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Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. I only own my fantasies.
Summary: Uhura reminiscences on her relationship with Kirk. This story references my earlier work "My Faith in You," and the piece I'm currently writing called "Healing Touch," as well as a conclusion piece only outlined in my head.
Uhura moved purposefully into her bedroom, stopping to retrieve a jewelry box from the dresser. Cradling the unadorned, but highly polished box gently in her arms, she sat down on her bed. The plainness of the box belied the wealth it contained, a wealth of memories Uhura felt a sudden need to revisit this day, her birthday.
Slowly, she opened the box and picked up a silk bag, removing one of the carefully stored pieces, a pendant embedded with a Cygni fire diamond. She turned the stone to catch the light from her bedside lamp and was taken back over twenty-five years ago, to the day she noticed what was soon to be a most exquisite gift. It was during the fourth year of Enterprise's first five year mission, a lifetime ago, or only yesterday. They were fortunate enough to be granted a short layover at Cygnus Two in order to resupply. Not actually enough time for a real shore leave, but enough time for everyone to get a few hours planet-side if they switched to two shifts instead of the usual three.
It was planet night on the major continent when it became Alpha shift's turn for shore leave. Uhura found herself escorted by practically the entire bridge crew in her beam down party. Even Captain Kirk and Mister Spock stayed with them, soaking up the local atmosphere and enjoying the sights as they walked the brightly-lit boulevard.
Passing one shop, Uhura's eye was caught by a beautiful piece of jewelry prominently displayed in the window of a very exclusive establishment, a pendant of gold, shaped in an intricate floral vine design. However, what teased her with its beauty, acting as the focal point of an alien flower, was a flawless Cygni diamond poised in the pendant's center. The stone danced with all the colors of the rainbow and flashed with the brilliance of a supernova.
Someone cleared his voice and Uhura pulled herself back to reality. She glanced around and saw that everyone, save Captain Kirk and Mister Spock, had continued down the promenade for several meters before realizing she was no longer with them. Uhura blushed with embarrassment, but the Captain merely smiled and stepped up to see what had enchanted her so. A low whistle passed his lips as he regarded the pendant.
"Come on, you don't want to spend two months' pay on one trinket, do you, Lieutenant?" He asked teasingly as he gently led her away from the window.
"Well, no sir, but it is beautiful." She sighed in resignation and threw a longing look over her shoulder as they caught up with Spock and the others.
So she was quite dumbfounded when, several weeks later, she found that pendant in a black satin box sitting on her bedroom pillow. It was accompanied by a hand-written note, which said simply "Happy Birthday". The writing was unmistakably Captain Kirk's.
Uhura just stared at the pendant; its encased fire dancing for her now just as it had those many years ago. Back then, she thought perhaps he wanted to rekindle what they had shared on Potakai, but he never gave her an opportunity to test that theory. She remembered trying to thank him for the pendant, telling him it was much too extravagant a gift, but he had just smiled and said it was meant to be hers.
And it had gone on like that every year since, the man who said he couldn't remember birthdays had always remembered hers, no matter where they happened to be. If they were separated, his present found her. If they were together, it would be sitting on her pillow when she got off shift. Each gift was unique and beautiful. Sometimes he got her earrings, sometimes a necklace, but only once did he get her a ring--the first year he was planet-bound during Enterprise's refit.
Uhura slipped the pendant back in its silk bag and picked up a worn piece of folded parchment. She carefully unfolded the paper and removed a gold and emerald ring that had been enshrined within. She slipped the ring on her finger, it still fit perfectly, and read the timeless message written on the makeshift wrapping.
"Happy Birthday to the woman who helped me realize my life didn't end when Enterprise came home. I would not have made it without your love and encouragement during those first weeks. Thank you for sharing yourself and your family with me. Love, Jim."
Uhura quickly blinked back the tears that threatened to spill on the message from still the most important man in her life. She would not allow herself to cry, that time had past many months ago, but she felt his loss more deeply now than she had for some time. This was the first birthday in nearly thirty years that she would celebrate without him being a part of it in some way. The sting of his absence was like the ache from an old wound that never completely healed.
She carefully folded the parchment along its creases and placed it back with her other treasures. Over twenty-five years of remembrances stared at her from the jewelry box, remembrances from someone that she still loved as no other, secret mementos he had bequeathed to her as tokens of his enduring affection. Uhura knew she had been his respite when everyone else abandoned him, and oddly, that had been enough. Only when he was badly hurt and needed tenderness would he seek her out. Those times had been few and far between, but she had given herself gladly. It seemed they both knew when the other was past caring and came to the emotional rescue.
What had the Dowager said... 'You aren't meant to be, but you *are* meant to be forever'...? Those words had described their relationship for nearly thirty years. He had been her savior after the trauma of Bengali and she had been his when Spock and McCoy had abandoned him after he accepted his promotion. There had been other times, times of crisis for each of them, and they had sought each other out in order to cope.
Uhura never forgot how moved she was when Jim had finally let her 'see' his true self, not the Captain of the Enterprise, but the lonely soul from Iowa. It was those moments she treasured above all and it was sad to know they had to come from great pain. Yet, it was the rekindling of joy within him that made their times special to her. While his passion was too much for her when his life was on track, the feeling she got from bringing his spirit back from the edge was indescribable. No other relationship, and he had never asked her to abstain from other attachments, had ever compared to the intimacy she always felt with him.
And now it was just a memory, one she wasn't ready to let fade into nothingness, but realized must be stored away, like her other gifts from him. Uhura smiled at the ring on her finger and gently closed the lid of her treasure chest. Placing it back on the dresser, she called out as she grabbed her wrap off the wall hook.
"All right, Pavel, I'm ready now. So where is this place you're taking me?"
Disclaimer: I earn no riches from Trek other than my fantasies.
Summary: A different sort of male captures Nyota's fancy. Sadie Hawkins Day was the creation of Al Capp for his Li'l Abner comic strip and first appeared November 15, 1937.
Anyone aboard ship for more than their maiden cruise quickly realized that ship life was all about hurry up and wait--five seconds of excitement followed by decades of boredom. So long as one got the opportunity to go back to boredom it made it all worthwhile. Ship's Rec went to great lengths to alleviate that boredom: organizing events, conducting classes and planning parties--big parties, little parties, all kinds of parties. The rec director was always looking for a good reason to throw a party--and now, three months into a deep space mission--he was just looking for a reason.
However, Uhura had discovered that another byproduct of all that boredom seemed to be that normal males could turn into hormonally challenged jerks. She had been propositioned three times in as many days and she was quickly getting fed up with unwanted hands. Why wasn't there ever a gentleman around when a lady needed one? She was beginning to hope for a galactic incident just to have a moment's peace.
Ny liked a good lay as well as the next woman but she had learned early that you don't sleep around casually on your own ship. If you were lucky enough to find someone to carry on a meaningful relationship with, you kept it close. Barring that, your best option was to cultivate a *friends with benefits* situation with someone you found enjoyable, if not intensely enough to pursue something deeper. Now Ny found herself without either. The victim of recent transfers, she was *friendless* once again. The long mission ahead of them was suddenly looming in a much more lonely light. Uhura knew she had interest galore but found that fast hands and fiery burnouts no longer held any attraction for her. Being consumed in a conflagration of empty passion only left her wanting something more. Tired of seeing nothing interesting in those who approached her, she decided to do her own hunting for companionship. Someone who could stoke a fire to last through the cold night of space, not just flare and collapse upon himself.
The lift doors opened and drew Ny out of her reverie. Looking up, she was blessed with a sweet smile and a wink from Doctor McCoy--a sure sign he was up to mischief. She returned her eyes to her work, knowing that the antics never got too animated if an obvious audience tuned in. She watched his reflection in her panel as he stepped down to the command chair and waited for Kirk to look his way.
"Did you hear, Jim? Rec's throwing a Sadie Hawkin's Day Dance."
"Oh God, that's worse than the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre." Kirk shook his head and laughed in disbelief.
