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ninety6tears

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

Title: Vulcans Don't Play Basketball
(3/3)
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.
A/N: I should probably mention at this point that I'm working on a one-shot companion piece, which will follow some of the events of this fic from Jim's POV.
Cut lyrics are from "Pretty Things" by Rufus Wainwright.
Also, sorry this part took so long.
...Prologue...Part One...Part Two...



When she wakes up momentarily disoriented to discover herself in someone else's quarters, Jim has left out a bagel for her as well as a message that she can take as much of the morning off as she wants, also parenthetically advising her to leave somewhere within the hour of nine hundred if she's worried about being seen. She wouldn't have taken him for one of the 'didn't-want-to-wake-you' types. Not that that would apply to this situation, but the thought makes her dryly grin as she discovers also that he's folded out a towel for her to use.

She tries to convey a teasing manner of gratitude with a smile once she runs into him on her way to report to the bridge. He's talking to McCoy and only spares her a wink. He looks a little bit better, she notices, but there isn't quite the level of energy behind him that she's used to.

What she witnesses that day seems like a good sampling of what she can expect to see between the captain and first officer, until the indefinite time that one of them makes some push in either direction. By the late afternoon they're working together efficiently, in a way that would seem like a perfectly beneficial dynamic by someone who didn't know either of them at all. There's something too cold and businesslike about it; before, Kirk would cut off what Spock says as if he could gracefully read the other's mind, but she notices that day that when Jim finishes Spock's sentences it's more like he's trying to end the exchange as quickly as possible. Their interaction, whether tinged with conflict or affection, has always been heady, potent with something; seeing them interact in a strictly professional by-the-book way is all off, and she just knows the rest of the crew has to have noticed.

She and Chekov play badminton before dinner, and before he even has the chance to bring it up she can see she's being studied and she warns him with a sigh, "I don't want to talk about that, okay."

He sardonically mutters, "Yes, ma'am," before making the first serve.




"I guess this is about those messages..."

"Do you want me to just keep avoiding them?"

"Yeah. Look, I'm sorry, I hate making you play secretary on these things..."

"We all have parts of our jobs we hate," Uhura says with a shrug. She's sitting on the table in the smaller dining hall that is usually only used for formal meals but seems to have a quicker replicator. "Or really hate...How are you doing?"

Jim's at least not sourly rebuffing her sympathy again, though she did manage to ask in a tactfully broad and casual way. He takes a sip of his ice water, pondering it over; she catches a hint of herself in there, that continuous mental fugue that makes self-diagnosis a little intangible. She didn't really have to ask anyway; he and Spock aren't at each other's throats by any means, but she's starting to think it would almost be better if they were.

He finally manages to answer with a dull lack of confidence, "I guess I just have to keep telling myself it'll work itself out eventually."

She's put her PADD down and is leaning back on her hands now, and her face falls to a heavy frown. Without warning, she feels immensely sad for him; it seems to put a defined edge on a general feeling of unsettlement she's had all week.

She sits up now, slowly, clears her throat. "Um...You know what helps?"

And she's off the table, walking up to him. She stops close and presses her lips up to his in a kind of testing sweep of his mouth, not really knowing what he'll do. There's a centimetering motion of hesitance, but he reacts with a lifting surprise she senses even with her eyes closed. When she does draw back and look up at him, he's blinking, unsure. He looks around for just a second; she knows what he means, as if he's asking, Here?

She replies by gently kissing him again and then backing up to hop back onto the table. He follows along, but still looks like he doesn't understand what they're doing; she grapples him by the waist, hugging him in between her legs, kisses him deeper. She's affectionately satisfied by the noise of startled pleasure it draws out of him. He leans forward, resting his palms on the table just behind her waist, stealing eagerly at her skin with his mouth, at her neck and her jaw, but he says, "What's going on?"

"You want to?" is all she asks. "Or—"

"You're the top xenolinguist in Starfleet and an A-level at almost everything else, Uhura, don't ask stupid questions..." Jim's only irritant with the uncertainty of the situation, his body held stiffly in hesitation.

Finally she props herself back enough to look at him frankly. Her face dissolves into something more familiar and soft than he's probably used to getting from her. Maybe she even looks sad. "Just..." She sighs, and her voice goes even quieter as she presses one knee assuringly against the side of his leg. "Make us both feel good, okay?"

He's leaning slowly back forward and nibbling on her ear then, and then he whispers, "My cabin. Twenty minutes."

Her hair is down when she goes, not bothering to be conscious of the traffic in the corridor just outside when he opens the door only having taken off his jersey and looking every bit in his reaction like he hasn't even seen her today. He waves her in with a casual comfort that would look to somebody else like she came by to borrow something.

The lights are already quite low, but he doesn't spend much time in his quarters and that seems practically status quo. As she enters he's darting into the bathroom, maybe rinsing his mouth out, still acting in every way like she's just a lunch guest. She lingers by his desk close to the door, brushing a hand over it but not quite leaning against it, and when he comes out of the bathroom she's sort of smirking faintly.

"Twenty minutes." She's realizing, "You wanted to make sure I didn't change my mind."

He doesn't answer. He's walking briskly forward and then he's kissing her and kissing her and kissing her, hands at her waist, her breasts, the mood suddenly heightening as if they've been at it for minutes already. She sighs, reaching at his collarbones and then up and around to give a claiming squeeze at the back of his neck, pushing her tongue into the mouth that moves soft against her, feeling her clothes and his coming off without any meditation until they're both in their underwear.

He's managed to slowly dance her in footfalls over to the bed, which lightly taps at her calves before she lets herself fall back on it. She sits up enough to unhook and shrug out of her bra, encouraging him to shove down his black boxers. He's about to work himself forward onto the mattress, when she remembers something. Her voice is faint and sure: "Computer, low lights."

It's good for her, all of this. It's like a really good book or a multi-vitamin or learning to conjugate Andorian verbs, the way he looks at her, fully aware that he wasn't allowed to before. He doesn't make a spectacle out of her while she's stretched on the bed in front of him, but he really, really looks, and her skin feels hungry all over with the way he slowly hooks down her panties and peels them down her legs. His hand caresses at her knee and then moves up with the rest of him as he crawls to tangle over her.

