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Author's Note: Written for Celli for Fandom Stocking.
Qui Audet Adipiscitu
It wasn't that Gaila considered the Academy nothing but a non-stop buffet of beautiful people laid out before her like wildflowers in Spring. She had classes and exercises and labs and a million other academic pursuits that took up most of her thoughts and attention.
But every once in a while, as she gazed around the cadets and staff of all shapes and sizes, colours and genders, and most of all possibilities gathered in a lecture hall or the mess or just walking from classroom to classroom, the thought hits her: so many people to love and be loved by.
It made her giddy, added a spring to her step, and occasionally motivated her to explore her own strange new world with just that bit more joy and energy.
Today, as she snagged an outdoor table at a café walking distance from campus, the middling grade she got on a practical exam, her missing silver earrings that she swears she put away in the drawer the last time she wore them, and her inability to find a restaurant that makes soba noodles exactly the way she wants them—they all faded away, to be replaced by an intense moment of sheer wonder at the faces that pass by the short railing that separated her from the throng. All types of aliens; all free, and going about their lives; all just within reach.
She sipped her klaav—extra spicy, just the way she liked it—and sighed in contentment. The afternoon sun was hidden behind thick cloud cover, and the air was deliciously cool. The tables outdoors were empty except for herself and a human woman, her attention completely absorbed by the PADD she was reading. The server had brought her a cup of mint tea which sent up a cloud of scented steam that brought out a lovely blush in the human's space-pale skin as she sipped from the over-large mug, her eyes never leaving the amber screen of the PADD.
Gaila couldn't guess her age; she was of those women who changes little between twenty-five and fifty. But if she had to guess, Gaila would assume mid-thirties, perhaps slightly older. Her dark hair had no signs of grey, and she more it pulled back into a coil on her neck, only a few strands caught by the breeze to curl against her temples and ears. Although she wore a soft grey wool turtleneck and black slacks, everything about her screamed Starfleet to Gaila's carefully trained eye. It's not an unfair assumption; 'Fleet headquarters was across the bay from the academy, and it wasn't unusual to see the businesses around the Presidio full of cadet reds, instructor greys, and beings in crew uniforms from all Divisions, enjoying the city and what it had to offer.
Gaila knew humans considered it rude to stare, but once she had begun studying the woman, she was captivated by her.
She was not beautiful the way Nyota was beautiful. Gaila's roommate had the lithe body of a dancer, finely drawn features, and gorgeous warm copper-brown skin that drew the eye of plenty of their fellow students—in addition to a few of the instructors.
But this mystery woman—there was nothing delicate about her. Even seated, Gaila can tell she is tall—taller than the norm for human women Gaila has met. The lines of her body were sleek like a swimmer's, with high, firm breasts and calves that were muscled like a dancer's. Her jaw and cheekbones were sharply defined, her brows arched high over deep blue eyes.
She was striking, Gaila decides, thinking the shaded meanings of Standard make sense. She was not 'dainty', or 'lovely', but Gaila almost imagined she could reach out and feel life crackling around her head like the scent of ozone in the air after a lightning strike. There was a certain economy to her movements as she lifted her steaming cup to her mouth that reminded Gaila of the Vulcans she has met. There was grace, and strength there—but never anything more than exactly what was required. She sat primly in her chair, ankles crossed, and Gaila could easily picture her on the bridge of a starship.
She wore little make-up, and no jewellery save for a sapphire ring on the ring finger of her right hand. And what hands they were! Gaila couldn't tear her eyes from them. Long, strong fingers that gripped the edge of the PADD loosely, and tapped out commands with a stylus with clean, quick, precise movements. But what she liked best were the square cut nails painted a deep green almost the exact shade of Gaila's skin.
Gaila imagined how those hands would feel, sliding over her skin, and her cheeks burned with an olive blush. But she couldn't tear her eyes away. Especially as the human's pink tongue moistened the edge of her cup before she took a long swallow of tea, her throat working as the steaming liquid slid down her throat.
