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13 September 2009 @ 11:18
Paradigm Shift (1/2)  
Disclaimer: Star Trek and all related elements, characters and indicia © Paramount Television / Desilu Productions 1965. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations—save those created by the authors for use solely on this website—are copyright Paramount Television / Desilu Productions 1965.

Please do not archive or distribute without author's permission.

Author's Note: Written for the [info - community] treknovelfest. Based on DC Fontana's Vulcan's Glory. Thanks to my betas B, calapine, possibly_thrice, and leftarrow.

Paradigm Shift
by LJC

As the Enterprise broke orbit around Vulcan, Number One thought perhaps she was going mad. Because for a second, she could have sworn Captain Christopher Pike had just invited her to dinner.

In his quarters.

Alone.

"Dinner?" she echoed as she turned in her chair, but he wasn't smiling as if he was making any kind of joke. On the contrary—his expression was gravely serious.

"Ah, yes. Business." She swore he was actually starting to look a tiny bit uncomfortable, but he soldiered bravely onward. "We have to discuss the ship's operations. You'll have the mission log up to date by then, won't you?"

"It's up to date now, sir," she said without thinking, and the corner of his mouth quirked in a smile.

"Of course. Well, we'll discuss it."

"Aye, sir. Dinner. Nineteen hundred. Your quarters."

She turned back to her console, feeling every eye on the bridge on her. She silently thanked whatever gods roamed the cosmos that Caitlin Barry was down in Engineering, and it was Lt Scott at the bridge station. Because had Cait been here to hear that particularly order from their captain, she'd be pounced on the second her shift ended.

Thinking back to their conversation of a few days earlier, before the murders had turned the ship upside down, Cait would no doubt encourage her to "turn on the charm" and let Chris know exactly how much she thought about him as more than just her captain.

However, considering they were warping away from Lt T'Pris' funeral service, it felt like an odd time to try and pursue a relationship. His invitation now puzzled her, especially between the murders of Meadows and T'Pris, and Reed's transfer to Starbase 11 to await trial, and the trade negotiations on Areta, as they had barely spoken outside of ship's business since his return.

On the other hand, she mused as the stars streaked past, the first time for anything was always interesting.




Number One stood outside the captain's quarters, staring helplessly at the doorchime.

She had never lacked assertiveness before. It felt odd to be reluctant now. But she was the one who had told Cait that if Chris approached her when they were both off duty, she might actually have the nerve to tell him how she felt about him. That not only did she respect him as her captain, but that she was attracted to him as a man.

Easier said than done, she thought, not without irony.

Weeks ago they had managed dinner in the crowded café on Starbase 13 without any awkwardness. Granted, she had chosen to eat with Pike to try and discourage the captain of the Beowulf, who had been trying to get her to agree to a meal with him since Enterprise had first docked for repairs. Wesley was charming, and an excellent officer, but she had zero interest in him, and tried to rebuff him gently but firmly. For one of Starfleet's best and brightest, he'd been slow to take the hint and seemed to read her reluctance as simply a challenge to be met and mastered. Not a particularly winning strategy where she was concerned.

It didn't help that in addition to Bob following her around like a puppy, Commodore Simon's chief aide also seemed to be taken with her. He had attempted to buy her several drinks in the Starbase bar, and engage her in small talk ranging from the likelihood of war with Cardassia, to her opinion of Vulcan poetry. Phil Boyce rescued her that time with a timely "medical emergency" that involved meeting Cait Barry in the arboretum with a bottle of something probably illegal, and definitely blue.

Dinner with her captain then had been a relief. But that's all it had been—just dinner. He'd talked half the time about his upcoming leave, and she could tell he was looking forward to it. Normally reserved and, if not formal, then at least intensely private, he'd been positively animated as he'd told her about the time he'd spent on his family's ranch in Mojave. Even as cagey as he was about it, it was clear to her that his excitement had to do with seeing Cadet Carlisle again. However, as she'd told Cait in the recreation room, he'd come back from their last leave moody and withdrawn. He hadn't offered any explanation, and she hadn't asked. That wasn't how their relationship worked. It was professional—not personal.

