Disclaimer: Paramount owns it all. They never let them have fun though.
Thanks to Bodie for the initial idea, which he thought was too crazy to write about (like that has stopped me before, hmm?) and for feeding me drinks while I was writing. And for the corrections to my awful odds calculations. Hey, margarita...
Summary: Neelix decides he wants to play matchmaker, and finds Kathryn and Chakotay oddly willing to go along with his plans.
Chakotay put his empty coffee cup down on the table just as Neelix tentatively approached him, padd in hand.
"Hello Commander. Busy day?"
"The usual." He put down the padd he had been reading. "What can I do for you, Neelix?"
"There's something I wanted to talk to you about. Well, to ask your permission for, actually."
"You know that as morale officer I see it as my duty to promote happiness among the crew," Neelix began.
"Yes Neelix, and you're very good at it."
"Thankyou, Commander. I do my best." He went on. "You know that sometimes I organize certain functions to promote goodwill, encourage people to have a good time and to socialize with other crew members."
"You want permission to hold a party?"
"No, actually I was thinking of something a little different this time."
"Oh, what's that?"
Neelix took a deep breath. "I would like to set up a dating agency."
Chakotay blinked in surprise. "A what?"
"A dating agency Commander. I've been reviewing a federation historical database, and I discovered that they used to be quite popular on earth."
"I know what they are Neelix. But a dating agency? On Voyager? Are you sure we really need one?"
"I know what you're thinking Commander, but it isn't as sordid as it sounds. It's really about getting people together who have similar interests, encouraging them to meet new people. It can be about making friends as well, not just pairing off couples."
"We only have a crew of a hundred and forty six, Neelix. It's like living in a small town. Everybody already knows everybody else."
"By name, or by sight perhaps. But that doesn't mean that people actually socialize outside their immediate circle of friends. Mr. Rogers for example, spends most of his time with other people from Engineering. Just because they're the people he knows."
Chakotay looked skeptical.
"Sometimes it can take effort to make new friends, Commander. To step outside the routines that you're comfortable with. I'd just like to give people a little encouragement, that's all."
"I might have to discuss this with the Captain."
Neelix beamed. "I knew you'd approve, Commander."
"I didn't say yes yet, Neelix."
"No, of course not." He was only mildly subdued.
"I have put some thought into this. I've already made up a list of people I'm going to encourage to join."
Neelix handed Chakotay a padd. He picked it up and started scrolling down the names.
"Kimball is dating Cook", Chakotay remarked.
"Really? I didn't know that. Cross him off then."
Chakotay stopped reading and looked up at Neelix.
"You are joking, aren't you?"
"The Captain's name is on this list."
"So is yours Commander. You're both 'footloose and fancy free' singles."
"That doesn't mean we're just waiting for you to play matchmaker, Neelix."
"No. But this list is only for people that I'm going to talk to about the idea. You're all free to say no."
"Then I say no."
"You don't even want to think about it?"
"Neelix, I handle all the personnel duties for the crew. I know every single person on this ship."
Neelix leaned forward and raised his bushy eyebrows.
"And there isn't anyone you have your eye on?"
Chakotay opened his mouth to reply, but Neelix held up a hand to stop him. "No, don't tell me yet. I want to wait until I have my database up and running."
Neelix stood to leave. "I also have to make up some forms for people to fill out."
"So the computer can calculate compatibility," he explained patiently.
"I see," said Chakotay, who didn't see at all.
"I'll go and do that, while you're running the idea past the captain."
With that, he dashed off.
Chakotay shook his head. A dating agency on a Starfleet ship. What next?
"Come in", Kathryn called out.
Chakotay entered her quarters, smiling at the sight of her stretched out on her sofa with a large mug of coffee cradled in her hands.
"Have you two got room for my company?" he joked.
"Sure." She slid her legs off the couch onto the floor and moved over so that he could sit down beside her.
"Want something to drink?"
"I'll get it." He said, dropping his padd onto her coffee table.
When he returned with some tea she gestured towards the padd. "What's this?"
"The highlight of my day so far," he replied dryly.
"Oh? I'm intrigued."
"Neelix wants to set up a dating agency."
"He wants to what?" She nearly spat her coffee back into the cup.
"It gets better. He's drawn up that list of the people he wants to encourage to join. I'm on it."
"Are you?" She raised an eyebrow suggestively. "I didn't know you were looking for love, Chakotay."
"You're on it too," he replied.
"You're joking." She put her mug down and picked up the padd.
