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Home Among The Stars

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Ensign Andrada could barely hold still in her quarters, constantly checking the time. She wanted, and at the same time did not want to, finally go out there and get it done and over with. Or should she?

Maybe not.

But she had let this happen for long enough now. She wasn’t about to take any more.

Even if it made her unpopular with the crew of the Enterprise, she had to do it.

With self-confidence she did not really feel, she left her quarters, determinedly making her way to the Captain’s ready room. He let Andrada in without even putting down his pad.

“Ensign Andrada, what brings you to me?” was all he said. It sounded as if he had more important things to do, and the fact that he did not offer her a seat spoke volumes to her, but this would be the last time she’d bother him, so Andrada pushed away the urge to excuse herself and go back to her quarters.

“Captain, may I speak freely?”

“Please, Ensign, do.”

Andrada took a deep breath, linked her hands behind her back. Her heart pounded in her chest, but she soldiered on. “Since we are only two full days away from Yorktown, I wish to inform you of my resignation.”

That made Kirk lower the pad. Before he had a chance to speak, Andrada blubbered on. “It will take a few minutes, but if you bear with me, I will explain.”

Kirk looked startled first, a frown forming. He hesitated, then rubbed his chin. “Sure. Go ahead.”

She straightened her shoulders a little. “When I applied for this post, the post of navigator, I did it not because the Enterprise is the prestigious flagship of Starfleet. Not because it has seen battle. I did it because I had heard accounts of the exceptional work of its officers who helped escape impossible odds. I did it because I was awed by reports of the familial relationships between coworkers aboard the ship.”

She fixed her eyes somewhere over his shoulder as she continued speaking. “I have been looking for a family for as long as I can remember. My parents died when I was very young. I grew up in the foster system and never spent more than a year in the same place. I moved into a space of my own as soon as I was legally able to get away from that, and applied to the Academy. I worked hard as a cadet, received top grades, but remained largely friendless. My hope was, to one day make my home with Starfleet.

“So imagine my elation when I received the news that my application to the Enterprise had been successful. That in itself was more than I had ever dared dream, but there was so much more I was looking forward to. Not only exploring parts of the galaxy no one has seen before, making discoveries that will change the world of science. But because I was hoping I would find a home. A family.”

Her eyes landed on Kirk now, to find him watching her intently. “I realize I am new. I know I have yet to prove myself to you, and I realize it is not unusual to be repeatedly questioned and tested when taking up a new position. But the welcome I had hoped for has never materialized. You are under no obligation to…befriend me, but – I had at least expected some friendliness.

"All I have received is rejection. At first, I did not think much of it, and resolved to give it a few days. Then a few weeks. Then a few months. It has now been more than seven months since I joined your crew, and I struggled to understand why I am still treated the way I am.”

If he resented her words of accusation, the captain did not show it. When she paused and gulped, he waited patiently for her to continue.

“It took me a while, but I understand now. It has not even been nine months since you lost a valuable member of your crew, an exceptional navigator, and, as I don’t doubt, a close friend. I have never had the honour of meeting him, but I can easily picture you must have considered Mr. Chekov a brother. And I understand that you resent the thought that someone dares sit where he sat. That someone thinks he could be replaced.”

Andrada felt herself choke up, but gulped back the grief she felt for a man she’d never known.

“He is not replaceable. No one can ever be as he was. No one can ever fill that void he has left behind. But, you have to understand – I am not trying to. I have never had the intention of replacing Mr. Chekov. My only intent was to take up an opportunity and work with stellar individuals, and share the experience of exploring the galaxy with them as a valued colleague. And, as I dared hope, a valued friend.”

Nervously, Andrada licked her lips. “I am sorry if I expected too much, if I have offended you by merely trying my best, but I cannot stay where my work, and, more importantly, myself as a person, is not appreciated. The Admiralty thought I might be a good fit, but I see now that perhaps it was a mistake for me to come here.”

She looked Kirk directly in the eye, not caring if he saw how glassy her own were. “My formal resignation and a transfer request for Yorktown will be on your pad tomorrow morning.”

However much she tried, one stray tear made its way down her cheek, and she wiped it away as inconspicuously as she could. “Allow me to express my belated condolences for your loss and forgive me for taking up so much of your time.”

Now that she had said all that she had wanted to get off her chest, she felt regret creeping in at the edges. Had she gone too far? Would the Captain report her to Starfleet for insubordination? Her knees felt as if they might give any moment, they were trembling so much. She needed to get away, and fast.

“I am feeling unwell and I fear I am not fit for duty. Request permission to retire to my quarters, Captain.”

Kirk stared at her for a few seconds before he shook himself out of his thoughts and cleared his throat. “Sure, aaah… Yes. Yes. Permission granted.”

“Thank you, sir. And thank you for listening to me”, Andrada said shortly, and barely made it into the turbolift before her tears finally spilled over.

Chapter Text

After Ensign Andrada had hurriedly left his ready room, the silence that trailed in her wake lasted several painful moments before the Captain managed to break it.

“Computer, call Spock, Sulu, Uhura, Scott and Doctor McCoy in here.”

He awaited the affirming beep and had only a few troublesome minutes to wait before they filed in.

“Damn it, we sure fucked up”, was the first thing he said, his voice hoarse. That earned him a number of questioning glances. In response, he tapped a few buttons and replayed the computer’s recording of Ensign Andrada’s speech for them on the ready room’s view screen.

He watched his friends’ faces as they listened and watched in realization. Their eyes reflected the same mounting horror he felt. He saw Uhura wipe away a tear herself. Sulu wrung his hands, something Kirk had never seen him do before, and Scotty’s jaw had dropped nearly to the table. McCoy had his fingers clasped around his elbows so hard his knuckles turned white.

As usual, only Spock betrayed no emotion.

Surprisingly, it was him who spoke up first once the recording had finished. “I think it might be prudent to apologize to Ensign Andrada, Captain. She is right when she states we – including myself – have been less than welcoming towards her.”

“We sure have, Spock, we sure have”, Kirk murmured, almost to himself.

He, as all the others, was buried deep in the remembrance of situations in which he had been cold, unsympathetic or even unfair to her.

Sulu chided himself for refusing to shake her hand on her first day, and tried, in vain, to blink away the crestfallen look she’d had on her face. It had been the same when she’d realized someone had removed the permanent display of her parents’ picture that she’d programmed into the navigation console. She’d never said a word, but shame trickled hotly through him as he remembered his initial self satisfaction when deleting it. He hadn’t removed Chekov’s parent’s picture when he’d programmed it into the same place.

Uhura cringed at herself for snapping at Andrada when the Ensign had suggested a minimal adjustment to her grammar in a message for the Bynars, even though she’d known her input to be valuable – as a navigator, she had a deeper understanding of numbers than Uhura did. Chekov had been the one to help her program their language into the console into the first place.

Spock almost frowned when thinking of the way he had never told her that her calculations were correct, the way he had always done with Mr. Chekov.

Scotty rubbed his forehead to ward off the oncoming headache. He’d thrown her out of engineering several times when she’d come to help even though she didn’t have to. Damn it, she’d come in her free time, trying to learn, just as Chekov once had, and he’d sent her away, shouting that she’d only be in the way. The last time, he’d told her not to come back, and she hadn’t. That had been four months ago.

Bones had to stop himself from biting his nails, a habit he’d gotten rid of in his early twenties. He’d seen her expression a few times, when he’d joked and bickered with his friends about how he was superfluous on the bridge. She’d been smiling, then, listening to their conversations, but he realized now she’d probably been longing to be on the receiving end of his jabs. It would have meant being accepted into the fold. Chekov had once told him he’d finally felt like a part of the family when McCoy made fun of him the first time.

Kirk hated himself for the way he had nearly always been talking over her head as if she didn’t even exist. Ever since she’d come on board, he’d avoided looking at her directly. He’d never once, as far as he could remember, even told her good morning in response to her “Captain on the bridge”. All she’d ever gotten was a cool nod tossed in her general direction, and he was only just realizing that the enthusiasm in those words had steadily decreased as time had worn on.

The one time he’d smiled at her – and it must have been a grim smile, indeed, because it had been only weeks after Chekov’s burial –, had been when he’d received her aboard the Enterprise and handed her the room number and entrance code for her quarters. He hadn’t even accompanied her on the way there, asking nosy questions, the way he had done with almost every single new member of his staff since he’d taken over.

In a flash, the Captain was on his feet. “Computer, locate Ensign Andrada”, he bellowed.

Ensign Andrada is located on Observation Deck 3”, came the cool reply, and Kirk was almost out of the room when Uhura caught his arm.

“I think we should wait”, she said, her voice remarkably calm. Only her troubled eyes betrayed her. “If I were her, I would want to be left alone now. And I think it would do us some good to think over what we have done, how we made her feel.”

Kirk nodded and sat heavily back down in his chair.

Uhura crossed her arms. “I think we should all come up with some ideas about how…how we can…” She looked to the side, huffing in frustration with herself.

Kirk rubbed his chin and nodded. “Right. Later then, after alpha shift. 1800 hours?”

There were nods all around.

The Captain sighed. “We can’t take back what we did. But we can at least try to apologize. Whether she accepts that apology…well, that’ll be her call.”

-

She was glad most of the ship’s crew had only just started their shift, so Observation Deck 3, the smallest one on board, was deserted.

The stars twinkled at her as the tears dried on her skin.

She’d forgotten how messy crying was. One of her uniform’s sleeves was now covered in snot, but she didn’t care much. Her head was pounding as she leaned it against the observation window’s frame, and she had a hard time trying not to fall asleep. Months of pretending not to care about the cold attitude and rejection she’d been facing had left her bone tired. She wouldn’t have minded sleeping for a year, but instead fought her way onto her feet and slunk back to her quarters, her eyes fixed on the ground, going unnoticed.

Her fingers fumbled a little over the code for her quarters, and she paused once she stepped inside.

Seven months.

There had been that one foster family she’d lived with for six months and nineteen days, but other than that? She’d always lasted at least ten months in one place. Ah, well. Not this time, then.

She made her body move and pulled the silver travelling case issued by Starfleet out from under her bed before folding her clothes into it more neatly than was her usual style. Normally, she would just throw them in every which way, but she needed something to occupy her thoughts. Something, anything but the things she’d be leaving behind.

The Enterprise.

Space.

Work that could have challenged and satisfied her.

Space.

Space.

The place she’d always wanted to see.

But she wasn’t welcome here, merely tolerated. Then again, she wasn’t welcome on Earth, either. It had been stupid, really, letting her hopes soar like that. Her imagination of what could have been had carried her away, again, and now she was running from the disappointment, again. She knew this cycle of events well, because it had started over every time she had been assigned to a new foster family.

She sighed in frustration at herself and slammed the case shut a little more harshly than needed.

