Earth-style Romantic Gestures
Gaila was reasonably familiar with Terran social mores, or at least the mores of Starfleet Academy--not always the same thing--due to a combination of xenosociology classes, extensive watching of Terran holovids, and a long series of what Uhura referred to as "intercultural social activities" when she was being polite and "random hook-ups" when she was in a bad mood. That didn't mean that Gaila always bothered to follow those mores.
Exactly seven days after she and Spock had broken up, Uhura received a private message from Gaila: a copy of her most recent STI test results.
In response, Uhura sent a message that read, "These tests are three days old."
"I can have Chapel test me again if you want," Gaila sent back, so quickly that she had to have been hovering at her computer terminal waiting for Uhura's reply. "But I've been celibate for the past five days."
Uhura frowned a little. Gaila'd gone longer than that before--barely--but that had been during finals week of their junior year, when she'd been taking a brutal six course workload. She'd also complained loudly about it afterwards and celebrated her release from schoolwork with at least three guys at the bar she and Uhura had visited, plus whoever she picked up after Uhura had pleaded finals-induced exhaustion and gone home. Uhura couldn't imagine her choosing to abstain under less extreme circumstances.
"Is everything okay in Engineering? Nothing critical about to explode?" she sent, only half-joking.
"Me!" Gaila sent, and Uhura rolled her eyes but couldn't quite keep from laughing. She'd walked right into that one.
"Seriously. What's wrong?" She tapped her fingers on her desk as she waited for Gaila's reply. When it arrived, it was simultaneously reassuring and very much not.
"Nothing's wrong. I'm playing a long game."
"For me," Uhura sent, because the first rule of having an Orion friend was to not assume anything having to do with sex, beyond the fact that it was going to be occurring with great frequency.
"Obviously. Or, if you're not interested, we could eat dinner together in my quarters and you could tell me how much boys suck. I know that humans like to do that sort of thing."
"1800?" Uhura sent back. The break-up had been a mutual decision, but that didn't mean she couldn't use a little sympathy. Also, Gaila was friendly with one of the cooks--Uhura didn't like to speculate how friendly--and would probably use her influence to score them something good. Offerings of food were one of the first cultural similarities they'd discovered together.
"See you then!"
Uhura checked the chronometer: almost two hours until Gaila would be expecting her. Feeling mildly embarrassed, she crossed the room to her closet and took out a short, plum-colored dress that Gaila had made appreciative noises about before. It wasn't that Uhura was actually planning to have sex with Gaila tonight--she'd only broken up with Spock a week ago--but it couldn't hurt to look good.
The same rationale held true for her decision to take a quick shower, despite the fact that she'd already taken one that morning. And her decision to highlight her eyes with a heavy dust of gold eyeshadow, rather than her usual smoky gray shade. And to pin up half her hair in a braided knot, leaving the rest loose, because Gaila always used to try to talk her out of the practical ponytail that she favored.
Uhura surveyed herself critically in the mirror, half-tempted to change back into her uniform. The dress wasn't particularly formal, though, even if it did suit her well, and it wasn't as though she never wore her hair down. Besides, Gaila was probably going to be wearing her own version of casual wear: some variation of short, tight, strappy, and/or see-through. No matter what Uhura wore, she'd seem overdressed--quite literally--in comparison, so she might as well do as she pleased rather than secondguessing herself.
This wasn't the first time Gaila had hit on her by any means. There'd been the day they met, as roommates in their third year. "I don't sleep with my roommates," Uhura had said politely, removing Gaila's hand from her knee.
Then there was the day that Uhura had asked Gaila if she'd want to put in an application requesting that Starfleet place them in the same room the following year, as well. After Gaila had finished bouncing with excitement, she'd gone for a kiss. "I don't sleep with roommates even when I've chosen to live with them voluntarily," Uhura had said.
Finally, there was the day they'd arrived on the Enterprise for their first post-graduation assignments. "I don't sleep with other people when I'm in a romantic relationship with someone."
