A/N: My sincerest apologies for the delay. Upendo is the longest chapter thus far, and I'm quite proud of the final product. Indulge and enjoy. As always, any and all feedback is greatly appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't intend to generate a profit from the characters or storylines I've used in the following work of fiction. Anything reminiscent of the Star Trek lore or reality is purely coincidental and does not, by any means, belong to me.
The day fell in with the tide as a teeming brook of students emptied the lecture hall in languid swells. The diffident waltz of dust particles in the shuttered sunlight pouring through the windowpanes was the only remnant of the ravenous intellect that had once inhabited the room. Questions, stewing on the tonguetips of a multitude of fervent cadets, lilted vigorously on the draft meandering about via the gap betwixt a solitary window's sill and its glass. The intricacies of language, the magnificent vicissitudes of learning, blanketed the room in a translucent sheen. Communal intelligence was the indistinguishable scent dancing on the breeze. Books wept the aroma from the aged edges of their pages in all the ways unattainable by the efflorescent guise of a PADD screen.
Summer's splendid light accommodated the frame of the woman in the window. It kissed the bronze expanse of skin left bare by the uniform ornamenting her figure, bronze comingled with all the resplendence of gold. Her focus belonged to the contents of the novel fixed in her fingers, gentle prow narrowed in thought and her lips pursed slightly. The auburn depths of her eyes were obscured by the drapery of her lashes, dense and lofty. She stood with one foot roosted upon a stair, the other at a ceaseless stalemate of motion and pause atop another.
He studied her quietly from the foot of the stairs, idle from the moment the hall had been cleared and they were granted the intimacy of its aftermath. He counted the number of individual strands of hair made distinct by the spray of the sunlight through them, theorized the thoughts that manipulated the furrow of her brows. In the entire spectrum of humanity, she had been the only enigma. Somewhere, beneath the procedural Vulcan suppression, he was puzzled.
The door slaked open and both the commander and his assistant found the threshold with anticipatory eyes.
He recollected easily the visage of his only Orion pupil in the doorway and hinged a brow as she waded into the room with a characteristic lack of formality. She approached him and he denoted the odd nonverbal exchange she shared with Uhura before addressing him.
"Cadet Lanateias," he saluted.
"Commander Spock," she parlayed with a small smile, "Are you busy right now?"
He replied promptly, "I have been summoned for an audience with my fellow instructors and must be present in 6.43 minutes."
"Well, do you have a moment to discuss my grade?" she implored, her smile fading.
The gleaming speckles of sunlight in his eyes were obscured briefly by the collapse of his brow. "Stipulate, Cadet."
"It's just that," the cadet paused, evidently struggling to ascertain her thoughts, "During yesterday's advanced combat simulation exam, you told me that I'd only made a minor mistake in not monitoring the output of the warp core emissions."
She looked at him as though in search of confirmation. He did not acknowledge it.
"But when I looked at the grades you published, I got a 64.5%."
"That is correct," he corroborated.
"I got marked down that much for a minor issue?" the woman exclaimed as she retreated a step from her instructor, "Sir, forgive the insubordination, but it's the final day of instruction for the semester, and I've given way too much to this course to pass with anything less than a B. You said I had a comprehensive grasp of bridge systems, didn't you?"
"While negligence toward the levels of warp core emissions is a commonplace error that a myriad of engineers make, Cadet, the repercussions of such mistakes are mortal for those posted below deck. Should the radiation reach a summit – which, during your examination, it did – the lives of those immediately surrounding the core would be eradicated. For your inaction to negate the matter, you were evaluated. Your aptitudes in other aspects of the exam remain undisputed, however."
The discordant rhythm of shoe soles tapping swiftly against the sleek surface of the floor tiles was evident as Uhura strayed from her perch before the gargantuan window pane at the room's flank. She halted just beside the commander, the book poised upon the upturned flats of her hands and her fixation finding his profile indefinitely. He watched impassively from his periphery as she clamped her lower lip between her teeth.
"It's difficult to appreciate my aptitudes, sir, when they apparently count for nothing as far as my final grade's concerned." She reproached, a knot developing between her eyebrows as a temper undulated, just beneath the surface of her emerald skin.
"It is not conducive to the learning process to reward your mistakes, Cadet Lanateias."
"So you won't change it?"
"I will not."
"But it's the end of the year, Commander! There's gotta be –"
"Commander," the lamprophony of the Vulcan tongue conjured Spock's attention. He swiveled his head to grace the emotionally manipulated expression of his assistant, a brow quirked and expectancy etched across his eyes. "You have five minutes to get to the conference hall. I can talk with her."
