"Ok, let's recap people." Paris had them hanging on every word. He had turned the mystery of what was going on with Voyager's commanding officers into a shipwide investigation that had all the scope of a military tribunal. The lieutenant pointed authoritatively at the LCARS screen behind Tuvok's station that he had appropriated for his little drama. "0-Six Fifty Hours. Ensign Kim reports seeing Voyager's first officer wandering blindly around deck three, mumbling incoherently about playing Kadis-Kot with the captain."
"That's-" Harry interrupted "not exactly how it happened."
Tom ignored him. "O-Seven Hundred. Voyager's Chief Helmsman- that would, of course, be me" he turned to grin at Belanna, as if he still needed to impress her with his title. She nodded with a mother's approval, giving Tom the permission to continue. "-witnesses same first officer seemingly incapable of issuing basic voice commands to the turbolift." Tom deepened the dramatic note to his voice. "Apparently unable to find his way off of deck 3 by himself, he had to be rescued."
They all looked at him incredulously. Tom was afraid he was loosing his audience. "Oh, you don't believe me, eh?" Tom added another entry to the displayed list he was building on the screen. "O-Eight Thirty. Moments after Janeway enters the bridge, Chakotay suffers a complete loss of motor control and drops-"
"Ok!" Belanna was becoming embarrassed by her husband's antics. "We get the picture. So he's a little goofy." She shrugged her shoulders understandably. "Maybe he just didn't get a good night's sleep last night."
"Ah, and the lovely chief engineer makes a valid point. The question is: Why is the other half of our illustrious command team goofy?"
"I wouldn't say the captain is acting out of the ordinary."
"Hello!" Tom couldn't believe what Belanna just said. "Was I the only one at that briefing?"
Neelix cleared his throat. "I don't know how the captain would feel about you referring to her as 'goofy.'"
"Well," The Doctor leaned towards Neelix and raised an all-knowing eyebrow. "we all know Mr. Paris likes to live dangerously."
Seven of Nine recognized this activity as an inefficient use of her time and she desired that the lieutenant would make his point quickly. "Just what are you attempting to prove?"
Paris didn't hear her. Distracted, instead, by something he saw over Tuvok's shoulder.
The Vulcan had chosen to ignore their juvenile behavior and finish his incident report despite their presence. It was an unfortunate necessity. He couldn't order them back to work, and he couldn't order them to leave the bridge until the first officer handed out the replacement duty assignments. But Mr. Paris' renewed proximity was enough to break his concentration. "Can I help you Lieutenant?"
"Tuvok . . ." Tom questioned thoughtfully. "Why did you dispatch a security team to intercept a turbolift on deck two at O-eight hundred this morning? According to your own tricorder readings, the only life sign in the turbolift was the captain's. Did she call for help?"
The group tightened their circle ever-so-slightly around Tuvok to get a better look at what Tom was seeing. Now this could be interesting.
Tom stared at him. "No . . . and?"
"No and nothing, Mr. Paris. If you are so interested in reading my daily security logs, you and anyone else who may be so inclined are more than welcome to download them from the ship's library once I have filed them."
"Aw, come on Tuvok! You can't just leave us hanging. What was the big emergency?"
"There was no emergency. A comm link was severed unexpectedly and I went to investigate. Nothing more."
"You were in the middle of talking to her and the comm link just cut out?"
"No. I hadn't begun a conversation yet. I was attempting to contact Commander Chakotay and the comm signal was directed to the Captain's location."
Now even Harry was suspicious. "You dispatched armed personnel to investigate a comm system malfunction?"
"It wasn't a comm system malfunction per se . . ." In a very rare moment, Tuvok was somewhat unsure of himself. He was questioning the wisdom of divulging anything more, but he knew Mr. Paris' tenacity was a force to be reckoned with. In the interest of efficiency, Tuvok decided answering the question now could only save time later. "Captain Janeway was wearing Commander Chakotay's commbadge, and I can only assume, he- hers."
