DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2023 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.

The Safety in Taking It Slow

by Djinn



Two people are talking, two people who never thought they'd be in this position, sitting half the night, drinks in hand, her legs curled up under her for the first nights, when he sits in the chair next to the couch in his quarters.


Then later, when he moves to sit next to her, she curls in close to him, enjoying how solid he is, how his whole body moves when he laughs at something she's said.


He loves to laugh with her. He doesn't laugh as much as he used to, not since he found out his life had an expiration date that was way sooner than he thought. But she surprises him. She's quick and she's sarcastic and her smile is full of mischief.


They haven't kissed yet. They're taking it so slow to be almost geologic compared to their history. They're both pros at finding friends who can be lovers. Never having to commit. Finding fun and connection—and an easy goodbye.


This is different. This feels real. To both of them. Even if she's terrified of giving herself to another man when Roger hurt her. Even if he's terrified of telling her his truth and watching her be noble, tell him it's all right.


That everyone dies. He just happens to know when his life will change.


Or to do what Una does. Accept but in the back of her mind, plan and scheme and refuse to believe that this is what's going to happen to him.


He's seen what happens to him. He saw what happens if he tries to change the future. He saw the hell he wrought with that act.


"You have that look again," she says as she takes his glass from him and gets up, refilling them both, adding ice to hers because that's how she likes it even if some whiskey fans lecture her on adulterating the spirit. Chris never does though.


"I'll take some ice this time."


"Living on the edge, baby." She walks back and he doesn't pretend that he's not watching her, not taking in how she mixes sensuality and a joyous exuberance into one package.


She likes that he watches her. He doesn't leer. He just...enjoys. But he enjoys her mind just as much as he seems to like her exterior.


She just wishes he'd share what that look means. Even now he's pulling away, making a big deal of enjoying his scotch. It's the same scotch he drinks most days. Ice doesn't change it that much.


"You spent time on the Farragut, right? I remember your pin from Remembrance Day."


"Yeah, I did. We lost some good people." She doesn't want to think about that now. Is that what he's thinking about? People he's lost? She understood his pensiveness when he lost Number One, but she was cleared and is back. And part of that is due to Chapel's own work on genetics and the vast history of injuries Number One has managed to get over her career. Okay, so she doesn't get the flu—a gun will still kill her. Vaccines make a person enhanced if you look at it that way.


He can see she's lost in thought and laughs softly.


"Did you say something?"


"I did. I asked if you know James Kirk?"


She can't bite back the smile because she does know him—he was one of the best parts about being on the Farragut—but she's also confused. "Don't you? I mean, you're so tight with Sam."


"Haven't met his brother." Not in this reality anyway, not at this age. He brushes hair away from her eyes as she looks down, wanting to see if she's hiding a relationship. "So you knew him."


"I did. I do. We're friends."


Friend-friends, he wants to ask her. Or friends with benefits? But he resists because she probably should get to keep a secret or two. Instead he says, "Tell me about him."


"Why?" She laughs because she doesn't understand this. He has the man's brother serving on his ship. "Can't you just ask Sam?"


"Christine, Sam will tell me brother stuff. We're never seen for real by our families—they load us up with history and expectations. You know the real man."


Okay, she could see that. "He's misunderstood a lot. He's a man of action and people assume he doesn't think about things, but he's so smart. He could have been a scientist. If he hadn't been drawn to command. And he's...well, to be honest, he's guarded like you are. Hiding shit even when asked straight out."


"Shit like Tarsus IV."


"That'd be one of them, yeah." She touches his hand then takes it in hers. "Why the interest in him?"


"I just..." He can't go on with the bogus reason he was going to make. He doesn't want to hide this anymore. He hasn't told anyone about Kirk, about the man he met when he thought about changing his future, the man whose first, best destiny he stole.


"He'll be captain of this ship after me."


"What?" Was he drunk? Had he had too much in the lounge before they casually retired—separately because they don't want to start gossip—to his quarters to talk in private?