It had been professional, she thought, staring once more at the doorchime. But was this personal? He'd framed it as ship's business, and if it hadn't been for Cait pressing her to take a chance, then she wouldn't be nervous. But it never would have entered her mind that he might make the first move.

Taking a deep breath, she tapped the doorchime once and waited. She didn't have to wait long. In-between one breath and the next, the door slid open.

"Right on time." His smile was gentle as he stepped aside so she could enter.

"Did you think I would be late?"

"No. You never are."

She'd been inside his quarters before, but never alone. Usually she was accompanied by Phil Boyce, who had no qualms about intruding on Pike's privacy if he felt like it. Usually there was a bottle involved. Once, there had even been a senior staff poker game, though Number One had been accused of having an unfair advantage by Cait, having been born with a natural poker face. That night it had actually been senior science officer Sendhil who had cleaned up, and the social experiment hadn't been repeated.

Most captains on the newly minted Constellation Class ships had a three room suite, but Chris had chosen the same single-room layout she had, although it was flipped as hers was further down the upper curve of the deck. The low shelves along the curved walls were crowded with hardcopy bound books—a luxury when one could carry an entire library downloaded to a single slim data solid. The narrow bed in the sleeping alcove was covered in a simple standard issue blanket, and the table was set up on the opposite side, with place settings for two.

He was still in uniform, making it slightly easier for her to pretend this was simply an extension of their normal duties. While they usually met in the Briefing Room off the bridge, it wasn't uncommon to discuss ship's business in the Rec Room, or the Officer's Mess.

On the other hand, he seemed restive. Normally he was crisp and straightforward, and they had always worked well together. Now it was like he didn't quite know what to do with his hands.

"I didn't know what you wanted—"

"A salad would be fine," she said a little too quickly. If he noticed, he didn't let on and for that she was grateful.

"One salad, coming up."

"I brought a copy of the mission log," she said as she glanced at his desk where the computer terminal sat, and dropped the data solid next to the intake slot. But he made no move to put them into the reader. Instead, his attention was focussed on the food slot in the wall. When it chimed, he carried two plates over to the table and motioned for her to join him. He placed a square plate heaped with green salad before her, and she noticed he'd remembered she preferred herbs and dark lettuces over iceberg. There was a generous serving of protein among the green in the form of chick peas, edamame, and dark red kidney beans. Exactly what she would have ordered for herself, had she been alone.

His own plate, on the other hand, had a rare steak and a generous pile of scalloped potatoes. The closest his meal came to a green leafy vegetable was the parsley garnish that he plucked off the steak and immediate discarded to the side of his plate. Two glasses of red wine were on the table, and she took an appreciative sip to wet her lips.

"I took the liberty of reading it through before you got here," he said around a swallow of wine. "As always, it's very thorough. And more than a bit harrowing, I have to say. Learning we had a ticking time-bomb onboard ever since Daniel Reed transferred here from the Lexington is more than a bit disturbing."

"It seems that, until we recovered the Glory, Reed was a model security officer. Fleet psych evals never even hinted he was unstable."

"Lt Spock's report quoted Reed's reasoning—if one could call it that—verbatim. He was poisoned by his family's hatred, carried it buried inside him. If we'd never found the Glory, it might have stayed buried. And I wouldn't have lost two good officers. Almost three."

"You're impressed with Spock, aren't you?"

"He has the makings of a fine officer. Your gut instinct about him proved correct."

"But you were still surprised he brought Reed back alive."

"Not that I'd want my junior science officer to put revenge before duty, but I just wonder what I might have done, in the same situation. From what I know of Vulcans, they don't enter into relationships lightly. Losing T'Pris has... well, changed him."

She thought back to the man she'd greeted when he first beamed aboard, and the science officer she'd left on the bridge that afternoon, and had to agree. Spock was given to trying a little too hard, and T'Pris had blunted that sharp brittle edge for the brief time they'd known one another. Desiring acceptance amongst one's peers, however illogical, was something she knew too much about not to grieve with him. Starfleet was full of square pegs, herself included when it came down to it. Spock had lost more than just a lover to Reed's delusions—he'd lost a precious rare friend.

