Once they were clear of the black hole, once Bones assured him that Pike's condition was stable, once he saw Spock and Uhura moving purposefully toward each other from opposite sides of the bridge – Kirk decided that it was time to pay a visit to engineering. He didn't bother changing. It would be better, he reasoned, if he looked like he'd come fresh from going hand-to-hand with Nero, though he did rake his fingers through his hair as he took the turbolift down.
"Gaila," he began as he entered the computer bay.
"That's Ensign Gaila," she said as she swiveled in her chair, scarlet ringlets swirling about her slender shoulders.
Kirk paused. She seemed annoyed. Probably because, without her warp core, the Enterprise wasn't going anywhere until Starfleet sent someone to tow her home. Possibly, he realized with a dollop of chagrin, because he'd interrupted her conversation with Montgomery Scott. Well, whatever they'd been talking about couldn't have been that interesting. "Ensign Gaila," he began again, while Scotty went and made himself busy at another computer terminal. "I could make it Lieutenant Gaila." He raised his eyebrows suggestively.
She didn't smile. "Just as long as I earned my promotion like everyone else on this ship."
"I'm…sure you did," said Kirk, taken aback by her coolness. "I wasn't implying… All right, I was implying," he added quickly, since she clearly wasn't buying it, "but I was kidding. Can we talk?"
"We are talking, Sir."
"Yeah, can we maybe talk in private?" He scratched the back of his neck and ducked his head slightly. It was a pose that rarely failed him. "Our last conversation was cut short. I was hoping we could pick up where we left off."
"Oh," Gaila said, and Kirk knew he'd made a mistake. "Oh," she said again, rising. Her poise was exquisite. "That is so weird."
"You know," said Kirk hastily, "I get the impression you don't appreciate my authority."
"Oh, I do," Gaila assured him, advancing. "Permission to speak freely, Sir?"
Oh, what the hell. He wasn't going to win this one anyway. Scotty was very obviously pretending not to listen. "Granted."
Dark eyes glinting, voice low and husky, Gaila said, "I appreciate the fact that you were able to rescue Captain Pike and save the Federation without getting everyone killed. I appreciate the fact that that makes you some kind of hero. I do not appreciate the fact that you seem to think that that entitles you to…the girl." She summed herself up with a wave of her hand: long legs and generous curves, skin like polished jade, hair like a Martian sunset. God, that hair. God, those legs. They were just about thigh-to-thigh now. He'd forgotten how tall she was. It had been a turn-on initially. Now that she was pissed off at him, it was a little disconcerting. Damn. He hadn't seduced her just for the Kobayashi Maru simulation codes. He hoped she realized that. Maybe he'd better tell her. Not now, though.
Hunched over his computer, Scotty began to hum softly to himself.
"Well," said Kirk, for once at a loss. "Huh. Okay. So long as there are no hard feelings. I was only thinking, if you weren't doing anything – but I can see that you're busy. Still, it could be a while before we're all able to get off the ship."
"Captain," said Gaila, cocking her head, "if you're bored and lonely, there's the holosuite. Oh, wait. There isn't. You'll have to wait until we get back to Earth. Anyway, maybe you'd be better off heading to sickbay; you look terrible."
"Permission retracted," muttered Kirk. "Right. Well, if everything's okay down here – except for warp core, of course – I think I'll head back to the bridge. Keep Chekov out of trouble. Mister Scott. Ensign Gaila."
After he'd fled – as quickly as dignity permitted - Gaila turned back to Scotty. He straightened his back, turned, and held out his arms to her. She went to him eagerly, sliding onto his lap. "Say it again," she said.
"What, 'ample nacelles?'"
"No." She swatted at him playfully. "You know." Oh, that accent! And those hands.
"I," he said, hooking a hand under her knees and hitching her closer, "can hit a bullet with another bullet, blindfolded, whilst riding on a horse. Metaphorically speaking, of course."
"Show me the equation?"
He punched it up on the computer and they both leaned back and sighed in admiration. "That," said Gaila, "is the sexiest thing I have ever seen in my life."
"Second sexiest for me," said Scotty, stroking her thigh. "Though I didna mind it so much back on Delta Vega, I do wish that old Vulcan had left me the pleasure of discovering it for m'self. Since, apparently, I would have."
Gaila cupped his chin and tipped his head back. "Mister Scott," she purred, "please talk engineering to me."