Continuing Tales

Conversational Vulcan

A Star Trek Story
by Blue Moon3

Part 7 of 16

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Conversational Vulcan

"I know your arms are open wide

But you're a little on the straight side – I can't lie"

"So what did you tell him?" Gaila asked, dropping lightly into the seat beside Uhura's.

Uhura rolled her eyes and raised an eyebrow simultaneously, in a feat of stunning facial gymnastics that made Gaila all the more certain that they would be perfect for each other. "We're going to dinner tomorrow night."

"I knew it!" Gaila said, with altogether too much glee. "We have to get you some new underwear. Everything you have is completely dowdy."

"It's dinner, Gaila. What's more, dinner at a restaurant, not a strip club."

"Who's going to a strip club?" Kirk demanded, sliding into the seat beside Gaila's. He slung an arm around the Orion woman's shoulder, not bothering to pull out a PADD or any note-taking materials. It was infuriating, the way Jim Kirk just coasted through classes then aced every test.

Gaila kissed him affectionately on the cheek. "You don't need a strip bar," she said in a teasingly stern voice. "You have me, and I'm already more than you can handle." Uhura released a groan of frustrated disapproval, ducking down to feel for the bag under her seat. She was relieved that this was her only class in which she had to tolerate the company of her social group – her roommate, Gaila's (sometimes) boyfriend, and his roommate. They had little in common, but got on well enough. Outside of the classroom, anyway. Unfortunately, 'Communications Protocol' was the only class that afforded Uhura her engineering requirement, and the only course that gave her friends their mandatory Xeno-linguistics qualification.

"Uhura has a date!" Gaila announced, in a ringing tone that caused Uhura to hit her head on the desk behind her as she snapped straight.

"My God, girl, do you have no discretion?" she demanded, glaring around her at those who had overheard and were displaying more interest than was at all appropriate.

Her Orion friend grinned. "Nope. And that's exactly why you love me. I'm infuriating, and infuriating things push your buttons."

There was a brief flash in her mind of Spock's cool, calm, frustratingly blank visage. She hated it when Gaila was right. "It's not a date," she said sullenly.

"Not a date with who?" Kirk asked, looking like he was enjoying the brief tension between the two women far too much.

"With me," said a familiar sardonic drawl. Uhura raised a small, apologetic smile for McCoy, as he sidled into the row behind them. "Unless you've got any other guys you're not dating?"

"No," Gaila replied before Uhura could say anything, beaming over her shoulder at McCoy. "Just you." Kirk tugged on a lock of her curly red hair, and pulled her into a conveniently distracting kiss.

Uhura turned in her seat to half-face McCoy as he pulled a PADD and stylus from his bag. "Sorry," she said.

"I'm used to it." His words were sour, but his smile was sweet enough to make Uhura wish she could bring herself to call their dinner a proper date.

"Settle down please," called Commander Linton from the dais at the front of the lecture hall. Uhura's attention snapped forwards, her posture straightening, an external indication of her internal focus. The rest of the class also shifted, each person bringing themselves to attention and preparing for an intake of knowledge. Only Kirk, barely visible in her peripheral vision, remained slouched in his seat.

Soft but distinct, a throat cleared at the front of the room and to the side. Commander Linton turned to the sound's source and, in her wake, the majority of the class also looked towards the room's main entrance. Spock stood there, as impeccably neat as ever, posture straight as an arrow with his hands behind his back clasping a data PADD. Uhura was ashamed and slightly cross at herself for the extra thump her heart made on seeing him. It was, she told herself firmly, out of surprise. This was, after all, essentially a linguistics seminar, and even at their evening meetings Spock had rarely shown any interest in the functions and formations of Xeno-linguistics. Spock held up the data PADD to show his colleague, and Commander Linton nodded. "Go ahead, Mr Spock."

Paying no attention to the rows of cadets who watched him with interest, Spock walked to the main console and began to dismantle the access panel.

