katmarajade: Woman drinking coffee with words "wake up" over her face (xmas chris pine)
[personal profile] katmarajade
Title: No Such Thing as Coincidence in Command Track
Author: [livejournal.com profile] katmarajade
Written for: [livejournal.com profile] echoinautumn
Pairing: George/Winona
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1856
Prompt: academy, love as war, as much of Jim in them as possible
Summary: Winona is surprised to find herself in a Command track strategy class. What's more surprising is how she got there.
Notes: This was my first time writing these characters and it was so much fun to try to see Jim in each of them. I hope you see what I saw, or even something that I didn't. Also, I researched and couldn't find Winona's maiden name, so I've just made one up for her here.

Winona Maris isn't entirely sure how she ended up in the Command Officer Strategics class, but she blames her Starfleet advisor. She's on the science track—planning on making officer in three years, and she doesn't have time for this sort of nonsense. It's not even that she hates what's being taught, but Winona has never been able to give less than one hundred percent at anything; and this seems like a lot of work for something that's not wholly relevant to her chosen field.

She's in deep now, though, leading one of the two teams in a practical stratego scenario. Knowing strategy isn't the issue, because of course she knows that. She's studied the classics and knows her history, the great war heroes, the great political leaders; she's taken advanced courses in strategic decision making and stratarithmetry. But she's never had to make these calls outside of books or theory before.

The simulation is as graphically realistic as any other Starfleet teaching tool, and she has a team of eighteen officers and crew members to protect. The opposing force is moving in, slow, steady, and effectively. She can't help but let a moment's frustration at the other team captain's capable methodology. She recognizes the brilliance behind it, though it's not as flashy and outwardly impressive as the strategy she currently has her team carrying out.

There's a nearly indiscernible flicker in the holograph, but Winona notices it and knows that it indicates that the professors have added in another testing simulation. There's a loud, terrified scream, and Winona is running before she even realizes what she's doing. Her designated XO is calling after her frantically, telling her to come back, to give new orders, to save this mess. She can't though, not when her own operatives are in danger.

She reaches the source of the screaming and finds her mission team up to their necks in quicksand. Cursing quietly, she tells them to stop screaming and stay still. She's not good with soft, comforting, and gentle, but her sharp orders seem to comfort them more than any coddling or reassurances could. She pulls on the vines from the nearby trees, grateful that this simulated planet has a forest to provide a makeshift rope. Her knots are quick and true, lessons learned from her father on the farm, and with much effort, she gets her team out of the quicksand safely. Just in time for the lights to flicker and the room to go blank.

Heart sinking, Winona realizes that the scenario is over. The other team must have reached their objective. They won. She lost. She purses her lips in frustration, but then glances at her rag tag operatives. She kept them safe, got them all out, and that counts for a lot she thinks.

The professor calls the team captains forward for a debriefing, and she walks over with her head held high. The other captain, a tall, serious boy named Kirk with the most startlingly blue eyes she's ever seen, watches her stride to the join them. He offers his hand and she shakes it, hoping that she's hiding her grudge reasonably well.

She stands still and listens to the professor lecture pompously about her failure to focus on her objective and how this test indicates her lack of command potential. With valiant effort, she schools her face and tries, for once, not to shoot her mouth off, to respect the criticism of a superior officer. Impressed at her own willpower, she doesn't interrupt the professor, even to argue that the lives of her crew should always be her first and most important objective. The professor looks like an office-sitting, knowledge-gleaned-purely-from-books-and-sims, corporate type anyway and probably wouldn't understand the gut feelings of battle and strategic revision. Or the fierce protective fire in her belly that will not let her leave anyone behind. She might not be a seasoned leader, she might not even be on command track, but she damn well understands loyalty. She knows to protect her own, no matter what the cost.

Eyes wandering slightly, she notices Kirk's face, usually so serious, flickering with amusement. It makes her head tilt in curiosity, and she can't help but observe how his unbelievably blue eyes follow the swish of her hair and how just the very tips of the corners of his mouth quirk up when he's smirking. Perhaps she pegged him wrong; perhaps he's not so overly serious and unaffected by anyone or anything as she'd originally thought. Is it just that she's never looked close enough to notice?

The professor shakes a hand in front of her face at a culminating point in the tirade, also known as an academic debriefing. With a few final notes and a satisfied nod of approval at Golden Boy Kirk, the instructor sweeps out again to get the simulator prepared for the next round of students.

"That did seem a bit excessive," Kirk says, a friendly hint of a smile on his face.

"Yes, well, I don't know why I even landed in this class—it's not on my list of required courses and has very little practical relevance to my actual field."

