Disclaimer: Paramount owns it all, I just borrow. Besides, if their lawyers saw what I actually do for a job in the real world they would quickly realise the futility of suing me. It's sad but true.
Thanks to Lin for passing on this challenge when I was stuck for ideas: write a story that involves a dog, moonlight, plain M&M's, & boxer shorts (preferably Chakotay's).
Captain's personal log. After two days we're still in orbit of the planet Jośll. Neelix and Harry are busy on the surface negotiating for supplies with the Jośllans. Apparently haggling is a favourite national past time. Ion disturbances in the atmosphere - which for some reason do not disturb communication signals - forced them to take down a shuttle, and in Neelix's last communiqué he assured me that they'd be returning with it stocked to the brim. Luckily for us then, Neelix has a few years haggling experience up his own sleeves. In the meantime, I'm searching for some supplies of my own.
Kathryn hunched over her desk, intently scanning the padd she held in front of her. Her other hand reached for the pile of chocolate sitting beside her terminal. She broke off a sizable chunk of what remained and, without taking her eyes of the list, crammed the piece into her mouth.
The ready room door chime sounded.
"Come in," she said.
"Tuvok," she greeted her second officer with a chocolatey grimace, "good morning".
She continued to scroll down the items on the padd as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
"Is this important Tuvok? I'm a little busy right now."
"Evidently," he said, watching as she maneuvered the last remaining piece of chocolate into her mouth.
"I wished to deliver this week's security reports." He placed a padd down on her desk. "They do not, however, require your immediate attention."
Kathryn looked up.
"I'm sorry Tuvok, I didn't mean to snap. I'm just in a mood at the moment."
"I hadn't noticed," he said. "Should I ask what is the cause of this 'mood'?"
"I've been thinking about that," she said, ignoring the obvious fact that Tuvok in reality was as interested in her moods as she was in the security report he had just presented.
"And you have surmised...".
She tapped her padd on the desk absent mindedly.
"I think I miss romance, Tuvok. Where's it all gone?"
Tuvok raised a characteristic eyebrow at the unexpected comment.
"I'm not talking about sex," she went on. At that the Vulcan looked noticeably relieved.
"I mean romance". She gesticulated with her free hand, as though that somehow made the statement clearer. "Walks on the beach, moonlight, flowers, music..."
"Chocolate," Tuvok supplied.
"Don't mock chocolate, Tuvok," she said. "It's been proven to have a beneficial effect on the human hormonal system."
"I wouldn't dare".
Kathryn sighed and looked mournfully at the few crumbs remaining on her desk.
"Maybe the ionic disturbances are getting to me."
"The probability of that is very doubtful, Captain".
"Thankyou". She sighed again, and continued scrolling through the list.
"Perhaps you should be talking to Commander Chakotay about this problem," Tuvok said.
Kathryn looked up sharply. "Why Chakotay?"
Tuvok shrugged. "He is the friend you would be most likely to discuss issues of an emotional nature with."
"Thanks, Tuvok, and I get the hint, but I don't think so. Not this time."
She stopped scrolling.
"M and M's!" she said incredulously. "What kind of name is that for a variety of chocolate?"
"I can't say I am familiar with it."
"It says here it comes in different varieties. Peanut. Plain. Crispy - whatever that means."
Tuvok shifted from one foot to the other. "Captain - if you don't need me, I should return to my post."
"Hmm?" She glanced up distractedly. "Oh yes, Tuvok, dismissed."
She stood and strode to the replicator.
"Computer, give me a bowl of plain M&M's".
"Unable to comply."
"Kathryn Janeway has exceeded her replicator ration limit."
Kathryn glared at the replicator as though it bore her a personal grudge.
"Computer this is an emergency. I really need chocolate."
"Unable to comply."
"Fine," she said. Bending over the panel, she ran her fingers over a few buttons.
The replicator hummed obligingly and a bowl of brightly coloured objects appeared.
"Thankyou," she said, picking up the bowl.
"Or maybe I should thank Chakotay," she said.
She sank into the couch and selected one of the blue pieces.
Neelix stepped out of the shuttle to find the Captain waiting for him by the bay doors.
"Captain!" he said. "What a lovely surprise."
"You did such a good job with this mission, I wanted to thank you myself."
"That's very kind," the Talaxian said.
"Actually," she said, "I thought I'd come and see you before I got started on the weekly security reports."
Neelix bobbed his head. "I see. A wise choice Captain."
Harry emerged from the shuttle carrying a small case and nodded his greeting to the Captain.
"Looks like you two have been busy," she said.