"I just...I just want to know he'll be a good captain. He's good to his people?"


"Well, he's not going to cook them dinner, but yeah, he's well liked." She touches his face. "What aren't you telling me?"


He wishes he were Spock for a moment, that he could read everything from her through a touch. Is she frustrated with him or just curious? Just caring? Can he trust her to keep this secret. He has no reason to believe he can't, but this is still new.




He means to tell her to let it go but instead he says, "It's a secret."


"I won't tell."


By her tone he decides she really won't. "I have less than a decade to live. Or to live the way I am now. There'll be an accident. I save people. But...I'll get hurt. Really, really badly." His truth has been hurting less with each telling—so why does it hurt so much to tell her?


She sees tears glistening in his eyes but they don't fall. "How do you know that?"


"I can't tell you. But trust me that I do. I can't fight it, I can't change it. I've seen what—I just can't do anything about it." He feels a sense of panic and is unsure what to do with it. "And because of that...I can't offer you very much." He touches her face, letting his fingers trail down to her lips. "And I want to, Christine. I want to so much."


"But you know when it happens? And how?"


He nods, waiting for the inevitable show of resistance, of "we can beat this if we just think of a solution." But instead she pulls him to her, a strong hug, so much warmth coming from her as she whispers, "Some people live their whole lives together wondering how much time they'll have, afraid that disaster waits just a day away. Others waste it fighting or working or doing things that take them away from each other and then poof, one of then is gone. But we'd know. We'd...live until then."


"I can't ask that of you."


"Well, I'm falling in love with you. So I think you can." But she can feel him tensing up, wanting out of the hug, so she pulls away, not willing to hold him if he's giving up on them before they even start.


They were so happy—or was she wrong? Is only she happy? Shit, why did she just say she loved him?


"I'm falling in love with you too. It's why I can't do this to you."


"That's just stupid." Now it's her eyes that are filling with tears and she blinks to clear them. "You don't want to even try?"


"I want that more than anything. But..." He feels the helplessness rush over him again, like it was when he first touched the crystals. Depression and fear fill him—and anger that he is going to lose this amazing woman.


She meets his eyes and sees a pain in his that breaks her heart. "I would rather love—really love—for a short time, then make do with something that's 'almost' love for a lifetime. Chris, give us the chance to find out if this can be something or if we fizzle out. What if we're extraordinary together?"


But she can see he's not hearing her. Or if he is, he isn't going to break out of the dark place he's in—and he's also not going to let her in to help.


"I think I'll call it a night," she whispers.


He can see her pulling away. Doesn't blame her. Who in their right mind would stay for this? "I'm sorry."


"Yeah, me too."


"Everything I've told you is—"


"A secret. I know. I'll take it to my grave, which for all we know I might be filling years before your accident."


He can see he's hurt her. That she thinks this can work. "Don't say that."


"But it's the same thing. If you sign up to love, you sign up to have your heart broken, by life if not the other person."


He grabs her hand as she rises. "Breakfast? Here?" They do that a lot. Sometimes when they've talked all night and fall asleep on the couch. Sometimes when they've parted at a reasonable hour but just want to see each other again.


"I don't know. What's the fucking point?" She winces at the harshness of her own words as she jerks her hand away. "I'm sorry. I need to process this. What we are. What we're not going to be."


She looks so miserable he wants to crush her to him and kiss her and undress her and take her to bed and never, ever let her go. Not until the day comes that he has to.


But before he can make a move, she turns and walks out and he's alone.




The lounge is crowded and Pike sits with Number One, trying not to look over to see what Christine is doing. But he can't help himself and is relieved to see she's laughing with Erica and Nyota.


He can't imagine how it will feel to see her laughing with a new love interest.


Then again, she and Erica are really tight and she has told him she doesn't just date men.


Shit. Are she and Erica...?


