Disclaimer: I don’t own em—I don’t make any money from this—I just play with these people and try to make every one happy. (except the Paraborg—they don’t care about me and I don’t care about them!)  
 
 

                                                        Friends in High Places  

Rated PG 
 

  The away mission was fairly routine, except for the fact that it included both the Captain and the First Officer and three other members of the senior staff.  It was only a preliminary mission, just scouting around, if they found anything worth further investigation work details would be sent later.  Everyone seemed to be in couples—except of course the command team never admitted to being a couple and no one had, so far, been able to find solid evidence to the contrary.  It was an unusual team selection none the less and no one failed to notice. The Captain insinuated it was a reward of sorts—just a little respite for the senior staff and Jenny Delaney, who was currently dating Harry Kim. 

     They spent the day scouting for vegetation and minerals, unfortunately there wasn’t much vegetation on this rocky planet and the few minerals they found weren’t worth the trouble of mining. They had lunch on the surface, in picnic fashion, blankets and food—prepared they were told by the command team, which they all suspected meant Chakotay.  The sun was warm, but not too hot there was a mild breeze and all in all it was a pleasant place to spend the day.   The reading Seven had taken over the last two days indicated that once the sun went down the temperature would drop dramatically, they didn’t plan on staying here that long. 

“So Captain, why are we really here?”  Tom was laying next to B’Elanna on the blanket, enjoying the warm sunshine and relaxing after their meal. 

“We came to scout the planet, you were briefed on this away mission---weren’t you?”  Her stern voice was offset by the wide smile on her face. 

“Yea, I heard the official dribble—but couples—picnics?  This is no ordinary away mission.”  

“We have to eat, Mr. Paris and there doesn’t seem to be any facilities around here.”  She was sitting next to Chakotay, who was busily studying some rock in his hand---or pretending to.  

“OK –even if we give you that one—we do have to eat.” He sat up to get a good look at her face.  “Why couples?” 

“Couples----I hadn’t realized we were divided that way.” She looked around.  “Yes, now that I look at it –I see what you mean, You and B’Elanna –Harry and Jenny----but Chakotay and I aren’t  -- a couple.”  The look on her face told him she knew exactly what she had done when she scheduled this away mission. 

“Oh---and this is just a coincidence?”  He laughed “Sure—Captain—anything you say.” 

“Why, Mr. Paris are you doubting my integrity.”  The smile was gone but her eyes still reflected a playful mood. 

“I---uh..” 

“Careful Tom.”  Chakotay warned. 

“No Ma’am—never” 

“See Captain ---he’s not really as stupid as we thought.”  B’Elanna couldn’t resist the jab. 

“Good ---Now I think we need to get back to work.”  She got up and offered Chakotay a hand up. 

     They packed up their lunch and headed off in different directions---three teams in three different directions.  They would meet back here in two hours and beam back to the ship. 

“B’E, what do you think this is?  There is nothing on this planet worth our time or trouble?”  Tom trudged along beside B’Elanna. 

“We couldn’t know that from the reading we got.” 

“Yea, but we sure knew it ten minutes after we beamed down here.” He stopped and sat on a rock.  “So why are we still here?  What’s she up to?” 

“Stop complaining and enjoy the sunshine—maybe that’s all it is---a nice day in the sun.” 

“Why?” 

“To give us all a break—I think it’s  great.   Maybe she just needed to get off that damn ship and breath some fresh air---I know I did” 

“Not like her.” 

“Why do you say that? “  B’Elanna sat next to him. 

“Not very Captain like—I guess.” 

“Come on Tom—give her a break. You of all people----I thought you could always see the woman behind the Captain.” 

“Oh I can----I just never thought she could.”  He kicked the small rocks beneath his feet.  “So why the couples then?” 

“So we would enjoy ourselves—god Tom—why question it?  Just enjoy.” 

“You know why---her and Chakotay.  What’s that about?” 

“They’re friends---can’t a person enjoy a day in the sun with her best friend?” 

“You know better. He…” 

“Yea, I know—Tom—we all know he still loves her—not a very well kept secret.  She wants to be friends.  If He can accept that, why can’t you?” 

“I just don’t believe it---there has to be more.  I would give odds she feels the same way he does.” 

“Paris, you would give odds on anything!”  She shoved his shoulder, knocking him off the rock. 

“Yea, but that doesn’t make me wrong.” He laughed as he dusted himself off. 