"You can say that again," he said. "I should get these medical supplies to the doctor right away," he added, indicating the case he carried.
"Good work, Harry," Kathryn said.
"Here's an inventory of all the items I collected," said Neelix.
He handed her the padd. She tucked the small bowl she was carrying against the crook of her elbow to take it from him.
"May I ask what you have there, Captain?" Neelix said, trying to peer into it.
"They're called M and M's."
"That's an odd name for a foodstuff."
"Not just 'foodstuff' Neelix, they're chocolate."
"Oh, I see". He smiled knowingly.
"And I'm becoming a little addicted to them," she admitted as she glanced through his inventory. "This is very impressive, Neelix".
"I did my best".
"Don't be so modest. I remember when ..."
She trailed off, staring over his shoulder.
"Neelix. There's nothing on this inventory about any animals."
"Animals? No I didn't -"
He broke off as his gaze followed her pointed finger. A four legged creature resembling a Terran dog had crept through the shuttle's open door, and was regarding them with canine curiosity. It lowered its ochre coloured muzzle to sniff at the floor.
"It must have climbed aboard the shuttle while we were loaing it, Captain," Neelix said. "Then hidden among the cargo containers."
"Hi there, little fellow," Kathryn said. She crouched down and held her hand out to the dog.
"Take this Neelix," she said, passing him the bowl of chocolates.
The dog took a few cautious steps towards her, then bounded the rest of the way, its tail wagging.
"Hello boy. Aren't you a friendly thing," she said.
The dog wriggled with delight, its tail pounding against the shuttle bay floor.
"Call one of your contacts on the planet," Kathryn said, "See if you can find out if anyone's lost a dog."
She scratched its ears. "Or something a whole lot like a dog."
"Until then, I'll look after him. He needs a name though."
"I imagine he already has one, Captain."
"Well we can't ask him. Can we boy?"
The dog wagged its tail enthusiastically and tried to lick her face.
"I think you look like a -" she took its face in her hand and examined it for a moment.
"Rusty," she concluded.
"It's an old nickname given to some people with red hair," she said.
Neelix leaned over the dog. "Welcome aboard, Rusty."
Rusty whined and licked his whiskers.
Kathryn stretched on her couch, her bare foot poking into Rusty, who had curled up on one of the farthest cushions.
"You sure made yourself at home quickly," she said.
Rusty turned his head and licked her toe, then settled back down onto the couch. She chuckled. She had forgotten how good it felt to have a dog around.
It had been several hours and Neelix still hadn't reported back to her yet. He had given her supplies for Rusty to eat, then disappeared to contact the Jośllans.
The thought of food made her sit up. She could do with another snack. She stood and strode towards the replicator.
"Computer, give me a bowl of peanut M&M's," she said.
"Unable to comply."
Kathryn sighed, and began typing in Chakotay's password.
"Unable to comply."
"Incorrect password for that replicator account."
Kathryn swore. So Chakotay had finally noticed his missing rations, she thought.
"Well Rusty," she said, leaning over the couch to ruffle his ears, "What are we going to do now?"
Rusty stared back at her but neither moved nor provided any suggestions.
"Computer," she said, putting her hands on her hips, "locate Commander Chakotay."
"Commander Chakotay is on holodeck two".
"Is he now," she said, grinning.
She glanced back at Rusty as she walked towards the doors. "I'll be right back, you just stay there."
Outside Chakotay's room, she took a quick look around her to make sure no one was approaching, then keyed in her override command to open the door. As she stepped through, she was surprised to notice the light was still on.
Kathryn froze like an animal caught in a bright light and gaped at Chakotay, who was sitting on his couch reading a padd. She blinked, trying not to notice that he was clad in only a pair of boxers and a t-shirt. Blue boxers, actually. Very nice looking blue boxers...
"Captain," he said calmly, putting the padd down, "this is a surprise".
She stared at him, unable to think of anything to say. She found herself mesmerized by the muscles in his thighs.
Don't stare, Kathryn, she told herself, and started to look up. Gods, woman, don't look there either.
Chakotay looked amused for some reason.
"Commander," she said eventually, "I was just-"
"Coming to pay me a secret visit?"
"The computer said you weren't here and I just wanted to....umm..." she broke of, unable to think of a single intelligible way to end that sentence.
"Borrow something?" he suggested.
"Yes, that's it." She seized on the idea. "Exactly. I wanted to borrow something".
Chakotay watched her patiently.
She opened and closed her mouth.
"How about -" he paused for emphasis "- some replicator rations?"
Kathryn made a face. "Chakotay. I ... " She sighed. "It's a little hard to deny now, isn't it?"