Number One watches her friend, captain, and former lover stare forlornly at someone and follows his gaze. Chapel, as she expects. But usually there is a big production of "Going to the lab" for Chapel and "Have reports to work on" for him—even though she does a shit ton of the reports for this ship—and then the two of them end up, she presumes, in his quarters.


But she doesn't think they're having sex yet. He gets a different look with women he has sex with. Women like Batel, who he no longer has sex with since she arrested her with no warning to him. Number One loves that about Chris. His loyalty to her.


And how hard he worked to get her free. How hard the women he's staring at did too.


A woman who's coming toward them now.


"Hey," he says, smiling in a way he knows is fake.


"Hey." He thinks she does better at mustering up a real smile. "I'm going to the lab."


Number One bites back a laugh. There it is. Just a little late tonight.


But Chris doesn't say his normal, "Always working" shtick. Instead, he says in a really snotty voice, "With Spock? You guys doing a joint project?"




Chapel looks as confused as Number One feels. "No, it's just my normal stuff.


"Good. Great. Yeah." He feels so stupid. Why'd he say that? He glances at Una. Did she notice how stupid that was?


She's looking over at something else—is someone fighting or maybe breaking a reg? Anything so she didn't realize how fucking lame he just was.


"Okay then." Christine turns and walks out.


"Lab time," he says, as if yeah, that's fine.


"Chris, for God's sake, cut the crap. I know you two are seeing each other." She's wanted to say this for some time but sometimes it's fun to sneak around so she let him think she didn't know. She and he loved sneaking around—at first. Then it lost some of its luster. And then they decided they were better friends than lovers.


But she's glad they tried. She would hate to still be wondering—still nursing an infatuation she thought was one sided.


"Crap? What crap?" It sounds stupid, even to him. And he can see she's not even going to bother answering. "Fine, yeah. But it's over."




"You know why."


"Well based on what I just saw, I'd have to surmise it's Spock. Are you saying she left you for Spock?" She's pretty sure he's not saying that. Spock sent her a request for leave. With T'Pring. On Risa.


That's not where you take someone to break up.


"Of course not. My situation." He knows she's tired of his situation. He knows she's working on fixes and workarounds even if he's been light on details so she can't screw up the timeline and get him another lecture from his very dour future self.


"Then why did you ask her about Spock? Just general jealousy or is today 'Make an ass out of myself' day and no one told me so I could play too?"


He laughs. He can't help it. Her straight talk is always funny. Even if it hits directly home. "It's a special day just for me."


"I see."


He gets up and she debates pulling him back down—they both know she's strong enough to do it now—but instead lets him make an "I'm sorry, just super tired" excuse and head out of the lounge.


She gives him a moment to catch the lift and then gets up and heads for the science labs. "Computer, location of Nurse Chapel?"


"Science Laboratory Four."


"Much obliged." She doesn't have to thank the computer but she's trying new things out since she's exonerated and back on the ship. She's being silly more. She's making plans for a future she was sure she didn't have. Not that most people probably even realize this is her version of silly, but La'an's noticed.


The outer door to the lab opens as she approaches. The inner door won't open until the outer closes—a mini airlock of sorts. And she's glad for it—who knows what Chapel and the other scientists get up to when they're bored. And mad—Chapel's probably mad too.


Chapel looks up at the sound of the door, hoping it's Chris, but it's Number One. "Hi. Uhh, are you lost?" She's never seen her in the labs.


"Nope, came to talk to you." She pulls up a stool and sits down. "Unless I'm going to ruin something scientific by taking you away from all of this." She gestures to the padds Chapel's working on and the terminal that looks like it's running data for her.


"Nope." She really doesn't need to be here. She just didn't want to be in her quarters thinking about how she should be in Chris's quarters, getting to know him more.


"So, you and the captain..."


"With respect, sir, I'm a fucking civilian and in medical."