"Technical difficulties unfortunately mean that there will be no projected notes today, so you'll all need to listen closely because I don't intend to repeat myself."

Were Uhura inclined to snort, she might well have done so. Communication Protocols were, in a word, easy. It was a system based around following an instruction manual, and required absolutely no cognitive input. Uhura had read and memorised said handbook a month ago. She very much doubted the chances of Commander Linton saying anything that would send her scrabbling for her stylus.

As the lecture began and her fellow cadets took notes on material Uhura had committed to memory weeks ago, she found her attention wandering.

Spock was kneeling on the floor, one arm buried elbow-deep inside the computer console. He gazed unseeing into the middle distance, a small frown of concentration creasing his brow. With what was almost a gesture of irritation, Spock jerked out his hand, rolled up his sleeve (revealing a glorious expanse of olive-hued skin) and lay on his back for better vantage and access. She should have found his brief non-verbal expression of emotion jarring, Uhura supposed. But – with Spock laid out on the floor, legs slightly bent and parted, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and his attention utterly absorbed in the moment – Uhura found herself strangely unable to pass judgement on his reactions.

"Jeepers, girl," Gaila whispered, her voice thick. She fanned herself with one hand as though flustered; as though she had been reading Uhura's mind and liked what she saw. "You feeling OK?" Before Uhura even had a chance to look away guiltily, Gaila had followed her line of sight. She sighed dramatically. "Oh brother!"

"What?" Uhura whispered back, voice slightly strained as she flicked through files on her PADD, trying desperately to look engrossed in something other than Commander Spock. "I'm fine."

"Uh-huh," Gaila responded, lips curling into the smile Uhura had come to know as predatory. The Orion leaned in closer, until curly red hair brushed Uhura's cheek. "Look, could you maybe just stare at the wall or something for the next hour? Because your pheromones are distracting me."

"You must be confusing me with Jim," Uhura said too lightly, still refusing to look either at Gaila or Spock.

Gaila chuckled softly. "No way. Girls smell different to boys."

Frowning, Uhura tried very hard not to think of the connotations of that sentence. And spent the rest of the class determinedly not looking at Spock.

Dinner at the local Italian restaurant had been lovely. Her not-a-date had been cordial and amusing. Even – though she would never admit this within the hearing of her roommate – attractive. Their hands brushed when they both reached for more bread, and the touch was exciting without being awkward. When McCoy stared at her, as she discovered he quite often did, his gaze was warm and affectionate. There was no hardness in the eyes that were so often mocking. They walked back to the Academy together and, when the sidewalk narrowed so there was only really space for single file, McCoy slowed and allowed Uhura to walk ahead, encouraging her by resting a gentle hand on the small of her back. The small but meaningful contact made her try very hard not to think of firm hands resting on her hips.

When he walked her to her door, as any good gentleman would, the decision came. Well, several decisions. The first one was easy. There would be no goodnight kiss. This was not a date. It wasn't.

However, McCoy had given her a really nice time and she couldn't in all conscience send him back to his and Kirk's room, where his room mate would no doubt be having noisy, unrepentant sex with her room mate. "It's not that late," Uhura said casually, hoping it didn't sound like more. "Would you like to come in for some coffee or a beer or something?"

"Beer's always good," Mc Coy replied, grinning from ear to ear.

The door swished open and Uhura called for lights. The fluorescent strips were too bright after their walk in the velvet night, and Uhura squinted as she bent over the fridge. "Classic Bud OK?" she asked, pulling out two of the chilled bottles and unscrewing the caps.

McCoy took one from her and clinked the bottle necks together. "Cheers!" Uhura smiled, and watched him take a good swallow. She herself only sipped.

They stood together for a moment, McCoy looking around the room with interest, Uhura watching him. It had seemed a good idea to invite him in, but now she worried she had encouraged him to be hopeful of more. "Well, you're just a little too tidy, aren't you?" he said eventually. Then ducked his head in embarrassment. It was a surprisingly endearing gesture. "But then a Cardasian dung beetle's tidy compared to Jim."

