The dancing figures held Uhura's attention long enough for her to decide she wouldn't mind one more dance herself before returning to the ship. She also noticed one man in particular who was looking her way. Seeing her watching him in return, he began to walk over.
"Do you mind?" he asked, indicating the other chair opposite her. She shook her head and he sat down. "My name is Dugan Braeden. And yours?"
"Pleased to meet you, Nyota." He placed a kiss on her hand.
"Impressive," she teased, pleased with what she saw. He was a handsome man with dark looks and an air she immediately liked.
"I hope so. I'm doing my best."
"Is this why you're here? To impress the women in town?"
He grinned brightly at her. "Actually, I wanted to ask you to dance. I'm celebrating tonight, and I can't seem to sit still for too long."
She returned the smile, and stood up to join him on the dance floor. "What are you celebrating?"
"What everyone else is celebrating," he replied, slipping her arm through his. "Possibly the same thing you are."
"I don't know if I'm celebrating anything. I'm enjoying being off the ship for a while. As nice as it is, I like..."
He swung her around abruptly. "You're from the starship?"
"Well, yes, but what does that...?"
He let her go, suddenly acting as if it was distasteful to be near her. "I had no idea you were one of them."
Uhura was quickly becoming angry as well as puzzled. "What are you talking about?"
His tone turned ugly. "I'll tell you exactly what I mean. We," gesturing to the crowd that gave them their complete attention, "don't want your kind here. So I suggest you get out. Now."
"Just who do you think...?" Common sense was a better idea, Uhura decided, as he took one step forward warningly, and the crowd didn't give behind her.
How did I get into this? she thought wearily, shifting into a defensive position. My mother told me not to pick up men in bars.
Braeden moved one step more, his hand raised threateningly behind his head, when a stunned look crossed his face and he fell at Uhura's feet. She looked up from his body to see Saavik standing behind him.
A nerve pinch, however, would not help them against an entire crowd. She whirled around, thinking it was silly trying to hold them off without a phaser, when Saavik pulled one out and moved up beside her.
"We want no trouble," the Vulcan addressed the people, who were trying to decide what to do. "However, if you continue with any more hostile actions, we will be forced to defend ourselves."
Slowly, the pair moved towards the door. Two men got up from behind to stop them. Uhura dropped one with a knee to the abdomen and a chop to the neck; Saavik caught the kick aimed for the backs of her own legs, and quickly found the correct pressure points, pinching them to numb the leg. But a few in the crowd took advantage of the distraction and started after them. Saavik fired at their feet all across the dance floor sending them scurrying for cover.
More moved up from the sides. Uhura started to yell to keep firing when the other woman threw her the weapon, choosing to fight hand-to-hand instead. Uhura kept the trigger pressed down, deliberately hitting no one, but succeeding in causing a general panic, allowing them time to continue their way out.
One man swung at Saavik with a bottle. Catching and numbing his wrist, she also hurriedly used him as a shield to block one woman clawing with her nails. Uhura watched amused as people began to fly around the room while she guarded their backs with the phaser. The tavern's customers began to give them a wider berth and she saw, finally, a chance to escape. It almost seemed a shame to since Saavik looked like she was enjoying herself; but that thought, of course, was ridiculous.
She grabbed at the Vulcan. "Run!" And giving her a good example, she headed out into the street.
Saavik stopped her from going further, and led the way into the alley next to the tavern. Pointing to a ladder on the side of the building, she motioned for Uhura to go first. Chuckling, she did so.
Upon reaching the roof, Saavik leaned confidently over the front wall to see people fan out into the street in search of them. Uhura, standing next to her, laughed again. "Not very good, are they?"
"No, they're not."
Making herself comfortable, Uhura went on. "Any idea on what that was all about?"
"The local government was concerned about piracy of their shipping lanes. They arranged a contract with the Federation for safe transportation of their goods. Many in the business sector argued it was a violation of private enterprise, while in reality they were regretting the profits they would lose. They are trying to have the public aroused against it, and we were the first ship to come into port."
Shouts came from below. "Did you find them?"
