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Author's Note: Written for 'Ship Wars prompt #2 "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone".

This House (Ain't No Home)
by LJC

Four months, sixteen days, and nine hours.

As his yeoman informed him his calendar for the day was clear until the Bolian reception that night, the numbers popped into Admiral Pike's head unbidden. Four months, sixteen days, and nine hours since the Yorktown had docked at Starbase 12 to transfer crew and re-supply.

Four months, sixteen days, and nine hours since she'd last touched him. Since he'd kissed her in the transporter room while Phil and her XO had pretended not to be watching. Since the Yorktown had warped away, her captain at the helm where she belonged, leaving her lover behind.

Chris knew he shouldn't be keeping count, but he couldn't seem to stop.

They'd had a honeymoon period, which had spoiled him. Barnett had ordered a speaking tour of Federation Member Worlds. After losing seven ships, thousands of seasoned officers and crewmen, and nearly an entire graduating class at the Battle of Vulcan, Starfleet needed new recruits to swell the ranks. Pike had pulled every newly-installed string his Admiral's rank afforded him to ensure it was the Yorktown that carried him from world to world.

He'd hoped for six months. They'd given him three weeks. The Yorktown was being diverted from the Klingon-Federation border, and after the Battle of Vulcan, heavy cruisers couldn't be spared for diplomatic missions.

They'd had three weeks of quiet dinners in her quarters, nights of lovemaking filled with passion and tenderness and best of all, laughter that made him forget how unsteady he was on his feet. How he still woke some nights in a cold sweat, tasting bile in the back of his throat.

He'd had three weeks of watching her in the centre seat, seeing the unswerving devotion of her crew, and while part of him was envious, the rest of him was suffused with pride and admiration. Even on a peaceful diplomatic mission, she was in her element on the bridge of a starship. She'd been an extraordinarily competent First Officer. Now, he had the pleasure of seeing the kind of Captain she had become, and frankly, it made her even more desirable in his eyes. The set of her shoulders as she took the command chair, the timbre of her voice as she gave orders, it was all he could do to keep his hands off her right there in front of her senior staff, God, and everyone.

And damn the woman, she knew it, too. She would ask him calmly to accompany her from the bridge, and as the 'lift doors slid shut, she'd have him pressed up against the wall, with one hand down his pants before they could get to Deck 5. Sometimes, they never even made it to her quarters. Her chief engineer stopped comming them about halted turbolifts three days into the first week, but instead asked them with a roll of her eyes over dinner in the Officers' Mess, to at least think of the poor bastards on Deck 2 who had to crawl through Jefferies Tubes to get to Rec Room One. Boyce swore Pike only stopped lurking on the bridge to keep Commander Barry from murdering him in his sleep, and Chris didn't exactly contradict him.

They were the worst kept secret in Starfleet, and he didn't give a damn. For three blissful weeks, they were in the same place at the same time and dammit, they were going to take advantage of every second of it.

Three weeks had passed in an eye-blink. Before they could settle into new routines, he was sent to the Gamma 400 system as Sector Commander, and the Yorkie was sent back out to the DMZ. In that first year, he only saw her three times: twice on the starbase, once for two days on Risa. They communicate via subspace--in real-time when they can, via data packets when they can't.

They'd never been together long enough for the novelty of falling asleep with her in his arms to wear off. He hoped it never would. He knew she didn't stay--she needed less sleep than he did and stole away while he slept to sit quietly at her desk to work, or read. But she was always there when he woke. Sometimes there was coffee. It always tasted better when she handed it to him than when he got it from the food slots himself. He knew it was illogical, but that didn't make it any less true.

No-one else teased him about his unending quest to find the galaxy's most perfect tiramisu. Or made disapproving clucking noises when he skipped breakfast, and then locked him out of his office by hacking his command codes until he ate a sandwich from the station mess. And certainly no-one else left chocolate wrappers in his bed, or cursed him in Standard, Ilyrian, Vulcan, and Klingon when she lost a game of chess.

His quarters were littered with reminders of her--a data solid with her favourite novels she'd left in his reader; a hair ribbon, her scent still clinging to it, left in his fresher; a silver ring she usually wore on her thumb, left at his bedside. He kept them close when she was far from him, and fantasised about a day when he wouldn't have to count the months, weeks, and days.

They'd never been together long enough for him to get used to waking up beside her. Yet Pike still reflexively reached for her in that twilight space between dreams and waking before the alarm buzzed, before his eyes opened. When his outstretched fingers encountered empty space every morning, he mourned just a little, before starting his day. Regretted, when he snapped off the light and lay his PADD on the bedside table, the parsecs between them.

They had made their choice, and they had to live with it. But that didn't mean it was easy.

Four months, sixteen days, and nine hours.

He waited in Transporter Room Three, and counted the minutes.