Therefore, Yorktown it would be. A temporary solution, no doubt. She wouldn’t let herself give up, though; her search for a home, a family, would continue, but she’d need time to grieve the fantasy she’d lost. She made the resolution to invest in a therapist, too. Constantly hoping for something, letting her imagination run wild before finding her hopes brutally crushed by reality was unhealthy.

Perhaps she’d find a future on another planet, if Earth didn’t want her.

Andrada set the case near the door, then shimmied out of her uniform and pulled on the regulation sweatpants and a sleeveless top before lying down on her bed. Her voice sounded hollow, caved out, as she ordered the computer to turn off the lights. She wouldn’t manage a whole year, but she’d at least have some time to rest before she needed to turn in her resignation.

After today, it would only one more day before they’d reach Yorktown. If she managed to avoid looking at anyone directly, she thought she just might survive it.

Chapter Text

When she could be sure her wording was impeccable and her grammar spotless, Andrada added Ensign Meela’s name as a recommendation for her succession. She knew Kirk and the Admiralty would be the ones to make the decision, but if she could just manage to put their name out there, she could be satisfied. They worked hard and showed promise.

Then she pressed send and thus informed both the captain and Starfleet of her resignation. Without further ado, she picked some imaginary lint off her uniform and then stepped purposefully into the bustling hallway. It was early in the morning, alpha shift was about to begin and everyone was readying to take their station.

She arrived on the bridge ahead of time and relieved a thankful Ensign Meela, then logged into the navigation console.

The first thing to pop up was her parents’ picture where she had programmed it in seven months ago. She stared at the console disbelievingly. When the picture had so mysteriously disappeared, she had at first been ready to blame a bug in her code, but then Sulu had informed her in a stern voice that family photographs were not allowed at a work station. All the while he had a photograph of his own daughter on his, so she had dutifully looked up Starfleet Regulation. There was no such rule.

Which must have meant he didn’t want that picture there. Or maybe it was just her.

“Nice picture”, a voice said from behind her.

She flinched, turned, and flinched again when she saw Hikaru Sulu looking over her shoulder. Her fingers flew over the console, accessing the code she had written, and deleting it hastily. The picture disappeared. When she looked at Sulu again, he had one eyebrow raised.

Andrada felt a furious blush creep up her neck. “I don’t need it anymore”, she murmured, so quietly she could not be sure Sulu had heard.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him take his seat.

The turbolift’s doors swished open and Kirk and Spock stepped out.

“Captain on the bridge”, Andrada announced to a disinterested room and promptly flinched again when the Captain addressed her directly with a chipper “Good morning, Ensign”.

She hesitated before reciprocating the greeting, although she managed to make it sound more like a question.

“How long before we reach Yorktown, Ensign?” the Captain inquired.

Despite wondering why he didn’t simply ask Sulu the way he usually did, she answered him promptly. “25 hours and twelve minutes, sir. Estimated time of arrival 0900 hours tomorrow morning.”

“Good. That gives us enough time for a goodbye party tonight.”

Since Andrada did not feel like his words applied to her, she focused on her console again, re-running her calculations.

“Are you displeased, Ensign Andrada?” the captain asked.

Andrada stiffened. What was his objective in asking her this kind of question?  “Displeased, Sir? Why should I be?” Andrada asked carefully.

“About that goodbye party?”

Confused, Andrada frowned at her console. The only crewman she knew of who’d be leaving the Enterprise at Yorktown, apart from herself, was a Lieutenant stationed down in Engineering. Perhaps the party was meant for her? It must be.

“No. I am sure Lieutenant Gallagher will be happy to be sent off into motherhood with the crew’s blessing.”

The Captain behind her made a non-comittical hum in the back of his throat, and Andrada felt more than saw Sulu shift to look back at Kirk. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that raised eyebrow again. Andrada could not shake the feeling that her answer had somehow been insufficient.

Feeling hot all over, she could not sit still any longer and out of her seat to make her way over to one of the calculating screens, pulling up her maps there. She hardly needed to look at them a third time, and the fourth time she went over them, she used as a ploy to be able to watch Kirk and Sulu. They engaged in small talk for a while before falling silent. Only then did Andrada feel comfortable enough to return to her seat.

Nothing remarkable happened during this her last shift aside from these two strange interactions with Sulu and Kirk.

When she was relieved by the beta shift, she immediately made her way to her quarters, content to forgo having dinner, and settled down in sweatpants and a shirt again, a pad for reading ready on her bedside table.  When she had finally settled her thoughts enough to be able to concentrate – which took her the better part of an hour -, the intercom’s chime interrupted her.

She took the call with a healthy dose of trepidation that did not disappoint her. “Yes?”

The Captain’s voice filled her room. “So, are you coming to that goodbye party or not?”

Andrada had hardly opened her mouth when the Captain spoke again, his tone decisive, but not unfriendly. “I know you’re going to say Lieutenant Gallagher can do without you or some such nonsense, but you are part of the bridge crew. Therefore, in my capacity as Captain of this vessel, I order you to appear on Observation Deck 3. Understood?”

Already feeling exhausted, Andrada put down her pad and got ready to change back into her uniform. “Aye, Sir. I’ll be there momentarily.”

For a moment, Andrada felt bad for not having a present for the baby to give Lieutenant Gallagher, but then again they had hardly spoken ten sentences between them. A simple Hello, all the best to you and your family would do. Then she’d stand awkwardly by for a little, trying and failing at small talk for a bit, and make her getaway.

When she arrived at the doors to Observation Deck 3, she was a little puzzled not to hear music, or at least conversation and laughter trickle out into the hall, but stepped inside nonetheless. Lieutenant Gallagher was nowhere in sight, and neither were any of the woman’s friends.

The only ones there were Captain Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Sulu, Scott and Keenser and Doctor McCoy. They were all dressed in casual clothes.

Her eyes widened. Something was going on here, and she had a feeling it had to do with what she had said to the Captain about the crew’s behavior. She had let herself be tricked, and chided herself for  being so stupid. Usually, she was not so gullible.

“Sir?” Andrada asked slowly, her stomach knotting in on itself. “What is going on?”

The Captain came forward, his hands buried deep in the pockets of his…were those jeans? “Backpedalling is inelegant, but believe me, if we could make the last few months un-happen, we would.”

Uhura stepped up next to him. “The Captain…told us about yesterday morning. We hurt you – and we wish to apologize.”

“And we’d like fer ya ta stay on, if ye’d like ta”, Scott added, rocking on his heels. “Yer a good navigae’r.”

“I know that”, Andrada snapped at him before she could stop herself. Immediately, she pressed her lips together, an embarassed flush creeping up her neck. Scott seemed surprised, if not a little taken aback at her response, but shrugged it off as if she’d not just insulted him.

Andrada felt her hands involuntarily tense into fists as she looked at Kirk. “I spoke to you in confidence, Captain.”

“Why tell me all that if you didn’t intend for me to let my crew know? They can only improve their behavior if they are aware of their faults”, Kirk countered.

He was right, and she knew it. Her anger evaporated, and with it the careful attitude. If they wanted her honest self, she would give it to them. “That’s fair. And I…thank you for your…effort.” She waved a hand vaguely at the assembly, and found she had to suppress a bitter smile at the pitiful goodbye party.

“It will hardly make me stay, though”, she added, directing her gaze at Scott for a few seconds. “I do think it would be best for you to choose a new navigator yourself, Captain. Perhaps someone you already know and trust. Someone with an ego less…fragile than mine.”

“I think you’ll be happy to hear I have already chosen someone”, Kirk said.

“You have?” Andrada could not help but think of Ensign Meela.

“Yeah. I choose you.”

Annoyed, Andrada pinched the bridge of her nose. “I think you misunderstand what a resignation means, Captain. I am leaving this ship tomorrow morning.”

Kirk crossed his arms over his chest. “Yes, and so is the rest of the crew, for a well-earned two week shore leave. I’d like for you to put that time to good use and think your decision over.”

Andrada pressed her lips together. “I think seven months is plenty of time.”

“Then let us change your mind”, Kirk said, his voice nearly pleading. “We would really like a chance to…mend fences.”

Andrada mulled his words over for a few moments. “I looked him up before I came to talk to you, you know.”

At their puzzled looks, she continued. “Mr. Chekov. I have read all publicly available writings on him. Even Starfleet reports that only mention him in a half sentence. I watched interviews with him, excitedly talking about life on the Enterprise. And I looked at some of the papers he published; his work is…truly amazing. Starfleet is currently reviewing it, they want to make it part of their syllabus.”

Kirk looked surprised. “They do? How do you know that? Not even I know that.”

She smiled a little. “I…might have also had a peek at materials that were not quite so publicly available.”

“Jesus!” McCoy exclaimed. “You hacked into Starfleet’s data bases?”

“What, like it’s hard?” Andrada said innocently.

“Kid, the only two people I know capable of that are Spock , who’d never do such a thing because Vulcans never lie and such, and the other –“ He checked himself. “Yeah. Chekov.”

“As far as I can tell, that’s what he did do”, Andrada explained.

Scott’s eyes lit up at that. “So he did go back and correct those equations, the cheeky bastard! He showed me the mistakes he’d found, but Starfleet wouldn’t answer his request to put ‘em right. He said if they wouldn’t do it, he’d do it himself! He never mentioned…”

Andrada barely mustered a nod and a smile, overcome by a new wave of tiredness. “My point is this: He was a remarkable person, and I can only try to understand how painful losing him must have been. How painful it still is. I grieve with you.” She paused meaningfully. “That doesn’t justify your behavior.”

Rubbing her forehead, she sighed. “If it so important to you, I will accept your apology, but you will have to look elsewhere for a new navigator. I am tired of competing with a ghost.”

“So you are set in your decision?” Spock asked.

“I am afraid so, Sir.”

Uhura came forward again and extended a hand, which Andrada reflexively took. The Lieutenant’s skin was cool and dry against hers. “If you like, we could use these two weeks and…get to know each other, the way we haven’t before. Maybe we will become something like friends. Or at least friendly acquaintances.”

Gently, Andrada pulled away from her, making sure her wording was amiable, but not an invitation. “Thank you for the offer. If you do not mind, I would like to be fresh for our arrival at Yorktown tomorrow. Goodnight.”

And without waiting for their responses, she turned and made her way back to her quarters.

Chapter Text

Even though she was trying to fall asleep, Andrada found her thoughts whirled too fast.

She was unsure what to make of everything that had happened.

The turnabout the entire bridge crew had made astounded her, and she had a hard time wrapping her head around it. It could have been funny if it wasn’t so disappointing – she had believed them to be smarter than that. Considering their vast experience, the way they had manipulated their way out of several tight spots, she would have believed them to be more aware of the effects their behavior would have on other people. Grief had a funny way of screwing with feelings, behaviors and perceptions, but seven months? Grieving for a lost friend hardly explained giving her more than a hard time for that long.

