Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Most importantly, I have never been a fan of Star Trek. I have only seen the 2009 movie, and I have tried to keep this story as canon as possible, but I'm sure I've made mistakes and will continue to in the future.
Grateful thanks to kathrynthegr8 for the beta!
"Starfleet Academy? Is the family business not good enough for you?" My father asked me this teasingly, but I still needed to reassure him.
I laughed. "Penda does just fine on her own, thanks. She doesn't need me poking around in her ledgers."
My father was very thin at the time, and I was not unaware of his condition, ill as he had been for many, many years. "I worry about you, Nee. I worry about your safety." His voice was barely more than a gravelly whisper.
"Don't." I kissed his forehead, paper-thin and cool. "I'm going to study communications. It's a safe job."
"Nothing is safe in space." His thin fingers gripped mine. "Please, be careful. You must promise me that you'll be careful, always."
"Yes, Baba. I'll always be safe. I promise it." I could lie to a dying man. Anything to ease his suffering. Surely he knew it was a lie, too, but he settled more deeply into his pillow and seemed to relax a bit. He wanted to believe me, and I let him.
He lost the ability to speak not soon after thanks to the ravages of Sharat Syndrome, but I still knew every word he was trying to tell me in the years of silence that followed. When the end came, I did not cry for him. He would not want me to. His soft, tear-glazed eyes were asking me to please take care, to watch over my mother and sisters, to not mourn his passing too much. And most of all, his eyes told me that he loved me.
Academy quarters were uncomfortable. I was used to the cool marble of my parents' home, the wide white walls and the quiet barrenness of the outdoor gardens. The rooms at Academy were small, old, and usually very filled with noise. Mostly due to the other cadets, who I was very unimpressed with. They were treating this like a party, and I had a sincere desire to work. Coming so soon after the death of my father, Academy was a distraction I looked forward to. Xenolinguistics was an immersive discipline, and I planned on doing little else but schoolwork for the next four years.
At first, I thought that I would put in a room change request as soon as possible. Gaila was loud, boisterous, a good-enough student but she could have been better. She had an eclectic taste in men and she sampled widely. It made it nearly impossible to study – something that I needed to do often, considering the course load I was taking. I was aiming for a 75% proficiency in Federation languages by graduation, a goal I wouldn't reach without some quiet time.
"Nyota, you are going to get a bad reputation."
Gaila smiled at me from where she sat on her slim bed, the sheets rumpled. "For being boring! Come to the tavern."
"Just because I study doesn't mean I'm boring." But I was certainly feeling boring at that moment.
"I know that. But do you?" She smiled at me with her closed, bronzed lips, and I shut my book of Romulan noun usage.
Gaila charmed me just as she charmed her many male followers. She was fun. I'd had few friends as a child – our home was fairly isolated and my sisters and I were close. She taught me a lot about flirtation, and just what a powerful tool it could be. I found, though, that a sassy comeback was sometimes just as effective as one of Gaila's sweet come-hithers.
I grew to enjoy dancing at clubs on the weekends, and with Gaila and her friends, we sampled a myriad of off-planet cocktail recipes. She introduced me to a particularly fetching way of improving my eyes in appearance. This isn't to say that I wasn't already well versed in the ways of make up and all that comes with it – I have sisters, after all. It had just never been my priority.
Before long, I was carving time out of my studying for drinks with Gaila or some of the more interesting boys from class. I gained a penchant for tall boots and a signature fragrance. If I needed to study, I went to the library. If I felt lonely, I called someone. I found a balance. My only request to Gaila was that she not bring her conquests to our room. It was more than awkward, walking in on them when she forgot to lock the door. Honestly, I think she thought it was funny. Sometimes it was. I dated as well, nothing serious, but I did enjoy myself.
Two years passed pleasantly. I was constantly challenged, perpetually tired, and very happy. Academy was everything I'd hoped it would be, providing me with more than enough tools to help me reach my proficiency goal. I also had a small but very fun group of friends. My instructors were pleased with me, and seemed to think that I had a bright future upon graduation.
There were quite a few Vulcans in my class at Academy. I'd had little contact with them, as they are not particularly social people. Very serious. I would consider myself serious as well, though, and I enjoyed the exchanges that I had had with a young Vulcan woman in one of my creative writing classes. She was ruthless but fair in her criticism as only Vulcans can be, but she also wrote beautiful poetry that I thought belied her serious demeanor. Much of it was romantic. That surprised me, too.
