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It wasn’t exactly shore leave on a resort planet, but after what Starfleet had been through, this was a well deserved breather, a chance to let their hair down before they headed back out there to rebuild on what was left of the Federation. So the drinks were flowing pretty freely and Tilly was a little drunk by this point. Although the medal that had been pinned on her uniform was a sobering reminder that she was no longer just some cadet. She had, like, command responsibilities—or rather, she would have them, in the near future, and it would behoove her to act like it? The question mark was the alcohol speaking, and she should probably stop imbibing now because it was making her see things.

Things like Emperor Philippa Georgiou wearing an outrageously skin tight gold dress (of course it was gold, to signify her imperiousness!) that was doing weird things to her knees, like making them wobbly in her own sensible, on the command track, yellow dress—well, she thought it was gold before but against that glittering, sparkling, glistening drape of silk on the Emperor, her dress could only be described as yellow. Beige, even.

Emperor Georgiou glided across the room, approaching her with the silent grace of a snake in the water. Tilly’s eyes bounced around the large hall. Surely she wasn’t the only one to see the Terran Emperor, the woman who singlehandedly nearly led Starfleet into the heart of moral self-destruction. But no one was raising the alarm and her throat couldn’t make a sound as Georgiou came to a stop in front of her. Perhaps it was the sleek bangs that swept across her temple, covering her right eye, or the way she carried herself, as if she unquestionably belonged in this place of exalted values and honor—either way, no one was giving her, or them, a second look.

“Hello Tilly. I’m pleased to see you again,” Georgiou said, greeting her with banal pleasantries. All in all a very pedestrian encounter except for the fact it came with a sharp slice of a smile that was making her hair rise in a chaotic blend of fear and morbid fascination. Pleased, it was always her weakness, wanting to please, how, how did she know?

Georgiou shifted slightly, as if hearing the drop of a glass or a click of a clasp, an inconsequential response that happened to draw Tilly’s attention to the delicate swoop of her décolletage and the slender line of soft skin from ear to collarbone.

Tilly blinked against the unexpected bareness of it all and her lower lip quivered with the beginnings of a sputter.

“Are you nuts?!” she exclaimed, “What are you doing here? They’re going to catch you and jail you for the rest of your life, you need to get out of here before they see you…“

Despite their height difference, Georgiou considered her beneath a heavy lidded gaze. She stood frozen as Georgiou reached for the feathery strands of red that had escaped her neat do. Tilly was already braced for another unkind remark on her wild mane when something in Georgiou’s eyes shifted, drawing her into the inescapable black.

“How nice of you to care,” Georgiou murmured as she entwined those lose strands between her two fingers, drawing them in with the hooked curve of her fingertips.

Whatever was causing Tilly her weak knees shot upward like a hot knife. “Holy shit,” Tilly muttered, her face flushing.

Georgiou’s mouth twitched slightly before relaxing back to a lazy, satisfied smile.

“Do you feel like having fun?”

Tilly stared at Georgiou and swallowed dryly. She looked down at her drink. With a trembling smile at the Terran Emperor, she tossed it back and asked a question that was part drunken madness and part hysterical bravery.

“Can I let my hair down?”