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Chamomile

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When they finally get a moment’s peace, they retire to Captain Pike’s new ready room, and Saru’s surprised but pleased to be invited. It isn’t that Captain Lorca every really neglected him, or was cruel to him—Saru never would’ve guessed that his former leader hailed from a universe that happily enslaved his people. But it wasn’t completely out of the realm of impossibility either—he and Lorca were never exactly close. He doesn’t imagine he’ll become particularly close to Captain Pike, as his stay is only temporary, but Saru still appreciates the overture. He’s especially delighted when Pike asks to try some of his Fredalia tea.

Saru makes it for both of them. He’s not as proud of the brew as he would be on his own world, because the plant doesn’t do nearly as well in his quarters as it would in living soil. He still enjoys the taste, and Pike smiles after his first sip. He sets his cup down on the little plate Saru’s brought it on, and he announces, “This is an excellent ship, Saru.” Saru feels a twinge of pride in his chest, which only amplifies when Pike adds, “And thus far, you’ve proven to be a fine first officer.”

Saru inclines his head in polite thanks. Pike’s handsome smile grows—something warm and welcoming that Saru finds wholly disarming. Pike goes on, “I hear that you can speak more languages than anyone else aboard, and the crew seems to respect you greatly. You’re a valuable officer.”

“Thank you, Sir. I’m flattered.” He truly is. He can admit he was a smidgen skeptical at first, taking on a new captain, but Pike’s shown himself to be a fine officer—strong, clever, and thoughtful towards the crew. Someone worth following. It’s no hardship to serve under him. Saru watches Pike trace the border of his cup and listens as he continues.

“I’ve got a good relationship with my first officer aboard the Enterprise, you know. I consider her invaluable.” Then his eyes flicker up, and he adds, the smile dipping into a sympathetic frown, “Were you and Lorca close? That must’ve felt like such a huge betrayal.”

Saru opens his mouth, but he finds the words don’t come out right away. He doesn’t know how to put them. He felt more upset for the crew’s behalf than his own, but it was still a shock—the worst kind. He’s still recovering. While he’s still thinking, Pike’s free hand reaches across the table.

It closes around Saru’s. Saru tilts his head curiously, gazing down at the point of contact—Pike gives him a subtle, reassuring squeeze. The reaction in Saru’s body is immediate. Pike promises, eyes thick with sincerity, “I promise to do better by you.”

For whatever reason, Saru’s chest constricts. His stomach feels odd, and it takes him a second to realize that that’s because his hear is beating faster. He says only, “Thank you, Captain.”

Pike’s smile is incredibly charming. His hand slowly withdraws. He has another sip of his tea and tells Saru, “No, Saru, thank you. This is the best tea I’ve ever had.”