Chapter 1 - Flirtation
They exchanged the ritual greetings of Vulcan society.
"I bring you news, T'Pring," he announced, almost with excitement.
"For the first time in history, a candidate has declined admission to the Vulcan Science Academy."
"Of what interest of that to me, Stonn?" T'Pring asked flatly.
"Your betrothed, Spock. Further, I have learned that he has joined the Federation Star Fleet."
She raised an eyebrow. One of the conditions of the betrothal between her and Spock placed by her family when they were seven years old was that he would attend the Academy and achieve high status in Vulcan society to support her. To T'Pring, rejecting that appointment and joining Star Fleet was equivalent of taking a menial labor job and throwing one's life away. Which was just fine with her, given her secret relationship with Stonn.
"Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Stonn. It would seem that Spock has unilaterally decided to abrogate the terms of our future union. I must meditate on this for my response. I have much to consider."
Stonn suggested, "Would my presence stimulate your meditation, T'Pring?"
He held up his hand in the position of offering the Vulcan finger touch with her, an exceptionally sensual activity shared only between Vulcan mates. The fingers were most sensitive to telepathic and empathic connection. She repeated the symbol for him and touched his fingers. There was a catch in her breath at their contact.
"It would. Enter."
…Six years later…
Spock leaned back from the blank monitor, and sighed in a rare display of emotion, pondering the latest episode in a continually fruitless attempt at reconciliation with T'Pring had ended badly, with her demanding that he not talk to her again until their joining at age 35, the typical time of marriage in Vulcan life.
T'Pring reminded Spock that she had never forgiven him for joining Star Fleet, and she coldly announced that she never wished to be off world with him 'mingling with all those inferior races', which she surely must have meant as a racist insult to his half-human heritage. She had counted on the wealth and prestige of being associated with an Academician.
It was clear to him that she did not wish to join with him – ever - and it was still going to be nearly a decade before their promise could be formally annulled on the very day of their marriage – the koon-ut-kal-if-fee. He wished that embarrassment could be spared his parents. He realized that he, too, felt nothing for T'Pring, but was duty-bound to carry out the traditions out of respect for his parents. He stood, straightened his uniform, clicked off the lights, and headed for the campus.
It all started on the first day of class in her third year of Star Fleet Academy.
Cadet Nyota Uhura was excited. She was walking the hall to attend the first class of her first real course of her major in Interstellar Communications: Xenolinguistics 100, the beginning study of interactions of alien languages. It was a washout class. Students either had the gift of language arts or not. Making it even more difficult was that it was taught by the most difficult of all the professorial staff: Commander Spock. With his emotionless Vulcan nature and relentless logic, the class was all about the mastery of the process of deciphering alien patterns of speech.
In Spock's class, there was no grading on the curve. Emotional pleas never worked for him, though he'd seen it all: from batting pretty eyes at the professor for leniency, to that time-honored excuse 'the Denebian Slime Devil' ate my homework – even though the nearest Slime Devil was three Sectors away from Earth. With Spock, you either mastered the lessons, passed the homework, quizzes, lab exercises, and exams, or you didn't. The numbers told the story. And those that achieved the numbers passed the class. That was Spock's way. The logical way.
On the other hand, those who survived his class were well positioned to become the top candidates for Communications degrees.
Beside his exceptional talent in science - far beyond most humans with a Science Officer career track - he was fluent in nine languages. Moreover, he treated language as a mathematical science, and he made many breakthroughs in the ability to communicate with new species. He applied these principles to his phonology course, which allowed students to better understand those races within the United Federation of Planets. All this aided his interspecies ethics class.
Some faculty thought there was no subject Spock couldn't teach exceptionally well. There were those in Star Fleet who thought he could easily become a tenured professor at the Academy in the latter years of his career, after the required operational field assignments as part of starship crews were complete. Given his Vulcan longevity, that could be a very long and distinguished career.
Spock approached the classroom, still regaining his composure from the disturbing call with T'Pring. Due to his ultra sensitive ears, he could hear the chatter of his class. Normally, first classes were quiet - tentative and nervous about their professor. It took awhile in class for the cadets to get to know each other, but not this group. He strained, but could hear a human female voice, introducing herself enthusiastically to each of the 28 members of the class. Faculty was always sensitized to looking for outgoing personalities in the Academy to recommend them for the leadership track. This sounded promising.