She doesn't expect it at all when his head reaches hers and he tilts his chin against her ear and just very quietly groans a kind of yearning exclamation of "God."

"—Mmmp," is the only response she manages, feeling her body curl up to his as her breath becomes feather-light, excited. He's looking at her then, grinning, and he massages at the back of her neck as he pecks and sucks and playfully bites along her jaw.

"Mmm?" he asks.

"Jim," she whines, a little irritated and teasing.

He chuckles against her lips and then, after a firmer kiss he settles there, continues to ignore both of their eagerness, his eyes suddenly lingering in fascination at her right hand rested on its back where that arm is paused in anticipation; and his head ducks in an almost reverent way to plant, slowly, a kiss on the sensitive underside of every knuckle, pressing those fingers to the sheets with a different sort of devotion to every one. By the time he gets to her pointer, tonguing and drawing it between his teeth only teasingly, her other hand is working up his arm and down his back, both soothing and urging, her hips rocking up to him. Her breaths are short but sure and they calm to a heated noise when he arches his body back up slightly, enters her slowly.

He sets the pulse a little slow, pulling emotion from her in the throes of something unexpectedly and unbearably sweet. This is just fun between two friends, this is a whole different game compared to what happened between them before, and it shouldn't feel the same at all, only she manages to realize how well she remembers over a year ago because of how this could certainly be more unlike how it was then: the way that Jim doesn't quite bother with being in control as much as she would have expected, the wonderful stutters and clumsiness in how he moves with her effect on him and how she sees it now, the broad wonder flipping on in his eyes like he's never seen her before because she's making him feel this good. It's odd to realize that she had some kind of set idea of what he was probably like with most partners, that maybe it's nothing like she imagined; there's a sport in the chase, the flirting, the undressing, but the sex is somehow unrecognizably not about him. Here, he forgets himself; it's the only place he ever is where he actually wants to lose. It is, in fact, really good.

It was always nice with Spock. More than nice much of the time; it was different in a pretty magnificent way, and she even loved the lack of attention to more petty notions of beauty, anything like that. But somewhere towards the end of their relationship she felt her heart gnashing fruitlessly for some vague thing it never found; she went through denying it and being a little ashamed of it for a while, but she couldn't help a restless longing for some completely irrational fire. Every other relationship she encountered, every book she read, every moment she felt her own heart falling harder, she wanted to make somebody stupid, she wanted someone to just lose their mind over her, for only a second. She resolved that she was young, still needed to experiment with more casual relationships, went on the occasional dates, but they weren't quite it either.

And now here's Jim Kirk, who shouldn't have any business making her feel so pretty, so powerful, who she's realizing now maybe always has, in a very small way. And if he's really feeling any small sense of what she has through his immense frustration with Spock after what happened, maybe she's doing the same for him, and it may not be real, but it's good, and it unhinges her somewhere in her chest when she starts gasping out his name more times than she could count as she's complaining for her release. He lifts and twists into her until she crashes along a rough groan, his breath becoming closer to yelps and his mouth landing a soft bite at her neck that makes her half-wonder if he's trying not to utter any real words back.

She ends up with her chin snug in the corner of his neck as he shudders and then recovers limply over her in long gasping breaths; she combs her fingers kind of soothingly through his hair, lets him rest for half a minute squeezed against her. Finally he just lets out a little hum and moves up, reaching down to pull the covers over them. She tucks herself into a loose cocoon, but her head rests comfortably against him.

He casually glances over the sight of her legs woven in and out of his comforter, lets out another pleased chuckle. His head turns into hers a little; he elusively mutters, "You smell amazing, you know."

She just snickers warmly.




The next day at lunch she pauses in her steps for only a moment before turning to set her tray down and sits across from Spock. She just smiles, blowing on her tea in silence for a moment before either of them says anything.

And they begin catching up. There isn’t much to tell that isn’t already known: Everyone who works on the bridge, for example, knows that her favorite aunt died a few months ago, and being in hearing range of McCoy’s bemused remarks about Spock makes it hard to miss out on his extracurricular research endeavors, but hearing it directly from each other is something even he seems to understand the value of.

After a few minutes there’s something deeply warm in Spock's expression that makes her admit that Jim was correct, she should have fixed this so long ago. After all this time of wishing she’d been able to get away some place where she wouldn’t have to see Spock’s face every day, kicking herself for not realizing that that was the risk she’d taken being with a member of the crew, she realizes things might have been a lot less hard on her if she just hadn’t let talking to him hurt so much.

That's the same day she gets an impromptu cabin call from an anxious Jim, who immediately puts a PADD chip into her hand when she answers.

"It's everything Spock, he—the other Spock—sent me," he quickly explains, interrupting her question. He almost seems out of breath. "They're my logs. From where he came from, there are hundreds of them, I'm not supposed to...peek, or anything, it's just for research, in case of emergencies, but I keep...cheating, and it's really fucking me up, and—Could you please just hold on to it? Promise you'll only give it back to me if it's for a very good reason?"

"I...yeah," she stammers, slowly taking it and setting it on her little table next to the door.

"Thank you, Uhura."

"Wait—"

He's started back, but he slows and turns to look back at her.

She's leaning into her doorway, nervously smiling and giving a little scoff. Her expression slowly turns soft in the ensuing silence and he takes the few steps back, and follows her inside, and she pulls on his shirt until she's standing flush against him, waiting for the slightly sheepish smile before she kisses him.




He comes by when she and Spock are sitting together the next day and Spock is not so much playing chess with her as giving her suggestions on how to possibly beat Chekov. Jim asks him if he can go over some reports he filled out that day for the upcoming trial they're appearing at.

"Certainly. Are there any specific concerns?"

"No. Not really..."

"I will contact you within the evening," Spock replies, a little too simply.