The Vulcan that I would come to know best was Commander Spock. He had a bit of a reputation at Academy for brilliance. The Kobayashi Maru was legendary. Understand that there were many, many cadets at Academy that had never failed a test in their life.
I had assisted in many of the Maru scenarios, my first being within a month or two of when I first arrived. Most students would not have set foot in the room until their third, but…there were shortages. Communications suffers the most dire recruitment shortage for many reasons; the foremost most being that proficiency in a number of alien languages is excessively difficult. I don't say that I'm anything special. I simply had an aptitude for the study.
My role in the Maru scenario was fairly simple, nothing that any third or fourth year cadet couldn't perform. But Academy places an emphasis on accuracy, and that's why I couldn't count how many times I've sat in on that test. Enough to know the script by heart.
This is where I first met Commander Spock. He often sat in on the Maru scenario. I would see him in the control booth, chatting with one of the other instructors. He was very tall and thin. He was the youngest male Vulcan I had ever seen. Even in my boots, my chin wouldn't reach his shoulder.
At first, he didn't acknowledge me, and I didn't expect it. But considering my frequent attendance at the Maru test, we could hardly ignore one another. He eventually started to give me an almost-imperceptible nod of the head when I walked past him. I greeted him with a hello. I knew I would encounter Commander Spock in my last two years of Academy, and I felt it was an asset to already be on terms of greeting with one another.
Jim Kirk was an annoying blowhard that I knew from before he'd entered the academy. He was the type of man who thought himself charming - a trait I'd always detested. I took pleasure in keeping my Christian name from him, and when I performed the Kobayashi Maru test as his communications officer I was pleased to see him fail a bit sooner than most.
"Uhura, do you have to look so damn happy about it?"
"Excuse me?" I was tidying up my workstation and clearing my screen of the decimated ship that Kirk had failed to save.
"Me. Failing." Kirk tried to look upset, but I could clearly see that it hadn't bothered him a bit.
"Everyone fails it."
"Maybe I want to be the exception."
I rolled my eyes and brushed past him. As I did, I knocked my datapad off of the counter.
I began to kneel for it, but Kirk was already there. "Let me, let me..." he said.
"You know, some people are actually upset when they think that they let hundreds die. Some people actually care."
Kirk let loose a sarcastic smile. "It's a stupid test programmed by Spock to make people feel bad."
I shook my head at his informal use of an instructor's name. "Don't call him that. It's rude."
"Excuse me, is he like, your boyfriend?"
"Would it be any business of yours if he was?" I asked point-blank.
"No. I'd just be surprised. I might have to start programming stupid tests that make people feel bad myself, just so I have a chance with you."
"I'd rather stick my communicator pin in my eye, thanks. And it's not a test designed to make you feel bad. It's a test that's designed to knock cocky, idiotic farmboys off of their high horses."
His voice trailed after me. "If I see any of those, I'll let them know."
My third year of Academy marked the end of my general studies and a turn toward more of the specifics in my major. As someone studying xenolinguistics, I was already actively engaged in most of my relevant classes. But I looked forward to working with some of the instructors at the higher levels. I was on track for my proficiency goal, but I would need to continue my hard work. Gaila and our group of friends seemed to only increase their partying in turn.
I very much enjoyed my first class with Commander Spock. Statistical mechanics is a subject that was never my strong suit, but I was pleased that my marks in the class were more than adequate. I was grateful for the levelheaded teaching methods of the Commander. The subject was difficult enough without any added confusion.
My class was rather large, and being a lecture course there was almost no interaction between either students or instructors. There were new Communication officer hopefuls that were younger than I, so I had been less and less in attendance in the Maru simulations. I hadn't seen him in some time, so I was surprised that he remembered that I had even participated in them.
"Cadet Uhura, a word please." I was walking out of the classroom with Gaila with my datapad filled with equations and a long night of studying them ahead of me.
I walked quickly to where the Commander was standing behind the thin, plastic podium. He looked very severe in his black uniform, and I was again surprised at how young he seemed to be. I knew that Vulcans aged much slower than humans, and I wondered how many Earth years he had lived.
