|Fandom:||Star Trek Voyager|
|Categories:||Ship, Het, Humor|
|Characters:||Neelix, Susan Nicoletti, Janeway, Chakotay|
|Summary:||When the gravity goes out on deck two, things go awry in the mess hall.|
|A/N:||Started for Mixed Doubles, finished for Dakota's Decathlon, Shot Put, hosted by Tom Paris. And who loves a good prank better than our lovable Flyboy? Will he take the blame this time?|
|Credits:||Creation of this work was aided by The Deer on a Bicycle by Patrick McManus and Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld. Beta by Kim.|
|Disclaimer:||Voyager and its characters belong to Paramount Pictures. Infringement intended and very much enjoyed.|
Neelix loved to make the already unrecognizable vegetables of the Delta Quadrant even more mysterious by turning them into a gooey, pasty substance he called cream sauce.
Creamed leola root graced nearly every menu he put together on Voyager, despite the crew's repeated pleas for mercy. He also possessed a particular fondness for zesty stews, eye-watering soups, and spicy condiments of all descriptions.
For dessert, he favored puddings, which, for reasons he never adequately explained, often sported colors such as aquamarine and flamingo pink. One particularly memorable confection glowed in the dark, which inspired Kenneth Dalby to set into motion a series of events that ended with Freddy Bristow awaking the following morning in the hydroponics bay, without any recollection as to why his uniform failed to accompany him.
Neelix also had a habit of keeping food on countertops in a wide assortment of bowls and baskets, rather than in standard Starfleet storage containers, which would have snapped neatly into place on standard Starfleet shelves. He claimed that the baskets allowed the various fruits and vegetables to breathe. Tom Paris claimed that this practice allowed some foods to not only breathe, but also to scamper into the corridors to frighten passing ensigns out the airlocks.
Given these facts, Captain Kathryn Janeway should have known that it was only a matter of time before things got out of hand in the mess hall.
"Captain, I cannot stress enough the importance of relaxation, especially for someone in your position. These headaches are a symptom of overwork, and I'm not prescribing anything unless you promise to get some rest."
Janeway leveled her patented glare at the EMH. "I don't work any harder than the rest of the crew."
"If by that you mean to compare yourself to the rest of the crew as a whole, I'd have to agree." He held out a hypospray. "Take this immediately before bed, which is where you should be headed now." He snatched the hypospray back and administered it himself. "I'd suggest you head directly to your quarters, Captain. It would be unfortunate if you were caught napping elsewhere."
He endured the burning intensity of another Janeway glare before retiring to the cool safety of his office. If the captain didn't slow down and respect her own limits as a mortal human, she would discover her fallibility the hard way. Like most starship captains, she didn't make a very cooperative patient, and keeping her healthy might require some creative thinking. Thank goodness he was smarter than the average hologram.
The Doctor's hypospray failed to have the promised result. Two hours later, Janeway still tossed and turned. Sleep eluded her. Unfinished reports danced beneath her eyelids, visions of repairs possibly neglected haunted her, and the thought of slipping down to the bridge for a status report called out to her like a siren song.
How could that wretched hologram expect her to sleep when the daily status report from deflector control remained unread? Why would any doctor demand that a patient attempt slumber without first reviewing the latest plan for improving the efficiency of the automated carpet cleaners on deck five? Didn't he care about the cleanliness of the floors in sickbay? How could she trust her crew's health to a physician with so little regard for environmental hygiene?
She got out of bed and retrieved her stack of PADDs, and by the time the computer announced ship's dawn, she had concluded that the carpet cleaners on deck five did not require any adjustments in their routines, that deflector control was functioning well above required parameters, and that shipwide replicator usage was highest on Tuesdays.
Chakotay found his captain in the mess hall, with a stack of PADDs and a nearly-empty pot of coffee, but no evidence of a meal, eaten or otherwise.
"Kathryn?" He had to repeat himself twice to earn a response.
"Yes? Oh, good morning Chakotay." Skilled use of cosmetics covered the dark circles under her eyes and added color to her pale cheeks, but he recognized the signs of insomnia nonetheless.
