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Author's Note: Written for the Pike/Number One Prompt Table prompt #45 "touch".

The Nick of Time
by LJC

They hear the supports give way, and it seems like the split-second before identifying the rumbling, wrenching sound and starting to move pass in slow motion. Number One loses her tricorder along with her footing as rocks come raining down, and the captain wrenches his knee as they stumble out of the path of the heavy wooden beams as they topple on either side of them. Then there's nothing but darkness.

Pike doesn't know how long they're out. His head is ringing as he blinks but the blackness inside the segment of tunnel where they're trapped is almost complete. He's crouched beneath the apex of two beams, and he can feel the warmth of another body along one side. He pats it carefully, feeling the familiar weave Starfleet-issue grey field jacket beneath his fingers.

"Commander?" he says softly, and she coughs a few times, trying to get the fine dust out of her lungs and nose.

"Captain? Are you injured?"

"I'm alright, Number One. Mostly," he flinches as he tries to put weight on his leg and his knee protests. "Wrenched my knee on the way down. You?"

"A few bruises and abrasions," she says, and it's hard to tell in the gloom but her voice sounds more clipped and formal than usual.

"Pike to Enterprise," he says into the grille of his communicator between coughs. But there's no sound. Not even the telltale chirp of establishing contact. "We're not too far back from the entrance. I thought I might be able to get a signal."

His eyes begin to adjust, and he can see just enough to know they're both filthy but no sign of blunt force trauma, which was what he was envisioning when half the mountain started to come down on them.

"It's the dilithium deposits," she reminds him, wiping her hands on her grey jacket. "The piezoelectric effect blocks communi—" her words are choked off by a sudden intake of breath, and he reaches out to touch her arm. She's rigid, and he starts to wonder if she had other injuries and just hadn't felt the need to share with him.

"What is it?"

"My neck—probably a compressed nerve. What would Boyce say? I zagged?"

"You zigged when you should have zagged."

"Yes. That. It just hurts when I move a certain way."

"Which way would that be?"

"At all," she forces out between clenched teeth. "It's nothing. I'll be fine."

Number One crawls on her hands and knees, mapping out the space, and it's barely tall enough to stand in, and almost the same distance wide.

"Careful—we don't know what caused the quake. Any shifting on the debris might bring the rest of it down."

"Spock and Tyler are supposed to rendezvous with us in... how long were we out?"

"Probably not more than a few minutes."

"Soon. They'll finish their sweep, and start back to the beam-out point. When they can't raise us on comms, Spock will scan with his tricorder and—"

"Number One, since when can you tell the future? You got a crystal ball in your field kit I don't know about?"

"Not idle spec, sir. I know Lt Spock."

"Our Vulcan does follow orders to the letter, doesn't he. I'll be glad of it, if they can dig us outta here before we run out of air."

"That's a cheerful thought." She crawls back over to his side, arm and thigh brushing up against his as she stretches out her legs. He hears her draw another harsh breath beneath her teeth that ends with a sound suspiciously close to a whimper.

"C'mere." He draws one arm around her shoulder, carefully tugging her field jacket open.

"What are you doing?"

"We're not going anywhere—and we can't do anything about my knee. But I can at least try to help with your shoulder."

He manoeuvres himself so she's sitting between his legs, and carefully draws her jacket down over her arms. Her movements are stiff and jerky, lacking the grace he associates with her. That's how he knows it hurts worse than she's letting on. It would hurt less if she would relax, but her back is still ramrod straight.

"Relax. That's an order. Now, which side?"

"The right." Her voice is barely above a whisper.

He gathers her long dark hair in one hand and carefully moves it to the side so it spills over her left shoulder. The cowl neck of her gold tunic is torn, making it easier for him to pull it open so he can get better access to the slope of her neck where it joins her shoulder. But it's still not enough. Without him having to ask, she tugs the zip down at her side, so the tunic falls open. He can feel the low neck of the black standard issue undertunic beneath his hands, but can only imagine the stark contrast of her pale skin against the fabric.

Reaching up with his right hand, he runs his fingers over the nape of her neck, exerting careful pressure with the pads of his fingers while his thumb begins to work on the tight trapezius muscle in careful circles.

She gasps in pain, pulls away instinctively.

"Shhh, it's okay," he says without thinking, trying to calm her the same way he would Tango if the horse was skittish. "It's okay."

He lays the flat of his hands against her neck, knowing the heat will help loosen her up. Her shoulders drop a little, but not enough. He leans forward, his knee only protesting a little as he uses both hands to knead the muscles over the bones of her spine, fingertips still buried in the hair at the nape of her neck and tugging slightly.

