A Hundred Little Things
Summary: Did you ever imagine we'd end up here?
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: Everybody loves the "J/C thrown naked into a cold alien prison cell” trope, right? I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. (Ambiguous ending... read into it as you will.)
Did you ever imagine we’d end up here?
Honestly? I always hoped. But it seemed less and less likely –
– the longer we were out here. I know.
And with the way things have been between us.
I … that’s my fault. No, don’t deny it. You don’t have to make excuses for me, Chakotay.
I’m not. Kathryn… it takes two to make a friendship work. And I haven’t always been a good friend to you.
“It’s getting colder.”
She’s had her arms wrapped around her indrawn knees since they woke up here, but it’s less from modesty now than from the cold. He, at least, is wearing sweat pants, but she’d been naked when the transporter beam caught her.
And their captors haven’t seen fit to give them any clothing.
“What the hell do they want from us?” she grumbles aloud, for the third time. “Why kidnap us and just dump us in a freezing cell without questioning us or telling us what they want?”
“I don’t know, Kathryn.”
Chakotay gives up on inspecting the walls for signs of weakness and hunkers down beside her. She’s shivering so violently now that her teeth are chattering.
“Come here,” he invites, pulling her into his arms, and she goes willingly, the warmth of his skin seeping into hers. He buries his face in her hair.
“I suppose the accommodations do have one thing to recommend them,” she manages through a yawn.
“Oh, yeah? What’s that?”
“You make a good pillow,” she murmurs, pressing her face into the hollow of his neck.
Not that I’m complaining, but what changed your mind?
It wasn’t any one thing, Chakotay. It was a hundred little things.
What do you mean?
I mean … it’s the way you look for me whenever you enter a room. The way you stand by my side but never step in front of me. It’s that you’re always the person I want to see first thing in the morning and talk to last thing before I sleep. It’s your made-up legends and your warped sense of humour. Your laugh… your smile.
You like my smile?
I like the smile you only ever have for me.
And here I thought it was the roses.
And it’s the roses.
“Kathryn, wake up,” he says softly.
She blinks the blur from her eyes and focuses on his worried face, close to hers.
“You’d stopped shivering,” he tells her. “I think you might be hypothermic. You need to stay awake.”
She nods, but her eyelids droop again and he shakes her gently.
“I mean it, Kathryn.” His palms cup her face. “Stay with me, okay?”
“Okay. Got it.”
“Good,” he strokes her cheekbone with his thumb and she frowns as his dimples appear.
“What’s so funny?”
“I was just thinking …”
“If we’d ended up like this – naked in an alien prison cell – a few years ago, or months, or even last week…”
The corner of her mouth quirks up. “Let’s just say it would’ve been a whole lot more awkward.”
The sound of his laughter is rich, and despite their desperate situation it holds a note of delighted ease she can’t remember hearing in far too long.
“Of course,” she continues, wanting to hear him laugh again, “if we’d ended up like this a few years ago, I’d have assumed it was a elaborate scheme you’d concocted just so you could see me naked.”
Is it okay to ask where we go from here?
I … yes. I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m –
… Thanks. I’m okay.
Kathryn, you don’t have to answer that. It wasn’t fair of me –
– I know you have your reasons, and I agree with most of them. And if this is just a night out of time, I’m okay with –
This isn’t a one-time thing for me, Chakotay. I wouldn’t do that to you. But I can understand why you’d be … uncertain. God knows I’ve given you reason to be.
… So… what does that mean, exactly?
I … don’t know what it means. Everything is uncertain out here. I can’t …
It’s okay, Kathryn.
“I’m so tired,” she mumbles from the cocoon of his arms.
“And whose fault is that?” he jokes to hide his fear for her.
“Hey,” she grumbles, her voice slurred and drowsy. “As I recall, you were the one who started the third round.”
His hands spread over her naked back and he thinks about the hours before this, when his fingertips traced the knobs of her spine and wrung small pleading gasps from her. When the shivers that prickled her skin had nothing to do with the cold.
“I can’t help it if you’re irresistible.”
“It’s not fair,” she whispers. “It’s just … cruel.”
He holds her tighter. “I know.”
… and there I go again. Lying to you. Not telling you the truth.
The truth is, I’m scared. I’ve always been scared of this. Of what’s between us, and what we could be.
Kathryn, you don’t have to be –
I love you.
… Chakotay? Say something.
“Tuvok must have realised we’re missing by now,” she blurts after a long silence. “We were supposed to be back on the ship by 0800.”
“I’ll bet he already has half the crew out on search parties. They’ll find us, Kathryn.”
“They’d better make it soon. I’m freez-“
She feels him tense. “Shh.”
