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Nyota Uhura looked around the Great Hall, her eyes bright with wonder and excitement. Of all things, Nyota dearly loved a ball, especially a Starfleet ball. What better opportunity was there to observe and make sport of her neighbors? As a xenolinguistic student, Uhura considered herself a professional studier of alien character and culture as well as language. A Starfleet ball provided the perfect opportunity to not only observe people from every culture of the Federation but to also observe their interactions with one another in a purely social setting.
“Nyota!” A green skinned Orion woman waived enthusiastically from the entrance before hurrying over to Uhura’s side. Uhura admired Gaila’s Orion gown of white diaphanous silk that barely left much to the imagination. Uhura could have never pictured herself in a similar outfit, but as each cadet was to wear formal attire befitting their respective cultures, Uhura could find little fault with her roommate’s revealing attire.
“Your gown is gorgeous, Nyota!” Gaila exclaimed before hugging her friend and bidding her to twirl about in a circle so that she could get a better look. “You left for the ball so early that I could not get a proper look at you.”
Nyota smiled and self consciously smoothed down the sapphire material of her dress. Her attire was much more modest than that of her friend, but it suited her fine. Uhura preferred a more traditional ball gown with a full skirt that ended just before her shoes and a fitted sleeveless bodice that left her shoulders and neck bare.
“Why, hello ladies! Don’t you both look absolutely ravishing tonight.”
Uhura groaned as she turned from Gaila to see the smiling face of James T. Kirk. He was dressed impeccably in a black tuxedo. Uhura would never tell him this, but he looked very dashing.
“Hello, Kirk,” Gaila gushed as she batted her eyes at the cadet.
Uhura groaned again, knowing that Gaila’s honeyed reply would only further inflate Kirk’s ego.
“No hello for me, princess?” Kirk asked as he sauntered over to Uhura and placed one arm around her waist.
“Hello,” Uhura stated curtly as she shrugged out of his embrace.
“Is this horndog giving you any trouble, dollface?” Leonard McCoy asked as he joined them, his mouth twisted in a smirk.
“Nothing I can’t handle,” Uhura smiled at her friend before giving him an appreciative look up and down his person. “You look very handsome tonight, Len.”
Cadet McCoy blushed, before coughing to hide his embarrassment. “You look quite pretty yourself.”
“Thank you,” Uhura replied, trying to hide a blush of her own.
Leonard McCoy was her second best friend at Starfleet after Gaila. Some would think it strange that she would count the older and always grumpy McCoy as such a close friend, but Uhura saw themselves as somewhat kindred spirits. He was a very practical person who wasn’t afraid to tell it to you straight. It was also comforting to Uhura to know that she was safe with McCoy. His awful ex-wife had done a number on him and McCoy had made it abundantly clear to all of the first year female cadets that he was in no hurry to let another she-devil sink their claws into his hide. However, Nyota Uhura was the one female at Starfleet Academy who was able to coax a blush out of McCoy.
McCoy could always make Uhura laugh, especially when he would put down his friend Kirk, whom Uhura learned to tolerate for McCoy’s sake. McCoy knew that Uhura got a perverse pleasure from his constant attacks on Kirk’s ego, so he was always sure to lay it on thick when the three of them were together. As she and McCoy often studied together and Kirk was very dedicated in his mission to win a date from Uhura (and to learn her first name), Kirk was often in Uhura’s company. Reluctantly, Uhura found herself warming to Kirk; he was beginning to grow on her…like a fungus. Perhaps that is why she had agreed to dance with Kirk that evening, after she opened the dance with McCoy. However, she resolved to only participate in a single dance with Kirk, one in which holding your partner less than three feet from your body was not a requisite. This concession would undoubtedly encourage said fungus in his pursuit of her, but Uhura knew that the small sacrifice would mean that she could spend most of the night free from his attentions.
A hush settled over the assembled cadets as the first of the Starfleet officers and instructors arrived at the hall. A wave of whispers and mutterings soon broke out amongst the cadets as a Vulcan and Andorian instructor stepped into the hall. The Vulcan was male, tall and broad shouldered with the bad haircut that all Vulcan men were known to prefer.
“Apparently, they say that he turned down the Vulcan Science Academy for Starfleet,” one female cadet whispered.
“I heard that his family is of the Vulcan nobility,” another male cadet replied.
“Get this, I heard that his mother is human,” McCoy whispered to Uhura. “Can you believe that a human woman would have married one of those cold pointy eared bastards?”
Uhura regarded the Vulcan with equal curiosity. She had taken to the study of the Vulcan language and culture independently before joining Starfleet. The society intrigued her like no other. She found it fascinating that an entire people would strive to rid themselves of emotion in the pursuit of logic. Uhura was too passionate of a person to regard such a life as anything other than a tragedy. She dearly loved to laugh while also realizing the therapeutic qualities of having a good cry. It was hard for her to imagine living without knowing love, joy, heartache or passion. Uhura thought the Vulcan was strangely handsome, if not a bit cold and prideful in his demeanor.
“He does not look too pleased to be here,” Uhura commented to Gaila, who was uncharacteristically quiet. “I wonder why he did not just choose to remain home rather than attend a ball he is incapable of enjoying.”
“Who is that beside him?” Gaila practically sighed.
