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Author's Note: Inspired by a prompt at the Pike/Number One Challenge.

Her Hands
by LJC

Her hands are not delicate. They are not pale, or smooth, or dainty. She has long tapered fingers, but they are strong and clever.

Chris Pike had felt them wrap securely around his forearm on a mining colony in the Argos System, as she'd caught him before he could go skittering off a tilting catwalk when the installation was rocked by seismic activity. When they'd materialised on the transporter pad, he could still feel the imprint of her fingers on his arm, though her grip had left no marks.

He'd seen them tap in course corrections for years from his vantage point in the command chair, first as the XO of the Yorktown, then as her captain. He'd let himself be mesmerised by the way her gold command tunic sleeve would lie against the bones of her wrists. The way the tendons stood out in sharp relief when she gripped the helm console when they'd be hit the weapons fire or buffeted by ion storms. The quick darting movements always sure and steady, like a concert pianist giving a masterful performance.

He used to wake up in the "morning" (ship's day is as much a myth as night in the cold spaces between the stars) and as he dragged on a clean tunic and ran the beard repressor over his chin, he would try and guess what colour she'd have lacquered her short nails that day. As the turbolift doors would slide open, the bridge crew snapping to attention, he'd think blue or silver or blood red and then his breath would catch as he'd steal a glance to confirm the validity of his guess.

It was a game, and he'd never told a soul. Not even Boyce. But he noticed over time that as if there was some sort of pattern to it, he got better at guessing. He'd started counting the days in a row he was correct, rather than just instances.

She had a scattering of small scars around the base of her thumb. Once in a moment of weakness he'd reached across the table in the officer's mess to hold her hand in his, turning it so he could take a better look.

"What happened?" he'd asked, running his thumb over the marks that could have been easily fixed with dermal regeneration.

"Soldering burns, from repairs to the helm console," she'd said, and the catch in her voice made him look up to see her eyes wide and he'd suddenly realised the casual intimacy of his touch. He released her hand, trying not to show how rattled he was.

"You should have Dr Boyce take a look at it," he'd said stiffly, and she'd nodded. His fingers remembered the warmth of hers, and he'd made a fist beneath the table, digging his nails into his palms.

The next day he'd sat with Tyler and Boyce, while she sat across the mess with Cait Barry, their heads bent in deep discussion over a PADD. He saw her smile at something the chief engineer had said, and tried to remember the last time she'd smiled so easily around him.

He'd barely been paying attention to Joe and Phil's conversation, and Boyce had ribbed him about it later in his cabin. When Chris had nearly bitten his best friend's head off, Phil dropped it and never said another word about it.

Somehow, Chris knew he'd missed a chance he hadn't been aware was there for the taking. The day after that, she'd stopped painting her nails. Or if she did, it was with clear polish meant to accentuate the smooth pink nails themselves.

He'd never told her how much he missed that split second of uncertainty, while the 'lift doors swished shut behind him and he stepped towards the chair.

Not until they sit in the porch swing of his parent's home in Mojave, watching the sun go down, and she laces her long fingers through his. And he looks down at their hands and thinks about how her hands are not pale, or delicate, or dainty.

But they fit perfectly in his.