Image: Courtesy of Trekcore and Photo Shop
Disclaimer: The characters belong to paramount, their actions are mine.
Summary: A new series called Recollections, a look at Kirk and Uhura's relationship through the eyes of others. This installment: Sulu.
"So, why do you do it, Yota?" The question was simple; the true answer anything but. Hikaru Sulu sat alone with Nyota Uhura--friends for decades but some things were still unspoken. Forbidden.
"Do what?" Her challenge was automatic--a deflection she did not expect to need tonight. Sulu normally understood the gentle art of conversation--where questions were circumspect and answers even more careful.
It was the reason such conversations were held only between the two of them. Their usual third--Chekov--was avoided during these questionable bouts of introspection. He was too earnest--too direct--too in awe of the man who originally brought him on as a raw ensign. That he was now a commander, recently XO of another ship, did little to mute the hero worship in his eyes.
"Stay--come back no matter what else you're in the middle of?" This was not delicate--it trashed the sensibilities that existed between them. Many things were known but never spoken, years of ship life having honed their ability to read each other. It was a survival trait developed over years of guarding each other's back on countless away missions. It was a skill so recently put through hell and more. Now Sulu crossed the line--he asked a question whose answer would remove the final veneer between them. At least he had the decency to blush.
"Be careful, Ru--truths beget truths...." Nyota warned in a casual purr, her eyes flicking to the side, broaching the bartender's practiced indifference. Her hand tapped softly on the table, advising him to bring another round. Both parties recognized it as a ploy to buy time, but the question remained awkwardly between them.
It spoke of deeper loyalties--questioned the boundaries of professional versus not. No crew was like the Enterprise's crew--coming back again and again to serve a man - Captain or Admiral - no matter the cost to their own careers. They were used to the blunt questions from outsiders, the quieter innuendos or outright gossip in her specific case. But from each other it was never discussed. Each of them had their own motivations and it was understood by all that it was something shared, yet private. It was subliminal, almost instinctual. You didn't need to talk about breathing--you just breathed.
"It's not pushed back a Captaincy for me, Ru." That stung. It was true that accepting Kirk's request to man the helm during their last training mission most likely cost him the Excelsior. A new ship of the line, its delivery date had been moved up by months, the rush another ill advised effort by Starfleet to meet some arbitrary deadline. Had Sulu been slotted for any other mission he was sure his promotion would have superseded it. But even the Admiralty seemed to falter when an assignment involved Kirk. Naming Stiles captain had caught them all off guard. The private comm after the announcement was just that--private. Kirk's apologies meant a lot but could not fill that void in his heart--the deep abyss he understood all too well when he looked into Kirk's eyes.
Now, in the ugly aftermath of Khan, Klingons and alien probes, Sulu found he was miraculously cleared of all charges but his name was no longer near the top of the promotions list. Kirk had been rewarded by the Council with a ship. At present, a nameless shadow of his great love--a rush to make some grand gesture for saving Earth's human population--but still a ship. Yet Sulu could in no way consider it a fair trade for the loss of a son--he could not imagine losing Demora in the same manner as Kirk lost David. In the grand scheme of things Sulu considered himself a lucky man. He was not alone.
"True, but I have a daughter." Not 'still' only 'have' -- the comment not being directed at Kirk but more toward the woman who sat in front of him. That the relationship which produced the daughter crashed and burned was not the subject. Just the fact he had found someone and stayed with them long enough to want a child spoke volumes. The remark felt unworthy of being spoken aloud but it did not make it less true.
That did more than sting. She lifted her glass and toasted his very jagged point, his response a non sequitur to anyone but them.
"And a very beautiful child she is." Nyota ceded gracefully, choosing to take the hit rather than strike back. She loved children but never chose to have any of her own. The men in her life never inspired that sort of commitment and she would not bring a child into the world without the father being a part of their life. Uhura knew the men she gravitated toward were poor substitutes for someone she could not have. It was not possible and never meant to be but the attraction remained. It was quiet and well-hidden but those who remained from the beginning recognized and accepted its existence without any tangible proof.
For the first time her eyes cut over to a table on the far side of the bar. It was a quick glance, almost casual to anyone else. But Sulu caught the involuntary glance toward the man who could provoke those feelings--love and commitment--in Nyota. The man sat with Admiral Cartwright, friend and recent champion for Kirk and his crew in the Council debate regarding their disposition.
"We all give up things to serve, Ru, some more than others." That barb struck bone. Nyota did not need Sulu to point out what she might have given up to further her career, what she continued to deny by coming when beckoned. Spock had given up his life; Kirk had killed his ship and lost his son. It suddenly made their sacrifices seem trivial.
"I think I'm going to call it a night, okay? Winning a reprieve was worth a toast but perhaps I've had one toast too many." It was as much of an apology as one could give without acknowledging the insult. She rose, now studiously avoiding the hazel eyes that caught her movement. Sulu gently ignored her sudden interest in the table. It was time to be polite again--time to avoid the truth and crawl back into their separate shells of denial. He stood with her, brushing his lips carefully against her cheek. He smiled a forgiving smile--the same one she reflected back to him. Tonight was a near thing--a layer of skin too much maybe but not above healing.
Sulu sat back down to finish his drink, remembering was not high on his list of things to do tonight, but movement from the corner still caught his eye. Broad shoulders squared themselves as the admiral rose from his chair. He smiled at Cartwright, thanking him for whatever influence he swayed in the Council's decision. Their eyes caught as Kirk straightened--his eyes looking hard at Sulu for the briefest of seconds. Sulu tilted his head toward the door--the direction of Nyota's departure. Again, a nearly imperceptible nod was given his way as Kirk excused himself. His stride was sure and quick--only in pursuit if one knew the prize.