She did believe Kirk and the others were sincere, and her acceptance of their apology was, too. Now it was her responsibility to decide whether or not she wanted to forgive them, too. Andrada did not think it beneficial to any of them for her to be petty and unforgiving, having friendly acquaintances on the Enterprise would never be a bad idea. She was sure she wanted to try, but it would be a process.

With a deep huff, Andrada turned herself on her stomach. This promised to be a long night.

-

When she took her seat at the navigation console the next morning, shortly before they would be reaching Yorktown, Sulu leaned over.

“I’ve got a confession to make”, he murmured. He hesitated before continuing. “It’s not against regulation to have a picture of your family on your workstation. The regulations make no statement pertaining to that.”

Andrada neatly folded her hands in her lap and gave him a speculative look. “I know. I looked it up.”

“You never said.”

“I didn’t want to…risk getting on your bad side and potentially ruin our…the friendship I’d hoped for. I assumed you had reasons for not wanting that picture there.”

“Chekov kept his parent’s picture there.”

“Oh.”

“I was the one who deleted the code.”

“I figured.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Good. You should be.”

-

Andrada had barely made it a few steps onto the walkways of Yorktown when she heard someone behind her call out her name. She was surprised to see Captain Kirk, dressed once again in casual non-regulation clothes, jog to catch up with her.

“Ensign Andrada! Wait up for a second!” He slowed down to match her pace. “Before we part ways, can I take you for lunch?” When she raised her eyebrows at him, he held up one hand, putting the other over his heart. “No funny business, I swear.”

At her curt nod, he began to lead her down a few streets until they had reached a snug little place that called itself Khan’s Corner.  They sat at one of the tables at the window front and Kirk ordered them a dish named Superblood. It turned out to be a steaming bowl of tomato soup. Andrada found it all annoyingly humorous.

As they ate, she answered the Captain’s questions about herself with short sentences that would give away as little as possible, and otherwise listened with mild interest to his rambling retellings of away missions that had gone wrong.  Once they were done, their empty plates cleared away, and she mentally prepared herself to leave, the Captain surprised her once again by turning serious.

“I’ve got something for you”, he said, and reached into his right trouser pocket. He held up a data chip. “When…Starfleet reviewed Chekov’s belongings, they gave me a record with all his personal logs to do with as I saw fit. All the messages he sent home are on here, too. They’re in Russian, though, so you’ll have to run them through the translator first, I think.”

Then he reached across the table, as if meaning for her to take the chip.

Immediately, Andrada shook her head. “Sir, I…these are his innermost thoughts. They belong to him, not to a woman who has no personal connection to him. I have no right to read or hear them.”

Kirk lowered his hand, laying down the chip on the table surface, exactly halfway between them. “You know, I think you two could have been great friends”, he said lightly.

Inside Andrada’s chest, her heart fluttered nervously. All she wanted was to leave, really. “I am flattered, I’m sure, but still…I shouldn’t. I won’t.”

“Then it won’t hurt if you hold on to the data chip for a while”, Kirk drawled, leaning back in his chair. “I’ll come back for it in two weeks, and you can…keep it safe in the meanwhile.”

Of course she knew what he was doing. He was trying to bribe her into being her friend, but she wouldn’t fall for it, she promised herself. “You are impossible.”

Kirk grinned. “Stubborn, more like.”

“I don’t want it”, Andrada insisted, her eyes narrowing at Kirk. “Don’t think I don’t know what you are doing. I am willing to try and forgive you, but I won’t be buttered up.”

When he didn’t say anything, she pinched the bridge of her nose and leaned forward, her elbows on the table, her hands clasped in front of her. She watched her fingers clasp and unclasp as she spoke, unable to look at him. “You hurt me. By questioning me every step of the way, not acknowledging my advice, you set a precedent. I believe you to be intelligent enough to notice when your behavior, or that of your crew, is inappropriate and hurtful, even if it might take a while. If, maybe, you had made an effort to get to know me, to listen to me, the others would have, too. They follow your lead, because they trust you. You had the power to show that you trusted me, too. But you didn’t.”

She wasn’t angry anymore, she noticed. Rather more disappointed. Exhausted.

She waited for the Captain’s response with baited breath. When he finally made up his mind as to what to say, he mirrored her position and leaned forward.

“You know, when Chekov was still alive, he’d say Captain on the bridge in that funny accent of his. He was always so excited to say it, and no one else dared say it anymore once they saw that, because they didn’t want to take that excitement away from him. They became his words.”

His eyes became intense as he continued. “And when you started, every morning when I came onto the bridge, I heard that same enthusiasm and excitement in your voice. I hated it. I hated the fact that Chekov would never get to say those words again with that stupid, sunny smile on his face.”

He leaned back again, bringing some more distance between them again. “After you left that morning, I realized that I didn’t, not even fucking once, smile back at you and tell you good morning the way I did with Chekov. I hate that, too. I hate myself for doing that to you.

“And now I hate myself for not noticing, and not getting a grip and turning myself around. I was wrong to accuse you of trying to replace Chekov even before meeting you. It poisoned everything that could have been, and I am, for all that it’s worth shit, sorry.”

Andrada chewed her lower lip for a little. “Very insightful”, she replied slowly. “You just might have room to improve yourself. Just make sure you don’t make the same mistake with whoever comes next.”

“I’ll make sure I won’t.”

With that, the conversation would have been over for Andrada, and she once again readied herself to leave, if it hadn’t been for another confession from the Captain.

“There’s something else you should know…”, he began, rubbing his neck. When he noticed the nervous gesture, he immediately lowered his hand. “I intercepted the copy of your resignation you sent to Starfleet.”

Disbelief made Andrada’s face go slack. “What? Why?”

“I know it’s presumptuous, and if you still want to leave the Enterprise in two weeks, I’ll send it. You’ll have a post here, in Yorktown, in a lab. I called in some favours. But first...”

And he slid the data chip across the table toward her.

Andrada shook her head and slid it back. “I told you, I won’t look at it. It’s not my place.”

I went through all of it”, the Captain countered, sliding it back again. “Cried like a child. The entire rest of the crew did, too.”

You were his friends.” Andrada slid it back to his side of the table.

Kirk’s tone went serious again. “Nonetheless, we made sure to ask for his parents’ permission first. Yesterday, I wrote to them again, asking for permission to show them to you, too. Want to know what they said?”

If she hadn’t felt so overwhelmed and helpless against this force of nature of a man, she would have laughed. “I think I know. You can be very persuasive, and you know it.”

“Is my charm working, then?” he asked, now cheeky and smiling again.

Andrada returned the smile for a few seconds, just enough to maybe give him hope, then let it drop. “No.”

Kirk didn’t seem fazed by it. “Hm. Dang it. Well then,” he shrugged, picking the chip up and holding it out to her, “just as I said. Take it home with you. Stare at it and make sure it doesn’t run away.”

“Fine,” she ground out between clenched teeth, and had to restrain herself from groaning in frustration at herself as she plucked the chip out of his fingers.

 “Yes! Does that mean you’ll look at-“

“It doesn’t”, Andrada said emphatically. “You can come pick it up in two weeks.”

It should be easy. She’d just put it on her shelf and forget about it.

Kirk looked like he knew exactly that she was fooling herself. “Okay, but you’ll cave! Just you wait!”

She left him sitting at the table without saying goodbye.

Chapter Text

And of course she caved.

And of course she cried.

-

She spent several days in the bed of her Starfleet issue room, reading, watching and listening to Chekov’s personal logs. She went through messages he’d sent, scientific scribbles, and just odd little tidbits he’d found noteworthy, idioms he wanted to look up, songs he’d been recomended.

The first time she broke was early on, when his slightly scratchy voice recounted Doctor McCoy’s question for his age during the Nerada incident.

“I told him, I am sewenteen, sir, and he said Oh good, he’s seventeen.”

Here, he tried imitating the Doctor’s tone, and a hilariously poor imitation it was. First, it made her laugh, then her laugh slowly morphed into tears until she had to suppress violent sobs.

Chekov’s voice faded into the background as Andrada cried away an entire packet of tissues, and when she had regained some of her equilibrium, she went over the passage again for the parts she had missed.

The second time came upon her as a surprise. She was watching a thirteen second video message he’d sent, right after the battle against Nero had ended. He looked disheveled, but otherwise unharmed. His eyes were tired.  All he said was: “Mama, it’s me, Pasha. I’m ok. I’m coming home.”  The nickname ripped a hole in her chest.  

From then on, she almost couldn’t stop crying, set off every time he laughed, which he did all the time, and every time he spoke highly of his colleagues, which he did often. His natural optimism and abundant enthusiasm, his curiosity and cleverness pulled her in so completely she felt as if she’d known him.

Time lost all meaning for her. There was only a young, happy face, giving accounts of adventurous away missions and recounting the minutiae of everyday life aboard a star ship, details that might have been uninteresting for everyone else. To his friends, and now to her, they could not have been any more precious.

-

At one point, she must have fallen asleep, because the next thing she knew, she sat up straight in her bed. The computer told her it was almost midday. When she checked the pad she had loaded with the data from the chip, she was shocked to notice there were only two messages left she hadn’t viewed yet.

Before she was able to open the first, there was a chime on her quarter’s door.

She had to clear her throat before she managed a rough, “Who is it?”

“It’s Uhura.”

Andrada frowned a little. She had hoped the other woman wouldn’t come, but now that she was here, there really was no good reason against letting her in. So she stood, but made no effort to pretend to look put together.

The communications officer stopped short when she saw Andrada’s state. “So you did look at the data chip. The Captain said you would.”

Afraid she would give away her displeasure at being so easily seen through, Andrada turned away and sat down on the edge of her mattress. “Is that why you are here? Did he send you?”

Pulling up a chair, Uhura sat opposite her. “No, he didn’t. But it’s been four days, and I thought, if you were going to go through Pavel’s messages, maybe I should come by. I remember what it felt like and I wanted to see if you were doing okay.”

Andrada suppressed a snort, and self consciously smoothed stray hairs behind her ears. She did not answer Uhura.

The woman sighed. “When was the last time you had something to eat?”

That made Andrada think. “I…actually, I am not sure. Yesterday morning, I think?”

Uhura raised one of her sharp eyebrows. Andrada shrugged self-consciously. “I wasn’t hungry.”

“I bet you were, you just didn’t notice.”

As if on cue, Andrada’s stomach rumbled. A sympathetic smile spread over Uhura’s face. “Come on, wash your face, get dressed and then we’ll go get something to eat”, she said gently.

Andrada narrowed her eyes at Uhura. “You are not my keeper.”

Uhura seemed unoffended. “I know. But I also said I wanted to try and be your friend.”

They stared at each other for a few moments longer before Andrada relented and stepped into the bathroom.

-

The superior officer took Andrada to a small café a few blocks over that served soups, salads and sandwiches as well as desserts and cakes.

