helens78: Zoe Saldana and Nichelle Nichols at the BET awards ceremony. (st: 2 uhuras close)
Helens ([personal profile] helens78) wrote in [community profile] star_trek_flashfic2009-07-06 10:36 am

A Visit To The Previous Generation (Uhura/Spock, OC Sanaa Uhura)

A Visit To The Previous Generation
Fandom: Star Trek (reboot)
Characters: Nyota Uhura/Spock, Sanaa Uhura
Rating: G
Word Count: 3825
Disclaimer: Star Trek is owned by Paramount; this is not intended to infringe on Paramount's copyright. Sanaa Uhura was inspired by the knowledge that Nichelle Nichols was supposed to have appeared in Star Trek XI as Uhura's grandmother, so I credit Ms. Nichols for Sanaa Uhura and her awesomeness.
Summary: Uhura's grandmother wants to meet Spock; Spock and Uhura agree to come visit her. For the Family Challenge at [community profile] star_trek_flashfic!

* * *

It's a typical night for Commander Spock; having finished his work duties for the day, he's home at his apartment, a small off-campus unit that adequately fills Spock's two requirements for a domicile: privacy and quiet.

He's reading over a linguistics journal when the door chimes, dismissing both privacy and quiet with three cacophonous tones. Odd; Spock has colleagues, of course, but none who would visit without an invitation. Unless...

When he opens the door and finds senior cadet Nyota Uhura there, he nods, suspicion confirmed. "Cadet."

"Commander." Nyota's lips press together firmly. "I apologize if I've interrupted your evening."

"It is quite all right, Cadet. Please come in."

She slips inside his apartment, the door shuts, and she whirls on him, eyes wide. "Spock, my grandmother sent me a message today."

Spock raises an eyebrow; surely there's more to her agitation than a simple message from a family member.

"My grandmother knows about us. And she wants to meet you."

"I am--confused," Spock says. He pauses. "I was under the impression you intended to wait until after graduation to introduce me to your family."

"That's just it. I didn't tell her about you. She just knows. Why I thought I could keep anything a secret from Grand-mère, I have no idea--she knows so many people at the Academy, she's still in touch with so many of her old colleagues, but we've always been careful--"

"Are you concerned about your grandmother's approval?"

"Yes, damn it, I'm concerned!" Nyota stops, putting one hand over her mouth and closing her eyes. Disconcerting as it is to see her losing her composure, it's only momentary; before Spock can figure out how to respond to her outburst, she's under control again. "I'm sorry," she says quietly. "My grandmother's very important to me, and I don't know how she'll react to my involvement with--"

"--an alien," Spock finishes, a bit more sharply than he intended, but the sentiment stings. Too human for Vulcan; too alien for Earth. He'd expected better from Nyota, and as she frowns at him, shaking her head, the sting fades--he does know her better than that.

"An instructor," Nyota corrects gently. "A superior officer. Getting involved with a fellow crewman would be one thing, but an affair with a ranking officer before I've finished at the Academy--"

This, Spock understands; they've had this conversation before. It's a relief to be having it again, and he hopes she didn't take offense at his tone a moment ago. "From everything you've said about your grandmother, I'm certain she has only the highest regard for your considerable abilities--"

"But she still wants to meet you." Nyota closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, exhaling softly. "You of all people know how hard I've worked to get where I am at the Academy."

"I do," Spock murmurs, coming forward, closing the distance between them. He offers her his hand, two fingers outstretched, and even without opening her eyes, she raises two fingers of her own; he touches his fingers to hers, forming a connection, an offering of support. "I am of course willing to meet your grandmother at a time of her choosing."

Nyota smiles at that for some reason; Spock isn't sure what she found amusing, but she does seem calmer, and that can only be positive. She opens her eyes and looks at him. "I thought I'd take you to her home in Kinshasa," she says. "Have you ever been there?"

"I have not."

"I think you'll like it. I hope you'll like it. We won't have to stay long."

Spock stays quiet, keeping his fingers pressed lightly to hers; she sighs deeply and closes her eyes again. "Thank you," she murmurs.

"You are welcome," Spock says softly.

* * *

For all of Nyota's initial anxiety about the meeting with her grandmother, once the plans are made and the shuttle tickets booked, she calms down considerably. She sends Spock a few sets of articles on the history of Kinshasa, with a particular nod to its linguistic history, but something always seems to come up; it isn't until they board the shuttle to Africa that he has time to look them over.

