Disclaimer: Voyager and her recognizable characters belong to Paramount. The Aliens are unfortunately mine. Please feel free to kidnap and torture them. Seriously, please do and then send me the result.
A/N: Well, they always say write about what you know. I wish I could say that most of this was just the work of my overactive and slightly melodramatic imagination; unfortunately that is not the case. Theatre has that in common with Starfleet; “Weird is part of the job.” Thanks to Kate & Robert, for usually doing better theatre...
This story can also be found on fanfiction.net
“Please tell me you have some good news, Chakotay,” Kathryn Janeway begged of her first officer as he took his seat beside her on the bridge. She really hoped he did. Voyager was in worse shape than she could remember it being in a very long time. Their food stocks were dangerously low, deuterium was at a minimum, they did not have use of replicators, and everyone was on what was left of their last nerve. The worst part was, she had not had coffee in almost a month.
Sure, she had gone through withdrawal in that first initial week or so and her body did not technically need the caffeine now, even after decades of prolonged ingestion. But at this point in her life, coffee was like sex to the Captain (not that she’d ever let anyone in on it); she did not technically need that either, but the memory of how good it was and the desire to have it again was always there. Heavens knew, short of jumping her first officer and best friend, she wasn’t going to get that either (not that she thought he’d mind, but it would be very un-captain-like), at the very least she thought she should not have been denied coffee too.
Chakotay handed her a PADD and smiled, everyone was taking extra precautions where she was concerned, they only hoped it didn’t show too much. “Seven finished scanning that planet we detected the other day and it looks very promising. I’ve had Harry adjust our course accordingly and Neelix has taken a look at the flora and fauna and says that much of it will be of use to us. In fact he is already making a list of what he wants to gather and a proposed dinner menu to go with it.”
Even she had to smile at that, Neelix’s menus were usually a frightening venture into the culinary unknown and a scary thing to think about, but right now anything would beat the leola root broth and ration bars they’d been living off of. Yes, dinner menus could definitely be considered a morale booster at the moment.
Chakotay continued filling her in about the other things they had detected on scanners (even though the PADD she was now holding contained all of that information); about the warp capable society that resided on the planet and how, to quote Tom, ‘the planet just may well be a one stop shopping trip.’
When he finished briefing her, she let out a deep breath in relief, “Wonderful news, let’s just hope the locals are friendly and willing to extend us the courtesy. Estimated arrival?”
“Come on Voyager, just a little bit longer.” She patted the console between their chairs as she spoke. “Hang on.”
Twenty-three hours later, Voyager had already made first contact with the inhabitants of the planet via the view screen. They were a tiny people, very thin and frail looking, calling themselves the Ayruam (ay-ROO-am). Their skin, if you could call it that was pulled taunt against their frail frames and bore an olive complexion. Their facial features were stark and prominent including sunken-in eyes, high and broad cheekbones and sharply bent noses, but otherwise not much unlike humans. They were not large in stature, measuring a good head shorter than Kathryn, but they made up for it in their avidity.
The Ayruam seemed to speak with an air of pretension and added unnecessary emphasis to their words (at least that is what it sounded like through the universal translator), but they did seem genuinely pleased at the prospect of meeting new people and were, to everyone’s relief, willing to negotiate.
Kathryn arranged for a few of the Ayruam to transport aboard for further discussions regarding a trade agreement. She arrived at the transporter room with Chakotay and Neelix in tow.
“Welcome to Voyager. I am Captain Janeway and this is my first officer, Commander Chakotay and our Chief Morale Officer, Ambassador Neelix.”
“Thank you, Captain. I am Stromik, Chair of the Ayruam and this is my aide, Naiel. We are pleased to make your acquaintance and look forward to an entertaining negotiation.”
Chakotay, who was standing behind and out of sight of the two Ayruam mouthed ‘entertainment’ to Kathryn as they shared a look that could only be classified as fear. The command team’s exchange was completely lost on Neelix as he bubbly escorted the Ayruam from the transporter room. Kathryn and Chakotay slowly trailed behind to the briefing room for what would prove to be an interesting negotiation.
“I cannot believe we agreed to this, Chakotay.” Kathryn was pacing the upper level of her ready room. They had just come back from bidding farewell to the aliens that had, after hours of negotiation and the longest tour they had ever given of Voyager, finally beamed back to their planet.
“We didn’t really have a choice, Kathryn. Voyager wouldn’t survive the time it would take us to find another suitable M class planet without all of the supplies that we need.”
“Oh, I know. But this,” she shook the PADD she was holding, “this is quite possibly the worst negotiation I have ever been a part of.”
“They are willing to give us all we’ve asked for, and then some.”
“Yes, but how am I going to get everyone to go along with this?” She shook the PADD again before throwing it down on the coffee table and plopping herself next to him on the couch. “I’ve heard of singing for your supper, but this is ridiculous! God, I need coffee.”
“You’re doing this for coffee, Kathryn. Think of it that way, a command performance for coffee and as to everyone else going along with it, they will because they have to. They may not like it, but they will do it.”
“I know you’re right. I don’t hate it any less, but I know you’re right.”
Early the next morning the command team found themselves planet side waiting at the coordinates that Stromik had given them during the previous evening’s meeting. They were asked to wait there to be escorted by Naiel to the center of town where they would continue the discussions and receive the material they would need to acquaint themselves with after they took a brief tour of the planet.
Naiel was a little late, but Kathryn was enjoying the fresh air, the scenery and, the company. She always enjoyed the company and without it ever needing to be said, knew that he did too. That was just the way it was, they were the best of friends, they had been since she couldn’t exactly remember when in their journey, both wanting more, but content enough in their friendship to not ruin it by pushing for more, for their own sake and the sake of their crew and ship.
