And Thanks Were Given K/U [NC-17]

Image courtesy of my fledgling Photoshop skills.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. I only own my fantasies.

Beta: Flying solo on this one. You've been warned.

Summary: Takes place just as Kirk ends his two year retirement before TWOK. Not a part of my Realizations series just a story written for the THFFF 'A Story Posted before the end of the Holidays Challenge'.


"Nyota, please tell me you weren't so noble and idealistic that you never made a play for him all those years ago--all those lonely, lonely nights out in deep space... ."

Commander Uhura gave her oldest friend from Starfleet Academy, Kiki Morrow, a look that could peel deutronium. "We've had this conversation before, Kiki, I'm never going to tell you anything--especially when I know it will go straight back to *Admiral* Morrow.

Only her eyes moved, taking in the subject of their conversation: Jim Kirk, or possibly, newly reactivated Admiral James T. Kirk, late of Idaho and rumored soon to be Starfleet Academy's command-track supervising admiral. Waning afternoon glare made both women invisible to the men standing outside on the deck. Intent upon his subject, Kirk stood immobile, dressed in casual civilian attire, the intimate drape of his sweater confirming two years of retirement had not diminished the man talking with Admiral Harry Morrow.

"Nyota, you know I would never tell Harry anything like that. Besides, he is the *last* person to judge someone on that topic." At Uhura's raised brow, Kiki rolled her eyes--"Oh, stop it. I made an honest man of him by our second tour."

"I'm not judging." Nyota threw up her hands in surrender, only now quietly suspecting her invitation to the Morrow's Thanksgiving dinner was more than an attempt to share a holiday with an old friend. It had been years since their last real get together but Kiki's penchant for playing matchmaker reminded Nyota of her reason for the gap.

The politics of the situation became another consideration. Two years ago Kirk resigned rather than accept another promotion--one geared to assure his being named Commander Starfleet when Admiral Nogura finally stepped down. Several months later, word of Nogura's illness became known and the jackals started vying for position. Harry Morrow, one of Kirk's peers and 'friendly' rivals, wanted the job, fighting hard for consideration. A few years older than Kirk, Harry seemed to be Nogura's perennial second choice. Kirk suddenly removing himself from the equation limited Nogura's options and broadened Harry's opportunities.

And now scuttlebutt was that he was working hard to recruit Kirk back to the Academy to oversee the command cadets, a new flag position allowing him the authority to rewrite the curriculum as he saw fit. Morrow might not have the power to give Kirk a ship again; he did not yet have the absolute authority Nogura once wielded, but he was trying to give Kirk something of value: the chance to make a difference in shaping the young minds that would go out into the dark.

Would it be enough? And how did she fit into the equation?--quarry?--test?--reward? It was not lost to Uhura that Kiki was a starship and Starfleet medical psychoanalyst long before she transferred to the diplomatic corps.

"Sometimes it just is what it looks like, Nyota." Kiki's prescience only reinforced Uhura's suspicions but she hardly had an option to leave without hurting her friend and potential patron. "Now let's take this wine outside; I only promised them a drink twenty minutes ago. I hope bringing you out with me will keep the heckling down to a low roar."

"Then you're lucky it's wine and not Saurian brandy," Uhura scolded good-naturedly. Kirk liked wine, but it did not hold a candle against his preference for brandy.

"I'll remember that for after dinner," Kiki quipped and Uhura had faith she would.

At the sound of the door opening both Kirk and Morrow turned to see who was coming out to join them. Morrow smiled, motioning the ladies over; acutely aware the two former colleagues were silently staring at each other. "Kiki, bring Commander Uhura over here. I think these two might have some catching up to do."

Uhura moved after a nudge from Kiki, her eyes still examining Kirk. His hair was darker and curlier than when she saw him last. "Commander," he greeted formally, his posture quietly going on alert.

