“Did I interrupt a critical moment of diplomacy?”
Both women look up to the uninvited guest, Michael more scandalized and Philippa more startled.
“Emperor, how nice that you decide to drop by.” The Captain stands up as welcome but mostly, it’s to put more space between herself and Michael. But she seems to have forgotten that their fingers are still twined. Michael blushes and lets go.
Georgiou scoffs at the whole interaction.
“By all means, continue.” The Terran lands firm hands on the Captain’s shoulders and presses her down, forcing her to sit. Michael’s protest is muffled by Georgiou’s remark. “Be my guest and keep wasting your time.”
Michael quickly opens her mouth again but Philippa touches her knee, giving her a look. The younger woman huffs.
“You are our guest,” says the Captain graciously, “please, make yourself at home.”
The Emperor doesn’t need permission to do that. She swaggers up to the seat next to Michael and takes up as much space as she can.
Then Georgiou throws an arm around Michael’s shoulders.
Michael tenses, dropping her gaze to the ground so she wouldn’t have to see her Captain’s expression. Philippa is busy staring at the Terran, who’s smirking a triumphant, knowing smile.
The silence stretches and stretches until it can get the weakest of them all.
“I really appreciate that you’re open to a polyamorous relationship—”
“And this is where you get it all wrong, my dear Michael.” Georgiou purrs, putting on a show in front of her counterpart as she lets her unoccupied hand drift to Michael’s thigh. “An Emperor doesn’t share. But does it count as sharing…” The Terran looks back at the Captain challengingly. “…if the other person is also essentially me?”
“It does.” The Captain answers, sitting straighter in her seat, and brushes her hair from her face to the back of her shoulder, which, Georgiou instantly notices the body language. She does that herself when she wants to distract or confuse her enemy. “I imagine that in your universe, the solutions are often cut-and-dry, Emperor. However, romantic relations are delicate matters to navigate here.”
“I prefer a little totalitarian efficiency.” Georgiou pouts. And she can feel Michael snapping her attention to her Captain at the term romantic relations.
So far, the female tension is delicious. Georgiou is not hiding that she’s having a field day, and it draws her a reprimanding look from the Captain.
Georgiou just shrugs and makes a face.
“How are we feeling today?” Georgiou drawls, using a mock-professional tone as if she’s treating a couple’s therapy. “Still hung up on the whole oh my god, you’re alive fact? Or are we finally making progress to I want to have sex with you but one of us is having sex with, well,” Georgiou touches her own chin and pretends to think hard about that one, and Michael is shrinking into the couch, “with the other one of us?”
“That’s quite enough, Georgiou.” Michael mutters. She untangles herself from Georgiou’s hold. “My shift is starting soon. If you’ll excuse me.”
With four eyes on her back, Michael walks away with slower-than-usual steps—and her urge to flee is made more obvious.
Georgiou doesn’t particularly enjoy the emptiness now that the pocket of warmth is gone from her side.
“You care about her.” Observes the Captain.
“Of course I do.” Georgiou rolls her eyes, sitting with her legs apart, while the Captain is still in a prim position fit for a diplomatic meeting. “You think holding back is noble, I call that pointless. Can’t you see what you’re doing to Michael? It weighs on her.”
“From what I’ve seen, I’m not the one causing her distress.” Referring to Georgiou driving Michael away seconds ago, the Captain’s voice is leveled, only colored with a hint of curiosity. Georgiou had spent a great deal of time studying her presumed-dead counterpart and her files; after the universe threw her up (Georgiou can only imagine that death will find any version of Philippa Georgiou too tough to palate) and spat her out into their orbit, Georgiou is fascinated by this subdued version of herself. And it’s a surprising development when she half-expects to be insulted by this existence.
You’re just looking forward to bringing out the evil in Philippa. Michael pointed out dryly when they were in bed. Georgiou only replied with, aren’t you? And then made Michael come the hardest that night.