Jim opens his mouth as if to say something else, then squints in uncertainty, scratching a hand at the back of his neck as he then takes a quick survey of the game on the table. He blankly mutters to Uhura, "Don't fall for that 'C'-five," just as he turns to walk away.

Spock's eyebrow lifts at her as she seems a little annoyed at the suggestion, now very uncertain what her next move will be. He apparently heard it, and adds, "That would be a wise course of action. However, if you were to—"

"Don't tell me how to win, tell me how I was about to lose," she says, insisting on the more instructive explanation, which he pauses and then gives her, in much detail.

And then they start a new game. Uhura is slightly tenser in her scrutiny than before; she's had a slightly irritated demeanor ever since Jim came by the table. He notices. "If something is taxing on your concentration, Nyota, you have little hope of winning."

She just responds by momentarily leaning back, giving him a tired look that means he probably knows exactly what's bothering her.

Spock moves one of his rooks, and his expression stays fixed sort of anxiously on the squares, but his thoughts are somewhere else. "I was wondering," he states, slowly, "if I could ask you a query."

She says, "About Jim?"

He looks up at her and barely gives a nod.

She makes her next curt move before she replies, "The answer is yes."




"You need to make up with him."

"Mrm," he grumbles.

"...Jim."

With a sigh, Jim emerges from the bathrobe she's wearing, rests his ear to her chest for a moment and then drops onto his back next to her with a grudgingly sobered expression. She turns over to rest her arm loosely along his stomach.

After a considering moment he just manages to respond: “I’m not exactly on the outs with him.”

“How long has it been now?...It’s all wrong, you two being this way.”

“I’m glad you two are talking again, at least,” Jim mumbles under a hand itching at his face. Quietly, he finally asks, “How is he?”

“...Lonely?"

"If it wasn't you I was talking to...I'd go on about how fun it was thinking he was dead or dying and practically being mocked for it later. But it is you I'm talking to. And I'm kind of amazed you don't even want to whack him one."

"You'd be surprised," she intercepts a little grimly. "I don't know, maybe one of these days he'll miss you badly enough to sort of apologize. He may not even be sure what it is he needs to apologize for."

"Vulcans do not apologize," Jim flatly states.

"Sooner or later you're going to have to realize it wasn't completely his fault, you know."

He sighs, looking a little bitter, and she thinks he's missing what she means. She keeps remembering the way she kind of snapped at him before, when they were figuring out what was happening to Spock, acting like this is what he was getting into being so close to him. Like melding with him was just playing with fire. She can't really deny that she felt that way at the time, but it's hardly fair now.

"That letter from the ambassador," she starts to explain, "it had this whole practically encyclopedic section in it—It's far too taboo for them to publish anything about it, so he must have written it himself. Maybe he just figured I'd want him to be thorough, you know?"

Jim half-chuckles.

"Anyway, there was something in there about how married Vulcan couples will...sometimes use these herbal drugs to induce it at an ideal time. And I know a lot of plants they used to grow on Vulcan are used all over for pharmaceutical purposes..."

"...Yeah."

She sighs. "The point is, he had every reason to assume, even when he did assume it might happen, that he'd have more time to figure something out. And if you don't think it was tough for him being caught off guard, he's going to have a great time explaining to some how he basically had to half ass it with somebody he isn't even betrothed to. And severing that bond is a whole other taboo, they have probably an hour-long ritual for it. How long did it take with you? When did that even happen, I wasn't expecting you to no longer be linked afterwards..."

"It was like ripping off a bandage."

"...That fast?" She furrows her brow.

"Everything was fast," he cuts off simply, but then he explains, more hesitantly. "When, uh, when we were done...I was panicked, I knew it was just going to be humiliating, and he just hears me thinking this mess of 'Stop stop I want out.' I didn't exactly ask. I was just freaked out. He thought I was probably violated enough already, so he didn't think to protest, he just did it."

She looks at him just kind of sadly, almost with a look if disappointment, and flatly echoes, "Humiliating."

"Huh," he laughs nervously. "There are things I'm too proud to let him know. I don't know how much he's even going to remember since he was all..." He made a hand gesture vaguely illustrating some blind mental chaos.

Uhura stares forward, slowly realizes, "He must have felt immensely guilty, if he didn't even know...God, Jim, why wouldn't you tell him...?"

"The only person who has ever been seriously involved with Spock came to me unrecognizably fucked up the night it was over." He looks at her briefly, meaningfully. "Even putting aside how much that kinda freaked me out, you expect me to take advantage of you and then go off to reap the benefits on the other side too?"

"Did you ever consider how that might have been exactly how I wanted you to feel about it?"

Slightly troubled by the suggestion, he carefully says, "Yeah, but not the way you intended me to. Out of curiosity, did you?"

"I don't know. I've thought about it a lot. And I don't know."

"You think about it, huh?"

"Maybe."

"I don't."

They fall into a long silence, and she's looking over at him, thinking through everything she's just been told. "...What was it like?"

He leans up a little to look down at her, making sure she really is asking what he thinks she is.

"With him. What was it like?"

The fact that she dares to ask seems to merit some form of response; he uncomfortably shifts it around in his mind for a while. Finally he says, "Half of it was horrible. Half of it wasn't. You ever have a dream that's so good you wish you hadn't had it at all?"

She already knows what he means, and she's looking away as if shyly apologetic that she even asked. She sits up against her headboard, crossing her arms over her chest. He reaches up and brushes a cheering touch down her cheek before she realizes she looks a bit distant.

He sits up too and clears his throat. "So tell me."

"Tell you what?"

He shrugs. "Anything, I don't know. About you and him. I'm curious too. How you guys got together, all that."

She sighs in and out, pressing her fingers to her lips as she thinks back to something far and untouchable. "You pretty much were there when we did. I mean sort of." In response to his look she says, "Of course we had a relationship before then, but...The only times it crossed a certain line it only happened cause I was too much in denial of my feelings to realize what I was doing around him. I knew I was his favorite student. And then it was clear to everybody I was his favorite former student, and we...kind of had this uncomfortable conversation about how maybe we needed to back off. But neither of us actually took it to the point of implying that the presumptions were completely incorrect, and God, my hands were shaking when I got back to my room, I remember playing that conversation over and over again in my head. The actual realization that he maybe didn't feel nothing for me was almost terrifying. I wasn't ready for that."

