The problem with James T. Kirk, Nyota decided two months into her academy career, was that he spent so much time trying to look like he didn't try that he ended up with none to actually try.
She arrived at this conclusion during the first class on Monday morning, slouching at her desk without even trying to appear dignified for once. Usually, she liked studying. Some of her classes were absolutely fascinating, some were worth taking because they would look great on her personnel file once she graduated, some even made it worth getting up on a Monday morning after three hours of sleep. Basic Starfleet Protocol wasn't one of those. It was, however, the one course all cadets in their first year were required to take, so here she was.
The professor changed his holo-slide with the flick of a wrist and droned on about the standard message format between a starship and a starbase outside of emergency situations. It was a repetition of what communication and command track students had already covered, simplified beyond recognition. Half-listening, she allowed her eyes to wander a few rows down, where Kirk seemed to be… playing with an Andorian student's antennae. This sort of conduct should have earned him a left hook to the nose. Instead, the Andorian zhen playfully slapped his hand away. The acoustics of the auditorium made it hard to tell, but she thought she heard a muffled giggle.
She'd never heard an Andorian giggle before.
It wasn't that she disliked Kirk, exactly. He may have been a terrible flirt, but he's never tried to claim otherwise. What bothered her about him wasn't the way he treated her – it wasn't like they'd actually spoken to each other since the night they met – but the way he presented himself. Brilliant, without ever making an effort.
Their first meeting did nothing to convince her he was above average in anything but his pretty face. Anyone could pick up the names of a few linguistic sub-disciplines and recite them in a sexy drawl. Except since then, she'd witnessed him turn the minor mistake of a Federation History professor into an hour-long discussion. A well-argued discussion, at least on his end. She could try to rationalize it all she wanted, to say that the man teaching the class couldn't possibly have been all that good if he was instructing an entrance-level mandatory subject, but in the end of the day, it was clear that Kirk knew what he was talking about. Worse yet, correcting an instructor when she caught them making a mistake was something she herself would have done, except she would have done it with her back straight as an arrow, not with a casual drawl and her feet up on the neighboring seat. Kirk had clearly done it for no other reason than to pick a fight. A verbal one, this time, but a fight nonetheless.
It bothered her. The way Kirk adjusted his tone and his body language, the nearly vulgar way he half-opened his mouth to make himself look like an idiot, all the while proving over and over again that he wasn't one. For all that it was clearly an act, she wasn't sure if he even realized he was doing it.
"Hey, Nyota," Gaila said, poking her arm with a stylus. Even though the seats around them were full in all directions, her voice was not a proper whisper.
"It's Uhura," she hissed back reflexively.
"Yeah, okay," Gaila said. "What's wrong? You've been spacing out."
When Uhura first submitted her registration file to the academy, she marked the little box next to the words 'single room' without thinking twice. Having had a degree prior to her admission, she wasn't sure how she ended up with a roommate. It may have been a simple mistake or there may not have been any single rooms left. The large screen in front of the dorm complex that showed the room assignments did not elaborate.
When the door was flung open by a green hand, she'd only just left her suitcase on the floor and had been seconds away from marching down to the orientation building to angrily ask why she had to share a room with some immature Terran teenager. The woman who sauntered in wasn't human, nor, from the looks of it, any younger than Uhura herself. "You're Nyota, right?" she'd asked in nearly perfect Standard.
"Call me Uhura," she had retorted. Gaila had taken that as an invitation to start chattering, informing her that 'people like her' rarely used surnames on Orion and that she had never had a roommate before ("Well, I've lived with people, but you can hardly call them roommates"). At that point, she could hardly tell her they'd only ended up together due to a bureaucratic error and she didn't really want to be here, and besides, there was next to no information about Orion culture available to the public and she didn't want to miss the opportunity to learn about it. She'd made a quick trip to the administration building the next morning to make sure she wasn't paying extra. Gaila, meanwhile, had decided that the two of them were best friends and still sat next to her in every class they had together.
"Seriously, you look distracted," Gaila insisted.
"I'm just tired," she said. "And the professor isn't exactly saying anything new." New for her, at least. Gaila probably should have been listening, but telling her that never helped.
"Then why does it look like you've been staring at Kirk?" she asked, suggestive as always. "Itching for a ride?"
Nyota inhaled and then exhaled again. Surely, she wasn't suggesting...
Okay, a lot of women seemed to fall for Kirk's pasted-on charm for some reason, and fine, that reason was probably that he was really pretty, but surely, Gaila couldn't think Nyota would be one of them. Should she deny she found him attractive? No, that would just make the other woman latch on harder. She could deny having looked at him at all, except that would be a lie.
"He's not a car," she said instead. "Why the sudden interest? Don't tell me you're considering it."
"I don't think so," Gaila said casually, like she'd been considering for a while whether to try a new item on the menu and ultimately decided against it. "He's obnoxious."
"Since when does that matter to you?"
"Of course it matters to me," she said. "To sleep with him, I'd have to listen to him talk first. It's always like that with you humans."
The cadet to their left gave them an annoyed glare, so she dropped the conversation and looked back at the professor.
She remembered the precise moment she decided Jim Kirk was a despicable little maggot.
It wasn't on the Saturday night when they went out drinking, not out of any kind of mutual fondness, but because they just happened to go to the same bar with the same people. Doctor McCoy was hanging on the Kirk's arm like he'd rather be facing the devil in hell than a group of cadets in their early twenties. She would sympathize more if the man knew to keep better company.
"By the way," she asked, once she got drunk enough to talk to Kirk directly, "What were you up to the night we met, anyway?"
He took that as a cue to sit down right next to her, so close their knees were touching, even though there was plenty of space on the sofa. "I think you know exactly what I was up to," he said, eyebrows wiggling and all.
"I meant," she clarified, "why you were dressed as a civilian and goading cadets into a bar brawl the night you enlisted."
The fact that those four cadets shouldn't have let an apparent civilian goad them into a fight remained unspoken.
"Ah, that," he said, "It wasn't exactly planned."
"Ah-huh," she said skeptically. "Was it your perfect grade average that got you in four hours before the shuttle departed, or sympathy for your broken nose?"
Something flashed across his face, too brief to really call it an expression. "No idea, you'd have to ask Pike," he said. "You sure this is what you want to talk about?"
From then on, the conversation devolved into shameless flirting on his part. She didn't exactly begrudge him that. It gave her the opportunity to get more and more vicious in her rebuttals as she kept turning him down.
She couldn't care less when he - as she'd heard secondhand from no less than six different people - strolled into the hall where a written exam for command track cadets was taking place ten minutes too late, either obviously drunk or obviously hungover, and proceeded to get the best score in his entire class. Neither was she angry when he thought he had (but most definitely hadn't) beaten her in a debate on first-contact diplomacy, or when he'd somehow cajoled Gaila into sleeping with him after all. All those things have been annoying, but it wasn't like he was hurting anyone.
The day she decided once and for all that Jim Kirk was nothing but trouble was the day in the beginning of their sixth semester when she's caught her roommate crying in their shared bathroom, trying to convince no-one in particular that she was not in love with him.
"Forget about him," she said with fake confidence, stroking Gaila's beautiful red hair. She'd never been in a situation like this, didn't know what advice she could possibly give. "You're the one who told me he was an asshole."
"That was two years ago," Gaila choked out. "He was nice to me after that."
"He wanted to sleep with you."
"A lot of men want to sleep with me," she said. "Most of them don't compliment my programming skills."
"Oh, dear." Uhura hugged her tightly. She knew so many words in so many languages, and she hated having none to make it all better.
The next time she saw Kirk face-to-face, she had to pleasure of kicking him out of their room.