Ny watched surreptitiously as Spock took in the conversation at the Conn and then turned back to his console. Still glancing out of the corner of her eye, she saw him stiffen in surprise and then back away from his viewer. After taking a half second to gather his reserve, he stepped down and stood on the opposite side of Kirk. "Captain, am I correct in my understanding that the Sadie Hawkin's Day holiday was created by a twentieth century cartoonist and yet, it was celebrated for many years on your North American continent?"
"Damn straight, Spock," McCoy interjected, leaving Kirk to merely nod in assent.
"It never ceases to amaze me that your species managed to develop warp drive, Doctor," Spock remarked with haughty disdain.
"Spock, I'll agree it was a bit unorthodox in it's creation, but it was an empowering opportunity for women. Back then women rarely worked outside of the home and they never openly initiated a relationship. This holiday gave them a chance to make the first move without it being considered scandalous," Kirk offered as enlightenment.
"Be that as it may, Captain, I fail to see its relevance for today. Starfleet women are fully integrated in all career paths and I have had ample opportunity to observe they are seldom shy in seeking the attentions of those who interest them. By my reckoning, the rationale is obsolete," Spock answered in dismayed confusion.
"Spock, consider that it might be for fun," McCoy jumped in once again, now more in the spirit of explaining than agitating.
"If you mean it could be used as a diversionary tactic to remedy human boredom, I'll consider the point, however illogical the choice may be, Doctor." Spock's brow swept up in arch assessment of the Human condition.
"Spock, obviously we've run out of holidays and Rec is trying to make the best of a long mission," Kirk grinned in an offer of mollifying sympathy.
"Now, Spock, all you gotta worry about is being asked to the dance," McCoy quipped, once again in aggravation mode.
Spock looked appalled--at least as much as a Vulcan chose to look appalled--at McCoy's remark and gave Kirk a quick nod before returning to his station in silence.
"Bones, you really need to behave," Kirk tried to admonish the CMO but it fell short in sincerity.
"Nah, it's good for him--makes him consider other points of view. Besides, if I leave him alone then that only leaves you for me to harass. Are you sure you want to be the sole source of my entertainment?" McCoy asked in merry glee.
"I *know* I don't," Kirk looked up and fixed Bones with a meaningful stare," but I'll slap you in irons if you pick on me as badly as you do him."
"Hmmm, so bad time for me to ask if you'd be willing to go to the dance if some poor girl takes pity on you, huh?" he baited, saying what he wanted to anyway but hedging toward the lift.
"Yes, it'd be extremely unwise of you to ask." Kirk's glare was not as friendly as before.
"Sorry, my dear," McCoy patted Ny on the shoulder as he bid a tactical retreat, "I'm afraid there's pretty slim pickings up here for such a beautiful lady as yourself," he finished as he stepped into the lift with a wicked grin tossed in for good measure.
Uhura flushed at the compliment but felt eyes boring into her back. Turning around to face the speculative looks of her male colleagues, several in hope and two in quiet contemplation, she asked, "What are you gentlemen staring at?"
Sulu and Chekov quickly turned to their consoles, both knowing better than to answer that question. Kyle blushed and sheepishly turned his gaze elsewhere as her eyes tracked over him. Moving her eyes to the center seat, Kirk gave a quick shake of his head and tossed his hands up in mock defeat before turning back to the viewscreen. A final glance at Spock resulted in a raised brow of return appraisal but he broke contact first and focused his attention on his own console.
A satisfied, "I thought so," was heard from somewhere near the comm station.
Uhura sat in the mess hall, ostensibly working a report on her padd, but actually studying the three top males of her world as they sat around a table, finishing dinner. Kirk was too tempting for all the wrong reasons, a supernova of passion and a taboo she knew better than to approach. Spock was wrong for this occasion, she surmised he might accept an invitation to an opera but never a hoe-down. However, in light of her earlier daydreams on the Bridge, she saw McCoy through new eyes. Uhura decided he was exactly what the 'doctor' would order as her date to the dance and possibly the solution to her dilemma of loneliness.
For all his bark, Ny knew McCoy really harbored a kindred soul--a gentle, caring man who always treated her like a queen. She wanted that right now, to be pampered and attended to like royalty. She had always been smitten with his bright blue eyes, the crinkles around them delighting her when he flashed that sweet smile. And while he could hardly be called muscular, Ny had felt the tender strength of his hands and knew he was far stronger than he appeared. The fact that he did not recognize his own sexiness made him all the more attractive to her. Yes, he would do nicely.
"Doctor McCoy, do you have a moment?" Uhura asked the CMO as he sat alone, savoring the last of his after-dinner coffee. Kirk and Spock had excused themselves to play chess--an excitement McCoy had begged off.
"Of course, my dear, please sit down and join me," McCoy smiled widely, never quite able to hide his admiration for the lovely woman standing before him.
"I'd love to, Doctor," she grinned and sat down across from the object of her interest.
"Now, what may I do for you?" McCoy asked as he poured Uhura a cup of coffee from the carafe on the table. Replicated coffee could be tolerated for lunch--for after dinner--never!
"Thank you, Doctor," Uhura accepted the courtesy and momentarily lost her presence of mind as she was arrested by the endearing blueness of his eyes.
Shoring up her nerve she pushed on, asking the question that had caused her to wait until McCoy was alone. "Doctor, I wanted to ask you to be my date for the Sadie Hawkins dance." She watched his face intently, seeing surprise and a trace of skepticism flit across his features.
"I'd have thought that you'd ask the Captain or Mister Spock, Lieutenant," he replied in wary confusion, shocked at her request and suddenly suspect of her motivations. He had no desire to be a "mercy" date.
"Doctor, I'm around those gentlemen for far too many hours each day as it is; I'd rather not have them take up my evening as well," she purred in an all too knowing tone.
"Ha! Well, you're the first woman aboard ship I've ever heard say that," McCoy chuckled in mischievous delight. He loved it when the dynamic duo got shot down in flames. It rarely happened and neither was there to appreciate it, but it delighted him just the same.
"Oh, it's not to say I'm immune to their charisma. It's just that by being around them all the time, I've built up a little tolerance." Ny grinned in shared wickedness, but attempted to salvage her commanding officer's reputations just a bit.
"You would know better than most what a woman would be in for if they ever crossed that line." Bones leaned back in his chair and looked intently at her, wanting Uhura to see the real reason for her defense.
Ny blushed at where her thoughts took her, but rapidly pushed them aside, focusing on what she needed to say to the man who was waiting to see if she would deny it. "Let me put it this way, the Captain is like Romulan ale or a young cabernet, fiery and way too wound unless you like it rare. Mister Spock is like that rafshra tea he's so partial to--smooth on the palate but so intense that a cupful is about all I can handle. You, on the other hand, are like that really good brandy you have hidden in your cabinet: finely aged, but with character and a smooth, warm finish. Something to savor over the course of an evening--or a lifetime."
"Why, Lieutenant, I had no idea you were such a connoisseur." Using humor to deflect, it was McCoy's turn to blush as sudden heat rushed to his face and groin, her compliment catching him off guard.
"Depends on what we're talking about, Doctor--men or alcohol. I've dabbled with both," she answered, allowing herself a slow, seductive smile to be sure he took her seriously before moving on to her original question. "Now, about that dance--do we have a date or not?"
Still fighting the tightness in his pants, McCoy leaned forward and favored her with his own sultry stare. "Darlin', there's no way I could turn you down now."
Kirk was leaving McCoy's office, one less crew fitness assessment to sign, when he ran head-on into Christine coming from the other direction.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Captain," Christine stuttered as she found herself in tangled limbs and face to face with Kirk. It was extremely awkward to be clutching him for balance even if his strong grip kept her from falling.
"No, Miss Chapel, it's my fault. I should have been paying attention to where I was charging; please excuse me," Kirk offered in embarrassment; he had nearly mowed her down. He smiled boyishly as he let her go, a tinge of blush on his cheeks for his lack of grace.
"No harm, no foul, sir," she found herself answering with a smile of her own and suddenly felt very brave. "Sir, has anyone asked you to the Sadie Hawkins dance?" It was out of her mouth before she could stop herself. Was she crazy? The captain never brought a date to any of their events. He came alone, acted as host on some occasions and usually left early--again, alone.
