Categories: GEN, Friendship, Action, Experimental
Pairings: Janeway&Chakotay Friendship
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
A/N: Written for the Invisible Man contest at Love Through The Years. I tried to be artsy fartsy with the ending, but the idea wasn't a wild success.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the universe. I own, um, not much at all, actually.
Cold. That was his first observation as consciousness returned. It was cold. Not just chilly, but a hard, bitter cold that sank through the flesh to the marrow.
What had happened? It couldn't have been a shuttle crash. He was familiar with their acrid smell. This place was free from the odors of burning electrical systems and leaking coolant.
Cautiously, he flexed his limbs. Although sluggish in their responses, they did seem functional. The numbness must have come from the temperature, and not from injury.
He reached for his combadge, and was not entirely surprised to find it missing. When he tried to open his eyes he discovered that he already had. His throbbing headache made it impossible to tell and the darkness wasn't helping. He mentally searched for his most recent memory.
He remembered loading up a picnic basket and using it to lure Kathryn down to the surface for some much needed rest and relaxation.
Kathryn. Where was she now?
With a deliberate effort to remain calm, he began to explore his surroundings. He soon found his missing captain, unconscious beside him on the hard ground. He started breathing again once he had felt her pulse, strong against his fingers.
He wanted to move her off of the cold floor, but his options were limited. There didn't seem to be anywhere except cold floor. He tried again to wake her.
"Kathryn, are you all right?"
She groaned in response, and he allowed himself a small measure of relief.
"Chakotay?" Her hand found his arm. "Where are we?"
"I wish I knew. Somewhere cold and dark."
"That I noticed," she said grimly. "Tell me again why shore leave is good for me."
He helped her up and together they began examining their environment, running their hands over the cold stone walls.
"No door," Chakotay said. "This must be some sort of pit."
"Were we thrown in or did we fall in?"
"From this lump on my head I'm guessing we were thrown in. Question is, by whom?"
He froze as he suddenly felt her fingers gently probing his head. She located the swelling.
"That's a pretty big lump," she said.
"I think I'll live. How about you?"
"You say that, but you were out cold a few minutes ago."
"It's just a little bump. Yours is worse."
"Okay, Kathryn, I won't argue with you. Just promise me you'll go to sickbay when we make it back to the ship."
"As long as you do the same."
"Agreed. I don't suppose you've got a hand lamp with you?"
"No such luck. I don't even have a combadge."
"Maybe we can find something to burn."
She laughed. "As long as it isn't my hair."
A detailed search of the pit yielded nothing, flammable or otherwise. The ground was surprisingly free of debris.
Kathryn sighed. "Well, as much as I hate to admit defeat, I'm not finding anything. You?"
"Nothing," he confirmed. "We're going to have to sit down and hope for the best."
"Terrific," she muttered. She flopped down beside him. "I wonder if anyone's noticed us missing yet. We don't even know how long we've been down here."
"It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so darn cold." He reached out in the darkness to pull her closer and wrap an arm around her shoulders. To his relief, she didn't object.
"So. How shall we pass the time?"
"I think charades is out."
"Too dark for that," she agreed.
He chuckled. "Last time I was trapped in a pit it was with Tom Paris. You're much better company."
"I'm glad you think so."
He felt his chest constrict painfully as he fought to keep his arm from tightening around her. "You know I do."
If she detected the emotion in his voice she didn't mention it. "I heard a rumor about Chell and one of the Delaney sisters. It isn't true, is it?"
"B'Elanna heard from Henley that Chell and Megan were seen crawling out of a Jefferies tube together. As for whether it's true, your guess is as good as mine."
"Ah, the Jefferies tubes. It's good to know that romance isn't dead." She was quiet for a moment. "Now that Tom and B'Elanna have tied the knot, care to wager who'll be next?"
He thought for a moment. "Probably Tal Celes and Billy Telfer."
"That's good. They deserve a little happiness." She sighed. "They all do."
"So do you, Kathryn." He froze as he heard his own words. It was too late to take them back; an apology would just add tension to the situation. Besides, he had spoken the truth. She did deserve happiness.
