Talking in the dark
by Jinny W
Disclaimer: Paramount owns 'em. Do you really think I make any profit from this? Honestly? No, I didn't think so.
To paraphrase Spike Milligan, after "Useless Beauty" I swore I was never going to write another story based on a song. This is it. My sincere apologies to Declan McManus. I promise I won't do it again (much). Alright, not for a few weeks, at least...
Thanks to Yael for her swift and encouraging beta reading.
Summary: When you talk for ten hours straight, some interesting things are bound to be said.
"Without you, I'm not conversational
without the sense of the occasional
without you, I miss talking in the dark
When the barking and the biting is through
we can talk like we're in love or talk like we're above it,
we can talk and talk until we talk ourselves out of it... "
"Kathryn? Kathryn can you hear me?"
There was a buzzing noise in her ears. She could feel pain but wasn't sure which body part was causing it. She tried to move and was rewarded with several options to choose from. A dull ache in her head. A searing pain in her leg. Numbness in her left arm.
"Kathryn? Answer me."
The buzzing grew louder and formed itself into sounds. A human voice. Her name.
She opened her mouth to respond but found her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. She pried it loose, ran it along her lips then swallowed, forcing saliva back up into her mouth.
"I'm here," she tried to say.
"Mmmugghhh," was what came out.
She shook her head in frustration then gasped at the stinging pain that shot up behind her eyes.
"Kathryn? Are you alright? Can you hear me?"
The voice seemed clearer now. Definitely familiar. She swallowed and tried again.
"I'm here," she croaked.
"Thank the gods," the voice floated across to her. The exclamation was followed by a series of grunting and scrabbling sounds.
Kathryn blinked and tried to orient herself. It was either extremely dark or there was something very wrong with her eyesight. She couldn't see a thing. Her back was pressed up against a cool hard surface - a wall?- but her lower body was sprawled on the floor. She shifted her weight and tried to sit up. Pain coursed up her leg and she winced, pulling herself more slowly into a sitting position. Each little movement took great effort. Where was she?
"Hold on Kathryn," the voice came again, "I'm trying to reach you."
She frowned, attempting to locate its owner. "Chakotay? Is that you?"
"Yeah its me," he called back. "Who did you expect?"
"I don't know. I -" She winced at the pain.
"Just hang on. I'm nearly there."
More scrabbling followed.
"Chakotay? What happened? Where are we?"
"The shuttle got pulled into an ion storm. We barely made it to the planet it one piece."
Kathryn swallowed and tasted blood. "One piece? Speak for yourself."
"Communications are down. I sent off a message before we crashed though, and I'm pretty sure that Voyager received it," Chakotay replied, still tugging at the sheet of titanium casing that barred his way. "Sensors are offline too. As well as life support. So I estimate we have about twelve hours of air left, at the most."
He grunted again, heaving at the recalcitrant object.
"The atmosphere outside is not breathable so I can't go out there. And before you ask," he added, "the environmental suits were damaged in the landing as well."
"And to top it off," he went on with his report, "the generator's shot. We don't have any power left to restart the damaged systems."
Kathryn groaned and pressed her palm against her forehead. "That was some landing. And the good news?"
"Well," he thought for a moment. For some reason in the dark she could hear his breathing very clearly. "If we don't get rescued in time, I won't have to explain to B'Elanna how I lost another shuttle."
Kathryn laughed shortly, then broke off with a cough which only further aggravated her aching ribs.
"Are you okay?"
Even in the dark she could imagine his face wrinkling with concern.
"I think my leg's broken."
"I'm not going anywhere, Commander," she said wryly.
With one more tug the piece of metal came loose. Chakotay quickly shoved it out of the way and made his way to Kathryn's side.
"I have a med kit," he said, fumbling in the dark.
As her eyes began to adjust Kathryn could just make out the shape of him crouched over her.
"The casing was crushed. Most of this is useless." He scrabbled in the case. "No, wait, the tricorder's here. It seems to be okay."
He flipped it open and began scanning. As he ran the sensor over her the blinking light provided a little illumination. In the blueish glow she could see his face, frozen in apprehension. He let out his breath with relief as he read the scan results and she allowed a small smile to escape her lips.
"I take it I'll live."
"For today," he said, returning the smile. "Your leg's broken and I can't knit it, so you'll just have to keep it still. I can strap it up for you. But there's nothing else seriously wrong. Just a few bumps and bruises."
Kathryn sighed. "Big ones, I think."
He nodded. "I expect so."
He closed the tricorder and sank down on the shuttle floor next to her.
"There's nothing we can do until Voyager gets here. We'll just have to wait."
"Alright. You're sure they received the message?"
