Hair of the Dog
by Kit Montana
All characters and the Star Trek universe belong to Paramount; no infringement is intended. The story, however, belongs to the author. Do not benefit from it other than through personal enjoyment. Do not reproduce without express permission of the author.
It was a gradual thing that would have gone unnoticed to most.
He first noted it the Thursday before last at the engineering status meeting. Her demeanor, as always, was perfect -- attentive, intense, responsive. But for a brief moment, when he cast a quick glance at her to gauge her reaction to something Torres said, he saw something unfamiliar in her eyes.
He gave it a few seconds' thought, then dismissed it, thinking it was some trick of light, or even his imagination. But later that same evening, at dinner, he noticed a slight droop to her shoulders and the food on her plate remained unfinished. Granted, it had been a particularly trying day, with one of the gel pacs developing a leak and an unexplained power loss in stellar cartography; but Captain Janeway had always taken such minor obstacles in stride. Indeed, she seemed to enjoy each day's challenges. Her step had a spring to it, her eyes a sparkle, when there was a problem to overcome.
So he took notice of these small, anomalous things. He filed them away in the back of his mind with the hope that they would gather cobwebs and never need to be thought of again.
But then, this morning, he'd had to call her name twice to get her attention while they were on the bridge, and the embarrassed look she gave him made him realize she hadn't heard a thing he'd said.
These were little things; things that would have gone unnoticed.
If he hadn't been looking for them.
Chakotay had no doubt that Captain Kathryn Janeway loved being captain of USS Voyager. One look on her face when she stepped off the turbolift at the beginning of the duty -- whether that "day" began at 0700 or 2200 -- made it clear that command of this ship brought her a joy few could even imagine. She reveled in the responsibility; in the authority; in the freedom. She was the ship's benevolent despot, with control over its operation and function and population. A new system to be installed? She made the final decision. A change in course, a mission to be undertaken? Janeway decided. An argument that developed into a fist fight? Voyager's captain was the jury and the judge to mete out punishment.
Still, command wasn't something she took lightly; no one in his or her right mind would.
So at first he thought the eternal pressures of her position were beginning to weigh on her, that she needed a break from the crushing 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, grind. He consulted with Neelix to arrange special events -- a talent show, a concert, a rolling poker game -- and there was little doubt the captain enjoyed them all, participating with unexpected gusto.
But still, the occasional shadow fell over her face when she thought no one was looking.
Perhaps, he thought, she needs some liberty. She needs to take off her boots and run barefoot through the grass on some sun-flooded planet.
He set Harry Kim to work to search out one. It took a week, but a class M planet was located. It was void of dangerous animal life, lush with blue-green vegetation, reminiscent of the old New Atlantis colonies. Janeway took one look and finally gave in to her first officer's badgering and took a day off to visit the planet.
She came back, face flushed with pleasure, arms full of flowering plants for transplantation, and full of stories about unique geological formations.
And for a while, the shadows abated ...
She jumped, splashing coffee on her uniform and dropping the photograph. Unexpectedly, the glass fronting the picture shattered. Chakotay took a quick step forward to help her.
"This glass shouldn't have broken," he said, puzzled.
Janeway squatted down to pick some of the shards from the carpet.
"It's an antique -- or rather, it *was* an antique. Original glass. My mother gave it to me for Christmas years ago."
She spoke without inflection as she piled most of the fragments on the face of the photograph. She stood up to place it on the desk carelessly, as if its destruction were of little concern to her. It wasn't until then that Chakotay noticed it was the picture of her dog and Mark, and than her hands trembled slightly.
"I'm sorry," he said, gently. "Would you like me to get it repaired?"
Janeway cast it a brief glance. "No, no. It's not important. Shall we get to it? I have Kes coming in at 0800 ..."
She moved to sit behind the desk, expecting him to take his usual place in the chair across from her. He stood rooted to the spot until she looked up.
"What is it?" she asked.
He hesitated, and then spoke. "Let me ask the same of you -- what is it?"
She looked bewildered for a moment, then blushed slightly. "You embarrass me, Commander. I thought my shield was impenetrable."
