uhura: black background

Fic: The Sum of Both of Us (Spock/Uhura)

Title: The Sum of Both of Us
Author: igrockspock
Pairing: Spock/Uhura
Rating: PG
Summary: The first time Spock asks her out, Uhura turns him down. Spock is forced to present a logical argument to change her mind. 3800 words.
Notes: For where_no_woman's Uhura is Awesome Fest.



Nyota veers across the quad toward the linguistics building, and Gaila glowers ominously.

"What?" Nyota says, making her voice as innocent as possible. "I just left my favorite earrings in the long range sensor lab last night."

Gaila steps in front of her, and Nyota tries to shake her head so that her hair will conceal that her favorite earrings are in fact dangling from her ears, but of course Gaila notices instantly and narrows her eyes.

"Would the long range sensor lab happen to be right next to Commander Spock's office?"

"No. Commander Spock's office happens to be two floors above it."

"I see. And would we happen to be taking the lift two floors up to see if your final exam has been graded?"

"That sounds very convenient. Thank you for suggesting it."

Nyota smiles, not even bothering to look at Gaila, and walks serenely ahead.

***

They arrive at 14:57, three minutes before Spock's office hours officially start. Spock opens the door anyway.

"Cadet. Your presence here is not unexpected. Please enter."

He hands her a padd open to the score sheet for her exam.

"I graded your examination several hours ago in anticipation of your arrival."

"Your effort is appreciated, Commander Spock," she answers in Vulcan.

She scans the scores quickly. Just as she had expected, she had earned perfect grades on both her essays, but she had lost two points on the multiple choice section when she had second guessed her answers. Her lips purse into a thin line, and she silently repeats her grandmother's advice: Do you know what you did wrong? Good. Now move on and do better.

"Your facial expression indicates dissatisfaction with your performance."

"I knew the answer to both of those questions, but I changed them at the last minute. I shouldn't have doubted myself."

"A valuable lesson for a Starfleet officer. Your devotion to your studies is admirable."

She steels herself for the 'but' to come. It's a lecture she's heard a hundred times from well-meaning professors, parents, and friends. Go easy on yourself, she expects Spock to say. He doesn't, and suddenly she wonders if he was like her as a cadet, fighting for perfection even when everyone expected him to settle for excellence.

Their silence stretches longer than she had expected, and suddenly Spock rises from his desk and comes to stand in front of her. The movement is abrupt and jarring somehow, and Nyota is surprised to find herself feeling a bit off balance.

"Miss Uhura, if you have no further questions about your examination, I wonder if I might request a private conversation."

She notices the shift from 'Cadet' to 'Miss' immediately. It must be a personal matter, but if he's still calling her by her last name, he wants to make it clear that he respects the boundaries of their relationship. Her curiosity is definitely piqued.

"Certainly."

Thorny subjunctive question, she texts to Gaila. I'll meet you at the bar later. Her mind is already racing. Maybe Spock wants her to work on a study, but no, that would be a professional question. Maybe he needs something translated privately, like a letter or a piece of poetry. Her heart beats a little faster. She does speak one or two dialects he doesn't know, and it would be such a huge compliment if he chose her over the entire of the linguistics faculty at Starfleet Academy.

"The matter is somewhat personal," he says as if he expects her to change her mind and leave.

She nods tersely, not certain what she should say to put Spock at ease. She can't say precisely what changes about him -- maybe something goes a little more tense around his shoulders and in the muscles of his face -- but she gets the impression he's steeling himself for something.

"In the two years of our acquaintance, I have come to...admire your ambition, linguistic talents, and personal qualities quite intensely. Now that our studies have concluded, I wonder if I might ask you to join me for dinner."

Her first thought is that he is asking her out, but surely someone like Commander Spock wouldn't be interested in a mere student. But if all he wanted was friendship, why would he seem so nervous? No, she would have to clarify; going on an accidental date with a professor would be far more humiliating for both of them than resolving the misunderstanding right now.

"Are you asking me on a date?"

She regrets the words almost as soon as they leave her mouth; surely she could have found a more delicate way to ask. And of course Spock wasn't asking her out -- she must have misunderstood, and what will he think of her now? But he is nodding in affirmation.

"Indeed. However, before you answer, I must state that your response will have no bearing on our professional relationship or your Starfleet career."

