The first thing Mako did when she woke up in the middle of the night after Operation: Pitfall was look for Raleigh. She woke two more times and was calmed by medics.
The first thing Raleigh did when he woke up in the middle of the night after Operation: Pitfall was look for Mako. He also woke two more times, and was also calmed down, assured everything would be fine, Mako was in the next room. Without a word to anyone but each other, Mako and Raleigh consolidated their things into Mako's room in the morning.
On the second morning after Operation: Pitfall, researchers by the dozens descended upon the Dome. Four of them walked right up to where Raleigh and Mako were eating breakfast, unconsciously moving in sync while they talked and ate.
"Excuse us, Mr. Beckett, Ms. Mori. We were hoping for just a little bit of your time?"
Raleigh and Mako turned towards them at the same time and the four researchers took a collective step back. It took guts to approach two of the only three survivors from Pitfall, but approaching and actually talking seemed to be different things.
"Just a sleep study!" one of them said quickly. It was for some project they were doing on sleep and brain activity in pilots and, well, it wasn't like there were a ton of pilots left to ask for participation. Once they'd left Mako sighed and looked at Raleigh.
Raleigh shrugged. "Not like they have anyone else to ask except us. Maybe Gottlieb and Geiszler. I think Herc'd bite their heads off if they showed their faces near Pentecost."
Mako frowned and turned to watch them leave the mess hall.
"Perhaps that would not be a bad thing," she said softly to Raleigh. "For someone to be checking on him." Someone else, Raleigh assumed she meant. Because Pentecost had been poked and prodded by every doctor in the house already and had summarily tossed them out of his quarters the first day. He had put on his formal uniform and gone back to running the place. Except he wasn't. Herc was running the place, and no one was going to take that from him. Herc ran the Dome and Pentecost kept silent vigil over it.
"He is not sleeping," Mako confided. "I heard him, last night, walking down the corridor."
"And you could tell it was him?" Raleigh smiled at her. Of course she could tell. He'd been in her head. He knew how much she cared about Pentecost, how much she worried about him, how well she knew the sound of his steps on a sleepless night.
They regarded each other, alone in their thoughts but definitely on the same wavelength.
"You know what?" Raleigh said after a moment. "I'm gonna go talk to Tendo. You want to try and talk to Pentecost?"
Mako gave him a determined nod and got up to go seek out her mentor. Given that he roamed the entire Dome, that would be a bit of a task.
On the other hand, it was easy for Raleigh to find Tendo. He was still up in LOCCENT, coordinating efforts to salvage what they could of Cherno Alpha and Crimson Typhoon. Everyone around him looked up when Raleigh walked in, then went back to work. Sure, he was supposed to be some big hero, but everyone there knew there was still work to be done. Raleigh appreciated that.
"Tendo, man, got time to talk for a minute?" Raleigh asked, leaning on the desk where Tendo was seated to keep an eye on two monitors and a holo display.
Tendo looked up. "Can't wait?" he asked, having already gauged Raleigh's all-too-casual tone. Of course Tendo could read him. He's been the only one from the Dome who tried to keep in touch after Knifehead. Not that Raleigh had responded, but hey, Tendo had tried.
"No, I don't think it can," Raleigh said.
So Tendo got up, motioned to two of his assistants to take over, then pulled Raleigh into a stairwell.
"What's up, man?"
"It's Pentecost," Raleigh said, keeping his voice nice and low. "Mako said she heard him up and walking last night. She's worried."
Tendo frowned and looked around a little. "Yeah, he was up. Sleepwalking, he said. Got himself all the way to the suit room before he woke up. Wouldn't say a word to the cadets who found him."
They both frowned at that. Pentecost wasn't the sort of man to ever explain himself to those under his command, but clearly something was wrong. And of course there was. Something was very wrong. Plenty of somethings, not least of which were the pilots they'd lost, both before and during Pitfall, the fact that some people still seemed to think they should be building walls, the media asking if the PPDC was certain that the Breach had been destroyed. Only a couple of days out from the event itself and there was more than enough to deal with. As far as Raleigh was concerned, it was a wonder they all weren't sleepwalking, or just plain not sleeping.
"If you find out any more, let me know?" Raleigh asked. Tendo nodded and headed back into LOCCENT, leaving Raleigh to try and track down Mako. Which really wasn't hard at all once he put his mind to it. She was always there, now, somehow present at the edge of his consciousness.
"Do not ever leave me again," Mako ordered softly, and Raleigh shook his head and wrapped his arms around her tight.
"Never," he promised. They fell asleep that way, curled up together, breathing in sync.
But when they woke up in the middle of the night they had tangled together, the blankets in knots around them.
