Recipient's name : the_physicist
Pairing/Characters: Gaila/Jim Kirk, Nyota Uhura
Word Count: 8,000+
Disclaimer: Do not own. Sadness.
Summary: We were a different story. Not in love. Not soul mates, but fascinated nonetheless.
Warnings (if any): Mature Themes
Author's/artist's notes (if any): I wrote the majority of the plot out on the cheap version of paper napkins. It was awesome. First time I've ever attempted hetrosexual coupling. What Kirk writes on the fountain is a quote by Jean-Michel Basquiat, the one by the sink is by Chuck Palahniuk.
a = a
a = a
You are very popular and popular people are often invited out to parties. When you have time, you go. There is no harm in it and people are friendly. You go for the music, loud enough to be heard in the rocking of the floor, felt in the movements of the girls and boys who dance.
Humans, terranites, earthlings, or whatever voted on name they’ll decide to call themselves this year, are strange. They laugh and cry in equal measures, as if they have nothing to be ashamed of. You have no idea how they deal. One girl at the bar cries into her friends shoulder. She is in public. People around her are watching. You quickly focus your gaze to the dance floor. You try not to hear the hitching breaths. She’s loud and the whispers around her are louder. You taste bile in your mouth.
A heartbeat, and then you’re not alone. Someone leans in and asks you what you’re drinking. Bumps into your shoulder in a way that’s supposed to be accidental, a voice like milk says, “Sorry, don’t worry about it. You must not have seen me.”
It’s said in a way that’s odd. You’re fluent in standard but it catches your attention.
You see part of a profile. A mouth and chin, tan skin dusted with golden hair. You see a smile.
You tell him your drink and call him pretty to watch him blush pink. It’s an exotic and strange color, but attractive on this man. When you kiss him he tastes like beer and sweetness. He smiles wide and asks you for your name.
This is how you meet James Tiberius Kirk.
No human male will ever satisfy you. They lack the ability, the biology, to meet your needs. Pheromone production is a part of your body’s natural production; it’s also part of your species mating process. Very few species are compatible for this. Currently, you know of no other. The decision to live without the companionship of your kind is your decision, you don’t have regrets. On Orion men may have women of other species in their beds, as they are allowed. But they will not breed, they will not marry. No one will take an apostate. There are laws, old laws of your people, to kill absconders.
You love sex. You love the sounds and expressions people make. People are all so different. Older women may often give shy expressions of gratitude, while younger boys often carry themselves with a jaunty step while they leave. You want to be loved by a lot of people.
The blond man you’ve taken home stirs, nuzzles into your neck like a youngling. He’s wrapped himself around you, and he’s heavier than some of your other partners. That’s fine. You like the aftermath of sex sometimes more than the act. The intimacy of breath against your cheek is comforting. Anyways, Terrans are almost universally attractive.
But then again so are Orions, if only for different reasons.
The first week of classes has commenced. Your schedule like everyone else’s is fixed for the semester. Still, you’re somehow not surprised that Kirk shows up in the middle of class following in Captain Pike’s shadow. The result of the hushed conversation between your professor and the captain is a new classmate. There are plenty of seats open and for one reason or another you tend to sit in the middle towards the window. You’re not sure why Kirk sits next to you, but he smiles easy and calls you by your first name.
He sits with his computer in front of him and a paper notebook. You stare at it for a long time.
Over the course of the class you learn that Kirk writes his notes in neat block letters with a sharp slant and doodles only in the margins. There are odd breaks between his words. Your notes are typed.
Kirk notices your interest. He must not realize what you’re looking at because he offers you a package of mints that taste a bit like oranges. They tingle in your mouth. You know it’s because of a chemical, just not what the name is. Listening to Kirk talk in class, you think he might be the type to know what kind of additives and flavors are in the candy. If he did, you’d think it’d be because he’s got a secret penchant for long words.
“How’d you get in this class?” It’s a valid question and you’re curious, everyone is curious but they won’t ask.
“I tested into it, good thing, too.” Kirk says. His head tilted to the side and as aware of the others ears as you are. “I’m doing the accelerated track but I’m kind of hoping to dual major.”
The accelerated track is for students with superior brain function, a monstrously insane work ethic, and a desire to succeed that can only come from a personal place, not a professional one. You might be a little impressed he tested into Advanced Computing Languages even if you think he’s a cocky little shit to want to go for a two majors.
You see Kirk write something on one of the fountains on campus. You’re in-between classes and no one is around. You don’t particularly care that Kirk is vandalizing school property, but you keep out of his line of sight until he leaves. The only reason you do it is because you’re interested and you have the time to wait.
Kirk has written a sentence and crossed it out. The line cuts through his sharp letters like a judgment.
When you read it, you can only smile.
