Late in the day Uhura finally figured out what was nagging her. She was in the main communications lab, helping adjust the array. She had spent the first part of the shift on the bridge, where she and Spock had crossed paths; she murmured something to him in Vulcan and was satisfied when his sensitive ears caught it and he glanced over at her.
There would be no cutesy behavior on the bridge, she knew that. Or anywhere else, for that matter. She wouldn't have had it any other way. She'd never been the flirty, pouty type; she preferred straight dealing and honesty. Not that she didn't use feminine graces to their fullest advantage on occasion! But honesty was the only thing that worked for her. Any man who didn't take her at face value was looking for something that wasn't there.
The man who had met her honesty with his own murmured something back, then moved away to another station. Uhura smiled, but inwardly. Cutesy, no; very, very private, yes indeed.
She knew the captain would be on the bridge soon, and watching her not so surreptitiously. Since the moment they met he had seen her as a challenge - one he thought he could overcome like he had so many before her. But she was only the first challenge Starfleet would present him with, and not just in the courting arena. She thought the rigor of first-year courses might take him down a peg, but it just seemed to throw fuel into his warp engines. Fortunately, there were plenty of women in San Francisco, and when he had gone through them there was always the east Bay, and the Peninsula…
And she was already, then, interested in her xenolinguistics instructor, the only Vulcan in Starfleet, whom nothing seemed to distract. He honed in on her enthusiasm for language (genuine, not fashioned as a ruse to seduce him) and she willingly filled her brain and ears with new sounds and concepts.
He pulled no punches in testing her - or any of his students - not purposing to shame them, but showing them what it took to do the job they wanted. At her viva voce he was ruthless; she stood up to the panel and shot back response for response with perfect intonation and idiom.
Afterward, she encountered Spock coming out of the building and grinned at him. "What relief!" she said. "That has been the center of my universe for too long. Now I can relax ever so briefly."
He looked at her sidelong as they fell into step. "Until the next challenge. Life does not always give one time to relax."
"Sometimes life is just one damn thing after another," she agreed. "But carpe diem, and this day belongs to me. What shall we do with it?"
"We? I have scheduled time in the exercise facilities, and as you know, it's not my way to diverge from my usual routine."
She stopped walking, and he stopped to face her.
"You're not my instructor any more, no matter what level I get for your course."
"I am not." He tilted his brow. "Is this the reason for your celebratory mood? That you have rid yourself of this turbulent instructor?" He saw that, typically, his attempt at humor had failed and she looked slightly crestfallen. Slightly. "Typically, my attempt at humor has failed," he continued. "Please explain." They resumed walking.
"Now that I'm not your student, I would like very much for us to be friends."
"You seem to have an ample supply of friends. Why add me to your entourage?"
She could not know the bitterness he did not express, that he had become used to being an oddity, cultivated merely for his novelty and dropped as soon as it was discovered he was impervious to prying questions and gratuitous sexual advances. Yet she looked at him thoughtfully and said, "Not as many as it seems. My personality doesn't lend itself to either shallow social pursuits or delusions of grandeur, or sexual conquest, like Jim Kirk."
"Those are the prevailing conditions in many human collegial organizations," Spock observed. "And I agree that you don't seem suited to them. So where, as the saying goes, do you fit in?"
"I don't," Uhura replied. "I get along quite well with a lot of people, because that's how I survive. I'm biding my time until I find a place where I feel I belong, where I know what I'm doing and why. Meanwhile, I'm fun to be around, I can hold my liquor, I don't sleep around, and I can be trusted to keep a secret or help a friend."
He looked fully at her then, and she looked straight back with the expression she had worn in the viva. Then she laughed and the defensive demeanor fell away.
"That's me in a nutshell."
"It is refreshing to hear such candor, particularly from a student. I frequently find the culture of obsequiousness and academic competition tedious."
"Why do you persist, then, as a teacher?"
They had reached the other side of the vast quad, nearing the transit station where she would catch her ride back to her quarters.
"It seems a logical pursuit for one of my experience and abilities."
"What an uninformative answer."
"Does being your friend entail being subjected to such criticism on a regular basis?"
"There's only one way to find out." She was not teasing him! She was speaking sincerely, with humor to be sure, but she was in earnest. He tried to match her sincerity.
"Xenolinguistics is an easy subject for me," he admitted. "And Captain Pike requires me to teach on a regular basis, in order to become accustomed to dealing with cadets. He seems to think my next assignment will be a training mission."
"Logical," she agreed. "So what now for Mr. Spock? More teaching, more learning? Your new mission?"
"Exercise," he said firmly. "Meditation. And sleep."