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Author's Note: Written for The Pike/Number One Bingo prompt "the cage missing scene".
Number One was frustrated. She'd spent hours trying to get Vina to open up about their captors, while Captain Pike continued to block the Talosians' from reading his thoughts by filling his mind with rage. Vina had been less than helpful, and Number One was rapidly losing patience with the human captive.
"Go on, you've seen how they live," Number One prompted.
"There's no reason I have to keep answering your questions," Vina said, sullen and snappish.
"Did you see how they live?" Number One said again, steel in her voice. Vina scowled, but backed down.
"If you can call it living. Since their minds can reach anywhere, most of them are like sleep-walkers, now. They just sit and let the thought records or some live specimen live for them. Some of them hardly move, except to take that blue protein once a day. And there are only a few machines left to make that."
Colt pulled her gaze away from the captain, her voice barely above a whisper. "How long can he hide his thoughts?"
"I tried. I practised for years. There's no way he can keep it up." Instead of sounding triumphant, Vina just sounded weary.
Number One stared at the captain's bent head, her lips compressed in a thin line.
"Yeoman—have you experienced any illusions since we beamed down?"
"No, Lieutenant. At least—I don't think so. How would I know?" Colt's brows drew together in a frown.
"I think the fact that you're asking is proof enough. I haven't either." Number One turned back to Vina, arms crossed. "Why hasn't the Keeper or Magistrate invaded our thoughts?"
"They will," Vina said with a sigh. "It's only a matter of time. They want him to choose... but if they read anything in our thoughts and dreams that they think might get them what they want... You won't even know it's happening, it feels so real. It is real."
"I don't believe you," Colt said, squaring her shoulders.
"Of course you don't. But you'll see. You'll both see. It's useless to keep trying to fight them. You'll just wear yourselves out."
"We're not giving up," Number One snapped, her hand curling around Vina's wrist. "We are Starfleet officers."
Vina just laughed—an empty, hollow sound—and curled herself on her side on the bench, half the silver blanket tucked beneath her.
Vina fell asleep first. Stretching like a cat, she ignored Number One's dark look and lay down on the sponge-like "bed", drawing the silver blanket over her legs and slipped into a peaceful slumber.
Colt was next. The yeoman was curled on her side, her back against the bed, and head rested on her folded arms. Asleep, she looked painfully young and Number One wondered if Colt volunteering for the rescue mission was truly the girl's own thought, or yet another manipulation by their alien captors.
Pike fought sleep. Every time his eyes drifted closed and head began to nod, he would jerk himself awake, digging his nails into his hands. Sometimes he would get up and pace like a caged animal, avoiding any of the women's eyes as he tried to hold onto his rage. But Number One was beginning to fear Vina was correct. The captain was exhausting himself with his one-sided battle of wills. As she watched, her back against the cell wall, his eyes drifted shut and stayed shut. She thought of getting up to wake him, but she recognised that if they were going to escape, the would need their strength. If she stood watch and woke him in two hours, that would be two hours of sleep he wouldn't have had otherwise.
Number One had been keeping track as best she could of the hours since the beamdown. Six hours into their captivity—more than twelve hours since Pike's abduction and almost twenty hours since Number One's last sleep cycle—she slid into the illusion without realising it.
One second she was sitting with her back against the rough-hewn wall of their cell, the next she was in a dimly lit cave. Colt and Vina had vanished, but Captain Pike was there beside her, looking as startled and confused as she was.
"Where are we?"
Pike shook his head. "I'm not sure."
On the rock floor, Starfleet-issue thermal blankets had been spread out, and the mouth of the cave was blocked by a crude screen made up of field jackets lashed to bend branches. Near one wall was a pile of stones which pulsed with red light, and she could feel heat radiating from them.
"I know this place. I've been here before," Pike said as he paced the small enclosure from end to end, feeling the walls for any kind of opening. The air, heated by the rocks, smelled faintly of wintering animals and the pine-like needles that carpeted the floor. Not what Number One thought of as a romantic setting for whatever mind-game the Talosians sought to play now.
"Vega IV?" he asked, and the memory slid into place.