"Uh-huh. From their last position it will probably take from eight to ten hours for them to get here."
"And how much air did you say we have?"
"About twelve hours."
"Oh." She added up the figures in her head. "Well that's alright then. We'll just wait."
"That's what I said."
They were silent for a moment, then Kathryn swore. "Oh damn."
"What? What's wrong?"
"I forgot to bring my set of travelers' checkers."
He sighed with relief, then asked, "Checkers?"
"It's an old board game my grandmother used to love. I have a little set you can take with you when you're travelling. It's very practical for whiling away the hours."
"Well," he said, shifting his back against the wall, "speaking of practicality, we wouldn't have been able to see much anyway."
"I know," she replied. "Then you wouldn't have been able to tell if I was cheating."
He chuckled, then reached over and squeezed her hand. "Know any good word games, Captain Cheat?"
"Norsican tree bat."
"Kathryn," Chakotay said patiently. "You can't keep just listing breeds of dogs."
"Why not? Dogs are animals."
"I know they are. But that isn't the point of the game. You're supposed to list different animals, not different varieties of the same animal."
"I don't think you made that clear in your rules."
He sighed. "I thought it was obvious."
He could make out her shaking her head stubbornly. "No, you just said to name an animal which starts with the last letter of the previous animal. Nothing about different varieties or breeds."
"Alright fine. Spaniel stands then."
"No," she sighed, "let's do something different. I'm sick of animals. Who would have thought so many ended in 't'?"
"It would be alright if more started with 't' as well."
"That's very philosophical of you." Kathryn shifted position slightly, then cried out at the pain.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine. It's just my leg." She couldn't help giggling a little. "That and the fact we only have two hours of air left. Apart from that everything's fine."
She sighed again and let her head fall back against the wall.
"How did we get into this mess in the first place?"
"Well, we weren't expecting the ion storm when we came to investigate this planet. It wasn't anywhere on the sensor readings -"
"No," she shook her head. "I mean, what are we doing on this mission anyway? The captain and the first officer. That isn't very bright, is it?"
Chakotay shrugged. "Probably not. But it was your idea."
"Yes. And then you insisted when Tuvok tried to suggest that he or Tom should go instead. This was supposed to be just a routine survey mission. But you put your Captainly foot down. And that was that."
She let out an exasperated breath. "Yeah. I can sure pick them. It just sounded like a good idea at the time."
Chakotay drew his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them.
"Sick of the ship?" he joked, resting his chin on his knees.
"Umm," she replied.
"Kathryn?" Chakotay peered at her face in the gloom. "That's not an answer."
"No, I guess it wasn't."
"Don't give me that Captain's prerogative routine now."
"Alright." She sighed. "I was bored."
"Yes. You know, bored. Full of malaise, tired of the old routine, itching to do something different."
"I know what bored means. I just didn't realise that you were bored."
"Hmm." Kathryn picked at the material of her shirt and avoided looking in his direction. It might be dark, but she could still sense when he was watching her with that inquisitive expression of his.
"That's not an answer either."
"No. Well, we've been talking for what? Nearly ten hours now. Maybe I'm running out of answers."
"No, what? What are you laughing at?"
"It's just I thought that captains were always supposed to have all the answers. Or at least to pretend that they do. I didn't think I'd ever see you run out of them."
"So ask me another question."
"What kind of question?"
"I don't know." She shrugged. "A question. Not a word puzzle."
"Alright." He thought for a moment, then grinned at her slyly. "Why are you bored, Kathryn?"
"Not that question, Chakotay."
"Okay." He paused again. "Want to do something exciting when we get back?"
"What?" She laughed involuntarily, holding her hand across her rib cage to keep her body still. "What do you mean by that?"
"Well, if you're bored with routine at the moment, maybe we should do something out of the ordinary when we get back to the ship."
"I don't know. I hadn't actually thought of anything yet."
"You mean like maybe take a shuttle out for a joyride?"
"Something a little less reminiscent of this escapade would be preferable."
Kathryn chortled. "Oh, so this is an 'escapade' now?"
"What would you call it? A standard away mission?" he retorted.
"Not exactly," she conceded.
"How about we pool some of our holodeck time and go somewhere special?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "I haven't thought of anywhere yet."
She grinned at him, useless as the gesture was in the dark. "So you haven't thought what we should do that's exciting, or where we should go that's special. Just that we should go somewhere or do something."
He shrugged. "I'd just like to spend some time with you", he said softly.
They were both quiet then. Kathryn tried to gauge Chakotay's facial expression, but found it impossible given the darkness that engulfed them. Instead she began fidgeting, picking at her fingernails while she considered his words.