For what it’s worth---I think you’re right, but she has this thing about protocol and he is her XO.”  She got up.  “Come on let’s see what’s over that hill.” 

    Two hours later Tom and B’Elanna sat at the original site waiting for the others to return.  It was getting late and the sun had started to go down, the temperature had noticeably dropped.   They halted their conversation and turned around at the sound of laughter coming over the hill behind them.  They could hear the Captain laughing and Chakotay shouting something, but couldn’t distinguish the words.  They sounded choppy and out of breath, as they topped the hill it was easy to see why.  

     The Captain came into view first running as fast as she could over the hilltop, laughing over her shoulder at her rapidly approaching First Officer.  As they came down the hill he made a grab for her, she tried to side step and the result was a sight to behold.  Tom stared open mouthed as he watched his Captain and the Commander cling to one another as they rolled down the hill, in a cloud of dust.  By the time B’Elanna and Tom reached them, they were lying in a dirty tangled heap at the bottom of the hill, startled expressions on both their faces.  

“Gods, are you two OK?” B’Elanna rushed up to them. 

“Yes.”  The Captain grunted from her position beneath her First Officer.  “If you would get off of me---Commander.”  It was the Captain voice she used but when she looked at him she burst out laughing again. 

“Do I have to?”  He flashed her the dimples as he moved off her. 

    Standing up he reached down and pulled her to her feet.  They hastily brushed the dust from their uniforms as Tom scanned them with his every ready medical tricorder. 

“Nothing serious---in the way of injury anyway.”  Tom looked them over.  “Nice –the wild look suits you Captain.” 

"We’re not so old that we’ll break from a little tumble down a hill---put that thing away, Mr. Paris.”  She ignored his other remark and continued to brush off her uniform.  Chakotay reached over and brushed his hand across her bottom, earning him a death glare.  “What do you think you are doing Commander?” 

“Just brushing the dirt from your uniform, Captain.”  His amusement evident in his shining eyes. 

“What’s this?”  Harry approached them with a quizzical look on his face, Jenny in tow. 

“Just a little mishap—nothing serious.”  The Captain answered.  “Does anyone have any new findings to report?”  She glanced around at the shaking heads.  “Well, then I suppose we should go home.”  She tapped her comm. badge. “Janeway to Voyager.” 

“Voyager here Captain.”  Tuvok’s calm voice replied. 

“Mr. Tuvok, the away team is ready to return to Voyager.” 

“Captain, we are experiencing some difficulty with and upper atmospheric storm—we are unable to transport and launching a shuttle would be inadvisable at this time.” 

“Are you suggesting we stay here Mr. Tuvok?” 

“I’m afraid Captain, at this time we have little other choice—if the storm intensifies, I will be forced to take Voyager out of orbit.” 

“I see—very well Mr. Tuvok.  Keep me informed.  Janeway out.”  She turned to the others.  “You heard the man—we better make camp—we might be here a while.” 

    The light was fading fast and the temperature had gotten colder, it wasn’t uncomfortable yet, but it promised to be.  They located suitable spot to spend the night.  Chakotay decided to try his hand at hunting the small creatures they had seen earlier---normally he was a vegetarian, but the planet didn’t offer much in that regard and they didn’t have much left over from lunch. So he went hunting dinner.  The others worked around the site and scavenged for burnable substances in the hope of keeping warm. 

     With camp set up and Chakotay occupied with his catch, the Captain headed to the nearby stream in hopes of removing at least a few layers of the dirt she had accumulated during her brief stay.  She wasn’t far away and she could hear the others laughing and talking 
  
  Tom nudged B’Elanna and the others nodded at her.  She made a face and sat next to Chakotay.  
“Hey Chak---what’s with the Captain?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“We don’t usually get to see this side of her---laughing and rolling in the dirt.” 

“She didn’t do that on purpose----the rolling in the dirt.” 

“Come on ---you know what I mean.” 

“Look she’s just relaxing a little—that’s all,” 

“Yea—but this whole mission is a little strange.” 

“OK this it—She needed some time off the ship and she thought you could use some too---she was just trying to be nice—that’s all—just let it be.” 

“OK sure.”  B’Elanna shrugged at the others.  

“Hey Chakotay—What about sleeping arrangements?”  Tom leered at him “Gonna be cold.” 

“We’ll work something out.”  Chakotay stated flatly, but then he snickered.  “OK--- this is what we’re gonna do and I’ll blame it all on you anyway so…” 

     At least it wasn’t a total waste she thought.  They had spent a pleasant day and although the night would be cold they would manage.  She washed herself as best she could in the freezing cold water.  
 