He contemplated the severity of the gaze she beheld him with. He mirrored her inflection as he retorted pointedly in his native language. "I am obstinate in my decision."
The nod that the young woman replied with diminished in poignancy as she brushed her fingers as nonchalantly as possible. She bypassed his imposing figure, her hand streaking across the soft surface of his own, and she plucked a PADD from the surface of the podium erected in the room's epicenter. His skin festered with the gravity of Uhura's understanding and he returned her nod as she slid the tablet between his fingers. The natal grin that spread across her lips was affectionate in nature, he'd come to recognize.
"I know the meeting does not have a set time frame, but I hope you will be back soon."
Spock nodded and relieved her of the device.
"I look forward to dinner tonight."
"I anticipate a mutually pleasant experience," He experimented innately with the words dawdling on his lips before he addressed Uhura again, traipsing for the door. "It is crucial that I take my leave, Cadet Uhura. Cadet Lanateias."
The woman waded into the sunlight a step further and Spock's attention affixed to the distinct descent of her voice as she adopted another, more intimate phonetic key. "Kurudi kwangu."
He replied in his own faultless mimic of the language of her people, his perpetually unfeeling expression disavowing him of the affection that so bled from the word, "Daima."
The Vulcan's exit was sealed with the finality of the lecture hall's door kissing its frame with a shrill mechanical swish. Uhura's gaze lingered in the doorway until the translucent specter of the commander's presence dispersed. The simper agitating her cheeks broadened as she absorbed the weight of his farewell. "Return to me," was the demand she had made and "Always," had been his retort. She dragged the flat of a fingertip across her lower lip, daring it to mirror the sensation of Spock's kiss. Gaila's voice decimated whatever silence slumbered, remiss, between the cascading shreds of dust in the rays of light magnified by the gracious window panes.
"What the hell was that?" the smaller creature delved through grated teeth.
Uhura pasquinaded a cold face wrought with ignorance. "What?"
"That! With Professor Hardass, just now!" the Orion jabbed. "You guys have a secret code? When did that happen?"
She chuckled in sincerity and wandered to the bookshelves situated in the nook between Spock's desk and hers. "Vulcan is hardly a coded language."
"Well, obviously. I picked up something from that bullshit Intro to Vulcan Language and Culture class, but what about that bit at the end?"
"You taught him Swahili?" the young engineer shouted, a licentious smirk contorting the topography of her face.
"I don't know if you'd call it teaching, per se. He was conversational in under a week, and a lot of that was because of his work ethic. Wait, what exactly do you think we do when we're alone together…?"
"Clearly not sex, so I guess you have to do something else to pass the time. Some couples go on dates; I guess your thing is to study alien languages together." The girl seemed briefly overwhelmed and subsequently stole a few pedantic moments to compose herself aloud. "Speaking of, you were out pretty late last night. Did you and Commander Eyebrows get a bit too cozy at his place?"
The ceiling appealed ineffably more to the xenolinguistics major's eye than the hungry stare of her roommate and friend. "I fell asleep there; it isn't a big deal."
"And what'll you do now?"
The cadet's brow furrowed and she trawled the expanse of Gaila's face for the answer to questions not yet posed. "What do you mean?"
"For summer! Are you gonna fly home or stick around here with the Vulcan?"
Uhura recollected the lethargy of dawn as she had risen from a bed that was not her own. She had imbibed her surroundings encumbered with sleep and uncertain in the shadow of a dormant sun. A column of sentry windows were sealed with rows of blinds drawn and the puce bedclothes that pooled about her physique exuded the scent of an absent body. She had been alone in his bedroom that morning, still garbed with the civilian clothes she had arrived in, but remnants of the commander surrounded her. The phantom warmth left by his touch occupied the empty bedside, her shoulders, her lips. An organized conglomerate of boots and dress shoes lined the wall opposite her, wedged between a crowded bookshelf and a tantric foreign meditation space. The bathroom door was closed and the reverberation of water droplets against reinforced floor tiles seeped out into the sanctuary of his chambers.
The smile that ailed her nostalgic lips was the same one that she had worn earlier that day, as Spock emerged. Uhura lauded Gaila with a glimpse perhaps too affable, a tone too attentive. Her thoughts were with the man from that morning, hair matted, chest bare, flesh slick with perishable licks of water.
"That's between us," she disclosed.
"Because that'd be telling," Gaila countered.
Kurudi kwangu: Return to me
Upendo ana Sauti: Love has a Voice