One moment, she's talking about who's going to win the Carrington Award this year, like a sane person. It's just dinner. Their fourth in the last two weeks, and Beverly cooked again.
She has a way with her replicator, that, or it just isn't related to the hateful, spiteful, demanding piece of machinery Kathryn has. Either way, Beverly's quarters are better for dinner.
So here she is. Again, sitting across from the doctor with the incredibly long legs, talking about Healer Sevna being nominated again while it's the first time a Bajoran, Doctor Tolryen, has been nominated. It's a perfectly normal conversation, except, halfway between the salad and the main course, Kathryn's become distracted.
It's never happened to her before. She's been distracted, of course, she's human, but this particular one is new.
It's Beverly's hair.
Which is ridiculous because Kathryn has hair. It's gotten long on her again and she wears it up more than she lets it down.
Beverly's is down. It carresses her shoulders and tumbles around her face in gentle red-gold waves. It catches light. It sighs and whispers when Beverly turns her head and Kathryn's half-convinced its flirting with her.
Which is also ridiculous, but not quite as ridiculous as how much she wants to touch it.
She's sure she could. Beverly wouldn't mind, or even really notice if she just...
But they're eating. They're talking and this is certainly not the time to innocently wonder what kind of spray Beverly puts in her hair to get that scent, or if it's just her perfume. Either way it's divinely distracting.
Beverly leaves her chair for dessert and coffee. There's no shortage of coffee, and no rationing either on Earth. Every once in awhile Kathryn catches herself mentally calculating how many pots of coffee she has left that month before she runs out, but it's no longer necessary. She's home, and Earth has coffee to spare.
"What is it?" Beverly's smiling at her and she must have given herself away. "I haven't changed my hair, if that's what you're wondering. It's just the light."
They have candles and the burning wicks remind her a little of Chakotay, who's well and happy on Voyager.
"Why do you always wear it down?"
Silly question, but it's easier to ask and have something to say than to sit and try not to admit how distracted she's been.
"My hair?" Beverly's smile widens and she toys with her chocolate puff with her fork. "When I'm in surgery, I have to put it up. When I put on my surgical scrubs, I put up my hair. It's a routine. I've done it that way for years. I suppose it became a habit."
She takes a bite, then sets down her fork. Her hands wrap around her coffee cup and Beverly lifts it throughtfully. Is she flirting?
Does Kathryn want her to be?
"Let me guess."
Beverly's almost too good at guessing but Kathryn nods, hiding behind her cup before she can give away too much.
"You wear yours up because someone told you it made you look young with it down." Beverly finishes her guess with a triumphant raise of her eyebrows and Kathryn's stomach jumps exquisitely.
"I was a lieutenant commander," Kathryn begins. Does she even remember how to flirt? It's like riding a hoverbike. She has to remember.
"I was supervising the new cadets and someone mistook me for one."
Beverly coos sympathetically and laughs but her eyes are wicked. "No."
"Oh yes," Kathryn winces at the memory. "One of the ensigns scolded me for not being with the rest of my class."
"After that I put it up." Kathryn downs the last of her coffee and reaches for the pot in the middle of the table.
Beverly's hand beats hers by half a second and they touch. Kathryn's fingers wind around Beverly's and they're both holding the glass and metal coffee pot.
"You wanted to look severe." Beverly surmises, not letting go.
Kathryn concedes, brushing the back of Beverly's hand before she lets her host refill her coffee for her. "I wanted to not look nineteen."
Beverly tops off her own cup and lifts it in a toast. "To wasted youth."
Chuckling a little, Kathryn agrees, "to wasted youth."
The cups clink and Beverly adds, "think we've grown wiser? Or are we the same fools with more memories of being foolish."
"Some of the best moments in life are foolish." Kathryn's coffee is hot and fragrant, but it's not what she wants.
"Do you think so?"
The question hangs in the air like so many others they've asked each other in since this, whatever wonder this is, began. Do you miss your husband? What do you think life would have been like with your fiancé? Just what is going on with you and that captain?
"I think trying to get out of my physical was foolish." Kathryn tests the waters; she's not even sure if she can swim, but she wants to think it's possible. Just like that shade of red can exist in nature. She'd believe it if she could touch it.
