Advice By Kate O'Riley

Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. I own the story. LadyChakotay owns the story I originally got the idea from. Please go ahead and read her story "And Then I Saw You Crying", because it's a very well-done story, similar concept, but from Tuvok's POV. I just took one of my preferred characters and changed some details.

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Next time, I have to remember not to put in such a huge bet.

But then, how was I to know Ensign Miller wouldn't ask Ensign Skelton out? He'd been mooning after her the last six months. The whole ship knew it. I'd even been tapped for information by the captain a couple of times. And of course, of course, he asks her out as soon as my time period's up. Meaning all of my replicator rations fly away from me faster then warp speed, once you throw in the stuff I used for the picnic with B'Elanna. It wouldn't be so bad, either, if it weren't for the fact that we convinced Seven to make a bet. What's she going to do with all those rations? She never even uses the replicator!

And after my date with B'Elanna, I was hungry. What can I say, piloting the ship is harder than it looks. And Harry and I were in a extremely good chapter of Captain Proton, although it involved a lot of running. It takes a lot of energy to keep my body running at peak efficiency. Shoot, dealing with B'Elanna's enough to make you need a few extra meals a day, just from the calories spent running whenever she's mad at you.

So, that was why I was in the mess hall at 0300. Most of the crew was asleep, but I hadn't been able to get that way. When my stomach let out the large growl, I decided to find a snack. We'd just picked up some fruit on a planet, something that looked like blue apples. OK, blue apples that were square. Don't ask me how it got that way.

I took the back door into the mess hall, the one going directly to the kitchen. I knew where Neelix stored them. It wasn't until I was bending over, head under the counter searching, that I heard a sound. It was slight, but enough to send me up.right into the counter. Rubbing my aching head, I pulled my head out enough to stand up.

She was on one of the couches, looking at the stars. Can't say I blame her. Those stars can get hypnotic. I was somewhat curious as to why she was there. Surely the view from her quarters was the same, after all.

Coming around the corner, I approached cautiously. "Captain?" I asked.

She turned, startled. Even in the dim light, made by the stars and the small light in the kitchen, I could make out her cheeks, which showed the slightest traces of dampness, but her voice sounded normal enough when she spoke.

"Tom. Sit down." She indicated a seat, and I obediently took it. "Why are you up at this hour?"

Something about her was.off. Not quite normal. It took me a minute to figure it out. It was the "captain mask". She had been caught vulnerable, and now was struggling to hide the fact, to go from being Kathryn Janeway, the lonely human woman, to Captain Janeway, rock-hard leader of our clan. We of the senior staff had seen it occasionally, when she was making a particularly tough decision, or if we'd lost a crewmember, but it was very rare. Seeing it now caught me off-guard, and I wished I had B'Elanna or Harry as backup.

"Oh, I was just grabbing something to eat. Lost my rations in the last pool." I said cheerfully, holding up my "apple". "What are you doing here?"

The question caught her off-guard. "I was just thinking," she said after a moment.

"Ah." I waited a minute. "Um, no offense meant Captain, but are your quarters non-conducive for thinking or something?"

She actually chuckled at that. "No, they normally serve in that capacity fine. I just.needed to get away from them."

I started to get up. "Well, then, I'll leave you to your thinking."

She reached over and put her hand on my shoulder, pushing me back down. "No, feel free to stay. I need someone to talk to."

I shrugged my shoulders. "Go ahead."

She was silent a minute. "So, I heard Ensign Miller finally asked Ensign Skelton out?"

"Yeah. Where'd you hear it?"

"Seven told me. She said she won the betting pool. She seemed rather proud. You do know, Tom, we're supposed to be influencing her in good ways?"

"Yeah, but what's wrong with a bit of gambling?" I shrugged again. "Besides, with all the rations she won, she's got enough to last the rest of the trip."

The captain smiled. "It was that big?"

"Yep, second biggest ever."

"What was the biggest?"