A look of shock flashed across the captain's face before he schooled it into neutrality. "Ah, no, Miss Chapel, no one has. I don't usually escort anyone to ship functions," he offered in explanation of his lack.
At Kirk's look of discomfort, Christine's sense of bravura quickly left and she felt herself blurting, "Yes, I know that, I just thought that maybe--it being a Sadie Hawkins dance and all--" She felt herself glowing red and tried to apologize her way out of the hole she had dug for herself, "--I mean, of course, sir, I should not have presumed. Please forgive--"
"Miss Chapel, it's all right," Kirk calmed the waters using his best smile, "I would be delighted to attend the dance with you. It is, after all, a Sadie Hawkins dance. I can't let it be known that I broke the rules, now can I?" The twinkle in his eyes just about undid her.
"Uh, no sir, I think the crew would be appalled." Christine blushed even more but gratefully accepted his finesse at smoothing the awkwardness between them.
"What is all the commotion going on out here?" McCoy grumbled as he popped his head out of his office and gave the two officers a hard stare.
"Nothing Bones, just accepting a date to the dance," Kirk answered mildly before winking at Christine and walking out the door.
McCoy arched his brow at Christine, silently challenging her for an explanation for that little scene.
"I believe you already have a date, Doctor," Chapel remarked smartly over her shoulder as she sashayed back into the main bay, pretending McCoy was questioning why he was not asked instead of Kirk.
"Damn straight, I do!" he yelled back while trying not to watch her hips. "Don't know what has gotten into these women around here," he muttered to himself as he took one last glance before going back into his office.
After much negotiation with a certain Vulcan, the shuttlebay was conscripted as the site for the dance. Months of deep space had made the event more popular than usual and the extra room was needed. Spock had been extremely reluctant to give permission, insisting that the shuttles had to remain ready for any emergency, and mandated that all decorations be expendable if the need to depressurize became necessary. He was also loathe to modify shift rotations in order to accommodate attendance by all crew but a gentle nudge from Kirk finally got him to go along.
However, he drew the line at actually attending the event himself. The illogic of a holiday based upon a comic strip was absurd. No amount of explanation by Kirk or the others could convince him to attend for even *research* purposes. He tried not to project his disdain for the dance proper against those who chose to attend; instead he just cataloged the whole affair into his "unexplainable human phenomena" folder.
Nevertheless, while the origination of the holiday was absurd, Spock did find the female date-selection process fascinating. On Vulcan, marriages were arranged by clan leaderships to gain the most stature, security and wealth for the two to be betrothed. Therefore, he was totally at a loss to explain Lieutenant Uhura's preference for Doctor McCoy over Captain Kirk. She had had ample opportunity to ask the senior-most officer of the ship, but had instead chosen to seek out a male with seemingly lesser attributes. Kirk's response of 'better safe than sorry' to his questioning of her choice did little to clarify, but he was sure Kirk's careful phrasing had been selected to connotate many meanings. He had also decided that Nurse Chapel's choice of Kirk was due to the fact that she would have realized he would not accept any such request from her--although he kept that opinion to himself.
If the original goal of the holiday had been to seek out a mate, then many of the other pairings he had heard mentioned were much more logical: Doctor M'Benga and Lieutenant Palmer, Mister Scott and Yeoman Tamura, Lieutenant Sulu and Yeoman Mears--each of these pairings benefited the female in ways he could comprehend. However, the pairing of Ensign Chekov and Lieutenant Masters was an enigma--he did not outrank her, possess any significant wealth, nor come from an influential family. Finding the accompanying smirk to be just a bit unnerving, he had yet to research the captain's idiomatic answer of 'because he's still young and trainable' for a clearer understanding. All in all, the captain's explanations had left much to be desired from an elucidative standpoint, but he now had ample fodder to research in the library computer.
In keeping with the theme of the dance, Uhura went to McCoy's quarters in order to collect her date. The doctor met her just inside the door and was frozen in mid-smile as he took in the sight of her dressed in a yellow blouse with red polka-dots tucked into a pair of *very* short frayed blue-jean shorts. The blouse hung seductively off her shoulders but clung tightly to her waist.
"My dear, if I'm dreaming, please don't wake me," McCoy uttered in a mesmerized tone once he found his voice.
"Why thank you, Doctor, I think that's the sweetest thing you've ever said to me." Ny giggled at his attempt not to stare at her in her daisy maes.
"Len will do, Nyota. I think the night calls for a little less formality." He smiled, quickly regaining most of his composure.
"Yes, Len, I'd like that," she answered as a bit of heat came to her cheeks before she turned the focus to his own attire. "And aren't you handsome in your bib overalls," she teased the lanky man standing before her wearing a beat up straw hat, oversized blue-jean overalls, a red-checkered shirt and a red bandana dangling out of his back pocket. The finishing touch of a lone stalk of wheat tucked neatly over his right ear made him positively adorable. "You'll have all the women fighting me for your attention."
Taking her by the arm and walking toward the lift, McCoy leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Darlin, if anybody is going to be the center of attention tonight, it's you wearing those daisy maes. I'm not sure the guy's hearts can take the strain."
Trying to concentrate on what he was saying rather than the feel of his hand on her arm and his body brushing against hers, Ny answered, "Len, don't be silly. My everyday uniform is hardly less revealing," scoffing only partially in jest. The current fleet uniform was due for updating by the end of their mission and she could only hope it looked better than the 'cocktail waitress' outfit they had now.
"My point, Nyota. We've been under duress for so long and now look what you do to us--divine torture. I'll have a sickbay full of sprained necks and bruised shins in the morning and they'll all be your fault," McCoy chastised with a wink and a smile as they entered the lift.
The shuttlebay looked like the biggest barn Ny could ever imagine. Scotty had taken Spock seriously and provided the Rec department with bale after bale of expendable replicated hay for decorations--nothing but table linen and hay. The whole shuttlebay was brimming with bales for tables, benches and stage back-drop. Even the shuttles themselves were sequestered behind a wall of hay.
"Well now, wi ya tae a look at thot?" Scotty asked in his second round of amazement. He had just gotten over the shock of seeing Uhura in her daisy maes and now he was equally stupefied by the sight of the captain and head nurse walking in the door.
"Oh my," Uhura choked out, the only female in their little group able to say anything more than a soft moan.
As Kirk pushed back his white cowboy hat to scan the room for faces, more eyes turned to take in the sight of him. The captain was 'field-hand' handsome in a casually-buttoned light blue denim shirt with sleeves rolled up to the elbow, tucked into low-cut jeans that fit tight across the thigh and left nothing to the imagination in front or back. The shiny worn patches on the jeans and the scuffs on his boots somehow told everyone he was not in costume but his own clothes. All capped off by a nicely polished rodeo belt-buckle that made some in the crowd wonder how he kept it so sparkly.
"You took the words right out of my mouth, Nyota," McCoy remarked as he took in the sight of Christine, who seemed far more comfortable on Jim's arm wearing a blue silk and black lace saloon gal outfit than McCoy did seeing her dressed so provocatively. His 'little girl,' as he had come to consider Christine, was definitely stepping out of her shell tonight. McCoy did not normally consider Chris well-endowed, but the laced bustier did wonders with all she had to offer. Her hair was piled high on her head and sprouting a weaved-in feather or two; little wisps of golden curls rested against the nape of her neck, teasing fingers and lips to discover them. Her makeup was heavier than she normally wore, but not unattractively so, and finished with a painted 'beauty mark' on her lower cheek right at the smile line. Her high-buttoned shoes sported just enough heel to ensure Kirk would be staring her eye-to-eye this evening.
"And the sad thing is, he thinks he looks like the boy next door," McCoy snorted, reining in his attraction for someone he had considered like a daughter and letting his tongue fire away at all the warnings going off in his head. Jim dressed like a trail hand was one thing, Christine ready to dance the can-can was another.
