Image something I manipped on a cold day.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. I only own my fantasies.
Beta: Sincere gratitude goes to: Nyotava, Bandicca, Zapp and Trekskitten for such wonderful betaing! Each of them brought fresh insight and used their unique expertise to make this story a reality.
Summary: A sequel to "My Faith in You," addressing Uhura's recovery from a brutal attack and the depths of Kirk's commitment to keep her in his world.
Pahzj took them back to the Audience Hall, where they had beamed down that afternoon, and bade them wait. Except this time he escorted them to the far entranceway; apparently they were expected to make a lengthy entrance.
"Ambassador, tonight’s reception is in your honor, and as tradition dictates, you and Lady Uhura will be introduced last so all may pay you respect. It should only be a few minutes to wait."
"Thank you, Pahzj." Kirk knew the custom, but would have preferred to be introduced first. It would have allowed him to see everyone else’s introduction and learn who the players were.
/ Do not concern yourself with that, Ambassador. I will point out all the people of power you should be aware of. Tonight I need you to act as if you are the person of power; you must earn the respect of those here if we are to succeed. Stare down any that would challenge you. Come all the way to the throne. The generals will attempt to stop you, but push your way past. No matter what you do, do not back down. /
Kirk looked over to Uhura and could tell from her expression that she had ‘heard’ Anata’ka as well.
"Remember, you didn’t want to miss anything," He reminded her mildly as they stepped up to be announced.
"You weren’t kidding, were you, sir?" Uhura was glad she had his arm to lean on, her knees suddenly felt like gelatin.
Kirk glanced down and smiled, he looked like he did this every day. Finally, the doors opened and they were announced to the crowd. "Penda," he whispered, "you look as beautiful as the Queen of Sheba; now walk with me and act like her."
They stepped into the gigantic hall that was packed with the ruling Potakai from all twenty-eight homeworlds. Row after row of Potakai faces turned as one and stared at the two humans. From somewhere, the Federation anthem played as UFP banners were raised at either side of the throne dais.
Kirk pulled Uhura close and strolled into the great hall. His posture was sure and relaxed, as if he owned the world. The near section of Potakai was all Citizen caste and each one bowed deeply as they passed. Nearly midway to the dais, the guests changed from Citizen to Aristocracy, but still they cast down their eyes and hair crests. Only as they neared the dais did the contact become an intangible struggle; those who appeared to challenge quickly changed their mind when they saw the feather token that Kirk wore.
Uhura kept her pace regal and sedate even though her heart was racing. She kept her eyes level and serene, taking each acquiescence as if it were her due. She glanced at Kirk and saw him radiate such self-assurance; she pictured Admiral Nogura during inspection, and almost laughed. No one swaggered more than the Old Man did, but Kirk was giving him a run for his money.
As they reached the dais steps, a tattooed black clad Potakai, sporting a magnificent warrior V crest, stepped into their path. His yellow eyes looked hard at the golden feathers in Kirk's hair.
"The Federation sends a Warrior instead of a true Ambassador. Is this meant as an insult, ‘Captain’ Kirk?" Uhura noted he spoke Potakai, but the translator still captured his challenging tone.
/ Careful, Zhames-this is General Chota’di- he is *my* Commanding General, but that makes him more deadly rather than less. / Anata’ka broadcast quickly then vanished again.
"General, on my world, I can be both. No insult was intended. I represent the Federation at Empress Anata’ka's request."
/ Very good, Zhames, he expected a warrior’s response. You have given him something to consider. /
Kirk sidestepped the general and continued toward the dais. He had let go of Uhura when the Warrior intervened, allowing himself some maneuvering room if needed. Now, he turned and pointedly waited for her to again take his arm. When she had resumed her position, he glanced back over his shoulder and nodded once to Chota’di.
The General pondered Kirk for a moment before dropping his crest slightly in an acknowledgement of equals. Oh well, Chota’di might not accept him as Aristocracy, but at least he granted him access to his liege lords. That would do for now.
Uhura squeezed Kirk’s arm in a gesture of relief; she could do no more or the Potakai would sense their bluff. She kept her face schooled in serenity as they started up the steps once again. Uhura could feel all eyes from the assemblage below boring holes in her back. Not particularly in anger, but in confusion, as they tried to reassess their own place in the hierarchy now that the Federation had arrived.
At the top of the dais, Uhura caught her first sight of the Emperor to be and his Queen. Ramsha’ka was a handsome Potakai male of approximately thirty standard years. His feather crest of silver and teal was arched in regal fashion. While probably of no blood kin, he had the same turquoise colored eyes as his ‘grandmother’ Anata’ka. His face bore none of the tattoos so prominent on Anata’ka’s face. He had no blood oaths to display--his spirit was pure. However, his arms were decorated with all the same clan affiliations as the Dowager’s.
Ramsha’ka’s wife, Lilu’ka, was an exquisitely beautiful Potakai of about twenty-five standard years. Her face was also bare of tattoos, but she sported many on her arms. Some were the same as Ramsha’ka’s and some were different. Her violet and silver crest was erect in a brilliant display. Lilu’ka’s eyes were the same violet shade as her crest.
As they neared, Ramsha’ka broke into an easy grin while saying something quietly to Anata’ka. He stood up and extended his hands to either side, allowing the Empress and Lilu’ka to both grasp one and stand simultaneously. They waited for the Federation representatives with regal grace.
Uhura looked between Anata’ka and Lilu’ka; the dowager certainly did not appear to be three centuries older than the younger woman. She stood proud and erect, her own gold and teal crest spread in a dominant display. Her feathers just brushed the floor, while Ramsha’ka’s and Lilu’ka’s still had over two feet of clearance.
When within speaking distance, Kirk stopped and acknowledged the rulers with a formal bow. Uhura dropped into a low curtsy; it was not Potakai custom, but it seemed to meet favor. The three Aristocrats greeted them with a quick drop of their crests. As with Chota’di, it was an acknowledgement of equals.
"Ambassador Kirk and Lady Uhura, I bid you welcome to Potakai Prime. I present to you my heir, Ramsha’ka, and his wife, Lilu’ka." Anata’ka smiled with affection toward her grandson.
"Your Highness," Kirk broadcast his own most charming smile, "It is a great honor to be here. The Federation looks forward to a strong relationship with the Potakai people."
"As do we," Ramsha’ka spoke before turning to Anata’ka. "Grandmother, can we not continue our conversation without the whole assemblage held hostage?"
Uhura looked over her shoulder and saw the entire room was frozen in a deep bow, all crests down in a submissive posture.
"They are not hostages, Ramsha’ka, they only pay respect to us and our Federation guests. To hold power, you must hold respect. Do not allow sympathy to erode either." The Dowager turned toward the mass of Potakai and spoke in a firm but gracious tone.
"Faithful guests, thank you for service and dedication. We are now all of one house, it is time to meet your new sisters and brothers. Please partake of the refreshments and greet each other."
The room swarmed with Ménage bearing trays of food and drink. The crowd rose from their collective bow and began to murmur and mingle.
"Ambassador, please, you and Lady Uhura must sit with us a while before mingling with the other guests." Ramsha’ka spread his arms wide and gestured for them to seat themselves in the two chairs being placed in front of their own by scurrying Ménage. Other Ménage pressed in, offering them a selection of drink and tidbits of food.
The evening waned on and Uhura noticed that Potakai pair bonds did not ‘work the room’ as a couple, but rather, each covered as much territory as possible individually. She was greeted by several ranking members who called themselves ’we’ before she understood they were communing telepathically within the bond and cognizant of whom each was meeting. She and Kirk had separated in a human effort to do much the same--meet as many Potakai as possible.
/ I’m sure we must be very different from your culture, My Lady. / Anata’ka spoke in her mind during a quiet moment.
/ Oh, please, Your Highness, call me Nyota. And yes, you are very different, but that’s what makes it so wonderful and exciting. /
/ Good, then you must call me Anata’ka, Nyota. It has been a pleasant evening for me as well. Ramsha’ka and the Ambassador seem to be getting along quite well. /
Uhura looked over and saw Kirk and Ramsha’ka deep in conversation, but the smiles on their faces made it doubtful their talk was of anything official.
/ No, they speak of climbing on rocks. It would appear they have found a common interest. /
Uhura smothered a laugh; Kirk always found a way to connect with someone.
/ That is one of the traits of a good leader. You can’t lead if others don’t want to follow. Getting to know your people, their likes and dislikes, helps a leader form bonds that cross many barriers. /
Uhura caught herself still staring at Kirk, watching him interact with the heir. He scanned around the room, seeking her out. When he made eye contact with her he looked for a sign she was okay. She smiled broadly and tapped the side of her head, trying to tell him she was in conversation with Anata’ka. He smiled and nodded before turning his full attention back to Ramsha’ka.
/ He watches out for you always, does he not? /
Uhura’s thoughts flashed on all the times Kirk had taken care of her lately. Far too many images came to mind. She always considered herself a giving person and did not like feeling needy.
/ Do not regret his attentions, Nyota. He does not regret giving them to you. He values you very much and wishes you to be happy. /
Was she happy? She had been, before Bengali, before her attack. Knowing she had a home on Enterprise, a home that included him, had made her happy then. Now, that was all in jeopardy.
/ You have suffered much and still bear wounds that have not healed. I feel much pain in your heart. You are scared you will lose everything you have. /
/Can he stop that from happening, Nyota? Can you let him heal your spirit? You trust him above all others, but now you question whether that is enough. His interest scared you when you thought he might act upon it. /
/ In my world, you and he would be considered misa mren, mixed caste, an attachment to someone outside your caste. You sense this yourself; you’ve often thought he was too intense for you to be in any type of permanent relationship. This is true and you are wise to recognize it. Yet, there is more... something linking you together... I do not understand what I see, but it is something new. It keeps you two ensnared, drawn to each other, but unsure why. /
/ No, you and he are not meant to be, but you *are* meant to be forever. I see you together, but not, for most of your lives. You will see each other through crisis. Yours is now and his is to come. Allow him to help you find your trust again, or he will push you away when he needs you most. /
Uhura nearly fainted from the press of Anata’ka’s mind upon her own. The thoughts had flashed by in seconds; she still had the remnant of her smile she had given Kirk on her face. How could such depth of thought and emotion be communicated so quickly?
