Gaila was chattering about her science project when Uhura spotted Kirk waving at them from across the cafeteria. There wasn't too much space today - Advanced Bio let out early due to the professor being called to StarFleet medical. Again. Without giving it much thought, she steered Gaila in the right direction as the Orion explained her theory for miniature exo-dynamics, in excruciating detail. She loved her, she really did, but she could barely follow her when she got this excited. Maybe Kirk could distract her.
Jim scanned their trays casually, asking Gaila a question about the thermodynamics class she TAing before leaning forward and dropping his jello on her tray.
“Here have mine. They put carbon supplements in them for the species that need more but they always run out before you get here. I'll trade for your pudding.” He didn't wait for a response before digging his spoon in. Gaila sniffs the green cup and tastes a little bit, humming an off key version of some 21 century monstrosity that Kirk was, no doubt, responsible for introducing her to. She took another spoon. “Thanks, this tastes pretty good!” She giggles through the jello, watching it wiggle around her cup.
“Why do you know that?” Uhura’s distracted by the way Jim is keeping half an eye on Gaila, almost like he's making sure she eats what he's given her.
“Why do I know what” he asks around a spoonful of chocolate pudding, eyebrows dipping in question. He looks, she can admit, adorably confused, spoon in his mouth and blue eyes wide.
“Why do you know that Orions need 15% more carbon in their diet due to the difference in atmospheres?” She frowns, suddenly realizing how much thought he had to put into this. “And you realized that they kept running out before she got here. So you took one for her on the off chance you would meet.”
He blinks. “Gaila’s an Orion. And,” he takes another bite, waving his spoon around. “We've been having lunch together for almost a week.”
Uhura tries not to think about that. “So you know her dietary requirements. Because she's Orion.”
He blinks again and his eyebrows make another small “v” in confusion.
“It’s.. it’s public record? And it must be easy to forget something like that, especially if it's not something you usually need to worry about. I dunno, it just seemed like something I should know?”
He’s so confused, and almost seems worried, as if he somehow missed a crucial point in social etiquette by knowing all this.
She finds it almost ... sweet.
“Besides, it's not cause she's Orion . Like,” he continues, “you’re allergic to almond milk. Because of the chemicals. You mentioned it after chemistry and al-chem 203.”
He’s staring at his pudding and making happy food noises with Gaila over their silly little deserts and Nyota is stunned. Because he remembers a throwaway comment she made about chemical preservatives used in almond milk several weeks ago. She barely remembers that.
“So why do you know this?” She asks, still not entirely sure she has a grasp on where this conversation is going. Actually, she's sure she doesn't, she almost wishes Len were here to act as an interpreter. Irony , she thinks, is a linguist needing an interpreter for her... acquaintance? What exactly were they?
Kirk looks directly over her shoulder, slowly turning a light pink. She hadn't even been sure that the boy could blush. “You're my friends.” He says. As if that explains anything.
She supposes it does.
Kirk, meanwhile has finished his pudding, and turns to Gaila in a poor attempt to change the subject. At least she can still read that.
“Popular Science ran another one of those stories about Orion Pheromones. They got most of it wrong again too. I mean, I think they just like using, Fuck or Get Fucked as a proper title and have people take them seriously.”
Gaila is too busy enjoying her jello to do more than blink, but Uhura feels her diplomacy training preparing the emergency exit, muttering in Swahili over its shoulder. She has seen far too many cadets use that article as an opening and honestly, she was this close to actually liking him, why -
“I mean, besides being untrue and really easy to do research on, I feel like they should acknowledge it would just be bad planning on evolutions part. How in the world would such a society even be sustainable? The implications are mind bogglingly stupid, and also, so so 21st century sometimes. It’s just bad science. And they are a science magazine! They even have science in the title!” Uhura is suddenly glad he had the bad habit of looking at his plate while talking. She would feel bad for misjudging the direction he was going in if she wasn’t a little justified over that dumb article.
And it was a dumb article, she could agree with that much. It was almost cute how angry he was over the apparent misuse of science in the magazines name.
“My point is,” he takes another spoonful of pudding and hums happily, “is that there are currently between twelve and twenty orion Cadets at the academy, and maybe a flat hundred in Starfleet over all, because of the weird relationship between the Syndicate and the Federation, right?”
