Healing Touch Chapter 15 and Final K/U [NC-17]
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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.
Her bag was still on the floor, the contents spilling out in the same disarray as her feelings at the moment. She lay there in the near darkness, listening to his steady breathing, illogically frightened that he might stop at any moment if she should drift off. Her conviction to sleep in her old room, or back on ship, had crumbled once she had kissed him again. How could she resist the last chance to feel his embrace?
Mindful of his injury, and McCoy's stern warning, Uhura had pushed him back against the bed and done all the 'work'. She had not asked permission for anything, just coaxed and commanded him to do her bidding. She had savored every inch of his body, knowing each touch was a farewell. He was restrained but responsive, denying her nothing as she fought the demons of their goodbye, his tenderness shredding her heart, as he loved her as no one ever had.
Now, curled against his side, her head pressed against his chest, Uhura wondered how she could leave her passion for him on Potakai. He scared her with the strength of his convictions about them, and about his duty, both only making her more frantic. To go back to just being his comm officer was going to be extremely difficult.
But did she actually think she could allow herself to feel this deeply for him and still sit idly by as he went down on mission after mission? On this one point Uhura knew the answer--no. It scared her to be so close to someone who would throw himself into the fire. She had worried about him when he was just her captain; now it smacked her hard on a completely different level.
She wanted to run away from it, wanted to go back in time those many months ago and stop herself from kissing him on the observation deck. The fear of losing him during the Tholian mission had caused her to act upon feelings his near-death had brought to the surface. It had caused them to dance around each other and confess to feelings they both knew were better left unexamined. That confession had led him to promise she would always have a place by his side, not as a lover but still a vital person in his life. A promise that had forced him to declare martial law on an alien space station in order to rescue her from the Orions. A promise that had forced him to share himself, his heart and his body, in order to keep his word. A sequence of events that happened from that one moment of weakness, one she could do little to rectify now.
She knew it was what McCoy faced every time Jim beamed down. Perhaps only Spock was 'safe' from him - and she had her doubts there. Anyone who got close to Kirk would have to endure the fear of him not coming back one day. She had always known that in theory, but the actual reality of it chilled her blood. She had to back away and allow some distance between them once again. She could not let him any nearer her heart than he already was.
She had to keep reminding herself of why they weren't meant for each other. He was too intense, always pushing and demanding when sometimes all she wanted was peace. He would expect her to advance far quicker in her career than she was wont to go. He was physical and always craving excitement, while she preferred a night at the opera and a slow dance under the stars. But mostly, she wanted someone who would be totally and unequivocally hers, not someone she would have to share with the ship and at least four hundred other people.
And tonight she had come face to face with that terrible intensity so many alien commanders had met--usually to their own undoing: That one brief moment of staring into eyes so deadly. Whether it was her challenge, or her dismissal, that had finally caused him to snap and lay his hands on her, she didn't know. Even through the brightness of his usual aura, she had always sensed there was something dark and dangerous about him. Now she knew what it was - that he was whatever he needed to be in order to win. An image of her White Knight in black armor flashed in front of her eyes and it unnerved her to know he was so driven. It didn't stop her from loving him, but now she knew why she always preferred the shadows. She knew it was only the fact that he had a strong conscience and true friends in Spock and McCoy that kept him grounded.
He had told her all along that he couldn't be what she wanted. He had been honest when he told her they could have nothing past Potakai except to be in each other's world. He had not lied when he said he loved her, yet she realized he had kept most of his true feeling buried from her. It was that which hurt the most, that he needed to shield himself, allowing only a certain amount of vulnerability. Though now she knew it was the only way he could permit himself to be the comfort that she needed.
She contemplated transferring, but felt is was cowardly to run after he had risked so much for her to be able to stay. She did not know why she felt she needed to linger in his light. Like the real sun, it could do quite a bit of damage to one who foolishly remained in its glare without some form of protection. But it was at his side, on his Bridge, that she felt was her place. Perhaps just as another soul to hold vigil for him as Spock and McCoy did. It did not matter, she just knew it was where she belonged.
Dawn found Kirk up and rummaging through his cast-off jacket for the extra hypospray McCoy had left him. His shoulder and back were a vivid purple as the deep bruising rose to the surface. The edges of the dermaplas bandage were tinged with blood, a ghastly reminder of the wicked injury underneath the superficial closure.