"Admiral," Nyota answered in kind--not sure how to acknowledge him after two years. Two years without even a goodbye.

"Oh my God, is that any way to greet each other? Jim Kirk, allow me to introduce Nyota Uhura. I believe you two have met." At Kiki's snicker, Uhura realized that the Admiral's wife was not the only one attempting a bit of matchmaking.

Kirk's head tilted at the friendly chastisement but hardly appeared reprimanded. Leaning in, he softly brushed his lips against Nyota's cheek. "Hello Nyota, you look as beautiful as ever."

"Thank you--Jim." The name came hard for her--she had always used his title to keep a certain distance between them. His reputation notwithstanding, Kirk always ignored gender on the bridge and successful officers learned to do the same. "It's so nice to see you again."

"Harry promised me a treat if I came over for Thanksgiving," Kirk announced, cutting his eyes over to the admiral in recognition of the social set up. "I thought he was talking about Kiki's home cooking--"

"Speaking of home cooking," Kiki interrupted none too subtlety, "Harry, I need your help in the kitchen," pushing him toward the doorway.

"Yes, dear," Morrow laughed, allowing his much smaller wife to man-handle him into the house.

"You'd never know she is one of the Federation's best diplomats." Kirk shook his head in grinning disbelief.

Handing him his nearly forgotten wine, Nyota laughed. "I think she's just acting out because she can. A Starfleet admiral and a former member of his crew are hardly likely to start a war just because she invites us to the same party."

"I see your point, but I think she enjoys social arbitration as much as the diplomatic kind." Kirk stared at the door, as if expecting Kiki to reappear.

"And there's that too." Uhura could not deny that aspect of her friend's personality.

"It *is* great to see you again, Nyota." Kirk's eyes softened, morphing from mischievous into something that caused Uhura's stomach to do a little flip.

"I've missed you." Where had that come from? Two years of silence did not earn him such a confession. Caught off guard by her admission, Kirk's eyes widened, allowing Uhura to see they were the same warm hazel color she remembered.

Touched by her words, Kirk stepped in close, forcing Uhura to look up at him as he made his apology. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you goodbye."

"At first I was angry that you just left, but I got over it. Doctor McCoy told me a few things he probably shouldn't have." A chance dinner with McCoy clued her in that Kirk made good his threat from all those years ago--to quit rather than be forced once more into a position he did not want. After the V'ger crisis Nogura allowed Kirk the freedom of a ship again rather than lose him altogether. But two years ago the fleet commander knew he was losing the battle to keep his condition quiet and tried to bring Kirk back into the fold. Kirk balked and the Admiral called his bluff only to find it wasn't a bluff at all. Kirk resigned.

Later, after word of Nogura's chronic illness became common knowledge, it suddenly became clear as to why he had fast-tracked Kirk's career. Nogura, the man who technically served at the discretion of the Federation Council, but in reality guided their agenda more times than not, was looking for a replacement, a will as indomitable as his own. He found one in Kirk but realized much too late that the young man he blazed through the ranks, tempered on risk and adrenaline, would no longer bend to his ambitions.

"No, he probably shouldn't have but I learned long ago Bones couldn't keep a secret--at least not one of mine." At Nyota's raised brow for calling McCoy out, he continued. "Yes, I've always played my own game, but sometimes it costs me. A lot."

"But you're back now?" Uhura asked cautiously, not sure how much he was willing to share.

"I think the spring semester should prove to be very interesting." He smiled archly over the rim of his wine stem. "Care to go back to school?"

Kiki chose that moment to announce it was time to eat, allowing Uhura a moment of grace to process his question as anything other than a request to rejoin his staff. His hand coming to rest on the small of her back as they entered the house did not help matters. How could he just pop back into her life after two years and pick up where he left off? Was he now being as presumptuous as Nogura had been of him?

