Disclaimer: Paramount owns the universe. I own nothing but my collection of Star Trek™© novels. Blah Blah Yadda Yadda.
T™© with an alternate ST-17™© ending
VGR J/C P/T EMH/7 (As it should be, now and forever)
Set in season six, sometime after Night, Hunters, Equinox, and Christie Golden's Dark Matter novels, but before Pathfinder, although I have taken minor liberties. (I deny Thirty Days and Fair Haven, and let's just say that Good Shepherd and Memorial came before Pathfinder. You'll see why).
A/N: Warning: Toxic Saccharine Levels. My primary goal here is overwhelming sappiness. It does have a plot; I just wasn't too terribly concerned with pace. It moves slowly. I have attempted to stay true to the natures of my borrowed characters. I have also attempted to include as much humor as possible. But above all else, I went for sap. Anyhow, you've now been warned. TPTB would not approve. (Nor should they).
Summary: My attempt at a reasonably realistic J/C piece, because if all it took was a shuttle crash, a broken turbolift, or a creative holodeck program it would have happened long ago. So just what would it take for Captain Janeway to break protocol? Only slightly more hard work than a Federation-Romulan alliance...
No one had spoken for hours. There was nothing to say. An attitude of defeat had permeated the bridge crew. This was a crew who had found themselves seventy thousand light years from home, and hadn't lost hope. A crew that had faced dozens of hostile alien species; a crew that had fought the Borg and lived to tell about it. Yet for the first time, a sense of hopelessness threatened to overwhelm them all.
Alpha shift was drawing to a close. As the beta shift shuffled in from the turbolift, Lieutenant Tom Paris came to a decision. He got up from the helm, squared his shoulders, and marched to the ready room doors. Everyone tensed. The privacy locks were engaged. Tom methodically entered his sickbay override codes. Even Commander Tuvok didn't move to stop him.
The senior staff of the Federation starship Voyager were gathered in the briefing room. Silently, they looked at each other and absorbed the fact that once again they were forced to spend months crossing an expanse of empty space. The star system that they had just left would be the last for quite a while.
Since finding themselves a lifetime's journey from Earth, they had faced hardship and danger many times, without fear or complaint, but boredom was intolerable to them all.
Captain Kathryn Janeway felt her first officer's dark eyes upon her, and met his gaze steadily. She recognized her own concern mirrored in his face, and tried to reassure him with smile. No, Chakotay, it won't be like last time. She turned to her crew, and her eyes landed first upon the spotty, whiskered face of the Talaxian morale officer.
"Neelix, I want you to organize talent shows, dances, pool tournaments, anything the crew might enjoy. We don't always have time for that sort of thing, after all."
The captain looked next at the chief engineer. "B'Elanna, this is the perfect time for you to install and test those new systems we've discussed. Recruit anyone you need from other departments. Harry and Tom, help her out. And when you have time, finish adding holo-emitters to the cargo bays."
"Captain, if I might make a suggestion?" the Doctor asked.
She nodded. "Let's hear it."
"This might also be a good opportunity for a few crew members to further their medical training." The chief medical officer shot a look at the helm officer and part-time medic. "I'm sure Mister Paris would have no complaints if he was a little less needed in sickbay in the future."
A ripple of laughter passed through the group.
"Good idea, Doctor. And while we're on the subject of education, why don't you get to work on the command training you've been hinting about." The captain smiled. "I'm sure Tuvok would be happy to help."
The Doctor beamed.
"Certainly, Captain," the Vulcan tactical officer replied stoically.
"Anything else?" Captain Janeway let the question hang in the air for a moment. "Dismissed."
They all moved to leave. She placed a hand on Chakotay's arm, holding him back. He met her gaze, and she watched him try to keep his concern for her out of his eyes.
She smiled, grateful for his support even though as captain she shouldn't have needed it. "I have a special assignment for you."
"Oh?" He grinned hopefully, a mischievous glint in his dark eyes. "I certainly hope I can perform to your satisfaction, Captain."
She laughed in spite of herself. Flirting with her first officer wasn't exactly appropriate, but it never failed to cheer her up. "Seriously, Chakotay."
His eyes clouded with concern again as her expression turned somber. "Kathryn, what is it?"
"Last time we had a break in the excitement, I let everyone down." She felt that dragging her fear into the daylight would deprive it of its power. Chakotay, her first officer, her best friend, and often her life support, was the only person on board with whom she ever really dared drop her captain's mask. "Don't let me do that again."
For a moment she thought he would argue. She could tell that he disagreed with her assessment of the past; it was right there in his eyes. But he didn't let her down. He never did. He smiled softly and told her what she wanted to hear.
"I won't, Kathryn. You'll be just fine, but you have my word that I'll be there for you if you feel that you need a little help. Always."
Tom Paris, B'Elanna Torres, and Harry Kim huddled together in the mess hall.
"Well?" B'Elanna asked Tom. "What did you want to talk to us about? I need to get back to engineering."
"I see an opportunity here, but I'm not sure how to go about it." The helmsman smiled at the chief engineer's impatience. The half-Klingon woman was the love of his life. He looked from her to his best friend. "Six months without a Borg cube or anything else in sight. I think our captain might be able to relax a little, if we could convince her to try."
"What do you mean, Tom?" Harry asked, although he suspected that he knew exactly what sort of plan was forming in his friend's mind.
"I mean her and Chakotay. They've been holding off for how many years? I think the timing might be right to redefine some parameters on this ship."
"How do we know they haven't already..." Harry's words trailed off. He tried again. "They eat most of their meals together, finish each other's sentences...Would we really be able to tell if anything had changed?"
"Yes," Tom answered vehemently.
B'Elanna nodded. "I've known Chakotay a long time. He and I are close. He couldn't hide that from me; at least not for long. He'd look too happy."
Harry sighed. She was right. The first officer's emotions weren't exactly difficult to read. "I know you're right. But what can we do?"
"I don't know," Tom admitted. "But the timing is right to start working out a plan. Let's get everyone together tomorrow morning, an hour before alpha shift, in holodeck one."
"Everyone?" B'Elanna asked.
"Everyone who would be willing to help. This might turn out to be a big job."
"Don't tell Tuvok," Harry whispered. "I doubt he'd approve of our interference."
"Are you saying that our meddling isn't logical?" Tom asked, his voice full of false innocence.