Uhura silently rose from the bed and took the hypospray out of his hands, adjusting the dial slightly before pressing it against the base of his neck. She could feel the tension leave his body underneath her hands. He murmured a soft, "thank you," as she touched his forehead and ran her fingers through his soft hair, gently encouraging him to lie back down and allow the pain meds to take effect. She curled up next to him--not yet ready to let him go.
The morning brought gray shadows into their room, the lack of color reflected in Uhura's mood as she packed up the last of her things. The mission was at an end and its completion closed so many other chapters going on in her life right now. Even though she knew most of them needed to be stamped with "The End," it still made her sad to know how this one finished. No, "and they lived happily ever after," seemed to be written in the stars for them.
Yet a part of her resisted that analogy. *They* might not live happily ever after, but some tiny part of her shouted out that *she* still could. She could still live the life she had always dreamed of living. That was the voice she strived to listen to, the one who tried to tell her how much she had won--instead of the chorus that was singing a dirge of how much she had lost.
"Sugar, you can't lose what you never really had." Nyota lectured softly to herself as she brought her kit into the living area. The room was still gray but Uhura thought she might be seeing a trace of color around the edges.
The staff was gathering in the foyer, waiting to bid their guests farewell. Kirk came in from the balcony; he had been quiet and introspective all morning and Uhura felt him withdrawing from her. It was not a cruel distancing, but a necessary one in order to transition back to the ship and its reality. She accepted it with grace, allowing no sadness to creep into her eyes. Her mind was busy rationalizing that it was all for the best--that she knew they would never truly be happy together--but her heart was still struggling with the idea. Yet, she was far closer to acceptance of it than when she had started the journey.
Kirk glanced her way, taking in that she was ready to go. A small smile crossed his face but Uhura saw that his mind was focused on other things, probably the farewell with Ramsha'ka and Anat. He waited for her to step up next to him before approaching the waiting staff.
It amazed Uhura to see him transform. Gone was the quiet, intense thinker, replaced by the witty and charming diplomat. He started at the far end, thanking each staff member for their warm hospitality and gracious service. Shorn crests fluttered in delight at his praise and deep bows followed one by one as he made his way up to Nesz and Pahzj.
Kirk stepped in front of the young Menage and took her hands, leaning forward and touching them to his brow. It was the courtly form of affection and rarely used outside of the Aristocratic caste, but he did it anyway. Nesz immediately glowed violet and her tiny crest fluttered non-stop. Uhura watched as he smiled warmly at the blushing woman, still holding her hands.
"And Nesz, we want to thank you for your tireless service and generosity during our stay. Lady Uhura and I will miss your care and devotion."
Uhura smiled brightly at Nesz, nodding and murmuring her agreement to his sentiment. She smiled all the more at how Kirk complimented from a Menage perspective, that service and devotion would mean far more to her than anything else he could say, while his affectionate gesture ensured she would be smitten for life.
Finally, letting go of Nesz's hands, Kirk turned his attention to the elder Potakai who stood proudly in front of him. As head householder Pahzj took responsibility for his staff, good or bad. The effusive praise had nearly caused him to burst with pride.
"Ah, Pahzj'dado," Kirk intoned solemnly, adding the rarely used honorific for someone in the Menage caste. As a 'common class,' they were considered familiar and intimate with everyone. To use an honorific meant something very special to a Menage.
"Please let me say that in all my travels I have never been so well cared for. You and your staff have taken care of every possible need for Lady Uhura and myself. I thank you for accepting us into your household."
Pahzj flushed a bit violet himself before regaining his composure.
"It has been and honor and a privilege to serve, Ambassador, My Lady." He bowed low to them both.
"And I have already sent your,'care packages,' as you called them, up to your ship. They seemed very excited at their contents." He remarked in surprise at how a few cases of sjobaberry juice, candies and a selection of liquors could generate such a commotion in orbit.
"Oh yes, Pahzj, you have made my Chief Engineer's day. Thank you again for the thoughtfulness." Kirk and Uhura laughed, mentally picturing Scotty cataloging his 'cultural education' items.
The journey to the Audience Hall seemed shorter than usual. Nyota really never wanted to see that place again. It brought unbidden images of berserkers and blood to her mind. The Federation couple had no idea what to expect--a packed house or just the Royal few.
