Disclaimer: Characters contained within do not belong to me, but to Gene Roddenberry, Paramount Pictures, etc.
Author's Notes: My brain has been sucked into this fandom and if I don't get this idea out on "paper," I'll never get it back again. I hope you enjoy this first chapter. Thank you, Lisa, for all your help;)
And if you're here because you read my first story, "The Opposite of Logic," let me just thank you again:) The response I got on that story definitely inspired me to write this one!
If Tomorrow Never Comes
by Kristen Elizabeth
There had been no class at the Academy that prepared the future captains of Starfleet for the inevitable duty of laying a crew member to rest.
Much less two.
Whether he was prepared for it or not, two flag-draped coffin pods lay in front of Jim Kirk, ready to be jettisoned into space at his command. But even though he knew that they were empty, that they were merely representing the two officers...the two friends he'd lost, he wasn't quite ready to make that command just yet.
Two lives. He'd been responsible for them; he'd given the order that had sent them on what had turned out to be their last away mission. How could he expect the rest of his crew to ever trust his command decisions again? He'd leaped before he'd looked and two people had paid for his impulsiveness with their lives.
A hundred solemn faces were gathered around the empty coffins, but there was only one that Kirk couldn't bear to look at, for fear of what he might see in those dark eyes that were neither Human nor alien. Accusation. Perhaps even hate.
Spock had a right to those emotions. Kirk hated himself right then, too.
A not-so-gentle nudge to his arm jerked Kirk out of his thoughts. Beside him, Leonard McCoy murmured, "Jim, it's time to do this."
Knowing the doctor was right, that it would be wrong to drag out such a painful ceremony, Kirk stepped forward.
"We're assembled here today to pay our final respects to two individuals who in death, just as they did in life, exemplified the founding principles of Starfleet. Service. Dedication. Honor. Compassion."
Kirk's gaze flickered up to Spock. Although the man's eyes were fixed on one of the two coffins, his face was completely blank. Swallowing heavily, Kirk went on.
"Lieutenant Pavel Chekov and Lieutenant Nyota Uhura...your sacrifices will never be forgotten."
Captain's log, stardate 2259.128. We're on route to the Ramatis system, the last known location of the USS Gus Grissom. It's been a month since Starfleet's had any contact with the deep space science vessel; all attempts at establishing communications have failed. Considering how close the Ramatis system is to Klingon space, I have every intention of approaching this mission with extreme caution. The problem could be as simple as an equipment malfunction. But it could be worse. A lot worse...
Uhura woke to the unsettling sensation that she was alone. A quick grope of the still-warm, yet empty space next to her on the bed confirmed this. She sat up with a resigned sigh.
He'd left while she was sleeping. Again.
When the overheads came on, she was surprised to see Spock sitting in a chair on the other side of the room, silently dressing in what had just been the dark. Their eyes met for a brief moment before he returned his attention to tucking his uniform pants into his black boots.
"Were you going to wake me?" Uhura asked, a slight catch in her voice.
"I hoped that would not be necessary," he replied. "You are not on duty yet."
She slipped out of bed, clad only in a small pair of dark blue briefs, and reached for her robe. "Neither are you."
"We will be arriving at the Ramatis system within two hours," Spock reminded her.
"Yeah. Two hours." Uhura left the robe unbelted, exposing a long expanse of her flat stomach. "You could have stayed in bed a little longer."
He stood up. "It seemed more prudent if we were to arrive on the bridge at different times."
"Spock." She shook her head, her sleep-and-sex-tangled hair swinging. "Pretty much everyone knows about us and no one cares." Hesitating, she added, "Except for you."
His brow furred in confusion. "Nyota, did we or did we not agree over a year ago to keep our personal and professional lives separate while we are serving on this ship?"
"We agreed to keep them as separated as possible," Uhura corrected him. "Big difference."
"I fail to see the distinction."
"Yeah." After a moment, she sank onto the edge of the bed in defeat. "Of course."