/ Anata’ka, you are right, I am scared. I thought I would be able to let him touch me. In fact, I had dreamed he was the one, but now, I don’t know. Tonight, when I saw desire in his eyes, the reality of it nearly made me panic. /
/ Child, he is afraid too. He must trust you with his heart; that you will protect it and give it back to him whole. He risks his entire world, everything that is important to him, in order to keep you a part of it as well. A stray word or an angry action could cost him dearly. If you can, make him see himself as a healer instead of a lover. In that way he will be able to reconcile his actions within himself. If you would see his desire as a desire to help, it will calm your panic. /
/ Thank you, Anata’ka, for your words of wisdom. I am grateful you have taken such an interest in me. /
/ You are correct in that I do not often concern myself in the private lives of others. However, you Humans have no way to truly know the thoughts of another, not even your mate. I find that sad and unbearably lonely. Please forgive me for my attempt at ‘playing God’, goodnight Nyota. /
With that thought Anata’ka was gone from her mind. Uhura took a deep breath and sipped her wine. The whole exchange with the Dowager had taken barely a minute. One of the province ministers took that moment to approach and she was glad to be pulled back into the verbal realm.
The evening had been a great success. As they walked back to their apartments, Uhura internally reviewed the night’s happenings so she would be able to write an intelligent report later. The downside to attending parties during a mission was you had to stay distanced enough to observe and recount all events back to Starfleet. Kirk was quiet during the journey. Was he gathering his own thoughts or did he just prefer not to discuss the evening in a public area? She left him to his silent thoughts.
Uhura had spent quite a bit of time with Anata’ka, Ramsha’ka and Lilu’ka, discussing their vision of the future before branching out and greeting the recently assimilated factions. Those newly under Anata’ka’s rule did not particularly care for her, but the strange quirk of Potakai physiology that manifested itself with imprinting left them little choice but to submit.
Uhura also noted Anata’ka left most of the visioning to Ramsha’ka. Other than the one brief, but intensely personal contact, Anata’ka had kept all the conversation between them verbal during the reception. It still shocked her at how deep into her thoughts Anata’ka had gotten so quickly. It was unnerving to be analyzed so accurately and efficiently by a complete stranger. And why did Anata’ka share her insights into Kirk’s thoughts? Why did two lonely humans seem so important to her? Uhura felt manipulated and wasn’t sure why.
Once back at their apartments, Kirk sat down and asked her for her impressions on the evening.
"Like a ticking bomb about to go off, sir. The governors of the other planets don’t appear to like the change, but are emotionally constrained from doing anything about it. Ramsha’ka has high hopes, but I sense greater misgivings from Anata’ka."
Kirk looked at Uhura in surprise. "Why do you say that, Lieutenant?"
"Just a feeling I get, sir. It’s not really based on anything she said specifically. I guess it’s more about what she didn’t say. Maybe she’s trying to back off and allow Ramsha’ka to assume the lead, but I just get the feeling she’s holding her breath, waiting for something to happen."
Kirk nodded; Uhura couldn’t tell if it was in agreement with her assessment, or if he knew Anata’ka’s thoughts first hand.
Changing the subject, he asked, "What’s on the agenda for tomorrow?"
Uhura knew he was quite aware of each day’s itinerary, but played along. If he wanted chitchat, he’d get chitchat.
"You have a mid-morning meeting with the Potakai Council and I have a formal Tea with the ruling First Ladies. In the afternoon, we attend the holy ceremony of Nohoma Wairua, the cleansing ritual, at the High Temple. Then, tomorrow night, we attend a State Dinner welcoming us."
"Busy day; I think I’ll check in with Spock and then go to bed, goodnight, Lieutenant." Kirk gave her a tired smile and walked to his bedroom.
"Goodnight, sir. I’ll see you in the morning." It was late; the reception had lasted well past planetary midnight. Going to bed seemed like a good idea.
A low rumble brought Uhura instantly awake. She looked around the room, trying to locate what had brought her to consciousness. A spastic flash of light drew her attention outside. Far out on the ocean horizon, the lurid colors of an electrical storm could be seen dancing between the clouds. A second rumble soon followed and Uhura’s mystery was solved. The storm Spock had warned them about had finally made its appearance.
Uhura got up from the overstuffed bed, pulled on her robe and stepped into the common area. No one was there and the lights were turned down extremely low. She walked to Kirk’s bedroom. He had left the door partly open, and from the staccato light flashing again, she saw his still form on the bed. Turning, she quietly let herself out onto the balcony to continue watching the display.
From her spot against the stone wall, Uhura could see the tops of the waves as they broke against the shore. Still far out on the horizon, Uhura watched the purple and orange brilliance light up the edges of the towering clouds. The next soft and distant rumble stretched out, reverberating upon itself, a warning of what was to come.
The breeze freshened and Uhura pulled her robe tighter. The shiver was only partially related to the cool breeze, the other part was her anticipation of the nearing storm. Storms had excited her since she was a child. Once, on a family camping trip on the Serengeti Plain, a powerful storm had spooked a herd of wildebeest so badly they had stampeded through their camp. Uhura remembered feeling the ground shake from the thunder of their hooves and her ears from the thunder of the storm. The feeling from the rush of adrenaline that moment had filled her with would stay with her forever. The fear of the storm and the wildebeest had made her hypersensitive to her surroundings. She could still remember the soothing touch of her gown against her skin, and the pulsing beat of the shelter wall she had leaned against. She could still smell the scent of the grass being pummeled by the rank beasts running just outside her window, and see the lightening frame their bulky shadows in stark relief against the far wall. Uhura was so caught up reliving that long ago night that she did not hear Kirk come up behind her.
"It’s beautiful, isn’t it?" He asked quietly as he stepped up behind her; his tone carried the same reverence Uhura was feeling.
Uhura jumped, startled by his nearness when she had been spiritually so very far way.
"Oh, Captain, you scared me. I thought you were asleep." Glancing over her shoulder, Uhura replied in a breathless whisper.
"I’m sorry, I tried to sleep, but I guess I’m still a little too wound up from tonight’s festivities" He sighed.
"I was sleeping pretty well until I heard the thunder. I had forgotten Mister Spock’s warning. It is beautiful, just like back on Earth."
"Yes, it is. That’s one of the things I miss most out in space, the weather. Ion storms aren’t quite the same."
Uhura couldn’t see his smile, but she heard it in his voice. He was standing right next to her now, looking toward the horizon. His presence, so near, made her feel like the storm did, hypersensitive. Channeling the excitement into bravery, Uhura decided to act upon Anata’ka’s advice.
"Captain?" Uhura began with no idea of how she would continue.
Kirk must have heard something in her voice because he turned to face her, giving her his full attention. "Yes, Uhura?"
"Captain…I just wanted to say…thank you for all that you’ve done for me, especially these last few months…I’ve truly enjoyed my time on the Enterprise--"
"Uhura," Kirk cut her off, "don’t give up. There’s still time--"
"Time for what, sir? We both know there’s little chance I’ll pass that scan." She looked up, trying to see his eyes, but only caught shadow during the quickening flashes.
"Uhura…why did you agree to this mission?" Kirk’s own tone became tentative.
"Because it sounded exciting and it would be a chance for one last mission. Because it was with you and I would have a chance to say goodbye." She whispered the last part, but knew he heard it.
"Do you want to say goodbye? Or are you trying to find a way to stay?" Kirk reached out and stroked her cheek. The one gentle touch unhinged her reserve. A great shudder tore through her body and she pulled away from him like she had been burned by his touch.
"I don’t know what I want!" She hissed. "I think I want you to touch me...to make love to me...but then, I panic and want to run away. I know I want to stop feeling this way--confused, out of control, scared and alone."
Realizing his touch had set her off, Kirk stepped toward Uhura, but kept his hands at his sides.
"Penda" He waited for her to look at him. The lightening grew closer and the wind was blowing his hair. His open robe had been blown nearly off his shoulders and she could see the deep contrast between his bare chest and the dark silk loungers he wore underneath.
"Penda, I want to help-—if you’ll let me. I can’t offer you anything past this mission, except your home on Enterprise, but...if you want me...if I can help...I’m yours."
He reached out a hand and waited for her to take it. Uhura could see the vulnerability in his gesture and it touched her heart. It also calmed her enough so that she could reach out and take his hand, allowing him to slowly pull her into his embrace.
"Oh, Captain--" She started, but Kirk cut her off.
"Penda, for this to work, you’ve got to call me Jim. 'Captain’ messes with my mind, okay?" He chuckled softly in her ear.
"Yes, Jim." It felt right, but not right, to call him that. Right for the intimacy of the moment, but not right in how she perceived her long-term relationship with him to be. Even wrapped in his warm embrace, where she had longed to be for months, her body rebelled with hard tremors.
"Jim, I do want you. I want you to make me feel whole again; I want you to make me feel beautiful. Right now, my mind and my body are in constant battle; it’s almost as if the terror attacks are back. I don’t feel in control of who I am anymore."
"Penda" Uhura could feel Kirk relax his embrace, "you’re in control of this and you *are* beautiful--inside and out. They didn’t take those things away from you." Uhura pushed him away; finally facing these demons brought all her buried rage to the surface.
"They took *everything* from me! My looks, my sense of worth, who I choose to touch me--everything! Do you know what I see when I look in the mirror…an ugly, worthless shadow of who I was. What man would want someone who is so used, so dirty?"
Kirk bound toward Uhura and grabbed her by the arms. She tried to break his grip, but his hold was so tight it hurt.
"I do, and I know everything that was done to you! I saw with my own eyes and through your memories what happened--and it changes nothing about how I feel about you. You are the victim, Penda, not the criminal. You’re not dirty, you’re just hurt..." He loosened his grip and pulled her to his chest, enfolding her in his arms.
"You’re just hurt, Penda, and I want to help." He whispered against her temple and gently rocked her in his arms.
Uhura felt something break inside her, emotions long held in check flooded to the surface in a great sob. "And I want you too. I’m just scared it’s too late--"
"Shhhh...It's not too late. We can do this, I know we can."
The first drops of rain splattered them, brought in by the wind. The storm was much closer and it was no longer safe to be outside. Kirk looked up at the sky and then back into Uhura’s eyes, an unspoken question in his own. The cold drops of rain pierced Uhura’s robe and sent more shivers through her.
"Can you just hold me tonight? I’m not sure I can handle anything else." She didn’t like how small and ragged her voice sounded; she could barely hear it over the pounding of her heart.