Why should such a simple declaration have jolted her so much? They were friends after all, she reasoned. He was perfectly free to want to spend time with her without it meaning... meaning what? She frowned at the direction in which her thoughts were wandering. Why should it mean anything more? Why should she want it to mean anything more? Did she want it to?
Great Kath, she thought. You're running out of oxygen, and now you're thinking crazy thoughts. Or was it so crazy? She threw another look at the outline of Chakotay's face. He was still resting his head on his knees, apparently lost in thought.
Okay, Kath, get a grip. One near death experience - or not that near to death really, the optimistic part of her brain insisted - and she was starting to lose her grasp on reality. This was her first officer she was thinking about here. One of her closest friends. This was Chakotay, for goodness sakes! They'd been in worse scrapes than this before. They'd faced death side by side without her indulging in such speculation. What was her problem?
Was it because they were in an enclosed space, she wondered? Yes, perhaps that was it. They'd been stuck in the shuttle for nearly ten hours now. Talking almost constantly for that time. He'd been hypnotizing her with his voice. That was it! Although probably not deliberately, she added mentally. It was just the cumulative effect of hearing his soothing voice for such an extended period.
Not to mention the fact that he'd been leaning up against her for most of that time. Close proximity of bodies had to count for something. Although she'd had plenty of time to observe his body before. Although at times she'd found him quite... distracting... she'd managed to resist him so far. But he wasn't always this close to her for such a long period. And then there was the scent of him as well, she mused. Pheromones! They had to be playing a part here too.
"How about Lake George", Chakotay said suddenly, cutting into her thoughts.
"Lake George", he repeated slowly. "For the holodeck trip? I haven't used the program for a long time. And I don't think we've been there together since... well, actually since the last time that we crashed a shuttle together. That seems appropriate, don't you think?"
Kathryn found herself lost in thought again, remembering that night. The relaxing splashing of the oars in the water. How she had carried the rose that he had brought her. She blinked at the memory, surprised at how vivid it was, and at the way something inside her twitched at its reawakening. It was the rose, she thought. She could picture it now, in his hand as he had held it out towards her. The way her heart had started beating faster with the sense of possibility as she'd taken it and they had left her ready room together. How it had looked sitting in a vase in her quarters. How she had kept it there for days afterwards, staring at it and thinking, thinking...
"The holodeck? Do you want to go sailing?"
"Oh, yes. I would. Of course." She found herself fumbling over the words, and silently cursed her sudden awkwardness.
"What are you thinking about Kath?" he asked quietly.
She glanced over at him, wishing again that she could really see his face. Noting also the pleasure she felt at his use of the familiar name.
"I was thinking about sailing, actually," she lied.
"Uh-huh." He seemed to be trying to peer at her face too. "Really?"
"No, not really," she admitted, wondering why she was admitting anything at all.
To her surprise he didn't push the issue. "Well, maybe you can tell me later. When you're not sick to death of the sound of my voice," he added.
She chuckled softly at that. "Yeah, maybe I will."
Chakotay let out his breath and stretched out his legs again. "How long do you think -"
"Voyager to away team."
He sat up with a start, then replied.
"Commander," Tuvok's placid voice greeted him. "We are in orbit of the planet and have located your shuttle. Are you and the Captain alright?"
"Just a broken bone or two, Tuvok," Kathryn supplied. "Apart from that we're fine. But it's good to hear from you."
"We have detected unstable ion disturbances in the planet's atmosphere. I will send Mr. Paris in a shuttle to retrieve you."
"We look forward to it. Janeway out."
She sighed and turned to Chakotay. "So. We're not going to die today after all."
"I told you that."
"So you did. But I lost track of time during all those word games. I thought we might have strayed into tomorrow already."
He laughed. "It wouldn't have seemed like so long if you hadn't tried to cheat all the time to make up for the lack of opportunity to cheat at checkers."
"I'll pretend I didn't hear you say that, Commander."
"Alright," she could feel him grinning at her. "So long as you don't try and get out of our sailing date."
He said the words lightly, but Kathryn felt her stomach flip at his use of the word date.
"I wouldn't dream of trying to get out of it."
They fell silent. Kathryn shifted her good leg impatiently, for once actually looking forward to a lie down on the sick bay bio-beds. And then after that, who knew? She found herself smiling as that edgy nervous feeling of possibility took up residence in her mind again.
"Want to play a game while we wait for Tom's shuttle?"
"Shut up Chakotay", she warned, "just shut up."
"I miss talking in the dark
Without you, I'm not conversational
without the sense of the occasional
without you, I miss talking in the dark
without you, I miss talking in the dark."
(from "Talking in the dark", Elvis Costello)
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