Ballad of an invisible man

by Jinny W
February 2001

Disclaimer: Paramount owns all things Voyager. They can have this story too, if they like, but I doubt they'd want it.

Summary: When Chakotay is feeling left out and unappreciated, a joking comment from the Captain sends him on a crazy scheming marathon in order to win back her appreciation.

This could conceivably be set any time between seasons four and seven, for reasons which will become obvious later on, but I did make a desultory crack about holo-boyfriends, so let's say this takes place somewhere in season six.


"You should have seen her", Tom said expansively, slapping his drink down on the table. "She looked just like a lioness, prowling in to protect one of her little cubs."

Harry, B'Elanna and Neelix let out simultaneous guffaws of laughter. "I would have loved to see that", Harry said, shaking his head.

"As usual, Mr. Paris is exaggerating matters for the sake of a good story", Tuvok interjected mildly from his position opposite Tom.

Tom snorted. "Oh come on, Tuvok, not by much."

"Now, now", Neelix said, leaning a little closer to the smiling pilot, "I want to hear the rest of the story. What did the Captain do then?"

The others seemed to instinctively mirror his gesture, shuffling along the mess hall table to move closer to the story-teller. All that is except for Tuvok, who continued to watch the proceedings impassively, and Chakotay, who sat silently towards the far end of the table, his bottom lip slightly protruding. His expression alternated between resignation and profound embarrassment.

Tom took a long draft from his drink then let it rest in front of him. "She stood toe to toe with the Deyleff trader, nose to nose, eye to eye," he chuckled. "Well, it would have been eye to eye if he hadn't been a good half meter taller than her."

"Since when did size matter", B'Elanna threw in with a grin. "When she does *that* look she shrinks whoever she's glaring at anyway."

"Metaphorically speaking of course", said Harry.

B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "No, I meant literally, dolt."

"The Captain does have a marked ability to intimidate her opponents", Tuvok offered.

"So the two of them were locked in a fierce battle of wills", Neelix said eagerly. "What happened next?"

Tuvok opened his mouth as if to correct the enthusiastic Talaxian, then obviously thinking better of it, merely looked toward Tom. Chakotay bit his lip and wondered if anyone would notice if he tried to slip away from the table.

"She stared at him silently for a few seconds, as though she was imagining how his head would look sitting in a trophy cabinet in her ready room", Tom went on. The others laughed. "Then she said in an icy calm voice, 'There seems to have been some sort of misunderstanding. This man is first officer on *my* vessel'."

Chakotay's eyes wandered again to the mess hall exit. If he just made a concerted dash for it, he might make it to the turbolift before Tom finished the story.

Tom tried to keep a smile from slipping across his face as he spoke. "And the Deyleff said, 'Then I wish to purchase him from you.'"

Harry chortled, "He didn't! Commander?"

Chakotay stared fixedly at his hands and refused to look at the group.

"Wait," Tom said, losing the battle not to grin, "there's more."

"Then get on with it", said B'Elanna.

"Alright, alright." Tom waved her to silence. "The Captain didn't even bat an eyelid. She said, 'What sort of price did you have in mind?'"

Neelix tittered and threw an amused look at the XO, whose ears were reddening rapidly.

Tom chuckled. "'The trader said, 'For the pleasure of my Captain, I would pay any price you name.'"

"Hear that Chakotay," B'Elanna said, slapping him on the shoulder, "you're priceless."

Chakotay winced and tried to ignore her.

"And then the Captain said," Tom paused for emphasis, "'it isn't really the money that's the problem. It's just that I'd hate to see your Captain disappointed. To be honest with you, I'm not sure what she could do with him once she had him.'"

Harry let out a low wolf whistle as Tom continued, "She leaned closer to him", Tom said, grinning wickedly, "and said quietly, 'looks can be deceiving, Sir. He's not exactly, shall we say, fully functional. Trust me, I know.' The trader lost interest very quickly after that."

The group broke into uproarious laughter. Even Tuvok looked slightly amused, judging by the angle of his eyebrow, despite having witnessed the exchange first hand when he accompanied the Captain to the planet. Neelix was laughing so hard that he found himself gasping for air.

"Oh Commander", he said to the beet red XO, "I would have loved to see that."

"Pity Tuvok and I didn't have a holo-recorder on us", Tom remarked.

"Indeed", said Tuvok.

"Maybe there were security recordings kept in the bar", B'Elanna threw in.