"If he thought it was he would have meddled himself by now," B'Elanna answered. "I think we'd be better off not to risk it."
The following morning, a good portion of the crew was assembled in the holodeck. Without a program running, the room appeared stark and bare. Only the yellow gridwork broke the uniformity of the gray walls.
"Everyone here?" Tom Paris studied the small crowd. "Computer, engage privacy locks and disengage internal sensors to this room."
"Mind telling us what this is about, Tom?" Neelix asked. "I really do need to get back to the mess hall. I wanted to make a batch of leola root pancakes this morning."
"It's about Commander Chakotay and Captain Janeway," the pilot announced. "I think this current lull in activity is the perfect time to see if we can't give our first officer a little help with his predicament."
The laughter and general murmur of approval proved to Tom that he was correct in his assumption; the whole crew really was well aware of the first officer's supposedly secret feelings for the captain. He allowed himself to feel some measure of relief.
"What Tom is trying to say is that they both deserve a little happiness, but they seem to need a little nudge in the right direction," B'Elanna explained.
"And we were hoping some of you might have some ideas," Harry added. "Something a little less drastic than some of the things Tom has suggested."
There was more laughter.
"Anyhow, let's all do some thinking, meet back here tomorrow morning, and see if we can't get this project off the ground." Tom said. His voice took on a serious tone. "And no one, under any circumstances, is to use the internal sensors to...check our progress. I mean that."
There were nods and words of agreement.
Tom continued. "I plan on showing a twentieth century movie in the holodeck tonight. I'm sure everyone will enjoy it. It's a fascinating look at the way the twentieth century viewed the future.
"And Neelix, could you see to it that Chakotay brings the captain? It's a start."
"Could you spare a moment, Commander?"
"Certainly, Neelix." Chakotay noticed that Voyager's Talaxian morale officer looked a little nervous. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, Tom Paris is showing a twentieth century film in holodeck two tonight. Could you make sure the captain attends? I think it would be good for morale - "
"I'll try, Neelix. But don't worry about the captain. She'll be sure to attend plenty of these functions while it's quiet."
"Tom seemed particularly excited about this event - "
"Let me guess: It's a fascinating look into how people of the twentieth century viewed the future."
"Actually, that's exactly the way Tom put it," Neelix admitted.
"I expected as much." Chakotay chuckled. "We'll try to be there."
Janeway sat in her command chair, staring without enthusiasm at the blank viewscreen. With part of her mind, she registered the chatter between Tom Paris and Harry Kim as they discussed Tom's latest holoprogram. Vaguely, she wondered why the blazes Tom wanted the floor to be stickier.
She was tired. She recognized the tinge of fear deep in her gut; the fear that this was the beginning of another dreaded battle with insomnia.
The turbolift opened, and Chakotay strode out onto the bridge. He caught her eye and a grin spread across his handsome face.
She couldn't help returning the smile. It was such an infectious smile. "What are you so happy about?"
"Hot date tonight."
Damn. He was going to drag her down to the holodeck to see Tom's new toy. "Oh? Who would agree to an evening with you?"
"None other than the captain herself." His hand brushed hers, and she felt the familiar jolt of excitement at his touch.
She marveled at the effect. He'd touched her hand at least once a day for almost six years now, yet he still had the power to inspire that response. Not for the first time, her mind wandered to other possibilities.
She realized that Tuvok was talking. Get a hold of yourself, Janeway. This is the bridge. She had no idea what Tuvok had said, but she realized with relief that Chakotay was answering him. Once again, she was thankful for his presence, even as she cursed herself for letting his presence distract her in the first place.
When alpha shift ended, the captain and first officer strolled back to her quarters together.
"So, what are we supposed to wear to this thing?" she asked. He noticed her attempt to keep the weariness from her voice.
"Tom said it doesn't matter."
"Good." She tapped the access panel. "Dinner?"
It wasn't really a question, but he answered anyhow. "I'd be delighted." He followed her into her quarters.
She disappeared into the bedroom, and when she emerged she had abandoned her uniform jacket for a plain tee shirt. Chakotay admired the way she could look beautiful even in Starfleet issue gray.
They chatted over replicated pasta and coffee. It was the same scene they had played a thousand times before. The conversation, the banter, the cautious flirting. It was all familiar. Automatic. Comfortable. But still precious and special.
"So what do you know about this program of Tom's?" Chakotay asked.
"Not much." She grinned and took another sip of coffee. "Something about sticky floors. I'm not sure I want to know, but I guess we'll find out soon enough."
"Neelix recited a line about learning how twentieth century people saw the future."
"Of course. I should have known. I suppose I should just be glad he didn't ask me to play the part of Arachnia this time."
Chakotay smiled as he remembered the costume, but with some effort he managed to not tell his captain that she had looked absolutely lovely dressed as the Queen of the Spider People.
"Best seat in the house, Captain." Tom grinned broadly as he led the command team into the theater. "Not too close to the screen. A front row seat is the last thing you'd want at the movies. You'd strain your neck and you wouldn't have any privacy at all. This row is much better. These are unquestionably the best seats."
Janeway looked around at the surroundings. Ugly wallpaper, she noted. She followed Chakotay down the row of seats Tom indicated and observed that the floor was indeed sticky. Authenticity, she supposed.
They took their seats. Tom and B'Elanna sat in front of them. "I replicated you some popcorn, Commander."
Chakotay chuckled at Tom's enthusiasm as he took the cardboard container.
"Hold it like this." Tom held up his own carton and demonstrated. "Then, when you offer some to your lovely date, her fingers will accidentally brush up against yours."
Janeway laughed when Tom winked at her. He was obviously enjoying himself. The event was well attended. She noticed that even the Doctor was present, accompanied by Seven of Nine.
The much evolved Emergency Medical Hologram and the former Borg drone had developed a close friendship over the years, drawn together by their similarities as well as their differences. Shipboard social functions usually found the striking blonde on the Doctor's holographic arm, to the envy of all the more predictable male members of the crew.
Tom leaned towards Chakotay, theatrically conspiratorial. "The most important move, though, is the classic yawn and stretch. You've got your arm around her before she even realizes it."
To prove his point, he turned around and executed the maneuver on B'Elanna, who patted his hand tolerantly and shook her head. "Children." She sighed. "Men are such children."
"I'll remember that, Tom." Chakotay turned to his companion and lowered his voice. "You'd better try some of this popcorn. I wouldn't want Tom to be disappointed."
