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the look, clamp - stars

Skin (Star Trek XI, Gaila, Uhura, mention of past Spock/Uhura)

Written for Asukajude. Beta read by dissociate.
sacred_20 prompt #5: Healing.
Also a part of the drabble challenge at where_no_woman.

Title: Skin
Author: Renata Lord (snowlight)
Characters: Gaila, Uhura, mention of past Spock/Uhura
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~1400
Disclaimer: Still not mine, darn it.

*

It was on a late summer day in San Francisco; the rain was sparse that season and the air cracked with the scent of sage orchids. Nyota Uhura was standing in the middle of the pickup room, looking to the third shelf from the right—her mother's care package from Bujumbura should have arrived—when the door opened behind her. She didn't turn back, but she heard the creak and felt the sun.

"Oh hey! You're that girl in room 297F?"

She turned and saw a green face even more cheerful than the picture logged in the Student Information System, with hair such a shade of red it couldn't have possibly been dyed. And on her left arm was a brilliantly colored tattoo in a script she actually did not recognize. That definitely was not in the picture provided by the SIS.

"Yeah—I'm Uhura." Then she remembered the opening greeting that she had practiced just for this occasion. "Meklu archi'mekruz."

The girl's eyes went wide with a look of both excitement and awe.

"I'm Gaila. And oh wow, you speak Orion? That's so awesome! Low Orion, too!"

She grinned back, a little embarrassed: "I got a proficient rating for spoken High Orion, but I actually don't know much of Low Orion."

"Still, that's really cool!" The girl gushed, smiling like a million credits. "Besides, since we're gonna be living together, you'll know all the really, really important words in Low Orion soon enough."

That last line was delivered with a wink.

*

In due time Uhura did learn Low Orion, including the really, really important words. It couldn't be helped: Gaila liked to flirt with every boy in her native tongue, and Uhura knew she'd never be able to say words like aranph and co'lah without thinking about a wicked little giggle.

Somehow Gaila made the nasal Low Orion sound vivacious, almost bubbly. It was probably a gift.

As it happened, Gaila also had the tendency to get a tattoo for every boyfriend she had. The really-pretty really-important amazing-cultural-artifact looking tattoo Uhura first saw on the day Gaila moved in? The name of her then-boyfriend in some obscure Pacifican dialect. Within a month that tattoo was gone, and within another month it was replaced by another of its kind, except in Arabic. But this time around Uhura immediately understood the meaning of the design, and almost blushed.

"It took the guy three hours to get this done!" Gaila threw up a hand. "But oh, so worth it. Girl, let me tell ya, Ahmed is utterly amazing..."

As it turned out, Ahmed lasted longer, although not by much. In Uhura's eyes, boys came and went, and every time, despite the past history, Gaila seemed a hundred percent certain that this was the perfect love, this was the one. Yet the Orion girl fell in and out of love with equal ease, even though she never approached anything with less than flawless sincerity. Infatuation and erasure. Rinse and repeat.

And she was never apologetic about it, least of all to herself.

*

When Spock entered the picture, Uhura thought she finally knew how Gaila felt this whole time: love at first sight. Stupid, perhaps, but true. She was so smitten with her dark-eyed Vulcan that less than a year into the relationship, she was considering getting a tattoo to celebrate the upcoming anniversary—only to abandon the idea when she realized that it was probably the Gaila in her talking. It was impossible to live with that girl without some of her rubbing off, crazy or sane.

She opted to present Spock with a very lovely edition of Vulcan love poems for their anniversary.

Three days after that came Narada.

Gaila was lucky for somebody who wasn't on Enterprise. Gaila survived.

Clutching a PADD that constantly flashed casualty list updates, Uhura found her friend at the StarfleetMed Center #5 with little trouble, partly because she could actually pronounce Orion last names. She didn't recognize the unconscious patient lying in bed, however: Every part of the young woman was wrapped up in bandages, even the flowing red hair was completely gone, shaven off to give doctors access to the burnt scalp surface.

Uhura covered her mouth to muffle a startled cry. The get-well lily bouquet slipped from her hands. Tears came without warning and for all the languages she knew, she was thankful that she didn't have to speak just then.

