A/N: This one was written for the VAMB Secret Drabble exchange (word limit 1,300, so "drabble" is being used loosely). As soon as I read the brilliant first-line prompt provided by kjaneway100, all I could think of was Mae West ... And then this happened. And I find myself begging, like Prospero, As you from crimes would pardoned be, Let your indulgence set me free.

This is pure fluff, with no redeeming features and no connection to my other stories involving the relationship - platonic or otherwise - between the Captain and her helmsman. Set post-"Threshold" and "Investigations", A/U if you will, but canon-consistent in theory. (Who knows what the crew got up to in between episodes, right?)

Thanks to my ever-faithful Runawaymetaphor for cheerleading. I own nothing of Voyager but the friendships it produced while writing about it.

Guns Away

by Alpha Flyer

"Do we have anything bigger in the torpedo tubes?"

The Captain's voice is husky and urgent, and the question hovers in the center of the bridge like a three-dimensional straight line. Tom almost blurts out the response it cries out for:

"What, twelve inches not big enough for you?"

But they're on the bridge, and Chakotay … well, Chakotay would be unlikely to respond well. (Besides, twelve inches? Even Tom Paris isn't given to self-delusion to that extent, and Harry would want to know what that archaic measurement referred to, exactly.)

Besides, the Captain's question has to be directed at Tuvok, who as usual is standing at Tactical, his hands dancing over the console - analyzing, evaluating and discarding battle options. Tom heroically wrestles his inner smartass back into stasis and leaves it to the Vulcan to answer.

To his relief, Tuvok does.

"We presently only have fourteen photon torpedoes left, Captain. Voyager has been discharging them at a rate far greater than they can be replicated. Unless you wish to impose further rationing, which would have an unfortunate impact on crew morale."

"Yes, yes I know." The Captain waves off Tuvok's diagnosis of Voyager's perennial resource issues and turns to Tom, who has obviously failed in his effort to be invisible. "Mr. Paris. You have a reputation for being the free thinker on this bridge. What can we offer the Kyrzonians that will rock their world without compromising our weapons stores?"

There's a glint in her eye, and Tom just knows she is doing this on purpose now. Shoot Kyrzonians, not mouth off. Playing it straight is probably his best option, under the circumstances. And yes, Tom Paris can summon up original ideas when called upon.

He quickly runs down the list of lethal substances on the ship - all of which Tuvok is far more familiar with than a mere helmsman could ever be - but there is one weapons facility that keeps getting overlooked, regardless of its proven ability to incapacitate entire swathes of Voyager's population at a time.

It's worth a try.

"Not having ever met a Kyrzonian, I can't be sure of course," he answers in his best professional voice. "But I bet a couple of barrels of Neelix' pickled Marmosian eel tongue, driven straight into the aft section, would send them into convulsions."

There's a sharp intake of breath from the First Officer's chair, and Tom replays what he just said in his mind. Well, not exactly what, but how. So much for playing it straight.

Tuvok raises an eyebrow in the Vulcan approximation of puzzlement, and then everyone starts talking at once.

"I fail to see how organic material could make an impact on a metal hull, Mr. Paris."

"I think that was one of Paris' misbegotten attempts at humour, Tuvok." Chakotay does not sound impressed. (No surprise there.) "Lieutenant…"

Then there is the sound of a throat being cleared over at Ops, followed by a tentative, "Well, actually …"

Harry manages to sound apologetic and excited at the same time. "The Kyrzonian ship, like the Kyrzonians themselves, has an exo-skeleton made of alkaline metals. It must be a feature of their star system, that the species and their environment aren't carbon-based. Anyway, alkaline metals react violently to halogens, such as chlorines and bromides, and…."

Janeway picks up on his thought with lightning speed.

"… and the pickling compound Neelix uses contains both sodium chloride and ethanoic acid, in addition to things I would probably rather not know about. Perfect for dissolving the Kyrzonians' hull."

She shoots Tom a fond look. "And preserving crew morale at the same time. Brilliant, Mr. Paris. I knew I could rely on you to bring this off."

She hits the comms button.

"Janeway to Neelix. Please be prepared to transport half a dozen of those barrels of pickled tongue to Torpedo Bay One. And no, you may not ask."

Tom wonders briefly what just happened. It appears to involve a chemistry lesson he'd skipped in favour of flight sims with Nova Squadron, but for which he now seems to be given credit anyway. Even Chakotay has temporarily stopped passing judgment.

By the time he's brought the ship into firing position, the barrels have been loaded into empty torpedo casings. And then it's just a question of watching parts of the Kyrzonian ship turn into a gaseous cloud, and awaiting orders from the Captain to resume Voyager's course for Earth.

Another frabjous day in the Delta Quadrant ...


Tom is not surprised at the knock on his quarters' door; in fact, he'd been hoping for it. Sure enough, Captain Kathryn Janeway sails past her helmsman without as much as a by your leave.

"Nice work today, Tom," she says, letting her eyes run appreciatively over his half-open blue bathrobe. "And extra points for not referring to Neelix' arsenal as weapons of mess destruction."

That had been a close thing; she knows him too well. Her next comment proves his point.

"They all still think that your idea was based on science, rather than enlightened self-interest."

He gives a little shrug, more interested in getting something off his chest that's been bothering him since Alpha shift.

"You're doing that on purpose, aren't you?"

"Doing what?" she purrs as she takes off her jacket, flings it on the couch, follows it with her turtleneck and proceeds to invade his personal space. Those non-descript grey Starfleet undershirts can be seriously alluring, on the right person and under the right circumstances.

His hands circle her waist – so tiny for a woman of her stature, and so perfect – and he buries his nose in her hair for a moment, just long enough to breathe her in but not so long as to lose his resolve.

"Suggestive language on the bridge. I mean, really, Kathryn? You know my mouth fires on automatic when you do that sort of thing, and Chakotay is just looking for an opportunity to throw me in the brig again. He still hasn't forgiven me for that little deception with the Kazon."

The thing that brought you to me.

He lifts one of his hands to take the pin out of her hair, watching it fall over her shoulders in a soft, auburn cascade as she shakes it out, her eyes gleaming with amusement.

"Besides, if you keep that up, it'll be only a question of time until one of them figures it out. Harry has started giving me that look, like he's afraid for my soul."

Kathryn wraps her hands around his neck, runs it through his short hair and pulls his head down for a kiss. It should be awkward, the difference in height between them, but Tom has found to his absolute delight that it seems to matter as little as that in rank and age.

"You're the one who insisted on making that bet, Mr. Paris. And I'm an impatient woman."

Her kiss is deep and scorching, helped no doubt by the post-battle adrenaline still surging through them both. He suppresses a grin as she bites his lower lip and looks at him with a challenge in her eyes.

"Besides, I've always wanted to get tongues wagging."