Breaking Point

Summary: 7/N, angst, Rated PG. Neelix contemplates his life aboard Voyager.

Disclaimer: Paramountís characters.

Feedback is appreciated.

By Daffnie (trekdimension@yahoo.com)

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Iím surprised they kept me around. I still donít know what their reasoning was to have an outsider on the ship...or why they tolerate me. I had rudimentary skills they couldíve done just fine without. I knew a few species, had a few star charts, but all that wouldíve been in their database in due time anyway...whether I was there or not. I felt like an outcast, like the misfit everyone laughs at when youíre not around. The moment I stepped on board, I realized how different I was...how different they would see me. The senior staff treated me as an equal, but I know they must have been suspicious of my motives. What would a successful trader want to do on a star ship where he didnít belong? I obviously wasnít exactly Ďfleet material. But I offered to be the cook... They already had one they never told me about. I found out from Chell. They fired the old cook and reassigned her to the engineering team as a waste recycling technician. Poor woman. She never deserved that. I thought I should make it up to her; I brought her a letter stating my apologies and a vase of flowers, but she refused to accept them. Whether her refusal was out of anger towards me or just humbleness, I probably will never know.

They say I became a valued member of the crew...Captain Janeway especially seemed impressed with my casual abilities I happened to pick up in order to survive the harsh Delta Quadrant. They say I provided priceless information they couldnít have come through without. I donít believe them. Sure, I prepared their meals and gave bits of advice when I could, but nothing I did was really ďvaluable.Ē Iím sure Harry Kim or another perfectly competent crew member couldíve found out everything I told them without working up a sweat.

They gave me privileges I donít think I deserve. I even was able to work on the bridge. Those people worked hard for years to do that. I came aboard, and within days, I was helping at the helm or scanning for anomalies or giving tactical suggestions like I had been a Starfleet officer all my life. I also was given comfortable quarters, replicator rations, holodeck time. I was never assigned a specific duty schedule. I worked whenever I saw fit. Thatís not how everyone else was treated. They followed a strict schedule with little room for leeway while I couldíve sat in my quarters all day doing nothing and been treated like royalty for it.

Sometimes I feel like Iím their personal project, their pet. They give me special treatment, they let me go to their senior officer conferences. How did I ever become a senior officer? Iím just the cook.

Captain Janeway says she appreciates me volunteering to be the morale officer, too. I go along with her enthusiasm, but it was all just a ruse in the beginning. I offered to do that just so sheíd think Iíd be important enough to keep aboard. So now I maintain my morale officer facade, and itís really not all that hard. Iím kind of like shipís counselor...people come to me for advice or just to get something off their chest. Sometimes I actually like it, but other days I just want to tell them to leave me alone. But I never do because Iím always afraid that will be what gets me kicked off on the nearest M-Class planet.

I know some people look down at me because of all the privileges Iíve been given and because Iím the only Talaxian on the ship. Some of the more audacious people give me dirty looks or yell at me if I accidentally put something in their food they happen to hate. The captain puts them in their place, but that doesnít stop the glares or the finger pointing or the soft giggling behind my back. It hurts. It really does, but I put up with it every day because I think a lot of it I deserve for intruding on their hard earned lively hoods.

Their harsh teasing often makes it hard to relate to people I actually do care about. Most of them treat me with respect because they know the real Neelix, but others keep their distance and donít bother to get to know me. We have civil conversations, but usually itís about nothing more than superficial things like whatís for dinner or a complaint about their shift and how it interferes with their relationships with others. Well, how do they think I feel? Donít they realize my relationships suffer for the shifts I put upon myself? I often work over sixteen hours a day to keep them happy, and many donít seem to notice or appreciate my efforts.

One of those people I question is Seven of Nine. She seems sincere enough when she thanks me for a meal or engages me in conversation, but I know those are only social skills she learned from the doctor and are testing out on me. She compliments my cooking just to practice those skills, and the same thing goes for coming to the parties I throw to try to gain popularity. (I hope no one has caught on to that...to my desperation to be liked. I hope they think I do it for their sake and not mine.)

The problem with Sevenís cold shoulder is one that affects me very personally. She means a lot to me, more than anyone...even more than Kes did...but I donít dare express that to her in fear that she would brush me off, or worse, laugh. Iíve never heard her laugh, but Iím afraid telling her would be what sets her off. Might she even get angry at me? Sheís such a cool and collected person, but I think I could change that in an instant by declaring my love to her. I have no idea how she would react, but I have a feeling it wonít be in a way that makes me comfortable. I donít want to be humiliated by such a superior person.

Iíll never admit it to anyone, but there are nights when I stay awake crying until morning. I get so incredibly lonely, and reaching out to the one I love would mean risking my currently stable platonic relationship with her. I have some friends who keep my spirits up at times like Sam and Naomi, but that doesnít stop me from feeling like Iím alone. They have their own lives, and this gives them little time to spend in my company. I try to go to social gatherings when I can (like Fair Haven or Sandrineís), but I rarely feel truly wanted there. I participate half-heartedly because I know my efforts of being friendly and engaging will most likely be in vain.

So I surrender to the tears silently. No one knows of my pain because I keep a smile on my face when around others, and they never see past my mask...probably because they donít bother trying. Sometimes I wish they would notice my pain so they can change their ways, but that seems too unlikely for the lonely ďkitchen rat.Ē

Maybe one day Iíll tell Seven how I feel. Or maybe one day Iíll lose my cool and ruin everything. I suppose I will have to see how things go, and my future will depend on how close I am to my breaking point.

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Fini