She flopped down on the couch next to him in defeat.
"A little," he agreed.
"I thought you were on the holodeck," she said, trying to ignore the fact that his bare leg was brushing against hers.
"I know. I lent Naomi my comm badge."
"You knew I'd come in here? Isn't that a little dishonest?"
He merely laughed at that.
"Alright, forget I said that".
"It was either sneaking in here or spending the night trying to figure out what my new password was. I figured you'd go for the riskier option that would give you quicker results."
She sighed again. "I'm that predictable?"
"No. I just know you."
He started to say something else, then broke off. "What's that noise?"
"I could swear I thought I heard barking."
"Oh. That's just Rusty," she said distractedly.
"Your dog? " He raised his eyebrows. "Since when do you have a dog?"
"It's a long story. Neelix accidentally brought it on board with the supplies. It might not actually be a dog, technically speaking, but it's something pretty close. He's trying to locate the owner now."
"So you're dog-sitting in the meantime."
She nodded and stood up to leave. "Dogs can be great company you know. They're actually very good at cheering you up. Or at least sitting there staring at you adoringly so you can pretend they're listening".
"Kathryn?" he said. "Is something wrong?"
"No, it's just -," she shook her head. "No, it's nothing."
"I'll pay you back for the rations," she said, as she went to leave.
He merely raised his eyebrows again.
"Okay," she admitted, "I just won't steal any more".
He smiled and watched her leave, his face thoughtful.
Shortly after she returned to her quarters Neelix stopped by to pick up the dog.
"It turns out Captain," he explained, "that he belongs to a young girl whose father works as a goods loader at the docking facilities. She's been frantically searching for him all afternoon."
"Well, Rusty," she said, scratching behind the dog's ears one last time, "it's been nice knowing you."
"Actually, the dog's name is Berrani."
Neelix grinned. "It means 'red' in Jośllan. Come on Berrani. Let's go see your little friend."
The dog obediently trotted after him out into the corridor.
"'Bye Rusty," Kathryn called after him.
She settled onto the couch with a sigh, picking up a novel that B'Elanna had given her earlier. She wasn't quite sure that Klingon romances were quite her style, but given her mood, she thought she might enjoy a change.
Kathryn was quarter of the way through an extremely vigorous courtship scene when her communicator chirped.
"Tuvok to the Captain."
"Yes," she said, smiling a little at Tuvok's impeccable sense of timing.
"Mr. Neelix's shuttle has returned, Captain. We are ready to depart, if we have no further business here."
"Send the Jośllan Minister a message thanking them for their hospitality. Then set a course for the Alpha quadrant."
No sooner had she picked up the padd than her door chimed again.
"Come," she called.
B'Elanna poked her head around the corner.
"Sorry to disturb you, Captain."
Kathryn waved her inside. "That's alright. I was just reading."
B'Elanna strolled over to the couch and glanced at the padd.
"Khe'mar and the House of Taug," she read. "How's it going?"
"They're just getting to know each other".
B'Elanna grinned. "I remember that part. I brought you a few more if you get through that one too quickly".
She handed the Captain another two padds.
"Thanks. I'm not sure this is my style though".
B'Elanna shrugged. "They grow on you."
As she was leaving, she paused in the doorway, then turned back to face Kathryn.
"Maybe this is none of my business, Captain -" she began, then halted.
Kathryn sighed. It was one of those days. "Go ahead."
B'Elanna made a face. "I was just going to say, did you know that there appears to be some sort of -" she looked into the corridor again and frowned, then turned back to Kathryn "- confectionery items scattered in the corridor out here?"
Kathryn blinked. That wasn't what she had expected at all.
"I didn't know that."
She slid off the couch and made her way to the doorway. B'Elanna stepped aside so that she could see.
Kathryn did see. There was a colourful trail of M&M's lying across the carpet snaking out from her doorway and along the corridor.
"I don't think they're scattered, B'Elanna, I think they're a trail," she said.
"Who would leave you a trail, and why?"
Kathryn looked pointedly at where the trail ended - at the door to Chakotay's quarters.
"I think this is a puzzle I can solve my myself, B'Elanna".
"I see," B'Elanna said, trying to keep her face neutral. She carefully stepped over the chocolates and began walking down the corridor.
"B'Elanna," Kathryn called out after her.
"No," she said with mock severity, "you don't see."
B'Elanna grinned at her this time. "Whatever you say, Captain. I didn't see anything."
After her Chief Engineer's back had disappeared down the corridor, Kathryn bent over and scooped up the first M&M and put it in her mouth.
"Maybe it won't be such a boring evening after all," she said to herself, and picked up the second.
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