"The dangers of shipboard romance?" she ventured, watching him closely. His eyes flicked to hers, and then back down at the table.

"They knew each other so briefly," she mused aloud.

"Sometimes that's all it takes. Love isn't logical, Number One. One minute you're perfectly happy with the status quo. The next..." His gaze grew unfocussed, and she feared she'd crossed a previously undefined line as he glanced down as his plate to avoid her gaze. "Well, I supposed even Vulcans aren't immune to love at first sight."

"As a matter of fact, there's a quite famous Pre-Surak Vulcan poem devoted to the concept."

"I shouldn't be surprised you'd know that, given how you recognised the Ancient High Vulcan on the beacon. You always surpass my expectations, Number One."

Her smile faded, and she pushed a forkful of salad around on her plate. "If that were true, then I would have discovered Reed's identity, and T'Pris would have been spared Meadows' fate."

"Nobody's perfect. Not even you." His tone was gentle, and it felt like a compliment rather than the teasing she'd had no choice but to grow used to since joining Starfleet. "If I'd been aboard, instead of planetside, I don't think I would have done anything differently. You shouldn't be so hard on yourself."

Her lips curved in a smile. "Is that an order, sir?"

"Chris," he said suddenly, and she blinked. "I mean, when it's just us... no need to stand on ceremony. And yes, it's an order," he said, matching her smile. "If I thought for a second you'd follow it."

"Alright then, Chris... Are you saying I'm insubordinate?"

"I'm saying hindsight is twenty-twenty. As Phil reminded me not so long ago, despite the tragic loss of life, the mission—both missions were a success. The Glory is back on Vulcan, the trade situation on Areta is stronger than ever, and a dangerous murderer is in custody. All we can do out here is our best."

She leaned back in her chair, watching him dig into his steak, some of the earlier awkwardness between them melting away. It wasn't quite as relaxed as dinner aboard the station had been, but that had been in public with their fellow officers milling around them. This was different—more intimate. No-one here to see them or pass judgement, and only his yeoman would know if she never left his quarters tonight, she thought for one dangerous moment before she rejected that line of reasoning altogether as girlish fantasy and nothing else.

Pike was many things, but given to being swept away by his passions wasn't exactly one of them. Not that she would have minded being swept away; but that wasn't him. That wasn't them.

"Your time on Areta seems to have agreed with you."

"How so?"

"Nothing specific—you just seem... more centred."

"I wouldn't call trekking across the desert in search of two wayward love-struck kids a vacation, exactly. Still, it was good we arrived when we did. Otherwise we might have had one of Shakespeare's tragedies on our hands, instead of comedies."

Off her blank look, he explained. "Shakespeare's comedies always end with a wedding. Or so my Literature professor at the Academy always told me."

"Ah. So instead of Romeo and Juliet—"

"We end up with A Midsummer Night's Dream, maybe. I was always better at Tactics than I was Literature," he admitted with a rueful smile. "Silene and Bardan showed both their fathers not only did they know what they wanted, but they may have changed the course of their planet's future. Not too shabby, for two headstrong kids in love." He chuckled, shaking his head. "And believe me—they are kids. My God, I don't think I was ever that young."

"Oh, I don't know. It's not that hard to picture," she said before she could stop herself, and it was his turn to raise a brow. "I've seen you full of boyish enthusiasm. And I've noticed the complete lack of it, too, lately."

His blue eyes narrowed shrewdly. "Have you been talking to Boyce?"

"Our dear doctor isn't the only one sensitive to our captain's moods." She took a deep breath, trying to maintain the façade of concerned subordinate and friend. "Last time we were Earthside for leave, I got a full rundown of every detail of Cadet Carlisle's course-load at the Academy. This time, not a peep. And the holo that was on top the mantle is missing." She gestured with her wineglass, and his eyes snapped to the empty spot guiltily.

"I didn't think there was much that escaped your notice."