Kirk gave her a tender smile and wiped away a raindrop that had plopped on her forehead. "You’re in charge, Penda. I would love to hold you close while the storm passes." He pulled her back toward the doorway leading to his bedroom. Uhura took a deep breath and let him guide her inside.
The room was dark, save for the orange flickering from the fire fountain in the corner. He left the balcony door open, but flipped the switch on the doorframe that activated the force screen. It would stop the rain from entering but allow the breeze to pass through. At this setting, a person could walk through it feeling nothing more than a slight prickle on the skin. The wind rushed past them and caused the gauzy bed drapes to sway against their ceiling tether, their dance casting vaguely sinister shadows on the walls.
Kirk reached out and grasped the sash of Uhura’s robe, looking at her for permission to untie the knot holding it secure. Her heart raced into her throat; still she gave him a shaky, but approving, smile. Never taking his eyes from hers, he slipped the knot and gently pushed the robe off her shoulders. He tossed it over the nearby chair. Quickly, he slipped his own robe off and draped it over Uhura’s.
A ragged bolt of lightening sliced through the sky, immediately followed by a crashing boom of thunder. With a strong gale, the sky let loose with a frenzy of rain. Jim laughed and ran to the bed, taking Uhura with him much like the wind herded the rain. Uhura felt herself tumble through the gauze panels and land on the bed with Kirk. The covers were drawn over and tucked around her in one deft motion. Uhura giggled in spite of herself, that last boom was still echoing in her ears.
Uhura marveled at how Kirk had used the thunder as a way to get her in the bed without the awkwardness she expected to feel. Seeming to sense her unease, his manner was attentive but playful. Wanting to be there with him did not mean she didn’t feel intimidated by the change in their relationship.
"Oh, Jim, you weren’t kidding when you told Spock we would pull the covers over our heads." She laughed breathlessly.
Jim raised up on one elbow and grinned down at her near buried face. "I never joke with Spock; it’s a waste of humor."
Another tandem of lightening and thunder enveloped them and Kirk dropped down, snuggling deeper into the covers. He spooned his body with Uhura’s and pulled her back against his chest. His left arm was outside the bedding and he draped it across her chest, tucking it under her right breast. Uhura felt his cheek come to rest against her hair, just above her ear; his exhalations gently tickling across it and setting her nerves on fire. His hand, gently cupping her breast through three layers of bedding, was just as arousing. In fact, everywhere he touched her was alive with sensations she thought forever dead.
"Penda, are you all right with this? Your heart is about to pound through your ribs." Kirk asked in a worried tone.
Uhura rolled over to face him, partly in order to see him and partly to reduce the contact that was causing her to hyperventilate. The lightening was flashing nearly non-stop now and it lit his face up almost as bright as day. It allowed her to see him unguarded, without the mask he so often wore to shield his emotions from her. It permitted her to witness such a look of tenderness that her eyes welled up with tears.
The light from the flame fountain must have illuminated her face, because he wiped a tear from the corner of her eye.
"Don’t cry, Penda, I won’t hold you if that’s too much--" Uhura placed two fingers against his lips, silencing them with gentle pressure.
"Tonight I want you to hold me and tomorrow night I want you to make love to me. I may cry, push you away, or pass out before that happens, but please don’t give up on me. I think that’s why I only considered you for this. You *do* know everything that happened and still you care. If I have a complete meltdown, I don’t have to explain why to you. With anyone else that would just be added pressure and I can’t handle anymore right now." Kirk searched her face; she thought trying to decide if she was finished.
Uhura pulled her fingers away and replaced them with her lips. The kiss started soft and tentative; she really wasn’t sure her panic would not flare. However, it stayed in remission, so she pressed harder and with more passion. His lips parted, allowing her seeking tongue to explore at will. His hand came up of its own volition to caress her cheek. She allowed it and raised her own to rest against his chest. Uhura could feel his heart pounding now and she realized she needed to stop before it became impossible to do so. She broke contact and pushed away slightly, so she could see his face once again. His eyes were half shut, but shone with an intensity Uhura had no trouble recognizing as the same desire that had frightened her earlier in the evening.
"It’s late and I’m tired. Will you curl up to my back and hold me till I fall asleep?"
Kirk smiled but failed at holding back a soft sigh. "I can and I will. Go ahead and flip so I can snuggle up."
Uhura turned over and felt him spoon back against her again. She noticed he kept a layer of blanket bunched between their bodies. She guessed it was a necessary evil if they intended to get some sleep. Silk rubbing against silk was a lethal combination to chastity. Uhura had to get through tonight before she could allow herself to imagine that sensation.
Kirk draped his arm over her once more, but this time his arm was under the covers too. He ran his hand down Uhura’s arm until he found her hand, capturing it in his own. That felt good, but she bent her arm, drawing her hand up to her chest. Kirk started to let go, obviously afraid she would panic again, but Uhura held his hand tightly and brought it along. The back of his hand was tucked snugly against the silk of her gown, which felt better.
The feel of his hand against her breast did send current through her again, but this time she was able to control her feelings. This time Uhura felt safe. She knew the man holding her wanted her, but was willing to wait until she was ready. She didn’t intend for him to wait too long.
"Goodnight, Jim" she whispered as she pushed back and ground herself more firmly against him.
"Goodnight, Penda" he whispered as he brushed the tip of her ear with his lips.
Chill bumps broke out all over Uhura’s body and she audibly sucked in her breath, waiting to see if her teasing had gone too far. She heard him make a sound deep in his throat, not quite a laugh and not quite a growl. He said nothing more; he just pulled her into him once again.
Together, they watched the lightening continue its display and listened to the thunder grown fainter as the storm moved farther inland. Sometime during the early hours of morning, they both drifted off to the sound of the steady, pounding rain.
Image courtesy of a Sims mod and a tweak by me.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. I only own my fantasies.
Beta: Sincere gratitude goes to: Nyotava, Bandicca, Zapp and Trekskitten for such wonderful betaing! Each of them brought fresh insight and used their unique expertise to make this story a reality.
Summary: A sequel to "My Faith in You," addressing Uhura's recovery from a brutal attack and the depths of Kirk's commitment to keep her in his world.
Kirk waited in the transporter room, dressed in a midnight blue suede outfit he considered his formal ambassadorial ensemble. He had left the Bridge in Spock's hands when the Potakai granting them permission to enter standard orbit had signaled them. In about five minutes, he and Uhura were due to beam down and meet the Dowager. That is, if Uhura ever made it to the transporter room....
Scotty stood behind the transporter console and tried not to smile at his pacing captain. He had already beamed down their gear and was just waiting for the Potakai to signal their readiness for the Federation ambassador and his consort. He sure hoped Uhura got there before that signal came through.
The door swooshed open and both men turned to see who entered the room. Uhura glided in wearing a resplendent silk dress in deep magenta. The cut was reminiscent of Old World China, with ribbon knotted closures down the front of it. The outfit clung to her like a second skin, showing each delicious curve. Her hair was upswept and pierced with black lacquered dowels to continue the Asian aura. Uhura smiled at the two speechless officers and stepped onto the transporter platform.
"Aren't they ready for us yet, sirs?" She asked in feigned innocence.
Kirk openly eyed her in admiration before joining her on the dais.
"At any moment now, Lieutenant." He returned in the same tone.
At the signal from the console, Scotty nearly jumped out of his skin. He was trying to acknowledge the Bridge, while continuing to stare at Uhura. Kirk didn't have the heart to chastise the smitten engineer. Scotty rarely noticed anything that didn't have a warp core attached to it and Uhura certainly seemed to be relishing the attention.
"Ah, Scotty, I think that would be our signal. We're ready when you can get around to it." Okay, so he couldn't resist teasing him a little.
"Oh, ah...aye Captain. Ye both have safe journey and I'd be willing to hear what the Potakai consider in the way o' refreshment when ye get back." The engineer jerked his eyes back to the transporter console and concentrated on his assigned task.
"I'll try to bring you back some samples -- for cultural education, of course." Kirk chuckled.
"Aye, that would be grand, sir." Scotty beamed back as he turned them into sparkles.
They found themselves materialized in a large antechamber. The walls were covered in varying shades of gauzy pastel cloth, bunched and draped from high fixtures embedded in the stone walls. A melodious sound emanated from all around them. Uhura could feel the music as well as hear it.
"Sub-harmonics, Cap - uh, Ambassador Kirk." Uhura caught herself. "Much of the sound is below our threshold of hearing, but we can feel it, like a deaf person can sense the bass tones of a song."
Kirk looked around, taking in the surroundings. While the room was large, it definitely appeared to be a staging area for formal occasions. Large double doors stood at either end of the room. The floor was made of a highly polished stone, visually similar to granite.
The doorway at the far end of the room opened soundlessly and an ancient looking Potakai male approached them slowly. Though he appeared old, he stood straight and walked with dignity. His head was covered in short, white feathers that they both recognized as the traditional styling of a Ménage householder caste. The whiteness of his feathers was striking against the purple black of his skin. When he reached them, the Potakai bowed, placing both hands over his face as he did so. Kirk and Uhura returned the traditional greeting and waited for him to speak.
"Ambassador Kirk and My Lady, the Dowager Anata'ka awaits you in the Audience Hall." The Potakai announced, then walked back the way he had come, not waiting for the Federation guests to speak.
Kirk shrugged and motioned for Uhura to precede him as they followed the alien.
Upon entry into the Audience Hall, both Kirk and Uhura were startled by the sheer size of the room. It easily could house a soccer field from Earth. The ceiling arched high overhead and was embedded with large rose-colored crystals, which cast vibrant reflections across the room. The floors and walls were much like the antechamber, polished stone and draped in cloth, but on a much grander scale. This floor practically gave off its own light and the cloth hanging from the walls was obscenely rich in both color and texture.
The old Potakai headed for the closest end of the long room. A raised platform was there and a woman sat patiently waiting in one of several very large jewel encrusted chairs. When he reached the bottom step of the platform, the Potakai bowed low toward the woman.
"Dowager Anata'ka, I bring you the Federation Ambassador Kirk and his Lady Consort." The Potakai introduced them, then stepped back toward the side, apparently finished with his task.
Kirk glanced over to Uhura before stepping in the same spot, bowing in the traditional and more formal style he had studied from their research files.
"I am gratified you have learned our customs, Ambassador. Please, you and your consort, approach." The dowager spoke in fluent, but slightly accented, Standard.
