The Noise

By Suz suzvoy@yahoo.com

Disclaimer - (sigh) Characters belong to Paramount, depressingly. A little pre-RB therapy.

 

***

 

The turbolift doors opened and Chakotay stepped out. He was taking his weekly tour of the ship, when he walked through all the departments checking on progress personally. The crew knew by now that his visits were usually informal, so they weren't quite as panicky as they used to be. In fact, most of the time he made his visits in his off-hours so he dressed casual.

He had a stop to make. Kathryn usually joined him on the visits now (it had taken a couple of years, but eventually she'd come with him) but she hadn't been in the mess hall where they usually met for breakfast beforehand. He had to admit he made the weekly tour as much for her company as anything else now.

He knew that 'visiting the troops' was good for morale. He and Kathryn could see how things were really going, and because they were so informal the crew usually enjoyed themselves. They were even at the stage now where they would tease their Captain without the fear of being thrown in the brig. He knew it was something Kathryn appreciated.

Since the incident with the Valu eighteen months ago (he still hated those bastards for what they did to her) she'd begun to open up the crew more, as well as to him. He couldn't say that they were 'involved', but they certainly had a closer relationship now that they'd had at any time in the past. In some ways it was almost worse than the conflict between them after the confrontation with the Borg - to have her so close, but not to have her completely.

Chakotay nearly sighed, but prevented himself from doing so only by thinking of the fun they'd have touring the ship. It was something he would have to live with. As it was they had a wonderful relationship and he didn't want to threaten that in any way. He was the person she turned to when she had a fear to voice, or a shoulder to cry on, and she was the same for him.

Finally he reached her quarters and beeped for entry. He wasn't overly concerned yet. Quite often she spent longer in the bath than she should have, but he couldn't begrudge her the opportunity to relax.

Upon getting no answer he beeped for entry again. And a third time. "Computer, locate Captain Janeway."

"Captain Janeway is in her quarters."

"Life signs?"

"Affirmative."

"Is she asleep?"

"Negative."

He tapped his com badge. "Chakotay to Captain Janeway. Please respond."

No answer. He was getting worried. She could be injured.

"Computer, open the door to Captain Janeway's quarters. Authorisation Chakotay Beta 243."

The computer beeped in response and the door swished open. As soon as they opened he could hear a noise. It wasn't one he could easily identify, so he stepped into her quarters. "Kathryn?" he called out and stepped further into her quarters. Still no answer.

What the hell was that noise? It seemed familiar, but he couldn't think from where.

He moved still further into her quarters, carefully looking about for her. She wasn't in the first room, or the bedroom…which meant she could only be in her bathroom.

Damn. That wasn't somewhere he really wanted to go. It was too private. He'd been in her quarters many times but he'd never been in here while she'd been in the bathroom, although there had been a few close calls (he still couldn't get the towel incident out of his mind).

Chakotay suddenly became aware that the sound was coming from the bathroom. Had something overloaded? He could identify the sound now, but he didn't know what was causing it. It was buzzing loudly, whatever the hell it was.

He called her name several times, but he doubted she could hear him over the buzzing. He didn't want to risk peeking in there. What if she was naked? What if she had been taking a shower or bath when the noise started?

He only had one option. The wall separating this room from the bathroom had to be as thin as the one in his room…

Chakotay thumped loudly on the wall.

Once.

Twice.

On the third thump the buzzing stopped and was immediately followed by the sounds of something being dropped and then rolling on the floor.

"Kathryn?" he queried. Was that a gasp he heard?

"Chakotay?!"

Had she actually squealed that?

"Yes, it's Chakotay. Are you alright?"

"Oh yes, I'm just fine." She instantly responded. "I was just…shaving my legs."

She sounded somewhat out of breath. He hadn't thought shaving your legs would be such a strenuous activity. But then he'd never had to shave his own so he wouldn't really know.

"Ah, right, okay." He answered. "Well I only came in here because you were running late. It's 1100 hours."

"Already? My, I really must spend less time in the bath. Well if you hang on for a moment…"

He nodded in response even though she couldn't see him. He heard the loud splashing of water (she's getting out of the bath - try to force back the imagery), followed by the slight rustling of cloth (she's putting her dressing gown on - and nothing else) and then he heard the drawer under her sink swish open, a slight thunk as she dropped something in (probably her shaver), then another swish as the drawer closed.

