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Where My Hand Is Set (My Soul Shall Be)

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“Barry!”

Lt. Caitlin Barry, assistant chief engineer, U.S.S. Aquino, backed out of the Jeffries tube she’d been halfway in, a sonic spanner in her mouth. She turned to the speaker, Lt. Cmdr. Whitney Ashwell, chief engineer of the Aquino, and said, “Hm?”

“Captain wants to see you,” Ashwell said, her brow furrowed. “You might want to change first, though. You’re covered in—” She waved generally at Cait’s torso.

Cait spit the spanner into her hand, looked down at her red tunic, liberally spotted with black handprints, and said, “Yeah, good idea.”

“I’ll have Ensign Throx finish the bypass. Don’t worry about it. Dismissed,” Ashwell said, and Cait snapped out a brief and only slightly ironic salute before leaving.

She changed quickly and ran a hairbrush through her hair before leaving her quarters; her roommate, Oliver, was on gamma shift that week and therefore asleep, so she was as quiet as possible. It took her a good ten minutes to get to the captain’s ready room, and she paced outside for a moment before she touched her fingers to the annunciator.

Captain Adrell said, “Come,” almost immediately, and Cait tugged her tunic into place before walking through the door.

Adrell—human, female, and pushing fifty, with a white streak in her dark hair that Cait sometimes envied—looked up. “Ah. Lieutenant Barry.”

“Sir,” Cait said, trying not to shift her weight from foot to foot.

“There’s been a situation,” the captain said. “The chief engineer on the Yorktown was killed, rather spectacularly, last week, and the captain needs someone to fill the job.”

“The assistant isn’t acceptable?”

“The assistant’s a lieutenant j.g.,” Adrell said. “If Chris doesn’t think he should be promoted, then he’s probably right.”

Cait nodded. “Of course, sir.”

“I’ve offered your services to the Yorktown on a trial basis,” Adrell said. “They need someone at least long enough to get back to earth, which will take most of a month; if you work well with them, they may apply to keep you. If not, you can come back here.”

“Oh,” Cait said. It was a staggeringly-generous offer; at thirty-five, she was perhaps a little young to be promoted to chief engineer. And for Adrell to keep her spot open—! “Thank you, sir. That’s—more than I deserve.”

“It really isn’t,” Adrell said, and smiled. “You’ve been a phenomenal officer, Barry, and we’ll be sorry to see you go.”

“Thank you, sir,” Cait repeated, after a moment; she really was at a loss of what to say otherwise. “I’d be glad to help the Yorktown out.”

“I thought you would,” the captain said. “I knew the captain when he was a mere lieutenant, back on the Exeter. He’s a good man. The only problem is—” Adrell winced. “Thanks to the vagaries of deep-space communication, we’ll be docking at Starbase XI in about seven hours and you’ll be transferred over to the Yorktown then.”

Cait’s eyes widened. “Sir, I don’t know—”

Adrell held up a hand. “I’m pretty sure I know what you’re going to say, and I took the liberty of asking the mess to make a cake. There will be a going-away reception at 1900 on the observation deck.”

That wasn’t, actually, in the least what Cait was going to say, but it was definitely a good substitute. “Thank you again, sir. I—I probably should go pack—”

“Yes, of course. Dismissed, Lieutenant Barry. I’ll say my farewells at the reception.”

“Yes, sir.” Cait gave an entirely non-ironic salute and left.

As soon as she was away from the bridge, she gave in and ran. Shit shit shit, she thought to herself. I don’t even know what engines and systems are on the Yorktown, and I don’t have time to look it up. I hope I get a shift or so to settle in.

* * *

Cait managed to pack in record time, even without waking her roommate. She cleaned out her desk, separated out her personal tools from the ship’s tools, moved her personal files to a padd and a datachip, wiped the ship’s padds, transferred all her security codes over to Ensign Newton at Ashwell’s instruction, and went through the standard transfer interview with the first officer—all before the reception, which was scheduled for two and a half hours before they reached the starbase. She arrived to her own party about ten minutes late, and got a cup full of something clear shoved into her hand within seconds of arriving.

“Cait!” Marissa Oliver, her roommate, was the one who’d handed her the drink. “Drink up!”

“I have to be sober when I get to the Yorktown,” Cait said, but took a sip anyway. A moment later, she sputtered. “What the hell is that?”

“Best not to ask,” Ashwell said, with a lopsided grin.

Engine-room hooch, Cait translated. “Yeah, I’m not drinking any more of that. Is there anything non-intoxicating here?” she called over the general noise of the party.

“The Vulcans are drinking some sort of chocolate milkshake,” Throx offered.

“Oh, good.”

The chocolate milkshakes were excellent; the cake, red velvet with cream-cheese frosting, was phenomenal. Cait wondered aloud if she’d be allowed to stow one of the chefs away in her luggage, and got a laugh or two out of that. All too soon, though, her coworkers and friends were hugging her (and, in some cases, kissing her) goodbye, and she was standing in the transporter room, her duffels by her side, trying not to cry. The Aquino was only her second ship since graduating the academy, and she’d rather thought she’d get the tap to be chief after Ashwell gave in to the inevitable and accepted a command crew post, probably as a first officer. She’d also genuinely liked and respected nearly everyone on the ship and counted a good deal of them as friends. It would be—interesting to have a new ship.

The last thing she saw on the Aquino was Captain Adrell and Lt. Cmdr. Ashwell standing by the transporter console, and the first thing she saw on the Yorktown was a Bolian ensign at the transporter console. And—no one else.

“Hello,” Cait said, and the ensign nodded and busied hirself with something at the console. Okay. She blinked, and stepped off the platform, turning to lug her duffel bags with her. She hadn’t really expected anyone to be there to greet her, but . . .

The doors swished open. “Lieutenant Barry, I presume?” Cait looked up at the speaker. Oh, wow. Apparently the captain himself—human, probably Terran—had deigned to come greet her, albeit a minute or two late.

“Yes,” Cait said, dropping her bags and standing at attention. “Lieutenant Caitlin M. Barry, reporting for duty, sir.” In all the hubbub, she’d never managed to get his name.

“At ease, Lieutenant,” the captain said, a half-smile on his face. “Ensign, call someone to move the new chief engineer’s bags to her quarters.”

“Yes, sir,” the ensign said, voice barely audible.

“Come with me,” the captain said, and Cait followed him out of the transporter room. “I understand the Aquino is on completely different time from the Yorktown; we just got done with alpha shift, which is why I’m here meeting you. I left my XO on the bridge; I’ll take you there after I show you around a bit.”

“Thank you, sir.”

They’d reached the door of the turbolift, and he stopped and turned to her. “Thank you for being amenable to transferring, Lieutenant. We—” He paused. “Commander Khoury’s death was unexpected.”

Cait nodded. “I’m happy to be here, sir.” She looked at him a little more carefully; some of the lines on his face were probably not due to age. He only had five or so years on her, but there were silver hairs scattered here and there among the light brown. He filled out the gold command tunic quite nicely, though, and—it struck her rather abruptly—he was really quite attractive.

Well. She’d lived with that before; Ashwell, despite her severe haircut and clothing, was prettier than most of the holo-models, and it had only taken Cait a few weeks to get accustomed to it.

“Engineering first,” the captain said, and smiled. “If you’re anything like the rest of the department, I’ll have to pry you out of there with a crowbar.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Cait demurred. It was altogether too accurate; she may not go over schematics in her spare time like some of the more dedicated of her staff, but more than anything, she loved getting her hands dirty.

Of course, the minute she saw the warp coil, pulsing in its cage, she forgot that she was supposed to be projecting her best image and just stared. Ashwell had told her that the Yorktown was supposedly one of the most advanced ships out there, and now—now, she believed it.

* * *

The captain eventually pried her out of there, although he didn’t have to resort to a crowbar, and gave her the tour. He trotted her by the mess, the hall with her quarters on it, the recreation rooms, and Sickbay extremely briefly. The beta-shift doctor, named Donhowe, told her to report at some point before she actually started working; something about his manner caused Cait’s skin to prickle.

“Come back during alpha shift,” the captain said quietly after they left Sickbay. “Donhowe’s an amazing surgeon but I think you’ll get along better with Phil Boyce, the CMO.”

