The cell was barely large enough for both of them. It was dank, dark, and both of them had smacked their heads on the low ceiling when they tried to stand for the first time after being tossed inside by the burly leather-clad guards.
"So, next time I say 'we should really get away' I say we try Risa," Pike said conversationally. He leaned up against the damp stone wall and rested one arm on an upraised knee, the other leg stretched out, boot touching the heavy metal cell door.
"You're the one who said Risa was too touristy," Number One reminded him as she continued trying to pick the lock with a bent piece of wire.
"It is, but there are remarkably few crazed feudal warlords on Risa. And the most danger you tend to be in is from sunburn. Or dehydration and fatigue from too much jamaharon."
Her hand stilled on the lock. "Tell me that's not the voice of experience."
"Well, not my experience. Phil's the one who swears three days on Risa is like spending two weeks anywhere else."
"Whereas three days on Septima Prime may be the last three days we ever spend anywhere."
"You're so pessimistic."
She gritted her teeth, and continued working on the lock.
"You know, I'm not the one who started poking through a murderous warlord's personal finances."
"He left the ledger out in the open. It's not my fault his bookkeeping was sloppy."
"Getting thrown in the dungeon for discovering the fiefdom's lord, or whatever they call it, was skimming from the quarterly tax collection is hardly the worst scrape we've ever gotten into."
"No, there was that time on Altair IV where we were almost burned at the stake when someone thought the Regent's underage daughter had a pretty smile, and someone started a bar brawl to defend her honour."
"She did have a nice smile," he said wistfully.
"You do understand we're going to be publicly executed in the morning?"
He sighed. "Give me that."
The tumbler turns with a click after only a few seconds, and she scowls at him.
"Are you coming?"
"This is the worst vacation we've ever had," she muttered as they started looking for handy weapons to fight their way out of the keep.
In Her Satin Tights, Fighting For Her Rights
Number One did not understand Hallowe'en. It was an obscure Earth holiday with roots in Celtic paganism that had almost entirely been eclipsed in the mid 20th century by commercialism primarily rooted in the acquisition by small children of massive amounts of sweets.
Therefore when Phil Boyce announced a costume party would be held in Rec Room One to celebrate a holiday 99% of humans seemed to have forgot, she was shocked when Captain Pike asked her what she would be wearing.
It seemed most of the ship's senior crew not scheduled to be working a duty shift would be attending, and while her attendance was not compulsory, he seemed to expect she would be there.
She thought long and hard about what attire would be appropriate. Cait Barry seemed to think it was a perfect occasion to wear inappropriate attire, and had showed up at Number One's door half an hour before the party would due to start with a mysterious box.
"He'll love it."
"It's so... revealing."
"Please—it's no worse than a bathing suit!"
"I don't understand the boots. You say this character fought hoodlums, spies, and saboteurs in two inch heels?"
"It was during Earth's second global conflict."
"It seems highly impractical."
"It's pulp fiction. You don't get points for realism."
Number One sighed, and allowed Cait to affix the tiara in her elaborately curled dark hair.
"What is the purpose of the rope?"
"It compels anyone you hog-tie with it to tell the truth."
"This is all highly suspect."
"Shut up and let me finish your nails."
Four hours later the red and white boots had been discarded, the tiara was resting atop Pike's computer terminal, and Number One had to admit, the golden lasso did seem to have had a visible effect on the captain when she bound his hands with it.
Then again, that could have been the bustier emblazoned with a gold eagle, paired with the star-spangled briefs.
Either way, she wasn't going to question it.
The Velvet Ribbon
Number One cultivates a certain image of unflappable, unshakeable, and unemotional with intent. It helps her subordinates to take her seriously.
Some Execs, she knows from experience, foster a relationship of camaraderie among the crew, serving as buffer between the lower ranks and the department heads so issues can be brought to them without fear of alienation.
Some Execs are everyone's best friend, know everyone's given name and use it freely. They take their meals in the ship's mess instead of their quarters or the officer's mess, and hold poker games for the senior staff once a week in the Rec Rooms.
Number One does none of those things. But she is still considered the most capable XO in the fleet, and Headquarters has tried and failed twice to reassign her. Both times, she and Pike put up a united front, even though he'd questioned her turning down the second assignment in private, since it would get her to that centre seat that much quicker.
But she didn't want just any captain's chair. She had a plan, a desire, and the patience to see it through. Pike respected that, and she respected him all the more for it.
Once upon a time, before Erika Hernandez, perhaps her gender might have been a problem among a primarily Earth-based crew. But Starfleet had a long, distinguished history of women in command, though the competition for the centre seat of a Starship fitted with Warp 8 engines is fierce.
Of the seven Constitution Class ships currently in service, none have female captains.
Only one has a female first officer.
Some of the races they encounter at the edges of known space still look at her and see someone soft, someone weak, someone lesser than the captain by her side.
More fool them.
She could minimise her femininity. Scrape her hair back into a bun instead of letting it fall in dark curls down her back. Forego make-up, instead of lining her eyelids with black that makes her blue eyes seem like chips of sky set in her oval face. She could keep her nails clipped short and free of coloured lacquer instead of painting them a new shade—blue, black, emerald, blood red—whatever takes her fancy.
Number One could do many things.
What she does instead is wear a sapphire ring on her right hand so it catches the light as she taps the course into the helm controls to steer the flagship of the Federation safely from port to port.
She twines a green velvet ribbon in her hair, because she likes the colour, she likes the style, and she doesn't give a good goddam if that makes her seem any less than what she is: the most experienced officer onboard, her Captain's right hand, and on the career track which will make her a Captain in two years, and a Captain of a Warp 8 ship in five.
When she takes the helm of the Yorktown as her Captain for the first time, she wears the green velvet ribbon for old time's sake.
And no-one says a thing.
Chief Engineer Caitlin Barry knows she's signing her own death warrant.
Going after the captain's woman is suicide, plain and simple.
She doesn't care.
She's spent months planning it. Trust is rarely given on Imperial starships, and the First Officer in particular guards hers close. But Cait was patient. All she needed was a moment when they were both alone, guaranteed privacy, where no-one would be able to observe.
She picks her moment at last, waiting until her guard is down after a null-gee ball game in the gymnasium. Number One's dark hair is clinging to her neck, her cheeks flushed and a rare smile curving her lips. She'd beaten Cait savagely, and she was elated from her victory. If there was ever a moment when her guard was done, this was it. Cait's one chance.
She slipped behind her, her hands reaching for her neck as she held her breath.
Number One's lips part in confusion as Cait crowds her against the wall of the locker room, steam obscuring them.
Cait makes her move, pressing her lips to Number One's while she still has surprise on her side.
She pulls back, waiting for the blow, the shouted denial, the inevitable rejection.
There is none. Cait smiles against her lips, and dips he head again to her mouth, hands tangling in Number One's dark hair.