Two years was a long time to be out of the loop. Detractors branded Kirk a thankless son for leaving just when Nogura needed him. Some were angry, declaring his career advancement wasn't earned but a carrot others were never given. They were not the majority of the Fleet, but a vocal enough minority to cause a stir in Morrow's administration at the news of his possible return. While Nyota had her own reasons to be angry with his leaving, she subscribed to neither critical opinion of her former commander. She suspected Kiki invited her to dinner to discover just this fact.

Surprisingly, dinner was a mundane but pleasant affair, no politics or work discussion, just an enjoyable meal shared between friends. Kiki announced her love for the holidays, saying it was an opportunity to express herself through food.

"What?" By the look of Jim's overfilled plate, Nyota thought he might be attempting to express his gratitude through eating. "I've been working out."

"Oh, yes, Jim, she noticed." Kiki taunted, doing her own once over of Kirk's physique. Uhura's scathing look did not affect Kiki at all. Jim, for the most part, chose to keep his smirk to a minimum.

"My mom always told me the greatest compliment one could give a cook was an empty plate." Kirk tossed out in his own defense.

"I like how your Mama thinks, Jim." Kiki nodded support. "I was surprised when Harry said he got you to come over today. I thought you'd be back in Iowa."

"Normally I would, but this year Mom decided to visit extended family off planet." A flash of something else--regret? Loneliness maybe--touched his eyes before being pushed away. "Thanks for inviting me."

"You're welcome, Jim. I couldn't let Nyota sit there and stare across at an empty chair, now could I?"

"Admir--Jim, please don't answer that." Nyota interrupted in only partially feigned frustration.

"Whatever is the matter, Nyota? You know how I *love* to entertain." Innocence was actually a becoming, if unbelievable, look for Kiki.

"Nyota, you can't do anything with her--believe me--I've tried," Harry offered in warmhearted commiseration, "Happy Thanksgiving, everyone." He raised his glass in a toast, plainly wasting a chastising glance upon an unrepentant Kiki.

"Happy Thanksgiving!"


In the end Kiki got her way. Dessert destroyed, food put away, and kitchen cleaned, it was only a matter of time before someone mentioned going home.

"Oh, Jim, be a dear and take Nyota home. You have a flitter and she came by cab."

"I'd be happy to," Kirk answered, graciously giving in to Kiki's antics.

Pointedly ignoring Kiki's victorious grin, Nyota answered drily, "Thank you, Jim, I'll just get my jacket."

"I'm so going to hurt you, Kiki," Uhura softly threatened the woman who followed her into the bedroom.

"What? You can't mean you didn't enjoy having dinner with Jim." Kiki just rolled her eyes at Nyota's rebuke.

"He's my Admir--he's my former CO, Kiki. It's a bit awkward to be fixed up on a blind date with your former commander." Being in his company was one thing - Kiki's blatant efforts to match them up were something else.

"I don't see why--he's hot. You obviously like each other. Oh, don't give me that look again; I've been getting it all night. You can't deny you find him attractive. I read faces for a living for God's sake--I know attraction when I see it."

"That's beside the point. I feel like you set me up as a prize or something." Uhura's internal sensors were blaring their own red alert.

"No, just a friendly face--if not old crew--who?" The question was spoken just a bit too casually to be innocent.

Still couched out of context, Nyota finally heard Kiki's real question. "Maybe we'd be the ones to have the biggest issue. He left. No goodbye. No nothing."

"So, how does he win you back?" The tone was serious, the old friend gone, replaced by the cold stare of an inquisitioner.

"I'm not a trophy." Nyota found her own mettle.

"Really?" Kiki challenged, incredulous that Nyota could not recognize her worth. "You don't think you're something to win? He wants you back--he asked for you. Maybe you aren't a reward, but he does want you back in his professional life. Anything else you make of it is between the two of you."

"Your little party was just a ruse to get us together and see how it went--to see how I would react to his coming back." It was not phrased as a question but Nyota's eyes still searched Kiki's face for an answer.