Cait nodded. In addition to Dr. Donhowe, she’d met the assistant chief engineer, named Lt. (j.g.) Patil; the science officer was Lt. Spock, a Vulcan who’d raced through Starfleet Academy in two years flat. And not a single person that she’d been introduced to had bothered to address the captain by his name, so she still had no idea what it was.

“Captain,” she said, when they were waiting for the turbolift, and stopped.

He looked at her expectantly, both eyebrows raised.

“This is embarrassing,” she admitted, “but I had seven hours to pack and disentangle myself from the Aquino, and I didn’t have enough time to do as much research as I might have liked.”

“Oh, I expected that, Lieutenant,” he said, face smoothing. “Don’t worry; you won’t be on shift until the alpha after next.”

“I—that’s not it, Captain.” She took in a deep breath. “I have no idea what your name is.”

He turned to her, cocked his head to one side, and said, “I didn’t—?”

Cait shook her head.

The captain let out a laugh. “I’m sorry. It’s been a long few days, as you might imagine. I’m Christopher Pike, captain of the U.S.S. Yorktown.”

Pike. Another one? She looked at him a little closer—other than being Terran and light-skinned, he didn’t particularly resemble the man under whom she’d done her first three-month training mission. It wasn’t an uncommon name by any means, but . . . “Are you related to Captain Joshua Pike?”

“My father,” Captain Pike said, looking somewhat startled. The turbolift came, and they stepped inside. “Well, he’s Admiral Pike now. How did you know him?”

“Training mission during the Academy on the U.S.S. Ride, sir,” she said.

“Ah,” Captain Pike said. “I didn’t read that far back in your file. I won’t ask you what you thought of my father—”

Cait smiled. It was better that way; she’d thought that Captain Pike the elder was a martinet, and Captain Pike the younger at least seemed to have the sense of humor that his father lacked.

“—and anyway, we’re here.” He smiled again as the door opened, but it wasn’t for her—it was obviously for the bridge of his ship.

To be honest, Cait was an engineer for a reason. She’d never been all that impressed with the bridges of most ships, and, although the Yorktown was definitely one of the best bridges she’d seen, it was still a bridge. However, it abruptly gained her interest when the figure in the captain’s chair stood and turned.

For a moment, she thought perhaps her heart would stop, but it obviously didn’t. Her jaw did drop, though, upon seeing that the XO of the Yorktown was apparently her former skinny, gawky, too-young-to-be-at-SFA roommate with the unpronounceable name who went by “Number One.”

“Oh,” Cait said. She was dimly aware that Captain Pike was performing introductions, but all she could hear was her own voice, too loud within her head. “I guess you really are Number One now, huh?”

Number One smiled, serene yet welcoming, and Cait had to smile in return. A moment later, she felt a hand on her back, heard the captain say, “Mr. Tyler, you’ve got the bridge,” and then realized she was being herded into the captain’s ready room by both Pike and Number One.

“You didn’t tell me you knew her,” Captain Pike was saying to One—apparently now a lieutenant commander, by the stripes at her wrists.

“I assumed it was in her file,” Number One said, “and, as I don’t have any knowledge of her work history or similar, I don’t know what relevance it is that we were roommates at the Academy.”

Captain Pike frowned, but Cait interrupted, saying, “That was almost fifteen years ago.”

“Well,” Captain Pike said, “I don’t think it’s exactly going to hurt ship morale for a couple of old friends to be on the senior staff.”

Old friends. Right. Cait had fuzzy memories of Number One’s eighteenth birthday and assumed that One had the same fuzzy memories involving too much alcohol and too little clothing, although they’d stamped a giant “DO NOT DISCUSS” on that night. Still, this was going to be surprisingly pleasant. She’d wondered what One had been up to for the last decade and a half, and, well, now she knew.

* * *

The next morning, Cait woke up to a textcomm from Sickbay, reminding her to come in for a physical. She groaned, threw herself through the sonic shower, brushed out her hair, and pulled on a skirted uniform, mostly because she found it before any of the red tunics. The crew cabins on the Yorktown were set up entirely differently from the Aquino, and although she’d unpacked herself, she had no idea where some of her things were.

Once she’d gotten herself into something resembling order, she trotted down to Sickbay, presented herself to the first nurse she saw—a seven-foot-tall, scaly . . . reptilian individual, with lovely markings reminiscent of some of the desert lizards on earth. But zie spoke Standard without an accent whatsoever and directed her to one of the private examination rooms. Cait hopped up on the biobed and waited for the doctor to come in.

She didn’t have to wait long; a human man, his short hair just on the edge of giving up the last bit of dark brown and going completely silver, entered a couple minutes later, flipping through screens on his padd with one finger. “Lieutenant Caitlin Barry,” he said, and looked up at her with disconcertingly-direct blue eyes.

“That’s me,” she said, offering a non-committal smile.

He gave her an amused half-smile in return. “Well, don’t look so suspicious. I’m just the CMO. Philip Boyce—Phil,” he said, extending a hand.

“Cait,” she said, shaking it briefly. “Apparently you’re not too worried about communicable diseases.”

“Got any?” he asked.

“Not that I know of,” she said, and tried for an innocent face.

It didn’t work. “Your records say you haven’t been in for a physical in over a year. Any good reason?”

“Uh . . .” Cait tried to scare up an excuse that wasn’t ‘I didn’t want to’ and failed. “No.”

“Okay,” he said.

“Okay?”

“Believe me, Lieutenant Barry, I will not be as easy to manipulate as the medical staff on the Aquino.” He gave her what even the newest cadet would recognize as a Glare of Death.

“I do believe you, sir,” she said.

“Good,” he said, and smiled again.

Cait suspected that the Glare of Death and the Grumpy Doctor routine were all, if not precisely for show, then certainly a work persona, but she certainly wasn’t going to try to cross him this early on.

However, at the end of the interview/checkup/torture session (no, thank you, she did not want to provide him with the number of sexual partners she’d had in the last year), he set the padd down and said, “All right, one more thing to discuss, and this is not in my capacity as CMO but my capacity as unofficial ship bartender. You’re the new chief engineer. What are your views on engine-room hooch?”

Cait raised an eyebrow as far as she possibly could, which was partially defeated by the fact that her eyebrows were near-invisible on the best of days. “Tastes like hell,” she said, when it appeared that he was waiting for an actual answer.

“You going to stop them from brewing it?”

Cait narrowed her eyes, but Boyce’s gaze didn’t waver. Eventually she sighed. “Who am I to stand in the face of so many years of tradition? But,” she said, and pointed a finger at him. “If I get a report of the still taking up more than its fair share of space or supplies, or hooch-making taking up on-duty time, or causing so much as a papercut, it is over.”

Boyce held her eyes for a moment and nodded once. “Understood.”

* * *

It took about two weeks for Cait to figure out that Captain Pike had a thing for Number One. In her defense, she was rarely around the two of them together, and was so busy stepping into her new role on a new ship that she didn’t have much time to contemplate the hypothetical private lives of her commanding officers.

And it wasn’t as if she blamed him. Number One was strikingly beautiful; it would take someone far less intelligent and observant than Captain Pike to have missed that. No, actually, she had to give him bonus points for not being intimidated by One.

What she really couldn’t tell was whether One reciprocated the feeling.

Not that it mattered.

Well, it sort of did. She had a vested interest in Pike being happy, as he was her commanding officer, and of course she wanted One to be happy. But other than that, no, it didn’t matter.

At least, probably not.

* * *

Four and a half weeks out, Cait had entirely forgotten that she was on probation. There was so much to do and so many new duties, being that she was now the head of her department. To be fair, she’d been fairly well-trained by Ashwell, but it was still a significant amount of new things and a steep learning curve. Overall, though, she respected and liked most of her staff and thought everything was going well in her new department.

So when Captain Pike called her into his ready room, she was very surprised to hear him ask, “So, do you think you fit well with the Yorktown?”

Cait blinked. “Isn’t that your job to determine, sir?”

“I’ve already made my decision. I’m asking you for your opinion.”

Oh. “I forgot I was on probation,” she admitted.

“I thought so,” he said. “Well?”