"No, no sign of 'em."
"They must've gone back to their ship."
"Don't be an idiot! That Romulan couldn't be from the starship!"
"That was no Romulan."
"Of course it was! No Vulcan dresses like that."
Uhura thought she saw Saavik shift restlessly. It must be hard to be the 'it' of the conversation, she thought, noticing her companion's garb for the first time. The black top, sleeveless, hugged the curves in the long, lean torso. Bands of matching black cloth covered her upper arms and her forearms, still leaving her shoulders and elbows free. The fawn colored, wrap-around skirt also allowed her legs freedom of movement, and matched the color of the soft, cloth shoes. True, the outfit was not Vulcan, but it wasn't necessarily Romulan either. Unless, of course, you look like Saavik, she reminded herself. Or did someone see her family brand and knows what it means? Uhura had asked Spock about the identifying mark after seeing it on Saavik's upper left shoulder during a gym workout. But the blouse covered it even as the hybrid now crossed her arms.
"I think those business men got what they wanted." Saavik didn't answer. "I haven't thanked you yet for jumping in down there."
"It's not necessary."
"Yes, it is." She paused. "You're very good at hand-to-hand fighting. You're obviously a better student of Sulu's than I was."
The Vulcan finally seemed to pay attention. "You needn't try to protect me. I've heard worse comments than what they are saying below. It's curious they so quickly assume I'm Romulan. This planet is far from the Neutral Zone."
"They've probably never seen a Romulan in their lives," Uhura agreed. "It's probably a story they tell to frighten children. 'Be careful or the Romulans will get you!'" She suddenly realized her present hybrid company. "I didn't mean that personally."
"I am aware you didn't." Saavik looked again into the street. The mob was darting in and out of the tavern, trying to organize themselves and rapidly failing. "The local authorities should have warned Enterprise before personnel beamed down. If I hadn't come across you here, or if our pursuers were more competent, the situation would be far more serious."
"Then you weren't looking for me?"
"Not entirely. I told the Enterprise I saw you here in case of trouble, but I had arrived not knowing you would."
"Then why are you here?"
Silence. Uhura realized it was only Saavik's sense of honesty that had brought her this far. "I'm sorry. I'm pushing."
They were quiet for a bit, then the soft voice spoke again. "I wanted to see the stars."
A little louder this time. "I only wanted to see the stars. Being amongst them is a fascinating experience, but I wished to see them clearly, not through a viewscreen or a small portal. This area is not very industrialized, and the buildings are not tall. In fact, this is the tallest. On the roof, there is no lighting to take away from the sky."
A Starfleet officer who left her starship to gaze at the night sky wasn't that big of a deal. In fact, it could be considered romantic, fanciful, and other concepts embarrassing to a Vulcan or to someone with a strong sense of privacy, the strongest Uhura had ever seen. That explains the clothes. If someone saw her, she'd look like any of the other Independent traders in port. She hadn't counted on getting into a bar fight and people getting a close-up of her features. When the refit is done for the observation lounge, she won't need to come planetside. Or will she? How much does it bother her to have someone see her stargazing? This time it was Uhura who was quiet before speaking. "I appreciate you confiding in me. I'd like to think that with all we've been through, we can be friends."
A quick nod was all the answer she needed.
"You know, there's no reason for us to stay here. I don't have my communicator -- I was going back with the regular party -- but I assume you have yours."
"I do." Another restless movement, this time a little sheepishly, then Saavik pulled her communicator from the small of her back. How she hid it, and originally the phaser, Uhura didn't know. The slim straight lines of the skirt and top didn't look like they could hide anything. "It was damaged in the skirmish."
Uhura stifled a quick laugh, knowing it wouldn't be taken right. She took the broken equipment and examined it expertly. "We could repair this easily with the right tools." She surreptitiously eyed Saavik's waist. "I don't suppose you have--" The other woman handed her a multifaceted tool. "Perfect. Thanks."
"If we cannot repair it, it will not matter. Captain Spock is meeting me here."
"Yes. As this is the tallest building, I came here to get above the streetlights. I heard your voice below and came to investigate."