Number One laughs. She can't help it. This woman is so goddamned annoying the way she says whatever comes into her head. She also envies that. She watched every word she uttered when she was hiding, which was her entire career up to now. "You can't swear and have what you're saying be said with respect. And stand down, Christine. I'm not going to tell you to stop seeing him."


Chapel laughs. She can't help it and it's a bitter laugh. "Yeah, seeing him isn't really going to be an issue."


"Because he called it off? Why?"


Chapel meets her eyes and shakes her head. Number One loves her for that. She's not going to tell her about Chris's situation. She can keep a secret. "I know he saw his future."


"Oh." Chapel relaxes and lets out breath she didn't realize she was holding. "Okay, yeah. That's why. And it's stupid."


"It's not actually. Not if you know him. But you're just getting to know him, so you probably don't understand why he's pulling back."


"I sure don't. Enlighten me, sir?"


There is a wistfulness and a pain in her request that touches Number One deeply. "Call me Una, Christine. You're dating my best friend, after all."


"Formerly dating. And thanks...Una." Or can she not call her that if she isn't dating Chris?


"I've noticed he's been happier. I figured out why. You and he, leaving the lounge minutes apart. I've seen you coming out of his quarters occasionally."


"It's a secret. I guess. Or was." She takes a deep breath because she likes the first part of what Number One—Una said. "He was happier. I could tell. And then he told me his secret and suddenly...it was over. And I don't understand why because okay, you know the ending of the movie, that doesn't mean you don't watch it anyway. Even rewatch it. Because it's worth it." Her voice breaks and she hates that, hates showing weakness to this woman who is so fucking strong—and not just physically.


"You love him?"


"I think so?" She has a sudden need to unburden herself—to come clean to this woman she has never felt really liked her much. "I date a lot. Or did before this started. I usually don't want to commit, to give that much of myself. Sleep with someone, enjoy it, then move on if they got too serious. But with him—we haven't even..."


So she is right—they're doing this the old-fashioned way. Getting to know each other first. Which means Chris is probably as in love with this woman as she is with him. "I've known him so long, Christine. He used to be so light. So fun. So caring and everyone's favorite captain. And then he just...checked out. He had to come to terms with what he'd seen of his future. And he has but it's changed him. He can get into these spirals where it's just...doom and gloom. He's gotten used to living that way though. But he worries that he's going to make mistake that gets others hurt because he believes he can't die now based on what he saw. It's a horrible way to live but he's come to terms with it. He's made peace with hopelessness."


Chapel swallows hard. She can imagine how much it must hurt him, how much knowing that would change a person.


"But then you came along. And he felt it. For the first time since he saw his future. Hope. And he doesn't know what to do with hope anymore." She can feel her eyes tearing up and it's not because she believes in his future but because he does. "But...he needs that. He needs you. He needs someone who can live each day as if it's the only day that matters. Who isn't looking for a way to change things."


"Because there isn't one?" She can't believe Number One thinks that.


"Because I'm going to find it, but he can't know that. And his partner can't be the one who's doing that. He needs to put his hope in you, not in his future being fixed. He needs to love, day by day."


"If you didn't need to fix this, would you be his lover? He would never have stopped trying to get you free. I see how much he means to you. Shouldn't you be the one to love him that way?"


"I can't. We had our chance for one thing. But also, I can't live each day as if danger doesn't wait in the future. I spent too many years sure that every day would be the day I'd get caught. And now that I have been and it's over, it's going to take me a while to get used to not living under that weight. I'm a great work wife for him—maybe the greatest. But he and I—it just didn't work." She takes Christine's hand; she wants her to believe this. "I don't always like you, Christine. You say the weirdest things at times. But that's why he needs you. You don't care. You do what you want, and I get the feeling you don't do what you don't want to do. So if you're with someone, then I imagine you're really going to be with them. Which is probably why you run from commitment. It must be scary to think of giving up your freedom for someone you really care about."


"It is. But he's worth it, I think." She puts her hand over Una's. "So how do I get him used to hope?"