"We'll make it home, Chakotay," she said softly. "We will make it home."
He recognized the unspoken 'and then.' That was about as close to a promise as he was likely to get. He savored it, and bit his own lip to keep from kissing the top of her head. "I know we will. I've never doubted that."
Hours passed. They discussed ship's business and talked about the crew. They shared anecdotes and stories from childhood. It was little different from countless nights in her quarters, except for the aching cold.
They kept hoping that an away team would discover them, or at the least that some daylight would penetrate the depths of their pit. But darkness prevailed.
"I shouldn't admit this," Chakotay said.
"I'm starting to fantasize about leola root."
"If we're somebody's prisoner then it sure would be nice if they fed us."
"Think they'll have coffee?"
"We can hope."
The blinding light took them both by surprise. They threw their arms up to shield their eyes. A high pitched voice shouted something in a language they didn't recognize. Without their combadges, they didn't have translators.
"I'm Captain Kathyrn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager. We are on a peaceful mission of exploration, and I would like to know why we are being held here."
"Very diplomatic," he whispered in her ear.
The response was less so. While the words were foreign the tone was unmistakably harsh.
"We don't understand you," she said uselessly.
Chakotay squinted against the light and looked up. The height of the ceiling above them was not encouraging. The walls were far too smooth to climb, and slanted inward in any case, and the pit was utterly free of clutter. The owner of the shrill voice wasn't within sight.
A package dropped to the floor and they were once again plunged into darkness. Chakotay picked it up.
"What's in it?"
He peeled back the cloth and took a cautious sniff. "I'm guessing dinner."
"For someone hungry enough to crave leola root you don't sound very happy."
"You know what they say. Be careful what you wish for."
"Or something very similar."
"I don't suppose there's anything to drink."
"No, there isn't."
"If they want us to freeze to death, dehydration should speed the process along quite efficiently."
"Let's see if we can't find a little warmth." Chakotay handed Kathryn the slightly rotted vegetables and folded the cloth wrapping into a square.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm going to sit on this cloth instead of the cold ground."
"And where am I supposed to sit?"
For a moment, he was grateful for the dark. It hid the grin that split his face. "On my lap. Unless you'd rather freeze to death."
She didn't answer immediately and he feared his teasing had crossed the line.
"Well," she said. "If those are my only choices..." She crawled over and arranged herself on his lap.
He wrapped his arms around her and felt a little guilty for enjoying her nearness.
They ate the foul tasting roots.
"Could be worse," he said.
"It could be gagh."
"That it could. Although I'm not entirely convinced that would be worse."
"Could be my pot roast. That would be worse."
"Don't try to spare my feelings, Chakotay. You know that glorified toaster in my quarters has it in for me."
"That's why we have sick bay."
"I thought the purpose of sick bay was to patch you up after shuttle crashes."
"No. Sick bay is really just someplace for the Doctor to rehearse his opera pieces."
"No. The true purpose of sick bay is to patch up Tom after B'Elanna's had her evil way with him."
"Do I not speak the truth?"
"You know what they say about the truth, don't you?"
"Speak the truth. But leave immediately afterward."
"Are you asking me to leave?"
Hours passed. They took turns napping, fearing that hypothermia would pull them into comas if they didn't take precautions. There was no sign of their captors.
"It's maddening, not being able to see," Kathryn complained. "What I'd give for just a little bit of light."
"I know," he agreed.
"I hate not having anything to do."
They almost welcomed the blinding light when it returned. He struggled against the instinctive need to shield his eyes and studied her face. She was doing the same, and they shared a smile.
The harsh alien voice made an incoherent demand. Chakotay was powerless to keep his arms from tightening around Kathryn as they both tensed for action.
Chakotay wasn't one to judge a being by its looks, but when the previously unseen alien finally made its appearance, he couldn't deny the revulsion he felt. The fact that the species wasn't bipedal wasn't the first thing that drew his attention. It was the hostility radiating from its cold yellow eyes.
For a moment, Chakotay felt guilty for judging the alien's intentions from its expression. Then it made a grab for Kathryn.