Spock moved to go, but thought better of it at the last second. "I have said something wrong."
His conclusion, spoken with surprisingly awareness, made her smile sadly. "No, it's okay."
"Are you not upset?"
"I'm..." Uhura rubbed her suddenly throbbing temple. "I don't know what I am."
Spock walked back to her and knelt down, putting them at eye level. "You are tired," he said, taking her hand. "You have not gotten adequate rest."
"Well." She lifted her shoulder. "Who's to blame for that?" Before he could say anything, she leaned forward and gave him a short kiss. "I love you for worrying about me," she whispered against his cheek.
When Uhura pulled back, he cleared his throat and rose to his feet. "I will see you on the bridge."
He stopped at the door, looking back at her from over his shoulder. "Yes, Nyota?"
What do you love me for? Do you love me? Why does it matter what anyone else thinks? Are you ashamed of me? Of us? Do you love me? Could we ever have a normal relationship? What is a normal relationship for you? Do you love me? Am I a comfort to you or a secret that needs to be kept? Could you ever tell me how you feel about me? What do you feel about me?
Do you love me?
Uhura shook her head. "Nothing," she whispered. "Never mind."
Once he was gone, Uhura stood up and walked into the tiny washroom connected to her quarters, shrugging out of her robe half-way there. She stood in front of the mirror, almost completely nude, and examined her slender body.
There were dark patches on her skin, finger-shaped bruises where he'd grabbed her just a bit too hard in the heat of passion. They didn't hurt, but they were reminders that even if he could never say the words she needed to hear, he still desired her.
And for a half-Vulcan who was still suppressing his grief over the loss of his mother and his planet, that was saying a lot.
After her shower, she slicked on an apple-scented body lotion, a one-time birthday gift from Gaila. Her roommate had claimed it was popular amongst Orion women as it helped heal what she'd called "love marks."
The strong, sweet scent of the lotion brought tears to her eyes and in that moment, Uhura would have given just about anything to be able to talk to Gaila, to ask for her advice. Gaila had known men, even Vulcan men. She would have had some insight into Uhura's unconventional relationship. Even if she hadn't, she would have at least made a dirty joke about it...and right then, Uhura could have used a laugh.
She dressed quickly, only pausing long enough to carefully select her earrings. She chose the pair she'd worn on her first clandestine date with Spock back at the Academy, an antique set of twisted platinum hoops.
If he recognized their significance, she'd do Jim Kirk's laundry for a month.
"Captain, we will be reaching the Ramatis system in..." Chekov checked his navigational controls. "...fifteen minutes."
Behind him, Kirk acknowledged this with a sudden, "Let's go to yellow alert," he said, earning a couple of raised eyebrows from the bridge crew. "Uhura, what do you hear?"
"Nothing beyond the normal subspace chatter." She frowned in deep concentration. "There's some scattered Klingon transmissions, but that's to be expected this close to the Neutral Zone."
"Tell me if you hear anything interesting."
Uhura gave him a look. "You'll be the first to know, Captain."
Normally, Kirk would have chuckled at this, but their proximity to Klingon space had him on edge, as evidenced by the way he was leaning forward in his chair, tapping his foot against the floor. "Spock, are the sensors picking up anything?"
"It is difficult to get an accurate sensor reading of the entire system while we are at warp, Captain," Spock told him.
"What do we know about Ramatis?" Kirk asked, still fidgeting.
"The system is comprised of three planets; only one is currently inhabited. The two smaller planets are class M, but only barely as their atmospheres are..."
Kirk cut him off. "I don't want to know about their atmospheres, Spock." Shooting to his feet, he began to pace. "Of all the planets that border the Neutral Zone, is there some reason why the Klingons would focus on this system and attack any Federation ship that was near it?"
Spock arched an eyebrow. "With all due respect, Captain, I would remind you that at this point, any theories as to the whereabouts or fate of the Grissom are purely speculative. To assume Klingon involvement is illogical this early in the mission."