“Captain” B’Elanna whispered as she approached the place where the Captain was cleaning up in the stream. 

“B’Elanna?”  The Captain peered through the darkness at the approaching figure. 

“Yea, I –um”  B’Elanna sat on a rock near the stream, glancing back toward camp and then at the Captain. “Listen they think they are being funny, but---well –I don’t want you to walk into an---embarrassing situation.”  

“What are our boys up to B’Elanna?”  She stopped and studied her very uncomfortable chief engineer. 

“They are setting up camp and well --keeping warm –well..”  B’Elanna took a breath and rolled her eyes. “They decided to pair us off –ya know to share body heat” 

“Yes—and?” 

“Well—I’m with Tom.” The Captain nodded at her and she continued.  “Harry and Jenny and…well” 

“I see.”  She looked very serious.  “I’m with Chakotay?” 

“Yea—that’s how they have it planned---saying, ya know, we would be more uncomfortable man to man or woman to woman—which well could be but…” 

“Yes—has some merit.”  She dried her hands on her pants. “Well----if that’s what they want—we are all adults here –certainly we can handle this.”  She smiled putting her hand on B’Elanna’s shoulder. “What do you say we give them a little of their own medicine?” 

“Captain?” 

“Come on B’Elanna---two can play that game” 

   They made their way back to the camp.   All the blankets were spread out around the fire.  Jenny was sitting next to Harry, already wrapped in a blanket.  Chakotay was roasting his catch on a long stick and Tom was warming his version of coffee in tin cups. 

“Fire, nice touch.”  The Captain commented as they approached.  “I see we have improved our wilderness skills since the last time we had to do this.” 

“There isn’t much to burn, it won’t last long.”  Chakotay ignored her jab at his fire starting skills---or lack of them. 

“It promises to be cold, we had better make some sleeping arrangements.”  She warmed her hands by the fire. 

“We already have, Captain.”  Tom handed a cup of the brown liquid. 

“Thank you, Tom.”  She sipped the coffee.  “So what is the plan?” 

“Well Harry isn’t my type, so I’ll take B’Elanna and Harry and Jenny are OK.”  Tom gave her an innocent look.  “That leaves…” 

“I see—so you got the short straw Commander?”  She eyed him over her cup.  “Forced to sleep with the Captain.” 

“I think I can endure.”  He flashed her the dimples.  “Unless you are uncomfortable with the arrangement.” 

“We’re all adults here Commander, if the others are comfortable with this ---I’m sure I can manage.” 

        Chakotay finished cooking and handed out chunks of meat to the others.  They sat around the fire talking and eating.  Jenny had now included Harry in her blanket and B’Elanna and Tom sat almost on top of one another to keep warm by the dying fire.  

“Well, I suppose we should turn in, hopefully Voyager will be able to return for us by morning.”  The Captain put down her coffee cup and began to remove her boots. 

“Yep, good idea.”  Tom quipped as he wrestled B’Elanna onto the blanket.  

   The younger couples settled under their respective blankets, pretending to sleep as they watched and waited for the command team to settle down. Chakotay slipped off his boots and fashioned the blankets into a bed role. The Captain started toward him squatting low as if to climb under the blankets, then stood up again.   She unfastened her pants and slipped them off, avoiding looking directly at the shocked expression on Chakotay’s face, as she revealed very skimpy black lace panties.  She walked over and hung them on a nearby out crop of rocks, before coming back to join Chakotay under the blankets.  Tom tapped Harry and they smiled at one another, B’Elanna had all she could do not to laugh out loud.  

“Captain?”  

“What?--Oh”  She smiled at him, removing her jacket and rolling it into a pillow.  “They’re damp—wouldn’t help us keep warm.”  She slipped in next to him, he stayed where he was.  “Commander—the idea is to share body heat---if you could come a little closer, I think it might even work.”  She laid down and snuggled close to him.  “Good night.” 

     They all mumbled their good nights and settled down to sleep.  It was quiet for a while, although the increasing cold made it difficult to sleep. 

“Kathryn---what are you doing?”  It was a groggy, but exasperated whisper. 

“Trying to stay warm”  

“Stop the damn wiggling around.”  

“If you stop pulling away, I won’t have to keep moving.” 

“Alright.”  He rolled over toward her, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close.   “Come here—now go to sleep.” 

