It began as an obscure form of punishment. Nyota had rejected Jim in no uncertain terms; Jim was going to find a way to make her deal with him regardless. "Lieutenant Uhura," he would say, for example, "can you please join me in the Captain's office? I have a matter of some linguistic obfuscation that could use your expertise. If Mr. Spock can do without you on the bridge, of course."
She waited as long as she reasonably could without getting court martialed or whatever, then entered at his magnanimous invitation inside. She sat down across the desk from him. James T. Kirk leaned forward.
"So I picked up this girl in the mess, right, security ops, and she is into it, I mean — imagine what it's like to be you when you're around me, but the opposite, or maybe you in a room full of prissy Vulcans. We are clicking and crackling, you know what I'm saying? Then she's like, oh Jim, it's been swell but I've got reveille so let's meet in rec tomorrow, and Lieutenant. She didn't show up, and I have gathered significant intelligence indicating her statement was less than truthful. What do you think?"
"What do I think?" repeated Nyota.
"Mixed signals! Isn't this what you do?"
Nyota rose slowly from the chair. "I think she's playing hard to get, Captain. I'm sure you know where her quarters are by now. Try paying her a visit, paging her over the comm, whatever feels right. She wants you to find her."
"Hmm," he said, and rubbed his chin. Nyota carefully backed away.
Kirk appeared on the bridge the next morning with a significantly puffier left eye than he'd had the day before. "Lieutenant," he said.
"Thanks for the advice."
Nyota was reasonably satisfied with this result, and hoped Kirk's unwilling paramour had enjoyed disposing of him as much as she herself would have, until three days later when she spotted a tough-looking redshirted girl pressing the ship's captain up against a corridor wall and kissing him passionately. Nyota quickly ducked back the way she had come, but must have made noise in doing so because thirty seconds later, Kirk was strolling up behind her.
"She has a way about her," Nyota ventured, not wanting, though she couldn't imagine why, to be rude.
"Yeah," Kirk sighed, a far-off look in his eyes. Then he grinned at her. "I don't know, though, somehow the chasing and ducking punches part was more fun than spooning and recalling childhood stories from the cornstalks. Do you think she'd get the hint if I transferred her up 20 decks?"
"Okay, you're right. I'll just 'go on an away expedition' for a few days till she gets the hint. You can get Spock to cover for me, right? Oh, and can you give the guy a chance to breathe tonight and change from your grandma's old mini into something semi-respectable? I'm hoping to score in Engineering tonight and you are awesome at this."
"Jim," she hissed.
He gave her a funny look. "Nyota." In the time it took her to cast about angrily at this misappropriation of her name — "I'll pick you up at twenty two hundred."
When she stumbled back in at oh three hundred hours, Spock was pretending very sweetly to sleep.
When all else failed, Jim always came back to the Vulcan thing. Nyota didn't quite know why. She accused him of racism, which he reasonably countered with the fact that he had it on very good authority that he himself was capable of sustained emotional intimacy with her very boyfriend ("Oh really? This is the argument you're going to make, to me? He almost nervepinched you three times yesterday"). He had amply demonstrated his complete lack of discrimination when it came to his own partners, sometimes resulting in hungover mess hall discussions about his exciting new career of adventures among the stars. After a while she began to suspect Jim just found the word "Vulcan" to be really funny.
That, and as a side effect of the tragic genocide visited upon Spock's beloved people, his chances to do it with a Vulcan himself someday were practically nil.
"It's really not that different," Nyota said, prim voice and prim hands laid flat on her knees.
"Are you kidding me? Listen, Betazoid women when they're forty, they have this thing. It's called the Phase. Now, I'm not saying I have or I haven't, but oh my god. Alien life is beautiful. I hear." Jim slurped at his coffee.
"Jim, did you crash a PTA meeting when we were on Betazed?"
"Look, for your information, it was Ambassador Hwxeira herself. I mean, she told me about it. I don't know. BUT," he deftly recoursed the conversation, "that's not even getting into El-Aurian marathon sessions. The Trill, now they can get freaky. Amazing. Bones told me—"
"And you were discussing xenobiological sexuality with him in the normal course of your relationship with him as ship's captain and chief medical officer, of course."
"Hey now." Jim jabbed a finger at Nyota's smirk, his eyes wide. "Hey NOW. You shut up. Your boyfriend has pointy ears."
"And yours has pointy hair." She sniggered into her last sip.
"He does not, it's just a widow's peak. I mean shut up. All I'm saying is, no way there's nothing weird about Vulcans in the sack. Every species has their thing. If you don't know about it yet it's just a matter of time."