"I just have a feeling," Kirk said almost to himself. "Chekov, I want you to be ready to raise our shields at a seconds notice, understood?"
The young ensign nodded nervously. "Yes, sir."
When Kirk sat back down, Uhura sought out Spock's eye. He looked at her only long enough for her to see concern shadow his face before he returned to his sensors. Her shoulders slumped ever so slightly as she turned her own attention back to the subspace frequencies.
On the bridge, they were Commander and Lieutenant. Nothing more.
"Dropping out of warp, Captain," Sulu announced. "In three...two...one."
Ramatis I loomed ahead of them amongst the star-dotted black expanse, a golden brown planet flanked on either side by two smaller planets that were more gold than brown.
"Sensors are picking up a ship on the other side of Ramatis II," Spock said. "It appears to be an Oberth class starship, the same as the Grissom."
"Uhura, open a channel," Kirk ordered.
"Channel open." Uhura shook her head a moment later. "No response."
Spock frowned as he studied the sensor readings. "Captain, I am reading no life signs aboard the ship."
Kirk's fingers closed into a tight fist. "Mr. Chekov." His voice was low and strained. "Set a course. Full impulse."
They found the Grissom ten minutes later, hovering in orbit around Ramatis II. The ship was minuscule compared to the Enterprise; a tiny science vessel that had seemingly been abandoned by its crew.
"What do you make of this, Spock?" Kirk asked his first officer.
Spock thought for a second. "There does not appear to be any external damage to the ship and the sensors detect no internal problems, either. However, there is something odd." He looked at Sulu. "Magnify the secondary hull, Mr. Sulu."
Sulu punched a few buttons to bring up a closer, clearer picture of the lower half of the ship.
"As you can see, Captain, the shuttlebay doors are open," Spock said. When Kirk gave him a look that clearly demanded further explanation, he went on, "Oberth class ships carry a shuttlecraft for planet-side exploration. The Grissom's is missing."
"They went down to the surface?" Kirk guessed.
"Perhaps," Spock conceded. "Standard operating procedures dictate that the shuttlebay doors remain closed except during take-off and landing."
Kirk crossed his arms. "Well, not everyone follows standard operating procedures a hundred percent of the time."
"If I may put forth a hypothesis?"
"You mean a guess." There was an unmistakable twinkle in Kirk's eye, despite the situation.
Spock's eyebrow spiked. "It seems likely that the crew left the ship in the shuttlecraft and that they did so quickly."
"But if there was nothing wrong with the ship, why abandon it?" Kirk frowned. "Scan the planet for the shuttle or any life signs."
Chekov's fingers flew across his controls. "Sir, I am having trouble getting readings from the surface. There are too many ions in the atmosphere."
"That would be one reason to use the shuttlecraft," Spock noted. "The extreme ionization of the atmosphere would make transporting impossible."
Standing behind his chair with both hands on the headrest, Kirk was quiet for a minute as he turned the situation over and over in his mind. "We're going down to the surface," he declared. "Spock, Chekov, Uhura...meet me in the shuttlebay in ten minutes."
Uhura hadn't even managed to stand up before she heard Spock say, "Captain, as we cannot be certain of the surface conditions of the planet, it would perhaps be better to limit the away team to essential personnel only."
He didn't need to say her name for everyone who was listening to know exactly who he was talking about. It was written all over his face, whether he realized it or not.
Kirk looked him straight in the eye. "I've put together my team. If you think four is too many, you're welcome to stay here." When Spock said nothing, Kirk gave his bicep a friendly slap. "Relax, Spock. Weren't you just saying it was illogical to think the worst?"
Uhura waited until Kirk was gone before she removed her earpiece and stood up. Spock refused to look at her, even after she waited for his silent apology for several seconds. Finally, she turned on her heel and stalked off the bridge.
As far as she was concerned, Spock could just stay on the Enterprise.
She knew what she was now. He'd succeeded in making her officially upset.
To Be Continued