Their fingers touched as she reached into the cardboard container. Her skin tingled at the contact. The popcorn itself was terrible. It was far too salty, far too greasy, and just a bit chewy. She reached for more.
The lights dimmed. The surface of Earth's moon appeared on screen. The plaque commemorating the lunar landing was slowly covered in shadow.
Chakotay didn't care. His eyes were captivated by the sight of Kathryn's perfect fingers, greasy from the popcorn. He imagined taking her hand, and slowly licking each finger clean. He gulped, forcing the thought from his head.
A large spacecraft filled the screen, scattering dust across the footprints on the moon's surface. Chakotay could almost believe he felt Kathryn's stab of homesickness as an image of the Earth made a brief appearance.
Characters were introduced and the plot began to unfold. Chakotay was having trouble concentrating on the film. He was busy debating as to whether or not he'd risk Tom's yawn and stretch maneuver. It was juvenile, perhaps, but how often did he have an excuse to put his arm around her?
She smiled as he yawned and adjusted his position. His hand came to rest on her shoulder. She'd definitely have to do something nice for Tom.
He felt a surge of emotion as she moved subtly closer to him. There was something to be said for twentieth century culture. He'd definitely have to do something nice for Tom.
The scene shifted to Los Angeles. The lost city, which had tumbled into the Pacific long before his birth, nonetheless held memories for him.
After weeks of tension between the captain and first officer, they had finally gotten the chance to get out of uniform and relax for a while, albeit in the midst of potential catastrophe.
The barely averted temporal explosion that could have wiped out half the galaxy was a dim memory now, but Chakotay still remembered how beautiful Kathryn had looked in that white suit, her long hair in a pony tail.
Sometimes he missed her long hair. Then again, he loved the way she wore it now. As long as she never changed the color. Kathryn's auburn hair was the most stunning shade in the galaxy. His favorite color, except, of course, for the spectacular blue of her eyes. With an effort, he forced his mind back to the movie.
She was acutely aware of Chakotay's arm around her shoulders. It felt good. Perhaps movie night would have to become a regular event. She could see that she wasn't the only one enjoying the evening.
The Doctor had managed to get his arm around Seven of Nine, and Billy Telfer was timidly offering popcorn to Tal Celes. One of the Delaney sisters, probably Megan, was crawling all over someone. She didn't want to know what Harrison and Mannick were doing. And directly in front of her seat, Tom was playfully licking popcorn grease off of B'Elanna's fingers.
Impulsively, she reached into the container on Chakotay's lap, again shivering as their hands met. She looked up at him, a wicked grin on her face.
"You haven't tasted any of this popcorn." She held a piece to his lips.
He opened his mouth and let her feed it to him. Her fingers brushed against his lips. Oh, Kathryn, what you do to me, he thought, his heart thundering against his sternum. He reached up and caught her wrist, and unable to resist, nibbled the butter from the tip of each finger in turn.
Every nerve ending in her body tingled in response to his mischievous and sensual action. She couldn't believe he had done that. She couldn't believe she had let him. Fearing she had gone too far, yet not quite willing to be sorry, she rested her head on his shoulder as she turned her attention back to the movie.
Chakotay tried to focus on the screen, rather than on the cozy weight of Kathryn's head resting against him, or the pleasant sensation of having his arm around her, or the softness of Kathryn's hand, which he still held in his. He reminded himself of how very bad it would look if one of the crew tried to discuss the film with him and he couldn't even remember the plot.
He could hear himself now. 'Sorry, Ensign, I have no idea what you're talking about. I was far too busy smelling the captain's hair to actually watch the film.'
The movie progressed. Janeway found herself identifying with the fictional president. The responsibility of command. Life and death decisions. Guilt. She could empathize. She felt Chakotay squeezing her hand, offering comfort as if he could read her mind.
The president's wife lay dying. Without even realizing it, Chakotay tightened his arm around Kathryn. His throat constricted as the far too familiar cold fear washed over him. There were tears in his eyes. Don't you ever die on me, Kathryn, he thought fiercely, swallowing hard.
She felt him pull her closer. Now it was her turn to squeeze his hand. For the rest of the movie, Voyager didn't exist any more. They both lost themselves in the film, and in the simple pleasure of holding each other without guilt.
The lights came back up as the credits rolled. Reluctantly, Chakotay released his hold on Kathryn as they straightened up.
Tom Paris turned to them, beaming. "So, what did you think?"
"You outdid yourself, Tom," Janeway answered. "We should make movie night a regular event."
"I was hoping you would say that," Tom said. "I found dozens of films in the database."
"Good. I'll be looking forward to the next one." She smiled warmly at the helmsman, then turned to Chakotay. "Walk me home, Commander?"
"With pleasure, Captain."
"That couldn't have gone better if we'd planned for a month," Tom told Harry. "I didn't want to be obvious, but I glanced back at them a couple of times. Not only did he have his arm around her, but I caught him licking butter off her fingers."
Harry's jaw narrowly missed clattering to the deck. "Wow. Maybe they don't need our help, after all."
"Well, I wouldn't count on that. We are talking about the captain, here. Anyhow, B'Elanna's waiting. See you in the morning. And Harry, please don't tell anyone what I just told you. I'm not planning on spending the rest of my life in the brig."
"Well, I think we made progress last night," Tom told the assembled group. He wasn't willing to share intimate details with the whole ship. He wasn't quite willing to violate the captain's privacy like that, even for her own good, but everyone knew that the captain and first officer had attended the film together, as hoped.
"Let's start hearing those ideas," Ensign Kim suggested with typical eagerness.
"We could wait until they're alone in the ready room, then adjust the transporters to beam their clothes off," Tom said.
"Subtle." Samantha Wildman rolled her eyes.
"We could beam one of them into the other's bed while they sleep."
The transporter officer groaned and shook her head. "I think we'll save that one for when we're really desperate."
"Lock them in the turbolift?"
"We'd get caught for sure." B'Elanna smiled at Lieutenant Joe Carey. "Have you noticed that all of Tom's suggestions somehow seem to put the engineering department directly in the line of fire?"
Harry looked from Tom to B'Elanna. "How about a secret admirer?"
"Explain," Seven of Nine requested brusquely.
"The captain gets a few anonymous love notes, assumes they're from the commander..."
"That has potential."
"Someone would have to be prepared to take the fall," B'Elanna pointed out. "If it backfires, someone would need to confess to having a crush on the captain."