They were standing in a beautiful open field covered with wildflowers and lush blue-green grass. Kathryn thought that under different circumstances it would have been a lovely place to spend a day watching Naomi run and her crew relax or better yet, a perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon enjoying a picnic with her best friend. Her musings were cut short by the approach of Naiel who almost snuck up behind them and then led them off on their planetary tour.
They were stuck by the fact that while the Ayruam were a warp capable society, they rarely used that ability, instead devoting most of their time and resources to furthering their first love, the art of theatre and their planet reflected that greatly, most notably at the amphitheatre in the center of town where Stromik was awaiting their arrival. It was surrounded by what looked like enough natural seating to accommodate a small town and it probably had in the past.
Stromik greeted them on sight; arms full with a stack of old fashioned bound books. “Good morning, Captain, Commander. We are so happy you could join us this morning. I have here the materials you will need to familiarize yourself with before we can begin and we must arrange a time to meet with the rest of your crew to choose the best suitable candidates for the roles. You of course Captain, will no doubt be expected to play the protagonist.”
“I beg your pardon?” Kathryn choked on the words.
“We thought that you of course would want to set an example for your crew.”
“Of course.” She smiled to hide her horror.
“Shall we press on?” Stromik asked completely unaware of any apprehension on the part of the Captain. They nodded and Stromik and Naiel led the way.
Chakotay leaned in to whisper to Kathryn. “You’ve done it before. Remember the “Dying Swan”?”
“That was different.”
“For coffee, Kathryn.”
Auditions were held later that day in the mess hall. The Ayruam had taken an instant shine to the Doctor the day before on their tour of the ship as he had exhibited the same theatrical flair as they. They designated him to be the director of the show and asked Mr. Neelix to act as assistant director, to his delight and the Doc’s horror. Neelix was also asked to act as property master as he displayed an uncanny knack for making seemingly useless things useful and he had quite an impressive collection of junk still on his ship. It would be a gold mine for the prop intensive show.
The crew wasn’t as reluctant to participate as Kathryn had feared, although that could have something to do with the fact that Chakotay had threatened them all life and limb with the prospect of far less attractive things before she had even made it back to the ship. The very idea of being locked in a utility closet with their caffeine deprived Captain was definitely impetus in their enthusiasm to go along with it all.
After a day of excruciatingly tedious auditions that involved reading side after side of the scripts, and for the male crew members, the removal of their shirts, the Doctor and the Ayruam finally agreed on a cast.
The small five-person cast consisted of Captain Janeway, Harry Kim, Sam Wildman, Mike Ayala and finally the Doctor as the male lead. He hadn’t wanted to stretch himself too thin but upon seeing the other auditions he knew he was the only one fit to play the role true to his vision (having altered his appearance subroutines to give himself a more defined chest for the semi-shirtless role not far from his photonic mind).
Rehearsals were set to begin right away on the planet as they only had a week and a half to put up the production. Crew members, who were not in the cast, were recruited to help with various aspects such as set-construction, costumes, lighting and sound.
Kathryn had thought that the set would be the easiest aspect of the show as they could just set up holo-emitters in the theatre and create the set they were looking for, the Doctor on the other hand thought that a holographic set would not be authentic enough, the irony of the situation completely lost on him.
Chakotay volunteered to be lead carpenter, happy to have the chance to get his hands busy creating again and the Doc’s set ideas already proved to be a welcome challenge.
Chell was excited about the opportunity to do the costumes and quickly went off with Naiel to look at the many different materials that were at his disposal, the rest of the cast was elated that Neelix was too busy with other aspects of the show to be available to help with wardrobe.
Kathryn asked B’Elanna to be in charge of lighting and sound design and ordered Seven to help her, not that she thought B’Elanna would need the extra help but she wanted to get the young woman involved and working with the others as a team.
The Ayruam prided themselves in the art of theatre, so it came as no surprise to the command team when they were invited to a performance that evening. The surprise came when they realized what it was exactly that the Ayruam considered, to be, art.
Kathryn walked the corridor back to her quarters in a semi-catatonic state. “Please tell me that I did not just waste an hour of my life watching someone sit in a chair and peel a potato.”
“It wasn’t a potato.” Chakotay was ever helpful.
“Okay, let me rephrase that. Please tell me that I did not just waste an hour of my life watching someone sit in a chair and peel this planet’s equivalent of the Terran vegetable known as a potato.”
“I can’t because I’m pretty sure that’s what we just saw.”
“They didn’t even do a good job of peeling it. I mean, I can’t cook, but even I can peel a damn potato!“
“It wasn’t a pota—“
“Shut up, Chakotay.”
“You know what’s worse?”
“Worse than watching someone peel a potato for an hour?” He smiled innocently at her as she leveled a glare at him.
“What’s worse is this show we’re doing. At fist I thought that our systems translated the script wrong. I mean, it sounds like it was written by that little green guy in that movie Tom made us watch on the holodeck a few months ago, you know, the one with absolutely no concept of warp drive and those barbaric light up weapons.”
“Yeah. Like Yoda reading Shakespeare.”
“An interesting description, Kathryn. Unfortunately it’s also strikingly accurate.”
They reached their respective quarters and parted ways. Hoping for a decent night’s sleep before they started the rehearsal process bright and early in the morning.
The first few days of the rehearsal process began without much of a hitch. They all tried to fall into a routine that allowed for set construction to begin in the early morning hours on the site and to continue shipboard when the cast showed up for rehearsal in the latter morning hours through the late afternoon.