Georgiou has helped Michael to gain a great many things helpful. A victory of a war. An alienated family member. A reputation for besting a rampaging threat assessment system with humanity—Michael’s humanity.
Her trust towards Georgiou.
Yes, that’s the most helpful of all. Michael has learned to trust her, and she is going to trust her own judgment that gaining the Captain for Michael will help her.
Those seven years were already beneficial to Michael—why not seven more?
“Patience is a quality we both share.” Georgiou finally says, and her audience is latching onto her every word. “It’s something I didn’t teach my Michael, but you did with this girl. Perhaps a little too well.”
The Captain chews her bottom lip, creases faint between her eyebrows. And she is beautifully transparent like this, deliberately so. Captain Georgiou is as apt at being accessible as Georgiou is good at hiding the logic of her actions.
The Captain doesn’t waver at the Terran’s awfully unsubtle stare at her mouth.
“I hear you, Georgiou. Your insight is invaluable, and so is your advice.”
“So it’s Georgiou, now?” The Terran rises to her feet, smiling down at the Captain. “Emperor has a nicer ring to it.”
“Some might consider that progress. Or an improvement.” The Captain is eager to get off the couch and be at Georgiou’s eye level. Genteel, she walks her to the door.
It’s easy to pin her rosy-cheeked companion to the wall and thoroughly kiss her (and get that abominable shade of lipstick off her lips), but Georgiou will save it for the future.
“Dream bigger, Captain. We are as ambitious as we’re patient.”
Striding away, Georgiou can hear Captain’s amiable chuckles behind her, and somehow, it doesn’t spoil her mood.
“You can’t avoid me forever, Burnham.”
“Oh god!” Tilly yelps, nearly knocking the Kadis-kot off the table. “Hi, Emperor. We changed the code last time; how can she still do that?” She leans in and whispers to Michael. Michael shakes her head and gives her friend a look that says nobody can bell the Terran.
“She can hear you, you know,” Georgiou says. She sashays to Michael and claims her lap as her seat. Michael whacks her hip as objection, but it only spurs Georgiou to get more comfortable. The redhead gawks at the display of affection while Georgiou looks at their interrupted game. After five seconds, the Terran says, “you are going to lose in three turns.”
“What?” Tilly scrambles to stare hard at the hexagonal board. “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
“She’s not.” Michael’s voice is slightly weakened with a wall of warm flesh in front of her. She peeks from one side of Georgiou, resting her cheek on the Terran’s leather-clad arm.
“So, truce between you two?” Asks Tilly nonchalantly as she makes her move.
Not bothering to ask for Michael’s consent, Georgiou moves for her next. “Are we fighting?” Georgiou says, glancing sideways at Michael. “Honey, I didn’t know.” She finds Michael’s hands and brings them to her waist so she can have something else to play with.
“Please don’t honey me. And we’re not doing this in front of Tilly.”
“If you say so,” Georgiou says sweetly, uncharacteristically docile. She breezily makes another move after Tilly, who looks like she’s about to explode after witnessing the couple’s exchange. The Emperor has been in a peculiar mood since they recovered a Captain Georgiou who isn’t dead. During the Captain’s recuperation, save for Michael, nearly all of the crew on Discovery betted on the Emperor sneaking into sickbay and murdering the Captain, given the Terran’s nature and her relationship with Michael. But all Georgiou did was tipping Dr. Culber off when she found that his patient was being uncooperative, skipping meals or medication, attempting to move without assistance and such. It almost felt as if the Terran was watching over their Captain…or that she cares.
“Kadis-kot.” Georgiou announces, a swift move of victory after Tilly’s not-so-swift, hesitant one.
“What the f—”
“Tilly,” warns Michael, begrudgingly amused, “remember the swear jar.”
Tilly crosses her arms in front of her chest and glares at the board. “Do you also have this in your universe?”
