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Living with Gaila isn't all that different from living at home with her sisters, Uhura decided after the first time they actually fought over something. The first month they'd shared a dorm room at Starfleet Academy, Uhura and Gaila had conversed with unfailing politeness covering simmering annoyance building up inside over all the tiny things you don't remark on when someone is a guest in your home.
Then there was The Laundry Incident.
Once the screaming had ended, and both of them had realised they'd got worked up a little too much over something as simple as a pile of clothes on the floor, it had been a new beginning. They came up with a list of rules that they both promised they would follow, and nearly always broke weekly—if not daily. Uhura started borrowing Gaila's earrings, and Gaila did her best to keep her shoes under her bed instead of in a haphazard pile practically blocking the front door.
The first time Uhura got a low grade on a test despite revising for a week, Gaila was there with dim sum and wine and a cheesy vid about star-crossed lovers on the 22nd century Lunar Colony. The last time Gaila went out with Cadet FitzHenry (and it was absolutely the last time ever she ever let him even so much as comm her about class notes ever Gaila had promised between hiccuping tears) Uhura was there with chocolate and a new Classics of Rai disc and a shoulder to cry on even if it wasn't necessarily the shoulder Gaila would have chosen. The night also hadn't ended with a shared shower, no matter how much Gaila had insisted that getting right back on the horse was a tried-and-true Terran method of dealing with heartbreak. It had, in fact, ended with drunken dancing on the Academy lawn just after the second bottle of pre-mixed cosmos and just before the first-years under whose window they were cavorting called Security.
In short: Sisters.
So when Uhura's sisters arrived at the end of term, looking to party, Uhura was surprised when Gaila turned down their invitation in order to work on an Engineering lab instead.
"We're gonna go to Shipwrecked. You love that place!"
"It'll still be there next Friday," Gaila said with a shrug.
"Are you sure?"
"I really need to nail this practical next Tuesday."
"But you always nail the practical exams."
Gaila's blue eyes widened comically. "You're telling me to ditch studying and go out dancing? Who are you, and what have you done with Nyota Uhura?"
"I know, I know. I just hate the thought of you being here all alone, while we're out having a good time. And Aeeshah and Talha are dying to meet you. I've told them all about you."
"Maybe tomorrow night," Gaila said, turning back to her padd. "And anyway, I promised Meeka I'd comm her on Mercury, and she's seven hours behind us."
"How did you end up dating a commtech on Mercury anyway?"
"She's got really pretty eyes."
"Okay—I'll try and be back before dawn."
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" Gaila said with a pale imitation of her usual blazing smile, and Uhura slipped out to grab a flitter to the hotel without another thought.
But when she came back well before dawn—feet aching from too much dancing and head spinning from too much drinking—she found Gaila already asleep.
Taking her shoes off as quietly as she could, she draped her dress over her footlocker and pulled her Starfleet Chorale Ensemble night-shirt over her head in darkness.
Uhura woke up late—but not as late as she'd like—from muffled sounds in the sanitary unit.
The door swished open and Gaila gave her an almost unnaturally bright smile. "Oh hey—sorry. I didn't mean to wake you. Did you have fun?"
Uhura surveys her roommate's appearance critically. Her red hair is dripping wet from a water shower, but despite the shower there are dark green puffy bags beneath her blue eyes, and her lips looked chapped beneath her shiny copper lipbalm.
"Are you okay?"
"Honey, I'm the one who stayed out all night and am going to be hungover once I stop being drunk. You are the one who looks like hell. So don't tell me you're fine."
Gaila's cheerful façade crumbled as she allowed Uhura to walk her over to her bed, and they sprawled on it unceremoniously.
"Did you and Meeka have a fight?"
"I never commed her."
"Then what is it?"
Gaila chewed on her bottom lip, and blinked rapidly as if she was holding back tears.
"You promise you won't hate me?"
Uhura nodded solemnly, taking her hand in hers.
"I didn't go out with you last night because I was jealous."
"You get to see your sisters, and I... well, I haven't. Not in a really long time. And I couldn't stand the thought of hanging out with you and ruining their visit because I am just missing my own sisters so much."