There were breaks interspersed throughout the day to allow for costume measurements and various other things, mostly when an actor was not needed for a scene.
Even when not on stage, everyone was very gracious to lend a hand wherever it was needed, whether it was by picking up a paintbrush or helping Neelix to create a prop.
The show was odd enough in it’s own right and everyone was trying their hardest to keep up morale and do a good job without adding anything to the already crazy pot. They all knew what was at stake and there was a positive side, the fresh air of the planet was a welcome diversion from the weeks of stress they had all just encountered.
Now if only the remaining week or so could remain the same.
“I’d kill him if I thought he’d die.” Kathryn was furious as she stomped into Chakotay’s office, fresh out of her third day of rehearsal. “He accused me of overacting. Can you believe that? ME! Of all the—“
“—low down… the sheer—“
“—audacity of that—“
“Calm down and tell me what happened—from the beginning. I’m sure we can sort something out.”
“Fine!” she sat on his sofa and started her tale. “I went to rehearsal, like I have everyday since we started this damn thing and proceeded to do my scenes with the Doctor. All of my damn scenes are with the Doctor…”
He sat there listening intently as she told him of all the ‘horrors’ of rehearsing with the Doctor. How he tried to force them to use the old method technique and insist they stay in character even when they were not on stage. About how he made them rehearse the same scene over and over and over again and then when she thought they were done with it and could move on to another, they would do it again. About how he kept forgetting that unlike him, they needed to stop to eat on occasion, “It’s bad enough that I sometimes forget on my own to take a break for some food, but he’s a doctor, Chakotay! A doctor!”
Chakotay tried as hard as he could to be a sympathetic ear, but as she melodramatically told him about how the Doctor had chastised her today for overacting during the big dénouement, he finally lost it in a fit of hysterics. He never saw the PADD until after it hit him upside the head.
“It’s not just me, Chakotay! Sam has left rehearsal in tears more than once and she is used to dealing with him. And then there’s Harry.”
“What about Harry?”
“In the beginning, he was so sweet, albeit a little annoying, apologizing to me profusely before he had to kill me, but now—now I think he is taking a little too much pleasure from it. It’s like some messed up Oedipal complex or something.” She smirked at him, “Maybe you should watch your back on that one, Chakotay.”
Chakotay was better at controlling himself this time and let her go on.
“You know, besides Neelix and the Doctor, I think Mike Ayala might be the only one enjoying this.”
“Mike is a ham at heart.” He smiled at her as he came up with a plan. He could deal with the script full of all it’s murder, intrigue, lust and paranoia, a plot that was quite frankly more convoluted and confusing than one of those holonovels she had been so fond of in the beginning of their journey (well, fond until he accidentally opened one of the files and deleted a certain Lord Burleigh, she had stopped using them after that and started spending more time playing velocity and such with him). “You know, maybe I can help you run your lines over meals. It won’t spare you from the Doctor, but at least it will get some food in your stomach.” Yes, he could definitely deal with it if it meant he got to spend at least a little more time with her.
“I’d like that, Chakotay.” Her smile was genuine and bright, “I’d really like that.”
Chakotay took a deep breath of the fresh morning air, still thick with dew. If he closed his eyes tight enough, he could almost convince himself that he was somewhere, a couple thousand light years and a lifetime ago away.
They had been in orbit of the planet for just less than a week, yet it felt like months. The Ayruam had yet to let them collect the supplies they needed, only promising them that they could have everything they required after the big show.
They were all tired of living off of ration bars and Neelix’s culinary substitutions made solely from leola root, but they made do. He was proud of them. Proud of them all but he was especially proud of Kathryn. She was being a real trooper. He prayed to the spirits that it would get easier for her, for them, before he grabbed his gear and walked to the site of the amphitheater.
Another early morning of building was set to commence, hopefully consisting of fewer changes to the design than the last day. For a hologram, the Doctor was pretty indecisive when it came to knowing exactly what he wanted for his set and Chakotay was a patient man, but his patience was wearing thin as he tried to be accommodating.
Doc’s latest addition was a river and not just fabric or a painting resembling a river, but one that could hold actual water. At first Chakotay was aghast at the idea, not because he couldn’t do it, he had built a bathtub surely he could build a river, but because the whole set would now have to be rearranged and reworked to fit the river in. Chakotay said as much to the Doctor, but he was adamant that his show would be incomplete and a total and absolute theatrical disaster if he did not have his river.
Chakotay relented and built the damn thing; sure that he would soon regret it. He only had a few short hours to work before the cast would be showing up to rehearse and then he would have to pull a double shift on the bridge -- not that the bridge really needed watching, but Kathryn had insisted that at least one of them be there a few hours a day while they orbited the planet and he wanted to catch up on the back log of reports. Besides, if the spike in requests for duty shifts was anything to go by, it really beat the other options for spending the day. Apparently pulling an extra duty shift was a better choice than an afternoon of shore leave spent at some Aryaum opera or modern theatre event and, after attending a modern theatre event himself, Chakotay had to agree.
Catching up on PADDs was probably just as painful as his morning spent planet side. Almost every one related in someway or another to the production.
A complaint from B’Elanna about being forced to work with Seven of Nine -- very reminiscent of the early days right after Seven had come aboard.
A complaint from Seven of Nine about being forced to work with B’Elanna as it was an inefficient use of her talent and her time --also reminiscent of those early days.
A requisition form from Neelix to use some of the extra leola root they had collected at the last planet on which they had stopped some months back, for use in prop manufacturing. Times were tough right now, but Neelix needed those props for the show, and they, unfortunately needed that show to ensure that they got what they needed to get away from the planet. Yes, as desperate as they were, they could bear to part with some leola root. Chakotay was sure Neelix was probably growing it on the ship anyhow.