"Was it? Am I that manipulative?" Kiki's Cheshire smile did little to deny the accusation.

"You better believe it. I know you Kiki Morrow. Harry is going to give Kirk carte blanche at the Academy--both their reputations will ride on how well he is received. You very much want Jim to succeed--he would be a great asset to Harry--but you'd have no compunction against changing his mind if you thought it would destabilize his control of the Admiralty." Nyota found her own voice wound tight with anger.

"I'm glad we understand each other. Now, are you going to stand up for Kirk or stay on the sidelines? I can't see you vocally joining his critics, but keeping quiet is just as effective for someone in your position." Kiki seemed satisfied, as if Nyota's indignation was exactly what she sought.

"Kiki, dear, I'll always have the Admiral's back and you should remember that if you ever decide to switch teams." Banking her own anger Nyota smiled without humor. She might not be in the Admiralty but she knew where plenty of bodies were buried. Her thoughts of Kirk returning were her own--private. She would not allow Kiki to use them against the man she had served for multiple tours.

The diplomat dipped her head in acknowledgement, understanding Uhura's threat was not an idle one. "Then we won't have a problem. Shall we go?"


Their companionable smiles were back in place as they reentered the living room.

"Thank you both, I had a wonderful time." Uhura smiled sincerely, at least to Harry. While she did not think him totally innocent of Kiki's plan, she doubted he knew the true nature of her intent. One of Harry's weaknesses, and Nogura's biggest issue with considering Morrow as his replacement, was his tendency to only read the surface motivations of another. True, with Kiki at his side, Morrow was more than covered on that front, but it was a very big flaw for someone in such a political arena.

Giving hugs all around, Kiki continued to play the gracious hostess. "Of course you did, dear. All my parties are wonderful because I only invite exceptional people. Now remember, nothing strenuous until everyone's had a chance to digest dinner." Uhura had to give Kiki credit, she was the consummate actress.

"I'm going now." Under the guise of exhausted patience Nyota hugged Morrow goodbye before turning on her heel and walking out the door, leaving Kirk to make his own goodbyes.

Secured in the quietness of the flitter Kirk and Uhura looked at each other, breathing a sigh of relief before bursting out in laughter. "I'm sorry, Nyota." Jim began, trying to restrain himself by focusing on keying in the coordinates to Nyota's house.

"Don't be, Jim, she's *my* friend. I should know better than to think an invitation to her home is purely social."

"I know her too and I fell for it. I should have guessed she'd try to find me a dinner date."

Keeping the conversation on the most obvious subterfuge, Nyota discovered martyrdom was pretty easy to fake. "Yes, that's me, once again pressed into 'safe' escort duty."

Bruised ego in waiting, a look of hurt flashed across Jim's face. "Was it really that bad?"

"Of course not; I always had a great time and was allowed to experience so much more than my rank warranted. It's just--" Nyota caught herself, almost forgetting to whom she was speaking.

"Just what?" Jim prompted, eager to know.

"I just wish it hadn't always been so--so--safe." Realizing she had no way out but with the truth, Uhura said the word blandly, attempting to hide her embarrassment with humor.

"Now she tells me." He rolled his eyes in good-humored exasperation, much more playful than she remembered him to be.

She smiled back, liking the change in him. "Oh, to know then what we know now."

"As I remember it, you informed me early on that your job did not involve 'entertaining' the captain in any way. I always thought your willingness to play escort a great concession." His tone implied he recalled it quite differently.

Uhura was glad he could not see the blush that memory made her feel. Trying to make sure her position was on solid ground she had nearly called him out in her initial interview. "Can you blame me? I was the only female on your command staff--you knew your reputation was--"

"Did you believe it?"

"I was--wary--at first, but I soon recognized you treated me like every other officer. Most of the time I appreciated that, but there was the occasional planetary ball or diplomatic gala where I wished you saw me as a woman." Her smile contained more than a bit of wistfulness.