Kirk held out his arm for Uhura to hold as they climbed the steps together toward the dowager's throne. They had to hold themselves in check, as the lesser gravity made the climb ridiculously easy. It wouldn't do to bound up the steps in graceless energy.
At the pinnacle they found themselves staring face to face with the Dowager Anata’ka, empress of the Potakai star system. Though she was reportedly three hundred and sixty two standard years old, Uhura could not believe it.
The woman seated before them was strikingly beautiful in the most exotic way. Her hair consisted of feathers that spanned her head somewhat like a peacock's tail. The floor length plumage was gold and teal. Currently, the dowager had her feathery finery at rest, but Uhura knew she could extend them in a flamboyant display that would make any Vegas show girl proud. However, the most distinctive element to the dowager's appearance was her many tattoos. Every visible inch of her skin was covered in clan symbols of the people she had conquered and absorbed into her affiliations.
Uhura knew each tattoo on her face represented a clan that had been conquered in battle, while those on her arms represented a peaceful merging. Potakai believed that the taking of life left a mark on the living spiritually and they manifested that belief physically. Incredibly, Uhura realized that nearly four hundred years of Potakai history was mapped out on the body of its ruler.
The Potakai empress was swathed in long opulent robes embroidered with many of the same markings she wore on her skin. Each symbol was stitched in a different jeweled tone. Uhura had a flash of a kabuki dancer before her eyes and thought the resemblance uncanny.
During the brief moment Uhura had assessed the dowager, she realized the dowager was doing the same to her. A small smile appeared on the ruler's face and Uhura heard in her mind, rather than with her ears.
/ Ah, Child, my looks are pleasing to you as yours are to me. I think I would like to know more about kabuki /
Uhura would have sworn she heard a giggle at the end.
"Lady Dowager, I am your Federation representative, James T Kirk and allow me to present my consort, Nyota Uhura." Kirk greeted the empress formally, but warmly, gracing her with his most charming smile.
The dowager flashed her own version of a charming smile at them both. She might be over three hundred years old, Uhura thought, but the charisma she emitted was palpable.
"Ambassador, please forgive me for requesting this private audience before tonight's festivities, but no one is allowed in my grandson's presence before I meet them. I can afford to take no risks with his life."
"We understand, Your Highness. It must be a very anxious time for you and Ramsha’ka" Kirk replied.
"Ambassador, I have waited far too long for this moment to risk it now. And there is more—I need to speak with you alone—"
At the startled look from Uhura, the dowager spoke directly to her.
"My Lady, please do not be offended, but I must quickly discuss some matters of great import with the Ambassador. To do so, I must speak into his mind and he mine. You would be standing here alone for some time and I think that the greater offense. Please, allow Pahzj to escort you to your apartments, there you may wait in comfort."
Uhura glanced at Kirk and caught the slight nod of agreement.
"Thank you, Your Highness, for thinking of my comfort" Uhura replied graciously.
Kirk attempted to escort her down the steps, but Uhura stopped him with a slight touch against his hand.
"I’m fine, sir" she murmured.
Kirk watched her serenely make her way to the bottom, where Pahzj waited. When he refocused on the dowager, he noticed she was watching him intently.
"A consort who is and isn’t, Ambassador? Subterfuge or flattery?" Anata’ka asked shrewdly.
"Neither, Your Highness, Miss Uhura is my chief communications officer and she has kindly agreed to act as my consort for this mission. An attempt for us to be more readily accepted by your society." He felt her feather soft touch in his mind and knew she had already gotten her answer.
"A wise choice" Anata’ka answered, allowing the ambiguity of her statement to remain.
"Ambassador, I must know who you are. I need to touch your mind to tell if you are who I seek." The dowager asked tensely, as if she was not sure she was ready for the answer she sought.
At Kirk’s hesitancy, she implored.
"Ambassador, I will answer your questions once I have my own answers." She did not beg, but an air of urgency crept into her voice.
Kirk faced her squarely and held his arms out from his sides, a gesture of agreement.
"How may I help, Your Highness?"
"Please, come to me and allow my touch against your face."
Kirk stepped toward the empress and dropped to one knee, allowing her to touch him comfortably from her throne. Her fingers were soft and cool where she touched his cheek.
Instantly he felt a warm rush in his head and relived moments of his past…growing up on the farm, trying to be just like his grandpa. The nightmare of Tarsus Four and his fight for survival. The death of his father – Kirk felt his eyes sting again with new tears. On to his early admission to the academy, a mother’s desperate attempt to save a son consumed by anger. His friendship with Gary, something no one, least of all himself, could understand. The death of Captain Garrovick, the man Kirk felt he had disappointed for much of his career. Carol, telling him to stay away, that she wouldn’t share their son with a man who wouldn't be around to see him grow up. The excitement he felt upon his promotion to captain and being given the fleet’s flagship, Enterprise. The death of Gary, by Kirk’s own hand, and the despair that still spoke to him in the night. The loss of Edith, a woman he had nearly forsaken a universe to be with. The death of Miramanee and their unborn child, innocent in her love for the God she thought him to be. He could still see Sam’s lifeless body lying on the floor of his lab on Deneva and felt the same anger at having no time to mourn him. Finally, he felt her search his recent thoughts regarding Uhura and Bengali.
/ Captain, I call you that because that is how you see yourself, Captain of the Enterprise. You have lost much in your life, but still you seek. /
/ What is it that you seek: knowledge, love, and fortune – all or none of these things? I cannot tell because you don’t know yourself. You only know that you must continue to seek and explore as surely as you breathe -- that you must somehow protect the innocents of the universe. /
Kirk shuddered under her touch; the intensity of those painful memories caught him off-guard, making him feel vulnerable.
/ I have a need for such devotion to a pursuit, Captain. A need so great, I risk my culture in order to save it from itself. /
Kirk could hear the weariness in Anata’ka’s thoughts. Weariness from war and from living too many lifetimes.
/ Captain, I have over one hundred million warriors who no longer have an enemy to fight. Tradition calls for them to sacrifice themselves. A tradition I wish to abandon, but one that must be honored unless I find a different calling for those young enough to change. It is from your mente, or spirit, I wish to re-imprint them with a new quest—a desire to seek and explore beyond our boundaries. I need someone who is strong of heart and mind to redirect the goal of legions of warriors, or I must put them to death. To leave them as they are will throw us back into chaos. Another leader would develop to fill the void of those I vanquished. It is our destiny unless I can change the mindset of millions. /
Kirk had yet to speak outwardly or within his mind. The dowager’s goal was overwhelming in scope and responsibility; to be the focus of such a drastic culture restructuring left him numb. He was still recouping from the emotions she had dredged from his soul, and now, she told him he was her hope to save millions from senseless slaughter. He looked up into her turquoise eyes and saw total conviction in her plan.
/ Captain, you have a pureness of spirit and an unquenchable desire to protect the weak and innocent along with your lust for exploration. This is exactly what I sought when I asked the Federation for information on their commanders. I prayed that one of you would be worthy to rebuild my kingdom. /
/ Your Highness, I will gladly assist you in any way I can, but the goal you’ve set is extremely high and the risks are great. /
/ The risks are more than you know, Captain. If my plan is discovered before the Ascendancy Ceremony, an attempt will be made by the other leaders and generals to kill you, Ramsha’ka and myself. The idea is so foreign; they cannot process it until it is done. They are warriors and have only known war their entire lives. I am the only living Potakai who remembers peace. Change scares many; they would rather keep killing than learn to live another way. /
/ If we are successful, many will be spared and turned to a new mission. I want to create a fifth caste – a Seeker caste. Many of the Warriors are too old and entrenched in their ways to make such a change, but others can adapt. All who become Seekers will constitute our new Space Exploration Service—they may even join Starfleet. Those who remain Warriors will stay and protect the citizens of our system. Any who cannot accept either mission shall fall on their swords. It is their way, one I would prefer to change, but one I will honor in the interest of lasting peace. /
/ Ramsha’ka knows nothing of this, only you and I know my intent. He will accept it when it happens, but I prefer him ignorant for the moment. Assuming the reign is challenging enough without adding to his worries. /
/ But we have another problem, Captain. I see a shadow in your heart. You are troubled by recent events. Your consort was injured and has yet to be made whole. You have been involved in this process, but now you reject her. Why? I do not understand why you turn away from one I see you care for. The problem has left darkness in your soul. A darkness that we must banish if you are to be the catalyst I need you to be. Darkness would pass through the imprinting and cast a shadow on all I seek to change. Your mind and heart must be at peace for us to be successful. /
Kirk gripped the arms of the throne and pulled himself up and away from the dowager’s touch. He could not tolerate her gaze into his thoughts a moment longer.
"Empress, you don’t understand what you ask of me—"
"Zhames," she tried to say his name. "I know exactly what I ask of you. I ask that you heal Uhura’s spirit and your own. There is a connection I do not understand between you both, one I don’t think is natural, but I sense it nonetheless. You do not trust your feelings in this matter: a position you do not find yourself in often. You desire her and think that is wrong. I ask you, if she can be made well by your touch, why should that be wrong? Duty does not have to be undesirable. Pleasure is allowed, though often absent. Accept it as a gift from the Gods.
You need her whole, so she can remain at your side. It is within your power to do this and something you must allow to happen. She is desirable, yes? Ah…I see…too desirable in your eyes. You are afraid, in the act of loving her she will capture your heart. Yes, Zhames, that is a risk, but she is not truly your pair-mate—and you sense that. You are too different to complete each other, but you both resonate on so many levels that the interest won’t go away.
Please consider my words on this, Zhames. If you look deeply into yourself, you will see I am right. You have known this since your doctor challenged you days ago, but you refused to accept it then. I ask you to accept it now, my world depends on it."
Kirk felt his blood run cold as he listened to Anata’ka’s plea. How could he ignore her words when he knew what was at stake? Millions of lives would be forfeit if her plan wasn’t successful, but how could he approach Uhura when she knew nothing of the consequences?
"Zhames, I see your thoughts, but I would prefer you to not share my plan with Uhura. I trust her, but the risks are too great. She will understand what you desire if you would go to her. Your doctor is correct, only you can heal her now. I do not understand why it must be you, but it must."
Kirk paced away then turned back to the Potakai ruler.
"Your Highness, I will consider your words, but there are many reasons in my culture for me to resist your wishes." He desperately wanted to get away from her searing thoughts and eyes. He felt exposed by her perceptive look.
"Of course, Zhames, the choice is yours."