A request from Captain’s Assistant Wildman to be given a duty assignment while they were in planetary orbit— ever the dutiful assistant wanting to pitch in and help. Poor Naomi, the kid was probably bored out of her mind, what with her mother, Neelix and the Captain all on the planet at rehearsals all the time. He’d happily handle that request and ask her to help him paint tomorrow and maybe assign her to lend Neelix a hand as well.
Another complaint from B’Elanna; this one about the Doctor and the unauthorized alteration of his subroutines as well as his callous behavior toward her regarding the production’s lighting plot. Apparently Doc kept changing his mind on that one every five minutes as well.
He never thought he would say it, but he actually longed for one of B’Elanna’s 150 page Engineering reports or an efficiency report from Tuvok pointing out all of their flaws. Anything that didn’t in some way, involve the show.
He slogged through as much as he could, trying to mend as many fences as possible along the way and the more he got done, the less Kathryn would have to worry about. He took a break only when he heard she was getting ready to beam back aboard. He had hoped to catch up with her for at least a few minutes.
“Spirits, Kathryn, what happened?” Chakotay rushed to her on the transporter pad as she stepped off from her day spent down at rehearsal. “Are you all right let me call for an emergency medical transport to sickbay?”
“Huh? What—” registering his shock she realized that she must be a sight, standing there covered in fresh blood. “Oh, Chakotay, I’m fine, it’s not mine. Well the lip is.” She said as she licked the blood off of it.
It was his turn to question her, “What do you mean it’s not yours, who’s is it?”
“Chakotay, it’s fake. Relax.” She took his hand to calm him then, using her other hand, brought her finger to her face wiping some of it off to taste it. “See, corn syrup and food coloring, it actually doesn’t taste too bad.” See wiped off another fingerful and extended it to him, he shook his head to decline the offer so she licked it off herself. “Suit yourself. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I couldn’t get this damn stuff to wash off planet side and it’s beginning to get very sticky. Whatever red dye Neelix mixed up it wouldn’t come off. Throw in a series of jokes made by our very own Mr. Paris about somebody named ‘Carrie’ and poor Harry passing out when he saw me, and you’d understand why I’m fixing to have a migraine.”
She pursed her lips and brought her sticky fingers to her temples before letting out an exhausted breath and continuing, “The worst part is we aren’t even going to use this stuff, apparently the Ayruam don’t believe the shade of it to be a convincing color of blood. And after I spent hours with Neelix in the mess hall this morning before rehearsal trying to mix it to just the right consistency and color too. While they were arguing with us, I got so mad and to stop myself from saying anything I’d regret, I ended up biting clear through my lip. Then we had that blood to prove to them that it was right, but apparently they don’t bleed red but some puke shade of chartreuse with nauseating fuchsia undertones. Let’s just say, Neelix loved the color.”
Her mouth quirked in distaste before she continued, “So, as you can imagine, I’ve had a wonderful day. All I want to do now is spend some quality time with my bathtub, then get reacquainted with my bed before I have to get up at some ungodly hour to be back down there at rehearsal with Herr Director and his pet Talaxian. I’m starting to think we would have been better off if Seven, had been allowed to direct this show.”
“That would probably have been more efficient.” Chakotay was unsuccessful in lightening her mood and instead received an exhausted attempt at a death glare.
She nodded to the crewman at the controls and excused herself from the transporter room, leaving Chakotay behind. She did not miss the worried glances she received from the crewman she passed as she made her way to her quarters.
Finally in the solace of her bathroom she fixed the tub for a nice, hot soak, complete with her favorite oils, only to find herself completely uncomfortable and still covered in the sticky stage blood. She finally had to concede that soap and water would just not be enough to get the goo off and that she would have to take a sonic shower.
Finally clean, she settled into her bed for at least a few hours of sleep, unfortunately they never came.
Welcome to another day in hell, Kathryn thought to herself. She was sitting in the audience of the amphitheatre watching the Doctor and Stromik as they engaged in heavy conversation on the stage. They were taking an ‘unofficial break’ so that the director could fill the Ayruam Chair in on everything and make a few suggestions before proceeding again.
Apparently down here at rehearsals, the fact that she was Captain meant nothing to them so she just sat there alone in the audience and glared at the stage, sulking. Not that Starfleet Captain’s sulked and she would never admit it to anyone that she was in fact doing that now. She could be tossed out of meetings, but she did not have to be happy about it. There were a thousand other things she could be doing, a million more that she would rather be doing and nowhere on either list was sitting and watching your CMO interact with the aliens that were currently the very bane of your existence talk about things that concern you (but you wish they didn’t), but allow you to have no part. So, she continued to sit and glare until they finally started up again with the actual rehearsing.
She had to bite her tongue to keep from saying something as the Doctor made a snide comment about the cast having to work harder to make up for lost time. And make up for lost time they did. That evening when she finally got back to her quarters, she was so exhausted she fell asleep on her couch, never making it to her bedroom or out of her uniform.
“What is that smell?” Kathryn sniffed the air in her ready room. This was her first rehearsal free morning and she was taking advantage of it to catch up on reports. “Don’t you smell it, Chakotay? “
“It’s almost like…” she stopped to sniff the air again. “Almost like—“
“Kathryn—“ he unsuccessfully tried to interrupt again.
“Almost like dead fish!” Happy with herself for finally placing the smell she sat on her couch with a triumphant plump before looking up at him. “It’s you isn’t it?”
“Oh.” Kathryn looked down and then quickly back up at him, “Chakotay?”
“Why do you smell like dead fish?”