This puzzled the group. They mulled this over for a moment, then Neelix finally said what they were all thinking. "Why would they want to wear each other's commbadges?"
A conclusion snapped into Harry's mind. Kadis-kot my foot. "Maybe it wasn't intentional. Maybe it was like . . . you know," he lowered his voice to a conspiring whisper, "a wardrobe malfunction."
Everyone looked at Harry. Blank looks slowly morphed into possible understanding.
The Doc was not one to let so ripe a moment go un-harvested. "Ah, and so we see yet another advantage of the holographic existence. . . " he acted as though he was addressing them all in general, but his comment was clearly meant for Seven. He pointed proudly at his own commbadge as he turned to her. "Mine's attached."
Seven jutted her chin out and looked down her nose at his commbadge with apparent approval. This little tidbit of information seemed to intrigue her. "If two crewmembers were to engage in an illicit affair, it does seem the ability to instantaneously return to a fully clothed state would have its advantages."
Seven's words hung on the air for a moment.
Belanna blinked hard and shook her head stiffly "Now there's an image I didn't need."
Ewww. The rest of the group silently agreed.
They all spun around like a school of fish changing direction. There was the captain, standing in the briefing room doorway. Hands on her hips, not at all happy. Chakotay took up position immediately behind her in his trademark supportive pose, looking very much like he was trying to decide which one of them to kill first.
No one dare speak.
"Were you all eavesdropping?" she demanded.
Save for the steady blip-blip of Tuvok's nonchalant operation of his console, the silence persisted. He looked oddly pleased at his work.
Janeway whirled on Harry, as he was closest to her. "Ensign?"
"No Ma'am!" he stuttered a little. "The- doors are too thick."
Neelix and Tom both slapped their hands to their foreheads in sympathy for his stupidity.
"Oh, I see." Saccharine dripped off her words. Janeway folded her arms sternly. She dispersed an angry glare evenly throughout the group. One by one, she took in all of their faces. Their expectant, hopeful, curious faces. There isn't a single person on board who would resent us being together. Chakotay's words came back to her and they had a softening effect. Her eyes came to rest on Tuvok. He granted her just the faintest acknowledgement. A respectful tilt of the head so slight, only her years of serving with him allowed her to perceive it. Even Tuvok thinks we make a great couple.
Her feet remained firmly planted, but she turned at the waist to look up at Chakotay. He smiled down at her with psychic understanding. "Well . . ." she took a deep breath "I suppose if we are going to tell them, now's as good a time as any."
People braced themselves. Eyes widened. Breathing paused.
"There's really no reason for everyone to waste time eavesdropping . . ." Kathryn closed her eyes. She just needed to spit it out. If she delayed in any fashion, she knew she'd end up running from the bridge, unable to go through with it. "You're all invited to the wedding." She snapped her eyelids open, forcing herself to look them all in the eye. "But only if you're good!" she tried to add playfully with a kidding wag of the finger.
"WEDDING?!" Belanna's voice was the leader of the surprised chorus. She grabbed her captain stiffly by the shoulders. "You and Chakotay? . . . You're getting married?!"
"Yes, well . . ." Janeway squirmed under Belanna's scrutiny. "Not immediately, of course, we have to-"
Janeway's answer was cut off by Belanna's squeal of delight and a suffocating Klingon hug.
Neelix moved to pat Chakotay firmly on the shoulder. "Congratulations, Commander!" Consummate diplomat though he was, Neelix had already mastered the Earth gesture of a congratulatory handshake. Chakotay took his hand gladly.
Tom turned to Harry, he just had to admit "I did NOT see that coming."
Harry replied, "I guess your days of whispering the captain's name in your sleep are over, hehe." Tom took an angry swipe at the back of Harry's head. He missed, as the ensign skillfully ducked and then danced into a playful fighter's pose.
Belanna suddenly broke her rolling hug with Kathryn and pushed her out at arm's length. She appraised the captain with scandalous concern. She spoke in a mock whisper loud enough for the whole bridge to hear. "You're not pregnant, are you?"
