Healing Touch Chapter 14 K/U [NC-17]
Image manipulation courtesy of mostly me
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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.
Ronar'di was the first to greet them as they re-entered the Audience Hall.
"Ah, Ambassador, fortunate for you it was old General Mora'di who turned rogue instead of me. Otherwise, you would not have been so lucky." The new, young Warrior Chief of Staff fairly beamed at him and ignored Uhura, the winner of that confrontation, altogether. So different from Chota'di, this one.
"Yes, my good fortune, I'm sure." Kirk answered back with a smile that did not reach his eyes.
Ramsha'ka and Lilu'ka approached in a quick step, obvious relief on their faces as they took in the sight of the two humans. Ronar stepped back, allowing them some privacy.
"Ambassador, My Lady, Grandmother said you were injured and that your doctor was treating you. It pleases us to see you both well." Ramsha'ka voiced sincerely. Both Aristocrats scanned over the two Humans, trying to ensure they were fine. They sensed discord, but not the reason for it.
"Thank you for your concern, Your Highnesses." Kirk answered with a slight bow of his head. The movement caused a slight twinge of his eyes--neither Potakai saw it, but Uhura did.
"Speaking of Anata'ka, where is the Dowager?" Kirk asked casually.
"She and Chota'di are in deep conference with the crèche mothers and the high priest. Both your actions have caused quite a stir amongst the hierarchy and households. I cannot say I disagree with her, now that she has told me what your plan was, but I'm glad she did not confide in me earlier. I would not have allowed it."
The new emperor shook his head in resignation as Uhura stared at him in shock. He was *glad* Anat kept it to herself? He was *happy* to have been excluded? Ramsha'ka turned to her, his attention drawn by her tiny start of surprise, but Lilu chose that moment to speak.
"And Nyota, how brave of you to engage Mora'di. A Potakai berserker is nothing to trifle with, but then it should be a given that neither is a Starfleet officer. Now I know it is a fallacy to assume our greater height makes us superior in battle. You proved today that your human strength far surpasses anything we consider normal."
Uhura recognized Lilu's intervention as just that--a way to distract Ramsha and change the topic. Thankful, she smiled gratefully at the Empress, even if the new topic was not much better.
"Thank you, Your Highness." Accepting the praise with only a slight flush, Nyota felt their attention upon her. She felt Kirk's gaze upon her, quietly assessing her response, but now the smile on his face was genuine.
"Well, shall we make our entrance to the ball, now? It still started on time." Ramsha'ka grinned at the humor of partying in the face of adversity.
"Since I have no idea when Grandmother shall finish her discussions, and you are still my heir, I think it apropos that we greet the households together."
"I'm sure that will liven up the party." Kirk replied in his best deadpan. "Any idea how long I'm going to own my new title?"
"What, Zhames, tired of dodging threats already?" Ramsha laughed loudly.
"No, no--it's not that, exactly--it's just that Starfleet frowns on its officers moonlighting as planetary rulers." Kirk answered mildly.
Laughing harder, Ramsha answered as he motioned them toward the ballroom. "I promise to relieve you of that title soon, but let them ponder it for awhile…."
The party had gone on for hours and showed no sign of slowing down, their entrance only a slight hiccup in the grand celebration.
Uhura tried to focus on what one of the Governors was saying to her as they danced Potakai-style. She felt like she had danced with every man in the room--some of them twice--and wanted nothing more than to sit down and enjoy some peace and quiet for a few minutes. In Potakai tradition, she and Kirk had split up and worked the room separately. Tonight she was grateful for the custom because it allowed her some time to sort through her emotions and figure out why she was so angry with him.
It boiled down to a matter of trust. He had not trusted her and that hurt. Keeping Anat's plan to himself was tantamount to lying, and after his speech about honesty their first night together, that hurt even more. No trust and no honesty equaled no respect--and that hurt most of all. She was no longer sad; now she was mad. Such realizations had kept her at a slow simmer all night.
She glanced across the dance floor and saw Kirk dancing in Human fashion with Lilu. She noticed, not for the first time tonight, that his left hand was resting low on his partner's hip. Most of his dances had been at the female's request and nearly all of those had been in some version of Human dance. Whether this was his choice or theirs, she did not know. However, the dreamy looks on the women's faces made her suspect them as the culprits, while Kirk acquiesced so he didn't have to hold his injured arm up for long. The bitch inside of her took guilty pleasure in knowing their hands resting on his shoulder had to be painful.
The music stopped in mid-tune and everyone turned to the entryway. Standing there in full Royal posture was Anata'ka, and at her side Chota'di, who no longer wore a uniform, but instead a handsomely tailored suit. After a moment of everyone frozen in place, Ramsha'ka walked up to them, greeting her as an equal and in obvious acceptance. Soon, the others followed. Uhura's current dance partner graciously excused himself and made his way to the Dowager as well.