“I think I’m doing fairly well here,” she said after a moment, cautious.

“You are,” he said, relenting and giving her a smile. “I’d already decided within a few days that we’d be offering you the permanent position, and I was not proven wrong.”

“Oh,” Cait said. “Oh. Well then.”

“Presumably you’ll accept?”

She blinked. “Of course. I feel like I’ve been here forever. In a good way, I mean.”

“I know,” he said. “I’ll file the paperwork soon. Welcome, again, to the crew of the Yorktown, Lieutenant Barry.”

“Thank you, sir.”

* * *

She celebrated that evening by getting drunk with Phil Boyce. It wasn’t intentional; he invited her to his quarters for a celebratory drink when he passed her in the hallway after alpha shift. She gave him a look, and he snorted. “No, Lieutenant Barry, I’m not trying to get into your pants. If I were going to do that, I’d say so. I’m trying to offer you a drink, since I’ve got the only decent alcohol collection on this ship.”

“Oh,” Cait said, inexplicably disappointed for a second or two. “Sure. Alcohol. What time?”

“Whenever you’re ready, just send me a textcomm.”

Two potent martinis in, she figured out that he didn’t want to get in her pants, he wanted to get in her head. Naturally, she found herself spilling her entire life story to him.

It was worth it; at the end, she honestly felt she had a friend on the crew. Also, his hangover hypos were significantly better than any she’d ever had before, although she didn’t discover that until the next morning.

A few days later, she steeled her nerve and approached Number One when they happened both to be in the mess hall. “Sir,” she said, standing by One’s table.

“Cait,” One said, looking up and smiling. “You don’t have to ‘sir’ me when we’re not working. How are you?”

“Good,” she said. “I, uh, I was wondering if you still play null-G ball?”

“Of course,” One said. “No one here is any good, but I play when I can. Do you still play?”

“I do,” Cait said. “If, you know, if you need someone to play against, I’d love to.” Her hands were still trembling, just barely.

“Oh, I’d love to,” One said, visibly excited. “Tonight? I mean—oh, you probably have something to do. Tomorrow, then?”

“Tonight’s fine,” Cait said. “1900?”

“Yes!”

It only occurred to Cait later that One didn’t have a ton of friends on the ship, probably due to her position. Still, it was gratifying to have the XO so interested in playing with her.

* * *

Cait hadn’t played null-G ball in weeks, but she was definitely still in shape. One apparently hadn’t played in months, but was in even better shape, as revealed by the fact that she kicked Cait’s ass in the first round they played. She also looked much better in the overly-revealing Starfleet-issued workout gear than Cait remembered—which may have contributed to said ass-kicking.

“Again?” One asked, her shoulders heaving. A bead of sweat fell from her temple, trailing down the side of her cheek; Cait watched it jump to her collarbone, and slide down until it disappeared at the top of her tank top.

“Yeah, sure,” Cait said a moment later, realizing that One was waiting for a reply.

It got easier, the more they played, for Cait to be able to concentrate on the game and not the bounce of One’s breasts. On the other hand, when One stripped down in the locker room and stood under the shower, Cait thought her head might explode.

She stammered something about a previous commitment and escaped, but the sight of One’s space-pale skin, her legs, taut and lean, and the perfect curves of her breasts and rear end was permanently etched on the insides of Cait’s eyelids. Damn, damn, damn.

She tossed and turned the entire night after the game. Masturbation hadn’t helped; she was just short of asking Boyce for a sleeping pill or some alcohol when she saw that it was 0500 and she might as well just get up and attempt to accomplish something.

She took a different route down to Engineering; this one took her past the secondary entrance to the mess, just in case Number One had decided to get up extra early as well. She missed seeing One, if she was around, but after she turned the corner, leaving the mess, Cait ran into Captain Pike.

Pike had apparently just come from the gym; he was wearing more of that damnably-tight regulation workout gear, and his hair was soaked with sweat. “Lieutenant Barry,” he said, smiling at her.

I think I’m going to write Starfleet Command and complain, Cait thought. “Captain Pike, sir,” she said aloud. “You’re up early.”

“Early meeting,” he said. “The admiralty doesn’t seem to care what ship’s time is; when they want to meet, they want to meet.”

Cait laughed, as she was meant to, and tried as hard as she could not to stare at the way the sweat-soaked fabric clung to the musculature of his shoulders and chest. She did not turn around to stare at his rear end as he left, but it was a close call.

* * *

After two more weeks of watching Pike and One dance around each other, Cait had had it up to the metaphorical here. She didn’t even need to check the duty roster; it was well into beta shift and Phil Boyce would be in his quarters. She dug through her closet, got out the expensive liquor she’d bought last time they were at a starbase just for this purpose, and sent him a textcomm. >I have Andorian ice vodka.<

She got a response about fifteen seconds later. >I have glasses, vermouth, olives, and hangover hypos.<

>Be right there.< She showed up at his door about a minute later; he let her in, made appreciative noises at the bottle she handed him, and mixed drinks.

Cait gulped the first one down quickly, with a grimace; she didn’t like martinis with olives, and had him make the next one without. By the time she’d gotten about halfway through drink number two, she’d relaxed enough to ask, “What the hell is going on between Pike and One?”

“Why is it any of your business?” Boyce asked, watching her carefully.

She sighed. “Phil, One and I were roommates at the Academy. I’m pretty sure I deflowered her.”

“Really?” he asked, leaning back on his couch. “‘Deflowered?’ Who says that anymore?”

“I do, and yes, really. So what’s going on?”

Boyce snorted and relented. “Something. Nothing. Who the hell knows? Chris is hopeless with women—that is, the asking them out part; I think he can handle the rest—and One, oh, I don’t know. She’s probably scared about chain of command issues.”

“That sounds about right,” Cait said. “Do they not know they’re perfect for each other?”

“Chris knows. I still don’t have any idea what One thinks; even when she does have a drink or two, she just gets quiet. Chris, on the other hand, can’t shut up when he’s had more than two or three beers.” He pinned her with a mild version of the Glare of Death—probably only the Glare of Probable Bodily Harm. “I didn’t tell you that, by the way.”

“Tell me what?” Cait asked innocently, and Boyce shook his head. “Would it work if we locked them together in a closet?” she asked.

“Believe me, Chris would still manage to screw that up. He’s got no problem picking up men—and hell, he even likes women better—but if romance or sex is involved and the person is any more feminine than, say, your average Andorian shen, his legendary ability to talk anyone into anything abruptly disappears.”

Shen were usually fairly androgynous. “Wow. That’s . . . bad.”

“It is. I feel like someone needs to sit down between them and explain their feelings to each other, but it sure as shit isn’t going to be me.”

“Nor me,” Cait said with a shudder. “I don’t need to get into that.”

Boyce gave her an odd look. “No, of course you don’t,” he said a moment later. “More?”

“Yes, please.”

* * *

The unfortunate reality of deep-space exploration was that there was a lot of nothing in between brief periods of possibly life-threatening excitement. Cait was using the down time to make some minor upgrades to the warp core’s processors, and One had wandered down, ostensibly to look, when all of a sudden the ship lurched in a way it wasn’t supposed to, and went dark.

Dark on a starship was really, really dark, until the emergency lights kicked in a few seconds later, with just enough illumination that Cait could see shapes. “Commander One?” she said, hating the tremor in her voice.

“Lieutenant Barry?” That wasn’t One; it was Lieutenant Patil.

“I thought we were the only ones here,” Cait said.

“Me, too,” came One’s voice from just behind Cait, and she felt a hand on her arm. “It’s the three of us, I guess,” One said.

“I was coming back from break,” Patil said. “The console’s dead. What’s going on?”

“My padd’s still working,” One said, the faint glow illuminating her face. “The rest of the ship seems fine. Actually, engineering appears to be working fine. There’s just—” She tapped on the screen. “Huh. There’s something wrong with the uplink. It appears that someone’s put a block over here?” Holding out the padd, she pointed to one corner of it. “I can’t get rid of it from here.”

“Oh, shit,” Cait said immediately, before she’d even had a good look. “The Yorktown never got the patch, did it. Fuck, fuck fuck fuck fuck. I should have checked that a long time ago.”

