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26 May 2009 @ 14:28
A Thousand Words for Snow  
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Author's note: Huge thanks to sineala for linguistics geeking help.

A Thousand Words for Snow
by LJC

Linguists have been trying to explain for over a century—ever since a cultural anthropologist first published with the intent to connect differences in culture with differences in language by examining the roots—that the Inuit people of North America do not in fact have an inordinately large number of words for frozen precipitation. Only that in noting the differences been Standard and the Eskimo-Aleut language family, there was a morphological difference as to how water and snow-related words were formed from a limited number of free morphemes.

The problem is, "Eskimos have a thousand words for snow" sounds poetic. So people kept saying it, even though it wasn't true. It's an old almost-joke among linguists. For when the truth of a thing fades in the face of the lie becoming legend.

Vulcans have no word for "lover".

There are at least five different words Uhura has identified in both Modern Vulcan written and spoken language for spouse (bond-mate, joined-but-chaste, joined-but-parted, joined-never-parted, parent-of-my-offspring), and four for friend (companion, secret-keeper, friendship-like-kinship, and friendship-closer-than-kinship). There are Old High Vulcan endearments (half-of-my-heart/soul/being) that she has never heard spoken—and most likely never will, the embracing of the teachings of Surak changing the language of Vulcan even as it changed her people.

But there is no word for someone with whom one has an intimate, physical relationship outside of marriage.

The closest is t'hy'la (friendship-closer-than-kinship), but even that, while roughly equivalent to "an intimate" in Standard, does not expressly mean someone with whom you enjoy the physical act of love-making. It is used in Vulcan-English dictionaries of the type sold in commercial spaceports for "paramour", but the Sato-Heydt linguo-code translation matrix simply renders the word untranslatable, and substitutes ashal-veh (cherished one).

Even in the writings which survived from before The Time of Awakening, when Vulcan was tearing itself apart with petty wars and it was said the dry riverbeds of the Forge ran emerald with blood, love poetry was still primarily composed in the honour of one's bondmate. The most famous surviving poem, ni'var ke Shan-ha'lok ("Two Forms/Aspects of the Engulfment/Drowning"), while undeniably erotic, still used ashay-am (object of affection [possessive]) as the primary form of address. And that felt too... gentle. Too restrained. Too simple to contain within its narrow scope the breadth and depth of her relationship with Spock.

Listening to Spock's breathing as he sleeps, one arm draped across her waist so his fingers brush her hip, she thinks there must be a word for this—for the feather-light brush of his mind as his hands find the contact points on her cheek and brow and desire burns along every nerve ending. A single word that contains the touch of his mouth to her collarbone, her nails digging into his shoulders as his teeth nip lightly at her pulsepoint—never leaving marks where they can be seen, but still marking her as his in a way that makes her shudder.

She struggles with the idea that there has never been a sound or sequence of sounds paired with the concept of his hands cupping her small breasts as he presses a kiss to the nape of her neck as they move together in near-silence broken only by his breathing and her soft cries. There is no noun in his language for the finger-shaped bruises he leaves on her hips as he loses himself in her body and her eyes. Or the sound he makes in the back of his throat as the heel of her foot caresses the back of his thigh as she draws him into her.

She knows a hundred words for "beloved" in languages from across the Federation and beyond. Words that that burn in her throat as she buries herself in his fever-warm embrace. She can't push a sound past her lips, because she wants so much to find one that is his, and not borrowed or stolen. Not even from kiSwahili, the language she still speaks in her dreams.

He has lost so much, she wants to find something she can give him that can never be taken from him. So she tries to tell him, with the language of her body.

Every time they step into his quarters after a duty shift and his fingers tangle in the heavy fall of her hair, it's whispered in her smile and the warmth of his body against her back as she leans into his embrace.

With every kiss that steals the breath from her body, she shows him. Every time she parts her lips beneath his and he stills for a beat before answering her passion with his own, the sheer intensity of his focus overwhelming, she breathes her devotion into his mouth. Every time he presses her back into the mattress with the weight of his body, she arches her back to bare her throat so he can read the pulse beating in the hollow of her throat.

Under every fierce gasp of pleasure at the way their bodies are perfectly fitted together, burns desire he has kindled in her that only his touch can satisfy. Tries to tell him through the drumbeat of her heart beneath her breast and the singing of the blood through her veins that he is not alone. She writes sonnets on his bare back with her short blunt nails, and their staccato breathing as they move together and with every tear she sheds because he cannot, she hopes he can taste what she can never find words to say.

With every touch of her hands to his face, her fingers tracing the curve of his cheek and jaw, she draws a map of the uncharted lands between them so he might find a home in the circle of her arms.

There are no words for this. It cannot be contained by ink on paper or sounds carried by the wind.

Watching him sleep, she presses a kiss to the eyelashes fanned dark against his cheek.