"We could all chip in together and pay the barman for them", Harry suggested.

"Or maybe we could trade something", Neelix said, winking at Chakotay and then dissolving into another fit of giggles. Luckily for Chakotay's dignity he was saved from further ribbing by the sound of a Klaxon alarm.

"Senior staff, report to the bridge", the Captain's voice snapped over the intercom.

"Don't worry about it Chakotay", Tom said, as their chairs scraped backwards across the floor, "I'm sure they would have thought of something to do with you - eventually".

"Funny, Paris", he retorted lamely, as the helmsman followed the others out of the mess hall.

"I'm not expendable", he muttered to himself as he trailed along the corridor behind the still giggling group (except for Tuvok, naturally). Lately opportunities to save the day on Voyager had been few and far between. He had little to do apart from routine duties. On some days it felt as if he barely had a chance to say more than a handful of words to anyone.

"I *am* fully functional", he mumbled moodily, ignoring the bemused glance of a passing crewmember. "I am fully functional", he repeated to himself silently, "I just need an occasion to prove myself."

With this notion firmly planted in his mind, he stepped into the turbolift and, thus lost in thought, was able to ignore most of the jibes the others threw his way.


The alarm turned out to be a false one and Voyager carried on its merry way towards the Alpha Quadrant. The days of routine activities allowed Chakotay time to mull over the incident in the alien bar. Kathryn had not made the comment maliciously. She was merely putting on a performance to help wedge him out of the tight spot he'd found himself in. But why had she chosen that particular line of subterfuge? It troubled him to think that it might have been the first option that leapt to her mind. What did that say about her subconscious belief in his utility? She could just as easily, he thought to himself bitterly, have played a different sort of card altogether. She might have told the alien trader that Chakotay was her property - her *personal* property - and that she wouldn't accept any price for him. He spent a few minutes wistfully imagining how that scenario could have played out.

Tom, of course, in his usual juvenile manner, tried to find a novel way to remind him of the episode every single day. Yesterday for example he had presented Chakotay with a small replicated doll of himself. The figurine was sitting down in a nondescript chair, and regardless of how hard he tugged at it, it could not be removed. None of the limbs moved either, or the head or neck, with the result that the small plastic Chakotay merely sat and gazed blankly at the air in front of him. "It's fully functional", Tom had said, smiling pleasantly.

"Smarmy git", Chakotay muttered, hurling the plastic XO against the wall of his quarters.
It bounced once on the floor then righted itself. The plastic XO sat smiling, staring raptly at the wall centimeters in front of its face. The impact triggered some sort of data storage device Tom had programmed. A recording of Chakotay's voice began reciting, "Raise shields. Red alert. Aye Captain. Raise shields. Red alert."

He thought fleetingly about putting Tom on report for that effort, but then reconsidered, realising he'd have to give Kathryn some sort of explanation. "He's making fun of me", lacked that certain touch of maturity. What I need, he thought, as he scooped up the figurine and began tugging on its head again in an effort to silence it, is a plan.

"Red alert. Red alert", the tiny XO chirped as its neck started to loosen.

"You can shut up", Chakotay muttered, then smiled in satisfaction as the head finally cracked free in his hand. I need to make Kathryn notice me, he thought. I need to do something exceptional. He sank back into his chair, squeezing the decapitated figurine in one palm, and began to scheme.


Although he had a few plans metaphorically tucked away up his Starfleet regulation sleeves, Chakotay's first attempt at impressing his Captain came about via a fortuitous accident. A freak malfunction in one of the gel packs powering the mess hall replicator spread, as such problems are wont to do, to the rest of the replicator systems. Within minutes every replicator on the ship started to smoke, whine irritatingly, then power itself down in defeat.

On hearing the news, Chakotay's mind quickly skimmed over the possible consequences. His first thought was that he wouldn't be able to try the new replicator recipe for a chocolate nut torte he had recently acquired. His second was that the crew would be forced to subsist solely on food from Neelix's kitchen, or if they were desperate to avoid that fate, on dehydrated field rations. The tiny wince Kathryn failed to hide on hearing B'Elanna's report reminded him of another repercussion - the Captain would only be able to drink Neelix's coffee. Or even worse - his coffee substitutes.

