"It was practically... Carrollian," Kirk mused, looking around as his assembled bridge crew. After the usual debriefing, Mr. Sulu had requested additional details on the mission, and Kirk's acquiescence had almost become a story. "The strangest tea party I've ever been to."
"I believe it was intended as a dinner party rather than a tea party," Spock said. "But I do agree with the sentiment. Quite unusual."
Kirk smiled, and touched his First's forearm. "Unusual indeed. Captain Garth had gathered up all the patients, dressed them up in the best he could find, programed the food synthesizers to the most elaborate settings, even tracked down some cordials. Partway through, one of the other patients, an Orion woman who'd made herself a sort of a... consort to him, she—"
"Did she dance for you?" Lieutenant Uhura asked.
The crew turned to her, startled at the interruption. She looked a bit surprised herself; until she'd heard her own words, she hadn't realized she meant to speak at all.
"She did, at that," Kirk said. "How did you know?"
A look of faint disquiet crossed the Lieutenant's face. She looked down at her hands, squeezing one finger between the rest.
Sing for me, Nyota, and I'll dance for you.
"They enjoy dancing," she finally said. "Usually... if they can, if they find the opportunity, they'll dance for you. Some say it's to do with their pheromones, that it's a seduction technique. And it is sometimes. But I think, at least on some level... I think they just like to dance, Sir."
Watch the way I move my legs. The tight swivel, moving up the muscles. That's laughter. Can you see it? It's showing happiness. Joy.
She turned her gaze back up and found the entire table still watching her, most notably Captain Kirk. The captain's gaze had sharpened from remembrance to curiosity. He was always so interested when he encountered something unknown.
"I hadn't heard that. Do you know many Orions?"
You don't have to sing in Orion. No, no; I know you can speak it. But I want you to sing in Swahili. Sing in Swahili, and I'll dance in Orion. It'll be like some new kind of poetry we both made up.
"My roommate at Starfleet Academy was an Orion," Uhura said. "Gaila was her name."
"Did she dance?"
She brings men back to the room, even when Nyota asks her to stop, for the first eight months of classes, and Nyota becomes so frustrated that she gives up communicating with the Orion entirely. Instead, she takes to spending all her free time in the libraries or dormitory common areas, practicing new languages with the international and interplanetary student population or playing her litungu and singing out in the grounds.
But one day it rains, much harder than usual, and the grounds are sodden and the lounges choked with displaced students. Gaila is not in the room, so Uhura settles herself on her bed, tunes her litungu's strings, and begins to sing. An Andorian song; one she'd heard that morning and wishes to set to memory.
Gaila comes in a few minutes later, a man on her arm. Nyota, frustrated that she is once again to be ousted, lays the instrument down and begins to rise, biting back her sharp words because she knows she cannot transfer from the room until the start of the new semester.
But before she can, Gaila stops short in the doorway, eyes wide and mouth open.
"No," Gaila says, turning her gaze to Nyota, looking at her as if she's only just discovered who she is. "No, please don't stop. Play. Keep playing. Please."
As Nyota gapes, Gaila turns abruptly to the man. "And you go away, I changed my mind," she says and shoves him unceremoniously out of the room, slamming the door on his bewildered expression.
"Play," she says again, turning to Nyota as though nothing extraordinary has happened. "Please, play. It's so beautiful. I want to hear."
Almost of their own accord, Nyota's hands skate over the strings. With the first chord, Gaila's neck curves. With the second, her arm straightens. And then she's dancing, so elegantly for such a small space, as perfectly matched to Nyota's music as if they'd rehearsed for months. The notes and the motions fill the room, and Nyota feels she has never communicated so easily in all her life.
From there on out their room is full of music, full of dancing, full of swirling red hair and smiling dark eyes until Nyota can no longer remember what it is not to connect with Gaila, for she has come to love her friend so dearly, has come to crave the moments they share their music, and she is devastated after graduation when Gaila is given assignment on different ship...
"Sometimes," she said, snapping her gaze away from her own hands and back to the present. She met her captain's inquisitive gaze and offered him a small smile. "But we were talking about Captain Garth's Orion. How did things turn out for her?"
"Not well, I'm afraid," Kirk said. He continued his story, and Lieutenant Uhura fixed him in her attentive gaze but did not listen.
Her mind was in the past.
Swirling red hair, flushed green skin, bright blue eyes and the motion of her body like a clean curved line beneath the Starfleet Academy silver.
Sing for me, Nyota.
Dance with me, Gaila.
The way their fingers had entwined, brown and green, like shoots of new growth erupting from the ground to sprout into something beautiful.