Penance CHAPTER ONE
by SlwMtionDaylite


Based upon the film Atonement, written by Christopher Hampton (based upon the novel by Ian McEwan) and directed by Joe Wright.

written for the LJ community Reel_startrek, Round Two

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I own nothing. Paramount, et al. own all. I really wish they would let me borrow Spock for a while though. Atonement owned by Universal Pictures, Studio Canal, Relativity Media and Working Title Films.
Rating: Strong R/M
Genre: Romance, Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Action/Adventure
Characters/Pairing: Kirk,Spock/Uhura
Warnings: Language. Sexual situations, violence

Warning: Potential Plot holes abound. Watch your step...

Summary: Spock/Uhura. Alternate Universe. This is the story of a young cadet that sees something he thinks he understands. But he doesn't.


PART ONE
INTERPRETATIONS


CHAPTER ONE
TWO FIGURES UNDER A WEEPING TREE


"What do you think it would feel like to be someone else?"

Kirk heard the gentle thud of a PADD settling on the grassy ground and turned his head to his right, away from the bright Californian sky that he had been gazing upon as he lay on his back.

Uhura stared at him bemusedly, her PADD she had been studying intently held loosely in her hands.

He gave her a flirtatious smile and her eyebrow arched gracefully.

They weren't necessarily close friends. They weren't even friends, really. In fact, Jim Kirk could easily say, as much as it pained him to admit, she barely tolerated his presence. And her opinion of him had not changed since that fateful night three years ago when they met in a bar in Iowa.

Maybe he shouldn't have grabbed her breasts.

But, as they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty.

"Really?" she asked, incredulously. Her hair, tied tightly in its customary ponytail, was draped across her shoulders and down her back as she lay on her stomach, her skirt riding up her thighs tantalizingly, revealing her chocolate brown skin he ached to touch.

Kirk allowed his mind to wander to a daydream he often frequented. The daydream where they were lying in the grass here together and her smiles and laughter were reserved just for him and weren't given in contempt. It was a bittersweet torture he had created for himself when he ruined any chance for her to actually look at him the way he saw in his daydreams. It was for her and her alone that he was willing to forego his free lifestyle of casual companionship and one-night stands to engage in a serious relationship. And her flesh, teasing him, was distracting. He ached.

Kirk forced his wandering gaze to return to her face when she began speaking again.

"You come over here, invade my personal space and interrupt my studying to ask me, what? If I wanted to be someone else?"

He laughed and turned his head to gaze at the sky. "Actually, I asked how you think it would feel to be someone else. Not if you wanted to be someone else. See? Totally different."

His eyes drifted back to her and he caught her rolling her eyes at him. She was clearly annoyed. This didn't bode well for him.

She sighed loudly and dramatically. "I don't know. Never really thought about it. Now, will you please leave? I have an exam in my next class and I'd really like to pass it."

Kirk rolled over onto his side to face her, propping his head up with his hand. "Come on, Uhura. Work with me here. Besides, you'll pass your test. You always do."

She gave a small genuine smile. A huge victory for him.

"Surely you've thought about it." He was antsy. Bored. And desperately wanted her to play along with him, even if it was only for a few minutes.

She released another sigh. "If I play along, will you leave me alone?"

Kirk smiled coyly. "Sure thing. And I'll even stop asking for your first name...Bethany." He had no intention doing either.

"Not even close."

"Not even a tiny little hint?" Kirk begged, the smile on his face growing wider. He knew he was pushing it, but he loved getting her riled up. She was gorgeous when she was mad. Her eyes shone brighter. Her cheeks grew flusher. Her chest heaved. His mind drifted to other scenarios he would love to see her in and he closed his eyes, willing himself to come back to the present.

"No!"

"All right. All right." He held his free hand out in mock surrender.

There was a brief moment of silence before she answered. "I suspect it would depend on who you imagined yourself to be. It might be cooler. Or it might be more miserable. But...it's a pointless game that won't change anything, no matter how much you want it to be, no matter how much you want to imagine yourself as someone else. And then, there's the question of how would it feel looking like someone else or being someone else. Because, really, they're two completely different things. Like, I could imagine how it would feel to look like Leonard. People would definitely treat me differently. I wouldn't be hit on by guys all the time." She stared pointedly at him. "I'd be treated with the respect that comes with being a member of the medical profession. But if I imagined what it would feel like to be Leonard...I wouldn't want to be him. He carries so much pent-up anger. I couldn't imagine what it would feel like to feel so hateful all the time. How he's so sad all the time. So, no, I wouldn't want to feel like him."

