Disclaimer: Star Trek: VoyagerTŠ is the registered trademark and sole property of Paramount Pictures. This story is non-commercial and for enjoyment only. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR: Jinny R
SUMMARY: Does everyone have to have a personal agenda? A Usual Suspects Fic.
The Games People Play
Captain Janeway was the first one who noticed it. She was authorizing reports in her usual capacity when it came to light. It was just an interesting fact at the time but she tucked it away in her mind before she continued on with her padd work.
It came up in conversation with Commander Chakotay on the bridge one day when discussing the duty roster. He had known, of course, but hadn't considered its significance. There were always so many things on his plate; if he only had eight balls in the air at any one time he was having a slow day.
Harry had overheard a part of the command team's conversation but it wasn't until he was having lunch with Tom that the penny dropped. He mentioned it to Tom who then sat chewing his food and staring into space for the rest of his meal. Harry could hear the wheels turning the whole time.
Tom mentioned it to B'Elanna who, in turn, mentioned it to Seven. Harry tried to use it to break Tuvok's concentration at kal-toh but failed, as deep down he knew he would. Seven asked the Doctor why it was significant and didn't understand his uplifted expression.
The last one to hear of it was Neelix and he almost missed it. He overheard so many snippets of conversation while scurrying around the messhall that his filtering system operated on delay mode. When it did trickle into his brain he almost dropped a leola cream pie. He wondered if he was getting old.
The entire senior staff was off duty one evening every three weeks. It could only mean one thing.
Chakotay leaned over the centre console towards Janeway. "Did you get Neelix's memo?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, I did. What do you think about the idea, Commander?"
"Frankly, I could use that kind of down time. How about you, Captain, would you be willing to participate?"
"You know, Commander, I think I would. It's time I started socializing with the crew more and, after all, this is our senior staff. Don't take this the wrong way, but right now you're the only one I can really let my hair down with. I know I bore you sometimes, but have you ever tried to chat with Tuvok?"
"No. But I'm certainly willing to bet against him."
"Okay, then. Let Neelix know that this is approved and have him spread the invitation. And, Commander, she paused, "let him mention my name and rank when he does it." Their shared smiles were wicked.
"Pass." Chakotay said quietly. He poured himself a beer.
"Two." B'Elanna accepted the two cards dealt to her. "So, Tom, how's Captain Proton?"
"One." Tom took his card. "Just dandy, thanks. CP and Buster Kincaid are saving the universe tomorrow afternoon. Would you like to join us, Be?"
"Two." Harry's hand gathered his up. "Yeah, B'Elanna. Miss Goodheart could use a Klingon attitude."
"I require two cards, Captain."
"No ranks allowed, Seven, we all agreed. My name is Kathryn." She flipped the cards towards Seven.
"Very well. Kathryn." Seven's implanted hand scraped them up. "Do not listen to them, Miss Torres. My experience with Miss Goodheart indicates that no amount of Klingon attitude would save you from an hour of numbing boredom."
"And I'd like three." The EMH daintily inserted them in his fan of cards. "Just be sure to finish on time, Mr Paris. I've reserved the holodeck right after you tomorrow and I prefer not to have to wait for the galaxy to be saved before enjoying my art class."
"Capt-Kathryn, kindly give me two. Thank you!" Neelix's voice was lilting again. "The holodeck library is certainly expanding, isn't it? What's your favourite, Mr Vulcan?"
"I require one card." Tuvok's card landed and he added it to his hand. "The Temple of Amonak, Mr Neelix. It is very meditative and tranquil and I find that I can centre myself there. At least, I can when Mr Paris and Mr Kim have not programmed the priests to wear pyjamas. I find the one-piece suits with attached booties particularly disturbing."
Kathryn surveyed the table. "None for you, eh, Chakotay?" She looked at him and ignored his serene smile. "You're bluffing already. Dealer takes two. Jammies, Tuvok? You should have told me, I would have enjoyed helping you find new ways for these gentlemen to amuse themselves. After all, I am the Captain."
Chakotay shook his head gently. "Not tonight you're not, Kathryn. Tonight you stay just as much in the dark as the rest of us. Speaking of which, B'Elanna, do you have another fun-filled afternoon of total darkness planned for us? That was oh so much fun last week; we're lucky someone didn't walk out an airlock." He tossed in a chip. "I'll open with one-half ration."
"Very funny, Chakotay. I didn't hear you complaining much when you and Kathryn were finally rescued. And, apart from that little episode, Vorik's engineering skills are improving every day. Joe and I are really pleased with him. I'll see your half and raise another quarter."