Kirk sits alone at lunch, until you join him.
Conversation with Kirk is a lot like running blindfolded. He knows enough about everything but not enough to be an irritant. For some reason, Kirk has a pretty firm grasp on how important the notion of sisterhood is for you. He enjoys math, the simple fundamental righteousness of it. He looks like a youngling, mischievous and proud, when he talks about the in-between spaces, the places that aren’t right or perfect. Sometimes an integer does not exist within the parameters of any known equation except for the negation of itself. Terrans had to rely on another race to explain to them the mysteries of N=-N. Yet, for all that’s known of it, so much is still left unanswered and even more is left unasked.
His eyes light up when he speaks.
Impossibility breeds fascination.
You’re a little adventurous when it comes to food. There’s the entirety of space to explore, it follows that you’d want to try a lot of the different foods out there.
For as enthusiastic as Kirk is about the rest of the whole Starfleet motto of exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no being has gone before, he’s extremely picky on what he eats. He just smiles when you tease him about being afraid of trying Andorian blood grub.
You’ve started to read the writings of Terran philosophers, critical thinkers, and intellectuals. You start to believe in a universal unconsciousness or the belief in one common link between all bipedal beings. You weren’t aware that humans had an understanding of mana or the power behind the reciprocity of gifts.
For Orions, the idea of the gift is both ancient and enduring, and never just a simple exchange of goods. Mauss, an old French writer that a professor has recommended, is very close to getting it. Terra for one reason or another is a very capitalistic world and on a whole if very focused on accumulating wealth for the purpose of accumulating more wealth. Orion is different in that expenditure, the giving or stealing of a gift, is how status is earned. Prestige and honor are gained and maintained by placing the receiver under the obligation to match and exceed the value of the original gift.
Gifts are never just commodities, at least not how Terrans understand them.
Not many people understand you.
Kirk’s always with a book. It’s weird and charming. Maybe it’s for a special project. Almost everyone at Starfleet has one. There’s rumor of a math prodigy trying to quantify spatial distortion by using computer gaming theorems. Nyota’s learning every language. Every language. You think it’s because she wants to be the next Hoshi Sato or because Kirk’s still better at Trader’s Tongue. It’s not just them, though. You’re working on recalibrating the range for a cold fusion distributor.
Whatever the gossip around campus, you think Kirk’s a gentleman. You’re who you are, and that attracts attention. You almost always find the limelight flattering, almost. Insults in standard are more often than not sexual. For better or worse, the reverse is true. Sexuality and sexual beings are often insulted too. Nyota explains it as having to do with Terran’s checkered-history and often prude-like mentality towards the subject.
“What are you thinking of?”
“Masturbation,” you say, and it’s true but you also like seeing people react. You like being the spark.
Jim’s eyes widen before his mouth does, pulling wide into an outlandish grin. “What?” Jim always asks the wrong questions, until he doesn’t. “Why would you say that?”
“Well, you asked,” shrugging with more theatrics than the moment requires. “It’s what I was thinking of.”
You like it when Jim slides closer, moving his book into your space and giving you his in equal share.
“Why do humans think it’s gross? I was with someone once who only liked to watch me use the toilet as they masturbated; it was the first time he was able to admit to that. I thought Terran females were supposed to bond through intimate stories. But when I mentioned it to one of the girls from CivNegociations she got really weird. I thought her eyes were going to fall off, and then she said some things. Do you think it’s because she’s fallen victim to the puritan doctrine that the previous Northern American Continent had fallen under, or do you think it’s more of a personal thing? Some people don’t like to masturbate.” You frown, “Nyota doesn’t really like to discuss it but we live together so it’s not like I don’t know.”
He looks both horrified and intrigued, and if you had to guess by the blush staining across his cheeks slightly aroused. “You talk about this? With girls?”
“Of course we do. Don’t boys?”
“I guess?” He looks hesitant enough that he’s probably giving you an answer he thinks he should. “In the locker rooms you’ll have bragging and exaggerations but it’s not like we really sit down and talk about it.”
You’re not sure if that’s true but you appreciate how Jim speaks to you with candor. Not everyone does.
“Still doesn’t explain her reaction.”
He must see something or hear something that you hadn’t meant for him to know. His voice is blurred and gentle when he says, “It’s probably more the bathroom addition to the jerk-off session that made her uncomfortable.”
“Why? What’s the big deal? It’s a bodily function.”
“Besides,” he says as he if was continuing from before and bumping his shoulder into yours, “As long as you’re happy, what does it matter what they say? If they we’re twice as smart, they’d still be insecure and stupid. Don’t get hung up on it, just think it’s awesome that you were able to make some dude get a lifelong fantasy. Or, you know, whatever.”
You bring Kirk chocolate the next day for lunch and pretend not to hear him when he asks what the occasion is.
