Spoilers: Post 210 Hegemony
Summary: The last day of Pike and Batel's vacation doesn't go the way either of them expect. Post 210 Hegemony.
Chris was up to something: he'd been in an odd mood all morning. Marie had tried asking him outright, but hadn't gotten any answers. Not that she'd really expected to. Hoping he'd reveal what it was later she'd gone along with his plans for the last day of their vacation: a trip to the nearby lake for some fishing.
They'd chosen the location for their cabin purposefully. It wasn't too far from civilization, so she was happy, and it was close to nature, so he was happy. And she had to admit the area was beautiful. The brilliant blue lake shone in the sun, reflecting the light into the vivid green trees that surrounded it.
Aside from the rustling of the trees in the gentle breeze and the calls of the alien birds she couldn't identify, but Chris had picked up quickly, it was quiet. Which made it feel like they were alone. Which they probably were - there were few vacation cabins in this area. Besides it was out too cold for many people to be out.
Once at the lake they'd set up their camping chairs and he'd shown her how to set the line. While they waited for the fish to bite they'd settled down, swaddled in blankets. Chris stared pensively out across the lake.
"Penny for your thoughts."
His smile was so small and brief she almost missed it. "You wouldn't like them."
She frowned. He clearly had something on his mind and much as she was determined to get it out of him, she also didn't want to spook him into saying nothing. "Whatever you want to tell me, I'm ready to hear it."
"It's classified." He sighed then turned back to her, his expression serious. "You can't tell anyone else what I'm about to tell you."
His tone made her feel like she was an ensign, faced with a bad performance review from the captain. "I promise."
Despite that he still found ways to procrastinate. He leaned forward to check on his line, which hadn't moved. He rearranged the blankets around him. He checked on her blankets, without meeting her eyes.
She stayed silent, giving him space to speak. And encouraging him with a hand on his arm when he finally sat still long enough.
Once he eventually spoke it was almost unexpected. "I can't tell you why or how, but I saw my future."
She blinked. A lead up to that bombshell would have been good, but she had a feeling that was the lead up. She already had a ton of questions, but she didn't ask, not wanting to interrupt him now he'd started for fear he might stop.
"I'm on an inspection tour. There's an accident with the baffle plates and the area fills with delta radiation. The cadets get out before the area is locked down, but I don't."
A knot formed in the pit of her stomach. Although there was no inflection in his voice, he somehow made it sound real. It felt like it was happening now, although she could see him next to her, perfectly well.
Despite the lack of detail she could picture the scene well enough. And there was one detail she could guess for herself. "You save them; make sure they get out."
After waiting a few minutes for him to continue the story it became clear he had said his piece. It was time to ask questions; try to get him to open up. "When will it happen? Do you know?"
"Not for years. You don't need to worry." He smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes.
That didn't make her feel any better. Should she not worry because it was a long way in the future? Although then surely he would have said decades, rather than years. Or should she not worry because he was sure they wouldn't still be together when it happened? Because he'd push her away before then to protect her from his death?
She didn't know if they'd still be together either, but right now the future was a scary place to think about. Existing only in the present was the easiest way. Or so she told herself after a nightmare. Up until now on this vacation the present had been large enough to keep the nightmares away. She wasn't so sure they'd stay away tonight.
"But if you know it's going to happen you can prevent it." The future wasn't fixed. "Make sure the baffle plate is checked before you go. Take a different ship. Don't go at all."
He shook his head. "I can't tell you how I know, but if it doesn't happen, someone I care about dies instead." His voice cracked at the end of the sentence.
Now she was thinking about who it might be. Not her, or he'd have behaved differently on Parnassus Beta. Unless that was why he was telling her now. No, he'd have been more surprised at her Gorn egg infection and less worried when they met on the planet. It was someone else. Which didn't narrow it down much.
Why was he telling her now? Maybe it was the shock of nearly losing her, and then finally getting more than thirty minutes to themselves. She wondered over asking, but decided against it in case he'd think she was attacking him for not saying something sooner. Or reminding him how she had nearly died.
But she was focusing on the wrong person. "Are you okay with it?"
"I wasn't. But I am now." However, he still had a haunted expression, and couldn't quite meet her eyes.
"That time when you were avoiding command?" she guessed.
"Is there anything else you can tell me?" she asked, unsure how far to push him.
"No," he said firmly. He reached out to the fishing line, which still hadn't moved.
There was, she was sure of it. But she didn't know what it was. It was him and the cadets in the room. They got out, he didn't. They lived, he died. It sounded cut and dried. But perhaps now wasn't the time to attempt to get more information out of him. He was holding the blankets tightly around him, as if warding off the outside world. Which included her.
She needed some space. And he needed some space also, she thought. "I need a walk."
Shrugging off the blankets as she stood, she kept hold of one to wrap around her shoulders. Chris didn't move or say a word.