Uh-oh. I said too much. But I couldn't back down now. Maybe this was the chance the crew had been waiting for. I just hadn't planned on being the spokesperson. "Well, it's actually been going for a few years now."

"Really?" The captain looked surprised. "And I haven't heard of it? What it is?"

Crunch time. I took a breath and took the plunge. "When will the captain confess her feelings for Commander Chakotay."

She froze. I could feel my cheeks turning redder then they had in years. I prayed that she couldn't see it in the dim light.

Finally, she shook her head a bit. "What?" she asked softly, in a tone of slight disbelief.

"When will the captain confess her feelings for Commander Chakotay," I repeated. "Captain, it's no use denying it. Every single person on this crew knows it. We've had this going for years. Ever since you two had that virus. Before then, possibly. I think it was one of the first ones we had going. There's no one on the ship who doesn't gossip about what's going on, or not going on, as the case may be."

She had recovered somewhat now. "That's.ridiculous! I don't have any feelings for Commander Chakotay, other than he's the best first officer I've ever had, and he's one of my closest friends." Despite her words, I could hear the doubt in her voice.

"Come on, Captain. I've been on a few starships before. Most of us have. Every experienced crewmember has said that they've never seen a command pair treat each other the way you two do. You think we don't notice the way you look at each other on the bridge? Think we haven't noticed you touching hands under the table at meetings, or on the bridge? I sit in front of you there, and I still notice it. You two are just as close as B'Elanna and I are, maybe even closer. And I know that if anything happened to B'Elanna, and she didn't know how much I loved her, I'd die."

"But you aren't the captain." Her voice was low, but she had basically acknowledged it just then.

"No. But," and here I took a breath to steady myself, "I think the captain loves the first officer as much as the pilot loves the chief engineer, possibly more. I think the captain is afraid of commitment, but she doesn't realize how much she's already committed. I think the captain should tell her first officer the truth, and tell herself while she's at it. I think if the captain were to do that, crew morale would receive an unheard-of boost, because it probably means more to the crew that their commanding officers are happy, than getting back to Earth does. That's what I think."

She looked back out the window for a minute, then looked back at me. I could see her eyes glistening. "Thank you, Tom," she said quietly. Then, impulsively, she reached over and hugged me. I hugged her back, tightly. The entire crew loves Captain Janeway, and we would all sacrifice our own happiness, along with our lives, our free will, and everything else, if it would make her happy. I've considered her a second mother, and I think most of the crew does. I've heard story after story about how Crewman So-and-so was having a horrible day, and Captain Janeway heard and came to cheer them up, or how Ensign So-and-so was feeling depressed, and Captain Janeway came to talk to them. Even though she's not an actual mother, she's such a mother hen to all of us, she might as well be. Know it or not, she's adopted about 150 "children", which has got to be a record.

I stood up and held my hand out to help her up. "I'll escort you back to your quarters," I offered.

She smiled, accepting my help standing. "I think after all this time, I know my way around, but thank you."

It was only one deck's difference, but I felt proud to be escorting the captain. I left her at her door, and was about to leave, when she stopped me. "Tom."

"Yes Captain?"

"Once again.thank you. Very much." She gave a smile, albeit a weak one. "I think I have some more thinking to do."

I grinned. "Just make sure it's the right kind."

She turned to enter her quarters, but I stopped her. "And Captain?"

She turned back in my direction. "Yes, Tom?"

"While you're thinking.please remember, we want you to be happy. There's not a single crewmember onboard who thinks otherwise."

She gave another smile, stronger this time. "Thank you, Tom." She straightened up. "Dismissed!"

"Aye, Captain!" I said, tossing off a quick salute. She laughed, her face quickly returning back to its solemn look, before entering her quarters.

I continued down the corridor to my own quarters. I couldn't wait to tell Harry and B'Elanna in the morning. And maybe, just maybe, I'd see a certain change in the relationship between the captain and commander.

If so.add another one for Captain Proton.

The End