“Khoury applied the patch, sir, a few weeks before he died,” Patil said. He swallowed. “It’s my fault, for not checking to see if it took.”

One looked back and forth between them. “What patch?”

Cait sighed. “The Exeter, about eight months ago, discovered a flaw in the standard ship’s programming, that allows this particular block to be put in. There’s a group of pirates, the Cambrian raiders, who block Engineering’s ability to communicate with the rest of the ship, and then take over the ships from there. Starfleet issued a patch to fix this particular issue but, well.” She shook her head.

“Are they on board yet?” One asked.

“No,” Patil said, and when the two women turned to look at him, said, “I’ve read up on Cambrian raiding techniques. There’s about a half-hour lag between when the block takes effect and when the raiders arrive via transporter.”

“All right,” One said. “We’ve got about twenty minutes to get out of here.”

“I’m not leaving,” Cait said, squaring her shoulders. “This is my department.”

“It’s my ship,” One said, frowning.

“Don’t you want to defend it?” Cait asked, deciding not to correct her on who exactly was in control of the ship.

“Not when we still have a chance to get the rest of the ship to help us.”

She had a point, Cait conceded. “So we pick Patil’s brain for a couple of minutes and then send him off through the Jeffries tubes.”

Patil opened his mouth to protest, but One was nodding already. “All right; that will work. Lieutenant, what do you know about these raiders? Any weaknesses?”

“Uh . . .” He thought for a moment. “They only fight in space. No one has ever seen them on the surface of a planet.”

“How can we use that?” Cait asked.

“I don’t know yet,” One said. “Anything else, Lieutenant?”

“I—there’s something—oh!” Patil said, bouncing in place. “Their uniforms, the outer layer: it’s not fireproof.”

“So how do we get fire?”

“We don’t,” Cait said. “The fire-dampeners are still on, and there’s nothing down here flammable enough to overcome them.”

“I can fix that,” Patil said, and One held out her padd to him.

“We’d still need something to spark,” Cait said.

“There’s a sparker in the environmental test kit,” Patil said.

“What about fuel?” One said.

Patil opened his mouth to speak, but closed it, visible in the light from the padd on his face. Cait watched his motion, and sighed. “There’s the hooch,” she said.

“Oh?” One said. “Where is it?”

“I don’t know,” Cait snapped. God, that stuff was the bane of her existence. “But Patil here probably does, based on the look on his face, and I’m guessing it’s high enough proof to flame.”

“It is,” Patil said. “I’ve turned off the automatic release of fire-dampeners, and we should be able to get something to flame in five or ten minutes. The hooch is in the back supply closet, behind a false partition.”

“Do we have bottles?” One asked.

“Of course,” Patil said. “The finished hooch goes into bottles.”

“Rags?”

“With the still.”

Cait started grinning. “Well, then,” she said. “I think it’s time to make some cocktails.”

It was only a matter of a few minutes to assemble three Molotov cocktails, bottles mostly filled with the clear liquid, rags stuffed into the top to be lit before they were thrown. “Go, now,” One said to Patil. “We’ll take care of this. When you get outside, get rid of the block as fast as you can and get some security down here.”

Patil hesitated a moment; Cait thought he was about to protest, but he apparently decided not to. “Yes, sir,” he said, and disappeared around the corner. A moment later, Cait heard the door to the tube being opened and shut.

“All right,” One said. “The minute anyone appears who isn’t one of us, you spark, I throw.”

One was taller, stronger, had better aim, and much better night vision; it made perfect sense, but Cait was still a little disappointed that she wasn’t going to get to throw a Molotov cocktail the one and only time she’d ever gotten to make one. She nodded, and they hunched down behind a console to wait.

After a minute or so, Cait switched to kneeling rather than crouching, and steadied herself on One’s shoulder. Once she’d shifted, she realized that she was even closer to One than she’d been before, and sighed. All she needed right now was that kind of distraction, right?

Fortunately, it was only five or seven minutes after that before a shimmering appeared, not too far away from them. “Wait,” One whispered in her ear, and they did, until the shimmering resolved into three humanoid but not human forms, clearly nothing Federation.

“Yes,” Cait hissed, recognizing the pointed uniform epaulets and neckless silhouettes from holos sent out with the patch information, and One held out one of the bombs.

Cait lit it with the sparker, and One stood in one fluid motion and hurled it right at the chest of the lead invader. The cocktail exploded in a burst of flames, and Cait cheered mentally even as she lit the second bottle. One threw it, but the remaining two raiders were calling something in a language Cait didn’t recognize, and they disappeared before the bottle could hit them. It sailed through blank space and exploded onto a console.

“Shit!” Cait yelled, and yanked off her flame-proof tunic to try to smother the flames. One was frantically poking at her padd, and a few seconds later the flames went out. Cait fell back, dusted off her tunic, and put it back on. “Phew,” she said, and One nodded.

They barely had time to take a couple of deep breaths before the lights went back on and a team of red-shirted security officers, led by Patil himself, burst into the room. “They’re gone,” One called out.

The security officers fanned out to make sure, and Patil came up to Cait and One. “Are you all right, sirs?”

“We’re fine, Lieutenant,” One said. “Good work. You got here very quickly.”

“How did the cocktails work?” he asked wistfully, and Cait laughed and told him.

They’d just started the repairs when the whistle sounded through the ship’s speakers. “One? Barry?” Captain Pike’s voice came over the intercom. “Are you okay?”

Cait hit the button on the wall. “We’re fine, sir. We—we had a bit of trouble with some Cambrian raiders, but we chased them off.”

“How? Did you blow up engineering?”

“Only part of it,” One said. “We called a crew to help with repairs; Barry’s managed to reroute the computer traffic through the secondary processors and the primary should be fixed by the end of shift.”

“What happened?”

“It might be easiest if you just pull the security footage,” Cait suggested.

“I’ll do that. Pike out.”

Ten minutes later, as Cait was still rewiring a panel with One’s assistance, Pike called back. “What the hell were those?”

“I believe they’re called Molotov cocktails, sir,” One said; Cait had a wrench in her mouth. “You probably shouldn’t ask where the fuel came from. This might take some creative report-writing.”

“I’ll make Spock write the final version,” Pike said; it was apparently a shared joke, because One laughed. “You’re all right? I’d come down, but I can’t; I’ve got to work until mid-shift.”

“Yes. We’re both fine, and Patil brought some security down to make sure. As soon as Cait finishes rewiring this panel, we’ll go to Sickbay.”

“All right,” he said. “I’ll stop by later.”

“It won’t be necessary, sir.”

“Nevertheless, Number One. Pike out.”

Cait shook her head, and made sure that Patil was supervising the installation of the patch before she collected Number One and left.

* * *

Dr. Boyce ran a tricorder over both of them, once they made it down to Sickbay. “You’ve both escaped pretty much any sort of injury,” he said. “I’m not sure how you did it, what with all the explosions going on around you—and, by the way, I’m still not entirely convinced that wasn’t a waste of perfectly good hooch—but you’re both fine.” He wrinkled his nose. “Go shower, and do whatever you need to do to work off the rest of the adrenalin high you’re both riding. Take a day off.”

“Sure thing, boss,” Cait said breezily, and hopped off the biobed. One followed her, only slightly more sedately.

They got in the turbolift, still smelling of ash and fire and alcohol but giddy with success. “We did it,” Cait said. “We blew up Cambrian raiders with engine-room hooch.”

“I guess you’re going to have to let them keep brewing it,” One said, a half-smile on her face.

“Guess so,” Cait said, and started laughing. One joined her, leaning against Cait’s shoulder.

Cait turned to face her after she’d regained some control, and all of a sudden, One’s face was there, too close. Cait sucked in a breath, her eyes widening, and she was almost too surprised to react when One closed the distance between them and pressed their lips together hesitantly.

Almost too surprised, but not quite. Cait recovered quickly and returned the kiss with enthusiasm, even while she mentally catalogued the ways in which this was not quite right.

The turbolift stopped and One pulled away, but said, “Come with me.”

Cait nodded mutely and followed her to her quarters. Once the door closed, Cait cleared her throat and said, “What about Captain Pike?”

One turned sharply. “What about him?”