His arms tighten around her, and she thinks it's poetry.
Yo: TrekNew:  James T. Kirkdreamlittleyo on 26th May 2009 19:44 (UTC)
Absolutely beautiful!
ljc: star trek (comfort)taraljc on 31st May 2009 01:16 (UTC)
Thanks so much!
cleojones on 26th May 2009 19:44 (UTC)
This is so very lovely. :*)
ljc: star trek (awesome uhura)taraljc on 31st May 2009 01:16 (UTC)
Thanks! So glad you enjoyed it.
(Deleted comment)
ljc: star trek (awesome kirk)taraljc on 31st May 2009 01:17 (UTC)
I actually am learning a lot, writing for this fandom :) And I'm I total research geek.
It's a Good Dayrecumbentgoat on 26th May 2009 19:45 (UTC)
lovely. very lovely.
ljc: star trek (spock/nyota otp)taraljc on 31st May 2009 01:17 (UTC)
thanks so much!
starryeyed24starryeyed24 on 26th May 2009 19:46 (UTC)
oh that was lovely and very tender!
ljc: star trek (comfort)taraljc on 31st May 2009 01:18 (UTC)
thank you! so glad you enjoyed it.
(Deleted comment)
ljc: star trek (snog)taraljc on 31st May 2009 01:18 (UTC)
*blush* thanks so much for the kind words.
meiou_setmeiou_set on 26th May 2009 19:49 (UTC)
This was lovely. I love the blend between Uhura's rational processing at the beginning to the decidedly not rational glimpses of intimacy. So wonderful, thank you.
ljc: star trektaraljc on 31st May 2009 01:18 (UTC)
Belated thank you :) I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
rachel: Star Trek: Spockcold_campbells on 26th May 2009 19:53 (UTC)
This is beautiful. Nice work.
ljc: star trek (spock)taraljc on 31st May 2009 01:19 (UTC)
Thanks! I really enjoyed writing it.
sinkwriter: Jack & Angela - Mansion embracesinkwriter on 26th May 2009 19:57 (UTC)
You make me want to go see that movie. ;)

What a beautiful piece, Tara. Truly. I love the opening paragraphs, with the comparison of the poetic (though apparently inaccurate, hee) "Eskimos have a thousand words for snow" against the unusual comment that Vulcans have no words for lover. That's so plaintive and aching, that realization. It says so much about them, one would think, like Vulcans don't have a word for it because they don't have the capacity for such emotion and connection. Yet your beautiful story demonstrates that they do. Perhaps it's just too intense for words. *smiles* Or, it's found in the actions, not the words, as you end your piece so marvelously: "His arms tighten around her, and she thinks it's poetry."

All of your descriptions throughout were really lovely, but I think the one that spoke to me most, the one that gave me pause was this phrase: "...as they move together in near-silence broken only by his breathing and her soft cries." It's that moving together in 'near-silence' that strikes me. It just seems so remarkable and unique, and really defines and illuminates them as people and as a couple. It fascinated me.

Great job. :)

Edited at 2009-05-26 19:58 (UTC)
ljc: star trek (comfort)taraljc on 26th May 2009 20:15 (UTC)
Vulcans don't have a word for it because they don't have the capacity for such emotion and connection

I was thinking more that it's part of their society. That there is no word in modern vulcan that relates specifcally to idea of having a lover outside of marriage. Because of how Vulcan marriages work. (Or if there is a word, it's private and hidden, like the rest of their lore regarding sex).
(no subject) - sinkwriter on 26th May 2009 20:28 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - valiha on 1st June 2009 20:49 (UTC) (Expand)
I DON'T LIKE ANGRY FUTURE ROMULANS: i'm monitoring your frequencybossymarmalade on 26th May 2009 20:00 (UTC)
I love the way you've chosen to frame this story, Uhura's technical passion for language breaking down bit by bit into something even more visceral and raw, the way it starts out with etymology and ends up with poetry. It's smart and pretty but also fierce, and that is exactly how I see the two of them together!

Wonderful stuff. Thank you for posting it!

Edited at 2009-05-26 20:00 (UTC)
ljc: star trek (foreplay)taraljc on 31st May 2009 01:19 (UTC)
thank you SO MUCH for the kind and thoughtful feedback. I really enjoyed writing it, and I'm so glad you enjoyed it.
What's Taters, Precious?: Spock/Uhura Kissmrstater on 26th May 2009 20:03 (UTC)
Really beautiful. The language motif is a perfect one for these characters, and as in your last, this is so incredibly sensual. *Favorites*

ETA: I've really been enjoying your fics and see we've got some mutual friends and of course interests. Mind if I friend you?

Edited at 2009-05-26 20:13 (UTC)
ljc: star trek (spock/uhura)taraljc on 27th May 2009 17:07 (UTC)
Not at all! Friend away!
Dances With Vampires: S/U kissyahtzee63 on 26th May 2009 20:03 (UTC)
You already know that I think this is fabulously hot, but it bears saying again. :D
ljc: star trek (spock/uhura)taraljc on 31st May 2009 01:20 (UTC)
briannehbrianneh on 26th May 2009 20:03 (UTC)
I have no words...just beautiful.
ljc: star trek (snog)taraljc on 31st May 2009 01:44 (UTC)
thank you so much!
pixieladykuwdora on 26th May 2009 20:08 (UTC)
This is beautiful. *swoons*
ljc: star trek (spock)taraljc on 31st May 2009 01:45 (UTC)
thanks! so glad you like!
SSA McGeek: Spock and Uhura...intergalatic kissesmcgarrygirl78 on 26th May 2009 20:09 (UTC)
All I could think as I read this story was how desperately I wanted them to have a special word. It moved me, just beautiful.
ljc: star trek (snog)taraljc on 31st May 2009 01:45 (UTC)
*blush* thanks so much. When I first started it, I wasn't sure where I was going with it. Then I started the second part and it just clicked in my head.