"B'Elanna!" Janeway ran her fingernails nervously through the hair behind her ear "No! Of course not-" Janeway looked down at her feet. She decided she deserved to have a little fun with the moment herself. "At least . . ." She turned her face warmly introspective, displaying a vulnerability few present had ever seen before. "I don't think I'm pregnant." She placed a hand on her stomach and caressed herself with all the tenderness of an expectant mother.
Chakotay was entranced by the vision before him. He didn't notice the Doctor was conveniently positioned to take a few surreptitious scans of the captain from behind with his medical tricorder. The rest of the senior staff quickly figured out what he was dong, and the collective breath-holding began anew. Doc studied the readings for a long, torturous moment, then looked up to make eye contact with the group. He waved his free hand at the floor dismissively and shook his head in the negative.
At exactly the same moment, Kathryn threw her hands up in despair at how easy they all were to fool. "Oh, of course I'm not pregnant! Don't be ridiculous." The momentary spell of shock was broken. Everyone felt free to breathe easily again.
After a brief time-delay, the first officer caught on to what the Doctor was doing. He snatched the tricorder out of the surgeon's hands and snapped it shut in his face. Chakotay shoved the tricorder into the hologram's chest. "Keep your scans to yourself, Doctor."
The warning was not lost on the EMH and he retreated impishly to cower behind Seven. The Doctor spoke low in Seven's ear, so only she could hear. "They both have an unnatural aversion to medical equipment. They're perfect for each other."
Seven titled her head slightly in thought. "I have noticed male humanoids are often unjustifiably overprotective of their mates. If you continue to invade the captain's privacy with covert medical scans of her uterus, and then proceed to convey those results to the crew, I don't know that anyone can protect you from the commander's ire."
"Seven! I'm a Doctor, not a gossip columnist!"
Janeway was unaware of the scene behind her. Concerned, instead by Tuvok's reaction. Or rather, lack thereof. Remember he's Vulcan. Janeway reminded herself. This may not be disapproval, just stoicism. "Tuvok," she tried to initiate an emotional connection to him. I hope we have your blessing. She wasn't brave enough to phrase it that way out loud. "You're awfully quiet." Her dearest, oldest friend was unreadable in the face of the biggest news of her life. They had shared a mind meld together. Surely he understood the affection she had for Chakotay penetrated her soul and laced throughout her being. She desperately wished he'd express his opinion on the matter. She prompted him timidly, fearful that if she pushed for a reaction, it would be negative and that would just crush her. "I'm curious what your thoughts are."
He looked up from his work and turned in her direction, displaying typical Vulcan countenance. "I assume you mean regarding your announcement of marriage to Commander Chakotay."
Janeway nodded inside her head, but she wasn't quite sure if the gesture made it to her exterior.
He remained quiet for what seemed to be an eternity of microseconds. A pall fell over the circle of officers, all of them sensing, as Janeway did, that Tuvok could quash the jovial mood with a single cold, unfeeling comment. "Oh, come on Tuvok." Tom pleaded inside his head. "Be happy for them, just this once."
"The only immediate thought that comes to mind . . ." Tuvok raised a quirky eyebrow. "is that it's about time."
Relief illuminated Janeway's face and it spread throughout the group.
"Allow me to take this moment to offer you the following Vulcan blessing upon your marriage." Tuvok stood and split his fingers in the familiar Vulcan salutation. "May you live long - and multiply."
Everyone on the bridge expressed their agreement with applause.
Janeway knew Vulcans hate to be touched, but she just couldn't help it. She wrapped an arm across his back and hugged him from the side. "You," she pointed at his chest definitively "are going to give me away at my wedding!"
"I am honored." Tuvok decided there had been enough celebrating. "But if I could turn your attention to the matter of running the ship. Do you all intend to complete your duty shifts today, or shall I send for replacements so you may take your recuperative time off?"