“You—and he—” Cait gestured ineffectually. She cleared her throat and started again. “I’d have to be much stupider than I am not to have realized that the two of you are definitely attracted to each other.”

“Cait, I—” One sighed. “Well, all right, but you’re here now.”

“Is that how it is?” Her tone was sharp.

“Yes, and no,” One said, and stopped, taking a couple of breaths.

Well, at least she’s honest, Cait thought, but didn’t say anything.

“Do you remember my eighteenth birthday?” One asked, as if she hadn’t paused at all.

“Yes,” Cait said. “Well, parts.” She flushed.

“Which parts?”

“I’m pretty sure we slept together, and we really shouldn’t have.” Understatement of the century.

“I wanted to,” One said. “So badly.”

Hearing her say that was gratifying, but . . . “We did, you got it out of your system, and you kissed me fifteen years later for the hell of it.” Cait had gotten worked up enough to be blunt. “One, you’re attractive as hell and I would be thrilled to get naked with you again, but I’m not suicidal or self-sacrificing enough to do so when I know the one you really want is—” She waved her hand in the air again, not sure what she meant. Over there? Someone else? Captain of the fucking ship?

“His quarters are next door,” One said quietly, eyes shifting to the shared bathroom door. “And—” She sighed and sat heavily on the bed.

Cait stood in front of her. “Seriously, One, what do you want?”

“I want you,” she said, looking up, blue eyes wide and suspiciously shiny. “And him. But I can’t have both, can I?”

“Well, I don’t see why not,” Cait said. After she spoke, though, she realized what she’d said, but somehow managed to keep the surprise off her face.

One stared at her a moment, blinking. “What?”

Cait thought fast. “Date both of us. It’s not that weird. Denobulans and Andorians have plural marriages. Terrans have practiced polyamory for centuries. This would just be—I don’t know. You’d have a girlfriend and a boyfriend.”

One kept staring for a moment, and then snorted. “Do you really see him—” She gestured to the bathroom door. “—agreeing to that?”

“Won’t know until you ask,” Cait said.

“Oh, right,” One said. “I’ll just go knock on his door and say, hey, I’d like to date you but I won’t be exclusive; I’ll be dating Cait, too. Clearly, he’ll jump at the chance.”

“That is some grade-A sarcasm there,” Cait observed. “You were more like a B-plus at the Academy. Congrats.”

One blinked, and started laughing with just an edge of hysteria. “Oh, Cait. I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you, too,” Cait said. She sat on the bed next to One and put her arms around her; One leaned into the embrace, and kissed Cait’s cheek.

They remained like that for long minutes, until One said, “You were amazing, you know.”

Cait polished her nails on her shirt and looked at them, and One laughed.

“So what do we do now?” Cait asked.

“I can think of something,” One said, in a rich, dark tone that Cait had never heard before. She wanted to roll herself in it, but . . .

Cait sighed. “This is complicated.”

A hail came at One’s door before she could reply, and she frowned. “Computer, who is it?”

“Captain Pike.”

“Speak of the devil,” Cait said.

“What do I do?” One asked.

“Well, you don’t leave him standing out there. If nothing else, he’s the captain.”

“I guess not.” One stood and went to the door. When it opened, the captain stood there, framed in the doorway, backlit by the hall lights, hands seemingly relaxed at his sides.

“One,” he said, his voice low and intimate. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” she said, sounding confused. “You?”

“I’m all right,” he said.

It was almost painful to watch. Cait stood, joined them at the door. “Captain,” she said.

“Ah, Lieutenant Barry,” he said. His eyes darted back and forth between the two women. “I trust you’re fine as well?”

“I am.” No, it was definitely painful to watch. “Do you want to come in for a minute?”

One frowned, and Pike said, “No. No, I think—I’ve got something—I’ll just—”

She’d never heard him anywhere near that incoherent. “Permission to speak freely, Captain,” she said, before he could turn away.

“Granted,” he replied, still hesitant.

She grabbed his wrist and dragged him inside the room until the door shut, and then spoke. “It’s like the two of you need a Universal Translator. One, he was worried about you, and he needs to make sure you’re okay. Pike, she’s really confused for a long list of reasons that only partially have to do with you, but probably the most important question is, how do you feel about polyamory?”

“What?” Pike said, and at the same time, One said, “Cait!”

Cait sighed. “If this were a different situation, I’d push the two of you into each other’s arms and sneak out the back way, but as it is, she says she wants me. And you.”

“Oh,” Pike said. Cait watched about seventeen different emotions and thoughts cross his face—he may be stupid about Number One, but he’s not stupid overall, she thought. “I can work with that,” he said, a full minute later. “What about you?”

“What about me, what?” Cait asked.

“What do you want?” he said.

“I’d like not to lose my job,” she said promptly.

“You won’t,” he said with a chuckle.

“What do you want, Cait?” One asked.

“The two of you to stop dancing around each other,” she said, yet again shying away from anything that might be the truth.

Pike reached out, touched her arm; Cait frowned, pulling away. “I’m sorry,” he said immediately. “Did I misunderstand?”

“What?” Cait said.

“You’re gorgeous,” he said simply. “I could hardly have missed that.”

“Okay, but—I didn’t think—”

“Oh, don’t tell me you’re not interested,” One said, a curious lack of venom in her tone.

“What?” Cait said again, unable to find any other words.

One raised an eyebrow. “You may not be as obvious about it, Cait, but sometimes you can hardly breathe when he’s near. Like right now.”

Cait looked at Pike for a moment—no, not Pike, Chris—and shivered, as heat suffused her body, concentrating in her midsection. “That’s not relevant,” she said to One. “He’s attractive, obviously, but he can’t possibly be interested in me.”

“He can’t, huh?” Pike said, and Cait flushed.

“So,” One said. “That would certainly simplify things.”

“You know,” Cait observed to the ceiling, “there is something profoundly wrong when Number One is the voice of reason around relationship issues.”

“Can I touch you now?” Pike asked.

“Oh, if you want,” she said.

“I want,” he said, and stroked his hand from her shoulder to her own hand, catching her fingers and holding them in his. “So what now?” he said.

Shivering, Cait thought, I would do almost anything to hear him speak in that voice to me every day. “Well,” she said, striving for flippant, “if this were a normal threesome, I’d suggest we strip naked and have as many orgasms as possible, but being that it’s you two . . . we should probably buy each other dinner first.”

The look on Pike’s and One’s faces—dumbfounded, to say the least—was absolutely worth it. Cait collapsed onto One’s bunk, laughing, and continued until her stomach muscles hurt. She looked up a couple minutes later, clutching her abdomen, to see them exchanging glances.

“And the worst part of it,” One said, “is that she’s right.”

Pike sighed. “It’s 2030, or thereabouts. I’ll call the mess, get them to deliver dinner for three to Conference Room A in twenty minutes or so, and you two can change and maybe clean up a bit.”

“Are you saying we’re dirty, Captain?” Cait asked, grinning.

“Well, that’s yet to be seen, isn’t it?” he shot back with a grin of his own.

Oh, this was going to be fun. “Conference Room A, twenty minutes,” Cait said as she stood and headed for the door. “Don’t you two do anything too interesting while I’m not around to watch.”

“If you’re not down there in twenty minutes,” One said, “we’ll page you through the shipwide intercom.”

“Oh, really?” Cait said, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes,” One said, her face perfectly smooth.

Cait reached behind One and cupped her rear end briefly, making One jump, and gave them both an insolent salute before slipping out the door.

Once she was out of their presence and hurrying through the hallway, she could breathe again. Wait—what was she doing? No, Cait, she told herself. This is not the time to think.

Or was it? As she stood in the sonic shower and let it remove all the soot and grime from her skin and hair, she asked herself again: what was she getting into? This was—it was borderline career suicide, and it was certainly problematic, personally speaking. There was very little way to make sleeping with, oh, both of her superior officers not a problem.

And yet, as she looked in her closet, here she was, trying to decide between a skirted uniform without hose (and possibly without underwear) or something even less formal. She actually owned a couple of party dresses, made of some exciting kind of Risan material that packed down very small and refused to wrinkle. She pulled out the greenish-blue one, looked at it for a moment, and shook her head. That would be a little too much.

