by Delta Story

(R)

April 2005



      Time: Early in Voyager's sixth year in the Delta Quadrant...

      ~*~

      “Captain, this is the fifth time in two weeks that you’ve been to see me about a headache. I think that’s more times than you’ve been here of your own accord in more than five years.” The EMH frowned as he circled Janeway’s head with his med tricorder.

      “Believe me, I wouldn’t be here unless I were desperate,” she retorted, her face contorted in agony.

      “Don’t we all know that!” he snapped back while turning off his examining instrument. “And once more, Captain, I cannot find a physical cause for your problem.”

      Janeway carefully slid off the table; any additional jolting of her body could throw her into paroxysms of pain again. “So you’re saying it’s all in my head,” she barked.

      With his best bedside manner, the doctor gently patted her on the shoulder. “Now I didn’t say that.”

      She glowered at him. “But that’s what you meant.”

      “Now, now,” he countered, “what I’m saying is that sometimes the body reacts to outside pressures in ways that can’t be identified.” He ushered her to the seat in his office area. “Tell me, Captain – when was the last time you had any ‘fun’?”

      “I don’t know what you mean,” she said blankly.

      “Pleasure… escape time,” he prompted.

      She squared her shoulders. “I have a few holodeck programs that I use, although I guess I haven’t done anything with them for awhile.”

      “I see,” the doctor nodded, but he waited for more.

      “I try to work out regularly,” she added.

      “And…”

      “I paint; I read; I listen to music,” she continued. “Look, I know where you’re going with this – that it’s stress related and all.”

      “How many of these activities involve other people?” he queried.

      “Well, sometimes I play hoverball with Seven…”

      “Now that’s a real fun-filled time, I’m sure!” he smirked.

      “But it is a workout,” Janeway continued.

      “No doubt,” he added. “But – what about interacting with a lot of other people… just a ‘letting your hair down’ social time?”

      She couldn’t help but chuckle at his choice of words. “’Letting your hair down’?”

      “You know what I mean,” he huffed.

      She shook her head. “You know that it’s difficult for me to not be ‘the captain’, Doctor. We’re a small, enclosed community and command structure must always be in place.”

      “I don’t think anyone would ever deny your position, Captain. But – to use one of Mr. Paris’ phrases – you’ve got to learn to ‘loosen up’ a bit. Laughter is still the best medicine.”

      She sighed. “All right; I’ll try anything at this stage. What would you suggest?”

      He leaned across his desk, his eyes gleaming, his voice low and conspiratorial. “Well, I did hear Ensign Wildman talking to the Delaneys about some sort of ‘get together’ in the mess hall tonight at 2200. Said it was for all the women officers…”

      Janeway cut him off. “All the female officers? Well, I wasn’t invited, nor do I think my presence would add anything to it.”

      “Nonsense!” he waved. “I’m sure they would be delighted to see you!”

      “Maybe I should check with Sam first,” Janeway continued.

      “Just leave that to me, Captain,” the EMH smiled. “I’ll work everything out.”

      “All right. But I really would like to know more about what’s going on. Is it birthday party or something like that?”

      “No, I think Ensign Wildman said that it was some ‘hang’ time… something like that. Oh – she did mention something about a contest.”

      Janeway’s ears perked up. A contest? Now that was something that appealed to her competitive spirit! “Really? Any idea what kind?”

      “No, that’s all I heard before they walked away.”

      “Thanks, Doctor. You know, this could be fun. I think I feel my headache getting better already!”

      He enthusiastically pumped the air with his fist. “That’s the spirit!” he smiled as she left.

      However, the good doctor, for some reason or another, never got around to talking to Sam Wildman.

      ~*~

      Laughter in a variety of female voices poured out into the hall as Janeway approached the mess hall. A hen party was definitely in progress! Although she hadn’t conferred with any of her women officers, she did confirm that a party was taking place with Neelix…

        “Yes, Captain – that’s right. Lt. Torres reserved the space and made it clear that no men were allowed!” he laughed. “Although she did ask me to leave some refreshments for them. None of the replicated supplements for this!”

