Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager™© is the registered trademark and sole property of Paramount Pictures/Viacom. Copyright infringement is fully intended, but I don't think that makes any difference. I couldn't possibly screw up any more than TPTB even if my life depended on it.

Author's Note: Welcome to dementia! I'm running on a massive overdose of caffeine and KerryFic™, or is that a massive overdose of KerryFic™ and caffeine? What the heck, same difference. Any combination of these two are fatal for what little sanity I have left. I know, I know. You never would have guessed. KateF, remember what I told you on Sunday, about writing fic? I stand a very good chance of contradicting myself. This is just way too much fun to give up on. 8)

Rated: PG

Inevitable Punishment

by Caffey

Kathryn considered, for a moment, killing herself by crashing Voyager into the nearest asteroid, but decided against it. Somehow, she doubted that it would sit well with her crew. Not to mention that she wasn't in any position to do so. And whose fault was that? She levelled her deadliest skunk eye at Chakotay.

He was blissfully oblivious of her mood. "Death by asphyxiation sounds slow and painful enough, don't you agree?"

She briefly envisioned how her slender fingers would close around his thick neck, gradually exerting pressure until his skin became a nice, deep shade of blue. Cheered by that thought, she grinned at him.

Grinning back at her, Chakotay slightly adjusted his position on the narrow bench so as to be more comfortable. Not an easy task, considering that he stood a good chance of falling off of it at any moment. "Though bleeding to death from a stomach wound has merit too."

Kathryn was hard pressed not to bang her head into the wall behind her. Tired and grouchy, all she wanted to think about was a long, divine soak in her bathtub, followed by crashing face-down on her warm, cosy bed. For the past two hours, however, all she had heard was her First Officer listing ways to kill someone, or at the very least, severely maim them. Not that she couldn't sympathize with him. She herself wasn't too thrilled by the way her day had panned out.

"Or maybe death by decompression? It's not exactly slow, but definitely painful."

Drawing her knees up to her chest, she hugged them tightly and sighed loudly. Perhaps, if she concentrated very hard, she could wake herself up.

"Kathryn, are you even listening to me?"

No such luck. She wouldn't have him ask dumb questions in her dreams. That was a little too weird, even by her standard. "No. I stopped doing that when it became obvious that you were obsessed with murder. Which was about two seconds into your monologue."

"There's not much else I can do right about now," he replied. "So, what would you prefer, death by asphyxiation or by decompression?"

Maybe she would throttle him after all. "Chakotay? Shut up. We wouldn't even be in this mess if it weren't for you."

"Excuse me, I don't see how this is my fault," he said, a petulant note slipping into his voice. "I'm still feeling a strong urge to wring someone's neck, and you're the only person around. I'd be careful if I were you."

Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Threatening a superior officer is a crime, Commander. I could throw you in the brig for that one."

Chakotay stared at her for a long moment, stunned. "Kathryn. We are in the brig."

"What's your point?" she snapped.

He grabbed her by the shoulders, as though to shake some sense into her. "Kathryn. Try to understand what I'm saying. We are in the brig already. There is no way you can arrest me."

She shot him a glare that made him withdraw at the speed of light. "And whose fault is that?"

"Not mine," he shot back, feeling brave now that he was at a safe distance again. "I didn't sign off on Neelix's latest idea."

"No, you didn't," she said sweetly. "You just brought it to my attention, trying for your best puppy look. 'It'll boost crew morale,' you said. 'There's no harm in celebrating Mother's Day,' you said." Kathryn gave a short, harsh laugh. "You obviously reckoned without the effect it would have on Tuvok."

He blinked at her, unable to hide the shudder that went through his body when he noticed the maniacal gleam in her eyes. "Hold on," he snarled. "How was I to know that the situation would get out of hand?"

Her brows disappeared beneath her hairline, and she felt the sudden and very strong urge to slap him across his handsome face. Could he really be that dense? "How many of Neelix's parties have you attended that didn't get out of hand at one point or another, Chakotay? You know how he tends to get carried away, usually at Tuvok's expense. It was only a matter of time before Tuvok reached his breaking point! So tell me again, whose fault is this?"

A smug expression spread across his face. "It's not my fault, because you're forgetting a little -- yet important -- detail here. It wasn't me who had the guts, or the level of insanity, for that matter, to order Tuvok on his hands and knees so that Naomi could ride on his back, in a public place no less." He watched her closely, noticing with satisfaction that all color drained from her face. "Not to mention I would never have called him a coward when he hesitated to comply. That has to make even the most stoic Vulcan resort to madness. Which is why you're in the brig now. I'm just here because he doesn't like me."

"Chakotay," she sighed, unaware of her weary tone. "You're here because you were eagerly anticipant of that sight, whooping and whistling with joy."

He blinked mutely at her. She glared back, eyes narrowed, mouth set in a firm line. "Tuvok was still clinging to his last shreds of sanity before you urged him to 'get his big Vulcan ass into gear.' I can see why he reacted with less than optimal restraint."

"So can I," Chakotay agreed, and crossed his arms over his chest. "But I think the one thing that really ticked him off was when you threatened to assign Neelix to tactical training. Permanently."

She closed her eyes, remembering the fear, and eventually insanity, in Tuvok's eyes all too well. "You have a point," she agreed reluctantly. "Do you think he'll ever recover?"

"Not a chance." Chakotay sounded way too cheerful for her liking.

"Kill me now." Kathryn's head dropped to her knees, and she began rocking back and forth.

She was looking the picture of misery now, he noticed, with her dishevelled hair and wrinkled uniform. Edging closer, he put an arm around her and squeezed her shoulders. "Somehow, I doubt that sharing a cell with a corpse would be a lot of fun."

She ignored that. "Chakotay?"

"Hmm?"

"How are we going to get out of the brig?"

"We're waiting for Tom to free us."

Nonplussed, she cast a brief glance at him. His content expression was definitely scary. "What's Tom got to do with this?"

"He knows I'll blame him."

She was staring openly at him now. "Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but for once Tom didn't do anything."

"Kathryn, do you ever listen? I didn't say it was his fault. I said I was going to blame him. And he knows that, trust me. I can make his life a complete misery."

Chakotay was somewhat surprised when, instead of retorting, she collapsed against his broad form, starting to shake, small tremors rapidly turning into shudders until her whole body was vibrating. Chakotay, clearly thinking she had finally lost it completely, began stroking her back and making soothing sounds. "It's all right, Kathryn. I'm sure it won't be long before Tom finds a way to get us out of here."

It took him several moments to realize that she was seized by uncontrollable laughter.

When Kathryn finally got a grip, however fragile, she looked up at him, still grinning broadly. "You know," she chuckled. "It just occurred to me that this situation is so utterly bizarre, it's hilarious. Can you imagine what Tuvok's report will read like? I don't want to be around when anyone back in the Alpha Quadrant gets their hands on it."

Chakotay shook his head in amusement. "I'm sure I don't want to know. But I don't think anyone will get this far, anyway."

"Oh. Why's that?"

He smiled at her, showing off his dimples. "They'll be done for once they've reached year three. Nobody, except this crew, obviously, can cope with so much insanity."

Oddly cheered by that thought, Kathryn snuggled up to him, determined to make the best of the situation. She was still tired, but her mood had decidedly improved, now that she had discovered the funny side of their predicament. Perhaps, she mused, she would even be able to persuade the Doctor into sharing the pictures he had been taking of Tuvok at his worst.

They would look good on "A Briefing with Neelix."

Still grinning, Kathryn fell asleep within minutes. The End

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Story copyrighted © 2001 by Jana "Caffey" Prillwitz