Title: Playtime (18/?)
Fandom: Star Trek AOS
Summary: AU. Fun times ensue at Little Star Academy. Pike begins to realize that while he may be the adult, he’s definitely not the one in charge.
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Even trouble by lovable, over-excitable little ones can become routine. And Pike finds that when he has fallen into a routine in which he can cope, something is bound to come along and shake him up. He always forgets to be on the look-out for that something. This time not only blind-sides him but it surprises and upsets the children too.
He loses a child.
Okay, not permanently (he prays)—not in the bad way. He’s only had to attend one funeral in all fifteen years, though that was an experience that should never be repeated. The little dark-haired girl had nicknamed herself (much to Pike’s amusement) Number One; those details are still fresh in his mind, sometimes painfully so. She drowned in her parents’ pool, and that period of time was probably the closest Pike has ever come to quitting his job. It made him realize how attached he can get, when he falls-in-love with the sheer delight and personality of each child that passes through Little Star. He realized how much it can wound him.
But Chris is still teaching and taking care of small children many, many years later, thanks to Jonathan Archer. A debt he’ll not forget that he owes, though Jon says he was just being a friend—not to mention a business partner trying to stall losing the main reason Little Star Academy is popular. Pike wouldn’t be here today, with Captain Jimmy and his crew, otherwise. And quite possibly, he wouldn’t be frantically searching for Montgomery Scott while his heart thuds unhappily in his chest.
Christine is crying honest tears of fright, Jimmy is pale, and everyone—absolutely everyone—is quiet. The situation is serious, of that the little ones can grasp.
When a child disappears off of the premises, Pike automatically calls law enforcement. The last time this had almost happened, an angry parent who had no custodial rights to the targeted child had demanded to take him home. Pike had secured all of the children inside—refusing to allow the man access to the classroom—and threatened to call the police; thankfully, the father had not challenged Pike thereafter and made a speedy exit. But ultimately, Christopher Pike had been scared to his core.
Scotty is not so different a case, except that if someone did in fact kidnap the child, it would be a stranger. That scares Pike even more.
Rand returns from her search. “He’s not in either bathroom or any of the supply closets. Chris, I just don’t know! I swear that he was on the swing set, not more than a few minutes ago!”
“Jan, calm down. You’re upsetting the children.” It’s the easiest way he can tell her not to panic without being blunt. She understands, takes a moment to breathe deeply. He pretends that he doesn’t notice the trembling of her hands, or his own.
Jimmy crawls up to him, tugs on his pants leg. “Where’s Scotty?”
“I don’t know, son. Are you sure—is your entire crew certain that none of you know where he could be?”
The boy shakes his head. Pike mentally curses.
“Then go back to the others and stay there. Keep everyone else from wandering off. Can you do that for me, Captain?”
The boy nods and goes back to Spock and Lenny who are not arguing for once and watching everything with sharp eyes. They huddle, talking, and Pike has no more time to contemplate what they might be saying.
“Get the police out here,” he orders Janice. “Use the comm in my office. Then call Mrs. Scott at her work, if you will.” She leaves to do just that.
He paces up and down the room, which is suddenly too small for comfort. After a quick glance at the children, who are not moving nor seem inclined to move, Pike reaches for his personal comm and pulls up Jon’s number. Jonathan picks up, grumbling, “Who threw up and who needs watching?”
“Jon,” he manages, “we’ve lost Scotty.”
There is a moment of silence, then, “On my way. Chris, don’t take your eyes off the others. They’ll do something foolish, mark my words.”
Pike doesn’t even bother to cut the call as he spins around. Sure enough, he counts heads—already knowing who is missing—and actually says “Shit!” before he remembers not to. Pavel titters.
“Chris, I just—” Janice talks as she re-enters.
“Now we’ve lost the Three!”
She stops, dead-still, and looks horrified. “Not Jimmy!”
“And Lenny and Spock,” he adds grimly. Shit shit shit.
