After The Stain

by Suz suzvoy@yahoo.com

Disclaimer - characters belong to Paramount.

Rebecca demanded an 'after the stain' story. I've finally had the time to write it. Here it is.

This continues on from 'Perspectives On A Stain' and 'Before The Stain' which can be found at my website http://members.tripod.com/~SuzVoy/index.html if you want to read them.

*

The taunts were one thing. He could cope with those - he'd certainly suffered his way through enough abuse. Fighting against his people, their beliefs, his father. Fighting against Starfleet when those beliefs and people were threatened or killed. Being branded a criminal and hunted down...

He could take the jokes as well. He'd certainly needed a good sense of humour after everything that had happened to prevent him slipping into despair. He enjoyed a joke as much as anyone and was especially *not* adverse to teasing someone and displaying his particularly twisted sense of humour.

No, the straw that broke the camels back - as the metaphor so colourfully stated it - was when Neelix made an addition to 'A Briefing With Neelix'.

The Talaxian sat on a mess hall chair in front of the small camera, grinning like a four year old child and bouncing on his chair much the same way the four year old child would. The only difference was that a four year old child wouldn't have made the chair wobble quite so much.

"And now," he declared dramatically, spreading his fingers wide as he pulled his hands away from his body "I am very excited to announce a new section to the show! Now, this is just a test run but if it works well it will become a weekly...or even *daily* event!" Clapping his hands together in glee he then apparently realised just how excited he was getting and tried to retain some modicum of control. Coughing slightly, he continued to speak in a very authoratitive voice. "Recent events have apparently been quiet inspiring to a certain member of our beloved crew. The crewmember has asked to remain anonymous, but thanks must go where they are due. So, to that particular crewmember - you know who you are - I must say a big 'thank you'." Aiming two thumbs-up at the camera (something he had learnt from Tom), he began to explain what the new section would contain.

"We will show you a piece of cloth with a stain on it, and your goal is to correctly identify just what the stain is. After we show the stain the first person to hail me over a com line will be the first one to guess. If they are unsuccessful, the second fastest will have a guess and so on. If no one gets it after five guesses, the stain will be saved for the next time we play. Whoever does get it right will win an extra hour of holodeck time."

He stood from his chair. "And now that the rules have been described, it's time for the first ever edition of...'Spot The Stain'!"

Off-camera someone activated an audio device and the sound of a trumpet fanfare echoed through the ship.

Neelix walked to his right, the camera following his movements, until he reached what looked like a easle covered by a sheet. Apparently a small crowd had now formed in the mess hall as they started clapping behind the camera. Neelix held up his hands in a placating and false modesty manner. "Please, please..." he said, trying to sound noble but clearly enjoying the attention. Turning away from the audience he looked back at the camera. "Assisting me today - by the Captains request, I should add - is the lovely Commander Chakotay."

Raising his arms he indicated to his right and waited for Chakotay for appear. The crew of Voyager waited with baited breath until they heard a whisper from somewhere to the right.

"I'm not doing it."

Neelix frowned but still tried to look happy for the camera. Speaking using only the right side of his mouth, he leant slightly towards the owner of the voice. "We had an arrangement."

"I don't care. Have you seen what I have to wear?" the voice hissed.

Giving up the pretense completely Neelix pointed a finger at the camera. "You stay there. I'll be just a moment." He promptly walked off-camera to the right.

The camera stayed in position as voices could be heard.

"I know very well what you're wearing - I can see you quite clearly."

"Then you also know how embarrassing this outfit is."

"Oh I wouldn't call it embarrassing just because it's revealing..."

"That's not why it's embarrassing."

"Then why are-oh, I see. Can't you just take that part off?"

"No. I'm under strict orders to wear the whole outfit."

"Well I don't see that you have any choice Commander. We're on a time limit here and you can hardly disobey a direct order from a superior officer."

"It's not as if this falls under normal Starfleet rules and regulations!"

"I beg to differ. Keeping the morale of the crew up is a crucial rule. I really don't have time to debate this any longer, Commander. Either you come on camera now...or I'll call in the big guns."

"Who the hell did you pick up the phrase 'big guns' from?"

"You're changing the topic. Now...co-operate, or..."

"You wouldn't."

"You'd be surprised what I'd do to keep this crew happy." His voice sounded decidedly evil. "Are you coming on camera or not?"

"I...I can't."

"Very well. Megan, Jenny, could you help me here please?"

Breathy, feminine laughter was heard from the direction of the audience as the two women left the crowd of people and quickly ran in front of the camera to reach their target.

"Oh shit."

"Yes! Yes, that's it girls."

Neelix appeared back on camera, patting the hair on his head down with his hand. "I apologise for the delay everyone. Technical problem." He very obviously looked to his right and smiled at what he saw. "And now, ladies and gentlemen, my assistant. The lovely Commander Chakotay."

Rapturous applause greeted the introduction and the noise barely covered up the terrifired yell of "Get the *hell* away from me!"

