiot now, because of that!"
This time, Spock did not bother to conceal his confusion. "Is this an emotional response? I do not see how you can warrant such self-assess – "
"Spock, you and ten thousand others lost all of Vulcan a year ago: six billion people and nearly everything your ancestors built over thousands of years," she cut him off, and this time his stillness was telling as a flinch. "But I wasn't thinking of that in the shuttle, or when we pulled you out of that volcano." She shook her head. "I don't know why I wasn't thinking of that, except that I was terrified of losing you – which doesn't exactly balance against a planet's loss!" Her hand tightened about his, feeling again a flush of shame. "I was just… caught up in my fears, and I'm sorry, I – I didn't take your reaction to Vulcan very well into account."
Her lover had made no move throughout this confession, but when she fell silent, he looked down a moment at their hands – at her hand closed over the back of his – and she had the impression that he was uncertain what to say. An impression he confirmed when he finally did speak: "A… curious… explanation."
"Meaning that you accept it as true," she translated, and when he did not answer, took that as tacit confirmation. "That's why I say this isn't about human or Vulcan, it's just… me being twenty-five and fucking up in the face of trauma."
"And getting into a relationship with you in the first place," she continued, with a soft, unhappy sigh, "justifying a student-teacher relationship on technicalities, then breaking the regs outright as bridge crew under your command – "
"You would not have been under my command if I had not placed you there," he pointed out.
"I know. And you wouldn't have had me on the bridge, if I hadn't insisted, and if you hadn't been compromised enough to ignore what you knew was a biased decision, even though I damn well did deserve Enterprise," she argued. "Those aren't Vulcan failings, or human failings, those errors were you being twenty-eight and male."
He raised a brow at her. "That remark strikes me as… sexist."
She snorted. "I broke the regs and went to bed with you because I was twenty-three and female, all right?"
They fell silent, then. Nyota idly toyed with her coffee mug, contemplating without enthusiasm the lukewarm coffee in it. Her break would be over soon. Both of them would need to return to work – there was so much repair-work to do, and so many reports! Probably, it would be better to excuse herself and put an end to the conversation: to make it a clean break, and not let matters drag out unduly.
She was about to, when she felt his hand open beneath hers, and he turned it so that their hands rested palm to palm. Nyota looked up at him, and found him watching her intently.
"As… distasteful… as I find your conclusions, I cannot contest your logic," he told her. Then: "Your candor is appreciated. Thank you, lieutenant."
"You're welcome, sir," she murmured.
But he did not let her go quite yet. "There is one matter more, however, that deserves address, I think," he said.
"And that is?" she asked, a little warily.
"Nyota, you asked me once if I wanted to read your mind." He paused. "I trust you remember."
She blinked. "Of course."
Even had he not just reminded her of that, it would have been hard to forget: they had been together perhaps six months, and that night, as he leaned over her to kiss her and she ran her hands over bare skin, teasing him, she had finally felt she could ask:
"Spock, do you read my mind when we make love?"
He had been startled by the question – even a little scandalized, she'd judged, and told her that no, he did not, and would not, that he would not presume to violate her trust.
"Do you want to, though?" she had asked, curious and, truth be told, just a little hopeful, for she had wondered what that must be like.
"Sometimes," he had answered. "But there are consequences that I do not know that I can accept."
She had not pressed him, then, sensing that this was not something he wished to discuss, and she knew her own ignorance in the matter of mind-melds, and so had let it drop – not a particularly difficult feat, under the circumstances.
Now, she stared at him, and at her hand in his, and asked: "Why do you ask?"
"I concur," he said, "with your reasoning that much of our trouble stems from youth and its ills and inexperience. That said, I know from long, personal observation that it can be difficult for a Vulcan and a human to love each other because of our differences. You will not find, for example, many Vulcans who will speak of feelings to each other – even to a lover. Do you know why?"
She blinked. "Surak's teachings – your whole philosophy is to suppress emotion…"
"Surak taught that we were to master emotion," he said, and something in his voice said that this was a correction. "But suppression does not mean we do not feel."
"I know that," she said quietly.
"Among lovers or a husband and wife, they may especially not speak of what they feel. Do you know why it is not necessary that they speak?"
At that point, matters clicked suddenly, and she only wondered why she hadn't put it all together before: "You read each other's feelings directly every time you touch. And you read more if you meld."
"Correct." When she said nothing, he lifted a hand, two fingers extended, and held them just above her temple, though he did not touch her. "I do not offer this to make you reconsider, but because otherwise, I do not have the words to do justice to friendship's debts. Nyota Uhura," he asked, switching languages and suddenly formal, "do you wish to read my mind?"