"I've always wanted to visit Iowa," Charlene Masters whispered to Liz Palmer, who grinned in sly agreement. Chekov and M'Benga had dressed for the occasion as well, but homespun and cotton khakis suddenly seemed lacking.
Ny punched McCoy on the arm for his jibe. "Maybe it's a good thing, a safe date for them both," she said sotto voce as the other couple approached.
"Safe? Darlin' there is nothing 'safe' where those two are concerned. I just know I'll be needed for major counseling tomorrow," he whispered back with the self-assurance of a man who knew his business.
"Good evening ladies and gents," Kirk smiled and tipped his hat to the women in their little party. "Scotty, you did wonders with the place!" he shouted over to the engineer, who flashed a wide smile before returning his attention to the lovely lass on his arm. Ensign Tamura had used the dance as an opportunity to approach her hero of Engineering and Scotty seemed pleased with her choice.
"Jim, you're supposed to come dressed as a farmer--not a cowboy." McCoy started the harangue he knew Jim expected.
"I am, Doctor. Need I remind you that of all present, I grew up on a farm? I know what farmers wear," Kirk challenged mildly before flicking the brim of McCoy's straw hat with his index finger.
"You might have grown up on a farm but you're no farmer," Then leaning in closer to Kirk's ear, McCoy got even for the insult to his hat. "Besides, it's no fair to advertise what you're not willing to share. Hell, don't even bother coming in for your next contraceptive injection--those jeans have taken care of all those little rascals... ."
Kirk laughed in spite of McCoy's rip into his tender spots, knowing the doctor only got vicious when he was being protective; he knew Bones had taken a mostly paternal interest in Christine some time back. "Don't worry, Bones, I'm on my best behavior tonight. You know I wouldn't do anything to hurt Christine."
"Humph, how do you know it's Christine I'm worried about?" Bones growled back, thankful that Ny and Chris were engaged in their own conversation for the moment and leaving them in relative privacy.
"In any case, I'll have her home by midnight, Gramps." Jim grinned, but refused to accept that McCoy might be just as worried about his own well-being as Christine's. Kirk knew he was not going to be other than gentlemanly. He had been surprised by Christine's invitation, knowing her interest in Spock, but accepted her offer as an opportunity for them both to enjoy the party without any further expectations.
Not liking the boy-talk, Ny decided to show Christine how to crash their party. "Captain, is this really considered music back in Iowa?" she questioned skeptically on a particularly twangy note.
"For some." Kirk grinned in apology at the two women while glancing over at "the band"--two ensigns and three lieutenants, none borne of Earth. "Now you understand what sent me out into space."
"Miss Kitty, don't you let him fool you," McCoy grinned at the surprised looks he got for giving Christine a name befitting her costume, "your beau here knows how to boot scoot right up there with the best of 'em." Secrets were so fun to share when they happened to be Jim's....
The tips of Kirk's ears turned red, so Ny knew McCoy had struck a nerve even before the captain opened his mouth. "If you're trapped in Riverside on a Friday or Saturday night, you learn to make do," he answered defensively.
"Sure, Jim-boy, explains all those trophies you have in your old room back in Iowa," McCoy answered patronizingly as he rocked up on his toes.
Trying hard, and with only partial success, to keep from laughing at Kirk's deepening blush, Ny decided to come to his rescue as the music suddenly kicked into a fast reel. Grabbing McCoy by the elbow, she leveraged him toward the dance floor saying, "Leonard, they're playing our song."
"So they are, Darlin'; well, let's go show them how it's done," he gloated to the others before allowing her to lead him away. "No buckle polishing tonight; I'll be watching you," McCoy tossed back over his shoulder with a wily look.
Christine stepped up next to Kirk, curious but trying to sound casual, "buckle polishing?" She looked to him for an answer.
Kirk stared at the retreating couple for another second--definitely *not* noticing how well Uhura wore her daisy maes--before giving Christine a chastised grin. "Well, Miss Kitty," his smile widening at the use of her new nick-name, his blush again deepening at the image McCoy's words triggered in his head, "I think I've just been threatened with a trip to the woodshed if I should *wrinkle* your new dress."
"Oh-Ooohhhh." Christine reddened herself in sudden understanding as Kirk's candor dawned upon her. Damn busy-body, wasn't he always telling her to get on with her life and forget about Spock? Allowing her eyes to quickly run over the man standing before her, Christine realized maybe the captain was not a safer choice, but his smile was certainly a welcome change from Vulcan stoicism. One day she would need to seek counseling regarding her fetish for *unavailable* males... .
Deciding she did not want a watch-dog tonight, Christine fixed her stare on the possessive hold Uhura still had around McCoy's arm. "The old goat needs to watch his own step." It was more fun to psycho-analyze her boss' behavior than her own.
"You're right, he doesn't have a clue and I'm not telling him." Kirk laughed conspiratorially, totally guiltless in withholding the look of interest he had caught in Uhura's eyes when she had pulled McCoy out onto the dance floor.
Christine sighed in resignation, like someone who knew what was to come. "I just know I'll be needed for major counseling tomorrow."
The last dance of the evening was a slow one and all the remaining couples were out on the floor. McCoy found that Uhura fit perfectly against his chest as he slowly guided her backwards to the strains of the "Tennessee Waltz". Unconsciously pulling her closer to ward off the sadness at the ending of the evening, Ny looked up and smiled warmly at his tender embrace. He was unable to do more than smile back in return, her beauty leaving him speechless. Not for the first time did an inner voice ask him why had she chosen him as her escort for the evening. Not for the last time did he fail to have an answer. Banishing away the self-doubts of an old man with a young woman, he leaned down and brushed his lips against the softness of her temple. For now he would accept her interest and consider himself a lucky man.
As Ny once again rested her cheek against his chest, McCoy scanned around the room to see who still remained. He spotted Kirk and Chris dancing cheek to cheek with their eyes closed, a look of contentment on both their faces as they moved gracefully across the far side of the room. Even though he had teased him mercilessly at the beginning of the party, McCoy had to admit Christine could do far worse than Kirk. Regardless of regulations and personal ethics, McCoy thought they would make a handsome couple. Spock was a fool for ignoring her adoration.
A tug on his shirtsleeve brought his attention back to the woman in his arms. Ny looked at what had held his fascination and she smiled knowingly at him. "She's a big girl, Len, let Christine enjoy her date. We both know the captain will treat her right." Breaking their embrace she reached out and captured his hand, pulling him toward the exit. "Now why don't we go back to my place where you can prove the same?"
As his eyebrow climbed to new heights at her proposition, Ny laughed throatily when she realized there was no resistance to her gentle urging toward the exit. The night had been a whirlwind of reels and jigs and she had danced them all with him. "Perhaps the evening doesn't have to be over after all," she leaned up on her tiptoes and whispered into his ear. She did not think his eyes could get any bluer. She was wrong.
McCoy was practically in a trance as he walked Ny back to her quarters, still unsure of her real reasons for seeking him out. He hesitated for the barest of moments before entering when she invited him in for a night cap.
Ny poured them a drink, then sat down next to McCoy on the sofa. She reached up and removed his hat, then gently took the wheat stalk from behind his ear saying, "I prefer the ship's doctor to the gentleman farmer," allowing her fingers to linger in his hair and enjoying its sheen in the warm glow of the soft lighting.
He flushed at her touch but was mesmerized, finding he could only stare at her lips. Sensing her cue, Ny moved into him, kissing him ever so softly. At first he tensed, but as she reached out and stroked the side of his face, he relaxed and kissed her back more passionately. Taking his hand, she placed it around her waist and slid it slightly upward, giving him tacit approval to proceed. His hands moved up from her waist to caress her breasts, "Nyota, I've wanted to do that all night," he whispered in her ear, "but I need to know where this is going."
She pulled back slightly to give him a big smile. "I'm looking for a friend to share some time with, an older, more mature man, maybe. Someone who's not afraid to linger. Do you think that might be you?"
He gave her an impish smile. "I'm not so sure about the mature part but I definitely qualify as the older man."
"Hmmmm, I don't have any worries about the mature part either." Ny leaned in and nipped his lower lip. "I've seen through all your bark and bite to the tender heart inside."