Uhura was glad to see that their send off appeared to be a private affair, only Ramsha'ka, Lilu'ka, Anata'kel and Chota'kel in attendance. Not even Ronar'di was included. Pahzj took them to the base of the stairs, just as he had done several days ago and bowed in humble fashion, announcing his wards in the same tradition as before. However, this time, Ramsha'ka acknowledged the old Menage and they all chose to come down the steps to greet the humans. Uhura saw the look of surprise on Pahzj's face but he quickly schooled it into acceptance. She was sure the Menage was in for a lot more surprises in the days to come. Ramsha was the first to approach Kirk and he gave him a huge smile and a full dip of his crest. Lilu was quickly at his side, mimicking the gestures.
"Zhames, I will miss you. Are you sure you can't be enticed to stay on as our permanent Federation Ambassador?" He asked in a teasing manner.
"Thank you, Your Highness. Your offer would be tempting if I didn't have a ship that needed me." Kirk answered with some sincerity.
"Ah yes, your ship. I'm afraid you have been a bad influence on Chota'kel--he has talked of nothing but spaceships since his rebirth. I fear I am in dire risk of losing a large portion of my fleet to him. Is this how you repay me for the glory of being my heir?" He cast a playfully reproachful look between the starship captain and the Seka caste leader.
"How scandalous--he's only getting a portion of the fleet?" Kirk quipped in mock horror. "I thought I would have taught him better. And speaking of heir--have you named a new one, or am I still on standby?"
"No, sad to say, but I have named Grandmother as my heir until I find a more suitable choice. It bends the rules a bit, but at least she is Potakai." Ramsha grinned sheepishly.
Kirk laughed at the implied insult and shook his head.
"I'm not sad in the least. She has proven to be a strong leader and an excellent tactician. I hazard the ranks will settle down now soon enough."
Anat chose that moment to step into the fray.
"Zhames, you know me so well." She leaned in and kissed him on either cheek--the other Potakai, shocked at her audacity.
"Oh, do come now, Zhames is Human and I merely bid him farewell in the manner of his people. If we must tell him and Nyota goodbye at such an unseemly hour and all alone instead of in great honor, do not act appalled at a small token of affection." She admonished the scandalized glances cast her way, but winked at Kirk and beamed an unrepentant smile. He returned her grin with one of his own, not the least bit embarrassed by her kiss.
"I can never repay the debt I owe both you and Nyota." She continued more somberly, taking them both into her gaze.
"You have given my world a chance at survival and my people a direction in which to grow. The next years will be happy years-- ones not so lonely for me now." She ended almost shyly, looking back at Chota and motioning for him to join her.
"Anata'kel it has been an honor to know you and help in any way I could. I think the Federation is a better place with the Potakai included."
"Zhames," still a man of few words, Chota held out his hand in human-fashion, offering a handshake by way of farewell.
"Chota'kel," Kirk grasped the strong hand and shook it firmly.
Uhura felt the Seka turn his gaze on her. He dropped Kirk's hand and took up her own, bowing low and touching them to his brow.
"My Lady, thank you once again for my life. I am forever your servant and am indebted to your house."
"I was honored to be of service, Chota'kel, and Potakai is richer to still have such a leader." Nyota answered sincerely. For all the turmoil this mission created, the one thing she would never regret was saving their lives.
"Nyota," Anat said reverently as she stepped toward the smaller Human. "I wish it known you are always welcome on Potakai and have a home with the Torga household. And I offer sincere apologies for any wrongs you feel you may have suffered at my whim."
Uhura had to take a deep breath to sustain her; the feelings of gratitude pouring into her from Anat were overwhelming. The last of her anger crumbled under the onslaught and she felt joy in Anat's heart for the forgiveness. As she composed herself, Ramsha'ka and Lilu'ka stepped up to her.
"Lady Uhura, on behalf of the Potakai Star System, I wish to award you the 'Kel'kai' Dia'tane,' or Golden Star of Valor. A representation of the heart, mind and soul of the Potakai mente and offered to you as our humble token of gratitude for the great service you performed for us.
Lilu opened a jewel-encrusted case and allowed Ramsha to lift out a golden five-pointed star threaded on a black ribbon. He motioned for Uhura to lean forward so he could drape it over her head and allow it to rest upon her shoulders. Still in shock, she stood numbly as he scooped up her hands and touched them to her brow in the same expression of affection.
