Title: Don't Stop Believing 2.3/?
Beta: the fantabulous musical_magic
Pairings/Characters: Spock/Uhura (still not my fault, okay?), T’Pol
Summary: Poetry readings can be tedious. Or – devious.
He signs out of the infirmary at least a day early, ignoring the protests of his nameless doctor. He doesn’t have any real power over Spock and they both know it, so the dispute is doomed to be short-lived.
Spock beams back to San Francisco late in the evening, making his way from the transporter station toward his apartment slowly. He feels mildly light-headed and somewhat less certain of his coordination, which probably means that he had lost more blood than he originally estimated. He doesn’t regret his decision. He knows his recovery will be speedier in the familiar confines of his home. Besides, he has a class to teach in the morning.
Ramirez’s stern voice still rings in Spock’s ears. He really was doing so well. During that last year, ever since he returned to Earth, he has taken self-discipline to inconceivable heights. He volunteers to teach two separate classes – one in xenolinguistics and one in cross-cultural cooperation, and sometimes he hosts special seminars in computer science, too. He picks up three new languages to study. He accepts a position with the FS, and he’s been keeping his end of the bargain diligently. He tries to stay focused at all times, and for the most part, he succeeds.
One moment of weakness when he allowed his thoughts to drift back to Christopher and, tough as he was, he shattered. He thought he was dealing with his emotions, but he wasn’t, not really. He is fortunate that his discovery has not been made at the cost of somebody’s life.
Vulcans do have emotions, and those emotions do, as his father once told him, run deep. Centuries of polishing control over them have accumulated certain basic knowledge that isn’t in dispute, certain baselines that are the same for any Vulcan.
One does not suppress emotions – one is in control of them. The first step in achieving this is to acknowledge the emotion in its existence and accept it for what it is. The second step would be to find a way to channel it into some form of positive energy, and although Spock doesn’t lack the latter, he’s been failing the first step for months now.
He’s been avoiding the truth, hiding from it. Its ugliness scares him, and he keeps looking away instead of facing it. He tries to lose himself in his work, and lectures, and research, and when those don’t work he runs off to hunt down criminals, too dangerous to send regular security officers after them, and there, for a moment, at the peak of pursuit, in the heat of a struggle for survival, he finds his escape from himself – until this one fails, too.
He is Spock, son of Sarek. He is the son of a father who does not wish to call him that anymore – who has the right not to. He is a rejected bondmate, whose noble Vulcan lineage is not enough to compensate for his flaws. Undeserving of a Vulcan wife. A shame to his heritage.
He is Spock, lieutenant commander in Starfleet. A competent officer. An accomplished scientist. Someone good enough to be taken as lover. Not deserving of being considered for more.
Spock knows that were he to yield to his emotionalism, he could blame T’Pring for being prejudiced. But he could never accuse Christopher of this vice.
He is a scientist. He has two sources independently confirming the same fact. It does not get any clearer than that.
It is time he made some responsible decisions. Clearly, his methods of controlling his emotions are lacking, perhaps even inferior. This time, it has only resulted in him endangering himself. What if next time it will be someone else? Some unsuspecting, innocent being who would trust him to protect them? He is a Starfleet officer, and it’s not as if this scenario is completely out the realm of possibility.
He has his truth about himself. If he is incapable of living with it, he must at least spare the people around him suffering from the same affliction.
He must protect people from himself. He must do what he intended to do five years ago – undergo the Kolihnar and purge all emotions. If he is too weak to control them, this is the only way. Logical and ethically sound. He will contact the masters of Gol as soon as possible and make arrangements.
This means he will have to resign from Starfleet, and the thought makes him inexplicably, unaccountably sad. He has met good people here, dedicated and professional. This life is not ideal, but – he liked it. The service had brought him several moments of epiphany, when he felt that yes, he is needed here, he is useful here – he belongs here. Starfleet is the only place that has ever given him a sense of purpose. It will be difficult to give it up.
But it is a responsible and logical thing to do, and therefore it must be done. Incompetent as he is, he is still a Vulcan, and he must do what is right.
Indeed, he should be.
Spock struggles through his classes the following week, while his body struggles to finish healing, and if he holds himself a little bit too tightly, his students don’t notice. Having made his decision, he experiences a sense of dull calmness that secludes him into an invisible but strangely comforting bubble. He doesn’t sleep much for Shrink follows him into the world of unconsciousness persistently, but his meditation proves to be restorative, and Spock is grateful for that. He has sent the initial petition to Gol and is now awaiting an answer.
He works in the multiphysics lab through the afternoon, fighting off fatigue. It strikes him suddenly that he is going to miss working on the project that has been his ‘baby,’ as humans would put it, from the original idea to the final stages of execution. He will have to choose someone to replace him here. And he really, really should not be thinking about all the things this person would probably do wrong.
He’s so concentrated on maintaining his focus that he doesn’t notice the sudden silence.
T’Pol is standing in the doorway, regarding him coolly while the other scientists stare at her in awe. She’s been retired for thirty years, but there’s hardly anyone at all in Starfleet who wouldn’t recognize her on the spot.