He placed his breakfast before her. "Eat something."
Her gaze shifted slowly to the plate. She clearly didn't find the gunmetal grey lumps of creamed . . . well whatever Neelix had claimed . . . particularly appetizing. If she had, he would have worried even more.
Once he'd fetched another plate of mystery slop for himself, he sat down across from her. "Kathryn, you aren't eating your breakfast."
She poked it with her fork. "Any reason I should?" She glanced at his plate. "You go first."
"Anything for my captain." After two attempts, he managed to coax a slimy lump onto his spoon.
"It's better than it looks."
She snorted. "I should hope so."
Lieutenant Susan Nicoletti had once eaten a bowl of tabasco sauce garnished with live meal worms. Of course, she hadn't been a lieutenant at the time. At nine years old, she'd held the rank of Raccoon in the Junior Survival Scouts, and she had earned half the neighborhood's pocket money for her efforts.
She'd spent her first semester at Starfleet Academy still bitter over her letter of rejection from the Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute in Paris, but she took Survival 101 in her second semester, and learning to saute cockroaches with nothing but rocks and tree sap cheered her considerably.
It would have surprised her to learn that she was one of only four crew members who never complained about the food on Voyager. The wide variety of offerings Neelix prepared made her look forward to mealtimes.
"We're all going to have to double our workouts if you keep cooking feasts like this," she told Neelix.
He shoveled more creamed leola root onto her plate and beamed. "I'm delighted to hear it."
She stayed after her meal and helped with the dishes. Neelix never let the technological wonders aboard Voyager come into direct contact with his beloved pots and pans. He preferred to scour them himself, with good old-fashioned elbow grease, and he claimed that the dishwater made his skin silky soft.
"I never had the luxury before Voyager," he said. "Water was too precious to waste on cleaning. I had to scrub them with sand. Brutal on the hands."
Susan enjoyed the combination of simplicity and organized chaos that reigned in the galley. A far cry from the complex repairs she performed in engineering, under the watchful eyes of perfectionists like Torres and Carey, her time with happy-go-lucky Neelix was like a miniature vacation from the twenty-fourth century.
"I haven't had many volunteers since Kes left us," Neelix said. "It's nice to have some company again."
Her heart went out to the cheerful Talaxian. He never really complained, but she knew he must miss Kes terribly. "Would you like to go to the holodeck later?" she asked. "I have a time slot reserved and I would love to show off the program I've been working on."
"I'd be delighted, Lieutenant, especially if you're asking me out on a date."
"I guess I am." She grinned. "In which case, I think you'd better call me Susan."
"What's that in your hand, Ensign?" Chakotay blocked the young man's path to the ready room door.
"Just a proposal for improving the efficiency of the main phaser banks. I think we could reduce the power needed for a confined blast by nearly two percent if -- "
"Give it to Tuvok," Chakotay said. "If I find this in the captain's hand without Tuvok's thumbprint on it you'll spend the next thirty years cleaning the hull with a toothbrush, understood?"
"Aye, Sir." The ensign scurried away.
Chakotay continued into the ready room. "Alpha shift ended an hour ago, Captain."
"Just let me finish this one -- "
"No." He pulled the PADD out of her hand and glanced at the contents. "This is about intake valves. There's nothing that an intake valve could possibly do that couldn't wait until morning."
She made a grab for the PADD, but he tossed it across the room, where it landed safely out of reach on the couch.
"Come with me," he said. "We're having dinner now."
"Lieutenant Nicoletti." The EMH greeted her with a smile that she found most unsettling. "I have an assignment for you."
She listened politely. Had he been human, she would have questioned his sanity. Instead, she considered running a thorough diagnostic of his subroutines, and when his idea started to make sense, she wondered if perhaps she shouldn't schedule herself for a checkup.
In the end, she reluctantly agreed to his request, and hoped it didn't mean the destruction of her career.
"Isn't this better than a stack of PADDs and a gallon of coffee?"
