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trek: K/S
ninety6tears

Star Trek XI fic: Vulcans Don't Play Basketball (Part One)

Title: Vulcans Don't Play Basketball
(1/3)
Characters/Pairings: Prominently Kirk/Uhura but very Spock/Kirk/Uhura. Appearances by McCoy and Chekov.
Rating: R
Summary: Maybe some day they'll have something in common, besides a first officer who seems sometimes like an impossible code to crack.
Notes: This was formerly a one-shot, which is now the prologue, and has probably been tweaked slightly.
Cut lyrics from "My Favourite Game" by the Cardigans. Also, cookies for anyone who spots the Bjork references in this chapter.
Beta-reader: flowrs4ophelia, who puts up with my left-field comments about talking violins.
Warnings (for the entire fic): dubcon, pon farr.
...Prologue...





She spends her shore leaves by herself now, for the most part, or at least ends up beaming back up on her own if she spends some of the time with fellow officers. She likes the feeling of wandering off on her own, leaving her own mark of a part of what she is without the uniform, even if she is in uniform. She does at least one thing on every planet that only she will ever know about, one thing that won’t be remarked on in the constant attempts at small talk aboard the ship, one thing that won’t be catalogued and copied into a data log, a progress report, a correction of a translation of a tricky transmission. Secrets give her a weird sense of power or control; she tries not to think about how her mother would have reduced it to some kind of coping mechanism, because some days it makes her completely forget that she’s even coping, that she’s missing anything.

A friendly ensign welcomes her back aboard as she heads to her quarters. She’s arriving a couple hours earlier than the usual last-minute transporter wash-up of officers reporting back from recreation time. Before she goes through the sliding door, the general comm buzzes an announcement, a routine reminder that ends with a mention of the ship’s chief science officer.

By the time she’s done changing and adjusting her hair in front of the mirror, the name has formed into a solid phantom memory, something she’s so used to reflecting on that it hardly even affects her any more. Old-fashioned dental floss taut between her fingers pinches under her nails, and she hears the collected tightness of a man’s voice, recalls feeling like a fool, expecting more from him, and this is just doing the dishes, ridding herself of her messy thoughts as she swishes and spits and sets the glass down, standing up ramrod straight as if answering to herself. This is done and thought up in the bathroom in the morning, not on the bridge, not at work, not in front of anybody.

She checks the stardate after she’s put on her uniform and realizes, in addition to her parents' anniversary coming up, that the last personal conversation she had with Spock happened exactly a year ago.

Before she leaves the bathroom, she opens a drawer, picking a subtle color from the bottom of a few scattered things, the only one she owns. A fresh coat of lipstick, admiring the effect in the mirror, and she’s satisfied.




Jim and Bones bring a spell of lively chatter into the sparsely populated gymnasium at 0500, drawing a blandly respectful greeting from an ensign on the way to the four treadmills lined up against the far wall. Only one is already in use; she coolly maintains her prompt jogging pace without any particular acknowledgment as Jim takes the mill right next to her, resuming his argument with McCoy for the moment as the doctor throws his towel over his shoulder and starts adjusting the elevation on the second to farthest one.

“So anyway, clearly if I touched her she was gonna freak out, so—”

“So don’t touch her, Bones!”

“She needed the vaccination, Jim, I can’t tell you how tired I am of this finnicky attitude about medicine in—in this whole damn side of the quadrant, it seems like...”

“Morning, Uhura,” Jim nods in her direction, leaning on the side railings as he starts a brisk walking pace.

“Good morning, Captain,” she replies. He can’t help smirking while continuing to listen to McCoy as she turns up the speed on her treadmill just one setting, starting a more brisk run.

“Did you do something to your hair?” Bones gruffly asks.

Uhura chuckles. “Yeah.”

It takes Jim a minute. “Oh. It is different.” He seems to merely contemplate whether he could get away with complimenting it, but the doctor gives it a mutter of friendly approval.

Then as if McCoy’s talking to Uhura brought her into the conversation, Jim looks over back at her and starts teasing, “Hey, how was your shore leave? And by that, I mean...your date?”

A scoff from Bones on his left; Uhura is rolling her eyes and saying, “You were in the bar?”

The chorus of dissaproval continues with McCoy’s, “Dammit, Jim, you can be such a creep sometimes!”

“No, no, no...” Jim waves his hands around in a gesture of innocence. “It’s not like that, I just wanna know if she had a nice time, she looked like she was having a nice time—”

She makes a groan and rubs a palm against her forehead. “Jim...”

“It’s not like that,” he insists again; appealing to Bones, he points at Uhura. “Come on, have you ever seen this woman work a room? She’s like a pro at it.”

“No, because he doesn’t leer at other women all the time...”

“I was just having a beer while this was going on, good God! I mean, come on, baby, your snob level goes through the roof when you’re out for a good time. Like—” Jim makes dainty motions in the air: “ ‘Oh, do not even think about offering to buy me a drink unless you have first attained for me a rare Malonian flower that grows only in the springtime’...”

Uhura, still looking intently forward, cracks a smile.

“...’Unless of course, you are an excrutiatingly boring and serious person, in which case I’m buying your drink’...”

“Hey!” she warns, but she’s laughing now.

Bones isn’t laughing, just rolling his eyes.

“Yeah, I was kidding about that last part,” Jim says, easing into Uhura’s good humor. “I’m not making fun of you, you know.”

“Uh-huh.” She grins.

“I’m not making fun of you,” he says again. “So, come on, you left with him...”

She looks just as set on not spilling anything as before, but after a long hesitation makes a self-annoyed grunt. “Okay, okay, it was...really awkward, actually.”

“Yeah?”

“Really?” McCoy chimes in, slightly betraying his former attitude.

“Well, we went back to his place, and it was really nice and everything...” She stops to cringe. “But then later he starts being a little too sweet, talking like he wants to see me again...”

Jim just sighs in understanding. “Oh.”

“Poor guy,” Bones offers.

“I know!” Uhura winces. “I sort of assume when I’m in uniform that that gives off...the right message, you know?”

“Not always,” Jim says.

Bones scoffs. “I think in your case, Jim, it’s your fault they get the wrong message.”

When Jim doesn’t reply, Uhura just says, “People see things the way they want to see them.” That earns a cocked eyebrow from Bones, and when Jim looks over she’s riding the slowing stop to the end of the mill, snatching up her towel to rub at her glistening neck.