"That's what I said to Neelix."
She scrolled down the padd to check for herself.
"Are you sure its not April the first?"
She waved her hand. "It's an old earth tradition. April the first was called April fool's day. It was a day for practical jokes, mostly."
"Tom would love that," Chakotay observed.
"What is Neelix thinking?"
"He's thinking that the crew don't socialize enough out of their own circle of work mates or usual friends. He thinks this might be a good way for them to get to know nodding acquaintances better," he recited.
She raised an eyebrow at him again.
"I know, that's what my reaction was. But he says it isn't just about pairing people off."
"And who exactly is he intending to 'not pair me off' with?"
"He didn't say. But, knowing Neelix, I imagine it would be me."
She laughed. "Great. That's a bit of a lost cause isn't it?"
He grinned at her. "Well, Neelix doesn't know, that does he?"
"I guess not."
She was silent for a moment, and he watched her bent head quietly.
"Kathryn?" he said, reaching over to stroke her hair. "What are you thinking?"
"Mmm?" She reached up and took his hand, kissing his knuckle before letting it go.
"Actually," she said, "I was thinking that maybe the easiest way to put Neelix off would be just to tell him the truth."
"Are you sure?"
She shrugged. "It's been seven months now Chakotay. I think we have enough evidence that our relationship isn't just another fling."
"I never thought it was," he said softly.
She smiled. "No. Neither did I."
"So you think we should tell the crew about us?"
"Well, I wasn't thinking of making a ship-wide announcement. I thought we could just tell Neelix, and that would get us out of this hare-brained scheme of his."
He chuckled. "And that would be different to making a ship-side announcement how...?"
She grinned back at him. "I see your point."
She chewed her thumbnail thoughtfully for a moment.
"Actually, I have some other news about us that you might find interesting," she said.
"Oh? What's that?"
She leaned over the coffee table, and extracted a padd from near the top of a pile.
"Here," she said, handing it to him.
"What is this?"
"They're the latest list of odds from Tom Paris' betting pool."
"Where did you get this?"
"Never mind that. I'm the Captain, aren't I?"
"Yes ma'am," he said with a grin.
"Look at this." She pointed towards the bottom of the screen.
"One hundred to one?" he said incredulously.
"I know," she giggled. "It's great isn't it. Mr. Paris is such an optimist, he still thinks you have some chance."
"This has to be the worst they've been for months."
"Well," she shrugged, "we did stop having breakfast together in the mess hall."
"That's because we've been having breakfast here."
"I know." She said, stroking his arm. "But they don't know that."
Chakotay pursed his lips thoughtfully.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
He put the padd down on the table next to Neelix's.
"That maybe this is a chance to kill two birds with one stone."
"I'm afraid I'm not following you."
"We could find a way to get Neelix off our backs, let the crew know about our relationship, and put an end to Tom's little betting pool on us all at once."
"That's three birds," she observed.
"Alright, three birds then. Don't tell me you're not salivating at the idea of fleecing Mr. Paris."
She laughed. "Whatever it is you're thinking of, I'm listening."
"Well", Chakotay said resting his hand comfortably on her knee, "what I thought we could do is start by saying yes to Neelix's idea..."
Neelix hurried over to the table where Kathryn was sitting eating her dinner and reading from a padd.
"I didn't see you come in Captain," he said.
"I snuck in when you weren't looking."
"Do you mind if I join you?" he asked, ignoring her joke.
"Of course not."
Neelix pulled out a chair and sat down opposite her.
Kathryn continued to eat, trying to repress her curiosity about just how Neelix would choose to start this particular conversation.
"I couldn't help noticing that you're eating dinner alone tonight, Captain," he said.
Kathryn raised her eyebrows. She hadn't expected this approach.
She shrugged. "Sometimes I like to eat alone."
"Of course, Captain."
He played with his fingers nervously. "Did Commander Chakotay have a chance to talk to you about my idea?"
"Your idea?" she asked innocently.
He leaned forward to speak quietly. "The dating agency."
"Oh, the dating agency," she said loudly. Neelix winced.
"I haven't talked to any of the crew about it yet, Captain. I wanted to wait for your approval first."
He mentally began to ready himself for the Captain's objections.
"I think it's a great idea Neelix."
"What?" he said, nonplussed.
"You have my permission to go ahead. Getting the crew to mingle, meet other people they might not in their daily routines, it all sounds very wholesome, " Kathryn replied, trying to keep a straight face.