"It doesn't take Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to put two and two together." She reached across the table and laid her hand over his briefly. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry."

He glanced down her their hands, and she pulled hers back quickly, blaming the wine for her brazenness. He sighed.

"Let's just say that while my recent attempt at romance ended less tragically than our young lieutenant's, it still ended, and leave it at that." He frowned at the contents of his wineglass. "Maybe I'm just not cut out for it."

"Maybe it's just timing," she offered with a slight shrug of her shoulders.

"Or proximity." He shrugged, suddenly looking sheepish, "or lack thereof. She's engaged—to one of her instructors, no less."

Number One winced in sympathy.

"I knew she felt out of step, being so much older than the rest of her cadet class. But I thought, when her letters got more upbeat after that first year that she'd just settled into her studies. Not that she'd been spending more time with Tom." Pike took a long swallow from his glass, his eyes sliding away from hers. "He was there—and I wasn't. Simple as that."

"It's never simple."

"Maybe."

They finished their meal in silence, and she couldn't help feeling like she'd somehow stuck her foot in her mouth. Still, as he tipped the plates into the 'fresher beneath the food slots to be recycled, he caught her eye.

"We should do this again," he said, his tone firm and decisive. "I mean... if that's agreeable to you, Number One?"

"I'd like that, sir."

"Chris," he corrected, and her mouth went dry.

"Chris," she repeated, fighting the flush she could feel creeping up her neck. "Well, I'm on Alpha, so I should probably go."

She walked to the door, and he followed—not too close. Just close enough to rattle her.

"Wouldn’t want you to be late for your shift. I hear the captain's a real hardass."

"I hear the XO's worse," she said with a smile. The doors opened with a pneumatic hiss and she escaped back to her own quarters on the other side of deck five, her heart pounding in her chest once more.

What the hell just happened? she wondered as she tugged her uniform tunic over her head, and lay back against her neatly made bed, tapping a blue-lacquered fingernail against her lips and tried to puzzle out her captain.




What the hell just happened? Chris Pike asked himself as he opened the drawer where he'd placed the holo of him and Jan her brother had taken last year as Pike had visited her at the Academy.

Her blonde hair had been blowing in his face, the wind off the bay carrying the salt tang of the sea, while rain had threatened from the greenish-grey clouds. The clip played in a loop, and he watched the miniature scene, the way he buried his face in her hair, the way her hand tightened on his arm as their lips moved in silence. They had looked like the perfect couple. He'd put it in the drawer because he couldn't bear the reminder of how happy they'd been. Now he wished he'd spaced the damned thing, so he wasn't tempted to keep taking it out, comparing his memory with the frozen moment, and trying to read their future in her smile. Had she been second guessing them even then? He'd never asked her when she'd met Tom. When they'd begun seeing one another. Had it begun after he'd given her the ring?

Switching it off at the base, he let it drop to the bottom of the drawer with a thunk, and he slammed it shut, angry with himself. Part of him recognised he'd let his friend goad him into taking a step he wasn't entirely sure he was ready for. And then like an idiot, he'd rambled on about Janeese to Number One, which had felt... awkward would be kind. He wasn't in the mood to be especially kind.

It had been easy, with Jan. He wasn't sure why. Part of it had been the fact that he was on leave, and free to be just Chris, instead of the captain with over four hundred lives in his hands. The most important decision he made was which shirt to throw on each morning, and whether to have tuna salad or roast beef for lunch. She hadn't seen him as he truly was, he could admit that now. She'd only known the man he'd let her see, those first few weeks in Mojave almost two years ago now. They'd had a whirlwind romance, and he'd been fooling himself that subspace transmissions and brief dinners and breakfasts when they were in Sector 001 were enough to build a future on.

