TITLE: All the Silences: a Triptych
RATING: PG-13, for slashy type kissing and such
CODES: ST:V - Janeway/Chakotay; SN - Dana/Natalie; WW - Josh/Sam
ARCHIVE: Ask, please.
DISCLAIMERS: Nobody's mine. Summary and lyric are Ani's song 'asking too much.'
SUMMARY: "I want someone who's not afraid of me or anyone else. In other words, I want someone who's not afraid of themself."
NOTES: A response to Liz Barr's challenge: three stories, three fandoms, one lyric. And then Martha added on this challenge without realizing it: make it one het, one boyslash, and one girlslash.
My final Voyager piece, my first Sports Night piece, and one of the many West Wing pieces. It's been a ride.
For august, in some ways she might never know.
"Don't ask me to put words to all the silences."
1. Star Trek: Voyager - the Way Things Were Supposed to Happen
Once, she had truly thought that this return, this long-awaited return could be joyous, momentous, fulfilling. There was a recurring dream she had in which they returned to the Alpha Quadrant, and she had become an Admiral, a professor, led a quiet life. Sometimes, she was married to Chakotay, and they had dogs. Sometimes, she was alone.
Then again, sometimes, she had dreams of rooms made only of starlight or of having to eat a never-ending supply of crab legs, which she hated. So, her dreams were not necessarily the stuff to base reality on, or the stuff to base her expectations on.
That had been five years ago before their actual return, and while it was supposed to be triumphant, it turned into something dirty, and petty, and it turned into finger pointing. They had offered her an admiralty, but only to keep her quiet, and they had offered Chakotay command of a nothing of a ship, called the Negev.
And he had taken it, because that is what he had been reduced to, but that was not the whole story.
He and Seven had been engaged, for a while, but suddenly he seemed to realize that she was unable to get past the fact that he was imperfect, and that he was unable to get past the fact she was tall and blonde and not what he wanted at all. It had been messy, and noisy, and Chakotay had been dark and stormy on the bridge for weeks.
That had been years ago.
It had taken them more than twenty years to get home, and by the time they did, the Federation was embroiled in yet another war that they didn't know how to fight. It was multidimensional beings, as she had always suspected it would be, and they had been swept up into the drama, and someone had pointed to a former friend and said he was conspiring with the enemy.
That had been the end of Voyager, of everything that she had meant and everything that she had stood for, because they were all different in the Alpha Quadrant, and she was an admiral and he was a captain, and the last time they saw one another, before this, he had saluted her, and called her Admiral Janeway.
He had saluted her, and he had boarded a shuttlecraft, and she had been forced to turn away, because she was crying, damn it, she was crying, and this wasn't how it was supposed to be.
She was supposed to be a professor, for God's sake. But instead, she was off in the Gamma Quadrant, zipping around in her transwarp ship from star to star like a bee from bloom to bloom. She was there, visiting little outposts, reassuring the troops, smiling for the newsfeeds.
She was miserable, and it was Darakis V.
She had come to love binary stars setting in the sky, because it reminded her that not everywhere was Earth. Once, many years ago, she had wanted nothing more than to be reminded of her planet, of her goal. She had waited to see a single star setting over San Francisco for so long that by the time she got there, there was nothing to impress her. The water seemed dull, and the waves were awkward, and there was a strange crackle in the air that she almost thought was magic.
It was just the climate controls, she realized, and then she knew she had been in space too long. This wasn't her home, so she told Admiral Paris, "I want a ship. I... I need a ship," and she had looked longingly at the sky through the windows of his office.
He had nodded. "I could tell. You're just like Tom. Can't stand being planetside. Wants to get back into space, with B'Elanna. And Miral... Miral is very promising, isn't she?" He asked her this desperately, begging her to be real, if only for a moment, and not this phantom that had been flitting around HQ for weeks.
"Well, Miral's, what, almost sixteen now? She'll be a commander by 25. I'm sure of it." The sun had been particularly bright and manufactured. She was so cold, so cold. She shivered.
"Yes, I'm sure you're right. None of her mother's temper to keep her from graduating from the Academy."
"B'Elanna didn't need the Academy."
"No. No, I suppose she didn't." He paused, and he stared at his desktop. "They're going to resupply settlements at the outermost edge of the Gamma Quadrant, just after Miral leaves to study."
"How will they ever be able to bear being so far apart?" she asked, and she was imagining Chakotay's shuttle and how she could remember every little wrinkle in his forehead.
"I'm not sure," he said, his voice quiet, and she knows that his son was seventy-thousand light years away for twenty four years.
"Miral will need a friend here, won't she?" she offered gently.
