Waiting for Dawn
by Kat Hughes

Authorís Note: Look mummy Ė no P/T!

Dedications: Stephane, who I still owe, and will probably be writing P/7 for into my eighties. P7C and especially jenn and Krystyne for starting this odd obsession.

Credits: Stephane, for beta reading.

***
 

"It is -- cold. The ambient temperature is below recommended comfort levels."

She watched him turn and smile up at her from his position on the crumbling staircase. "Uh huh." He nodded. "Knew that."

"We should return to Voyager and return during the day--" she turned back to move along the walkway and towards the transport site.

"Nope," he grinned, and had moved up a few steps to grab her forearm and hold her there. "Whereís your sense of adventure?"

She frowned a little and then held her head higher. "There is no point in unnecessary risk, Lieutenant."

"Scared, Seven?" He grinned at her, dropping her arm. He folded his over his chest and waited impatiently for her answer.

She straightened further. "I do not experience fear."

"Good." He reached out to grab her hand and pulled her gently down the long crumbling staircase. Seven noted it was some kind of sedimentary rock. The rest of the city of Helek was covered in the same dusty, weathered rock that cast a golden hue over the town in the faint light of day. She had been informed it was quite a vista.

She stumbled a little as her shoes caught in rock scattered over the wide steps. Tom stopped, checked she was steady with a small nod, before grinning and setting off at a slower pace.

It was night in Helek. Or, at least, a time when the inhabitants slept. Lena, the farthest sun, cast a light blue glow over the tall steepled building. The deep wooden varnishes of the shutters and the arches reflect a light silver against their rich browns. They were high up, descending one of the west side boulevards that circled some of the more ambitious structures. To her left Seven was the eroded facade of the city library whose small glass windows reflecting back at her as she passed. But to her right was the sweeping view of the rest of Helek. Dull street lamps glowed softly through side streets and alleys. And the cold light of the city seemed to cast shadows on the mountains to the East.

She had been made aware of its aesthetic value more than once.

"Is there a point to this, Lieutenant Paris?"

He stopped again as the stairs evened out and they reached a fork in their path. There were further stairs to their right, leading back into the city. To their left was a small track leading to the library garden. He scratched his head. "Damn. Pick a route, Seven."

"For a Helmsman you have an inefficient sense of direction."

He turned to her and offered a lopsided grin. "If I didnít know you better Iíd say that was a joke."

"It was not," she said tersely.

She took a step away from him and moved to take in the city from the vantage point the plateau offered. She stood rigid by the low wall, her fingers moving gently over the sculpted stone and dislodging tiny grains of sand that found homes underneath her fingernails.

After a moment of bemused grinning, he joined her, and leant casually against the wall that separated him from a long fall into some citizenís garden below.

"It sure is something," he said, quietly, more to himself than her.

She turned to look at him and followed his eyes to the Henerian church that dominated the lower skyline. Its many steeples, cast in a light green metal and imprinted with dull silver symbols, reflected the faint sun light onto the cityís hospital and teaching complex. Seven could see people, probably students, moving around the square between the two.

"It is not like Earth?" she asked.

They talked of it so often. Captain Janeway had spent many a time talking about the willowing stalks of corn in her indigenous state of Indiana. The way they would wave to you as the wind cast first morning breeze, and bow as you ran through them. Paris would talk of Marseilles and the smell of the city, the small and intertwining roads and streets, the port that carried the smell of alcohol on the air. Ensign Kim talked of California, and long roads that went further than you could see, the sun on your neck and lighting your hair, the slow trickle of sweat down your vertebrae.

It often sounded like paradise.

"No," he shook his head. "I donít think thereís quite anywhere like this." It was almost reverential and his tone was oddly soft and controlled. He still looked out over the city.

Shaking his head, he stood back and their eyes met. In the faint light his eyes sparkled a little, and long shadows defined his profile. "Besides, the cityís just a bunch of buildings. Whatís important is who you see it with."

There was a held pause between them.

"We should return to Voyager. We will be late--"

"Seven," he sighed. "They left you and me up there all day yesterday. So, as compensation I extended our leave a little. Relax."

"Perhaps." She turned to see a couple walk hand in hand down the stairs. They were talking quietly and the woman wore a full skirt that hung neatly around her ankles. It rustled as she walked. The man held her arm lovingly as he guided her slowly down the staircase.

"Evening," Tom said, nodding to them as he watched the woman reach the plateau.

"Evening?" The man responded good naturedly. "It is near dawn, my good friend. Maybe you should check your time piece and return to your ship before sunrise. I cannot see such fair skin as your companionís hold up when we have Senaís light on our hides." He laughed.

"The third sun should rise in around a kairn," the woman said, smiling at Tom. "I do not blame you for wanting to stay longer. For a non-Helekian it is quite the experience." She nodded courteously and the couple took the plateau road towards the library gardens. The womanís dress still rustled and the sash around her waist bore the marks of her caste.

"Friendly people."

"Indeed," Seven said, a little distracted as she watched the female depart. "I do not burn."

He turned to her. "But I do."