But with Number One, it was different. It was complicated. They already had a past—four years of working together first on the Yorktown, and now on Enterprise. She saw sides of him Janeese never had, all parts of himself he wouldn't necessarily want a lover to ever see. The captain who ordered his crew to their deaths. The man who had to fire on enemy ships and watch their bodies hurl through the vacuum of space. Who used his wits and his fists and whatever tools he had to hand to get the job done, because life in Starfleet wasn't always pretty, or safe, or fair. Still, it was the life he'd chosen, and he'd believe Jan understood that—but her understanding had never been tested. Her knowledge of him had never been tempered by harsh reality. But Number One had stood beside him when there were hard choices to be made and never flinched. He trusted her with his life on a daily basis and without a second's hesitation.

Yet somehow the idea of asking her to call him by his first name filled him with absolute terror and uncertainty. He'd faced bloodthirsty Klingon warriors with grim determination, but the idea of losing his XO's respect left him shaking like a green kid on his first date.

"Phil, why do I ever listen to you?" Pike grumbled at the ceiling, as he scrubbed his hand over his face. And when the doorchime rang, Pike wasn't at all surprised to find Phil Boyce on the other side, two glasses in hand.

"Speak of the devil," Pike said, stepping aside.

"Hope I'm not interrupting anything?" Boyce asked, surveying the empty room with guileless blue eyes.

"Liar," Pike said mildly.

Phil dropped down on the sofa and put his feet up on the coffee table as if he were in his office. His ubiquitous brown leather bag was at his side and he rummaged around in it one handed.

"So... how'd it go?"

Now it was Chris' turn to play innocent. "How'd what go?"

"You know damn well what I mean. Dinner."

Pike sat down on the other end of the sofa. "Don't tell me it's scuttlebutt."

"You asked her out on the bridge," Boyce pointed out as he set the two glasses down on the table and poured a tiny quantity of clear liquid from a small flask into each. "What did you expect?"

"Ask her out—It wasn't a date," Pike protested, taking the glass and sniffing it warily. The fumes made his eyes water, and he shot Boyce a look. "What the hell...?"

"Hey—watch it. That stuff's rarer than rare."

"What is it?"

"You, my friend, are looking at quite possibly the last bottle in existence of engine-room hooch brewed on the USS Enterprise. Or at least for as long as the delightful Lieutenant Commander Barry is in charge."

The doctor tapped the rim of his glass against Pike's before raising it. "Skál. Sláinte. Bottom's up."

Pike took a sip, and resisted the urge to cough as the moonshine went down smooth but trailed fire in its wake.

"You know, this is better than the Leo's," he said once he got his breath back. He'd only had some of the Lionheart's famed engine-room hooch once, but it had been memorable. 'Fleet scuttlebutt was that Fleet Captain Nogura's engineer guarded the recipe with his very life and had it tattooed on the inside of his arm in an unbreakable code. 'Fleet scuttlebutt also claimed the stuff could cure the common cold, and that a bottle had been given to the President when she took office.

'Fleet scuttlebutt said a lot of things about engine-room hooch. But as Pike sipped the clear liquid carefully, he thought Enterprise might have ended up a legend as well, had it not been for some stray gamma radiation. It was that good.

"Number One reckons it was the new engineer from the Fleet Yards."

"Scott? It wouldn't surprise me. The last bottle, you say?"

"Don't try and change the subject," Boyce warned as he put the bottle back in the bag, closing it with an audible snap. "So if it wasn't a date, what was it, then?"

Pike sighed. "Just two senior officers sharing a meal while they discussed ship's business. That's all."

Phil paused, nodding his head thoughtfully as he digested this information. "That all you want it to be?" he asked after a moment, and Chris shook his head, smiling.

"You never let up."

"Give an old bachelor a break. I'm living vicariously through you young people, you realise."

"Really? Then what do you call the lovely young woman I know I saw you having dinner with not three weeks ago, at Starbase 13?"

"Doreen? She's a research biologist. Fantastic mind."

"And her legs weren't bad either."

"Yes, they go all the way to the floor. But it's not my love-life we're conducting a post-mortem on here."

"I hope the patient isn't quite dead yet."

"So how did it go? You're not getting rid of me until you at least tell me if you're on a first-name basis after all these years."

"I tried. When she says 'Chris' it still comes out 'sir'."

Boyce patting him on the knee. "Give it time."