Nyota, meanwhile, has several days' worth of work on her PADDs. Spock can easily imagine her getting through most of it just on the shuttle rides there and back; he's learned not to underestimate her capacity for concentration.

He remembers Nyota saying Grand-mère a few times, and when he discovers that the official language in Kinshasa was French before it was Federation Standard, he shifts a little in his seat. Nyota glances up at him.

"Is something wrong?"

"Not at all," Spock assures her. She turns back to her PADD, and he clears his throat. "If I had known earlier that we were going to be meeting with your grandmother, I would have spent some time refining my understanding of French--"

Nyota grins at him. "Grand-mère isn't going to expect you to speak French. Or Lingala, or Tshiluba, or Swahili--though she does speak all of them, by the way. But don't worry; she's also fluent in Federation Standard."

Spock nods as he goes back to the article. Nyota goes back to grading papers, and casually--so very, very casually--remarks, "She speaks Vulcan, too, if you're more comfortable with that."

Spock raises an eyebrow. Nyota doesn't look up, but that smile on her face is one of her self-satisfied expressions, the kind she used to give her linguistics instructors when she was right about something and they were wrong. Spock makes a mental note to seek out French lessons when they return to the Academy.

* * *

Kinshasa is a fascinating city on an aesthetic level--the shuttle lands them in an urban area, but there's quite a bit of reclaimed, natural land surrounding the developed part of the city. When Spock steps off the shuttle, the heat warms him from his toes to the tips of his ears; he takes a brief moment to appreciate how pleasant it is not to be cold.

"I wondered how you'd feel about mid-August temperatures here," Nyota says, smiling again. "Considering how warm your apartment tends to be, I didn't think you'd mind."

"If this is the weather to which you were accustomed before you joined Starfleet, I cannot imagine how you remain comfortable in San Francisco."

"It can be pretty cold there."

"I for one would certainly not bother with short skirts in winter."

"Which is too bad," Nyota says absently. Spock raises an eyebrow at her; she shrugs. "It isn't as if you'd be the only male who opted for the miniskirts. And it's pretty great in the summer."

"My knees are as susceptible to the cold as the rest of me," Spock points out. Nyota's starting to grin again, though, and he lets the reasoning go.

They hail a cab, and Nyota picks up on the driver's accent and immediately switches to one of the African languages--Spock isn't familiar enough with them to guess which one. The driver smiles at her over his shoulder and starts up a steady stream of chatter that lasts until they reach a two-story house just on the outskirts of the urban part of the city, close enough to the river to have a beautiful view of both the river and some of the fields beyond.

Nyota touches her thumb to the driver's credit pad, and she and Spock climb out of the cab. "That was Lingasa, if you wondered," she tells Spock, who nods. "It's always nice to know I haven't gotten rusty--I don't have much call for it at work."

"I cannot imagine any of your languages suffering from an excess of oxidation," Spock says, and as he expected, Nyota laughs out loud. She's beaming as she presses the old-fashioned doorbell; Spock can hear the chimes from inside, an even rhythm of four tones, falling then rising then falling again. The tones are followed by a rapid patter of footfalls, something Nyota probably doesn't hear, but as she sees the flash of movement behind the sheer curtains, her smile grows even bigger.

The door opens, and a lovely woman of perhaps eighty Earth years grins first at Nyota, then, briefly, at Spock. "Nyota!" she exclaims. She stretches out her hands, and Nyota catches them and leans forward to kiss the other woman's cheeks. The family resemblance is certainly clear; both women have the same wide-set eyes, the same high cheekbones and broad smiles, the same deep brown skin with flawless complexions. Nyota's hair is in braids today, while her grandmother's--a pale silver, contrasted with Nyota's pure black--is braided in rows at the front but loose and natural in the back, falling no further than the nape of her neck.

"Grand-mère, it's so good to see you," Nyota says, wrapping her arms around her grandmother and holding on tight for a moment. She straightens up, though, and her grandmother does, too, features sobering as she regards Spock on his own. "I'd like to introduce you to Commander Spock, one of my colleagues at the Academy. Commander Spock teaches Advanced Phonology and Interspecies Ethics, as well as programming a number of combat simulations." Nyota's grandmother inclines her head slightly; Spock nods back to her. "Spock, allow me to introduce my grandmother, Sanaa Uhura. Grand-mère is chair of the board of directors of the Kinshasa Academy of Fine Arts and teaches an advanced xenolinguistics seminar at l'Université de Kinshasa."