Although not a coffee addict himself, Chakotay shuddered in sympathy at the memory of Neelix's last "brew". Unfortunately, as the human brain was quite adept at recalling certain smells, he could also almost taste the acrid goopy brown liquid trickling over his tongue. The Captain's reaction had been mildly amusing though. She had simply put down the cup, shaken her head once at Neelix, and walked out of the mess hall. The Talaxian was momentarily crushed.

"I thought it was getting pretty close this time", he remarked to no one in particular.

Chakotay shrugged. "You know the Captain", he had replied, "she always wants the real thing." Except when it came to boyfriends, he mentally amended.

With this memory fresh in his mind, Chakotay used some pretext to slip off the bridge and creep into the storeroom. He knew Neelix had a small "crisis only" store of real coffee beans hidden away somewhere. Rather than rummaging through the supplies he simply used a tricorder to scan the room. On locating the small silver container, he slipped it under one arm with a gleeful chuckle. As he was leaving the room another devious thought struck him.

"Computer", he said, "Scan Voyager for all traces of the substance known as 'coffee'. In whatever form - beans, ground, beverages, confectionery and so on."

The computer promptly returned him a list of results which Chakotay downloaded onto a padd. Grinning maniacally, he began to make his way through the ship to the transporter room. This thievery would take some covering up, but luckily he still had some old Maquis tricks hidden under his regulation Starfleet belt.


"No coffee?" Kathryn said in disbelief.

"No coffee", Neelix echoed glumly.

Kathryn shifted impatiently, her boots scuffing the bottom of the galley doorway. "Not even one teensy weensy bean?"

Neelix shook his head sadly.

"Not even that secret supply you always keep hidden away?" she said, her voice practically pleading.

Neelix looked momentarily startled that she knew about his secret stash, then shook his head again. "I'm sorry Captain," he said, pulling nervously on his whiskers. "I honestly don't know what's happened to it. I was sure I'd put some aside for emergencies. I even scoured the ship to see if any of the crew had some tucked away. But no luck."

Kathryn sighed and rubbed her forehead in anticipation of the inevitable caffeine headache she would soon be suffering. "I don't believe it."

Neelix eyed her for a moment, wondering if it was too soon after the loss of the replicators to bring this up. "I have been working on another substitute", he said tentatively.

Kathryn's head snapped up quickly. "No!" she said. "No", she repeated, a little more softly. "It's alright. I'll manage without for a while."

She tucked a few stray wisps of hair back behind one ear absently and glanced over at the replicator, which was presently obscured by the back of her Chief Engineer.

"I might just go and see how the repairs are progressing," she mumbled, and strode off in that direction.

Neelix sighed. "Poor B'Elanna", he said. Shaking his head, he began bustling around the kitchen once more. If B'Elanna couldn't come up with the goods sometime soon, it would be up to him to come to the rescue. A sudden montage of images sprang into his mind and he smiled dreamily as he visualized the scene...

The captain stands before him, her eyes closed, as she savours the liquid running around her mouth. She swallows gently, then opens her eyes. Her expression is astonished, grateful, sensual. She opens her mouth to speak, and the sound that emerges is very much like a purr.

CAPTAIN: Neelix.

NEELIX: Yes Captain.

Her smile is now a beacon of light, illuminating the entire galley. She leans a little closer to him, so that he can see the gleam twinkling in her vivid blue eyes. This time her voice is a murmur that only his ears can hear.

CAPTAIN: It's astonishing.

NEELIX: (Blushing a little). I was thinking of naming it after a member of the crew.

The Captain blinks and smiles again. Her teeth glow like pearls.

CAPTAIN: Which crewmember would that be?

Neelix opened his mouth to say, "I was thinking of 'the Captain's special blend'" when a raised voice cut rudely into his reverie. Moving back to the doorway, he glanced over at the replicator, and saw B'Elanna standing with her arms crossed defensively over her chest. Although he couldn't hear the words, the Captain's tone of voice was definitely starting to get a little shrill. He shuddered, stepped back into the heart of the galley, and seized his lucky mixing spoon. It was time to get to work.


It was hard not to feel proactive now, Chakotay mused with a pleasant sense of achievement, as he sat cross legged on the floor of his quarters. In front of him lay stacks of coffee products he had pilfered from all over the ship. He smiled at the thought of how easy the whole operation had been. From all of the beam outs there had only been one close call, when he dematerialized a packet of Geballian coffee lollies from Ensign Cook's quarters while she was in the same room. Luckily for Chakotay, she had at the time been engaged in a much more enthralling activity involving another crewmen and a game they called Twister, and didn't hear the transporter beam.