“See you, doctor,” she sighs politely. “Jim?”

He looks.

“Don’t call me ‘baby’.”




There is the beach with a fine blue sand where the officers kick off their shoes and hike up their pants, ankles speckled softly with the pastel color that sticks to their feet. She sees him approaching minutes in advance, so when he comes up behind her where the water almost laps at their feet, she hardly turns to look.

“Come here to ruin my shore leave, Captain?”

“Naturally. But I bought you this ice cream...thing. I’m warning you, it tickles on the way down.”

“It’s not ice cream. It’s kphali custard. And it doesn’t tickle, what are you talking about?”

“Yes it does. Here—”

A lightened giggle rings over the tranquil wild noise that quietly breezes all around them; they are too far from any of the other crew members to even recognize the color of anyone else’s uniforms on the ribboning stretch of landscape as Uhura teases, “Looks like you dropped yours.”

“Who says that wasn’t yours?”

“I’m kidding...Go ahead, you eat it.”

“No, look, you’re gonna eat it. And your throat’s gonna tingle and your eyes’ll water like hell, and then I’ll laugh.”

One frosty morsel of the creamy white clump goes down harmlessly at first, then it does tickle, more like an aggressive menthol burn. It’s not altogether unpleasant but a little overwhelming. She rips out a couple coughs, but he doesn’t laugh, only smirking mutely as he hands her his drink. He finishes the rest, allowing her the humor of his minor choking fit after he runs out of water.

After he’s keeling over the raspy, noisy end, making it a little worse by laughing at himself, she offers him a pat on the shoulder as he’s finally straightening up with a final clearing of his throat.

“Are you okay?” She’s giggling, her hand still hovering. “Look at—You’ve still got some...”

Something about the fresh air, he’ll think: He has a little white splotch sticking on his chin, and she just leans in and laps it right off with her tongue, like she’s ten years old and somebody dared her to do it. Then a second later when she lets up a faint whimper of a cough his hands go to her wrists and squeeze them in the buckling strain of laughter coming from both of them.

Before the salty swell even clears from her senses, he lands a clumsy, short kiss on her mouth. He backs away, but she doesn’t, and then she lets him do it again. And this time she lets him lift her up by the waist, swinging her body playfully off the sand. A simply innocent note chimes from her, her bare feet dance a couple strides through the air, and then he puts her down smiling and backs up to splash idly through the water. They tease each other, only occasionally twining and lingering their fingers when one of them almost falls in the wet sand, chasing the tide and getting soaked up to their knees before they have to head off for the night; and none of it is a big deal, and all of it is perfect.

And this hasn’t happened yet.




Jim stops by the mess, finding Uhura quickly prettied up and in her uniform already studying the preliminary announcements on her PADD with a tall glass of juice. She’s alone, and he slips into the seat across from her.

“New earrings.”

She automatically feels at one of the layered silver teardrops and says, “Birthday gift from Pavel.”

“Really?” Kirk grins in surprise. “I’m impressed, they’re very you.”

She chuckles and mutters, “I’m really not that hard to please.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Jim mumbles with a tone of reflective incredulity, and it’s passingly apparent he was fully aware of her birthday. “So, Lieutenant. Where do you expect you’ll be at 0300 tomorrow?”

“Sleeping.” She lifts her brows more attentively. “Unless...?”

“I may or may not have something I could use you for?”

“Like?”

“Away mission?”

“I’m listening.”

“It would honestly be pretty low-maintenance, and I really only need one other crewperson with me,” he explains. “Spock’s going down on S.I. One to collect some samples, and Bones is going, and we might just kill a couple missions in one evening cause I’m not needed there.”

“So we’d be doing Two.”

“Yeah.” Jim takes a sip of his coffee and moves to get back up. “But I gotta get to the bridge; we’ll have time for a sort of informal debriefing, assuming you’re up to it when...”

He is casually cut off by her nodding, and then his eyes flit off, distracted; she pinpoints who is most likely approaching from behind them by the certain easy smile Jim has, and leans back in her chair returning to her reading.

“Captain.”

“Hey, did you get Scotty’s message?”

“Yes,” Spock launches his reply like he already knew Kirk would be asking. “And I should suspect if we do not pacify his enthusiasm to try the method and the warp core actually does breach within the next year—”

“We’ll never hear the end of it,” Jim agrees as if echoing some earlier thought process of his own.

Nyota can sense the awkward pause, but then Spock surprises her by addressing, “Lieutenant Uhura...You have altered your hairstyle.”

She sits up alertly, brushing a section of the long bangs out of her eyes, replying in confusion, “Um. Yeah. It still fits regulation...”

She notices Spock looking somewhat his own version of innerly flustered, and she's thinking now that perhaps she missed the point. Jim is rolling his eyes at both of them as he finishes off his coffee and starts his way out of the mess hall.




Around the time she’s expecting to hear from him, Uhura’s computer alerts her that somebody is at the door of her quarters and goes to answer it. She is momentarily distracted with a cracked fingernail just as she gives the command for the door to open, and when after a second she looks up, her face scrunches slowly into amused bewilderment.

The captain is lightly smirking at her door, dressed in a crisp dress shirt which has a subtle stripe pattern under a brown waistcoat, and equally stuffy-looking pants to match; on a hanger which he holds with a hooked finger, he’s carrying a dress that is more than unquestionably out of style.

She cocks a puzzled eyebrow, then crosses her arms. “Let me guess. I’m invited to a costume party in your pants?”

He snickers shortly. “Come on, Uhura, my pick-up lines were never that bad.”

Resting her hand to the doorframe in a looser amusement, she admits, “I don’t know if I can remember a time you even bothered with pick-up lines...”

“Yeah, yeah...”

“I’m afraid to ask: Do you actually expect me to wear that?” He sheepishly hands her the dress instead of answering.

As she’s testing the texture of the royal blue fabric she backs into her room a little, and Jim kind of points down the hallway and mutters, “Uh...I mean, this isn’t gonna take any longer than like ten minutes, but since it is a briefing...”

She realizes he’s talking about taking it to one of the meeting rooms. “Why bother? Here, I'll get us some water...”

She gets a whole pitcher full and sits at her little desk across from him. Her room is clean and crisp and feels formal enough, but he does compliment the huge mural painting that almost covers one of her walls.