Janeway looked down at the bowl of mushroom soup Chakotay had replicated for her. He'd kindly spared her from trying the scintillating purple entree that Neelix called leola root casserole a la stewed tomatoes. She owed him some courtesy. "I did need a break."
"You need more than a break, Kathryn. You need a night off."
She wished he didn't care so much. Lately she'd started to think that it might be easier to be alone if she really was alone. His concern made her heart ache. "The soup is -- "
"Floating." Chakotay grabbed the bowl and its contents continued upwards without it.
Janeway grabbed the table with one hand and Chakotay's wrist with the other. Her efforts placed her directly in the path of the rogue mushroom soup, a generous portion of which stuck to her face and crept into her hair.
Calling for a status report required that she choose between Chakotay's wrist and her grip on the table. She released the table and slapped her combadge. "Report."
"We've lost gravity on deck two," Ayala said. "No other malfunctions reported. Carey has a repair team investigating now."
"I guess we'll just hang around and wait," Chakotay said. A blob of nebulous green slime clung to his hair.
Janeway burst out laughing.
All around them, crew members clung to tables, walls, and each other while translucent goop, shimmering globs, and raw vegetables of all descriptions floated merrily among them.
Shaking with mirth, Janeway clutched Chakotay's arm until he abandoned the empty soup bowl and wrapped an arm around her waist. He grinned at her.
"What?" she managed.
"You look downright edible." He made a show of leering at her. "I love mushroom soup."
"Too bad you don't have a spoon."
"Who needs a spoon?" He leaned closer, which sent them both into a slow roll.
"I thought you had hold of the table," she said.
"I thought you did." He loomed above her, his face close to hers, his arm still holding her against him.
She swallowed hard. "There's food in your hair. At least I think it's food."
A trembling glob of stewed tomatoes floated past. Several enterprising crew members worked to form a human chain in order to help their comrades out of the line of fire. The effort came too late for Ensign Jenkins, who took an aquamarine pudding to the head before making her escape.
"At least she's not on beta shift tonight." Chakotay looked around at the airborn buffet. "We seem to be alone."
"So it seems." Kathryn swallowed.
His dark eyes studied her face. "My people have very strict beliefs about not wasting food."
"Is that so?"
"It is." He leaned in, nibbling the mushroom soup from her jawline as they spun slowly through the mess hall, surrounded by floating vegetables.
She gasped and slid her hand up into his hair, only to pull it away covered in unidentified green sludge. "What is this stuff?"
He caught her hand and tasted the tip of her finger. "Ugh. I'm guessing it's not dessert."
"I wouldn't be too sure." She laughed at his expression and wiped her hand on his uniform jacket.
"You're a mess already, Chakotay."
"And you're not?" For emphasis, he brushed a strand of mushroom soup laden hair from her face.
Her skin shivered at his touch.
"I missed a spot before," he whispered.
"You'd better get it then."
Their eyes locked for a long moment, and when he finally kissed her it felt as if they were the only two people in the galaxy.
"Well would you look at that." Neelix nodded towards the ceiling at the end of the mess hall, where the captain and first officer were sharing a heated kiss.
"Looks like fun." Susan tugged at his sleeve.
He let go of the stove and let her pull him up to where she floated above the sink, which luckily hadn't been full of hot, soapy water when the gravity went out.
"You have tabasco sauce on your cheek," she whispered.
He raised a hand to wipe it away.
"No," she said. "Let me get it."
He found that he rather liked her technique.
"Any more headaches, Captain?" The EMH studied the readings on his tricorder.
"Not a one," she answered. "I've felt much better lately."
"I guess it's true then," he said. "Laughter is the best medicine."
"Yes," she said. "That must be it."
He hummed cheerfully to himself and didn't comment on the slight blush he detected on his captain's cheeks. Yes, the crew was very lucky to have a doctor who was smarter than the average hologram.
Just The Beginning
Background and graphics by Dakota. © 2003
Read the winning story here.
For more on the physics of zero g kissing, you'll want to read Contraband by Kim K.
Star Trek™©, Star Trek: The Next Generation™©, Star Trek: Voyager™© and related properties are Registered Trademarks of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, December 2004.