    Tom snickered and B’Elanna stifled her laughter in his chest.  The other two were quiet until Chakotay let out a loud gasp, then Jenny couldn’t hide her laughter. 

“God Kathryn---what the hell was that?!”  He sat up.   “Your feet are freezing—get them out of there.” 

“This I believe was your idea –you could cuddle up to Tom if you prefer.” 

“Get your damn feet off my leg.”  

“Grump.”  She tugged at him. “Lay down, You have the blankets.” 

“Only if you promise to behave.” 

“Fine.”  She rolled over putting her back to him.  “Think you could manage to share those blankets—or do I need to move farther away?”   She sounded angry, no one could see her smile in the dark. 

“Kathryn—come back here.”  He laid down, pulling her back against him. 

“Commander, sharing the blanket will be sufficient.” 

“Yes Sir.”  He answered mostly for the benefit of the snickers and giggles he heard from the others, he didn’t let up his hold on her.  She snuggled back against him, sneaking her feet back against his legs, he just smiled in the dark. 

   They settled down after that, everyone drifting off to sleep.  The temperature kept dropping and the couples snuggled closer together as the night progressed.   B’Elanna woke to the movement as Tom strained to hear whatever sound it was that had registered in his semi conscious mind, waking him. She raised her head to look at him, he silenced her with his fingers. 

“Kathryn—what are you doing now?”  Chakotay mumbled still half asleep. 

“Warming my hands.”   An equally sleepy voice answered.  

“Humm—on my chest?” 

“Warm there.” 

“My hands are cold” 

“Now who should behave?”  She gasped, then gave a throaty chuckle.  “Yes, I see what you mean.   Better?”  

“Much”  
  
     Tom clamped his hand over B’Elanna’s open mouth, to be sure no sound escaped.  Her eyes were wide as they listened to the soft noises from across the camp.  B’Elanna twisted into position facing the other two, she couldn’t see much in the darkness, two forms melted into one—no clear idea of how. She looked back at Tom, who just shrugged and snickered. 

      The sun finally came up but it didn’t do much for the temperature.  Harry and Jenny were the first to get up but they were reluctant to leave the warm blankets, so they sat bundled together, waiting for the others to wake.  Harry watched the command team sleep, at least he watched the Commander—he couldn’t really see the Captain.   From where they sat he should have seen her, she was on this side---as far as he could tell, she was.   Chakotay had her completely surrounded the only visible part was the very top of the back of her head.  Well, he thought at least she’s warm and he wondered how she could breath in there. 

     It was strange all these years, all the bets and rumors and he had never seen them like this before.  Suddenly they were just two people—a man and a woman—funny how he never saw that before. He wondered, not for the first time, but certainly from a new perspective, what their relationship really was--- or should be.  Chakotay had been uncomfortable when she removed her uniform the night before, but he looked like he adapted pretty well.  And her---she had surprised him when she did it with such ease, walking to the rocks and back in those---god- those tiny panties. 

    They stirred, he watched her struggle to stretch, Chakotay kissed the top of her head.  Jenny tugged at him, she smiled dragging him down next to her, putting a finger to her lips. 

“Don’t let them know you saw.”  She whispered when he was close enough.  “Pretend not to notice.” 

“Why?”  

“She’ll run if she thinks you notice.” At his perplexed look she continued.  “Trust me-I’ll explain later.” 

    He laid down next to Jenny, but continued to watch them over her head.  They were slowly waking up.  

       The blanket moved, a gentle ripple moved up and down where Harry thought her back must be, her hand snaked out, fingers lightly touching his face.  All the jokes, all the trying to catch them at something, all the speculation on whether or not they had sex----it wasn’t about that at all.  As he watched them evolve into consciousness, he realized how far off they had been all this time—this wasn’t about sex—this was about love.  He looked at Jenny, she just smiled—she knew.  He closed his eyes and waited for the others to wake up. 

    Eyes closed he listened to the soft indistinguishable murmurs.  He tried to imagine what they looked like trying to untangle themselves.  He chuckled and she made a low throaty sound, someone walked away—Harry remained still, Jenny beside him. 

“Here.”  Chakotay whispered, tossing her the rest of her uniform. “Put you clothes on and act like a Captain.” 

“Be careful what you ask for Mister.”  

“What the hell were you thinking anyway—strutting around in you underwear?”  He was sitting next to her as they put on their boots.  “Don’t they talk enough—you have to give them a show.” 

“What show—it’s a secret that I wear underwear?”  They were still whispering and her laughter was low and deep. 