She knelt down next to her friend and buried her head in her arms for a long moment, trying to stop the tears. They are going to fix you. The words jumbled up in her head, choking out all the light. They are going to fix you. And oh, honey, oh baby, I'm so sorry. So sorry. So sorry.

They didn't allow her to visit again before the Enterprise took off with a new captain. Communication from Earth came sparingly in space, but eventually she learned that Gaila underwent a number of massive skin grafts and was, apparently, once more herself.

'I'm gonna hang around in Operations for a while. The boys are cute here!'

Even Kirk seemed relieved when Uhura relayed that to him.

*

It was another three years before they saw each other again, and it wasn't in some stuffy Operations office down on Earth. On her way back to bridge from her routine gym trip on the Enterprise, Uhura caught a glimpse of red hair and green legs and somehow just knew it was her. Operations or not, the girl who once had a whole constellation tattooed on her back was never meant to be kept away from the stars.

"Meklu archi'mekruz."

That was the first thing Gaila said after they sat down together, face to face. Those eyes still sparkled, and the full lips were curled up in that familiar breezy grin. Yes, she thought to herself, feeling her throat constricting in joy. It's really her. This is my girl.

More than anything she wanted to be sure, wanted this to be real. Too choked up to say anything in return, she reached out and took those hands in her own. Cold Orion skin, smooth and unmarred as new silk. The doctors had done a good job.

Gaila looked down at her hands, half-amused and half-surprised.

"Oh, I see you did get the tattoo after all. Congratulations."

Ah yes, the tattoo. She had almost forgotten it was there on her inner wrist, a small double-layered circle pierced by a smaller triangle: Kol-Ut-Shan, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, the basis of Surak's philosophy. It wasn't hearts and stars, but it said everything about how she chose to honor her Vulcan love.

She never regretted it, even though she perhaps had reasons to.

"So where's the ring?" Gaila was asking. "He did get you a ring, right?"

Uhura smiled faintly.

"No ring. Spock and I…we broke up a while back." A long while back; long enough that she no longer internally cringed every time she said that name.

"Oh." Gaila said nothing else, but she heard the unspoken question behind that simple syllable. What happened?

"It just didn't work out. Sometimes, something gets broke...can't be fixed."

That was all she could say on the matter. Gaila nodded in understanding, eyes still fixated on the small tattoo.

"I see you didn't get rid of it."

"I thought about doing that," Nyota admitted. "But at first I was scared of the pain…and later I just decided there's no harm in keeping it. It doesn't hurt anymore."

It wasn't a lie. There was nothing that could erase the history, and in any case she did not wish to.

Gaila made a soft sound of agreement and leaned in closer. Uhura realized that there was no tattoo on her bared arm. When was the last time there had been something? A week? A month? Three years?

The redhead evidently wished to rectify the situation herself. Because the next thing that came out from her pretty mouth was: "So, spill the beans girlie—who's available on this ship? I want names! And don't start with Kirk if he's still that lousy in bed!"

"Oh, that one is definitely not available." Uhura tried to look stern, but she couldn't suppress a small grin. Things were going to be alright.

*

Finis

Comments

Gaila and Uhura being wonderfully friends is always just so wonderful to see.
Oh this is lovely. I really enjoyed their friendship and how their differences became the strength of their friendship. Very nicely written.
Oh, I love the way you wrote the development of their friendship. :D
I just love Gaila/Uhura friendship fics. Thank you for such a well-thought story.
And don't start with Kirk if he's still that lousy in bed!

I like how the ending turned out! BTW, I totally thought of "that other idea" we were discussing last night when I saw this line. orz
A very great Gaila/Uhura friendship fic! There can never be too many of that sort and this one explores something I don't think I'd seen before- what if Gaila was NOT on the Enterprise when everything happened.
Personally I don't think Gaila was on the Enterprise during Narada, because if she was I'd expect to see her in action (I mean, even Cupcake got a shot?). But I like her a lot and don't want her to die on some other ship, so I tell myself just because a ship is destroyed doesn't mean everybody on it is dead (i.e., USS Kelvin).

Edited at 2009-10-06 11:19 pm (UTC)
This was great! Gaila and Uhura are my BFF OTP. I was crying when Gaila was in bandages. :-(