Y Not Me?

A/N: This story was rejected from SNW 9. I'm putting it here because it's got T'Pol in it, and I've only ever written for this fandom. Hopefully, no one will take exception.

This is for all female Star Trek fans, because most of the time, we never get what we want on the show.

Commander Uhura eased herself into the chair with a groan. Though her rump was well-padded in its own right these days, she appreciated the extra upholstery the chair provided. With her legs safely ensconced beneath the table, she slipped off the regulation-issue Starfleet women's shoes. Freedom from the tight, highly-arched footwear made her feet feel as if they were expanding like balloons. Uhura sighed in relief and then cast a brief, baleful glare at the other bar patrons, most of whom were male. She'd bet a dozen bars of latinum that none of them had sore feet because they'd spent the day in uncomfortable shoes. Even in these enlightened times, women seemed condemned to suffer the vagaries of style.

Her thoughts traveled back to the days on the Enterprise, when her rump hadn't been so well-padded. Fashion had been her friend, then. She hadn't minded those ridiculously retro Starfleet uniforms a bit, as she filled them out quite well, if she did say so herself. And back then, she could work a full shift on the bridge in shoes that made her current boots look like therapeutic footwear! Where had the time gone?

"Hey, girl." A friendly greeting drew her from her reverie. Ordinarily, the by-the-book commander wouldn't suffer such a diminutive from anyone, on duty or off. But considering the woman addressing her was her elder by several centuries, she didn't take exception.

"Hey, Guinan. How're things?"

The El-Aurian settled herself into one of the many available seats at the table, deftly balancing a tray containing a veritable cornucopia of bottles and glassware. "Oh, you know. Pouring drinks, listening. The usual."

The commander frowned, jealous of her friend's serenity. "You're standing on the job almost all day, Guinan. Don't your feet hurt?"

"Hell, no. I'm the queen of sensible shoes." Guinan poured a slug of something into an iced tumbler and handed it to the human.

"How do you get away with dressing the way you do?"

"Get a couple of centuries under your belt, and you can pretty much do what you want."

Uhura scowled. "I feel a couple of centuries old. Does that count?"

The El-Aurian chuckled. "If it were up to me, Nyota, you could wear whatever you wanted. You should just be grateful that you never had to wear—"

"Forgive my tardiness. I became engrossed in an essay on dark matter and lost track of time." A diminutive Vulcan, dressed in the traditional robes of her people, had approached their table undetected.

"Hey, T'Pol," Guinan greeted her. "Pull up a seat. Uhura and I were just discussing the illogical nature of female attire."

"Speaking of which," Uhura commented, scrutinizing the Vulcan as she sat down, "Catsuit at the cleaners?"

"That piece of apparel currently resides in my closet, and has done so for quite some time. I have not worn it since my posting on the NX-01." T'Pol's brow furrowed for a slight moment, the only sign of perturbation. "I sometimes suspect that an unauthorized mind meld led me to make inappropriate clothing choices while stationed on Enterprise."

"I have often had similar suspicions regarding my own attire while on Voyager," a sultry voice replied to the Vulcan's statement. The women at the table looked up at the two newcomers.

"Hi, Seven. Hi, Kathy," Uhura greeted both the former Borg drone and the Starfleet Admiral behind her. "Right on time."

"Actually, they are 3 minutes and 47 seconds late," T'Pol corrected.

"My chronometer indicates that our tardiness is only 3 minutes and 39 seconds," Seven of Nine countered, seating herself. The Vulcan inclined her head politely, conceding the point. "I believe," the Borg-woman went on, "that we were discussing surreptitious and unauthorized mental influence resulting in ill-advised clothing choices."

"Correct," T'Pol acknowledged. "While it may seem far-fetched, there is no other logical explanation for clothing myself in skintight material that offered little or no warmth on a human vessel, where the ambient temperature was well below that considered acceptable to Vulcans."

Before Seven of Nine could respond, Kathryn Janeway broke in. "Seven, do you honestly think I'd allow something like that to happen on my ship?" she demanded, both amused and insulted at the trend of the conversation.\

"Of course not, Admiral," Seven conceded. "However, like Commander T'Pol, I can find no other rational reason for some of my clothing selections. According to the doctor, my attire, while formfitting, was necessary to help regenerate skin damaged by Borg technology." The blond woman paused, before going on pensively. "This rationale does not, however, explain the need for stiletto-heeled footwear."

The other women nodded knowingly in both sympathy and agreement, then took advantage of the break in conversation to sip their various drinks. The silence was broken by the arrival of a Bajoran woman.

"Wow, who died?" she asked, plopping herself down without ceremony on an empty chair.

"Seven's feet," Uhura responded, grinning at the look of confusion that greeted her words.

"Glad you could make it, Kira. We were just talking about the...odd... clothing choices made by females of many species," Guinan informed the Bajoran with mock solemnity.

"I always figured it was a human custom," Colonel Kira Nerys commented, reaching for the drink that Guinan had poured for her. "Dax and I certainly never wore anything so outlandish. Except, of course, in those ridiculous holosuite programs of hers. And I'm pretty sure they were human, as well."