“Perhaps.” Georgiou leans back to her human-cushion and drums her fingers on the back of her lover’s hand. “I remember that my Killy wagered for control over what was left of the Betazed. The Betazoids proved to be a very useful race.”
“O…kay?” Not sure what to do with this information, Tilly scratches the back of her head. “Did she win?”
“She had to. Or she would've auctioned a week of her nights to interested buyers.” Georgiou waves off that possibility while Michael reaches upwards, trying to stop a myriad of terror flying out of the Terran’s mouth, but Georgiou just grabs Michael’s hands and folds them neatly in her lap. “As tough as Killy was, she wouldn’t survive after the Inquisitors were done with her.”
Pale, Tilly manages to say, “I guess I…the other me must be pretty popular, huh?”
Georgiou chuckles, a shock because Michael thought she will say something like even I would be interested in the auction and for Tilly, she’s just amazed that the Emperor can actually laugh.
“Menopause,” mouths Michael silently to her roommate, and Tilly’s eyes widen in understanding.
“Don’t think I didn’t know what you’re whispering in the dark.”
“I’m just saying that you’re getting fat and my legs are getting numb.”
Now that’s a wager. Tilly holds her breath.
But Georgiou only slips off Michael like a cat satisfied with the belly rubs.
“There. Does this mean we’re not fighting anymore?” Georgiou strokes Michael’s cheek, gazing at her with a look that can only be described as sickeningly affectionate.
“Please say you’re not. For the sake of our peace.” Careful to not knock the board off the table, Tilly stumbles her way to the exit. “I’ll leave you to your f—business, then.”
Still not learning to relish the discomfort. Georgiou is almost disappointed. But now she has something more important to attend to.
She lets her gaze become a tad more predatory.
Michael licks her lips.
Thirty minutes later the question bubbles out of those lips after a variation of sounds Georgiou coaxed out past them.
“What do you want?” Michael asks tiredly, not physically able to be upset just yet. “This is more than apologizing for that stunt you pulled the other day.”
“You know me too well.” The Terran props her chin on Michael’s chest and bats her eyelashes innocently. “But it devastates me that you still can’t believe all I’ve ever wanted, is for you to be happy.”
Michael scoffs. “You’re not answering the question.” But she can’t keep her hands to herself, catching a strand of Georgiou’s hair that flows by her shoulder and soaks onto the sheets, like a stroke of ink from ancient Chinese calligraphy.
And the terrible thing is, Michael can’t stop picturing what her Captain will look like in her bed.
“And you’re not asking the right question.” Georgiou’s voice is light, light as the way she trails a drop of sweat forming below Michael’s clavicle. “Why I want our Captain to be more than a friend to you, should be what you’re after, isn’t it?”
“You’re saying it as if she’s more than a friend to you,” Michael says flippantly. It’s a marvel to see that shadow of Captain Georgiou in Michael, the humor and the wit she instilled into her Vulcan exterior. What a pity that the Captain abandoned ship, putting an abrupt halt to Michael’s ongoing lessons. If her counterpart didn’t let that happen, maybe Michael would be better at being less predictable.
“She is. She is me.” A fact that she can’t get through Michael and a fact that the Captain is denying. “And you are her.”
The furrow between Michael’s eyebrows is also the Captain’s legacy, a frequent expression whenever Georgiou mentions her daughter. But she knows this isn’t really her daughter; if this were her own Michael she would’ve backhanded her for so openly doubting the Emperor.
This Michael is never hers; in some way she’s always belonged to her Captain, and Georgiou never goes into a fight that cannot be won. She’s made that decision since they retrieved the Captain: when it comes to aiding or alienating Michael and the other Philippa, Georgiou will pick the side that vouches for victory.
“I am not your Michael Burnham.” Michael has a somber look on her face. It takes everything for Georgiou to not say, you’ve said that before, before you made sure I could be your Philippa Georgiou.
“You, and the rest of the people in this universe, should really learn how to doublethink.”