“You’ve never seen my quarters, have you?” She realizes.

“Why, um...I mean. No, I haven’t.” He shrugs.

Once she’s demanded an explanation for the dress, he explains about the Iotians, their heavily imitative culture and why blending in would seemingly be the best thing if they don’t want to interfere with their development any more than members of Starfleet apparently already have.

“So...” She flips through some of the data already transferred onto her PADD; “They got all of this from a book?”

“Apparently,” Jim says with incredulous eagerness. "It should all look quite a bit like Earth in the 1920s."

“And we are to assess...how much things have changed since they were last observed?” She scrolls down to the bottom of the report. In a laughing tone, she says, “Captain, am I not seeing that this message advises you not to go there at all?...’The risk of further cultural contamination is considerably high’...”

“You read correctly,” Jim confirms with a smirk.

“Oh, this...this is one of the ambassador’s...” She shakes her head, leaning forward and putting her PADD down. “All his warnings ever do is pique your curiosity.”

“Yeah, well. He probably expects as much.”

Nyota stands, and she’s examining the dress again. "How'd you wrestle this thing out of the replicator?"

"It took some tweaking. Thankfully I didn't need to make anything, nothing in formal menswear is gonna make me stand out like a sore thumb."

After looking at the garment more closely, Uhura looks at Jim suspiciously. “Did you guess my size?”

“Yeah. With a second opinion,” he amended suggestively. “You should try it on, though, we have time to...”

She’s already kicking off her boots. “You can just turn around.”

“Um.” Jim lets out a short laugh, holding his hands up innocently and already heading for the exit. “I wouldn’t trust me.”

She gives him a perplexed and dubious look, but just asks, “Can I meet you in the transporter room?”

“Sure.”

Scotty gives an appreciative whistle when she gets there wearing it before going back to programming something, but she's cutting straight to Jim. "It has no pockets."

Jim underreacts. "So?"

She spreads her arms out, annoyed. "So where is my communicator supposed to go?"

"...Oh." Jim is holding two communicators, meaning to give her one, just now realizing the dilemma. "Okay, well. I can carry yours in my pocket, I guess."

She rolls her eyes. "Give it."

"...Wha—?"

"Just—" She's holding her hand out, shaking it for emphasis when he hesitates, and he hands one over. He watches then as she messes with the front of the dress, poking the device down into her bra. Satisfied, she looks up expecting him to be amused by that, but he's actually blushing a little, averting his gaze.

"—Bet you think that's just hilarious. I get to spend my evening with you and your delightful sense of humor..." McCoy's complaining tone is heard as he and Spock enter; Uhura notices that Jim is grinning now, as if he's been whispered something funny, already checked into Spock's subdued annoyance with the doctor, apparently. McCoy pauses, a bit thrown off by Uhura wearing the dress. "Well, look at you," he says in an appreciative laugh.

Uhura just gives a clicking noise with her tongue and a flirty, immodest shrug. McCoy makes a couple lines of conversation with her trading information about their missions, and if she overhears anything from Kirk and Spock's immediate exchange, it sounds sort of cryptically simple and formed of half-thoughts. She's gotten used to that, the way their version of making conversation is to revisit the same formal small talk but with something under the surface that's different every time. In the middle she catches Spock's expression briefly but directly trained on her, in an almost perplexed interest, while Jim is reaching to pinch a spot of lint off of the waist of his uniform. She immediately averts her waiting glance as Jim then leans his back onto the transporter pad, and she notices how he looks inscrutably pleased, smiling like someone does when they visit a good memory.

"Gotcher coordinates, Captain."

"Thanks, Scotty..."

They quickly arrange themselves on the transporter pad, and Jim is saying something to Bones across Uhura and Spock. Standing between Spock and Jim, she isn't sure what it is she senses, but it feels like some risk of electrocution flossed between the captain and his first officer, a fence trying to jolt her off.

It is not a sensation of being unwelcome, merely like someone is supposed to be saying, Could you move to the side? I can't see.

In an automatic response to the unusual feeling of being in the same room with another officer for so long without even saying anything to them, she looks at Spock, who in a seemingly similar shiftiness nods in her direction. She looks forward, waiting for her body and vision to fuzz away from the transporter room, but she checks a last peripheral look. Spock is looking too.

The transporter engages.

They come through to land underfoot; Uhura takes a second, then forgets the previous moment in the pull of curiosity to take in their surroundings as Jim's already half-turned away to glance about at the secluded alleyway they've come out in. It's barely sunset on this side of the planet, the slight darkness toning down their sense of hesitation as they start walking out towards some street lamps.

"Ooh!" Kirk gives an appreciative whistling when one of the first things he sees is what Uhura gradually assumes is the Iotian version of one of the earliest automobile models. He walks out closer to the curb and bends down a little to look in on the car seat, nodding in approval. "Almost perfect. That's just beautiful...Wow."

Uhura clears her throat in a warning. He looks up rather unfazed to see the man smugly glaring at him and moving as if to get in the car. Jim just steps out of the way with a kind of sweeping, don't-mind-me gesture, only giving a little grimace in his sidelong glance at Nyota.

As the man moves to open his door though, he notices the heavy stuff strapped around Jim's waist under his jacket; the captain actually stuffed the phaser out of sight, but the communicator pack apparently looks suspicious enough. Both of the officers are surprised when the Iotian's expression lightens nervously.

"Look, buddy, sorry," he says, his eyes averting shortly down to his grocery bag. "Wouldn't want no trouble with the boss."

Jim has no idea what that means, but he cocks a bemused brow and just says, "Nobody wants any trouble with the boss."

The response seems to hit the right note of ambiguity, and they're fairly confident that the man gets away feeling relatively un-threatened after he starts the engine. When Uhura looks over to give a well-humored shrug the captain is already muttering some notes into a log on his communicator now that there are no eyes on them, strolling slowly into the street.

"Evaluating the cultural contamination" is not exactly a technically defined task. Uhura quickly figures it's just a matter of recording whatever seems like valuable observations until Kirk is content with their progress, or most likely, bored.

But for all his curiosity about the planet, she wishes he was in a more sociable mood. He's never been the type to take missions somberly and by the book, most definitely not one of this priority, and even though he laughs at a couple dry remarks she makes about everyone's clothes, he doesn't try to match them. She's surprised after a point by how seriously dull he is like this. Jim has made her all colors of irritated, offended, amused, infuriated; but never once before has he actually managed to bore the pants off of her.