"He is awake again. I could not find him earlier, now is my chance to talk to him," Mako whispered, her breath warm on Raleigh's cheek. "I must go."
Raleigh nodded and they both got up. "Yeah, of course," he agreed.
"You do not need to come," she offered.
But Raleigh only shook his head. "Yeah," he said. "I do."
Pentecost wasn't too far down the hall when they ventured out to find him. He turned when he heard them walking towards him, then shook his head.
"Go back to sleep," he tried to order them. But Mako just stood there, staring him down.
"Only if you do," she told him. Raleigh watched as the two of them started what looked like a staring contest. And before he'd met Mako he would have put money on Stacker Pentecost every time in a battle of wills. But against Mako? For his own health? No bet there. Even odds.
"Look," he said after it was clear neither of them was going to back down. "We just want to know what's up, and I think I've got a good guess. Nightmares. Except they feel so real. I know you don't want to hear this from me, but I had them for years after Yancy."
Pentecost didn't look away from Mako. Not immediately, but after a minute he did, turning his head to scowl at Raleigh. And then he walked away.
They watched him, then looked at each other.
"We should talk to Herc," Raleigh said once Pentecost was around the corner.
As it turned out, Herc was also awake. Raleigh began to suspect that no one in the Dome was sleeping the night through. Herc sighed when he saw Mako and Raleigh at his door, then opened it wider to let them in.
"Might as well have some company," Herc muttered as Mako and Raleigh took seats at the tiny table in Herc's room. Herc shut the door and followed them over.
"This is about Stacker, isn't it," Herc said as he sat down. "Damn fool thinks no one sees through that stoic face he's putting on. Like he needs to hide it from me. Shield me from the fact that my son's gone and he feels guilty about it."
Raleigh and Mako glanced at each other, then back at Herc.
"He told some cadets he was sleepwalking last night," Raleigh said.
"And tonight he is up again," Mako added. "I do not believe he was sleepwalking. He has never done that before. It is not like him."
Herc nodded and picked up a mug that had been on the table. Raleigh watched as Herc drained whatever was in it, then got up to refill it from a coffee pot. He caught Raleigh and Mako watching and shrugged. "Can't sleep anyhow. I want to be awake. If there's news…"
They all knew how unlikely it was, but then, Pentecost had made it out, Striker's escape pods being as high tech as one might expect in a Mark V Jaeger. It had been a couple of days, but no one wanted to take that hope from Herc. Not yet.
"Do you know what's going on with Pentecost?" Raleigh asked Herc as he sat down again.
Herc shook his head and wrapped his hands around his mug. "I wish I did, aside from the obvious. All he's said to me is that he'd never thought ghost drifting would be literal. Hasn't breathed a word to me since."
Back in their room, Mako went over to look at the photos Raleigh had put up on her wall. Their wall now. Raleigh and Yancy together, as adults and as children, before enlisting and after. She turned to look at Raleigh and he was right there behind her.
"When Yancy…" she began, reaching up to brush her fingers over some of the drive suit scars on Raleigh's arm.
"When he died?" Raleigh finished. "Yeah, when he died, I dreamed about him. A lot. I still do. But it never felt like I was drifting with him. Even in the dreams where we're both still piloting, all I've got are the memories of the drift with him. It's a void, and you and I both know the drift is nothing like a void. It's an ocean."
Mako nodded and leaned in against him. "You should speak with him," she suggested. "Even if he does not want it. You should. You and he, you will understand each other now, I think."
Raleigh didn't answer. He didn't have to. As they climbed back into bed he knew she was right. He'd have to find Pentecost in the morning.
"I have an idea," Mako said once they were up and dressed. She kissed him on the cheek and disappeared off into the Dome. Raleigh, for his part, roamed the halls in search of Pentecost, whom he finally found outside, surveying the salvage operations from the edge of the helipad that looked out over the water.
"Mr. Becket," Pentecost muttered as Raleigh walked up alongside him. "I did think I made myself clear."
"Yeah," Raleigh said, nodding. In contrast to the weather they'd had leading up to Pitfall, it was a gorgeous morning with cloudless skies and calm waters. Well, calm, aside from the wavelets made by the salvage operations. "But see, the thing is? Whatever's going on, you're not dealing with it. You're just hiding it. That doesn't work. I had to learn that all by myself, so let me tell you right now? Nightmares? They're normal. They suck and you'll still have 'em years from now, but if you don't deal with it? They're just gonna get worse."
Worse like the ones where Yancy died over and over and over in a single night. Worse like the ones where it was his sister too. Worse like the ones where he died and Knifehead took out a whole city. Worse like the ones where Yancy blamed him for all of it.