“And what does that leave you, Emperor?” Her solemnity melts once Georgiou shifts over to kiss a fresh bruise. Input, output. Michael’s voice is kept steady, but not for long, “you think you can somehow tame us both, don’t you?”
“If there’s someone considering herself tamed to begin with.” With fluid grace, Georgiou sits up and rolls Michael over. Naturally, the girl props herself off bed and fights to get away, but it only makes it more convenient for Georgiou to make sure that Michael stays on her hands and knees. “Do you consider yourself to be tamed, my Michael?”
Michael buries her face into the pillow and, lo and behold, the moist valley widens between her legs.
Georgiou can’t possibly turn down that invite.
“I can’t wrap my head around the fact that, you seem to prefer to be dead.” Georgiou gestures her late-night guest to take a seat while she pours her a glass of red wine. A classic drink for a classy woman. “Or that you’d agree to share a drink with a Terran at all.”
“What kind of captain would I be if I refused such a simple request?” Hearing that, Georgiou nearly drops the bottle. Same person indeed. Either her falter is caught by her counterpart or not, the other Philippa doesn’t comment. “There were moments…dark moments where I did prefer to perish. But—”
“But you’ll always choose hope.” Georgiou hands the Captain her drink. The Captain’s fingers are not very warm. “You did plan to drive a warhead into the unknown and light yourself up.”
“That was to protect the Shenzhou and deliver a maximum blow to the assailants.”
“Or did you want to throw your life away when you thought your Number One was dead?” Georgiou arches a brow, expecting the Captain to fend for her actions or quip back, but she does neither. She sits down, and cradles her glass, and Georgiou doesn’t like not being right. The silence speaks for the Captain and Georgiou also doesn’t like to see her counterpart surrender so easily.
Georgiou plops herself into the couch and crosses one leg onto the other. “Oh come on, if I wanted to poison you I would’ve done it when you were bedridden.”
The Captain smirks and obliges, taking a sip of the wine. “I shouldn’t be surprised that you seem to know everything about me, including what I like after a long day.”
“I didn’t,” Georgiou smiles, swirling her wine in her glass. “This is what I prefer when I entertain… exclusive guests as well.”
The Captain doesn’t take the bait. Instead, she unzips the top of her uniform, which is downright cheeky and brazen that Georgiou is annoyed. But that is expected. Georgiou hasn’t been around a worthy component for a while.
It’s a white tank top under and if she focused enough she could see the outline of the other Philippa’s bra.
“Glad to find that you aren’t disapproving of my form.”
“You are above seeking validations from others, Philippa,” Georgiou says quickly, still evaluating the Captain’s interest towards her. “As I was saying, you—”
“Prefer to be dead to Michael.” Her counterpart is mirroring her process as well, scanning the Terran. “We have always been talking about Michael.”
“What else is there to talk about?” Georgiou takes a long sip of her drink to tuck away the thrill that makes her shiver. The Captain has cut straight to the chase.
“If I…intervene, it will cause an irreparable change to your relationship with her.” Philippa says.
“Are we discussing the terms now?” Feigning attention, Georgiou uncrosses her legs and scoots near the edge of her seat to put down her glass. “Do tell.”
“You have forgotten something extremely simple, Emperor,” the Captain’s eyes flash, darken, narrow. Now that’s the woman she recognizes. “It’s not about how I fit. It’s about how you could fit.”
“A competition? I do like the sound of that.”
“But it’s never a competition for you, isn’t it? As much as you want it to be.” Georgiou hums noncommittally to that, but she’s feeling everything—the efforts she puts into keeping her hands clasped on her own knees, the girlish glee that’s making her giddy, the heat thrumming off of her counterpart. Georgiou eyes the Captain’s neck, but where’s the bigger fun if she tore open the slightly flushed skin so soon? “So instead, you make certain you’re not being removed from the equation.” The Captain concludes, the rasp of her cadences falling into a range so quiet, Georgiou can just about paint it all as a threat.
