Ritha and Bones didn't have much time to devote to each other during the month that followed Tobra and Tien's deaths, not when there was so much work to be done around the Enterprise and the planetary infrastructure. Killing the pair had left a hole in the government structure that couldn't be replaced by just anyone. New elections had to be organized. Background checks on the candidates had to be completed to make sure none of them were imperial loyalists. On top of that, repairs on the Enterprise, slowed down by the chaos that had been Mission Kill The Tyrants, had to be completed.
In short, they were both too busy to do more than acknowledge each other in the hallways while rushing through on some errand. There was no time to even consider how she felt about him or he about her. It wasn't as though she'd magically fallen head over heels for him when they were so busy they couldn't think straight, but there was something there, some insane sense of need that went deeper than animalistic desire. She recognized the signs of a burgeoning infatuation if for no other reason than the wistful smiles Stella commented on whenever they had the opportunity to share lunch together.
There was one relationship that was definitely progressing. Sure, they still had their arguments about Mom and Dad. Nothing was going to magically fix their separated loyalties. They didn't suddenly trust each other to share their darkest fears and secrets, but there was definite progress on that front, something that made Ritha insanely happy. She was an older sister again, with all the rights, responsibilities, and protective instincts that went along with it.
More than a month after their initial landing on Istabul Major, the USS Enterprise was finally space-worthy again and made her launch from the dry dock with much fanfare from the locals. Arta and all the Mechanics came out to wish them well. Jong Je Jin, officially registered as one of the constituents in the new elections, and his father stopped by to convey their gratitude. In short, it was a good way to reenter the danger that was space. However, they weren't immediately set to depart orbit, not when they had to wait for a Federation convoy to arrive that would bring specialists to help strengthen the planet's government.
Another reason to celebrate came when Jim announced a promotion ceremony to be held on the ship's entertainment level. Crew members packed themselves into rows of chairs brought in from the mess hall to witness Ensign Pavel Chekov and Ensign Aritha Monroe--due in large part to Jim, Spock, and Scotty championing her to Starfleet to get them to push a promotion through--become junior lieutenants. Jim, being the cool cat Ritha knew him to be, had promptly given everyone aboard the ship a chocolate gold coin while stating that every member of his crew deserved recognition for the mission. It was nice to not have to worry about Starfleet yanking her back to Earth, but she really didn't consider anything she'd done on the planet exemplary.
As soon as the ceremony was over, Bones dragged her to his sumptuous quarters for a little private celebration involving dinner, some Scotch, and his bed. One thing was certain; ensigns got the short end of the stick when it came to beds. She'd have to permanently date him just to have access to his freaking mattress. A soft sigh of contentment escaped Ritha, her fingers petting the forearm Bones draped around her waist to feel the slight flex of muscle and whorls of hair. His warmth behind her as they lay spooned together was like a sauna relaxing pleasantly used muscles. Snuggling wasn't something she'd been into in the past, but he was certainly making her fond of it the longer he simply held her, each lost in their own catatonia. Another soft sigh and she turned over in Bones' arms to nuzzle his shoulder, a naked leg draping over his hip.
"Good God, Woman, again? You're going to kill me," he said, but there was a chuckle in his voice that said he wasn't serious. As if he minded her appetite.
"Shut up, Babe. My other side went to sleep, so I had to roll over. Besides, you didn't hear me complaining yesterday when you attacked me in your office and then later on in the holodeck."
"Maybe we should confine our extracurricular activities to our quarters after that one. The nurses still haven't stopped snickering. I have a reputation to think about, Junior Lieutenant Monroe!"
"Poor baby," she said in a pouting voice while nuzzling his chin. "Three of your nurses have personally thanked me for putting you in a good mood. I guess that means I'll have to stick around for the rest of the Enterprise's first five year mission."
"Good, because I was thinking of asking you…" Whatever Bones was about to say was cut off by the chiming of his video conference communicator in the living room. The man grumbled something unintelligible before saying, "Hold that thought."
Ritha missed his warmth when he disentangled himself from her to roll out of bed, leaving her to wonder what he'd been planning on asking her. The palpable sound of his excitement when he answered the call put a smile on her face, as did the chiming of a child's voice from the other end of the call when she cried, with all the exuberance of a five year old, a hello to her father. Easing out of bed, she pulled his robe on to pad to the bathroom, pausing in the open doorway long enough to catch a glimpse of the girl on the monitor. Joanna McCoy looked so much like her father no paternity test would be necessary. Ritha's smile bloomed brighter. Leave it to her father to be able to call in enough personal favors to make Jocelyn start to see reason.
Life was good aboard the Enterprise, at least until Murphy's Law struck again.
A/N: That's it. Hope someone enjoyed reading it, and if anyone is interested in reading other stories from me, let me know.