“Never would have guessed you a proponent for lateral thinking?” You say, because it’s true and because there’s nothing else you can.
“Non-linear is only useful when the rest of the world is following straight logic.”
“Huh,” because that’s true and you concede the point, but you’re not invested enough to listen to the rest, “There was a time when I dreamed in fractals."
“So, what? Are we dating?”
Jim doesn’t say anything, his arm around your shoulders.
“Fucking,” you drag out the word like a tease, like how he smirks.
You catch Nyota’s eye roll.
Jim and Nyota are very different, and very similar. They could be very good friends. There is very little Jim would not share with you, but you still have to weasel the story from him one night after a few drinks. After you hear the recount of that night, their behavior makes a little more sense. Maybe it’s because you are an outsider, maybe it’s because you are friends with them both.
Nyota is a strong, capable, deeply independent woman. She is fierce in her own right. You watch her speak on tolerance and you know her love of different languages extends past that into a love of all life, and there is no doubt in your mind that she advocates for protecting those who cannot help themselves. For a woman like her to be frightened into submission by her classmates, her peers, that moment of cowardice would bring its own type of shame.
Jim, of course, sees it differently. You don’t know the circumstances surrounding that night or the choices he made, but he laughs hard like it’s still an open wound. He looks at you when he tells you he was in a really bad place and he just wanted it to feel worse in a different way. You know what he means. He looks at you and you wonder who it is he’s seeing. He doesn’t laugh long. He never does when talking about his life from before.
You think if your friends learned to forgive themselves for a night of weakness, they’d be able to forgive the other for having born witness to it.
“So, I was thinking.” Kirk's mouth quirks to the left when he smiles, “We’re going to teach you how to talk.”
You never thought you’d be participating in a Terra’s tradition of flyting at a pub. It’s explained to you as a contest consisting of the exchange of insults, often conducted in verse, between two parties.
You wish Nyota was here but you try to respect their decision to ignore each other. Mostly the evening’s warring slurs are in good fun; but also, it starts to take the sting out of what others have said. Your team doesn’t win but the last words of abuse are so outlandish and crude even your ears blush as belly deep guffaws have you leaning sideways into Kirk.
He’s sniggering into his drink with an arm thrown over your shoulder.
“Hey, I have a joke for you.” You’re a little hesitant because not many people get your jokes. Sure, there’s the mathletes over in the Segway building but they usually too busy staring at your breasts. They are indeed beautiful breasts and deserve attention and petting, but you and Kirk are in between classes and only have so much time. “What's yellow, and has a convergent power series expansion?”
There’s a moment of hesitation, but you know Kirk’s got it when he says, “A bananalytic function.”
Kirk writes on napkins. Doodles long complex equations that swirl around into something beautiful, something infinite. Scraps of paper, margins of notebooks, and tables in the basement of the library all become decorated with Kirk’s signature thoughts. There’s a steadfast obsession in it, words and graphs and snippets of literature. You don’t understand the whole picture of what he’s doing. Only once are you courageous enough to ask, “What are you solving for?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, why the paper notebooks?
If a = b, then b = a.
People look at you in the way they look at all Orion women, as if they’re commodities, as if they have a right to you. You know that if given the chance, they’d like to take a piece of you. Break it off and devour it like beasts. You know because everyone is like this. Most days you enjoy the attention. It is your power and you wield it as keenly as a master warrior.
There are certain looks that offer promises untold, a way of walking that’s more reward than tease.
When Kirk wants to, he moves like he knows what it can bring him.
Neither of you ever have to pay when you go out together to a bar.
You never talk about it. You don't ask what happened to him, what put the fear into him, because you don’t think you want to know. It’s not the sum of who Kirk is and that’s all that matters.
“What's non-orientable and lives in the ocean?"
Anticipation smells like bright eyes and salty sweat.
Nyota is the only human roommate you’ve had that you like. It was thought that someone in communications would be benefitted by living with another species, that they’d be more tolerant to another species lifestyle choice. For the most part, they were right. Nyota is bright laughter and the saturated colors of her African sunsets. Sisterhood is a concept she understands. You both dance.
For all that you share, you are very different people. Nyota has difficulty with understanding some aspects of life.
She was raised on Terran romantic fairytales. She believes in a happily ever after. She doesn’t understand your need to be with different partners. More so, she doesn’t understand why you would associate with Jim Kirk. You’d tell her, but it would feel like betraying a confidence that isn’t yours to give even if it’s not yours to keep.
