Summary: The New Earth virus had side effects.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
Disclaimer: Characters are Paramount’s. No infringement intended.
He orders, “Show me.”
There’s no harshness in his voice and his expression is in shadow. But there is no doubt that he means what he says, and that he expects your immediate compliance.
As you arrange yourself on the sun-warmed rock, thighs spread, back arched and eyes trained on him, you spare a moment to reflect on how, exactly, the two of you ended up like this, here, in this place and time.
Starfleet wouldn’t believe you if you explained it step by step, and why would they. You can hardly believe it yourself.
You’ve grown addicted to this planet.
Four weeks in, and your spirits have begun to lift upon waking each morning. You pack a rucksack – bread and cheese, a flask of water, your tricorder and traps – and leave the shelter as dawn breaks. Chakotay is always already up, sometimes doing some kind of physical work in the clearing, sometimes barely in earshot. Sometimes he’s stripped to the waist, even when the morning air’s still cool. You never mention it, but you never mind.
The sun brings with it sultry warmth and the singing of insects in the air. A smile spreads over your face and you slow your steps, turning in languid circles until you aren’t entirely sure which way is home.
Strange, how quickly you’ve come to think of it that way. This planet, the shelter you built, the man who makes it a home.
You’ve grown used to the dark rich smell of the forest, the feel of soil under your nails. The high whir of insects’ song rings in your ears, constant, surging through your blood. Sometimes you forget the reason you’re supposed to trap the insects – dissection, scientific research, a cure – and think maybe you’re just curious, or maddened, by their effect on you.
Each passing day that Voyager has been out of communication range is another day your ship and crew fade in your consciousness.
You turn this thought over in your mind, idly, wondering if it should bother you. It doesn’t. Not enough, anyway.
When you return to the clearing after a day’s trudging through high grass and low trees, you find Chakotay cooking something over an open fire, in a pot strung from roped-together branches.
The aroma makes your stomach rumble and you lean over the pot, inhaling.
“That doesn’t smell replicated,” you remark. “What is it?”
Laughter has always been your aphrodisiac, and he is very skilled at making you laugh.
Still, over dinner, sitting on a fallen log beside Chakotay, you make a point of describing the day’s insect haul. The memory of standing beside him in nothing but a towel is still fresh, and you need to remind him that you are still the captain.
It doesn’t hurt to remind yourself, either.
Days and nights pass. New Earth is sinking into a hot season as thick as a dense woollen quilt. The heavy heat, the constant soft whine of insects, remind you of a summer you once spent in Louisiana.
And, like that summer, a storm comes, and changes everything.
The careful, revelatory words he spoke are almost secondary to the memory of his hands on your shoulders, but between them they weave a spell that becomes entwined, in your mind, with the hazy heat and the singing of insects. In the days after the storm you sometimes fancy that you, or the planet, are under enchantment.
Without scientific apparatus to distract you, without the purpose you’ve been clinging to, how will you resist it?
He gives you space and quiet, but you never forget that he’s nearby. You are connected, pulled together and apart by invisible bonds; he is always present in your mind no matter how far you wander through the woods, how deep you dive into the river.
You begin to notice that the insects herald his approach, their singing growing high and loud when Chakotay comes near. You try to reason it away as a simple biological communication mechanism, but you know in your blood that it’s more than that.
This becomes your new experiment. Wander far from him, and the hum of insects quiets. Come close, and the air grows hectic with choral layers of sound that stir your blood.
You start finding reasons to stay close to him.
You plant a garden, using seedlings Voyager had beamed down before they left orbit: strawberries, carrots, tomatoes. There is something voracious about the New Earth soil and they grow quickly, lusher and more abundant than anything you tend has a right to be.
The science doesn’t matter when it makes you so happy.
Chakotay makes headboards, a table and stools, a long bench that becomes the place where both of you sit, outside, to watch the sun sink. You suppose this is what makes him happy: building, creating things with his hands. If there’s one gift New Earth has given you, it’s understanding this.