"Well, don't play stupid games like pretending to have a crush on Spock."


"Too late." Shit. Did she just admit that out loud. "But I don't screw around with someone else's man."


"Okay, good. Then don't start dating people to make him jealous. That'll just make him think he was right. That you weren't his, that he was keeping you from what you might find if he just lets go." She smiles, knowing Chris would see it exactly that way. "Use your strengths, Doctor Chapel. You're the one with the fancy degrees from the fancy schools. That had to take tenacity."


"It did." And a certain devil-may-care attitude since she did not come from the same background as a lot of the people she was in school with. "And I don't care what he says."


"And you don't care what he says. It's over, is it?" She lifts her eyebrows, wanting this woman to get a little mad.


"Oh, hell no it's not." She sees Una grin and grins back. "Fuck that."


"There you go." She gets up. "He's probably moping right now. Go cheer him up."


"What if he won't let me in? I know you're not going to tell me to use my medical override."


She damn sure is not. She's trying to loosen up, but not that far. "Just ring the chime and see what happens. And get him into bed. He's stopped before he's too far in."


"You're telling me to sleep with him? To quit waiting?"


"That's what I'm telling you." She smiles in a way that makes Chapel laugh. "He's really good in bed."


"Okay, not to sound like a bitch, but you were hiding the fact you were Illyrian and also kind of...private from what I can tell. How big was your comparison sample?"


And this is why Christine drives her nuts. "You did not just say he was my only lover, did you?"


"I think I just did." She grins, to take away any sting.


"I have a robust sample to compare him to, Missy. Even fun's graveyard knows how to fuck."


She cracks up—both at the warping of the nickname but also the indignity in Una's voice. "Point taken. I retract the question."


"So, you do have some sense." She stands and heads for the door. "I have some reports to do. Even though Chris uses that as his excuse to go join you in his quarters."


"Not very original."


"But hard to argue with if you're not me. And I'm not going to out you two. Now close this shit up and go give him some hope again."


She begins to do just that. "Thank you."


"Don't thank me. Just make him happy. That's all I want for him."




On one side of the door sits a man, nursing his drink, thinking about his future. On the other, a woman, who raises her hand to ring the chime, hoping he won't ignore her.


He does. He knows it's her without asking the computer. Of course, she's here. Now, when he wants to let her in—not just to his quarters but his heart—more than ever but just can't because he has nothing to offer her.


She hits the chime again. And again and again, and when the door finally opens and he stands grim faced with eyes like granite and says, "What?" she pushes past him and lets the door close behind her.


She is not going to do this in the corridor.


He's surprised at how easily she moved him out of the way. One hand on his shoulder, the other on his hip, bumping him aside as if he weighed nothing.


Or maybe he helped her. Maybe she put the force in motion and he just went with it—or away from it, the way he neck-reins his horses. Go away from the pressure and get relief.


Seeing her is a relief. Even if he's not going to let her stay.


She takes a deep breath and launches into it. She's rehearsed it a couple times in the lab before coming here. "Okay, I have some things to say and you're going to let me say them. And you're not going to interrupt. And when I'm done, then you can tell me to go. Deal?"


"Fine. Detail my shortcomings and then you can go." He doesn't tell her to sit. He doesn't want to give her that much power. They'll stand, the way he does a brief touch-base in the corridor with a section head. This is an update and then she'll be on her way.


"I don't actually think I'm going to be detailing your shortcomings. But if, at the end, you think that's what I've done, I trust you won't hesitate to let me know."


He shrug-nods in a way that could mean anything. He seems to be steeling himself for whatever she has to say.


"I was thinking of the vid we watched. On the mustangs."


Huh? He leans in before he can think better of it. Where the hell is she going with this? "Okay."


She makes a motion to zip his lips and he mouths, "Sorry," and waits for her to continue.


"You were like a mustang. One day you were totally free, running wild, doing what you wanted, knowing the future lay before you for you to create. And then, like those flitters that appeared over the herd in the movie, your future stopped beckoning—it threatened. And you were no longer free."