You are not in love with Kirk, but he is similar enough that it’s only natural to be friends. You like being with him, you look forward to seeing him. You have sex, which you’ve enjoy, but there’s also the fact that there’s more to your time together than that. Most human men have ideas about Orion women. You find it strange that Jim is almost more interested in your explanations of math and engineering. Sometimes you’re even a little offended. Tonight you’re touched. You’ve come to adore Terran seafood and Kirk knows it. He’s taken you to one of your favorite restaurants. He sits through you devouring the inner bits of crab and shrimp with an expression of incredulity. He picks at his salad.
He has even dressed up for you.
If he was Orion, he would be prized for his desire to please.
Orions know women are the stronger sex, even draped in gossamer chains. A complicated sleight of hand and a propagated agenda allows for the status quo to be maintained by your people. You may have run after being sold as a slave but you are who are, and you have never been weak.
You understand Kirk’s attraction to you, even if he’s does not.
Kirk is planning something, you aren’t sure what. It’s not as if you’re upset not to be included. You’re okay with that. You just wish you knew because you’re curious by nature. There are stacks of outdated coding manuals around and schematics on Klingon warbirds. When you peek into one of the tomes he has sitting on his bed you see the words, ‘Always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual.’
You hum a long constant vibration in thought. You like how the sound feels behind your teeth.
“You know Chris?”
You raise an eyebrow because it’s the only thing you can think to do and on Nyota it looks fierce.
Kirk doesn’t quiet quail as he does with your roommate but he does clarify what he’s speaking of, “Chris Pike, you know him, right?”
You don’t lie, because you know it’s on both your records. Your story isn’t unknown. Neither is the heroic Captain Pike’s, who saved a group of Orion slave girls. You just refuse to answer the question. You thought you and Kirk had an understanding. But sometimes curiosity is more prevalent than the fear of pain or betrayal; it’s not just a human thing. If you didn’t have an unhealthy abundance for it, you’d never agree to explore the unknowns of space to live apart from everything you knew. So you ask, “Why?”
“Do you think he’s hot?”
People are often blind to very basic truths about themselves.
The two weeks before exams are horrible. You’re a social hermit and think of what you have to get done. Jim messages you to ask if you want to get some coffee, you let it go to your mail box. You’re tired and with a list of things to do before your tests and you forget to respond, but you think that’s okay. Kirk has his project he’s working on, has his roommate, friends. It’s not like he’s waiting for you.
The string of high level grades on your quarterly academic record is worth an uneventful social life.
The next time you think of Kirk it’s already break. You’ve given yourself over to exploring the shops and tourists attractions. You visit a salon. This is your life and you spoil yourself shamelessly. You’re visiting the girl’s bathroom outside the physics department and see familiar handwriting on the wall next to the sink.
‘No matter how much you think you love somebody, you'll step back when the pool of their blood edges up too close.’
It leaves a deep cold in your gut. You message him, but apparently he’s gone elsewhere.
The day before classes he texts, ‘Do you ever wonder what’s the most disgusting sound ever? What sound does an Andorian blood grub makes when it’s being puked up?’ Then, ‘Want to find out? Tequila night starts at nineteen hundred. ‘
You sit together under one of the trees. Kirk eats carrots and dip while you eat crab. You make slurping sounds to watch his face screw up in disgust and sometimes you’ll even fling a piece at him just to watch him scramble out of the way.
Kirk gets his revenge when he eats a bar of chocolate and doesn’t share with you.
You bully Kirk into going to a party with you. He looks ridiculous in the sequined miniskirt and a purple wig that keeps slipping to the left. He looks even more ridiculous with hairy legs, but he says he likes the androgyny of it. He’s relaxed, and the graceful line of his shoulders makes you kiss him. Your lips painted glittery and green as your own skin. Later, when you do his lips with the same lipstick he shifts his hips away from you and looks away.
You know Kirk, at least a part of him. So, you roll with him, tighten your thighs and hold him down.
The pink flush and pheromone spike has you biting your bottom lip in anticipation.
When you draw the lipstick over his lips, again and again, you feel him respond between your thighs as you hold him down. He’d be able to buck you off but not without a fight. You tip his head up. His throat is strong line of corded muscle. It’s a tease, but you’ve always been good at getting someone to respond. Kirk is beautiful like this.
Maybe tonight you’ll try tying him up and do his lips again, maybe you’ll spit on him.
You tell him to close his eyes and brush on gold powder.
You pretend not to notice how he stares at himself in the mirror while you finish getting ready. How he almost touches his face but hesitates at the last moment.
You lose track of Kirk. When you find him, you see him surrounded by a group of queens. They tower over him in outrageous costumes looking delighted at their find. They adore him, of course they would. He blushes beautifully. You catch the eyes of a tiny girl, with a blonde pixie cut and a sharp smile.
She’s an amazing hour in one of corners of a dark room. You leave her dozing happily on the couch, her body covered in the green glitter you’ve done yourself up with. You leave with a kiss to her temple.