        The request piqued Janeway’s curiosity. “Oh? What sort of refreshments?” she asked.

        “The usual,” Neelix said with a wave. “A synthohol punch, some cheese and fruit and crackers…”

        “Nothing strange there,” the captain commented.

        Neelix looked at her strangely. “Is there something you’re concerned about?”

        “No, no – not at all,” she responded lightly. “Good to know that the women are going to relax some.”

        “My feelings exactly!” the jovial Talaxan said as she left.

      And now she was here. She took a deep breath, smoothed her hair and the casual tunic she wore over non-uniform pants. She forced a smile on her face and signaled the doors to open.

      About a dozen younger women were laughing and clustered around one table. The laughter suddenly dwindled off as the group realized who had entered the room.

      “Captain! What a nice surprise!” B’Elanna chirped, practically running over to greet their leader, but obviously flustered at her presence.

      Janeway’s smile became more genuine albeit still a bit tenuous. “I hope you don’t mind; I heard that there was a get-together for the female officers tonight and…”

      “And you are certainly most welcome,” Sam Wildman said, putting out her hand to the commanding officer.

      “Right,” B’Elanna nodded nervously.

      “I guess my invitation just got misplaced,” Janeway grinned.

      “Sure, that’s it,” B’Elanna said.

      “So… what’s the occasion?” the captain asked, walking over to the others.

      “Noth… nothing in particular,” muttered Jenny Delaney as she positioned herself in front of the table, obviously trying to hide something from the captain’s sight.

      Janeway began to wonder about the synthohol as she saw most of the faces surrounding her begin to flush. Her eyes danced as she wondered what the young woman was trying to hide. “Ladies, please; I hope my presence isn’t embarrassing you!” She wrapped an arm around Ellie Jenkins. “Remember – I’m a woman just like any of you – just a little bit older,” she winked.

      The tension lessened a little bit, but she could feel that her presence was intimidating. “Tell you what – let me have some of this punch and see if I can catch up with all of you.”

      “Captain…” Megan Delaney began.

      “Pooh! No need to tell me, Megan; I know that it’s laced with the real stuff! This is a party, isn’t it?” Janeway asked while ladling a full cup of the golden liquid. “What’s the problem, folks? Afraid your captain doesn’t know how to drink?” She gulped down a huge swallow, never blinking at the heat of the liquid’s potency. “Remember – I’m Irish!”

      The room’s atmosphere almost immediately took on a lighter air as laughter again came from the group, and they seemed to realize that their captain was there for the same reason as they were – to forget the grueling grind of monotony aboard their spaceship, to rid their minds of the boredom of their ordeal.

      Soon, the buzz of conversation once more matched the buzz in their heads. Kathryn Janeway entered into earnest conversations with her junior female staff. The comfort level took on an almost even playing field, as she honestly listened to their problems and needs – not just as Starfleet officers but also as women aboard a starship on a journey of an interminable length. She envied them for their ability to speak freely among themselves, to be able to confide in each other. Several times she wondered if she could… if she should… dare to be as open. Even though the contents of the punch loosened up her thoughts, she still maintained control of her words.

      The convivial spirits grew and the din of the room became more raucous. Music blared from the audio system and some of the women began dancing. Just when she thought that security would surely be summoned to break all of this up (and how would that look – their own captain busted and put in the brig… she smiled to herself…), the music stopped and Jenny yelled for everyone’s attention.

      “Before we all get carried away and forget, I think there’s a little contest that we need to call front and center. Remember – we’ve each pledged a day’s worth of replicator rations towards the prize for the winner!”

      The room silenced but began to buzz again with Jenny’s announcement.

      “We need four contestants for the contest, but we’ll all vote as to who is the winner,” she continued. “Let’s take a coupler of minutes to decide who should compete…”

      “You -- Jenny Delaney!” shouted out Rose Gallagher.