Uhura looked around to see Kirk's reaction to all the attention she was awarded. He stood there and gave her an affectionate grin, obviously not surprised at her being given a medal; in fact, he was acting rather proud of it.
"Zhames, please inform Starfleet and the Federation of the Lieutenant's great assistance to us. We intend to send a formal notice, but that may take a bit longer to get through the diplomatic channels." Ramsha asked of Kirk as he followed her stare. Lilu quickly stepped up and pressed the jeweled case into Ny's hands.
"Of course, Your Highness, it goes without saying." Kirk answered Ramsha, but beamed a genuine smile at Nyota, taking away what little composure she had regained.
The Royals backed away from the humans in a gesture of farewell. Uhura shook herself back to the present and stepped into position next to Kirk as he flipped open his communicator.
"Kirk to Enterprise--two to beam up." He requested as he had on countless other occasions--but this time he looked over at Uhura, holding her gaze for a long moment before the sparkle took them away.
They materialized within the familiar confines of the main transporter room. Uhura felt at home as she took in the faces staring back at her--Scotty's, Kyle's and McCoy's--but Spock's was nowhere to be seen. This surprised her, but apparently not Kirk. He stepped off the platform and absently reached back to assist her down as well. It was more attentive behavior than he would have given her in the past, but not too much of a stretch, considering she was still wearing heels.
"Mister Scott, inform Mister Spock to take us out, and ask him to meet me in my quarters in fifteen."
"Aye sir, will do--and I wanae thank ye for the 'care packages.' Mister Pahzj sent up another ten after ye left him this morning. He said he wanted to ‘make' many days for me. A fine gentleman, that one is." Scotty beamed from his newfound wealth. Uhura glanced at Kirk and they both laughed, the buried tension between them eased by the sweet brogue of the engineer.
"Aye Lass, that's some pretty pendant ye be wearing. Might it be a medal for saving the Royal Family?" Scott asked as he caught sight of the golden star around her neck.
"Yes, Mister Scott, you would be right--and I dare say more of those are to come the Lieutenant's way." Kirk answered proudly as Ny blushed.
"It's embarrassing to get a medal for just doing your duty." She answered shyly to Scotty.
"Then let's say you did more than that... and as an early reward, take the rest of the day off. Regular duty can start in the morning." Kirk offered with a knowing smile and gentle nod of his head for her to get gone.
"Thank you, sir" she answered in crisp, military fashion, doing her best to be nothing but thankful and professional. As she turned to go, McCoy stepped up to her and caught her eye.
"Lieutenant, I trust everything went all right after I left?"
"Yes sir, nothing that hypospray couldn't fix." She replied smartly, answering only his surface question. Whether she was referencing her shot, or Kirk's, she left up to McCoy to determine.
"Good. How about we get that pysch scan out of the way this afternoon, shall we?" He asked kindly, his keen eyes heartened by her confidence.
"Yes sir, I'd like that. I'm ready to get on with my life." Uhura answered softly, but now full of hope that she could do so.
"Good, Lieutenant. Now, did our patient follow orders?" McCoy asked a bit louder, bringing Kirk's interest away from Scotty and ship's business to his own. Ny noticed him tense just a fraction--waiting for her to answer.
"Oh, absolutely, Doctor. The Captain always follows orders." She grinned mischievously at Kirk, seeing him relax at her playful, but perfectly normal, reply. It was not as difficult as she feared it would be to find her old rhythm and pattern of interaction with him. After so much had happened between them, finding her old safe, but sassy, nuance had been a concern for her.
"Sure he does, Lieutenant...and which Captain were you discussing?" McCoy got into the banter, glad to see them comfortable with each other.
"That hurts, Bones. I always follow doctor's orders." Kirk offered in mock indignation.
"Yes, and you are going to prove it right now. I came to escort you to Sickbay for that date with my scalpel." McCoy tossed back, warming up for the inevitable delay.
"Give me an hour, Bones. I promise I'll be there in an hour. I need to touch base with Spock before you dope me all up." Kirk danced for time.
McCoy cut his eyes to Uhura and then to Scott and Kyle, looking at them as witnesses before zeroing back in on Kirk. "One hour--I have witnesses. If you're not there by then, I'm sending security after you. And you’d *better* hope I dope you up... ought to use a hammer and catgut..." He grumbled as he rocked up on his toes, aggravated by, but accepting, Kirk's terms.