"Else the jig would pretty much be up," Ensign Lyssa Campbell agreed.
"I'm already spoken for," Tom said quickly.
"Don't look at me," Harry Kim sputtered. "That would be like, like...just wrong."
"Married man here," Joe Carey said.
"Vulcans do not flirt," Vorik announced in his own defense.
Dozens of male crewmembers scrambled to voice an excuse. The prospect of spending the next thirty thousand light years avoiding the captain's gaze was not pleasant. One by one, the assemblage turned to look pointedly at the Doctor.
"Now wait just a minute," he protested. "I'm a doctor, not a stalker."
"Before you say no, Doctor, I think you need to remember that it's for a good cause," Neelix said. "The captain's happiness is at stake."
"Need I remind you that you are currently unattached, Mister Neelix?"
"Well, we'll have to give that idea some thought," Tom said. "In the meantime, tonight's goal is simple. Let's just try to get them to dance."
Captain Janeway had given her chief engineer permission to recruit whomever she needed from other departments, and Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres was taking full advantage of the captain's generosity.
While her engineering teams worked to increase the efficiency and reliability of systems ship wide, her extra recruits worked on another vital assignment. They were sequestered in astrometrics, choosing a selection of music for that night's party.
Voyager's library contained music from all over the Federation, and beyond. The team, led by the Doctor, was sorting through it and selecting songs that spoke of love that could no longer be denied. They seemed to be plentiful enough. Ensign Mariah Henley had even found one from Regulus III that told the story of a ship's captain and his chief engineer.
Everyone had agreed that it didn't matter if the songs were rock and roll tunes from twentieth century Earth, folk songs from twenty third century Bajor, or even arias from Klingon opera, as long as the sentiment was right.
No one knew how long it would take to get the captain and the commander into each other's arms, and they weren't taking any chances. When the pair finally took to the floor, the music would be right.
Janeway greeted Chakotay with a crooked smile as he stepped onto the command deck. If only she had managed a bit more sleep the night before, the dull shift might have been enjoyable. But even a little groggy, she was content. The previous evening had been fun. She was looking forward to Tom's next movie.
Chakotay returned Kathryn's smile, but noticed the tell-tale look in her eyes that meant she hadn't slept her best. "Neelix has requested our presence in the shuttle bay this evening. He's arranging some sort of party."
"In the shuttle bay?"
"Well, the holodecks are in high demand and he claims the mess hall isn't big enough."
They were interrupted by Tuvok. "Captain, the doors to astrometrics appear to be sealed. And internal sensors in that room have been deactivated."
Janeway and Chakotay exchanged a look. "Janeway to Seven of Nine."
"I'll go check on her. Commander, you have the bridge."
Tom Paris knew exactly what was going on in astrometrics, and he certainly didn't want the captain to know about it. He turned to Chakotay. "I just remembered. I promised I'd give the Doc a hand in sickbay. I'm late."
"Go ahead, Mister Paris," Chakotay replied. He paged Ensign Henley to the bridge. Somewhere in the back of his mind, it registered that Tom seemed just slightly too eager to get to sickbay. But before he had a chance to think about it, Ensign Kim spoke up.
"Commander, I'm getting some strange readings here." Harry's fingers flew over his console as he attempted to make sense of the data. "Tuvok? Would you mind taking a look at this?"
Tuvok left the tactical station, and came to peer over the ensign's shoulder. Chakotay did the same. Therefore, both the first officer and the chief of security were distracted, and neither were at their own consoles to notice the site to site transport from astrometrics to engineering.
When Janeway reached astrometrics, she discovered Lieutenant Carey working frantically. "I'm almost finished, Captain," he told her. "Another two minutes and Seven can get back to work. I didn't realize she was impatient enough to call you down here."
"She wasn't," the captain answered. She reached for her combadge. "Janeway to Seven. Seven, please respond."
"Computer, locate Seven of Nine."
"Seven of Nine is in main engineering."
Vaguely suspicious, Janeway set off in the direction of main engineering, although not before the doors to astrometrics slid open, revealing an empty room.
The readings from the ops station proved to be in error. So much for potential excitement. Chakotay turned his attention to the helm.
Not that it needed his attention. The computer was perfectly capable of piloting a pre-plotted straight line through completely empty space.
That was probably why Tom had suddenly developed more interest in his sickbay duties. He wondered what was keeping Henley, who should have arrived to take the helm by now. She was usually quite punctual.
Harry Kim's fingers danced over controls at the ops station as he pretended to investigate his faulty readings. He hit his combadge. "Kim to Torres."
"Go ahead, Harry."
"I've been having trouble with some sensor readings up here. Could you run a diagnostic for me?"
"I could, but I think that I already know what's causing the problem. We'll have it fixed shortly."
Tuvok raised an eyebrow. It wasn't like Lieutenant Torres to be vague. Still, he was aware that passing through dull sectors often had an emotional effect on the non-Vulcan members of the crew. She was also, no doubt, juggling a number of tasks, and was probably a little distracted.
Janeway found a frantic flurry of activity in engineering. B'Elanna seemed to be directing a dozen projects at once. Seven was seated at a diagnostic station, fiddling with a small object. Her combadge, the captain realized. It must have malfunctioned. Janeway scolded herself for being disappointed at the simplicity of the mystery and turned her visit into a casual inspection.
After her shift, the captain stood staring into her closet, unwilling to waste resources by replicating a new outfit. She needed something feminine, yet not sexy. Something elegant, but comfortable. She envied Chakotay. Men didn't have this problem.
Chakotay had no idea what to wear. It was an absurd problem, really. What did it matter? But he knew Kathryn would wear something stunning, and it felt like he was cheating if he appeared in uniform. His dress uniform, maybe? No. If there was one thing he was sure of in the area of fashion, it was that no one ever wore a Starfleet dress uniform without direct orders.
The commander gasped audibly when he saw his captain. She was wearing a lovely green dress, and she had her hair up in an elegant arrangement. He loved it when she wore her hair like that. It reminded him of how she had been wearing it the first time he had ever seen her. The first day of his life, it seemed to him now. It also made him want to kiss her neck, nibble her earlobe... Chakotay scolded himself for the inappropriate thought.
"Kathryn, you're beautiful," he breathed. With a little too much feeling, he realized. He struggled for composure.