The words had only just died away when Chakotay appeared on camera, looking as if his outfit had nearly been torn off. Feminine laughter filled the room once more.

The entire crew held their collective breath at the sight that had appeared before them. On his feet he wore brown sandals and the only other piece of clothing he wore was Neelix's apron. Around his neck hung a sign that read 'Angry Warrior - soft, strong, and utterly disposable'.

It appeared that the Captain was getting payback for something.

Chakotay kept his eyes on the floor.

"Okay, let's get started shall we?" Neelix asked rhetorically. He stood next to the easel. "Commander, if you would care to do the honours."

Knowing he didn't have much of a choice and *very* aware that a certain pair of twins were waiting just out of the cameras view, Chakotay did as requested. Walking backwards so he wouldn't show his butt cheeks to anyone he reached up and pulled the sheet off the easle, exposing the stained piece of material.

Almost immediately Neelix's com badge beeped.

"Carlson to Neelix."

"Neelix here. Congratulations Mr Carlson, you're our first hailer!"

Wild applause greeted the comment as Chakotay started wrapping the sheet around his body.

Carlson, meanwhile, was getting incredibly worked up. "WHAT? *Me*? I'm the first one? I don't believe it! Ohmygod! Wait until Sarah finds out...this is so exciting!"

Neelix chuckled. "Of course it is. So, tell us a little bit about yourself Mr Carlson. What department do you work in?"

"I work in the science lab mostly, with Lieutenant O'Donnell. I love to ski in the holodeck and socialise with friends. And of course, Neelix, I'm a big fan of the show. I watch it every time it's on."

"Why thank you Mr Carlson, and of course you do." Neelix agreed, as if he hadn't expected any other comment about the show. "Well then, here's the big question: what do you think the stain is?"

Another audio device was activated and tension-building music could be heard. "I think that...yes, yes that's mustard."

A loud 'ee-urh' noise was heard and Neelix winced in sympathy. "I'm sorry, Mr Carlson, that wasn't the right answer."

An 'awwww' came from the audience. Neelix continued.

"But thank you for playing. I hope you had a fun time and say 'hi' to Sarah for me!"

"Will do Neelix, and thanks anyway. Can I just say 'hi' myself to a few people?"

"Of course. But make it quick," the Talaxian warned.

Carlson talked as quickly as he could. "Just a quick thank you to Sarah, John and Chell. Love you guys." The com link closed.

Grinning for the camera again, Neelix spoke. "Computer, please isolate the com badge that was activated the fastest after Mr Carlson's and patch me through to that crewmember."

The computer beeped. "Acknowledged." The com line was opened.

"Janeway here."

"Captain! Congratulations, you're our next hailer!"

Once the cheers died down the Captain spoke. "Actually Neelix, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not playing. I have a comment about the show."

"Well we always appreciate *your* input, Captain."

"It's regarding your assistant." She paused for effect. Or maybe just to make Chakotay squirm. "The sheet he has wrapped himself in is not an authorised part of his outfit. It must be removed."

Chakotay's expression was horrified but Neelix simply said "As you wish Captain." and clicked his fingers. Jenny and Megan suddenly appeared and both grabbed the most easily available edge and tugged. Chakotay had no option but to let go his grip on the sheet or risk ending up on the floor. After a few twists and turns to remove the 'illegal' part of his outfit, Chakotay was sheetless and dizzy. Stumbling backwards he had to lean against the counter to keep his balance.

Neelix looked at him. "There. Are you happy now Captain?"

"Very," she replied happily "thank you for all your help Neelix. And you too, girls."

They both waved at the camera before scurrying off with the sheet. "You're welcome Captain."

"Janeway out."

He started again. "Computer, please isolate the com badge that was activated the second fastest after Mr Carlson's and patch me through to that crewmember."

"This is Seven of Nine."

"Seven! Well done, you're our next hailer. And which section do you work in?"

Her response was immediate. "You know that I work in the Astrometrics department. Why bother to ask me where I work?"

"Because it's part of the show..." he stated patiently. "But never mind. We can forego the small talk this time."

"That is efficient."

He laughed. "Of course it is. Now, what do you think the stain is?"

"Leola root tea."

Neelix nodded. "I see. And why do you think that?"

"It is the correct colour and appears to be the correct consistancy."

Neelix considered her words. "Well, you're lucky it appears to be the correct consistancy Seven because...that's the right answer!"

The crowd went wild. Streamers flew around the mess hall and confetti fell from tubs hooked up on the ceiling. Someone sprayed foam into the cameras view, but of course the only person the foam hit was Chakotay who gave up fighting completely and lay on the floor while he was covered with the white substance.

*

Chakotay bolted upright in bed, chest heaving, sweat covering every part of his body. Shaking his head he rubbed his eyes to try and remove the nightmare. Moving his hands away he noticed something on them. Something...white.

A sickening feeling of dread trickled into his stomach and he looked up to see the Captain advancing towards him with the most sadistic smile on her face and a nipple clamp in her hands.

The full realisation hit him then: it hadn't been a dream.

"Oh shit."

~FINIS

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