"Your escort will meet you en route to Risa." The communique finished.
Kat didn't think she needed an escort, the mission was dangerous enough without involving anyone else, even some operative Section 31 was hellbent on forcing on her. Kat imagined some phaser happy spy who would be on edge the whole time she tried to speak to L'Rell and cement the fragile peace between them, or some bureaucrat who would second guess everything.
In her seat on the civilian transport flight, Kat kept her eyes down at the PADD in her lap. She wore civilian clothes, and let all trace of her admiral's bearing slip away. She was no one, just another being looking for a good time on a pleasure planet.
"Oh there you are, darling," the voice on her left began, all warm and gentle. "I was so worried I'd miss you on take off." A woman in a red tunic sat down beside her and leaned over to kiss her cheek. "It's so hard getting out of the office on time, I don't know how you do it."
Kat accepted the kiss on her cheek, forcing herself to stay calm, find the character. It seemed she'd have a partner on this trip, perhaps even a wife. It was one of the lazier kinds of cover stories, but an old favorite for a reason. The agent took her hand, winding their fingers together while Kat turned to see her face. Her palm was calloused and worn, accustomed to weapons of all kinds, and for some reason one of her wife's rings looked oddly familiar.
Her thick dark hair had been made wavy instead of straight and somehow her eyes were soft, even playful. Beneath that was the razor's edge she'd been so fascinated by, so captivated with.
"Philippa," she managed to mutter.
"Oh Pippa, please, you know how the whole name makes me feel like I'm in trouble."
Everyone about deposed Emperor Philippa Georgiou (Augustus Iaponius Centarius, Kat's traitorous mind added) was trouble, most certainly her smile.
"You're not in trouble."
"Oh good." Philippa- Philippa- lay her head on Kat's shoulder, snuggling in. "Here I thought you'd be mad at me for being so late."
Her blood thudded in her ears, raging up from her chest. Philippa was a cold blooded killer, a manipulator, one of the most dangerous people in the galaxy, and somehow content, curled up at her side.
"I think we should try parasailing along the cliffs of Galartha," Pippa said, toying with the PADD in her hands. "Unless you prefer something more leisurely. Like lying naked next to the steam pools." The way the Emperor toyed with her hand was positively flirtatious. "Like a second honeymoon."
Philippa dropped her PADD into Kat's lap, as if inviting her to look over some tour of an incredibly beautiful part of Risa. Instead, it was coded orders, explaining their cover as a married couple, how they would meet with L'Rell in the deepest part of the the subterranean gardens, far from any kind of prying eyes or listening technology. Philippa would keep Kat from being killed, or betrayed by the Klingons, because she knew how to handle them.
When Kat reached the end of Philippa's orders the Section 31 black badge filled the screen for a moment, then disappeared, leaving the PADD blank and black, like Kat's thoughts. She could barely breathe with Philippa curled up against her. She was not Philippa Georgiou, not her friend, not the respected Starfleet officer whose laugh she'd been so fond of.
This was someone dangerous, a predator disguised in a brightly colored tunic and soft lipstick.
She should have hated it. She ought to have been uncomfortable, disgusted, confused--
Not intrigued. Certainly not--
Kat wasn't even going to entertain that idea.
Carrying her bag to their room, she kept her arm in Philippa's, letting herself fall into the lie. This was her wife and they were happy. The trip was something they'd planned for months and they were giddy to get away. It was easy enough, somehow Philippa was full of mirth, giddy at the flowers and the scent of the air.
"Like home," she said of the orchids. "Everything's so vivid here."
"You grew up in Malaysia?" Kat asked, keeping her voice low. "If there was a Malaysia."
"Don't look so surprised, it's not like we decimated our earth in our lust for power." Philippa tucked a tropical flower into Kat's hair, then kissed her cheek. "There you go, darling."
"Just making sure my dear wife has as good a time as I am."
Her hands sweat and she rubbed them against her trousers like a teenager. She's only seen the Emperor in leather, in armor, now she stood on the balcony of their suite, hair down in waves, like her Philippa.
Philippa Georgiou was never hers.
She could have been, Kat's heart reminded her: traitorous as always. They'd orbited like stray objects sharing a star, passing through each other's light, sharing assignments, crossing paths at Starfleet functions.
Neither of them made much time for relationships of any kind. Friendship was easy, that could be maintained across distances with a minimum of effort, but anything deeper was impossible. Casual sex wasn't rare, in Kat's life or Philippa's but they'd never been together.
That was a mistake Kat was not going to rectify with this other Philippa, even though she had the same laugh and smelled like one of the rare flowers filling their room.
Philippa tossed her tricorder down onto her bag, and finished setting out the nearly invisible Section 31 spy toys that kept them safe from all manner of eavesdropping. Kat had heard of most of them, even signed off a few but some were unrecognizable, even to her.
"Now, whatever shall we do to amuse ourselves?" Philippa teased, stripping off her tunic and revealing a strappy black bra beneath.
Kat stared, then licked her lips, trying to shock herself back into rational thought. "Plan for negotiations with the Klingon Empire?"
"Oh you're no fun." Philippa grabbed Kat's bag and opened it, digging through the PADDs to uncover her clothes. "There has to be a bathing suit in here, or perhaps you're the type to go nude?"
"Am I?" Kat asked, realizing that Philippa knew her, on some level: the other her. What was she like? What had her purpose been? How had she been corrupted and twisted in that other place?
"My Kat has been known to enjoy herself a little."
Philippa tossed Kat's suit at her. "Here it is, seems a little conservative."
That earned a laugh. "So you would prefer to go naked?"
Philippa stared at her, tempting, taunting, she reached back for the hooks on her bra. "I'm game if you are."
She was not going to play some kind of strip poker with a deposed dictator who happened to share Philippa's Georgiou's face.
Even if she wanted to.
Even if she wanted--
Kat crossed to the cabinet, opening up the bar Risian resorts were famous for. No synthehol to be found unless you asked for it before checking in. she poured a few fingers of whisky and stared at it. Gabriel had no place here, either of them.
Philippa leaned on the bar beside her, stealing the tumbler and taking a sip. "Not bad."
"I asked for whisky."
"I know. Bourbon is usually your favorite but this time you asked for something from Scotland. Something with more bite."
"Bourbon had memories."
"Everything has memories." Philippa took the glass again, stealing another sip. "What are your memories of her?"
"The other you?"
"You obviously knew her, even liked her. It can't just be that she was heroic." Philippa passed the glass back, letting Kat drink while she waited.
"She was beautiful."
Philippa snorted over her whisky. "You aren't shallow."
Carrying her suit behind a dividing panel, Kat began to strip, just to have something to keep her mind off of Philippa's lips against the glass. "Maybe I am."
"No, no, people aren't that different here. Michael's still driven, and you- you appreciate the finer things."
"So I'm a what, collector?"
Changed into her bathing suit, Kat walked out from behind the screen, clothes in hand, just in time to catch Philippa's bare back as she wriggled into a very tight green bikini. Absolutely not Starfleet issue.
"You like to hear them scream before they break."
Part of Kat wants to throw up. Part of her can't stop looking at Philippa's chest, and the way her collarbones curve beneath her hair.
There's a logic to it, of course, she became a counselor because she enjoyed people. She found their emotions fascinating. In that other universe, fascination means corruption, destruction and domination. She's not interested.
Not at all.
Philippa grabbed towels from the closet and tossed back the rest of the whisky. "Come on, darling, let's go to the beach."