Kirk rolled his eyes at her overly critical analysis of his fun little game.

"And where is Leonard, anyway? I thought you two were glued together at the hip," Uhura suddenly asked.

Kirk shrugged nonchalantly. "He got called into the clinic or something. Something about be treated respectfully because he's a doctor." Kirk's attention was drawn to a form calmly making its way across the large courtyard. "Anyway, I think it's fun to imagine being someone else. I used to do it all the time when I was a kid. I'd imagine being that kid who had the perfect family – a mom who was home and a dad who was alive – I'd imagine being that someone who could hold your interest long enough to get a date."

Uhura sighed nervously and looked elsewhere, anywhere. "Kirk. I told you –"

"That you're not interested. Yeah, I know. Sorry. What can I say? I don't believe in no-win scenarios." He looked at the passing students and faculty members before them. "But, I mean, really, could you imagine what it'd feel like being that guy." He gestured to a passing officer with a nod of his head.

Uhura followed his gaze and saw Starfleet's only Vulcan – well, half-Vulcan – walking with his hands behind him back, moving gracefully towards his destination. "You mean, Commander Spock?"

"Yeah. All work and no play. Could you imagine what it would feel like to be a walking calculator? How boring that would be? No. Scratch that. You wouldn't feel anything, would you?" Kirk laughed and watched Spock freeze in his progress to look briefly at them. He couldn't really be sure, but the Vulcan's rigid posture suddenly seemed to grow even stiffer, something Kirk didn't think was possible.

Spock's pause was brief and he was walking again quickly, though not as relaxed as before.

"I don't think he's boring." There was a wistful edge to Uhura voice when she spoke quietly, gazing at Spock's rapidly retreating form. "And he feels. He just doesn't show it."

Kirk battled the urge to roll his eyes. "Didn't you use to be his teacher's aide or something? I remember always seeing you two walking around together on campus. Now..." He shrugged. "What happened? You two even talk anymore?"

Uhura dropped her eyes to her PADD. She appeared uncomfortable, fidgeting with her device.

Kirk was surprised by her sudden shift in mood and was about to speak again, to tell her she didn't have to answer if she didn't want to, when she finally did.

"I talk to him. Sometimes. He's...we've just...we move in different circles now. That's all." There was a flutter of emotion in her voice that Kirk couldn't quite place. Was it anger? Sorrow?

Before he had a chance to ask, Uhura was swiftly gathering her things. "I gotta go." She jumped to her feet, her knapsack firmly clutched in her grasp, and darted away from him without a single glance back.

Kirk watched her briefly before heaving a sigh and plopping on his back, gazing at the clouds passing overhead.

Yeah.

Spock had been surprised by his illogical reaction when he saw Cadet Uhura lying in the grass with Cadet Kirk. The sudden onset of intense jealousy was most unbecoming of a Vulcan and he could not explain why he experienced such a sensation. He had no claim on her. She was not his bond mate, much less his companion, and therefore she was free to spend time with whomever she chose, even if it was that insufferable cadet.

No, if Spock was truly honest with himself – and it would be illogical not to be, after all – he simply missed Cadet Uhura's presence in his life. After she had helped him through a difficult and embarrassing time, he had suddenly found himself without an assistant. She had transferred. Without consulting him.

He had been confused. And still was.

And hurt.

Even if he would never admit it. Never vocalize it.

The science building was just across the courtyard from the xenolinguistics building. Oftentimes, as he was aware of her schedule, Spock would do his best to ensure that he would be outside both buildings when her classes let out.

So far, he'd been unsuccessful in catching her.

A brief surge of desperation flowed through him. He needed to understand why she left her position. Did he do something wrong? That was exceedingly possible, as he often stumbled in his dealings with her, albeit unintentionally.

Or did she simply grow tired of dealing with his detached demeanor? He had been told before, by several other officers, that he needed to behave in a more humanly manner, that his cool behavior was often off-putting. He had never put much stock in the words of his colleagues, but after her resignation, Spock had begun to reevaluate their validity. However, it was difficult for him to behave differently than he was accustomed. He was Vulcan. To behave more humanly, to demonstrate his emotions? It was much to ask. Too much.

