Cold Hands, Cold Heart
by Liz Barr

"Lieutenant Nicoletti? The one I've been chasing for six months? Cold hands? Cold heart?"
"Not when she plays the oboe."
-- Tom Paris and Harry Kim, "The Thaw"

She has long fingers, white, with lines and flaws that show her age. The hands of a scientist and artist. She runs them up the keyboard until she finds a note that pleases her.

(I imagine them on my skin, in my hair, inside me. Long, sensitive white fingers.)

"Middle C?" she asks me.

"That's right."

I guide her fingers to the right position. Chords are always a challenge for beginners. Her hand slips and brushes against my arm. I'm fairly sure it's an accident.

(I imagine her deliberately touching me, wrapping her long fingers around my arm and pulling me towards her.)

She laughs. "Sorry, Susan. I guess my hands aren't as supple as they used to be."

"It's only a matter of practice, Captain."

(I imagine myself as the teacher, showing her how to love, touch, feel. Sometimes it seems as thought, like a musical instrument, love is something she never got around to learning.)

"Hey. Susan." Her voice is amused. "First rule of socialising with the captain--"

"Leave your rank behind," I finish for her.

(I imagine myself as the student, learning from the experience I sometimes see lurking in her eyes or a corner of her smile.)

(Or is that just my imagination?)

I place my hand over hers and teach her how to hold her wrist and curve her fingers. I'm fairly sure she wouldn't allow anyone else to touch her like that. She likes to initiate contact herself.

(I imagine her kissing me, her soft lips and long fingers and questioning eyes.)

I might be misinterpreting. Maybe all she wants is to learn an instrument. But why would she seek me out when she could have a holographic instructor?

(I imagine her under him, the ugly hologram Tom created. I can imagine him touching her, but I cannot imagine her calling his name.)

(I imaging her calling my name.)

She asked me to teach her an instrument, and we agreed to start with the piano. It's strange, to think that she chooses to spend time with me, when everyone knows that she rarely spends time with the senior staff anymore.

(I imagine that it means something.)

I wonder if she discusses me with Chakotay or Seven.

(I imagine the slight sneer on Seven's face when she mentions my name, her hands on Seven's shoulders, reassuring her that I'm no one, that I mean nothing.)

My hand slips, and I forget her presence and swear. She turns to look at me in surprise.

"Susan? What's wrong?"

(I imagine telling her that I want her, that I need her.)

I open my mouth.

(I imagine her face as she turns and walks away.)

I stop.


I kiss her.

Sensations: perfume, skin, hair, hands, body, mouth...her beautiful, warm mouth.

For a second she kisses me back. I move to put my hands on her shoulders, but she wraps her fingers around my wrists and stands up, pushing me away.


(I imagine tears, some grief, some regret.)

"I'm sorry, Susan. I--" she pauses. "I'm sorry." She begins to turn away.

(I imagine myself watching her go with a dignity I've never quite achieved.)

"Captain, please." She stops. "Why? Is it me?"

(I imagine her with Chakotay, laughing when he comments that I've seemed unusually depressed lately.)

She takes a step towards me. "It's not you, Susan. Under different circumstances... I can't do this with a member of my crew. I can't--"

"But if we -- in the alpha quadrant--"

"I can't." Her voice is harsh. Her knuckles are white. I remember how easily her beautiful hands hold a compression phaser rifle.

"I'm sorry, Susan," she says. She turns and walks away.

(I imagine her in her quarters, standing in darkness, watching the stars slip past her window.)


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