"Oh believe me, Nyota; I always knew you were a woman," His playfulness transforming into resignation at another cost of command, "But most of the time being captain did not allow for personal choice."

Nyota was rescued from answering that remark by their arrival to her brownstone. Kirk exited the flitter, coming around to escort her to the door.

"Thank you, Jim. Is it safe to invite you in for a nightcap?" Nostalgia made her brave.

Laughing at her challenge his darkening eyes told her much more than his words. "As safe as you want it to be, Nyota."

Feeling a rush as her heart skipped a beat, Uhura looped her arm through his, encouraging him through the door. "I thought I'd already told you my opinion about that."

At her insistence Kirk sat on the sofa and watched as Uhura quickly hung their coats on the rack before pouring them both a brandy. She passed Jim his drink as she sat comfortably, kicking off her shoes and curling one leg beneath her as she settled next to him.

After touching his glass to hers he sipped the amber liquid, letting it warm him from the inside. Nyota found herself hyperaware of him-watching the unintentional grimace and tensing of his throat as the alcohol burned its way down.

"You never answered me." The statement pulled her eyes back to his, making Nyota focus on the question rather than the body before her.

"What was the question?" She remembered his flip remark about returning to school but needed him to put it out there, to make a real request for her services if he wanted them.

"If I come back to the Academy, I want you to join my staff. I know you're focused on your research but I'd work around that if you'd be willing."

"Willing to what?" She did not miss the 'if' but that would come next.

"Willing to teach the cadets what it really means to run the communications department of a starship. How one minute it's listening to quasar blips and the next it's translating a first contact. How communicating is more than the language of a culture--how not to get everyone killed by making assumptions based upon your own. They learn syntax and translator algorithms. I want you to teach them the practical application of all that and more--the science and the instinct of it all."

More than slightly daunted by his expectations and faith but refusing to show it, Nyota followed up with her second question. "And what do you mean by 'if you come back'? I thought you had accepted Morrow's proposal."

"Let's just say it's still in negotiation but I'm confident I'll be wreaking havoc on Spock by the spring semester." His eyes warmed at the mention of their favorite Vulcan, the one currently commanding the Enterprise as an academy training vessel.

"I'm sorry Jim, I need more detail than that in order to rearrange my life this time." She did not flinch as he turned his singular attention on her, the admiral finally making an appearance. "It sounds exciting but my research is very important to me too. To build the kind of curriculum you're asking of me will require more than two weeks notice. Who am I kidding, it would take me until the fall to get something viable outlined and implemented."

His eyes lost all humor, replaced by the look of someone facing an ugly truth. "Nyota, you realized there was much more going on at the Morrow's than a nice meal and a chance meeting between old friends.

"You were right earlier, I'm *not* safe. Politically, I'm damaged goods to Morrow and he is too new in his position to risk the wrath of the Admiralty. I have many friends there but quite a few enemies too. My rise through the ranks was at some of their expense. He'd be an idiot to bring me back until he's sure it won't cost him. Harry is no idiot.

"Kiki used you as a sounding board. Old staff, strong attachments, someone I left without a backward glance when I found it impossible for me to stay. I know I have the support of Spock and Bones, but you've always been the emotional anchor of the command team. If you welcome me back, the others will too. I don't have the right to ask it of you but I need your help."

"I've been a captain's woman before. Why should your return as an admiral change anything?"

Kirk's forehead wrinkled in mild worry before his head dipped in tentative agreement. "Okay, I'm scared to know everything behind that statement but I take it you're in my court?"

"Jim, you have no idea the flak I've taken over the years for being on your team. While I am still insulted you left without a goodbye--regardless of circumstances--I prefer those issues to remain private between us. The Admiralty can kiss my pla'krus-dvunek. I'll always be in your court."

