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.
IV. Then - Stardate 50134.2
She was muffled in layers of wool, buried under a snowdrift. She felt warm, cocooned, safe.
Kathryn, can you hear me?
The voice was soft and faraway, and it reminded her of caramel and whiskey. It was calling to her. She strained through the enveloping layers to hear it.
Kes, please, is she breathing?
A sharp note of anxiety pierced her cotton wool cocoon. She thought to open her eyes, but it was so hard. Her eyelids were so heavy, and she was so sleepy…
She shuddered into consciousness, and with it came searing bright light and pain. So much pain. She heard a groan that sounded like a wounded animal, and realised she was the one who’d uttered it.
“Easy,” came the gentle voice of her medic, one hand on her shoulder, then louder, “Doctor, she’s conscious.”
A light assaulted her eyes as the EMH bent over her. “Lie still, please. Pupils are unequal,” he tossed over his shoulder. “Captain,” he added, turning back as Kes slipped an instrument into his hand, “you’ve suffered severe injuries to your lower body. As soon as I’ve reduced your cranial swelling I’m going to sedate you for surgery.”
She tried to speak but could barely feel her lips moving.
“Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Ayala are safe,” the Doctor anticipated her question. “Mr Paris is treating them for minor injuries. Now, Captain, please remain still,” and he pressed a hypospray to her neck.
When she woke an indeterminate time later she was aware of pain, but it was distant and fuzzy and she decided to pay it no mind. She flexed her fingers experimentally and felt that her left hand was held loosely in a warm grip.
She found that she could turn her head and open her eyes without the expected stab of agony, and was unsurprised by the face she saw.
“Hey,” Chakotay murmured, the taut lines of his jaw softening in a smile. “How are you feeling?”
Janeway coughed. “Thirsty.”
“Here.” He slid an arm behind her shoulders, propping her up as he held a straw to her lips. She drank gratefully.
“Chakotay,” she said as he took the cup away and eased her down again, “what happened down there?”
“We were caught in an earthquake,” he began, but she raised a hand.
“That part I know. How did we get out?”
“Ayala carried you out.”
“He disobeyed my order.” Her mouth tightened. “I told him to leave me behind.”
Chakotay’s fingers touched her chin, his eyes serious. “Nobody on this crew would have obeyed that order, Kathryn.”
“You could both have been killed,” she hissed. “It was too dangerous.”
His eyes shuttered and he drew his hand away from her face.
“This,” she gritted, “is exactly why we can’t do this.”
“Do what?” he asked cautiously, though she could read in his eyes that he knew.
Nevertheless, she spelled it out for him.
“I will always value your friendship,” she emphasised, “but any … closer relationship is out of the question. I have to put the safety of this ship and crew first. And so do you.”
She expected him to acquiesce, perhaps unhappily, but willingly.
Instead he said quietly, “I will always put you first, Kathryn.”
He straightened, his fingers reaching to smooth the hair from her forehead but arresting themselves before the motion could be completed.
“Get some rest,” he said. “I’ll be on the bridge.”
She blinked back furious tears, turning her face from him as he walked away.
This was exactly the reason she had pulled away from him after their return from New Earth. She knew the strength of his feelings for her, and she knew they were dangerous.
And she’d just been proved right. She’d seen the look he’d exchanged with Ayala when she ordered them both out of the cave. There was warning in it, and an order that the lieutenant had chosen to obey over hers.
That could not happen again.
Janeway turned her head. “Mr Ayala.” She flicked a glance toward the door Chakotay had just exited through. “How long have you been standing there?”
Ayala shifted on his feet. “Uh, just a few minutes, ma’am.”
Long enough, she deduced from his unease, to have heard her conversation with her first officer.
“I came to see how you were feeling,” Ayala stumbled on.
With slightly more effort than she’d have liked, Janeway pushed herself up on her elbows. “As you can see, I’m fine, Lieutenant. I trust you’ve fully recovered?”
“Good.” She observed him steadily, then raised her voice. “Kes?”
She wasn’t surprised when Paris appeared at her side barely a moment later, exchanging a quick glance with Ayala as he explained he was filling in for Kes while she was off-duty. Apparently her conversation with Chakotay had been far less private than she’d hoped.
“Am I fit to be released from Sickbay?” she demanded.
“Uh, the Doctor left instructions for you to stay for observation for forty-eight hours,” Paris admitted.
Janeway reached out a hand and Paris helped her to sit upright. “Clearly that won’t be necessary. I’ll be back on duty tomorrow. And Mr Ayala,” she fixed him with a cold glare, “report to my ready room at 1600 hours.”
She thought she saw his shoulders slump a fraction. “Aye, Captain,” he mumbled.
“Dismissed,” she snapped, and he turned smartly on his heel.
Paris helped her to lie back down, fluffing pillows and adjusting blankets until she waved him off in irritation. But when she was alone, she could think of nothing but the look in Chakotay’s eyes when she’d kissed him. It was the same look she had seen when he told her he would always put her first.
All she wanted was to accept what he offered, but she couldn’t. The weight of never-ending years ahead was smothering, and the only thing she could see in her future was loneliness.