She set off away from the lake, in no particular direction, mind still reeling. It was one thing to know, in the abstract, that he was going to die one day. But to be sure it was a lot sooner than it should be was another thing entirely. She shivered and pulled the blanket tighter around her.
Something made her look up at the clear blue sky, expecting to see a ship up there. Why, she didn't know. Perhaps she was imagining the one he was going to die on. She shook her head and carried on walking.
'But he told you,' she said to herself. 'You knew he was hiding something big and he finally told you.' And what had she done in response? Leave him on his own. He said he was fine, but his reactions told her otherwise. Perhaps he usually put off thinking about it and talking about it had brought it all back. She shouldn't have left him alone.
She turned and retraced her steps, walking faster than the ambling pace she'd set on the way out. But once she reached their fishing spot he was gone. The chairs were still there, his with the blankets draped haphazardly, half on the chair and half on the ground. One of the lines had tipped over. Because he'd tripped over it or it had hooked a fish? She didn't know enough about fishing to be able to tell.
Where had he gone? If he had followed her she'd have passed him on her way back. She spun, searching for him, but he wasn't in sight.
"Chris!" Her voiced echoed across the lake. If he was there he'd have heard her, but there was no answer. He could be lying somewhere, hurt, but he had no reason to leave his position. And there was nothing here to hurt him. Aside from the lake.
She put that thought aside. He had not drowned.
He'd encouraged them to go out with no technology and she regretted that now. At least the cabin was close enough to run back to.
Once inside she discarded the blanket across the first available surface. The view screen they hadn't used worked perfectly, although it took a moment to contact the authorities.
"My partner's missing," she said, still panting from her impromptu run. "I left him fishing by the lake for a minute and when I got back he wasn't there."
"Have you called him?" The woman Marie was speaking to didn't sound interested. She barely glanced at the screen at her end.
"No. He doesn't have anything on him to call."
"Hmm." Marie couldn't tell if that was disbelieving or disinterested. "He's an adult, yes?"
Marie nodded. "Yes."
"How long has he been missing?"
"A few minutes." She wasn't sure, exactly.
A sigh at the other end of the line. "If he's not back by the morning, then you can file a missing person's report." The screen cut off.
Marie clenched her fists. But she was a Starfleet captain, she had other resources. Her communicator was in the drawer where she'd left it. She pulled it out and opened it. "Batel to--"
But the Cayuga wasn't there. Her crew was dead and they couldn't help her. Another thing she couldn't think about it. Not yet.
However, the Enterprise was still around. It was their captain that was missing, they would be sure to help. "Batel to Enterprise."
Her hail was answered quickly. "Commander Chin-Riley here. Is everything all right?"
"No." She shook her head although Una couldn't see her. "Chris is missing and the authorities don't want to know. I need help finding him."
"We'll be there. ETA five minutes."
They were that close? She didn't have time to wonder over that, she had to get back to the lake. Clutching the communicator tight in her hand, she ran. She was close when she saw two figures bean down. Una and Spock. They must be worried about Chris too.
"That was quick," she said to Una, who was looking around. Chris still wasn't visible.
Spock left Una to converse while he pulled his tricorder out and began scanning the area.
"We were done early," Una replied. Thought we'd give the crew a night off before we picked the captain up."
If she hadn't been so worried she'd have stored that one up to tease Chris about how much more efficient his crew was without him around.
"I am detecting nucleonic particles," Spock stated. "He was transported somewhere."
"I heard it!" That was what had made her look up at the sky earlier. "I didn't realize that's what I'd heard."
Una turned to her. "Did you hear anything else?"
She shook her head, staring at the gravel path they were standing on. If she hadn't been so deep in thought perhaps she would have heard something.
But Una was already onto the next question, as she asked Spock, "Can you tell where he was transported to?"
"The authorities weren't interested earlier. I doubt they'll bother finding out if he was beamed to another part of the planet." She'd turned into such a pessimist recently. She needed Chris around to balance her out.
Una was unfazed. "We can ask them officially as Starfleet."
"Perhaps we should also contact any ship in orbit. If he was kidnapped they may wish to know who to contact for the ransom."
Una shook her head. "You've been to too many movie nights."
Spock appeared unmoved at the slight.
"But you may be right. They could be hiding in plain sight." Una flipped open her communicator. "Uhura, send a message to all the ships in orbit; ask them if they've seen the captain."
While Uhura did that, Una had them all transported to the Enterprise.
"If he has been taken," Spock said in the turbolift on the way to the bridge, "it will be for a reason. We should find out who knew he was here."
"If it's someone in Starfleet it wouldn't be hard to find out where he was." Una sighed. "Or there's the possibility that it's mistaken identity. They thought he was someone else."
They both turned to Marie, who was standing behind them.
"If they were looking for me, they'd use him to get to me," she surmised. "In which case they'll still be here. And will have reason to answer your hail."
"Or," Spock suggested, "it could be an opportunist who wasn't looking for anyone in particular."
Una sighed as the lift door opened.
"We have a response to our hail," Uhura said, as soon as Una had taken one step onto the bridge."