"I'm sure Spock will be glad to hear your rather creative use of Vulcan anatomy. I know I am." He found himself leaning forward, perhaps subconsciously sitting on edge awaiting her answer.

"I'm in the mood to accept apologies." She leaned in, closing the distance between them, her lips less than a breath away.

"I'm in the mood to offer those and more." His lips just caressed hers; Uhura felt more the idea of them touching than the reality of it. His breath warmed her cheek as he tilted his head to move in closer.

Her glass found the sofa table as she freed herself of unimportant details. She pushed herself up and into his kiss, this time finding no hesitancy as Jim's mouth covered hers. One of his hands cupped her jaw as the other slid under her hair to cradle her neck. Nyota lost herself in the moment, only recognizing the taste and touch of him, moving to discover the body that had distracted her all day.

"Why don't you take the wine upstairs and start a fire in the bedroom fireplace while I slip into something more comfortable?" She grinned against his lips, liking the film noir of her suggestion.

"Comfortable is good." He kissed back, nodding his approval. "Fire--fireplace--got it."


Kirk turned from lighting the logs in the old-fashioned fireplace as Nyota entered the bedroom wearing nothing but a long silk robe. His eyes looked her up and down, entranced by the curve of her hips and the tautness of her nipples straining against the soft fabric. She walked to him, placing her arms around his neck, pulling him into a kiss.

"That's not safe," he murmured huskily.

"Then I'm doing it right," she whispered back, her hands running down his body, slipping her fingers into the top of his jeans.

Turning Uhura toward the cheval mirror standing vigil in the corner, Kirk stepped behind her, his hands pulling her robe down from the top, exposing her breasts and trapping her arms in the sleeves. The front of the robe gaped, allowing him to see the manicured mass of curls between her legs. She was still partially draped, yet exposed much more erotically than if she were nude. Still holding her arms behind her with his left hand, he pulled her backward against him. Nyota sighed, closing her eyes as she leaned into his hardness.

"Nyota," his warm breath nuzzled her ear, "keep your eyes open. I want you to watch me make love to you in the mirror." His eyes reflected more than firelight.

She opened her eyes, finding herself a voyeur to her own seduction as Jim began to explore her body. His right hand moved across her breasts, caressing and gently kneading, making himself familiar with her skin. He continued roaming, descending his fingers into the curls beyond. Trapped by his gaze, Nyota gasped as he entered her with his index finger, his thumb slowly circling her clit. She was wet with excitement as she both watched and felt him move within her. He spread her legs by wrapping his right leg around hers, stepping outward to give himself better access. Nyota was effectively trapped, made completely vulnerable by their shift in balance. Her voice caught in her throat as Kirk nipped her neck and slipped another finger inside her.

She found it nearly impossible not to roll her eyes back inside her head as he whispered, "Watch, Nyota, watch me as I make love to you." His eyes tracked hers, their intensity holding her just as captive as his hand still encircling her wrists.

A third finger joined the other two before curling themselves inward. Nyota lost any control she might have once possessed. Her body grew rigid and clenched around his fingers before her knees buckled. Jim quickly let her arms go, keeping her upright by sliding his left arm around her waist. He kept her on the crest by pressing deep, continuing to rub her clit with his thumb.

As her spasms relented into only occasional tremors, Jim released Nyota's leg, holding her yet against him. Once able to focus, she was not surprised to find her robe completely open. Still through the mirror, she looked at his face, complimented by the open hunger of his eyes. She smiled, arching her back to capture his head with her upraised arms. "With a look like that I may never feel safe again."

His voice was hoarse as he turned her body into his, lips warning while seeking shelter, "That would be wise."

Still within his kiss, Nyota undid his belt and loosened his jeans, gently easing them down over his hips. Freeing his hardness from restraint, she started to drop down to her knees.

"Oh no," he scolded teasingly, lifting her to her feet and cajoling her toward the bed; "if you think I can take the same treatment you're sadly mistaken."

