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SUMMARY: While lost on a DQ moon four people find something very precious.
Party of Four
Captain Kathryn Janeway stood motionless at the opening of the cave staring into the twilight of the alien moon. According to her first officer's calculations she had been standing there for at least ten minutes and it didn't seem likely that she was going to move soon. Something had to be done.
"Captain," called Commander Chakotay softly, stopping his work on building a fire. There was no response. Again he called.
"Captain Janeway. Can you come and give me a hand, please."
This time he saw a small shiver of awakening run through her body and she slowly turned in towards the cave to look at him.
"I'm sorry, Commander, what did you say?"
"Come in and help me please, Captain. It's getting dark and we still have several things to do to secure this cave against the night."
"Of course, Commander. I'm sorry." She walked purposely towards the small pile of supplies against the wall and knelt before them, opening the containers and revealing their contents. She turned smiling at him.
"You seem to have command of this detail, Commander; why don't you tell me what you want me to do."
He smiled back. "Sure. I'm almost done with this fire and I'm about to make another one closer to the opening to keep any animals out. Why don't you take a quick inventory of what we have there and then make up the most comfortable sleeping area that you can? After that we can enjoy whatever nourishment we have and then settle down for the night."
"Right, I'm on it," she replied and started sorting through the contents of the containers. Finally she turned back to him.
"Well, the first thing I can advise you of, Commander, is that there's not going to be a whole lot of 'enjoyment' when it comes to supper. We have a fair supply of water together with Seven's nutritional supplements, but the real food is not here. I guess we lost the lottery on that one."
He stood up stiffly from the second fire and walked to her.
"Well, that's okay, better water than food in the long run," he replied as he looked down at her and their meager supplies. "Don't worry, we'll make our plans tonight and then tomorrow we'll forage for food. Hell, if you look on the bright side, we might even be eating Neelix's food tomorrow night."
She laughed. "Well, there you go. I don't think that, until this very minute, I would ever have thought of that as something to anticipate!"
He joined in her laughter. "I know what you mean, but even his Delta Blue Curry sounds good right about now. So, how are we doing in survival gear?"
"Not too bad. Actually, I have the feeling that we might have all of the blankets - look." She pointed to a pile of survival blankets together with other assorted supplies; they would be warm if nothing else. He watched as her eyes clouded over and her face turned to look out the cave's entrance again. She looked pained.
"Don't worry, Captain, they're going to be okay."
"As long as they don't freeze.."
"Captain." Chakotay paused and then squatted down in front of her and put his hands gently on her shoulders.
"Kathryn, they're going to be fine. By the looks of it they got the food and I honestly don't think it's going to freeze tonight. I mean, it might get chilly, but Harry's a trained Starfleet officer with six years' experience in the DQ and Seven is, well, Seven is Borg. Trust them."
Kathryn looked at his hand on her left shoulder and brought her own up to cover it. "I know, Chakotay, I know. Just allow me a few private worries, it's personal, not professional. As a captain I know that they're fully trained in not only surviving but flourishing, but hell." She bit her lip to keep an unprofessional grin off her face. "It's just that, well, think about it, Chakotay. Harry and Seven lost together on an alien moon. Doesn't that give you cause for even a little concern?"
He stood up and held out his hand to help her to her feet. "Nope. Well okay, maybe a little, but not in the way you're thinking. I have far more concern for the survival of this wilderness moon with those two running around it than I do about our very own AstroTeam. Spirits, Kathryn, think about it - Buster Kincaid and Miss GoodBorg on Planet X. I'm going to be pretty embarrassed if they end up rescuing us first or if we finally stumble upon them as they put the finishing touches on their fully functional Rocket Launcher."
She couldn't help but laugh. "I guess we'd better pull out all our old tricks, Chakotay, if we want to avoid being the laughing stock of Voyager."
"Keep that thought, Kathryn, because you're not far off the mark there. But let's put it aside for tonight and go to bed."
She bent over and picked up a pile of blankets. "That wasn't one of the tricks I was referring to, Commander," she smiled.
"Can't blame a guy for trying, Captain. C'mon, it's been a long day and I'm tired. I've got a couple of disgusting squeezable nutrition packs here and tonight we're eating supper in bed."
They retired for the night with a respectable Starfleet distance between them and, as they squeezed the purple glop into their mouths, they thought almost fondly of a yellow, spotted cook orbiting somewhere in their night sky.