None of this information is new to Spock; even the small of research he did on Sanaa Uhura, combined with everything Nyota's told him about her grandmother, brought up a number of accolades and achievements Sanaa's received. Had Sanaa joined Starfleet, Nyota would have a very public figure to live up to; as it is, Sanaa's life and work are well-known in the United States of Africa, but far less visible elsewhere, in spite of several incidents where she's stepped in as special advisor to the Academy's languages and linguistics department.

"I'm very pleased to meet you, Commander," Sanaa murmurs. Like Nyota, her Federation Standard is flawless and carries a North American accent--while not universal among humans, it's certainly the most common accent Spock's encountered, so that's no surprise. "Nyota tells me you're a fine instructor."

"It is an honor to be placed in such high regard; your granddaughter's abilities are unmatched in recent memory at the Academy. If I may ask a favor, though, Madame Uhura..."

"Of course."

"I believe it would be quite appropriate for you to call me by name--as opposed to rank."

Sanaa smiles. "Certainly, Spock--and you must call me Sanaa."

"Sanaa," Spock repeats. "I am pleased to meet you as well."

"Well, come in, both of you," Sanaa says, stepping away from the doorway and gesturing in invitation. "I'm so glad you were able to come out for a visit. I know how busy the Academy keeps its cadets--and its instructors!" Sanaa leads them into a sitting room, where the furniture looks to be antique, perhaps originating in the twentieth or twenty-first century. The clean, geometric lines are measured to within minimal tolerances, and the fabric covering the couches is pristine, possibly restored or replicated from the original. Spock takes a seat next to Nyota, and Sanaa smiles at both of them.

"Just a moment while I bring out some tea," she says, and she disappears through a door in the back of the room.

Spock turns to Uhura, who grins at him. "Not as challenging as you expected?"

He knows her well enough to understand that challenging is not the first word she considered for that sentence; she knows him well enough to understand that if she'd said "difficult" or "overwhelming", he would have taken exception. Fortunately, he can answer honestly to both the verbalized question and the implied ones, and he shakes his head.

"Not at all. Your grandmother is very--" He pauses, considering. "Elegant," he says.

"Oh, I'm sure she'd like that."

There's a soft sound from behind them, and Spock turns to look. He freezes, holding his breath, but Nyota leans down and beckons the intruder forward. "Nicki! C'mere, girl."

"You did not mention the presence of a feline," Spock whispers. The cat in question--sleek and grey, with a red leather collar--comes over to both of them, and glances up at Spock before coming forward a bit further and letting Nyota stroke its head.

"Oh, I missed you," Nyota says, scratching the cat behind its ears. The cat puts up with the attention for a few seconds, then looks up at Spock again. It walks slowly past Spock's legs, rubbing its side against his shins. Spock remembers to breathe again.

"You're not allergic, are you?" Nyota asks. "Nicki seems to like you."

"I do not have allergies to feline Earth animals, no."

Nyota frowns at him, sitting up straight again. "Are you all right?"

"As there has been no opportunity for me to become injured, I am clearly 'all right'," Spock points out. "However, I believe your grandmother's companion is shedding its fur onto my uniform."

"Tragic," Nyota says, rolling her eyes and picking up the cat. She pulls the cat into her lap and strokes a hand all the way down its back; it paws at Nyota's leg and then settles down. That puts it even closer to Spock, which is not an improvement; Spock wonders if Nyota would notice if he moved away slightly. He doesn't try it.

Sanaa returns with a tray; it holds a brightly-colored teapot and three cups and saucers, as well as small crocks presumably for sugar and milk, a few slices of lemon, and a plate of cookies. Spock stands up. "May I help you with that?"

"No, thank you, I'm fine," Sanaa says. She brings the tray to the coffee table and sets it down, pouring out three glasses of tea. Spock takes a seat again, this time settling down further away from the cat. Nyota arches an eyebrow at him, but he preoccupies himself with taking a glass of tea, politely declining the sugar, milk, lemon, and cookies.

From the scent of it, the tea has a bit of ginger; Spock takes a sip. "It is a very good tea, Sanaa; thank you."

The afternoon's a very interesting one; Sanaa has any number of fascinating stories about her career. Watching Sanaa talk is very much like getting a glimpse of what Nyota will be like in sixty years' time; she's full of poise and grace, and she seems very capable of putting people at ease. So much so, in fact, that the conversation turns back to Nyota and Spock almost without their realizing it.