"Go ahead, that's what I'll feel like you used anyway." Kirk shot back in a tone that spoke of past experiences. Scott and Kyle attempted to contain themselves as Kirk tossed them an aggrieved look before walking past the CMO and Comm Officer, bidding a tactical retreat.
Jim sat in his quarters and scanned over the backlog of messages in his queue--if anything, the few days McCoy would confine him to quarters would allow him an opportunity to catch up on them. He absently leaned back in his chair, but quickly sat back up, the edge of the chair gouging into his wounded shoulder and starting the throbbing pain again. He sighed and stared at his chronometer; Spock was not late--yet--but Kirk knew he would not choose to be early.
If he had any idea why Kirk wanted him to come to his quarters, he would stall for as much time as possible. Kirk wanted to ask Spock what he knew of his and Uhura's problem with the meld. Why they had practically become obsessed with each other? Or, to put in more succinctly, what did he know and when did he know it? The door chimed and Kirk glanced at the time--right on the nose.
"Come," he beckoned, allowing Spock to enter.
The tall Vulcan stepped in, calm and stoic. He scanned over his captain, taking in the slight cant of Kirk's shoulder and the tightness of his eyes, attempting to judge if this was more than a quick briefing.
"We have exited orbit, Captain, and are now underway to sector two-two-six for gaseous anomaly research. I trust the Potakai are adjusting to their new emperor and caste structure?" He inquired curiously, sensing nothing amiss from Kirk other than the pain of his delayed treatment.
"I think they will get through it." Kirk answered tiredly and motioned for Spock to sit. Spock sat in the proffered chair, allowing Kirk to stare at him straight-on as opposed to looking up and adding stress to his shoulder.
"Spock…" Kirk began hesitantly, but his eyes flared with keen interest. "Why did you really encourage me to--'act upon my mutual attraction'-- with Uhura? What did you know that you haven't told me?"
"I did not know anything." Spock answered back quickly--too quickly for Kirk's taste.
"All right, you didn't *know* anything. What did you *suspect* then?" Kirk sighed, knowing that any time Spock played semantics, he was in for a battle before getting what he wanted.
"Why do you think my reasons were anything other than what I stated? You risked losing a capable officer and you appeared to be the only man she desired."
"Hold it right there. How did you know that?" Kirk contested.
"Doctor McCoy informed me of the Lieutenant's fixation upon you."
Kirk's eyes lit up at the word 'fixation'. "And you didn't find that strange? That after such a deep meld, Uhura would suddenly be fixated--on me?"
"I often consider Human behavior strange." Spock offered in challenge, but Kirk didn't bite. He didn't chase rabbits as easily as McCoy. He just stared hard at Spock, waiting for a real answer.
"I did consider it unusual," was all that Spock would admit.
"And *my* behavior the past three months--did you consider it normal?" Kirk asked, dragging the answers out of him bit by bit.
"Your behavior was *more intense* than usual, but I surmised it was because of the trauma to one of your officers." Spock offered haltingly.
"And am I normally *so intense* when one of crew is injured? So intense you feel the need to escort me to the gym everyday and beat the *intensity* out of me?" Kirk asked, leaning across the table just a fraction.
"Injury to the crew often affects you for weeks. I assumed your fondness for the Lieutenant colored your emotions more than usual." Spock rebutted.
Tired of the game, Kirk snapped.
"Spock, don't sit there and play dumb with me. Fondness was hardly the color of my emotions where Uhura was concerned. You touched me enough to know that and still you thought that was normal?" He looked skeptically at Spock before continuing.
"No, you did not. And further, you recognized Uhura's behavior was not normal as well. So tell me, why did you encourage me to act upon my feelings for her? Why did you suddenly agree with McCoy that I could solve her problem?" He locked his eyes with Spock's and the Vulcan slumped infinitesimally in his chair.
"Because, once McCoy advised me of the Lieutenant's symptoms, I suspected you may have become fixated with each other during the meld.
"And…you thought that my sleeping with her would cure this…fixation?" Kirk asked, trying to lead Spock to explain further.
"There was scant data, but my research suggested that as a viable option. The only other choices were another meld--one I felt ill-equipped to perform--or seeking out a Vulcan healer, and that was not realistic considering the urgency of our mission."
Kirk's shoulders slumped as he shook his head. "Did you ever think that if you had just told me of your suspicions, I might have reacted differently?" He asked sadly, hurt that even after all they had been through together, Spock still hesitated to come to him without facts.