The Commander touched his stylus to the datapad in his hand. "There was an unepected scheduling of the Kobayashi Maru scenario this afternoon. We are short a communications officer."
I nodded. "I'll be happy to do it, Sir."
"It begins in seventeen minutes. Can you be ready?"
I nodded again. "I can."
"Thank you. I realize this is an inconvenience."
"Not at all."
We walked to the tactical analysis lab in silence. I'm sure the lack of conversation was comfortable for him, but for me the time was unbearable. I didn't dare speak to him – what could I possibly say that might interest him? I felt terribly awkward as we made the trek far across campus, the weather chilly and windy. At one point a long strand of my hair blew across his chest. I apologized and quickly whipped it over my shoulder. He did not respond.
I walked into the familiar lab and took my seat. It seemed I was the last to arrive.
"Ah, my good luck charm."
I knew that voice. I didn't turn around, and I spoke under my breath. "You have got to be kidding me." I spun in my chair. "You're taking this again?"
He winked at me. "I was always taught to get up on that horse after it kicked you off."
"Yes, all of the horses on my farm were smart. Especially the ones I had sex with." He winked at me.
I rolled my eyes at him, an expression I saved, it seemed, expressly for Jim Kirk. "They can hear you, you know." I gestured at the control booth.
"Counting on it."
Fleet Commander Leilani Bechdal was my advisor in my final year of Academy. She had served admirably on many starships, and I considered it my great honor to have such a renowned communications specialist overseeing my educational progress. I was due to reach my proficiency goal sometime in the next six months, and I was voraciously ready to begin work on a starship...none other than the Enterprise would do.
Leilani and I had a companionable relationship, and in many ways was a substitute for my own mother. She was happily married and a grandmother several times over. It was hard for me to fathom of her as a young woman on the risky missions of her days. I believed that she saw some of herself in my desire for a career with the Federation. And there was certainly a measure of relief for me, to see that I might some day return to Academy, after my career was over, and help another generation of upstart young cadets.
"Nyota, you have surpassed my expectations for you. By far," said Leilani. We had long ago dispensed with titles and formal names when we were in the privacy of her advising office.
"Thank you. I only want to serve the Federation as best I can."
She nodded, and blew on her chamomile tea. Leilani's office was sparse and spartan as were they all, but a bowl of fresh flowers on her desk gave an aura of comfort to the place. "Your schoolwork is impeccable; your marks have broken records. I understand that you are at a 72% proficiency. That's quite impressive."
"I try." Like anyone else, I enjoyed being praised, but the act still made me uncomfortable.
"You succeed." Leilani set her cup down and shuffled some papers on her desk. "I wonder, though, that you haven't certified yet on your Vulcan oral."
I lowered my eyes. "Yes. It's been giving me trouble." I immediately felt my ears grow warm and my cheeks as well.
"It's a difficult language. I recall that from our private sessions…as well as my own Academy career." Leilani had been trying to help me when she had a free moment. I was absolutely fluent in the language, in reading, writing, and cognizance. My pronunciation would have been adequate in any other alien language other than Vulcan. But since the Federation was entrenched in the language, the test was extremely picky.
My failure on this aspect was my deepest shame during my Academy career.
"Nyota, please. Don't look so troubled. Vulcan's not meant to be used by humans. Our mouths weren't made for it. If that's not a reason for the certification to be nearly impossible, I don't know what is. I'd say that less than a quarter of Communications Officers certify--"
"I want to pass," I said fiercely.
"I know." Leilani smiled at me. "That's why I've asked Commander Spock to lend a hand."
"I myself have taken you as far as I can with the language. You need a native speaker."
"Oh, please…" My voice was pleading. "Please, I couldn't ask that of him. It's so forward."
"That's why I did the asking." Leilani slipped at her tea again. "I've tutored his prize students before. It's only fair that I send one back in exchange at some point."
"Can't we just continue our study of Vulcan pronunciation together?" I felt so comfortable with her, here in her warm office.
"How can you expect to be a good communications officer if you don't, at some point, take on a native speaker? Don't worry. Spock is a good fellow. He'll have you passing in no time."
I was mortified. I put away all of my notes that night, and spent far too long at the tavern with Gaila and a few friends. I hated the thought of working one-on-one with the brightest instructor Academy had ever seen.