Anata’ka graced him with a serene smile, as if knowing she had already won. She reached up and plucked two small golden feathers from her temple.
"Please take these as a symbol of my desire to ally with your Federation, Zhames. Your looks are naturally golden, and many will find you exotically handsome, but your short mane will brand you as lower caste by those seeking reason to challenge you. These will make them take pause."
Anata’ka placed the two delicate feathers into Kirk’s palm.
"Uhura will know what to do with them. Wear them as a token of my esteem and you will be protected from all but the direst threats."
The elder Potakai rose from her throne and nodded formally to Kirk, signaling an end to their audience.
"Pahzj will escort you to your apartments and will remain as your head householder. He has been with me his entire service and I trust him implicitly to take care of you both." Anata’ka motioned toward her dedicated servant who had silently returned.
"I look forward to seeing you again tonight at the Reception, Zhames. It is mainly an opportunity to preen and take measure of each other, a less bloody form of war on most occasions."
Kirk smiled. Anata’ka had expressed his own thoughts regarding diplomatic functions.
"Until this evening then, your Highness." Kirk bowed formally and took his leave from the dowager.
The journey through the palace to their assigned apartments was uneventful. Pahzj did not speak unless Kirk asked him a question regarding some point of interest, and there were a lot of those. As Pahzj opened the double door to their suite, Kirk expected grandeur, but nothing on the scale that lay before him.
He entered into a brightly lit, circular reception area, one large enough to accommodate any serious diplomatic function’s invitation list. More melodious music exuded from the walls, nowhere and everywhere at once. It washed over him like a palpable wave. Pahzj continued through and opened the next set of double doors. Those opened into a luxuriously appointed living area, one whose entire far wall was embedded with glass doors that only slightly hid the panoramic view of the ocean on the other side. Kirk could see Uhura standing against the stone wall at the edge of the balcony, seemingly entranced with the mauve waves rolling into shore.
He had a hard time tearing his eyes away from the view himself, but Pahzj was intent on showing him the rest of the suite. Each side of the living area led off to a master bedroom that also opened onto the endless balcony. In the bedroom Pahzj said would be Kirk’s, the bed was in the center of the room, situated on a raised platform. Streamers of sheer material hung down from a central point in the ceiling and draped the bed in privacy. A large fountain consumed the far corner of the room; its center contained a bed of flame and glowing embers, encircled by jets of dancing water.
The bathroom contained a waterfall, or, at least, that was an accurate description for the shower as far as Kirk was concerned. The ceiling consisted of mostly a skylight--one whose glass started out frosted and then gradually faded into translucence. Water cascaded down from an angled ledge and spilled onto the rimmed floor below. The floor was level for most of its expanse, but it dropped sharply on one side, acting as a collection point for anyone interested in a deep soaking rather than a pounding shower. Kirk intended to try both.
Once finished with the tour, Pahzj suggested that Kirk join Uhura on the balcony. "Ambassador, the sunset is magnificent from this side of the palace. If you care to join the Lady Uhura, I shall bring refreshments."
"Thank you, Pahzj, yes I would enjoy that."
Uhura turned and smiled as Kirk made his way over to her edge of the balcony. The late sun backlit his hair, making it fairly glow. She could not see his own smile until he was next to her.
"I take it the accommodations meet your approval, Lieutenant?"
Uhura’s smile deepened. She was ecstatic with their apartments; a girl could get used to this luxury way too easily.
"Oh, I think I can make do, sir."
"Good," Kirk nodded solemnly, feigning concern; "I might have to put you in for a commendation if things get too rough."
The breeze freshened and Kirk was glad of his long sleeves. Noticing chill bumps on Uhura’s arms, he stepped closer, touching her softly on the shoulder.
"Uhura, do you need a wrap, or would you prefer to go inside?"
Uhura trembled slightly from his touch, but hoped he would think it was from the wind.
"Oh, my wrap is on the back of the sofa. It was very warm when I first came out to enjoy this."
As if Pahzj was telepathic himself, he came out on the balcony carrying a laden tray and bearing Uhura’s wrap over one arm. Once Pahzj set the tray down, Kirk took the wrap from him and draped it gently across Uhura’s shoulders, smoothing it in place with a tender brush of his hands.
"Thank you, sir," Uhura smiled over her shoulder, grateful for the extra warmth. The second touch from him did not go unnoticed. In fact, it had taken all her willpower to not lean into his casual caress.
"Ambassador, would you prefer to dine inside or on the balcony tonight?" The Potakai asked as he poured their hot tea. The reception started late and the refreshments would be limited to drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
Kirk glanced at Uhura, looking for a preference. At her shrug, he answered, "I believe we’ll dine inside this evening, Pahzj. It may take us a day or two to acclimate to your weather."
Pahzj bowed in acknowledgement and left them to sip their tea.
"How did your meeting with the dowager go, sir?" Uhura asked, back to business.
"Very interesting, Lieutenant. I think the dowager has set high ambitions for this mission. She is concerned as to how everyone will adjust to peace after knowing only war for so long."
Uhura realized Kirk had hedged. It was part of the truth, but not the whole of it. At her silent stare, Kirk knew she was aware of his dissembling.
"Oh, the Dowager gave me these and said you would know what to do with them."
Kirk, glad for the diversion, gently pulled the two golden feathers from his vest pocket and placed them securely in Uhura’s hand.
"She said they were a token of esteem and would compensate for my lack of long hair, or feathers." Kirk ran a hand through his wind blown locks and laughed ruefully.
"I should think so, sir. Only Rulers have golden feathers, and it’s rare even then. A gift of two pure gold feathers will mark you as a court favorite." Uhura glanced up, giving him a knowing look. When he grasped the meaning of her look, he actually blushed.
"She said they would ensure our safety if tempers flared, Lieutenant. Nothing else was implied." He stammered slightly, unused to her teasing.
Relenting, she giggled. "Of course, sir. Let me attach these to one of my smaller hair clips and you’ll be able to wear them tonight."
Uhura got up to perform this task and Kirk came inside with her. He stayed in the living area and was seated on the overstuffed sofa when she returned.
"Okay, sir, let’s try it out." Uhura sat down next to him and clipped the feathers into his hair, just above his right ear. The splayed feathers hid the clip and they seemed to sprout from his head naturally. She held out a hand mirror for him to admire himself. Kirk grinned at his reflection before turning to speak.
"Lieutenant, I think you’ve just made a fashion statement."
"Oh, no sir, but you will. You’ll be the envy of every male at the reception."
Kirk laughed at that remark and eased back into the sofa. Uhura had never seen him so mellow. She felt very at ease herself and wondered if the tea contained an herbal relaxant. The trilling music in the background made her want to shut her eyes and just drift.
"Captain?" Uhura struggled to form a thought.
"Hmmm…Lieutenant." He answered lethargically.
"Do you feel extremely at peace, sir?"
Kirk opened an eye and looked at her, waiting for her to continue.
"I mean, since we’ve come inside, do you feel unusually relaxed?"
Kirk opened both eyes and seemed to do an internal assessment before responding. "I guess you could classify it as that, Lieutenant. What are you thinking; have we been drugged?"
"Oh, no sir, I don’t think that. It’s just, well…it’s just the music, sir. Remember how I said we could only hear part of it when we first beamed down? I think the part we can’t hear can still affect us though. It’s just a theory, but it appears to stimulate the brain to release endorphins, the body’s own pain killer and mood enhancer."
Kirk tried to appear alarmed, but failed miserably. "Do we have anything to worry about?"
Uhura was trying very hard to focus on the topic, but wasn’t succeeding much better than the captain.
"Doubtful, sir. If we could ask Pahzj to turn it down just a little, I think we would do fine. I think the dowager is using this as a way to keep everyone calm before the ceremony."
Pahzj entered the room announcing dinner and Kirk awkwardly motioned for the householder to come nearer.
"Pahzj, is there any way to lessen the effects of the music? It appears humans are more susceptible to its affects than Potakai are" Kirk slurred, feeling himself leering instead of smiling.
Seeing both Humans lying limply on the sofa, the elder Potakai’s eyes grew wide in alarm. He moved with amazing speed to a hidden panel on the far wall and punched several buttons. Once satisfied the offending music was muted, he returned to check on his guests.
"My apologies, Ambassador and Lady Uhura, the borunjee music is an effort to keep tempers cool. To Potakai it has the same effect as light meditation. We had no idea Humans would react so strongly to it. Please, I offer our deepest regret."
Pahzj was sick with fear. Anata’ka had left them in his care and he had nearly allowed harm to come to them. No greater sin could happen to a Ménage than allowing injury to a member of his household. He called for others to quickly bring sjobaberry juice and cool damp cloths.
Uhura felt a cool compress against her forehead and tried to sit upright. The room was full of Potakai, each hovering and attempting to revive them. She looked over and saw that Kirk was already sitting up and drinking from a cup. Uhura felt a cup placed in her own hand and felt it guided up to her mouth. The liquid was thick and very sweet, but she felt immediate energy course through her system. The endorphin effects appeared to be on the wane. She could hear Pahzj begging for forgiveness and Kirk telling him it was all right. She looked over and made eye contact with him, smiling to let him know she was fine. He grinned back at her while still trying to calm their hosts. Finally, after many assurances they were well and had no need to seek a physician, they sat down to the meal Pahzj had originally announced.
Uhura gave herself a critical survey in the mirror and decided it was the best she could do. Tonight’s ensemble had to make a statement; all of Potakai would be in attendance to take measure of the Federation representatives. She was dressed in a long sheath gown made of a mother of pearl iridescent material, a long train of the same material fastened at either shoulder and draped down her bare back.
Potakai high fashion appeared to follow the ‘less is more’ philosophy, so Uhura had designed accordingly. The front of her dress had a plunging neckline that did not truly stop until the navel. She intended the soft blue reflection of her dress to play against the vibrant Federation blue outfit she had designed for Kirk. His jacket had deeply cut chevrons of gold and copper stitched across the upper back and shoulders to enhance his powerful build.
She had also decided to put a little extra drama into her makeup. She would never be able to outdo a noblewoman’s tattoos, but Uhura thought her efforts satisfactory. Potakai women were naturally tall and most wore flat sandals, however, Uhura had chosen a pair of stilettos to give her extra inches. Her final embellishment was styling her hair in a Vulcan motif with a twisted braid arched across the crown of her head. An ornate golden hair fan held everything securely in place.