As he surveyed the pile of contraband, Chakotay was struck by how addicted to coffee the rest of the crew actually were. He hadn't noticed it before, but here was the proof. The caffeinated products ranged from the more traditional beverages to chocolate covered coffee beans, from sweetened coffee confectionery to some more bizarre items, such as mocha flavoured body paint. Chakotay wondered idly how long it would be before that particular crewman had the courage to report the theft. He couldn't resist chuckling at the mental image of Tuvok reading the security report.

The plethora of loot also reminded him that he'd best put his plan into action sometime soon, before the rest of the crew turned into caffeine-deprived imbeciles. They had only been on field rations for two days, and Kathryn was already snapping at her senior staff left right and centre. Neelix had locked himself in the galley, working feverishly on a new concoction, which Tom for some mysterious reason had started referring to as "I can't believe it's not coffee". No one else apart from the obviously deluded Talaxian held out much hope for his success.

Perhaps it was time now to engage stage two of the plan. Chakotay reviewed the pile once more, and selected a smallish bag of darkly roasted beans he'd stolen from somewhere on deck five. He held the bag up to his nose and breathed in deeply. It smelled like success.

"Well," he said to the pile of contraband, "it's time to set the wheels in motion."

He palmed the bag and stood, whistling as he made his way toward the Captain's ready room, and the gratitude that awaited him there.


He could hear the words already, echoing through his head, as he rode the turbolift to the bridge.

"What would I do without you, Chakotay?"

He smiled whimsically, imagining the exchange...

He stands in front of her desk, humbly awaiting her response. She is still staring, spellbound, at the packet she cradles in her hand. She looks up at him slowly and their eyes meet. Electric sparks fly across the desk. She speaks softly, unwilling to challenge the magic atmosphere of the room.

KATHRYN: I don't believe it.

CHAKOTAY: (smiling benevolently) Believe it.

KATHRYN: You're a saviour. You have no idea how good your timing is. I just got a call from Neelix. He wants to bring up his latest concoction for me to sample.

They share an intimate chuckle at the Talaxian's misguided yet endearing persistence.

CHAKOTAY: I'm just doing my job.

KATHRYN: Your job?

CHAKOTAY: Taking care of the Captain.

She sighs and shakes her head, but the gesture is not an unhappy one.

KATHRYN: What would I do without you, Chakotay?

The turbolift deposited Chakotay onto the bridge. Warmed by his daydream he strode confidently towards the ready room. He held the coffee beans behind his back and stepped through the doors, a smile already etched on his face.

And there he saw Kathryn sitting at her desk, blissfully sipping from her large coffee mug. He blinked. Yes, she was definitely drinking coffee. He stared at her, nonplussed, his smile pitifully frozen in place. She raised her eyes to meet his.

"Commander", she said affably, barely releasing her lips' hold on the mug. "What can I do for you?"

"Kathryn", he said, at a loss how to respond now that his prepared script seemed to be obsolete. "You're drinking coffee."

She smiled. "You won't believe what happened..."


Chakotay blinked a few times and with a superhuman effort managed to break his mouth free from its frozen smile.

"Tell me", he said.

Kathryn took a long draught of her coffee, sighing with satisfaction as the warm liquid trickled down her throat. Chakotay watched her dumbly, his mind racing.

My quarters, he thought. She must have found the coffee in my quarters. She must know that I was hoarding it! He hadn't even bothered to hide the booty from sight, given that it had been months since Kathryn had set foot inside his rooms. But how had she known it was in there at all? He had set up a tricorder next to the pile which sent out a scattering signal, blocking any other instruments from reading the presence of the coffee products, just in case anyone should run a scan of the ship. It seemed a safe precaution, given that he used the tricorder to find where everyone else kept their coffee in the first place.

Had she stumbled upon the loot by accident, while looking for him? That seemed too ridiculous (or to hopeful) to be true. Or perhaps she had smelt the coffee through the wall that separated their rooms? Even less likely. In any case, he froze again in anticipation of a very nasty scolding.

"It was Seven", Kathryn said simply, finally putting her mug down on the desk.

"Seven?" Chakotay repeated feebly. "Seven found the coffee?" What was Seven doing in his quarters? That seemed even more bizarre than Kathryn's presence. At least she used to sneak in there from time to time in the good old days for one reason or another. The Borg didn't sneak anywhere.