"Wish he'd find a girlfriend, though. He keeps looking at you funny, Be - want me to talk to him for you? See your quarter and do it again."
"Watch it, Tom. Vorik could eat you for breakfast. After all, anything's an improvement." A sputtering sound started and Harry quickly continued, "Just a joke, Neelix! I didn't mean it! Here's my quarter and I'll raise another half." He exhaled slowly as attention turned to Seven. She was sitting upright and staring at her hand.
"I use very few replicator rations. Therefore, Mr Kim, I will see your half ration and raise you...fifteen rations."
The room exploded. Players began yelling at Seven and each other, Neelix jumped to his feet protesting about not even getting to place his first bet, several fists holding cards were being waved about, and a drink that had been slammed on the table was spreading a stain. Kathryn looked at Chakotay and said quietly, "You first. You like blondes."
He narrowed his eyes at her before turning his attention to the table. "Everyone quiet! Neelix, sit down! Harry, get a cloth before that stain spreads any further! Tom, restrain B'Elanna before someone gets hurt! That's better. Now, Seven. Didn't the Doctor explain the rules of this game to you and take you through several simulations?" The EMH nodded wildly in the background.
"He did. Chakotay. I understand that I am to consider the cards I hold and then calculate the mathematical probabilities of the identity of each of the cards held by my opponents. Then I wager my replicator rations in the attempt to accumulate all the rations of those opponents. When I have done this I will be declared the victor. Is my understanding of this game faulty?"
"No, it's fine, Seven. However, this isn't cut-throat poker -- there's a limit to how high one person can bet on each round. We agreed to one replicator ration. Do you understand, Seven?"
"No. It is not a logical restriction considering the goal of this game."
"Indeed." All eyes turned to Tuvok. He looked around. "I apologise. Did I say something inappropriate? Kathryn?" All eyes turned to her.
"Don't look at me. Chakotay is refereeing this round." All eyes turned to him. He sighed.
"Seven. Don't bet more than one ration at a time. It's a requirement of our shared recreational activity. Our goal is enjoyment, not annihilation. Understand?"
"I shall comply. Mr Kim, I will see your half ration and raise you one whole ration. Is that acceptable? Chakotay?"
"Yes, Seven, well done. Shall we continue, everyone?"
The game continued and everyone began to relax. Betting was a little difficult for the Doctor until B'Elanna pulled out a small tool from her shirt pocket and fine-tuned his programme through his mobile emitter. Tuvok was awash in the illogic of shared time together, but his poker logic was indisputable and his pile of chips grew steadily. Neelix was as busy with passing around snacks as he was at playing, but that just seemed normal. Tom and Harry placed so many side bets that their respective chip piles went up and down with the regularity of the bridge lift. And then there was the command team. Kathryn and Chakotay were obviously playing a whole different game on a whole other level, but no one really wanted to bring that up. Not even Seven, who sat rigidly upright and bet her one ration with each round, keeping one eye on the cards and one Borg implant on the people. In her private opinion, she'd got involved with one odd collective.
The kitty had built up to a tidy sum of rations and Kathryn was studying her cards. Suddenly a strange sensation came over her and she darted her eyes to her left.
Are you looking at my cards, Chakotay?"
"Certainly not, Kathryn. I have five of my own."
Tom snickered. "It's not your cards he's been looking at all night, Capt-Kathryn!"
"Well then, Tom, why don't you enlighten me. Chakotay, put that heavy mug down, you could hurt someone with that thing!"
"So what? Paris, open your mouth and I'll see you in my office at 0900 hours tomorrow."
"Oh no, Chakotay. The rules, remember? You can't threaten Tom with on-duty discipline for anything that happens in here." B'Elanna smiled at Chakotay's glare and blew him a kiss.
"Yes Comm--Chakotay. We did agree on those rules. And I'm sure that Tom means absolutely no harm to anyone, do you Tom? I thought not. Now, Kathryn, I do believe it's your turn to bet. Would anyone like a leola root cookie?"
"Hold on a minute, Neelix. Were you actually trying to cheat, Chakotay? I can't believe it! You're a Starfleet officer!"
"Tease all you want, Kathryn, I'm not biting. It's your turn, so bet."
"But you'd like to bite, wouldn't you, Old Man?" Tom just couldn't help himself. Harry and B'Elanna started to giggle under their breath. Neelix spit leola rootbeer right across the table.
"I do not understand the direction in which this conversation has taken. Here is a cloth for your face, Miss Torres." Seven turned to look at Tuvok.
"Don't try, Seven. I will attempt to explain it to you tomorrow after we complete the weekly calibration of the Deflector Array."
