A/N: As promised Uhura therapy time, complete with a few theories of McCoy's about Nero, his katra, and a few other goodies.

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Very privately, McCoy was wondering if he could handle this.

Spock had spoken to him the day before, asking if he would, as a human, doctor, and brother-officer, see if he could help Uhura. McCoy had full psychological training in addition to his general MD; that, in addition to the other qualifiers Spock had listed, made him, quite ironically, a logical candidate. Prior experience had proved him a good therapist, but he'd never tried to be so for a friend--and, briefly though he'd known Uhura, he considered her a friend.

Not only that, he'd seen firsthand the results of what that bastard Nero had done to her, and he wondered whether or not he could maintain enough distance to properly be effective--if it wouldn't disturb him too much to be of any use. And if Uhura would be willing to open up to him at all. What she'd gone through was one of the most horrible things that could happen to a human being, but if Spock thought she'd talk about it he must have a reason.

Mutual consultation had decided this best be conducted in her and Spock's quarters, since it was possibly the only place left on Earth she felt truly safe--safe and invulnerable. Apparently she'd agreed to the whole thing, which he hoped was a good sign. He just also hoped she wouldn't get cold feet and clamp up on him and wind up worse off than before.

Spock was out, of course--that had been part of the arrangement. Figuring--rightly, as it turned out--that they'd still have plenty of wedding bourbon left, McCoy forwent his usual calling present, instead showing up with an old-fashioned sweet-potato pie. (The fact that he could cook was one no one, especially Jim, was ever, ever going to find out.)

Uhura seemed relaxed enough when she answered the door--she was wearing one of her seemingly innumerable black button-down shirts and jeans, her hair loose and her face wholly free of make-up. The strain had largely left her features, and he hoped like hell this informal therapy session wasn't going to bring it back. It was likely to dredge up whatever she hadn't yet dealt with, after all--but there was a reason she was in Starfleet. Nobody who wasn't strong lasted very long.

"Hi," she said, standing aside to let him in. her and Spock's quarters were, as always, military-tidy, but a sense of family pervaded them in spite of that almost obsessive neatness. Sunshine flooded through the east window, which was open, for once, letting in the cool morning air.

"Hi," he returned, and held up the pie. "I know people don't usually have dessert after breakfast, but it's my mother's recipe. Though for the love of God don't tell Jim I made it, or I'll never hear the end of it."

To his surprise, that made her laugh--a genuine laugh, the kind of merry laugh she'd had before this mess. "I won't," she said, shutting the door and gesturing him to sit in one of the overstuffed armchairs near the window, first relieving him of the pie. There was just a hint of nervousness in her movements, but that was only to be expected, and her hands were not quite steady when she produced two plates and cut up the pie.

"Before we even get started here, don't you think you have to tell me anything you don't want to," he said, taking the plate she passed to him. "That's not why I'm here. And I don't think I have to tell you that whatever you do say goes no further than this room. Doctor-patient confidentiality and all that."

Uhura smiled again, much less humorously this time. "I know," she said softly. "I just…I'm not sure what you'll think of me, if I say too much." She sat in the other chair and hugged her knees like a little girl.

Spock had given him some hints she might feel that way, though he'd given no details--but he didn't have to.

"Do you want me to tell you what I saw first?" he asked gently.

She nodded, a little uncertainly.

"I saw a survivor. You went through hell and got out alive--got yourself out. Saved yourself. You got out and got your revenge, and from what little Spock said you've been healing ever since. You used your strength however you could., and I think whatever you did was what you had to do to survive. To not just be some kind of martyr."

Her eyes widened a little at that assessment of herself. "There's so much more than you know, though," she whispered, looking away. "More than even Spock knows. And it's so horrible it scares me, because--it has to mean I'm not what you think I am." She'd gone as pale as her dark skin would let her, pale and sick with what was unmistakably shame. It hurt him, and pissed him off, that Nero could have done that to her. Nobody deserved that.

"You know you couldn't have fought him," he said, more gently still. "You know that. He could've killed you, and you know that, too."

