The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea - part 1

'You're hurt.' Chakotay observed, watching her face.

'No, I'm not.' Her denial wasn't exactly unexpected, physical frailty was not something she accepted easily - in herself or in others. Sometimes he thought it was part of his job description to remind her that she was human, fallible. On other occasions he thought that serving this function was more of a punishment - like rubbing salt into an open wound. A reminder of culpability to a woman who seemed to serve a personal penance for each of her errors was hardly a necessity, and could only ever be malicious. But the philosophical debate could wait for another occasion.

'Funny, I don't remember that you used to walk with a limp.'

The look she shot him in response was positively venomous, but he didn't quake at something so simple as the death-ray look, he'd been here before. Besides, her case was defeated when she stepped forward, putting weight on the injured ankle; and it gave way; forcing a sharp cry of pain from her lips.

She righted herself with another quick grimace, shrugging aside the hand he's shot out to steady her. Sometimes his captain was the most stubborn person alive. 'let me look at it at least?'

'If I take my boot off the ankle will swell and we're a little short of any medical supplies to treat that.' He had no argument with her grasp of their situation, they'd only just managed to pull themselves free as the shuttle had tumbled over the cliff, there hadn't been time to decide which supplies they should take with them. However, it was getting dark, they had no torches, the terrain was unfamiliar.

'We aren't going to be travelling any further tonight, we need to find some shelter, we may as well get the boot off, elevate the ankle, strap it.'

Kathryn Janeway frowned, unwilling to concede the point. She wanted to tell him that there was no reason why they couldn't strike ahead, cover more ground - perhaps even reach their destination. It was imperative that they got their, delay was unacceptable. But she had to face facts, they were both battered and bruised, they had no idea where they were and only a vague idea in which direction they ought to be heading. Their efforts to contact Voyager or the Mulbari had proved fruitless so far. The sensible thing would be to find some shelter, sit tight and wait to be rescued. Since when had she ever done the sensible thing, she reflected, glancing at her companion very quickly - it felt like a long time ago.

'All right.' Her capitulation seemed to surprise him, even though he masked it well. It made her wonder a little, was she really behaving so unreasonably these days that people were surprised when she agreed with them? It was safer not to think about that.

She glanced at her companion again, at his open, honest and oh so carefully blank expression. What was he feeling? She'd like to ask, but it was impossible, that was territory she could not trespass into - not now, not ever. They'd both made their choices and now, only silence stood between them.

Together they carried out a brief reconnoitre of the surrounding area, agreeing that a cave, hollowed out of the rock was the best location they could come up with. The interior of the cave would provide shelter, they, or rather Chakotay, would be able to build a fire for light and warmth. The surroundings were hardly luxurious, but they would survive.

Her mind drifted back to the meeting they had been en route to when the shuttle had crashed. Would people be looking for them yet, trying to contact them? Her thoughts wandered some more, would the deal be off? It was too important an opportunity to loose, she'd do anything to keep their bargain alive.

Chakotay watched her, her expression pensive in the growing darkness. He thought she'd been behaving oddly all day - but had been unwilling to call her on it. It was a difficult situation, a tense one, he could easily be projecting his own anxieties onto her. Maybe he wanted her to be unhappy, was looking for that, looking for some kind of sign, something in her manner that said she wanted to stop this.

But it wasn't going to happen, she was totally single-minded in her determination. It was ironic, that the power that been his, to bring them closer to their goal, or to leave them as far away as ever. She had left the choice to him, explained the offer, the deal and then given him all the time he needed to decide - except how could you possibly decide something like that? He remembered waiting, hoping she would say something, give him some hint of her feelings. But she hadn't even batted an eyelid. He thought he's probably decided to go ahead out of pique, hardly the best grounds for making a decision that could change your life.

He couldn't think about this, not now the plans had gone so fabulously awry. He'd planned to avoid her as much as possible until it was done, until it couldn't be changed, it was important to keep their relationship on a strictly professional footing now, whatever he had once thought, no matter what he had once felt. He had not planned to spend his final night as a single man in such proximity to the woman he wasn't marrying.

TBC