Like this whole situation wasn’t a little too much. Cait settled on the skirted uniform, short-sleeved, no hose, but everything else where it belonged. She twisted her hair into a knot and stuck a pin through it before pulling on her boots and running back through the hallways to get to the conference room on time.

She almost skidded on the non-skid carpet as she entered the room, and stopped, seeing One and Pike dressed in their standard uniforms, sitting at two of the ten seats at the table, plates in front of them and a third seat, to One’s left.

They’d gone back to being cold and reserved again, she saw almost immediately. Well, One was pretending to be cold and reserved. Pike was smiling and, Cait would be willing to bet, carrying on more than his end of the conversation, but there was a curious distance between him and One and a formality in his movements. Well, hell. “Hey, you two,” she said, flashing a grin. “Miss me?”

They both looked up and smiled, real, genuine expressions, and Cait mentally breathed a sigh of relief. Apparently no one had changed her or his mind.

“Sit down,” Pike said, gesturing to the empty chair, and Cait sat. She did not miss the way that both of them stared at her legs as she crossed them before rolling her chair under the table.

She kept the conversation light over the actual meal itself, relieved that Pike had decided to cede hosting duties to her, but once they’d all finished, she cleared her throat. “As bad as we all are about this talking thing, I think there are some things that need to be said before we go back to someone’s quarters and pray we’re not too full to—” She almost said ‘fuck’ but changed the word at the last minute. “—hump like bunnies.”

“Like?” One asked.

“Is this one night, or more?” Cait asked. “If this ends, do we all stay friends? Do we all stay on the ship? Are we all clean and covered by birth control? How do we keep this from, oh, say, everyone else on the ship, let alone the admiralty?”

“Ah—in order: given my druthers, more; hopefully; yes; I am; and I don’t know,” Pike said.

Cait parsed for a moment. “Ditto,” she said, and they both turned to One.

Who was biting her bottom lip rather appealingly. “They’re going to find out,” she said.

“It’s not actually against regs,” Pike pointed out.

“I know,” One said. “It’s still—not advisable.”

“So we don’t let it affect work,” Cait said with a shrug.

“It’s not that simple,” One said.

“We’ll make it that simple. Now, tell us you’re clean, protected, and up for making this more than just one awesome night, and we’ll go see if he strips as pretty as I think.” Cait indicated Pike with a lift of her chin.

“He does,” One said and turned red.

“Desert planet,” Pike said, also red.

“Well, then,” Cait said, and pushed out from the table. “Come on.”

“Where are we going?” One asked.

“My quarters,” Pike said. “I have a double-sized bunk.”

“Well, that’s convenient.” Cait uncrossed her legs, watched their eyes drop, and stood, twitching her skirt into place. “Let’s go.”

Somehow they got back to Pike’s quarters without running into anyone, and when the door shut behind them . . . nothing happened. One stood frozen by the door; Pike had stopped a couple feet further in. Cait watched the two of them and almost wondered aloud how either of them had ever managed to get laid in the past, but all things considered, it would have been the wrong thing to say. “So,” she said instead. “If you two kiss, I’ll watch.”

Pike looked at One, want writ plainly on his face; she looked at him, took a deep breath, and took a step towards him. A moment later, she was in his arms; or perhaps he was in hers, Cait wasn’t sure. They bumped noses before lips found lips, and Cait stared, unable and entirely unwilling to look away. She licked her lips and clenched her hands. She ached to touch, but no, not yet. This moment was theirs.

Before their kiss properly ended, Pike reached out an arm and caught Cait around the waist, pulling her into the embrace. She found herself kissing Pike—she should probably call him Chris, she thought irrelevantly—who was surprisingly more skilled than his dancing around One would have had her believe. This is—damn, she thought. Amazing.

A few seconds later, Chris moved, and she was suddenly kissing One. Somehow, she remembered the feel of One’s lips against hers, the slick slide of tongue against tongue, and the taut muscles of One’s sides under her hands. But some of it was new: One had curves now that she hadn’t quite acquired by eighteen, and the confidence, the practice she’d apparently gotten over the years made a heady addition to an already-seductive mix.

Pike’s—Chris’s hand on the small of her back wasn’t hurting, either. “Ohhh,” she said, as his hand slid down to stroke her rear end, brushing the red fabric of her dress against the backs of her thighs. One’s hand slid down from her shoulders to find her breasts, already peaked against the thin fabric of her bra. Cait gasped for breath—she’d forgotten how overwhelming having two partners at the same time could be, even without the added benefit of one of them being Number One—and said, “Hold on.”

They both immediately stilled, and Cait said, “No, nothing’s wrong. We just need to lose some clothing before I go mad. You first.” She turned to Chris.

“Okay,” he said, in the offhanded way of a person who either knows that he looks good nude, or that everyone around is delusional enough to think so. “Am I doing it, or are you?”

Cait and One exchanged a look. “We are,” One said, and they stepped to either side of him.

First to go was the tunic; command gold was almost no one’s color. “He looks much better in black,” One remarked.

“He’ll look even better in nothing,” Cait returned, and they shared a laugh.

Next they pulled the black undershirt off, revealing bare skin; Cait threw it in the general direction of the couch while One got distracted by Chris’s shoulders.

They were, Cait had to admit, distracting. Starfleet captains were a charismatic group as a rule; Chris had been promoted significantly younger than any of the rest of them, she knew, and had had years to settle into his role. He’d probably been pretty as a boy and a young man, but now—He very well might be the hottest captain in the ‘fleet, she thought, and traced the curve of muscle on the outside of his upper arm.

Leaving One to her explorations, Cait stood directly in front of him, unfastened his pants, and pushed them and his underwear off his hips, to the floor. She avoided looking at the part she wanted to see the most for a moment, instead kneeling to help him remove his boots and socks before directing him to step out of the rest of his clothes.

Kicking them to the side, she placed a hand atop each foot and slid them up his legs, straightening until her face was level with his erection. It bobbed faintly as he trembled between them, and she licked a long stripe up the underside, catching a few bitter drops on her tongue as she stood.

He gasped and pulled her against him, catching her lips with his and her face between his hands. Their first kiss had been not hesitant, but certainly careful and controlled; this one was not. His mouth demanded her response, and she gave it, demanding his in return. A few seconds or maybe a few minutes later, she blinked at him dumbly as he pulled away, and he smiled. “You next,” he said, and over his shoulder, she saw One nod in agreement.

They rearranged themselves before Cait’s brain had quite come back online, and she raised her arms purely on instinct as they pulled her dress over her head. One found the pin at the back of her head and removed it carefully; Cait hmmed in the back of her throat as One’s fingers unwound the knot and massaged her scalp, separating out the waves and curls into their usual semi-disorder.

Her eyes had closed as One worked, so it was only when the zipper on her right boot came down that she opened her eyes and noticed that Chris was kneeling in front of her. Oh, God. He didn’t look up until she’d stepped out of both of her boots, but when he did, his eyes were dark and his grin decidedly evil. Damn. There really was nothing she liked better than a powerful man (or woman; she wasn’t picky) naked on his knees in front of her.

“Oh, you know exactly what you’re doing, don’t you,” Cait said, her voice shaking as One pulled her undershirt over her head, fingers leaving trails of fire in their wake.

It wasn’t a question, but he quirked a brow in response and pulled her underwear slowly over her hips and down her body. Cait watched until she felt One’s fingers between her breasts, searching for the catch on her bra. One found it easily, unsnapped it, and separated the black fabric, cupping Cait’s breasts in her hands and squeezing gently.

Cait gasped and canted her hips backward until she felt One against her. Apparently not to be outdone, Chris rested his hands on her feet until Cait looked down at him. Is he going to—Yes, he is. Using the exact same motion she had, he glided his hands up her legs, buried his nose in the curls at the apex of her thighs and inhaled, and then stood to kiss—Number One, his fingers joining hers on Cait’s breasts.

Cait took advantage of their position by licking and then biting the spot where his collarbone met his shoulder; the soft sounds of Chris and One kissing, the proximity of both of them, and their hands on her breasts all combined to drive any possible thought of rules and regulations far from her mind. She reached one hand backward to find One’s hip and one forward to find Chris’s, and flexed her fingers into them.