When she looked at the menu, Andrada exclaimed in surprise. “They serve Charlotte cake here?”

She had heard Chekov mention the sweet dish in his logs several times. How he longed for some that was freshly made, not replicated. Preferably filled with his mother’s rose hip jelly and vanilla custard, which he claimed were the best in the entire universe.

“I took Pavel here for his last birthday”, Uhura explained. “He ate three plates.”

Andrada couldn’t suppress the smile that fought its way onto her face. Uhura ordered a plate of Charlotte cake for each of them, along with two cups of coffee. Andrada meant to order hers with only a splash of cream, no sugar, when Uhura did just that.

Of course, Uhura noticed her astounded expression. The woman shrugged. “I took a look at your replicator orders.”

-

“It’s good, but the filling is too sweet for my taste”, Andrada decided after taking her second bite of Charlotte cake.

“Ah’ll take it off yer hands, if ye don’ want it”, said an unmistakable voice from the side.

Instantly possessive, Andrada pulled the plate close. “Get your own, Mr. Scott”, she grumbled.

“Mind if A take a seat?” the engineer asked, and Andrada slowly shook her head.

“Did you invite him?” she asked, directing her gaze at Uhura, who was making space in their booth for Scott.

“I’m as surprised as you are”, the other woman replied, then slapped Scott’s greedy hand away from her dessert. “Get your own, Mr. Scott!”

The engineer waved down the waitress, ordered himself Charlotte cake, coffe, and something called tiramisu.

“Ye canny be tellin me ye’ve ne’er had tiramisu!” he exclaimed when Andrada asked him about it. “It’s divine!”

“Actually, it’s Italian”, Uhura added in good natured exasperation.

Andrada unexpectedly found herself smiling again. Strangely enough, their easy camaraderie did not open up that painful pit of longing in her today, the way it usually would have. Instead, it managed to fill her with – what to call it? Contentment was the wrong word, she wasn’t ready for that yet. But she was ready for accepting their attempts at redemption. Maybe that was what had changed – her reluctance to let them redeem themselves had melted away. What had happened?

Well, there was an easy answer if ever there was one. Mr. Pavel Andreievich Chekov had happened.

 “…isn’t that right, lassie?”

Andrada’s eyes flicked back into focus. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Ach, nevermind.” He shoved a plate under her nose that had a concoction of something creamy covered in brown powder on it. “Here, taste this. Ye’ll believe yer dead and have ascended into heaven.”

She picked up her fork and gave this tiramisu a taste. A moan escaped her before she could defend herself against it. It was sweet, but the coffee Uhura had explained was used in its preparation gave it a pleasant bitterness.

Scott looked insufferably smug. “Told ya. Give me that pitiful rest of yer Charlotte, ye can have this.”

He didn’t have to tell Andrada twice, and she dug in excitedly.

“I see you’ve been converted to the tiramisu side of dessert lovers”, someone said from behind her when she was about halfway done. “I’m more a peach cobbler man myself.”

Andrada turned to see Doctor McCoy standing there. “Does the Captain know of this place, too?” she asked Uhura, as she willingly moved to make space for the Doctor.

“He does, why?”

“Oh, I was just wondering if we should pull up a chair for him in advance. I’m almost sure he, too, will turn up sooner or later.”

“Ah, I doubt it”, said McCoy, “he’s…busy today.”

“Busy? With what?”

McCoy, Uhura and Scott collectively gave her a meaningful look.

Andrada understood. “Oh. Right, I understand. He’s busy.”  

-

She sunk back into her tiramisu and listened to the other three talk and bicker until all their coffees were drained and their plates scraped clean. The conversation had trickled away and if she didn’t leave now, Andrada feared awkwardness would ensue, so she cleared her throat softly and looked at Uhura.

“Thank you for bringing me here. And thank you for joining us, Mr. Scott, Doctor McCoy.”

“Dammit, girl, we’re on leave. Least you can do is call me Bones.”

“Well then, Mr. Doctor McCoy Bones”, Andrada said with something akin to a cheeky grin on her face, “I had better go home now.”

“Let me accompany you”, the Doctor said, “I gotta walk of some of those calories I just ingested.”

Her first instinct was to say no, then she found herself contradicted by her curiosity. “All right. I’ve just got to –“

She had been about to say she still needed to cover her part of the tab, when Mr. Scott piped up to say he got her. Andrada shook her head. “Oh, no, I can’t accept that. We are not friends yet, Mr. Scott.”

“That may be true, but A’d be a poor candidate fer friendship if A dinny at least try to curry favour with ye.”

Andrada only barely managed to keep herself from rolling her eyes. “If you think it will help.” Then she proceeded to follow Doctor McCoy towards the exit.

“Oi, McCoy, A dinny say A’d cover you, too!” Scott shouted all across the café, and the Doctor had no qualms about shouting back, despite the heads that turned at the disturbance.

“I’ll pay you back later!”

-

Out on the busy walkways of Yorktown, the climate was mild and pleasant, as it always was. Andrada could not help but feel it should be winter right about now. It would have suited her mood better. She would have bundled herself up in a scarf, a beret and a thick, woolen coat. If she’d been on earth, she would have gone for a solitary walk now, enjoying snowflakes settling on her shoulders as she made her way home.

She missed snow and the sense of stillness that came with it.

McCoy didn’t say anything for a while, content to let her lead the way and match his pace to hers. Then he broke the silence, the way a concerned parent might if they felt something was bothering their child. “Jim mentioned he gave you that data chip.”

Andrada huffed a sigh. “You say it as if that made me part of a secret society.”

“It kinda does, actually.”

“I suppose you’re right.”

The Doctor cleared his throat. “You doin’ all right?”

Her “Of course” came too quickly, and she instantly knew they were both aware that he was able to see through her. So she told him the truth. “Actually, no. I have cried my heart out over the last few days, and I feel exhausted.”

She could feel him nod next to her. “Yeah, I understand that feeling.” For once, Andrada could be sure it was not just an empty platitude. If anything, it applied even more to him than Andrada, he had known, befriended and loved Mr. Chekov for years, after all. She hadn’t.

They turned a corner and reached the entrance to her building a few steps in.

“This is where I get off”, she told him, awkwardly teetering on her toes, unsure of how to send the Doctor on his way.

The man himself seemed a little nervous, as well. “Listen, if you ever need to talk –“

Andrada raised a hand to stop him. “I know. It’s unlikely I’ll take you up on that offer, though, even if it is kindly meant.”

“Yeah. Okay, that’s fair, I guess. Just…”

“You don’t need to feel obligated to join in on this parade of good will that is going on”, Andrada added.

“Nah, I wanted to make that offer. Just wasn’t sure how you’d take it. Really, though, once you’re done, and you feel you need to get something off your chest, you can come to me. In a professional capacity, if you want, don’t gotta be a friendly one. Doctor-patient-confidentiality and all that. Your resignation hasn’t gone through yet, so you’re still my responsibility.”

Andrada bristled a little at the thought that she was his responsibility, but didn’t say anything.

The doctor eyed her for a few seconds. “How much you still got to get through?”

“There’s only two messages left, actually.”

“Wow, that was quick. Took me three weeks to get through all that. Had to rest for a few days every now and again.”

“I found I couldn’t really stop myself, once I’d started.”

The doctor’s expression became solemn, almost wistful. “Right, yeah. He had that way about him. Got under your skin, and you just had to get to know him. And then there was no way to dislike him once you did.”

He gauged her face for a few seconds. “The two of you would have been thick as thieves after two weeks, I bet.”

Andrada smiled. “Thank you for the compliment, Doctor. I’m sure I’ll see you around.”

The Doctor grinned and held out his hand – Andrada took it. “I’m sure you will. If I were you, I’d expect another goodbye party once leave is up. Just to help your decision along, you see. Jim’s stubborn that way.”

“Consider me properly warned.”

He gave her a friendly nod, then turned and walked off. Andrada stared at his retreating back for a while, lost in thought. It had not escaped her that he had only mentioned the Captain’s name. Not We are stubborn that way, only  Jim’s stubborn that way. It made her wonder if all the attention she had so suddenly received had been given at his command, not out of a genuine desire to mend fences. It hadn’t seemed that way. Perhaps it was naïve, nonetheless she resolved to suspend her doubt and believe them innocent until proven guilty. In the meantime, she’d just take what came her way.

Chapter Text

Once back inside her quarters, she walked over to her bed, fully intending to look at those last two messages, but pulling the data pad out from under her messy sheets made her hesitate. If she was honest with herself – she didn’t want to read and watch them anymore. If she did, it would mean his story was over. She didn’t want to say goodbye to his raspy laugh yet.

Instead, she looked up an address, turned around and got on her way.

-

Sulu seemed surprised to see her, but let her in without questioning her presence, without either of them even saying a word. He gestured at one of the chairs grouped around the standard issue table, but she shook her head. Instead, she let her eyes roam over the various knick-knacks he had arranged on the shelf underneath the view screen installed into the wall. One of them was a photograph – not a holo, but a real photograph in a silver frame – of him and Chekov.

“So you looked at that data chip”, Sulu said eventually, as he noticed her gaze.

She hummed in confirmation. “Tell me, was it a mutual decision to let me have it, or did Captain Kirk just decide for himself?”

Since she wouldn’t sit down, Sulu did. “We deliberated about it for a couple hours, actually. McCoy and I were against letting you have it at first. He said you didn’t need to know, I didn’t think you deserved it. As you said yourself, you didn’t know him. You weren’t – aren’t part of the family.”

The admission stung, but Andrada was appreciative of his honesty. “What changed your mind?”

“I reminded myself how I took perverse pleasure in giving you the silent treatment when you’ve been doing nothing but your job. I was attributing intentions to you that I have no proof for. I did it for no reason other than not wanting to let go of the thought that you were taking his seat when it didn’t belong to you. I thought I needed to be angry on Pavel’s behalf – I was doing it out of a misguided sense of loyalty, when…” He had to stop there and had to clear his throat before he managed to go on. “When really, it would have been truer to his spirit and more loyal to who Pavel was if I had made you my best friend instantly.”

Andrada worried her lips for a few seconds, then went and sat down on the opposite side of the table. “Seems like you’ve given this a lot of thought.”

“That’s because I have.”

She scrutinized his expression, trying to decide whether she should risk asking him a sensitive question. “Will you tell me how it happened?”

He raised an eyebrow. “You’ve read the reports.”

Andrada looked at him. “I have, but I don’t need to tell you that it’s not the same. I’ve had the cold hard facts, the standard phrases. Let me see the human side.”

She saw his jaw tick, how he was about to make up his mind to deny her, so she gave him her best pleading look. “Please”, she added softly.

So he did, haltingly, sometimes obviously troubled and trying to hold back tears. When he noticed she was covertly trying to wipe away her own, he ordered a box of tissues from his replicator before continuing, making sure to get a fistful himself.