A few seconds later she emerged from the bathroom with a bright smile on her face. Her shoulder length hair was out of place, her face was flushed and she definitely was out of breath. His interest increased to a higher level.

She moved toward him and greeted him with a hug as she always did now. He breathed in deeply as she wrapped her arms around him. She smelt of bath salts, strawberries and…something else. He frowned as he tried to place the scent. Chakotay was so deep in thought that he was taken completely by surprise by what happened next.

Was she nibbling on his ear???

Chakotay yanked his head back, and fortunately Kathryn had just released his ear otherwise she would still have held part of it between her teeth. That was a rather gruesome image. Still, all he could really focus on was his shock.

Before he could say anything at all she released her hold, walked toward the door to the corridor, turned to him and smiled impishly. "Shall we?"

He blinked at her a few times before he could think of a reply. "But you're not dressed."

Her smile grew even bigger and she sauntered (sauntered!!?) toward him. "Oh believe me Chakotay, I think I'd notice if I was naked."

Woo. He couldn't take much more of this.

He actually began stuttering. "No…I…you…what I meant was that you're in your dressing gown. You usually, you know, get dressed in like…clothes."

Kathryn moved still closer, and with an amused frown feigned concern. "Are you quite alright Chakotay?"

Again, before he could reply she sighed dramatically and drifted away from him. "But I suppose you're right. I should really get dressed. I don't think the crew are ready to handle their Captain dressed like this."

As she opened her closet she mumbled something he couldn't quite make out, although it sounded suspiciously like "I hope you are."

He quickly blurted out an excuse and waited outside her quarters while she got dressed.

 

***

 

Thirty minutes later he was still having the same problem, in that she was becoming increasingly flirtatious. She couldn't seem to keep her hands off him. While they were walking along a corridor she would hold his hand, rubbing her thumb along his wrist. While they were in a turbolift she would reach up and run her fingers lightly across his tattoo. And although she didn't continue the activity in the presence of the crew, she was certainly invading his body space. He had always been attuned to her, but he couldn't remember a time when he had been more aware of her.

Of course this was causing him a whole shuttlecraft-full of problems. He hadn't said anything about her activities because he was concerned that something had been done or had happened to her. Was she drunk? Drugged? He'd been trying to get her toward sickbay for the last ten minutes but she was having none of it.

Unfortunately this meant it was becoming increasing difficult to hide his arousal. Each moment that passed, each little caress was like torture. Her was acutely aware of how she was breathing and he unconsciously imitated the rhythm.

Finally they made it to the hydroponics bay. It was empty as it was most of the time now. He felt a twinge of emotion because he always expected to see Kes in here, tending the fruits and flowers (particularly the peace roses). Kathryn let go of his hand and it moved reflexively. He'd gotten used to the slight pressure. Apparently she'd found something to interest her.

He watched as she moved over to one of the stacks of shelves in the middle of the bay. Chakotay couldn't see what she looking at, so he moved forward until he was standing behind her. She was kneeling down with her hand outstretched toward something.

He thought he heard a sniffle. Was she crying? She turned to face him and he could see that she wasn't crying, but she definitely had a tear in her eye.

"Kathr-"

She shook her head sharply. She couldn't explain why she was upset. Instead she nodded toward what she had found.

Frowning, Chakotay looked at the shelf and his eyes widened at what he saw.

A tomato.

A Talaxian tomato.

Even now, after all this time, they had never once discussed their time on New Earth. It was never brought up in conversation, never casually mentioned. It was as if she felt it best to act as if it had never happened. Of course that was ridiculous. It had happened.

But for some reason today it looked as if she couldn't pretend.

"You miss him, don't you?" he asked quietly.

"Who?" she replied, still kneeling down. She reached out a plucked the tomato from its place.

"The monkey."

She laughed. "Do you know that I named him?" Kathryn queried, absently passing the tomato through her hands.

"No I didn’t. What did you call him?" He moved so he was kneeling down next to her. She passed the tomato to him. He took it gratefully and they proceeded to pass it back and forth to each other.

"Chakotay."

The tomato fell to the floor. "You named the monkey after me?"

Kathryn picked up the tomato and smiled at it fondly, completely oblivious to look of shock on his face.