She pauses to laugh at herself a little.

"I remember frantically comming my mother telling her I was falling for this man I knew I couldn't be happy with and I don't even remember what she told me I should do. And then Nero happened and none of it mattered anymore. We were in it," she concluded, shrugging simply.

Jim is still with thoughts for the next moment, like he isn't sure if he wants to say anything. After a minute, though, her own ruminations result in an angular, unexpected thought that catches a bit awkwardly into the silence.

“He would always tell me how I affected him. He would tell me, and I knew. I knew how he cared for me.” Her lips pressed together. “But at some point I didn't really feel it anymore. I know I really sensed it once, I'm sure I did. But that feels like such a long time ago."

Next to her Jim leans forward a little, sighing, rubbing his eyes into his fingers for a moment.

“And then there’s you. It's like the opposite of that with you...” Nyota’s voice now is crisp but just barely connected to any focus in her eyes. “Maybe, I don’t know, some part of me knew it might be something totally different the night after it was over. I can't imagine...but yes, maybe that’s why I pushed so hard when you weren’t having it, to see if you’d give in when you knew better. You know, I wanted to be worth being as reckless as I was with him, or something.”

He can hardly believe any of what he’s just heard. His exhaustion mulls his astonishment into a closed dismay. She nearly senses that she's remarking on something in himself he wasn't even aware of.

“I feel—” Her voice trails off with a shake of her head. “With you, am I ever going to know?”

He finally looks at her, defeated and hesitant and confused, and very quietly replies, "But you never asked me for anything like—"

"No, no. I know..." She clutches his hand, as if trying to tell him it's nothing he ever does wrong, exactly, but it doesn't seem to make him feel better about it.

There's something bittersweet, gently fleeting and possessing, when he leans over then and kisses her, full and pure and long, tasting something he loves for the lonely sake of it. And he very slowly peels his mouth away and lingers to whisper, "I should go."

He shifts off of the bed and puts his pants and shirt back on. When he looks at her again, she's tying her robe and standing up after him with a tired smile, not meeting his eyes for too long at a time. There is a comfortable predictability when she goes over to him, leans up and in to give him a kiss on the cheek, high up against the bone. All he does is let a hand glide her hair out of her eyes with an easy enough smile.

“We both have shore leave tomorrow,” he finally points out casually.

“Yeah...I don’t—”

“I know, I know.” He nods. “But we might run into each other. I’m just saying, if we do. Let’s just...try to go a day without actually talking about him, okay?”

She wants to laugh. “You actually think we can?"

"I guess we'll find out." Shrugging, he returns a smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes, and then with a final quick squeeze of her hand, he turns to leave.




"Nee-nee."

She rolls her eyes across the table at Chekov. "You're always calling me that now."

"Vatever gets your attention, look, it's your turn."

She shakes her head, coming out of her daze with a mutter of apology. After a second of examining their game, though, she just sighs in slight annoyance. "You're kicking my ass here, why do I even bother?"

" 'ey, Pavel!"

Chekov exaggerates a pestered look at Sulu a table over.

"Are you taking leave?"

"No, ah've had too many sick days."

"That sucks," Uhura mutters.

"You never hang out vith us anyway, vhat do you care?"

She flicks an unused game piece across the table at him in response to the teasing.

"Blue sand, man!" Hikaru exclaims. "How can you miss that?"

Uhura furrows her brow. "Blue? Must be some crazy geology, I'll have to ask Spock about it before we go down."

Pavel is cocking his eyebrow, giving her a meaningful look. She shakes her head, only a little annoyed.

"We're not back together."

"I—I did not say anything!"

But it is not the kind of shore leave that makes her want to question how the sand is blue, when it cushions and melts between her toes, sticking to her legs under soaked pants hiked up to her knees. The late afternoon is all laughing and giddy screams, feeling like there's nobody for miles around, her and Jim's arms sometimes clinging around each other like the soft slap of damp cloth, and their legs are too lazy to swim.

What it is when they do this is not pronounced, but as they're walking back and she tastes some of the salt water in her mouth and still feels an imprint of Jim's fingers twining comfortably through hers, she feels a sobering pang of bittersweet mingling at the edges of the day's dizzy happiness, a whirlwind of something ending and starting over at the same time. Like they're taking something and putting it down and leaving it underfoot, grounding but not burying. Christine Chapel cocks a slightly astonished look at the amused, easy sight of them when they approach the patio table where a handful of officers are playing cards, but Uhura makes no move to pretend it's anything it isn't, asks if she and Jim can join in.

Scotty is running some tests on the new navigation systems in the shuttles, so some of the officers opt for a leisurely trip with a view instead of beaming back up. It's not surprising that Spock has volunteered to help with the diagnostics instead of enjoying a shore leave, but Uhura and Jim exchange looks at noticing that McCoy doesn't hesitate to comfortably strike up a chat with Spock as soon as he's sitting behind the pilot's chair. McCoy has been complaining about the strangeness of Kirk and Spock's apparent tiff ever since it all started and probably hates to worry the rift. But it puts it quite out in the open, that McCoy has always cared about Spock and would miss talking to him, and Uhura thinks the surreal quality of it can only emphasize what's missing.

Sitting next to her, Jim sits quietly and looks almost miserable.

The pilot abruptly veers them up when Spock is far in the back checking one of the screens; his body is jerked over and he trips a little, and his grasp falls bluntly to Jim's shoulder to steady himself. A hand clumsily pushes at one hip to help Spock's balance, and as he's straightening back up he just barely utters, "Sorry."

"'t's okay," Jim mutters just as automatically.

The strangeness of both their words doesn't go missed in Spock's eyes, and for only a second he looks down at Jim, his hand on the captain's headrest. And he turns to head back up to his seat.