Finally able to take a break, Uhura sat down at a corner table, grateful for the respite and in no hurry to greet Anat. If she was angry with anyone right now more than Kirk, it was Anat. She had manipulated them all, playing with their emotions and their fears in order to orchestrate her plan.
"Are you ready to greet the new clan leaders?" Kirk asked quietly, catching Uhura off guard. His tone was guarded, not expecting a change in her attitude since their last encounter.
"That's why we stayed, isn't it? To be--seen? To show the Potakai we won't be scared away by some little attempted assassination?" She whispered back sarcastically.
Kirk's face clouded and she expected to be busted back to ensign, if not worse, but whatever he started to say was swallowed as he took a deep, cleansing breath before trying again.
"If you want to look at it that way. I prefer to think we're helping stabilize a culture that just might tear itself apart and maybe salvage a relationship between the Federation and the Potakai. But maybe that's just me. Now, are you ready to make our appearance?" The tone was a question, but the look that came with it was an order.
"Yes, sir." She answered tightly as she took his proffered right arm, for once not interested in the bigger picture.
The crowd parted before them, acknowledging their rank without demure. Uhura found herself face to face with Anat and Chota'di much too soon.
"Ah, Zhames, you look much better than last I saw you. I am very glad you are still with us." She smiled with deep sincerity at him before turning her attention toward Uhura.
"And Nyota, I am forever in your debt for saving all our lives. Your courage saved millions of lives, not just us few." The Dowager actually bowed to the stunned consort.
"You're welcome, Your Highness, but I just did my duty." Uhura murmured quietly, she had no wish for Anat to feel any obligation to her.
"Yes, I know. Strange how duty interferes with reason and normal behavior--taking hold of one and bending them to its will." Anat remarked in a conversational tone, but her eyes were focused on Uhura's face.
"Yes, strange indeed." Nyota answered to all the layers of her statement.
"Zhames!" Chota'di exclaimed in barely contained enthusiasm. "It's all so clear to me now." He flashed a most Kirk-like smile at them and Uhura felt her world spin around. Kirk grinned back and it was like an old camera negative was being compared to its photograph. He did not even ask what was so clear, because Kirk knew, even if the others did not.
"And now you have years to explore all of it." Anat spoke lovingly to Chota, briefly excluding them from her conversation with her -- what? What was Chota'di to her now?
"So, Zhames, may I have one last dance? I promise good behavior and no tugging on your shoulder." Anat's smile started out impish, but the mention of his injury subdued it.
"Of course, Your Highness. I would be honored." Kirk bowed slightly, then escorted the Dowager onto the floor.
The crowd parted, recognizing dismissal when they saw it. Uhura watched them move together--Anat at her word, keeping her hands at Kirk's waist and right shoulder--knowing that the Dowager merely wanted a private forum to speak with Kirk.
"Nyota, would you teach me that dance?" The warm tone and familiar smile unnerved her as she looked up at the tall Potakai.
"Of course, Gen- I mean Chota-di." Uhura caught herself, moving out on the floor with him and placing one of his hands around her waist and holding the other in a firm grasp.
"Oh, it's not Chota'di anymore either. Now I'm known as Chota'kel, just as Anat is now known as Anata'kel. Kel means 'star' and we are now clan leaders of the Seka Caste--those who would seek out the stars." His chest puffed out in pride as he said this, his normally somber face totally surrendering to his new grin.
"We may never get to see the stars ourselves, most of our immediate future will be spent dealing with establishing our new caste. Mostly, hammering out the protocols with the crèche mothers and brokering with Ramsha'ka for part of his fleet." He mused in a mixture of excitement and resignation.
"It sounds like quite a challenge." Nyota answered distractedly as they moved across the floor. He had picked up the steps rapidly and was leading quite well.
"Why are you angry with Zhames and Anat?" He asked curiously, causing Uhura to falter and miss a step.
"Quit reading my mind." She said flatly, attempting to warn him off.
"Anat is the mind-reader. I am merely observant." He replied with a too-innocent air.
"Was it so wrong to save millions of Warriors--to find a way to channel our instinctive aggression into something less destructive?"
Ohhhh…. The look and the logic were getting to her.
"Not when you put it that way, no, I guess not. It wasn't the goal that was the problem, but how it was carried out." She finally voiced.
"Ahh--and you were excluded and that has made you angry--especially with Zhames." He spoke mostly to himself, trying to understand her anger.
"I don't want to discuss it." She warned again.
"Anat asked him to keep her secret. She expressly asked him not to share with you for fear of it becoming known--"
"For fear I might not be able to keep a secret you mean." She bit back.