She remembered that Landing Party all too well. She had been scouting the uninhabited planet with the captain and Lt Spock. They had been crossing what they had believed to be a valley, but what instead was a frozen river. When the ice beneath her feet had given way and she had plunged into the icy water, Spock had pulled her out. While she was unconscious, the lieutenant and Pike had erected a make-shift shelter inside a nearby cave, using their lasers to heat rocks to turn the cave practically into a sauna. She had awakened beneath two silver field-issue thermal blankets, stripped of her sodden field jacket and uniform and wearing Pike's dry command tunic, with a Vulcan pressed against her back and her damp and hypothermic body huddled against her captain's naked chest.
What she would once have thought of as a fantasy come true had in fact been the least erotic scenario possible.
She had been supremely aware of Spock's Vulcan heritage, and deeply embarrassed on his behalf. As she had been uncomfortably aware that he was a touch-telepath, she had done her best to shield him from her thoughts—filling her mind with complex equations. As for sprawling half-naked across the captain, he had been more concerned with trying to communicate with the ship despite interference from the planet's natural-occurring Thoron radiation.
Number One had long since accepted the fact that when Christopher Pike looked at her he saw her rank, her experience, her expertise; but that was all. She'd seen the way he'd become flustered at Colt's obvious crush. Seen him come alive on the Enterprise viewscreen when he'd first caught sight of Vina.
He might trust her, he might need her, he might even like her. But he didn't see her as anything more than a fellow Starfleet officer—no matter how much she wished otherwise.
As soon as her uniform had dried she had declared herself fit enough to hike back to their shuttlecraft. They had returned to Enterprise, filed their reports, and left the A&A team to explore the surface. Then she had spent two hours in the hottest bath she could stand afterwards, despite Boyce's assurances that she had suffered no ill effects from her sub-zero dip.
"Of course," Number One sighed. "They would look for some memory where I was helpless, to try and encourage you to take a protective stance. Classic alpha-male mating behaviour."
"You make it sound so cut and dried."
"I'm not dissecting your psyche, Captain. I'm dissecting their illusion. They've chosen this memory for a reason, clearly. But I never—" She stopped herself from finishing that thought, but it was too late. His gaze slid away from hers guiltily, and she realised that this it was one one Pike's fantasies they'd chosen to show her.
Suddenly the pallet on the floor of the cave was no longer unoccupied. Number One's eyes widened as a facsimile of herself lay atop a simulacrum of Pike. Rather than lying there shivering—as she remembered the scene—her doppelganger was kissing the captain. Thoroughly. Number One spun around so her back was to the scene, her hands curling into fists.
"Spock was present on Vega IV—this is not an accurate representation—" she began, trying to cover her lapse. "There was nothing the slightest bit erotic about this experience!"
To her horror, she began to hear moans of passion from the phantoms beneath the silver thermal blankets.
Pike's blue eyes darkened with rage, and he pushed past her to the mouth of the cave. Sinking up to his knees in the fresh snow, he shouted at the heavens.
"We're not putting on a sick, perverted show for your amusement—you hear me?"
The wind howled in answer. On the other side of the make-shift shelter, the cold wind was brutal, and the glare of sunlight off the white expanse of ice and snow blinding. It stung her eyes, making them tear, and then froze the tears to her lashes. It was the kind of dry cold that offered a clear, crystalline blue sky and burned her throat with each breath as she trudged through the snow after him, tugging him back towards the relative shelter of the cave.
"Illusion or not—we are not wearing protective clothing. We do not know if damage sustained inside these mind games may damage our physical bodies in the cells. Mr Spock suspect as much, when he theorised the Talosian's mental capacities."
"What are you—?" the captain asked as on a sudden impulse, she picked up a jagged piece of rock and drew it quickly across her palm.
She couldn't escape the quick hiss of pain as blood welled up from the cut—but the illusion didn't waver.
She held up her hand, bright red blood dripping onto the snow. "If the cut is still on my hand when we wake, then at least we will know something about the extent of their hold on us."
"Normally I'd applaud your ingenuity, Number One. But this time you're barking up the wrong tree," he said, trying to staunch the bleeding with a strip of cloth torn from his trousers.
"Sir—it's not real."
"It's real enough, here." He bathed her hand in some fresh snow, and then bandaged it as best he could with the remnant of cloth. "I could have told you not to bother."
"The blue protein drink. They tried to tempt me, telling me they could make it taste like whatever food I wanted. I refused and they punished me with visions of fire. Made me see my flesh melting off my bones." He looked down at his hands, turning them over to show her the unblemished palms. "But see? Nothing. It was all just another illusion."