Walking into the living area, she saw Kirk in his own finery. His back was to her and he was just finishing his mission update with Spock when he turned and froze. A slow grin spread across his face as he took in the sight of the woman in front of him. Uhura blushed under his scrutiny, but twirled around to show off, nevertheless. Spock asked was everything all right and it took Kirk a second to respond.
"Ah-yes, Mister Spock, everything’s fine. I just saw something that caught my attention for a moment. It’s time for us to leave for the reception; I’ll give you a full report in the morning."
"Very well, Captain. Please note that our sensors indicate a significant meteorological event should pass over your location later tonight. It will be loud, but otherwise relatively harmless."
"Thank you, Spock, we’ll be sure to pull the covers over our heads. Kirk out." Closing his communicator and slipping it into his jacket pocket, Kirk walked around the sofa to get a better view of his consort.
"Lieutenant, you’re absolutely beautiful. I suspect you’ll make all the other ladies jealous." He took her hands and held her at arm’s length, taking his time in admiring her.
"Thank you, Captain. I could say the same of you. I knew the color and cut of that outfit would look great on you. Golden feathers or not, you will be a favorite before the night is over."
Uhura felt giddy from the rush his attention triggered. She reached up to adjust his feather clip to a better angle and found herself leaning into him more than she intended. She looked into his eyes and saw a hunger there that unnerved her. He stood still under her ministrations, but broke contact and backed away as soon as she finished.
Uhura just smiled and pretended not to notice his lapse and the faintness she felt. Attracted to him or not, that one undisguised look of desire had scared her silly. Flirting was fine, she had remastered that skill, but the idea of following through and actually joining with a man had just sent her to the edge of panic. She had hoped the trust and desire she felt for him would be enough to counteract the fear. That hope was fading fast.
"Lieutenant, are you ready to go?" Composure restored and smile firmly in place, Kirk held out his arm for his consort to hold.
"Yes, sir, I can’t wait to see the show."
Kirk leaned over and whispered as Pahzj escorted them out, "Lieutenant, we *are* the show."
"Then I won’t miss anything, will I, sir?"
Image courtesy of Paramount and Trekcore
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. I only own my fantasies.
Beta: Sincere gratitude goes to: Nyotava, Bandicca, Zapp and Trekskitten for such wonderful betaing! Each of them brought fresh insight and used their unique expertise to make this story a reality.
Summary: A sequel to "My Faith in You," addressing Uhura's recovery from a brutal attack and the depths of Kirk's commitment to keep her in his world.
Uhura made her way down to Sickbay when McCoy summoned her from the Bridge. She was a little worried at being pulled off shift; it was unlike McCoy to change their routine. Perhaps Chris had told him of their debacle last night, maybe he was thinking of pulling her from duty altogether. She stopped just outside the Sickbay door and took a deep cleansing breath. She would not go in already agitated. Once calm and composed, Uhura entered to find McCoy waiting for her.
"Good Lieutenant, come on back to my office. I need to discuss something with you." McCoy smiled warmly, but Uhura saw the tinge of worry in his wise blue eyes.
She followed him into his office and took a seat. He seated himself on the edge of his desk and waited a moment before continuing to speak.
"Uhura, I need to clarify something as to where you are in your recovery process", he began.
Uhura sat up on the edge of her chair -- this did not sound good.
"As you know, you haven’t passed your pysch exam and the problem seems to stem around intimacy issues. Now, that is hardly surprising, considering the trauma you experienced. However, I may have led you to believe we were a lot closer to resolving these issues than the results indicate." He looked at her with guilt and sympathy.
"I don’t understand, Doctor McCoy. What are you trying to tell me? That I can’t pass my scan before I run out of time? That I’ll never pass? What?" Uhura felt her world begin to spiral away. How would she survive if Enterprise were taken away from her? If she lost all her friends here? If she lost her place on the Bridge with *him*?
"No, I’m not telling you any of those things, but I do want you to you to realize we need to consider a more aggressive approach in breaking down these barriers." The doctor spoke comfortingly and reached out to take her hand in his before continuing.
"Uhura, I need you to consider having a physical relationship with someone you feel close to –"
The comm officer pulled her hand out of McCoy's grasp and launched herself out of the chair. McCoy reached out and held her by each shoulder, preventing her from bolting out the door. She was surprised by the CMO's strength.
"Doctor McCoy, you've got to be out of your mind! I can barely even tolerate Sulu kissing me goodnight on the cheek without breaking into a cold sweat, and you want me to go to bed with someone?" Uhura asked incredulously.
"I don't mean just this minute, Uhura." McCoy spoke soothingly; he didn't like the note of panic he heard in her voice.
"Both you and I know you have several men interested in you right now. Each one thinks the world of you and would like to take it to the next level. I'm not saying throw their names into a hat and pick one, but if any of them were interesting to you before your attack, then consider them as an opportunity now."
McCoy stared into Uhura's frightened eyes and patted her softly on the cheek. She had quit struggling against his grip on her shoulders and crumpled back into her chair. A fine sheen of sweat had popped out on her face and she felt flushed.
"Doctor, I've pretty much told them all I'm not interested, and I'm not. Sulu keeps me company some evenings, but I don't see him in that light. He and Janice are still involved and I can't interfere there. Boma got angry because I wouldn't go out with him again after Bengali, but he has too much of a temper for me anyway. Geoffrey and I are friendly, but not really friends since we split up. He wants too much from me and I don't want to stir up those embers again. The other couple of guys, I wouldn't go out with on a dare, much less now." Uhura spoke softly, burying her face in her hands.
"Uhura," McCoy called her name and waited for her to look at him. "Isn't there anyone onboard you want to be with? Anyone who makes you forget about Bengali?"
His tone was pushing her to think and Uhura blanched at his words. He knew who she cared about; they had discussed her feelings for the Captain as a part of her therapy. She had told him how Kirk always made her feel safe and she trusted him above anyone else. What she hadn't done was mention how he also made her melt inside. How she ached to touch him and be touched by him. These things she failed to mention, yet somehow, she thought the doctor sensed them anyway.
"Doctor, I don't know – I can't think right now and I need to get back to the Bridge." She knew it sounded like an excuse and it was, but she had to get out of his office before he made her say who she wanted.
"All right, Uhura, you can go, but Spock wants you to stop by his quarters on your way back to the Bridge."
McCoy backed up and took pity on the Comm Officer. He could tell by the look in Uhura's eyes that she was scared she would blurt out Jim's name.
"Thank you, Doctor. I'll consider your advice. I really do want to stay on Enterprise." Uhura spoke as she hurriedly exited his office.
She was in such a hurry that she failed to ask the doctor why Spock wanted her to come by his quarters. Why wasn't he on the Bridge? He had not been there when she arrived herself for the beginning of the shift, but she had barely gotten to report before being summoned by McCoy. That thought left her standing outside the first officer's quarters. She buzzed and was beckoned inside.
Spock was seated at his desk, reviewing data microburst from Starfleet's diplomatic corps. She had taken the encoded transmissions herself and forwarded them to his quarters at the end of shift yesterday.
"Good Morning, Mister Spock. Doctor McCoy said you wished to see me?"
"Yes, Lieutenant, please come in and be seated." The Vulcan acknowledged her from his workspace.
"As you know, Enterprise has been ordered to Potakai Prime in order to represent the Federation in membership and coronation ceremonies."
"Yes, Sir. That was in the orders I logged in for the Captain yesterday." Uhura confirmed.
"Correct. However, what you aren't aware of is the fact that the Captain will be acting in the official capacity of Federation ambassador and will have the need of a consort. I have reviewed likely candidates and would like to recommend you for the position if you are interested. The choice is, of course, yours.
"The mission consists primarily of attending a week's worth of ceremonies, diplomatic functions and galas to celebrate Potakai's entry into the Federation and the ascendancy of the new ruler for the Potakai star system. Though you have not officially been released to full duty, Doctor McCoy has certified you are indeed well enough to perform in such a capacity."
Uhura did a double-take at the mention of McCoy's involvement. If he knew Spock was considering her for this mission, what was he trying to tell her? Or what was Spock? The mission was a week long, practically all the time she had left before she had to pass her pysch exam. She would be planet-bound with the captain. No, she wouldn't go there, they couldn't be conspiring to get her alone with him, could they?
She noticed that Spock was waiting for her answer. Until she spoke, Uhura had no idea what she would actually say.
"I'm very interested in this mission, Mister Spock."
To his credit, Spock did not react to her statement. Instead, he collected the data chips off his desk and handed them to her.
"Very good. The Captain is in briefing room two reviewing some of this data already. He has relinquished command to me for the duration of the mission so he can prepare for it satisfactorily. Please join him there and begin your own assimilation of the data. You will find the Potakai an interesting species, with many fascinating characteristics."
"Yes, Sir. Thank you for the opportunity, Mister Spock." Uhura gave Spock a genuine smile and left for the briefing room.
What she expected to find there was anybody's guess. The Captain, of course, but she didn't know if he was expecting her or someone else. McCoy had told her to find someone, while at the same time Spock was recommending she beam down with the Captain for a week of diplomatic functions, with the CMO's approval no less. Was it as it seemed? Was the Captain aware of it? Uhura did not dare hazard a guess to those questions. For the moment, she was relying on training to get her through her shift. She would take her cue from the Captain's reaction to her assignment and go with it. Later, after the initial shock had worn off, she would dissect it emotionally.
Kirk was deep in study when Uhura arrived. He looked up with a curious expression. Once he recognized her, his look became pensive, waiting for her to speak.
"Good morning, Captain, Mister Spock says you need a ‘belle for the ball’, so I've been given the opportunity to be your consort during the Potakai mission. Do you think you can stand me for a whole week?" 'Oh well, might as well jump right in', she thought.
The captain's expression changed from pensive to composed, seemingly coming to terms with something. Finally, he smiled, deciding to play along.
"Oh, just like Spock to wax poetic about a mission, but Lieutenant, you might consider whether you can stand me. We have at least two galas to attend, and I'm afraid we'll be expected to dance at them all. I'm a bit rusty there, so be prepared to dodge my left feet."
"Hardly, Captain, I've seen you dance and there's nothing for me to worry about there."
At the easy banter between them, she could feel herself relax. The Captain seemed perfectly at ease with her being chosen for the mission, and she could sense nothing forced in his behavior. In fact, he now seemed more relaxed than she could remember in months. Of course, they finally had something to do other than patrol dead space. Even a diplomatic mission, not always his favorite, was an improvement over what they had been doing for the last three months.