To his astonishment Kathryn chuckled. "No, she didn't find it. I replicated it. Seven fixed the replicators."

"Oh", was the best he could manage. "But B'Elanna said the biological components had fused together and they couldn't fix them without re-"

Kathryn waved her hand to stop him. "No, no. Seven just injected the pack with some of her nanoprobes. They fixed the problem with all the other gel packs, which fixed the replicator system." She gestured to the now empty coffee mug. "Which has fixed my problem."

"Oh", he said again.

She beamed at him, obviously cheered by the turn events had taken. "So, what was it that you wanted?"

"Oh", Chakotay said for a third time. He thought quickly. "I was going to talk to you about the replicators", he said eventually. "I thought we could install some sort of buffer mechanism, so that a fault in one wouldn't spread so easily next time. There isn't any real reason why the auxiliary systems should be so interdependent."

"That's a good idea", she nodded. "Talk to B'Elanna about it."

He nodded glumly. "Yes Ma'am", he said.

Before he turned to exit the room he tried, as unobtrusively as possible, to wedge the coffee beans, literally this time, up the sleeve of his Starfleet issue uniform.

"Nanoprobes", he muttered to himself as he stomped back to the turbolift. "Damn nanoprobes. Is there anything they don't do?"

As the lift doors hissed shut in front of him he realised he didn't really want to know the answer to that question.


For the next four weeks Chakotay schemed like he had never schemed before. He abandoned any pretext of a social life (although at the moment that didn't seem to be such a great sacrifice) and devoted several hours of every day to his new goal: winning the Captain's appreciation. It was a hard task. Perhaps a lesser man would have given up after the first few disasters. Perhaps some might have even admitted the possibility of a pathological or obsessive quality to their recent behaviour. Indeed, had there actually been a counselor aboard Voyager, she or he may have noticed Chakotay's descent into intrigue fixation and stepped in to help him. Or at least to point him in the direction of someone not afraid to bellow, "Stop, you crazy man". As it was, most of the crew came to him with their personal problems. Which left him in an unenviable position. Counselor, heal thyself!

If none of Chakotay's crewmates noticed his odd behaviour it could be attributed to the fact that sneakiness had become an integral part of his daily routine. It was fairly inevitable then that he would be sneaky about his sneakiness as well.

In any case, Voyager's first officer now devoted a significant amount of his time to various plots and ploys. For the most part this involved setting up a mishap of some kind. Then he would conceal himself nearby with the solution to the quandary in hand - sometimes literally - ready to leap to the rescue. Unfortunately for Chakotay the problem was invariably eliminated before he got there. More often then not by Seven of Nine.

On a few occasions other crewmembers noticed the problem first and took action to correct it. Much to his disgust and dismay, Chakotay discovered an annoying tendency among the crew to perform gallant acts at the drop of a proverbial hat. One time, for example, he had disabled the fire suppression system in the galley, then rigged some of Neelix's equipment to create a carefully timed spark. When the hapless Talaxian moved to use his flambé pan a small fire would start. Chakotay crouched just around the corner, clutching a manual fire extinguisher, coiled for action. The element in this matrix he didn't count on was Ensign Murphy, who was heading to the holodeck to visit to the gym, and had just stopped by to pick up a high energy sports drink. He didn't realise that Murphy would be standing in front of the counter with a non-flammable towel draped over his shoulder. Or that at the first sign of trouble he would heroically leap into the kitchen and throw his towel onto the fire, smothering it in an instant.

His greatest problem however was definitely Seven. The "coffee incident", as he thought of it now, had been the first in a long chain of episodes where nanoprobes saved the day. Seven seemed willing to nonchalantly inject them into failed machinery with almost the same frequency that most crewmembers changed their underpants. By week two he had secretly started to refer to her as "damned Wonder Woman". The name came from a piece of 20th century superhero trivia Tom Paris had passed onto him once when he was not in the slightest bit interested. The moniker came in handy now though. When Seven stepped in to prevent an overactive replicator flooding someone's quarters with berry-flavoured synthahol, he muttered "damned Wonder Woman" from between clenched teeth. When she corrected a flaw in the navigation console which would have stranded Voyager for about a day inside a nebula, he rolled his eyes and mumbled, "damned Wonder Woman".

