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Happy International Day of Femslash! Unfortunately, I didn't finish the two other f/f fics I was working on before today, so I'm posting a cleaned-up (and retitled, augh titles) version of a fic I wrote for Ladyfest before I zoom out the door.

Title: Find the Words (originally called "maybe I could've been something you'd be good at")
Fandom: Star Trek XI
Characters/Pairings: Uhura/Gaila, Spock/Uhura
Word Count: ~2000
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: references to slavery, sexual content, character death
Summary: for [livejournal.com profile] kitausu's prompt "Uhura/Gaila, I'm not unfaithful but I'll stray/When I get a little scared". Nyota Uhura, who knows 83% of official Federation languages, struggles to define her relationship with her roommate.



Uhura’s been dreaming of cracking codes since she was a child, speaking Standard at school and Kiswahili at home. It seems only natural that she’s always loved sharing secrets too.

In the dark of their dorm at 0300, she and Gaila tell stories that neither of them has spoken out loud before. They make up their own pidgin language, importing Kiswahili and Common Orion words into the mix of their shared Standard. And Gaila’s laugh and smile and scent, even when she’s on those awful hormone suppressors, can loosen Uhura’s tongue better than anything else.

Uhura even lets Gaila call her “Ny”— a sweet, girlish nickname that she wouldn’t let any other cadet get away with. Nowadays, Gaila is almost always the exception to Uhura’s rules.

*

Gaila says that if she’s got her legs crossed the right way, the vibrations of the new flight simulator can make her come. She promises to book a session for Uhura even though it’s not part of her curriculum this year, and when Uhura admits that she’s never had an orgasm, Gaila moves with altruistic efficiency to her bedside.

“I can help with that,” she says, and maybe it’s just because she’s spent the day memorising irregular Romulan verbs, but Uhura nods and pulls back the covers.

Gaila never fumbles or wavers, just reaches straight for the elastic waistband of Uhura’s panties. She rubs and strokes and swipes until Uhura is wet enough that she can slip two fingers inside her, curling and twisting. She whispers, “What, now what, tell me what you think I should try,” and Uhura does her best to answer without moaning.

It takes almost an hour and a lot of creativity— but in the end, Uhura does come, a sluggish orgasm that lingers in her quadriceps like she’s been running.

Gaila snuggles up against her and asks all sorts of questions about how it felt, how Uhura feels now, if Gaila’s technique could use any work. And all through this interrogation, it never occurs to Uhura that this is the prelude to what her parents would consider a conventional romantic relationship. That’s not Gaila’s style— and she thinks that maybe it’s not hers either.

She holds Gaila’s wrist, kisses her palm, smells her own musky scent on Gaila’s fingers. She says, “Thank you,” and Gaila says, “You’re welcome,” and they close their eyes and sleep for three more hours before Uhura has to leave for an acoustical engineering seminar.

*

Another night, Gaila tells her about her escape from the slave ship that she grew up on. This topic comes up so rarely that Uhura is, for once, at a loss for words. She listens as Gaila describes her last moments on the ship: keeping her eyes up as she crept to the shuttle bay, careful not to look down at her sleeping sisters. She doesn’t say any of their names, and the omissions hang heavily in the air.

“One day, Ny,” Gaila says, her voice muffled by her pillow, “I’ll go back and save— not them, probably, but other girls like them.”

It’s Uhura’s turn to swing her legs down off the side of the bed, to shuffle across the room until her shins hit Gaila’s mattress. She slides under the comforter. When she’s this close, she can see the whites of Gaila’s eyes.

“You just can’t save everyone,” Gaila says.

Uhura tentatively presses her hand against the small of Gaila’s back. “You saved yourself,” she whispers. “You should be proud.”

Gaila doesn’t say anything, just squeezes her eyes shut. But then she shifts her body forward until her knees touch Uhura’s and she nods a little into her pillow, and Uhura takes this as her cue to close her eyes too.

*

Yes, Uhura has a thing for Commander Spock and maybe Gaila assures her that he likes her too— Uhura can’t help but roll her eyes at how juvenile the conversation gets whenever Gaila mentions Spock’s name— but it’s not like anything’s going to come of it. It’s a crush. A perfectly innocent, understandable crush.

“So now that we’ve got that figured out,” Uhura says, facing her dresser while she unzips her skirt, “can we please move onto something else?”

When she turns around, Gaila is behind her, smiling and half-naked and ready for a kiss.

*

Gaila’s crazy about Jim Kirk. At first, Uhura thinks that she’s crazy about him the way she’s crazy about everyone. Gaila’s capacity for love is astounding.

But the way she talks about him, even after she figures that he was really mostly interested in her access to the Kobayashi Maru programming, strikes at some tender and vital part of Uhura’s anatomy.