"I'll remind you of that the first time I step on you." He teased then settled back into seriousness.
"All right, Lieutenant, I'd like to cover Potakai world and political history this morning and move into physiology after lunch. Tomorrow, I'd like to cover Potakai customs, protocols and social structure. The next day we'll review and go over the week's itinerary. Do you have any questions?"
"No sir, other than do you want to start with world or political history?" She flashed a smile before sitting down at the computer console and started bringing up the records they would soon know in their sleep.
The morning had gone by so fast that Uhura was startled when Kirk called a halt, declaring he was hungry for lunch.
"Take a break, Lieutenant, and give your brain a moment to soak this stuff in." He smiled that little boy grin.
"Go grab some lunch and a little quiet-time before we start the afternoon session. Doctor McCoy is going to join us and explain Potakai physiology."
He stood and stretched, just missing the look of doubt and anxiety that flashed across Uhura's face.
Oh my God, how was she going to handle an afternoon of McCoy analyzing her every action? Yes, he might be coming to explain physiology, but she knew he would be side-barring a study in psychology. His ice-blue eyes would be dissecting her the whole time, trying to read her reactions to the captain. The morning had been so fun; he had made even the dry history data interesting, asking challenging questions and her opinion on many points. Well, at least she was forewarned and had time to get her game face prepared.
"Yes sir, I'm ready for a long break myself." She spoke aloud, squashing anything but a smile from her expression.
They walked out together, but parted at the lift. She knew he would go to the Bridge. Relinquish command? Yeah, right - then he would probably talk Spock into going to lunch with him.
Uhura was back early; no one else had made it to the briefing room yet. She sorted through the data files and prepared them for the next session. Hopefully, the afternoon would pass as quickly as the morning had.
When the door slid open, Uhura looked up, praying it was the captain and not McCoy. Unfortunately, her prayers weren't answered this time, as the lean form of the CMO entered the room.
"Good afternoon, Lieutenant, I'm glad you accepted Spock's offer for this mission." He smiled warmly, but there was a studying look in his eyes. He seemed to be scanning her intently.
"Yes sir, I'm glad as well, though it sounded as if you also had a hand in my selection." She replied with just a hint of challenge in her tone.
"Maybe a little. I thought some mission time might do you some good, though it might interfere with what we discussed this morning …or maybe not…" McCoy challenged back himself, canting his brow and tilting his head, so like Spock, yet not.
Before she could respond, the door swooshed open and Kirk walked in. Noticing the tenseness of Uhura's posture, he took in the scene and made his way to his seat. Keenly aware of what subject might have caused her discomfort, a slow anger infused him. He had thought he could keep his temper reined in while they covered the material, but he was quickly losing that bet.
"Good afternoon, Doctor, are you prepared to go over the Potakai data with us?" The Captain's tone was neutral, but both Uhura and McCoy sensed the coolness in his manner.
McCoy stuttered around a bit, uncomfortable with Jim's distance since their argument. He had hoped that Kirk's request for his involvement in this briefing had meant his anger had abated.
Though Uhura knew McCoy couldn't tell, the Captain's demeanor was markedly colder than what it had been during their morning session. Was he angry with McCoy, Uhura wondered, or had something happened during their break to cause the turnabout? From McCoy's reaction, she gathered the issue was between the Captain and CMO.
"Yes Sir. I'm ready when you are." McCoy answered meekly. He knew Jim wouldn't tolerate anything but business when he was in this state of mind. Jim hated to feel trapped, and right now, he knew Jim felt as if McCoy had engineered this whole mission to force him into dealing with his feelings toward Uhura. Of course, he hadn't, but he knew how to take advantage of a great opportunity when he saw one. Getting Spock to agree had been risky, but worth it. Yet, McCoy knew that it made Jim all the angrier to have Spock as the doctor's ally instead of his own.
"Good, then let's begin." Kirk ordered.
The afternoon wasn't as enjoyable as the morning had been, but Uhura learned just as much. Potakai Prime was a class M world, with vast oceans, but somewhat smaller than Earth. Its lighter and smaller metal core produced less gravity than what they would be used to. Both she and the captain would be a great deal stronger while on the planet. They would have to bear that in mind when dealing with the Potakai; Starfleet would frown upon accidentally hurting a member of the native population.
The Potakai were a true symbiotic species: when they pair-bonded, their neural pathways merged into nearly a single mind. Each personality remained distinct, but the interaction between mates was so integrated, they could share thoughts from far away. They connected emotionally as well as telepathically. The connectivity was almost always restricted to within the bond, but there were documented cases of unrestricted telepathy within Potakai history. Some cases were congenital and some were trauma induced. The dowager appeared to be an example of the latter. She witnessed the assassination of the last Emperor, her bond-mate, right before her eyes. They had not been bonded long, but the trauma was so severe she had been catatonic for a month before returning to consciousness with a vengeance.
The Potakai were susceptible to social imprinting, but it did not appear to follow familial bloodlines. In fact, since the Potakai practiced crèche child rearing, family bonds between parent and child were one of their weakest relationships. It was not uncommon for a child to never know who his biological parents were. Instead, strong bonds formed between the child and their crèche mothers, who were always a member of the Ménage caste.
Later, as the child grew and began to show an interest in the world, the child was placed in a household exhibiting kindred interests. It was from that association that a child eventually became imprinted, except for the Warrior caste. If a child exhibited warrior behaviors, he or she was moved to a larger, more authoritarian type of crèche. It was from there the child matured before migrating to a formal branch of the Potakai military.
Uhura sat back and listened to Doctor McCoy's description of the Potakai digestive system, not one of the more interesting topics of the afternoon, and realized she had not been under scrutiny from the surgeon, as she had feared. In fact, it was the CMO who had been under scrutiny most of the session. Kirk had quizzed and challenged him to explain every detail covered in the files. The CMO had been too hard-pressed keeping up with the stream of questions flung his way to have time to study her. She had tried to interrupt with a question of her own every so often in order to mellow out the mood of the room. Whatever was at the heart of the friction between the captain and doctor, it was not conducive to a relaxing lecture. Uhura was glad when the session came to an end.
"Thank you, Doctor. I believe we've covered all the material provided. You may go." Kirk summarily dismissed the surgeon.
McCoy looked startled at the quick dismissal and a bit sad. He tried for a weak smile at them both as he stood to leave.
"Uh, you're welcome, sir. If I can help in any other way, please don't hesitate to call." His speech was stilted, a note of hurt in his voice.
When Kirk did not look up from his padd, McCoy glanced her way and gave Uhura a small nod before he turned and left -- dejection evident in every step. Uhura took this as an opportunity to start gathering her own notes and data chips, moving around the table, trying to do anything to cover the awkwardness of McCoy's exit. She had nearly finished when Kirk looked up and studied her for a long, quiet moment.
"I'm sorry you had to witness that. I'm afraid the Doctor and I aren't on good terms at the moment. I should have done a better job of putting my personal feelings aside." He sighed and ran his hands over his face, trying to wring the tiredness from it.
"I'm sure you and Doctor McCoy will resolve the issue between you both soon." She smiled gently at him from across the table. The sadness he allowed to show on his face was telling.
"But, you know, as captain, you always have the advantage over him. Maybe next time you could grant him a bit of grace." She wasn't sure how he would react to that last part. Getting lectured from a subordinate on how to 'play well with others' wasn't something starship captains generally tolerated.
Kirk arched a brow, and then smiled rather sheepishly before speaking.
"Reprimand duly noted, Lieutenant. I promise to do better." He stood and began to gather his own notes.
"Go ahead and get out of here. I'll see you in the morning and we can start all over again." He grinned and motioned with his head toward the door.
Uhura didn't need to be told twice; she smiled as she let out the breath she had held waiting for his reaction before slipping out the door.
The next couple of days were a whirlwind of briefings and preparations. Spock was right when he stated the Potakai were an interesting people. She could hardly wait to meet them in person.
The images they had of the Potakai showed a handsome race of tall, lithe humanoids, with hair reminiscent of feathers. The iridescent hues of their feathery locks a striking contrast against the dark purple indigo of their skin.
Each caste wore their hair in a unique fashion. The Aristocracy wore theirs long and unfettered, while the Warrior caste kept theirs cropped except for a 'V' line which met at the front. The Citizen caste wore theirs mid-length and usually restrained when in public. Lastly, the Ménage caste appeared to keep theirs neatly shorn.
The Potakai also believed in tattooing as a way of expressing loyalties and relationships. It was not uncommon to see high ranking Potakai almost completely covered in clan symbols. Each icon represented a clan affiliation or past action of the bearer.
They were a flamboyant race, liking huge, ornate architecture. They also appeared to be much taken with pageantry. Uhura was sure the ceremonies they would be attending would be spectacular.
Uhura and Kirk had agreed she would be in charge of wardrobe for the mission. The captain had no qualms in deferring to the Lieutenant's more refined eye for style. Since the Potakai were entranced with color and decoration, both knew that dress would be a factor on which they would be judged.
"Lieutenant, just promise to keep me out of pink and anything with ruffles please." Kirk pled only half jokingly; he really didn't want to go 'too native'.
"Don't worry, sir, I promise you'll look strikingly handsome in everything I select." Uhura said in mock seriousness. That left her a lot of wiggle room, as she thought he would look handsome in anything, or nothing for that matter -- Oh my -- she quickly coached her face to not betray that last thought.
Uhura had been so busy with everything that she hardly had a moment of downtime. Palmer had relieved her on the Bridge so she hadn't seen Sulu or Chekov at all. She had managed to grab some lunch with Christine on the last day before they beamed down that evening. It had been awkward at first, but they had eventually gotten past it. However, Chris threw the conversation into a much more complex subject when she asked Uhura how she felt about going on the mission with the Captain.
"I'm fine with it, Christine. I know we can't be more than coworkers, so I won't allow anything else to get in the way." Uhura thought it sounded good anyway.
"You're preaching to the choir, Ny. I wrote that party line, try again." Chris challenged skeptically.
"Well, what option do I have, Chris? It's not going to happen, no matter what I want, so I need to put those thoughts behind me." Uhura hissed back, the mess hall wasn't the place for this conversation.
"You realize Doctor McCoy could get into big trouble for allowing you to go on this mission before you're released back to full duty, don't you?" Chris changed tactics.
Uhura looked up from her lunch, shocked at the head nurse's revelation.
