It’s a pretty good bar, and a pretty good night, and not even a local boy in a black leather jacket – too drunk to really be charming – is going to ruin it.
“Her shot’s on her, thanks,” Nyota tells the bartender, but the guy will not be dissuaded. His name’s Jim Kirk, he tells her, and he’s smarter than he looks, and more charming than somebody that thoroughly sloshed has any right to be. He has absolutely no chance with her, of course – and she gets the feeling he knows that. She’s still flirting because she likes that he can keep up with her, likes the feeling that she always gets when a good-looking guy gives her all his attention.
Of course, then Caleb shows up and feels the need to get his chivalry on, and this Kirk guy doesn’t know when to get the hell out, so it all spirals way out of control and turns into exactly the kind of clusterfuck Nyota doesn’t need on her Starfleet record. If this is what getting hit on by Jim Kirk leads to, Nyota’s very glad she’s never going to have to see him again.
Of course, then he shows up on the shuttle the next morning.
“Never did get that first name,” Kirk says, with what he probably thinks is a winning smile. Maybe if his shirt wasn’t still covered in blood, and he didn’t smell like the bathrooms in last night’s bar, it would be.
“And you never will,” she tells him, which she will later realize was the biggest mistake she could possibly have made – because there’s nothing Jim Kirk finds as irresistible as a challenge.
“Introduction to Comparative Philosophy: Seminar” is a second-year class – there’s no way that that annoying Kirk guy from the shuttle should be enrolled, but there he is, on the first day of class and every day thereafter. Professor Newton is very laid-back, and cultivates an informal, friendly dynamic in the class, which gets on Nyota’s nerves a little, but which Kirk, of course, loves.
“Today we’re going to discuss the eight unanswerable queries posited by the Tellarite philosopher Jev. Who can give me an example of an unanswerable question posed in Earth philosophy? Kirk, how about you?”
Kirk leans back in his chair, looking poetically into the distance, and says, “Professor, the question that’s always preoccupied me is… how many roads must a man walk… to get a date with Cadet Uhura?”
Nyota does not murder him where he sits, but it’s a near thing.
“Oh, hell no,” Nyota says when Jim Kirk walks into the first Xenolinguistics Club meeting of the new term.
“I’ve heard this is where the people with the talented tongues hang out,” he says, grinning right at her in front of all the graduate students whose respect she desperately craves.
“What do you think you’re doing here?” she hisses at him.
“Well, you never answered my question in Philosophy seminar last term,” Kirk says, pouting. When she shakes her head impatiently – she can’t remember any question so important that he’d need to come track her down two months later – he smiles mischievously in reply, and asks her, in very passable Klingon, “How many roads must a man walk for a kiss from Cadet Uhura?”
Of course, in Klingon that actually works out to, “How many skulls must a warrior crush in order to bite Cadet Uhura’s lips until he can taste the richness of her blood?”
She replies, in nearly-perfect Vulcan, “I would suggest, in your skull-crushing endeavor, that you begin with your own; I do not anticipate that such an action will effect any noticeable change in the quality of your intellect.”
He smiles sweetly, and tells her, in beautifully inflected Deltan, “I’m a lover, baby, not a fighter.” And of course, out of the seventy-four words the Deltan language has for “lover,” he chooses the one that implies the person so described is very skilled at cunnilingus.
“See?” he says, in Federation Standard, eyes twinkling. “Talented tongue. Not as good as yours, I’m sure,” he adds hurriedly, his smile broadening into lewdness.
Nyota could kill him.
Or, she could learn from him.
“Damn right,” she says. “Now tell me how you incorporated an informal contraction into a poetic-mode verb in the Deltan – and don’t try any bullshit.”
“Nice shoes,” he says, leaning up on the bar next to her. “Wanna—”
“They’re boots,” Nyota snaps. “And no.”
Kirk pauses for a minute, and looks down at her feet.
“Nice boots,” he says.
After a minute of silence, Nyota asks, “Were you going somewhere with that, or—”
“No,” he says, shrugging. “Just, now that I look at them, they are pretty kickass boots.”
“I know,” Nyota says, smugly.
Normally, this is where he’d say something about how they’d look even better kicked under his bed, but instead, he asks where she bought them, and an hour later, Nyota is shocked to realize that they’ve actually had a very enjoyable conversation about, among other things, the recent redesign of the Starfleet cadet uniforms.
“Oh, hey, gotta go,” he says, looking at his watch and grimacing. “I promised I’d help my roommate out with his epidemiology project.”
He smiles up at her from where he’s slouched on the bar stool and says, “Oh, by the way, awesome earrings. Wanna—”
Oh, for God’s sake, Nyota thinks, rolling her eyes heavenward.
“Why is it,” she asks Gaila, “that every time I go to a bar now, he’s always there?”
“Hey, Uhura,” Kirk says, sliding into the seat next to her. “I’d say ‘come here often?’ but we’ve actually seen each other here before, so that kind of ruins the effect, I think.”
“You make me not want to go to bars,” Uhura tells him, and he grins uncertainly.
“Is that some kind of euphemism?”
“I’m leaving,” she announces. As she walks out, she can hear Kirk say to Gaila, “Come here often?” and Gaila reply, “Not as often as I’d like… want to help me do something about that?”
“No more bars,” Nyota mutters, and she almost means it.
Nyota realizes, waking up, that there are parts of last night that she doesn’t actually remember. Shit, she thinks. Shit. What do I remember?
She remembers Jim Kirk coming up to her at the bar where she was sitting alone, and she remembers him making one of his usual idiotic pick-up attempts, and she remembers how he’d looked at her more carefully when she didn’t parry back, just downed another shot and slammed the glass down on the wood of the bar.