By the end of week four he had come to one certain conclusion. If he wanted to be the one to go home with the glory, so to speak, he'd have to shuffle Seven out of the way first. Although at odd moments the possibility of actually causing her serious injury did appeal to his darker side, he decided on a less shameful course of action. He would send Seven on an away mission.

The ex-Maquis' perspective was so warped by this stage that he decided that as he had been waiting so long to be feted, a high order catastrophe-come-rescue was required. Hence the deal with the two devious aliens from the planet Kheva.

Voyager was actually nowhere near the planet Kheva when Chakotay struck this deal, as the aliens were presently hiding from authorities for previous involvement in other assorted devious activities. In Chakotay's blinkered eyes this made them the perfect candidates for his latest Grand Plan. He had by this stage started thinking of it as a "Grand Plan", capitalization and all.

What the Grand Plan involved was this: the alien ship would secretly come upon Voyager's position, provided to them before hand by Chakotay. Although it was much smaller and less well armed, they would use the element of surprise to knock out the shields, and some other minor systems to make the hit on the shields appear accidental. On the bridge, Chakotay would claim he knew an old Maquis trick that might give them an edge. He would transmit the shield frequencies for the enemy ship that the devious Khevans supplied him with, on the understanding that he would prevent Voyager from doing serious damage to their vessel. They would then apologize profusely, claim a misunderstanding, and offer an appropriate amount of reparations. This would come out of the sum Chakotay had given them as payment.

It was a neat little plan, but like many neat little plans, it didn't reckon with one important factor - a woman called Kathryn Janeway.


In its early stages the Grand Plan seemed to be going quite well. When the alien vessel appeared out of nowhere and began firing on Voyager, no one looked prepared. No one, of course, except for Chakotay, who sat tensely in his chair on the bridge, trying desperately not to grin.

Kathryn barked out the order to raise shields.

"Shields are inoperable", Tuvok reported placidly from the security station, ducking his head slightly as a piece of titanium flew past his pointy ears.

"Return fire", she ordered, "target their power generators and weapons array."

"Wait!" Chakotay cried, leaping out of his chair. Kathryn looked up at him in apparent astonishment.

"Wait for what, Commander?" she snapped.

"I know an old Maquis trick!" he exclaimed gleefully, and ran up to one of the science stations.

Kathryn blinked in surprise at the sight of her animated first officer. As the other vessel had stopped firing and was merely hanging in space in front of them, she ordered Tuvok to hold his fire.

"I forgot about that", she said, peering around at her security chief.

"Forgot what, Captain?" Tuvok asked mildly.

She gestured towards her XO who was frantically typing commands into the science console. "How dynamic he can look when he's actually doing something. Something useful, I mean."

Tuvok nodded in understanding. "It has been a while," he remarked. "Shall I return fire now?"

"No", she said, "don't do that. Why don't you get ready to transmit the-"

By sheer coincidence at that precise moment the console Chakotay was working on exploded, sending him flying backwards over the rail and over the top of the command chairs. He landed on the carpet in front of Kathryn with a painful thud.

"Oof", he said. And thus ended the Commander's act of heroism for the time being.

Kathryn poked his limp body with the toe of her boot. "Change of plans," she hissed over her shoulder to Tuvok. He nodded his reply. Kathryn ordered a medical team to report to the bridge. "And open a channel to that vessel", she added.

"Captain?" Harry frowned in confusion, and glanced from Chakotay's inert form to the previously belligerent vessel, which now merely sat there humming on the view screen.

"Hail them", she repeated.

"Aye", said Harry, and pressed the appropriate button. "Channel open."

"This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. We know precisely what you are up to. Power down your weapons *immediately*."

All eyes on the bridge - except those belonging to Chakotay, who still lay slumped in a groaning heap at her feet - turned towards her. She ignored them and hailed the recalcitrant vessel again.

"I repeat", she growled, "I know what you have planned. Cease your attack and you will not be harmed."

After a few seconds hesitation Harry reported, "Getting a reply Captain".

"Put it on screen".

The face of the Khevan brigand appeared on the view screen. Despite his alien physiology it appeared as if he too were confused by the situation.

"Captain", he said hesitatingly, "it appears were have a misunderstanding."

At the sound of his familiar voice Chakotay moaned and tried to sit up, rubbing his forehead with a sooty palm. Kathryn rose out of her seat and stepped carefully over him, shooting a mild death glare at the view screen as she did so. The Khevan moved backwards an inch involuntarily. "That we do", she replied politely.