"He would have killed Spock," she said, burying her face on her knees. "I thought--if he was distracted with…with me, he'd leave everyone else alone. And I tried to kill him once and failed, and then--"

She broke off, not looking up, but she didn't have to finish that sentence for McCoy to know what 'and then' meant. He was only amazed Nero hadn't killed her outright for it.

"Is that why you had the bruises around your throat?" he asked, carefully tamping down his anger. Nero was dead; that anger would serve no one any purpose now.

She nodded, still not looking up. "I thought he was going to kill me, and I wished he would, except I knew if he did he'd go kill Spock, too--kill all of you."

It all came out then, a torrent of words only a little muffled by her knees--a flood he knew much better than to interrupt. What had happened when she and Spock had been dragged off, and then everything that had happened after, all those not-quite-three days, and in listening McCoy grew more and more appalled--not at her, but at the sheer depth of hell she'd gone through. He'd had no idea it was that bad, and he marveled more than a little that she'd come out of it with her sanity intact.

And she went on, telling him things nobody but Spock knew, as though trying to purge everything at one go. She told him about Nero's katra, the continuing hell he'd put her through inside her own head, and that, McCoy thought, was where the true source of her shame lay. She was ashamed she'd pitied Nero, ashamed the hadn't been revolted when he'd touched her, that she'd let him. That it hurt her when he stopped.

Finally, finally, after a good half-hour, she fell silent, and looked up at him with naked fear of judgment in her dark eyes. And for once in his life McCoy was utterly lost for words--where did he even begin to respond to that, to offer the kind of massive reassurance she so badly needed?

"Say something," she whispered, when the silence stretched between them.

He didn't--instead he moved, pulling her to her feet, and hugged her for all she was worth. After a moment she hugged him back, still shivering from all that horrible recollection. He wasn't hugging her as a doctor or a brother or a friend--it was the simple embrace of one human for another, for a human who had been put through horrors no being should ever, ever have to face. Had he been in her position, he'd have come out of it a raging lunatic, if he'd survived at all, and he had an inward shudder at the thought of what might have happened to her if she hadn't had Spock.

"Nobody with more than three brain cells would ever judge you for that," he said, when he finally released her and sat down again. "Do you know what Stockholm Syndrome is?"

She nodded. She still hadn't cried, but that was not, when he thought about it, surprising. Some things ran too deep for tears.

"I don't think that's entirely what happened in your face, but I think it's a big part of it. You can hate someone and still understand them--why they are what they are. Your mind did what it had to do to protect itself, to keep you sane. Don't ever be ashamed you and it did what it took to survive."

"I shouldn't feel sorry for him," Uhura said, still in a whisper, but a much more savage whisper now. "I should have been revolted by him and nothing more."

"Do you know anything about the actual history of Stockholm Syndrome?" McCoy asked, finally picking up his pie, though he made no move to eat it. When she shook her head, he went on, "It comes from a bank hold-up in the twentieth century. The criminals held hostages who later defended them, and refused to testify against them in their trial. A more extreme example would be Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped by a group of terrorists and wound up joining them. It's not uncommon at all--especially when the captor isn't always cruel to their prisoners. It's not like prison--in prison there's a group, other people you can have solidarity with. You were alone, and from the sound of it--especially at the last--Nero wasn't completely cruel to you. He twisted your mind around without even knowing what he was doing, I'll bet." Nero had been crazy enough that McCoy could easily believe, as Uhura had said T'Pau told her, that he'd loved her in some deeply screwed-up way.

Uhura shook her head. "No, he wasn't always cruel. I hated him--I still hate him--but…I think I saw a little of what he used to be. And I felt sorry for him." She paused. "I still do."

Finally McCoy did take a bite of his pie. "Has it occurred to you that, if Nero had enough Vulcan left in him to be able to pass on his katra, he might have been shoving some of his emotion on you without realizing he was doing it?" He was a little surprised that hadn't (apparently) occurred to Spock before now, but Spock had plenty of Issues of his own to be getting on with.

Her eyebrows shot up--clearly it hadn't. "You think that's possible?"