Gaila set her empty cup down in its saucer, and swung her legs under her with the intent of taking the unoccupied chair across from the stranger. After all, what was it Cadet Kirk always said? Something about winners being those who dared. Well, today Gaila felt like taking a chance. The worst thing that could happen was she was turned down. It didn't diminish the joy she'd already had just by observing the woman. And it wouldn't keep her from fantasising that night—or in many nights to come*#8212;in her narrow bunk, either.
Gaila slipped her satchel over her shoulder, leaving a handful of credits on the table to cover her drink, when she looked up to see a human man approaching the table. His back was to her, but those were definitely Starfleet Academy greys. His dark brown hair curled against the high collar of his jacket, and thought she couldn't see his face, there was something familiar about the lines of his body that made Gaila pause.
As he took the empty chair, Gaila watched the woman's face. The smile that curved her lips made her completely revise her earlier opinion.
She was indeed beautiful.
The server came out to take the newcomer's order, and the man turned to him as he placed an order for a large coffee, black. At the first glimpse of his profile, Gaila's mouth dropped open in shock.
"Captain Pike!" she said, and he turned toward her, blue eyes going wide with recognition.
"Cadet…" It was clear he recognised her, and also clear from the tips of his oh-so-human ears turning pink that more than that, he remembered her. "…Gaila," he managed, clearing his throat as if he was about to cough.
He was still completely adorable.
"Friend of yours?" the woman asked him, her blue eyes alight with amusement. And oh her voice. Gaila could listen to that voice forever.
"We met in Paris last year," Gaila said, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "The captain was good enough to walk me home after I had been over-imbibing at a local establishment. He was very chivalrous," Gaila assured her, and was completely telling absolutely, one-hundred percent the truth.
She just left out the interlude in the alley between the bar and her dorms.
"Cadet, this is my former Exec, Captain—"
"Of the Yorktown!" Gaila squeaked in excitement. "Oh, ma'am, I've read all about you, ma'am!"
"Really?" Those extraordinary blue eyes widened just a little, lips parting in surprise.
"We studied Commander's Barry's modifications to the Yorktown's warp generator field last term. Her work with theoretical number theory to expand the field generators to encompass adjacent small craft at speeds of warp 2 and above are legend!"
"I'll be sure and let Commander Barry know she has fans," the woman replied with a dry chuckle.
"How are you finding San Francisco, cadet?" Pike asked her, some of his discomfort fading, to be replaced by the warm good-humour that Gaila remembered all too well from their first encounter.
"I'm enjoying it very much, sir."
"What's your focus?"
"Oh no, sir. Engineering. I like digging in and getting my hands dirty," she said with a wink, and really it wasn't at all lascivious as she'd pretty much say the same thing to anyone who asked. Except Commander Spock. He didn't seem to appreciate or understand the non-verbal cues Gaila had learnt from a great deal of time spent in one particular pool hall with young human men from Iowa who refused to admit they had in fact been hustled at pool by lovely (green) programmers.
"A pleasure to meet you, cadet," the woman said by way of greeting, and Gaila almost melted as she extended her hand, human-style, as a greeting and those tapered fingers wrapped themselves around her own. "Would you care to join us?"
"I would, very much," Gaila sighed, meaning it. "But I have a lecture in an hour and I promised my roommate I'd drill her on 4th Dynasty Andorian verbs before class."
"A shame," Pike murmured, and Gaila's cheeks grew even warmer.
"Perhaps another time, sir?"
"Count on it, Cadet." This time, he winked right back at her.
"Ma'am." Gaila pulled her bag further up on her shoulder, sliding her hand beneath the strap to free her long red curls. "Captain," she nodded to Pike.
She started to walk past their table, but then at the last second, turned back.
"I'm glad to see you're no longer drinking alone, sir," she said with a grin, and then started the long walk back toward campus for her five o'clock Warp Theory lecture.
"Why do I get the feeling there's a story there you're not telling me?" she could hear the Yorktown's captain ask before their voices were lost in the sounds of the city and Gaila couldn't help quickening her pace, a slight spring in her step, her red curls bouncing on her shoulders.
She had just decided that she was going to have a fabulous night.