Of course, by then Nyota’d been drinking for two hours straight, crying for the hour before that, and taking her Advanced Syntax final for the three hours before that, so she wasn’t exactly behaving like herself at that point.
She remembers how he sat next to her, nursing his own beer and rambling about nothing while Nyota thought about her uncle’s funeral, which she had missed that day because her Syntax professor wouldn’t let her reschedule the exam; and Nyota Uhura is apparently the kind of person who sends her regrets rather than attend the funeral of a man who’d held her in his arms when she was a baby, so that she can guarantee the kind of exam score that will earn her a top internship next year, Nyota had thought, choking on a shot that went down too fast.
“Sometimes I get so tired of being the person I am,” Nyota remembers saying abruptly, interrupting Kirk. The smile he’d offered her in return was old and sad. He said, “I know, baby. I really do.”
Normally, Nyota would have kicked his ass for calling her “baby.” Last night, she remembers, she’d just picked up her next shot.
She remembers that, two shots and one Saclokian Sling later, she’d turned to him, with as level a stare as she was capable of in that condition, and, just barely slurred, said, “Fine.”
“Better than fine,” she’d told him, speaking slowly because the words kept wanting to run away from her. “I want you to. The kind of person I’m not would sleep with you. So okay. I’m going to be that person.”
He’d given her a look that had something almost like sympathy in it, something dangerously close to pity; Which is ridiculous, Nyota remembers thinking, indignant, because he’s the pathetic pervert, and I’m doing him a favor.
“This is what you want, isn’t it?” she remembers asking him, her voice challenging and maybe a little mean, with a needy undercurrent that she’d hated. “This is what you want. So come back to my room with me,” she’d demanded.
“Yeah,” she remembers Kirk saying, with a rueful smile, “Seems somebody’s gotta, and it looks like I’m the lucky guy.”
Nyota remembers having one more shot before leaving the bar with Jim Kirk with the intent to prove something to herself in bed with him, and that’s the last thing she remembers from last night.
Nyota opens her eyes, prepared for the worst – but she’s in her own bed, thankfully alone. The covers are tucked up around her chin, and when she pushes them down, she can see that she’s still wearing everything from last night’s outfit, except her boots – she puts a hand up to her earlobes – and her earrings, apparently. She looks over to the bedside table, where she finds a hypospray and a tall glass of water. The trashcan has been helpfully moved to the side of her bed from its usual resting place by her desk.
“Thank you,” she tells Kirk when she next sees him, between classes.
He looks uncomfortable for a minute, then gives her a kind of sideways smile.
“I don’t sleep with people who aren’t sober enough to properly appreciate the mind-blowing brilliance of the experience,” he tells her, adding a broad wink before walking away to class.
Nyota strides confidently onto the Great Lawn, and does a spontaneous twirl, smiling the smile of someone who has finally gotten the most intelligent, gorgeous, fascinating, witty man on campus to agree to carry on an utterly illicit student-teacher romantic relationship with her. Oh, and he’d also agreed to be her thesis advisor. Nyota’s a little proud of herself for forgetting that, in the glow of the first part.
Jim Kirk’s voice hails her from somewhere on her left. “How did you know I’d be out here on the Lawn, Cadet Uhura? Are you stalking me?”
She turns to bestow a benevolent smile on him where he’s sprawled out bonelessly in the sun.
“What do you mean?” she asks politely – nothing can get her down today, not even James T. Kirk.
“Well, I saw that big smile on your face, and naturally assumed it was because you were looking forward to seeing me here,” Kirk explains.
“Believe it or not, Kirk, this smile is for the thought of a long, happy future of dating someone as unlike you as possible.”
“Oh, good,” Kirk says, and Nyota tips her head to one side, confused.
He spreads his hands wide, looking supremely satisfied. “This is a golden opportunity! When you get sick of him and dump him, you’ll be looking for someone as unlike him as possible, i.e., me. I officially offer myself up to you as your rebound guy – a painful sacrifice on my part, but I’m willing to go that extra mile for you, because we’re such close friends.”
“That’s very noble of you,” Nyota observes, still smiling.
“I am a noble guy,” Kirk agrees. “In fact, I’m so noble I’m going to give you this special one-time-only offer – how about you skip the ‘date the boring guy’ step and cut straight to the part where you take advantage of my selflessly offered body again and again and again?”
“You are a troglodyte,” Nyota informs him fondly, without a trace of malice or irritation. “An utter troglodyte, and I will never date you, not if I live to be a hundred. And now I am going to go celebrate with some ice cream, and you are not invited. Enjoy your afternoon.”
“My offer stands!” he calls after her, but she’s already thinking about Mint Chocolate Chip and long evenings of translation-as-foreplay with Commander Spock.
“How are things going with Mr. Boring and Perfect?” Kirk asks, standing in line at the cafeteria.
“Things with Mr. Hot and Classy are going fantastically well,” Nyota tells him, and it’s the truth.
“You know, it’s funny,” Kirk says, twirling his tray between his hands. “I’ve asked around, and nobody seems to have seen you out and about with Mr. Boring and Perfect, no one seems to have heard anything about it – in fact, aside from what you said to me, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of Mr. Boring’s existence.”
Outwardly, Nyota tries to project calm and disinterest, but inside, she’s cursing herself for being stupid enough to tell Kirk anything. If he digs deep enough, he could get Spock in more trouble than Nyota wants to think about.
“But I know the truth. Honestly, knowing you like I do – knowing what you like in a man – it wasn’t that hard to figure out,” Kirk murmurs, keeping his voice down, which is a small mercy as Nyota’s heart beats faster.