Running the ship. . . Right. Janeway tried to phase slowly back into command mode. "Well, it's almost lunchtime now. No need to interrupt other people's schedules to complete half a shift. I certainly feel up to finishing mine. How's everyone else feel about that?"
"No objections, captain." Harry stood at dutiful attention.
"I don't have time to take time off, I've got a party to plan!" Neelix bounced ebulliently towards the turbolift. "An ENGAGEMENT party! Ah-" he looked suddenly worried. "I have to bake a cake. A huge cake!"
"It was my day off anyways . . ." Belanna looked around her to see if anyone else could appreciate the irony. No one cared. She sighed resignedly. "Neelix, hold that turbolift!"
Janeway looked questioningly at Paris. "Eh, I've got nothing better to do today." he made his way toward the helm.
The captain smiled inwardly at the duty-mindedness of her crew. She clasped her hands and leaned her forearms on the edge of the security station and gazed upon her bridge. Chakotay sidled up beside her. "There, now see," He bounced his hip playfully into hers. "Was telling them so bad?"
All she could manage was half of a scoffing laugh. "Terrifying"
He didn't seem to believe her. "You sure didn't sound terrified to me." There was an odd note to his voice she had never heard before. He walked around to the front of the console and laid his outstretched arm parallel to the front of it. Chakotay studied her intently while his fingers drummed away. He looked like he was trying to figure something out, but the expression on his face was somewhere between chastising and accusatory. Why's he looking at me like that?
"What?" she asked naively.
He set his jaw and shook his head slowly from side to side with what looked like disapproval. But the forced frown on his face disagreed with the smile in his eyes. "You don't think you're pregnant." He relayed her words back to her with a dirty chuckle. "Yeah, right. We'll see about that."
Why you smug little . . . "Oh, I was kidding!" Janeway unglued herself from the console and made a beeline for her captain's chair. "Get over yourself." She tried to take her seat with as much dignity as possible. "Helm, what's our course and speed?"
She ignored Chakotay as he sauntered past her chair with his arms folded innocently behind his back.
"Well, thanks to the deflector dish upgrades, the engines are still purring along at maximum warp. And unless I hear otherwise . . ." Tom turned to look back at his captain. "We're on a straight course for the Alpha Quadrant. There's nothing in our way for several thousand light years."
"Steady as she goes, Tom."
There was only a few seconds of silence when she heard a musing "Hmmm" come from her first officer's chair. Janeway rolled her eyes. I've created a monster. She could tell by the playful mood he was in that he was just setting her up for more teasing. Chakotay developed an introspective posture. He leaned heavily on his armrest and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "You know the thought occurs to me . . ." he let the sentence hang on the air unfinished.
She rolled her head disdainfully in his direction. "Yes?" Pure morbid curiosity made her take the bait.
"Oh, no, it's nothing."
"It's just that I didn't realize when I interviewed for the position of your first officer all of those years ago . . . That I was also trying out for the position of your first husband." He was really milking this for all it was worth. "If I had known, I would have shined my shoes."
Paris choked back his own laughter. He had to bite his lower lip in half to keep quiet. They do realize I can hear them right?
"Chakotay . . . dear" she used the term with all the affection of a porcupine. Janeway zeroed in on him. "If you ever bring that up again," she wrinkled her nose with confident assurance "you'll be my late husband."
Ouch. Good one. Paris was impressed. That was almost B'Elanna-esque. Only the viewscreen saw Tom's broad smile. The brick of guilt that had been sitting on his shoulder all morning fell to the floor. The reasons for last night's less-than-appropriate dream he had about the captain were starting to make sense . . . Well, in a weird, Rick Berman sort of way. Tom sighed contentedly. I can't wait for the wedding.
Author's Note Re: The Berman Reference
Remember Tom Paris is a vast storehouse of trivial, if not altogether accurate, 20th century history. Couple that with his affinity for all things Science Fiction ("B" movies in particular) and it stands to reason he could possibly be aware of Rick Berman's signature style of ruining a perfectly good action adventure by pairing totally inappropriate couples with each other.