"No." Chakotay raised his arm to shield her from their captor's grasping tentacles.
Another tentacle appeared, pointing what was unmistakably a weapon at his head. The alien gestured at Kathryn. The message was clear.
Still, he didn't move his arm. His instincts told him not to let the alien take her.
"Chakotay, let me go."
"Captain, it's part of my job to protect you." She was never going to go for that.
"You can't protect me if they kill you."
The fact that she was right didn't keep the bile from stinging his throat. It took all of his willpower to lower his arm.
Then she was gone, and he was alone in the dark.
Hours passed. Or perhaps only minutes, but to him they were hours. Images of torture haunted him. He strained his ears, listening for sounds, hoping not to hear her screams. His rational mind lost all control over his fears. He sat on the cold ground and worried.
When she was returned to him, he was incapable of keeping the emotion from his voice. "Kathryn, did they hurt you?"
"No. I'm fine." She didn't sound fine. Her voice sounded thin and raspy.
He swallowed hard. "What do they want?"
"I'm not sure. They don't have translators, and they don't seem to understand why we can't communicate. And here's the weird part; they seem to be quite advanced technologically. They have transporters. It doesn't make sense."
"Are they warp capable?"
"I don't know. This doesn't make sense, Chakotay. If they are space faring, they should understand our communication problem. And why couldn't we detect them from orbit?"
"So either they were on the surface, and were employing a cloak of some kind, or they got here after us, which would certainly indicate that they are warp capable."
"Either way, they possess advanced technology, and this is a fairly well populated region of space. I find it hard to believe that they haven't met another culture before."
"The Dhurex thought this planet was unpopulated, and their system isn't far from here. Perhaps we're dealing with a society that has successfully remained hidden. Now we've disturbed them."
"They grabbed us," she argued. "We didn't even know they were here."
"But they might not know that. Tell me what happened. Where did they take you?"
"A sterile-looking little room. They had me sit around for a while, then they brought me back here."
"Perhaps they're testing us somehow?" he mused.
"Maybe. But whatever they're doing, I sure wish they'd give us something to drink. Doesn't even have to be coffee."
"Perhaps their species doesn't drink. They might get fluids some other way."
"I bet you're right. That figures. We would have to get kidnaped by a species that can't or won't communicate and doesn't know that we need water."
This time, the wait wasn't as long. The aliens made another appearance only minutes later. Chakotay wasn't about to let Kathryn go alone this time; if things continued as they stood they'd both be dead of either dehydration or hypothermia.
He reached for her hand, and felt her squeeze his fingers in agreement. They stood close and hoped the alien transporter would beam them out together.
They found themselves in the sterile little room the captain had visited previously. Their captors seemed content to leave them alone.
"It's hot in here," Chakotay observed.
"Hot and dry."
Unlike the pit, this room had a visible door. They crossed the room and examined it together. Chakotay pushed at it, and to their surprise it popped open.
They exchanged a glance, and Kathryn looked a bit sheepish. "I didn't think to try that."
Together, they edged out into a gray corridor.
A significant bit of searching proved fruitful. They found their combadges and the picnic lunch they had never gotten to enjoy. It was with great enthusiasm that they sampled the contents now. The coffee was cold, but it had never tasted better.
While they couldn't raise the ship, their combadges did solve the translation problems. Together, they overheard a conversation between their two captors.
"We can get a higher price then - "
"Perhaps, but the longer we keep them here - "
"You're too cautious. You'll never be rich."
"Perhaps, but I find value in my freedom. I don't fancy prison."
"We aren't going to get caught. We'll wait, and get the higher price."
"I guess we're the merchandise," Kathryn whispered.
"Sounds that way," Chakotay answered. "Illegal merchandise, at that. All we need to do is contact whatever authorities these two are avoiding."
"You make it sound simple." She was grinning at him.
"Isn't it?" He returned the smile. "You and I together, who's going to beat that team?"
Star Trek™©, Star Trek: The Next Generation™©, Star Trek: Voyager™© and related properties exist as Registered Trademarks of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, May 2002.