"On screen." Una headed to the center chair.
Marie stayed where she was. This wasn't her bridge; wasn't her crew. She didn't want to get in the way.
"He's here." On the view screen was a man. A human man. Wearing a cowboy hat. "We'll release him once he's finished."
"Cooking." The screen went blank.
"It wouldn't be the first time." Una sat down with a sigh.
Marie frowned. "He's been kidnapped for his cooking skills before?"
Una turned to her. "No. But his cooking has saved him before."
"This will be the fourth occasion since I joined the Enterprise," Spock helpfully supplied, from his position at the science station.
"At least he's all right." But saying it out loud hadn't convinced her at all.
"He will be until I see him." Una said it with such a straight face, Marie couldn't tell if she was joking. She must be; she and Chris were friends.
Marie chose to wait for Chris's return in his ready room. Although she had the place to herself, there was nothing for her to do, aside from pace around the room. She was a captain without a ship. No - don't think of that.
She tried distracted herself with Chris's trinkets; ran a hand over his saddle. He'd been disappointed that their vacation spot had no horses. She wasn't: driving something that had a mind of its own was unappealing. Horses were best admired from a distance. Something she'd made the mistake of saying to Chris once. Fortunately she'd been called away from his resulting lecture.
Sitting at his desk she wondered if it had always been this empty. She'd been on the Enterprise plenty of times but never in this room. Had he cleared it before leaving on vacation? Did Una prefer an empty desk? She seemed like the type.
Her stomach too tied up in knots to eat or drink, she'd refused every offer whenever someone had entered to check up on her. Which was often. They were all very pleasant, but she wanted to see Chris. The longer the wait went on, the more nauseous she felt. Even though they'd been told he was safe. Her head knew it, but her heart didn't.
Once she got word he was beaming aboard she spent the time in the turbolift bouncing on her toes, wondering why it was so slow. In the end, by the time she and Una entered the transporter room, he wasn't there.
Una gestured at the transporter chief, who manipulated the controls to beam him aboard. Marie was vaguely aware of him leaving the room behind them. She only had eyes for Chris.
Who looked fine. In fact a lot happier than he had the last time she saw him. Which made sense - he always said he found cooking relaxing. It was probably just what he needed after his confession. Maybe he should have saved it until lunchtime.
She wanted to run up to him and hug him, but was very aware of the other person in the room. Who had folded her arms and was staring at Chris like he was an errant schoolboy.
"What did you get yourself into?"
He smiled. "Farmers. Scientist farmers."
Una's expression told Marie she was equally as skeptical.
He shrugged. "They're testing out farming on space ships and wanted to taste test their produce. But their chef was sick and no one in authority on the planet would answer the phone. He stepped off the platform.
"They also have a tendency to take rather than ask," he admitted, slowly. "I got the impression their doctor wasn't originally one of them, although he declined to come back with me."
Despite Una's eye roll, her tone was warm. "Only you could get yourself into that sort of situation."
Chris smiled at her.
But Marie had other concerns. "They were watching us?" How else could they have known Chris would make a good substitute chef.
"Seems like it." He scrunched his face up, feeling the same way as her about that.
She shuddered. How long had they been watching and what else had they seen? Had they been waiting for a moment when he was alone?
An eyebrow raise at Una was apparently enough to tell her to leave him and Marie alone. Not that she was going to complain, as she flung her arms around him once the door closed behind Una. "I was scared. Everyone is dead and then you…"
She couldn't keep the thoughts away any longer. As they returned, so did the tears. Which then turned into uncontrollable sobs. It turned out the therapist had been right when she'd said one vacation wouldn't solve everything.
Perhaps she clung onto Chris a little longer than she needed to, but she wanted to feel him, real and alive.
"I'm sorry," he said once she had calmed down enough to hear him. "I didn't choose the best time to tell you. I thought it would be a comfort to know I'll be fine for a few years."
"Time doesn't work like that." She pulled away just enough to face him. "If you do something stupid you could still get yourself killed earlier."
"I don't intend to. No more than usual, anyway," he added, smiling.
That wasn't a comfort either.
"Why don't we finish our vacation?" He held out a hand. How had she ended up on the floor?
She took his hand, wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her other arm. "As long as it's something to take my mind off… everything. Not fishing. It's too quiet." The irony wasn't lost on her.
"There are horses on the other side of the planet," he said slowly. "It's not in the brochure, but the scientist farmers trade with them. That's why they were there."
They had horses on a spaceship? She had to hear the story. Once she felt calm enough to be able to listen.
The enthusiasm he showed when he spoke about horses wasn't lost on her. She smiled, glad to have him back. Glad to have him be himself again. "All right. As long as it's the one ride. And I'm expecting something special for dinner."
"I'm sure I can make something you'll love." He kissed her softly.
As he set the transporter she mused that when she returned to therapy and was asked about her vacation, the story of Chris's kidnap would be enough to deal with. She wouldn't need to break her promise to him.