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.
II. Then - Stardate 50133.5
“Commander, over here,” Janeway called.
Chakotay flipped his tricorder shut and got to his feet, ambling over to where the captain knelt by the mouth of a cave. A faint breeze reached him, and he peered inside. The entrance was wide, but he could see it branched off into several tunnels.
“What’ve you found?”
“Dilithium traces, among other minerals,” she answered. “But even more interesting is this.”
She indicated a rust-coloured indentation on a section of the cave wall.
“That doesn’t look naturally occurring.” Intrigued, Chakotay scanned it, and his tricorder trilled. “Nope,” he stated. “This pigment is a manufactured compound, and the depression in the rock appears to be man-made, as well. I’m reading the age of the compound as around two thousand years old.”
“Fascinating,” Janeway murmured. “Do you think there was a civilisation here once?”
“I haven’t seen any other signs of it. It could have been visiting aliens.” Chakotay straightened, peering inside the cave. “Permission to investigate, Captain?”
“Granted. In fact, I’ll come with you. The dilithium traces are stronger here – we might find a vein inside those tunnels.” She tapped her combadge. “Janeway to Ayala.”
“Lieutenant, the commander and I are about to enter a cave system to investigate possible signs of an extinct civilisation. We’re reading a dilithium source and a variety of other minerals. I’m not sure if communications will be affected.”
~Understood, Captain. My team can reach your position in ten minutes.~
“There’s no need, Lieutenant. Hold position and continue your scans.”
Chakotay was already inside the cave, and Janeway moved to follow him.
~Captain, there’s evi… seismic activ… I’d…~
“Lieutenant?” Janeway returned to the cave mouth. “You’re breaking up. Repeat your last transmission.”
~Yes, Captain. It looks like there’s been a seismic event in this region in the last few months. It might have affected the cave structure.~
“Understood, Mr Ayala. We’ll be vigilant. Janeway out.”
Chakotay was already out of sight by the time Janeway ducked back into the tunnel. “Hold up, Commander,” she called. “Set your tricorder to pick up any seismic activity. Mr Ayala claims there’s been an earthquake here recently.” She paused. “Where are you?”
“In here,” his voice floated back and she followed the echo.
He was crouched by a section of the cave wall that had clearly been hollowed out. As his sims beacon played over the wall, Janeway could make out more of the rust-coloured patterns. Chakotay smiled at her over his shoulder as she bent beside him.
“What is it?” she wondered.
“If I had to guess, I’d say this was an altar. See the placement of those stones?” He indicated a ring of smooth, evenly-sized rocks. “And those engravings, or paintings, look symbolic. Whoever these people were, they were humanoid.”
Janeway directed her own flashlight to the cave paintings; she could make out humanoid figures with arms raised to what appeared to be twin suns. “This is a binary system,” she noted. She rested a hand on his shoulder as they gazed at the paintings. “There’s some kind of animal there,” she pointed. “Domesticated, perhaps?”
“Or sacrificial,” Chakotay offered. “Hard to tell.”
A slight shiver went through her, and Chakotay reached up to squeeze the hand resting on his shoulder. She shot him a quick smile. “I suppose humanoid cultures everywhere have their dark pasts.”
“I wonder what happened to them,” he murmured.
“Perhaps some kind of extinction event,” she mused. “A disease, possibly. Or maybe this planet was far more seismically active two thousand years ago.” She pushed lightly off Chakotay’s shoulder to stand. “Let’s move in further. We might find out more, and the mineral traces are stronger in this direction.”
“Aye, Captain.” He took her outstretched hand, rising gracefully to his feet.
They walked on in silence. Janeway’s attention was on her tricorder – the dilithium vein she’d detected travelled along the tunnel walls, growing denser as they walked – but her mind was partly occupied with contemplating the man beside her.
It had been a tumultuous time recently for the two of them. Three months alone together on New Earth had wrought changes in their relationship that she was still having difficulty defining. And then they’d been dumped on a far less idyllic planet by Seska and her Kazon allies. In the few weeks since Hanon IV, she had barely begun to catch her breath, to figure out how to act around her first officer.
The main problem, she conceded, was that she didn’t know what he was to her anymore. He wasn’t just her second in command. Her friend, yes – her closest friend on board, perhaps the dearest friend she’d ever had. As for the rest of it – the complex, vigorous swirl of emotions he stirred in her – she didn’t know how to reconcile them.
Sooner or later she’d have to figure it out. As things stood, the only time she could bear to spend alone with him was when they were on ship’s business. She’d avoided reinstating their working dinners because after the padds were put away, sitting near him on her couch made her too uncomfortable, too aware of the heat that wavered between them. Even now, walking silently beside him as he shone his beacon over the cave walls, she was painfully attuned to his breathing, the easy loping grace of his stride, his scent –
Janeway’s train of thought broke off abruptly as her tricorder shrilled. “Dilithium,” she exclaimed. “Look at this, Chakotay. A large crystalline deposit, and it’s almost pure.”