Pike's had too many lectures from Boyce over the years about working too long in front of a workstation screen without breaks not to know that whatever ergonomic sins he's committed, she's probably doubled. He at least has Colt to do most of the heavy lifting, but Execs don't have their own yeomen and Pike knows all too well she'd work double shifts every rotation if she could. She carries a lot of tension in her neck and shoulders, which barely give under his probing fingers.

It's a challenge—and one he applies himself to with singular concentration. He can't change the fact that their instruments are damaged, communications are blocked, and they've no way of digging themselves out. He can't change the fact that his left knee is hot and radiating a dull aching pain that he knows will only get worse instead of better, the longer they're down here.

But dammit, he can keep her from flinching every time she moves. That he can do.

Everything narrows to her warm skin under his fingers, and the play of muscles beneath. He can feel the pulled muscle at the top of her right shoulder blade, a hard knot which shifts beneath his patient fingers and he thinks about how she works the helm and weapons controls, her movements quick and sure. He parts her hair, letting it fall on either side so she's no longer trying to hold her head at an awkward position to keep it all to one side.

He learns forward, his mouth next to her ear. "Tell me if it's too much pressure," he says, and she treats it like an order, saying "yes, sir" but her voice is a bit unsteady as his thumbs keep pressing down in smooth, steady motions on either side of her spine.

"You're good at this," she murmurs with surprise, and he chuckles.

"My mother used to get a crick in her neck just like this from too many hours at her desk. Dad used to lecture her to get up and stretch."

"I'll make sure I stretch properly before the next cave-in." There's wry amusement in her voice.

Bit by bit, she begins to go limp, her arms falling so she's cradling her forearms in her lap and her chin is almost touching her breastbone. Her breath is coming more evenly now, and he chances trying to work the stiffness and knot out of her traps again. This time her breathing quickens, but she doesn't completely tense up again, which he takes as a good sign.

Slowly, she begins to lean back against his chest as he pulls carefully on the muscles and then releases—setting up a steady rhythm with slightly increased pressure. His thumbs dip below the hem of her vest and when she shudders beneath his hands, he realises with a start it's not with pain this time—but with pleasure.

He's suddenly aware of just how close they are in the dimness, the warmth of her back against his chest even through the field jacket and his own tunic and vest. He swallows thickly, still tasting dust at the back of his throat as he runs his thumbs over her neck, keeping up the gentle pressure. Slowly, he begins to work his way up her neck, massaging the base of her skull.

His breath puffs warmly against her neck, stirring her hair as he runs his hands downward over her shoulders and upper arms. He repeats the motions, feeling the tension slip out of her, leeching away with each pass of his hands until she's boneless.

"Don't stop," she breathes, her voice low and musical, and his breath catches in his throat, heat flashing through him.

He leans forward, until it would be just so easy to press a kiss to the top of her spine. He's half curled around her, and he's sure any second now it's going to register that it's not the phaser he lost when the roof came down on top of them pressing into her hip. Any second now he'll be too far gone to stop, and he'll either lose the respect of the best damn first officer in the fleet, or gain something else—something potentially even better.

Of course, that would be when the communicator on the cave floor chirps and Pike feels her pull away from him like the loss of a limb.

Spock's voice over the communicator cools his ardour like a dozen cold showers.

"Captain! Commander! We've boosted our signal to penetrate the debris. Please respond!"

"Pike here. We're fine—just a little banged up." He hears the scrape of her tunic zip being drawn up and she shrugs back into her jacket before struggling to her feet.

"Mr Pitcairn is attempting to lock on transporters. Stand by for transport."

She offers him a hand up, and supports him with a shoulder beneath his arm as his knee protests. He allows himself to relish the warmth of her body alongside his for the second before the matter transporter grips them and they are left blinking in the sudden bright light as the cave dissolves, replaced by the Enterprise transporter room.

Colt is there, next to Boyce, who helps Number One ease him down off the pad. Colt moves to help, but Pike waves her concern away, leaning heavily on Phil instead as they clear the pad.

"What the hell did you do to yourself?" Phil mutters, and Pike feels sheepish.

"Zigged when I should have zagged," he admits, and Number One chuckles as she follows them.

Pike meets her eyes over Phil's shoulder. "You should have Boyce look over that shoulder."

"Oh, I think you got it, Captain." She rolls her head from side to side, smiling blissfully. His mouth goes dry.

The whine of the transporter behind them announces Spock and Tyler's arrival from the surface.

"The whole place is coming down, sir," Tyler tells him as they step off the pad. "Looks like we got to you just in the nick of time."

"The nick of time," Pike repeats ruefully, watching Number One as she headed towards the 'lift.


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