      A murmur of agreement arose from the rest as Jenny blushed and nodded her acceptance.

      “B’Elanna,” rang out Kirsten Lang’s voice and a second time there was unanimous approval.

      “And Maddie Brooks,” Ellie Jenkins added, nudging her shocked friend.

      Nods all around agreed with the third nominee.

      There was a pause of silence. “We need one more, people,” Jenny urged. “It will really be more fun with four participants…”

      “How about the captain?” B’Elanna ventured. The room became as silent as a space void. Breathing seemed to stop, time froze.

      Finally Janeway broke the quiet. “Well, I don’t know what this contest entails, but I’m sure I could give it a try. You all know me – I’m always excited about trying something new!”

      B’Elanna, with her usual bravado further enhanced by the evening’s liquid libation, walked over to Janeway and put an arm around her shoulders. “I’m sure you will know just what to do, Captain.”

      Janeway leaned eagerly into the younger woman. “So – exactly what is it we’re going to be doing? Fighting with bat’leths? Singing arias? A parrises squares match?”

      “No, Captain; nothing that simple,” Jenny answered. “We’re going to have a banana eating contest.”

      The captain’s face lit up. “Well, that doesn’t sound so difficult. And I do love bananas!”

      A wicked, knowing look made its way around the group of younger women. “It’s not what you thin…” Ellie began before being ‘shushed’ by Megan.

      Sam Wildman blushed a bit as she went to the table and picked up a bowl containing six bananas; the bowl had been the focus of everyone’s attention earlier when the captain arrived. “Okay, participants – here are the bananas. Take your pick… and also select a song to play as an accompaniment for you as you er… eat your banana. Megan has the song list.”

      Jenny, B’Elanna and Maddie made their way to the fruit; Janeway stood back and allowed the younger ones make their choices. They laughed and giggled as they vied for the largest or fullest or the one with the best color. She smiled as they stepped away with their selections.

      By the time the captain got what was left, the bowl contained the three smallest bananas, all of them looking a little bit green and unappetizing. Her hands reached in and she examined each fruit with her touch and finally made her selection – the next to the smallest and the greenest. She turned and smiled at her competition. “May the best woman win.”

      Sam placed the four women in a line. “Let’s review the rules. You start when your music begins. You must unpeel the banana using only you teeth and lips and then you must ‘eat’ as much of your banana as possible, over and over again if necessary, until the music stops – without breaking the banana.”

      All eyes turned to the captain.

      “Yes, ladies – I understand what we’re doing! Contrary to popular belief, I have lived life!” Her face and eyes took on a mischievous exuberance.

      Jenny was first up. The strains of Orion dance music filled the room and her body began to sway with it. She nipped the stem off her banana and began pulling the peel down in wide strips. Her banana, the ripest of the bunch, seemed to leap at the prospect of being freed from its encasing. As soon as the last bit of peel hit the floor, the soft matured flesh of the fruit slumped over and broke off, even before she could get it to her mouth. She groaned at her early elimination from the contest.

      Next came Maddie Brooks. She nodded as she assimilated the lessons learned from Jenny’s performance. She began by taking the peel off much more slowly and in narrower strips than Jenny. She also rolled the length against the side of her face, giving it some extra support so that it would not break before she at least got it to her mouth. Her astute observations paid off and she began a slow devouring of the curved body of fruit. She tilted her head back to give her more space for the banana to fill. And she almost made it, until its long length could go no further. She coughed and out came the soggy banana, softened by her mouth and falling to its demise.

      B’Elanna snorted as her turn began. A Klingon battle song filled the air as the determined woman began her attempt. She had picked the longest of the bunch and giggles surrounded her as the group ‘read’ into the rationale behind her selection. As if daring the poor banana to do anything other than what she wanted, she began. The peel dropped back, revealing the glistening fruit. She threw her head back and continued her task, letting out satisfied grunts as it disappeared deeper and deeper into her mouth. As if to prove her worthiness, she withdrew the fruit, almost to its tip, and began the dance again.