He isn't stopping her so she hurries on. "You ran. You ran until your future herded you into a small round pen with a floor of hard-packed dirt. You were afraid so you ran and ran around that pen. The flitters parked overhead and refused to move although they went quieter. But you couldn't forget them. Not ever. So you tried to ignore them. But you were so angry that you couldn't stop pacing, kicking out. Ignoring everything and everyone otherwise though. Pushing the fear and the anger down until they were manageable."


He looks down, remembering how he hid out at his cabin, refusing to answer his comms.


"Then one day, when you were sleeping, someone moved the fence, making it bigger, and suddenly your pen wasn't just dirt. A little bit of grass was on the far side. You could graze and pretend—if you didn't look up—that you were free to make your own decisions.


"Each day when you woke up, the fence was further and further away, exposing more grass, more space for you to run. One day the fences were on the other side of a creek and you could finally drink fresh clean water. It felt good to live like this. You felt free and you quit kicking and the anger went to quietly live way down deep. If you looked up, you remembered you were a prisoner, but if you only looked out, everything was fine."


She meets his eyes, trying to load as much compassion as she can into her expression. "And then one day, when you were feeling particularly good, you were running through the enclosure, having such a great run that you forgot to keep an eye out for the fence and you hit it. Hard. And just like that, you were reminded of how free you weren't." She moves closer but doesn't try to touch him. "I'm that fence, aren't I?"


He feels helplessly seen and understood as he stares at her, unable to look away. "Yes."


"I'm also the thing that can get rid of it, Chris. I can make you happy even if I can't get rid of the flitters. Your future awaits you, and it's not one you'd pick, and I hate that for you, and I hate that I can't fix it. But I can live one day at a time. I can be happy with you, one day at a time. If you'll let me?"


He pulls her in, their hug leaving no space between them. Then they are kissing, passionate, desperate kisses. When they finally pull away, she asks softly. "So...you'll let me?"


His answer is to pull her back to him, to help her get his clothing off, then hers. To push her to one of the stools, hike her up and feel her legs wrap around him. And then...there.


He closes his eyes because it feels so damned good to be with her. And he almost let this get away because he was afraid.


She closes her eyes because she wasn't sure her story would work but it did and now they're here, like this, the way she wants. And it's wonderful.


"I love you, Christine." He's moving faster and harder, and she can feel the fire burning, the climax building.


As she comes, she murmurs, "I love you, too. So much."


He follows her and they are still, him leaning against her, her with her legs still wrapped around him, unwilling to let him go, not until she's sure he's letting her in for real not just for the moment.


He caresses her legs as he kisses her gently. "That is a formidable grip, Miss Chapel. I can't wait to get you on a horse."


"I can't wait for that either." She wants to go now, to his house in the mountains, to ride next to him and explore what life can be like when he's ready to spit at his future until it knows it can eventually take his life but not his enjoyment of what's left of it.


"Damn good story, Christine." He eases her legs off him and leads her to the bedroom. As they cuddle on top of the covers, he says, "Are you sure you won't look back on this and feel cheated?"


"Why would I feel cheated?"


"What if you want kids?"


"Then I'll have kids. But for the record, I'm not sure I do want that. I'm not sure I don't either."


"I wouldn't be there to raise them."


"And I'd know that going in. How many people lose their spouse—to death or divorce—and keep going? A fuck ton, that's how many. I'd just be one more. Do you want kids?"


"I don't know. I quit thinking about things like that—future stuff." He smiles, replaying her story—loving it. "I was too busy running around my new enclosure, trying to ignore the fence. Trying to make everything all right. Until...you." He eases a strand of hair off her face and winds it around his finger. "You make me want to have a future, Christine. And that's so fucking scary. Because yeah, I learned to ignore the obstacles and pretend I was still free."


"I get that. But that big old field is going to get lonely without a nice mare in it."