"So's this," she reminded him. As if on cue, the enthusiastic sounds of copulation rose in pitch and volume from behind the make-shift wall of parkas stretched over branches.
Number One and Pike lapsed into uncomfortable silence. She could feel her cheeks beginning to burn, and prayed that the captain would attribute it to the cold.
"Maybe if we dump a bucket of snow on them," Pike muttered, breaking both the silence and the tension.
"As both male and female humans respond to erotic imagery, no doubt the Talosians believe this might arouse us."
"I don't know about you, but I find this situation more humiliating than arousing."
Just as he had on the bridge the day before, Pike only noticed after the words had left his mouth the effect they had had on her.
"Not that under different circumstances—I mean, it's not that I don't find you—Dammit, Number One, you're my First Officer!"
Yet they found this fantasy in your mind, not mine, she thought but didn't say. She kept her face a mask, just as she had when the Keeper had callously revealed Pike's starring role in her fantasies. "You and Spock saved my life that day. That's all that is important to me."
They sat huddled in the mouth of the cave, trying to block out the cries of passion behind them, each of them wrapped in silence. Pike's expression remained dark—but Vina had been right. He couldn't maintain his mental shield of hatred forever. If he could, he wouldn't be here.
"I believe they are able to access our minds because we're sleeping," Number One offered, trying to distract herself from the scene playing out in the cave behind them. "This is the first illusion I've experienced since Colt and I were abducted."
"I don't know what to believe anymore. I thought Vina was in the cell with me, but they made her disappear. That means for at least part of the time I've been here, she wasn't physically present. I don't even know for sure if I've ever even interacted with the real Vina."
"For a given value of 'real'," Number One murmured.
"How do you mean?"
"We accessed the Columbia's records. Vina is over fifty Earth-years old. Yet they continue to show her as youthful—younger, even, than she was at the time of the crash. It's entirely possible that we have yet to meet the 'real' Vina."
"She told me they lured me here because they wanted a matched set—male and female. They wouldn't have bothered if she wasn't a 'viable specimen'."
"What do we do?" she asked as the wind blew the dry, powdery snow in circles, partially obscuring their vision.
"Wait it out. When our zookeepers finally get it through their thick skulls that we're not going to start performing for them, they'll return us to our cage." Pike moved closer to her, and she realised that without his field jacket, he must be feeling the cold worse than she was. Shrugging out of her jacket, she draped it over them both.
"Thanks," he said, tucking his chin to his chest as another gust of icy air ruffled his dark hair. "You're taking this awfully well."
"What choice do we have?" she asked with a shrug. "At least this time, I've got my uniform," Number One offered with a wry chuckle.
She shouldn't have spoken it aloud. Or even thought it. Because the next thing she knew, she was sitting there in nothing but her pants and Chris' captain's tunic, the sleeves dangling past her wrists, and he was shirtless.
She made a very undignified sound halfway between a squeak and a yelp, and dove inside the cave, no longer caring if the make-shift bed was occupied.
Blessedly, it was now vacant. She grabbed one of the silver thermal wraps and wound it around herself like a tunic, her face burning. However, following her inside, Pike seemed neither uncomfortable nor distressed by her sudden partial nudity. Instead he gave a weary sigh as he picked up the second discarded wrap.
"That'll teach us," Pike muttered as he leaned back up against the wall of the cave, shielding his back from the rock wall with part of the thermal he was sitting on. "Come here, Lieutenant. I don't bite, and your lips are turning as blue as your nail polish."
Her jaw aching from trying to keep her teeth from chattering, she sat down next to him stiffly. He pulled on her field jacket, and then he drew the thermal blanket around both of them.
Reaching for the laser, she fired at the pile of stones, which glowed almost white. A blast of heat warmed the stale air of the cave, and she could feel herself thaw a little as she breathed in the dry hot air. But her legs were still freezing, and she tried to draw them up close to her body.
"This is ridiculous," Pike breathed, half to her and half to himself as her teeth chattered.
"Sir—" she began, confused, and then he reached over and hauled her atop his partially-clothed body, settling the blanket closer around them.
"Just for warmth, Lieutenant. And you're not the only one out-of-uniform," he reminded her, and she closed her eyes, feeling the blood rush back into her cheeks. She had blushed more in the last hour than the previous thirty-two years, she was certain. But the captain, if he was aware of her embarrassment, made no mention of it.