“Ok, yes, what’s your point.” Gaila’s eyebrows are doing that thing where they meet each other halfway and her nose crumples. Its a cute look, but it means she’s confused, and now that she’s gotten a better grasp on human habits and culture Uhura rarely gets to see her friend confused these days.
“Well, more Orions are joining the Federation, or at least moving onto Federation colonies, and if false information keeps being spread around by magazines and whatever, with no real accurate information getting around, (because I checked the Academy Library and the VSA and the amount of info they have is practically jack-shit), so people are just gonna keep believing the stupid stuff. Plus it would be worth tons of extra credit and could probably get you out of some of the cultural sensitivity classes, since you'll show an understanding of how new cultures interact with each other and how false information about a culture can be incredibly harmful over --”
“Kirk what are you talking about.” She’s laughing, Uhura can’t help it, he looks so excited, waving his arms around, spoon moving like a conductor's baton as he gets more enthusiastic about something he still hasn’t told them about. It’s like watching a train slam on the breaks as he clicks his mouth shut and stares.
He blinks at her, head tilted like he’s backtracking the conversation, trying to figure out what he missed.
“Oh!” He flushes a dark red. “I just - I had this idea of interviewing Orions within the Federation about the culture and stories and just, you know, life as it was before joining, because there's so little and what there is either wrong or so incredibly fascinating, but limited, I mean,” he says, getting excited all over again, turning to Gaila and pointing to her, “you guys have this huge and incredibly balanced matriarchal culture that simultaneously collapsed and evolved centuries ago, and the legends and traditions you have are almost completely different from anything we've see in any culture so far - I mean, you told us about this version of the afterlife you have that's based on the principle of literally building it yourself and then electing a goddess, and -” he stops again, and apparently realizes he’s been babbling.
“Right sorry. Um,” he rolls his eyes to the ceiling, trying to find a way to phrase his idea that wasn't a mile a minute babbling, “if you would be interested, I was thinking about doing a project, like, collecting Orion traditions and practices and how they affected the transitions of Orion expats and members and was wondering if you would be interested in helping me.” Kirk looks sheepish, nervously playing around with the napkin on his tray.
“You don’t have to of course,” he hurries to add, “it would just be so much better if I had an actual, you know, Orion , to help with the recording, because I'm sure I have all of these preconceived shit ideas of what other cultures “ should ” look like, based on Earth and whatever, and my mom would kill me if tried to do this on my own, its like all those people trying to explain why ancient christianity and judaism are --”
He looks back up from his pudding again somehow even redder than before. “Sorry I did it again, didn't I?”
Uhura is slowly parsing her way through the jumble of information she's just received, starting with “ Jim Kirk can in fact blush like a ten year old meeting a pop star ” and “ huh, I didn’t know he’s Jewish ”. And also; oh my god he's a fucking nerd. She has the slightly overwhelming feeling that she might be seeing a side of him she wasn’t supposed to. Babbling about xeno-sociology and learning about other cultures and his Mom . It is far more endearing then it should be.
Gaila is almost vibrating out of her seat.
“You want to talk to us? About the Ehma-Maseii ? I mean, everyone wants to talk to us about the biology thing, but no one ever mentions the stories , or, or, the T’aRlehk , and the Matriarchs ! Have you contacted anyone else? Do we need permission from the academy or something??”
Jim gives a grin she can only describe as electric and digs through his bag for an emerald green padd. She should have guessed he was secretly a nerd much faster, with the way he liked color coding his stuff.
“I have some responses from people who are interested, and a couple more who can’t respond because of where there ships are located, but we can start whenever your want.” He hesitates, despite the way Gaila is making grabby hands over the table. “ If you want, that is.”
Gaila sighs and blows a stray curl away from her face. “Jim, everyone is always complaining to us about how little information there is on Oh-ria, but no one ever waits and listens when we try to speak. I have lived here almost 2 years, and come to the Academy, and given classes on spoken Orion, and all they ever ask is if the pheromone thing is true. So,” She says, staring him dead in the eye and smiling almost wider then Nyota has ever seen, “Give me the gorram padd, because I have some civilians who would love to help.”
Green and red and blonde heads bowed together as the swipe through responses and comm numbers and Gaila shows Jim how to catalog the stories he’s found so far. Nyota watches for awhile, and then leans forward to offer her help. Listening has always been something she’s excelled at.