One and Chris broke the kiss, but out of the corner of her eye, Cait watched them touch foreheads briefly, smiling. It was gorgeous and intimate and a sharp pain lodged itself in her chest, seeing them together. She shouldn’t—

But before she could finish the thought, Chris spun her around between them, and One caught her face between her hands and explored her mouth quite thoroughly with her tongue. Cait rested her hands on One’s still-clothed shoulders—we have to do something about that, she thought hazily—and gave back as good as she got, even while grinding her rear end into Chris’s erection, hot and heavy against her. He responded by doing wicked, wicked things with his tongue in her ear and his fingers on her nipples, rolling and stroking.

Cait pulled away from One’s mouth to gasp, and Chris chuckled in her ear. “Natural redhead?” he said.

“Yes,” One said as Cait turned partway to pin him with a glare.

“I never doubted it,” he said, but Cait sniffed anyway and squirmed away from his embrace to start undressing One. As she lifted the gold command tunic, which actually went much better with One’s darker hair and lighter eyes, Chris traced the line of her spine with a finger, and she shivered. She felt his lips touch the base of her spine and hesitated, One’s tunic in the air above her head.

He dotted kisses on the knobs of her backbone, pushing her hair away to kiss the back of her neck, and then whispered in her ear, “Forgive me?”

“Silly captain,” she said, her voice low and breathy, “I wasn’t ever mad.”

By then, One had pulled herself out of her own tunic, and was watching them, her hands on her hips, an amused look on her face. “Are you two done? Because I’m overdressed,” she said.

“Oh, well, can’t have that,” Cait said as Chris tsked. Together they stripped One of her undershirt, bra, pants, underwear, boots, and socks, and, without even discussing it, both took a step back and stared.

“Damn,” Cait breathed.

“She’s amazing, isn’t she?” Chris said, awe in his voice. “Not that you’re not, but—”

“I know,” Cait said. “Hush, before you ruin the moment.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, and she shook her head.

One crossed her arms over her breasts as she blushed, the red creeping down from her face to her upper chest. “I’m getting cold,” she said.

“We can fix that,” Cait said, and they moved into the triangular embrace again, kissing alternately, hands stroking backs and butts and breasts for a good—really, really good—five minutes.

They were all panting and shivering when they pulled apart enough to breathe, and Cait said, “What next?”

One laughed briefly. “Cait, it’s likely you’re the only one who’s done this before.”

“Well,” Chris said, and Cait and One turned to look at him, eyebrows raised. “Not in this particular configuration of sexes,” he said.

Cait’s head tipped to one side as she regarded him. “That makes things more interesting,” she said. “What configuration of sexes? Two men and a woman?”

“Three men,” he said. “Well, all right, two human men and an Andorian chan, but close enough.”

“Really,” Cait said. “Huh.” Actually, there was one thing she liked better than a naked, powerful man on his knees, and that was one bent over a desk. Or a table. Or a pile of pillows. Hmmm.

“‘Huh?’” he asked.

She reached around and traced the crack of his ass gently, and his breath caught. “I have a strap-on,” she whispered in his ear, and his hand on her waist flexed as he dragged in an unsteady breath. “Next time,” she promised, and he nodded quickly.

One stroked Cait’s arm, and she returned her attention to the matter at hand. “Bed,” Cait said. “Hands, mouths, maybe some penetration, minimum one orgasm per person, probably a lot more for Commander Multi-Orgasmic over there—” She lifted her chin to indicate Number One.

“Oh?” Chris said, a strange tone in his voice. Cait turned to him, and he was frowning. “You two have done this before?”

Oh. He didn’t know. “Yes,” Cait said. “At the Academy. Her eighteenth birthday. There was a fair amount of alcohol involved.”

“Not that much,” One said, and Cait shrugged.

Chris nodded, his face contemplative. “Okay,” he said. “I’d like to watch the two of you together first, but on one condition.”

“What’s that?” Cait asked.

“While you’re touching her,” he said, “I want you to tell me all about your first time together.”

Oh. Ohhhh. “I don’t remember everything,” Cait said. Almost everything, she added mentally.

Chris shrugged. “You can make the rest up.”

Cait caught One’s eyes. “Are you okay with this?” she asked, meaning Do you want to share this with him?

One took a deep breath, and nodded slowly. “I’m clean,” she said. “Also up-to-date on contraceptives; I didn’t answer earlier.”

“I figured,” Chris said. “We all have the same doctor and he’s merciless.”

Cait snorted and kissed his shoulder. “Go sit at the head of the bed, by the wall,” she said, and he did, bunching up the pillow behind him and pulling his knees into his chest. It was a boyish position, and so adorable she could hardly stand it. Shaking her head, she turned Number One so she was facing away from Chris, and loosened One’s ponytail until she could slip the elastic free.

“I have to set the stage,” Cait said conversationally as she combed her fingers through One’s hair. “I was seventeen, had gotten to the Academy a year early, and my roommate was this awkward, lanky girl, with eyes almost too big for her face and sharp cheekbones and maybe a little too much chin. The first day I saw her, I thought she was beautiful, but I turned eighteen a few months later and mentally put her into the box marked ‘jailbait.’”

Chris chuckled; One smiled, and rested her hands on Cait’s hips, sliding up to her waist and down to her rear end slowly. Cait continued her story as she explored One’s neck, shoulders and back. “We got to be friends, somehow, and before I knew it, another two years had passed and it was One’s birthday. Not her real birthday, mind you, but January 1st, so close enough.” Illyrians were assigned birthdays by their ranking within their year; Number One, of course, got January 1st, even though she’d told Cait once that her actual date of birth was only five days later. “She’d never had so much as a drop of alcohol before, so she asked me if I’d help her figure out what she liked.” Which, it struck Cait at that very moment as she ran a thumb along One’s collarbone, had probably been her inept way of asking Cait out. Huh.

“At eighteen, she was training for another one of those damn ‘Fleet Marathons, so I’d swear that the only fat left on her body was her breasts.”

Chris chuckled again.

“She didn’t quite have the hips yet, but of course she had these legs—” Cait scratched lightly up one of One’s thighs and received a gasp in return. “Unfortunately, someone had convinced her about six months previous that she should get a pixie cut, and it was still growing out by her birthday. For my own part, I’d gotten enough of my hair caught in something that I’d had to chop it off above my shoulders.” She held out a lock of her hair and stared at it for a moment. “It was also a few shades lighter back then—because I was younger and out in the sun more.” She glared at Chris.

“I wasn’t going to say anything,” he said, holding up his hands. “Go on.”

“I actually skipped all the New Year’s parties that year, and we went to the store on the thirty-first and bought a whole bunch of tiny bottles of different things. I mixed drinks and let her try them, finishing off what she didn’t like.” They’d been half-size drinks in most cases and Cait was, after all, mostly Irish. She could hold her liquor, even then. “It turned out that she liked expensive Terran microbrews, which, by the way, I did not expect, and she drank a few before all of a sudden she was in my lap and kissing me.”

Cait flopped on the edge of the bed and dragged One down with her; One responded by wrapping her arms around Cait’s neck and kissing her messily. “I asked her what she was doing, and she said, ‘I’m not that drunk, Cait.’”

“That’s not what you asked,” One said. “You said, ‘One, do you have any idea—’ and I said, ‘Yes, of course I do. I’m not that drunk, Cait.’ You said, ‘Oh. In that case,’ and started kissing my neck.”

Cait immediately dropped her lips to One’s neck and spoke into her skin. “It took me about thirty seconds to figure out that it was either her first time with a woman, or her first time overall. It definitely wasn’t mine, so I was determined to make it good for her.”

“It was,” One said.

“Which?” Chris asked.

“All of the above,” One said, and squirmed so she was straddling Cait.

Cait cupped One’s breasts for a moment, and then ducked her head down to capture one nipple and then the other in her mouth. One gasped, arching her back, and let out a quiet moan.

“Your breasts weren’t this sensitive back then,” Cait said.

“It’s the contraceptive shots,” One said, her chest still heaving.

“Ah,” Cait said; it was a common side effect. She tongued One’s left nipple again, sucking gently, and One cried out again, digging her nails into Cait’s shoulders.