"Not after you. For you." She paused before passing the tomato to him again. "Sometimes there were things that I wanted to say to you that I…couldn't. So I said them to the monkey instead. It's silly I know…"

"I understand."

She still wasn't looking up at him. "It's weird, you know. I always felt like I could tell you anything. You were so easy to talk to. You still are. But even now there are still some things I can't say to you."

Realisation dawned and Chakotay nearly squeezed the tomato into several squishy pieces. "Is that why you've been acting so different today?"

Smiling ruefully, Kathryn plucked the tomato from his hand before he could ruin it. "Ah. Caught. That's part of the reason, yes."

"What's the other part?"

The tomato stilled in her hands. "I think I should have phrased that another way." She took a breath. "I’d rather not to say to be honest."

For some reason he couldn't let it drop. "I thought you could tell me anything."

"Uh uh uh. Almost anything."

"Oh, so this is private."

"Yes."

A few minutes of silence passed before she passed the tomato to him again and stood. Her movements were quick but frustrated. "Look, it's not that I don't want to tell you…no, scratch that. I don't want to tell you."

"But part of you does?" he asked, guessing correctly.

She stopped pacing, her back toward him. "Yes. A part of me does. The wild, care-free part of me does. She does exist you know. She lives inside me screaming to get out."

"I know." Chakotay replied as he stood up. "She does manage to get a word out sometimes."

Her decision made, Kathryn turned to face him and placed her hands on her hips. He almost smiled.

"When you came into my quarters earlier this morning…" she began.

"Yes?"

"I wasn't shaving my legs."

Why was that important? And if she wasn't shaving her legs, what the hell had been making that nois-

The tomato thudded to the ground and little splatters of tomato juice soaked the bottom of his trousers but he really didn't notice. His eyebrows were up, and his mouth was working as if to say something but nothing came out. He couldn't say anything. Too many images were running through his mind.

Good God, what a thing to admit! Especially from her, especially to him. His vision focused again and he could see that she was staring at him warily, an expression of confusion and embarrassment on her face.

When he saw that he knew instantly what he had to say. "Don't be embarrassed. Don't ever be embarrassed."

She smiled and then suddenly he found her in his arms. Damn, she could move fast when she wanted to. They had hugged many times over the past eighteen months (the first six months of her rehabilitation had been particularly gruelling, and he made sure she had lots of physical contact to let her know that her injury hadn't made any difference), but they had always been friendly, supportive. Nothing like what this hug was.

Kathryn clutched onto him desperately and knocked him off balance. They fell to their knees but couldn't break the contact. They stayed like that for what felt like hours, and somewhere in the back of his mind Chakotay was extremely glad they both had the day off.

Eventually she moved slightly, but her only purpose was to place a gentle kiss on his neck. He shuddered and held her tighter. She moved her head up and started nibbling on his earlobe. Goosebumps sprung up on his skin.

"You really have a thing for my ears, don't you?"

Her reply was muffled because she was reaching down to pull off his top. Grabbing the end of the shirt she yanked it up and giggled when it got caught around his head. His arms were stuck up in the air and he felt ridiculous. Nonetheless, he laughed into his shirt which was covering his mouth.

They were still laughing when the door to the hydroponics bay opened and B'Elanna stepped in.

Chakotay couldn't see what was going on, but he knew they had been caught. Trying to peer through the material of his shirt he could barely see a thing. He just hoped it wasn't Tuvok. He had to admit that the Vulcan had lightened up considerably, but he would no doubt raise a disapproving eyebrow at them.

He heard the doors close and then footsteps approach slowly. His top was getting quite claustrophobic and he would need help to get it off so he could see what was going on. His breath sounded incredibly loud from his perspective, and he wondered what Kathryn was doing.

Finally the soft footsteps stopped and the person spoke. Her voice was warm with humour and delight. "Well, it certainly took you two long enough."

Ah, B'Elanna. Well at least it wasn't Tom.

As if in response, he heard the doors open again and another person enter the bay. From the badly muffled laughter he knew it was Tom. He tried to manoeuvre toward Kathryn, wherever the hell she was now. He wanted to get this top down before anyone else came in.

He heard B'Elanna speak. "Tom Paris, what are you doing here?"