In an hour—once they've collected reasonably qualitative observations of the food they're eating, the jobs they're working, the families, the arts—Jim's ready to go, and Uhura thinks she quite agrees. But from the tone of Scotty's first words over the comm she can quickly tell that's not gonna happen any time soon; as Jim's expression slowly mirrors her exasperation she's not even in the mood to ask what the malfunction is, and she's sitting several feet away on a set of stone steps with her knees hunched together when he just looks back and doesn't bother explaining in response to her cringe.

"Look, we should move," she finally says, getting up and lazily smoothing out the bottom of the dress. "At least head closer to the bars or something, I don't get the idea we're dressed to stop by the drug store..."

"Yeah, okay," he calmly agrees. When they start walking, he's looking across the street just behind her when he notices, "Oh, uh...I think your dress is...”

“It’s coming undone?” Uhura panics just slightly; she still feels like a show in the strange thing and has been adjusting it constantly since they got down.

“It’s coming down like an inch, don’t freak out.”

Jim watches her scrabbling to reach the zipper behind her, finally rolling her eyes and asking, “Wanna give me a hand?”

“I...sorry.” He steps forward as she turns around holding up her hair so he can quickly zip it up for her. She turns after straightening out the straps and he’s already got his hands in his pockets again, looking at his feet and then scratching at his hair as he turns to start heading through an intersection.

And all of a sudden, there is nothing for it anymore: She is extremely annoyed at him. The agitation is sudden to the point of bewildering, and she has to stiffly stand there for a moment instead of following after.

“Jim?”

He’s surprised to hear his first name, that change of tone, and stops, turning. With a tiny sigh of exasperation she sternly catches up with him.

“...Would you stop it?”

He shifts a couple searching looks over her, all around, letting out a bit of a scoff. “...What?”

“Just—this—your whole...I don’t even know what it is, but it’s getting really obnoxious...”

Almost laughing, the captain stammers, “I have no idea what you’re talking about...”

“Around everyone else, sure, you’re worse than ever, like that crap in front of McCoy at the gym, but as soon as it’s just you and me, you just shut off on me.” Uhura illustrates with a gesture of meek hesitance, hands going up in dainty cowering...

Her bluntless is off-setting, and Jim awkwardly finds his words. “I...I mean, I would think that would be a good thing...”

“Oh, it’s just as obnoxious as ever, don’t get me wrong. It’s just...” Uhura clicks a couple steps forward, her expression frank and her voice lowering, as if there’s anyone around that she wouldn’t want to overhear. “Look. It happened a year ago. And it was a mistake, and I am practically thrilled that we both agree on that. But if you’re going to pretend that it never happened? You might try actually pretending, that it never happened.”

The two of them have not once referred to the event since she left his quarters just afterward, not to each other, most likely not to anyone else, and launching into a sudden mention of it makes Jim shifty, one side of his mouth going up nervously, until the message actually kicks in. She gives him a moment. He lets out a slight laugh, smiling.

He says, “Oh. Okay.”

“Now, can we please just go find a bar or something until this transporter issue gets fixed?”

Already mostly loosened up, shrugging, he eagerly replies, “Yeah. Sure."




He is of course under the impression that they will actually be drinking at the first little club they get to, despite the fact that even buying it is illegal. This confuses Uhura until he manages with only a casual motion that rides his jacket up off his communicator pack to get the bartender to hand over the sauce, no questions asked. She's shaking her head disapprovingly when the server lays down their glasses, but then Jim has this smile like her annoyance is the reward, and she reaches for one of the glasses first.

They talk about Spock.

“How come he hasn't been talking to his father?” Nyota is asking, sipping lightly at the decent imitation that's just different enough from standard whisky to be an interesting experience.

"The best way you could describe it is that it's always awkward. Though he'd never call it that." Jim shrugs. "Last time we dropped by the colony, you remember...It was like hints being dropped left and right that he needs to get married..."

"Really?"

"It's a terrible population crisis, what do you expect? I actually thought that with him being half-human and you know, a goddamn interstellar hero, they wouldn't be trying to get him barefoot and pregnant, but it's 'irresponsible' that he's committing himself to Starfleet and all that..." Jim rolls his eyes.

"You'd think...I don't know, that they wouldn't be worried about keeping it to marriage. I know monogamy is important to their culture, but at this point..." Uhura laughs as she rhetorically adds, "What's logical about it?"

Kirk is nodding in amusement. "Right? I know. I don't even get how all of that is handled, considering how completely un-romantic everything else is for them. I actually tried to ask Spock about it once? He completely avoided the question."

She has a little knowing cringe as she says, "Did the same with me."

That really surprises him for a second. "No shit?"

"Yeah." She sits back for a second, smiles as she remembers something. “Hey, what was everybody talking about after that mission the other day?”

“With him, you mean.” A grin breaks out on his face. “Ah, you kinda had to be there. Basically there was this street merchant who kept bugging the crap out of us...The third day we were down there, the moron actually grabbed his hand to try to get his attention, and Spock nearly erupted right then and there. For just a second he looked like he wanted to punch the guy's lights out.”

A contained amusement has painted over Uhura’s features while he’s talking, and he cocks his eyebrow for an explanation. “Nothing, it was just your word choice. 'Erupt.'...I knew some French even when I was little, so the first time I heard the word ‘vulcan’, I thought of ‘volcano’...”

Jim seems to like that. He mutters something about, “Notre petit volcan...”

She smiles again. “I didn’t know you learned French.”

Looking idly for something to comment on, his eyes stray with a pleased look at her hand wrapped around her drink. “Tu a les mains élégantes...Les plus belles doigts, tu sais?”

"Beaux," she corrects. "They're masculine—"

"No, they're not."

She can't help a giggle. “And I’m gonna let it slide that you used the personal form, since I don’t remember the last time you flirted with me.”

She’s surprised at how strongly he rebuffs that with a scoff. “So you want me to do that 'vous êtes' crap with you after that lovely pep talk we just had? And that wasn't even flirting.”

As soon as she seems unsure what to say to that, though, he forgets it.

"Okay, let's do this," he says, clicking his nails against the table briefly.

"You first. I can't think of anything."

"Um." He reaches carelessly in the air for a question. "What language that you don't know would you most like to learn?"