"What's the old adage? You can dish it out but you can't take it?" Nyota razzed as she elbowed herself toward the head of the bed, challenging him with a flash of her eyes.

"Maybe, but I'll show you what I can take." Jim pulled his sweater over his head, tossing it flagrantly onto the floor. He made short work of the rest of his jeans while she continued to appreciate his form, enjoying the casual flex of muscle his movements invoked.

As he crawled up the bed to cover her, Nyota understood exactly who was being 'taken'. Jim's lips found hers, his tongue feinting past. His hands firmly cupped her breasts before moving down to taste them. The tug of his teeth against her nipples sent a new tremor through Nyota's groin, priming her for the resonance that was to begin. Once again looking into her eyes, Kirk deftly pushed his cock into her wetness, joy-riding in that nanosecond of unity. Instinctively wrapping her legs against him, Nyota held him still, reveling in the same moment, seduced by the depth of all of him.

Jim smiled, understanding and appreciating the strength attempting to hold him in place, but just as easily pulling back and thrusting again. Nyota clenched around him, making him work for the backstroke. He laughed playfully, reaching down to hook one of her legs under his arm. Bracing himself with his other elbow he began a deep, insistent rhythm. When his pace quickened--became less sure--Nyota wiggled her leg free, planting her foot against the bed, matching him thrust for thrust. His fingers found their way between them, touching her once again. She felt herself tighten, the pressure and stretch of him driving her to the peak of another orgasm. He lost it at the same time, collapsing against her, shuddering hard with the force of his own.


"Nyota, I have to go soon." Warm breath caressed her neck, but the rumble of Jim's voice tickled her ear even more.

"Why, it's hardly morning?" The light from the bedroom window barely outlined his face as Nyota sleepily turned into his body, the warmth of him better than any blanket.

"I wasn't planning on being gone overnight. I have horses that need to be fed and watered." Picking up where he left off last night, he answered between nibbled kisses, making the chores sound erotic.

"Oh, so you really *did* go domestic, didn't you?" Nyota couldn't help but tease, fleeters, especially star-bound fleeters, did not take pets-- most did not even take mates unless they were shippers too. It was too hard to make arrangements--too painful to leave them behind when it was time to go.

"Well, I certainly have all the trappings of someone having tried." The tone was flip but his eyes looked away, the subtle deflection a warning she was nearing tender territory.

Snuggling in closer, Nyota brought his mind back to the present by stroking the hardness she found against her belly. She could not erase the last two years for him. At the moment she did not want to--as a civilian Kirk was a fair indulgence. "As delicious as you looked in that sweater yesterday, I think the uniform suits you best."

The compliment triggered a grin of enormous proportion as he announced, "I think the horses can hold out for just a bit longer," before indulging her once again.


"I can't believe I've let you talk me into teaching next semester. I mean, it's barely six weeks away!" Coming down from her recent high, the question of the night suddenly took center stage in Uhura's scrambled thoughts.

"You're not one for pillow talk much, are you?" Kirk laughed as he rolled to face Nyota's slightly panicked one.

"Jim--I'm being serious--don't laugh at me. I must be crazy to 've agreed to something so absurd. Six weeks to plan and outline a whole curriculum? No way!" She tried to sound angry but his continuing grin took most of the edge from her voice. "I guess I'm lucky I've got six weeks--you didn't know I would be at the Morrow's yesterday--you hadn't planned to ask me--"

"Sshhh," he softly scolded, tapping her lips into submission. "How can I ask you to do something until I know whether I'm going to be re-instated?"

"It didn't stop you from asking me last night--"

"Harry pretty much guaranteed me yesterday it was a done deal. He just has to work through any last minute bargaining. Your being there yesterday was provident--I couldn't pass up the opportunity. If you said no then it was probably not going to happen anyway." His tolerance for the gamesmanship going on with his future momentarily took Nyota off guard.