“Equation, chessboard, game. Take your pick.” Georgiou flicks her glass, making a crisp ping like she’s testing how frail the wine glass is. “What is your pick, Captain?”
There is comfort when Georgiou can trust the Captain to understand her; there is comfort also in the way they dance around each other, because they cannot possibly really hurt the woman Michael loves, when that will ultimately hurt Michael, and neither of them wants that, reasons their own.
“You’re not giving me a choice.” Now that does sound like a threat. Georgiou suppresses her urge to bite her own lip, and watches as the Captain drains her drink, watches the tremble in her throat, watches her breath fogging up the glass, watches the green of her veins running over her hand. She can be her, she knows how to be her, knows how to draw her own eyebrows a little fuller and lighter and less defined, knows how to go a little extra on the rouge, knows how to pose and walk and talk like Captain Philippa Georgiou.
But she can’t be both to Michael.
“You do have a choice,” Georgiou says. She pushes herself off the couch, and brings her body and her pride to her worst ally.
She kneels by the Captain’s feet.
The blinding shine in her counterpart’s eyes is replaced by blown pupils. Yet, the Captain still carries herself with stoic restraint, something that Michael never fully learns, never fully gets through the mechanisms working behind the non-movement. But maybe, after tonight, Michael can have a greater chance to understand it, absorb it, hone it, be so good at it to use it against her.
Georgiou lowers her gaze to the floor.
When the Captain moves a hand to the back of her head and takes a harsh hold of her ponytail, Georgiou confirms the Captain’s decision.
“How convenient that I’m already dressed in black. Who died?”
Ah. So the cat’s been out of the bag. That’s why Michael is looking at her brokenly as if she’s betrayed, and the Captain is looking at Michael with a guilty expression, eyes red-rimmed.
“No,” she snaps, and the Captain flinches, swallowing back her words. It’s evident how that side of the triangle has been angling towards. “I want to hear what Georgiou has to say about this.”
“Where shall I begin?” The Terran tilts her head. “That it starts just like the way you're sitting opposite of our Captain now?”
Michael’s face crumples.
The look Georgiou receives from the Captain is the type of look that, in her universe, if Georgiou found herself to be the receiving end of it, she would gouge those eyes out and force them down their owner’s throat.
But this is the other Philippa she’s talking about, who’s given her permission to serve and let her earn her reward after the serving, and it’s something the Emperor is deprived of in her universe, something that Georgiou couldn’t have after having Michael.
“I instigated, and your Captain dealt with the consequences.”
“You had sex.” Michael says flatly, rage making her ball her hands into fists. “I trusted you.”
“You trusted me to make the right call, so I did. Can’t you see that I’m doing this for you?”
“Your Georgiou didn’t force my hand.” The Captain follows up apologetically, and it only makes Michael look more confused.
“Fucked by your hand was more like it.” The Terran murmurs, her body suddenly remembering the heat and the friction and she needs a drink if she wanted to play well in this negotiation. “Philippa, may I—”
“No more than two fingers,” answers the Captain reflexively, stern and brisk. But she quickly breaks character and blushes at her own words when something dawns on Michael’s face.
“Aye, Captain.” Georgiou pours herself a bit over a finger of scotch, obeying the order. If Michael still can’t comprehend what is going on, Georgiou might have to take a more elaborative measure to demonstrate. She is sure the Captain will assist her with that.
Georgiou nurses her drink, leaning against where the Captain stashes her liquor, and Michael suddenly exhales a sharp breath through her nose.
“Where the fuck do we go from here?” Michael rasps as she relaxes her fists, barely keeping a straight face. The Captain is alarmed by the profanity coming from her precious officer’s mouth. She gapes at Michael and Michael, a hopeful, wonderful, beautiful Michael, stares back with defiance and steel.
“Why don’t you two start by kissing?” Georgiou offers casually, “that’s usually how it goes around here, right?”