Kirk’s managed to escape the hosts of the party but has managed to find himself in front of a glass dining room table. There are drugs on the table, white powder mixed with something translucent. Your nose itches. You’ve never cared for drugs. Never liked wit hen a contract holder took some before going to bed with you. You always felt the difference. There’s a man sitting there surrounded by cheap imitations of beauty. He’s looking at Kirk, ignoring those hanging off his arms, and he wants. You know you’ve walked in on their conversation. But you don’t like the tenseness in the room or the look in Kirk’s eyes. He’s looking at the table, really looking at it, not the people surrounding it. It’s easier to pretend you don’t understand what it means. You step to Kirk’s side, placing a hand across his hips. He notices you, of course he does. You command attention.
The tension’s gone around Kirk’s eyes and in its place is the knowledge that whatever he was thinking is gone now. Orions are considered extremely prized for more than just their ability in the bedroom.
The man, watching the exchange laughs. The wet bite of the sound the man makes set your teeth on edge. You’d never hand Kirk over to this man. "Well, I see you’ll be busy tonight. So, tell me. What does a man have to do to get you out of your pretty little head, boy?"
You hear Kirk’s answer. You hear the honesty in the word, "Try."
“Another life, right?”
The next day, when you sit next to Kirk in class you catch something shining out of the corner of your eye.
There’s a bright green piece of glitter tangled in his eyebrow. You suppose it doesn’t matter what protection you take or how careful you are.
Some things are impossible to not be infected by.
The message board hanging on the outside of your door has a word on it. The word is a cruel, dirty thing that somehow hurts worse when you read it because it’s in your mother tongue. Someone looked that world up, they had to have, and they did it to hurt you. You wipe the word away with your hand but the ink stains your palm.
There are six other Orions in Starfleet aside from you. You never meet each other’s eyes. There is a reason that you don’t speak with them. You are the only one of that class. You hate the word they mutter behind your back, what others call you to your face.
You hate that you saw it and not Nyota because she would have erased it and never spoken to you of it.
You’re grateful because she would have seen that word, would have known you for what you are.
“I have weird luck. It's always good and bad all at once, or just one extreme or the other. Sometimes, I think someone’s fucking with me.” Kirk says it with a conviction someone else might be unsettled by. You are Orion, and that will always mean something. People like Kirk are called ‘sister-touched’. The holy three sisters of fate have a mercurial sense of humor, legendary to your people.
He might be human, but you don’t think that matters.
It’s only right that the word for sister and the older word for zero be the same in your mother tongue.
You can’t reduce zero. Zero breaks all the rules.
Every gift needs to be repaid with a gift.
“I’m not sure what I want to do. What if I choose wrong?” It’s a confession that costs more than Kirk will know. You’re deciding on what track you want to pursue in grad school and more than tipsy. The words fly away as if they weren’t more precious than the wine of Mount Seyana. You hesitate, for a moment you wonder if Kirk understands the honor you’ve given, speaking to him as one would a sister.
“Then, at least you’ve chosen.”
The term Terran has been altered to human.
Kirk becomes Jim. You have always been Gaila.
“Who did you see? When you first saw me, who did you see?”
You don’t have to repeat yourself. You’ve both had enough to drink to excuse this conversation later.
“A friend, I think. She…” The pause is long enough that you come to terms that is the answer, and all that you’ll need to know. In a way, it is. You feel the absence of whoever she was. Jim needs this moment to gather his composure. If he tells you the story it will be because he chooses to. People are remembered through their memories and the stories that are told.
You are comfortable. You will wait.
Soft touches wake you. Kirk’s finger is moving in a pattern of strokes. He’s writing something into your skin, equations or poetic verses. On someone else it might seem the possessive sort of gesture, but this is you, and this is Kirk. This is just another outlet for Kirk’s insomnia and compulsion to get the thoughts out of his head.
They’re probably not even fancy equations, just everything simple that has ever irrevocably changed the universe.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Sometimes it’s enough to live and breathe, to fall asleep with someone next to you.
Jim has nightmares. Horrible terrors that cause him to jerk in his sleep, grabbing at anything in reach with needy hands. He makes a sniffling sound and jerks in your hold. There is a sound, low and buried, that you recognize as weeping. They’re akin to the animal noises at the city’s petting zoo. Jim took you there on a date. You liked the sheep. They had big glossy eyes. You think Kirk’s would be shiny too, if they were open. His cheeks are wet and you can feel the stickiness of them collect on your neck. This is a moment you’ve never dreamed sharing with another being. It doesn’t really mean anything, Jim’s even asleep. He’s human and humans laugh and cry in equal measures, as if they have nothing to be ashamed about. But you aren’t human, and it means everything.