"Ensign Kim, you are doing that wrong," stated Seven-of-Nine blandly.
"Seven, for goodness sake, I'm just building a fire. And, if you care to look through your good eye instead of that visual implant, you'll notice that it's burning - a very good function for a fire, by the way."
"You have built it too close to the surrounding fauna. I do not wish to be incinerated during the night."
"You won't be," replied the patient ensign. "Unless you're a restless sleeper and then I won't offer any guarantees."
"I'm not a sleeper by any definition, Ensign," stated the Borg. "I regenerate in my alcove in Cargo Bay Two. I do not require a period of prone somnolence."
Ensign Kim grinned delightedly, which had no effect on his companion whatsoever. "Well, Seven, get prepared for a new experience. You're going to be somulating on the ground right next to me until we get back to Voyager. Not only do you have to preserve the energy that you are storing before your next regeneration, you're going to keep me warm."
"I beg your pardon," asked Seven.
"Basic survival tactics, Seven. It appears we only have that small supply of extra clothes to use as covers against the elements and that means we need to share body heat to stay alive through the night." He looked up at her glacial face. "Why don't you go gather up some of that fauna to insulate us against the ground and perhaps even to cover us? Those trees over there look like that might supply us with some soft-needle boughs."
She looked in the direction of his eyes, and hesitated. Finally, she drew herself up to full dignity and started towards the fir-like trees. "I applaud your logic, Ensign, if not your true intentions. And I demand the extra large bulky garments for myself."
Harry grinned to himself. Bulky was good; Seven obviously had no experience in how cozy it could get when hands were slipped under loose garments to generate heat therein. He began to whistle under his breath.
"Tuvok, you've got to let me go! I'm the only one who can fly through atmospheric conditions like that and you know it!"
"Mr Paris, if I thought that the Delta Flyer could get down to the surface without experiencing the same difficulties as the other two shuttles, I would have sent you two hours ago."
"Contain yourself, Mr Paris. Lieutenant Torres is currently analyzing the data and is working on the adjustments required to ensure your safe journey in the Flyer. In the meantime, why don't you resume your position at the helm? Allowing Voyager to plow into the moon's surface would not result in Captain Janeway's ultimate satisfaction with your performance."
Tom returned to his station but, before he sat, he turned and looked back at his superior officer. "I'll get them all back, Commander."
Tuvok didn't even glance up at the pilot. "I know you will, Mr Paris," he replied softly as his fingers worked over the centre command console.
Captain Janeway popped her head up over the covers and looked towards the cave's opening. She was not a nervous woman, never had been, but she silently admitted to herself that the howling of those animals over the past half hour, together with the sounds of their slavering near the cave opening, had put her on edge. She peeked cautiously over at the commander's pallet and thanked her stars that he was sound asleep. It would not do to have him watch his captain behave in a girlish manner.
"They won't come in, you know."
She let out a yelp as she jumped a full six inches. She turned and glared at him as his chuckling caused his blankets to shake merrily.
"I thought you were asleep!" she declared crossly.
He laughed again. "Nope. I'm not deaf either, but at least I know they'll never cross the fire line. Besides, I could hardly have any pride in my position if I fell asleep while my captain was fidgeting about as nervous as a virgin at an Academy semester-break party."
"Very funny, Commander. And, for your information, I've been to those parties and those guys didn't fidget all that much. If I recall, they were more into drooling and panting."
He laughed again. "Okay, one party point for you. And you can hardly blame all those plebes, lusting after girls like you. I'll bet you broke plenty of hearts in your time."
She snorted. "We were women, not girls. And besides, what makes you think my time is over, Commander?"
His eyes crinkled over the blankets and she just knew those dimples were breaking out in full force under those blankets. "Oh, Captain, I don't. I promise you, I truly believe that your time hasn't even come yet."
Her eyebrow raised as her eyes narrowed. The only effect that seemed to have on him was to make him laugh even more. After all these years you'd think she'd be used to it, but she wasn't. He could get her going at the drop of a hat.
"My apologies, Captain, for any misunderstanding my comments may have caused. Can I get you anything? There's a little herbal tea in my pack and I could make us a nice hot cup of tea to help us sleep."