"I...I appreciate that," she says, trying to absorb some of Spock's Vulcan calm. If anyone could understand her refusal, it would be Commander Spock.

"It's very flattering," she continues, trying to hide that she has no idea what to say. She doesn't want to sound insincere. Spock is accomplished, well-educated, diplomatic...he could probably have any woman on campus, but he had chosen her. It's really a shame that she has to refuse, but she had decided her priorities the moment she had seen the Enterprise at Riverside Shipyard.

"I just can't. Nothing is more important than my studies, and I just don't have the time to devote to a relationship."

Spock nods. His expression doesn't change, not that she had really expected to.

"Your dedication to your studies is logical at this stage of your career. I understand that humans sometimes find it awkward to associate with individuals who have previously pursued them romantically, however, I hope that we might continue our professional relationship."

Nyota smiles, barely containing her laughter. Spock is hardly Jim Kirk, who turns every study date into an opportunity for sexual innuendos and indecent proposals.

"I'd like that," she says, feeling grateful. Spock had been a fantastic teacher, and she didn't doubt that he was a fascinating person outside work. She would be lucky to have his friendship...and, she thinks grimly, she'd be lucky if she found a graceful way to excuse herself from the conversation. Her communicator pings and she fumbles for it in her bag, relieved to have a small distraction.

"If Miss Gaila is waiting for you, I hope you will not delay your plans on my account."

"Thank you for understanding," she says. "Everything, I mean."

Spock nods at her on her way out the door, and she wonders if she'd imagined the faint green flush on his cheeks. She hoped he'd understood what she was thanking him for. Most people who asked her out took her refusal as a challenge, but Spock had understood -- even respected -- her reasoning. No muss, no fuss, just an honest exchange between two adults. He'd even gone so far as to offer her a graceful exit from the conversation. It really was a shame that she couldn't go out with him. But she couldn't. Dating at the Academy was too much of a distraction; she couldn't risk letting an emotional entanglement hold her back from a great field experience or an off-world internship. And Spock was older than her, and Vulcan to boot. Half human or not, the cultural distance would be hard to bridge. She just didn't have the time or energy for that, and it wouldn't be fair to either of them. Still, he would make a great catch for someone some day. Maybe she should even keep her eyes open for the right lady.

***


She waits five days before she comms Spock to ask if he'd like to have lunch. It seems like the right amount of time -- not so long that Spock would think she was avoiding him, but long enough to let any awkwardness dissipate.

Or so she thought. She greets Spock, sits down her tray, and hangs her bag from the edge of her chair before she realizes that she has no idea what to say to him. Before, she's always had important academic business to discuss; now, she has no idea how to initiate small talk with a Vulcan. Spock, however, looks as unperturbed as ever. Maybe Vulcans prefer silence? But no, that wouldn't be logical -- if they weren't going to talk, surely they would just eat alone? Maybe she should come up with a question of some kind, a Vulcan word that she needed to know, or a bit of grammar that she hadn't quite mastered...

"I trust that your summer has been enriching," Spock says.

Ah, so that was Vulcan small talk.

"I am engaged in numerous personal improvement projects."

She answers in Vulcan almost without thinking. It's not even her native language, but she's already started miss it now that the term is over. Spock must miss it even more.

"Most laudable," Spock answers, in Vulcan too. "Please explicate."

So she tells him about her triathlon, her quest for modern non-Terran music she can actually sing, and the interstellar navigation course she's taking because she's terrified by the thought that she could ever be left adrift in space. He listens attentively, not just politely, and asks follow-questions about star patterns and vocal ranges that few of her friends would consider asking in a class discussion, much less in their free time. Before she knows it, lunch service is over and Spock is rising from the table, piling her dishes on top of his so that he can take away both of their trays.

She looks down at her watch, embarrassed that she had let the time get away from her without asking a single thing about Spock.

"I'm so sorry. I don't usually talk about myself quite so much. It isn't very polite."

"You have merely answered my questions, and in any case, I know myself quite well. It is you I wish to know more about."

He slings his bag over his shoulder and picks up both of their trays.

"Now, if you will excuse me, my office hours begin in eight minutes."

He is gone before she has a chance to answer. She does not notice that she is humming on her way out of the mess hall.