"It went... well," he said carefully, trying not to fuel Phil's overactive imagination. "Not exactly as I'd..." he stopped himself before he said hoped, and instead said "pictured. But better than I thought it would."

"What did you talk about?"

Pike tried to force himself to look back on the evening without being overly critical of his own behaviour. It wasn't easy. He'd started off nervous as only Number One with her poise and cool demeanour seemed capable of making him. And when he was off-balance, he tended to botch even the simplest of interactions in his personal life. But he thought about how relatively easily he'd opened up to her—how differently the evening had gone compared with casual interactions in the ship's mess in the past, or even the dinner on Starbase 13 a few weeks prior. He had to admit while it had been sometimes awkward, it had also been a step forward.

"The mission, mostly. Reed, Spock, Areta... and I told her about Jan."

"Interesting."

"What?"

Boyce chuckled. "Only that I had to pry it out of you."

"It just... came up."

"With you, Chris, nothing just 'comes up' in conversation. If you played your cards any closer to your chest, I'd need to X-ray you to see your hand. So why the sudden candour?"

"You're the one who's always after me to let people in, remember?"

"So did you?"

"Did I what?"

"Let her in?"

"We talked. As friends. I'm not even sure what I expected. It feels pretty lousy to start something now—not when I've just torpedoed a long-term relationship with someone else."

Boyce set his drink down, and half-turned to regard Chris seriously. "Are you worried she'll think she's the rebound?"

"I don't even know what I think, yet, you old reprobate." Pike ran a hand through his dark hair, and leaned forward to rest his forearms on his thighs as he cradled the shot glass in both hands. "Look, we've served together for the better part of four years. It's dodgy as hell to even think about a romantic relationship with someone under my direct command, and don't tell me that there are no regs that forbid it. I'm not talking about regs. I'm talking about what's best for the ship and her crew. The last thing this crew needs is the captain and the XO at odds over, I don't know... some petty lover's spat."

"So you are thinking it could go a lot further than just dinner, then. You wouldn't be worrying about hypothetical lover's spats if you hadn't at least entertained the notion of actually becoming, well... lovers," Boyce pointed out, and Pike got the feeling he'd been manipulated into some kind of admission he wasn't quite ready for.

Pike smiled into his drink. "The thought had crossed my mind."

"Good. I was starting to wonder if you were still male and breathing."

"Phil!"

"Or is it just that you normally go for blondes?"

"I'm going to pretend that's the hooch talking," Pike said gruffly.

"Pretend all you want. But Number One is a beautiful woman. I know you've noticed."

"Oh, I've noticed. Believe me, I've noticed."

"So where do you think you'll go from here?"

"It was just one dinner."

"The first of many?"

"We'll see," Pike said. But he was already thinking about next time.




They established a routine.

It wasn't every week, but every few weeks, her padd would chime and there would be a single line flashing in amber letters on the black screen.

Dinner?

Occasionally Boyce and Barry would join them, but more often it was just the two of them. She got him to try some Andorian dishes; he introduced her to moussaka and dolma. She drank water more often than wine, and they spoke of ship's business more often than their personal lives. When the clock struck 22:00 hours they each found themselves back in their own quarters alone, wondering exactly what had changed and what hadn't.

It wasn't simple, but it was comfortable, the silences. The words they chose not to say. And if either of them lay awake at night wishing they had the courage to voice them, well... that was something they didn't discuss. Or even hint at. Number One found him watching her sometimes in a way that made blood rush to her cheeks. And she went to sleep at night more than once with the breadth of his shoulders or the curve of his mouth fixed in her mind's eye.

Then the disastrous mission to Rigel VII happened, followed less than a fortnight later by the false distress call which lured them to Talos IV.

After Talos IV, there were no more dinners.

Her fingers would hover over her padd, and she'd set it aside and order the computer to lower the lights in her quarters and she'd toss and turn until her shift started.

She tried to ignore the pang of disappointment, and bury herself in her work.