"Oh, um..." She snaps her fingers trying to remember the name. "Yliran. Have you heard of them? They communicate entirely in facial movements."

She's surprised by how much that interests him; he's putting down his glass and looking off distantly, thoughtfully. "Seriously?"

"Yeah. What about you?"

"I don't know if I could learn that one, but I'd sure like to try." They both laugh.

She thinks for a while. "You should come up with all the questions, it's hard for me to think of ones that are good for both of us."

"Okay. Uh...If you could relive a year of your life, which one would it be?"

"...That's hard. I bet you already know this."

"I'd rather go forward, honestly, but if I had to, any year of being captain...Uh. Just not the first...several months or so," he adds with a suggestive cringe.

She sets her chin on her knuckles, thinking about it. It's not the kind of question she wants to answer flippantly. "I think the cutoff would have to be six months ago."

"...So this year?"

"No, up till then." She shrugs. "Not the easiest time, but I don't wanna just say when I was six years old or something like that."

"Definitely not," he agrees, but he gives her a slanted look. "Bet there are some things you wouldn't like to repeat, though."

“I have a question.” She is suddenly more sure of something she wants to know. “What do you want?

Leaning over the table, Jim blinks, then picks up his tall glass and pensively gulps some of it down. “Just, what do I want?"

"Yeah."

"...That’s a strange thing to ask somebody like me.”

“Why?”

“Cause...I don’t know, life’s funny.” He waves the glass for vague emphasis as he explains, “The less you have the more you want and then when you get it, you still want more. I don’t know, I’m a pretty lucky bastard from where I’m sitting. I’ve got everything I need and most of what I want; I’m not gonna sit here and moan about the rest.”

“What’s the rest?”

He pauses, licking his lips, looking narrowly at her across the little table. “Why are you asking me this?”

“I thought you wanted to get to know each other better,” she replies flatly. “How much have you had to drink?”

He shrugs, pointing at his empty glass.

“Just that?”

“What the hell...Were you hoping for impaired judgment?” Jim laughs low for a second. “You can ask me anything you want, you know. I just don't really know what you mean."

“It's not complicated." She's almost laughing. "If you could have anything you don’t have, just one thing, what would it be?”

He immediately replies, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“I’ll try,” she insists.

He speaks candidly, with sentiment but without self-pity; he shrugs and answers, “Knowing me, there’s a perfectly good reason I don’t have it. But sometimes I think I wouldn’t mind...having somebody around. You know, like...for good.”

Her confusion is non-judgmental; it's a reflex, and without even thinking she asks, "What about Spock?"

"Oh, well..." He's fervent in explaining, "He's great, he's beyond irreplaceable, he's a good friend. Everything with him is in some ways better than I ever thought it would be, and I guess having him instead of that is..."

"Instead of...?"

Then his eyes are filling with more confusion and maybe slight embarrassment. "You honestly don't know what I'm trying to say here?...I mean, as a Starfleet captain, it's all part of the package, and it's not like I want the whole marriage and kids thing, but..."

And all at once, before she has the chance to play it off right, he realizes what she is actually trying to ask. He laughs, very shortly, before he meets her horrified look of embarrassment and the way she's dunking down the last of her drink like, There goes that, and he seems quickly struck with what really isn't funny about it at all.

By the time he splutters out, “What?...You thought—?” she’s already leaned back and pulled her hands over her mouth.

“I’m sorry—I—”

“Lieutenant—" Jim bites out, leaning forward in his chair, "Pardon my French, again, but what in the fuck—"

"Look, just forget it—"

"Uhura..." Jim's trying not to actually shout after her when she gets cringing up out of her chair.

"I'm just gonna go for a walk, okay? You can comm me—"

But he follows, getting out of his chair quickly but now attempting to calm down, his next comment making it seem less like she was the one who wanted to leave. He just slips by her sighing, says, “Come on. We’re not having this conversation in a bar.”

Uhura’s hesitation is one of nervous surprise then, because from what she knows about Jim Kirk, he is never the type to volunteer a serious talk about anything outside of his professional concerns. Suddenly she’s got a sick pang in her stomach like her mind’s going on the defensive, responding to a vague panic. They keep walking until they get half a block down from the pub where the buildings look more like homes.

Then he turns on her and says, “Alright...Okay. It’s been a really long time since he and you called it quits, and I can’t believe I’m the one to straighten this out with you, but what in the hell are you imagining was the reason it didn’t work out?”

Immediately uncomfortable, she kind of glares back and says, “Look—I can't talk to you about this. Not if you're going to act like you were there."

Kind of ignoring that, Jim shuffles his weight between his heels for a few seconds, becoming more anxious with her by the moment. He finally rolls his eyes and says, “Look, princess, you could either tell me to fuck off and go away or you could just get over the fact that we’re friends now, and you can talk to me...”

“Okay,” she interrupts weakly, drawing in a breath and crossing her arms. She manages to mechanically say, “He had his limits. And I wanted more.”

He doesn’t need her to translate; he readily steps closer to her. “Okay, and...judging from what you just asked me, you think those limits have somehow changed now?”

Uhura looks at him almost bitterly. “Maybe you’ve never been through a break-up—okay, you’ve probably never even put yourself in the position, but people's limits do change depending on who they're with.”

“—Jesus,” Jim exclaims, and for the first time, after the countless forward and flirtacious moments that have ever been extended from him to her, his absolute inability to grasp this is one of the few unintentional compliments he’s ever given her. “Look...I can swear to you, up and down, that to the extent that he is capable of wanting somebody, you do one hell of a number on him.”

She can't help relaxing a little, but her eyes narrow back at him. “You know, you talk about him like that a lot. And you wonder why half the people on the ship think you two are an item.”

“You’re not half the people on my ship,” he corrects. “You should’ve known better.”

“Well, I know that there’s something, and I don’t know if I can explain it. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who notices...” Uhura shrugs weakly. “Whatever it is between the two of you, I can’t really get over the idea that he moved on to you, in one way or another...”

And well, they’ve gotten to the topic after all, so he sighs in a slight bit of dread before admitting, “Okay. There is something I ought to tell you...”

“Here we go.”

“Calm down, okay?” By now there’s a good gap of distance between them, as Jim always paces around during conversation. “It was something like a year ago now, right?...After I slept with you, I needed to tell Spock. You probably figured that at the time.”