"You see", the alien went on, attempting to carry on with The Plan, "We thought you were a Birrani ship. They are renowned for -"

"Captain", the Captain said, cutting him off in mid platitude. "We both know that you're outgunned. Why don't we talk about what we both really want."

Chakotay managed to pull himself up to a sitting position and glanced blearily at the viewscreen.

"Shields are now at full capacity", Tuvok reported calmly.

"Thankyou Tuvok", Kathryn said, not taking her eyes of the screen. "Pass on my congratulations to the repair teams we had standing by."

The Khevan swallowed and made a face as though tasting something extremely unpleasant. "Alright", he said uncertainly. "What do you want, Captain?"

Kathryn spread her arms out as she spoke. "I think I'd settle for... I don't know... how about-" she threw a quick look behind her at her injured XO "-you give me Commander Chakotay's money back."

"What?", Chakotay exclaimed, momentarily forgetting his pain.

"What?" the alien echoed, blinking his multiple eyelids rapidly. "I don't know what you are talking about. We've never-"

"Oh come now, Captain", she said sweetly. "I think given the circumstances - your unprovoked attack, us having greater firepower, our shields being operational again," she ticked the items off on her fingers, "Commander Chakotay knowing the precise modulation of your shields", she trailed off, leaving the inventory unfinished.

The alien glared at Chakotay with multi-eyed venom. "You tricked us!" he declared.

"I what?" said Chakotay, who was still quite disorientated from his impromptu flight across the bridge. He was saved from any further confusion by the arrival of the med team, who promptly sedated him then helped him into the turbolift.

"Perhaps we could come to some sort of arrangement", Kathryn offered. "You give us the money back, and we won't send a message to Khevan security telling them precisely where the two of you are docking your ship these days."

The Khevan captain flapped his mouth at her soundlessly, then cut off the transmission with a disdainful snort. Moments later a shimmering sound similar to their own transporter beam deposited a small bag on the navigation console.

"Thankyou Mr. Paris," Kathryn said, as she smoothly scooped it up and tucked it under one arm.

"Anytime", replied the bemused pilot who, being a seasoned schemer himself, was rapidly putting together two and two. He came up with the following equation:


Tom chuckled softly to himself. He'd have to design a whole range of figurines for this incident. One with a rocket booster in its shoes, to simulate his less than graceful trajectory across the bridge. One with a minor head injury. One with the Captain's shoe print clearly visible on its butt.

"Did I just miss something?" Harry called out from Ops.

"Yes Ensign", Tuvok and Tom replied in unison, "you did."

The Captain turned and smiled at Harry. "Don't worry, Mr. Kim", she said. "Sometimes it isn't easy staying on top of everything. That's why it's my job." She nodded at Tuvok as she strolled to the lift. "You have the bridge, Tuvok. I'll be in sickbay."

Tuvok's raised eyebrow in return reflected his near hysterical laughter, as Vulcan expressions go.


Chakotay stared up at the ceiling, wondering if it was at all possible for things to get any worse. He seriously doubted it. His head was still moderately sore, although the doctor assured him that his injuries were not serious. His Grand Plan had without question turned out to be a Complete Mess. His Captain stood beside him, eyeing him silently.

"How did you know", he mumbled eventually, when she had broken his will to resist with her uncharacteristic patience.

"It was the coffee," Kathryn replied, smiling down at him.

He frowned in bewilderment. "Coffee?"

She nodded and rested a hand on his arm. "You were talking to yourself in your quarters the night you stole all the coffee. The walls are quite thin you know", she added. "I heard what you were planning to do with it."

Chakotay felt a beetroot coloured stain spreading up his ears and across his dark cheeks. He couldn't bring himself to look at her. "You knew all along", he accused sullenly.

"What sort of Captain would I be if I didn't?" she said.

"And you just let me carry on?" he asked.

She shrugged. "You never did any serious harm. We had to be careful with the Khevans because Tuvok and I had no idea when they would attack. We thought we could handle them pretty easily. And before that," she went on, patting his shoulder, "I didn't think the ship was really ever in any danger. I had Seven keeping an eye on you for the past few weeks, just in case."

He was silent for a good while, thinking some extremely uncharitable thoughts about the ex-Borg. The phrase "damned Wonder Woman" made multiple appearances.