“Those were not exactly Starfleet issued skivvies you were showing off.” 

“I didn’t think you care for them—from the horrified look on your face.” 

“Oh--I was suitably impressed as was Paris and although I didn’t see him –probably Harry too.” 

“Why—Commander I didn’t think you cared.” 

“Like hell you didn’t---come on let’s see what’s for breakfast.” 

“Not much as I recall—could be why everyone ate that damned rodent you caught.”  She laughed.  “Hey we could have some of that terrible coffee—anything to burn so we can heat it?” 

“Why bother if it’s so terrible?” 

“Bad coffee is better than no coffee.”  She rummaged through what was left of their supplies.  “Seriously Chakotay—if we have to spend any time down here it won’t be pleasant---do you really want to start out with out coffee?” 

“Good point---maybe we could burn my clothes.” 

“As interesting as that sounds---I think we better find something else to burn.” 

“Yea—I don’t know why we’re burning anyone’s clothes, but if we have a choice---I vote for yours Captain, not his.”  Tom joined them smirking. 

“Not likely, Mr. Paris.” 

“Come on Captain, a naked Chakotay may interest you, but he doesn’t do a thing for me.”  He smirked even harder at her blush. 

“I don’t know, it could prove interesting.”  B’Elanna moved toward them. 

“I think that’s enough.” Seeing Kathryn’s flushed face, Chakotay tried to cut short the conversation. 

“No wait-----don’t I get a vote?”  Jenny yelled over at them. 

“No----- you do not.”  Harry added. 

“Alright people –no one is getting naked.”  Kathryn still blushed furiously, but her command voice was firmly in place.  “What we are looking for is something to build a fire with---not your uniforms.” 

“Tuvok to Janeway” 

“Janeway here.” The Captain breathed a sigh of relief. 

“Captain we will be in transporter range in 15 minutes.” 

“Acknowledge, Mr. Tuvok we will be ready---Janeway out.”  She turned to face the others, the Captain again.  “OK you heard him, let’s get this cleaned up and be ready to go.”  They scattered and began cleaning up the site, she gave Chakotay a sideward glance, rolling her eyes. 

  They materialized together in transported room one.  It was good to be home---even if they were only gone over night. 

“I want all of you to get cleaned up and get something to eat before you report for duty.”  She nodded their dismissal to a chorus of ‘Ayes’ as they filed out “Commander” 

“Yes, Captain.” 

“Once you’re cleaned up, join me in my quarters.”  She noticed the ensign staring at them. “We can review the mission over breakfast.” 

“Aye Captain.”  He replied formally as they headed for the lift, once inside they both laughed.  “You really have to stop doing things like that to the crew” 

“Probably, I should—but I’m finding it great fun.” 

“Well we’ll see at what price your fun comes.   The ship should be a buzz before lunch” 

“Yes, I’m sure they will make me pay for every move I made down there.” 

      While the command team had breakfast in the Captain’s quarters, the rest of the away team ate in the nearly empty mess hall. 

“Hey this isn’t bad.”  Tom was surprised at his own reaction to Neelix’s cooking. 

“Maybe cause it isn’t smoked rodent.”  B’Elanna offered.  “Anything would taste better.” 

“Yea that was pretty bad, but I was hungry.”  Tom popped more food into his mouth and spoke without swallowing  “So—what was that mission?” 

“I thought it was nice.”  Jenny shrugged. 

“Yea, it was---but why?”  Tom persisted. 

“Why question it?  It was a nice day—that’s that.”  B’Elanna was ready to just accept it as a gift and move on. 

“What was with the Captain?  She was awful chummy with Chakotay----wasn’t she?”  Tom surveyed the silent faces around him.  “What?” 

“I think we shouldn’t talk about it---at least not to anyone else.” 

“Come on Jenny –Why not?” 

“She’s right Tom—it’s non of our business.”  Harry backed Jenny up. 

“Since when?  We’ve been trying to catch them at something for years---this is as close as we ever got---last night when they thought we were asleep….” 

“Tom, maybe they’re right.” 

“B’E what are you talking about?  You’re as bad as me.” 

“I know---I always have been—worse sometimes, but I don’t know—this felt different.” 

“Why?” 

“Tom—and I know I’m as bad as anyone, but---I noticed something, I told Harry about it and he sees it too---Whenever we make a fuss or start a rumor she pulls away.” 

“I never saw that.” 