"Is that even possible, though?" she asked. "I'm not Vulcan; I don't even rate on the human psi scale!"
"A mind-meld leaves neither participant unaffected. You would be able, if I initiated a meld," he explained. Then: "I do not offer everything, but I would not give you less than you have given me today, if you desired to receive it."
Nyota found she couldn't answer immediately, feeling conflicted. On the one hand, she did want to know what he thought – how he felt, and there was also burning curiosity to know how the world must look through other eyes. On the other hand, though, he had spoken before of consequences…
"What happens to us, if I say 'yes'?" she asked.
"A mind-meld is a merging of mind and feeling – for a time, we are… a joint awareness. What you experience in that merge, you keep as yours – you will know my memories, but they will be yours, too, afterward. Distinct, but a part of you – as yours will become a part of me."
That, she had not heard before, and she remembered, then, what he had said in that shuttle, and felt her mouth go a little dry. She swallowed, licked her lips. "You melded with Captain Pike before he died."
"Why?" she asked him. "You must have known what that would mean!"
"On Vulcan, friends will accompany the dying so – to ease the isolation of that passage."
She stared at him. "That's not why you did it, though."
"It was not the only reason, no. And you would experience that memory in any merge with me." He lifted a brow. "I ask again: do you wish to know my thoughts?"
"For friendship's debts alone?" He nodded. Nyota drew a deep breath. "Yes, I do."
She felt his fingertips touch her temple, her cheek and chin – felt them cool against her skin. "Thank you," he told her, and then the world shifted –
Outside, in the hangar, Enterprise floated in sea of light – gold and blue, though the gold was fading fast. 1700 hours came and went, and so also did crew and dockhands, changing shifts. The mess hall on the observation deck filled with off-duty dockyards crew and conversation.
But at the table by the viewport, silence reigned – there was no need for words. The world without washed over and around them, but neither Nyota nor Spock paid it any heed. When, at length, Spock let his hand fall, and broke the link, Nyota gasped, blinked, and then, suddenly realizing the need, wiped quickly at her eyes. Spock eyed her closely, and lifted a brow.
"I'm all right," she told him, and managed a smile. "I just… I didn't know."
He didn't reply – with his thoughts still so close to the surface of hers, he didn't need to, and she rose with him, then. For a moment, they stood there, gazing at each other, and she wasn't sure whether it was simply practice or if the merge and its memories had given her a more anticipatory eye, but she knew what was coming even before he stepped toward her. He kissed her brow, and she felt his fingers trace the edge of her ear lightly. An end and a beginning, that touch and that kiss, before he withdrew and folded his hands behind his back, officer-proper.
"Good evening to you, lieutenant," he said, then.
"And to you, sir."
He inclined his head slightly, and then, with one last look, turned and made his way quietly out. Nyota watched him go, and then sighed softly as she considered the by now quite cold coffee. But she looked out the viewport at the Enterprise, now sitting in the shadow of the world and bathed now in the blue light of the docks, and she smiled.
Lifting the mug, she toasted quietly, "Friends and lovers." Then downing the bittersweet of it, if with a bit of a grimace, she collected her work and left.
Notes: I've had my little Abrams!Trek binge in the last week, and as much as I enjoy the romp, and as much as I appreciate Uhura having actual screen time, I find I get more and more frustrated that most of it comes because she's Spock's girlfriend. Yes, that could show us something different about Spock's character, but it doesn't do much for Uhura, and in fact, I find myself thinking that they read like a couple of inexperienced kids who are still mostly focused on themselves in their relationship. Spock, granted, has been massively traumatized and so has a reason for a certain amount of desperate self-absorption and reactivity, but he also clearly has a lot of difficulty coming to terms with his emotional side, and Uhura's sexualizing of comfort all the time to me is telling of the quality of relationships she has had.
Also, I get tired of the way "cultural differences" are used in Trek: yes, cultural differences can be fascinating to explore, and by all means, let's explore them, but when race and culture are used in such a way that everyone is reduced to a token of their cultural-racial type, and the script plays off a biologistic conception of race half the time to let characters score points on each other – I get twitchy.
Hence this story, which I hope does something for Uhura, even if it doesn't really get into that missing background that explains how a human cadet and her instructor from another world fall in love and convince themselves to ignore the institutional and unequal power dynamics inevitably involved in their relationship. I also wish I could've worked Kirk's complicity in all this into the story, but I couldn't quite manage it.
Birthdates for both Spock and Uhura are taken from Memory Alpha's website.