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The Opposite of Talking

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The Opposite of Talking

 

or: five times Uhura and McCoy waited on their men


-And So, it Begins-

Nyota Uhura rapped hard on the dormitory door. She didn't need to, of course, she could have just let the door read her and chime for entry. But she really, really needed to vent and the only two people she'd normally consider venting to, well, one of them was currently off-planet, and she was furious with the other.

Besides, the only thing she could hurt here were her knuckles on the door. Which she kind of had, though she didn't have time to feel the bruises before the door slid open. Leonard McCoy stood there, jacket undone on his reds and his face pale above the regulation black undershirt, deep smudges beneath his hazel eyes. She hadn't seen him since the shuttle ride from Iowa, and since she'd been trying very hard not to glare at Kirk throughout she hadn't gotten a good look at McCoy, either.

"Hi?" he said, just a hitch of hesitation in his voice.

"Hi," she said back.

He stepped aside, allowing her in; the door slid closed behind her and she turned to face him, hands hard on her hips.

"Your roommate is having sex with mine. In our room."

His ever-mobile eyebrows raised.

"And what, exactly, do you want me to do? Go over there and hose them down?"

She was angry, damn it, she didn't want to laugh but the mental image was almost too much for her, so she tossed herself down into the uncomfortable study chair and crossed her legs.

"Bucket of ice water, maybe."

He sat down in the other chair, reached under the desk and with a slight twist pulled something free. She half-expected it to be a bottle of bourbon; instead, he came up with a bag showing the blue-and-gold logo of the local chocolate manufacturer.

Her turn to raise her eyebrows. "What? I'm a woman and I'm upset so you offer me chocolate?"

"Wasn't thinking that at all," he answered, the lazy drawl in his voice covering something else, something she didn't know him well enough to hear. Yet. "I was thinking, oh, god, that boy's off catting around again, and I'm going to end up hearing all the damn details."

"So the chocolate's for you?" She gave him a skeptical look.

"Isn't that what I just said? But my pop taught me it was right and proper to share." He tipped the bag toward her and shook it a little.

She reached out and dipped her hand into the bag, pulling out a red-wrapped square.

"Thank you. I wasn't planning on giving you any details. It's bad enough I have them in my head."

"Oh, I wasn't talking about you, darlin'," he said, looking into the bag and sweeping his fingers through the selection before coming up with a green-wrapped square of his own. "Let's just say Jim doesn't have much of an internal censor where I'm concerned."

She nodded, guilty sympathy twinging through her chest.

"So why do you hide your chocolate under the desk?" The smooth wrapper crinkled softly under her fingertips. His eyebrows rose again, the left higher than the right -- she was coming to the conclusion the eyebrows spoke a language all his own. One she found she rather wanted to learn.

"I'm sorry, have you met Jim Kirk?" His voice carried surprise and amusement, undertones of annoyance, and still that lingering dark note she couldn't quite identify.

"Yes," she said, dryly. "Over a shot of Jack, several inappropriate comments, and a fistfight."

"Huh. Well, you'll have to tell me that story some other night." He took a bite of his chocolate; something white and creamy in the center; she nibbled at hers, the bittersweet sting blending with the tang of raspberries over her tongue.

"Not tonight?"

He shook his head. "Tonight you're justifiably angry at Jim and Gaila. So I figure you can let me have it on Jim's behalf, and tomorrow I'll get his side of the story and I'll let him have it on your behalf. And Gaila will somehow get off scot-free in this little scenario." He shrugged. But his eyebrows, she decided, were sympathetic.

"No, she won't," Nyota said, firmly. "Infinite diversity is fine and all, but she can learn not to bring hers back to my bedroom.

"And anyway, I was angry with Jim then, too, and I think I'd rather tell you that story."

Because, somehow, she wasn't angry anymore.

 


--Luck and Intuition--

"You look like a gal who's been stood up."

Nyota glanced over at the familiar voice; Leonard was settling onto a stool next to her. He signaled the bartender and glanced over at her, eyebrows canting a question.