You’re smaller than Jim and wrapping your arms around him makes you even more aware of this. He is broad like most men and like most men he needs things he cannot ask for. You kiss his temple and sing softly in a language you breathe. You sing him one of the great epics. Your favorite is about Orion pirates who go on to be seen as heroes, the saviors of you home world. You tell him of how they cheated to beat the odds and win when there was no victory to be found. He must wake because he’s watching you. Later he whispers words back to you in your mother-tongue, accent atrocious but all the more precious for how clumsy it sounds.
He thanks you, and in your language there is only one word and that word is a noun. The standard equivalent is ‘the one from which great kindness comes,’ it’s a rare word to use because it also means ‘mother’.
You cradle Jim to you and think of what might have been. You think of how perfect that word sounds coming from his lips. You will never be a mother. You will never hold a child in your arms and call it your own, and this will never make you sad. For the sake of any child you’d have, you would cut it out before it was born. It’d be the greatest kindness you could offer. That’s what it means to be a mother. Orions are like Romulans in that only those considered strong are fit to live. Humans are softer in this regard. Naïve, perhaps, as they often find survival of the fittest to be something cruel rather than the most natural order of things.
You wonder if Jim is the result of a mother not doing her duty.
“Shut up. We’re sleep-talking.”
“Don’t worry so much. When I’m Captain, you’ll be my chief engineer. We’ll fly through the sky.”
“Space?” You laugh at him because he’s ridiculous. The stars are above you but you came from somewhere out there and the light pollution kills too much of the view for you to have any romantic inclinations. Not like Kirk, who waxes on and on about the mysteries and great vastness of the universe. “You can’t just pick favorites. I don’t even know if I’m going to be accepted into the engineering department.”
“Totally is,” he’s smiling too much for his words to have any truth to them but you’re drinking in one of the fields outside of the campus and you like the happy endings Jim tells, like a child’s story. “The whole admiralty is like one giant game of kickball. Besides, you’ve already applied. From you that’s a guaranteed sure thing. You’ll get it. I’ve already foreseen this. You’re going to be the most badass engineer chief in the fleet.”
Sometimes dreams are all that people have to live by, “So who would you choose, Mr. Drunk Captain?”
“Am I drunk?”
“You’re totally wasted.”
Eggs are the only thing close to meat that Jim will eat. Personally, you think eggs are gross and hate watching him eat the yellow stuff. You’d rather suffer a hangover than eat them.
People have always fascinated you.
They’re all different and your time with each is special. You enjoy the breadth of experiences you have with different partners. You have your favorites, and Jim is one of them. You like him. You like things about him because he’s so very interesting.
Jim is insular. He stands out from others as a blaze of burning light, brilliant, something to keep your eye on. There’s two sides to greatness, always has been. There’s power, prestige, and luxury. On the other side of the coin is an untouchable loneliness, a leader must always lead. You know this because your sisters have made a life style of catering to these people’s desperate need to be needed.
It’s no wonder why you end up together.
You may not always be able to tell the difference between what he wants and what he needs and what you’re willing to give but he isn’t a complete unknown either. Jim is a study in self-denial. He allows for an excess of little things while preventing himself the comfort of the big ones. He’ll miss the classes he can and slouch at attention. He’ll eat two helpings of dessert, but won’t bother you if you ignore him.
A psychology degree isn’t needed to see what that means. There’s a type of symmetry in self-denial. When you believe nothing is yours, you are given everything. It’s something from one of those ascetic lifestyles you don’t really understand. For Jim the world must be very beautiful, and very lonely.
“If everyone said you couldn’t do something, would you still try?”
There’s a long silence because you’ve lived the answer, “Yes.”
As they say, all good things.
The test is simple and private, done in your bathroom. All you need to see is the two strips. You’re not exclusive but you know.
You go to a party because you’re popular. You’re beloved. You drink because it’s easier to drink then not to. You bleed orange and green. You drink because you like how the bubbles feel on your tongue. You call Jim to pick you up because you think someone slipped you something. You say, “Jimmy! Pick me up.”
Jim comes but by then you’ve started fighting with another girl and her friend. They call you a whore and he says nothing just pulls you away as if you haven’t the right to respond, the right to scream.
There’s a lot of ugliness in you when you’re not in your right mind. He still leans in to kiss you goodnight, the asshole. You push him. Push him hard and he hits doorframe with a shuddering breath. You forgot that he’s human.
You tell him about how it’s him, not you. It’s his mother. How she didn’t do her job. You’re supposed to cut the throats of the weak, of the unworthy. “Don’t you know that?”
The worst part is not that Jim says nothing; it’s when he walks away from you, back turned and eyes low. Fuck. Fuck him.
You’ll admit it’s not one of your finest moments. Jim doesn’t speak to you for a month.
You see him with an assortment of females, you think the silence hurts Jim more than it hurts you but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.