      The audience began to chant and clap in time with the music, sensing that their Klingon engineer indeed had the knack for this sort of thing. B’Elanna smiled in acknowledgement of their encouragement. Her eyes rolled back into her head and her face took on a look of otherworldliness. With a growl, she snapped her head to the side – and with the movement, took half the banana with her; the rest remained with her hand.

      Pah’tk!” she spat out, snapping out of her stupor as she realized her error.

      A gasp came from the others – she had been doing so well!

      She stomped to a chair and plopped down in it, distraught with her performance. After all, she had been the one who first suggested the game!

      The captain calmly remained poised in her place. She nodded for the music to begin, a slow, sensual song from her days at the Academy. All eyes became glued to her as she began her turn.

      She peeled the banana with precision; the fleshy ribbons fell back like petals on an opening rosebud. Its naked flesh awaited her work and she began taking it into her mouth, drawing it in by using only her lips and a soft sucking motion. The deliberate movements eased the banana into her cavity gently but with purpose. Soon there was nothing left to see – she had managed to take all the fruit into her mouth.

      A smile crept across her face – she knew she had a captive audience by this time. She slowly pulled the entire piece of fruit out of her mouth, being careful not to bruise or score it with her teeth. With what appeared to be practiced skill, she repeated the process, not once but three times, each time with a growing sense of satisfaction.

      As the music came to its conclusion, so did her performance. In precise choreographed movements, she gently raised the strips of peel to their original positions, with the banana looking almost as if nothing had happened to it.

      The music stopped and she looked at the startled faces. A jubilant Janeway smiled at her appreciative audience. “If you do something right, everything will be in place for you to be able to do it all over again,” she said gleefully. “You see, ladies – it isn’t how big or beautiful something is, it’s all in how you treat it and how you use the equipment you’re given. And remember – firmness is better than size any day… or night!” She winked at the aghast group. “A good philosophy, right?”

      She let out a hearty laugh as she left the mess hall, stopping and turning momentarily before exiting. “Oh – and thank you for the replicator rations; they will be well utilized!”

      ~*~

      Morning on Voyager. As was their custom on this particular day of the week, the captain and her first officer met for breakfast before the staff meeting. Today, they were scheduled to eat in his quarters. Janeway was always happy when it was Chakotay’s turn – he usually cooked something nice for them.

      She arrived at his quarters at the appointed time and announced herself.

      “Come” his voiced rang out, sounding a bit rushed.

      The doors opened, revealing the first officer just closing his jacket. “I’m sorry, Kathryn; I overslept this morning and we’re going to have to have a quick breakfast.”

      “That’s all right,” she responded. “The less trouble the better”, although deep inside she was rather disappointed.

      Chakotay went over to the replicator. “I’ll get us some coffee and oatmeal, if that’s all right.”

      “Fine with me,” she answered, grabbing some utensils from a cabinet.

      He turned and walked towards the table, his hands filled. “Oh – and over there on the credenza there are some bananas; why don’t you bring a couple over for us?”

      Janeway’s face blanched as she saw them. She reached for them but found her hand shaking. “If it’s all right with you, I think I’ll pass on the bananas,” she said her voice coming out in a squeak.

      He looked at her quizzically. “Why? Is there something wrong with them?”

      She shook her head, her body feeling a bit queasy. “No; let’s just say they’re not my favorites right now.”

      “But I always thought you liked bananas,” he continued.

      “Let’s just say I’ve had more than my fill of them for awhile!” she laughed, finally calming enough to peel one for him and handing it to him.

      His eyes lit up. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

      She shook her head. “It’s a long story – and I don’t think you’re old enough for it!”

      “Try me,” he winked. “I might know more than you think.”

      Janeway’s eyes flew open – he knew! How… when…

      “Want to tell me about last night, champ?” he laughed, ducking her well-aimed punch.

      ~ finis~






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