It all could have gone even worse if Uhura didn't have a tendency to unconsciously eavesdrop on transmissions when her shift feels slow. This particular day would be a lot more interesting if she was actually in a position to interact with the Vulcan merchants who they come across quite by coincidence on their way to inquire about some dilithium purchases in the same sector. The conversation between Spock and their leader that occurs on the bridge is of course a bit stiff and too formal. On the other hand, a conversation she's picking up some only slightly distorted fragments of over one of the other ship's channels seems to be somewhat lewd in nature.

It takes her a second to even properly react, and then Uhura goes a bit still before putting on a face of 'Well, how peculiar' and turning to call Jim over.

"Sir," she says quietly, "I know this is probably presumptuous, but I've just caught what I could have sworn was a...Romulan word, over the channel..."

"Uh, Lieutenant..." He's leaning an arm against the console just next to her, and now he narrows his eyes and laughs a bit cynically. "You may have saved us a lot of trouble before by telling the difference between Vulcan and Romulan dialects, but I don't think I need to be notified every time you overhear anybody using a Romulan word..."

She leans back into her chair, glancing over in a look that might appear to be embarrassment to the sharp-eared visitor who cocks a brief glance her way from down next to the navigation chair, then looks back at the viewscreen. "Sorry, Captain, I understand," she replies flatly, but then she's looking at Spock, who is now observing from his station as if picking up on something being wrong.

Jim catches Spock's glance.

He reaches up to his head, as if he has an itch, just briefly touching at his temple under his hair.

The visitor is asking Jim a question about their plotting system, which he casually and politely answers, while Spock crosses the bridge with his hands primly behind his back and with a guarded understanding in his expression; Uhura realizes quickly enough what it means.

When he reaches Jim and Nyota, he starts asking her to do some routine check, and in the first chance they can be certain no one will be looking for a few seconds, he reaches his hand up and touches it to the points on Jim's face.

Uhura is tossing an anxious glance across the bridge as it happens; all she perceives of it is a reflexive intake of breath, Spock's attention turning in sudden but steady awareness. And then, when she looks up, of Jim's composure for a second just stumbling forward closer into Spock's space as something seems to bounce through. The back of her chair sinks under the clutch of Jim's right hand as his other reaches at its own instinct to clutch Spock's wrist when it lowers, just grabbing for a flinch as if he needs it to stand, then letting go.

There is an emotion searing in Jim's eyes that he quickly shakes out of, and the other two are equally focused on figuring out a way to talk, probably all summing it down to the best of the small number of soundproof areas in the ship. Uhura makes a decision and gets up casually, heading for the turbolift. Jim is following as non-obviously as possible as Spock already formulates some excuse to the visitor to lead him elsewhere. They're on the lift together and it's hissing closed, and she turns and whispers, "Formal lounge?"

"Bingo." It's private, but not too obvious, and not a place anybody's likely to barge in.

It also harbors some extra phasers beneath a wall panel, but not everyone knows that.

They get there without looking like they're actually walking anywhere together, unfortunately not passing any members of security on the way. As soon as they're alone Jim says, "Computer, locate Commander Spock."

"Turbolift C."

"Good, he's already got him waylaid."

"Good?" she repeats almost mockingly. "He probably knows something's going on..."

Jim blinks. "If you—I mean, why did you—"

"I notified you right in front of them in case they caught their mistake, so they wouldn't suspect we're planning any resistance. Thank God you took the cue. You could've easily put the suspicion on only a couple of them or..." She trails off with an overwhelmed expression at the close call.

"Good thinking." He's kind of smiling, slowly. "...You think in some other universe somewhere you could have been my First?"

She lets out the tiniest laugh.

In the next silence, she's surprisingly immediate in asking him, "What did you see?"

Jim has started lightly pacing, brushing him thumb along his jaw anxiously. His glance is slowly interrupted into surprise as he realizes what she's asking.

"Is it gonna be okay? You and him?"

There is a blue clarity of emotion in Jim's eyes; he opens his mouth to reply something, but then his glance goes to the door.

"He's about here. Computer, activate discrete locking of the door after Commander Spock enters." And in a short moment the door slides open, Spock walks in with a smooth stance, and it hisses to a lock behind him.

"So there's no way at all to privately notify security?" Uhura immediately asks, somewhat already knowing the answer.

"Not...really, not with their hearing. We need to try to contain all the intruders as much as we can first, but we'll go on alert as soon as I think security's able to gather their numbers without any trouble. With that physical strength against whatever crew is close to them, we might as well consider them armed. Spock, you've calculated the likelihood that we're only dealing with one impostor versus an entire team of Romulans, I'm sure..." He gets a nod but no specifics, and grimaces with a tilt of his head. "You don't send in one man to do an assassination, maybe if you're Klingon, but it's not really their style."

"Assassination?" Uhura repeats.

"You have evaluated that someone is attempting to arrest or, less likely, execute you," Spock confirms, not in total disagreement.

"—Of course," Nyota's briskly interrupting as if coming out of her own evaluation, and with a little punctuating kick of her boot to the floor she paces out of the triangle of their stances, her arms crossed in irritation. She comes back indicating at Jim with an emphatic annoyance. "You're on your way to testify at a trial against a Romulan terrorist, in less than two weeks—Didn't either of you think of this? Did you not even check for a trade verification?"

Jim just shakes his head, flatly says, "I was off my game. I fucked up." Uhura doesn't see any kind of reaction in Spock, but Jim double-takes a look in his direction and then argues with something unspoken, more broadly insistent as he directly snaps at him, "I'm the captain. I'm responsible."

"I will not remark, then, on the fact that neither I nor Nyota distinguished any trace of a Romulan accent in their dialect. Clearly, Captain, we are dealing with impeccably practiced actors."

"Yeah, and they're probably somehow associated with the same sons of bitches we dealt with several weeks ago..."

Spock then notices that Uhura is crouching down onto the floor next to the wall, and why. He looks at Jim. "You imparted to the lieutenant that you keep what I've said before is a non-regulation abundance of phaser weapons hidden in this part of the ship..."