Spock straightens. “Admiral.”
She lifts an eyebrow as her eyes scan his appearance. “You have very little time to change,” she notes.
Only then does he notice that she’s wearing what humans would call an evening gown. It is of traditional Vulcan design, though the soft glimmer of the fabric is undoubtedly a bow toward the human sense of fashion and all the years T’Pol has spent on Earth.
“I ask forgiveness, Admiral,” Spock says blandly. “Have I forgotten we had an appointment?” He is certain he hasn’t.
“Poetry reading at the Vulcan Cultural Center,” she replies smoothly. “I wish you to accompany me.”
Spock hesitates. His colleagues give him incredulous looks, and he realizes that in their view, he should obey her without question, even if she invited him for a walk on the Moon without a spacesuit. He knows they are right and follows T’Pol to her extravagant-looking car outside.
T’Pol is eccentric by both Vulcan and human standards. Spock muses on this as they stop by his apartment so he can change. She is much more openly emotional than any Vulcan and completely unfazed by it. She’s also rumored to have a much greater influence on the current Starfleet politics than any retired officer should. It is said that Admiral Archer is the only one who has a fighting chance to see through T’Pol’s schemes – some even say it’s the only reason they still keep him around. It is also known that Archer once said that any captain thinking of picking a Vulcan for their first officer is out of his or her mind.
For many years, T’Pol and T’Pau have shared what humans would call a love-hate relationship. Sarek disapproved of T’Pol, and as a child, Spock only had any contact with her at his grandmother’s house. Ever since then, T’Pol has taken an interest in him; she may see in Spock glimpses of her own daughter, Elizabeth, who was the first human-Vulcan hybrid and who died within months of her birth.
Spock had only seen T’Pol a number of times on Vulcan, but ever since he moved to Earth, they meet more often. On some level, he is still as fascinated by her as he used to be when he was a boy. Sometimes he wishes illogically that he could have a sister just like her.
T’Pol succinctly criticizes Spock’s apartment and then his attire. Spock offers her tea, but it’s only when she accepts it that he realizes her sudden visit is not a coincidence.
“Rumors reached me that you applied for apprenticeship at Gol,” she says without preamble, looking at him over the rim of her cup which she holds in a traditional two-hand clasp.
“You are well informed,” Spock remarks. His own tea suddenly seems cooler.
“Do you not find your current occupation satisfactory?”
“It is gratifying,” Spock acquiesces. “However, it is my belief that having completed the discipline of Kolihnar, I shall be of more use.”
Her eyebrow arches eloquently, and Spock suppresses the urge to shift in his seat.
“You will fail,” she says simply, taking another sip of her tea.
Spock sets his cup on the table slowly and carefully. “Your certainty is inspiring.”
She leans back in her seat; her chestnut hair, tamed with grey, slide silkily down her garment. Spock suddenly catches himself thinking that she looks entirely alien to him, as his brain tries and fails to capture her essence. Her mercurial hazel eyes watch him with ostensible calmness, which doesn’t reveal her thoughts.
Something within his mind shifts, clicks into place and suddenly he knows. She’s a sphinx. The master of riddles. One wrong answer and he’ll be fed to the lions. Quite possibly, literally.
“There is no shame in failing to complete the Kolihnar,” he says softly.
“Indeed there is not. Very few Vulcans manage to complete it. For you, however, the experience would prove excessive. You are well-equipped to deal with your emotions on your own.”
However telling the reaction is, Spock cannot help it. He looks away.
“You are regrettably mistaken.”
“No,” she says. “I am not.”
She sounds so convinced that her opinion is the only one possible that Spock can actually see why T’Pau has come to respect her. T’Pol places her empty cup beside his on the table and rises from the couch, looking down at Spock imperiously.
“Humans have a saying, Spock, involving something called ‘hair of the dog.’ I believe it is time you tried it.”
He looks up at her, eyebrows drawn inward in confusion. “I do not understand,” he admits, but he knows already he will not get an answer.
“Come,” she says, “we are late.”
As they finally leave for the Vulcan Compound, Spock decides to contemplate on that new riddle at a later time.
Spock loves poetry, but socializing with other Vulcans is not his idea of a good time. He is no longer fighting to get approval of his own people, but he doesn’t relish the prospect of being subjected to their dispassionate scorn just the same.
However, the initial reception goes well enough. T’Pol dominates any room she walks in, and Spock has yet to see any Vulcan showing the slightest amount of disrespect toward her. The moment they walk into the Vulcan Compound, her expression sets to what Admiral Archer once called ‘T’Pol’s don’t-fuck-with-me face.’ As she has firmly attached Spock to her side, no one bothers him, either.
“Here is the good part,” T’Pol tells him quietly, after the first round of reading is over. “They have invited a human girl to read some pre-Reform poems. I hear she is very talented.”
Spock expresses his surprise at such a high praise by furrowing his eyebrows slightly, but T’Pol merely points him toward the stage.
