Word count: 1,287
Type: Friendship, Family
The Brighter Side of Nighttime
The mission is over in a whirlwind, faster than Winona can even comprehend. The Orion pirates are captured, taken back to Terra for interrogation. The U.S.S. Tiberius is unscarred, unhurt by the pirates' weapons.
And Winona is left with a little girl in her arms. A little girl, almost like the one she never had (but always wanted). Almost. This little girl is green. She's Orion. And she's been hurt.
Winona knows that the little girl isn't really a little girl, and mentally berates herself for thinking of her that way. The "little girl" is a teenager. Maybe thirteen, maybe sixteen. Maybe younger or older. She's still small, though. With far too little clothing for her age, or, for that matter, for anyone. She shivers in Winona's arms. She must be cold. She's crying. Of course she's crying.
Winona wants to stand up and get the little girl a blanket, but she finds herself unable to let go. Even after all these years- fourteen, in fact- her maternal instincts are just as strong as they were when she left Jimmy and Sam for the first time. Back when Jimmy was just five. The year she lost them both.
The little girl stops sobbing, after what seems like a lifetime, but stays in Winona's arms. Winona feels compelled, compelled to find out who this little girl is. "What's your name, sweetheart?" She asks the little girl.
The little girl tenses, and takes a breath in. When she speaks, her voice is a flutter. As soft and fragile as a butterfly's wings. It cracks once as she says the words in a halting tone, and Winona has to stop breathing for a heartbeat to hear them. "I... I am N-Navaar." She says it too slowly, far too slowly for the name to belong to her. It is obviously falsified, and Winona's heart goes out to the little girl for her lie. For feeling that she had to lie.
"It's nice to meet you, Navaar." Winona says softly, stroking the little girl's bright red curls.
'Navaar' sniffs again. "Y-you're not going to hurt me, are you?" The little girl asks softly, in subtly accented Standard, a sign that tells Winona she wasn't always a slave. Somewhere, sometime, she had gone to school, and been loved by someone. The little girl was not always so alone.
Winona smiles, despite the situation. "No, sweetheart. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm never going to hurt you." The little girl lets out the breath she was holding in a sigh, a sigh softer than the breeze on a summer's morning, and a wet droplet falls onto Winona's hand. A tear. The little girl is crying again, and the tears begin to fall faster, like a rainstorm. "Shhhh..." Winona whispers, and she wraps her arms back around the little girl.
After a few moments, the little girl asks, "W-what's your name?"
Winona smiles through her own tears, brought on by the sheer emotional wear of the moment. "I'm Winona." She whispers. "Winona Kirk."
There is a long pause, and then the little girl whispers, "I'm Gaila. Gaila Nadeh Uhu."
Winona knows for sure that the little girl- Gaila, she reminds herself- is telling the truth. "Hey, Gaila." She says softly. "Hey."
Gaila looks up at her, with those huge blue eyes that remind Winona so much of George's. "Winona?" She asks.
"Yes?" Winona says, wrapping her arms around Gaila again, tightening her hold. She doesn't want to let the little girl go. Gaila is too precious for that. She's gotten a hold on the little girl- she doesn't want to let go and have her fly away. She can't let go.
"Am I free now?" Gaila asks, softly. Her voice lacks the force that Winona senses once lay in it, but she can tell, already, that Gaila has spirit. Hiding inside the body of a frightened, hurt little girl is the rebellious, spunky teenager who Winona used to be. The same teenager who learned multiple languages just to be able to have a more varied vocabulary of swears. The same girl who, upon first meeting George Samuel Kirk, spray-painted him red, called him a son of a pig, and walked away.
Winona smiles, and more tears spring to her eyes. A small green finger reaches up and wipes the tears away. "Yes, sweetie. You're free. You're never gonna have to go back there again, or anywhere else where they mistreat you." She smoothed Gaila's red curls, so like fire, back into a ponytail. When she lets the curls go, they spring back. Winona imagines a 'boing' sound, like the sounds in the ancient twentieth-century cartoons she used to watch when she was a child.
"Really?" Gaila whispers, and her voice is a bit stronger now, and filled with an almost childlike wonder. "I can't remember what it's like to be free." She tilts her face towards Winona's and places one hand on the older woman's hand. "Will you teach me?" The little girl asks, in that beautiful accent that somehow reminds Winona of trees growing.
Winona smiles down at the little girl, and feels a bud inside her, something beginning to grow. She doesn't understand it, but she knows it's there. "Yes." Winona whispers. "I promise." She thinks of all those promises that George made, that he never kept. That he broke by dying. She vows, in her heart, not to ever break her promise to Gaila.
Gaila smiles, shakily, like a little bird's first flight, or a newborn fawn standing. "T-thank you." She murmurs, wrapping her arms around Winona and rocking back and forth, slowly, the same way Winona had done moments (or minutes? Winona isn't sure) before for her. "Winona..." She says softly, "George didn't mean to break his promises."
Winona sits there, stunned. She realizes the little girl must be an empath, or a telepath... maybe both. Then she hugs Gaila, tighter than ever. "Thank you, Gaila." She says.
Gaila looks up. "Why?" She asks.
"For bringing your light into my life." Winona says quietly. It's true. Gaila is the brighter side of nighttime for her. Though Winona's life is dark, and frightening, and alone to her, Gaila has begun to bring something back for her that she hasn't felt in nearly twenty years. Then, without even thinking about it, Winona says something. Something she doesn't understand, not fully. She doesn't even know where she knows it from. But she knows it means a lot.
"Your name is Gaila Nadeh Uhu," Winona whispers to the little girl in her arms, "And you can be anybody you want to be."