His office was standard issue, devoid of any sort of decoration or personalization. I gathered this to be expected of a Vulcan, but it only served to intimidate me further when I walked in.
"Cadet Uhura." He looked up from his datapad when I approached. "Sit." He gestured to the chair by his desk. "I understand that Vulcan dialect has been troublesome for you."
"Yes. I'm proficient in all areas of the language except for pronunciation."
"That is understandable." His voice was calm; detached. "It's an exceedingly difficult language for humans to master."
"Forgive me, Commander." I folded my hands in my lap, and crossed my legs. When I spoke, my voice was very calm and low. "I just need you to know that we can stop this whenever. I mean, you don't have to tutor me."
"Was Fleet Commander Bechdel incorrect saying that additional assistance was needed in your Vulcan dialect?"
"No." I sighed. I did so hate feeling out of control and off-balance, admitting that I was deficient. Commander Spock made me nervous, not by any fault of his own. Extremely intelligent people intimidated me, and the Commander was certainly a member of said group. "I know you're busy. I know you have better things to do."
"On the contrary. I'm pleased to repay a favor to the Fleet Commander. And assisting a promising Cadet is all the more beneficial to the Federation. I have outlined some particularly challenging phrases. We will begin with them..."
I met with him once a week, usually after my protocol class. He had praised me very highly to Leilani, which pleased myself as well as her, but he never said so to my face. This did not surprise me. It wasn't his way.
Our meetings were always awkward for me, and at first I longed to quit them altogether. Though he was always very polite and never made me feel like an idiot, I couldn't help it. It was a well-known fact that Vulcans prized the beauty of their language highly. I felt so sorry that he had to listen to me muck it up with my human tonuge.
After the semesters changed, I met with the Commander directly following the class where he was my instructor. I thought that he might discontinue our lessons because of this conflict, but he dismissed the thought when I mentioned it.
"I assure that I can remain unaffected as your instructor."
Of course he could.
After class, we would walk to his office in silence. I sometimes thought of things I might say to him. A comment about something that occurred during class. His opinion on the status of the Decapsilon election. But I didn't dare speak to him so informally, and so we would be silent until we reached his office, where we would sit for the better part of an hour. The studying itself was rigorous - he demanded much from me, but as I said before, I enjoy challenges.
"You must set the edge of your tongue against your teeth, like so." He stared into my mouth as he tried to get my lips to form the 'pyc'pr' sound, which was necessary in many Vulcan nouns. "Less. Extend more."
I tried, and I could see that I hadn't even come close to the correct pronounciation.
"Observe." Spock leaned toward me and opened his mouth only a little. I saw his tongue, pink hinting at green, as it slid along the top row of his teeth. The sound came so easily from him. I felt jealous and frustrated. "Try again, please," he said.
I licked my lips and let them fall into a soft moue. My version of the sound was more like a slurring child than the crisp accent of a Vulcan.
"I don't think I can do this one." I did not often give up, but I was tired and it had been a very long day.
"Do not quit." He said this casually. "You are very close to a proper pronunciation. Perhaps more practice is necessary." He sat back into his chair. "Repeat the sound. It is possible that you might hear the incorrect inflection on your own."
I nodded, and began repeating the sound. Pyc'pr required a pursed lips to begin with, a soft shushing in the middle, and an even more subdued 'r' at the end. The nuances were subtle, and I felt like an awkward child, mauling the Commander's beloved language in front of his very eyes.
I usually avoided looking at the Commander when I was trying to pronounce words for this very reason. But as I spoke the sound, over and over again, my eyes wandered. I looked at the walls of his office, at my wrist and at my nails, which needed a polish. I thought he would have stopped me by that time, but he did not, so my mouth kept moving. And then my eyes darted to his face.
For a moment, I don't think he noticed. I always kept my posture very formal, which aided my pronunciation. But it was difficult to keep from shifting in my seat when I saw his eyes. It was only a moment, but what I saw was very clear, and it frightened me.
"It is very close. Please continue practicing this week. That is all for today, Cadet Uhura." His manner was brisk and detached as always, but I did notice the way the muscles in his hand strained for no reason. "Goodbye." He stood, and I quickly grabbed my datapad and left his office.