"Thank you – I think," she smiled, walking across the room to sit on Gaila's unmade bed. "Sit down."

She could almost see him thinking about sitting next to her, and was grateful when he settled on the bed opposite. He drank again, eyes darting about the room and taking in every detail. "So," he said. "Communications Protocol."

Uhura rolled her eyes. "This can't be that awkward. You can't be talking about the most boring class either of us has ever taken."

He grinned his relief. "What, you're not thrilled by the correct way to initiate contact with Ferengi trade vessels that have tried to steal your transporter pads?" He shook his head, eyes carefully trained on her face, "And I thought I knew you."

"I speak twenty basic non-human languages, and I still only have so many ways to say, 'This is the Enterprise, please identify yourself.'"

He raised an eyebrow. "The Enterprise, is it? A woman of ambition." Uhura would have killed to know what was going on in his head – if it weren't so blatantly expressed in his face.

One eyebrow, the right one, still ever-so-slightly quirked. Blue eyes looked straight at her, though they flicked from her eyes to the rest of her body occasionally. His lips made an odd smile of admiration and approval. Added to this, the rest of his body language leaned openly towards her. He was, to put it bluntly, interested. One didn't have to be conversant in the subtleties of non-verbal communication (which Uhura, incidentally, was) to know this.

And yet it was this obviousness that somehow turned her off. As much as she tried not to think about it, she couldn't help comparing him to Spock. There was something attractive in not having his thoughts and feelings dealt to her on a plate. Like with so many things in Uhura's life, she really quite enjoyed having to work hard to figure him out. And, as a result, it made the small rewards such as interpreting a facial tick or moving him to break some of his emotional control, all the more satisfying. In McCoy there was an attractive, funny, interesting man. But there was no challenge.

"Receiving transmission," the computer's voice said.

Uhura frowned. "Oh. On screen." She shifted over to her own bed, sitting next to McCoy for a better view of the screen. Only a moment passed, before it flicked to life. A head-and-shoulders shot of Spock appeared, his normal, straight-backed posture rigidly in place. But there was something off about his face, something not quite right.

"Good evening, Nyota. I am sorry to contact you at such a late hour." To his credit, he did not stumble on seeing McCoy sat beside her, a half-empty beer bottle in hand, looking entirely relaxed and at home. He did, however, pointedly raise an eyebrow.

"That's alright, Commander. Doctor McCoy and I were just going over some class notes. Is everything alright?"

Spock shifted from one foot to the other. He looked uncomfortable, and the fact that he looked anything made Uhura uncomfortable. "I am afraid not. I will have to cancel our session tomorrow."

"What's wrong?" she asked immediately, involuntarily shifting closer to the screen and wishing for all the world that McCoy was not sat next to her.

"I am experiencing odd symptoms that lead me to believe I am unwell. It is nothing alarming, and I will contact a physician in the morning. But I would not wish to pass an illness on to you that may present itself more severely in a purely human physiognomy than one that is half Vulcan."

"Why not contact a physician now?" McCoy spoke up, making Uhura frown. Did none of her friends have any respect for her privacy?

"If you are insinuating yourself, Doctor, I have observed that you have been imbibing alcohol. A sober medical practitioner would be preferable."

Uhura felt him shift on the bed, moving slightly closer and leaning towards her. She longed for a way to make him back off without being too obvious, but settled for tensing, pleading with her eyes for Spock to understand that, despite appearances, this was not a date. "I wasn't offering right now, Commander. I'm a little busy." She could hear the grin in his voice, and it made her cringe. "But I can swing by in the morning and give you the once over. Never had a chance to give a Vulcan the once-over before."

"That is hardly reassuring," Spock said. That was definitely a sour tone that, if nothing else, confirmed that Spock must really not be himself. Uhura's supposition was confirmed when Spock grudgingly added, "However, your reputation precedes you and I fear you are not in the minority at having little experience with non-human life forms. I will be available from oh-eight-hundred hours."