"Oh," said Neelix. "Well, that's wonderful."
He fidgeted a little longer.
"Was there something else?"
"Actually, Captain there was. You see, I'm drawing up a list of people I thought might benefit from my help. People who don't get to mingle as much as they might. People who are too busy, for example."
"That's a good idea," she said.
"And I was wondering if you would like to join."
"Me?" Kathryn did her best to appear surprised.
"Neelix," she said, waving her fork, "I know everyone on this ship. I don't really need to be introduced to anyone."
"It's not just about introductions, Captain." He pushed a padd towards her.
"I've drawn up this questionnaire about likes and dislikes, habits, hobbies, and so on. And I have computer programme that will help me match up people who have similar interests."
"A computer matchmaker?"
"Well, in a sense, yes."
"I don't know Neelix..."
"You could always fill in the form, and I'll go and do the analysis and tell you the results. Then you could make up your mind."
She hesitated a few minutes longer.
"Alright," she said eventually. "But I don't want the crew to know about this. This is to be strictly confidential."
"Of course Captain", Neelix said, beaming. "You can trust me with a secret."
She smiled. "Of course."
"I'll leave this with you," he said, gesturing to the padd.
As Neelix walked away, Kathryn picked up the padd and began reading.
Question One: what attributes do you consider important in a partner?
She thought for a moment, then smiling, began to type.
He should be tall, dark and handsome...
"Tom!" B'Elanna literally pulled him inside their quarters.
"You're happy to see me, huh?" he grinned and kissed her.
"Of course," she said, pulling him over to the couch. "But this is more important. Have you heard the news?"
"Neelix's dating agency."
"Oh yeah. He was asking me what he should call it. He was keen on 'Voyager Lonely Hearts', for some reason. I was trying to talk him out of it."
"Good move. Did you know that the captain signed up?"
"What!" He shook his head. "No, I didn't hear that."
"Ayala said he heard Neelix talking to Seven about it. She was refusing to participate at the time. He was trying to use the captain as an example of why she should join."
"I can't believe she would do that," he said.
"Seven would never join up. She was adamant about that."
"No, I meant the Captain. I can't believe she'd agree to this. She must be up to something."
"What could she be up to?"
"I don't know. I hate not knowing what's happening if there's scheming afoot."
Tom ignored her amused expression.
"You know," he said thoughtfully, "someone put a bet on the Janeway and Chakotay betting pool yesterday."
"Really?" She frowned. "I thought the odds were awful for them getting together now."
"They are. They're up to a hundred and twenty to one."
"Well, maybe somebody figured that Neelix might try and set her up with Chakotay. You know how he can't keep a secret for more than ten nanoseconds."
"That's kind of a long shot isn't it? I mean, it's the sort of thing that Neelix would do, but that doesn't mean that anything would come of one date."
"Maybe this person knows something that you don't."
"Well, whoever it was, they bet fifty replicator rations on them."
"Fifty? That's pretty confident."
"Pretty insane is what it is."
"Do you know who it was?"
"No. Naomi brought the bet to me. She said the person who talked to her wanted to remain anonymous."
"Did you try and talk it out of her?"
"Of course I did. That kid has a mouth like a steel trap when she doesn't want to give something away."
"Well, I'll put some feelers out, see what I can find out off the grapevine."
"I might go and talk to Harry about it. See if he's heard anything."
"Alright." She kissed him again, then sank back into the couch thoughtfully as Tom left the room.
Kathryn fidgeted with her napkin, glancing around the holodeck. Neelix had created an elegant restaurant for her dinner date tonight, but when he went to tell her who her computer match had been, she stopped him.
"Why not let it be a surprise, Neelix?" she suggested.
Of course, it was no surprise. She already knew that Chakotay would be joining her shortly. She had, after all, just seen him in her quarters while she was dressing.
"Do you think my date will approve?" she asked, hands on hips.
Chakotay took in her appearance with a smile - she was wearing a dark blue evening gown with thin straps and a low neckline. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close to his body.
"I think your date will think you look amazing," he said, kissing her softly on the neck.
As though thinking about him had hastened his appearance, Chakotay entered the holodeck. He too was clad in formal clothing, a dark suit with a crisp white shirt beneath it. She smiled appreciatively.
"Definitely got the handsome part right," she murmured to herself.
"Hi there," he said, as he approached the table.
"Hi yourself," she replied.
He sat down and leaned over towards her. "Are you all ready for the performance?"
"You bet. You?"