"Better?" he asked, and she nodded, trying not to concentrate on the thrum of his heartbeat beneath her cheek, or the feel of his arms around her.
As she had on Vega IV, she tried to empty her mind and refill it with complex equations—strings of numbers to keep her body from betraying her. But unlike Vega IV, they were alone this time. It seemed outside the realm of possibility to her that Captain Pike had different memories of Vega IV than she did—different enough that the Talosians had hand-picked this memory to try and force a coupling where they had so obviously failed with Vina.
"I didn't think you'd noticed," she murmured after a few minutes, as the painful cold subsided and she could stretch her legs out without them cramping. His thighs beneath hers were warm, even through his uniform trousers, and despite herself and the situation, she began to relax into his embrace.
"What, that you were cold?"
"No—the colour I paint my nails."
"Well, it's unusual." Pike chuckled. "I mean—it's very nice. It suits you."
Making small talk while huddled half-naked in a cave that existed only in their minds felt absurd to her. But they'd decided to wait it out, and there was nothing to do except talk.
"It's Cait's fault," she said, to fill the silence. "If it were up to me, I'd forego cosmetics. But she thought…"
"What?" he prompted, and Number One regretted bringing it up.
"She just thought I should try something new."
"Is that why you changed your hairstyle?" he asked, and once again she was shocked he'd even noticed she'd taken pains to alter her appearance.
"She said wearing it pulled back made me look too severe."
"You did present a formidable figure. I was surprised, when I first read your service jacket, to learn you were younger than I was. Back when we were on the Yorkie, I mean."
"You were the youngest captain in 'Fleet history."
Pike shrugged. "There'll always be someone younger and hungrier out there. I'm sure my record won't stand for long. And you won't be my XO forever."
"What makes you say that?"
"Starfleet would be fools not to offer you a command of your own. I've been lucky to have you under me as long as I have. Metaphorically, of course," he added with a cough.
"Some officers spend their entire careers never advancing to their own command. Lorna Simon retired an Exec," she reminded him. "It's enough of an honour serving as an Exec on a ship like Enterprise."
"Modest to a fault, as always."
"You always seem so sure of yourself. Like you never want or need anything or anyone."
"All evidence to the contrary, I am still human," she replied without thinking, and belatedly added, "sir."
"Duly noted, Lieutenant."
The warmth of his body beneath hers began to seep into her bones. She knew it was ridiculous to be drowsy when she was, in fact, already asleep. But the Talosian illusion was painstakingly complete down to the last detail—no doubt aided by her own eidetic memory of events.
"The next time we're being held captive by hostile aliens intent on breeding us like cattle, could you at least fantasise about someplace warm?"
"Cross my heart," Pike said with a dry chuckle. "To be fair—I did have a beautiful half-naked woman draped over me for several hours."
Number One blinked, her lips parting in surprise. He'd never called her beautiful, before. Never even so much as acknowledged she was female, let alone attractive.
He rubbed her upper arms with his hands, to stimulate circulation, just as he had on Vega IV. But now, unlike then, as his movements slowed he ran his fingers up her shoulders and then over her back. She shivered against him—and not from the cold.
"So on Vega IV, are you telling me you didn't feel anything?" he said softly, tangling his fingers in the hair at the nape of her neck.
"I felt—" Safe. Warm. Protected. Cared for. "Cold. All I remember was being cold."
"Well, there is one good thing about this scenario..."
"No Vulcan chaperone this time," he said softly, and she turned in his arms to try and read his expression in the dim glow cast by the heated rocks.
The blue of his eyes was swallowed up by his pupils, and almost before she could register what was happening he leaned forward to close the space between them and brush her lips with his.
It should have sent off warning bells. It did, but the feel of his lips against hers—the tip of his tongue teasing her lips apart while his hands massaged her neck and skull through her thick fall of hair overwhelmed her senses.
This isn't real, the voice in her head reminded her as he tilted his head, deepening the kiss, but it felt so real. The heat that flooded her limbs at his touch was real. Her reaction to the feel of his body pressed against hers was real. His tongue slid teasingly against hers and she couldn't help responding with a low moan. Encouraged by her response, his fingers splayed across her ribcage before sliding over the curve of her hip.