He gave her a slight smile. "It is -- to most. To almost all."
She matched his smile and motioned to the chair.
"All right -- true confessions here."
She took a sip of coffee to give herself a moment to gather her thoughts, to balance what she was going to say.
"Christmas is in a few weeks. While we didn't practice organized religion in my family, it was the one time of year we all got together, come hell or high water. It was a family tradition."
Janeway took another sip of her coffee, a thoughtful, slightly sad look in her eyes. "This will be the first Christmas in years that I won't be home." She looked out among the stars for a few seconds, and then at the photograph on her desk with its small pile of broken glass.
"I'm just a little ... well ... homesick." She gave him a rueful smile. "It's not like we don't all wish we could go home."
They sat in silence for a few moments, and then Janeway sat forward in her chair.
"Right, now, about our energy consumption. I think we did pretty well last week, maybe we should consider increasing the replicator rations ... "
"Mr. Paris, at your convenience, I'd like to see you in my quarters."
Paris, lining up a perfect shot at the pool table at Sandrine's, wonder what he'd done now ...
Paris' voice was tinged with dismay, almost whiny. Chakotay found it difficult not to smile.
"Because you're ... experienced in matters like this. Besides, you're the only one on the ship who's acquainted with the brig. You'll know what to expect if you get caught."
Paris' mouth fell open.
"Thanks a lot! You don't think that's a good reason for me *not* to do this? I've done my time."
Chakotay chuckled, then got serious. "So who do you want me to trust this to? Tuvok? Harry? B'Elanna? You know she can't keep a secret worth a damn."
Chakotay clapped a hand on the young lieutenant's shoulder. "You should be happy I have such faith in you!"
Paris shook his head. "All right. I'll do it. But where do I look for it?"
Chakotay thought for a moment, and then snapped his fingers. "Her liberty clothes. She's hardly had a chance to put them on since we came to the Delta quadrant. Be sure to vacuum the floor and the chairs, but I think her clothes are our best bet."
Paris shook his head again. "I could be court martialed for this."
Chakotay grinned. "Trust me, Mr. Paris! I won't let anything happen to you! We're in this together."
"That's what scares me," he said grimly.
Relax, he told himself. Relax. Chakotay will keep her busy. They'll be in Sandrine's for more than an hour yet.
Getting in was a snap. Earlier in the day, he'd circumvented the security access codes in the computer. He tapped in the new code and the doors to Janeway's quarters. He closed the door behind him and secured it -- although the only person who might want to get in would be Janeway herself and it might be a little suspicious if she found her own door locked against her.
Paris pulled out the vacuum and thumbed it on. It worked virtually without sound as it sucked up dust and minute particles from the carpet and furniture. As he vacuumed, he looked around him, trying to figure out where Janeway might store her non-uniform clothing.
When he was done with the floor and furniture, he flicked the vacuum off and opened her closet. Not unexpectedly, it was immaculately arranged, uniforms hanging straight, boots shined with the toes lined up in a row. And tucked far to the right, just as neatly aligned, were her non-uniform clothes.
Rather than pull them out -- and risk the possibility of putting them back incorrectly -- Paris slid into the closet and turned on the vacuum. As he ran it over the material, the scent of her rose up around him and he started. It took all of his will to slow his pounding heart. Even when she wasn't here, she was watching over him.
Fap, he thought, if I get out of this I'm never going to help Chakotay with any of his hair-brained schemes again.
He stepped out of the closet and tucked the vacuum back up his sleeve. With a jolt, he realized he had only minutes left before the time he'd agreed upon with Chakotay. And what if the Captain hadn't wanted to stay for the whole pool tournament?
Paris' heart began to pound again, and he opened the door to Janeway's quarters -- and looked straight into the surprised face of his Captain and the panicked face of his first officer.
Janeway placed a hand on Paris' chest and forced him back into her quarters. She crossed her arms, her lips pressed together in a hard straight line.
"So?" she asked.
Lie! screamed a voice in Paris' head. Tell her you were walking by and in a moment of whimsy was wondering if the Captain wanted to watch the pool tournament. When he rang the chime he thought she's said come in and the door was open ... or tell her you were going to visit Jenny Delaney and took a wrong turn into Janeway's quarters ... or ... fap.