"No thank you, Commander. I realise that your panacea for everything is tea, but not right now. Good night." Captain Janeway flopped back under her covers and turned her back to him. She did, however, hear his last whispered comment.
"Well, not everything, Kathryn, not everything.".
She heard him settle back down and the last thought she had was that she'd like to poke her finger sharply into every single dimple on his face before gouging out those gorgeous brown eyes and ripping out those eardrums that heard a little too well. Just her luck to be marooned with her first officer again. New Earth II - oh lord have pity on lost Starfleet captains. Sequels were never as good as the originals.
"Ensign Kim, I'm freezing."
A soft rhythmic snoring answered her complaint.
"Whaaat??" Harry sat up as if shot from a cannon and looked wildly around. He finally looked down into a set of icy blue eyes, staring up at him in contained fury.
"Holy shit, Seven, what the hell are you playing at?!"
"My body temperature is falling below optimum levels, Ensign. I am not able to sleep in the manner in which you're accustomed and I must have more warmth to remain fully functional."
Harry rubbed his eyes and sank back down into their makeshift crèche. "Sure, sorry Seven. I forgot that your body's metabolism would stay at high gear all night. Okay, c'mon, shift a little closer to me."
The Borg awkwardly moved closer to him.
"You're not very good at this, are you, Seven?" asked Harry kindly.
"At what, Ensign?"
"Intimacy, Seven. Getting close to another human being. Are you embarrassed?"
"Certainly not. I just have no experience in generating body heat at close quarters."
"There's nothing wrong with that, Seven. Here, do you mind if I help a little?"
There was a short silence. "No, but be as efficient as you can be under the circumstances, Ensign."
"Sure, Seven. Just relax and come closer."
There was a small, rustling sound and then Harry wrapped his arms around her thin frame draped in extra clothing. For all her voluptuousness he couldn't help but feel that her body was too fragile. No wonder she couldn't generate any heat of her own.
"Is that any better, Seven?" he whispered.
"Yes, a little. I understand that you cannot supply me with all my required heat."
"Where are you coldest right now?"
"My extremities and the back of my neck. I do not remember feeling like this before."
He raised his right leg. "Here, slide your left leg between mine and tuck your foot back in." As she did as she was ordered he reached up behind her head and unpinned her hair. He bunched it up around her neck and then slid his hands up her back under the insulated outerwear.
"Is that any better, Seven."
"Yes, thank you Ensign," vibrated her voice against his neck.
Harry couldn't hold back a little shiver but thanked his stars that the cold night air would disguise its true origins. "Seven, I think that as long as we're all tangled up together you can call me Harry. We've been friends for a few years now and you know you're special to me. Now, just slide your hands in-between us and they'll get warm in a minute."
She nestled in closer to him. "I, too, value our friendship, Harry. This is much better; thank you."
He settled his right leg over her hip and around the backs of her legs. "My pleasure, Seven. Now try to relax, we have a busy day tomorrow."
As he fell asleep his hand unconsciously came down to cradle her buttock. Seven did not relax as ordered.
"B'Elanna, what's the problem? It's never taken us this long before to figure out how to compensate for something as basic as atmospheric disturbances."
"Tom, we're doing the best we can. It's hard to fix something when you don't even know what the problem is, and that's the situation we're in."
"You mean the sensors are still not picking up the true nature of the disturbances?"
"That's exactly what I mean. And it's so frustrating! If we didn't have the last communications from the two shuttles to go by, we wouldn't even know there was a problem."
"Damn. Now I'm beginning to wonder if our sensors are actually picking up the planetary readings correctly."
B'Elanna looked up from her PADD into Tom's worried face. His heart broke at the anguish in her eyes.
"Exactly, Tom. But, if you don't mind, I'm going to keep on believing that the life signs are real and not just echoes bouncing back from their entry into the atmosphere."
They looked at one another silently.
"Okay, Be," he answered softly. "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help - anything at all. It sure would be better than sitting up on the bridge with Tuvok. It isn't fun playing with a Vulcan who's going out of his mind with worry but doesn't even know he's doing it. It's like working in the Twilight Zone."
When this is over, Be, we're popping up some corn and breaking out the beer and watching the television set. Hell, we can even invite the whole senior staff over while we're at it - poker night can wait one rotation."
"You've got a date, Helmboy."
"Just call me Rod," he said and turned to stride out of Engineering.
On To Part Two