Chakotay peered over her shoulder at the tricorder readings. “Can we beam it out or will we need to send down mining teams?”
She tapped her combadge experimentally, receiving only a dull chirp that told her Voyager wasn’t receiving her hail. “Something’s blocking communications. It’s unlikely the transporter will work through the interference. We’ll have to hike back to open air.”
As she turned, her beacon flashed over the cave wall opposite, and Chakotay grabbed her arm to hold it steady. “Look at that,” he breathed.
She stilled, following his gaze.
The entire wall was covered with what looked to her like an alien script, chiseled into the rock face, each design etched in different colours: ochre, indigo, white, dull green. Curlicued lines of writing spiraled out from a central image, a simple, geometric pattern that reminded her of a mandala.
“What do you make of it?” Her voice was hushed.
Chakotay glanced at the tricorder in his hand. “It’s roughly the same age as the other markings we’ve found but infinitely more complex, and we haven’t seen this much pigmentation in the other drawings. My guess is it has some kind of spiritual significance.” He shoved the tricorder into his belt and turned toward her, grasping her hand in both of his, face creased in a smile. “Kathryn, this is incredible. We should call a team down to …”
His voice trailed off as she stared down at her hand clasped in his own. When she looked up he was watching her face, his own expression vulnerable and wary.
“Chakotay,” she said softly, knowing she should pull away, unable to make herself do it.
He waited, and she could feel the tension in him.
We can’t… but the thought was at odds with her actions; she found herself curling her fingers over his, her body drifting closer to him. By the time their lips met she had forgotten whatever protest she’d been intending to make.
Ayala’s tricorder beeped steadily, the two human biosigns easily traceable now that he was inside the caverns. He’d started for the caves as soon as he lost track of their combadge signals, and it looked like he was right on their heels now.
He rounded a bend, took in the scene before him and uttered an exclamation he was unable to muffle in time.
It startled the kissing couple in front of him enough to make them leap apart. The captain stumbled back a step, bringing a shaking hand up to her mouth. The commander tore his gaze from her, his head swinging toward the intruder.
Ayala shifted his feet nervously.
“Report, Lieutenant.” The captain couldn’t quite hide the husky edge in her voice, but her tone of command snapped Ayala back to his senses.
“Sorry for intruding, ma’am. When we lost contact and you disappeared from sensors I thought it would be prudent to come and find you.” He cleared his throat. “I, uh, I’ll head back to my team…”
As he began to shuffle backward, all three of their tricorders chirruped. Janeway frowned at her display.
“I’m getting readings that indicate seismic instability. I think we should –”
Before she could finish her sentence, the tunnel roof caved in.
The dust was so thick Ayala couldn’t draw a breath without choking on it. Brushing at the small chunks of rock that covered his uniform, he pushed up to his knees.
“Captain,” he rasped, trying to peer through the particulates in the air. “Commander?”
“Over here.” Janeway’s reply trailed off into a fit of coughing. “Are you all right, Lieutenant?”
Ayala ran a quick self-assessment. “I’m fine, ma’am.”
A low masculine groan punctuated their exchange.
“Chakotay,” he heard Janeway call urgently. “Where are you? Are you hurt?”
“Think I broke my leg.” The commander sounded disgruntled.
Ayala scrambled in the direction of his voice, switching on his wrist beacon. Chakotay lay on his side, a large rock obscuring the lower half of his left leg. Janeway knelt beside him, feeling carefully beneath it as Chakotay tried not to flinch.
“Help me get this boulder off him,” Janeway ordered Ayala. He placed the beacon on the ground and got a solid grip on the rock. On her count, they heaved the rock away. Chakotay let out a string of untranslatable curses.
Janeway had her tricorder out and was modifying it to the basic medical setting. “It’s broken all right,” she said. “Two fractures of the fibula, one to the tibia. Lieutenant, do you have a medkit?”
“No, ma’am. I’m sorry.”
She sighed and began stripping off her jacket. “Without transporters, we’ll have to splint your leg and carry you back to the cave mouth, Commander. I’m afraid this is going to hurt.”
Ayala cast about for a suitable splint as Janeway tugged off her turtleneck and tore it into strips. “Will this do, Captain?”
She inspected the long, slender shard of rock. “It’ll do for now. Hold him steady, Mr Ayala.”
Ayala nodded, bracing his arms under Chakotay’s shoulders.
“Ready?” Her gaze fixed on the commander’s face until he gave her a short nod, and then she held the shard against his calf, wrapping the fabric strips around it as efficiently as she could.
By the time she’d finished, Chakotay’s face was drawn and colourless.
“All right?” she asked him softly.
Ayala wondered if she realised she was cupping the commander’s cheek, or that her expression was tender.
“Fine.” Chakotay gave her a tight-lipped smile. “The sooner we get out of here, the better. Ayala, give me a hand up here.”