"You mean, if I said no, Kiki would make sure you didn't cause her husband any problems." Nyota felt no need to be generous in her opinion.

"Something like that." He smiled cheekily at her sudden protectiveness.

"Since when have I ever been able to tell you no?" She scoffed at the mere idea.

"Why does that sound dirtier than it is?" Dappling kisses along the edge of her jaw only made his question more ridiculous.

Nyota actually giggled before reining herself in, "Where have you been for the last eight hours?"

"Somewhere right about here, I think...." His hand moved sensuously along the inner curve of her thigh.

Capturing his hand with hers, she held it still. "Don't try to distract me, Jim. I'm really worried about this."

"Teaching? You've done it before." He seemed truly confused at her hesitancy.

"A lecture series--not a full program--and even then I had more than six weeks to plan." The difference was crystal clear to her.

"Relax. I may have taken the liberty of asking Spock to prepare a few outlines for your perusal if you agreed." Now understanding her panic, he took mercy.

"Spock? Outlines? Mister Spock doesn't know how to just outline." She froze in disbelief, realizing he was most likely sharing only a small portion of a far greater plan.

"He's thorough that way..."

"Wait--even he can't have done all of that in the short time you've been talking with Morrow--Whose idea was it *really* for you to take over the Command track cadets? Spock's?" Her suspicion only grew deeper at his smugness.

"It's his world--I just live in it." Others fell for his innocent grin; she knew he was at his most devious when it appeared.

"Right...but at the moment he needs your expertise in dealing with Command when they get in the way of his plans." She *knew* better than to underestimate them--two years of down time had made her rusty.

"When their resistance to new ideas is illogical, perhaps; Spock is brilliant, but he's not quite gotten the hang of putting just the right spin on it to get what he wants. Until then, he has me." He made it sound so simple.

"You? Well, I've heard it said you can put enough backspin on a ball to play tennis with yourself..." She laughed, the rest of the story should be entertaining... .

He pulled his brows down in a wounded expression. "That sounds like McCoy. Besides, I'm using my skills for good not evil."

"I take it Mister Spock has been trying to get the powers that be to change the Academy curriculum and they wouldn't listen?"

"Alas, you know the Admiralty so well."

"So he just devises a plan to change the power source--one in his favor."

"You make it sound so clandestine."

"Clandestine is hardly the word I would use. Kiki has no idea she's been out maneuvered before she even started." Nyota wished she could be in audience when the diplomat figured it out for herself.

"Don't think it's been easy. If it were he wouldn't need me to get the changes he wants in play."

"Hardly--Mister Spock will always need you. But I wasn't meaning that--just admiring his subtlety--not a word--not a hint of anything has pointed to him. I bet the hardest part was convincing you to come back." She looked at him hard, waiting to hear his answer. Admitting he made a mistake in leaving was not his style but so far he had surprised her plenty.

"Maybe I was ready to come back." The smile was still in place but the tone was painfully wistful.

Sensing it was time to move on to their situation, Nyota rolled over, holding Kirk down with more than her stare. "So now that I know the game plan and am no longer freaking out over lesson plans already written, where do we go from here? Was last night a onetime thing or does it continue once you're no longer a civilian?" That his current lack of rank most likely played into his decision to spend the night was not lost upon her.

"Again with the pillow talk--" He tried to joke but his smile faltered, mutating into a visage much more intense. "I don't know, Nyota. What do you want? I'm still picking up the pieces after telling someone I was going back to Starfleet. The ending was not pretty. Right now I'm not sure I can give you everything you deserve."

She brought her hand up to gently stroke his cheek, recognizing his confession for what it was--fear of allowing anyone else in. "You forget, Jim, I'm Fleet. I'm not asking for a lifetime--I'm just asking for today."

He smiled, his face lighting up at the sense of understanding she granted him. It was more than he could hope for and definitely more than he deserved. "I can give you that. Want to come help me with the horses?"