Uhura followed her friend’s gaze to find it fixed on the Andorian who accompanied the Vulcan. Unlike his companion, the Andorian appeared to be delighted to be at the ball. A broad smile spread across his blue face as he spoke animatedly with his dour friend. His delight only seemed to increase when Captain Pike approached the pair. The Vulcan merely saluted his superior officer in greeting. Uhura had to bite back a laugh when Captain Pike brushed off the stiff salute and heartily slapped the Vulcan on the back.
“I don’t know either of those gentlemen,” Uhura answered Gaila. “But it looks as if we shall find out their identities soon enough.”
Uhura and her companions quickly stood at attention as Captain Pike walked towards them, the Vulcan and Andorian in tow.
“At ease, cadets,” Captain Pike saluted them before turning to his companions. “I’d like to introduce you gentlemen to some of our most promising cadets. Commander Spock and Lieutenant-Commander Shuran, may I present Cadets Gaila, Uhura, McCoy and Kirk.
“Lovely to meet you all!” Shuran greeted them, his smile growing impossibly broader. “I trust that your first few months at the Academy have been pleasant.”
Mummers of agreement rippled through the group.
Shuran smiled his approval before turning toward Gaila. “As this is a ball and balls are meant for dancing, would you do me the honor of dancing the first with me, Cadet Gaila?”
“The pleasure would be mine, Lieutenant-Commander,” Gaila replied with a shy smile.
Uhura almost laughed outright at Gaila’s display of reticence. In the months in which they had been roommates and friends, Gaila had never been shy with males of any species.
After watching Gaila and Shuran make their way to the dance floor, the group turned expectantly towards Spock. Rather than emulating his friend’s greeting and asking Uhura to dance, he simply bowed stiffly before hurriedly walking away. Captain Pike gave them an apologetic smile before leaving them to facilitate more introductions.
“Well, of all the nerve,” McCoy began as soon as the Spock and Captain Pike were out of earshot. “Can you believe that green blooded hobgoblin? I know Vulcan’s are known to be emotionless, but I did not know that they were so damn rude!”
Uhura smiled at her friend, before giving his arm a gentle squeeze. “I wouldn’t take offense, Len. I am sure that he finds these gatherings to be quite beneath him. What can be more illogical than a ball?”
McCoy returned his friend’s smirk before leading her out onto the dance floor as the music for the first dance began. Kirk scanned the room, secure in the knowledge that he had his pick of the ladies. He soon joined his friends on the dance floor with a very obliging Edosian female.
As the night wore on, Uhura found herself to be thoroughly enjoying the ball. She even managed to enjoy her dance with Kirk, who kept his hands to himself as he was much focused on returning to his Edosian friend as soon as their dance was ended. Uhura had danced every dance thus far and she enjoyed the respite and the chance to observe the assembly.
Uhura observed Commander Spock standing stiffly alone a few feet from her seat. She contemplated attempting to engage him in conversation as she was eager to practice her Vulcan with a native speaker. However, the remembrance of his cold visage and hasty retreat during their introduction led her to change her mind.
“Come, Spock, I must have you dance,” Lieutenant-Commander Shuran addressed his friend as he joined him on the sidelines. “I can’t have you standing about in this stupid manner.”
Spock turned to him, raising one brow in disapproval. “As you are well aware, I have already fulfilled my obligation to dance by standing up with Lieutenant Chapel.”
“Yes, Spock. You danced one very stiff waltz. But, how can you content yourself with standing about when there are so many uncommonly pretty ladies in attendance?”
“I see very few females whose looks are above what one would call average. However, the cadet you are dancing with is visually acceptable.”
“Acceptable? Come man, she is a goddess!”
“It is inappropriate for a superior officer to speak of a cadet in such…”
“Please, spare me the regulations,” Shuran interrupted him. “As I am not an instructor and we are not on a starship, there are no regulations barring me from admiring a female cadet. Besides, this is a ball!”
Shuran scanned the crowd until his eyes came to rest on Uhura.
“Look, there is Cadet Gaila’s friend. She is quite pretty; very pretty indeed. I have heard other professor rave about her academic prowess and she is fluent in Vulcan. Surely, you would enjoy a dance with her.”
Spock’s eyes drifted towards Uhura, who seemed to be strangely fascinated by the silk embroidery on the skirt of her gown.
“She is visually satisfactory, but it is highly unlikely that she is proficient enough to tempt me. Cease you entreaties and continue to indulge in the expressions of pleasure of your partner.”
Spock was relieved when Shuran left him to return to the side of Cadet Gaila. However, his relief was short lived when Cadet Uhura walked by him to join her friend Cadet McCoy. She smiled coyly at him.
“Moi-tema, Zhel-lan Spock,” she whispered in perfect Vulcan as she passed by.*
Spock quirked a brow in surprise. He deduced that she had overheard his conversation with Shuran. He flushed green at the sound of her tinkling laughter as she shared some joke with Cadet McCoy. He turned to find her large brown eyes fixed on his person, her eyes bright in challenge.
Spock held her gaze for a moment, before turning and hurriedly making his way out of the hall. He found himself to be uncharacteristically warm and in need of fresh air. However, he found the cool night air failed to return his temperature to normal. As he made his way to his quarters across the campus, he began to reassess his previous judgment that Cadet Uhura was simply visually satisfactory. Indeed, her appearance was far above satisfactory. That evening, Spock spent an extra hour in meditation trying to calm his emotions and suppress the warm feeling that suffused his person at the memory of a certain set of exemplary brown eyes.
*“Moi-tema, Zhel-lan Spock”= “Good evening, Commander Spock"