"No, for fear another sensitive might attempt to read your thoughts. Nyota, even I, who had the most to gain personally, would have struck her down to stop such a plan. I would have had no choice but to act upon my pono tomau. As a Human, I'm sure that is something very hard for you to understand, but you do understand duty. It would have been the harshest order I could ever imagine, but I would have carried it out."
"I liked you better when you were the strong, silent type." Uhura retorted testily.
Chota's crest flattened in surprise at her barb, but his smile did not falter.
"But my eyes were closed to so many possibilities then, Nyota. Do you wish me still blind to the beauty before me? Did you know your eyes glitter like stars when you are angry?"
"Now you're sounding too much like him. Stop it. Turn the charm down a few degrees."
Chota tried to look contrite, but even in that, Nyota saw Kirk's mannerisms. She kept it to herself, but she could not control a slight roll of her eyes.
"Excuse me, I do find strange thoughts popping into my head. Anat assures me they will dissipate, that my new insight will settle and mesh with who I've always been." He offered, not in apology, but merely by way of explanation.
"But you're still angry with him…" Chota continued, not willing to let the subject drop.
Uhura looked around the room, seeking an escape from his questioning. She noticed Jim and Anat were still together, dancing closely. It was obvious they were in deep communion.
"You could leave, but someone would notice. They would wonder why the Consort runs from the Ambassador."
"I'm not running--" she hissed, but realized it was exactly what she was thinking, "--from him." She added. "I'm just not interested in answering your questions. Why do you care if I'm angry?"
"Ah, so you are angry." He grinned as if getting this tiny confession out of her was all he wanted.
"Fine. I'm angry. Now are you happy?"
"No, I am not happy that you're angry, but I am glad that you admitted it to me." He clarified, her sarcasm lost in translation.
"It matters to me in that I like you and owe a great debt of gratitude to you both, to Zhames for giving me a new perspective on life, and to you, Nyota, for giving me a new perspective on love. I do not wish to see such anger between two I respect so much."
Uhura looked up into the yellow eyes that looked tenderly into her own. Her anger, at least at Chota'kel, vanished and she smiled shyly in response to the warmth his look generated within her.
"Don't worry, we'll work it out between us. We've been through too much together for this to end our relationship." She hoped that was not a lie.
The ball finally wound down, allowing the Federation couple to excuse themselves. Anat had always been somewhere else when Uhura had briefly found herself partner-less. Now, as they bid their farewells, she stood proudly, towering over Uhura with no semblance of shame. Her eyes were warm, but guarded, as she acknowledged their bland pleasantries. Uhura found it eerily strange to only be conversing with her on a verbal level for a change.
Kirk stepped up next to her, offering his own goodnights to the Aristocrats and Sekas. He drew near, but did not touch her as he encouraged Uhura to lead the way back to their apartments. He was quiet all the way back. A few stolen glances at him told Uhura he was in pain--the tightness around the eyes--telling. She kept the silence between them, knowing it would not last. Even through the veil of his command presence, she sensed anger from him. Good. She did not want to be the only one shouting.
As they entered their apartments, Pahzj asked if they needed anything else of him. Their murmurs of "No, thank you" were met with a hesitant bob of his head. He obviously sensed the tension between them, but had no idea what to do. After no further acknowledgement from either of them, he left.
Finally alone, Uhura stalked into 'their' bedroom, starting to collect her things. No, tonight she could not stay in this room. In fact, she might just choose to beam back to the ship. Let the ambassador make his excuses for her in the morning in their formal farewell.
"So, are you ready to tell me why you're so angry? Or do I just get to watch you throw things?" He asked baitingly as she missed her bag and tossed her brush on the floor.
Bending down to pick up the brush, she whirled on him, fire flashing in her eyes.
"You *knew* what Anat had planned--and you kept me in the dark! You nearly got killed and I nearly stood there and watched it happen!"
Hot tears of rage were running down her cheeks. Impotent rage that sent shivers down her spine. She knew she was out of control, but she did not care. Nothing mattered.
"You forget yourself, Lieutenant." Kirk's tone was cold and cutting, but Uhura had seen a look of surprise gloss his face before he schooled it into stone.
"I forget? I forget? Who forgot their big speech about honesty? Your silence was as good as a lie." She spit out between gritted teeth, pushing past him in dismissal as she continued to collect her gear.
"I never lied!" Kirk snapped as he reached out, his injury momentarily forgotten, and grabbed her as she passed him.
Uhura felt herself spun around and held in an iron grip. She looked up into his eyes and saw such a look of furious indignation that she cringed. Her cower made Kirk react as if someone had thrown ice water over him. He looked at his hands as they gripped her arms and made himself let go of her. He backed away, dropping his arms to his sides.
"I never lied to you." He repeated--this time deadly calm. "I promised Anat I would keep her confidence. I kept my word."