“It’s a long story.” He began to sit.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Not on my couch smelling like that you’re not.”
He grabbed the chair opposite her desk and at her nod; he sat down and began to tell her why he was now wearing his fishy cologne.
“So let me get this straight, the fish Neelix concocted out of all that leola root and some paste, which I might add did look extraordinarily real, rotted overnight in it’s stasis unit when that river that you didn’t want to build in the first place, sprung a leak flooding the stage and subsequently shorting out the power cell of the stasis unit that was for some unknown reason was stored backstage, stinking the place up?”
“Yeah, that’s basically it. Add about two hours of me standing up to my knees in water with some type of antique power tools that the Ayruam insisted I use, trying to seal the leak before it could get any worse and that about sums up my morning.” He knew he should have just stayed in bed today. He had spent the better part of the prior day perfecting his river to the Doc’s specifications and when he had finished he had lent Neelix a hand with the construction of the leola root/paste fish that was a last minute addition to his incredibly long prop list. Of course it was only logical that both of those things would be the very thorn in his side today.
“I have a question.”
“It’s an outdoor theatre… why didn’t the smell dissipate?
“I don’t know.” He really didn’t. He also didn’t know how a prop fish made of leola root and paste, no matter how much it resembled an actual fish could indeed smell like one.
Kathryn thought about it for a second before pressing on, “One more question.”
“Why didn’t you just get a shower before you came here?”
“I have had a shower. I even followed it with a sonic shower. You should have smelled me before. Hell, you should smell Neelix!”
“I’ll pass, thank you. I suggest you get yourself some tomato soup.”
“I’m not hungry, Kathryn.”
“Not to eat, to bathe in.”
He wasn’t sure how to respond to that so he just stared at her until she continued.
“It’s an old trick, they used to use it when sprayed by a skunk. It works, trust me, I’ve had to use it on Molly. Now get out of here, you really stink and I still have a ton of work left to do before I go down to rehearsal this afternoon.”
He wasn’t sure if he was more surprised that he followed her advice or by the fact that it actually worked.
Kathryn hadn’t been back on board from rehearsal and in her ready room more than five minutes when she heard the door chime. She knew exactly who it was.
“What the hell happened to you?”
“Well good evening to you too, Chakotay.”
“Sorry, Kathryn. Good evening. What happened to you? It looks like Neelix threw up all over your uniform.”
“Oh, yeah that. I came here straight from rehearsal to finish what I started this morning and I haven’t had a chance to change yet. This,” she indicated the chartreuse stain on her front, “is the new blood for the production and I will have you know it took two scientists, a chef, the borg and a six year old several hours to finally get it to the correct consistency and shade of Ayruam blood. ”
“Lovely color, it really brings out your eyes.”
“What do you want, Chakotay?” she brought her hands up to rub her temples.
“I had a PADD I needed you to look at but I think it can wait.” He placed the PADD on her desk and moved behind it holding his hands up to her, “May I?”
It had been a good long while since she had felt his soothing touch of his hands and with the way she was feeling right now, it certainly wasn’t unwelcome.
He moved behind her and brought his fingers up to her temples to gently massage them in small circles. Her gentle sigh was all the encouragement he needed to continue, eventually bringing his hands down to her shoulders and working out all of the weeks of tension he found there.
“You’ve got magic hands there you know?”
“So I have been told.” He continued to work away the knots.
“Want to tell me how my ship has been holding up?”
“She misses her captain.” He didn’t miss her smile, even standing behind her so he continued, “So does her first officer.”
“Oh Chakotay.” The well broke and the stress from the last few weeks of first struggling to keep everything going and then the added stress of the last week of dealing with the idiosyncrasies of the Ayruam and the Doctor finally caught up with her. She rose from her seat and turned into his embrace, “I’ve missed you both as well. I cannot wait for this damn thing to be over!” she rested her head against his shoulder. “You smell nice but you’re making me hungry for tomato soup.”
“You’re getting green goo all over me!”
“Sorry.” She lied, holding him closer and subtly rubbing her front against him before she let him go.
“You are evil.” He laughed as he tried to wipe the goo from his front just making it worse.
“Damn right!” she couldn’t help but smile. It felt good to smile. She found him a towel in her restroom and ushered him out the other exit. As funny as it would have been to see him explain the matching stain on his front to Tuvok, it was something she surely did not want to see him explain to Tom Paris.
Another day, another crisis, Chakotay thought as he knelt down to be eye-level with the bumbling blue ball at his feet. “Okay Chell, now I need you to take a deep breath and start at the beginning.”
“I was just trying to help and he—he—he accused me of trying to sabotage his show…”
Chakotay did not catch the rest as Chell was now mumbling and wildly waving the shredded fabrics he held around. He tried to catch Chell’s flailing wrist before it could make contact with his nose; it was a futile attempt.
“Oh, Commander. I am so sorry. Here!” Chell handed him a strip of the fabric to soak up the blood that was now pouring from the aforementioned appendage.
Chakotay took it and when he finally felt under control enough to not pound Chell’s face in and the bleeding had almost stopped, he again tried to ascertain details about what had happened.
Half sobbing, Chell told him of the costume fitting he had just had with the cast and Doctor, who, although he had just been measured a few days before, no longer fit in his costume.
Chakotay thought that might have something to do with the argument he had overheard between Doc and B’Elanna about changing his subroutines for a more svelte physique. Again.