"Oh-eight-hundred it is," McCoy confirmed.

"My apologies for cancelling," Spock added to Uhura.

"Just rest up and feel better, OK?"

Spock grimaced – actually grimaced – and nodded, before the image of his upper body leaned forwards and the screen went dark.

"I didn't know you had classes with Commander Spock," McCoy said, trying to sound casual and failing miserably.

She shrugged lightly, taking another, deeper drink of the bitter beer before leaning across McCoy to place the bottle on her bedside table. "We speak in Vulcan together. He's a lot better than a computer."

McCoy suddenly felt very close as one side of his mouth lifted in a wry smile. "Is he, now? From what I hear, a Vulcan and a computer are a pretty close match."

Rolling her eyes, she smacked him lightly on the shoulder. She would have told him not to be a jerk, but there was something odd in McCoy's eyes. Had he been any other guy, invited back to a girl's room and handed a beer, she supposed this would be a good opportunity for him to kiss her.

But McCoy didn't. He just stared, a bemused smile playing over his lips. "Gee, look at the time. I should go," he said eventually, downing the last of his beer and placing the bottle beside hers on the bedside table.

"Oh," Uhura replied, blinking as he stood. "Well, I had a really great night."

He nodded, glancing over his shoulder at her. "Glad to hear. I aim to show a lady a good time. We could do it again, if you like. Never hurts my ego to wander around with a pretty lady on my arm."

"How about Thursday?" she asked.

"Thursday it is, then." His eyes flicked to the blank transmissions screen. "But I expect I'll be seeing you before then." Uhura frowned slightly, a little confused. All night she had been getting the right signals from McCoy. There had been small touches, piercing looks – he had come back to her room, for heaven's sakes. It made no sense. Not that she especially wanted him to make a pass at her, but ... somehow it was still something of a let down. "G'night, Uhura," he said, before disappearing through the doorway.

"Night night, McCoy."

Never a patient person, Uhura found herself tapping her foot outside Spock's door at oh-eight-thirty. She knew that Spock had warned her to stay away, that he might be contagious, but there was nothing to stop her checking in with McCoy to see how her friend was doing. In one hand she held a data PADD. She didn't like coming to see him when he was sick without bringing something. Food was out of the question – for all she knew, he might have spent half the night with his head in a bucket, besides the fact that Vulcans had some very odd dietary requirements. He hadn't expanded on his symptoms enough for her to bring anything that might cause him physical relief. And so it remained for her to remember the last time she was sick.

It had been a week stuck on the sofa, her foot in a cast, unable to walk thanks to a fractured ankle. And boy, had that sucked. She remembered being bored out of her mind, and the ennui being far worse than the pain. Too doped up to concentrate on reading, audio-books had been a life saver. She could close her eyes and switch off, while still having something for her frustrated mind to chew on.

While she had spent a lot of time talking to Spock, she had little idea how his tastes in literature ran. So, she had put together a little bit of everything before going to bed the night before: some classics, a smidgen of romance – she didn't want him getting the wrong idea, but sometimes everyone loved a sappy story. Also a bit of crime, because something told Uhura that Spock would have an affinity for Arthur Conan Doyle. It was all human. Uhura's specialisation being the spoken word, she wasn't called on to carry out much Vulcan translation. Besides which, whatever the Vulcan version of Whinnie the Pooh was, she was pretty sure Spock would already have it.

With a swish and click, the door opened and Uhura set upon McCoy. "Is he ok?" she asked.

"You don't waste time, do you?" McCoy asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I was just passing," Uhura lied smoothly, subtly hiding the PADD behind her back.

"Hmmm," McCoy murmured, his usual sour drawl firmly back in place. "Well, unfortunately, I do have doctor-patient confidentiality to consider. If you want to know what's up, you'll need to ask him." He jerked a thumb at the grey door that had closed smoothly behind him.

Uhura took a step, then hesitated. "Is it contagious?"