"I did not have enough pertinent data to present to you. You would not have accepted the choice any better than you did without my suspicions."
"You don't know that." Kirk cut him off.
"Jim, did any of our arguments convince you to act? Look into yourself and see what caused you to change your mind."
Kirk cut his eyes at Spock, raising his chin in consideration of what the Vulcan had just inadvertently confessed. Kirk knew Uhura's resignation to defeat had caused him to reach out to her, but how did Spock know he had done anything at all? The Vulcan, who never made assumptions, wasn't making one now either. Changing tactics, Kirk asked, ""How did the fixation happen, Spock? What went wrong?"
"I believe you overwhelmed the partitioning of your personalities that I had established before removing myself from your interaction."
"--But you weren't affected?" Kirk asked quickly.
"I was not. I was merely the bridge between your minds." Spock added, trying to assuage Kirk's fear.
"Good, good," Kirk answered absently, almost to himself.
"But Spock, don't ever do that again." Kirk warned quickly. "Come to me if you ever suspect something is not right. Let me make the choice based upon all the data. Don't just manipulate the circumstances to achieve your goal. I won't be angry with you, or blame you if you talk to me up front. Now, dismissed. I have a surgery date with McCoy--hold the fort down for me, okay?" He smiled at the Vulcan, motioning for him to go.
"Yes, sir." Spock replied with just a hint of relief in his voice. He had nearly made his escape when Kirk called out--looking at him through the open doorway. His voice low, carrying just to the Vulcan.
"You were there, weren't you?" The Human's gaze tore through his defenses, stealing the truth from him before his shields could mask the answer reflected in his own eyes. Frozen in place, no words were needed. He was trapped by Kirk's stare as he saw through Spock all too easily. His salvation came solely by the automatic closure of the cabin door. Spock took a step back, ensuring it did not open again in sensing his presence and fervently computed the odds that Jim would not open it from the other side. His face flushed in shame as he hurried to the sanctuary of the Bridge.
Uhura walked into sickbay just as McCoy walked out of the surgery suite. He looked tired but pleased when he caught her staring at him from near the doorway.
"Hello, Lieutenant, right on time. Just give me a minute to clean myself up and we can get started." He gave her a big smile.
"Sure, Doctor." She smiled back as she sat down in the chair near the inner doorway. "Is the Captain going to be all right?" She asked anxiously, taking his happiness as a good sign.
"Yes, in a few days he'll be wrestling Sam again down in the gym. He's damn lucky I'm so good with catgut." He laughed wickedly as he dried his hands and motioned her to accompany him to the exam room. Just before she followed him in to find out her fate, she stopped and asked quietly.
"Doctor McCoy, do you think I might be able to check in on the Captain after my scan? I promise I'll be quiet. I'd just like to be the one to tell him I passed my test."
McCoy gave her a warm, fatherly smile. "Sure, Uhura. I think that would be just what the doctor ordered."
An hour later, Uhura came out of the exam room wearing a smile a laser cannon could not erase. McCoy followed in her wake, grinning almost just as proudly.
"Congratulations, Lieutenant. I knew you could do it." He broke protocol and hugged her in excitement.
"Thank you, Doctor, for having faith in me." She murmured against his cheek as she hugged him back. How wonderful it felt to be able to love and touch again without fear.
"Do you think the Captain is awake now?" She asked in anxious anticipation.
"Let's go find out." McCoy slipped his arm around her shoulder and steered her toward the recovery ward. The doors opened to cool air and dim lighting, a soft steady beep keeping time with Jim's heartbeat. Christine looked up and smiled at them as they neared the bed containing her only patient. Chapel looked at Uhura, raising her brows in an unspoken question. Uhura nodded her head like a giddy schoolgirl and the nurse rushed around the bed to give her a congratulatory hug.
"Is he awake?" Uhura whispered in Christine's ear.
"He's in and out. We have him on some pretty strong meds, but if you call his name he'll open his eyes." Christine answered sympathetically, understanding Uhura's desire to share her good news.