"Yes," he nodded. "Yes. And she is my granddaughter, after all. And God, she's beautiful."
"As beautiful as Tom's mother," she ventured.
"Never," was his answer. "Not even you are as beautiful as that, Kathryn," he said, and it was an admission he would never have made if he hadn't been preparing to hand her a padd with the specs of her new ship.
He didn't meet her eyes as she took it, did not see the little spark of a smile that brushed her lips, did not see her hands shake.
"She's called the Tempest. She's... she's very fast," he said, and he looked away, and he was very, very old to her suddenly. And he is old. Eighty; more. Ninety. A million years old, maybe. She couldn't be sure.
"When do I leave?"
"Whenever you'd like, Kathryn. Next month, next week. Take her this afternoon, for all it matters." He sighed. "Go, be this woman people want you to be. Go, even if it means going it alone."
And she did. And it was Darakis V, and there were bars there as there are bars everywhere in the universe. This particular bar was just dark enough that she could wrap herself up in a huge, black shawl, and hide herself with a tall glass of something cold and hard against her throat.
He was there. Some part of her had perhaps sensed him near, sensed that this was his home, or maybe his name had been in her briefing notes. The Negev was docked above the planet, next to the Tempest, and she wondered if this was fate or just good scheduling on the part of some minion she would never meet and didn't care to.
She had not avoided him, but she had not looked for him either. He would know that she was there, and if he wanted to see her badly enough, he wouldn't have a hard time of locating her. And so the days had stretched long as she had waited for him, unwilling to believe that he didn't miss her.
He found her, in the end, in that bar, and she was well on her way to being intoxicated because this wasn't synthehol; it was the real stuff, and she was unused to the effects of alcohol on her small body.
And he said to her, "Hello, Admiral." And it was years upon years that they had wasted, and it was his hand against the sharp edges of her shoulder blades, and it was the alcohol creeping from her belly to her bloodstream.
She turned to him, and the first thing she said was, "You're not dead yet. I would've thought--"
"--that a few years in 31 would kill me? Yes, I would've thought so, too," he nodded, and he sat down next to her so that their knees were touching.
"You're a secret agent, Chak--" But she could not say his name without her voice breaking, so she corrected herself, "Captain. Captain."
"I suppose. It's not as glamorous as they try to make it sound."
"There are dissidents here?"
"There are elements that must be controlled," he shrugged. "But enough about me. Let's talk about you, Admiral."
"My ship's engines are transwarp capable," she said, because it was easy to say, and because she could not say anything personal to him. It had been too many years for this to be easy.
He put his hand over hers on the tabletop. "Kathryn," was all he said, and then there was a long expanse of silence, and it filled her ears and her eyes and her stomach and her lungs, and it made her temples throb. "We've been so far apart for so long. It's been so quiet here without you."
And when he said 'here' she knew he didn't mean this bar, or this planet, or this quadrant. She knew he meant him, inside him. She dipped her chin.
"There weren't any words for what needed to be said, Chakotay."
"I'm not asking..." he began, but he shook his head. "I would never ask you--"
"--I know." She stood, and her eyelashes glistened in the strange light of two setting suns. "Come on," she said. "Come on. Let's go watch the sunset. Let's go have dinner. I'll show you my engine room."
He smiled, and it was broad and genuine and for a moment she forgot everything that had never happened between them. "Okay, Kathryn. I'm right behind you."
And it wasn't the way things were supposed to happen, but there was that moment when the suns hit the horizon, and he kissed her, and his hands touched her hips, and it was better than anything she could have imagined.
2. Sports Night - an Ending in One Way, a Beginning in Another
New York was nothing, nothing like Texas.
Of course, this didn't surprise her. Nowhere was like Texas, and nowhere was like New York, and two places couldn't be more different. Texas was long stretches of prairie, and grass, and cattle. It was towns posing as cities, and it was Lone Star Sports. And it was all well and good, but it wasn't New York.
They had been a little younger then. Her hair had been a slightly different length, and Casey had been married, and Dan had slept around a little more, and Natalie... Natalie hadn't been in love with Jeremy then, and that had made her a little more reckless and a little more fun.
Dana had stood in the middle of the Lone Star studio late one night, and she had yelled, "I am master of my domain!" Her arms had spread to take in the whole place, the desk and the control room and the cameras and the cable and the monitors, and she had yelled it again. Because she thought she was alone, and she was proud of herself.
But she hadn't been alone, in that room, at least, and Natalie had appeared from behind a false wall, and she'd laughed like it was noon instead of half-past two am. "Yes, yes, you are, Dana. Look at you!"
