A/N: AU adaptation of the campfire scene in “Attached.” What if Deanna had gone to Kessprytt instead of Beverly?
Heard in Silence
“Why didn’t you ever tell me that you felt that way about me?” Deanna asked.
Picard smiled ruefully. “When you came aboard seven years ago, you were a year out of the Academy, terribly inexperienced, mooning over my first officer –“
“I did not!”
“And I thought, ‘How will this gentle, quiet young woman cope with the dangers and isolation of deep-space exploration?’ ”
Deanna smiled reluctantly.
“But you rose to the challenge,” he continued, “gained confidence. Time and again you have contributed a unique and valuable perspective into every tangle in which we become involved. I hope you know that if I can’t always follow your advice, it isn’t because I don’t appreciate it.” He paused and she waited. Slowly he said, “You cajole me into admitting how I feel about everything and everyone else, so perhaps I should tell you more often how much I admire you, respect you, and value your friendship.”
A little color had risen to Deanna’s cheeks and she barely restrained a full-out grin. “You don’t *have* to tell me, but thank you.”
Picard idly poked the embers with a stick, churning up more sparks and smoke than heat. They sat a long moment as chittering insects filled the silence. A dry summer breeze stirred the trees like ocean waves; something sang a long, low note and another of its kind replied.
*I love firelight*, Picard mused.
“Mm, me too. I used to go camping with my cousins on Earth when I was little. We used to roast the fish we caught over the campfire.”
Picard smiled, sensing the memory as she felt it: hot, long days filled with exhausting adventure. “It gave you a chance to have some dirty, childish fun.”
“Well, my mother didn’t approve of a ‘daughter of the fifth house’ digging for bait or swimming in a lake.”
“But she was outnumbered.”
Deanna nodded. “I can’t imagine what she’d say if she saw me right now: my hair a mess, needing to throw these clothes in the recycler and soak in a bubble bath for about an hour.”
He felt the edge to her mood. *I suppose those camping trips were half the motivation that got you into the Academy, and out from under your mother’s thumb*, Picard thought, forgetting she could overhear.
*It helped, yes.*
“I didn’t mean . . .”
*Yes, you did*. “It’s all right.” *You, too, have been on the receiving end of my mother’s wrath.*
They both chuckled and swapped ‘remember whens.’
*We stopped going to Earth after my father died. My aunt and uncle divorced, and my mother never liked camping anyway. The tradition just kind of petered out*.
*It happens* he said. *Traditions don’t last forever. But they build wonderful memories while they do.*
*Oh?* It was a prodding ‘oh’, and he knew it.
*Christmas at my grandmother’s: dozens of Picards crowded into a mansion that had been in our family for generations. My grandmother never used a replicator. When we arrived in the afternoon, the turkey had already been roasting since dawn*.
A mixed aroma of pine, mulled wine, and cinnamon filled Deanna’s head, so thick she could taste it. She saw a scarlet rug littered with torn paper; children in suits and dresses draped over each other in sleepy, overstuffed contentment. A cold morning spent wiggling covertly on a hard pew in an ancient, candlelit church.
*That sounds wonderful.* She reflected back a memory of her grandfather’s stately house of mahogany and leather; the royal-toned carpet in his study where she sat by the fireplace and listened to his stories. The memory wrapped around her like an old, familiar blanket.
*You loved those stories,* Picard said.
*When I was fourteen, he was the only adult I knew who had anything interesting to say*. She smiled. *I was awful at that age*.
*I can’t imagine you as a rebellious hell-raiser.*
*I acted out of frustration. All the other girls my age were getting their telepathic abilities – what?*
*Nothing. Thank you for not saying something else.*
She hadn’t known her captain was capable of such candidness. *As I was saying. As a half-human, I couldn’t talk to any of them – even verbally; all the children I’d grown up with growing away from me during adolescence. . . . My mother and the rest of my family said Grandfather babbled, but I liked to hear his voice in my head, and see living, breathing mental images of long-dead relatives, old-fashioned groundcars, all sorts of things.*
*You were privy to an historical record from a living witness, which everyone else considered terribly commonplace.*
*Mmmhmm. I can’t remember most of those stories he told me now, yet they were so important to me when I was a child*. . . . She stopped, mid-thought. *What was that?* “Captain . . . you felt it. Please don’t push it away.” She watched him as he turned a stony face to the fire. “I said ‘child’ and you felt . . . guilty?”
Picard remained carefully restrained.
He chose his words slowly, despite his racing mind. “I recognize that, as a Starfleet officer, you, like all of us, chose the risks of living on a starship.”
*But? You feel . . . responsible? . . . For me? Captain, I never expected nor desired a personal protector.*
*I’m sorry. It wasn’t my intention to offend you.*
She sighed. *It’s just . . . why do my male friends consistently react to every danger I encounter as if I shouldn’t have been there in the first place?*
*Perhaps because you seem uniquely at risk for quite unfortunate things.* Picard instantly wished he was able to filter his thoughts.
Deanna’s head snapped up, surprised. In his mind, she caught snippets of images he was trying not to project: she saw herself turn around and reveal her twenty-four hour two-year-old; saw her downturned eyes and shaking shoulders as she narrated the mental rape two years later.
“Those things happen to the safely planetbound, too,” she said tersely. “There is no safe haven.”
“Realistically, I accept that.” *However . . .*
Deanna smiled a little and smoothed her ruffled feathers. She reached over and touched his wrist. “I understand. I appreciate the concern, but I’m all right. Honestly.”
*I don’t always worry after you like a mother hen,* he joked.
*Only occasionally,* she smiled. She wanted to ask . . . but she’d felt his chagrin; she respected his space.
Picard tossed on more firewood, sending a cloud of orange sparks up into the night.
She watched water hiss and bubble out of a log. Like a steak.
“Perhaps we should get some sleep.”
*Busy day tomorrow.*
Picard added a few more logs to keep the fire going overnight while Deanna selected a spot on the ground clear of anything sharp.
Despite his bone-deep exhaustion, Picard watched the moon dip into the trees before he fell asleep.