"Why shouldn't it be? The Romulans only broke off from Vulcan two thousand years ago. Just because they lost the ability to control it doesn't mean they lost the ability itself. Near as I can tell the telepathy seems to be built into Vulcans on a genetic level, and it hasn't been long enough for the Romulans to have mutated into a completely separate species. That'd take a hell of a lot longer than a couple millennia."

She was silent a moment, clearly digesting that. McCoy wasn't just saying it--it really was possible, and, what was more, it was probable. If Nero could pass on his katra, it was more likely than not he could do the rest of It, whether he knew it or not. Hell, if he'd retained enough natural Vulcan ability, it might even explain why he was so much more insane than the rest of his crew--Vulcans could be pretty sensitive to other beings' emotions, which was part of why some of them had a hard time being around humans. If Nero had been barraged with everyone else's grief as well as his own, it wouldn't be any wonder he'd been so crazy.

"That…I never thought of that," she said at last. "I wondered why his pain hurt me so much--it didn't make any sense, that I could hate him so much but still be hurt by all that agony."

"It's a good bet that the hate was yours," McCoy said quietly, "but the pain was his. You just caught it, too, like some kind've disease. You were under so much stress yourself I doubt you could've blocked it even if you knew how."

He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "And don't think there's any such thing as taking too much time to get over this. Your brain knows what it's doing, even if you don't. Being a prisoner'll mess anyone up for a while, and you weren't just a prisoner, you went through one of the worst things that could ever happen to anybody. It'll be frustrating, but don't try to force yourself to do or think anything you're not ready to yet. I know 'it takes time' is a damn platitude, but it's also true. And just remember you've got Spock, and all of us--you're not alone."

"I know," she said softly. "I don't know what I would have done, if I had been."

Probably have lost her mind entirely, he thought, but of course did not say.

She looked away, and when she spoke again it was very hesitantly. "Do you think--is that maybe why…"

"Maybe why you didn't hate it?" he volunteered, knowing she'd know what he meant. "I'd say so. It, combined with whatever the hell drug he fed you--who knows how long it could have stayed in your system?" It was a wonder it hadn't poisoned her, considering it couldn't possibly have been originally concocted for a human.

She sighed, and shut her eyes. "It's not the worst thing, but I also…I don't know how much everyone's guessed about what happened on that ship, but I hate that they could at all. I don't want anyone's pity any more than I'd want their condemnation."

McCoy didn't realize he was echoing Spock's sentiments when he said, "Honestly? I don't think anyone would dare. You don't know how--how scary you looked when you killed Nero. That wasn't the work of a victim, and you sure haven't been one since. Whatever people might guess, they saw you pay it back." And how. "I don't think you realize just what kind've heroine you are on the Enterprise. As Jim would say, you kicked ass. Nobody had to go rescue you." Spock had been right in that, too--that she needed the chance to save herself, if only to prove to herself that she could. Uhura was nobody's damsel in distress--she'd proved that to…well, everyone.

"Is that part of why you've been keeping to yourself so much?" he asked. "Because you don't want people who've got some idea seeing you?"

Uhura nodded.

"I don't think you need to worry on that score. Anybody who thinks of it'll probably just remember you spearing Nero like some ancient warrior. Trust me." He himself did, when he saw her--he didn't think of the injuries he'd treated her for on the Enterprise, he thought of that savage war-cry she'd let out when she killed Nero. He thought of the strength, not the vulnerability, and he was pretty damn sure everyone else would, too. "Don't be afraid to take your life back on account of other people. They don't matter, but if y'are worried about it you've got no reason to be. The last thing anybody'll do is feel sorry for you."

That made her smile a little--just a little, but a smile nonetheless. "Maybe I'll actually try to handle graduation, if it's even still happening on time."