"I figured," Gaila said, and stopped stroking the back of Uhura's neck with her slim, warm fingers. "But I didn't think it would hurt to ask."
Uhura smiled and shook her head, and Gaila joined her and Spock for dinner and chatted brightly about their new assignments and her work in Engineering and the people in her section (one of whom she'd already had sex with during her lunch break). Uhura shot a quick glance at Spock after that particular revelation, but he just nodded politely and commented that he found the hour long break convenient for reviewing the science department's memos, since he also finished his meal in far less than the allotted time.
"I used most of my break to explore the ship," she admitted.
"An admirable decision," Spock said. "The sooner you become familiar with the Enterprise, the more efficiently you will do your job."
Uhura didn't tell him that her explorations had had little to do with learning the ship's rooms and corridors, much less the intership communications system, and more to do with getting a feel for the vessel that had become her home for the next five years, that would witness all of her triumphs and disappointments, that could provide her with the opportunity for advancement or that might ferry her to her death. She just accepted the quiet praise and promised to take Gaila up on her offer of a tour of Engineering.
"You look nice," Gaila said when she answered her door, eyes traveling up and down Uhura's body in a way that made it obvious that by "nice" she meant "eminently fuckable." Uhura was just thankful that Gaila waited until the door had shut behind them to say, "So, does this mean that you're willing to have sex with me, after all?"
"Not tonight," Uhura said and watched Gaila's eyes light up. "You said something about dinner?" she added.
"Oh, yeah. How do you feel about bison?"
Uhura's eyebrows arched. "Bison?" She'd been expecting pizza, or maybe some falafel or fish and chips: hot, oily comfort food that the mess served rarely in its neverending quest to meet Starfleet's nutritional guidelines.
"I'd never had it, but Mac in the kitchens says that it's a Terran delicacy."
"I've never tried it, either," Uhura said. "But I'm sure it's delicious."
"Okay." Gaila gave her a slightly furtive look. "Um, don't be annoyed, all right?"
Uhura frowned at the odd statement and followed Gaila through her bedroom and into her sitting room. (Virtually everyone else with two rooms reversed their positions, but it wasn't exactly surprising that Gaila considered her bedroom to be the less private of the two.) Then she saw the table and understood.
Almost all meals were taken in the mess hall, so most people didn't have more than a coffee table at best; the last few times she'd eaten in Gaila's rooms, they'd pulled her chairs to either side of her desk and eaten there. The small, circular table currently in the middle of the room had to have been borrowed--hopefully with permission--from the mess.
The flowering plant in the center of the table must likewise be on loan from botany, or possibly from one of her friends. (Uhura knew it wasn't hers. Gaila had chortled with glee when she'd first heard the expression "green thumb," sticking up both of her own thumbs and exclaiming that she couldn't keep a plant alive for more than a couple of weeks.) Uhura was at a loss to explain where she could have gotten the white tablecloth and the pair of candles that also graced the table, though.
"I know you said no sex," Gaila said quickly, "but we'd already set up the table by then, and I didn't want to waste the effort. It doesn't have to be interpreted as a romantic gesture."
"What if I hadn't agreed to dinner?" Uhura asked, still staring. That was a lot of effort to go to before Gaila had even gotten an RSVP. She blinked as she replayed one of Gaila's sentences in her head. "And who's 'we'?"
"What?" Gaila asked, frowning slightly.
"'We'd already set up the table,'" Uhura quoted.
"Oh!" Gaila's face cleared. "Jim and I. That's why I didn't bother waiting for your answer; if you didn't want to eat with me, then I was planning to have dinner with Jim, instead."
"You told Kirk about this?" Uhura demanded. She'd come to accept the man's credentials as captain, but he still had a tendency to infuriate her with the overgrown adolescent act. The last thing he needed was more ammunition for the lesbian fantasies that she was 99% sure he'd already been having about her.