There was another loaded pause as she looked at him a little quizzically. "Then--"

He beckoned her towards the stairs and began to move slowly, kicking his shoes in the dust and watching the patterns in the still air. "Itís around here somewhere."

She followed him down the stairs.

"Is this what Ensign Kim refers to as a wild goose chase?"

Tom stopped and she made up the few steps difference between them. "Damn," he laughed. "Has Harry been telling tales?"

"He merely informed me that you had the inexplicable desire, while on an alien world, to attract as much trouble as possible."

He looked a little thoughtful. "Heís still pissed about the promotion."

"Yes." Strange, she felt the compulsion to smile back at him. "I believe he is."

He began to move again and watched the city descend with him over the wall. "I think I know where I am now." He reached the bottom of the stairs and stepped out onto the paving stones of the lower levels of the city. The streetlights hung above them and swayed lightly in the night air. She shivered.

There was much fauna around them. Closed flowers in plant pots and large deciduous trees casting more shadows on the quiet street. "What is our estimated time of arrival?"

He shrugged. "Couple of minutes? Ten?"

"You do not know," she noted, walking ahead of him and down the cobbled street.

"Loosen up will you?" She turned and he was not smiling. "Weíre not on duty," he reminded her.

He was right. He was wearing a loose cotton shirt and brown trousers, and his commbadge hung messily from a pocket. His hair was uncombed and a little wild and his eyes, for saying he had not slept in the last day, were surprisingly bright.

"I am Ďlooseí," she said, before turning and continuing down the street. Her shoes contacted with the harder stone of the slabs and made loud clicking sounds. She turned at the bottom of the street to look into the adjoining one. She stopped and her mouth dropped open a little.

He jogged to join her.

"Is this...it?" she asked. It shone. It positively glowed.

"Woah," he whispered. He scratched his head, blinking. "Well...wow."

She took a tentative step forward. It was an odd sensation. Her stomach fluttered - what? Anticipation? Excitement? Fear?

Tom seemed frozen, his mouth a little open as he watched the scene in front of him.

"Perhaps we could--"

"--maybe if--"

"--Iím sure no one would mind--"

"--No, if we just--"

"--Yes, there is no reason not to--"

They stopped their fractured sentences and turned to look at each other. Tom broke into a wide smile, his eyes lighting. "After you."

She nodded and began to move slowly towards it.

A pool. Cast absolute silver by Lenaís light. The sun itsef had dropped, seductively, into the hills and the late rays caught the top of the water perfectly. Pure, rippling water that gleamed like precious metal and glowed luminescent against the dark shadows of the trees that surrounded it.

The was a long, metallic jetty reaching out into the water, covered in dark wood boards, and equally silver supporting struts. As her feet connected with the boards they creaked a little and she heard his feet on the gravel as he followed.

She took a long breath of the still air. Fresh and a little wet against the back of her throat. The wind chilled her face and she raised a hand to her cheeks to feel the chill. She swept her fingers slowly over her skin.

She heard his slow steps on the board and felt his breath on her neck. He touched her waist absently. "Itís..." He began, but trailed off.

"Do not explain it," she said quietly.

She checked his reaction and he looked unfazed. "I wonít," he whispered.

He dropped to sit at the edge of the jetty and took his shoes off carefully, placing them neatly on the wooden boards beside him. He put his feet into the water and shivered. Then he looked up at her and smiled. "Care to get your feet wet?"

She sat quickly and rested her booted feet just over the water.

There was a pause and she took in a breath, exhaled and watched the vapour rise. Quietly she reached down and unlatched the bottom of her suit from her heeled boots. Carefully, she grabbed the heel and slipped the shoe from her foot. She placed it behind her and Tom took her other shoe, pulling that carefully from her foot.

She dipped a snow white toe into the water and then recoiled instantly.

"Cold," he didnít smile, nor grin just took in her shocked reaction. "You said it yourself."

She lowered the foot in carefully and bit her bottom lip as the cool, glistening water enveloped her foot and sent spirals of sensation up her spine. She slipped her other foot under the silver blanket and tensed a little, before relaxing.

She sat back, her arms supporting her and looked up into the sky. There were a few stars and the faint rims of Heneriaís moons. They had not looked quite so beautiful on the astrometric chart. She let the very faint sunlight shine on her and tickle the soft skin under her chin, the lids of her closed eyes. "Itís beautiful," she murmured. "I did not expect..."

"No," he finished for her. "Neither did I." She opened an eye and his look was almost intense as he watched her. Somehow, she did not mind.

"Beauty is subjective."

"Iíd say so," he drawled, his feet splashing a little in the water. "But itís more than just seeing something, you know. Art isnít beautiful."

She straightened a little to look at him, her brow lowered and doubtful. "Explain."

He shifted a little and turned towards her slightly. "Art is just someoneís interpretation of beauty. It isnít beauty itself. Take this, this," he nodded to the lit pool. "This is beauty. Because of the way it makes you feel. Kind of awed, kind of excited like this is special, or some other bullshit." He grinned. "But itís more than seeing it. Itís feeling it. Like--" he blinked. "Are you cold?"