"I thought you were the fence." He's grinning in the way she loves and she laughs.


"I can't be both?"


"It's your story. You can be whatever you damn well please, I think. Can I have one of those big balls to chase after? Maybe a companion goat."


"Yes and yes."


"And maybe a foal. Someday. If we decide we want that." He moves on top of her. "In the meantime, we should practice making one. You know, so we're super good at it if we ever decide we want to." He's smiling so broadly it almost hurts.


"Well, if you insist." She shrugs as if she could care less, but the way she's wrapped her legs around him tells him she wants him as badly as he wants her.


They make love and talk all night. In the morning, she yawns and says, "I'm going to need so much caffeine to get through my shift."


"Me too." Her yawn is contagious and he's doing it too. He's going to have to let them sleep tonight—if he can keep his hands off her. "I don't care, though. I want to remember this. Our first time."


"Our first very good time."


"Just very good? I would have said great."


She grins. "Honestly, amazing covers it best."


"I agree, Christine. I completely agree."




The lounge is quiet, it is late and Number One sits with her captain and friend, and he looks lightyears different than he did a few weeks ago. She feels a surge of satisfaction but she doesn't know for sure that Chapel wouldn't have found a way to win him back without her little pep talk. Still, until she hears differently, she's going to think he's happy because of her.


Over at the bar, Chapel sits with Erica and La'an and they are examining a bottle of something, and every now and then she glances over at Chris and smiles, and he smiles back. Chapel's relatively sure her smile is way into the goofy side of the smile meter so she tries to dial it back but she can't.


She's happy. With him.


Pike does manage to turn down the wattage of his grin but then Una whispers, "I get that sneaking around can be fun. At first. But it'll get old—for her especially. Repeat after me, 'She's medical and I can date her.'"


"She's medical and you can date her." He laughs at her expression—she tees up that kind of line for him a lot and still never expects him to run with it. "I didn't think you'd be such a cheerleader—that you're a fan of hers."


"I'm not particularly. But I love her for you."


And like she knows they're talking about her, Christine is suddenly at the table, glasses of something orange in hand. "Okay, try this. First thing that comes to mind."


Chris goes right in, but Number One holds back. She's played this game before and it's never good. But Chris smiles as he tastes it and says, "Ooh, peach."


She loves peaches almost as much as strawberries so she takes a big gulp.


It does not take like peaches. "Oh my God. It's like a slug died under a rotten pile of potatoes."


"How do you know what a dying slug tastes like?" Christine asks with a laugh. "The thing is, for him, it probably does taste like peaches. For me, it's like moldy bread. And don't ask how I know that taste. For Erica, mandarin oranges. And for La'an, shrimp paste. Weird, huh? I am so going to study this."


"Where did you get it," he asks, wanting more than anything to pull her down so he can kiss her.


"Ummm, somewhere."


"Meaning it's contraband," he asks with a wink.


"That's such a negative word." She wants to lean down to kiss him so badly. But he's told her they can't, so she stops herself.


But then he puts his hand around the back of her neck, eases her down, and kisses her. A quick kiss but still a kiss. In the middle of the lounge. With Erica and La'an no doubt watching because they'd want to see if anyone makes a funny face.


When he lets her go, she says, "Uhhh, I thought we were a secret."


"Una told me we shouldn't be. And I pretty much do whatever she says so..."


"I may love you, Una," she says, grabbing Number One before she can push her away and giving her an overly dramatic kiss on the cheek.


"Make her stop, Chris."


"Okay, see you later," she says and then she's off, back to the bar, to twin faces of "We will be talking about this sooner rather than later" and she can't wipe the stupid grin off her face.


He just made them a thing. A public, for real, not hiding thing.


Number One watches her go and says, "Jesus, Chris. She's like bottled sunshine. It's revolting."


"I'm pretty sure I'm in love with her, Una."


"I know." She takes his hand for a moment and squeezes. "Like I said: I love her for you."