"Who was human?" inquired a teal-uniformed commander, whose genetic makeup happened to be half-Betazoid and half the aforementioned species.

"The sadistic inventor of FM pumps," Uhura deadpanned, pushing a chair out with one of her de-shoed feet. "Plant yourself, Deanna, and have a drink!"

"Oh, come on, now," laughed the counselor as she followed Uhura's instructions. "A nice pair of heels can make or break an outfit!"

"Nobody's saying a nice pair of shoes is a bad thing, especially when you're playing dress-up," Janeway said. "But, Deanna, all the time?" she asked, gesturing to the four-inch pumps on Seven's feet.

The Betazoid glanced at the torturous footwear in question and sighed. "True enough," she said. "Being able to wear a uniform and sensible shoes is so much more comfortable when you're on duty. Not to mention more professional!" The rest of the table fell silent and stared.

"What?" Troi demanded defensively. "Just because I wore a catsuit for a few years, suddenly I'm unprofessional?"

"Your statement did seem slightly...incongruous, considering your wardrobe the first six years you were stationed on the NC-1701-D," T'Pol commented.

Troi snorted. "Look who's talking! Your outfit got you dubbed 'the Vulcan Vixen of the NX-01!'" Although T'Pol's nostrils flared slightly at the jibe, there was no other reaction from the Vulcan, although the rest of the table exploded in laughter.

"We were just discussing that before you got here," Guinan responded quickly, in order to soothe any potential ruffled feathers. "T'Pol and Seven believe their minds may have been tampered with, resulting in their...ah...anomalous wardrobes."

"Makes sense to me," said Kira, after a healthy swig of ale. "When's the last time you saw a Vulcan in anything but robes or Starfleet-issue? Logic certainly didn't dictate what T'Pol wore on the NX-01!"

Uhura nodded her agreement. "And the Borg aren't exactly known for pimping their females out like Orion slave girls!"

"Exactly," Seven concurred. "Such attire is not conducive to assimilation."

"There certainly is a great deal of precedent to support your theory," the Betazoid counselor said thoughtfully, after the chuckling elicited by the Borg woman's statement had subsided. "Females have been subject to mind-meddling throughout Starfleet history." Her glance around the table met looks of commiseration. "Is there anyone here whose mind wasn't influenced by alien phenomena during the course of their service?"

Only Guinan raised her hand in response to the question. Then she reconsidered, and put it down again. "To be fair," the El-Aurian mused after a moment of silence, "plenty of males have had their minds meddled with, too."

"True. But in most cases, it did not result in their becoming sexually aggressive," T'Pol countered.

"Mmm-hmmmm," Troi agreed. "Males under the influence of mind-meddling seem far less likely to take off their clothes and jump on the nearest sentient life form."

"While males not under the influence of mind-meddling are almost certain to jump on the nearest sentient lifeform!" Uhura added drolly.

The table exploded in laughter. Kira pounded her drink in appreciation of the joke. "Maybe that only pertains to ships captained by James T. Kirk," she gasped, wiping tears of mirth from her eyes.

T'Pol, unaffected by the humor around her, strove to apply the scientific method to the comments of her comrades. "I have seen no evidence to support your theory. The crew of Enterprise certainly did not follow the stereotype of the overly sexual human male."

"Yes, let's not make sweeping generalizations!" chided Guinan, who was chuckling despite her words. "Picard was very discriminating in that arena!"

"Although I hear Riker more than made up for his captain's reticence," Janeway commented slyly, casting her eyes in Troi's direction.

The Betazoid frowned and put her hand to her brow, suggesting intense mental effort. "Admiral! I'm...I'm sensing...cattiness!" she responded.

Another eruption of laughter shook the table. Even T'Pol cocked an appreciative eyebrow. Eventually, the humor played itself out, whereupon Guinan refilled everyone's glass. The El-Aurian took the opportunity to restart the conversation while her friends were assuaging their thirst.

"So, Deanna," she began. "We always had a running bet on the Enterprise: the more cleavage you showed, the more empathic you were."

More laughter greeted Guinan's challenge, and the women turned their eyes to see how the Betazoid would respond.

"Hmmmm...that's a tough one," Deanna hemmed. "A lot of times it depended on the situation. If the aliens were within viewing distance of my...ah...assets, then it was usually pretty easy to get an idea of what they were feeling."

Her deadpan statement resulted in a spit-take on the part of Commander Uhura. Choking on bourbon and laughter, the older woman blurted, "That was never in the Communications Officer Handbook!"

"Oh, come on, Nyota. Don't tell me you never used those old miniskirt uniforms to distract the odd Klingon or Romulan!" Kathryn chided.

Uhura drew herself up proudly, swaying only a tiny bit. "I most certainly did not!" she replied haughtily. "I always conducted myself as a professional." She thumped the table with her now-empty glass. "A professional!" she repeated, daring the others to contradict her.

Hiding a grin, Guinan raised her glass. "To professionalism!" she cried.

"Professionalism!" the other women chorused, raising their glasses in concert and then slamming back the contents.

"Ah, professionalism, we hardly knew ye," Troi lamented as Guinan refilled everyone's glass.