"Why looking for you of course." Came the smooth reply, and Chakotay imagined that the pilot was pressing a kiss on the back of her hand which she was futilely trying to pull away. "But more importantly, what are they doing here?" Paris asked, indicating Kathryn and Chakotay.

Kathryn finally spoke and he had a good indication of where she was if he followed her voice. He tried to shuffle towards her.

"Why we were just about to make love."

He stopped shuffling. Had she just told them that?

Tom instantly responded, no doubt as surprised as Chakotay but just as happy. "In that case we are very sorry for the interruption. Although this isn't our fault. You could have chosen somewhere a little less public. Like a Jeffries Tube for example."

Chakotay just knew Kathryn was giving Tom the death eye.

B'Elanna's voice cut in. "Come on Tom, let's get out of here. Give them so time alone."

Chakotay couldn't have been more relieved.

Famous last thoughts.

Before Tom and B'Elanna had time to leave the hydroponics bay the doors opened again and two sets of footsteps could be heard. One was relatively quiet, but the others were loud and echoed through the room. Harry and Seven. It had to be.

"Look Seven, it's really not that hard to understand. The Captain and Commander have been close friends for a long time. It's not hard to see why everything speculates as to what their real relationship is."

"But I do not comprehend the need for this…gossiping, did you call it? It seems like an unnecessary waste of time and effort."

"This is what I'm trying to get you to see Seven. We need gossip. Focusing on their relationship is fun, although theirs certainly isn't the only one we-"

His voice stopped as he no doubt he noticed other people in the room.

"Um…what is everyone doing here?"

"I came looking for B'Elanna."

"I wanted some coffee beans."

"We were just about to get lucky."

"Oh."

"Why are you here?"

"Oh. We came to check on the seedlings Seven's been growing."

"Really?" Tom asked.

"Yes. Ensign Kim has been helping me develop what he calls a 'green thumb'. Although I fail to see how growing a plant can change the pigment of your skin."

"It's just a-"

"Saying, I know. I have become acquainted with many sayings since leaving the collective. This does not mean that I fully understand them. Why is the Commander dressed in that bizarre fashion?"

Chakotay had finally had enough. He cleared his throat. "Kathryn?"

He knew everyone was staring at him. Talk about being the centre of attention.

"Yes?"

"Could you help me out here?"

"Oh, yes, of course. Sorry." He could hear the wry grin in her voice. They struggled for a few minutes to pull his top down, his attention focused solely on trying not to get aroused in front of the crew. It was not easy. Kathryn's hands kept brushing against his chest (a little too intentionally, he thought). Eventually they managed to pull it down and he looked up at her, his hair ruffled, having no idea of how adorable he looked.

"I hope you're enjoying yourself." He teased.

She smiled at him saucily. "I think I preferred the view when I could see your chest." She wrapped her arms around him, both completely forgetting the interested eyes that watched them. Some were amazed, some were amused, some were jealous, but all were fascinated.

Until the doors opened again.

All six heads turned to look at the newcomer, and Chakotay finally actually saw the other people in the room.

The Doctor stepped in, his almost permanent frown in place.

"May I ask what you are all doing in here?"

They all spoke in turn.

"I am studying the progress of my plants."

"I'm with Seven."

"I came looking for B'Elanna."

"I wanted some coffee beans."

"We were just about to get lucky."

"Why are you here Doc?"

"I came looking for my nurse actually. He was supposed to come to sickbay ten minutes ago." He stated with a sarcastic look in Tom's direction.

"Why didn't you just hail me?"

"I wanted the exercise." The EMH replied, with no expression on his face whatsoever.

"Nice try."

He sighed loudly. "If you must know…the truth is I discovered you were all in here for some reason and my curiosity was piqued." He looked at Kathryn and Chakotay significantly, as they were still wrapped around each other. "I see my interest was justified."

Chakotay tried to sit up properly but Kathryn wasn't helping. He managed to put a hand on the floor for leverage before he finally lost his balance and fell back, Kathryn going with him.

"Geez, you two. Get a room!" Tom exclaimed.

At that moment the doors opened to admit the final person for that evening. None of occupants turned around. They didn't have to. Everyone except Seven and the Doctor spoke in unison.

"Hello Tuvok."

"Errr…actually it's Neelix." Announced the Talaxian, and they all turned to see him holding a bucket.

Tom eyed him suspiciously. "What's the bucket for?"