What was different in the female Cadet's greetings was how she was talking to her classmates. The same female was speaking to each classmate in their native tongues, casually and fluently. He had the class list, and he knew there were seventeen different species represented in his class. He could hear the excitement and enthusiasm of the cadet as she engaged her fellows and their pleased responses in their own tongues.
"Impressive," he thought.
He turned the corner and entered the classroom. It became instantly quiet. Each cadet rose from their seat, and saluted him. This was a military academy after all.
He returned the salute, and said, "Class. Be seated."
He had a rare first time assignment to the Academy as a result of graduating summa cum laude and in record time. Spock understood perfectly and adhered diligently to military protocol with superiors, but was more casual about it when it applied to him, especially in a class environment.
He announced to the class, "In the future, military honors for a superior officer will not be required in the conduct of this class. More time will be available for instruction as a result."
They liked him already.
He had to know who was so gifted with linguistic talent, but he did not want the students to be aware of his aural sensitivity.
He cleverly asked, "Before we begin, I would like everyone to introduce themselves, their major, and their home world. This will help you understand the diverse extant of the Federation of Planets, and will help me know you better."
They went around the room. He memorized each as they stood and spoke.
"Cadet Uhura, Commander. Earth," she spoke.
"She is the Cadet with the superior language skills," Spock surmised from her voice patterns, and made a mental note to challenge her to stretch her abilities further.
As the class proceeded, Uhura admired his scientific approach to all aspects of linguistics. It all made perfect sense. She had already applied advanced mathematical principles to enhance her hobby of music composition and singing, so why not language as well? Surprising herself, she caught herself also admiring Spock. Of all the alien races she knew of, she always thought that the Vulcans were the most handsome. She had just never seen one about her age. She often mused privately that they were all born old.
"He is your superior officer and instructor. Don't ruin your career, girl," she chided herself.
Uhura tried to dismiss the uncharacteristic thought of being physically attracted to young males. Unlike her roommate and a few other women, she was not here to catch a man. Especially that oaf Cadet Kirk, who'd come on to her in Iowa.
As the class continued throughout the semester, she demonstrated each day her tremendous talent for languages and communications, and did so in an engaging and friendly manner which transcended any language barriers – a non-verbal communication technique and a very important aspect of first contact with any civilization. Spock noted that she was a natural at it. He also observed that with their lack of displayed emotions, Vulcans were often considered stiff or cold, without the emotional body language so much a part of emotionally driven races like humans.
Each day her admiration grew for her instructor, and despite her best efforts to suppress her thoughts, Uhura found herself contemplating what it would be like to have a more casual relationship with him, not just be his student. He was only three years older than she was. She was amused to see around the class that several female students had distracted, dreamy looks toward their instructor, especially one blonde nursing student, and hoped she was hiding her own thoughts better. She chuckled inwardly that the ancient cliché stereotyping that women were drawn to 'tall, dark, mysterious strangers' certainly applied to Commander Spock.
What she didn't know is the 'tall, dark, mysterious stranger' grew in his own admiration for her, seeing her more and more each day as an intellectual equal and two people with a shared interest of alien races, their history, and culture. His Vulcan half wanted to give her more opportunity to excel by providing her personal attention to her scholastic growth. His inner human half wanted to see her more, and find a way to have a date, but he couldn't admit it.
One day, Spock asked to see her after class, and observed her progress, "Cadet Uhura. Your linguistic skills are vastly superior to your colleagues, and you demonstrate that in virtually every aspect of this course."
"Thank you, sir," she said humbly, and felt an uncontrolled blush.
Spock continued, "You have earned the right to advance further at your own pace. I would like you to register for the Advanced Phonology course next semester, Cadet."
"That is three semesters too early, sir."
"I am well aware of the requirements, Cadet. I will give you the opportunity to 'test out' of the prerequisites, as my assessment is that you already possess the knowledge and skills necessary for the advanced course. It would be an inefficient use of your valuable time to learn what you already know."
"Thank you, Commander."
A few days later she took the Elementary Phonology final exam. She aced it, surprising herself. She was even happier that this would assure her of having another class with Commander Spock.