“Still,” he continues, putting on a mock-disappointed face, “I wouldn’t have believed it of you. Upright, uptight, honest Cadet Uhura…”
“I—” Nyota knows she’s giving herself away, knows she’s breathing too fast, and curses herself for ever underestimating—
“You didn’t have to make up a boyfriend, Uhura,” Kirk says, rolling his eyes. “I mean, I’m flattered, and if you’re into that, I can totally say I’m madly jealous, but, I mean… have I been too subtle? I’m into you. Well, not in the way I’d like, if you know what I mean, but… I’m into you. I want to know your first name. I totally had sex with Gaila on your bed because it smelled like you, I think my interest is pretty clear.”
Kirk shrugs, totally unashamed. “She told me not to let you find out, but if you’ve gotten to the point where you’re inventing boyfriends to make me jealous, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that you don’t mind.”
Nyota honestly cannot think of a single appropriate verbal response to this situation.
“You don’t have to be embarrassed, Uhura,” Kirk continues, tossing a biscuit on his tray. “I knew you’d admit it eventually, although I’m surprised that you’d sink to—”
“I could not possibly despise you more,” Nyota says, unable to decide between being relieved and being offended.
“Oh, yeah?” Kirk winks. “I’ll believe it when I see it. When I see Mr. Perfect and Boring, I mean… if he really exists.”
“We’re not going to make out in front of you,” Nyota says, exasperated, before walking away, head held high. Of course, when Spock is standing on that transporter pad on the Enterprise, getting ready to beam onto the Romulan ship, and it’s so far past the time for giving a damn about fraternization or student-teacher relationships, that’s exactly what she and Spock end up doing. The expression on Kirk’s face when he finally connects the dots is one of Nyota’s fondest memories.
In the mess hall, after dinner, on the first day of the Enterprise’s true maiden voyage, Kirk walks up to Nyota’s table and, maintaining steady eye contact, asks her very formally, “I was hoping I could have your opinion, Lieutenant, on an engineering matter. I know that your particular expertise is in communications, but as this issue may be related to you, specifically, I would appreciate your input.”
Puzzled, Nyota says, “Of course, Captain.”
“Is it your impression that the internal temperature controls in this room are malfunctioning in such a way as to increase the level of heat beyond the normal range that most Humans find comfortable?” Nyota frowns – it doesn’t seem particularly warm to her… “Or is it just you?” Jim finishes, still totally straight-faced, and his tone and demeanor are so professional that it honestly takes Nyota a long minute to figure out what just happened here.
“What the…” Nyota sputters, glaring at Jim. “Was that really some lame attempt at a… what – a Vulcan pick-up line?”
He gives her an injured look. “What? I thought you were into that now!”
Nyota tries very hard not to be amused, and tries even harder not to be the tiniest bit impressed, but sometimes Jim Kirk just can’t be denied.
“To answer your question—” She picks up her tray and tosses her hair over her shoulder. “—It’s just me,” she says, enjoying his own amused, impressed smile as she walks away.
“…the successful completion of this mission will consist of a treaty granting the Federation first claim on the initial yield of any dilithium mined using Federation technology, and a general impression of goodwill created between the Clurifek and our crew, as representatives of the Federation,” Spock concludes. “Are there any questions before we disembark?”
Kirk raises his hand. “I’ve got one, Spock.”
“Captain,” Spock acknowledges.
“How many roads must a man walk to get a little love from Lieutenant Uhura?” he asks, grinning over at her. Nyota does not murder him – by now, she’s had a lot of practice not murdering him. Spock, of course, actually answers the stupid question, because he’s Spock.
“A most fascinating query, Captain, for the answer to the question depends entirely on the identity of the unnamed man. For example, were that man to be you, Captain, I anticipate that even an infinite number of roads would be insufficient. However, were I the man so described—” Spock’s eyes lock on to Nyota’s, and the heat in them makes her shiver pleasurably. “—I estimate a transit of no more than five strides to be sufficient.” The corner of his mouth quirks, and Nyota smiles back as Kirk mutters, “Geez, get a room.”
Kirk collapses to the ground, and Nyota rushes over.
“Spock, keep them away!” she calls, and Spock, bless him, doesn’t ask questions, just swiftly and firmly corrals the little purple aliens until they’re several yards away from the fallen captain.
Nyota kneels down beside him, and leans over to check his pulse, saying urgently, “Captain, are you all right?”
His eyes slowly drift open, which happens to put them right in line with Nyota’s chest.
“My head hurts,” he mumbles, “but the view is spectacular.”
Nyota rolls her eyes. “Never mind!” she calls to Spock. “You can’t even tell they shot him.”
Kirk and Nyota slowly look around what is clearly the uninhabited planet of Kloo, rather than its fourth moon, Leevo, which is the home of a bustling pre-warp society, and onto which Scotty was supposed to have beamed them.
It’s very flat. And empty. And flat. And brown. Nothing moves. Not even the wind. It’s completely desolate.
Kirk shoots her a look out of the corner of his eye.
“So when you said back at Academy that you wouldn’t sleep with me even if I was the last man on earth—”
“I had no idea how literally I would someday mean it, sir.”
Nyota does not know what possessed her to initiate sex with Spock in the Communications Office – or, more to the point, what possessed her to initiate sex with Spock anywhere where Jim Kirk might conceivably stumble across them.
“Hey, Uhura, have you seen—Oh, wow. That is… that is hot.”
Nyota closes her eyes and wishes she were anywhere in the universe but on her desk in the Communications Office with Spock’s hand up her skirt, her arms wound around Spock’s neck, and Jim Kirk lounging in the doorway.