Neelix glanced down at the object he was holding, as if he hadn't noticed it before. "Oh, I came to collect some food for dinner tonight. Leola root."

Everyone groaned but Neelix chuckled.

"No, no. I'm just teasing. I got the hint after I received the anonymous threat that if I made any more food containing leola root that I'd find myself on the business end of a photon torpedo. It was made in jest, I'm sure."

Several people in the room looked away guiltily, and Chakotay was amazed to see Kathryn do the same. "Kathryn…you didn't…?"

"What? Can't a woman have any fun?"

He smiled at her seductively. "Well don't let me be the one to stop you."

"Don't worry, I won't." she purred before whispering "Come on, let's get out of here. Maybe they won't notice. They're still fascinated by Neelix's leola root story."

It was partially true. Once again Neelix had launched into his speech about the many merits of the versatile leola root. Most of them had heard the story before, but the Doctor seemed interested in the possible medicinal purposes.

"Leola root, you say? I've never heard of it."

"I'm not surprised." B'Elanna told him, folding her arms across her chest. "You don't need food." Her nose wrinkled at the idea of leola root being considered food.

"That's hardly the point. No one ever told me about a food source on board which could have medicinal purposes. I would like a sample for…"

He droned on, while Kathryn and Chakotay silently stood up and tried to creep out with no one noticing. They knew they'd definitely be given away when the door opened, but by then they'd have a head start.

They didn't account for fate.

Moving forward slowly, Chakotay's foot slipped when it encountered some of the tomato he'd dropped earlier. Her left arm entwined with his right, Kathryn was pulled down with him.

Hearing the thumps and groans, the other crewmembers turned once again to look at them. Kathryn was sprawled on top of him, laughing into his chest. Chakotay for his part was laughing but also wincing. His ankle hurt like hell.

Predictably, Tom commented again. "You two can't keep your hands off each other, can you?"

"Leave them alone Tom." Harry instructed. "It has been nearly six years. It's not that surprising that they'd be a little…eager."

"Oh, yeah, believe me, I understand that. But right now? While we're here?"

"Hey, they didn't think anyone was going to be here. In fact I think it's kind of-"

"Look, honestly, we're not up to anything." Chakotay insisted.

Everyone raised their disbelieving eyebrows at him. Kathryn laughed into his chest again.

"No, really. I slipped. In fact my ankle hurts."

Doubtfully the Doctor moved forward. "Mr Paris, there should be a medical kit next to access hatch 32 alpha. Please get it for me."

"Sure thing Doc." Tom replied, before moving to the other side of the bay where the access hatch was. By the time he returned with the kit the Doctor was leaning over Chakotay's ankle which was turning an unpleasant shade of purple.

The Doctor opened the kit, took out the medical tricorder and waved it over Chakotay's ankle. "Hmm." Was his diagnosis. "It seems you weren't faking after all."

"Of course I wasn-"

"It's nothing serious," continued the Doctor "but I imagine it will be rather tender for a while. I advise you to come to sickbay so I can treat you properly."

Chakotay sighed. "Okay."

The Doctor stood, then considered the view below him and paused. "Captain, you're going to have to get off the Commander's body if he is to have any success of reaching sickbay."

"Now there's an image…"

"Tom!"

Agreeing, Kathryn regretfully moved away from Chakotay as slowly as possible. The grin she flashed him was evil.

"Now, how would you prefer to get to sickbay Commander? There are several options. Are you up to walking? Transporter? I'm sure I could convince Ms Torres here to let you use one of her little hover carts."

"I'll walk thank you Doctor. There's no point in wasting energy by using the transporters."

The Doctor nodded as if that had been his intention from the start. "As you wish."

With a lot of help from Kathryn, Chakotay managed to stand wobbly. Still, it was a victory of sorts. He took a step forward and nearly fell over again.

"Umm…I think I'm going to need some more help here." He admitted.

"Not a problem Commander." Came the reply in several voices, and before he could do anything he was completely surrounded by everyone in the hydroponics bay. Neelix placed his bucket on the floor.

Chakotay yelped as Tom and B'Elanna each grabbed an arm, while Seven and Harry both grabbed a leg. Neelix supported his head as Kathryn and the Doctor supported his back from underneath and hoisted him up. Kathryn was touching him far too close to his behind for his liking…

"You know, you really don't have to help me this much." He insisted, extremely embarrassed.