Pentecost kept his eyes on the water and Raleigh was about to shake his head and leave the man to his brooding, but then he spoke.
"They are not nightmares," Pentecost said lowly. "But perhaps you are right. I need to do something about this. Apologize."
Raleigh frowned. "What do you mean they're not nightmares?"
Now Pentecost did turn towards him. "When I sleep, I am in the drift again. Chuck Hansen is in my head again. Asking me to help him. Every time I close my eyes."
Sounded like a nightmare to Raleigh, being asked for help by a dead man every time he slept. But it wasn't really the same as the nightmares he was used to. It didn't sound terror-inducing, the sorts of dreams that would make him wake up drenched in sweat, desperate to survive something he'd left in the past years ago. It sounded like something else entirely.
"Marshal," Raleigh said quietly. "I know this is going to sound like I'm grasping at straws here, but… what if he's still alive?"
Anything Pentecost might have said was forestalled by Mako's arrival. Pentecost turned to see her walk up to him, one of the sleep study researchers following a few paces behind her.
"What is this?" he asked, looking between Raleigh and Mako and utterly ignoring actually looking at the scientist Mako had brought.
Raleigh had to shrug. He'd had no idea Mako was going to approach the researchers. They hadn't even talked about whether they'd participate in the group's study.
"Forgive me," Mako said to Pentecost, bowing her head quickly. "But I think perhaps there is an answer to your problems. Or at least to your questions. These scientists, they have equipment to monitor drift patterns during sleep."
Now the scientist stepped up to stand between Mako and Raleigh. "We believe it's possible that prolonged neural bridge connection between two brains can leave lingering patterns that appear most often in the unconscious mind. We had hoped to speak to the Kaidanovskys about it. They had the record for the longest active drift connection. But Ranger Mori brought up the potential effects of one mind being disconnected suddenly, such as in Ranger Becket's case. And your own."
"I also told them that you are having trouble sleeping," Mako added, not at all ashamed of sharing that. Plenty of people had to know by now anyhow.
"You said something to Herc about ghost drifting," Raleigh pointed out. "Sir, come on. We can at least see if there's something to it."
For a solid three minutes they all stood there, waiting for Pentecost to refuse. Then, he surprised them all by nodding.
"Far be it from me to stand in the way of science," he muttered.
Pentecost glared at his assembled audience of Herc, Mako, Raleigh, and Tendo.
"I won't be able to fall asleep," he said shortly.
"Yeah, you will," Herc said, holding up a syringe. "Sedative, from the medics. They said if you don't start sleeping they're giving it to you anyhow."
As it turned out, with as little sleep as he'd had in the past couple of nights all it took was a comfortable seat, dimmed lights, and some white noise. Pentecost fell asleep with everyone watching from a window into the observation room. For a while, everything looked normal, until he entered REM sleep and the monitors and holo display the researchers were looking at started to light up.
"Is that normal?" Raleigh asked, looking at spikes form on one of the readouts.
"No, it isn't," one of the researchers said. "Not for dreaming, anyhow. That right there is a drift activity pattern."
There was a heavy thud and Raleigh turned around to see Herc Hansen seated in a chair behind him, head in his hands.
"Chuck," Herc was saying. "He was drifting with Chuck. But…"
One of the researchers shook his head. "He is drifting with Chuck Hansen." He turned his monitor to display two sets of graphs and pointed to the first. "This is from right now, but this," he said, pointing to the second set. "This? Is from the initial descent during Pitfall. They're almost identical. We can catch the second data set through Marshal Pentecost's output. There's some distortion, but it's too clear to just be repeated shared memories. That's what we did before. Work on shared memory retention between pilots."
They all watched the graph, its little dips and peaks moving not quite exactly the same, but close enough that it was clearly the same two people being monitored.
"So. He's alive," Raleigh said finally. "Really alive. Somewhere."
"And still connected," Herc added, his voice hoarse and strained. "We have to find him. It's been days. He'll be dehydrated, hurt."
"There wasn't any activity on his emergency beacon signal," Tendo said. "Probably too damaged to work. There's a whole lot of ocean out there. We need another way to find him."
"Well, Stacker's not doing it," Herc muttered. "He's only seeing it in his dreams."
"One of us could go in," Mako said. "Three people in the drift. It has been done, even before the Weis. It was tested, for other potential uses."
Mako and Raleigh looked at each other. No way were either of them letting Herc be the one to do it, and Mako had more of a history with both Stacker and Chuck. Without a word between them, they both nodded. Mako stepped in close to Raleigh and kissed him. "You will be safe," she stated. "You must be."