Chell then went on for ten minutes telling him about the argument regarding the choice of color for the Captain’s dress, “That’s what’s left of it,” he said pointing to the blood covered strip that was now in Chakotay’s hand. “Or rather what’s left of the second dress. Doc had shot down the first one right away as he thought that it clashed with the stage blood. He had asked for something ‘diaphanous and elegant’ and he chose that fabric. I made it into a dress for the Captain and she came out to model it for us. I thought it was perfect. But then—but then B’Elanna had Seven adjusting the lights and when the spotlight shown on the Captain the dress just sort of disappeared.”
“What do you mean ‘disappeared’?” Chakotay was afraid of what the next words out of Chell’s mouth had to be.
“It was see-through in the light and you could see clear to her -- Well…” Chell was now sporting a lovely shade of purple, “you know…. clear through it. Which wouldn’t have been a problem but she wasn’t wearing a — well, she…”
“You mean she had nothing on underneath?” Chakotay was trying not to blush as well as he supplied the words for Chell.
“Well, no and she quickly ran off of the stage throwing the dress back out at us where the Doctor did that to it,” he indicated the tattered fabric again.
“Chell?” Chakotay knew he was crossing into dangerous waters here, but he just had to know, “Why didn’t she have anything on underneath?”
“At the fitting the other day I asked her for her brassiere size so I could make the appropriate undergarments.”
“You asked the Captain her bra size? In front of the crew?”
“Well, yes, but I didn’t get a clear answer, so when I got back to the ship, I just measured Seven so I could get the costume done in time. I mean a human female is a human female after all. Only, when I gave it to the Captain to try on, she just looked at it once and informed me that she could probably fit her entire head in one of the cups. I didn’t realize she was unaware that a brassiere is not meant to be worn as a hat and I guess she ended up not putting it on.”
“Thank you, Chell. I’m sure we will get this whole mess sorted out.” It was a lie and he knew it, but it was enough for the big Bolian. “And Chell, consider yourself lucky that it was just the Doctor’s temper you have had to deal with but I suggest you stay clear of the Captain for a while.” An embarrassed captain was never a fun sight.
The Bolian let that sink in a second before escaping from the room, not before scanning the corridor for the Captain.
Chakotay wished he had been planet side to catch the afternoon’s excitement but he was sure Kathryn would have been glad that he had missed her little show. He was definitely going to make sure he attended rehearsals from now on. He thought about all the nice dreams he would have that night as he removed the blood soaked fabric from his sore nose and headed to sickbay to have it repaired.
She knew that sound, but she could not quite place it and her bed was so nice and warm, holding her snuggly in its warm, cushy embrace.
Then she heard it again, “Paris to Janeway.”
Fumbling for her combadge, the Captain in her took over and she answered the hail, “Janeway here.”
“Please report to the bridge.”
She was too tired to question the request and looked longingly at her bed as she quickly donned a uniform and made her way to the bridge.
Striding through the doors of the turbo lift and onto the command level she bit out at Paris before she even realized she was doing it, “I swear this had better be important, because right now, there’s a nice warm spot in my bed that my body used to occupy, a nice warm spot that my body should still be occupying and I swear to whoever or whatever is listening that it had better still be warm when I get back there. Report!”
“Stromik has requested to speak with you and wouldn’t take no for an answer, Ma’am.”
“Are the Ayruam aware of the hour, Mister Paris?”
“Yes, I believe so. That is to say that I did say that you were asleep.”
Kathryn took her seat, crossed her legs and glared straight ahead before calling, “On screen.”
The view screen lit up with the face that she was now sure was going to haunt her nightmares for weeks if not years to come.
“Good morning, Captain Janeway. I hope I did not wake you.” The alien smiled and Kathryn dug her nails into the armrest of her chair. “I just wanted to inform you that with the performance fast approaching we have decided to consider the day of the show a public holiday. All of our educational facilities will be closed and all workers will have the day off, everyone in our nation will be there to bear witness to your much awaited production.”
Kathryn wanted to scream, she also wanted to murder the alien beaming at her from the screen. “That sure is some news. Thank you, Stromik.” She hoped that sounded civil enough, she wanted to say, Hey crazy alien you’re nuts, your planet is nuts, this news could have waited, oh, say four more hours when a rational person would be awake, but she was glad she stuck with the former. Cutting the link with a wave of her hand to ops, she got up and headed back to the turbo lift, hoping that her bed was still warm and that she could get back to sleep for at least a few hours before she had to report to rehearsal in her own personal theatre hell.
“Damn aliens, how they managed to become a warp capable society, I have no idea, probably tortured the ability out of some passing aliens by using bad theatre,” she muttered to herself as she walked into the lift.
The doors closed.
After another full day of rehearsing, Kathryn shared a meager dinner with Chakotay in his quarters as they practiced some of her scenes and talked about ship’s business. She confided in him over a bowl of leola root broth and a ration bar, that she had thought of a lovely way to get back at the Ayruam for the hell she was facing planet side; they would invite the crazy aliens aboard Voyager for a series of performances highlighting the different cultures that comprised the ship.
Now all she had to do was plot a program consisting of the most boring and painful things her sleep deprived and under-caffeinated brain could conjure.
Her eyes were alight with mischief, “How about Talaxian Interpretive Dance?”
“Not sure Neelix would be up for that again after he dislocated his hip at last year’s Talent Night.”
“An evening of Doc’s slideshows?”
“For the first time in our journey he would most likely say no considering how busy he is down there, torturing you.”
“I could ask Chell to sing a Bolian ballad.”
“He’s still… um--” Chakotay tugged at his collar before continuing, “Recovering and a little afraid to go anywhere near you.”
Kathryn was aghast and Chakotay just smiled at her sheepishly. She had hoped he had not heard about that little wardrobe malfunction, but those dimples did not lie. She thought that also explained his forlorn look earlier when she had modeled her new costume for him, the one with all the proper covering and undergarments.