God bless Vulcan hearing! Uhura thought.
"Spock is transporting down after he completes a project for the captain. He will have a communicator."
Of course Spock's allowed in that sense of privacy. And he was coming down for some stargazing with you? The image made her smile. "Then we don't have to worry."
"My name's Nyota."
Saavik watched her, judging what her reaction would be. "I call a person by name only with their permission. It's the only Romulan custom of which I approve."
"Could you explain?"
"Romulans believe the soul is reflected in a person's names. You don't use them freely; you must have permission since knowing the soul means knowing all the person's strengths and vulnerabilities. Even Vulcans will not casually tell a name's meaning. Only good friends, family, and bondmates know them."
"So I shouldn't be using yours?"
"That is your custom. It doesn't offend me."
"How would someone go about all this?"
"They would say the name and its meaning. It is where the soul is contained."
"In that case, Lieutenant." She locked gazes. "My name is Nyota Penda Uhura. It means 'she who loves star freedom.' Not bad, is it? I'm proud of it." She smiled. "And you shouldn't feel beholden."
Again the quick nod.
The street cleared. Saavik frowned, but Uhura, bending over the communicator, didn't see it. "The crowd concerns me. We still have personnel on the surface who may not know of the trouble."
"We'll contact them as soon as I have this done." For a few seconds, she worked on the communicator; then Saavik broke the silence.
"Would you like to follow them?"
Surprised, Uhura looked up. The starlit sky framed Saavik's outline, silhouetting her, but some light spilled up from below. Uhura thought she saw a spark of -- mischief? -- in the Vulcan's eye. She knew her own answering smile was filled with it. "They might see us."
"They won't." Saavik drew further away, to the corner of the rooftop, once more resuming her watch over the crowd below. The black shirt and armbands melted into the night; the dark hair fell forward over her face; the fawn skirt, mottled with broken light, blended into the building's pale shadows.
Uhura shook her head. Where did she learn to do that? "You're the only one dressed for it." Saavik turned her gaze from the street, seeing the bright amber and oranges that contrasted so beautifully with the Commander's dark skin. "Although, it'd certainly help if we could find out something." That spark, the almost smile playing on Saavik's mouth -- she was probably imagining it -- recalled childhood memories of nights filled with laughter and games. "You're going to make me be the responsible one, aren't you?"
"You are the Commander."
Uhura sighed to herself. What good are Vulcans if they're aren't going to be the sensible ones? And when did I become the killjoy? Pavel and Hikaru will never let me live this down. She had to grin again. "I bet you got in a lot of trouble as a kid, didnt you?"
Immediately, Saavik stiffened, became defensive, something no Vulcan should do. The fact that she did told Uhura she had said the wrong thing. "Why do you say that?"
So were not going to share childhood memories. Why? "No reason. It was a joke."
The Vulcan relaxed slightly. "Yes, of course. Humor." Uhura wished she knew what it was she had said; shed take it back. Saavik gazed below and the moment stretched. Uhura went back to communicator repairs, not knowing what else to do.
"So. Do we follow them?"
Uhura beamed, delighted and relieved. "You go. I'd only give you away. See if you can find out anything, but make it fast. I'm giving you ten minutes; I should be done the repairs by then. If I see something happening here, I'll shout."
The Vulcan/Romulan, all duty now, started to leave then stopped, unknowingly hiding herself in the darkness. "Nyota?"
"Saavik means, as close as I can translate it, twilight. It's given to a person who holds themselves away from others, or who stands partly on the outside looking in."
Part of the night, part of the day, but not really either of them. "May I ask? Is it Vulcan?"
"It was. Its roots are in PreReform Vulcan, but the Romulans altered it to its present form."
Uhura slowly smiled. "I'll watch out for you, Saavik." And then she was alone. The smile stayed as she tinkered with the last repairs, keeping an eye on the street. It had been an eventful night, but definitely a worthwhile one.
They beamed up shortly afterwards and went to give their report. Spock wondered why Commander Uhura winked at him conspiratorially as she passed.