Nyota pipes up, “The Captain ain’t lost, Mr. Pike. He’s gonna get Scotty.”
“Does he know where Scotty is?”
Pike groans. “The next one of you who moves from that rug is banded from every future ice cream party!”
There are several gasps and one fresh bout of tears. If only Pike had been smart enough to threat them in the first place, he might not be now searching for four missing persons. At least, he can hope—but knowing Jimmy like he does, the child never listens to threats anyway.
“Stay with them, Jan. I’ll go look. Ring on the comm when the police, Scotty’s parents, or both get here.” He doesn’t wait for an answer and is running out the nearest door to the playground. Scotty disappeared during Play-time, and that’s where they originally looked. He doesn’t doubt that Jimmy—
Pike’s eye catches the tail end of a colored blur scooting around a building corner. He shouts, “Lenny, Leonard Horatio McCoy, STOP!” And narrowly avoids tripping over an abandoned sand shovel.
By the time he rounds the corner, McCoy or any other wayward children are not in sight. But the bushes rustle to his left, and Pike sincerely wishes for a sedative that could bring down a moose, stun gun, net or anything that might remotely stop a child in its tracks.
“James!” Pike parts the bushes. A bird, startled from its hiding place, almost hits him in the face. He leaps back, clutches at his chest.
“Jimmy, da—darn it! Where are you? Spock!” He goes silent, listening. There is suspicious quiet, especially for a group of babies on the hunt. Then, the whispers Scotty? Scotty! Hello? off to the left.
Pike goes back the way he came. A Vulcan pauses halfway between Pike and the door that leads inside. He blinks slowly at his teacher and greets, “Good afternoon.”
“Spock! I told you—”
The Vulcan walks away without another word. Pike’s mouth drops open. When he catches the boy by the shoulder, the Vulcan calmly threatens, “Release me, Mr. Pike, or I shall be forced to defend myself.”
Pike drops to a knee. “Spock, this is serious business. I can’t be searching for you and your Captain when Scotty is missing. What if he’s hurt or…” He doesn’t finish that explanation, because the words won’t be forced past his throat.
“I understand the dangers to which Mr. Scott may be subject,” Spock answers. “Thus I am aiding your search.” A pause. “As are the Captain and Doctor.”
“I’m sorry, son,” Pike explains grimly. “And I haven’t the time to make you fully understand. Go back inside.”
When Spock opens his mouth, Pike commands, “Now. That’s an order.” Ah Hell. In for a penny, in for a pound. “From your Admiral.”
The Vulcan looks intrigued. He also accepts Pike’s newly declared position with surprising ease. “Yes, Admiral.”
“Spock, before you go, where’s Jimmy and Lenny?”
“The parking lot, Admiral.”
Pike points the Vulcan in the direction of Miss Rand who is leaning half-way out of the door. Then he proceeds—God help them all—to the parking lot to retrieve a certain Captain and Doctor.
There’s no need, unfortunately, because the recently arrived policeman has found them for Mr. Pike.
“The dispatcher said there was only one missing child,” the uniformed man mutters as he shifts a hip to put the secured weapon out of little Jimmy’s grasping hands. The Captain switches tactics to climbing the man’s leg. It would be funny, seeing an officer of the law extremely ruffled and trying to shake off a small child like a wild animal. Lenny is in the background, on his tiptoes peering into the backseat of the police car. Pike thanks the Powers-That-Be that the car doors are shut. Hopefully they are locked too.
“Leonard! James! Come here!”
Lenny trots up to Mr. Pike and says, “Scotty ain’t in that idiot’s car.” The policeman frowns at McCoy who does not deign to notice his presence.
“Can I have one?” Jimmy asks, indicating his desire for a firearm.
“No,” Pike says firmly. He scoops up Kirk and grabs Lenny’s hand. “This way, Officer. We do have a missing child, but not these two.”
“You shouldn’t let them wander around, Mister…”
“Pike. Christopher Pike. And no, I don’t let them wander,” he answers shortly.
