Healing Touch Chapter 3 K/U [NC-17]

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.



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