"Oh for heaven's sake, Seven. Commander Chakotay has been looking down Captain Janeway's dress all night. And it shouldn't be a surprise to her since she wore that low neckline in the first place and then maneuvered him into the chair next to hers when we all sat down. Kathryn, it's your turn so please bet."
There was no response for so long that the EMH looked up. "What??"
Chakotay and Kathryn were statues of brilliant red. Tom, Harry, B'Elanna, and Neelix were a picture of open-mouthed gawks. Even Tuvok and Seven stared at him with identical raised eyebrows.
"Miss Torres, perhaps you could run another scan on the Doctor. Concentrate on his social sub-routines and the associated checks and balances. He seems to be operating below normal parameters this evening." Tuvok said quietly.
"Right away, Tuvok." B'Elanna went to Chakotay's desk and grabbed a tricorder. After a sweep of the EMH she pulled the small tool out of her pocket and again started adjusting. The Doctor sat in outraged silence until she finished. Then his face turned first to one of contemplation and then to horror. A blush spread across his features.
"Captain! Commander! I don't know what to say! I apologise profusely for my comments -- I just don't know what got into me!"
"An interesting question, Doctor," Kathryn muttered. "But, please forget it. Everyone." Her eyes swept the table and then back to her cards. "Chakotay, you've been in the bush all evening." There was a muffled sound from Tom that was quickly swallowed up by a gulp of beer. "Let's see if you're as good as you think you are." Three more beer mugs were lifted swiftly. "I call. What have you got?"
Chakotay put his cards on the table. "Straight, queen high. How do you like that, Kathryn?" he challenged.
"Maybe she likes it better on the bottom, Chakotay," Tom squeezed out.
"Take the pot, Chakotay. Lt. Paris, I want to see you in my Ready Room at 0800 hours tomorrow."
"No no, Kathryn, there are no captains here tonight so there are no Ready Rooms tomorrow!"
"Very well then. Mr Paris, I'll consider this a personal matter."
"Com-Chakotay, you seem very cheerful all of a sudden! Such a nice pot to win, I guess. But Tom, you look a little peaked; would you like a baloney sandwich? Anybody else up for more baloney?"
When everyone was gone, Kathryn stayed behind to help Chakotay clean up.
"I think it went very well, don't you Chakotay?" She tumbled a pile of beer mugs into the recycling unit.
"Yeah, I had fun. At least I got back all the rations you think I don't know you steal from me for extra coffee. How much did you lose, anyway?" He disassembled the table and folded the chairs.
"None of your business. But I'm not worried, I know where they are."
"I've changed my access code, Kathryn. Break it and die."
"Big talk for a cheater, Chakotay. Where should I put these cards? Sooo, I take it you liked my outfit tonight?"
"That's one hell of an outfit, Kathryn. And, by the way, when you leaned over your cards I could practically see your damned panties down there!" He dropped a chip on the floor.
"You're supposed to keep your eyes on your cards, mister." She bent to pick it up. "HEY! What the hell do you think you're doing?!"
He smirked. "They're red."
Tom, B'Elanna, and Harry walked slowly back to their quarters.
"So, either of you two have any rations left?" B'Elanna asked.
"Hardly enough to get me to the end of the month. Boy, talk about sharks!" Harry shook his head in disgust.
"Yeah, I'll say. I'll be eating leola root until I die at the helm! Who'd have thunk it? I'm just glad the betting pools didn't post odds on tonight's game or it'd be leola root for me until the Alpha Quadrant!"
"Me, too," Be groused. "Oh well, there's always next time. Say, Helmboy, you were in rare form tonight. You didn't seem uncomfortable at all."
"I'm an admiral's son, remember? Command quarters don't impress me much, although I wouldn't mind a bed that size. Must be nice!"
"When did you check out Chakotay's bed?"
"When I went to the john. Just popped my head in, social like. Wanted to see if there was any satin lying around anywhere."
"I don't think the Commander is the satin type, Tom. How about it, B'Elanna, did Chakotay sport any satin or feathers when he took you on those terrorist strikes?"
"I think he was suggesting the Captain's preference in sleepwear, Harry. That's where you were going, isn't it, Tom? I mean, you really nailed them a couple of times tonight."
"Well, someone has to do it. For a couple of starship commanders they can both be as dense as a Demon Class atmosphere sometimes."
"They can be just as deadly, too, so watch yourself."
B'Elanna looked him and said, "You've got that look in your eyes, Tom! What are you planning for them now?"
"I'm not quite sure yet, but I think it involves a turbolift. You guys up to it?"
