A/N: Written for Whumptober Day 15 - Scars
Nyota strode through the aisles of clothing. Behind her, Jaylah wore a borrowed outfit, the cart in front of her overflowing with clothes Nyota had already helped her pick out. They were all practical, though, and Nyota wouldn't be satisfied until she had convinced Jaylah to buy at least one outfit she could party in. A dress, a crop top, a miniskirt, something fun and cute. She would need it at the academy.
"Here we are," she said, finally finding a section of suitable options. "Pick something."
Jaylah parked the cart and pinched a shirt completely covered in gold sequins between two fingers, each and every one flashing as she pulled it into the open. "Really?"
Nyota pushed it back into the shadows, making a show of shielding her eyes. "Ok, not that one. But you'll need a break from all the work and studying at some point, and it's much easier to do that when you have something to party in. You can win a lot of bets, you know, with that metabolism of yours."
Her eyes skimmed over the rack before them, full of color and sparkle and patterns, and she looked overwhelmed. "I… I like neutral colors. And pants."
"Because they were all you had on Altamid," Nyota pointed out gently. "You can branch out now. You can spread your wings."
"I have no wings."
"It's just an expression," Nyota explained. "It means you can grow and change and be different. You have a whole new life ahead of you, Jaylah: Don't be afraid to embrace it."
She bit her lip. "Ok," she said. "I will look."
Nyota smiled. "Good."
Jaylah started browsing, Nyota by her side. They vetoed item after item – this shirt was too low-cut; that shade of green wouldn't flatter anyone in the known galaxy; this skirt had no pockets; and so on and so forth – and wound up with very little picked out. Between Jaylah's reluctance and Nyota's fashion sense, they had discarded nearly everything the store had to offer. There were other stores, Nyota knew, but she did not want to start off shopping for this part of Jaylah's wardrobe with a failure.
Hidden in the corner, Nyota spotted just the thing: A black off-the-shoulder crop top with a pattern of clouded patches, their shade of yellow matching Jaylah's eyes perfectly. She snatched it off the rack and turned around, holding it up to Jaylah. "What do you think?"
She looked at it the same way she had looked at every crop top Nyota had picked out: With extreme apprehension. "No."
"Jaylah, this would look amazing on you!" Nyota protested. "It would go perfectly with those black cutoffs you really like."
She glanced at the shorts draped over the cart handle, looking tempted. "No," she repeated.
Nyota narrowed her eyes, lowering the shirt. "This is the fifth time you've considered a crop top but said no. What's wrong with them?"
Jaylah crossed her arms over her stomach. "Nothing."
Unwilling to give up so easily, Nyota hung the shirt on the cart handle. "Something's bothering you," she murmured. "Something you're nervous about people seeing. I'd be willing to bet you have killer abs, so what is it?"
"I have…" Jaylah looked away. "I have a scar. I was stabbed in a fight over supplies, and I was not concerned about bathing suits or crop tops when I tried to fix myself. And now… It is not pretty."
"It doesn't have to be pretty. You don't have to hide it, either."
"That is easy for you to say," Jaylah muttered.
"I have my own nasty scar," Nyota told her, careful to keep any trace of harshness out of her voice. "Right in the middle of my back. I was injured on an away mission and we couldn't get back to the ship, so Len had to cauterize it to stop the bleeding. By the time we got to medbay, it was too late to stop it from scarring. I couldn't bring myself to wear anything backless for months. Not even my favorite bathing suit."
Jaylah looked up slowly, her eyes wide. "Really?"
Nyota nodded. "Really. Spock agreed to go swimming with me if I would just wear that bathing suit, and he hates swimming. You know how he finally convinced me to go?"
"He said that I had earned my scar. I got it protecting a little boy, so even if it would make the occasional stranger judge me as less beautiful, anyone who mattered would know that it means I did something very brave and noble." She reached out to clasp Jaylah's shoulders. "That scar means you're a survivor, Jaylah. Don't hide that. Wear it like it's a badge of honor, like it's a symbol of everything you fought through to get to where you are today, because it is. If anyone judges you for it, that's on them for being shallow, not you for being ugly. Ok?"
Tentatively, Jaylah picked up the crop top, one hand still pressed over where Nyota guessed the scar was. "I have never thought of it that way."
Nyota picked up the shorts, holding them beneath the shirt and giving them a tantalizing little shake. "If you really hate it, you never have to wear a crop top ever again. But don't turn it away without even trying because some random idiot guy might think your badass battle scar is unappealing."
Setting her jaw in determination, Jaylah grabbed the outfit and a pair of black wedges and marched straight into the dressing room.
When she emerged, she wobbled a little in the wedges, but Nyota held her arm to steady her. They turned to the mirror, and a grin spread across Jaylah's face, the scar on her left side forgotten in her love of the outfit. "I could drink some people under the desk in this."
"Under the table," Nyota corrected with a chuckle. "And yes, you definitely could."
Jaylah twisted to admire the look from a different angle, catching Nyota's eyes in the mirror and beaming at her. "Thank you."
Nyota smiled. "Any time."