"Oh don't be silly Commander." Neelix told him. "You need help, and that's what we're here for. Let's go everyone!" The Morale Officer was at work.

They started moving en masse, Tom calling out leg movements. "Left, right, left, right."

"You know what really gets people going when they're working?" Neelix asked.

"What?" queried Harry, already regretting carrying Chakotay's injured leg. It was difficult to carry the leg but not touch the injured area at all.

"A song! Come on, anyone know a good working song?" He shifted Chakotay's head slightly as they left room. "Wait, I know! There's this marvellous little song we used to sing on Rinax before the war." He cleared his throat then started singing. Or at least the Talaxian equivalent of singing. Although it scared the crap out of Chakotay when he first started, he had to admit it wasn't that bad.

#Onward fellow travellers

Boot in front of boot

Onward fellow travellers

To find leola root!#

The words were the same for every verse, so after the first couple of verses everyone joined in (except for Seven, who failed to see the function of singing).

Kathryn pinched Chakotay's butt.

"Hey!"

And that was the moment they encountered Tuvok.

The Vulcan stood before them and as they noticed him the song slowly died out. The last one to keep singing was Neelix who'd been so involved with the song that he didn't noticed that everyone had stopped moving.

#…to find leola - oh, hello Mr Vulcan."

Tuvok considered the group of people in the corridor. His left eyebrow rose. And rose. It rose so high that it nearly encountered his hairline, which was pretty high considering how far back his hairline started. Once it reached its destination, the eyebrow hovered for fully ten seconds, twitching only occasionally. Its mission complete, the eyebrow then returned to its normal position.

He was clearly about to ask them what they were doing, but Neelix interrupted before he could. "Tell me Mr Vulcan, how do you do that?"

Tuvok looked at Neelix with distaste. "How do I do what?" he asked, raising the eyebrow.

"That!" Neelix exclaimed again. "How do you get your eyebrow to go up like that? I've noticed a lot of you do it, but you, Mr Tuvok, seem to be particularly fond of the movement. Tell me, does it have a special meaning? Is it a secret code of some kind? Is it…" his voice lowered to an exaggerated whisper "…a message for the Captain that her presence is required for a dire emergency?"

"No."

Neelix's face fell, his unbelievably hairy sideburns drooping low. Then he cheered up again. "Well…can you teach me how to do it anyway? I have been practising. Look."

He proceeded to pull his face into several different contortions - none of them attractive. Those who could turned their necks toward him to see what he was doing. Curios, Kathryn turned around underneath Chakotay's body, carefully turning while slowly moving her hands over his butt.

"Kathryn…"

The only way Chakotay could see what Neelix was doing was by craning his head further backwards. The Talaxian moved his hands slightly to accommodate his head, so Chakotay looked up and got a lovely view of Neelix's mouth as his face moved into different positions.

Finally Neelix stopped his face-pulling. "You see what I mean? No matter what I try I can never raise one eyebrow. I can raise both or none at all, but never one by itself."

"Perhaps, Mr Neelix, you don't have the capability." The Doctor suggested.

Everyone craned their necks towards the Doctor.

"What do you mean?"

"Well look at the structure of your face. I'd say it's physically impossible for you to raise only one eyebrow. And even if it were physically possible, that doesn't mean you'd be able to."

"Look, guys, this is a fascinating discussion, but can we continue it en route? It's difficult to hold this leg without touching the injured area." Harry moaned.

"Hey Harry, do you wanna swap?" Tom asked.

"You sure?"

"Of course I am. I'm a little stronger then you, it would probably be easier for me to hold his injured leg."

"Thanks a lot Tom." Harry replied, relieved. "But how are we going to do this?"

Tom considered their situation. "Well if we can get Tuvok here to lend us a hand for a moment it shouldn't be too difficult."

Tuvok held out a hand.

"Ha ha." Tom replied sarcastically.

Neelix continued talking to the Doctor. "What do you mean that I may not be capable of raising one eyebrow anyway?"

Tuvok moved forward to hold onto Chakotay's leg as Harry let go of it. Free of his burden, Harry gratefully swung his arms about for a few moments.

"Well," replied the EMH "you may not have the genetic tendencies which allow you to raise one eyebrow. Much the same happens with humans."