Gaila just shrugged, not taking offense at either the question or Uhura's tone. "A lot of the holovids show romantic dinners like this, but they get things wrong sometimes. I wanted to check that this was something that Terrans really did, and that it wouldn't be inappropriate for our dinner. Also, I can't carry one of those tables by myself."
Uhura felt her flash of anger dissipate. That actually made a lot of sense, and, while she'd rather Gaila had asked almost anyone else on the ship than Kirk for advice on Terran social interaction, it wasn't her business to dictate who Gaila's friends were. "He's not hiding under your bed or in your closet or anything, is he?" she asked, just to check.
Gaila rolled her eyes. "Of course not. People like you only have sex with people they dislike in pornography."
Which was an accurate enough assessment, if not quite how Uhura would have worded it, and she laughed a little.
Gaila grinned back at her. "So, it's okay if we have dinner like this?"
"Yeah, it's fine. Thanks for going to the trouble; I appreciate it."
Gaila's smile turned almost heartbreakingly sweet, and Uhura let herself enjoy it for a long moment before she turned away to take her seat at the table.
The bison was delicious, somewhat earthier and more savory than beef, and marinated in a mushroom bourguignon. The rice pilaf and the spicy green beans that accompanied it were regular items on the mess hall menu, but they were among Uhura's favorites, and they complemented the bison well. And there was a small, painfully rare chocolate cake sitting on the table for afterwards; that alone was almost enough to make Uhura take Gaila up on her proposal immediately.
After the first several bites of dinner had been conducted in an appreciative silence--on Uhura's part, at least; Gaila moaned softly with her first taste of the bison in a way that made Uhura's toes curl--Gaila turned to Uhura with a matter-of-fact air. "So," she said. "Do you want to insult Spock now?"
Uhura laughed, and Gaila looked pleased with the success of her joke. "I have heard humans insulting their former partners, though," Gaila said, and then clarified, "Longterm partners that they later stopped seeing, not one-night stands."
Uhura nodded. "It's often easier for humans to deal with the sadness and disappointment of a break-up when they can blame the other person. I just don't think that that's the best thing for me to do when Spock and I still have to work together for at least the next four years."
"Of course," Gaila said, which made sense. Anyone who'd slept with what seemed like a quarter of the Enterprise crew in the year that she'd been assigned to the ship couldn't do otherwise and function.
And on the topic of Gaila's previous partners... "You didn't maintain your celibacy beyond this afternoon, did you?" Uhura asked. "Not when you had Kirk in here helping you with the set-up for this dinner."
Gaila gave her a sheepish smile. Bingo. "That depends on your definition," she said, though, which wasn't the unqualified agreement that Uhura had been expecting.
"What do you mean?"
"I gave him a handjob, and he fingered me. He said you probably wouldn't like that, but you'd already pretty much said you weren't interested, so I didn't think it would hurt. Also, it's not as though that invalidated my STI test results, which I thought was the most important thing."
"Fair enough," Uhura said, hiding her mild surprise at Kirk's attempt at consideration and at both his and Gaila's relative restraint.
"Was Jim right about how you'd feel?" Gaila asked.
"No," Uhura said slowly. "But I still appreciate him saying it."
Gaila got a familiar look on her face, one which Uhura had gathered meant "humans are so insanely contradictory, but that only makes them funnier and more interesting." (Admittedly, the "funnier and more interesting" was a somewhat optimistic interpretation, but, given the general tenor of Gaila's comments regarding humanity, she didn't imagine that it was too far off the mark.)
"It shows that he thought my feelings were important enough to take into account," Uhura explained.
he look faded into puzzlement. "Well, of course. You're his friend and one of his senior staff. If he did something that upset you, it would hurt the ship and it would make him feel bad."
"We're not friends," Uhura said automatically, though she was willing enough to grant the rest of Gaila's statement. From comments instructors had made, most Starfleet captains considered a distempered Communications Officer to be second only to a distempered CMO in terms of the negative effects upon the crew.
Gaila shook her head. "I didn't say he was your friend. I said you were his."