During his musings, Spock walked the sidewalk, hands behind his back. Today he was out later than he would have liked, but he had been held up by a student requesting his tutelage. He calculated his chances of seeing Cadet Uhura to be nil, since her class had ended twenty-four minutes and five seconds ago.

As he passed by the side exit of the xenolinguistics building, despondently returning to his office, the door flew open and Uhura rushed out. Spock stopped his movements quickly, lest he collide with her.

She froze before him, her knapsack held loosely in her hand. Her eyes were slightly wider than normal and Spock deduced that she was surprised to see him. But she quickly recovered and stepped forward.

"Beautiful day." She spoke noncommittally, a slight edge of hostility coloring her voice, and she walked past him, not waiting to see if he followed.

"Indeed," he agreed, easily falling into step beside her. He did not know if his following her was acceptable. "Though I do find it somewhat cool." His eyes slid to her form.

She didn't respond and the pair continued to walk down the sidewalk in silence.

Suddenly, taking into account the words of his colleagues, Spock gave into the human tendency for small talk to break the slight awkwardness. "How are you enjoying the book?" he asked, referring to the book he had given her shortly before her sudden departure when she spoke of an interest in Vulcan philosophy. She had not given it back, nor had he asked for it. Perhaps, unconsciously, he was looking to use it as a means of reestablishing communication with her.

She glanced at him. "What? The Teachings of Surak?" She shrugged. "Not at all." She stopped quickly and moved in front of him, causing him to halt. "I think I'd rather read the Pre-Awakening writings any day." She leaned in slightly and locked eyes with him. "They're much more...passionate."

Spock raised an eyebrow and the two looked at each other intensely for several moments. He was vaguely aware of her moving closer to him. Or perhaps it was he.

Regardless, Uhura suddenly dropped her gaze and stepped away, moving forward once again. "So..." She cleared her throat. "The gala for the Vulcan delegation is tonight."

Spock allowed her to change the topic. "Indeed, it is."

"Will you be attending?" She sidestepped a fellow cadet as they continued to walk past the xenolinguistics and science buildings.

"I have been informed by Captain Pike that my attendance is mandatory. Though my time would be much better spent in the lab."

She gave a small smile, which surprised Spock, though it was not unwelcomed. "Your parents will be there, right?"

"Regrettably, yes." He did not elaborate. He knew she was aware of the difficulties he was having with his father.

Uhura looked at him, mouth open in shock. "Commander! I'm surprised at you. If anything, I would think you'd be glad to see your mother."

He was pleased with her sudden banter; it reminded him of their previous time together. "Typically, yes. But she has already informed me that she shall attempt to persuade my father to converse with me. I am not...looking forward to it."

They reached a large aged willow tree. Spock followed Uhura from to the tree, stopping under its sweeping branches.

Uhura dropped her knapsack on the ground, leaned against the trunk and looked at Spock. "A little birdie told me you were going to accept the position as Chief Science Officer on the Yorktown." She crossed her arms tightly across her chest.

Spock's brow quirked at her word choice, but he did not comment on it. He understood her meaning. He also did not ask her how it was that she became aware of this information as he knew she was resourceful. "The idea is appealing to me, I will admit. It would only be a temporary assignment. After construction on the Enterprise is complete, Captain Pike has offered me the position of First Officer."

"Two years in outer space?"

"That was cited as a stipulation, yes."

"Why can't you remain dirtside?" She looked at him earnestly.

Spock's brow furrowed as he contemplated her line of questioning. "I do not desire to do so. I joined Starfleet with the intention of making scientific discoveries –"

"You could do that here."

Spock regarded her for a moment. "I do not believe that would be in my best interest."

"No, of course not." There was that edge of hostility back in her voice, surprising Spock. She turned away from him, heaving a heavy sigh.

Spock tilted his head to the side and regarded her. "I have upset you."

Uhura laughed harshly. "You could say that."

Spock looked around them, scouring the grounds for anyone paying attention. Satisfied that they were alone, he stepped closer and dropped his voice to a whisper. "Nyota. Please, explain what I have done wrong. You have been avoiding me for two months and thirteen days. Please –"

She spun around to look at him. "I haven't been avoiding you. You made it perfectly clear two months and thirteen days ago –" She spit the time out harshly – "after I helped you with your...problem..." She broke off her statement with an awkward whisper, eyes glancing around, looking at anything but him.

Spock stood up straight, satisfied that he now knew the source of her anger. "You are speaking of your assistance with my Pon Farr."