"No, me either---not till Jenny pointed it out—but she’s right.. Remember that Prixin party—you know the one I mean when they were--er–dancing.”  They nodded.  “Look what happened afterwards---she wasn’t seen in public with him –except on the bridge –for months.” 

“God we were just having some fun.”  He laughed.  “And giving them a little push.” 

“They don’t need a push---they need us to leave them alone.” 

“You think---if we backed off…”  Tom enjoyed teasing them, but he never wanted to force them apart. 

“I think we had our fun, so much so that we didn’t even realize how much we hurt them.”  Harry held up his hand to stop Tom’s protest.  “Wait—I watched them this morning and I don’t know---it was like I never really saw them, before---I’ve seen the Captain and Commander and I had a good time like everyone else, speculating about what they were or weren’t doing—see that’s what it was—a game, to amuse us—but I never saw what it did to them---this isn’t who’s sleeping in the Captain's bed— or let’s  see if we can catch them.”  He shook his head.  “I don’t know—I guess I realized it wasn’t a game—this isn’t about sex—it isn’t about catching out commanding officers in a compromising position—that’s OK back in the alpha quadrant, where being Captain is a job---here it’s her life.”  He looked at Jenny unable to find the words to make the others understand. 

“I think what he’s trying to say is----this is about two people—not the Captain, not the Commander---it’s about Kathryn and Chakotay—two people who love each other and deserve a little privacy and we all know they get damn little around here.” 

“Tom, B’Elanna.”  Harry picked up the explanation again.  “This morning when they were just waking up---it was—it was—just right, ya know---like they should always wake up in each others arms---it was warm and natural.” 

“I never meant to hurt anybody.” 

“I know ---none of us did.” 

“Ya know—maybe that’s what it was all about.” 

“What do you mean B’E?” 

“The away mission—maybe that’s part of why we went.  To give us a little look—some insight into what it really is…” 

“You think she planned it---she wanted us to see?” 

“Not all of it—I think maybe she wanted all of us to relax and see them as people. I don’t think she meant us to stay over night----but that worked too.” 

“So what do we do?” 

“Nothing.   I think we just give them some space---but not so much that they think we don’t get it—just enough.”  She turned to the others.  “Jenny, Harry –see what you think—now Tom just can’t stop—it wouldn’t be natural—he has to tease a little and I think she’s OK with a little, especially from Tom.  And Jenny,  you have a rep to protect here too—you don’t do it often but every now and them you really zing one of them—I think that’s OK and I always bust Chakotay, but not publicly—and Harry, mostly you just blush---the thing I think should be different is that we keep it to our selves—just among the six of us.  No rumors, no bets---just us—what do ya think?” 

“Worth a try.”  Jenny looked up then whispered to the others.  “Here they come—now would be as good a time as any” 

“I know it was a long cold night, but are any of you reporting for duty today?”  The Captain smiled as she spoke, so no one worried.  

“I found B’Elanna to be an effective heat source---were you warm enough Captain?”  Tom moved over closer to B’Elanna so the Captain had room to sit. 

“Actually Mr. Paris I was quite comfortable.” 

“Looked that way to me—it was kinda nice actually.” Harry shrugged and blushed. 

“Yea the whole mission—I mean we didn’t get any supplies.”  B’Elanna laughed.  “But we sure had a nice day—I know the fresh air was good for me.” 

“And Chakotay’s food was better than this.” Jenny pushed her tray away.  “How come you get a personal chief and I get Harry?” Jenny stared right at the Captain, who smiled. 

“I guess cause I’m the Captain—Ensign Delaney.” 

“What makes everyone so sure I did the cooking?”  Not even the Captain could contain her laughter when Chakotay said that. 

“Answer your question,Commander?”  The Captain stood up.  “This has been interesting but Tuvok has been in charge for days now---I have a duty shift to cover.” 

“Yes Ma’am, I believe we all do.”  Tom stood and cleared the table, taking the Captain’s coffee cup with his own dishes. 

“Thank you, Mr. Paris." 

“It is the least I can do, Captain.”  He started to the recycler and turned back.  “Hey we’re going to Sandrine’s later---if you two want to come---we’d be happy to have ya.” 

“Thank you, Tom.” She looked up and smiled at Chakotay.  “Maybe we will.” 
  
   The Command team left the mess hall first, getting into the lift and calling for the bridge.  They faced the door then looked at each other and smiled. 

“Kathryn—who were those people?”  He chuckled. 

“I’m not sure—but if the rumors aren’t rampant by noon---I think they might be our new friends.” 
 

The End

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