by Suz email@example.com
Disclaimer - Paramount...paracount...parastout...
Set after the events in 'Hunters', but before the events in 'Prey'. Rated R.
Neelix hummed happily to himself as he scurried along the corridor towards Astrometrics. He was in such high spirits of late, as were a majority of the crew. Those who used to be in the Maquis were obviously saddened to hear of the death of their friends and the collapse of their cause, but he did what he could to keep them happy.
Reaching his destination, he walked right in. "Hello B'Elanna! Glorious morning, isn't it? What can I do for you?"
Looking up from the console she was working over, she tried to smile. "I don't know about the 'glorious' part, but you can help me. Come over here." She turned back towards the console.
Nodding, he moved a little closer, eager to discover why she had hailed him.
Picking up a PADD that was resting on the console she handed it to him. "This is the very last...letter...that I managed to get out of the communications array before it was damaged and as such, it's incomplete. There's no header so we don't know who it's to or from and...well, for all I know there may not be any more to the 'letter' anyway...maybe Starfleet were just being thoughtful..." She stopped, looking a little embarrassed.
Neelix frowned. "B'Elanna...what are you talking about?"
"Just read it!" she told him, trying not to blush.
Worried that he might unintentionally aggravate her further, he quickly began reading the information on the PADD, his mouth moving silently as he read. Pretty soon his mouth stopped moving, remaining open in shock, and his skin turned a dusky shade of orange. He cleared his throat. "Yes, well-"
"I've been going through every piece of data we received from the array and there's nothing else there to go with it."
"Well what do you want *me* to do?" his asked, hoping that it wasn't something terribly inappropriate.
"You were our postman Neelix. Is there any female crewmember on board who didn't receive a letter who you think this might...belong to?"
He shrugged, embarrassed and extraordinarily relieved at the same time. "I don't know. That doesn't really matter anyway; it could be that someone who already received a letter was also was intended to get this one."
B'Elanna sighed and turned back to the console. "And there's no way of knowing who..."
"Not unless you ask them," he joked, laughing to himself.
His laughter died quickly as B'Elanna slowly angled her head to look at him. She was smiling. He hadn't seen her really smile since she discovered what had happened to the Maquis. At first the sight pleased him, but then he realised just what an evil smile it was...
She spoke. "That's a great idea Neelix. Thanks for offering!" And she bolted for the door.
"Wait!" he yelled, chasing after her, unable to believe that she would do this to him. "B'Elanna!"
But B'Elanna Torres used to be on the Academy decathlon team - he had no hope of catching up. That didn't stop him from trying.
Barrelling out of the room after her he knew that all was lost as he saw B'Elanna literally throw herself into a turbolift. He only heard the beginning of her order to the computer as the shutting doors cut off the rest.
Sighing, he turned away from the view of the 'lift only to be greeted by the view of Ensign Parsons eyeing him dubiously. Quickly turning the PADD away from the man in case he managed to see the contents by some freak way that the light was reflecting, he coughed a greeting and moved back into Astrometrics at full impulse.
There was no longer any choice. He had a duty to perform, and he decided to get what would be the most embarrassing encounter over and done with...
Stepping out of the turbolift onto the bridge, he tried to attract as little attention as possible. He actually got quite far before Harry spotted him.
Continuing his guilty shuffle towards the ready room he barely paused at all and kept his head faced forward. "Uh...hello Ensign."
His behaviour drew some attention. Chakotay stood from his chair. "Problems, Neelix?"
"Oh no," he forced a chuckle "Not at all. Just a status report for the Captain."
Chakotay frowned. "Don't they usually go through me?"
Kavet! Neelix almost spoke the swear word out loud. He should have been more creative. What had happened to his legendary bluffing skills? "Yes. Yes they do. But this one is kind of..." he lowered his voice and whispered "...private."
The men on the bridge nodded in unison. "Ohhhhhh."
The women merely continued working.
Avoiding looking at Tuvok at all, he soon reached the doors to the Captains ready room and quickly pressed the button requesting entry.
Taking the offer for entry he stepped in and was ridiculously relieved when the doors shut behind him, closing out the prying eyes.
Looking up from a PADD, the Captain smiled when she saw who it was. "Neelix, how can I help you?" Holding out a hand towards the chair, she watched as he took the silent invitation and sat.