“What is it?” she breathes.
I never thought I’d hear you say that, Kathryn.
You don’t – it’s too late. You don’t feel the same. I’m sorry, I –
No, Kathryn, I –
– forget I said anything, please –
Kathryn, shut up and let me –
– won’t change our working relat- mmf –
Orange light spills into the cell as the heavy duranium door scrapes open, and Chakotay scrambles to his feet, pushing Kathryn behind him.
Two aliens enter – tall, thickset, heavily corded facial structure – carrying weapons he eyes with trepidation. One of them speaks, a guttural sound they have no hope of comprehending without their universal translators.
He raises his hands slowly, speaks carefully. “Why have you captured us? What do you want?”
The second alien makes a pah of disgust and gestures at his comrade, who steps forward and without warning, slams the butt of his weapon into Chakotay’s temple. He drops to the floor with a groan.
“Chakotay!” Kathryn kneels beside him, her fingers curling his face toward her.
“I’m okay,” his voice is pained, breaths shallow.
She looks up at their captors, faces contorted in what she guesses is a smirk. “What do you want from us?” she demands. “We’ve done nothing to deserve this.”
The second man twists a small device and speaks again, and this time she understands him perfectly.
“You deserve to die.”
… oh. God. Chakotay.
Don’t ever doubt how I feel about you, Kathryn. I love you, too. And I don’t need all the answers. I just need to know we’re not hiding from this anymore.
I don’t think we can. Not now that we’ve …
… You’re cute when you’re blushing.
Shut up and kiss me again.
The paved-stone courtyard is empty, the sky leaden. Her steps slow. There is nothing here but barren stone and the soft sigh of a breeze that carries the odour of death.
“Move,” grunts the alien behind her, nudging her with his weapon.
Her feet are numb and her hands bound tightly behind her back. Beside her she feels Chakotay stumble and shake his head. Glancing at him sharply, she can see he’s bleeding profusely from the wound the alien inflicted on his temple.
“Chakotay,” she whispers.
“I’m all right. It’s just a concussion.”
She can see his throat work as he speaks through gritted teeth: nausea, she guesses.
“Hold on,” she murmurs. “Tuvok will be here any minute.”
He’s stopped looking at her, she realises, and the set of his face is grim.
“That may not be soon enough.”
She raises her eyes in the direction of his gaze and sees the scorched and blood-spattered stone wall.
I knew it would be like this.
Overwhelming. Beautiful. Shattering. It’s why I could never let it happen before now.
… Why now?
I … don’t exactly know. Maybe it’s because I felt like I was losing you, and it terrified me.
You could never lose me, Kathryn.
Really? Because it’s sure felt like that lately. We barely talk anymore, Chakotay. Can you remember the last time we had dinner and just … talked?
It was after I burned out the deflector dish. You’d taken your replicator apart, and we drank my last bottle of cider – Kathryn? Kathryn, don’t cry.
That was months ago, Chakotay. I can’t believe it’s been so long – I can’t believe I almost let this slip away…
But we didn’t. We’re here now, Kathryn. And you’re not going to lose me.
Kathryn kicks out behind her and catches one of the guards in the knee. She hears him utter what she guesses is an untranslatable oath, feels the whistle of air as his weapon comes down. Pain explodes in her head and she crashes hard to her knees, lungs tight and bile in her throat.
She’s vaguely aware of Chakotay trying to fight them with both hands tied behind his back, of his pained groan as he thuds to the ground beside her, the sound of booted feet on flesh.
“Get up,” the alien growls, hooking a hand under her armpit.
They are manoeuvred with their backs to the wall. Her vision is cloudy, blood streaming into one eye, but it doesn’t matter. All she needs to see is him.
As long as she can see him, she is ready to die.
“Kathryn,” he whispers, sorrow dark in his eyes. “Kathryn, I love you –”
She smiles through her tears. “I know.”
The guards fire their weapons, and everything disintegrates.
Why do you love me?
You want a list?
Stop grinning at me. … Okay. Yes, I want a list.
All right. I love you because you’re brave and beautiful and very wise …
And that soft look you get in your eyes when Harry or B’Elanna makes you proud, and the way you put your hands on your hips, and that little tilt you do with your chin when you’re pissed at someone –
I do not stick out my jaw like that!
– and how excited you get over nebulae, especially when they might have coffee in them –
Oh, shut up.
– and that smile you save just for me … yes, that one. And your pale skin, and your lips – and that little sound you make when I kiss you right here –
– yes, that sound … and a hundred other little things. But mostly because you’re Kathryn, and you’re unquantifiable. And I don’t know how to do anything but love you.
Then come here and love me again. Right now.
What’s the rush? We have all the time in the world.