He is so forward about it, she can’t be offended by him flatly bringing it up. She nods. Still, he's uncomfortable with it, and he explains with a sort of impatient loftiness.

“The problem, I guess, was that it could so easily have not been a big deal. I could’ve never told him about it, or I'd tell him and let him indifferently stand there telling me how he had no valid reason to care, and that just felt all wrong. Because I knew he’d care, in his own way, and I almost wanted him to be mad, but I wanted him to understand...”

Uhura lets out a sudden long breath, her hands covering at her face for just a couple seconds. “Oh my God...”

“Yeah.”

“You offered to mind meld with him?!—Just—?”

Jim shakes his head with slight regret. “I know. I probably should’ve asked you. But...I don’t know, maybe in a way, we are kind of an ‘item.’ This ongoing thing started then, I just sorta got a kick out of it, and we're loosely linked a lot of the time now—”

"—What?" This is the most alarming thing to her yet. Her expression is gaping as she shakes her head at him. "You just...I mean, of course, it makes perfect sense, but wouldn't he—"

"Yeah, I mean, he tries to convince me now and then that I shouldn't be comfortable with it, but he never actually says—"

"Well, it's not like he's a toy, Jim..." She's shaking her head tightly. "I mean, that's a huge thing in their culture...The fact that he's willing to do that with you, it's like—"

"He's given up on marriage?" he interrupts flatly, which practically confirms that it's true, he's considered this before.

“And you didn’t even know...” Uhura was biting her lip in disbelief. “That was part of the problem, with us. I wouldn't do it, and he wanted it so much. And then you just passively offered it to him like it was nothing, while I couldn’t even—”

Nothing she’s saying is anything Jim doesn’t know about, she can tell, but he’s one thought ahead of her, and resistant. “No, don’t. Don’t think...”

Uhura starts anxiously pacing a few steps farther down the road; he follows. They’re getting more away from the lights of the town, into the block of an orchard with a slightly sweet smell.

“Uhura,” Jim calls insistently, and then catches up and gets her by the shoulders. “Would you listen to me? He’s a Vulcan, you’re not. That kind of connection, it’s not something we’re equipped with or used to, and maybe I’m kind of a weird fucker for being comfortable with it, I don't know. You like your privacy, and I bet you don't even like the fact that the control over it only goes one way...He gets that. And you know this."

She steps out of his arms a little tiredly, crossing hers over her chest, unable to resist the knee-jerk reaction of bitter embarassment at his surprisingly sophisticated level of understanding; it was somehow easier when she could accuse him of knowing next to nothing about all of this. At the same time, though, his is an outside perspective, and also a reassuring one. Having always cringed at the thought of actually talking out her feelings, she simply left the issue in the dust a long time ago, and there were still shreds of the whole mess she couldn’t quite cope with.

She's standing close to a veiny brown tree, almost shivering in the cold now, and they've come to kind of a stop. Jim has his lips pressed together, thoughtful, also looking just slightly wounded or at least annoyed. He finally quietly protests, "I don't treat it like a toy..."

"I—I know," she immediately replies, slightly regretful.

"He was pretty lonely after it was over, you know."

Her eyes narrow in a kind of confusion. "...Are you being accusing? Or—"

"—No. No, just, maybe I don't get why you don't talk to him anymore."

"I talk to him," she protests, but his dubious look makes her sigh. "Well, it was just strange around him afterwards and it never worked itself out. It's not like I consciously pushed him away."

"Yeah, well." Jim shrugs. "He misses you."

Her expression is peeling into something else, sad but delicately wanting to smile. "No, he doesn't."

He kind of rolls his eyes. "I can't imagine how it's any easier when you're not friends anymore. Anyway, it's not a toy, it's not like I'm taking advantage of something, it's not like it doesn't help him out just a little. And it makes me...happy."

He sort of shyly says that last part, and she gives him a curious look.

"Well...yeah," he admits, shrugging, "You have to understand, that it's a challenge. It’s not like I’m reading his mind all the time. The first time we melded, I kind of expected to get like, waves and waves of...stuff. But when he’s not in certain emotional states, it’s all kind of placid, and it took me a while to realize that one kind of placid means he’s a little annoyed, and another means confused...I didn't think I would ever start to get it and be able to really read what he's feeling, but once I got the hang of it..."

“It's like learning a new language,” Uhura offers quietly.

“Well...yeah,” he agrees, a little uncomfortably.

“And are you pulling my leg?” she suddenly demands. “Does he still think about me?”

“Maybe not in the way you mean...” In response to her look of exasperation, he's suddenly frustrated with her again, and his words stumble out more aggressively. “Look, I just know all these different things and they collect and then they just converge into facts—One of them being that he really misses you sometimes, okay? I just get this feeling from him like everything’s safer when you’re around. And I get it in the pit of my stomach, so don’t tell me I don’t know how he feels about you. Fuck, I could probably kiss you exactly the way he would if he was capable of that—Of really kissing you, I mean...”

That flippant but also oddly impassioned declaration isn't intended to do anything, but it winds up something in her mind, makes her expression relax from its serious near-glare into something of an amused sneer.

"...What?"

"I'll have you know that Spock and I kissed many, many times."

He just shrugs, his expression launching back, So?

With her arms crossed again she kind of looks him up and down, and her face scrunches up and she laughs. “You really think so?”

Responding to the joke, the challenge, he's more playful now. He smirks and shoves his hands in his pockets looking all mock-offended. “Damn right, you got a breath mint?...Baby?” She just laughs again, and he grins back more Jim Kirk than he's been in many minutes, lighting up with some inner satisfaction.

And so they’re joking now, so Jim scratches his chin, turns and paces over to a pile of narrow wooden crates and snags one. She watches him, smiling in confusion, as he scrutinizes the narrow breadth of it, a size just right for storing something like tangerines and not much else. With the air of a gentleman he comes back and tosses the crate bottom-up at her feet, inching it closer and closer to her and standing on it right in front of her, then holding out his arms and saying, "Voila. Tall enough?"

There is something so damn charming about all of it that Uhura’s grin glows behind another nervous bout of giggling in response to it, as she brushes a little good-humored slap at his arm. He composes slowly from a tacit smirk to pressing his lips together so that he doesn’t break into her mood.

“Alright, come on,” he mutters lowly, after he knows for sure that she’s not going to tell him to stop playing around. “No laughing.”