She struck a pose, fists raised in triumph. "We did it!"
"You did it," Natalie said, and her voice was low and meaningful. "You did this, Dana. We're going to go national someday, and it'll be because of you."
"Oh, Natalie. Why do you say things like that? I mean, Casey and Dan, for instance? Pretty important, I'd say. I mean, I can't even get in front of a camera without wigging out."
"You just used the words 'wigging out,'" Natalie noted. She was sitting on the anchor desk, and Dana was thinking 'kiss her, kiss her' because that's how things had happened before. They were two grown women, and they'd had their strings of meaningless boys, and meaningless men, and they had woken up in strange beds and drunk from strange coffee mugs.
They were on their game, at work. And Casey was married and Dan was a womanizer. And they were there sometimes, too late at night, and their hands were warm, and their eyes were warm, and they never mentioned it later, not so much because it was wrong but because sometimes it felt too right.
Dana's fingers fit exactly, exactly, in the grooves made by each of Natalie's ribs, and this frightened her in ways she could never express in any way but the way her fingers trembled at the curve of Natalie's hip. And Natalie would say, "It's okay. This is okay," and her voice would be very low, and it was okay.
But Dana didn't kiss her, because sometimes, Natalie was too much for that, too much for this thing that fluttered around them like an aimless butterfly. Sometimes, Natalie wore a different perfume, and it was something like patchouli and nutmeg, and it was a night like that.
Dana smiled. "Yes. I like the words 'wigging out.' They seem apt. Apt, yes." Dana nodded, and she knew that she was making no sense, but what made sense? Certainly not this thing hanging in the air between them, certainly not the show's achievements, certainly not the fact that she was youngish, and happyish, and mostly successful.
"Okay, apt," Natalie agreed, leaning back and pushing her chest forward. An offer, then.
"Do you want to, um, get a drink or something?" Dana asked with a little toss of her hair, and a half-smile, and a note in her voice that said 'drinks and more.'
Natalie nodded, too emphatic. "Yes, absolutely. I would love a drink."
"Of course not," Natalie laughed, as if the question was just utterly ridiculous, and Dana couldn't help but smile.
"Well, can't blame me for trying."
The roads were somehow wider in Texas, and the crowds in bars were thinner, and the liquor tasted different than it did in New York. And Natalie was beautiful there, in Texas, but never as beautiful as she was sparkling in the Sports Night control room, or that time in Times Square at one AM under the marquee lights saying, "There's no place like New York, Dana!"
And Dana had laughed aloud, and caught the ends of Natalie's scarf and pulled them closer and she's said, "You're right!" And they hadn't kissed, but Dana had been able to taste the air near Natalie's mouth and she knew Natalie was eating a wintergreen Altoid.
That had been an ending in one way, and a beginning in another. Because not so very much later, Natalie had become enamored of Jeremy, and Casey was seeming much less married than he had those years ago. And because there had never been anything spoken between them, Natalie and Dana were friends.
But Dana gave up Altoids, even the peppermint ones. Because they were a reminder of one more thing she couldn't make work.
There was Gordon, then, but Gordon was just a stand-in for Casey, and Dana wasn't sure she wanted to know if Casey was a stand-in for something. And there were moments when she and Natalie shared these long, meaningful but ultimately meaningless, glances across the studio. Because they had wanted one another, once, and they wanted one another then, but the world rarely works in ways that make sense.
And then there had been the Dating Plan, which had been a madwoman's good idea. She was pushing Casey away because she wanted him to be the real thing, the realest thing, but she knew he never could be, because she wasn't real herself. Not in one of those freaky, pseudo-spiritual ways, but in one of those laying-in-bed-alone-and-crying-late-at-night sort of ways.
She wasn't happy. Not with Gordon, not with the Dating Plan, and, ultimately, not with Natalie, but she wouldn't know that for months more until after Natalie and Jeremy broke up, and Casey and what's-her- face were caught with their tongues in each other's mouths on the floor behind the anchor desk forty-five minutes after a show one night.
And for an hour, or a night, it was just like Texas, except the bar was smaller and darker, and the liquor was tequila and not bourbon. Natalie took shots like a man, and she licked the salt off Dana's wrist in long, slow strokes, and then she would throw back the shot, and bite down on the lime. And her eyes would be just delighted.
Dana took shots like a girl, with lots of fussy noises and faltering starts and scrunched-up faces. She took shots like she took life, but she would never forget, in this lifetime or the next, the way Natalie's mouth felt all bright with Cuervo.
