Kirk scanned the rec room as he talked to the ambassador, checking to see that everything was going at least acceptably. Mr. Spock was not here for this reception, at the suggestion of the cultural expert on these people; he had suggested that their very tactile culture might cause some difficulties, especially if the ambassador, or one of his party, should try to hug the Vulcan.
Kirk had agreed, somewhat reluctantly, and had braced himself and warned his people that the new race they were encountering had almost no concept of personal space. Thus warned, they had been ready for this reception, or so Kirk had thought.
He had not been prepared to be hugged fiercely by the ambassador, or kissed by one of the aides, or to have another aid stand practically on top of him with his hand in Kirk's pocket (okay, not literally, Kirk had to admit, but it sure felt like it).
It had been all he could do not to jerk away. Still, he had reacted, and it had been enough to worry the ambassador.
"Is something wrong?" Ambassador Jahi had asked, placing a hand upon Kirk's shoulder.
Kirk had forced a smile and shook his head. "No, not at all." He had replied. But the damage had been done.
As he looked around now he saw much the same thing. Try as his people might, they just weren't ready to have complete strangers so close. Things were quickly getting tense.
Kirk frowned as Sulu artfully ducked under the arm of one of Jahi's aides and all but dashed for the door. Har, the aide in question, stared after him in shock and dismay.
He swiftly made his way across the room to wrap an arm around Jahi, who was speaking with an uncomfortable Uhura, and begin to speak urgently in his ear.
Jahi's people began to pull away from the crew of the Enterprise, and to gather amongst themselves. Kirk frowned and wondered what on earth he was supposed to do now. How did he fix this?
The door opened; Sulu had returned, a slightly confused Chekov in tow. They stopped, and Sulu looked around for a minute before spotting his target and heading straight for Har.
Sulu tapped the aide lightly on the shoulder, and apparently began introducing Chekov. Predictably, Har pulled Chekov into a fierce hug and kissed him on the forehead.
Kirk stared as Chekov grinned hugely and returned the gesture. Sulu darted a safe distance away then, and Har frowned as he watched the man go, but Chekov tugged lightly on his sleeve to regain his attention, and soon the two were talking away.
If the fact that their bodies were practically touching as they spoke bothered Chekov, it didn't show. He also didn't seem to mind being prodded, poked, patted, hugged, or Har wrapping an arm around his waist and leading over to meet Jahi.
As more of Jahi's people began to gather, Kirk found his view of the young man obstructed. Whatever was going on seemed to be going well, however, so Kirk was content to let it be for now.
He started slightly; Sulu had joined him, amusement causing the beginnings of a smile to try to force their way into his expression. Kirk didn't ask what was so funny; he figured Sulu would probably tell him if he wanted him to know. For now, the two stood in silence as Chekov became the center of attention and Kirk's crew tried unsuccessfully to hide their relief.
Kirk shifted slightly. Jahi was approaching now, one arm wrapped around Chekov's shoulders. Chekov was gesturing in a manner that told Kirk he was trying to explain something to the ambassador. Kirk was surprised to hear him nearly shouting, and even more surprised when the ambassador reached up and pulled his ear.
Chekov scowled at the ambassador for a second, but his expression cleared as they stopped before Kirk and Sulu, who was courageously resisting the urge to duck behind his Captain.
"I believe you have met Keptin Kirk?" Chekov asked. Ambassador Jahi nodded, and poked Chekov in the chest.
"Of course I have met him. Who do you think let me on board?" Jahi demanded. His demeanor was more pleasant now, however, than it had been then.
Chekov laughed. "Okay, okay. And you've met Sulu too, yes?" Ambassador Jahi nodded once more. Chekov frowned at Sulu. "You don't have to hide; he's not going to bite." He said as he stepped what seemed to Kirk as unusually close to his friend.
Sulu sighed, and laid his right hand on Chekov's chest and promptly pushed the younger man backwards and increased the distance between them. "So?" He asked, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
"So vhat?" Chekov asked. "I don't understand you. These people are nice, just like back home."
"Then perhaps they should visit Russia sometime." Sulu suggested cheerfully.
Chekov laughed, and turned to explain to a puzzled Jahi. "See, Sulu and I are wery good friends. But he grew up not touching people, and not being close to people. It doesn't mean he doesn't like me or that he's upset vith me."
Ambassador Jahi seemed to consider this. "This is just the way your people are, then?" He asked. Chekov nodded.
"Most of the people here grew up not touching much." The Ensign added. "And they need more space."
"And you?" Jahi asked. "Do you need more space as well?"
Chekov shrugged. "I grew up vith more space than your people, but it does not bother me. It's actually nice to be around people who don't need as much space for a change."
"I see." The ambassador said slowly. "But one thing. He-Sulu, was it? He touched you."
Chekov nodded. "Yes. Vhen ve first met, I did not alvays remember that he needed more space. So if I got too close, ve decided he could just move me to a distance that is better for him."
Ambassador Jahi considered this for a moment. Then he smiled. "I like this idea." He said. "It is much like when we put our hands over the mouth to let someone know they are talking too much or pull on their ear to let them know they are talking too loudly. It is better than this flinching and pulling away-these indicate to us a lack of good feelings: distrust, anger, dislike, fear."
That explained why things had been getting so tense, at least. Kirk nodded at this. "It seems like a good idea." He agreed.
"And perhaps no touching, unless your companion doesn't mind. Perhaps you might let them either touch you first or not, whichever they prefer." Sulu suggested.
Ambassador nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, your Pavel spoke to me of this Spock. That Vulcans did not like to be touched at all. He said also that most races do not like being touched but rarely. He also says you, Sulu, find it distinctly uncomfortable."
"He von't even let me hug him." Chekov complained with a laugh. Sulu rolled his eyes at the younger man, but the dark look he had been given the Russian at the Ambassador's statement softened.
Ambassador Jahi beamed at Kirk. "If this is acceptable, then I will inform my people, and you may inform yours, and we will try our best to remember our differences."
Kirk nodded in agreement. "Thank you for being so patient with us. I do apologize for any earlier misunderstandings."
"As do I, Captain. As do I." Jahi hesitated. "Pavel says that when you greet one another, you do what is called a handshake?" He inquired. He reached out his hand uncertainly.
Kirk took it in his own, and demonstrated the action. Then, to the surprise of both, he pulled the Ambassador into a hug. After all, if Ambassador Jahi could compromise, so could James T. Kirk.
He wasn't certain, but out of the corner of his eye Kirk thought he saw Chekov and Sulu exchange high fives.
Disclaimer: Star Trek does not belong to me.