When he finally fell silent, Andrada noisily blew her nose, until she heard Sulu chuckle a little. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye, lowered the tissue and smiled. The exhaustion she felt was mirrored in his face.

With a sigh, Andrada let herself fall against the backrest of her chair. “I do feel guilty, you know. You, all of you, had just been deprived of your best friend when I came in, all overeager and expecting too much of you when you were still grieving.”

Sulu shrugged. “Our leave was up. Starfleet wanted us back out there, the position had to be filled. At the risk of sounding like Spock, but I had a look at all the applicants, and you were the logical choice.”

Andrada smiled wryly, then reverted back to solemnity, concentrating on linking and unlinking her fingers. “Still. He deserved so much more. He should still be sitting in that chair. How did you do it?” she asked. “How did you cope with knowing he would never sit there again?”

He gave her an incredulous look. “Well, I started by crying a lot, then went on with alienating and hurting his successor, and am now trying to make good on my mistakes even though I know what I did is hardly worthy of forgiveness.”

When Andrada kept her face carefully blank, he pressed his lips together. “Other than that, I try to remember that he lived a good life. He knew he was loved. What happened was unfair, and I wish I could change it, but I have to remind myself that I can’t.”

He leaned forward, supporting his elbows on his knees. “Look, we didn’t give you that data chip to make you feel guilty. We gave it to you to…introduce you to our friend. You don’t have to feel like you took something from Pavel. That chair was his, yes, but now…it belongs to you, if you want it.”

“And you are willing to relinquish it to me just like that?” she asked warily. Considering what he’d told her before, it seemed too easy.

Sulu rubbed his chin. “No, not just like that. The thought’s still…unwieldy in my head. But, as I said: I’m trying to make good on my mistakes.”

Andrada smiled, and, taking a leaf out of Doctor McCoy’s book, extended a hand for Sulu to shake. He looked surprised at the gesture, but took it. “Thank you, Mr. Sulu, for making that effort, and being so honest with me today.”

“It’s the least I could do, on both of those counts.”

-

When she arrived back at her quarters this time, she felt really, properly hungry for the first time in the last few days. Disinclined to head back out and get something from a restaurant, she ordered a dish called “macaroni and cheese” from her replicator. “The Keptin said eets a comfort food”, Chekov had told his personal log, “and eet is deleecious!”

Andrada could use all the comfort she could get.

-

Mac’n’cheese, as it turned out, was good, but it didn’t send her into raptures the way tiramisu had. It did comfort her, however, in the sense that after she had finished her meal, she burrowed underneath her blankets, pleasantly full, and fell asleep immediately. Her sleep was mercifully dreamless.

Chapter Text

The next morning, she took her time waking up, getting dressed and having breakfast. All the while, she kept looking back at the data pad even while frantically trying to ignore it. She ended up stuffing it into her silver travelling case, buried under some clothes she hadn’t bothered to unpack.

She didn’t know it then, but there it would stay until quite a few things had happened.

Apparently, it was Scott’s turn to bother her today, because he showed up early that afternoon, chiming the door and shouting through it at the same time. It made her drop the book she was reading – the kind with actual pages.

“Come in!” she called, as she bent to retrieve it.

“Watcha go’ there?” Scott inquired as she came back up, and unceremoniously plucked the book from her hands. “A Brief History of Time?” He snorted. “Nothin’ brief abou’ that.”

“Careful!” Andrada snatched it back and dusted off the cover, even though it hardly was necessary. “It’s an antique.”

“Is it now?” When he gave her an expectant glance, she felt obligated to explain.

“It is! I found it in a used bookstore in London a few years ago – the seller told me it had been there for ages, which astounds me. Collectors are willing to pay a pretty penny for a physical copy as it is, but a first edition should have been gone within minutes of putting it on the shelf. The author, Stephen Hawking, was a well known physicist of the 20th-“

“An’ 21st century, A kno.” The engineer gave her an incredulous look. “Didja really think A hadn’t heard of him?”

With a stare and an indignant huff, Andrada realized she’d been had. “You certainly made it sound like you hadn’t.”

“Well, A’ve got mah own book somewhere in mah room back on the Enterprise. Canny claim it’s a first edition, but it is signed.”

Andrada felt her eyes widen. “Signed?” Then her face darkened. Oh no, she wouldn’t fall for his tricks twice. “Hawking was no longer able to sign books by the time he even wrote A Brief History.

Scott smirked. “No’ Hawking, a’course. Archer.”

“Archer? As in…Henry Archer?” Andrada whispered, now awed.  

The man had been the brain behind the development of the first engine capable of Warp V. His son had gone on to pilot the first ship equipped with said engine. To say Andrada was a fan would have been an understatement – if her love for navigation hadn’t come to light early on in her time as a cadet, she would undoubtedly have gone on to become an engineer, hoping to be like her idol one day.

“Tha’s right.” Basking for a moment in what he undoubtedly perceived as a triumph, Scott then clapped his hands and invitingly spread his arms. “What would ye say to a day out in a physics research lab?”

Interest bloomed in Andrada’s chest. “I didn’t know they had one here at Yorktown.”

“Tha’s because it’s new. A dinny kno meself, but since ye told the Cap’n about the Academy wantin’ to take up Chekov’s work, he asked them abou’ it. An’ turns out, the sneaky bastards were actually planning on setting up that lab to follow up on some ideas the lad had, too.” He threw her a conspiratory grin. “It’s no’ even officially in use yet, so we’ll get an exclusive look at it while it’s still in mint condition.”

With every sentence out of his mouth, Andrada’s smile grew, until Scott eventually held up a hand in front of his eyes. “Oi, turn tha’ down, lass, yer blinding me with yer enthusiasm!”

Andrada made no effort to do anything of the sort and instead told him to wait a few minutes while she disappeared into the bathroom to change.

Before she went back out into the main room, she found herself hesitating a little – it felt too good to be true, all the nice things they were doing for her, the very people she had so hoped would become her friends. It almost made her forget what had come before, and she knew she ought not to be forgiving them so easily. She did not want to be petty or resentful, but forgiveness and redemption needed to be worked for.

That was no reason to pass up the opportunity to get a look at a newly installed top-tier laboratory. 

“Finally!” Scott exclaimed, jumping up from his seat when she reappeared in her room. “Let’s go!”

And out the door they went.

-

The facility wasn’t especially large, but it covered two floors of a building that had not seen any use so far. It had been constructed with the intention of making it a living compound, Scott explained, with a handful of flats for sale or hire, but the plan had to be abandoned by the owner, since some illicit machinations on his side came to light and being in a correctional facility did not make being a homeowner any easier. Thus, the structure had been left in a half-finished state and fell to the Federation, which now had finally found a purpose for it. They were looking into adding research facilities of different fields of study to make possible collaborations between them easier.

When they reached the entrance doors, a relief of white letters stood against the marbled grey of the building’s walls. They stood and looked at it for a few moments. It read Chekov Institute for Particle Transportation Research.

“Ach, A like it already, an’ A’ve no’ even seen the inside”, Scott murmured, his voice suspiciously thin.

Andrada did him the courtesy of not looking at him and letting him regain his composure. Instead, she walked ahead towards the doors and stepped inside to finally meet all the wonder and amazement.

-

Wonder and amazement indeed – she and Scott could barely decide what they wanted to fawn over most. Once they had found one thing they found interesting, there was something else demanding their attention. Andrada felt like the proverbial child in a candy shop, forgetting completely about the man who was supposed to be supervising their visit. He had given up five minutes in, though, and had set up camp on a chair outside the door, waiting for them to finish.

“Didja kno, lassie”, Scott said at one point, trying to sound casual and failing, “the Cap’n told me that if ye dinny wanty return to the Enterprise, ye’d be working here?”

Andrada nearly dropped the prototype for a newly designed tricorder she’d been holding, but managed to catch it against her chest and carefully set it back down on its display stand before turning to him. “Obviously, he hasn’t. He did mention that he called in a few favours and found me a position in a laboratory, though he didn’t say which one.”

“Well, there ye are.”

Andrada picked up the tricorder’s sensor node again, fiddling with it. “Yes, here I am.”

She bit her lip before looking at the engineer again. “Why that sudden desire to keep me on the Enterprise, Mr. Scott? When I went to inform Captain Kirk of my intention to resign, I expected him – and all of you – to be pleased that you would finally be rid of me.”

Scott crossed his arms and looked away from her, a slight blush creeping up his cheeks. “An’ we would have been. Or, rather no’ pleased, but relieved. Truth be told, A think we were all afraid of liking ye too much, of letting someone in after Chekov. So we pushed ye away. We’d have been relieved because we dinny need to keep ye at arm’s length anymore. At least until the next new naviga’er came on. If ye hadn’t said all those things, it would have been the same with whoever came after ye, an’ after that, an’ so on.”

He took the sensor node from her and turned it over in his calloused fingers, a little frown on his face. “Ye’re right, we are a family on the Enterprise. An’ we’re proud of tha’. But we dinny exactly smear ourselves wi’ glory, the way we treated ye. More like dishonoured that sacred thing of friendship, an’ tha’s no way to behave. So we’re hoping ye’ll stay because ye dinny do anything that would have warranted our resentment. We were just plain wrong. Ye’ve never been competing with a ghost, just our sorry, stubborn arses. We would be doin’ the same for any crewmember, if they’d had the guts to tell us off the way ye did.”

Andrada took the node back and carefully placed it in the display stand once again. The little clink it made as it dropped into its slot was heavy in the air around them.

“I almost didn’t”, she murmured, risking a look at Scott out of the corner of her eye to find him watching her intently. “I almost didn’t tell the Captain all those things. It took me a long time to muster the courage, but I guess I felt just indignant and hurt enough to manage.”

“And a good thing ye did. No one deserves to be bullied like tha’.”

They were silent for a while, before Andrada pointed out a kind of machine she had never seen before. Scott shot her a look before joining her in trying to figure out what it did.

-

They went for ice cream once they had had enough of the laboratory, and then Scott walked her back to her apartment.

She felt lighter, and for the first time as if she had spent a pleasant afternoon with a friend rather than a colleague or acquaintance. Nonetheless, she was beat, and wanted nothing more than to rest. She didn’t think skipping dinner would be a good idea, so she forced herself not to fall asleep while eating a sandwich and then brushed her teeth before snuggling into bed.

Chapter Text

Andrada woke the following day at nearly midday, brought out of a dream instantly forgotten by a chirp that told her she had a new message.

It had come from someone in Starfleet, though it didn’t look to be official.

Dear Ensign Andrada,

A few days ago, a communication from Captain Kirk reached me informing me of your intention to leave the Enterprise. I must admit to my surprise, seeing as you have been doing an admirable job since you joined the crew, if his report is to be believed, and I am inclined to believe it. Captain Kirk assured me that there was good reason for your request for a transfer, but he also insisted that he would do everything in his power to convince you to stay first.