McCoy smirked, and was unable to keep the amusement out of his voice as he replied, "Depends. Have you had chicken pox?"

The room was as dark as normal. However, normally Uhura's visits were during the evening, and on this occasion the lack of light was due to the polarised windows dampening the bright rays of the sun. Scheduling conflicts and exam upheaval had caused them to delay their scheduled Wednesday night meeting to a Saturday, when they could both relax happy in the knowledge that any marking or studying that had to be completed would easily wait for an hour or so.

"Spock?" she said, her eyes taking their time to adjust. Her voice sounded loud in the apparently empty room, and she swallowed nervously.

"Yes, Nyota," he replied. She followed the sound of him, locating a dark figure huddled on the couch which Spock never normally used, preferring the smaller, less intimate padded stools they used during their discussions. Taking a few steps closer, Uhura blinked rapidly to adjust her eyes. From what she could see, Spock's body language was as close as she had ever seen to human. Though his posture was still rigid, it was in a way that seemed tense rather than disciplined. His arms wrapped across his chest, hands balled into tight fists. Over his uniform, he wore an oddly-styled grey knitted sweatshirt that Uhura had never seen before. He glanced up at her, his eyes too hidden in shadow to read his expression accurately. "I informed you that it would be unwise to visit me."

"I had it when I was a kid. You don't need to worry."

He nodded, apparently unsurprised that she had been informed as to the nature of his illness. "Varicella zoster. I understand it is commonly experienced by humans during childhood. Unfortunately, I grew up on Vulcan, and only developed the Vulcan catalogue of childhood diseases." His hand drifted to his face, absently rubbing at his chin where, she noticed, a small green pimple was developing. "I am fortunate. Doctor McCoy believes that my nervous and immune systems – which are, for the most part, of Vulcan physiology – will reduce the severity the condition often causes in adulthood."

"You must not scratch," she directed as gently as she could, in Vulcan. He quickly brought his hand back down, shuddering as he wrapped his arms around himself once more. "Are you cold?"

"My body is trying to fight the infection." The statements of fact seemed to help keep his voice steady, as though Spock found the strict definitions of technical terms reassuring. "It is chemically deceiving my nervous system, informing my mind that the environment is cold, so that I will seek means of heating myself, thereby raising my body temperature and illuminating the conditions in which viral bodies thrive."

She nodded slowly. "You have a fever."

"In layman's terms, yes."

She crouched down, bringing her face on a level with his. "I didn't know what you had, so I brought you some audio books. They cheer me up when I'm sick."

"That was highly empathetic of you," he responded, his eyes closed. She wondered if it was concentration at trying not to scratch, or simply because the infection left him tired. "I am sorry we cannot hold our usual discussion."

She shrugged, smiling. "I'm sorry I can't stay. But I'm just going to be studying in my room. If there's anything you need, just call me, OK?"

"The doctor," Spock said, opening his eyes to look at you. Though nothing had changed in his face – no muscles twitches, no creases to the skin – his eyes were undeniably sad. "He has prescribed me with antihistamines which, I believe, are also soporific."

Then he was tired. Uhura nodded slowly and stood upright. "Then I'll leave you to sleep."

She could not help reaching out to him, this poor man suffering an alien illness, so far away from his home and family. She lay her hand on his forehead, half-wincing at the violent heat of his skin. Fingertips ran down over his cheek, but he pulled away from the contact. Eyes flicked up to hers, eyebrows pulled together in a small frown. "Your fingers are cold," he growled, voice far rougher than normal.

Uhura nodded, the hand dropping away. "I'm sorry," she said, and sighed. "I'll check in on you later."

Spock made no response, so Uhura turned to leave. "Thank you," he said softly before she reached the door.

She turned and regarded him over her shoulder. One of his hands was running over the data PADD, fingers pressing at its surface. Yet, somehow, she didn't think he was thanking her for the gift. "You're welcome. Feel better."

Conversational Vulcan

A Star Trek Story
by Blue Moon3

Part 7 of 16

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