Uhura blushed fiercely. Her voice a meek whisper. "Yes."

"Had I not been proficient enough in expressing my gratitude for your sacrifice?"

Her eyes grew moist and she turned away from him again. "It's that. Right there."

"I do not understand."

"Of course, you don't." Her voice grew louder. Dangerously so, increasing the likelihood of their being seen.

Spock glance around them once more for potential eavesdroppers.

"It wasn't a sacrifice for me. I didn't do it out of some twisted sense of obligation to my professor. I did it because –" She broke off, shaking her head. "It doesn't matter, I guess."

"Nyota."

She didn't say anything else, turning back to her knapsack.

Spock moved quickly, bending down to recover her bag before she did. "Allow me to help you."

"Spock, I'm all right!" She grabbed the strap of the back and tried to take it from Spock. "I've got it."

He tightened his grip and pulled the bag closer and, in turn, brought her closer to him. "You are emotionally distressed."

She sighed. "You're damn right I'm emotionally distressed. Now let go."

He did not. "Why?"

She pulled the bag harder. "Damn it, Spock! Just let go!"

Surprised by her loud volume and concerned they would draw an unsolicited audience, Spock suddenly released his grip.

Uhura was caught off guard and stumbled backward. Her bag fell from her hand and Spock reached out to catch her, his arms wrapping around her waist.

After righting herself, Uhura immediately stepped away from him and turned around to retrieve her bag. "Damn it!" she exclaimed angrily, dropping to her knees. Her belongings lay sprawled across the ground. Furiously she picked up the scattered PADDs and shoved them forcefully back into the bag.

Spock approached her. "I apologize, Cadet."

She sat up on her knees and looked up at him sadly. "So, we're back to Cadet and Commander? Just like that?"

Unconsciously, Spock moved closer and reached out to cup her cheek tenderly. "Nyota." He did not say anything further, just allowed his emotions to filter through their tentative link and she finally raised her eyes to look at him.

He felt a myriad of emotions emanating from her - a flutter of an emotion he feared naming teased his mind - but was unable to fully comprehend them because she suddenly tore away from his touch, jumping to her feet.

Without another word, she ran.

Kirk walked leisurely down the sidewalk. He needed to return to his dorm to dress for the evening's lavish event, but he wasn't eager. Playing dress-up was something he had always loathed. But orders were orders and select cadets had been ordered to attend, with admirals citing some desire to show the Vulcans the elite of the elite. As though the Vulcans would be impressed, he thought wryly.

He heard a loud feminine voice in the near distance. She sounded upset, yelling something that he couldn't quite make out. A calm masculine voice followed. Kirk gave a small shrug, deciding that it was probably a lovers' quarrel. And that was precisely why he refused to get involved in a relationship. Even though he was willing to do it all for a certain cadet. If she'd only have him.

As he neared the huge willow tree, he became aware of a couple hovering underneath the sweeping branches. A man and woman. Kirk's eyes grew wider when he saw the woman on her knees before the man, whose back was to him. I couldn't see who he was.

So, not exactly a lovers' quarrel.

Kirk stopped his movements and watched the scene before him. His heart started racing and his nerves started tingling when he noticed who the woman was.

Uhura. Down on her knees, before a man who held her face.

Kirk couldn't see clearly because several bushes obscured his view, but it appeared to him that she was performing...

He didn't allow himself to finish that thought. While, yes, he would admit that he was what several people on campus called him – a playboy – he never once considered doing what he was seeing before him. And certainly not with her. He respected her too much.

Suddenly, he watched her jump to her feet, grabbing her knapsack, and run.

The man watched her go before looking around. Kirk was shocked, his jaw opening, when the man turned to face him and was none other than Commander Spock.

The Vulcan looked at him coldly, uncaringly, before walking away.


Author's Notes: For those wondering, yes, Mes-torik T'khiori will be finished. I consider it my baby...albeit my twisted, dark, disturbing baby, but my baby nonetheless. I know it's probably starting to look like I'm never going to finish it, with my sporadic posting schedule... But I will. I promise. Emphatically. The ending is so entrenched in my mind that I simply must write it. But...

I think that I'm going to rewrite it. XD I have some issues with it and it's not entirely what I have been envisioning when I started it. I chickened out in some of the darkest parts and ended up holding back, etc. I want to fix that. So, I'm going to.

When will I start (re)posting it? Hard to say, exactly. I'm working on it in between a few other fics.