“Chakotay, you shouldn’t risk putting any weight on your leg,” Janeway protested.
“You two can’t carry me the whole way back.” Chakotay gestured Ayala forward and slung an arm around the lieutenant’s neck. “Let’s go,” he said when he was upright, holding his injured leg off the ground, and the pair began to shuffle.
Janeway gathered up their fallen equipment and made to follow them.
This time there was no warning. Not even a spike on the tricorder. Only a faint, low rumble like the roar of a faraway river, and then the ground collapsed under their feet.
Ayala drifted back to consciousness to the sound of the captain’s name being called with increasing desperation.
“Chakotay?” he rasped through a throat clogged with dust. “You okay?”
“Fine,” was the tight response. “The captain isn’t answering. Where is she?”
Ayala heaved over to his side, paused to wait for the nausea to die away, then got slowly to his feet. He played his sims beacon over the cave, noting with trepidation that its configuration had changed. Where once there had been open space there was rubble. And – a hand, small and pale, extending limply from beneath the fallen rock.
“Shit,” he muttered, groping his way over boulders toward it. “Captain? Captain, can you hear me?”
Silence. Ayala bent to press his fingers to the extruding wrist, praying for the steady beat of her pulse.
There was unconcealed fear in Chakotay’s voice.
“I’ve found her,” the lieutenant called back.
“What’s her condition?”
Come on, Ayala pleaded silently, fumbling for a pulse.
There it was – weak, thready, but – thank God – unmistakable. “She’s alive,” he told Chakotay. “But she’s buried under a rockfall. I’ll have to dig her out.”
He heard a pained grunt and the sound of something dragging over the debris-strewn ground.
“Stay back, boss,” Ayala warned as he rolled the largest boulders away. “I don’t want any rocks accidentally landing on you.”
“Forget it.” Chakotay’s voice was strained as he hauled himself over to the rubble, one leg dragging uselessly behind him. Ayala heard him suck in a breath as Chakotay came close enough to assess the situation. He propped himself up on one arm, using the other to clear away the loose scree in front of the fallen rock.
As they lifted and heaved and rolled, Ayala kept a wary eye on his unconscious captain. As far as he could tell, the largest rocks had missed her head and torso, but her lower body was pinned beneath a boulder it took all his fading strength to move. As it rolled away he caught his breath.
Her legs were bent at unholy angles and blood pooled ominously below her pelvis. Her face, he saw now, was unnaturally pale, and more blood matted her hair. She remained immobile, her fingers loosely curled like a sleeping child’s. He didn’t think he’d ever seen her look so vulnerable.
“Get a tricorder,” Chakotay bit out, and Ayala scrambled to find one.
Passing it over her body, he swallowed thickly.
“Report.” Chakotay didn’t take his eyes off the woman before them, though he reached out as if to take her hand, only hesitating at the last moment.
“It’s not good,” Ayala said quietly. “She has a severe concussion. Her legs and pelvis are broken in several places, and I’m picking up evidence of internal bleeding. I can’t tell which organs are damaged. She needs the Doc.”
There was the faintest of sounds, and both men leaned in close.
“Kathryn?” Chakotay asked in a tone so tender it made Ayala’s eyes prickle. “Can you hear me?”
She moaned again, and her fingers twitched. “Cha-”
“Don’t try to talk,” Chakotay said softly. “You’ve been injured, but we’re going to get you out of here.”
“Aya…” her question trailed off on a groan.
“I’m fine, ma’am,” Ayala said quickly.
There was an ominous chirp from the tricorder in his hand. He looked down at it quickly, then whispered to Chakotay, “More seismic instability.”
“Get … out…”
The men exchanged glances. “The transporters won’t work inside the cave, Captain,” Ayala volunteered. “I’ll run back to the exit and get Voyager to send a team down.”
“No.” The captain’s voice hardened. “You … out. Both. Before … quake.”
“We’re not leaving you here.” Chakotay took her fingers carefully. He looked at Ayala. “Go now, Mike. I’m staying with her.”
“Belay … that.” It seemed inconceivable, but the captain had lifted her head, eyes half-open and fixed on Chakotay. “Both of you … out. Now.” Her throat worked and she started to shake, but the fierce glint in her eyes was undimmed. “That’s … an order.”
Kathryn coughed, her gaze swinging toward Ayala, and he noted with alarm that dark-red blood spattered her lips. “Leave me … before … too late.”
“Ayala,” Chakotay warned. “Get her out of here.”
“What about you?”
“Forget about me. Save her.”
“No… save Cha- Chakotay,” Kathryn wheezed, glare turned on the lieutenant. “Direct … order. Now!”
Chakotay’s dark eyes fixed on Ayala’s.
You owe me.
Their years of silent communication and unspoken understanding meant Chakotay didn’t need to speak aloud.
Ayala turned back to the captain. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I can’t obey that order.”
He crouched to gather her into his arms as carefully as he could, and in the moment before she lost consciousness again, he saw Chakotay smile.