Breathing is not always as easy as it appears.
In the meantime, the term human is once more considered to be politically incorrect.
“He’s an ass. You know that, right? Just forget about him already.”
“Yeah,” you say, because it’s easier than the alternative, because you’re tired, and because she only wants what’s best for you.
You find Jim in your corner of the library.
There’s a word that human’s use too frequently. Its meaning has no shine. That’s why it’s important the word you speak is in your language, a word that’s passed your lips less than any other.
“I never said anything because you’re your own hero.” He says it like you’ve should have known it all along. He’s right, you should have.
You were a lodubyal, a life contractor. You were a pleasure artisan and all the stronger for it. You may have abandoned that life but there is still great honor in what you once were. Commons slurs towards promiscuous humans do not apply because you are something altogether different, you are an Orion. You’ve never wanted to change who you are to please others. Ironic, maybe, that a human male would be the one to remind you of that.
“I still shouldn’t have said what I did.”
“Oh, come on! ‘All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.’ That’s a classic.”
The comment is met with a laugh and a shake of a head, “Nope. Never seen it.”
There’s a bit of a stare off. Surely, you both look like fools arguing about early Terra cult holovids but you’re alone, tucked in the back part of the library that you’ve laid claim as your own, and reputation is on the line.
“That’s crazy. How could you not have seen it?”
“Why? Is it really that big of a deal?”
“But, you’re human!”
Dances are algorithms come to life. It’s a simple trick of counting to memorize the steps and moves, all sisters are taught this. Every number is a footstep. When you count it feels like dancing, it feels like freedom. Kolari, the true name of Orion’s high language is sometimes described as a language of circles and squiggles. Nyota says it looks like open music notes. You think there may be something to that. You read and you see your sisters dancing out before you and into eternity.
In comparison, Federation Standard is crass to your eyes.
You love your language, but more, you love seeing math written out in your mother tongue.
Outsiders may think your long equations have no direct answers, but you know better. You see the emotion, and intent, and purpose embedded with each character. The meaning is there, obscured but there. You like the idea that the answer is based on unknown variables. Algebra is something you’ve always enjoyed.
Jim works his numbers out in a hobbled out web of mostly-standard and it is a different matter completely. You don’t wish to understand the numbers in Jim’s head even if you wish you could solve for them.
You don’t understand why someone would try and solve for something without an answer.
If a = b and b = c, then a = c.
You associate sex not with moans or cries, but smells.
You think of that as you lose yourself in the the heavy base slap of flesh-on-flesh: the sweet cloying taste of human sweat, the gritty bitter taste of morning breadth, or the sour stench of your lover’s piss. You think of the flush of adrenaline, the added layers of pheromones, and the spike of dirty arousal while you become a vessel for someone to use.
No human will ever be able to satisfy you but you enjoy them. You enjoy your time with them.
You have a healthy lifestyle and enjoy sharing in new experiences of the body. The body is a temple, but you’ve never forgotten why the temple exists. Standard doesn’t have the words for your religion. The closest is the old religions, as right as they are wrong. Among the many ideas that humans have cast out like rope ladders in an attempt to understand their place is the notion of kama, the physical desire as a manifested presence. Desire binds the spirit to the flesh, forcing an awareness of the body that otherwise someone would not have been made aware of.
You know the full shape of your stomach best when you feel its cavernous hunger.
You feel the strength and sturdiness of your back most when it’s bent by a whip.
You know these things.
In the heat of it, when you whisper a prayer to your sisters only to break off screaming, “Fuck! Just give it to me, give it.”
You feel the kiss he plants to the inside of your knee, hear Jim’s voice repeating the rest of the verse back to you, jumbled by his unsteady breath and horribly accented.
Of course, you think. Of course he’d know that.
Whatever your relationship with Jim is, it's biological. Everything about it is shamelessly rude, and disgustingly messy, and something else that feels fun.
“What does zero say to eight?”
Jim’s looking at you like you’ll know it, but you don’t. You shake your head, giggling before you’ve even heard the rest of the joke.
Orion does not have a word for monogamy. There are four words for marriage. There are over fifty words to describe paired associations or relationships. Jealousy is a universal concept but lovers are not often coveted by Orions, at least not as humans do. Jim is not yours.
When you are introduced to Jim’s roommate, Leonard McCoy, you remind yourself of this.
You have been around humans for a long time.
Jim likes to take you out dancing. You’ve not managed more than a dozen times because classes are rough on everyone and worse on those who have something to prove. McCoy is an addition to your little party and you knew from the first time you met that he doesn’t like you. It’s obvious to everyone but Jim that the good doctor disapproves of you. The weird thing is, the thing you can’t understand, is that his dislike feels personal in a way that your classmate’s antagonism doesn’t.