"Flattery, Commander?" she teased. She hadn't missed the tone in his voice, but her role was to ignore it; to maintain the careful balance in their relationship.
"Your turbolift awaits, m'lady." He offered his arm and she took it.
The shuttlebay was hardly transformed. It was just the shuttlebay, with the lights turned down and the music turned up. But the crew members present seemed to be enjoying themselves.
A few couples were dancing, including Seven and the Doctor. Megan Delaney was trying to lure Lieutenant Ayala out onto the floor. Small groups joked among themselves.
Janeway smiled. She liked to see the crew relaxed. Tom and B'Elanna wandered over. "So what do you think of the ambiance, Captain?"
She laughed. "In the twenty-third century many a diplomatic function was held in a shuttlebay. It was often the only room big enough to host a large number of people."
"I've heard that," Tom said.
"I'm just glad that isn't the case tonight." B'Elanna made a face that set them all laughing. "I hate diplomatic functions."
Chakotay listened to her laugh. He loved Kathryn's laugh. He smiled at her, and was rewarded when she caught his eye and smiled back. They both missed the knowing glance shared by Tom and B'Elanna.
"Well, we shouldn't let this lovely music go to waste." Tom guessed that his timing was right and held a hand out to his date. "B'Elanna, may I have this dance?"
They had hoped that Chakotay would follow Tom's lead and ask the captain to dance, but were disappointed. Once he realized that plan A had failed, Tom signaled Neelix. It was time for plan B. He only hoped they wouldn't have to resort to plan G. He really didn't like plan G. It involved the transporters, and would probably get them all thrown in the brig.
Chakotay was dreading the thought of dancing with Kathryn. He was also looking forward to it tremendously, which was precisely why he was worried. He'd crossed the line the night before, and had somehow been lucky enough to get away with it. Now he wasn't sure he could trust himself to hold her in his arms, especially with her looking as absolutely gorgeous as she did.
"Captain! Commander! I'm so glad you could make it!" Neelix greeted them both with palpable enthusiasm. The cheerful Talaxian was carrying a platter of, well, food. "Try some grub puffs. They're really quite tasty. Unless you're anxious to get out on that dance floor, of course. I wouldn't wish to hold you up."
The captain smiled gamely and reached for one of the unappetizing snacks. She popped it in her mouth. "They're quite...interesting, Neelix." She put a hand on Chakotay's arm and gave him a look that clearly was intended as a warning.
"Well, I have to run along to the mess hall and get a few more of these beauties," Neelix babbled, and retreated.
"That bad?" Chakotay asked sympathetically.
"That bad," she confirmed. "Let's try to avoid Neelix for the rest of the evening."
"I can't believe she ate the grub puff." Harry shook his head in puzzlement. "Even I'd rather dance with the commander than eat a grub puff."
"I really don't know how she does it," Ensign Campbell said. She made an exaggerated show of ogling the first officer from across the room. "I certainly couldn't turn him down."
"I'm afraid we're going to have to reach for the big guns by the time this evening is over," Joe Carey said.
Jenny Delaney nodded. "If she'd choose eating a grub over dancing with him then we've got our work cut out for us."
"Plan B just failed," Tom groaned in B'Elanna's ear.
"Which one was plan B?"
"The grub puff."
"That is not a good sign. Plan C?"
"Doctor, Lieutenant Torres is signaling," Seven whispered to her dance partner. "I believe it is our turn to torment the captain."
"This is never going to work, you know. I'm a doctor, not a matchmaker."
"Captain, I believe you can be of assistance to us."
"The Doctor and I have been dancing, but I fail to understand why the male partner must lead. It seems to me that this exercise would be more efficient if the female were to lead."
"What makes you say that?"
"While the Doctor is a more than adequate dance partner, I do not believe that our dancing would suffer if I were to lead. Furthermore, I have been observing Lieutenant Paris and Lieutenant Torres, and have come to the conclusion that she would certainly be the more efficient leader of the pair. Perhaps you and the commander could provide me with a third model?"
The captain laughed. "I assure you that the commander is very capable in that area, Seven."
"While I do not doubt your word, Captain, I would like to make the observation myself before reaching a conclusion."
"This is a social function, Seven, not an experiment. Try to relax."
"Very well." Seven turned to the Doctor. "Would you like to resume dancing?"
"Certainly, Seven." The two headed back to the dance floor.
"It would seem that we failed," she said.
"It would seem so. I suggest we not dwell on it, but rather enjoy the evening ourselves."
"Now what do you suppose that was all about?" Janeway stared after the retreating couple.
"Leave it to Seven to question the efficiency of dancing," Chakotay answered. "Shall we see if there are any edible refreshments?"
Tom and B'Elanna danced closer to Seven of Nine and the Doctor.
"Seven, what happened?" Tom hissed.
"We failed. They are stubborn."
"Well, B'Elanna, we're plan D. Let's go for it."
Janeway and Chakotay had seated themselves at a table between the Delta Flyer and one of the shuttlecraft. They looked up in surprise as Tom and B'Elanna appeared.
Tom held out his hand. "Captain, may I have this dance?"
"Certainly, Lieutenant," she replied, surprised. She rose to follow him. "And to what do I owe this honor?"
"Do I need a reason to dance with one of the loveliest women in the room?"
"Flattery will get you nowhere, Tom. Now what's going on?"
The helmsman thought quickly. "To be honest, Captain, Seven's been paying us a bit too much attention, and you know how much B'Elanna appreciates being observed. I thought I'd try some evasive maneuvers."
"I see." She gave him an appraising look. "So you're just using me."
"No, Captain...uh, I didn't mean...I mean, I didn't mean..."
"Relax, Tom, I was joking."
Chakotay and B'Elanna had followed the others onto the dance floor.
"B'Elanna, have you noticed Seven acting strangely today?"
"Just today?" B'Elanna asked sarcastically as her brain scrambled to concoct a story to cover whatever the first officer had noticed. "I think there's something going on between her and the Doctor."
"That probably explains it. Romance does have a way of complicating things."
B'Elanna looked up at her friend, studying his face. Briefly, she considered asking about his relationship with the captain. But, while Chakotay was usually honest about his emotions, it didn't seem likely that he'd discuss that particular subject openly, and the song was nearly at its end.
Tom was tremendously fond of his captain. She had given him a second chance, and was responsible for everything good in his life. He was happy, and he wanted her to be happy as well. She deserved it. He only wished that he could convince her to try.