Not for the first time that evening, Uhura reflected that she hadn't realized how much Kirk and Gaila actually talked to each other, rather than just getting together to hook up. "He might consider that private information," she said absently, and Gaila looked faintly guilty.
"Don't tell him?" she said.
"I won't." Uhura paused, and then said, somewhat reluctantly, "Also, he might be in the process of becoming my friend. I'd appreciate if you didn't tell him that, especially since I'm not certain that it's going to happen. But I think there's a decent chance."
Gaila smiled brightly at her. "I hope it does happen."
Me, too," Uhura admitted. She finished the last bite of bison and glanced at Gaila's clean plate. "Dessert?" she added hopefully.
"Yes!" Gaila cleared their dinner dishes onto her desk and brought over two dessert plates and forks, then cut the cake down the middle and placed each enormous piece unashamedly on the plates. "You don't have to eat the whole thing if it's too much," she said when she saw Uhura's expression. "But I'm finishing mine."
Uhura laughed. Gaila had to be aware of the common Terran cultural taboo against overindulgence, but it was nice to occasionally be invited to share her worldview. Uhura couldn't do it with sex--her own cultural upbringing was too deeply ingrained--but food, and especially chocolate, was an acceptable compromise. "I probably will, too."
The cake was unbelievably good, after months of Starfleet-approved fruit salads and whole grain muffins, with only the occasional respite when the mess staff was feeling indulgent. Uhura finished her piece just as her stomach had begun to ache pleasantly, and she set her fork down on her plate with a contented sigh. "This was an incredible dinner," she said. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Gaila said, smiling back at her. "We should do this again soon. Only maybe not with the bison and the chocolate; I don't want to call in all my favors at once."
"That's fine by me. I would have been happy with pizza."
Gaila nodded enthusiastically. "That would be a lot easier to swing. Especially if I don't have to steal a table again."
Uhura arched an eyebrow at her. "You stole the table?"
"Well..." Gaila said. "Jim said it was okay, and he's the captain, but neither of us actually asked if we could."
Uhura snorted. "Good luck getting the cooks to forgive you for that one." The mess hall staff was incredibly territorial about their furniture, with good reason. The number of tables and chairs was carefully calculated to match the crew component on a standard shift rotation, with very little leeway. Even a small reduction in their furniture would make mealtimes impossibly chaotic.
Gaila just grinned at her carelessly. "I'm very good at apologies," she said, and Uhura allowed that that was most likely true.
"I should go," she said at last, more than a bit reluctantly. "I still have my weekly report to finish writing for tomorrow."
"Sure," Gaila said, standing to walk her out. Spur of the moment invites could be fun, but neither of them had illusions about the necessity for longterm planning if you expected to command someone's attention for more than an hour or two on board the Enterprise.
Before they reached the door, Uhura took a deep breath and touched Gaila's arm. When Gaila turned towards her quizzically, she kissed her.
Gaila stilled for a heartbeat and then kissed back, her mouth opening sweet and wet to Uhura's tongue. Uhura didn't kiss women very often, and it was a little strange to feel the softness of Gaila's lips and skin, the complete absence of stubble.
Gaila's hands settled at Uhura's waist, her fingers pressing into her back with careful pressure even as her thumbs stroked over the points of her hipbones in a way that made heat spread through Uhura's lower body. She reciprocated by sliding her hands up into Gaila's hair, weaving them in between the heavy, silky curls.
They kissed for only two or three minutes before Uhura pulled away. Gaila looked at her expectantly. "Was that a thank you kiss?" she asked.
Uhura shook her head. "Not really. It was more...a first date kiss."
A smile spread across Gaila's face. "Terran custom encourages sex on the third date, right?"
"Some people on Earth do things that way," Uhura agreed. "I personally prefer the second date, myself."
"That sounds far preferable," Gaila said quickly, and Uhura laughed and pressed another kiss to her mouth, then let herself out before she was tempted to drop that number even lower, walking back to her rooms in a breathless, tingling haze of anticipation.