“You guys, um… need a hand?” Kirk asks, visibly having trouble suppressing the urge to laugh. His eyes travel hungrily up the inside of Nyota’s spread legs and brush covetously across her slightly open mouth, which she expected… they also skate appreciatively over the curve of Spock’s neck, and the strong line of his thighs, which she did not. Spock twitches under Kirk’s scrutiny, which makes Nyota gasp as his fingers brush up against something very sensitive. Kirk’s eyes go dark and hooded.
I must be drunk, drugged or deranged, Nyota thinks, because for one insane second, she actually considered taking him up on it. Spock’s fingers on her bare skin catch the stray thought like a slip of paper blowing by in the wind, and he cocks an eyebrow at her thoughtfully.
“Oh, you’re kidding me,” Nyota says out loud. Spock’s eyebrows do the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug, while Kirk, who apparently thought she was talking to him, says in a low, dark voice, “I’m really, really not.”
I am not opposed to the concept, Spock whispers in her mind – the feeling of their thoughts blending is almost more intense than the wave of pleasure that breaks over Nyota when Spock bends to kiss her again while sliding two fingers deep inside her. Kirk groans, and when Nyota breaks the kiss to look over at him, she can see his hands clenched white on the doorframe.
Still not completely convinced that she’s in her right mind, Nyota begins to raise a hand toward Kirk, a beckon or a welcome, but suddenly, the ship-wide emergency klaxons start blaring, and the moment is broken – by the time she and Spock have put themselves back together, Kirk has called battle stations.
No more sex in semi-public places, Nyota tells herself, determinedly, and doesn’t think of it again.
Well… maybe a few times. When it’s late at night, and Spock is away on a mission, and—
Just a few times.
“There’s a poem I’d like to recite to you,” Kirk says, leaning back in the boat, staring up at the clouds, “about roses and hay, I think, and maybe shepherdesses, and somebody’s mistress. Unfortunately, I don’t actually remember the poem. But I want you to know that I would recite it if I could.”
Nyota looks out at the horizon, which is blank and empty in every direction, and feels the rocking of the sea under their little boat. It’s not a good feeling.
“I may throw up on you,” she tells him. “Also, why would you recite a poem to me?”
“Weeell…” he says, leaning against the side of the boat and trailing a finger in the water, “it just struck me as a little more classy than just saying, ‘hey, we’re about to die, let’s get it on.’”
“Oh, now you want to be classy?” Nyota snipes. “Well, it’s a little late for that, Captain!” She gestures frantically at the rolling waters surrounding them in all directions. “We’ve been abandoned in a rowboat in the middle of nowhere without our communicators, phasers, PADDs, tricorders, or food, as a result of a diplomatic incident that you caused by not paying attention to my cultural briefing, specifically the part about how commenting on their eyestalks, even in a positive light, is a mortal insult, and so, in conclusion, Captain, you could present me with a hand-picked bouquet of Risan gemflowers and recite Vulcan pre-Reform sonnets on bended knee while serenading me with Debussy, and I would still want to pluck out my own eyeballs just to have something to throw at you!”
Kirk stares long enough that Nyota starts to get a little embarrassed at her outburst.
“You have never been more attractive to me than you are at this moment,” he says finally, deadpan.
“I loathe you beyond the ability of your tiny mind to comprehend,” she informs him.
They sit in silence for another few minutes while Nyota tries not to give in to seasickness.
“I just think it would be a shame for you to die a Jim Kirk Experience virgin,” Kirk says, barely making it to the end of the sentence before Uhura smacks him, which sets the boat to rocking, which makes her mood even worse.
“I mean, this could be the last day of our lives,” he continues, undeterred. “Do you really want to spend it glaring at me when you could spend it in sweet, sweet carnal ecstasy?”
“We are not going to die,” Nyota says firmly, not even dignifying that last part with a response. “Spock is going to find us, and when he does, I’m going to tell him to leave you here in this boat.”
“He won’t do it.”
“Of course he won’t,” Nyota agrees, “and do you know why? Because Spock has professionalism. Spock listens to my cultural briefings and reads my reports. Spock would never behave in such a way as to get stranded in a rowboat with his communications officer—”
Kirk laughs out loud. “Clearly I’ve been barking up the wrong tree here. Let me try again.” He lowers his voice into a seductive growl, and bats his eyes. “Oh, Lieutenant,” he murmurs, “let me recite the Starfleet Uniform Code to you. I want to read your reports in great detail, all night long, and respond with very… meticulous… feedback, if you know what I mean.”
“I want to vomit,” she replies. “I just can’t tell anymore if it’s because of seasickness or because of you.”
“Definitely seasickness,” he says blithely. “You know, I happen to know a great way to distract you from that, and from our impending doom.”
“There is no impending doom.” Nyota is very firm on this point. “Spock is going to rescue us.”
“But if he doesn’t,” Kirk persists, “won’t you always regret not having taken advantage of this last chance to act on the poorly-hidden attraction toward me that you’ve tried – unsuccessfully – to smother, ever since that first romantic meeting in that magical bar in Iowa?”
Nyota raises an eyebrow – she’s gotten quite good at that (she vehemently denies that she’s ever practiced it in front of the bathroom mirror). “If I’m dead, I won’t be around to regret anything, will I?”
“That’s actually an interesting philosophical question, isn’t it, Lieutenant?” Kirk muses. “I guess it depends on whether you believe in the immortality of the soul.” He raises a hand dramatically, and begins, “How many roads must a—”
“Oh, thank god,” Nyota says, hearing the hum of a shuttle’s engine – when she cranes her head around, she can see it speeding toward them from the west.