"Yeah." Jim shrugs at Spock's narrow knowing look. "I did."

It only takes her half a minute to find the place where the crack between a couple of the tiles has a little latch in it, and snaps it forward quickly. A cushioned compartment whirs open. "How are we going to conceal these?" she asks.

"Pockets?"

With a smirk, she shakes her head in mild irritation, flips the safety on for the first one she's picked up and shoves it down under her neckline and in her bra where it creates some weird bulk but should be obtrusive enough. As she hands another phaser to Jim, she notices him slightly smiling.

Jim and Spock settle for the waists of their pants, the captain thankful as ever that tucking in shirts isn't formal regulation. "Okay, well," he mutters, "hopefully we won't actually need to hide them for that long. I've located the visitors—A couple are in the observation deck, Mavok—if that's even his name—is on the move somewhere, and the two others are in the engine room but probably moving soon. It would be best if we all separated—"

"Jim, I disagree," Spock interrupted, "if you are in fact the target—"

"Exactly the reason I should stay in plain sight, go on the move for the leader while both of you take the others."

An eyebrow lofts. "I would not assume that they are planning on being discrete simply because they boarded the ship under pretenses."

"Maybe not, but the reason they've even waited this long is probably because they're delaying till the ship gets more isolated to make any aggressive move. We have to assume our best chance to get them with their pants down is to disarm them before they know that we know, make them stay their course. If you see one, stun them, don't warn them or try to ask them anything, just do it, and get them thrown in the brig, discretely. Understood? Now, I want the two of you to go in around the hall to the observation deck first, but work together, I don't want either of you taking on two at a time."

Uhura is nodding, but biting her lip uncertainly. She's only a little bothered that Jim notices and adds, "I've seen you in simulations, Uhura, you'll be fine."

She hopes he's right, since this is a rather unexpected need for her standard skills in the security category and she's never had her aim depended on quite like this before. But Spock's expression mirrors Jim's lack of anxiety about what they're about to do, and it steadies her mind.

The three head for one turbolift and ride the quick drop to the corridor side of the main floor, and Jim leaves telling them both, "Stay sharp for me." Then Spock and Nyota give each other a glance before taking out their phasers, just before the lift opens and they leave simultaneously, in opposite directions, their motions catching little attention in the smooth sense of purpose they both carry. One officer narrows a slightly alarmed look at the weapon she has at her side, gets a quieting wave of a motion from her free hand.

As she nears the point in the corridor that curves around to where the door to the observatory lies, she hugs to the wall, hitching her phaser up slightly in front of her in case she's likely to catch any of the intruders departing.

"Computer," she mumbles at the nearest console, "locate—"

But, oh, oh, uh-oh: She hears a couple words from up ahead that she identifies to the member she heard talking to Jim on the bridge earlier, and backs up flush to the wall for a moment, confirming that the voice is approaching.

"Lieutenant?"

Dammit.

"Why are you armed with a—"

She cuts off in the middle of trying to interrupt the ensign, resolving to just go for it: She leaps into a run, phaser held out and pushing past a couple shoulders until the other ship's commander comes into view walking along next to a yeoman wearing a smile he is no longer reciprocating. And in the time it takes just to point and shoot, he gets out only one or two words in Romulan that she doesn't have time to process, and when he goes down stunned she's letting one curse loose, knowing he was probably on some kind of communicator.

"What the hell?..."

To the nearest officer she just snaps, "Get a security team to put him in the brig, and don't make a scene."

She jogs down the rest of the hall, and she's speaking some broken Terran Latin when she comms to Spock, Just got Mavok, but they might have a warning now. The foreign language earns her another perplexed glance from a member of engineering.

"Understood," comes a faint reply over the comm. She's nearing the observation deck, hears footfalls she's pretty sure are Spock's coming around the corner, and pretty soon she's got her back pressed just next to the observation deck door, and Spock comes up to take a similar stance at the other side. The same engineering ensign is wise enough to stop coming around the way, thinking to avoid causing the door to open even with a look of utter confusion.

She and Spock look at each other, then nod.

They turn and go through the entrance quickly, wielding arms outstretching as they bound solidly beyond the threshold, and Spock stuns one Romulan. The one Romulan.

She barely has a chance to register any confusion before a lurching force pulls her back; she's quickly writhing as the one who was surely waiting for them next to the entrance sharply cramps her movements with the ease of his or her strength. Uhura lets out one resistant grunt, and then she feels something tap against her neck.

"Shoot him. Shoot him!" she snaps. But Spock is hesitating, his motions paused and helpless; she lets out an infuriated yelp, wriggling her glance down to see that the thing held against her neck seems to be a kind of injecting device, and just angrily yells, "Damn it!"

"What is that?" Spock demands icily.

The couple other officers in the observation deck seem to understand what's going on then, because Vulcans surely never snicker.

Then the alarms start beeping, the red blinking through the borders on the walls; Spock and Nyota exchange alert looks of mixed understanding and puzzlement. Behind her the Romulan is having an irritated and unsure reaction, and seems to take it out on his grasp of her a little. "Ow," she complains.

Then, before he's done with her and letting her drop, she feels the pricking at her neck.

She manages only one step.

The floor slams into her before she even registers the sensation of total paralysis. Disoriented, she attempts to look around, move her head, move her legs, move anything. Move a finger. She can't.

She feels cold. A tickling iciness washes through her, feeling worse for her incapacity to even shiver, and by now she's infuriated that she can't move and can't see anything, she doesn't seem mentally weakened yet, she just can't move.

After what could only be seconds but feels like minutes, movement buzzes around her head; her body is pulled. But her eyelids are half closed and she only sluggishly registers anything visually. Her senses seem partly intact: She can feel the numb-buzz bouncing of her rubber heels against the floor. She's being dragged? Carried?

Yes. Her knees are wobbling against each other. She's missing a boot. And she's cold still. Her hearing is swelling back from the soupy fuzz, but...

Is that Jim? Is Jim the one carrying her? How could he—?