“He should have just told me the truth,” Gaila sighs. “It was a clever bit of coding. I wouldn’t have expected it from a command student.”

Uhura rolls her eyes.

Gaila frowns. “Ny, you’re not jealous, are you?”

“Not jealous. Just questioning your judgement.” Uhura’s not even talking about the fact that Gaila promised not to bring anyone back to the room during exams, but maybe she should.

Gaila’s frown doesn’t change.

*

Uhura has this image of Gaila’s grin burnt across her brain, but she can’t remember the last words she said to her. Her memory is a jumble of information and emotions that she needs to sort through eventually. When she has the time. Right now she has signals to track, and this communication console is a different model from anything she’s used before, and—

It never occurred to her that Enterprise would be the only ship left standing after Nero’s attack. If she’d known, she would have— would have—

(“You just can’t save everyone,” Gaila said.)

*

Spock needs her now.

Spock wants her now.

Gaila always had so much love for everyone, and Uhura— Nyota— loves Spock. She really does.

“What do you need?” she asks, holding his face in her hands. “Tell me.”

“I need everyone to continue performing admirably.”

And yes, that’s within her powers.

*

Spock asks her who else she’s loved, and it’s not that he’s jealous— that would be illogical, since anyone can see that she’d never hurt him. It’s just that he’s curious. He’s a scientist. Uhura can appreciate that. It’s not like she hasn’t asked to hear every detail of his life.

She tells him about her first crushes and her high school sweetheart easily enough. These are people she left behind in the cities of her childhood long before she came to San Francisco. But when she tries to talk about Gaila, the words dry up. It occurs to her that she’s been without a confidant ever since the Narada incident. Her throat is thick with a few weeks’ backlog of words— Standard, Kiswahili, Klingon, Common Orion, Romulan.

It’s Spock’s turn to comfort her now. He brings her hot tea and waits until she finds her voice again.

“My last words to Gaila were something about the design of the Farragut. Something completely trivial,” she says. “I didn’t leave her with anything meaningful.”

“Were you lovers, Nyota?”

Her eyes prickle. “Yes, but not— it wasn’t anything formal.” Which doesn’t sound right, and the fact that she can’t explain this only makes her that much more frustrated. It sounds like she’s betraying Gaila by being here now, when really, Uhura thinks, she’s honouring her. In a way.

She thinks.

*

One of their first assignments after the Narada incident is to provide sanctuary for a group of young Orion girls who have managed to get to the Rigel system from a slave market on Verex III. Uhura translates for them, recording their histories on a collection of plastic datachips that will be sent off to Starfleet Headquarters. The Federation has been trying to put an end to the Orion Syndicate’s slave trade, but solid information about the Syndicate is hard to come by. These girls’ testimonies could be extremely important.

One girl, Devna, mentions that she was inspired to escape by one of her older sisters, and Uhura quickly does the math in her head. When she realises how the years line up, she is compelled to interrupt the flow of Devna’s words to ask if she ever knew someone called Gaila.

Devna frowns and Uhura knows she shouldn’t have said anything. This is valuable information she’s collecting, and even with the Federation’s limited knowledge of the Syndicate’s dealings, it’s obvious that this is a ridiculous long shot.

But she can’t take the words back now. She digs out her PADD and flicks through her personal files until she comes to a photograph of Gaila in her first year at the Academy, smiling and sitting cross-legged on her bed.

“Does she look familiar?”

Devna stares at the picture, taking in Gaila’s loose curls and deep red uniform.

“Maybe,” she says. Uhura almost winces when she hears the hopefulness in her voice.

“Many people change their names when they escape,” Devna continues. “I haven’t yet but maybe I should. My sister was called Myla, but this girl—”

She looks down at her lap and Uhura shakes her head.

“I’m sorry,” she says. “I shouldn’t have distracted you. Forget it. You were talking about—”

“Gaila is your friend?”

Uhura smiles stiffly. “I loved her,” she says, thankful for the ambiguity of the tenses in this particular dialect, and thankful for the simplicity of the Orion language when it comes to the idea of love. Some languages have hundreds of words to describe every particular nuance of emotion, but in Orion, things are fairly straightforward. The word she’s used suggests deep, sisterly affection. Her only other option was to call Gaila her wife.

Devna doesn’t question her word choice, just leans forward and asks to hear Gaila’s story.

“I will tell you more of what I remember about the markets later. I am tired and I want to listen. So tell me about Gaila now. Tell me why you love her.”

Uhura is only speechless for a moment. But as soon as she gets over her dull surprise and starts really looking for the words, she finds them— all Common Orion, of course, and she wouldn’t have it any other way— waiting on the tip of her tongue, ready to flow like they did when she was just a cadet telling secrets in her dorm.

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