Neelix smiled, feeling a little less stressed. She always seemed so happy to see him. Perhaps this wouldn't be so difficult. She was a professional individual. "Captain, B'Elanna managed to download one more letter - or at least one part of a letter - before the relay stations were rendered useless. We're trying to find out who it belongs to. We've concluded that it's more likely to be meant for a female crewmember, so I thought I'd start the investigation with you."
Nodding, she held out her hand to take the PADD from him as she placed her own on the desk. Before looking at the PADD she stared at him. "Neelix, are you okay? You look a little more orange than normal."
'Maybe it's because I'm embarrassed and I want the deck to open up so I can fall through and I can't believe B'Elanna did this to me...' "Fine thank you Captain."
Taking him at his word, she looked down at the PADD and began reading. Ten seconds later her mouth was open in shock. "Well...I..." she looked back up at him, her cheeks a little rosier than normal. "I can safely say that this wasn't meant for me. It's definitely not the kind of thing I was expecting..."
"I thought not," Neelix said quickly, eager to change the topic. "But I had to ask."
Quickly putting the PADD down she stood and walked to the replicator. "Drink?" she asked, in a voice that was a little more high-pitched than usual.
"Water," he responded instantly.
Ordering the drinks, she grabbed one in each hand after they materialised and moved over to Neelix to hand him one. Thanking her, he gulped down the drink.
Sitting down carefully, she sipped from her own drink before exhaling. "This is silly, right? We shouldn't be getting embarrassed. We're both adults, and it's something that most of us do at some point. Right?" she asked, as if desperate to know that she wasn't alone in believing that.
Oh, how he wished she hadn't said that. That was not an image of his Captain that he wanted in his mind. But he smiled, briefly. "Right," he croaked.
Reassured she sipped from her drink once more and lost a little of the redness on her face. "Okay, maybe we can make this less embarrassing for everyone involved."
He leant forward, interested. "How so?"
"Maybe we can shorten the list. You said B'Elanna retrieved the letter from the array so she's seen it and it's obviously not hers. It's not mine and it's not going to be Seven's either - she has no one on Earth who knows her. We also know that this was intended for a woman so that eliminates all the male crewmembers - unless one of them has a secret he's been keeping. So that leaves..." she did the calculation in her head "...sixty nine crewmembers." After she realised what she had said, she grimaced. "Of course it *would* be sixty nine..."
"Why?" Neelix asked, genuinely baffled. "What does sixty nine represent?"
God, had no one ever told him? "Er...never mind Neelix. But let's think about this some more. I know we shouldn't do this - it's wrong to judge by clichés - but who are the first crewmembers who come to mind when you think about something like this?"
Neelix pondered for all of two seconds. "Ahhh..."
The Captain nodded.
Neelix found the Delaney sisters working in a Jeffries Tube on deck ten, section twelve.
They turned from their work on an access panel.
"Neelix!" Megan exclaimed.
"It's good to see you," Jenny added.
"But what are you doing here?" Megan finished and they both frowned.
"I could ask you two the same question. This isn't where you normally work."
"Well no," Megan began.
"But B'Elanna's understaffed in Engineering," Jenny continued.
"And we thought we'd pitch in and-"
"-help, you know? We've gotta stick together."
"Of course," Neelix agreed, happy to see that the crew were working together so smoothly. "And as for what I'm doing here..." He explained about the letter and as they nodded handed it to them.
Jenny chuckled. "As much as we wish it were, this letter..."
"...isn't for us. Neither of us had lovers that considerate when we left and-"
"-we don't have any family left alive. Although now that we've said the letter isn't one of ours-"
"-do you think we could make a copy? A girl has to amuse herself somehow."
Neelix blinked, and his neck was starting to hurt from moving from Delaney to Delaney so quickly as they took turns to speak. "I really don't know if that's a good idea. You've said it's not for either of you and if it's supposed to be a private letter for an individual then-"
"Oh come on Neelix." Megan interrupted. "It's a bit late-"
"-for that, don't you think?" Jenny concluded. "You've already shown it to us, so it's not like-"
"-it's something we haven't already seen. And of course we-"
"-wouldn't share it with anyone. Just for us."
"Just for us." Megan confirmed, grinning at her sister who grinned back.
Neelix was really starting to get embarrassed again. "Okay, just take a copy quickly would you?"
Chuckling, they grabbed one of their own PADDs and started downloading the information from Neelix's PADD into it.
A loud thump resonated through the Jeffries tube.
"What was that?" Neelix yelled, looking around urgently for any rampaging Borg.
The sisters remained fixed on their task, although Jenny pointed towards the deck above. "Sympathy sex. She's lost all her friends, he's confused over his father."