Caught. He was caught. And there was no way he was going to lie to her. If he learned anything in his life, he learned never lie again. But the truth was as impossible as a lie.
"Uh," said Paris.
Fury jumped into Janeway's eye.
"Mr. Paris, I want to know right now what you were doing in my quarters," she snapped.
Paris' eyes slipped to Chakotay's face. The first officer stood frozen, helpless.
Unexpectedly, Paris pulled his shoulders back and stood at attention.
"Ma'am, I am sorry to inform you I cannot tell you why I was in your quarters."
Chakotay winced. Bad to terrible to impossible in three seconds flat.
Janeway face flushed with anger.
"'You cannot tell ...,'" she stopped, choking with the intensity of her rage.
Chakotay reached forward and grabbed Paris' arm, none too gently.
"I'll secure him in his quarters," he said quickly, a touch of hardness in his voice. "We can deal with him tomorrow morning."
Janeway waved her hand, dismissing them both. Anger, but also disappointment and sadness, were reflected in her face as the two men hurried out the door.
"Breaking and entering! Court martialed! I'm going to be court martialed for this!"
Paris paced around his quarters like an animal caged. "This may be a record, you know. How many Starfleet officers do you know who get court martialed twice in their career?"
He stopped his pacing and addressed the wall. "Do you suppose this will get me in the Guinness Book of Galactic Records?" he said, bitterly.
"You won't get court martialed," Chakotay said miserably. "I'll tell her I ordered you to do it."
Paris turned around and looked at his first officer.
"You would do that for me?" he said finally.
Chakotay looked up. "Of course. It's the truth."
Paris sat down next to him on the bed, their shoulders inches apart. "Yeah. But ..." He handed Chakotay the vacuum. "Let's not have all this be for nothing. I'm pretty sure I saw some when I was going over her clothes."
Chakotay cradled the slim machine in his hands. "Thanks."
"And -- uh -- you didn't order me to do this. I wanted to. Honest. Just stick up for me tomorrow. She listens to you; she won't court martial me," said Paris with a sigh. "And let's face it, Voyager is short on pilots. The ship needs me. What can she do to me?"
Chakotay's shoulders drooped even lower. "Tom, believe me, my intentions were good."
Paris gave him a wry smile. "I know. But I want you to remember something. You owe me. Again. And I keep score ... "
The bridge officers weren't privy to the specifics of the "discussion" that went on in the Captain's ready room between Janeway and Chakotay, but they knew it was spirited. The conversation rose and fell for more than an hour as Paris sat, shoulders hunched, staring straight ahead at his pilot's console.
His day had started with an audience with the Captain and Chakotay where he'd again refused to tell why he'd been in her quarters. Paris could tell the night -- and the fact that nothing was amiss in her quarters -- had cooled the Captain's anger. He hoped that this, and her innate compassion, would allow her to go easy on him.
He'd been summarily dismissed while his fate was determined. And when it was decided, they called him back in.
Six months' holodeck privileges revoked. Six months' replicator rations revoked. Six months' extra duty. And when he wasn't on duty, he was confined to quarters
For six months.
But it wasn't a court martial. It wouldn't even go into his permanent record. In six months it would be over.
It was almost, thought Paris, worth it.
The days passed. Star system were mapped. Class M planets explored. Anniversaries and promotions and birthdays celebrated. Poker games played and billiard tournaments held. There was even a marriage, with a huge reception afterward.
And all without the exuberant, flirting presence of Lieutenant (junior grade) Thomas Eugene Paris of Starfleet.
"You want me to *what*?" asked Janeway, her face full of surprise.
"Just for an hour, Captain. He's been a model officer lately. And I know he deeply regrets what he did," said Chakotay.
*And you have no idea how much I regret it*, thought Chakotay.
Janeway sat, closed the book she'd been reading, and placed it in her lap.
"I had no idea you and Mr. Paris were so close, Chakotay," Janeway said with a touch of amusement. "And to be honest, I have a feeling Mr.Paris may not want to attend the ship's Christmas party. I'll be there, and, after all, I was the one who put him in hack."
