Summary: Gaila hates the word 'whore.' Luckily, so does someone else.
The whispers start after her first week at the Academy: "green whore...fucks everyone in sight." "Slut better keep her hands off my boyfriend." "If all she wants to do is have sex, why did she even bother coming?"
Whore is the word that stings the most. She hates it because the other women say it like it's a bad thing to be, like there aren't some women who have to make a living that way. More than that, she hates it because they don't understand the years she struggled to escape from being one of those women. Every night she goes to bed with a different man, and she thinks the same thing: I chose this person, and he chose me. We are doing this with each other. Every one of those freely chosen acts is precious after her 19 years of sexual captivity.
When Cadet Jensen towers over her table at the mess hall, asking, "How dare you fuck my boyfriend, you whore?" she wants to explain she's not a whore because no one makes her charge money anymore. She wants to tell her that everyone on this planet is so privileged to choose whom they want to sleep with, and that this idea of claiming people -- that you can date them for two weeks and they'll belong to you like they're property -- seems no better than the sexual slavery she escaped from. But how can she explain these complex and personal truths in the middle of the mess hall to a woman who will not want to hear them? She doesn't break eye contact, but her eyes fill up a little, and she wishes this week had been long enough to make the kind of friend who would back her up.
"You're disgusting." Jensen says with hard eyes. "I've never met a bigger whore in my life."
Gaila is formulating a response when an even voice behind her asks, "Cadet Jensen, please define the word 'whore.'"
Jensen flushes, then pales. "I'm...I'm sorry, Commander," she stammers. "I won't say it again."
"This is a wise choice, Cadet, however, you have failed to answer the question."
"A whore is someone who has sex in exchange for money, sir." Her voice is as small as Gaila feels.
"This is a very serious allegation, Cadet, as prostitution is a violation of both Earth law and Academy policy. Do you have evidence that Cadet Gaila is engaging in such activities?"
Jensen stares at the floor, silent.
"Cadet, you have been asked a question by a superior officer. Failing to answer it is an act of insubordination."
Jensen swallows. "No, sir, I have no such evidence."
"As I suspected. Since you are not accusing Cadet Gaila of legal wrong-doing, I can only conclude that your use of the word 'whore' is a pejorative aimed at Orion cultural practices and lifestyle choices. Such an insult violates Starfleet's non-discrimation policy as well as its guiding principle, the acceptance of diversity. I trust I will not hear you use this word again, in reference in Cadet Gaila or any other student at this school. You are dismissed."
Jensen shuffles away with burning cheeks, and the assembled crowd follows behind her, leaving Gaila alone with her defender, whom she can't quite look in the eye.
"Thank you, Commander Spock," she says. "Really. Thank you."
"Prejudice is not logical, therefore tolerating prejudice is not logical. Thanks are unnecessary."
"I didn't thank you because it was necessary," she says. "I thanked you because you helped me, and I wanted you to know that."
"In that case, you are welcome," he replies, then adds, "Cadet, I do not advise that you tolerate others' prejudice toward you. Now, if you will excuse me, I am overdue for my office hours."
Gaila listens to his quick, even footfalls vanish down the hallway. Her first week at the Academy has been harder than she imagined, but if Vulcans are defending her right to free sex with multiple partners, she thinks she'll be okay.
The next time someone calls her a whore behind her back (literally, right behind her back), she turns and says in the coolest, most even voice she can muster, "I think you will find I do not charge for my services." Then she turns away and strides down the hall without looking back.