“Oh,” Kirk says, looking slightly disappointed. “We’re being rescued.” He perks up. “Hey, any chance we can have hot, life-affirming, ‘thank god I’m alive’ sex now?”
“Not in the slightest,” Nyota says, as the shuttle pulls alongside their little rowboat, and the side door slides open.
“This guy bothering you, Lieutenant?” the security officer who Nyota will always think of as Cupcake asks.
“Beyond belief,” she says, laughing. “But it’s nothing I can’t handle.”
“Surely it is not so much to ask,” the Gold King of the Brivvna says, his chitin shell clicking in disappointment.
“It is no more than we ask of any race of visitors,” the Silver King chimes in, tapping his forelegs together anxiously.
“Captain, honestly,” Nyota says, “it’s fine,” although it is actually not fine at all. If they didn’t need this treaty so badly, if Admiral Komack himself hadn’t visited the Enterprise personally to insist on the successful completion of this mission, then she’d be standing over there with Kirk, but the fact is, it is that important, and at least it’s not like the Brivvna want him to kill somebody or torture them. It could be a lot worse. If she can get over it, she doesn’t understand what his problem is. Frankly, she’d have thought he’d be all over this.
“No,” Kirk says firmly. “I’m sorry, I know this is very important to your culture, but in our culture, any kind of coercion involved in sexual behavior is wrong.”
“We do not coerce,” the Silver King protests, his faceted eyes flipping upward indignantly. “The female is willing. She has told you so herself.”
“Seriously, Captain, it’s not such a big deal,” Nyota says wearily. As much as she appreciates his ethical niceties, he’s going to say yes eventually, and she’d rather just get this over with as soon as possible. Spock will understand. She hopes.
“Trust me, Your Majesties,” Kirk says, with a private, rueful smile, “I have five years of long and persistent experience that tell me that, under normal circumstances, Lieutenant Uhura is not willing to engage in sexual intercourse with me. I can’t possibly imagine why, but there it is. Logically, the only variable that has changed is the pressure exerted by our need to secure this treaty – that’s where the coercion comes in.”
“Captain Kirk, we have negotiated with your provincial scruples long enough,” the Gold King says impatiently. “The female is symmetrical and healthy, as are you. You will demonstrate your mating behaviors or there will be no treaty. That is final.”
“Then there will be no treaty,” Kirk says, without a second’s hesitation. “Come on, Uhura, let’s get out of here.”
As they walk back to the shuttle, Nyota says uncertainly, “That was…”
“Someday,” Kirk interrupts, “you’re finally going to acknowledge your deep and burning attraction to me, and I just don’t want anything to happen in the meantime that might tarnish that moment of sweet vindication.”
“Uh-huh,” Nyota says dryly. “You just keep hoping.”
“Always,” he says, with a smile.
“I will never be drunk enough to admit how much you mean to me,” he slurs, then stops and cocks his head to one side, frowning. “Except right now, apparently,” he acknowledges, his consonants such a mush that Nyota’s pretty sure no one without advanced linguistics training would be able to understand him.
“That’s okay,” Nyota says, a little amused, a little touched. “I won’t hold it against you.”
“Oh baby, I wish you would,” he leers, before passing out at her feet.
“Out of all the things that have ever happened to me as a result of drinking an unidentified alien beverage,” Kirk says, in a voice slightly higher than normal, “this is definitely my favorite, hands down.”
“Most irregular,” Spock says, also in a somewhat higher voice, looking around the bridge.
“There’s pretty much no chance you’re not going to turn this into an enormous sleazefest, is there?” Nyota asks Kirk.
“I don’t know what you mean, Lieutenant Uhura,” Kirk says, cocking his newly shapely hips and fluttering his eyelashes. “By the way, if you need a friendly hand when it comes to finding your way around your shiny new moveable parts, I seem to have conveniently come into possession of a mint-condition female body with all the right—”
“—And we’re done,” Nyota says briskly. She turns to Spock. “Commander Spock, in the interests of scientific discovery, would you care to accompany me to my quarters to investigate the effects of the Joolian serum?”
“I just said that!” Kirk complains, crossing his arms under his admittedly impressive new breasts. “Did I not just say that, Spock?”
Ignoring Kirk, Spock steps closer to Nyota – close enough that their hands brush, and she catches a glimpse of how much he wants her.
“I find your research proposal well-reasoned and extremely timely, Lieutenant,” Spock says, and they lock eyes.
“Oh, come on,” Kirk whines, as Nyota leads Spock by the hand toward the turbolift. “You guys… don’t leave me here with these totally fantastic breasts and no one to appreciate them!”
“Captain, I’m afraid – and here’s a sentence I never thought I’d utter – that the only fantastic breasts I’m interested in right now are Spock’s,” Nyota says, and manages, by sheer force of will, to keep a straight face until the turbolift doors slide shut, at which point Spock has to hold her up to keep her from falling down laughing.
“In my own defense,” Kirk shouts as he runs, “there was no way I could have known that this was going to happen. I was not briefed on this!”
“Apparently the Inoini take monogamy extremely seriously, and viewed your advances toward Lieutenant Uhura, ridiculous and ineffectual as they continually are, as an insult to their cultural sensitivities,” Spock comments as a bullet whizzes by his head – he doesn’t even sound out of breath.
“Well, I know that now!” Kirk yells. “Did you have to tell them that Uhura is your girlfriend?!”
“It is a fact in which I take quite justifiable pride, Captain, aware as I am of the Lieutenant’s excellent judgment, surpassing physical attractiveness and exceptional strength of character,” Spock says, still not even breathing hard.
“I hate you both!” Nyota pants. “Now shut up and save your breath for running!”
“Nyota, Vulcan lung capacity is—”
“Spock…” Nyota gasps, “Shut. The hell. Up.”