He subtly led his dance partner closer to B'Elanna and Chakotay. Plan D called for the old switcharoo between songs. Timing would be everything. And plan D had to work. Plan E was when they started to get a little desperate.
Samantha Wildman was watching the dance floor carefully. If Tom and B'Elanna failed, it would be her job to initiate the next attempt.
"Don't step on her toes, Chakotay, I'll be wanting her back in good condition," Tom kidded. The song ended. "I've got the Captain all warmed up for you, Commander."
As Tom and B'Elanna slipped back into each other's arms, the captain took Chakotay by the elbow and led him back to their table behind the Delta Flyer.
"Now how the hell didn't that work?" Tom whispered fiercely in B'Elanna's ear. He caught Ensign Wildman's eye. Plan E it was.
Six year old Naomi Wildman marched up to Captain Janeway. "Captain, I think you and the Commander should dance now."
"And why is that, Naomi?" she asked.
"Because Uncle Neelix said that anyone not dancing has to taste the new improved grub puffs, and Mom said someone had to warn the Captain."
"And we appreciate the warning," Chakotay told her with a grin. He stood up and offered his hand. "Kathryn?"
Tom's relief was almost palpable when he saw the first officer lead the captain onto the dance floor. "I was starting to think we were going to have to take extreme measures. Score one for Naomi Wildman."
Chakotay felt Kathryn's involuntary shiver as his hand moved around her waist. His own pulse quickened as well. Her hand came to rest on his chest. This was what he had feared. He tried desperately to concentrate on something other than her closeness.
The music, listen to the music, he told himself. He tried to focus on the lyrics. It didn't help. Of all the millions of songs available in the vast Federation library, didn't they just have to be playing one that reminded him of his complex relationship with Kathryn?
Janeway caught herself enjoying the sensation of being in Chakotay's arms, and swiftly reminded herself of protocol. They had both let themselves slip a bit the night before, and as enjoyable as it had been, she felt guilty and suspected, or at least hoped, that he did as well.
Still, her response to his touch was beyond her control. Her skin knew every spot his hands had been. Her waist. Her back. Her hand.
Her mind raced as she searched for a distraction. She started listening to the dance music. She noticed the lyrics. Damn her luck. The song might as well have been written for her situation.
She fought to keep her resolve from crumbling. She would not enjoy this. Starfleet protocol existed for a reason. She could not, would not, pick and choose which regulations to follow. Bending the Prime Directive for the safety of her crew was one thing. Breaking the rules for her own personal whim was another.
Besides, as much as she loved this man, and yes, she could admit to herself that she did, a relationship with him was not in either of their best interests. She'd have enough to answer for when they reached Federation space. She couldn't afford for Starfleet Command to suspect that her judgment had been clouded by a romantic involvement with the man she had made her first officer. That could destroy her ability to protect him, and B'Elanna, and the other former Maquis among her crew.
Yet even as she thought these thoughts, she found herself drawing comfort from the strong arms around her. No, she couldn't pursue a relationship right now. But someday, when they returned to the Alpha Quadrant, she could. And right now, she might as well enjoy being close to him while she had the excuse.
Chakotay felt Kathryn relax and move slightly closer to him. It felt so good to be near her like this. He found himself both grateful for and resentful of this empty expanse of space.
Her arms moved to slide around his neck. He slid his arms around her waist, drawing her closer. Her hair brushed his cheek. They danced through several songs, neither willing to be the one to move away.
She looked up at him, and for a moment he saw his own desire mirrored in her impossibly blue eyes. Each stepped back from the other, quickly covering the emotions both had felt, neither acknowledging what they both had seen. They both headed back to their quarters alone, to cold sonic showers and empty beds.
"They certainly left in a hurry," Tom observed. He wondered if that was good news or bad news, but for the moment he was too distracted to give the matter his undivided attention. "Maybe we should follow suit."
"You're hopeless, Paris," B'Elanna muttered in feigned disgust. She reached up to kiss him soundly.
Janeway stood in her quarters, staring reproachfully at her bed. She was tired. She needed to sleep. Yet Captain Kathryn Janeway, who had faced down the Borg on more than one occasion, had developed an irrational fear of her own bed.
For the third morning in a row, a crowd was assembled in the holodeck an hour before alpha shift. Naomi Wildman, while not present, was the toast of the morning. Everyone congratulated Samantha on her daughter's accomplishment.
"I still can't believe the captain ate that grub puff." Neelix threw his hands into the air. "I spent a great deal of time attempting to make them as unappetizing as possible."
"She must have coasted through Nimembeh's survival course at the Academy," Harry said. "I know we've all eaten insects, but not by choice."
"I've certainly seen the captain eat worse," B'Elanna added. "Hell, I've seen her eat Klingon food."
The group laughed.
"After yesterday's close call, I suggest not engaging any privacy locks unnecessarily," Joe Carey said. "Tuvok is bound to get suspicious."
B'Elanna nodded. "I know that the captain wasn't in engineering yesterday just to check up on me."
"And we can't afford too many site to site transports," Ensign Campbell said firmly. "We got lucky yesterday."
"Well, I guess we'll have to give them a break tonight," Harry said.
"Why?" Tom asked.
"Talent night. I can't imagine there's much we can do to further the cause tonight."
"Ah, and that's where you would be wrong, my friend. Music can be a very powerful force."
Harry eyed his friend suspiciously. He did not like that tone of voice. "What are you getting at, Tom?"
"The first song they danced to last night: You're playing it on the clarinet tonight. And if Seven and the Doc would do us the honor of singing a duet, I think we can make a little progress."
"Tom, I can't learn a piece of music by tonight. I have to be on the bridge all day!"
B'Elanna shook her head. "No, I need you in engineering, Harry. The captain said I could recruit anyone I needed."
"Well, that's settled. Doc? Seven? You up for a new piece? I discovered the perfect song in the database. It can't help but produce results."
Janeway paced around the bridge. She suspected that she was annoying her officers, but she knew that if she sat down, whether it be in the ready room or in her command chair, she wouldn't be able to stay awake.
Dozing off on the bridge would be unthinkable enough, but waking up screaming in her command chair would probably get her confined to sickbay.
When she realized that the poor ensign covering Harry Kim's post was watching her nervously, she moved back to the command deck and slumped in her chair. The fact that Tom Paris was humming tickled at the recesses of her consciousness.