In the event that you do leave the Enterprise, rest assured that there is a post waiting for you at the newly installed Chekov Institute for Particle Transportation Research. I have attached documents containing information on a number of projects, to give you an impression of what will be subject of the research conducted there.

I would be honoured to welcome you at the Institute, which I will be supervising as Director during the first year at least.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Carol Marcus

At first, Andrada stared open mouthed for a bit, then she immediately tore into the exposés introducing some of the work that would be done at the Institute. She finished reading them in record time, and it left her disproportionately excited - it promised to be beyond amazing.

And thinking about working together with Carol Marcus, who was an extraordinary scientist and had herself once served aboard the Enterprise, left Andrada’s heart fluttering at the prospect of possibly being involved.

“This is amazing”, she whispered to herself, but lowered her data pad with a sinking heart.

If this had come to her at any other time before, she wouldn’t have hesitated even a second. But now, there was a raspy laugh in her head, and excited Russian babbling, and wonderings about English idioms, and lazy recapitulations of ordinary days aboard the Enterprise, sometimes in Russian, sometimes in English. Now, there was proof of that family she had dreamed of.

Andrada knew she really should say yes immediately. Instead, she wrote Carol Marcus a letter, thanking her kindly for her communication and expressing her excitement about the projects. She did add a sentence about being unsure about her ultimate decision, though.

She had eight days, a little over a week left to make up her mind. How hard could it be, really?

-

Andrada did not get the whole eight days to make that decision, because the Enterprise was called up for what was essentially a diplomatic mission, albeit an urgent one.

She ordered a yellow uniform from the replicator, holding it in her hands for a few minutes before actually putting it on. When she came back from this assignment – did she want to wear it for the rest of the Enterprise’s ongoing mission? For at least two more years to come?

She wanted to say that she did with absolute certainty, desperately so. But there was just no way to be as sure as she needed to be.

To counteract the headache that threatened itself, she pulled on her uniform and regulation boots, then left her quarters behind in order to fulfill what, for now, was still her duty.

-

Agreeing to come along had been a very, very bad idea. Beyond bad, really, considering the fact that she was now very much in danger of bleeding out.

“They insist on inviting a party of six down for a dinner, Captain.” Uhura.

“Why six?” Kirk.

“The number holds a religious significance for them, apparently.” Uhura.

 “Don’t look at me like that, Jim, I’m not going.” McCoy.

“But then there will be only five to the party, Doctor.” Spock.

“Yeah, I know, I can count. Why don’t you take Andrada with ya? She could use some practice diplomating.” McCoy.

“You could just take someone from security, they would probably be more useful than I could -” Herself.

“Oh, come on, you can do it. This might be your only ever away mission.” McCoy.

He was right. It just might be. “Alright then.”

Oh, why did she do these stupid things, like listening to a Southern grump with a tendency for swearing?

The inhabitants of this planet, tall, limber creatures with four arms, were technologically advanced enough to have achieved space travel at above-light speeds, but habitually carried knives and spears everywhere. And that meant everywhere. Even to peaceful dinners. Since they were always armed, they did not object to the Enterprise crew carrying their own weapons, so they had foolishly thought themselves safe enough.

To everyone’s surprise, it had been Spock who set them off. He’d called their weaponry rudimentary, which it was, if measured by Starfleet standards. Their hosts were nonetheless deeply offended, had snarled at them, and then launched themselves over the table at which they had been sitting.

Caught unprepared, Andrada had not been able to pull her phaser in time to avoid the blade that was now buried in her stomach. The knife’s handle rose and fell with her pained breaths, but she knew enough to leave it there if she wanted to have any chance at survival at all. For now, it was the only thing keeping the blood insider her.

She’d fallen somewhere between the chairs, covered in bits of food and shards of broken plates and drinking goblets. Around her, there were shouts, the sounds of shots being fired and furniture being toppled over. The air smelled electric.

“Andrada, you alive?” she heard the Captain yell. She couldn’t tell from where.

“Yes!” she shouted back, and then immediately regretted it because she had betrayed her position and the fact that she was still alive.

She yelped as one of the creatures appeared in her field of vision, snarking at her. It was the one that had stabbed her. Its name escaped her, but it sure remembered its knife was still stuck in her, because it yanked it out of her wound with a satisfied hiss, undoubtedly because it knew what would happen.

It left Andrada groaning on the ground. She tried stemming the blood flow with her hands, but it took merely a few seconds before her entire front was drenched in blood. She only had enough time to realize how bad her situation was before her vision started to swim.

No.

Nonononononono.

Please, no.

-

“Oh God, no, please, no!”

“Doctor, I believe her attacker nicked her aorta abdominalis -”

“Yes, Spock, I can see that! Now get out of my way – M’Benga! Chapel! I need you, right now!”

“Coming!”

“Dammit, it shoulda been me down there-“

“No time for blaming yourself now, Bones!”

“Get out of my sickbay! Chapel, she’s AB positive, so get me as many blood bags as you can, we’ll need them! Now!

Chapter Text

Touch and go.

Andrada had never understood the expression.

That was, she knew what it meant, logically. But she’d never understood the horrible uncertainty attached to it. Was it supposed to be this painful?

“She’s awake!”            

“That’s not good! Put her back under!”

So that was a yes. She wanted to whimper, find an outlet for the pain, but her throat didn’t work.

Someone leaned in close, filling out her field of vision. Blue eyes. Frown chiseled permanently on his face.

“You listen to me, kid, I’m trying to save you here, okay? So be good, and try not to die on me, a’right?”

She wanted to say “Aye, Sir”, he was her superior in rank, after all, and orders were orders, but her tongue was too heavy. She let her head roll to the side, hoping to loosen it with the movement, but it didn’t do much.

And talking was so much effort, anyway.

She was getting sleepy again.

She thought she caught a glimpse of a young man, sitting on the next biobed over, swinging his legs. He had curly hair that had grown out a bit, and he was wearing a yellow shirt. He grinned when he noticed her looking at him. It felt like the sun rising.

“Добро пожаловать домой*“, he said.

Andrada smiled.

*Dobro pozhalovat' domoy = Welcome home.

-

Looking at the aftermath of that operation had Leonard McCoy feeling just about ready to crack.“Computer, give me the Captain.”

“What news, Bones? How’s she doing?”

Leonard sighed. “To be honest, I don’t know. She’s stable, for now. It’s up to her from here on out.”

On the other end, Kirk was silent for a few seconds. “Okay, thanks for the update. Good work, Bones.”

It’s not your fault if she doesn’t make it, the Captain didn’t say, but Leonard heard it loud and clear.

-

“I’m sorry,” Uhura said quietly form behind him, resting one of her slender hands on his shoulder for a moment.

“Yeah, me too”, Leonard answered, standing, arms crossed, next to Andrada’s bed. The mess had been cleared away, the floor scrubbed clean of her blood, but he couldn’t help feeling like crap.

“You should sleep.”

“I know.”

When Uhura left him to brood in peace a few minutes later, he decided he would sleep – in the biobed next to Andrada’s. In case anything, anything at all happened, and even if it was just a fucking twitch in her pinky, he wanted to be there.

-

The first time, nobody was there.

-

The second time, it was the same.

-

The third time, she thought she felt a hand against her cheek, and she wanted to push back, lean into it.

Say, Я здесь*.

Sleep pulled her back under before she could.

*YA zdes' = I’m here.

-

“Hey girl”, Leonard whispered, one hand laid lightly against Ensign Andrada’s cheek, the way he used to do for his daughter when she’d been sick.

What he hadn’t said to Joana, but said to Ensign Andrada was: “Do me a favour and wake up soon, ‘kay? You’re drivin’ us crazy here, lettin’ us wait like that.”

He removed his hand and leaned against the side of her bed. She was doing better, thank the Lord, but four days? Hell, that was a long time. Nothing compared to when people used to be in comas for years at a time, often without ever waking up again, he knew that. But he wanted to see her eyes.

They were green, like Chekov’s.

He blew out a heavy breath, and went back to work.

-

The fourth time, she was able to make out voices. They sounded muffled, and she didn’t understand what they were saying, but she could distinguish Southern grumbling from the other two. It made her happy.

She thought she could feel the corner of her mouth twitch.

-

The fifth time, there was a stoic Vulcan standing at the foot of her bed, looking directly at her as she sluggishly blinked back at him.

“You are awake”, he stated unnecessarily. “How are you?”

Andrada had to swallow twice before being able to rasp out three halting words: “Tired…but alive.”

“Indeed you are”, the Vulcan said.

Careful, or you’ll overwhelm me with your enthusiasm, Andrada wanted to say.

“I shall go inform Doctor McCoy.”

Andrada smiled a little, when she heard a shouted “Finally!” echo across the sick bay.

-

The Captain came to visit her after his shift had ended, and just sat in silence for a few moments before saying anything. Andrada knew very well what was going to come, though. It was all written on his tired face.

“I’m sorry.”

Just as she had thought.

“Why?” she asked.

“If I had put your resignation straight through to Starfleet, you wouldn’t have been called in for that mission. You wouldn’t even have been on board, and you would never –“

“I know, Captain”, Andrada interrupted. “I have been over that in my head all day, thinking about the what ifs, and who is to blame.”

She raised her hands and counted on her fingers. “You could have persuaded Doctor McCoy to come despite his reluctance. I could have refused to go. I could have insisted you send my resignation to Starfleet. You could have just gone down with five instead of six people, no matter the number’s religious importance. Doctor McCoy could have suggested any other crew member to accompany you, there would have been literal queues, I can assure you.”

Andrada lowered her hands. “I could go on, but I don’t think I need to.”

The Captain smiled weakly. The corners of his lips barely even lifted. “Still. I’m sorry.”

If she had been able, Andrada would have shrugged. As it was, she could only resort to rolling her eyes. “Thank you, Sir, I’ll make sure to give that apology a special place in my Cabinet of Sorrow. It’ll make for a fine display next to your and the crew’s remorse.”

That earned her a disbelieving look followed by a genuine, if somewhat diminished Kirk Smirk. “Bones  got you on the good stuff, huh? Otherwise you’d never say that to me.”

“I think it’s more the combination of the good stuff and me abusing my position of power. After nearly dying, I get a carte blanche. At least while I’m still healing.”

“Well, if you can use fancy French words, then you really must be getting better, Ensign.” He stood and patted her hand. “You just promise me not to make a run for it before Bones clears you.”

“I promise.”

-

“Your scans are normal, you are healing nicely.”

“Does that mean I’ll be allowed to do things again?” Andrada asked, a little annoyed at having been held in the med bay since she’d woken up two days ago.

McCoy gave her a sour look. “Forgive me for bein’ cautious.”

Andrada sighed, knowing he was right. “Still, will I at least be allowed back to my quarters?”