"I am not talking about this with you!" she exclaimed, shoving her empty mug not so much towards his fingers as on top of them.
"I AM GOING TO LOOK THIS UP," he boomed at her, watching her get her things.
"FINE," she shot back, gliding out.
"I'LL ASK BONES."
"YOU DO THAT." Her voice was fading.
"YOU CAN TOO," he said, and then just to be safe, "SHUT UP."
The senior officers reconvened on the bridge that night when the skeleton crew noticed a disturbance incomprehensible to the ensign working communications. Kirk and Uhura were the last two to arrive, and when they did they were careful not to meet each other's, or Spock's, eyes.
"It's an old hailing frequency of Edosian origin," Uhura announced after a few moments of concentrated study. "It was obsolete ten years ago, but there must be a signal running on a loop somewhere nearby. If we could find it we might disable it and save the next ship from having to discover it as well."
"Mm," Kirk said, "Mr. Chekov? Mr. Sulu? Can you find it?"
"On it, Captain," Sulu said, as Uhura twitched at a look from Spock and accidentally caught Jim's eye. He mouthed two syllables at her, and her replying shushing gesture was probably larger than she'd intended it to be.
Nyota glanced worriedly between the two of them as Jim swiveled to peer at Spock, who had suddenly become aware of two pairs of eyes entranced. Trying to look natural, Jim swiveled back and made a face at Nyota, who shook her head. Sulu started, aware of the motion of her swinging hair in his peripheral vision, and cocked his head to look at her. She spun around and reached for the nearest console, which had nothing to do with the task at hand.
"I've found it, Captain," Chekov reported. "It will not sustain a single half photon. Shall I fire on it?"
"Yeah, sure, take that sucker out. Good work, everybody, back to bed. Hey — Lieutenant Ny— Uhura."
She had already hurried off of the bridge, leaving Spock alone to narrow his eyes curiously at Jim. Jim smiled broadly. "Go find her, Mr. Spock. If she's avoiding you it's nothing serious, probably just the seven year itch."
"Oh my god."
"Did you ask him? You asked him."
"Oh my god."
"What did he say?!"
Nyota's horrified look spoke volumes. Jim flapped his hands above the table excitedly, mad to hear libraries more. "Pon farr pon farr pon farr pon farr!" he chanted intelligently, tapping out a rhythm with his feet.
Nyota buried her face in her hands. "It's really special when you manage to upset a Vulcan. Jim. They don't talk about it. EVER. I didn't know anything could be that awkward."
"Oh my god oh my god oh my god!" he exulted, now fairly wriggling with glee. "I love Vulcans the most! Oh my god."
She lay her head on the table for a while, searching perhaps for the long-lost discretion of yesterday. "Shut up."
"Hello, where the hell have you been? I have a bored swordsman bugging me and if I don't come up with a good excuse he's going to make me practice fencing with him all afternoon."
Nyota stood framed by the doorway to her quarters, wrapped in a violet microfiber robe. "What's wrong with that? You love mindless violence for the fun of it," she pointed out.
"Yeah, but I have other stuff to do and Hikaru is getting on my nerves. Come on, let's go planetside, I really need to go shopping."
Letting that one pass, she screwed her mouth up uncertainly. "I don't know, Jim, Spock's been acting a little weird lately. I probably shouldn't leave him alone on the first off day we both have in weeks."
"Bajoran marketplaces are famed for their bitchin' earrings," Jim noted.
She rocked forward onto her toes, and then back. She bit her lip.
"You can tell me all about it. We'll hatch a plot to warm the cockles of his inscrutable heart and he will wub you more than ever. Just come onnnn, Nyota, I need you." He grabbed her hand impulsively and tugged, as if actually ready to drag her to the transporter pad in her dressing gown.
"Fine," she relented, "but if these earrings are half as good as you say, I expect generous recompense. And what could you possibly be shopping for?"
Spock was playing the lute. Doing so was calming. Spock was reasonably calm at present, but the lute offered only benefits to his mood and took his mind off of things he would prefer not to dwell on.
Spock was certain Nyota would be faithful to him, and he was learning to trust James Kirk with his life in addition to his chosen companion, with whom Kirk had formed an unpredicted platonic friendship. There was an extremely low probability of anything untoward or dangerous occurring during Nyota's visit to Bajor with Captain Kirk.
Spock, to put it frankly, was feeling somewhat irrational.
As it turned out, what Jim needed more than anything, including a chance to run around hitting inferior officers with a sword, was a new shirt. "I don't know, I'm tired of all my shit," he had whined.