She had barely noticed sheíd shivered. "No."

She sat up straight. "Assist me?" She reached behind to the catch of her suit and pulled it down a little.

Tom nodded and moved his hands to the catch. He opened the suit carefully. His fingers seeming to linger as they brushed the skin of back, the rib bones and spine and the small implants that riddled her skin. She felt the vapour of his breath settle on her skin.

He pushed the material from her back and over her shoulders. She carefully removed her arms from the sleeves and the front of her suit hung down over her waist.

He did not smile, but there was emotion in the way he looked at her. He reached his fingers out slowly and brushed them against her shoulder and the small rises and falls of skin against bone. They took a breath together. He closed his eyes and grinned. "Skinny dipping?" he asked.

"A Human custom I have yet to engage in," she responded.

She moved so that she could pull the rest of her suit from her waist downwards. He watched, his eyes smiling at her and she felt the sharp wind against her thighs and the tops of her knees. She lifted her feet from the water and watched the drops of silver fall back into the still surface. Pulling the material from her legs she pulled it over her wet feet. She discarded the suit behind her.

"Gonna jump?" he asked as she stood. The light shone against her soft skin and her hair reflected it, lighting warmly. Her lips were a touch blue and her cheeks held a little red and she was truly magnificent to him. Strong yet thin legs and a small waist, leading up to soft skin and implants, her breasts perfect and the nipples a dark pink against the silvery white of her skin.

She didnít respond but took two steps forward and raised her arms over her head as she dived majestically into the water. There was a light splash and the mercury liquid rippled outward pushing the water higher up his numb shins. He couldnít see her for a moment, submerged under the water until she resurfaced beside the jetty, parting the mirror water as she pushed herself high out of the near freezing water. Droplets of liquid on her cheeks and eyelashes glowing a smooth white as she fell back. Her blonde hair, the clasp loose and falling, was slicked back away from her face. She let out a slight gasp as the sensation hit her and she sunk back into the pool.

He could have sworn she smiled at him. "This is beauty."

He could do nothing but nod, eyes lost in hers. "Yeah. This is."

"Experience it?" she said, before turning and launching herself back into the water and swimming away, making the water ripple yet more.

He took his shirt off slowly and threw it behind him, undoing his trousers and pulling his boxers away with them. He threw them, smiling, from the jetty and onto the bank.

Smiling resignedly he took one step forward and plunged himself into the pool.

Cool.

He surfaced, gasping for breath, the water running glass beads down his head and over his lips. The liquid tasted cold, pure, a little dense. She swam to him and looked at him blankly. "It is a...pleasant experience."

She could feel the water biting at her legs, the soft flesh under her knees, the tender skin of her breasts, the nipples hardening. She shivered.

"Youíre cold."

She took a deep and laboured breath and then, and she had no idea why, it raised an involuntary smile. She began to tread water more slowly as he moved towards her. She reached out to grab his arm and they kept afloat together. He wrapped his arms around her and kicked slowly to her rhythm. His eyes a little more knowing and dark on hers as they both grew used to the water around them, stinging their skin and staggering their breath.

She closed her eyes and her tongue darted over her lips as she rested against him, shattering the reflective glass of the surface with every conscious movement. His touch on her skin was soft and careful as his long fingers slid over her body, her shoulders, brushing her breasts and down to her waist. She did the same, reaching to his wet hair and trailing a finger down his cheek, finishing at his neck and the tense muscles there.

He looked at her, his eyes shining like the pool around them.

His hand crept up her neck slowly, the water on the tips forming drops that ran down her pure white skin. He pulled her closer and their breathing slowed. "Beauty is a feeling?" She shook a little.

"It is now." He pressed his lips to hers softly and felt the shiver of cold flesh on his own as the wet lips opened slightly and her fingers crept up to his neck. The soft kiss deepened and became warmer, even in the deathly cold water that held them with as much care as they held each other.

He moved away a little and she licked her lips again, running a hand through her hair and keeping her eyes on his. "Beauty is a feeling," she affirmed.

He reached a hand up to her skin and felt the reaction as the back of his hand crossed her cheek.

"Who told you about this place?" she asked.

"No one," he smiled. "I was taking you to a nightclub Telfer suggested."

His smile was rueful as she moved to press her lips to his again.

In the distance Lena set behind the huge, red-golden hills. The green hue over the suburban area was replaced with the only moment of true dark. The moment passed in dead silence. Suddenly, like a chorus and celebration of light itself, Sena, the third sun, peaked over the horizon. The trees exploded in a riot of green, and the flowers opened to cast their parasol petals in the shine. The Henerian churchís green tiles shone brightly and the detail of the dull metal shapes cast brilliant white light on the surrounding buildings. Warm light flooded through brown painted shutters and onto white sheets and sleeping Henerians. The golden buildings of Helek shone a red mist around themselves that spilled into the narrow streets. The grand sculpture of the library cast huge shadows against the desert valley to the dry West.

And the blanket of silver, wrapped around young lovers, turned gold.

Fin~