Raleigh nodded and wrapped his arms around her tightly for just a moment, then kissed her back. "I will be," he assured her before turning to the research team. "Let's hook me in."
You needed your drift partner. Your copilot. But thoughts of Yancy now turned to thoughts of Mako and he was a little sad to know that Yancy's place in his head wouldn't ever quite be the same. He had a new copilot. A new partner. And she would be that in a way Yancy couldn't have been. It was lonely in the drift without her there. But this was about Chuck. Raleigh reigned in his thoughts about Mako and kept swimming through the icy water.
Slowly the snow tapered off and Raleigh noticed the water growing warmer as he moved from his own memories into the shared drift between Pentecost and Chuck. Ahead of him someone else was swimming and he tried to swim faster to catch up.
"He was just here!" Pentecost was saying as Raleigh moved closer. Pentecost was treading water now, turning himself to look around. "You," he said when he saw Raleigh. "What the hell are you doing here? Why do I know what's in your head now?"
Raleigh gestured with one hand. "We're in the drift," he told Pentecost. "You and Chuck, and now me. It's real, sir. You've been drifting with him since Pitfall, just only when you're asleep. But I'm awake. So now we can find him."
Pentecost looked at him with some suspicion and Raleigh knew what he was thinking. Really knew. He knew that Pentecost had doubted himself, had almost convinced himself it was a combination of guilt and some sort of damage done by piloting after he'd been warned to never do that again. He knew Pentecost had planned for Chuck to surface while he went down with Striker Eureka. The last man standing. And he knew that Pentecost had feared that Raleigh himself would fail. That Mako would be hurt. That they would destroy themselves in saving the world, and not just in the physical way.
He hoped that what Pentecost found in his own mind would put all of that to rest. He and Mako were fine. They would be fine. They were going to have a life together he'd never even dared to dream he could have. All they had to do now was find Chuck and save him.
After what felt like forever but was probably actually only a split second, Pentecost nodded and started swimming again. "Now that I know," he said as Raleigh started to swim alongside him. "We can move faster."
The water was definitely warm now and they could hear a voice calling over the waves.
"Come on, Marshal! I know you're out there! I'm almost out of water, so you'd better damn well hurry!"
Before they knew it, they could see something ahead of them. It was bright orange and oblong and had a very haggard-looking Chuck Hansen inside. Raleigh heaved himself up on one side of it and Pentecost went to the other side.
Chuck was leaned back against the head of the escape pod and Raleigh and Pentecost both knew he was in bad shape.
"Figured you'd come to get me," he told Pentecost before glancing in Raleigh's direction. "Didn't figure on you, Becket. Guess I should've."
Raleigh hadn't ever planned on being inside Chuck Hansen's head and he wasn't going to dig too deep while he was there, but a few things came to the surface easily as soon as Chuck saw him. Mako, mostly, through the years. Their playful rivalry becoming an interest neither of them had ever really had time for. And Raleigh might have felt a little on the outside of that, had Chuck not been in his head too right then. They'd make it work. They'd find a way. Maybe all three of them could drift some time and work it out.
Pentecost coughed. "If I could interrupt the two of you, we have important things to worry about. None of that will matter in the slightest if we can't get you home," he said, pointing to Chuck.
"Easy," Raleigh said, grinning at them. "All we have to do is look up. I did my time on the fishing boats when I was younger. Most folks don't bother navigating by the stars, but that doesn't mean I didn't learn."
And since they were all sharing their thoughts just then, Pentecost and Chuck could see the star charts Raleigh had memorized. They all looked up together, and when Raleigh left the drift he knew he could tell Tendo enough to get the search teams in the right general area.
Mako claimed a seat just outside his room in the infirmary and Raleigh claimed one too. Herc and Pentecost had taken up residence in the room, waiting for the doctors to let Chuck fully wake up now that they'd gotten him out of the drift.
"Mako," Raleigh said after a full day of waiting. "If… if you and Chuck… I know how he feels about you. I saw it in his head."
Mako sighed and leaned over to rest her head on Raleigh's shoulder. "But then he would know how you feel about me. And how I feel about you. He will know that I love you."
"He knows," Raleigh said, nodding. "We can talk about it."
Mako nodded, not moving from his side. They sat there in silence for a while, before they heard Herc's voice from inside the room. They looked at each other, then stood and knocked on the door.
Herc opened it and he was smiling, tears fresh in the corners of his eyes. "Come on in. He's asking for you two."
Mako and Raleigh walked in together and got a weary smile from Chuck. "Looks like we all made it out," he said to them. "Told you I wanted to live, Raleigh."