She moved her hands down across his chest, feeling lean muscle under her touch before unclipping one of his overall straps. McCoy looked down hard into her eyes, trying to be sure she was really interested in making their relationship more intimate. Ny smiled seductively at him. "I did 'catch you,' so in the spirit of Sadie Hawkins you are mine to do with as I please."
The warmth of his smile caught up with the heat in his eyes. Leaning in to taste her full lips, he whispered, "so you did."
The two people who could bend words to their will suddenly became silent as a new form of communication blossomed between them. Ny had to resist pouncing on him now that she had his undivided attention. Forcing herself to keep it sweet and tender, she unhooked his other shoulder strap in answer. Watching the bib of his overalls fall forward and seeing the daring challenge in her eyes, he pulled Ny to him and gave her a slow, deep kiss.
Pushing him back, Ny stood, bringing McCoy up with her, allowing his overalls to fall in a heap around his ankles. The pinkening of his cheeks at her boldness only encouraged Nyota in her game. She made a slow seduction of unbuttoning his shirt, pushing it off his shoulders and running her fingers through the layer of dark, wiry curls covering his chest. She had always admired him at the ship's pool and had ached to do just this.
He reached out to equal their level of undress but Ny stepped away teasingly, moving toward her bed. McCoy watched her scamper, taking the time to divest himself of the rest of his clothes before following and pinning her against the edge of the bed. He was not unaware of her eyes on him, the open heat of lusty admiration for his body glowing hotly in her dark pupils. It kicked up his ego to know she found him attractive physically as well as whatever else she had said about maturity.
Slowly he moved in and kissed her, enjoying the unwrapping of the present that she was gifting him with as he slid the shirt from her shoulders. His finesse at removing her bra appeared to gain him new respect when she purred in delight as his hands found warm flesh. He peeled her daisy maes off hips that had distracted him at first sight, then eased her down on the bed to better enjoy her beauty.
As he started to follow her down on the bed, Ny raised her legs, placing her feet against his chest and enjoying the feel of those curls against her toes. Liking this view too, McCoy took one of her feet and leaned in so he could kiss her toes. Ny giggled and then lost all sense of reason as he nipped the arch of her foot. If a slow, lingering lover was what she desired then McCoy felt he could oblige her as he pressed in and continued to work down her legs, devouring her slowly and thoroughly.
His hands explored her body, touching places to elicit the most pleasure, using knowledge gleaned for other reasons to make her cry out in ecstasy. He kissed, nipped, touched and tasted every inch of her in slow worship--caught up in the act of pleasing her and unworried about his own. Truthfully, he did not know if anything more was needed to make him happy. If not for the nagging worry that she would wake up with a strong dose of regret, McCoy felt he would be content to love her like this forever.
Ny pulled him up to her lips and kissed him hungrily, her body screaming for what it had yet to have, intertwining her legs with his in a silent demand for fulfillment. McCoy took her in the same way he had loved her all night--slowly and tenderly. Ny felt every inch of him as he possessed her and could only act on instinct. Her body was begging for completion and she bucked her hips against him roughly, now wanting the more familiar rhythm of passion. Understanding her need, he picked up his pace, driving into her with long, deep strokes. Ny's legs found their way around his back and she bit his shoulder as more tremors ripped through her. Her core clenched him, pulling him deeper into the mysteries of her flesh and McCoy let himself go, feeling the rapture of his own body emptying into hers.
Once in control of himself again, McCoy rose up on his elbows and gave Ny a tender--if tired--smile. Ny's heart broke into a million shards of happy at the contentment she felt as she stared into his gorgeous eyes. He brushed her hair away from her face before leaning down, giving her a gentle kiss. Making no effort to pull away, Ny realized he understood the importance of those minutes just after and cradled him in sated bliss as she returned his kisses. Finally moving to lie on his back, Ny curled against his chest as sleep overcame them.
Ny awoke to the soft rustlings of McCoy dressing and glanced over at the chronometer; it was not time for duty yet. "Why are you going?" she asked sleepily.
"I should leave now while the halls are still empty. I don't want to wreck your reputation," he smiled down at her as he slipped on his overalls.
"I don't think you being seen leaving my cabin would wreck it. Make some women jealous--definitely--but I think it's sweet of you to worry about it just the same." She grinned at the sight of him in his farmer's attire and tried to entice him back under the covers. "But, if you stay, I think I can snag you a uniform out of my replicators."
Trying hard not to touch the warm flesh she had shown him, he bent down over her cuddled form, kissing her with warming passion as he whispered regretfully, "If I don't leave now, I won't be able to."
She followed him back up, the blankets falling away as she held him and kissed him again, showing him how much she did not want him to go. "Well, if I can't get you to stay now, then I guess you'll just have to come back tonight."
"I must be dreaming," he sighed against her lips.
It was her turn to smile as she whispered back, "No, you're not."
Holding his smile in check, he looked at her searchingly, asking, "Ny, why *did* you choose me for the dance--for last night?"
Her own eyes took on a wistful, faraway look as she spoke. "Because I wanted to discover the man behind the mask. I wanted to experience making love with someone who knows the difference between love and lust and who cherishes it because he knows how much it hurts when it's lost."
McCoy's eyes grew watery at her words, but he kissed her again before backing off and holding her head between his hands as he spoke with quiet conviction. "I never want you to feel that kind of pain."
Ny gave him a beatific smile, wanting to take away the anguish of old memories she saw ghosting in his eyes. His past was seldom discussed, but it did not take words to know he had once been hurt very deeply. He tried to return her smile, kissing her lovingly one last time before slipping out into the corridor.
Ny stared at the door, her fingers moving to cover her lips as if to capture his parting kiss. She realized she was still smiling as she curled back into the bed and drifted toward sleep, content for now with his scent on her pillow and the memory of his touch.
Image courtesy of Paramount and Trekcore
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. I own only the stories my Muse gives me
Summary: A dark turn in Uhura's life and the lengths Kirk goes to in order to fulfill a promise.
Uhura came to consciousness slowly, her whole body hurt, yet it felt better than her last memory. She looked just to her right and saw the Captain sitting in a chair near her bed. He had been working on a PADD, but her movement caught his attention, and now he looked back at her.
"How do you feel, Penda?" He asked softly, a look of deep concern etched on his face.
"I've felt better, just not recently." She tried to banter back.
Her attempt at humor brought a quick smile to the Captain's face.
"Well, I think Doctor McCoy has a plan to improve that. Do you want to try letting him examine you and see how that makes you feel?"
He stood up and took her hand in his; McCoy was monitoring from outside and would be anxious to check on his patient.
"Would 'No' keep him out?" She smiled again, then looked serious.
"If you stay with me, I think I can tolerate it."
Kirk brushed her hair off her brow with one hand and continued to hold her hand with his other one.
"I'm yours for the duration." He replied so softly that Uhura wasn't sure she really heard what he said.
McCoy came bustling into her room at that moment and she felt the first icy shards of panic stab at her core. Her only outward responses were her closing of her eyes and the increased pressure on Kirk's hand she still held. Kirk looked over his shoulder and warned off the Doctor with a shake of his head. They had hoped that the detoxifying of her blood and the surgery to repair her injuries would minimize any residual terror effects. A less severe reaction might possibly mean they would not have to attempt Spock's mindmeld plan.
As she listened to the warble of McCoy's scanner, Uhura didn't scream, but she thought about it. She kept her grip on Kirk's hand, focusing her thoughts on the feel of his skin. It was warm and firm, his long fingers easily capturing hers in their embrace. She felt him place his other hand over hers as well. As if, by protecting it, he could protect her in whole. Finally, she felt brave enough to open her eyes. She could make out McCoy just over Kirk's right shoulder. She quickly locked her gaze with the Captain's; somehow he made it bearable.
"Lieutenant, are the symptoms any better?" The CMO asked her in a sympathetic tone of voice.
She nodded her head while still looking at Kirk.
"Some, I can still think - a little - while you're here. But I don't think I could maintain that much if the Captain wasn't here with me." The Comm Officer directly answered the CMO for the first time since her rescue.