"But you're having fun, Maris, I can tell, and this is pushing you in a way that numbers and machines, measurements and analysis never could," he says confidently.

She gives him an assessing look, wondering how he's so sure, and how he's so familiar with her chosen track and course choices.

"Some days, like today when I'm getting told I'd be worthless in a job I never plan on doing, I hate it. It's more work, a very different way of thinking, and I'm not used to the human variables." She pauses, almost uncomfortable at the intense scrutiny she's getting. Kirk is watching her closely, serious blue eyes burning into her with unfettered focus, listening intently as if her analysis of this course were the most important information he'd heard all day.

"But it does push me," she continues. "And I know that I'm not cut out for command—I don't have any desire to be in charge of officers or crew or a whole ship. I just want to have control over my own sector, deal with the issues that I care most about, focus on the science, and not have to worry about all the other fields, which, though important, don't interest me."

"That sounds like a very solid decision then. Though, I think you've got more command potential than Professor N'Hveri seems to realize. I saw what you did there, why you didn't come closer to winning."

"Come closer to winning?" she repeats, scoffing.

"Well, I was going to win this, regardless of whether your crew got sucked into quicksand," he says with absolute self-assurance in his voice. She can't help but think that he is probably right, though she won't let his head get any bigger by telling him that.

"My crew is more important than any objective," she states firmly, and she's strangely pleased and relieved to see him nod in agreement.

"It's refreshing to see someone so firm in that conviction. They beat that out of us within the first two years on command track, but I somehow don't think they could ever get you to change your mind."

"Most people can't. I tend to be right," she responds, a bit snottily, but he just laughs.

"So I've noticed. You're the most impulsive, brashest cadet in this class," he says, causing her eyes to narrow. "But you also care more than anyone else here, and you come at these scenarios with every ounce of intensity you have. You try way harder than the rest of us, refuse to fail, even when failure is a valid option."

"Failure is never an option. I'll never believe that."

Her vehemence makes him smile, and she's amazed to see how that expression changes his face. It's a slow, easy, lazy smile that takes over his face, lighting up his electric eyes and highlighting just how handsome his face really is. With a bit of surprise, she realizes that he's probably capable of charming the pants off anyone with that smile, those eyes, and that intense focus. Not her, though, she tells herself firmly. She'll never be bowled over by some cocky genius cadet with gold shirt aspirations, no matter how cute his dimples are.

Shrugging in chagrin, she says, "Failing this class, however, might be … that professor hates me and my unorthodox but brilliant interpretations of strategy."

"You won't fail," Kirk says confidently. "Your scores are too good outside the sims, and even here there are base scores for all the things you did right. Even with a bad teacher review, you won't have failed this, not really. Besides, I wouldn't let you fail a course you didn't even choose to sign up for."

She tilts her head sharply at that. "What do you mean by that?"

A slightly bashful grin comes over his face, tingeing his cheeks pink and giving his blue eyes an even softer glow. "There may have been some outside influence getting you into this class."

"Outside influence," she repeats, eyebrows flying up.

"I'm rather talented at computer programming and getting around firewalls and security. Plus, I made friends with one of the ladies in scheduling, who's also a family friend of my father's. I may have said a few things I'm not entirely proud of, let her come to some not-entirely-true assumptions, and promised to bring in my mother's homemade banana bread once a month for an entire year …"

"You bribed them to get me into this class? Why the hell would you do that?" she gasps in disbelief.

"Maybe I just wanted to see you and get a chance to talk to you. You're a hard girl to talk to, you know. I've tried before and you don't even notice anyone that's not directly involved in what you're doing. I thought if we were in a class together, we'd have something to talk about." His face is sheepish but surprisingly unapologetic, which she finds annoying and refreshing at the same time. She has a great respect for people who stand by their actions, even if others disapprove.

"That's completely unethical and ridiculous!" she exclaims, giving him her best disapproving glare. Her belly gives a weird twisting flip at the ashamed disappointment that clouds his expression at her words. "It was also unnecessary. If you want to talk, then pick me up tomorrow night at 1930. Don't be late or I'll leave without you."

The slow, delighted smile that encompasses his face gives her reassurance that she made the right choice. She'll give him a shot, but she won't make it easy. Stepping back, dusting a bit of dust off her jumpsuit from rolling on the ground in the sim scenario earlier, she nods briskly and walks away, leaving a grinning George Kirk standing alone.

Reaching the door, she turns and calls back, "And bring flowers." As she walks out the door, she can almost feel the power of Kirk's smile behind her.


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