The doctor put away his tricorder and leaned against the biobed opposite the one Andrada currently occupied. She was sitting on the edge, her legs not quite touching the floor. She had to suppress the urge to swing them back and forth.

“Sure. I don’t know if Jim told ya, but we’re goin’ back to Yorktown. Starfleet gave us another week of leave, starting tomorrow.”

She contemplated his words. The Enterprise had still been in orbit around their target planet during her recovery because there hadn’t been an agreement about how to proceed after a Starfleet officer had been injured and nearly lost her life as a consequence. “Does that mean the…situation has been resolved?”

McCoy crossed his arms and pressed his lips together. “If anybody asked me, no. But nobody ever asks me, so…” He shrugged, clearly displeased. “Since this is a diplomatic issue, and your attacker has been killed in the firefight, right after he pulled that knife outta ya, the leaders of that damn ugly rock down there have decided we should be satisfied with knowing the bastard received his just deserts. And since Starfleet and the Federation don’t wanna ruffle anymore feathers, they agreed.”

Andrada bit her lip, trying to gauge her own feelings on the matter. When she shrugged, she could see surprise and disbelief on the doctor’s face. “To be honest, all I really want is to get away from here, so I don’t really mind.”

“You don’t mind that Starfleet are letting them off easy, or you don’t mind almost dying?”

“Either. Both.”

“You sure? That’s some pretty heavy stuff that happened to you, y’know.”

She smiled wryly. “I was planning on seeking out a therapist anyway.”

“Great. Then you better get outta my sickbay now, before I change my mind.”

He didn’t have to tell Andrada twice. She chuckled to herself when he shouted after her: “And don’t think I won’t know if you go anywhere but straight to your quarters, Ensign!”

She did go straight to her quarters, for about five minutes, in order to retrieve her data pad. Then she made her way to Observation Deck 3, made sure to program the door to remain closed for anyone but her, and sat down in front of the observation window.It was time to look at those last two messages.

Chapter Text

The first was a written diary entry and seemed mostly routine, but at the end, Chekov mentioned the mission that would be his last. He explained that they had received a distress call from a desert planet. It had, apparently, been one of the contenders for New Vulcan because of its climate, but the minerals contained in its soil had turned out to be all wrong for planting and raising Vulcan vegetation, and the planet that now was New Vulcan had been a closer match. Chekov’s report said the Captain hadn’t decided yet who would go on the away mission. He had added that he really craved some of his mother’s piroshky, and made a note to send his mother a message soon.

Andrada was wary of opening the last message. A voice recording this time. Her finger hovered over the data pad’s touch screen for what seemed an interminably long time, but eventually she managed to press play.

It was in Russian, so Chekov’s voice was overlaid with a cool computer translation.

“Hi Mum, how are you? I want to know everything you and Papa did since I last called! Things on board here have been going well, nothing too exciting. Or dangerous, I promise! I am going on an away mission tomorrow, on a desert planet. I know you say you don’t like the desert, Mum, but I like it there, at least for a little while, until the heat makes me miss Russian winters. It made me think of Vulcan, though. Again. And Commander Spock’s mother.”

That was new. He had never mentioned the incident in his personal files, though Andrada had read the reports.

“I know you said I wasn’t to blame, that it was Nero’s fault for destroying the planet, and I know Commander Spock told me the same…but I had her, mother!”

His voice surged in what might have been mistaken for a childish whine if she hadn’t known it better for frustrated anguish.

“I had her, and I lost her! Ah, I hate the thought. I know it was years ago now, and I know I can’t turn back time, but still, it’s hard to forgive myself. You help me not hate myself for it, and I am thankful for that. Anyway, I miss you. I can’t wait until we have another shore leave on Earth, can you make me piroshky when I come? Tell Papa he’s not supposed to stay in his office too long, and tell him I will be angry if he does. I want to see the new model he built of the Enterprise when I come next time, too. I guess that’s all. Bye bye.”

-

For a few moments, Andrada simply sat, numbly staring out of the observation window without seeing anything. She was waiting for the dam to break, she knew. But it didn’t.

She looked up when the door to the Observation Deck hissed open, despite the lock she had set on it. It surprised her to see Mr. Spock walk inside.

He stopped a respectable distance away from her. “Ensign Andrada. The Captain sent me to look for you.”

Skeptical, Andrada raised an eyebrow at him. “Did he? Why?”

“Because Doctor McCoy asked the computer to locate you and found you not to be where he ordered it.”

If it hadn’t been so stoically delivered, Andrada would have burst into laughter. “Why didn’t the doctor come himself, then?” she asked instead.

“He did, but found himself unable to get past the lock you programmed into the door. He said, and I quote, ‘I even used my override code, but the damn girl’s too clever for me’.”

This time, Andrada did laugh a little. “I see. So, because the Captain himself is busy captaining his ship, he sent you to herd me back to my bed?”

The Commander quirked his eyebrow. “I would not express it like that, but that quintessentially is what I am supposed to do, yes.”

With a sigh, Andrada pulled her knees to her chest and slung her arms around them. “I’ll come – if you do me the courtesy of answering a question, first.”

Spock looked at her expectantly.

Gazing at the stars, she weighed her words, searching for a fitting phrasing. Ultimately, she pointed at her data pad. “I believe you are aware that Captain Kirk gave me the data chip with all of Mr. Chekov’s personal notes?”

At his nod, she continued: “I have only just finished looking at them. There were two pieces left, one a written diary entry, the other a voice recording he sent to his mother the day before his last mission.”

“Ah”, the Commander made, obviously fully aware what it was that she wished to address.

Did you blame Mr. Chekov for the death of your mother?”

If he was offended, or thought her too forward, Spock didn’t show it one bit. He also didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“Never. There was no reason to blame him, since it was no one’s but Nero’s fault.”

She watched him closely, but knew that if he was telling her a lie, she would likely not recognize it.

Being the acute observer he was, Spock of course noticed her scrutiny. “You look at me very much like Mr. Chekov did when he asked me the same thing. I will tell you what I told him that day: He did all that he could and more to save my people. If anything, I am thankful to him for saving the High Council. They are able to preserve a vast amount of knowledge and to re-establish a Vulcan society only because of him. The destruction of my home planet and the death of so many members of my species, and, admittedly, my mother’s, is something I am still trying to come to terms with, but there was never any question about Mr. Chekov’s involvement.”

Andrada regarded him a little longer before climbing out of her seat and picking up her data pad. “Thank you, Mr. Spock. I will retire to my quarters now.”

She stopped and turned back when he called her name. “Yes?”

“Have you reached a final decision as to your assignment to the Enterprise?”

“I have not.”

“May I make a strong suggestion for you to stay on, then? Your intellect and abilities would be greatly appreciated here.”

Andrada had a hard time not scoffing at that. The time when that had not been the case was not too long ago.

She kept her answer cool, but not harsh. “You may make a suggestion, Mr. Spock, but I may choose to disregard it.”

“That is, of course, entirely within your rights.”

“Yes, it is, Mr. Spock. You tell the Captain that, too. I think he could use the reminder.”

With a small awkward wave, she turned back around and made her way to her quarters.

Despite having been unconscious for over four days, and asleep for most of another two, she was still exhausted. Seemed like she would fulfill Doctor McCoy’s wish after all.

-

This time, she managed to leave the Enterprise without being bothered by the Captain, or anyone else, and spent the following days in blissful solitude. She took the time to go over the exposés Carol Marcus had sent her again, and re-played some of Chekov’s personal logs, especially the ones where he laughed a lot.

As Doctor McCoy had predicted after the afternoon spent at the café, she received an invitation from Captain Kirk to meet up two days before the Enterprise was set to resume its mission. It simply read:

How about a meet-up at Chekov’s café? Tonight, 2000 hours. Looking forward to seeing you there, Kirk.

So her time was up, then. Her stomach knotted at the thought, and she had to resort to pacing and wringing her hands the way she had before scraping together what little courage she had to go and talk to Captain Kirk about her resignation.

That day seemed so far away now, though it had not yet been a month. Back then she had had no doubt about what she wanted. Andrada shuddered a little and touched her stomach – there was no scar, but Doctor McCoy had advised her to be careful nonetheless. He had also forbidden her from any strenuous activity for a while, but metaphorically running from her decisions for almost a week did not count, she thought.

She checked the time on her view screen, then sent a quick message to the officer who had let her and Scott into the lab before that disaster of a mission. He answered her after only a few minutes, and agreed to letting her come by again.

-

“Thank you for being here on such short notice”, she told him as she arrived at the Institute.

The man gave her what could have counted as a conspiratory smile. “I get it. It’s pretty impressive, right?”

While that was true, it was not the reason Andrada had come. She agreed with him, though, because she had neither the time nor the patience or inclination to explain her presence.

Once inside, she immediately picked up the tricorder prototype, powering it up and looking at the controls, trying to figure out the new feature. If she was right, it should be able to not merely read the stats of physical functions and organs, but actually analyze single or small clusters of up to six cells inside the portable device.

There had been an idea going around the medical world for a few years that integrating a tiny version of a transporter would make that possible. The only difficulty was manufacturing a transporter that small, and Pavel had had an idea.

She remembered reading the note, containing all of two lines, in his personal logs – and here she was, holding his two-liner in her hands. With two lines of scribble, he had managed to initiate a medical revolution.

It would probably take another few years until it was ready to go into actual production, there would still be some issues to figure out. That was also why their supervisor had advised her and Scott against actually trying to use it the first time they had come.

Since it was her body, Andrada figured there would only be herself to blame in case something went wrong, so today she pointed the tricorder at her stomach, punched in some directions, and pressed the Transport button.

When she turned the device around again, the word Analyzing was blinking on and off on the display. It didn’t register with her immediately, but she kept bouncing the fingers of her left hand against her leg as she waited for the results, and once she did, she balled her hand into a fist.

With a ping, the display showed a listing of important numbers indicating that the tissue she had transported was healthy, but more important were the words that followed: sensitive after a recent injury, and partially regenerated by medical equipment. The tricorder recommended further analysis advisable.

Andrada made a whimpering sound at the back of her throat. The officer, who had been waiting by the front door, stuck his head in. “You okay?” he asked.

 “No”, she choked out, a little embarrassed she had been loud enough for him to hear, but she was too overwhelmed to really care. She held out the tricorder for him to read, disregarding the fact that the readings, even though he probably knew their meaning, didn’t really mean anything to him. “It works”, she whispered excitedly. “I’m not a doctor, but I know enough to realize it works!”

To the officer, she must have looked half deranged, laughing and crying at the same time, all the while shoving the tricorder at his chest.

“Um…” the man made, “that’s…good?”

“No, my friend”, she intoned with a smile that proclaimed him a sweet, sweet fool, “that’s invented in Russia.” At his frown, she laughed and shrugged. “Close enough, anyway.”

Andrada closed his fingers around the tricorder, patted his shoulder and left him standing there.