"There are some things one doesn't expect to hear secondhand from colleagues, of course," Sanaa says, looking pointedly at Nyota. Nyota takes a deep breath, and the cat in her lap stands up and stretches, walking across her legs and over to Spock's. It puts one paw on Spock's leg as if asking for permission, and despite a raised eyebrow and a refusal to move his arm away to give the cat access, it walks over leg and arm, both, until it's draped across Spock's lap, where it settles down and looks up at him expectantly.

"--despite the fact that Spock was not my instructor at the time we started dating," Nyota says, then glances over at Spock. She pauses. "I think she'd like you to pet her."

Spock looks from Nyota to Sanaa. He wonders how great a breach of etiquette it would be to toss the cat unceremoniously off his lap; the risk is greater than his reluctance to reward the cat for its impertinent behavior. He pauses and then carefully strokes the cat from the top of its head to the base of its tail. The cat seems satisfied.

"You were saying?" Sanaa asks, taking a sip of tea.

"Yes--as it turns out, there are no official regulations prohibiting relationships between cadets and graduates, and because of the fact that our professional relationship is no longer on a student-instructor basis, it's not liable to reflect poorly on either of us in the long run."

There's another pause; Spock strokes the cat three more times before he realizes they're both waiting for him to add something to the conversation. He stops petting the cat and looks up. "Our concern is for Nyota's post-graduation assignment," he says. "Given her ambitions and my expected placement, there is some reason to avoid public knowledge of our relationship before those assignments are official."

"And what assignment are you looking for, Nyota?"

"Communications department on the U.S.S. Enterprise with an eventual career goal of lead communications officer."

"Ahh." Sanaa eyes Spock. "I take it you'll be serving on the Enterprise as soon as it's ready to embark?"

"I am expecting to serve as science officer on board the Enterprise, yes."

"I understand your reluctance to be public about your relationship, obviously," Sanaa says, but her eyes narrow slightly when she looks at Nyota. "That said, there is a very great difference between being public and simply avoiding the topic of your dating life with your own grandmother."

"Yes, Grand-mère, I'm sorry," Nyota murmurs, looking down at her tea.

The silence grows longer than the human norm in this sort of conversation; Sanaa looks at Spock with those narrowed eyes, and he straightens, pausing in his attentions to the cat. "I would like to offer my apologies as well," he says. "I am certain that Nyota would not have consciously done anything to cause you distress. She speaks very highly of you."

Sanaa sits back slightly, looking from one of them to the other. She makes a soft clicking sound with her tongue and beckons to the cat, who hops off Spock's lap and goes over to Sanaa, weaving back and forth between her legs before settling at her feet. Spock raises an eyebrow. Fascinating.

"Let's all agree that this was not handled as well as it could have been--but now that the awkwardness is behind us, I expect to see both of you more often. Is that clear?"

Nyota nods, and Spock nods along with her.

"Good. Now tell me about your simulation, Spock; I hear you've managed to intimidate a good ninety percent of the recent senior classes with your take on the Kobayashi Maru."

* * *

It's a long but very pleasant afternoon visit; by the time they're done talking to Sanaa, Spock finds himself more comfortable with her than with almost any other humans--apart from his own mother and Nyota, of course. The cat keeps to Sanaa for the rest of the afternoon, and Spock resolves to invest in a bottle of hair and dander repellant for his uniform the next time he goes to see Sanaa. If it keeps the cat itself away from him, so much the better.

Sanaa says a quiet goodbye to Nyota, and Spock steps away to give them their privacy, but when it's over, Nyota puts a hand on Spock's arm. "Grand-mère has some things to say to you, too, before we go," she murmurs. She steps off Nyota's porch, out of earshot, and Spock goes back to the front door so Sanaa can speak to him as well.

"In spite of the fact that--as a grandmother--I wasn't very happy to find out that my granddaughter was carrying on an affair in secret... as a professional, and someone who's spent a lot of time around Starfleet, I do understand your need for privacy. I appreciate the care you're taking to protect Nyota's reputation and career."

Spock nods at her. "I am well aware of how devastating it would be to Nyota to see her career shadowed with the possibility of favoritism. And placing her anywhere but the flagship would be a great loss to Starfleet. Protecting Nyota in this is... only logical."