It wasn't much, but any progress was exciting for McCoy.
"Penda, Spock has an idea of how to rid you of these attacks. May I call him in here and we discuss it with you?" Kirk leaned down to be sure she grasped what he had said.
She nodded her head, not trusting her voice in allowing yet another presence to be near her.
Spock entered quickly and quietly, coming up to Kirk as McCoy backed away. Kirk nodded to the Vulcan for him to begin his explanation for curing Uhura of her terrors.
"Lieutenant, if I have your permission, I believe I can rid you of the conditioning forced upon you by the Orions." The Vulcan stopped and awaited a response from the injured officer.
"How? What can you do?" Uhura still focused on Kirk, ground out through clenched teeth.
"I will attempt to meld with your mind through the Captain. You will sense only him, thus avoiding the conditioned response, yet I will be able to remove or block the behavior it has triggered."
The Biobed alarms chimed as Uhura's heart rate raced upon hearing his idea. She had never melded with another mind and now Spock was advocating she meld with two at the same time. When she didn't answer Spock, Kirk stepped in.
"Penda, I will be there with you during it all. You know Spock wouldn't hurt you, but we have to deal with this so you can start to heal."
Kirk's gaze bore into her frightened eyes, willing her to extend her trust just a little further. Uhura took a deep breath and blew it out slowly, doing her best to calm her racing pulse.
"Doctor McCoy, do you have any other options?" She asked in a tired but hopeful voice.
"Not any that will keep you on the Enterprise. It would require a stay at a Federation Rehab Center." McCoy offered lamely. He liked neither option for many reasons. He wasn't sure when he had relinquished his objections and allowed Kirk and Spock to pursue this whole mad idea.
"All right, then that gives me just one option. Mister Spock, I think I can try your way."
"Very well, Captain, please place your hand upon the Lieutenant's face in exactly the same corresponding points I touch on yours." The Vulcan instructed calmly.
Spock stepped up even closer behind Kirk and reached out with his right hand to touch the meld points along Kirk's temple, jaw and nose. He waited while Kirk mimicked the pattern along Uhura's face. He smoothly entered the Captain's mind. It was a place he had been made welcome before, yet the tenor of the greeting he received this time was much more guarded. This time, instead of protecting the Captain from something on the outside, the Vulcan would be delving into hidden areas; thoughts that had been instinctively shielded from him before.
Spock waited patiently, allowing his friend to remove those barriers himself. Slowly, Kirk's mind opened to the Vulcan's gentle probing. He needed strong memories and feelings about Uhura that he could use to mask his own consciousness behind when they both entered Uhura's mind. Gently, gently he moved to the bright center of Kirk's memories. The Captain grudgingly gave way to Spock's steady encroachment.
At Kirk's memory core, Spock discovered the Captain's collection of thoughts, feelings and images he nurtured of Uhura. Desire, respect, longing, pride, tenderness - all bombarded him from within a maelstrom of regret. The intensity of the emotions he encountered caused the Vulcan's own shield's to buckle for a moment. The unguarded moment allowed Kirk to see that the Vulcan, as well, harbored some tender thoughts towards Uhura. A flash of jealousy and anger flared from the Captain before he could rein his emotions back under control.
/ I'm sorry, Spock. I have no claim on Uhura, nor can I. I guess I just didn't expect to see that you cared for her in much the same way as me /
The tone of Kirk's thoughts was both apologetic and sad. How could he lash out at his best friend because he found the same unattainable woman attractive?
/ Jim, I can admire her from afar as you do. My options to pursue her are as limited as your own/
Spock acknowledged in the same melancholy tone as Kirk.
/ However, she has not sought me out as she has you. She does not seek such a relationship from me /
Spock saw Kirk and Uhura's recent encounter in the Captain's quarters. He felt Jim's regret at having to both acknowledge and let go of his feelings towards Uhura. He could feel the bitter-sweetness of their kiss. The memory was raw - made worse by Kirk's feelings of failure to protect her from the Orion attackers.
/ Jim, I need you to focus on the depth of your caring for the Lieutenant. Stay away from any thoughts of Bengali. Think of how she felt in your arms when you kissed her goodbye. From within her mind, make her come to you and keep her there /
The Vulcan's mental tone was raspy, on the edge. Kirk's memory flared to brilliance and Spock wrapped himself within the brightness. He pushed them both over the edge into her nightmare.
McCoy saw both Kirk and Spock tense for a moment as each made meld contacts. Kirk faltered for a second, but didn't break contact. In the next moment, a soft moan escaped Uhura's throat.
The darkness of nightmare flared with a brilliance she could feel as well as see. The demons surrounding her began to retreat to the edges of her mind; chased there by the brightness that was beckoning her to come towards it. She couldn't resist the call, its power was enormous, yet she felt no fear or threat from it, only a deep bone-searing need for her to bond with the source.
The closer she got to the brilliance, the more her nightmare was ripped away. Old fears and new ones vanished as the light engulfed all of her mind. Soon, there was no darkness to shelter the images of her fear. In their wake were light and a serenity she had never felt before. Yet, still the brilliance called to her. It sang to her very soul a song of longing, a longing for her to come make it complete. As she neared what she knew had to be the center of the call, she saw a lone figure, bathed in the glow of the brilliance, but seemingly the source of it as well.
The figure smiled and reached out to her, encouraging her to come closer. The golden glow was bright, but she could still see the figure quite well. The eyes, there was no denying the hazel eyes which welcomed her. But the face was slightly different, longer and more sharp, the cast of his brow more angular. And peeking through the mass of wavy bronze hair, were the pointed tips of elegant ears.
She stopped just out of reach of the man staring at her - the man, or men, she knew - but not. The brow rose in question, but the grin on his face said he knew the answer. He stepped forward and pulled her into his embrace. She fell into his arms, the two who were one. Need, longing and desire engulfed her and brought her into their unity. She looked at the figure and now saw mahogany skin and almond shaped eyes staring back at her. Now her merged self could see from the almond eyes and look back at her own image.
Thoughts, like flashes of quicksilver, raced into her consciousness. Her consciousness she now shared with the Captain and First Officer. Their thoughts were hers and hers theirs. The feeling of completion invaded the tiny center of her oneness.
/ We are safe now; the conditioning has been removed /
/ We're free from it. We are happy it is gone /
/Can we not rid ourselves of the memory of our attack? We should not have to remember something so painful/
/ No, we cannot strip those memories away without harming who we are. Artificial demons are much easier to erase than true memories. Ourself must learn to cope with what happened and rebuild that part of us /
/ We can do that. Now that we are free from the terrors, we can deal with the reality /
/ We will help ourself through this, we will always be available if needed /
/ We must go now. It is dangerous to remain here for much longer. The oneness tries to become permanent /
A feeling of distance began to permeate her consciousness; a separation of their unity began to form. Delicate tendrils of thoughts and feelings disengaged themselves from each other. Uhura felt it was similar to trying to unknit a spider's web. She saw each person distinct now. Spock, calm and in control, his thoughts were gone, no longer a part of the unity. He gave her his 'almost' smile and a slight bow of his head before fading from her mind altogether.
She turned to Kirk and took in the sight of him. His features were now all his own, but there was a sadness in his eyes. He was looking at the point Spock had been in their mind, seemingly still in thought with the Vulcan. The contact must have left him as well, for he turned to look at her.
/ Why are you sad? I'm well now /
/ Because I won't be able to share like this with you again /
/ Then we must make this goodbye memorable, don't you think? /
Hardly before she had finished that thought, she felt herself consumed by the heat of a million suns. It seared itself into her heart and soul; the heat of longing and passion overwhelmed her and still it came for her.
The unity they had shared before was controlled and equally maintained for each consciousness. This breach was nothing like before; this merging was a loving invasion and domination of who she was. She braced herself against the onslaught of emotions engulfing her. Need, desire, admiration, longing, passion enveloped her as before, yet she felt a difference - a different intensity to the mixture. How had Spock influenced the emotions? What were his contributions to the mixture? She couldn't answer that question and the personality engulfing her brushed the thought aside. He wanted all of her attention and was intent upon taking it.