By the time the little group has made it down the hall, Mrs. Scott has come flying in behind them. At the sight of the law, she stops short and bursts into tears. “Where is my baby? What’s happened!”
Pike kindly lets the policeman try to calm the distraught woman. He guides his two charges back into the swarm of children—who are now excited to see the police—and says to both, “We will discuss all the rules you broke, James, Leonard.” He glances. “And Spock.” The Vulcan looks unperturbed. “First, I will find Scotty ALONE. None of you move from this spot. Do you understand me?”
“I want to hear the words,” he doesn’t quite snap. They look astonished.
Lenny answers, “We won’t go nowhere. We promise.”
“Pr-womise,” nods Kirk.
“You have my word, Admiral.”
He ignores Lenny and Jimmy, who turn to stare at Spock. Jimmy is uttering, “Admiral?”
Pike approaches the adults. “Mr. Pike!” Mrs. Scott wails. “Have you checked everywhere? What if he’s fallen down a hole or—OH!” She cries harder.
“I’m so sorry,” Pike begins. God, what if Scotty has or—
“I found the fat one!” Jon bursts through the door. He is triumphantly waving a lax bundle in the air.
“Oh! Oh!” Mrs. Scott tears Scotty from Archer’s grasp—knocking the man into a wall with an oomph. “My baby! My poor baby! Where have you been?”
Pike wants to know that too. Scotty isn’t telling, but Jon is. “Well, I had just arrived to save the day—”
Of course. Pike rolls his eyes but is nonetheless grateful. He resists the urge to sit down, especially right there on the floor.
“—and figured that the boy had probably squirreled himself away in some dark hole—”
What an odd assumption. Pike’ll ask about that later.
“—when I heard the cat’s meow.”
“What?” Pike, Janice, and the police officer ask simultaneously.
Jon grins at them. “Literally. A cat. Did you know we have cats living under this building? Apparently that—boy does. A whole nest, er, bushel, whatever of ’em. So I followed the cat, which ran for that grating on the side of the building. Hell, somebody’s removed it! Probably a hobo—”
Pike wonders if smacking Jon will stop his rambling.
“And there he was! Under the building, I mean. Just staring at me, frightening-ness thing I ever did…” Pike coughs loudly. Jon resumes the proper track. “How the boy had squeezed through that hole, I haven’t the faintest idea. He was surrounded by kitties, weren’t you, fella?”
Mrs. Scott’s expression goes from doting to horrified in a split second. “Oh Scotty! You aren’t supposed to touch those filthy beasts! Mr. Pike, where is the bathroom and the soap? We need soap!”
Pike slides past the entertained police officer and indicates where the bathrooms are located. Mrs. Scotty disappears from sight toting her son and fussing, “What did I tell you? Filthy, filthy beasts! And look at your pants!…”
Jon is still grinning and looking very pleased with himself. He addresses the officer, “As you can see, the situation has resolved itself. Thanks for coming out.”
“Would you like to file an incident report? Perhaps I should speak with—uh, Scotty’s parents about—”
Jon interrupts, beaming good-naturedly. “Would you like to stay?”
The man hesitates, eyes the group of staring, whispering and pointing children. Nyota has inched (very conspiciously) close to a black boot, eyes gleaming. “I should return to the station. Glad the kid’s okay. Er, hand this to Mrs. Scott, would you?”
Jon congenially takes the form. The policeman is gone in a flash. Archer hums as he rips up the piece of paper and tosses it into the wastebasket. Then he strides over to the rug with “So who wants to hear a story?”
The children—minus Scotty, who is probably being scoured by his mother—are scrambling for seats before he finishes sitting down. Pike catches his friend’s wink. Good old Jonathan Archer. Most certainly a true friend when a man is in need.
Jonathan’s opening story-time line is: “Once upon a time, there was a clown called It, and It lived far, far beneath the city in a place called Sewer Land…”
Now how to send him back on his way?