Cait Barry sat in the rec room, an engineering journal loaded onto her padd. However she kept reading and rereading the same paragraph over again. Finally, she gave up in disgust and rested her chin in her hand. Across the rec room, the first officer and Spock were engaged in what appeared to be a deadly serious three-dimensional chess game. It had been going on for over two hours, one or the other of the participants only moving a piece after what felt like a dog's age of careful consideration.

Number One had won two games, and Spock three. Boyce had promised a bottle to the victor, which was silly since alcohol had no effect on Vulcans and Number One hardly ever drank. But Phil's offer seems to have piqued the captain's interest. He sat at the table behind the players, eyes fixed on the XO and never straying. His coffee had gone cold, and Cait knew for a fact it was the good stuff Yeoman Colt brewed for him from his private stash of real coffee made from real coffee beans that grew in the ground—not the sludge that came out of the food slots. So that was a waste of coffee too fine to squander, in her mind.

"Penny?" Boyce asked as he settled into the vacant chair beside her, a plate of chicken fried steak and violently orange carrots untouched between them.

Cait sighed, her eyes never leaving the scene across the room.

"Look at them. The two of them. Sitting there mocking me with their refusal to see what's right in front of them."

"My dear, you are preaching to the choir."

It was a pleasant pastime between them—trying to figure out when the Captain and the XO were going to figure a few simple facts out and jump each other like crazed weasels. They often met in Boyce's office in sickbay after senior staff dinners, to compare notes and generally kvetch about their stubborn friends.

"Maybe we could strand them in a shuttle with a bottle of wine and just one blanket between them."

Boyce nearly choked on his coffee as he tried to keep from laughing out loud.

"You're been watching too many Vids."

"Hey, it's a cliché because it works, isn't it? You're the one who told me about what happened on Omicron Indi III."

Boyce lowered his voice to a whisper. "The neck-rub incident?"

"Is that what we're calling it?"

"That's what I'm calling it."

Boyce had asked a dishevelled—and, under a layer of dirt and grime, he was dead sure actually blushing—Chris Pike what had happened that the captain had suggested the Exec go to Sickbay to have her shoulder looked at, and had nearly got his head bitten off. It wasn't until a fortnight later, over a late night drink in his cabin that Chris had admitted things had got almost a bit too heated—physically rather than verbally, for a change—between them while trapped in the dilithium mine.

A week after that, Boyce had casually asked Barry if Number One had mentioned anything about Omicron Indi III and been practically interrogated at phaser-point. Cait Barry was not someone to be trifled with. Boyce could only repeat his name, rank, and serial number for so long before he succumbed completely to the tenacious redhead's inquiries. Ever since then, they'd been taking turns watching the two of them and reporting back.

"We need a better hobby, Phil." Cait sighed again.

"I have a hobby, remember?" Boyce reminded her, and she rolled her eyes.

"You and your weird little trees." Half his cabin was given over to a collection of Bonsai trees, like a miniature forest. Barry, on the other hand had a black thumb and had even managed to kill a Denobulan spider-plant, which her roommate at the Academy had claimed could survive without sunlight or water for up to three years. There was a reason why she worked with machines, while Boyce worked with people.

Across the room, there was muted clapping as Number One won her third game—tying Spock. Cait's eyes followed Pike as the captain flashed his exec a congratulatory smile, and then crossed the rec room to talk to Colt, who had just entered with Tyler.

She frowned as she saw Number One's pleasure at winning the game drain away to be replaced by a curiously blank look as she saw to whom Pike was speaking. Spock had to ask her twice before she responded if she was up for another game. She shook her head, and the Vulcan started replacing the pieces in their case, and the milling crowd dispersed.

"It's been five years," Barry said, her voice pitched low so it wouldn't carry past their quiet corner table. "Who doesn't sleep with somebody for five years?"

"They'll get there in their own time," Boyce said as he leaned back in his moulded plastic chair and sipped his coffee.

Number One left the rec room with her head held high, walking right past Pike, who was still deep in conversation with his yeoman. While the captain didn't seem to notice, Cait Barry had a lot more practice reading the First officer's moods.

Part 2