I wrapped myself deeply in my Academy coat, as it was a chilly afternoon. I had grown to love the cold weather of the presidio, which was amusing considering my upbringing on a very warm part of Earth. I loved Academy, and I looked forward to a long career with the Federation.
I walked slowly back to my dorm, lost in my own confused thoughts as I recalled the Commander. He was as kind as he could possibly be, yet he intimidated me so much that I'd never really...considered the thought. At all. But he was still a man. I'd almost forgotten that. Until I'd seen his eyes on me a few moments ago.
"Hey! Slowpoke. It's dinnertime." Gaila was sitting on her bed in our room, breathless and pink-cheeked and wearing her pretty set of underwear,
"Oh, God, Gaila. Not again."
She tried to look innocent. "Aren't you hungry?"
I sighed. "I don't even want to know who's under your bed. You know I hate it when you do that here. It makes me so uncomfortable."
Gaila smiled and winked at me. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Come get me when you're done."
I walked to one of the communal living areas, annoyed with Gaila like it was our first week together all over again. All I wanted to do was lie on my bed and think. I pressed my hand to my throat and felt the fierce pulsing there. I took several breaths as I sat on one of the couches.
My father used to say that eyes were the window to the soul, and when my father lost the ability to speak due to his illness, I reminded myself of that often. I may have been a future Communications Officer, but I had never discounted that important fact. My father spoke to me for months through them. And not long ago, the Commander had as well.
I cannot articulate what he had said to me, but I knew what it meant. I'd thought that Vulcans were old hands at keeping their emotions in control, but Commander Spock had clearly inherited the eyes of his human parent.
I heard footsteps, and then Gaila flopped down beside me. "Listen, I'm sorry. I didn't think...well, I didn't plan on that happening."
I frowned, but the way that Gaila had sounded so surprised about her impromptu sex brought me out of my dark mood. She had a way of doing that. "Can we eat now?" I asked impatiently.
"Yes. I've definitely worked up an appetite."
I picked at my dinner. The food at Academy was never exemplary, and word on campus was that they were preparing us for rations in space. I didn't much care either way on that particular night.
Gaila ate her share of soup and most of mine with gusto, chatting with our regular table of friends. Kaldrina Lopez was telling everyone about her abysmal score on the latest test in robotics. And then Li Hua did a dead-on impression of Commander Spock.
"God, can you imagine!" Li tapped his drinking glass with his fork. "It's got to suck being that repressed."
"Blueballs out to here," said a cruder member of the table.
Gaila tossed her hair. "Whatever, Vulcans are the best in bed."
Li made a face. "Vulcans don't have sex."
Kaldrina shook her head, as Gaila said, "Not true. A lot of them do. And don't forget that Spock is half-human."
"Half a blueball."
The table laughed and continued on with their meal. I had only been half-listening. I stood up.
"Studying?" asked Gaila.
"Oh, Nyota. You're such a good girl." Gaila was teasing me.
I did not pay attention. I could not stop thinking about the muscle in his hands. And of course, those coal black eyes that had shown me everything.
The rooms at Academy have never been off-limits to anyone. One of the many good things about Academy is the excessive amount of trust that is given to everyone. There are no secret places of mysterious origin or an instructor's lounge with mysterious happenings afoot. The instructors eat in the same room as the cadets did, and as long as an invitation is issued, there is not a private dwelling off limits to anyone.
I was sure that no one would think a thing of me being seen outside of Commander Spock's room just as the sun was setting. Still, I was uncomfortable not just with the situation, but with myself. I had no idea what I was going to say.
I spoke my name softly into the module when it asked for my name, and not long after the door opened.
"Cadet Uhura." He was standing in front of a very large chair, with his datapad on the table beside it.
"Commander. May I?" I looked at him with widened brows.
"Please, enter." He was still wearing his day uniform of all-black. As always, his hair was perfectly straight and shining, his skin showing only the faintest tinge of facial hair on his jaw. Otherwise I would think him completely refreshed and about to begin his day.
"I'm sorry to bother you this evening," I said quietly.
"There is no bother. How might I be of assistance?"
I gestured toward a small chair that was sitting in front of a writing desk in the corner. After the slight nod of his head, I turned it toward him and sat. We were as far apart as two people in the same room could be.