"You've apologised," Beverly reminds her gently. She understands the connotation behind the thought. "You saved me from a very dull evening at the ballet by myself."
"Oh no, you saved me from a very dull evening of paperwork in my office by myself."
There was that play in London they transported over for, then that restaurant Beverly found in Singapore, where they had to have breakfast for dinner because their time of day was all wrong in San Francisco. They're working towards infinite cups of coffee between them and Kathryn can't remember the last time she went through a day without a message or two from Beverly on her computer.
They stare at each other over the table, each of them daring themselves to ask what they're doing. The candles are low, and it must be late but it's a Saturday and neither of them have anything they must do tomorrow.
Wine after coffee goes straight to her head, but Kathryn agrees when Beverly offers.
They retreat to the sofa and the moonlight paints blues into the red of Beverly's hair. Kathryn turns, half-facing Beverly with her arm on the back of the sofa. Beverly's hair is right there, centimetres from her fingers, laughing at her playfully as Beverly tells the story of how her son once took over the Enterprise.
Kathryn will have to dredge up an old story of Phoebe, or tell Beverly about the time cheese made them give Voyager a fever. Beverly should appreciate the medical science behind feverish gel packs, and she decides on that as she listens to how close the Enterprise came to destruction.
The tips of Beverly's hair are cool and soft. Kathryn's not entirely sure when she touched, but they're in her hand and she's rolling them between her fingers.
When Beverly catches her, there's only that smile again. That playful, teasing little smile. Beverly shifts on the sofa, leaning in, and in far less time than it's ever taken a man to undo her hair, Beverly has the clip in hand and Kathryn's hair is tumbling down.
"I have one of these." Beverly explains, leaving the silver clip on the coffee table next to the tiny flowering roses. She keeps plants; even keeps them living. It's a skill Kathryn's never been able to master, except once, with tomatoes, a lifetime ago on the other side of the galaxy.
Kathryn shakes her hair out, and Beverly sinks her fingers in near the scalp. Her strong fingertips massage through, then down Kathryn's neck.
Kathryn shivers deliciously and they're so close that she can pay far too much attention to the soft, red fullness of Beverly's lips.
"It's grown long." Kathryn says of her own hair.
Beverly nods and arranges it playfully over Kathryn's shoulders. "I remember the holos when you came back. It's almost easier longer, isn't it? Less work."
"I can't say I've really thought about it. Not lately." Which is true. Kathryn's own hair has been low on her list of concerns while Beverly's just keeps rising.
Beverly straightens Kathryn's hair a little more and then drops her hands to the space between them. There's not much. Their thighs are touching and Kathryn's acutely aware of how much longer Beverly's legs seem to be, amongst other glorious things about those legs.
"What have you been thinking about, lately?"
There it is. Kathryn's not sure if it's an invitation to swim or a notice that these waters aren't what they seem but she can't pass it up. She's been so alive, so fulfilled, so happy since one dinner became several and the ballet became a standing engagement.
Beverly laughs and her hair dances as she shakes her head. "Kathryn, you'll have to elaborate. You've lost me."
Finding Beverly's chin with her hand, Kathryn leans closers and instead of walking into the water, she dives right in.
First kisses are often a mixture of pleasure, surprise and uncertainty. Every once in awhile, Kathryn gets to enjoy one that knows what it is. Some kisses know they have reinforcements on the way and let themselves relax. This one doesn't just have the Third Fleet, this one welcomes her on board because it seems to know she belongs. She slips her hand deep into Beverly's hair, finding the warmth of it along the soft skin of Beverly's neck.
After a moment, there's a greater warmth of Beverly's tongue against hers and their mutual sighs of surprise and gratification. Warm and welcoming, the water is perfect for swimming.
"Lips?" Beverly guesses when they come up for air.
Beverly giggles and strokes Kathryn's cheek. "I can't say yours makes you look nineteen, but it's beautiful."
"It's only a little red."
Kissing away Kathryn's mock pout before she's even started, Beverly hushes her.
There are a handful of reasons Kathryn will allow anyone the last word. Beverly's quickly discovering most of them; she's remarkably willing to let her.