When the Prime Minister explains the requirements for the ceremony of trust, Kirk breaks out in a big, wide grin, and the grin only gets wider and more obnoxious as Nyota resentfully unzips her boots, pulls her tunic over her head, steps out of her skirt, unhooks her bra and slips off her panties.
“But can you answer just one question for me, Minister?” Kirk asks as Nyota scowls and refuses to move her hands from their position at her sides. This is far from the strangest or most objectionable thing that an alien culture has demanded of them – Nyota’s proud of her body, and she might almost enjoy this if Kirk weren’t getting such an obvious kick out of it.
“Of course, Captain,” the minister trills. “I would be pleased to answer any question you might pose.”
“How many roads must Lieutenant Uhura walk, before she can put her clothes back on?”
Nyota glares daggers at the captain as the Prime Minister answers, “Four roads, Captain Kirk. She must make a complete circuit of the capital. You are, of course, invited to accompany her, if you fear for her safety.”
“Well, thank you very much, Minister,” Kirk replies as Nyota rolls her eyes and resigns herself to at least three and a half miles of blatant ogling and constant lewd commentary. “I’m a very conscientious captain, and I couldn’t live with myself if anything happened to the good Lieutenant.”
As they set out on the first road, heading west, Kirk turns to her and says, “I’ve dreamed of this moment for a long time.”
“Oh, God, shut up.”
“You wanna know what happens next, in my dream?”
He tells her anyway, in great detail, which makes Nyota want to throw things at him, but which does, admittedly, distract her from how boring this walk is and how much her feet are starting to hurt.
Jim Kirk is a pig. He is unquestionably a pig. But when Nyota steps on a sharp stone and falls, Jim helps her up without question, and he asks her deferentially whether she’d like him to give her a hand, with no innuendo, and without just assuming he’s welcome.
She hangs an arm around his neck, and his arm around her waist is entirely professional, and as she hops, undignified, down the last of the four roads, he tells her stories about harvest time in Iowa when he was a boy, and never once mentions the fact that her naked breasts are bouncing against his chest, or that their hips are practically plastered together.
So a pig with principles, at least.
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may – Old Time is still a-flying; and this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying,” Kirk murmurs low in her ear. She twists a little to look at him in the meager light of the tricorder their executioners had forgotten to remove from Kirk’s boot, and he gives her a smile that can’t hide the fear in his eyes. “I looked it up after last time,” he explains, “so that if we were ever about to die again, I’d have it on hand.”
“What is that?” she asks.
He answers, “Robert Herrick, early to mid seventeenth century – ‘To the virgins, to make much of time.’ Granted, I don’t dare to dream that it’s strictly applicable in this case,” he adds, smirking, and she headbutts him, or tries to, but ends up just lying there with her head on his chest, trying not to admit how comforting she finds it.
“We’re not—” going to die, she starts to say, but she can’t finish it, because the fact is: they are going to die, buried alive in a metal box only about twice the size of a coffin – a coffin for two, she thinks, suppressing a flicker of hysteria – which is running out of air, while the Enterprise keeps orbiting blithely. They won’t know something’s wrong until Kirk misses his check-in, an hour from now, and by the time they realize there’s a problem, send down a rescue team, and even start to get the barest glimmer of an idea where they are – buried in a Rav’chk graveyard, one more featureless grave amid hundreds – she and Kirk will have asphyxiated. She knows this. He knows this.
“We’re not going to die,” he says gently, and he lies so beautifully – anyone else would be fooled, but Nyota reads faces and voices for a living, as a vocation. “I don’t believe in no-win scenarios, remember?” he asks with a teasing grin, trying to coax a smile out of her.
“My grandfather always said you don’t have to believe in something for it to kill you,” Nyota says. “He was talking about aliens, before the Federation, but I do think it’s more broadly applicable.” She knows he can feel her shaking.
“Do you remember Philosophy Seminar?” Kirk asks.
Nyota rolls her eyes. “Only too well. ‘How many roads must a man walk to get a date with Cadet Uhura,’ wasn’t it?”
“I’m flattered you remember.”
“You’re a memorable guy, Captain.”
Nyota feels his lips curve in a smile against her forehead.
“That’s the nicest thing you’re ever said to me, Lieutenant.”
Silence descends in the dimly-lit coffin, and Nyota hates it, refuses it. If she can’t go out fighting, she at least won’t go quietly.
“You drove me nuts, you know,” she tells him.
“Past tense?” Kirk teases.
“Right now, I’m…” She takes a deep breath. “Right now, I’m glad you’re here.”
“Hey, hey,” he says, pushing her away until he can look at her face – he looks worried. “We’re not going to die.”
“Then why am I afraid?” she asks him, angry without knowing why.
“Because I’ve let you down,” he says, and she can tell he means it.
“No.” She holds his chin firmly and shakes her head. “No. This is not your fault. Out of all the dozens of FUBAR missions we’ve had, ironically, this is the one that’s not your fault. We were betrayed. There was nothing you could do.”
Silence falls again, and as Nyota is about to break it, Kirk says, “I am so fucking sorry. I know you and Spock were going to get married, I overheard him talking to his dad about it – I know you were going to maybe have… kids, shit, I am so, so—”
Nyota slaps a hand over his mouth. She can’t listen to that anymore.
“I’m scared,” she tells him, refusing to be ashamed of it, hating the tear that slips out of her left eye without her permission. “I’m scared, and you’re scared, too, and that’s enough.”
“Then what do I do?” he asks her. The last light from the tricorder flickers and dies as the batteries run out, and they’re left in the dark. “What do I do, Ny—Uhura?”