"Well," she started, considering the meaning of the phrase. She hadn't really had a date with Spock, as such; they'd been planning a quiet evening in his quarters until he'd been called into an all-hands meeting with Pike. Spock estimated they would be discussing potential Enterprise assignees from the current graduating class "until midnight," and he had tried to cancel on her, worried about interrupting her studies.

"Well?"

She met his gaze and shrugged slightly. Spock was going to comm her when he was free. It was Friday night, though the student bar was oddly quiet for it, and she was well ahead in most of her classes.

"Not stood up, exactly, but no, my evening isn't going quite as planned."

He tilted his head, eyebrow starting its skeptical creep up his forehead.

"Lucky fellow. How long you been seein' him?" The bartender delivered McCoy's shot; he raised his glass to her and took a sip. She closed her mouth.

"What makes you think I'm not waiting for Gaila? Or that it's not a first date?"

"You wouldn't give a first date the chance to make it up to you, and Gaila, bless her, wouldn't have you staring into your drink as if it held the tablets of Kahless."

She sighed, and grinned at him because he wasn't off the mark.

"You sure psych isn't one of your specialties?"

"No, ma'am," he said, "I figure things the same way you do: by listening."

She reached out and punched him in the arm, simultaneously signaling the bartender to bring them another round.

"What was that for?"

"Nyota," she said, amused by his startled look. "But never in front of Kirk."

"Well, Nyota, you've got a hell of a right on you."

"What about you?" she asked, not particularly wanting the conversation to pursue her 'lucky fellow' any further. "I didn't think you ever came here."

"I don't, usually. Mitchell and Kirk are playing poker in the back room, and I was in the game until the two of them got my stake. I wasn't about to buy in again. Don't really know why I joined in the first place." His lips twisted, like he'd bitten into an unripe mngongo.

"They drinking?"

He shook his head. "Not enough to matter. Neither one's willing to give the other that kind of edge. That game'll go on until the small hours of the morning."

"Just the two of them? What are they playing?"

"Why the sudden interest?" He watched her warily, brows contracted. "It's just the two of them, now, and they're playing five-card stud."

"What's the buy-in?" She grinned at him, a feral baring of her teeth.

"Nyota..." He downed the new shot, hazel eyes never leaving her face. She waited, pointedly focusing on radiating innocence. Which she didn't expect him to buy, and he didn't if the crooked, skeptical smile and the slight narrowing of his eyes was any indication. "200 credits and a pitcher of house brew."

"What time is it?"

"Quarter-to-ten, roughly."

She calculated in her head. She could afford the 200 credits, not that she was going to lose them. If she joined them now, she could be finished with Kirk and Mitchell by eleven-thirty, which would leave her plenty of time to walk back across campus to her dorm.

She caught the bartender's eye and ordered the requisite pitcher. McCoy said her name again, wonder and curiosity and concern blending like a C-major chord. She hopped down off the stool and caught his elbow.

"Come on, Leonard. Let's go get you your stake back."

 


---Sometimes Behave so Strangely---

Nyota was reviewing an old podcast regarding the inherent musicality of tonal and non-tonal language when the soft, C-note chime of an incoming message interrupted her. She resolutely squelched her moment of irritation, then paused playback and tapped the indicator, expecting a note from Spock about his imminent return from visiting his parents on Vulcan.

Uhura -- I need a favor. Kirk.

She scowled at the padd as if the offending cadet could see her.

Not a chance in hell. How did you get my code?

I hacked the Academy comms listing. Of course he did, she thought, rolling her eyes, probably one afternoon when he was bored. But she kept reading despite herself. I'm not asking for me. Bones needs company. Please?

I'm working on my thesis, she tapped back, sighing when she hit send and getting up.

Gaila glanced up, fingers tangled in her own hair near her scalp. She spat her stylus out and said, "Problem?"

"Maybe," Nyota answered, sitting down on her bed to pull on her boots. "I'll be going out for a while."

You can do that anywhere. Look, I'm stuck in Iowa at this thing with my mom, and he's expecting me back and I'm not going to make it and he really shouldn't be alone. Not tonight.