-

Afterwards, Andrada had a hard time staying still in her quarters, so she decided to go for a walk. It took her far away into the depths of her mind, so deep, in fact, that she almost ran late and had to hurry back to her quarters in order to retrieve the data chip.

Chapter Text

When she arrived at the café, Andrada was surprised to find the entire bridge crew plus Doctor McCoy, Scott and Keenser already assembled there.

“Andrada!” the Captain exclaimed when he caught sight of her, “Good to see you! How’s it been going?”

She smiled at him tentatively. “It has been going very well, thank you, Captain. I have been enjoying my reprieve from being stabbed immensely. What about you?”

That set off a round of reports about what all the others had been doing, including Keenser’s, as translated by Scott. They ordered themselves some dinner, dessert included, and continued talking. Andrada listened with pleasure, but rarely joined the conversation, which included good-natured jabs and harmless insults being traded back and forth.

When they had finished their soups, sandwiches and salads, but before their desserts arrived, Kirk finally turned to her with a more serious tone. “So, Ensign. You still got that data chip I gave you?”

“Of course, Captain”, Andrada said pertly, pulling said object out of her satchel and handing it back to Kirk. “It showed exemplary behavior and did not attempt to run away even once.”

Commander Spock raised an eyebrow at that exchange, but did not comment otherwise.

“From what I’ve heard, my prediction came true”, Kirk drawled, looking at her from under his lashes while turning the chip in his fingers.

Andrada sighed. “Yes.” She could have made a number of tongue-in-cheek comments about his astounding gift for second sight, but thought it more prudent to refrain.

“And?”

“And what?”

“Oh come on, don’t make me drag it out of you! What did you think?”

Andrada thoughtfully bit her lip and watched the chip dance between Kirk’s fingers. “I must admit, I didn’t think much at all. There was more to feel.”

Kirk seemed torn between exasperation and amusement. “Then what did you feel, Ensign?”

“First, apprehension. About looking at the contents of Pa - Mr. Chekov’s personal logs at all. My curiosity won out. From then on, I was very much overwhelmed with his all-consuming desire to know. Everything. He kept surprising me. The first thing he told the log was a joke that was not even very funny, and I…” Unbidden, tears rose to her eyes and made her vision swim.

“How did the joke go again?” McCoy asked, probably in attempt to diffuse the sudden tension at the table, but Kirk waved him away.

“Go on”, the Captain said.

“Listening to the things he said, watching him scratch his nose or…drag a hand through his hair. Getting to see all these little things he found so interesting, even thought they might seem trivial to others. He listened to the entirety of the Beastie Boy’s work, ghastly as it may be, only because you defeated Skrall’s drones with the song Sabotage.” Andrada shrugged, a little helplessly, as more tears came. “He became real. His presence was very nearly tangible, and knowing I will never really get to know him hurts.”

Uhura reached across the table to take one of Andrada’s hands in hers. She took a deep breath to steady herself, then released Uhura’s fingers before she went on. “I thank you, for letting me get to know him. For showing me that you are capable of being the family I had hoped for. Because that’s what you were to him. You were his family.”

When she did not continue, Kirk egged her on, obviously on edge himself, impatient to hear her decision. Impatient to know if they had succeeded in their attempt at redemption. “So does that mean you’ll stay?”

Andrada let her eyes wander over every face seated at the table before looking back at him. “I’m afraid it doesn’t.”

She could see Kirk was about to protest, so she raised a hand to stop him. “Let me explain. Before I came here tonight, I paid the Institute another visit, to have a second look at that tricorder prototype we saw, Mr. Scott.”

The engineer’s eyes lit up. “Aye, A remember! Why, though?”

Her grin was somewhat lopsided, because she knew Doctor McCoy would likely disapprove of what she was about to tell them. “To test it.”

As she had predicted, the Doctor immediately became suspicious, demanding to know what she’d tested it on, exactly.

Her answer of “Myself” sent him into an outrage.

“What?!” he exclaimed. “Are you insane, girl? That thing wasn’t approved for testing on humans yet –“

“I know that, Doctor McCoy. But I took the risk in the name of science, and let me tell you – it works like a charm.

That piqued the man’s interest. “It does?”

“It picked up that the tissue in my stomach had recently been injured and at least partially regenerated. I’d say that’s promising.”

“Promising? That’s damn amazing!” In order not to damage his image as the responsible mother hen of the team, McCoy quickly tamped down his excitement to grouse at her in his Southern accent, shaking a finger. “Don’t think I approve of what you did, though. Damn stupid, it was. Downright foolish.”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Wasn’t a damn compliment.”

Andrada was happy to ignore his last comment. “Doing that, though, made me realize – the Enterprise is not where I want to be, at least not now.” She squirmed a little under the intense gaze of all the others around her. “Right now, what I want to do is contribute to promising research in the name of Mr. Chekov. And maybe, someday in the future, I will be ready to join you on your adventures again.”

Kirk leaned back in his seat, looking a little disappointed, but he gave her a winning grin anyhow. “If and when you do, the navigator’s chair is yours, Ensign Andrada.”

The man just could not not win, could he?

“In the meantime, I would love to hear of your exploits, from all of your perspectives”, Andrada said.

“Wha’s tha’ supposed ta mean, lassie?”

“That at least you and the Captain are prone to embellishment, if reports are to be believed, Mr. Scott.”

“Oi!”

From then on out, the rest of their evening was filled with pleasant chatter about everything and nothing, until Andrada decided to say her goodbyes. There were handshakes, and hugs from Mr. Scott and Uhura, the one turbulent as he whirled her around, the other light as a feather and yet all encompassing.

She waved the table goodbye, and left the crew of the Enterprise to themselves.

Chapter Text

Andrada met Carol Marcus in person for the first time the following day, to get her formal introduction to the laboratory, her identification codes and to discuss her assignment. She wouldn’t be working on the medical tricorder, but rather on transportation interferences, which was just fine with her. She knew she’d be checking in with the team working on the tricorder regularly, though.

She made it to project director within her first year at the Institute, and happily took on Carol’s suggestion of becoming the Institute Director, when she left after one year and five months in order to return to Earth.

The tricorder was ready for field testing eight months later, and Andrada was proud to hand one to Doctor McCoy personally when the Enterprise came to visit for another shore leave. She was satisfied to notice he had lost none of his grumpiness.

-

After another eleven months, the Chekov Institute for Particle Transportation Research celebrated its third year in operation, and Andrada was pleasantly surprised to see the crew of the Enterprise at the party after the formal dinner.

The influx of communication from each of them had been fairly regular and mostly entertaining, sometimes worrying and often hilarious, when comparing Scott’s and Kirk’s rendition of events to the other’s. Andrada had a suspicion they did that on purpose, to amuse her. If they did, it certainly worked, and she would have been lying if she’d said she didn’t appreciate that.

When they were done playing catch-up, Kirk asked Andrada to accompany him to the bar to fetch some drinks for the group. She went willingly, wondering what his objective of separating her from the group was.

While they were waiting for the drinks to be prepared, Kirk turned to her. “Would you say we are friends now, Andrada?”

Tilting her head, she regarded him with slightly narrowed eyes. “Most of the time”, she answered slowly, “except every time you annoy me with stories of your conquests. Which I still find reprehensible, by the way.”

Kirk laughed and held his hands up in a defensive gesture. “Fine, fine, I’ll amend my ways.” His tone turned more serious. “Really, though, are we friends?”

Andrada rolled her eyes a little. “Yes, Captain.”

It was uncharacteristic of Kirk to be so hesitant about something, but he eventually blurted out something resembling a sentence: “Then would you, just maybe, possibly…considerfillingupafreepositiononmyship?”

Hope bloomed in Andrada’s chest, and her heart picked up speed. “That…depends.”

“On what?”

“The nature of the position.”

They both knew she was purposely being obtuse, but this conversation had been literal years in the making. It deserved to be drawn out and savoured. Especially if it meant she got to torment Kirk a little.

“It would involve star charts, calculating distances, speeds and trajectories and spatial distortions and all that nonsense.”

“Hmm”, Andrada hummed, pretending to think very hard at the cocktail that had been set down in front of her. “Navigation then, am I right?”

Next to her, Kirk released a tense breath. “Yeah. My former navigator, Ensign Meela has been elevated into the rank of Lieutenant and serves on the U.S.S. Callisto now. For me, there really is only one person I want to see in that chair next, and I know all the others are hoping for the same.”

He turned imploring eyes on Andrada, entreating her to suspend the game for a moment and give him a straight answer. She took it as her cue to let a blinding smile split her face, and as soon as Kirk caught on, he mirrored her expression and made a whooping noise, pumping his fists into the air. Andrada ducked her head and shot the table with the rest of the crew a look – of course they had been watching the two of them like hawks, and were now grinning from ear to ear themselves, Scotty and Hikaru even exchanging a high five.

“Help me with the drinks, will you, then we can toast our new navigator”, Kirk said, and Andrada followed him, balancing a small tray in her hands.

“Welcome back to the fam’ly!” Scotty sing-songed as they clinked glasses.

“Thank you”, Andrada said, a warm feeling in her stomach. “When do I start?”

“Tomorrow, Lieutenant Andrada.”

“Tomo-“ Andrada started her sentence, then as realization hit her, she stopped and coughed, choking on her drink.

“Easy there, Andrada”, McCoy laughed, patting her back.

When she found her voice again, Andrada looked incredulously at Kirk. “Lieutenant?”

“Yup”, he said, popping the p.

“Alright then.”

-

Standing in the turbolift, waiting for it to reach the bridge, Andrada’s heart was hammering so hard it nearly jumped out of her chest. When the doors hissed open to reveal her destination, she sucked in a breath. She had loved her time with the Institute, but now, standing here, she found she had missed the Enterprise more than she had thought.

She had missed the stars more than she had thought.

“Request permission to come aboard, Sir”, Andrada said, her voice stronger than she would have believed.

“Permission granted”, Kirk answered, and Andrada came forward, shook his hand and then slowly made her way to the navigator’s console.

She sat down delicately, as if afraid she might shatter another illusion.

But she didn’t need to doubt anymore. Kirk, Sulu, Uhura, McCoy, Scotty, even Keenser and Spock were her friends now, and she hadn’t felt the need to question their sincerity in two years. She had gained confidence in her abilities and built lasting relationships while also earning a reputation as a scientist. Looking around at the other people surrounding her, she felt like this ship, finally, might become the home she had hoped for.

With deliberate but practiced touches, she dialed herself into the navigation console.

“Feels good, huh?” Sulu murmured from her left.

She gave him a delicate smile. “Better than.”

Then she raised her voice and made sure to enunciate every syllable. “Navigation authorization code Nine-Five-Victor-Victor-Two.”

Behind her, Kirk barked a laugh.

And the cool voice of the ship’s computer answered “Authorization accepted”.