"Oh, honey." Uhura felt tears spring to her own eyes, and she folded Gaila into a fierce hug.
"I know it's stupid—"
"It's not stupid! Why would you think that?"
"But it is! If I were home, it's not like I'd actually be with them. I mean, I'd be expected to start my own house, like Marne. She's on Alnitak, and my mothers were so angry when I left to join Starfleet. My Firstmother hasn't spoken to me—not by packet or by comm—since I left. I haven't actually seen any of my younger sister-cousins since I left. Lere at least comms me when she can get away on House business, and Marne sends me a subspace packet when she can. But sometimes..." She trailed off, fresh tears making her eyes swim. "Sometimes I just miss them so much. And most of the time—nearly all the time—it's okay. I love my life here, and I love what I'm doing. And I know it won't be like this forever. But it's like this now, and sometimes I can't keep it all inside."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because I just feel so stupid. Like a youngling still clinging to her mothers skirts. I've been a legal adult on Orion for six years. I'm not supposed to act like... this."
"I don't know about Orion law, or customs—not as much as I'd like. But I do know something about being separated from your family. Especially when you come from a close family. I'm so spoiled, only being a transporter trip away from home. I can't imagine what it would be like not to see my sisters for years on end. I think you're incredibly strong—not stupid or childish."
Gaila snuffled, wiping her tears away with the back of her hand.
"Really. And I never would have asked you, last night, if I'd known it was going to upset you—"
"It's not you asking! It's never that. I was so pleased to be asked."
"Look, I know it's not the same. And I know it may just make things worse—but why don't you spend the day with us, after your classes today? It'll be good to be around family, even if they're not your family."
"I don't know. Maybe."
"Uh-uh. No maybes. I am not taking no for an answer. And I wasn't lying when I said Tal and Aeeshah want to meet you. They asked me a billion questions last night about you. And the bracelet you lent me. And Tal thinks you must be a really great influence on me, because she's been trying for years to get me to cut loose, and you managed to get me to do it after only six months of living together."
"You cut loose?"
"I didn't dance on tabletops—but it was close."
"I'm sorry I missed that."
"Then come out with us,. We'll have a real Girls Night Out, all four of us. Anywhere you want to go. Except Shipwrecked, cos we maybe can't go back there for a little while."
"What do you mean?"
"Let's just say that the bartender wasn't thrilled with the volume of three Uhura girls together all at once, monopolising the best spot on the bar, for upwards of six hours. Also, Tal may have tried to take the bouncer home."
"The big Nausicaan guy, with the piercings?"
Uhura shrugged. "Tal has a thing for guys with a lot of ink."
"He smells like wet socks." Gaila wrinkled her nose. Most humans couldn't smell other species pheromones the way Orions could, but even humans could smell a Nausicaan from a block away.
Uhura's laughter was deep and rich. "I know, but Tal had a few too many Sunrises, and she can be relentless."
Despite herself, Gaila snorted with laughter.
"C'mon, say you'll go out with us. Please? I'll let you wear my favourite boots, and do my hair with all those wires and stuff."
"Anything you want, anywhere you want. I promise."
"Okay—I'll think about it. And Nyota—sharing your sisters with me really is..." Her lips twisted as she tried to find the words. "It's really nice."
"I can be nice. But girl—I can be naughty, too."
"I'll believe it when I see it."
"Oh—you will. I promise. No worrying about exams, no guys. Just us girls, having fun. And when I say the Uhura girls can have a lot of really noisy fun? I am not kidding. Did you know Aeeshah almost got arrested in Chicago during her gap year, for disturbing the peace? And that was when she was laid up with a broken leg for a week, while she was waiting for the bone knitters to kick in."
"Okay, okay. I'm sold. Now I really want to meet your sisters. Because I want to hear the rest of that story. But first—you need coffee."
"And a shower."
"And more sleep."
"And a giant breakfast."
"You are the only human I've ever met who actually gets hungry when hungover." Gaila rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. A genuine smile, not the shadow she'd worn the night before.
Nyota Uhura couldn't help but grin right back at her.
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