They answered together.
"Now, now, Doctor, don't fret! Let me conjure you up a nice cup of tea."
"I'm your doctor, Mr Neelix, not your patient. I just can't believe how badly I behaved tonight. I wouldn't blame Captain Janeway if she took me offline for a week. And the Commander...He shivered at the very thought of the Commander.
"We all have bad days, Doctor, and it wasn't your fault. You just have a little virus or something. How about some medicinal brandy in that tea?"
"Oh, all right. Computer, please display a holographic image of a brandied tea. Mr Neelix, I can't offer you anything real since I'm out of rations, but please feel free to use my replicator."
Neelix sighed as he sat down across the EMH's desk. "That's all right, Doctor. I'll just have to use my imagination for the next week."
"Did you enjoy yourself tonight, Seven?" enquired Tuvok after they left Chakotay's quarters.
"I...do not know, Commander. I found it most interesting."
"Indeed. Tonight was a far-too-rare display of comradeship among a select group of people."
"Yes. Could you please explain the purpose of this poker game? The Doctor kept talking on about my 'bonding' with the established alpha group."
"That could be considered correct. Think of it as being assimilated into your new collective. For myself, it was an interesting experiment in social behaviour among diverse beings."
"How so, Commander?"
"Consider the subjects, Seven. Difference statuses, sexes, ages, ranks, species; even life forms if you consider the Doctor 'alive'. And yet these people make up a remarkably efficient and cohesive team. I believe you have found your place and your acceptance on that team tonight, Seven. I am impressed."
"Thank you, Commander. In what way did I impress you?"
"I particularly appreciated how you re-programmed the Doctor in order to initiate a disturbance to the status quo. By using him as a rogue element you provoked all sorts of new reactions from the subjects - ones that would not be easily predictable to the others. You expanded their boundaries to the point where your own presence no longer challenged anyone, at least not any more than the presence of the others. As I said, impressive."
"Thank you, Commander, I appreciate your comments. How did you know it was I who tampered with the Doctor's programming?"
"Pure logic, Seven. Who else? Tell me, are you going to repair the Doctor soon?"
"I thought I would study the repercussions of this evening and then proceed. However, I am beginning to understand this collective. I believe the Doctor will pursue Lt. Torres relentlessly until she can bear his complaints no longer, resulting in her personally performing his diagnostic and repair."
"You are correct. Here is Cargo Bay Two. Before you regenerate, may I enquire what your plans are for your winnings?"
"I have none. I rarely use replicator rations."
"Then you may wish to join me tomorrow. Since we ended up with most of the senior staff's rations, I thought you would enjoy learning a new aspect of Voyager life. I will introduce you to the illegal betting pools that are run onboard. I am planning to use my winnings to influence a few of the games that Mr Paris is running."
"Illegal betting pools, Mr Tuvok? Is this logical?"
"Terrorizing Mr Paris is not only logical, Seven, it is extremely satisfying. Are you free at 1100 hours?"
"I am. I will come to your Security office. Good-night, Commander Tuvok."
"Good night, Seven."
"Wake up, honey. I think maybe we'd better keep our eyes open for the next little while."
"Why, Chakotay? I wasn't planning on going back to my quarters tonight." She lifted her head and looked sleepily into his eyes.
"No, I'm talking about Paris. Weren't you watching him tonight?" He lowered his lips to that delicate area where her shoulder became her neck.
"Not really. I was having too much fun watching the two Poker Machines. Ohhh, don't stop..."
He placed his mouth against her ear. "Yeah, they're an honour to lose to. You remember Tom Paris -- the one who accidentally poked his head into my bedroom on the way to the bathroom." He started a little soft poking of his own with his tongue.
"Don't worry, Chakotay, I was careful. I hid everything of mine under your bed." She turned in his arms to give him access to her throat and breasts.
"Yeah well, I was shocked when he didn't have a muscle spasm or seizure to force himself down to eye level with under the bed. Next time we'll have to clear everything up before they come." He gasped. "Spirits, that feels wonderful! You drive me crazy, woman, you know that?"
"Thank you, love. OH! You devil! "
"Don't like that?"
"Noooo, I...love it! Cha...kotay?"
"Yes?" His mumbled reply came from somewhere below the covers.
"Please love...I don't want to think about...Tom Paris anymore...okay? Oh GAWD!"
"Okay, sweet. But I have this feeling..."
"So do I, Chakotay, oh, so do I!"
Tom Paris was figuratively spaced out the airlock, with merely a fleeting thought on the part of Voyager's First Officer of making it real.
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