“You can call me Nyota,” she whispers.
“Just this once,” she says, trying for exasperated, but probably hitting sentimental instead.
“Nyota,” he starts, but he doesn’t seem to know how to finish.
“Jim,” she says, and feels his beating heart under her cheek. “Jim.” He’s as scared as she is. “Distract me,” she tells him. Distract us both. There are worse ways to go out.
“You don’t mean that,” he says. She reaches up a hand to touch his face, and she can feel his sudden smile. “I mean, you can’t tell me this is it.”
“How many roads must a man walk,” he whispers, starting to chuckle, “and all I had to do all along was get kidnapped by aliens and buried alive with you, with the air running out and no realistic hope of rescue? God, Nyota, if I’d known that back at the Academy, I could have saved us both years of unresolved sexual tension.”
By now, she’s laughing, too. “Earth never saved, Nero never defeated, because the hero of Starfleet got himself asphyxiated trying to get into my pants – we should start our own alternate universe, like the other Spock’s.”
“I knew you’d give in to my charms eventually,” he murmurs, sliding a hand into her hair – he’s still laughing a little, breathlessly, and she likes the way his body trembles underneath hers. “How many roads must a man walk? I don’t actually know,” he admits, pulling her face slowly, slowly closer to his own, “but I’ve gotta tell you, I have a feeling they’re all gonna have been worth it in about five seconds.”
Which, of course, is when Spock rescues them. Nyota doesn’t really understand how – something to do with creating a hand-held jerry-rigged hybrid of a life-signs detector and a transporter terminal, who cares, they’re alive. When Spock pulls her up out of the grave and into his arms, she looks over his shoulder at Kirk, who is being berated and checked for wounds by Dr. McCoy. When he catches her eyes, he shrugs good-naturedly, winks, and mouths, “Next time.” She rolls her eyes.
“Spock and I are going to be married on Vulcan,” Nyota says. “We’d like you to be there.”
Kirk nods approvingly, and Nyota starts to let out a sigh of relief, which dies an ugly death when Kirk says, with enthusiasm, “Kinky. I like it.”
He waggles his eyebrows. “I know a little something about Vulcan weddings, Uhura – you know, Old Spock, mind-whammy? – and I know we’re not supposed to talk about it, but if it’s that time, I am totally up for a little Human-on-Human-on-Vul—”
After looking around to check that the corridor is empty, Nyota hisses, “This is not Pon Farr, okay? Pon Farr is over – Spock and I are marrying of our own free will, no biological imperatives necessary.”
Kirk looks crestfallen. “I missed Pon Farr? When?”
“Last year, when Spock and I went to Altair 17,” Nyota tells him, rolling her eyes.
“You said that was an academic conference!”
Nyota shrugs. “I lied,” she says, enjoying herself.
He sputters, and finally draws himself up and says, with wounded dignity, “If it’s not going to be kinky, I don’t see why I should go.”
Nyota sighs. Somehow, this man has become Spock’s best friend, and Nyota’s… best sleazeball, she guesses.
“It would mean a lot to both of us,” she says.
“Well,” he says, looking mollified.
When T’Pau asks him, before the ceremony, whether he is willing to stand as witness, he tells her solemnly, “I am honored to stand with my friends.” Then he makes an obscene gesture behind T’Pau’s back that only Nyota can see.
It said “Jim Kirk” on the box when I bought it, Nyota thinks, sighing.
“Oh, perfect,” Nyota says, when the turbolift door slides open to admit one James T. Kirk. “Just what this day was missing.”
“I personally prefer a bit of a twist at the end of the stroke, Lieutenant,” Kirk informs her, hanging on to his straight face by the smallest of margins. “If you’d like, I could offer you a running commentary on your technique – and I’m more than happy to offer myself as a practice dummy. For example, when trying to maintain a good angle while simultaneously bracing yourself against the wall—”
“Oh, shut up, won’t you?” Nyota snaps. “I deserve this, I know I deserve this—”
“You really do,” Kirk interjects with a broad grin.
“—but, God, has everybody on this ship seen that stupid video?”
“I refuse to believe you two weren’t aware of the fact that there are cameras in the turbolifts—”
“We got carried away, okay? It was our honeymoon!”
“And so I really have to wonder—”
“Oh, don’t even, this was not on purpose!”
“All I’m saying is that, if either of you are looking for constructive criticism – not that you’re not doing great already—”
“I hate this whole ship!” Nyota says, throwing up her hands and exiting onto the crew quarters deck.
Mysteriously, the video is erased from the Enterprise’s servers entirely, later that evening, much to the disappointment of those who had been hoping to host private viewings, or who had saved personal copies. An hour later, an anonymous message is delivered to Nyota’s PADD, with the video attached, and an assurance that only one other copy still survives. Nyota can’t decide whether to be grateful or appalled – she settles on something in between.
It was a long and difficult labor, but stroking one finger along her newborn daughter’s tiny cheek, Nyota can’t regret a second of it. When she looks up, she can see that the captain’s arrived in sickbay. He claps Spock on the back, says something to Dr. McCoy that makes him roll his eyes, then comes over to stand by Nyota’s bed.
Looking down, with kind of a dopey expression of wonder on his face, he says, “So beautiful.”
“Thank you,” Nyota replies, pleased.
“And the baby’s cute, too,” Kirk says, without missing a beat.
“I could hold her for a minute, if you wanted to have an arm free to hit me,” he offers.
“Do you even know how to hold a baby?” she asks.
“I know how to treat a lady at any age.”
“Appalling,” Nyota mutters, but she carefully transfers her little girl into Kirk’s steady hands.
“Hey there, gorgeous,” he whispers, and Nyota rolls her eyes.