He’s constantly touching Jim, on the shoulder or back, anywhere to redirect Jim’s attention back to him. The ease between them unsettles you; it’s as if they were blood-kin, as if they’ve cried together.
Nights like this you wish Nyota would come but her dislike of Jim is well known and Galia doesn’t have anyone else to ask.
Time moves so slowly but over a year has passed since you’ve met Jim.
Learning to understand someone else is both hard and very, very simple.
“I’ve always thought of myself as human. It doesn’t really matter what name we go by, our history has shown us that. We’re still the same animal. Still have the same spots.”
The conversation is too serious and makes you uncomfortable. You bump shoulders, a move that’s both calculated and awkward. Jim doesn’t even flinch. “Wait. Are you talking about freckles? Or is this a metaphor?”
Yeah, you’re kind of an ass.
He reads to you sometimes, more often than not at your request. He still has dozens of real library books scattered in his otherwise neat but empty room. You stretch out in the shade of a tree. The quads are visited by students for every recreational activity Starfleet allows. A game of tag football is happening on the other side of the field. Sequestered away from others, you and Jim lie in the shade.
Sequestered is your word for the day.
Jim has his head pillowed on your stomach and you play with his hair, yellow strands standing in contrast to your dark skin.
"If desire causes suffering, it may be because we do not desire wisely, or that we are inexpert at obtaining what we desire. Instead of hiding our heads in a prayer cloth and building walls against temptation, why not get better at fulfilling desire? Salvation is for the feeble, that's what I think.” Kirk reads to you, he enjoys old paper books Terra favored for over a millennium. It’s a quirk, and you wouldn’t be surprised if he did it because it was meant to be an ironic commentary. Kirk’s like that.
Your eyes are closed and you enjoy the weight of him on you, the vibrations of his words across your side. There is very little Kirk doesn’t grant you in the way of personal space. He must have been a very lonely child.
“I don't want salvation. I want life, all of life, the miserable as well as the superb.”
You usually find excuses to interrupt his concentration when he’s reading and Jim is so very rarely annoyed with that. You do it because you tell yourself that Jim needs to take himself less seriously, but probably do it because you like the attention. Except, you don’t today. You like this book more than most. You think that the writer, one Tom Robbins, would make a very excellent Orion.
“At least I will have tasted the banquet that they have spread before me on this rich round planet rather than recoiling from it like a toothless bunny.”
You like sitting next to Jim.
Kirk brings you flowers. “I’m sorry I kept you waiting,” he says.
“I don’t know, Jimmy. The whole idea that one person could be all things to another person, satisfy every need is…mawkish." That’s your word for the day. You like the long vowel then the playful finish. Nyota’s been working on expanding you vocabulary.
You grin hoping to share your mirth with Jim but his stare is a thousand miles away and when he grins, you think ‘oh.’ You really hadn’t known.
Whatever your relationship, it’s not awkward.
Jim passes the Kobayashi Maru. You hear the news from two other classmates and all you feel is pride. Of course that would be Jim’s side project.
Jim jimmies open the pool’s doors. You’re out way past curfew. It’ll be dawn in a few hours. The morning dew is in the air. Your breathing fast and your heart’s pumping with excitement. Jim’s quiet and keeps his eyes away from you. There’s a contemplative air about him that makes you want to giggle in response. Maybe that’s nerves. Maybe it’s the high you’re on.
You’ve been celebrating Jim’s win with him.
Jim jimmies. You like the play on words and as an Orion you’re bound to find a skill like that to be interesting. In the morning you’ll ask him where he learned to do that. If you remember, that is. Sobriety is a long, long way off for you.
Everything’s silent and it makes your breath quicken. The massive room is dark except for the pool, shadows and light rolling across the ceiling. The light is hazy, blue flickering into green, and the heat gives everything a transient air like no time had ever passed or all of it had.
Besides you Jim strips. Your hands slip on the straps of your heels. The buckle is tiny. Jim kneels and slides the shoe off, then the other. It’s you who pulls him to the pool. It’s you who jumps in even though you still wear a dress. The water is cool and surrounding you like a sister’s embrace.
Your people have long ago figured out the mathematics of a void and the distinct impossibility of an answer but you feel it now, running beneath your skin. You feel him through the water. His ripples merge into your ripples. Light flickers between your thighs through his fingers. There is silence, blissful silence. This is how you celebrate overcoming the impossible.
Your fingertips brush against his, his against yours.
“Do you know why I used to write in notebooks?”
It’s a conversation from so long ago that you’ve forgotten how that trait of his seemed odd, eccentric in just a technologically driven place.
“So someone would notice me.”
Sirens seem louder in space even though there is no air for sounds to travel through.
"I see you." You close your eyes and whisper, “I see you.”