Word count: 544
Summary: When conventional relaxation techniques don't work.
Author's notes: Written for the st_xi_kink meme.
"You know, you're a lot more high-strung when you're back on Earth," Jim commented, and Uhura scowled at him. She'd already lifted weights in the hotel gym for half an hour, then swum a hundred laps in the pool, followed by a hot shower and a moderately successful attempt at meditation. (Despite Spock's efforts during the time they'd been dating, she'd never taken to meditation as well as she might have liked.) That she was still jittery after all that was an annoyance; Jim's commenting on it, an affront to her stressed nerves.
"I'm here for one of the biggest performance reviews of my career," she pointed out sharply. "If I get this promotion, I might make captain by the time you're an admiral."
"Aiming to be the second youngest captain in Starfleet?" Jim asked, smirking at her.
His casual confidence in her abilities and his approval, behind the veneer of arrogance, only ratcheted the tension in her body higher. "I'm not going to be making ten-year plans until after my performance review," she said. "For now, I don't want to even think about it."
"I could help you relax," Jim said.
"No, you couldn't," Uhura said. Typical Kirk, wanting to fix everything with sex, but her stomach was in knots, and she had trouble thinking of a time outside of sickbay visits when she'd been less interested. "Just...distract me."
"Oh, I know how to distract you," Jim said, wiggling his eyebrows in a way that made him look faintly deranged.
Uhura grabbed a spare pillow and smacked him across the face with a satisfying thump. "I swear, if you make one more pass at me tonight, you're getting another hotel room. Think of something else."
"Fine," Jim said, sounding cheerful despite the minor abuse. He took the pillow she'd hit him with and tucked it behind his head. "I'd offer you a backrub, if I didn't know you'd misconstrue my intentions," he said. Then he took his padd off the bedside table beside him. "I'm not starting at the beginning for you, though."
"That's okay," Uhura said. "I don't think that Natasha the Naughty Navigator will suffer too much by my missing the first few chapters."
"Haha," Jim said flatly, though his mouth quirked a little with amusement. He took his reading glasses out of their case and put them on, then tapped his padd's screen until he'd opened the right file. He cleared his throat. "'In old Norse times, the thrones of the sea-loving Danish kings were fabricated, saith tradition, of the tusks of the narwhale. How could one look at Ahab then, seated on that tripod of bones, without bethinking him of the royalty it symbolized? For a Khan of the plank, and a king of the sea, and a great lord of Leviathans was Ahab.'"
Uhura rolled over so that her face was buried in her pillow, turned away from the glow of Jim's bedside lamp, and closed her eyes. She exhaled in a long sigh. Jim continued reading quietly to her, and she let her thoughts drift away to the rhythm of his words. Just before she fell asleep, she felt his hand settle on her back, rubbing up and down in long, soothing strokes.