Harry moved to the arm Tom was holding and grabbed onto it. Nodding to Tom that he was holding it firmly, he indicated for him to let it go. Agreeing, Tom let go of the arm and instantly Harry's arm nearly gave out under the sudden weight. Chakotay yelled as he nearly dived backwards.

"Sorry!" wailed Harry, finally adjusting to the weight.

"Really?" queried Neelix.

Tom, assured that Harry now held Chakotay's weight fully, moved to the injured leg where he took over Tuvok's temporary job with little fuss.

"Indeed." Stated the Doctor. "For example, there are many unimportant little traits that some humans have inherited that others haven’t. Tongue-rolling for example."

"I can do that." Kathryn stated proudly.

"So can I." B'Elanna agreed.

"What is 'tongue-rolling'?" Seven asked.

Tom grinned at B'Elanna's comment evilly, while Harry tried to explain to Seven what tongue-rolling was without stuttering. Chakotay meanwhile was moaning.

"Why am I not in the least bit surprised that she has that ability?"

In response Kathryn pinched his butt again.

"That's fascinating." Neelix told the Doctor. "I'd like to hear more about this."

"Is that correct?" Seven asked. Tongue-rolling sounded intriguing if unnecessary.

"Will you please leave my butt alone?"

"Shall we start moving?" B'Elanna suggested. They did.

"Why I'd be delighted to tell you more Mr Neelix. Let me tell you about a little something called 'recessive genes'…"

"It would have been logical for me to assist you. I have superior strength."

"No, no. That's not quite right Seven. Try curling your tongue more."

"Maybe so Tuvok, but this is fun."

"Not a chance Chakotay. It's not often I get an opportunity like this. I'm not letting it go to waste."

"Like this? Ensign Kim, are you alright? You colour pigmentation has darkened dramatically."

"I fail to see how this is fun Lieutenant."

"That's hardly fair Kathryn. I have no defence against you."

"Umm..yeah, I'm fine Seven. Thanks for asking."

"Damn Vulcans. You can’t appreciate anything, can you?"

"Don't worry Chakotay. I'll be sure to let you get your own back later…"

As they traipsed down the corridor Tuvok suddenly remembered he'd forgotten to ask them why they were carrying Commander Chakotay out of the hydroponics bay. Surely there were more efficient methods.

 

***

 

Chakotay left sickbay twenty minutes later with Kathryn by his side. He tried to escape before anyone said anything but he couldn't miss the "Have a nice time!" that came from Tom, B'Elanna, Harry and Neelix as the doors swished open. Tuvok and Seven merely raised their eyebrows.

"There they are again!" Neelix exclaimed before the doors closed and they were finally alone.

"Thank God." Chakotay admitted, nearly collapsing onto Kathryn.

"Hey, you alright there?" she asked, grabbing onto his arm.

He smiled his thanks at her concern. "I'll be fine. But that lot really take it out of me."

"Come on, let's get you back to your quarters."

"Oh really?" he teased.

"Oh lower that eyebrow…you need to sleep."

 

***

 

She was right. The moment he entered his quarters the exhaustion hit him like a lead weight on his shoulders. He barely made it to the bedroom before he pitched forward onto the bed.

Kathryn tried to peek at his face which was half buried into his covers. "Chakotay?"

He snored slightly in response.

She laughed quietly. "You snore?" She lay down on her right side next to him on the bed. Propping her head on hand she examined him while he slept. "I never thought you'd be a snorer." She contemplated the idea. "But then I suppose I'll get used to it eventually."

"I certainly hope so."

His eyes were still closed but he was definitely awake.

Her mouth opened in mock anger. "You were pretending?"

He smirked, still with his eyes closed. "Of course I was. I don't think it's possible for anyone to fall asleep that quickly…" his voice trailed off as he yawned and somehow managed to settle even deeper into the bed.

She sat in silence for a few minutes, highly suspicious. After a while he started snoring again. Was it real? She moved around the bed as lightly as possible, examining him from several different angles. Actually there were some angles of him that she'd like to examine but that would have to wait until later…

Grinning wickedly she eventually decided that this time he was asleep. Lying down again she awkwardly tried to hug him.

"You know," he spoke in a tired voice "it's too bad this bed doesn't vibrate."

"Will you stop that?"

~FINIS