Her mind began to wander. She remembered how good it had felt to be in Chakotay's arms the previous night. If only she weren't the captain. How she longed to taste his lips, to run her fingers through his hair, to explore every inch of his body...
Snap out of it, Janeway. She was horrified at her lack of concentration. The boredom of this region of space, combined with her lack of quality sleep, was really getting to her. Maybe sickbay wasn't such a bad idea after all. Maybe she could get the Doctor to prescribe something. She needed sleep.
She realized just what Tom Paris was humming. It was one of the songs she and Chakotay had danced to the previous evening. He couldn't possibly be doing that intentionally, could he? She reminded herself that he had probably helped Neelix pick out much of the music the night before. Tom probably just liked the song. It was probably just a coincidence.
He kept humming. It was driving her crazy. "Mister Paris, aren't you needed in sickbay? Or perhaps engineering?"
"Captain?" Tom conjured up an expression of confusion.
Was he up to something or not? She couldn't tell. "I just got a sudden urge to pilot my own ship, Lieutenant. Go find something else to do."
Janeway moved to sit at the helm. At least this might help keep her awake. She looked down at the pre-plotted course, then up at the blank viewscreen. Well, maybe not.
Tom had to struggle to keep the smirk off his face as he left the bridge. Now he knew Harry had to play that piece at the talent show.
The first thing Chakotay noticed when he arrived on the bridge was Kathryn, sitting, inexplicably, at the helm. "Report."
"Absolutely everything that can possibly be normal is normal, Commander," Janeway replied dryly before anyone else spoke up. "Except that the captain is incredibly bored."
"Filling in for Mister Paris in more ways than one, I see," Chakotay observed with a chuckle. "Where is he?"
She shrugged. "Sickbay. Engineering. Stellar Cartography. Who knows? I sent him somewhere."
"Oh? Any particular reason?"
"He was..." It flashed through her mind that the truth might be a little too revealing, but then again a lie would be obvious. Tuvok would catch it if Chakotay didn't. "...humming."
If Chakotay suspected anything he had the good grace not to acknowledge it. "Don't we have relief crew anymore?"
"Torres took them all."
Several uneventful hours of idle chatter passed on the bridge, and Janeway was repeatedly glad that she was sitting at the helm. Had she been in her own chair, she suspected that Chakotay would probably have noticed her fatigue. But seated at Tom's station, she could keep her back to him and everyone else.
As the alpha shift neared its end, she rose from the seat. "Commander, you have the bridge. And the helm, I suppose. It seems a little foolish to call Henley or Jenkins now."
He moved to take the station. "Don't forget, dinner in my quarters before talent night."
"Wouldn't miss it."
The Doctor and Seven of Nine had been practicing the romantic duet for almost an hour. Both found themselves captivated by the lyrics.
Seven was surprised to realize just how much the Doctor's friendship had come to mean to her. He was kind and supportive, but that couldn't entirely explain why she found him so compelling.
They stood close together, eyes locked, feelings beyond their control. For once, Seven didn't mind taking the time to experience her emotions. They suddenly felt very relevant.
He reached a hand up and touched her cheek, and before either of them realized what was happening, he was kissing her and she was kissing him back. Her hands found their way to the back of his neck. He pulled her closer. His holographic tongue tangled with hers and they lost themselves in the moment.
Captain Janeway walked into sickbay and found it empty. "Computer, locate the Doctor."
"The EMH is in astrometrics."
Of course he was. Well, she didn't really need him, anyhow. She set about locating a hypospray herself. A stimulant. That would help, provided she didn't get caught by a member of her crew. That would be embarrassing. "Computer, locate Tom Paris."
"Lieutenant Paris is in cargo bay two."
Good. That was five decks away. He wouldn't be strolling in here any time soon, so she was safe. She loaded the hypospray and gave herself a dose of the stimulant. Immediately, her physical fatigue lifted. She wouldn't be nodding off if Tuvok chose to share more Vulcan poetry tonight.
Now more awake, she wondered what Paris was up to in the cargo bay. For that matter, what was the Doctor doing in astrometrics? She decided the second matter was more interesting, and headed that way herself.
Harry Kim and his clarinet had spent most of the day in the cargo bay, and he had successfully mastered the piece of music Tom had given him. He was now annoyed with his friend, who wanted to make changes in his performance.
"Come on, Harry, I'm sure there's a way to make it longer. Improvise."
"Longer, Tom? Why the heck would I want to do that?"
"Look: The captain will be trapped when you're playing. She can't very well turn tail and run, and she certainly can't chase you out of the mess hall. We might as well use this to our full advantage."
"It got to her earlier, Harry. She chased me off the bridge just for humming this song."
"And you want me to play it longer? No deal." He gave his friend a stern look. "You're lucky I'm playing it at all."
"She'll thank us in the end. After all, it's for her own good."
"I don't know, Tom. You'd better be right about this."
The doors to astrometrics slid open. The captain took in the sight before her and backed out swiftly. That was one mystery solved. She turned and headed for her quarters, forgetting all about Tom Paris and the cargo bay.
"I was in astrometrics earlier," Kathryn announced over dinner. She smiled.
"Oh yeah?" Chakotay caught the tone in her voice. This would be interesting.
"It seems that the Doctor and Seven were putting in some quality time. I witnessed a rather private moment."
He laughed. "B'Elanna said she thought something was up with those two."
"Darn. I thought I was finally the first to know about something around here." She smiled again and shook her head ruefully.
He noticed that she looked brighter than she had on the bridge. More alert, and yet more relaxed as well. He returned her grin, chuckling softly. "So what did they have to say for themselves?"
"I escaped before they even noticed me. From the looks of things, they wouldn't have noticed a red alert klaxon, let alone me."
"That sounds serious." He regarded her for a moment. "Should we be worried?"
She sighed. "Probably, but there isn't much we can do about it. It was bound to happen eventually."
"I wouldn't want to stand in the way of romance." He reached across the table and casually took her hand.
They shared a pensive smile, for a moment wordlessly acknowledging the barrier between them. And as was the unspoken rule, they each pushed the moment from their minds as soon as it passed.
The mess hall was packed. Naomi Wildman stood guard, ready to give a heads up if Commander Tuvok, Commander Chakotay, or Captain Janeway approached.
Everyone else was frantically discussing the evening program. That the final act should be Seven and the Doctor was undisputed. It would definitely mean that the show ended on a romantic note.