She blended her consciousness with him in a mental embrace, pushing her own raging desires back into his core. Their merging became a psychic manifestation of making love. He drove her to feelings of ecstasy she had never experienced in her physical form. She propelled him to his own peak and felt him begin his descent, sensing him collect his thoughts and slowly withdraw from her mind. The satisfaction of the moment quickly becoming a memory of the need he still felt.
/ I would wish we could share that with our bodies /
/ I do too, but all I can share with you is this memory /
With a kiss on her lips he was gone from her soul.
Slowly she became aware of her surroundings - Doctor McCoy and Mister Spock were standing to her left and Jim, the Captain, what should she call him? - Was seated on the right edge of her bed. Each stared back at her expectantly; small smiles appearing on at least two faces after she smiled at them.
"Captain, I'm not frightened anymore." Uhura declared after a moment of internal checking.
"Thank God." McCoy exclaimed as he began to run his scanner over her yet again.
"Doctor, a deity had nothing to do with the Lieutenant's recovery. It was the Captain's and my mindmeld which removed the conditioning from her consciousness." Spock proclaimed mildly.
"Oh, I don't know Mister Spock. I think God sent two Guardian Angels to find me." Uhura replied with heart-felt emotion.
"Thank you both for getting me out of that Darkness." A beautiful smile was launched towards both men.
"Well, I know a patient who needs to get some rest and that means you guys have to get out." McCoy scolded.
Now that he could tend to her himself, the Doctor had every intention of doing so. Jim had yet to say a word since the end of the meld and McCoy was as worried about him, as he was Uhura.
"Doctor, may the Captain stay? I would like to talk to him for just a moment." Uhura asked in a tired but determined voice.
"Just for a moment then, Uhura, you'll get a chance to see him later." The Doctor grumbled.
She smiled her thanks and waited for Spock and McCoy to leave. Uhura saw Spock and the Captain exchange a look, but she couldn't fathom its meaning. The Comm Officer also noticed that Kirk had yet to speak.
"Captain, I just wanted to say thank you for pulling me out of that void. Without your presence I would have never found my way out."
She wanted to say more, to touch on how he had made her feel, but now she felt so 'alone', bereft of the oneness she had shared with him in the meld. No longer able to sense his thoughts, the loneliness was numbing.
Kirk leaned down and kissed her softly on the cheek, just above a residual bruise. The tenderness of his physical touch stood in sharp contrast to his passion she had felt in the meld.
"Penda, I promised you a life on Enterprise. I want you here with me for as long as you want to be and I will do everything in my power to make that happen." The longing in his eyes was pushed back and hidden from her gaze, replaced with a chiding smile.
"Now, get some rest. Spock and I miss you on the Bridge; somebody has got to get well so she can take care of Chekov - Sulu is corrupting him." He teased, but she knew he was backing away emotionally as well as physically, the closeness becoming too much. He rose up from the edge of her bed and was gone. Now, all alone, Uhura stared at the doorway and blinked back tears.
Why was she crying? She was safe on Enterprise and Doctor McCoy had told her she would be as good as new. The terror attacks she had endured were now banished by Mister Spock's intervention. She should be happy, but the reality of what she had been through came crashing down upon her.
Why had the Orions chosen her? Why had God let this happen to her? The anger and rage she had felt when she had been beaten and raped came back with a vengeance. She wanted to break something, to make it hurt like she did, but she was too weak to even get out of bed. She settled for twisting her blanket and crying herself to sleep.
Several days of rehab passed in a mental fog. Uhura went through the motions of her exercises, but she had no real enthusiasm for anything. Her body healed on its own - the external signs of injury all but gone.
Christine and McCoy made a fuss over her regularly. They encouraged and coddled her like mother hens. She tried to smile at their efforts, but could tell they weren't impressed. McCoy came to her on her third day post op and declared she was ready for visitors.
"Thank you, Doctor, but I really don't feel up to seeing anyone just yet." Uhura sighed.
So far, outside of Chris and McCoy, only the Captain and Mister Spock were allowed to visit. Their stays were brief but welcome none the less. Sometimes they came together; sometimes they came separately. She actually preferred them to visit separately. It was then that they would allow themselves to be more relaxed. Spock might speak of a new piece of music he was arranging for her to learn on the harp, instead of cipher algorithms. The Captain might ask her to tell him about her home back on Earth, instead of giving her a departmental briefing. Funny, they seemed awkward together in her presence. That thought almost intrigued her enough to bring her out of the depression she felt, but not quite.
"Well, the CMO says its time to join the world of the living again." McCoy's lecture brought Uhura out of her reverie.
"Hiding doesn't solve anything and only begs questions. Nobody knows the whole story and won't unless you choose to tell them. As far as the crew knows, you were kidnapped like the other women were and got hurt in the explosion you rigged that tore out the Orion's stealth screens. They left you for dead and tried to make a run for it with the other hostages." McCoy patted her hand and gave her his best smile.
Uhura liked the blueness of the CMO's wise old eyes and nodded her head in defeat.
"I know you're right, Doctor, but I'm not going to be very good company."
"Uhura, you've been through Hell and back regardless of which story they know. No one will expect you to be back to normal. Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome is real and it will take awhile for us to get you through it. No one is expecting you to play hostess." McCoy gently scolded her.
Uhura was trying to rush her convalescence and wasn't allowing herself time to grieve for herself. McCoy wanted to hurt Jim for making him solely responsible for her counseling. Yes, he was competent to do so, which was what Jim threw in his face when they argued about it. But he wasn't the best person onboard for the type of therapy Uhura needed. Jim had balked at even the mention of another therapist and slammed the door on further discussion by challenging the good Doctor to earn his keep. Finally, Kirk had relented in that he would allow McCoy to ask Uhura if she wanted McCoy or Doctor Yangstra to treat her. McCoy knew she would pick him for the comfort level alone - but he made her promise to consider the other Doctor if she didn't make the progress McCoy expected her to make.
"I know Doctor, but I'm much better at giving attention than receiving it." Uhura acknowledged the CMO.
McCoy grinned; they might have made some progress after all.
"Well, I'm glad we've made that little breakthrough. Now let's tell Pavel and Hikaru how glad we are to see them." He bullied her into nodding and went to the door to let her two favorite coworkers into the room.
McCoy stayed back after warning both men not to tire his patient. The Navigator and Helmsman approached in a 'reserved rush' to hug their missed friend. The CMO watched Uhura's reaction to the two closest men in her life. Yes, on some levels she was closer to Kirk, or even Spock, but Sulu and Chekov were her peers. Male coworkers she interacted with daily on both a business and personal level. One could hardly go anywhere on the ship and not see the three of them together at some point.
During one of her earliest sessions, Uhura had told him they were just good friends. She felt Pavel was too young for her and Sulu too much like herself for any serious passion to develop between them. There also was the fact that he and Janice had gotten very close before she had transferred to Officer Candidate School. Both Uhura and Sulu remained in contact with Rand and it would be too much like cheating to pursue a physical relationship.
McCoy needed to see how Uhura reacted to men she considered her peers. How she saw herself with males in general was important, but with equals, especially so. How close or how distant she kept them would tell him much in how they needed to proceed with her therapy. McCoy expected her to be superficially friendly and mimic old behavior, but impenetrable walls of protection could be erected if he didn't ward them off quickly. His expectations were met when he saw her stiffen as each man embraced her. Neither man noticed, as each was so caught up in their joy of reunion. To McCoy, it was just a little symptom of a much deeper problem.
Strangely, her behavior with Kirk and Spock had been just the opposite. McCoy expected her to be more submissive with her superior officers, but frankly, she appeared to be the one in charge - especially if they were all three together. What had transpired in their meld? Uhura had described a loving brilliance that had enveloped her and banished the terrors from her mind. Spock would say little, except to call it 'fascinating' and an obvious success. Jim would scarcely discuss it all. When pushed, he had bit McCoy's head off and stated 'his emotions weren't in need of the Doctor's services and he should focus on taking care of Uhura'. Of course, he had apologized for his outburst nearly as soon as he said it, but Kirk's anger or frustration, begged watching.