Gaila grinned. "Your mystery boyfriend?" Her laughter, restrained, was half-musical behind her words; Nyota knew Gaila thought she was being ridiculous about keeping Spock a secret. And she wasn't currently his student, they weren't violating any sexual harassment regs, but she still couldn't bring herself to be open about the relationship.

But, then, he wasn't ready for her to meet his parents, either.

The padd chimed again.

Don't be surprised if he's half-lit when you get there.

"No," she answered, listening to the tone of her words darkening under her frown. "Something else."

For him, she answered.

Thanks.

She slipped out of the room before Gaila could ask anything else, padd tucked up against her chest. Worry, she decided, striding briskly down the hall, was a g sharp minor chord in any language.

This time, she did let his door read her and chime for entry; he answered it almost immediately and stepped aside to let her in, though she caught the swoop and drag of his eyebrows -- disappointment -- before he found his game face and greeted her.

"Figured you'd be mewed up like the rest of us," he said, pulling a jacket off Jim's chair and tossing it onto one of the beds.

"I've been working on my thesis, yes, though I'm discovering the hypothesis that music underlies all language is more common than I thought."

She studied his face; he looked careworn but contrary to Kirk's concern showed no signs of being inebriated. A quick glance into his trash can suggested he'd run through most of his chocolate stash, however.

"Music hath charms," he quoted, catching her gaze when she looked up again; there was weary acceptance in his gaze. "Sorry he bothered you."

"I'm not. Though he should have told you himself he wasn't coming back tonight."

Leonard's shrug was almost as eloquent as speech, and the dark undertone that came to his voice sometimes when he spoke about Kirk, the hesitant and self-deprecating quirk of the eyebrow, suddenly took on meaning for her, one she hadn't expected. But she knew he wouldn't welcome her sympathy. He'd read its notes as pity, and she couldn't do that to him.

"You're my friend, Leonard, you could have called me." She smiled, at him, gently as she could. "Since you don't look like you're much in the mood to talk about whatever has him worrying, I can study here as well as in my room, if you don't mind the company. Or we could go out for a little while, get some air."

He couldn't decide if he wanted to be annoyed (eyebrows contracted, eyes narrowed, lips ever so slightly pursed), surprised (eyebrows raised, eyes wide, lips parted), or grateful (that one, she had to guess based on the way his shoulders dropped and he also glanced at the trash can). She waited; he finally shrugged and gave her a wry smile in return.

"Some air might do me good, at that."

He slipped on his jacket, and they walked down to the protected grove of cypress trees at the north end of the peninsula. They followed the winding path, the crunch of their footfalls in the gravel a rhythmic counterpoint to the soft soughing of the coastal breeze and the waves crashing against the coastline below.

 


----The Ship Named Kobayashi----

After Kirk's third -- third! -- Kobayashi Maru test, Nyota knew something was up even before the campus-wide assembly call, because Gaila was close-mouthed and the nearest to angry tears Nyota had ever seen her. Usually, her roommate cheerfully chattered on about what bits of programming they'd changed, or how the candidate's actions had changed the parameters of the test, or other things that Nyota barely understood but let flow over her like the shimmer of pleasingly tuned wind chimes.

This time, they'd both stripped out of their pajama-like sim uniforms, changed back to their reds and headed to their dorm in near silence -- and then Gaila's padd had chimed. She'd read the message and turned back without a hint of explanation.

Nyota reached their room just before the assembly call came, and she knew it had to be about whatever cheap trick Kirk had used to thwart Spock's simulator test. Vicious schadenfreude jangled inside her; while she knew the impulse was base and unprofessional she couldn't help looking forward to the cocky bastard getting taken down a peg or two. Preferably at Spock's hands, and she knew that really was unfair. Still, she couldn't imagine what else might be behind Gaila's upset, and although Spock would hardly allow himself to be angry she knew it would disturb him that Kirk had found a weakness to exploit in his finely tuned programming.