Chris made a faint noise from the corner, and Cait turned to look at him, still teasing One’s breasts with her fingers. He—oh, God, Cait wanted to drag him flat and ride him into oblivion. His pupils were blown wide; he’d spread his knees enough to give him room to grasp his cock, touching himself lightly. “Don’t come,” she said. “Not by yourself.”

“I won’t,” he said. “I just—”

“That’s fine,” Cait said, and turned back to One. “I don’t remember getting out of our clothes. Do you?” One shook her head. “The next thing I remember, One is lying down on my bunk, nude and gorgeous, and I’m kneeling on the floor, trying to touch every inch of her that I can with my hands and mouth.”

Cait nudged One with her knees, and One stood. Cait stood as well, and helped One lie down before kneeling next to the bed and covering One’s body with long caresses and brief, dotted kisses. “She is so beautiful,” Cait said, one part of her brain noting the slip into present tense. “I slide my fingers between her legs—” She did. “—and find that apparently she’s been telling the truth, she wants me, because she’s so fucking wet.” And One was; Cait’s fingers slid easily between her folds. “I touch her for a couple minutes, and then—so slowly, so carefully, I slide a finger inside her.”

Cait slid two fingers inside One, not the single finger of her narration, because it’d been fifteen years and she knew One hadn’t been celibate. One was still hot and so wet and so tight; it took a moment for Cait to realize that One was intentionally clenching around her fingers. “She’s so tight, I wonder if she’s ever even had her own fingers inside of her.”

One gasped, and hitched her hips up. “Cait,” she moaned.

“Had you?” Chris asked.

“Yes,” One said, in between deep, shuddering breaths—Cait had crooked her fingers inside her and was pressing right against the spot that would drive her over the edge in record time. “But not often.”

“And this,” Cait said, “is where I discover that she’s lucky, very lucky, and can come from penetration and internal pressure alone.” She leaned over the bed and pressed her lips to One’s briefly, before whispering in her ear, “Come for us, One.”

One did, her spine arching, crying out Cait’s name, her hand flying out to find something to grasp. Chris caught it in his and squeezed as she shuddered through the aftershocks.

Cait slid on the bed beside One, throwing a leg over hers, and kissed her cheek. “I can’t always do that,” One said, a few minutes later.

“Takes a special touch, eh?” Cait said, and grinned.

“What happens next?” Chris asked, and his voice had gotten deeper and acquired a rumble that did lovely things along Cait’s skin.

She closed her eyes briefly, wishing that he was telling a story, any story, maybe reciting the Starfleet directory, and returned to her story. “I can’t help myself—she looks so gorgeous, so edible, that I say, ‘One, sweetheart, I’m going to go down on you now, if that’s okay with you.’”

“Yes,” One said on a sigh.

“She says yes,” Cait said, and Chris grinned. “Slide down,” she said to him. “You’ll get a better view.”

One scooted up the bed, on Cait’s direction, and Chris scooted down, his legs half hanging off the bunk, leaning on one elbow, so that his face was somewhere near where Cait knelt between One’s legs. Cait rearranged herself so that she was in position, and slid one hand under One’s rear. She used her tongue to find One’s clit and sucked for just a moment before lifting her head just enough to say, “She tastes so good.”

“Let me taste,” Chris rumbled, and Cait turned her head and kissed him, letting him lick the taste of One off her lips and tongue.

She returned to face One, and watched as Chris used his free hand to spread One’s folds for her. “Mmm, thanks,” she said, and dove back in.

As she sucked, Chris said, “You look so beautiful like that, the two of you. God, Cait’s red hair against your skin, One, it’s like a study in shadows and highlights. What I wouldn’t give to be inside you right now.”

Cait moaned, and squirmed against the sheets, hoping for something to rub up against. One’s hands flew to Cait’s head and clenched in her hair.

“Can I touch you, Cait?” Chris asked, and Cait nodded quickly, still sucking. He removed his hand from One and slid to the end of the bed. She spread her legs just a bit more, and he stroked over her labia briefly before finding her clit and circling his fingertips over it. “You’re so wet,” he said. “I hope at least some of it’s for me.”

Egotist, Cait thought fondly. Yes, of course it was, but before she could say anything, One gasped out, “I’m close, Cait.”

Cait sucked harder and slid her other hand under One’s rear and squeezed. “Oh, One,” Chris said, even as he pressed two fingers—longer and thicker than she was used to, oh—into Cait.

Apparently that was enough for her, and One came, almost bucking off the bed, her thighs clenching around Cait’s head as she moaned.

Cait climbed the bed and kissed One, capturing the end of the moan in her mouth. I love you, she almost said, but held it back by sheer force of will. Rocking back, she pulled her knees under her, pushed One’s knees up and out, propped herself up on one elbow, and turned back to Chris, kneeling on the edge of the bed. “Chris. Up here. Inside me. Please?” She added the last belatedly, but he didn’t seem to notice as he moved up the bed quickly.

Finding the right spot to kneel behind her, he used a hand to line himself up, and pressed just the tip inside her. “All right?” he asked, and she nodded quickly. “I can’t see your face, so you’ll have to tell me if I do anything wrong.”

“You’re amazing,” Cait ground out. He was, if ‘amazing’ was defined as holy shit that’s big. It’s the angle, she reminded herself. “Now move.”

Cait wasn’t quite tall enough to reach One’s mouth from this position, so she buried her face in One’s breasts and three fingers inside of her, letting the motion of Chris’s body—he’d taken her at her word and was now fucking her in long, slow, heavy thrusts—move her hand.

He wrapped his body over hers, whispered, “You’re beautiful,” in her ear, and somehow—Cait had no idea how, as it would require a near-superhuman sense of balance or amazing quads—got a free hand to her clit, bringing her to orgasm only a couple minutes later. She cried out something, lord only knew what, as her body exploded outward, tingles shooting out to her fingers and toes and scalp.

She collapsed on top of One, gulping in great lungfuls of air. “Oh, God,” she wheezed, and moaned as Chris withdrew from her.

“He thinks so,” One said.

“Hey,” Chris said, but even in her orgasm-drunk state, Cait could hear the grin in his voice.

She blinked slowly. “You didn’t come,” she said to Chris, words slurring together.

“No,” he said. “Not yet.”

“How do you want it?” One asked, ending with a gasp as Cait withdrew her fingers.

“Hm.” After a moment, he asked, “Cait, can you and One switch positions? One, I’d prefer you on your back, though.”

“Think so,” Cait said, and not without effort, she rolled off One, who rolled to the side. Cait turned to her back, tucked both pillows behind her head, spread her legs, and rested her feet flat on the mattress. One lay down in her arms; Cait moved her hair to one side and cupped her breasts briefly.

“You can keep doing that,” Chris said as he lowered himself on top of One.

Cait immediately returned her hands to One’s breasts, rolling the nipples between her fingers as, with a fluid movement of his hips, Chris slid inside One.

Oh, my God. Sex was funny; people made strange faces, contorted themselves strangely, made strange noises from moans to squelches to other expulsions of air. But sometimes it was beautiful, too, and the three of them fucking like this—no, making love—was—God, Cait could watch it all day. She watched Chris’s face go blank as he thrust into One, held on to One’s hands as he drove her to two more orgasms—greedy bastard, she thought—and finally stroked Chris’s hair as he found his own climax and collapsed on top of them.

I love you, she thought again, but this time, she wasn’t entirely sure she didn’t mean both of them.

They disentangled themselves; One somehow had enough energy to go to the bathroom to clean herself up and bring them a damp washcloth. She ended up back in the middle when she returned, Chris curled around her back and Cait curled into her front, and they slept.

* * *

Cait woke a few hours later, bladder uncomfortably full, and left the bed to go relieve herself. When she returned, neither had moved, but Chris’s eyes were open. “Cait,” he said quietly.

“Chris,” she said. “How are you?”

“Let’s do this,” he said. “Let’s be together, all three of us.”

“Yeah, all right,” Cait said. Grinning, she added, “Turns out you’re better in the sack than I thought.”

He chuckled. “Come back to bed.”

She did, tucking herself against One, who murmured sleepily and shifted until one of her hands found Cait’s breast. “Mmmm,” she said, and gave a soft snore.

Cait shook her head minutely, and closed her eyes.