Nyota didn't get it. Len was smart and handsome and kind, with a killer smile and that lovely whiskey accent. Surely he could do better than Kirk. James T-for-Tomcat Kirk, who slept with a third of the student body before deciding to settle down with Len. Most people wondered what was so special about Len to make the famous Kirk settle down. Nyota wondered why Len bothered with a lowlife like Kirk.
She'd asked him again and again, over coffee and exam studying at the Academy, then over late-night ice cream and contraband alcohol on the Enterprise, but he'd just smile this secret smile and shake his head. Then he'd ask her about "that green-blooded hobgoblin of yours", and Nyota would smile wryly. How could she explain true love, as sappy as it sounded? But certainly Kirk wasn't capable of that kind of feeling.
But then they went on the mission to Epsilon Theta III. It was a big landing party: Kirk, Spock, Nyota herself, Len, and half a dozen members of Security. It was supposed to be peaceful--meet and greet with the locals, with Nyota there to translate and Len to take a look at some plague that was sweeping the population of the colony they were visiting. But of course it didn't go that way.
The beamed down into an ambush, and there was some kind of buffer that kept them from beaming back out. They dove for cover, but a phaser winged her arm...and caught Len full in the chest.
"Allow me to carry the doctor," Spock said, as Kirk knelt to shift Len into a fireman's carry.
"I got it, Spock," Kirk said tightly. "Just get everyone to cover and contact the ship. Uhura, with me."
They managed to get to the treeline, Security and Spock on their heels. Len was moaning, which Nyota took as a good sign--it meant he was still alive. They kept running until they reached a small cave. "This will be a defensible position," Spock said, and Kirk nodded.
He carefully laid Len down on the ground, wincing when Len cried out. Kirk took Len's medical bag and started shuffling through it. "Come on," he muttered, setting aside a tricorder and a handful of hypos. "I know you always overpack. Where's the dermal regenerator?"
"Side...side pouch," Len gasped out, and Kirk dug it out. "Take care of Nyota first."
"Like hell, Len," Nyota said, at the same time Kirk said, "Bones!"
"Triage, Bones," Kirk continued. "You need this more than she does right now."
"You're biased," Bones said, with that little smile.
"Sure I am," Kirk said easily, smiling back helplessly. "But it's also the right decision. No offense, Lieutenant, but Bones is in worse shape than you are."
"None taken, Captain."
"Now hush," Kirk said, but his tone was gentle. He pulled aside the wreckage of Len's shirts and applied the dermal regenerator, making soft soothing noises and letting Len squeeze his hand when it hurt. Kirk had surprisingly good bedside manner, Nyota was forced to admit.
The regenerator ran out of charge before he was done, but it was enough to stabilize Len until Enterprise could get them. Kirk sealed some mediplastic over the wound, then stripped out of his outer shirt, helping Len put it on. Next, Kirk focused on wrapping up Nyota's arm, old-fashioned antiseptic and gauze and a hypo for the pain. He kept hushing Len, who was trying to sit up and watch, but there was a fond smile on Kirk's face as he did so. "Bones, so help me, I will tie you down if I have to. You're in no condition to be moving around."
Spock was in serious, low-voiced communication with the ship, and the security team was guarding the entrance to their little cave, so Nyota decided to stay with Len and Kirk, cradling her bandaged arm against her chest. The two men mostly ignored her, focusing instead on one another. Nyota tried to give them some privacy, but she couldn't help watching them.
His hands now free, Kirk had propped Len up against his chest, Len's head on his shoulder. The position couldn't have been comfortable for Kirk, but he didn't seem to care, all his attention focused on Len. "Is there anything else I can do?" he was saying, fingers tangled with Len's and resting on Len's thigh. "Painkillers or anything?"
"No drugs," Len said. "Make my head fuzzy."
"Maybe you'll remember that the next time you decide to dope me up to the gills," Kirk joked, but his smile didn't reach his eyes. "You tell me if you're in pain, Bones. Don't be noble."
Len took a breath to complain, but it came out as a pained hiss instead. "Alright, that's it," Kirk said, and in quick succession he had gotten Len with two hypos, Nyota guessed one for the pain and another to knock him out, from the quick way that Len glared and then passed out was anything to go by. She couldn't help her grin, but hid it by turning her head away.
A few minutes later, Spock made his way to their part of the cave, kneeling gracefully between Nyota and Kirk. "What's the word, Commander?"
Spock raised an eyebrow at Kirk's turn of phrase, but did not comment. "Engineer Scott anticipates that it will take approximately 2.6 hours to modify the ship's transporters to be able to circumvent the buffer. Will Doctor McCoy be stable until then? A shuttle can be sent, if necessary, but there is a high probability that the same faction that attacked us will discover it and attempt to shoot it down."
Kirk looked torn. "I'm no doctor, but I think he'll be alright to wait. Lieutenant Uhura's wound is less severe; with the materials I have and the pain hypo I gave her, she'll be fine."
"I am aware of your field medic training, Captain," Spock said, which surprised Nyota. It didn't fit her mental image of Kirk, but then again neither did the soothing way he was stroking Len's arm, not that Len was aware of it. "If you believe they will be safe, I am confident in your assessment."
"Thanks, Spock," Kirk said, a tired smile on his face. "You keep helping Scotty, I'll hold down the fort back here. And Uhura," he added, looking up at her. "I only gave you a short-acting hypo. Let me know if it wears off."
Nyota nodded, offering Kirk a grateful smile. She tried to make sense of what she had learned and was seeing. Captainly duties seen to, Kirk was focused on Len, stroking his hair or his arm when he squirmed uncomfortably in his drugged sleep. And he was whispering something to Len, but Nyota couldn't make out what it was. Still, seeing her friend so obviously worried about and cared for warmed her heart in a way she never expected to be caused by one Jim Kirk.
She watched them over the next two hours, committing to memory the adoring way Kirk looked at Len when he thought no one was looking, the brilliant smile he gave Len when the other man awoke from the sedative. The way Len smiled back, carefree and so in love it made Nyota ache. Maybe those two did understand true love after all.
And later, when they were all back on the ship, Nyota and Len getting patched up in the medbay, Spock and Kirk pretending they weren't hovering, refusing to leave until Len had to threaten to have Security throw them out. When they were finally alone, just the sounds of the machinery to keep them company, Len said, "You know, you're free to go, too, now that Chapel's gone over your arm with the regenerator."
"I know," Nyota said. "I just wanted to say...I think I get what you see in him now. It's clear he's crazy about you."
Len smiled, that lovely, secret smile. "Yeah, he is. And I am, too."
Nyota gave him a gentle hug. "I'll be very put out if you don't invite me to the wedding," she said, skipping out of the medbay, Len's protests following her out the door.