Sanaa gives him an appraising look; Spock is reminded of his mother again, the way she often smiles when the phrase only logical comes out of his mouth... or his father's. Sanaa doesn't smile, not exactly, but the expression on her face is very similar to one that Nyota gives him when she declines to question a statement that might, to a human, raise a question or two.

"Nyota tells me your mother is human. I'm not sure how familiar you are with human rituals revolving around their children's--or grandchildren's--potential suitors."

"Hardly at all," Spock admits. "Have I neglected some custom?"

"No--but I have." Sanaa smiles at him. "There was a time on Earth when doting grandmothers would ask their granddaughter's partners to take care of them. More protective grandmothers would issue threats, letting the partner in question know that if their granddaughter knew even a moment of sorrow due to carelessness from the partner, the partner would regret it."

"I would regret causing Nyota sorrow in any case," Spock says, one eyebrow lifting. "You are, of course, welcome to continue with the ritual regardless."

Sanaa laughs at that. "No. No, I don't think I will. We both know Nyota is perfectly capable of taking care of herself, and I believe you've already shown both the ability and willingness to help her and respect her, whatever she might need."

"It is certainly my intention."

"So what I'm going to ask you to do is a bit different." Sanaa leans forward, just a fraction--not enough to seem invasive, but enough to highlight the seriousness of her request. "Let her take care of you. She's one of the strongest young women you may ever know, and that strength is valuable. A true partnership relies on both partners being willing not just to act as support for one another, but to be supported. You both clearly care about one another. Don't let her believe that your relationship is one-sided in any way."

Spock tilts his head slightly to the side, committing the advice to memory. "Thank you, Sanaa; I appreciate your observation."

She nods at him. "I'm glad. It was good to meet you, Spock." She lifts her hand, and for a moment he thinks she's going to offer him the standard human handshake; instead her hand keeps lifting until it's at shoulder-level, and to Spock's astonishment, her fingers part in the traditional Vulcan salute. "Peace and long life."

Fortunately for Spock, his instincts take over, and he returns the salute with barely a pause to give away his surprise. "Live long and prosper," he responds, and he turns to meet Nyota at the cab.

She grins at him as they slide inside and the cab takes them toward the shuttleport. "Do I get to ask what you talked about at the end there?"

Spock shakes his head. "I believe that might constitute a breach of etiquette. But your grandmother is a fascinating individual, and I would not be at all opposed to meeting her again."


Notes: As I mention in the disclaimer, Sanaa Uhura is inspired by Nichelle Nichols and the knowledge that she was supposed to have appeared in Star Trek XI as Uhura's grandmother. This is also, very slightly, an episode tag for Catspaw, in which Spock has the following hilarious bit of dialogue:

An evil alien shapeshifts into a gigantic housecat. The special effects quality makes it look like... a meowing housecat. Possibly one who wants tuna. Kirk seems baffled.
Kirk: Why a cat?
Spock: Racial memories. The cat is the most ruthless, most terrifying of animals, as far back as the saber-toothed tiger.

Grant and I looked at each other after Spock said that and kind of boggled. RUTHLESS AND TERRIFYING! A HOUSECAT! We determined that Spock clearly has felinophobia, and I immediately decided I wanted to write a story in which Spock meets Uhura's grandmother and has a tiny Vulcan freakout over her grandmother's cat.

As for Uhura's hometown of Kinshasa, I'm sorry to say that's not canon; nothing outside of "Africa" has ever been established for Uhura's background. (Some sources also say "United States of Africa", and the "African Federation" has been referenced in some material for Geordi LaForge, although it's not explicitly stated in canon, either.) I chose Kinshasa (which is part of today's Democratic Republic of Congo) because it's a large city with a combination of urban and undeveloped areas with a rich linguistic history: the national language today is French, but Lingasa, Tshiluba, and Swahili are also commonly spoken there. There is canonical precedent for Uhura to speak Swahili ("The Man Trap"), so I wanted to place her somewhere that she might have run into it.

Starfleet Academy was established in 2161, so Sanaa Uhura could easily have been a member of Starfleet, but I deliberately went in another direction because I couldn't imagine Sanaa being anything but highly decorated, and giving Uhura more to live up to seemed over-the-top. Sanaa is plenty awesome on her own merits without being a member of Starfleet, and I also wanted to make it clear that, on Earth as well as on planets such as Vulcan (with the Vulcan Science Academy), there are other prestigious schools and institutions, and Starfleet is not the only option!

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