"What about your word to me?" Ny asked in anguish.
"Penda, Starfleet sent me here to bring the Potakai into the Federation, to make allies with Anat at all costs. She told me her price for that alliance and I paid it. It was for the greater good to risk myself rather than banish millions of Warriors to death. I'm sorry for hurting you in the process; it wasn't a matter of trust. I would have told you if I could have, but I won't apologize for carrying out my duty and honoring my oath. I told you I couldn't be more to you than I already was. My duty has to come first. It's not what I want but it is the reality of our situation." His voice softened at the last, as if he didn't have the energy or the desire to be angry anymore.
"Would you have told Spock if he were here instead of me?" She rubbed her tingling arms and backed away from him.
Turning away from her and looking out into the blackness of the sea, he answered. "No, I wouldn't have. He would have known, but I wouldn't have told him."
And Uhura knew he was right--Spock would have *known*--but she didn't, couldn't, and he should have told her so she could have better prepared to protect him....
"But you nearly died…" Was all she could think to say, the cruelness of that shock still pressing down on her.
"Yes, I nearly died, Penda, but I didn't--you saved me. Someday I might not be so lucky, but you can't keep me all tucked in and safe on the Bridge. Nobody can--not you, not McCoy, not Spock." He turned back to face her, all anger gone, replaced by a look of sad determination.
"And you'll push away anyone who tries…" She added to his decree.
"There are limits." He answered with quiet finality.
What were *her* limits? How did she fit into his life once back aboard Enterprise? How much had really changed between them? All these questions crashed into each other, forming the most important one that demanded an answer.
"What am I to you?" Uhura begged, the mystery of his true feelings more than she could bear. She had to know what she meant to him--here--now.
"You're beautiful." Kirk answered, reaching out to brush his fingers across her cheek.
Uhura flinched back from his caress, too aware he could control her with one touch. She let the anger she felt goad her to demand more from him: platitudes and stock answers were no longer good enough.
"I need more than that." Her voice was raspy, raw with emotion.
"You're the woman I see whenever I think of the Enterprise. You're acceptance, a safe haven, home. Your presence soothes and nurtures me. Your beauty makes my heart quicken."
To another woman, being compared with a ship would be insulting, but Uhura knew differently. She understood Kirk's relationship with his ship and how much he loved her, how much of his soul was tied to its being. But did that love transcend to her? She had to ask; she had to know.
"Does love have any place here?" She stared into his eyes, waiting for an answer--needing an answer.
Kirk stepped back and dropped his hands to his sides, mindful she would not allow his touch, aware he had touched her far too much already.
"Yes, a strong love, a forever love, a love worth dying for--but not an 'in love'." He answered in a halting voice. Uhura knew his confession was hard for him, but she refused to show pity. Instead, she kept staring, silently insisting he say more, his answer only begging more questions.
"My feelings about you are too entangled with the ship, our positions." Kirk began, struggling for words, his voice entreating her to understand.
"It's hard for me to see who you really are instead of what you've been to me. I've grown too attached to the loyalty and support you've given me to risk that on something I know we can't have."
Uhura watched as his eyes came into sharp focus, switching from introspection to suddenly challenging for his own answers. "What am I to you?"
"You're my protection from evil, my champion in battle, my handsome and gallant knight--and my image of you is far too perfect to be real. I'm in love with 'the Captain', but he is just a persona, an alter-go of the real man. The real man I barely know; I've only been allowed to see that man in glimpses--tired moments when the hero has let his guard down."
Uhura saw that he was stunned by her words. She held his eyes and continued, the words spilling from her lips and taking her anger with them.
"Would I be disappointed with the real man? No, but I think I would be consumed and burned to ashes if exposed for any length of time to the real James Tiberius Kirk. In many ways you remind me of Apollo--golden hair and skin, your warm eyes--so like the sun. Your intensity about life so brilliant, blinding to those who would dare to look at you. And like Apollo, you're trapped by your need to move, never allowed to linger in one place."
Uhura moved toward Kirk, no longer angry that he had kept her in the dark, finally accepting that he had done what he felt was right to honor his word. Her fear of losing him was still with her, a reconciliation still to be made. She reached out and stroked his face, forgiveness in her caress. He shut his eyes and leaned into her touch. She leaned in, kissing him tenderly on the lips, feeling his arms encircle her and pull her close before she pushed back a little--enough to finish what she needed to say.
"In love, as in life, you crave the rapids, and I prefer the deep, still waters. Somehow, right now, I think we're caught in an eddy line--a boundary between the two forces. We can't move backward or forward until we come to terms with our feelings for each other. I know you feel passionately about me, but only you can forgive yourself for feeling passionately for me. I absolved myself for loving you long ago."
With that she pulled him to her, kissing him as if there were no tomorrow. For her, there was not.