She trotted across campus to the assembly hall, pausing only to acknowledge an unusually terse message from Spock: Busy -- meet after hearing.

Uhura shivered. She hadn't been expecting him to contact her until much later in the evening, after he'd finished debriefing the senior simulation team. And a hearing....Kirk might be facing more than a public shaming, then. Some of the gleeful feeling left her.

She reached the assembly hall a few minutes before the hour, so there were small clusters of cadets milling around on the porch and steps. She nodded greetings to a handful, and was starting to fall into speculative conversation when she caught sight of Leonard waiting alone at the edge of the forming crowd.

g sharp minor.

He was trying not to show any expression at all, though the line between his brows and the slight pursing of his lips gave him away. His body language suggested keep away, but there was more to his isolation; she knew how fast gossip spread on campus, and would have been shocked if most of the cadets didn't have at least some idea what was going on. And Leonard was Kirk's best friend; the one person everyone would assume had known what he was up to. Particularly since the future CMO had, out of character, served as Kirk's navigator.

But she'd been there. Leonard hadn't done anything wrong, and he certainly hadn't known what Kirk was planning. His surprise at the momentary shutdown had been as genuine as her own.

She was halfway across the square before she'd thought about it, catching the attention of Cadet Dixon, who'd been their tac officer.

Leonard looked surprised to see them, at first, and gave her a wary, measuring look.

"I know he's your friend." She wondered if he caught the off-note; 'friend' was such an imprecise word. "But you know he cheated, even if you don't know how."

His scowl darkened, as much in response to what she'd hesitated over saying as the accusation; he had gotten as good at reading her tone of voice as she had his. She reached out and poked him in the shoulder.

"Look, man," Dixon said, a sober rumble to her side, "what she's trying to say is: we know you're going to stand up for him, and that's fine and right. You should. But you didn't do anything wrong, and we didn't do anything wrong. And anybody who wasn't there has no right to tell any of us different."

Nyota's secondary comms officer Luansing joined the three of them. Leonard's brows swept up, though he covered quickly.

"We have to have each others' backs," Nyota said. "We're not going to let anyone else punish you for what Kirk did."

"And Kirk?" Leonard asked, resigned acceptance in every line of his face.

Nyota frowned.

"He'll get what's coming to him."

Leonard sighed, and only Nyota's acute hearing allowed her to pick up his barely-aspirated "That's exactly what I'm afraid of."

 


-----The Full Dimensions of Forever-----

Nyota stepped back from the transporter platform and watched Spock and Kirk dissolve into their constituent atoms; she and Scott shared a nod and she was off like a flash -- walking briskly, not running, never running, her heart pounding with adrenaline. The odds against them were so very long. Spock -- and Kirk, she admitted -- had demonstrated potent gifts, and training, and determination today, each playing their own solo parts in the day's savage drama. But neither had experience, and natural talent could only get you so far when you were playing in an ensemble.

She started up the lift to the bridge, then stopped and redirected it to stop by Deck Five and Medical. She passed only a few people in the halls, struggled to keep her face neutral despite the fear gnawing at her belly.

The door to Medical hissed open, and one of the white-clad nurses glanced up, immediately dismissing her as uninjured. The bay was in chaos and Nyota flattened herself to the wall, keeping out of the way. She scanned the room, looking for a familiar dark head; finally found him leaning over a badly burned ensign on a biobed.

He might have sensed her gaze, the quick way he glanced up to see her. His eyebrows raised a question; she nodded in answer -- they're off. His eyes closed for just a moment; grief and relief and fear before he looked back up and held her gaze for a moment. He needed no words -- they were tightly tuned strings, sounding in sympathy across a crowded room, vibrating with the same fright, stretching for the same faith. He nodded, then turned to shout an order.

She had her own duties, headed back to the lift at a trot. The moment was enough.

They might be waiting the rest of their lives, but at least they were waiting together.

 

~~~~~~
The opposite of talking isn't listening. The opposite of talking is waiting. Fran Lebowitz
Nyota is listening to Musical Language from WNYC's Radiolab.