First they meet once a week. Then she discovers that he speaks a dialect of Romulan that she hadn't even heard of, and they start meeting every three days so that he can teach her. They work out a system: for the first and last thirty minutes of each meeting, they will converse in High Romulan so that she can ask questions; the hour in between will be devoted to the miners' dialect that she is trying to learn and he is trying to perfect. He knows far more vocabulary and grammar than she does, but with just a few days' study she can tell that his intonation is far too precise for the rough, emotional dialect they are studying.

"Our partnership has been most effective. Our strengths and weaknesses in linguistics are highly complimentary," Spock says at the end of their fourth meeting.

He pauses and catches her eyes for a moment, a habit she is beginning to recognize as a signal that he is preparing to ask something more personal.

"In light of this, I wish to ask a favor. Though I am half-human, I do not speak any human languages other than English. This is most regrettable."

This is another of Spock's customs: implying the request rather than making it directly. It is illogical, but clearly intended to respect her. If she does not want to teach him another language, she will have the opportunity to refer him to a textbook or a different teacher without the discomfort of saying no directly. Of course, she has no intention of refusing. Spock has been an incredible teacher to her, but it's about more than that. Spock is the best conversation partner she's ever had, the only person she's ever known who loves language as much as she does, even if he expresses his passion for it differently.

"What language would you like to learn?" she asks, hoping it will be something she speaks.

"If possible, I would like to learn your native language. I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to converse in Vulcan with you, and I wish to return the favor."

"I would be delighted to teach you," she replies in KiSwahili.

They begin to meet every day.

***


Nyota's comm pings at precisely 0900 hours every Tuesday. Nine a.m. in San Francisco is eleven p.m. in Nairobi, which Nyota knows is later than her grandmother likes to stay up, but Bibi insists.

"Your schedule is too busy, Nyota," she always says. "Let us talk at a time that is convenient for you."

And so they do, once a week, after Nyota has finished her run and before her eleven o'clock meeting with Spock. Usually, they swap stories about Nyota's four younger sisters, but this morning, Bibi looks mischievous.

"Is there a special someone?" she asks as soon as they've dispensed with all the standard pleasantries.

"No," Nyota says, and she must have looked a little wistful because her grandmother asks, "But there's someone you wish were a special someone."

"No. Well, maybe. Someone asked me out a few weeks ago. But he's a professor, which is complicated. And he's half-Vulcan, which is even more complicated."

She looks down, running her finger around the rim of her empty tea cup.

"And I just don't have time. This is my only chance to be at the Academy, and off-world internships are absolutely essential for linguistics specialists, especially if I want to get assigned to the Enterprise."

She looks up, her voice growing more firm even as her heart grows a bit heavy. She shakes her head.

"I can't risk all that for a relationship that probably wouldn't work anyway."

"It sounds like you're working awfully hard to convince yourself not to go out with this man."

"Well, it is a hard decision. He's different from anyone else I've ever met," she admits, a little reluctantly. But trying to lie to Bibi would be pointless, no matter how much she wants to avoid an emotionally charged discussion about her romantic life.

"I see," her grandmother says. By which she means, 'I am much older than you, and also extremely wise, and I think you are being ridiculous.'

Nyota braces herself for an argument. Contradicting Bibi is never easy, but she has to make her understand.

"I want the Enterprise more than I want him. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for our dreams. You taught me that, Bibi."

"And after you get the Enterprise, Nyota?"

"I'll date then."

"Will you? Or won't you always have another goal to chase? I know you, Nyota. After this, you'll want a better ship or a bigger promotion."

"And if I do? If that's what I really care about, is that so bad?"

"Of course not, Nyota. But all I can see from here is a woman who looked happy when she told me about this man, and sad when she said she couldn't be with him. Are you sure you don't want to go out with him? Just once or twice, just to see what you have?"

Nyota looks down again, wishing it were a little harder to lie to Bibi - and to herself.

"No," she says slowly. "I'm not sure that I don't want to go out with him. But that's not the point. I am sure I care more about my career than I do a relationship. And sometimes you just can't have everything you want."

***


She arrives at the mess hall ten minutes late for her meeting with Spock. Her unbound hair flutters in her face, she'd forgotten one of her earrings, and she still feels off balance from her conversation with Bibi.

"I'm so sorry I'm late," she pants, flinging herself into a chair. "I just couldn't get off the comm with my grandmother."