Sometimes it rains.
It’s nice to stay inside the shelter on those days, even if the space between you is so much smaller. You read and Chakotay paints and you share meals in companionable silence. Your hands brush together sometimes as you move about, or he skims a hand briefly on your hip as he passes.
The insects sing louder when he touches you.
It hasn’t rained for days now, and you’ve spent most of your time on your knees in the dirt. When the sun grows too hot on the back of your neck, you wipe your loamy hands on your tunic and hike to the river. These days you strip nude to swim, and you no longer care if anybody sees you. Who would watch you, anyway, but the insects?
Back in your garden, damp hair coiled over your shoulder, you sink your fingers into dark soil. Down here the singing seems louder. That makes no sense; the insects live in the air.
You press your ear to the earth. Palms flat, back arched, sun on your neck. Your heart is skip-tripping. The earth breathes with you, in, out. In, out. A rhythm that’s familiar but half-forgotten.
It’s been so long.
You stretch out, stomach flat to the ground, arms reaching. The soil crumbles warm and rich under your fingers. There’s an ache low in your belly. You close your eyes and breathe, and the earth breathes with you.
A handful of days pass. The weather grows hotter, the air sticky and thick with song, until you can barely stand it. It’s been weeks since the last storm; surely the heat must break soon.
It’s too hot to tend your garden. You skip it and make your way to the river, easing yourself into the silky water, floating in slow circles and squinting at sunlight through the tree canopy. It’s silent here, even the buzz and whine of insects muted.
When your blood cools, you emerge from the river – water forming rivulets on bare skin and dripping from the hard nubs of your nipples – and find a smooth flat rock to sit on, finger-combing tangles from your hair. It doesn’t take long for the heat to penetrate. Perspiration beads your skin, tickling, tingling.
The ever-present singing grows sharper. A signal: awareness, anticipation. Your heart trips.
You turn, and discover that you are, in fact, being watched.
“How long have you been watching me?”
You wonder if you’ve been floating here for hours longer than it seemed. If he was worried about you and came looking.
“I’ve been watching you for days,” he answers, the surprise making you suck in a breath, “maybe weeks.”
“What have you seen?”
“Not as much as I’d like to see.”
He approaches you slowly, not as if he’s afraid you’ll flee, but like he’s holding himself back. Tension is written in the lines of his shoulders and his carefully curled fingers. You tilt your head back as he moves directly in front of you. The sun is in your eyes.
“Show me,” he commands softly.
Naked, you rest back on your elbows, breasts jutting toward the sun. You spread your thighs. Around you, inside you, the singing increases in urgency.
Chakotay is silent, but you feel his gaze on you, wandering. You hold still and let him look.
He reaches out with one finger and traces a line from the inside of your knee, along your inner thigh, making you inhale and tremble. From the surety of his touch you think he’s going to go all the way, but he stops just short.
“Tease,” you’re breathless, and it makes him chuckle.
Then he moves in close and you can see his face, read the tenderness in his eyes as he bends to kiss you (finally), your arms wrapping around his neck and his body descending to fit to yours, as snug as if it had been planned that way.
Standing before your impossibly lush garden, pinned tightly into your uniform, you wonder if Starfleet will ever forgive you.
The serum has cured you of the virus, yes, but it’s done more than that.
Voyager is no longer a dim and hazy memory but your most immediate and all-encompassing concern.
You can’t hear the planet singing anymore.
And Chakotay can barely look at you.
If only it had cured your fractured heart the way it’s restored you to yourself.
“Ready?” he asks you, moving to stand beside you without meeting your eyes.
You spare a moment to wonder how, exactly, the two of you ended up like this, here, in this place and time. Together, but more alone than ever.
“Two to beam up,” you order, and you let your eyes blur as New Earth fades into just another precious memory.