Somehow, when she clamps her mouth tighter and slants her eyes up to look at him, she does stop laughing. She stops smiling. A silence builds and thickens fast, like the breath of wind let in by the opening of a door. Some insects are teeming a song way off in the abstract.

Instinctively, after Jim takes a nervingly calculating look over her face, Uhura looks down as if timid; the wild hum is joined by the ‘V’-sound of a silk tie unfastening its rich friction in the darkness. He moves with a barely-there smile to fold it around her eyes: Here she relaxes again, but not like she’s about to laugh, as he wraps it just twice around and then ties it loosely behind her head.

After that he doesn’t touch her at all, for a moment. And for a moment she feels a nothing happening that brushes delicately and powerfully against her. With every second, a blind uncertainty teases and unfolds her senses, leaving her peeled open and weightless and completely devoid of anything but anticipation in the hollow pull of breeze and dark and a hint of his breath she feels against her forehead before he seems to maybe be holding it. Maybe it's a conscious manipulation of her reaction on his part, something to give it a kick.

Or it could almost be something else, like summoning something from outward or upward that is outside of himself, remembering and constructing from phantom neurons he's housed in his mind before. Letting everything flow into one mindful and mindless purpose before he lets his self go, and...

There is nothing particularly jolting when she first feels lips press kind of chastely against her mouth, a nose resting closely against hers in a way that is distantly familiar in its clean symmetry. The pressure is slow, pleasant, as hands cup around her bare shoulders in an efficient, affectionate grasp. She purses and accepts; their lips duck back a bit making the first little noise, go in again in the same way.

After the second and third time, going purely automatic, she does it with the slightest widening motion that he follows naturally, lips brushing to the sweeter moisture. Then with her actions disconnecting from her thoughts just enough, she pushes herself into it a little, tilting the angle of her jaw to kiss more widely, more fully; as she'd always thought of it, a kiss should be more like a sentence than a word or half-statement, and she "says" something inviting, inquiring.

He pauses for a moment as they're still openly joined, and when she pulls back then, she brings him with her; and his tongue and his breath and there it is, something against her like someone just now understanding what God made mouths for: His is hungry and clumsy with passion, and the two hands reach to firmly cradle her cheeks into a steady deep rocking, sliding further into a rhythm now...

She hears herself gasping as the raw sensation roams down her body, muttering at places untouched; she's feeling at the tree to let her back rock into it without it scraping her. He leans over to prop an arm above her, lips returning to graze with teeth this time, his breath thickening against hers as one of her hands moves up his ribs with a mindless asking pressure. His left lowers from her face, grazes down her neck, and then is working a firmer path that pulls suggestively at the top of her dress where the slightly softer skin begins.

Then her sharper breath isn't easy to interpret, so he stops.

In the next second Jim's using his thumb to press his tie up off her eyes. His voice is almost not there:

“Are you okay?”

Whatever knee-jerk mutter tells him she's fine just then, she realizes when something happens in Jim's eyes looking straight at hers that he just pulled her shields right off; when the tie came off her eyes, she was all naked underneath. Well, she sort of thinks, this is interesting.

For one thing, she's fairly certain, for no easily definable reason, that Kirk has just realized within a matter of seconds that she is still in love with Spock.

For another, she's just realized, within a matter of seconds, that she is still in love with Spock. She would mockingly laugh at herself if her senses weren't limping all over the place in a way that was kind of nice less than a minute ago and is only frustrating now.

Jim Kirk. It always comes back to him in all the wrong places, only right now, she notices, right now he has this look like he thinks he just screwed up again. And if she can do anything, she can make that stop.

Tiredly, affectionately, Uhura reaches and gives him this little pull. "Come here."

He is hesitant, but he's stepping off the board and kicking it aside, searching her with his eyes. He isn't sure what she could mean, but at the same time they seem to be naturally poising slowly back together. With her hand still at his waist, it's like heads meeting pillows, their lips just tapping into a slow sipping desire for one blurred second that's never punctuated before his communicator chirps static from his pocket, some delicate syllables giving away Chekov’s shy tones. He extends one limb behind her so her head rests on his forearm as he gets on to talk with his other hand; she’s sighing down, her hands rested at his sides, her glance falling to their feet.

He abruptly pulls away before the response is heard back. He's almost businesslike now as he mutters, “We gotta go."

He probably knows already that she’ll wind back out of it and pretend it didn’t happen, and the ship, she'll never know. These things could only happen on land.

When they beam back up, the other two have been back for almost an hour already, but Spock is there to greet with his hands clasped behind him. His and Jim's eyes meet and the captain is briskly making his way off the pad ahead of Uhura, who follows at a more tired pace.

"I thought you might want to finish our game," Spock is saying to Jim, who probably gives a mere smile in reply, already caught up alongside his first officer.

Then at the door Spock hesitates, neutrally looking back at Nyota.

"Captain," he asks, "do you not wish to retrieve your tie from Lieutenant Uhura?"

She stiffens, shoulders tightening up in a sudden rush of self-consciousness. Jim looks like he wants to laugh at realizing that his tie is indeed now wound loosely around her neck like a scarf; she removes it in a couple clean movements and hands it over with a tight smile. He just easily smirks, tossing it around his own neck, saying, "Thanks."

That night, once she's showered, she pulls out some of her old personal logs. She was encouraged to keep a journal growing up, to vent out the ugliest of her emotions in order to make better sense of them, and as a result that's for better or worse she tends to keep a bustling database of cryptically bitter outbursts she doesn't even remember composing. She skims back to nine months ago, a little grimly fascinated at the blunt, lazily suggestive and sometimes unfinished entries that make her feel like she's entertaining some awfully passive-aggressive double of herself.

There is one of course that isn't just about Spock, that she stares at unblinking for a few seconds before she rereads it:

2259.3
01.13

All of us on the bridge were right: No way the captain would scream like that unless it was something hurting like "ten kinds of hell," as our CMO colorfully explained. Whatever it was killed Ensign Baker, and the poison was probably for the purpose of incapacitating Kirk to save him for later. You couldn't make this stuff up. I was just outside the transporter room when Chekov located and brought him back.