"Why did you let me keep going?" he asked suddenly. "Why not just throw me in the brig?"

Kathryn shrugged again. "I didn't want to", she said simply. "And to be honest, you seemed to be enjoying yourself."

"Enjoying myself?"

"Sure", she said. "Before about a month ago you were acting like you were bored to death with the routine of your job. You never had anything really exhilarating to do. I thought all the finagling you've been up to lately would cheer you up some."

Chakotay lay in stunned silence, thinking about how badly he had underestimated his Captain, and his friend. Then he said softly, "I was talking to the coffee."

Kathryn's nose wrinkled in confusion. "What?"

"When you heard me talking in my quarters", he explained, still not meeting her eyes, "I was chatting to the coffee, not to myself."

"I see", she said, although she patently didn't, for fairly obvious reasons.

That remark hung in the air for a few heartbeats. This time Kathryn broke the silence.

"You're a silly man, you know", she observed. This time he did look at her.

"I'm what?"

"A silly man. And somewhat peculiar at times", she said, offering what was perhaps the understatement of the month. Chakotay felt a fuzzy wave of confusion threatening to reconquer his mind. Kathryn watched him carefully, her face unreadable.

"I was hoping for dinner", she said with a sigh, when her patience finally ran out.

"Dinner?" he echoed feebly.

"Or maybe a few more lunches. Even a few more breakfasts. Some more time together on the holodeck. Something simple," she said. "And I got Chakotay, crazed action man". She shook her head and grinned wryly. "I should have known."

"I don't-"

Kathryn sighed, realising she needed to join the dots for him. "When I made that crack about you not being worth the Deyleff captain's money a month ago", she explained patiently.

"You did that on purpose!" he blurted, finally seeing the light.

She waved her hands in the air in frustration. "How else was I supposed to get you to show a bit of initiative?" she asked. "I just wanted you to liven up a bit. I didn't expect such-"

"An over reaction?" he supplied.

"I was going to say lunacy", she said. Given the circumstances, Chakotay couldn't really argue with that.

He sighed. "So what's going to happen now?" he asked resignedly. Visions of a six month stint in the brig beckoned.

"We'll talk about it in more detail later on, when you're rested", she said.

"Great", he said dejectedly. Four months at least, going by that tone of voice.

"In the meantime", Kathryn went on more brightly, "I have a present for you." He started to sit up. "No don't", she said, pressing his shoulder down again with one hand. "Here."

She reached out with the other and rested something light on his chest. Chakotay closed his fingers around it, then picked up the object and held it within his line of sight. He groaned involuntarily. It was Tom's figurine, with its head clumsily reattached.

"I fixed it for you", she said cheerfully.

Chakotay rolled his eyes. "Really", he said. "What does it do now?"

"Not much more", she admitted. "But he is a good listener."

"I appreciate the thought-" he began.

"There's more", Kathryn said, and put another object of similar weight on his stomach. This time when his large fingers closed around and lifted it he could see it was a similarly dressed figure. This one was a woman though, and she was standing, hefting a large compression phaser rifle in one hand and a silver mug in the other. He couldn't help chuckling at the small effigy.

"Let me take a wild and crazy guess", he said, "this one's you."

"You bet", she said, smiling.

"And this one does-?"

"Pretty much everything", Kathryn said mildly, "except for the cooking, naturally."

"Naturally", he agreed.

She took the figurines from him and placed them carefully side by side on the portable table the doctor had left next to the biobed.

"See", she said, "they're a perfect match".

His voice caught in his throat and whatever he had been about to say in reply was lost somewhere in the ether. She leaned over and kissed him softly on the forehead. "Take it easy, action man", she said, and then left him alone with his thoughts.

After she had gone he spent some time gazing at the figures on the table before he picked them up and began playing with them. At first they had a melodramatic fight. Then of course they had to make up. Then he rested them on his stomach and began writing a little screenplay for them. It went something like this:

CHAKOTAY: I'm sorry I've been such an idiot.

KATHRYN: You should be. You're a crazy loon sometimes.

CHAKOTAY: Isn't there anything I can do to make it up to you?

KATHRYN: Well - (she pauses and thinks for a beat) - I *would* like to know where I could get hold of some Geballian coffee lollies.

CHAKOTAY: (Smiling) I think I might be able to help you there.

KATHRYN: (Smiling too) Thanks, Chakotay. I don't know what I'd do without you.

The End.

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