An hour later, there was a cab for two, and the direction was Dana's apartment, at 94th and Broadway, a little one bedroom with no view and no real kitchen. But it was a home, with knick-knacks and family photos and an ugly woolen throw that she'd gotten from some dead aunt once. And there was a picture, above the stereo, of the two of them, Dana and Natalie, back in Texas, and the sky was huge in the photo and they were smiling.
"We look happy here, Dana," Natalie said, pointing to the picture and sipping a glass of ice water.
"We were happy," Dana nodded, coming up behind her and standing too close but not close enough. There was a space between them, and it was not exactly bridged when Dana touched her fingers to Natalie's back.
It was quiet, then. "I don't know how to explain this," Natalie said, finally. "I did love Jeremy. I did love him."
"And I loved Casey. Love Casey. Maybe. I don't know, anymore."
Natalie considered this. "We were in Texas, then."
"Texas was different than New York."
"The buildings here are taller and my apartment is tinier..." Dana started, her fingers creeping down Natalie's spine.
"Once, we were in, we were in the editing room. And you told me I had a great body."
Natalie let her head tilt backwards, and her hair brushed Dana's cheek. "Why do you say things like that? Why didn't Gordon, or Casey, or Jeremy ever keep you from saying things like that, Dana?"
"Because..." She paused. "I don't think I can come up with the right words for it, Natalie. But I think it's in that picture, somewhere."
"We were laughing."
"Yes," Dana nodded, absorbed in the scent of Natalie's shampoo.
"It's funny, because you can't hear sounds from photographs. But I can hear us, that day. We were laughing." Natalie's voice falls away to nothing. "But now, it's just this silence, and a little ink on paper."
"Jeremy loves you," Dana said, because it seemed, for a moment, like it might be the right thing. Her mouth touched the nape of Natalie's neck.
"I know," Natalie agreed. "But Dana?"
And this wasn't Texas, and it wasn't prairies or big skies. It was New York, it was lights, it was Sports Night.
And she didn't stop.
3. West Wing - Don't Know Much About Gravity
They never discussed it except in the abstract, because people almost never discuss the givens in anything but the abstract. They didn't discuss it in the same way that most people don't discuss gravity, or neutrino particles, or that there was heavy traffic on the beltway that morning.
There are some things that are too real, too regular, to be discussed, because anything a person might say would be redundant.
This is why they have never said words like 'hope,' or 'love,' or 'need,' or 'scared' to one another. Because these words would be superfluous, because they are all spoken in different ways already, like the arrangement of shoes next to Sam's bed, or the fact that Josh kept Sam's multivitamins in his medicine cabinet.
These were just how things were, because why else would two men follow each other across state-lines and tax-brackets? There is no trust like the trust of hands on bare skin, no trust like lips and tongues and sleeping flesh-on-flesh. There is no trust like sharing coffee and toast and raspberry jam at five AM.
They had met in Washington, and beyond all sense of reason, they had become friends. Josh had been a little older, a little wiser, a little more experienced, and Sam was bright-eyed and interning the last summer before he graduated from law school. They had met near the Reflecting Pool, one morning in July, and Josh was reading the Washington Post.
Much later, Sam would marvel at the fact that was the first time he had ever jogged that particular route at that particular time, and that Josh almost never sat outside to read the paper during the summer. But they had both been there, and Sam had made a spectacle of himself by tripping over Josh's shoes and ending up sprawled rather ungracefully in Josh's lap.
"Hi," he said, but he was slow to get to his feet because Josh had eyes that sparkled and a mouth that begged to be kissed.
"Josh Lyman," Josh had said, laughing. "And you're in my lap, man."
"I wasn't sure you'd noticed. Um, sorry about that," Sam said, standing. "I'm not known for my surefootedness."
"Well, that's a relief. You have a name?"
Sam extended his hand, smiled his brilliant look-I-went-to-prep-school smile, and announced, "Sam Seaborn."
"Law school, right? Yale, maybe?"
"Duke," Sam laughed, and that had been the beginning. "I go to Duke."
"Good to meet you, Sam Seaborn who goes to Duke," Josh had said, collecting up his papers.
And suddenly Sam shook his head. "Come, get breakfast with me."
"I don't eat breakfast."
"Get coffee with me, then," Sam said.
Josh considered this. "There's a place near here. Come on."
Things begin like this, in the world, unexpectedly near strange bodies of water. Sometimes, sometimes a person trips and falls over and lands on the Earth, because the Earth is solid, and the Earth is real and unmoving and a truth. The Earth is a truth, and sometimes a person hits it too hard, and then they stand back up, and it's still under their feet, and this is how gravity sometimes works.