"That makes two of us." Nyota responded by rote. He fished what appeared to be a tapioca pearl from his beverage and threw it at her. She caught it and popped it into her mouth, and beamed.
"You're good," he'd said.
"It's better if you just accept that now," she advised.
Now they were in the stuffy back of a clothier's shop, Jim flailing around uselessly while Nyota's opinions guided them from rack to rack. "This was your idea," she reminded him, as he summarily dismissed the entire family of primary colors.
"I have lots of ideas I don't like and that are terrible," he replied. "Maybe I should bring back blue. I have blue eyes. Blue eyed people wear blue and it works, right?"
"Dammit, Jim, he doesn't care," Nyota said, losing patience. "It'll be fine. He doesn't care."
Jim pulled the most innocent of faces. "Who?"
She rolled her eyes as they made their way back up front, cerulean tunic in tow.
"Poetry, no sir, this I am not knowledgeable about. Perhaps you should consult Lieutenant Uhura?"
Spock sat beside Chekov in the officer's recreation area, tablet and stylus before him. "I wish to surprise Lieutenant Uhura with a composition of my own making, and would therefore find it counterproductive to confer with her on this matter. It is my understanding that Russians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries produced a sizeable body of work favored by Lieutenant Uhura. To replicate this style would be ideal."
Chekov furrowed his brow. "In a poem, sir? I do not think—"
"All right, listen up laddies, it's clear you two are loster than a Cardassian at a Summer of Love reenactment, so I'm gonna drop a little advice on the both of you." Out of apparently nowhere, Engineer Scott pulled up a chair and began ticking points off on his fingers. "First you've got to know that poetry has meter. You like that, eh, Spock, you can measure it. Second it's got foot. Third it's got trachea, which is the greatest of all the meters other than the iamb which was preferred by Shakespeare. I'm sorry, trochee. D'you see what I'm driving at?"
"No," said Spock and Chekov at once.
"It's a puzzle! Logic! You love it!" Scotty banged the table for emphasis, and the whiskey beside him shuddered. "Spondee."
Jim and Nyota returned to the Enterprise laden with numerous pairs of bitchin' earrings, clothing of all descriptions, and various other items crafted by artisans whose work and refined culture was the envy of the Alpha Quadrant. Nyota bounded to Spock's quarters, where he invited her in with equanimity and asked her about her trip.
"I had a nice time," she said. "Your friend Jim's kind of a dork."
"He is your friend as well," Spock observed.
Nyota said, "That is unfortunately true," and kissed him. "And I'm pretty sure he has a date tonight, so if things don't go well we might have to adopt him and nurse him and his broken heart back to health. But anyway. I got you something."
"A present? For me?" Nyota recognized the teasing undertone to this statement and presented him with a Bajoran painted icon. Far more educated in some forms of intergalactic art than others, this pleased Spock, to which gratitude he gave easy voice. It was simpler to express, certainly, than what he had been building up to. "I have something for you in return, Nyota."
"It is a poem, which I wrote." Nyota raised an eyebrow, and Spock paused. "I decided to employ free verse."
Uhura marched onto the bridge well after her shift had ended to find Kirk, who was snoozing authoritatively in his captain's chair. She kicked the underside of it and placed a hand on her hip so as to better strike fear in his heart as he woke. "Hey," he tried.
"Hey. Can I have a word with you, Captain?"
He scrubbed at his hair and squinted. "Okay, Nyota, what's up?"
"Did you happen to, I don't know, attack my boyfriend for no reason earlier today?"
Jim thought about it. "Mmm, no."
"Really? Because from what he tells me it sounds a lot like that's what happened."
"Listen, you should know by now that when I do things I tend to have reasons. If I feel like it. Sulu's starting a fencing club and teaching everybody and we want Spock to join. I thought you'd be happy we're letting him in all our reindeer games."
"You said Sulu was getting on your nerves."
"Yeah, well, I was having a very high-strung day." Jim cracked his neck. "I got better."
"I bet. And you didn't just tell him because..."
"It was funny?"
"Right." Nyota crossed her arms at her chest and looked around the near-empty bridge for a moment. The ensign at the helm was trying hard to be invisible. He'd go far in Starfleet. "And you didn't invite me because..."
Jim scratched at his temple for several seconds, as Nyota's gaze bore down upon him. Finally, he gave his best shot. "You don't already know how to fence?"
"Ow! Stop killing me! This is like the fourth time you've run me through today. Jesus." Jim glowered as he rubbed his well-protected belly. "I'm gonna go spar with some Vulcans who know how to keep it real." Over Jim's shoulder, Spock shot her an austerely mischievous look.
Nyota always was a quick study.