What she hears is a peeling in and out of continuous, urgent commands, and then just, "Spock!" A more direct shout, followed by the sirening out of his voice again. Wait...

It isn't Jim, it's a communicator. Spock's communicator. Spock is carrying her. She can't move. She's cold. Spock is...

"—Spock! Spock, are you—?!"

"Put her down, put her down!" McCoy. Oh, good, McCoy. Oh, God, what the hell is going on, she can't even think where she is, the floor is cold against her elbows...

Now conscious of the identity of the arms clutching around her now, spilling her gently down, she's able to register the slightly unusual intensity of his breathing, a bunched tension in it, and why isn't he answering...?

A couple minutes seem to pass, a hand brushing clinically against her pulse. She starts to concentrate on getting her eyes to open, but a pain is beginning to bite through her insides...

"Spock."

She registers now, dimly, the actual nature of the repeated shouting that comes through as if dispersed among more urgent needs, pictures the captain attending with an air of tightly coiled thoughts to the immediate panic, then back again, saying just Spock's name. It seems in itself a substitute for wording a question the other already knows would be asked.

Then at a quieter, more unsettled timbre: "...Nyota?"

"She..." Spock is trailing off as she feels a hypospray go into her, and in only seconds, a tingling spread of motor control. Yes. Yes. Her eyes can open, she can do that. Spock is explaining, "She appears to have been injected with a poison..."

"Jim, I'm right here," McCoy interrupts. He goes on to explain something about her vitals, something Jim needs to know, meaning this has probably been done to other people. She tests her vocal chords and manages a peeling hum of a note, and her blurry vision sees Spock's head tilt down.

"I—"

The one word interrupts McCoy's explanation to Jim; she hears from him, "Good, good. Talk to me, honey."

"Hurts. My stomach..." She manages that efficient complaint before she realizes it's getting worse and very fast, lets out a wincing noise. She wonders if whatever they gave her that made her able to move also lessened her tolerance of the pain. She groans, "God—And why does my—My hand hurts, is it..."

"Mr. Spock," she hears McCoy scold.

She realizes that Spock's hand is clamped tightly around hers the moment he lets go. And then there's another vaccine, and then it hurts a little less. And then she's out.




She opens her eyes to see the ceiling of the mess hall.

Her head is rested on something that isn't very soft, but it makes her able to look around without really lifting her head, and she takes in a somewhat bustled mess of many people sitting around, seemingly too many. A couple people over, she hears the tones of people whispering, and the feeling that they are trying not to be heard makes her not like the idea of speaking up, so she just lies there until she realizes the person directly in front of her is McCoy.

She nudges her socked foot into him; he looks, then in a very swift but casual way, sidles across the floor till he's next to her, very quietly reaching somewhere for yet another hypospray as he leans over her and mutters, "We're all stuck in here until Jim agrees to go with them. That's their plan, at least. They keep injecting this into more people...Everybody's fine now, but if I can't get to anything in medical before a day is up..."

"How long have I been—?"

"Only about eight hours."

She blinks as she tests her ability to move various parts of her body. "...'Go with them'," she hazily repeats.

"As in give himself up. They don't want such a strong presence speaking against their guy at the hearing, and this trial is urgent enough there's a chance it would commence without us..." The doctor shakes his head as he surreptitiously prepares the vaccine. "Honestly, I'm surprised it took him over a year for anybody out there to want him dead. How are you feeling?"

"I feel like I swallowed a couple razor blades and I'm still a little cold, but besides that, I'm okay," she says. In reference to the cold, she's registered the feel of extra fabric, and now peeks down at her body to notice a blue uniform shirt put loosely on her; and under it, a layer of gold. Her mind tenses around that fact, approaching an edge of emotion she isn't prepared for at the moment.

She hears light padding footsteps approaching, quite fast, and then just as someone drops quickly down to her she manages a weak movement of her head. Jim is appearing over her, both relieved and concerned, just whispering, "Hey."

"Hey," she replies. "You're not gonna do anything heroic, are you?"

"Depends." That's all he says for a moment, but then he shrugs and says at a barely audible whisper as he pretends to be occupied with something else, "We've got kind of a plan. I was going to give myself up right off the bat, but Spock wouldn't have it."

She's finally checking a look around her, spotting the two enemies guarding the door who could probably keenly hear almost any conversation in the room. She notices Spock sitting halfway across the mess hall now helping McCoy attend to someone, asks, "How many others got attacked?"

"We think only three," Jim replies, and all the frustration is apparent in his expression. It's not just the injuries but the general invasion, the fact that they were managing to make him a hostage on his own ship. She can see the anger tightening through his mouth, bleeding into his words. "Once Scotty gets the controls back on..."

"Is Chekov stuck in here?" she whispers with a look around.

"No," Jim replies, understanding why she'd ask.

"Our chances are pretty good, don't you think?" She shrugs wryly. "What's the plan so far on this end?"

"Creating a diversion," Jim says. "I'm gonna pick a fight, make it look like I'm attempting to steal one of their vaccines."

She narrows an almost grimly amused look at him.

"As long as Spock gets a chance to do a neck pinch on either of them..."

"You're gonna get your ass kicked, Jim."

"Yeah, well, it's the least I can do," he replies flatly.

A pause settles over them, and she idly watches Jim watching Spock for the moment; his expression is somehow calm in the middle of the mess as his eyes follow the other, and she wonders if their mental link is still there. She sort of doubts that they'll be keeping that up again, even if it helped with a few things today. It doesn't seem like they should really need it anymore.

She finally asks. "How did you know?"

He blinks down at her. "...What?"

"When I got hurt. You were asking Spock about me. But nobody explained to you what happened. How did you..."

His eyes slightly melt into a raw intensity against hers, but the rest of his expression is light, as he moves around Spock's loose shirt to try to warm her neck. "You don't believe a damn thing I ever say, do you?" he asks, without looking directly at her. After a moment, in a voice low and brittle even for the hushed tone in the room, he mutters with simple certainty, "I felt it."