"I don't really need anything, but I wanted to talk to you about..." I paused, tried to rein in my erratic thoughts which were slamming against one another. "I'm sure you're going to think me forward, but I must speak."
"Proceed," said the Commander, and I could see that his curiosity was genuinely aroused. I could see everything, now.
"Why didn't you tell me?" The words were out of my mouth before I could reel them in.
"I do not understand your meaning."
I looked away from him. "You know what I'm talking about. You have the eyes of a human, and reading them is something that I'm particularly good at."
There was a very, very long pause, during which I couldn't bear to look at him. I was on the verge of tears and I didn't know why.
"If you are speaking about any feelings I might have toward you, Cadet --"
I cut him off rudely and stood up from my chair. "Are you denying them?"
"I am not."
"Then why didn't you tell me?"
He picked up his datapad again, though he did not turn it on. "Such feelings are both inappropriate and inconvenient. It is a failing on my part that you are aware of them."
I thought about the Vulcan girl in my creative writing class. I thought about the way that she had wrote so eloquently of desire, faith, sex. Vulcans had emotions. They had very strong feelings. I suspected that the Commander had a great many more than even myself. I wanted him to reveal them to me, and I thought about demanding that he do so for one wild moment, but then my better sense prevailed. It wasn't his way, any more than it was mine to let this subject drop.
"You could have told me." I stood up and walked toward him. "I would have wanted you to tell me."
He was silent as he looked down at his datapad. I knelt beside him and looked at his face, which was turned away from me. I had never been this close to him and I felt my fingers shaking as they reached forward and touched the tip of his thumb.
"Spock," I whispered. I heard no response, but I found that I did not need his words or his touch.
I spoke in my best Vulcan, certainly mucking up his true name in a terribly grand, humanly fashion. "Spohkh," I said, and I felt him expel breath in a way I'd never heard from him before.
He looked at me then, finally. I moved in to him slowly. The kiss I gave him was barely more than my breath on his lips, but I wanted him to have it. He did not pull away. From any other man that might have been a rebuff, but from Spock I knew it was akin to a protestation of love, an eloquent sonnet, a message written in the stars.
I slipped my hand under his and we stayed like that for a few moments – just feeling the closeness, enjoying the good energy between us. When I finally stood and gently raised his hand as well, he stood.
"You're taller than me."
"Yes." His voice was quiet as he stared at me.
"Much taller. It's a good thing I have a lot of boots."
He was amused. I was hyperaware of him now, how the slightest movements and flash of humor in his eyes might speak to me when he could not.
I walked through the hallway of his small quarters, toward where I assumed his bedroom was.
"Come," I said. His room was done in more gray and silver, the bed made with firm corners. I sat down and unzipped my boots.
He wouldn't come in the room, only watched me from the hallway. "Cadet Uhur—"
"Nyota." I corrected.
He was silent. I arranged my boots neatly on the floor and lifted my legs onto the bed. "Come here." I gestured to the space by my body.
"This is inappropriate."
"I know," I said. "But we're not going to do…anything we shouldn't. I won't do that to you. I promise."
I was gone as soon as he started walking toward me, so silent, tall, and pale. I reveled in the fact that his craving for me was enough to make him forgo the rigidly unspoken rules of the Academy, that he trusted me enough to come.
When he sat on the bed, I drew him down, toward me. He stretched his body out, and I heard the wind outside the small window in his room. We listened to it for a moment, before I gently pulled his arm around my waist. I couldn't believe my forwardness toward him, but all I can say for myself was that it felt natural at the time. The small touch that was his palm on my back felt like the most fantastic caress I'd ever been given, so warm. It meant something. It meant so much.
I touched my fingers to his chest, and raised my face to his. He was looking at me intently, with his human eyes that spoke so much to me. He told me that he was scared. He told me that he was nervous. He told me that I was a fascinating creature and that this moment between us was something that he had wanted for a very, very long time.
"Nyota." He spoke my name in the same way he always had, but softer. The sound of it made goosebumps prickle on my arms and thighs, and I could not tear my gaze from his. I didn't want to. Ever.
I don't know how long we stayed that way, our noses inches apart, but it was long after the moon had risen and fallen some that I finally drifted to sleep. We didn't kiss any more, but we didn't need to. He held me in his arms, and I slept peacefully there. Like I was meant to be there. Like I would always be there.