But Sam tripped and fell and landed on Josh, and Josh was solid, and real, and unmoving, and Josh was a truth Sam wouldn't understand until many years later, when he was drinking orange juice and Josh was wandering his apartment in nothing but boxers. Josh turned, Josh smiled, Josh said good morning.
There are different types of gravity in this universe.
In the early days, Josh had taken to calling Sam beautiful, mostly, Sam thought, because Josh liked the flush that spread across Sam's skin whenever he said it. "You're beautiful, Sam," he would say, over and over, even in the blackness of night when there was no way he could possibly tell.
He would touch his fingers to Sam's stomach and Sam's sternum, and he would tell him, "You're beautiful," and it was the first time in Sam's life that he'd felt that way. It was the first time that it didn't matter that he was too smart, or too Californian, or any of that. It was the first time 'pretty' wasn't an insult, and even though he was 24, it was the last summer of his adolescence.
He had gone back to school, then. And he had become successful, and he had convinced himself that Josh had been fun, a lot of fun, but that it hadn't been anything more real than his degrees or his girlfriend or his future at Gage Whitney. And Josh had been far away, and everyone knows that gravity grows weaker with distance, because even Pluto sometimes forgets that the Sun is there, reining it in.
And Sam probably forgot the hold Josh had on him until that fateful day when Josh had told him to go away with him, to go away to work on a political campaign that might go nowhere, to leave his fiancée, and his job, and his city.
Because Josh's eyes said everything that his mouth couldn't, and Sam felt the strange pull in his chest like a laugh or a sob or the tug of a harness and he'd said okay. He left his carefully constructed life, and he let Josh pull him off the edge of the world.
To anyone else, this would've been crazy, and it was a little crazy even to them.
But there was Josh's mouth, and the lines of Josh's calves against dark sheets, and sunrises and sunsets and those things people never question like love and taxes and how the Earth spins just fast enough so that no one goes flying off. And then, there were the things they never spoke of, like Sam and Laurie or Josh and Donna or Josh and Joey, because it would have hurt too much, and because those things never really meant what they seemed to mean.
There was a night, after the MS and after reelection, when Josh had stood mostly naked in Sam's living room, and he had announced, "I never slept with Joey Lucas."
Sam turned from the refrigerator, holding a glass of iced tea, his hands shaking. "I didn't think you had."
"I slept with Donna, once," he sighed, falling back into a leather armchair. "I didn't mean to do this to you. But I wanted to tell you. Because, I didn't want you to think that just because none of these things destroyed us... I didn't want you to think that nothing ever would."
"Josh, would you shut up?"
"I slept with Donna, Sam."
"I heard you the first time, Josh. And I knew."
Josh nodded. "I thought you probably did. It was stupid."
"Yes, it was."
"But you forgave me."
"I didn't have to forgive you. You didn't do anything I needed to forgive."
"I slept with--"
"Okay, Donna. Got it, Josh. Okay."
"You remember that day in Washington, Josh? The first day, and I sprawled out across you in my usual debonair style?"
Josh smiled. "How could I forget?"
"You let me leave you, after that, and get engaged and, you let me be that lawyer everyone expected me to be. But you knew it wasn't me. You let me go, you let me go to New York. And then you came back, when it was time. So, so you slept with Donna, because you needed somebody, or because you were drunk, or... because she has a nice ass, I don't know. But I trust you, and I'll always come back for you."
And Josh's eyes were wide, and it was dark in Sam's apartment, but Sam knew Josh was beautiful, and so he said so, "You're beautiful, Josh."
"Don't say that, Sam. Don't say that because we don't say things like that."
"No, we don't." Sam nodded, looked towards the windows. It was raining outside.
But just the same, Josh's voice dropped, and he said, "Sam, I need you."
And there were these words, and yes, they were the right words but they could never be right enough, never right enough to say the things these two men wanted to say to one another. Sam just shook his head, walked over to Josh, put his fingers to Josh's bare shoulder. "Gravity's a funny thing, Josh. Let's talk about gravity instead."
"I don't know much about gravity," Josh said.
Sam could feel Josh's blood pumping, could feel the warmth of Josh's skin, remembered all the falling and all the getting up and all the moving on that they had done, apart and together but always in each other's orbit. "You believe I'm real, Josh?"
"Then I think you know plenty," Sam said. There was a silence then, but it was more real than words could ever be, more real than 'love' or 'sweetheart.' And then Josh reached up and touched Sam's hand with his own.
Because there are not always words for the silences people find hiding between fingers or between musical notes or between beating hearts, people must sometimes find movements and breaths and slow looks to fill the quiet.
And sometimes, the silence just is.
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