“You could tell them a story.”
“Very funny, Kathryn. Besides, you always said you liked my stories.”
“I do.” She did. She had very fond memories of all the stories he had told her over the years, especially those shared when they had spent a few months alone together on a planet early on. She held one in particular very close to her heart and he knew it too.
“You’re welcome.” She settled back into serious thought,“Hmmm… VULCAN POETRY! It’s perfect. No one likes Vulcan poetry, not even the Vulcans! Tuvok only does it as some sort of weird punishment to himself or something. We will invite the Ayruam to an evening of Vulcan Poetry.” Her eyes shown bright, her crooked grin was a little malicious and her laugh was nothing if not evil as she set to making it happen.
It had seemed like the perfect revenge, really it had. How could she have known that the Ayruam would actually enjoy Vulcan Poetry. Well, she really should have known, it was just as droning and monotonous as them. Poor Tuvok, she mused, after the fourth encore even he was developing a steady, undeniable tick.
Had she not been bored to the state of catatonia, maybe she would have realized that she had missed a prime opportunity to exchange the database of Vulcan Poetry for the supplies they were after. No, that would not have been fair to the rest of the Delta Quadrant; it was probably better for everyone that the thought never occurred to her.
With one day left until the show, Kathryn was far from confident that they would be able to pull it off. She had just gotten back from what was in her opinion, the worst dress rehearsal ever in the history of all theatre everywhere.
She should have known it would be bad from the moment Chakotay wished her, ‘Good luck,’ right before they beamed down. She hadn’t really thought anything of it at the time, it was a nice enough gesture and she could not fault him with saying those words, being as he was unfamiliar with the superstition of bad luck that surrounded them. But when everything started to go horribly wrong, it was only logical to blame him for it all.
It started without a hitch and things looked like they were going okay, that is, for the first five minutes, then everything started to go south.
The lights B’Elanna, had spent her waking moments perfecting to the Doctor’s specifications, blew some sort of archaic fuse and shorted one of Seven’s implants, sending her to sickbay aided by Tom and leaving B’Elanna alone to fix the problem. It took her almost the whole rehearsal to get them up and running again. Being as they were short on time, they were forced to press on without them.
The costumes which had been washed the night before in order to get all of the stage blood out, were still damp, which considering she spent half the show in that damn river and got wet anyway, did not really bother her. What did bother her however, was the fact that her costume seemed to have shrunk with it’s washing, as she knew that she had not gained any weight. She was convinced that she had actually lost some in the time they had been there, although you would never guess that from the unflattering way in which the costume now hugged her body. Luckily she wasn’t alone in that boat, Sam seemed to be just as uncomfortable in her costume, but Kathryn had to smile at the wonders it did for Mike Ayala. She caught Sam appreciating those wonders as well.
Then there was Harry, who in such a nervous state, had picked up the wrong knife from the prop table and nearly stabbed her with it as opposed to its blunt counterpart. If she thought that he was trying to kill her before, her thoughts were reaffirmed by the actions that night. Luckily the lights had been back up and running by the big knife scene and they hit the blade in just the right way for her to see that it was not the prop knife and managed to whisper a, ‘Mister Kim, if I had known you wanted to be the captain that bad, I would have suggested a less messy weapon,’ just before he drove it through her flesh. She thought afterward that maybe it had been a mistake to tell him.
Then there was a problem with the stage blood. She was supposed to pop the container in which it was held at the exact moment in which she was ‘stabbed,’ she tried as hard as she could but the damn thing would not pop. That is what led to the icing on the cake of the night. She tried everything she could think of to break the container, finally succeeding when she smashed it in with a rock that had been left on the stage as a prop from an earlier scene. Only, in getting the rock she had wound up in the wrong position and the slippery blood had trailed all over the floor and directly in the path of the Doctor who had to run right through it. He did and he slipped clear across the stage and straight through a thin wooden flat that Naomi had been so proud to have helped Chakotay paint. Kathryn’s heart broke as she watched the child sitting just off stage with tears in her big bright eyes at seeing the destruction of her art.
Yes, making Naomi cry was definitely the worst part and it was all Chakotay’s fault. There were only two things keeping her going, the thought of strangling him and the thought of coffee.
She had once heard it said that a bad dress rehearsal was a good omen for a great show. She hoped that was true, she also hoped that a Borg cube would show up and she would get assimilated while she slept.
The big day had finally arrived. Just a few more hours and they could get what they came for and finally leave this planet and it’s eccentric little aliens behind. The only thing standing in the way of her nice hot cup of coffee now was the performance of her life and her late co-star.
After what seemed like the hundredth time checking backstage for the Doctor, Kathryn spotted Chakotay running to meet her.
“What are you doing here, you’re supposed to be in the audience? Where’s the Doctor, we have to go on?” if Starfleet captain’s panicked, she was on the verge.
“He had a medical emergency. B’Elanna came in with a broken hand.”
“Why didn’t Tom treat her?”
“She broke her hand breaking Tom’s nose before he passed out and hit his head earning himself a concussion as well. So, Seven has recovered enough from her electrocution and is running the lights while B’Elanna is indisposed and I will be filling in for the Doc tonight.”
“Kathryn, I know all of the lines and blocking. We have practiced it enough when I was helping you. It will be fine.”
“Oh brother, famous last words. We don’t have time to argue, you’re on.” She ushered him through the wings and onto the stage as the music started and the superfluous curtains the Doctor had insisted on adding to the theatre, rose. “Break a leg, Chakotay,” she whispered, “and if you mess this up, I’ll break them for you.”