Currently, McCoy watched Uhura wilt under the loving attention of her two friends and decided she had been exposed enough. He rounded up Chekov and Sulu, urging them towards the door while promising them another visit in a day or so. Uhura was slumped back against her pillows, truly exhausted from the ten-minute visit. McCoy came up and gave her a big sincere smile.
"See? that wasn't so bad. Now those two will go out and give a progress report to everyone else. You should feel lucky to have friends who care so much for you."
"I should, Doctor, but right now I don't. Uhura sighed in a tired voice.
"I don't want anyone to count on me for anything right now. I can't return their feelings - it hurts too much."
"I know, Nyota, but that will pass. You just have to give yourself time to adjust. Your feelings will be in a state of flux for weeks to come. Some days you will feel nearly like before and sometimes you will want to hide from the world. I wish I could make it less painful, but it's a journey you must travel yourself. Just know I'm here for you and always will be."
The Doctor reached out and squeezed her shoulder gently, he tried not to take it personally when he felt her flinch under his touch as well. He knew she trusted him, but knowing something intellectually was a far cry from processing it emotionally.
"Why don't you take a nap now? We can talk more later, okay?" He suggested in his best bedside manner as he turned and left her alone.
The days wore on and Uhura had to admit that she did feel some better. McCoy had finally discharged her from Sickbay, but still had her restricted from duty. He insisted she work out in the gym every day to improve her strength and stamina. He also insisted she come talk to him once a day, to discuss what she was feeling.
She was thrilled to be out of Sickbay. Her quarters were her lair, a place she could hole up and feel secure. The workouts thrilled her quite a bit less. Christine insisted on being her workout buddy, which was to be expected, as they usually worked out together. But now Uhura questioned the Nurse's motivations, was it just to get her exercise and ensure her patient did too or was she there to observe for McCoy? She knew it was childish and probably a tad paranoid - even if true. She couldn't expect Chris to * just * be her friend. Besides, wouldn't a friend look out after you if she saw you weren't doing too well?
Fortunately for Chris, Uhura took most of this frustration out on the kickboxing dummy, rather than her real life partner. She channeled her anger into improving her hand-to-hand skills. Uhura wasn't healed enough to go all out, but she had bested three different men who had agreed to spar with her on determination alone. Everyone seemed to understand her need to protect herself. She had gotten numerous offers for training and sparring. Several offers were from Security tactical personnel. As soon as Uhura was strong enough, she would pursue those offers.
Once or twice, she had noticed the Captain watching her during his own workout. He didn't approach her, somehow sensing her need to conquer this on her own. And, did she really want the extra attention she would get if the Captain began tutoring his female Comm Officer in hand-to-hand? No, better to let that sleeping dog lie in the shadows.
It had been awkward, the first few ventures out into the common areas of the ship. The mess, gym, rec deck - all held friends and coworkers who wanted to welcome her back. She knew they meant well, but she was nearly to the point of screaming or hiding in her quarters. Either of which would get her locked back up in Sickbay.
Was this how they made the Captain feel whenever he returned to duty from an injury? Did the outpouring of affection smother Spock as much as she, whenever they bombarded him with their everyday emotions? If so, how did they tolerate it? Uhura didn't know, but if they could, then so could she. Sometimes you just had to grin and fake it. She had never really done that before. In the past, her feelings for her friends and coworkers were genuine. One day, she hoped that would be the case again. Didn't McCoy say for her to give it some time?
After nearly three weeks of restricted duty, Uhura marched into McCoy's office for their session and demanded a return to duty.
"I don't care if it's limited, light duty, half shifts - whatever! I just want to go back to work! The Comm Officer practically yelled.
The CMO just reared back in his chair and grinned at his indignant patient. He was glad to see passion of any sort return to her demeanor. For far too long she had been passive and aloof to the people and events around her. Now, this fire showed him she was ready for the next step in her recovery.
"All right Lieutenant, how about half shifts for a week and then we can go from there? Think you can handle four hours of alpha shift, or would you prefer one of the others?"
The scathing look that remark got him delighted the Doctor all the more.
"Of course Alpha shift, Doctor, and I'll take all the hours you'll let me have." It hadn't yet occurred to Uhura she had won so easily.
"Okay, Alpha. I'll clear it with the Captain and he, or Spock, will let you know if that works for them. No more than four hours per shift and only one shift per day or the deal is off. I still expect to see you everyday, right after duty. We'll regroup after one week and see if you're ready for more." McCoy gave her his best fatherly smile.
The idea of neither the Captain nor Spock wanting her back on alpha shift hit her like a palpable blow. She had been gone for nearly a month -- and Palmer was a very capable officer. Had they grown accustomed to her so soon? McCoy saw the look of panic descend upon her face.
"Lieutenant, what's wrong?"
"Do you really think they won't want me back on alpha shift?" She asked in a timid voice.
"Who? the Captain? Spock? Lieutenant, the only way you wouldn't go back to that shift was if * you * requested it. Lieutenant Palmer has done a fine job filling in for you, but the Captain made it clear, from the moment he found you, that it was your station when you were ready for it."
McCoy's heart did a somersault from the big smile she beamed at him. He patted her shoulder in response, and noted she didn't flinch from his touch anymore. More progress. Maybe he would prove Jim right after all. God, he hoped so.
Everyone seemed to get to the Bridge early. Spock was always early, but Chekov normally showed up with only seconds to spare. Every station had relinquished control over to alpha shift, save one - Communications had yet to be relieved.
Kirk busied himself scanning and signing off on the previous shift's log. Nearly three weeks of Neutral Zone patrolling had done little to improve his temperament. The irony of watchful boredom never escaped him.
Sulu and Chekov were thankful on many levels for Uhura's return. Now things could get back to normal. They were glad their friend was well enough to at least spend part of the shift with them. It would also minimize their own turns at boredom and perhaps keep the Captain from chewing on them too much.
The Captain didn't tolerate boredom well, so neither did anyone else on the same shift. Uhura usually had a flair for distracting him that seemed to give everyone a little more breathing room. Spock not only noticed her ability; he quite often instigated her behavior. Lieutenant Palmer was an excellent communications officer, but she didn't have the rapport with the senior crew that Uhura shared.
At 0800, Uhura appeared on the Deck. McCoy had forewarned them all to keep it very low key, no outpouring of emotions or cheers of welcome back. He recommended just a quiet, normal change of shift. Uhura took in the sight of the Bridge, right now a model of efficiency, and breathed a sigh of relief. She had prayed for no fanfare and was thankful those prayers had been answered. She went over to her relief and took report as she had for three years. The *normalcy* of that simple action, buoyed her more than the junior officer would ever know.
Report over, she sat at her board and played over the console like a musician. She checked in with all stations and felt strong enough to acknowledge the few well-wishers who took the time to offer something personal. Collecting status checks and incoming communiqués from Starfleet on her PADD, she stepped down to the Command chair in order to update the Captain.
"Communications update, Sir." She reported like any other morning.
Kirk looked over and down at the Comm Officer standing to his left. He had missed this moment every morning. No matter what mood he woke up in, Uhura usually coaxed a more pleasant one to appear when she smiled at him.
"So it is Lieutenant. What does Starfleet want us to know today?"
He took the PADD from her hands and allowed himself to touch her briefly in the exchange. It was a casual but tender gesture. At that moment, Spock stepped down on Kirk's right and tilted his head in seeming anticipation. However, his look was more for the Lieutenant than his Captain. It was Kirk's turn to raise a brow. He looked from Uhura to Spock, then back to Uhura. She finally could take it no longer and with an exaggerated sigh, daringly exclaimed -
"Starfleet says - 'Okay, Mama's back and we need to get on with the program. We've got Romulans to find and Outposts to protect!' "
Why did she let them bait her like that? The immediate release of tension from the Bridge in the form of uncontrollable laughter answered that question. She was home and they wanted her back. For now that was enough, the rest she would deal with in its own time.