The exact placement of Harry's clarinet solo was in question. If it immediately preceded the duet, someone might suspect that the choice of music was no coincidence. Of course, there was a danger of that already.
"And why exactly did you feel the need to hum it on the bridge, Tom?" B'Elanna asked. "If she catches on now it's your fault."
"Hey, I heard Harry practicing, and the tune got stuck in my head. Can I help that?" Tom employed his most innocent look.
"Yes, you could have, especially since you didn't hear me playing until after she chased you off the bridge," Harry argued.
Neelix changed the subject. "I think we should put Tuvok between the two songs."
"Yes. Definitely," Tom said. "Good thinking, Neelix. There's absolutely no way Vulcan poetry can possibly hold her attention, and perhaps the lingering tune of Harry's clarinet will produce some interesting daydreams."
Tom's combadge chirped. "Wildman to Paris. Tuvok's coming."
Everyone scrambled to take their seats.
Still in uniform, the captain and commander made their way down to the mess hall. Talent Night wasn't an unusual occurrence on Voyager. Even the captain had performed on occasion. As always, Neelix showed them to their seats before serving as the master of ceremonies.
The evening began with a song and dance number by Megan Delaney that had quite the effect on male members of the crew. Her outfit left little to the imagination.
"The minute you walked in the joint I could see you were a man of distinction, a real big spender..."
"Kind of makes you jealous of that chair, doesn't it," Tom whispered to Harry as the scantily clad young woman from stellar cartography cavorted about with her prop. The comment earned him a sharp jab in the ribs, courtesy of B'Elanna.
Janeway worked to suppress an uncaptainlike giggle when she heard Tom's stifled yelp of pain. She glanced at Chakotay.
He caught her eye and leaned over to whisper in her ear. "I wouldn't mind seeing you in that outfit."
She shot him a look meant to appear scandalized, but failed to completely hide her amusement. "In your dreams, Commander."
Vorik, seated behind them, raised an eyebrow.
Several acts later, Harry took the stage with his clarinet. Janeway stiffened. The song he played was unmistakably the one that Tom Paris had been humming on the bridge that morning; the same song she and Chakotay had danced to the night before.
Could it possibly have been planned? No, Tom had probably heard Harry practicing. Perhaps that even explained why the song had been used at the dance in the first place. She decided to relax. Harry was playing the piece beautifully, and it did remind her of the previous evening, which wasn't unpleasant.
Chakotay felt Kathryn tense beside him. The music sounded familiar. Slowly, it dawned on him. This was the same song they had danced to in the shuttle bay. Briefly, he remembered the flicker of desire he had seen in her face that night. He then ordered himself to forget it. She, no doubt, had gone through the same thought process. He noticed that she had relaxed again.
Next, Tuvok recited a poem. Few things were as boring as Vulcan poetry. Poor Tuvok wasn't aware of it, but no one in the entire room was paying him a bit of attention. Well, maybe Vorik was listening. Everyone else was busy staring at the back of the captain's head. Had she recognized the music? Had they achieved the desired effect, or were they caught?
Both Janeway and Chakotay were busy trying to bury the feelings that the music had provoked. They were comfortable, if not entirely happy, in their carefully balanced relationship. Now, for the third night in a row, they were being reminded of just how much they wanted more. It made them both nervous.
The poem ended. It took a moment to register with the audience that it was over. Fortunately, Vorik had indeed been listening and discreetly alerted the rest of the room.
Seven and the Doctor took the stage. Everyone, Kathryn Janeway included, was swept away by the hauntingly beautiful duet, performed with skill and emotion.
Neither the Doctor nor Seven of Nine even seemed aware of the audience as they sang to each other of a love that grew from friendship. And when the song drew to its conclusion, the Doctor raised a hand to Seven's cheek and she leaned in for a gentle kiss.
The crowd applauded with enthusiasm, and the couple almost appeared startled by the reminder that they weren't alone. Neelix jumped up to bid everyone good night, and people started to mill about.
Everyone seemed anxious to congratulate Seven and the Doctor on their moving performance. The captain and first officer took the opportunity to flee.
They remained silent in the turbolift. Chakotay walked with her to her quarters. They stood at the door, momentarily as awkward as teenagers.
Janeway would have liked nothing more, just then, than to yank the pips from her collar and fling herself into Chakotay's arms. Instead, she pecked him on the cheek, an action which itself nearly broke her resolve, and bid him good night.
"He said what?" B'Elanna Torres was staring at Vorik in disbelief.
Even in the midst of a noisy crowd, Tom heard the shock in B'Elanna's voice. Instantly curious, he crossed the room to join her.
"He said 'I wouldn't mind seeing you in that outfit,'" Vorik repeated.
"Megan Delaney's dance costume."
B'Elanna ignored him and turned back to Vorik. "What did she say?"
"She said 'In your dreams, Commander.'"
"How did she say it?"
"I am far from an expert on human emotions, but I believe her expression contained more amusement than genuine annoyance."
"Bless your Vulcan ears." Tom patted Vorik on the back with an enthusiastic disregard for the well known fact that Vulcans disliked physical contact. "I think we're making progress."
Chakotay walked back to his quarters, his entire attention focused on the fact that Kathryn had kissed him on the cheek. She had actually kissed him. Already, the sensation of her soft lips gently brushing against his skin was a memory that he cherished.
He didn't dare hope that it would happen again, and he hadn't let himself wonder whether it was safe to kiss her cheek in return. She had certainly managed to surprise him; it was a boundary they had never crossed before. And would never cross again, he reminded himself firmly.
He knew better than to read too much into it. Her action was a gesture of friendship, nothing more, but circumstances being what they were, it was probably as close as they would come to what they really wanted. The ship came first, and that meant following Starfleet protocol.
Friendship would have to be enough, for now. It was enough, almost. He wanted more, but he wasn't foolish enough to think that possible. He certainly wasn't shortsighted enough to push his luck and risk this friendship that he treasured so highly.
Someday, though. Someday, in the alpha quadrant, circumstances would be different. Someday.
She wasn't tired. No, that wasn't quite right. She was very tired, exhausted even, she just wasn't sleepy. Falling asleep would be close to impossible.
Janeway spent a miserable night, tossing and turning restlessly. The stimulant, as she should have known, had been a bad idea.
It was almost morning before she finally dozed off, only to be awakened almost immediately by the computer.
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, March 2002.