"What are you talking about?" Kira asked, perplexed. "We're all professionals here."

"Of course we are all professionals," Seven droned. "But circumstances have often conspired to bring that fact into question."

"What do you mean?" Kira was further baffled by the sudden looks of resignation she saw darkening the faces of her friends.

"Perhaps your situation is different, as you have never felt compelled to wear four-inch heels while on duty," Seven explained.

"Or a catsuit," Troi added. T'Pol nodded in agreement with the Betazoid's addendum.

"You were never the weak, helpless damsel that needed to be saved," Uhura told the Bajoran.

"Nor did you go into heat and make amorous advances on the Chief Medical Officer," the Vulcan said.

"Actually," Kira muttered. "That last one sounds familiar."

"Not to mention the most important thing!" Uhura went on implacably. "You got to kick tons of ass!"

"I know!" whined Troi. "I don't think a day went by where you didn't hand somebody's head right back to them."

"That's true," Kira admitted. "I really lucked out when Ro Laren set a precedent for ballbusting Bajoran women." She glanced around. "But what about you, Kathryn? You and Seven got to kick some ass every once in a while."

"Well, I couldn't very well be captain and not kick some ass," Janeway growled. "It's almost a Starfleet prerequisite: 'Must be prepared to kick ass.' But the sacrifices were enormous!" Seven nodded solemnly, but the rest of the women looked bewildered. Janeway attempted to explain. "Kicking ass was all well and good, but we paid a heavy price!"

"What do you mean?" Guinan asked, genuinely confused.

Janeway scowled in disbelief, irritated that her friends should be so dense. "You know: That lack of sex thing?" She glared at Kira. "You got to kick ass and have sex on a fairly regular basis! Unfortunately for Seven and I, on Voyager it was apparently either/or!"

"What about Belanna Torres?" asked T'Pol. "She participated in both activities, if I am not mistaken."

"Belanna only had sex with her husband," Janeway all but snarled. "And she was a Klingon. I think they're like Bajorans. They get to do it all! Seems like they have different rules for humans."

"There may be some truth to your assertions," T'Pol conceded. "Even I had a liaison with a male."

"Oooooh! And he certainly is a hottie!" Deanna Troi was momentarily distracted by the Vulcan's much-speculated-about relationship with Commander Tucker. A territorial glare from T'Pol and a growl from Janeway corralled the counselor's wayward imagination.

"Small wonder that Admiral Janeway and I tried to make do with holodeck programs," Seven said. "Although it was hardly an adequate substitution, I think you will agree."

"Well, they always talk about the loneliness of command..." ventured Uhura tentatively.

"Loneliness, yes. Celibacy, no!" Janeway snapped. "None of your captains went without! Well, maybe Archer," she amended, nodding at T'Pol. "Probably why he was always going from zero to cranky at warp speed," she mused, before returning her attention to her point. "But that still doesn't make up for being known throughout Starfleet Command as the "'sexless spinster of the Delta Quadrant!'" The Admiral glowered at her friends fiercely before throwing back her scotch. Guinan reached over to refill the glass without being asked.

The uncomfortable silence lasted for only a few moments. Deanna Troi, well-oiled with tequila, could not remain silent for longer than that.

"I still say that kicking a little ass would have been worth it!" the Betazoid slurred. "Do you know how many times I got to kick any ass? Well, do you?" she demanded pugnaciously.

Only blank looks and head shakes greeted her challenging glare around the table. She staggered to her feet and held up a finger.

"Only one!" she snapped.

It wasn't until the table had dissolved into laughter that Troi gazed at her hand, befuddled—the last to notice that the digit she held up was not her index finger.

Yet another roar of laughter from the table full of women at the other side of the tavern finally drew comment from the five Starfleet captains who had been studiously ignoring their existence until that moment.

"What the hell do you think is so funny over there?" asked a heavyset, bearded captain, somewhat apprehensively.

A slender bald man clapped him on the shoulder bracingly. "Don't worry, Will. I'm sure Deanna isn't telling them any conjugal secrets!" His former first officer scowled at the less-than-reassuring words. He felt slightly vindicated when his former captain—despite the blasé comments—cast a nervous, speculative glance in the direction of the women's table.

"Whatever it is, they seem to be enjoying themselves!" a blue-jumpsuited captain with a furrowed brow and beaky nose commented. Despite his earnest, good-natured mien, he shifted uncomfortably as he contemplated the table full of women.

"You don't think they're talking about us, do you?" wondered a beefy, toupeed captain, probably the most famous of their number. He made no attempts to hide his suspicion and resentment of the goings on at the other table. "And shouldn't Janeway be over here with us? She's a good two ranks senior to all those other girls."

The fifth captain—also bald, but with a goatee and warm, coffee-colored skin—made no comment at all. Perhaps as the Emissary of the Prophets he had special wisdom. Perhaps commanding a space station instead of a starship gave him a different perspective. Or maybe it was just the simple fact that he was the only man at the table who had experienced a happy, healthy marriage. Whatever the case, his only response to the laughter at the other table and the comments at his own was to gaze down at his drink, shake his head, and smile wryly.