"No, I didn't, but Mister Spock cleared me also. Surely he wouldn't agree to something that would get McCoy into trouble." Uhura whispered.
"Oh, Ny, wake up." It was Christine's turn to hiss.
"Can't you see what's going on here? Spock and Leonard are trying to get you off ship with Captain Kirk so he'll even consider being the one to help you -- "
"Help me with what?" Uhura blushed, but Christine couldn't tell.
"You know what, don't play dumb. I know what McCoy talked to you about. That's why the Captain is mad at McCoy. In fact he's furious because he got Spock involved in this too. You're almost out of time and you haven't passed your pysch scan. Len's been blaming himself, saying he must have misjudged your progress, or that he should have transferred you to Doctor Yangstra. Something the Captain forbade him to do, mind you, and now he blames Len for your status." Christine's tone was low, but carried an edge of righteous indignation against McCoy's treatment.
"Christine, I don't blame Doctor McCoy. He's been wonderful to me and I felt much more comfortable talking to him than I ever would Doctor Yangstra. I think the Captain is really angry with himself, though he has no reason to be. No one is to blame for what happened to me on Bengali except the Orions.
I admit, I thought it was just too coincidental for me to be picked for this mission after my conversation with Doctor McCoy, but the Captain's behavior has been so relaxed and 'normal', I just couldn't believe it to be so."
"Oh, he knows about it all right, but he's not agreed to anything. He blew up and ordered McCoy to tell you how far from passing you really are. McCoy hadn't told you because it would only make you more anxious. Then, this mission came up and McCoy went to Mister Spock with the idea for you to be consort. Spock agreed and presented your name to Captain Kirk. Now he's hardly talking to either of them." Chris whispered angrily. She thought it extremely unfair for the Captain to hold the two men she cared about the most, responsible for this mess.
"Oh my God. I knew there was something going on between him and McCoy, and now that you mention it, I haven't seen him with Mister Spock either. Spock certainly hasn't been involved in our briefings.
Christine, this isn't going to work. I know how strongly the Captain feels about this. I felt it during our meld. He won't give in and I don't want him to. Yes, we have feelings for each other, but to pursue them will just make it harder on us both. How can someone expect us to start something like that and then just turn it off once the mission is over? I don't think I could." Uhura bit back harshly, this was bordering on ridiculous.
"Who says it has to stop? That would be up to you both. Yes, this is desperation talking, but Ny, you're out of options. Is there anyone else you would allow to touch you? If so, speak up or go to him. I know it's awkward and embarrassing, but it's the truth. Unless and until you are comfortable being with someone, you won't benchmark against your scan on file. You were comfortable with sex and men in general before, and the scan will expect those same reactions. Theoretical acceptance won't work here. You have to 'know' it before the scan can register it. Just like you 'knew' it when you took the original scan. Anything less will get you kicked off the ship and no one wants that.
"The Captain knows what's at stake, Ny. He won't let that happen. Hell, he's bent so many regs up till now just to keep you here I can't see what's one more." Chris said seethingly.
Uhura said nothing for a moment; she knew the regs had nothing to do with it. Captain Kirk used his own code of conduct to guide his actions, and so long as they meshed with Starfleet's, life was good. However, on the occasions when the regs had conflicted with his own ethics, the regs always lost. But what they failed to understand was that being intimate with a member of his crew was in direct violation of one of Kirk's fundamental beliefs. That was why he had backed away from her before her attack and again as soon as he could, after it. Could he somehow rationalize getting close to her within his own mind?
"Chris, let it go. I'm not taking this mission for my own sake, but as my duty. If something happens, great. If not, then I'll have had one great last mission before I'm transferred. I can't look at it any other way. I can't afford to think about personal matters during a mission."
Uhura spoke with finality and Christine knew she needed to drop the subject. At least Uhura now knew the whole story. McCoy would throw her in the brig if he knew what she had said, she had broken a myriad of ethical regulations, but she didn't care. Too much was riding on this for all parties not to be on the same page.
"All right, have a safe mission and try to enjoy yourself at all the parties." Chris smiled wistfully. She could be jealous of that part of the mission anyway. Uhura had shown her all the beautiful gowns she had picked out to wear at the galas and was seriously envious.
"I'll try." Uhura grinned back, thankful to be ending their conversation on a better note.
"I've got to go pack now. See you when I get back, okay? I'll have lots of stories to tell, I'm sure."
Kirk was just finishing packing his own kit. He could have let the yeoman do it, but they were still hours from Potakai and it gave him something to do. Uhura had outdone herself in the wardrobe department. He would be clothed in opulent silks and soft suedes practically the entire mission. She had kept her word and ensured the colors were within his tolerances, lots of vibrant Starfleet blue, along with deeper blue blacks and rich forest greens, all with chevrons of white, gold and copper embellishments. He was very interested in seeing what she had chosen for herself. She obviously intended to coordinate with him because she had labeled each outfit for the event at which he should wear it.
The door chime interrupted his musings. Kirk called the visitor in, knowing it would be Spock or McCoy. He wasn't eager to talk to either. McCoy stepped into Kirk's quarters and surveyed the half-packed contents on the captain's bunk.
"Well, won't you be handsome." McCoy quipped playfully. He wanted to make peace with Jim before he beamed down to the planet, but didn't think that would happen, especially if he said what he came to say to Kirk.
"What can I do for you, Doctor?" Kirk ignored McCoy's opening remark and cut to the chase. He knew this wasn't a social call, but rather another attempt by the CMO to convince him to get involved with Uhura.
"Nothing, Jim. I just wanted to see you before you beamed down and tell you I'm sorry for letting you down in my care for Uhura."
"Don't you think you should be apologizing to her instead of me? She's the one who will suffer the consequences." Kirk threw back coldly. He knew it would cut McCoy deeply, but he didn't care at the moment. He wanted someone else to feel as badly as he did right now.
"I have, Jim." McCoy answered softly. He wouldn't rise to the bait Jim threw his way. McCoy knew Kirk was trying to get him angry so they could lash out at each other and he would storm off. But he wouldn't do that this time, too much would be unresolved and lost forever. Instead, he clamped down on his own anger and refused to let it grow. Spock would have been proud.
"And I think you'll suffer too if she leaves Enterprise, Jim. Are you ready to concede that? If you can't see yourself past your own issues to try and help Uhura with hers, then she will be lost to you for good." This time McCoy spoke gently, not viciously as he had thrown the same point in Kirk's face a few days ago.
Kirk hesitated for a moment in his packing, but refused to look at McCoy.
"As I said, Doctor, that's not an option I'm allowed." The captain's statement was laced with bitterness.
"The Jim Kirk I know makes his own allowances. I've seen him throw himself in the line of fire many times in order to save a member of his crew. This really isn't so different, except instead of him risking physical injury in his attempt, this time it's emotional. Something I can't patch up so easily in Sickbay." McCoy's tone was gentle and tinged with understanding.
"No, you can't." Jim answered softly. McCoy wasn't sure if he even realized he had spoken out loud.
"But, if he tries to save his crew member, he just needs to remember why he's risking himself. Because, in the long run, maybe he saves himself too." McCoy still spoke gently, as if trying to calm a spooked stallion.
Jim turned and looked McCoy in the eye. There was no anger on his face, only pain. McCoy knew he was warring within himself as to which was the greater crime, allowing Uhura to be transferred, or risking his command and his heart in an effort to save her.
"He'll make the right choice when he's faced with it. He always does." With that, McCoy reached over and squeezed Jim's shoulder. He gave his friend an encouraging smile and left him to finish packing.
Still two hours out from Potakai Prime, Kirk found himself on the Bridge. He and Uhura had covered all the material they had been given and he could not sit in his quarters any longer. McCoy's words were eating at him just as the CMO intended. At least, on the Bridge, he could distract himself from the war going on between his head and his heart.
Spock had relinquished the Conn to Kirk and almost eagerly taken the science station away from Chekov. Kirk smiled to himself; the Vulcan hated command as much as Kirk loved it.
Therefore, he was startled to find Spock standing next to him now.
"Captain, we are being welcomed by the Dowager of Potakai Prime." Spock informed Kirk calmly.
Kirk looked over his shoulder toward Lieutenant Palmer and got a shake of her head in response.
"What do you mean, Spock? Are they transmitting over your scanning frequency?" Kirk asked.
"No, Sir, I'm in direct contact with the Dowager herself. She wishes me to bid you welcome to her star system." Spock answered with a raised brow.
"I'm afraid the Federation diplomatic corps understated the dowager's abilities by some magnitude." Spock elaborated in his most deadpan tone.
"I see. Please convey my thanks to the Dowager, Mister Spock, and tell her I look forward to meeting her later this evening." Kirk rose to the occasion. Was it a show of power or just eagerness for contact? He thought to himself.
"She says to tell you, perhaps it is both, Captain." Spock intoned, nonplussed at being an uninformed communications device.
Kirk couldn't suppress the smile that tried to take over his face. He knew he should be concerned that his thoughts could be so readily discerned from such a vast distance, but remarkably, it was the humor of the situation that took precedence. It was too late to do anything but batten down the hatches and weather the storm.
"The Dowager says the weather on Potakai is spectacular at this time of the year and she is sure you will enjoy any sailing you attempt while there." Again Spock translated in the mostly one-sided conversation.
Kirk laughed out loud, much to the confusion of the rest of the Bridge crew.
"Tell the Dowager, I'm sure I shall, Mister Spock." He continued to chuckle to himself.
He watched, as Spock seemed to go within himself for brief moment before answering.
"She is gone from my mind now, Captain." Spock reported. "It was a fascinating experience; however, I would not want to be the subject of her curiosity. She respected my shields, but I have no doubt they would not have withstood any serious attempt by her to break them."
"So, I should approach this mission with an extreme open mind, is that what you're telling me Spock?" Kirk teased.
"Since you are not trained to shield your thoughts, the Dowager will undoubtedly consider your mind 'open', Captain. If she has possessed this talent for over three hundred years, I'm sure she has come to depend on it as a second nature." The science officer warned him.
"Point noted, Mister Spock, but there is little I can do about this now. Starfleet was aware of her telepathic abilities, or some of them, when they ordered us to travel here. I can hardly back out now. And, if it's as you say, I'm sure the Dowager is used to all types of transient thoughts that pass through a person's mind. I'll just try to squelch any unflattering ones." Kirk attempted to mollify the Vulcan's concern.