Uhura gave her a big smile as Chris let her go and walked out of the ward with McCoy. She was surprised, but appreciative of the privacy they allowed her. She looked down at the sleeping man on the biobed. Kirk lay on his stomach, his back and shoulders exposed, but a sheet draped the rest of him. His shoulder was smooth again, the dermaplas bandage gone along with most of the bruising. His peaceful face was turned to the left, still so innocent and vulnerable in repose. Ny reached out and stroked his cheek, unable to resist touching him this one last time. His eyes opened at her touch, trying to see who was in the room with him. Ny pulled a chair up near his bed and sat down, leaning in so she would be at eye level with him.
"Hello, Captain." She smiled into his face, waiting while his eyes fought to focus.
"Hi" he managed to say once he recognized her.
"Doctor McCoy let me in for a moment so I could be the one to tell you I passed my pysch scan. He's released me back to active duty." She reached out and brushed his hair back out of his eyes.
"I knew you would." He tried to nod, but settled for giving her a sleepy smile.
"I did because you helped me; I owe my life on Enterprise to you." She whispered as he lost the battle to keep his eyes open. Leaning down, she kissed him on the cheek and breathed, "Thank you," into his ear. A sweet smile lit up his face for a few seconds before the meds claimed him again. Uhura kissed him on the temple once more, saying goodbye to so much more than just her captain. She straightened the sheet over his back and walked out the door--a journey of a few meters than claimed a lifetime.
The rec room was alive with the sounds of her friends. Uhura could not remember a sweeter sound as she let the laughter and general nonsense seep into her skin. Chekov popped up like a prairie dog from a corner table and yelled, "Uhura, over here!"
She sauntered over to the table where Chekov sat in high excitement and Sulu gave her a pained look, warning her she probably did not want to hear this. She could tell he didn't.
"Nyota, I am glad you're back! I need someone as ferocious as you to protect me. I don't know vat has heppined to all the women on board, but dey have suddenly lost der minds and have started to smack me on de butt venever they can!"
Uhura burst out laughing--all the old dares coming back to her from that night a few weeks ago.
"Vat is so funny? Ewen Nurse Chapel hez gone crazy. She pinched me vile she vas giving me a shot!"
"Oh, Pavel, lighten up." She quipped at the outraged Russian. "I think you have a cute butt too--can I pinch it?" She reached down as if to do just that and he slapped her hand away.
"Certainly not!" He barked, offended at first and then considered her statement further. "You really tink I heve a cute butt?" He asked curiously. Sulu rolled his eyes and implored Uhura not to egg on this nightmare.
"Well, not as cute as Sulu's, but it's pretty cute." She answered conspiratorially. Perking up at being ranked higher, Sulu regained interest in the conversation.
"Nyet. I tink my butt is much cuter than Sulu's." Chekov replied indignantly. Uhura laughed until tears glittered in her eyes; oh how she had missed the silliness and love of her friends.
Uhura wandered in to dim lighting in her quarters, thankful she had had the foresight to realize soft lighting would be a blessing. She had drunk and partied, giggling and laughing with everyone, intent upon catching up for lost time and opportunities. Later on, Chris had joined them, allowing her to celebrate her real victory with someone in the know. She had told Chekov and Sulu that McCoy had released her back to full duty, but it wasn't the same as sharing with someone who knew the whole story.
Much later in the celebration, Mister Spock had ghosted through the room--she had made eye contact from across the room and he had given her a single nod of acknowledgement. It gave Uhura goosebumps how much he reminded her of Chota'di. That Chota'di was now Chota'kel and reminded her of a very different man did nothing to erase the eeriness of Spock's dark eyes and knowing look.
As she stripped off her tunic, she saw the glow from her monitor and walked around to turn it off, silently chastising herself for leaving it on. As her hand rested on the toggle, her fingers froze as her eyes absorbed the message glowing on the screen--the sender anonymous but hardly a secret to her.
Let me confess that we two must be twain,
Although our undivided loves are one:
shall those blots that do with me remain,
Without thy help, by me be borne alone.
In our two loves there is but one respect,
Though in our lives a separable spite,
Which though it alter not love's sole effect,
Yet doth it steal sweet hours from love's delight.
I may not evermore acknowledge thee,
Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame,
Nor thou with public kindness honour me,
Unless thou take that honour from thy name:
But do not so, I love thee in such sort,
As thou being mine, mine is thy good report
Ny's eyes watered as she read the words over and over, so touching and sweet a sentiment from the man in sickbay now sleeping a dreamless sleep. Uhura hit the print key to mortally capture in hard copy the words that had stenciled themselves into her heart.