"I trust she is well?" Spock says, implacable as ever.

"Yeah. She just worries about me."

She feels a little silly for rushing now that she sees Spock's calm. Even his lunch tray is perfectly arranged with everything at right angles and an equal amount of empty space on either side. It should seem fussy, she thinks, but the effect is strangely restful. She closes her eyes and takes a long, calming breath so she can stop thinking about wanting Spock and start focusing on their shared studies. When she opens her eyes, Spock is looking at her attentively, almost as if he's concerned.

"You continue to perform admirably, academically and otherwise," he says. "I am certain your grandmother has no logical cause for worry."

"Except that I don't eat enough and I'm not seeing anyone."

"If your nutritional intake were inadequate, you would not have been able to compete in a triathlon, and your reasons for abstaining from romance are logical. Your grandmother should not be concerned," he says so confidently that Nyota can't help but smile.

"I'm afraid logic doesn't have much to do with human family relationships."

"Indeed. My mother's most recent letter informed me that I am 'too skinny' and 'ought to find a girlfriend.' I have no doubt that these concerns will be repeated in our next video conversation even though I have informed her that my diet is well-balanced and my career precludes an extensive search for a mate."

"You know, I think that's the first I've heard you mention your mother," Nyota says, and instantly regrets it when something dark clouds Spock's face for a split second. All these weeks she and Spock have been meeting, and he's never said anything about his family; she should have known it would be a sensitive topic.

"Since joining Starfleet, my relationship with my family has been...complex. I do not communicate with my mother with frequency she desires."

Spock's face clouds again, and she wonders if the trace of emotion she'd seen had been guilt.

"I guess mothers are the same all over the galaxy," she says. "It's kind of reassuring. I just wish my grandmother understood that I have to put my career first. There's just not time for a boyfriend."

Spock tilts his head quizzically.

"Would you like to make a personal inquiry?" she asks, grinning. Reading Spock always feels like a triumph, and she's gotten good at it in these past few weeks.

"You are perceptive," he says. "I do not wish to imply a lack of respect for your decision, yet I cannot help but observe that you have abundant time for friends. If this is the case, would it not be logical to assume that you could also have time for a romantic partner, if you chose?"

"That's different. Friends can be flexible. Boyfriends expect a certain amount of time, and they get upset when they don't get it."

"Ah." He pauses. "I must ask your forgiveness if I am being too forward, however, your previous romantic partners have been misguided if they would not accept the limitations of your schedule. Perhaps you simply need a partner who is willing to make logical compromises to meet your needs."

"There is no offense where none is taken," she answers in Vulcan, almost automatically. She likes Surak's sayings; they're almost ritualistic, a call-and-response that clears away awkward moments and gives her a chance to think.

"You are correct that such a partner would be ideal," she continues, still speaking Vulcan, "however, in my experience, they are exceedingly difficult to find."

"I am sorry to hear that this is the case for humans. Compromise is the Vulcan way."

He says it as matter-of-factly as he does everything else, but she can tell by the way he is looking at her that he means he would accept her schedule even if other men had not.

She swallows, not quite sure what to say, but he continues briskly, "If I might make an additional personal observation, it seems that your concerns about romantic relationships extend beyond the daily demands on your time."

"Yeah," she says. "They do. If you leave someone behind at home, half your heart's always with them. You're always missing out on things so you can call them, or your feelings change and the relationship doesn't last. That happened to my parents, you know. My mom started traveling a lot for work, and my dad couldn't really stand the separations."

She shakes her head.

"I don't blame him for it. He loved her. But eventually she had to choose, him or the job. I don't want to be in that position."

"I see," Spock says slowly. "It is logical to learn to from the examples of one's parents."

He is quiet for a moment, and she wonders what he will say. Then he says her name: "Nyota."

His voice is different from usual, deep and low, like he's tasting the syllables. He looks up, not quite meeting her eyes, and continues in a voice softer and slower than she's heard before.

"If you refuse me, I will respect your decision. However..."

The last word is stronger, and he looks into her eyes.

"I must assure that I do not wish you to diminish yourself on my account. To do so would be illogical; if you are enriched, I will be enriched also. This is not merely the Vulcan way. It is my way."

He holds her gaze just long enough to let her feel the words, and then he stands and begins piling plates and silverware onto his tray.