Chakotay thought quickly. Paris absent from the Christmas party was unthinkable. What could he say to persuade her to bend the rules to allow Paris to attend, if only for a hour?
He leaned over and put a hand on her shoulder.
"Please. An hour. I think it'll mean more to him than you know."
Janeway was so startled she was speechless.
"Er, all right, Chakotay, if you think so," she said finally. "But only an hour. It's important to maintain discipline. I'm sure you appreciate how essential that is."
Chakotay sighed inwardly.
By 2000, the party was in full swing. To accommodate the entire crew, Janeway had ordered a special duty rotation so that over the course of the evening everyone aboard would have a chance to stop in and sample some of Neelix's Christmas fare. The result was a party that never lost its freshness, with people moving in and out, some in liberty attire, some in uniform, some exhausted from hours of dancing, some just getting started.
And the Captain held court, drinking champagne. From her high color and laughter, there was little doubt it was the real thing.
Paris came in, still in uniform, just as Janeway was beginning to open her presents. The Captain caught his eye and gave him a slight nod. He nodded back and made his way to the bar, leaning up against it and sipping beer from a frosty glass, never taking his eyes off her.
Her mountain of gifts were mostly amusing tokens -- a hand-made cushion for the Captain's bridge chair, a "bun warmer" for her hair, a lurid pseudo-Victorian holo-novel written by the entire engineering department -- but a few were so touching Paris imagined there were tears in her eyes. Replicants of the Captain's pips and medals framed in a small case for her wall. A hand-carved model of Voyager. And last, a piece of antique glass cut to fit the photograph of Mark and her dog.
"Speech!" shouted someone to Janeway from the back of the bar.
Paris took a sip of his beer. Ten minutes more and he'd have to go back to his quarters.
Janeway stood, smiling, to thank her crew, but before she could start, Kes came in, clutching a blue ship's blanket to her chest. All eyes turned to her.
"Sorry to be so late, Captain," said the petite Ocampa. "But there's one last present for you."
Kes placed the blanket into the Captain's arms, and folded back a corner -- to reveal a squirming auburn Irish Setter puppy, so young its eyes were still closed.
"Oh ... my."
Janeway brought the bundle of softness up to her face to rub its silky head against her cheek. A tiny pink tongue lapped her nose.
Silence filled the bar.
Janeway looked up to find the Doctor and Chakotay were standing in front of her.
"How?" she asked. "How did you do this?"
"She's a clone of your dog," said the Doctor. "There's some genetic drift, but we were able to control it fairly well. I don't think you'll notice the difference --"
"How?" Janeway repeated to Chakotay, interrupting the Doctor.
Chakotay smiled warmly. "We were able to find some dog hairs with the follicles on them to get the DNA. Kes and the Doctor cloned her. She's still on the bottle, but Kes said she'd take care of her while you're on duty."
Janeway buried her face into the soft fur, breathing in the puppy's sweet, warm scent. It smelled of home.
"Thank you," she said, looking up into her first officer's face, her own suffused with emotion. "You have no idea ... "
Chakotay shook his head. "Don't thank me. I had little to do with it. You should thank Tom. He was the one who got the dog hair from your liberty clothes -- I think you remember when he did that."
Janeway turned quickly, to Paris, standing only feet from her.
"Merry Christmas, Captain." He put his half-finished beer down on a nearby table. "I wish I could stay, but my hour's up."
She placed a hand on his arm, caught between heaven and hell.
"Tom, I don't know what to say." She swallowed hard, trying to clear the lump in her throat. "This is the best present I've ever gotten."
She swallowed again. She wasn't sure if she could get the words out.
"Maybe the most costly one, too."
Paris looked at the squirming puppy she clutched in her arms, and then into the tearful face of the woman who had set him free from a lifetime of humiliation and self-pity. Hell, he'd probably have ended up a drunk in some bar if it weren't for her.
Six months of bad food and long hours of work and no entertainment?
He smiled at her broadly.
"It was nothing, ma'am."