The first act had gone off without a hitch. Chakotay did in fact know all of Doc’s lines and blocking and he was quickly an audience favorite, as was the villainous Mister Kim. One could only hope that it would not go to his sweet little head.
With just the big dénouement to go, Kathryn could just about taste her coffee reward and gritted her teeth as she prepared to face death.
“…oh fair sweet maiden. Harken, I come. Maiden, bleeding you are.” Chakotay, the Knight, recited upon noticing the chartreuse blood with its fuchsia undertones staining the front of Kathryn’s white satin gown, ”Maiden? Maiden?” The Knight took the Maid into his arms holding her close to his chest.
“Oh Knight, I feel pain.” She accentuated every word with a cough.
“Maiden, help I shall find.” Slowly he began to release her but she clutched at his hand.
“Please, stay. Do not… leave… me…” again punctuated with a fit of coughing. Her eyes closed and her hand went limp.
The Knight, so overcome with sorrow kissed the lifeless form of the Maid, who was his heart as tears sprung forth from his eyes, eventually finding her lips with his.
They had rehearsed this scene before, but Kathryn would always fill the action of the kiss in with the phrase ‘and then they kissed.’ Chakotay, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth was not going to miss his opportunity to kiss the love of his life, so he kissed her for all he was worth and the sweet, gentle touch of lips that was scripted soon became a much hungrier one of years of unrequited love and desire. Kathryn responded and the lifeless form of the Maiden was soon kissing the Knight back as fiercely as he had kissed her; her arms encircling his neck and all conscious thought lost between them both.
The realization of where they in fact where, hit Chakotay first and he mumbled into her mouth, “Kathryn, you’re supposed to be dead.”
Her arms instantly fell limp again and he broke the kiss, gently laying her down on the stage floor before completing the show by delivering his final heat-breaking monologue of love and loss. The lights dimmed and the cast took their bows to an overwhelming standing ovation and, for a moment the command team had feared that the response of the audience might force them to stay indefinitely for encore performances; but, luckily as happy as the Ayruam were with the result of the production, they still held true to their word and allowed them to gather the supplies they needed before bidding them a very reluctant farewell.
Later that night, back aboard Voyager and again on course for the Alpha Quadrant, with their food stores overflowing, deuterium stocks well garnished for the foreseeable future and a hot cup of coffee in her hands, Kathryn enjoyed a quiet evening in the company of her best friend.
“So are you going to tell me why my Chief Engineer took a swing at my Helmsman?”
Chakotay had to smile, he knew he would have to answer that one eventually. “She wasn’t aiming for him, he just happened to get in the way.”
“At whom was she aiming?”
“The Doctor. He had made another comment about her lighting design and accused her of not knowing good theatre if it bit her in the backside. Actually I think his exact words were, ‘You still think Shakespeare was originally written in Klingon.’ Tom just tried to stop her from hurting herself. Didn’t work.”
“I’d say. I can’t help but think that our good doctor let directing inflate his ego just a little.” Kathryn had to smile at Chakotay’s raised brow before they both laughed at her understatement.
They enjoyed those rare moments when things worked out and they could just relax, however brief they were. They were both also ecstatic to once again be en route for the Alpha Quadrant and away from the little planet of bad theatre that had filled the last week and a half of their lives with -- Well, they weren’t exactly sure what to call them yet besides ‘memorable and hopefully unrepeatable experiences’. They sat together on her couch as they recounted some.
“Well the Doctor was only half right.” Chakotay smiled, refilling Kathryn’s coffee.
“The Doctor, he was only partially right tonight when he prepped me for the show.”
“Do I want to hear this?”
“He said that you couldn’t do a death scene to save your life. I would have to agree with him on that one.”
“He what? Maybe we should have taken up the Ayruam on their offer to trade him in exchange for the script to that potato play.” She was only half joking. “Chakotay, you caught me completely off guard down there on stage. It’s quite hard to do a serious scene with your first officer’s tongue down your throat.”
“Ah, well.” He was blushing.
“Thank you. And?” she pressed on.
“And, he said you were a worse kisser than Neelix.”
“NEELIX? I don’t think I even want an explanation for that one.”
“Believe me you don’t, but I would have to disagree with him. I could almost guarantee that he’d still be wrong, although I don’t plan on testing the theory for the sake of scientific inquiry.”
“Really Commander, where is your sense of adventure?” she teased. “I for one wouldn’t mind testing the theory at least a little bit more.”
“You want to kiss, Neelix?” he nearly choked on the tea he was drinking.
“Heavens, no!” she laughed before shyly adding, “I thought maybe we could try a repeat performance of earlier tonight. You know, without the audience.” His actions on stage had made her rethink a lot of things. She had thought she was content in just being best friends with Chakotay and not exploring that thing, that love they shared between them. That kiss shook up her world, but it did not end it like she always feared it might and here she was ready to ask him to take the next step and enter into a relationship with her. Now it was finally right and his onstage kiss proved to her that it was what he wanted as well and the applause from their crew also made her believe that they were in favor of it as well.
“I don’t know, Kathryn. Now that I have been in the limelight and had a taste of stardom, I’m not sure if I could perform under these humble circumstances and—“
“Shut up and kiss me.”
The fearless Knight did as told and this taste was far better than that of stardom and for once led to a much happier ending, an ending that would in fact ensure that if Voyager were ever to force the Captain to go without coffee again… it would not be a problem.
**Special thanks to my girls for being patient with me in waiting for this one, for being wonderful sounding boards for my insanity, for being full of suggestions, and for putting up with me while I was abducted by the Ayruam and living in my own theatre hell. You guys are worth your weight in pop-tarts and pie and I wouldn’t trade you for either**