I heard the anguished groans before I saw the stripe pattern of lacerations all the way up his leg, and I must've said something like "Oh God," the way Sulu was looking at me like he hadn't taken me for the squeemish type; next thing I knew Spock was there, in the way he manages to be in places where he has no rational reason to be. He as good as told the captain to shut his mouth and preserve his energy, automatically moving to deftly help someone else get him onto the biobed. One of the nurses was shouting for something right across Jim's heaving stomach, but nobody really noticed...

I'm not sure what it was. Just one forehead rocking briefly forward to meet the other like a substitute for a rushed embrace, Spock's eyes shutting in a nearly imperceptible breath of relief over a man just barely coherent enough to return the expression before flopping back down

01.21
This job is a nightmare sometimes.

I'm glad Jim's okay.





The late morning after she walks swiftly onto the turbolift, hearing a friendly dispute between Kirk and McCoy before she looks up to give them the best greeting smile she can manage on an empty stomach and not enough sleep. Jim's assumption that she's headed for the mess hall before he presses the button for her without asking is the most he does to acknowledge her as she shifts by to lean against the back banister of the lift, a little caught up as he is in some story McCoy's telling him.

"—the guys there didn't even know if he was serious..."

"Yeah, yeah..." Kirk is widely grinning after a second. "That's pretty funny, actually."

"Yeah, I bet you woulda laughed it up," McCoy replies, disarmed out of his grumpiness by Kirk finding the subject at hand so amusing. "You would've thought Spock did it intentionally, though."

"Well, of course he did." Jim only now catches Uhura's eyes in the way of eagerly inviting her into the conversation.

"Yeah, right. The guy wouldn't know a joke if it hit him with a two-by-four."

"Of course he would, what—What are you talking about, he makes jokes all the time." Kirk seems newly humored by what he considers a massive oversight of the doctor's. "It's all vicarious with him. He can't laugh, so he makes jokes. Other people do it for him."

Uhura rather slowly kind of eases from eavesdropping into cocking a kind of meaningfully amused glance at the captain as he seems to be turning to look for some validation from the back of the lift.

"Did you tell Spock what happened on Iota II?" she suddenly asks.

She has to stifle her smirk at the captain's reaction, which spurts and flusters only very shortly before settling on stupid puzzlement.

She plays this pretty smoothly: Kirk knows that she does not mean precisely what she says and McCoy isn't sure what the hell is going on but doesn't quite care. She says with just the right note of meaning, "We were laughing pretty hard."

Then Jim very slowly grins. "I...No, I hadn't thought to tell him."

"What?" McCoy asks. "What was funny?"

The door opens onto Nyota's floor, and she's looking at neither of them and grinning cleverly as she nudges by, picking up Jim's too-long hesitation and flat reply just before the doors slide shut behind her:

"...You had to be there."




...Part Two...

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so good. i wish i could phrase how much i'm loving this story more coherently, but my mind's mush right now. rest assured, i love it!

I'm very happy you're enjoying it :D Thank you for commenting!

It seems like you already have so many complicated layers established in the three-way relationship that I can hardly wrap my mind around all the possibilities and it's hard to guess what's going to happen, lol.

I love that you're setting up this idea that Kirk/Uhura's relationship as well as Uhura herself are very different in professional situations on the ship than when they're off the ship. It's actually very personal-canon-y to me.

And I like how you make Kirk's revelation that he started habitually mind-melding with Spock seem kind of like he's admitting something like "So uhhh I kinda got into bondage over the last year?" LOL. Even without thinking about it as slashy at all, I love that you actually brought in that idea, most importantly that Uhura actually wouldn't do it. That's so contrary to what people usually seem to assume about her relationship with Spock, but if he's going to have certain limits as a Vulcan to what's in his comfort zone then it's totally understandable for her to have limits in that kind of relationship, too, and lots of people seem to take it for granted that their relationship can always transcend any problems like this as far as their differences.

And the cryptic scene flashing forward to the thing on the beach is ahhhh. OMG. And somehow conveys a sort of tragic or bittersweet tone in the way it's kind of like this perfect fantasy, or possibly something that will only be able to happen once but on hindsight, and in foresight to the reader, just seems surreal. (Am I on the right track? LOL.)

HOLY HELL LOOK AT THIS COMMENT.
I love that you're setting up this idea that Kirk/Uhura's relationship as well as Uhura herself are very different in professional situations on the ship than when they're off the ship. It's actually very personal-canon-y to me. TO ME AS WELL, MY FRIEND. *pets personal canon* And the funny thing about this chapter is that they're actually on a mission, they shouldn't be acting unprofessional, but then there's the transporter mishap and it just kind of unwinds into, "Let's get you a drink and I'll tell you about my bondage kink." Yeah. That will never stop being funny.
But OMG YES re: Spock/Uhura, I wouldn't exactly root for there to be epic angst between those two, but I feel like it makes sense to assume their relationship is kind of on the rushed side, which makes it kind of lovely, but also prone to some problems. I think anyone attempting to be in a committed relationship with a Vulcan could likely run into this all-or-nothing crossroads that doesn't quite work with our dating standards. And I don't think it's unromantic at all for somebody to say, "You know what? I'm not going to be somebody's bondmate. That's just too much." I can easily picture Uhura having a strict line that she draws in how far she compromises her individuality for a relationship, and that could make her uncomfortable about doing a mind meld even once. And Kirk, you know, he doesn't respect himself to the point of needing the Malonian flowers, he's a little clumsy and reckless with relationships, and he may not be completely sure what exactly he's doing.
And uh, I'm just very relieved the beach scene actually works for you cause I was just like WTF-am-I-doing when I put that in and I hope the non-linear throw-in doesn't feel almost...cheap? And of course I'm not going to tell you if you're on the right track. *evil grin*

I've come out of lurkdom to flail at your fic! I am really loving your Uhura POV here, it's so complex just spot on. I tend to mostly hang around the K/S area of fandom, and Uhura often gets shortchanged, but the way you've written her here is beautiful and really satisfying. I can't wait to read the next part!

Thanks so much!! With the exception of the prologue, the entire fic is from Uhura's POV, and it wasn't always going to be that way (I had to yank a couple things out which will likely end up in a companion piece from Jim's perspective, but let's not get ahead of myself), and I was kind of worried if I could get a good handle on her. I'm also a big K/S shipper and kind of felt this nervous responsibility to do her well (LOL), so hearing from you that it works is awesome :)

Heh. I am enjoying this, they're so dancing around each other. :D

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