“Your mommy gets mad,” he says solemnly, “when I say nice things about her, about how pretty she is. But you won’t get mad, will you?”
Kirk apparently takes her silence as agreement.
“She likes me!” he exclaims, looking up at Nyota excitedly, like a little boy opening a present on Christmas morning.
“That makes one of us,” Nyota mutters, but her heart isn’t in it, and he’s not listening anyway, cooing at her daughter, “I like you, too, gorgeous. Yes, I do.”
Nyota resigns herself to the inevitability of the fact that, when her daughter turns thirteen or so, she’s going to develop a massive crush on Jim Kirk, who will probably be utterly wonderful about it and gently redirect her attentions to some more appropriate object, and remain her Cool Uncle Jim while Nyota and Spock become people she’s embarrassed to be seen with in public.
“I like you thiiiiiis much!” Kirk says, still looking adoringly down at the baby, with a big goofy smile.
Oddly, Nyota’s sort of looking forward to it.
“Admit it – by now, you’re so used to me turning you down that if I ever actually kissed you, you’d drop dead.”
“Oh, I’d be horizontal pretty quick, no doubt. And stiff, too. But not from rigor mortis, baby.”
“No, I’m romantic. Ours is an epic love story, Uhura. The bards will sing of it for generations to come. They’ll call it ‘The Many Roads of Captain Kirk’ – a heart-wrenching tale of perseverance in the face of cruel rejection and the triumph of the dashing Prince James over the heartless indifference and vicious barbs of the nameless Star Princess, who will not even allow the prince to speak her name al—”
“Wait a minute… the Star Prin—That’s the bedtime story you’ve been telling Amanda! She’s six years old! Kirk, you are—”
“Oh, would you look at the time, Klingons will probably be attacking any minute. Have fun ambassadoring with Spock! Gotta go!”
“Don’t you dar—”
The first time Nyota was in this ballroom was decades ago – the reception for new Academy graduates, unusually subdued by the implosion of Vulcan and the loss of such a devastating fraction of the graduating class. She’s been here a few times since, mostly as Lieutenant Uhura – this is her first time as Ambassador Uhura.
She knows it’s stupid to be hurt by the sideways glances they get – those glances used to say, “What’s that gorgeous Human doing with a Vulcan?” but now, of course, they mean, “What’s that old woman doing on that handsome young man’s arm?” It’s not yet to the stage where people are mistaking Spock for her son, thank God, but it is still enough to drive a woman to drink, and as soon as Spock gets embroiled in a conversation with the Tellarite Agriculture Minister, Nyota heads for the bar.
“Whiskey, straight up,” she tells the bartender, who nods. A familiar voice comes over from her left.
“Make it two, and her shot’s on me.”
Nyota turns to see Jim Kirk, of course, leaning on the bar and smirking at her. She suppresses a groan and tells the bartender, “Her shot’s on her. Thanks but no thanks.”
Kirk refuses to give up, appealing directly to the bartender. “Come on, buddy, help me out here.”
Nyota rolls her eyes. “He’s not going to take sides, Captain—”
“Not under normal circumstances, no,” Kirk agrees. “If it were any other woman in this room, I’d let her buy her own drink, but I ask you, buddy—” this to the bartender “—what kind of, of… cad would I be, if I let the most beautiful woman in the room pay for her own drink?”
For a split-second, she thinks he’s making fun of her, but the look in his eyes is impossible to fake. He means it – the frank, oddly reassuring lust in his eyes is the same as it ever was. Nyota tries not to find that flattering, and fails utterly.
Sighing, and trying not to smile too widely, she tells the bartender, grudgingly, “All right, fine. Her shot’s on him.”
The bartender gives them both a dubious look.
“Um, you guys know it’s an open bar, right? All the drinks are free?”
Kirk and Nyota studiously avoid looking each other in the eye.
“I knew that,” Kirk says, defensively.
“Oh, yeah, me too,” Nyota says quickly.
The bartender just rolls his three orange eyes, pours the whiskey, and leaves them to drown their embarrassment.
He was never supposed to make it this far. Honestly, none of them were. Many of them didn’t. If you had told Nyota thirty years ago that Jim Kirk would outlive most of his crew, she’d have laughed and laughed.
But here he is, gray and too thin, and hooked up to tubes and wires, and even though Nyota’s seen a lot of friends go this way, in the past ten years, there’s still something wrong about it – Jim Kirk, tied down, earthbound. They’re the only ones left – Spock, of course, will outlive them all, and he said his own goodbyes just a few minutes ago – but Nyota and Jim are the last Humans from the Enterprise’s original senior staff to survive long enough to die of old age.
His skin is as papery as hers, but he doesn’t wear it as well – she knows he’s always thought of aging as an unavoidable but frustrating indignity. His eyes, though, are still that terrifying, free-fall blue, and Nyota is strangely glad that he won’t live to lose them to the cloudy rheum that made her own mother’s eyes ghostly as she died, twenty years ago.
He knows he’s got maybe a day left, if that – maybe just minutes. He’s almost too weak to speak. Nyota loves him very much. She has for a long time.
There’s so much she had wanted to say, but to her frustration, all her words have vanished. She wants to scream, staring into his blue, blue eyes and unable to do anything more articulate than cry and hold his hand, but Jim rescues her, of course. He always has.
He wheezes in one deep breath, and with a shadow of his old smile, still charming, still worldly-wise and a little sad, whispers, “How many… roads…?”
Not even trying to hold back her tears anymore, Nyota smiles widely, and leans down until their faces are very close.
“Just one more, Jim,” she murmurs, her throat tight. “Just one more.”
She closes the few final inches, and kisses him.