"It would not be appropriate for me to insist on an answer immediately," he says. He picks up his padd, and she catches a glimpse of the file he had been reading before she arrived: Interstellar Field Experience Opportunities for Third-Year Communications Specialists.

Her decision is made.

She reaches out, catches his wrist. His skin is hot beneath her fingers.

"Spock," she says. "Wait. I know my answer."
Oh. Oh. I know you say you have a hard time getting into Uhura's headspace, but this - this is perfect. Every bit of her characterization is spot on. And the story flows so nicely, too; nothing feels excessive or left out. Very well done.
Thank you so much! I'm relieved Uhura seemed IC for you; I really couldn't tell if she was or not.
This is lovely! Such a quiet way for them to come about their relationship, but with that little spark of attraction that makes it a romance instead of just friendship. And the dialogue and characterization is wonderfully on key!
Thank you so much, especially for commenting on the characterization. I really couldn't tell if I had gotten either of them right!
Wow, both characterisations really ring true for me. The writing here isn't overdone, nor is it underdone. It's just right.

Loved it. Nice one!
Thank you so much! I was so worried about the characterization here - it means a lot that you think it worked.
Oh I loev how this ends :) Terse, but at the same time, full of so much promise :)

Very lovely writing style :D
Oh, this is just fabulous--both of them feel totally in character, and the dialogue is spot-on. I also love how you navigated the prompt--it works because Spock is so upfront and respectful, and you made Nyota's stance totally understandable as well. Absolutely great.
Thank you so much! It's been ages since I've written either of these characters, so I'm really relieved they both seemed IC here. I was pretty sad to take out McCoy's scene though. It was the first time I was ever happy with my characterization of him, but it felt like a distraction from the main story.
A lovely story. I really liked the fact that it was Spock who made the first move. I also thought that the portrayal of the gradual change in their relationship was very realistic.
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed Spock making the first move. I'd never even considered that possibility, and it was fun to play with.
This was a lovely story! Your characterizations were spot on too. Very well done!
Thank you so much. Uhura is such a hard character to get a handle on - it really means a lot that you thought she was IC.
I have to admit from the prompt I was a little leery (probably my personal trauma from reading too much fic where the guy 'argues' the girl into a relationship), but I should have known better. This was quiet and gentle and completely believable, and Spock is more patient and observant than persuasive, as Uhura basically talks herself into it. I enjoyed this very much!
Thank you! I know what you mean about the prompt. I claimed it impulsively because it seemed cute, but the more I thought about it, the more skeevy (and potentially sexist) it seemed. Figuring out how to get around that was actually kind of fun though - it almost makes me want to claim more problematic prompts to play with.
Oh, I just loved this! It's lovely and sweet and romantic and reading it just made me feel... idek, good about life. I liked the details like Spock's green blush and Uhura not noticing that she's humming as she leaves. And her grandmother was a lovely addition! "I see," her grandmother says. By which she means, 'I am much older than you, and also extremely wise, and I think you are being ridiculous.' Perfect! And you made me really like Spock here! And usually I'm kinda meh on him-- I don't dislike him, I just don't really get him. So I loved that I felt so connected to him here! And I loved how you ended it!

minor possible thing-- Your grandmother should be concerned," he says did you mean should not? That threw me out of the story for a second.
Thank you so much for the lovely comment! I'm really glad you enjoyed Uhura's grandmother; she's been living in my head since the first fic I wrote more than a year ago, but I've so rarely had a chance to let her out.

fixes typo
This is lovely. I smiled when I realized exactly what Spock was up to, and it was well-done. Thank you!
I enjoyed this! It's the kind of slow, well-thought-out courtship I could see these two falling into.
This is so wonderful!

I love that Nyota has rational, well thought-out reasons for refusing Spock. And that he respects her decision. But still tries to maintain a relationship with her. And that in getting to know him better comes to questions his decision - meaning that you give hear a real, flawed expression of emotions.

But most of all I love that it is his acceptance and respect for her and her goals that changes her mind. That makes even more appealing than he was previously. Cuz who doesn't want to be wanted just as they are?!

I'm sorry, this isn't very eloquent, but I truly enjoyed this. Very much!
Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I was so worried about this fic because I haven't written Uhura or Spock/Uhura for more than a year, and Uhura's character is particularly tricky. It is so gratifying to know that you enjoyed it :)