Conversations Without Words
Summary: “It’s often just enough to be with someone. I don’t need to touch them. Not even talk. A feeling passes between you both. You’re not alone.” — Marilyn Monroe
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Ayala, Paris
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: Written for talsi74656’s “J/C Cutthroat Fiction” comp, to the Marilyn Monroe quote above.
I. Now - Stardate 54885.7
“Where did you find strawberries?”
Chakotay indicated her bowl as he slid into his seat at the table nestled into the corner of the mess hall. Kathryn Janeway looked up to offer him a smirk.
“It seems Mr Chell is taking his new role seriously, Commander. Or he’s hoping to get on the captain’s good side.”
“Apparently so.” Chakotay pretended to be piqued as he lifted a spoonful of lumpy green goo to his mouth. “I don’t suppose I could convince Chell it’s just as important to suck up to the first officer?”
“Depends what’s in it for him.” Janeway lowered her lashes as she selected a particularly succulent strawberry from her bowl and rested it on her lower lip. Her lips parted and her tongue darted out to taste.
Chakotay’s spoon halted halfway to his mouth, green sludge dripping slowly from it back down into his dish. “Well,” he managed, “if Chell expects me to give him a show like that, he’s going to be disappointed.”
“Too bad.” Janeway bit delicately into the fruit. “I guess you’ll have to go without.”
He shook his head at her sly smile. “You don’t play fair, Captain.”
“You’re only just figuring this out, Commander?”
“Oh, no, trust me, I’m quite the aficionado of the devious tactics of Kathryn Janeway.” Chakotay gave up on his slime porridge and darted out a hand to steal one of her strawberries. “I’ve even learned a thing or two.”
“Hey,” she mock-protested, slapping lightly at the thieving hand.
Chakotay grinned at her as he bit into the strawberry. “Didn’t you ever learn to share, Kathryn?” he mumbled through a mouthful.
She sipped her coffee, trying not to smile. “I’d share, but what’s in it for me?”
His answering smile was sly. “Anything you want. You know you only have to ask.”
“In that case,” she couldn’t believe she was letting this continue past the blurred line they usually drew short of, “report to my quarters at 2200 hours and I’ll state my request.”
She watched him go still for a moment, but when he spoke, his voice was low and silky. “I’ll bring the wine.”
Several tables away, someone dropped a fork with a clatter and Janeway jumped a little, flushing as she remembered they were in the mess hall. Clearing her throat, she picked up her padd. “Shall we get on with those reports, Commander?”
“Aye Captain,” he answered, amusement a low undercurrent in his voice.
The gentle silence that settled over their table expressed itself in the curled corners of their lips as they passed padds back and forth without a word.
Across the mess hall, Tom Paris turned away from watching the command team and rolled his eyes at Michael Ayala. “Why don’t they just kiss already?”
“How do you know they haven’t?” Ayala muttered, then shut his mouth with a snap.
Paris narrowed his eyes. “What do you know that you’re not telling me?”
“Uh-uh.” Ayala folded his arms. “You’re a bigger gossip than the EMH, Paris. Besides, we have work to do.”
“Fine,” Paris grumbled, returning his attention to the padd he held. “Okay, here’s an easy one. How long would it take to bring the ship to a full stop if you’re at warp 6.7?”
Paris watched the frown creasing Ayala’s forehead as he ran the mental calculations. “Seventy-eight seconds using standard protocols, but you could make it in fifty-one if you doubled the intermix ratio.”
“Nice.” Paris marked off a note on his padd. “Okay, let’s say we’re in battle against two Romulan interceptors. If you’re at three-quarters impulse and the captain orders evasive pattern beta-four, what flight vector would you calculate in order to avoid both attacking ships?”
“If she orders pattern beta-four, it probably means both vessels are coming straight at us from fore and aft, so we’d want to pull a loop dive and come up behind the rear ship. Vector two-seven-five mark three-three should do it, but you’d have to pull up on a one-eight-zero heading.”
“Not bad,” Paris said, sipping from his cup of raktajino.
“It’s a trick question, though, right?”
“Why do you say that?” Paris kept his face blank.
“Romulan interceptors would never attack that way. They’re too heavy and don’t have the manoeuvrability. If they blew us into space dust, they’d never get out of the way quickly enough to avoid colliding with each other.”
“Top marks, Lieutenant,” Paris grinned. “Okay, for the bonus round. You’re flying Voyager within a solar system that has an ultritium-rich asteroid field ringing the fifth planetoid. We’re being attacked by three Cardassian Hideki fighters. What course would you set and which evasive manoeuvres would you recommend?”
Ayala stared into the distance as he considered his reply. “Hideki fighters are a little less than half the size of Voyager but about equivalent in the way they handle at impulse, so playing dodgems in the asteroid belt is only going to prolong the agony. What I’d do is lure them in and line ‘em up behind me using evasive manoeuvre alpha-six so the tactical officer could detonate a photon torpedo on one of the largest asteroids. If the yield is large enough, it should destabilise the ultritium deposits and cause a chain reaction that’ll blow the Cardassians to kingdom come.”
“Okay, I’m impressed.” Paris laid his padd on the table between them. “I think you’re officially ready to take the conn.”
Ayala smirked back. “About time.”
“Hey, I had to be sure. Just because you can aim straight with a phaser rifle doesn’t mean you can fly my ship.”
“Your ship, huh?” Ayala flicked his gaze toward the corner table. “Don’t let the captain hear you say that. You might lose that shiny little pip again.”
“Look who’s talking,” Paris shot back, narrowing his eyes in speculation. “You know, I never did find out how you got yourself demoted back then.”
“None of your business,” Ayala said flatly.
“Oh, come on,” Paris whined. “I didn’t see you serving any brig time and you got your pip back quicker than I did, so it can’t have been as bad as trying to take out the Monean refineries.”
Ayala set his mouth in a stubborn line.
“It was on that mission to Exitia, wasn’t it?” Paris rested his elbows on the table. “When you and those two” – he jerked his chin toward the corner table – “got caught in that earthquake. She was pretty mad with both you and Chakotay when you all got back to the ship. So, are you gonna spill or not?”
Paris opened his mouth to press him and Ayala held up a hand.
“I’m not spilling, Paris, and that’s final. Just leave it, okay?”
Ayala startled slightly as Chakotay’s hand landed on his shoulder. “Morning, boss.”
“You ready for your first shift at the helm, Mike?”
“Ready as he’ll ever be,” Paris chimed in. “Don’t worry, I’ll be at secondary navigation, ready to take over in case he screws it up.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Ayala said dryly.
The captain wandered up beside Chakotay, juggling an armful of padds and a fresh cup of coffee. “If I’m not mistaken, gentlemen, we’re all due on the bridge in the next five minutes.”
“Yes, ma’am,” chorused Paris and Ayala, standing.
Janeway’s mouth quirked to one side. “Good to see the pair of you are taking your duties so seriously. Keep it up, lieutenants.” She subtly stressed the title.
Chakotay relieved her of her burden of padds, tucked them under one arm and offered her the other. “Shall we, Captain?”
Ayala stood back politely as the command team moved toward the mess hall exit. When he glanced back at Paris he saw the helmsman watching him knowingly.
“There’s a story there,” Paris leaned in to whisper. “I know you know it. And I’m not giving up until you tell me everything.”
Ayala rolled his eyes in obvious dismissal, but frowned as Paris moved past him.
He was good at keeping his mouth shut. But Paris was a champion at ferreting out the information people would prefer to keep secret.
And this wasn’t his secret to tell.