"Last I heard, it was." How they were going to juggle that with the upcoming trial of the Romulans, he didn't know, but they had to. He and Spock and Jim had all promised to testify, and a lot of the others were considering it, Chekov among them. McCoy didn't care about most of them, but Onen haunted him--Onen with her dark, dead eyes, all alone, her former allies now her enemies. Like Jim, he'd realized how hard a decision she'd made, and he wondered what was to become of her--what was to become of all of them. Nobody knew yet if Romulus would want to extradite them, but it wasn't likely the Federation would allow it if they did. He just hoped the Romulan government would be smart enough to leave well enough alone--Nero and his crew had effectively been a world unto themselves, after all. Most likely the survivors would wind up imprisoned for life, but Onen didn't deserve that. She didn't think so, either, but unlike McCoy she thought she ought to be executed. Romulus, he thought, must be a damned unpleasant world, if the mindset of the Narada's crew was anything to go by. Maybe he ought to try to talk to her again, too, for all the good it was likely to do, or--

Or.

Could he ask it? Could she do it? Hell, he had to try. "I wonder," he said slowly, "do you think you might be able to face Onen, before she goes to trial? To talk to her?" He knew the enormity of what he was asking, but who knew--it might do Uhura some good as well.

She blinked, startled. "Onen…she was one of the ones who let us out, wasn't she?"

McCoy nodded. "She wants to die," he said. "She thinks she deserves to die--deserves it for doing what she thought was right. Damn Romulans are all insane, if you ask me. I think she might be the only one've the ones who helped us who survived, and…hell, she deserves better. If she could only see it."

Uhura considered that so long he began to regret asking. Then, "I…think I would like to talk to her. For a few reasons."

McCoy let out a silent breath, relieved. "I think she might be more open with you," he said. Because Uhura was a woman, and because she'd suffered more than the rest of the Enterprise crew on the Narada. And if they didn't try all they could, Onen's eyes might haunt him the rest of his life.

"Spock said he would testify at the trial," Uhura said, finally picking up her pie. "I…can't, but I can talk to Onen. In her way she's gone through even worse than me."

That she had, he thought. Put that way, he didn't wonder so much why she wanted to die. Still, he couldn't let her go down without a fight. Something in him just wouldn't let him.

"I--well, I appreciate it," he said. He had no idea why he appreciated it so much, but he did. "Meanwhile, Scotty's itching to get you and Spock back to his pub. Let me know if you want me to tell him to, as he'd put it, go and boil his head."

Wonder of wonders, that got another smile. "I don't know how much Spock would like the idea, but I think I'd like to. I need to get out of these rooms more."

Privately, he agreed with her. "And you know if you ever need to talk more, you don't need a standing invitation--just call me. Me, or Nurse Chapel, if you ever feel like you'd rather talk to another woman about anything."

"Does she--?" Uhura said, alarmed.

"No. But she'd keep anything you told her as close as I will, and I know she'd think the same about it all as I do."

Uhura shook her head. "You guys--all of you--I don't think you know how much I appreciate you all. How much Spock and I both do."

McCoy thought maybe he did understand, at least mostly. They'd all been like that for one another in the last weeks, the surviving crew of the Enterprise. Nobody who hadn't been there could possibly understand, no matter how much it might be explained to them. It was, he knew, a type of bond often shared by POW's, or any group of people who had gone through horrible things together. Whatever terrible thing might have happened to them, it brought them together in solidarity with one another.

"Well," he said. "Let's eat this pie already and then maybe go for a walk. Day looks like it'll be too beautiful to waste."

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Nero's potential residual telepathy occurred to me while I was washing dishes the other day. It always vaguely bothered me that the Romulans in canon seem to have lost all telepathic ability when they're still genetically Vulcan, and I figure there must be some kind of holdover in some of them. (As for Pon Farr, my husband had an interesting--and amusing--theory. He thinks it's possible Pon Farr is so extreme for Vulcans because they repress the hell out of all their emotions, so it only gets let out once every seven years, but Romulans, who don't seem to repress much of anything, are in it all the time. It's just less extreme because it's spread out and not all concentrated down like it is with Vulcans. It would certainly explain why so many of the Romulans we see throughout Trek canon are so pissed off all the time.)

Anyway, as always, thank you to all my reviewers. Next up, I think, is Uhura and Onen. :)