A thought occurred to the Talaxian. "Maybe you two can tell me. Does the number sixty nine have any special significance that you're aware of?"
Stopping what they were doing, they both looked up at him and grinned. "Well what have you heard, Neelix?"
Sometime later Neelix emerged from the Jeffries tube, only to come face to face with Harry Kim.
Harry frowned. "Are you okay Neelix? You look a little more orange than normal."
"Fine thank you," he squawked and walked off, tugging at the neck of his top.
That was it. He wasn't going to do it anymore. There had to be a different way to find the answer that wouldn't humiliate him so much. How could he go around to the remaining sixty seven crewmembers and ask them all?
He'd never live it down.
Eventually - after cooking three stress-fuelled leola root casseroles - the answer came.
Destination: Female Members Of The Crew
Source: Neelix, Ambassador, Morale Officer, Head Chef, Map Finder
Neelix here. It has recently been brought to my attention that we were able to retrieve another letter from the array before it was damaged. The letter is incomplete, so although the main body of the letter is intact, we do not know specifically who the letter is from and who it was intended for.
If you believe that you were supposed to receive a letter then please contact me at your convenience.
All enquiries will be dealt with the utmost subtlety.
P.S. Dinner tonight is leola root casserole. I hope you all have healthy appetites! That goes for you too, Captain...
Kathryn Janeway crept stealthily along the corridor, carefully making her way towards the mess hall. She knew that Neelix was keeping the PADD there, in the cupboard with locks he'd had to make when Seven had been having her personality crisis.
Kathryn also knew that her authorisation codes could override anything.
Entering the mess hall, she was relieved to see that the lights were out and that no one was there. Silently she walked into the kitchen and located the cupboard. Activating the simms beacon on her wrist, she worked on the lock. It sprung up a few seconds later to reveal the PADD and...a collection of leola root pieces carved to look like members of the crew?? The Seven was uncanny...and as for the Chakotay...
She did feel sorry for Neelix, though. From what she understood he'd had little response to his message, and those that had responded hadn't had good news.
Removing her own PADD from the waist band of her trousers she downloaded the schematics before quickly shoving his PADD back in the cupboard and locking it.
Then she heard the door open.
Immediately she switched off hers simms beacon and remained very, very still.
Trying to make herself as small as possible, she shoved the PADD under her top and listened as the soft footsteps approached. Dammit...
The intruder only noticed Kathryn when they tripped over her.
The newcomer thumped loudly on the floor.
They stared at each other from the floor, breathing heavily.
Kathryn spoke first. "I won't tell anyone if you don't."
Nodding, Kathryn stood and walked towards the exit, hobbling. B'Elanna could cause a lot of pain even when she didn't intend to...
The doors opened. Kathryn stepped out and nearly stepped into someone else. "Harry!"
Both looked exceedingly guilty, but Kathryn held out her hand. "Don't tell me. I don't want to know."
Lowering their eyes they stepped around in each other. Relieved to be out of the mess hall, Kathryn continued hobbling along the corridor. How was she going to explain this injury to the Doctor?
Turning a corner she...
...bumped into Chakotay.
"You *too*?!" she exclaimed.
Chakotay took a step back and wondered why she had a simms beacon. "Captain, I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Oh." She shrugged. "No. Of course you don't. Good. Well, see you later Commander."
She started to walk around him but her leg took that opportunity to give out on her. Crying out, she would have fallen over if Chakotay hadn't caught her. Unfortunately, the movements also dislodged the object under her top, and the PADD thudded to the floor.
Making sure she could stand, Chakotay bent down. "What's this?"
"No! You really don't want to-"
He had already picked it up. He hadn't intended on reading it, he really hadn't. He had intended to just hand it back to her. But as he went to do so his eye caught a word on the PADD and caught his interest.
"She rides. Her head thrown back, her hair flowing over her shoulders, she rides. Her breasts jiggle as the lovemaster 3000 vibrates under her-"
He blinked. Vigorously. And in one second his entire face was red. Shoving the PADD back into her hands he stared at the carpet. "There you go Captain. You really should go and see the Doctor about that leg." Turning away he almost ran away from her.
"Chakotay, wait! I...this isn't..." oh hell. What did it matter? She had something she needed to replicate.
The next morning, Neelix couldn't figure out why the entire female population of the ship were in a good mood. That was until he unlocked the cupboard and gasped. "Someone's taken the figure of Commander Chakotay!"
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