He nodded. "Are you sure we have an audience?"
She smiled. "Luckily for us, Mr. Neelix can be quite predictable at times. He's left some spies in the room. Ensigns Cook and Kimball are eating dinner at the table over in the far corner," she said, gesturing slightly with her head.
"Alright." He smiled back at her. "Well, maybe we should eat a little something first. Get our strength up."
He passed her a menu.
They waited until after the main course before they started the fight.
B'Elanna picked up her plate and headed over to the table where Tom and Harry sat eating their lunch.
"Hi you two," she said. "How's it going?"
They looked at each other before Harry turned back to her and said, "You haven't heard?"
"Heard what?" She glanced at Tom. "What's up?"
"The Captain and the Commander went on their little date last night, just as Neelix planned."
"They actually went through with it?" She said, surprised.
"I guess it was just to placate Neelix," Harry said. "They both just seemed to be playing along with his agency scheme like it was a game."
"Halfway through dinner they got into an enormous fight. It started as an mild argument, then all of a sudden they were yelling at each other. The Commander tipped over his plate, and the Captain ended up throwing wine at him and storming out of the holodeck." Tom said.
"How do you know all this?" B'Elanna asked.
"Ensign Cook was there", Harry replied. "She saw it all."
"And we had to put up with them on the bridge," Tom complained
"They're fighting on the bridge?"
"No, they're just not talking to each other. Very noticeably not talking to each other," Harry said. "The tension in there's so bad you'd swear either one of them was about to start breaking furniture."
"On each other," Tom added.
"What were they fighting about?"
"Cook said she wasn't sure. But it seemed pretty hostile."
"Well," B'Elanna said, "so much for your betting pool. Whoever that hopeless romantic is who's still betting is going to be losing a whole lot of credits."
"You can say that again," Tom said. "The odds have gone up again. Its a hundred and fifty to one now."
"So that old bet doesn't stand then."
"No. " Tom shook his head. "Whoever this crazy person is, they just put another bet on. Doubled their rations."
"Double? Tom, how could you let them do that? You might as well just pocket the rations straight away."
"I know. I told Naomi that, but she said she was told 'no negotiations'."
B'Elanna frowned and stabbed at her lunch. "Something very odd is going on."
Tom shrugged. " I just wish Neelix had never come up with this stupid matchmaking service. It was a disaster waiting to happen."
"I still don't understand why the Captain agreed to sign on in the first place," B'Elanna said.
Tom sighed. "Neither do I. Neelix seemed to think she was just trying to set an example for other people to follow."
He shrugged again. "You're telling me. Come on Harry, we'd better get back to the bridge."
Harry made a face. "Maybe we should put some protective clothing on."
"Surely it can't be that bad," B'Elanna said.
Tom blanched. "You have no idea."
Chakotay sat in the captain's chair, glaring at Tom, Harry, Tuvok (who was of course invulnerable to his wrath), his terminal, the view screen, in fact pretty much everything within his field of vision. He hadn't realised how much effort it would take to look so grumpy all the time. Thankfully he was saved from further surliness by the chirp of his communicator.
"Commander Chakotay, report to my ready room immediately."
Tom jumped noticeably at the steel in the Captain's voice.
Chakotay made a face and said, "Tuvok, you have the bridge."
"Aye, sir," the Vulcan responded.
"Good luck," Tom muttered under his breath as Chakotay walked towards the ready room.
"What was that, Mr. Paris?" he snapped.
"Nothing sir." Tom replied.
He glared once more at everyone on the bridge before entering the ready room. Once inside, he let out a breath and slumped next to Kathryn on the couch.
"I didn't realise how draining all this hostility would be," he admitted.
"But you do it so well," she said, leaning over to kiss him.
"Thankyou," he said. "But I think your patented death glare leaves everyone on this ship behind."
She laughed. "Alright. Enough flattery. How's the plan going."
"Fine. Naomi placed my last bets this morning. And Neelix has been creeping around the mess hall like he's afraid to show his face anywhere else on the ship."
"I think I overheard one of the crewmen saying that the agency would be suffering a premature demise."
"I'm glad to hear it. Not that I don't appreciate initiative in my crew..."
"I know. Just not in this direction."
"So, when do we pull the rug out from under Mr. Paris?"
"I was thinking tomorrow morning", he said, squeezing her hand. "Let's make them sweat a little bit longer."
She grinned. "I knew there was some reason I liked you."
"Just the one?" he said, kissing her softly on the lips.