Even by Vulcan standards, the girl is stunning. She is tall, slender and graceful, and she carries herself with so much dignity, as if competing with the room full of Vulcans. She is wearing a beautiful dark-blue dress, the fabric shimmering and repeating the curves of her body like a second skin. Her long silky hair is organized in a simple, elegant style of which Spock thoroughly approves; it exposes the long, elegant line of her neck and emphasizes her refined angular features. She has deep, almond-shaped eyes that glow with intelligence and brooding passion.
The room becomes very quiet as she begins to read, somehow even quieter than the simple absence of speech. It almost feels like there is no sound of breathing, even. Spock loses himself slightly in her voice, noticing only minutes later that she has almost no accent, even though the poem she reads is written in one of the old, pre-Reform Vulcan dialects. Her inflections are perfect and her memory appears to be impeccable. Spock is enthralled.
After the reading is over, Spock can’t help but notice that most people in the room are following the young female with their eyes. He is stunned when he realizes that she is headed toward him. He glances discreetly to his sides, half-expecting to see someone else there, but he’s standing alone, T’Pol having mysteriously disappeared. Spock suspects a setup, but he doesn’t have the time to dwell on it.
Spock looks up to meet her eyes, trying to shake off the spell, and bows slightly.
“It appears you have me at a disadvantage.”
She smiles, and he fights to stay unaffected.
“Nyota Uhura.” She raises her hand in the traditional greeting.
Spock returns the salute, noting silently how well their hands would fit together should they ever—
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ms. Uhura.”
Her smile becomes even more luminous if that is even possible, and she shakes her head gracefully. “No, no, Commander, the pleasure’s all mine. It’s a great honor for me to be here. I’m just a first-year cadet at the Academy.”
“Indeed?” Spock says. “If I may, what is your specialization?”
She blushes beautifully, though still managing to send him a mischievous grin. “Communications. Couldn’t you tell?”
“Of course,” he inclines his head, finding her teasing strangely pleasant.
“I’ve heard a lot about your classes, sir.”
“Please,” Spock says, unexpectedly even to himself. “This is an informal occasion. I would rather you called me by my name.”
She grins. “Only if you call me Nyota.”
“That means ‘a star,’ does it not? And Uhura, if I am not mistaken, means ‘freedom.’”
She looks at him with admiration and surprise. “You speak Swahili?”
“Barely,” Spock tells her apologetically. “I have a very superficial knowledge of that tongue.”
“It seems accurate enough,” she says and smiles. “My grandfather named me. He had... somewhat of a romantic streak in him.”
She looks away for a moment and picks at the folds of her dress absently. The gesture seems nervous rather than playful, and Spock searches for a way to put her at ease.
“Your reading,” he says. “It was – flawless.”
This time, her blush is much deeper, and she drops her eyes to the floor. Spock is seized by an irrational urge to lift her chin up with his fingers. He clasps his hands behind his back determinedly.
“Thank you,” Nyota says quietly. “I was not expecting such a high praise from—”
“From you.” She looks up at him, eyes glinting softly. “You have a reputation for being a demanding teacher.”
Spock finds himself transfixed and completely unable to come up with anything to say.
“It’s okay.” She laughs melodically. “I like a challenge.” She speaks the last words in Romulan Common.
“It would seem I will have little to teach you,” Spock replies smoothly in the same language.
“In that case, I hope we could be friends?” Nyota says in Deltan.
Spock lifts an eyebrow at her choice. It is clear that she is trying to impress him, but Deltan has become an unofficial intergalactic language of love and emotion, and all the words carry a specific additional meaning. There is no such word as ‘friend,’ for instance. The one Nyota used means ‘a friend whom I find sexually attractive and would like to engage in sexual relations with.’ Her inflections suggest she knows perfectly well what she’s implying.
Well, Spock thinks. If she thinks to embarrass him, it’s only fair for her to find out that two could play at this game. For the first time since they have started the conversation, he intentionally allows his eyes to divert from her face and travel down her slim form for a moment.
“That would be my preference as well,” he says, meeting her eyes again.
‘Preference’ in Deltan carries additional connotations of ‘desire’ and ‘a thing I intend to obtain.’
Spock watches Nyota’s eyes widen momentarily before she hides them under her magnificent eyelashes. He should definitely make her blush more often.
“Is that a declaration of intentions, Commander?” she asks, in Vulcan this time, still not looking at him.
Spock approves of the language choice. It’s time to be precise.
Their eyes meet, and Spock isn’t surprised to hear the next words in English.
“Would you like to get out of here?”
He knows a proposition when he hears one, even having them so rarely aimed at himself. She is a cadet, and it would have mattered significantly if Spock was staying, but he’s not, so it doesn’t. He’s not – and therefore he can take her up on her offer without worrying that it would compromise either of them in the future.
He wants to, he really does. Not only is she enticing, but she also seems incredibly honest and sincere about her desire to be with him. He can sense no deceit coming from her, no hidden thoughts. And he is tired of being alone, and maybe – just maybe – he’s earned a going-away present.
He says yes.