She wanted it to be real. She wanted it so much.
"This c-can't be real," she managed between stuttering breaths as Pike's lips travelled from hers to her jawline, teeth nipping lightly at the pulse beating wildly beneath her ear. Even the lightest of touches seemed to send spirals of pleasure through her tightly coiled body, and she knew her grip on his shoulders must have been painful as he hitched her leg up higher onto his hip. But her ardent response to his touch only spurred him on, and she gasped as he slid his fingers beneath the overlarge tunic to brush the underside of one breast before cupping it in his hand.
As he rolled the peaked nipple between thumb and forefinger, a strangled cry of pleasure was torn from her throat, which he swallowed with another kiss.
He rolled them over so his weight was balanced on his forearms and one leg slipped between hers so his thigh was pressed tightly against her. Her body seemed to have a will of its own as she arched against him, kissing him back as his hips rocked teasingly against hers.
With every breath she drew, she felt herself losing more and more of herself in his touch. Everything—the Talosians, Enterprise, Colt, Vina—faded away to be replaced by the ache of desire, hunger for the feeling of warm skin against her own. The rocky cave floor beneath her shoudlerblades could have beens the most luxurious hotel suite on an exclusive pleasure world. The stale smell of animal musk and smoke and sweat was gone, and the cold that had seized her body was replaced with a fever-like warmth as she found herself opening her body beneath his, desperate for more intimate contact.
"It's as real as you want it to be," he whispered into her hair.
His words were like the blast of icy water that had closed over her head when she had plunged into the frozen river. Her eyes snapped open and there was a fierce ache in her chest at the look of desire on his face. Because it wasn't for her. It was never for her.
Her arousal turned immediately to disgust as the haze of desire dissipated, leaving her feeling physically ill. Shaking with adrenaline and shame, she pushed him off her with all her strength and scrambled to her feet.
She ignored the hurt and shock on his face as he sat up, reaching for her. "Number One, what—"
"You're not real." She pressed herself against the wall of the cave, trying to put as much distance between them as possible. "This isn't real—it's just an illusion."
She kept repeating her accusation, as if somehow the words would shield her from the emotions churning inside her. He stood, and she dove for the laser resting on the floor and levelled at his naked chest.
"Get away from me. Get away!"
"Number One—" he said, his eyes still burning with desire, and she pulled the trigger.
Pike vanished in a burst of light, and the laser dropped from her fingers as she pressed her hand to her mouth in horror.
Curious. Even faced with the obvious, the female deceives herself.
The voice came from everywhere and nowhere.
"Face me!" she shouted, her voice echoing in the empty cave. "Or are you nothing but pathetic voyeurs?"
You are obviously female—yet you believe that the specimen does not view you as such. This was necessary, to show you that you are mistaken.
"That was not the captain."
We created the simulacra based on the specimen's thought records, as well as your own. It is accurate, down to the smallest detail. The simulacra gave you pleasure, did it not?
"Is this your plan, now? Just as you offer to replace the bland nutritional drink with a feast, you would have us perform intimate acts with illusions?"
Her eyes stung with the cold, and she was nearly blinded by tears as she trudged further out into the frozen landscape, chasing shadows.
"You'd replace me in the captain's eyes with some woman he actually desires, in order to populate your menagerie? Would you feed me the same lies—a caring, attentive mate—to encourage me to couple with your stud as often as possible, like a good little brood mare?"
Fury warred with shame and disgust, and she could begin to discern two figures standing in the snow opposite her. Their lips didn't move, but they inclined their heads toward one another, conferring as if she wasn't even there.
For all her logic, she remains blinded by simple human emotion. It is a common weakness of their species, but one which serves our purposes.
"Get out of my mind!" Number One shouted into the howling wind.
We appear to have provoked a strong emotional response. Excellent.
Rage thrummed through her, and the snow-covered landscape vanished as Number One awoke with a start, her heart hammering crazily in her chest.
Lying across from her beneath the shimmering silver blanket, Vina opened her eyes, and Number One saw triumph warring with sympathy in their depths.
Pike's head jerked up, but there was only confusion and concern in his gaze. "Number One?"
"I'm fine, sir." Number One's hands made fists, her nails digging into her palms. She forced herself to unclench them, and for the first time realised that the gash across her hand—and the accompanying pain—had vanished.
Number One did not allow herself to fall asleep again.
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