"One or two," she admitted, then kissed him again.
Harry rushed through the doors to the mess hall, and on sighting Tom sitting in a corner table, hurried over to him.
"Tom. I'm glad I found you," he said breathlessly.
"What's up, Harry?"
"I've got incredible news."
Tom poked his breakfast distractedly. "Oh? What's that?"
"This morning, I was walking along the corridor and I happened to go past the Captain's quarters."
"Good for you."
"Shut up and listen, will you Tom?" Harry said. "I saw the Commander leaving her quarters just as I was heading around the corner."
"So? He went to see her in the morning before the shift started. What's the big deal?"
"He was wearing boxer shorts, Tom," Harry said slowly.
"What?" Tom stopped still and stared at him.
"It was pretty obvious that he just got up," Harry added.
For once Tom appeared lost for words.
"So it looks like they made up from their fight," Harry went on. "I mean, really made up."
Just then the mess hall doors opened and the two subjects of their conversation walked in. They were holding hands.
Tom swallowed hard.
Chakotay and Kathryn picked up their breakfast plates from the kitchen then sat down together. As they ate, Chakotay touched her arm twice, and at one point, the Captain definitely pressed Chakotay's hand against her face.
Tom looked ill.
"I think I've been hustled, Harry," he said eventually.
"What do you mean, hustled?"
"They're not making up from a fight," Tom replied.
"How do you know that?"
"I just know. They're together," he said. "Comfortably together. Look at them! And besides, why would he leave her quarters undressed when he could just site to site transport back to his own quarters? He must have wanted someone to see him."
"Tom, that sounds a little paranoid."
Before Tom could respond, Chakotay glanced around and caught them staring in his direction. He grinned and leaned over to say something to Kathryn, who chuckled in response.
"Look at that," Tom hissed, "they're laughing at me."
"You're definitely paranoid, Paris," Harry replied.
Minutes later, both Chakotay and Kathryn stood to leave. Both turned and walked towards Harry and Tom's table first.
"Gentlemen," the Captain said, "good morning."
"Good morning Captain," Harry managed, flushing a little.
Tom could only nod.
"Not hungry, Mr. Paris?" Chakotay asked, indicating his nearly full plate.
"No, not really," he murmured.
"Well if I were you, I'd be getting used to eating mess hall food."
Tom gulped. "Oh?"
"You owe me fifteen thousand replicator credits," Chakotay said.
Harry's mouth fell open.
"Don't worry Mr. Paris, I'm sure we can think of some way you can work them off," Kathryn suggested, grinning wickedly. "There's transporter maintenance..."
"Extra shifts in sickbay", Chakotay suggested.
"Demagnetizing the warp core by hand," Kathryn added. "B'Elanna would appreciate that."
She nudged Chakotay. "Maybe we should come up with a list."
"Sounds like a good idea to me," he agreed.
"I'll see you on the bridge," she said, nodding at Tom and Harry.
She touched Chakotay's arm and they strolled off together.
"I'm paranoid?" Tom said.
"You got me," Harry replied. He thought for a moment, then added. "If you're right, and they were a couple already, how long do you think they've been sneaking around for?"
"I don't know. I'd bet a couple of months at least."
Harry stood up to leave, and leant over to rest his hand on Tom's shoulder.
"I wouldn't be doing any betting any time soon if I were you, Paris."
As Harry left, Neelix hurried over to Tom's table.
"Did you see that, Mr. Paris?" he asked excitedly.
"The Captain and Mr. Chakotay. They looked rather friendly don't you think?"
Tom merely gave him a dirty look.
"So my matchmaking worked out after all." Neelix grinned with satisfaction.
Tom sighed. "Neelix. They sit next to each other on the bridge almost every day. They have coffee in her ready room almost every afternoon. They have breakfast together on a regular basis. They eat dinner together twice a week. Their quarters are next to each other. What exactly do you think you contributed to getting them together?"
Neelix's face fell a little. "Well," he began, thinking hard. "Now that you put it like that, I don't really know."
"Exactly." He stood.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but you've been about as successful as you would have been trying to get me and B'Elanna together."
Neelix blinked at him. "But you're married. You're already together."
Tom slapped him on the arm. "Congratulations, Neelix."
The Talaxian sighed. "Well," he said to himself as Tom left the mess hall. "There's always Seven of Nine I suppose..."
His eyes brightened at the thought of that challenge, and he bustled off to the kitchen, whistling cheerfully.
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