Her arm, with its sparse amount of strength, reaches out; her hand digs at his stomach just under the ribs. "...There?"

He's weakened by that motion into a soft fervor and he reaches for her hand and clutches it, holds it up and kisses her palm close against his chin, and he just replies, "You scared the shit out of us."

And suddenly she's full up, ten different emotions in her warring against the physical pain, and losing. When she looks up at Jim his eyes have only deepened in their emotional color.

"You know," he declares, "I really fucking hate it when you cry."

She manages a defiant smile. "I bit my tongue this time."

Spock is coming over then, situating himself on her left so that the two of them can help her sit up a bit against the wall while they pass their hidden mutterings, disputing with their natural rhythm about the plan, the back-up plan, the potential actions of the crew outside. She knows it will be okay. She feels whatever is between them cascade through her now, warming her slightly. Later it will be noise and chaos again, more time in sick bay, paperwork and communications jamming through too many signals and eventually somebody clapping Jim on the back with a half-effectual note of praise, the ship safe and returning gallantly to oblivion for more of the same. And somewhere out there is still firm ground, and time for something sleeping in her chest she can't yet name, space for breathing; she tells herself this as her head helplessly lolls to the side on a shoulder and she manages in the middle of the quiet crisis to make a spare joking mutter of "Permission to land, Captain?"

And she hears a distracted but pleased mutter of "Always," before she falls asleep.






/end/

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I'm kind of surprised that you were worried about this fic being too depressing overall, because everything actually feels reasonably resolved, even if it's still a little ambiguous what will happen now. Yes, you've officially invented or at least perfected the "pre-threesome" genre, LOL.

It still seems like there's a million different ideas/interpretations you can take from the dynamic between Kirk/Uhura/Spock in this, but what I guess I was especially struck by in this last part is how you convey Kirk/Uhura's relationship as having basically everything more passionate and carefree and intensely physical that they both know they can never really have with Spock. It almost seems like it should be based on something kind of unhealthy, yet with the way you handle it it seems not unhealthy at all.

Want the companion piece. Now. Hehe.

Oh, jeez, I already know I'm about to write too long a comment.
I was never actually worried about this being depressing overall, there was just this point while I was writing it that the Kirk/Uhura thing specifically took me by surprise. The whole phase of their relationship that makes up the middle of this part struck me so differently in the writing than in the planning of it, like it just got ahead of me and what was originally a sort of very casual but caring thing that had the potential to be something more actually turned into my realization that they really were starting to fall in love and even when I was leaving everything so open-ended, writing the whole add-on to the beach scene that wasn't even a definite ending to things kind of made me go "WHYYY?"

how you convey Kirk/Uhura's relationship as having basically everything more passionate and carefree and intensely physical that they both know they can never really have with Spock. It almost seems like it should be based on something kind of unhealthy, yet with the way you handle it it seems not unhealthy at all. If there is any right interpretation to get out of this fic, judging from the kinda sexual entendre that is the title, that's probably it. Of course I'm open to the possibility that there's an irony there, since I do bring in pon farr and Spock is all squeezy-on-Uhura's-hand and making reckless choices about mind melds and maybe Vulcans do play basketball, I don't know. As for the actual specific nature of every permutation of this triangle, whether it's sexual or romantic or platonic or casually sexual or whatever, that is pretty much up to the reader, but I would hope by the end of the fic one gets the idea that any one pairing of the whole set benefits from some intimate inclusion of the third party, and I'm sure some people will think it's unhealthy, but it is what it is.

And um...getting that companion piece to you soon.

Lovely. As is par with the series: the action is action-y and the lovemakin' is molten lava hot. But, there was one thing that struck me most of all (and gave me a big happy). During your quiet moments, between the action and the lovemakin' there was...subtext. And, not the more obvious romantic angst subtext, it was this lonely, grieving, painfully cathartic in its precise containment, real life subtext. It grounded the characters nicely, it did what subtext is supposed to do and added a delicious amount of depth, it was more than a "will they or won't they" it was about the different permutations of love: are they in love or do they just love each other, are they acting as conduits because they both love the same other person, if they are in love together, will they even allow themselves to be in love? And it was wrapped up well, with the loose ends tied, but still slightly frayed around the edges.

So, I liked it...if you can't tell.

Thank you so much. It's lovely and also useful to get such a thoughtfully written comment, especially on such a complex and potentially confusing fic, and I feel like you embraced a lot of the nuance and emotion I was trying to capture, so <3 <3

I really liked this story overall, the emotions that everyone struggled with (yep, even Spock), and the development of the whatever-it-was between Uhura and Kirk (deeper friendship with casual sex in? an actual relationship? both and more?) was handled so beautifully and gradually, and even through their uncertainty there was this whole serene feel to the story...

and then, in this last bit, action hits where I was least expecting it, and I get these urgent, anxious few minutes of reading before the lovely ending (that-is-not-really-and-ending, because there's tons of potential there), which brings everything together quite nicely.

I think I'm falling more in love with your style of writing the more I read of it. :)

*GRINS* Thank yoouu. It really means a lot to hear from somebody who's read some of my other stuff because I'm feeling like in this fandom I'm doing something pretty new whenever I start a new fic and I'm kind of testing the waters every single time I post something.

well, I'd say your water testing is going very very well. :0)

God. Write this forever? Please?

Darling, if only I could :) Thanks.

I'm really kind of blown away by this fic - the complexity of the relationships, and how subtly and intelligently they're all drawn. All of the characters are just achingly real, brilliant and flawed and loving.

I read a lot of threesome fic in this and other fandoms where it seems the threesome's just happening for porny fun, or to resolve ship wars, and while there's nothing wrong with that, when there are real reasons for the OT3 to work in ways that individual pairings wouldn't, separately, it's so much more compelling. This fic knocks that out of the park, and it's really wonderful.

Bookmarking, and going to look up more of your fic.

Thanks so much! I pretty much feel exactly the same way about the potential of threesomes in fic and it means a lot to hear that someone got a lot out of this fic that I was feeling when I wrote it.

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