Stardust by Djinn

Her uniform is torn at the arm, the fabric soaked with her blood. Pike runs his hand down the soft golden velour, his fingers stop at the scorched marks where the Vegan's weapon raked through her chest.

She comes out from her bathroom. All better. All fixed up except a few more scars. A new uniform on, clean, regulation. The odd triangular collar, still too stiff, sticks out in a funny way.

"Here, let me," he says, and he reaches in to fix it. His hands brush her neck as he works at the collar. He wonders, not for the first time, why her uniform doesn't have the easy knit collar of his own.

"Sir. Please."

He feels her tremble under his touch. When did he move his hands to her neck? He was fixing her collar. Wasn't he? Her skin is soft, soft and pale as ivory. He can see her veins, light blue under her delicate skin. He can feel her pulse. Her pulse so strong, so alive.

"What's wrong, Number One?"

Her eyes seem bluer than normal. And her hair blacker, shinier. He breathes deeply, moves his hands under her hair, letting it brush over his skin like the finest Orion silk.

"I have a name." Her tone is hurt. It matches the look he's seen in her eyes when he's made comments about having women on the bridge, as if she were anything but. He's had to pretend that she was anything but. Had to pretend that he was immune to her lithe build, her ample breasts, and wonderfully angular face. Had to act as if he was unmoved by raven hair and sapphire eyes.

She is smarter than he is, nearly taller than he is. Today, she proved she was braver than he is.

Today, she nearly died.

"Yes, you have a name." He has never used it. Never called her anything but Lieutenant or Number One. Sometimes he just calls her Helm. As if she was a part of the ship.

He loves her like she was part of the ship.

He has never used her name. But he has called her a million more names in his mind. He holds up her uniform, touches the scorch mark. "A little to the left..."

"Yes." Her voice shakes. He does not know if that is because she is upset by how close death came. Or if she trembles because he has moved closer to her, very close.

"Lorelei." He strokes her hair. It falls like a black river under his hand. He tries out another of the names he has given her. "Morgan."

She breathes out, the sound loud and husky and he is immediately drawn to her mouth.

"Esmeralda."

She smiles at that. "I'm hardly a gypsy."

"You're exotic. You're beautiful."

She blushes. Her pale skin suffused with warmth, with life. With her blood. Blood that ran out onto the Vegan dirt. Blood he did not think he would be able to stop. He touches the sleeve of her uniform again.

"That was just a flesh wound." She smiles.

"Diana." He smiles too. She is a warrior. And an ice maiden. Impenetrable. And impossible to resist.

She shakes her head.

She is wise. Intelligent beyond reason, clever and quick with common sense to spare. He depends on her. "Athena."

"Please." She blushes more. Seems to tremble more also but that may be because he dropped the shirt and has moved his hands to her cheeks. Is stroking them. They are soft. Soft. So soft.

"Juliet." Soft what light... Her eyes reflect the lights of her quarters back to him. So blue, so wise. So troubled as he pulls her closer.

He has never kissed her. Has been afraid to wake her up with his kiss. "Snow White."

"I have a name."

He nods. "And I have named you a million things since we met."

"Sir--"

He puts his fingers on her lips, is mesmerized by how soft they are. "My name is Chris."

"Sir--"

He leans in, kisses her. Their lips barely touch. She moans. Or maybe it was him.

"I have a name," he says as he pulls away. He stares at her. Knows he should turn now. Should turn and walk out.

There are rules. Rules and regulations that she could quote to him word for word. If he wanted her to. He does not.

He leans in, kisses her again. This time they touch less tentatively, and he lets his hands run over her uniform. It is snug and he follows it around her body, lets his fingers run down the long fastener, then up. He has always wanted to do this. Has stared at her back for days-weeks-months- years and longed to do this.

She trembles. "Chris."

"Yes. Chris." He does not move, just holds her until she stops trembling. "I have loved you for a million years..."

"That is an exaggeration." She pulls away, strokes his cheek and smiles. The sad, half-smile she so often wears. But her eyes are softer than he's ever seen them.

"Possibly." He laughs, pulls her close and kisses her freely, with no caution.

She meets him more than halfway.

"Through a million uniforms then." He buries his face in her hair.

Yes. It smells like strawberries. He always thought it would. "Through a million fantasies."

He points to her ruined uniform. "Through a million heartbeats."

She swallows hard.

"I almost lost you, Gwen."

She closes her eyes, as if finally hearing him say her name is painful, or just too much to be borne.

"Gwen," he says again, as he forces his eyes away from her wrecked uniform. "My Gwen."

"The regs--"

He kisses her.

She tries again. "The regs--"

He kisses her again. "The regs, my Gwen, can go to hell."

She takes a deep breath, smiles. Then kisses him.

He reaches for the fastener at the back of her uniform. It is new, sticks. He fights with it, feels like a teenager again.

He sighs in frustration. She actually giggles, a sound so rare that he begins to laugh too.

"I love you." She says it softly. If he had not been holding her close, he would have missed it.

"Say that again."

She does.

The fastener finally moves, and he pulls it open. Removes her uniform top. She is as beautiful as he has ever dreamed. "Aphrodite." He smiles at her.

She shakes her head again. Lets him push her down onto her bed. Her skin is warm and she slips under him. Her bed is too small for them but he doesn't care.

She pulls his uniform off. They are both equal now. No way to tell who is higher ranking. Or who is male and who is female. He laughs at that whimsy. All he has to do is look at her to know she is female. All she has to do is move a few inches over to know that he is male. Very male.

"I should nearly die more often," she whispers.

"If you did that on purpose, I'll bring you up on charges."

She kisses him.

"After we're done," he says with a laugh.

She laughs too. A throaty sound he could never have imagined. Its echoes run through his body, no part of him is immune.

He takes off the rest of her uniform. Lets her take off his. They will steal this time. They will steal it and hoard it every day they are given from this moment on. "Tomorrow, we'll try my quarters."

He sees her eyes widen. Did she really think this would only happen once? That he would only want her once?

She looks about to quote a regulation so he kisses her until she gives up, until she can only touch and stroke and kiss and make the most amazing sounds he's ever heard.

"Don't throw the uniform away, Gwen."

She smiles. "A memento?"

He nods. "Of the day I started living."

"Of the day we both did."

He knows that they are being reckless. But life is too short, too dangerous in space, to wait any longer. He has ignored her for as long as he could. The next time she might not come back. Or he might not. He does not want their last words to be, "If only."

And now they will never have to be.

FIN