Lieutenant Tom Paris sat at his conn station and tried to stifle yet another yawn. Three hours into the shift and he was utterly bored. Sneaking a glance back at Ops he saw that Harry Kim was bent over his console, ostensibly analyzing sensor readings, but looking about as bored as Tom felt. They had been traveling through this section of space for nearly three days now, and not once had they come across anything of interest. No planets, no asteroid belts, no spatial anomalies. Nothing. They hadn't even picked up readings of any other space-faring ship within 50 light years. Guess we're the only idiots desperate enough to travel this route.
This route, according to Neelix, was a shortcut that would ultimately lead them to Etalya, an M class planet rich in plant life and various mineral sources. Or so he had been told. He hadn't actually been there himself. The captain had looked at him doubtfully, but he had been confident that his sources were trustworthy and now here they were -- traveling at warp 7 into the boonies of space. Tom fought back another yawn. They still had another two days before they reached Etalya.
The silence was so complete that everyone jumped when B'Elanna hailed the bridge.
"Engineering to Bridge."
"Go ahead, B'Elanna," responded Chakotay. Captain Janeway was in her ready room. Probably taking a nap, thought Tom enviously.
"Commander, since things are so quiet, I'd like to run level 4 diagnostics on all main systems. We could have everything completed by the time we reach Etalya."
"Acknowledged. But this time, B'Elanna, be sure to notify the appropriate personnel before you shut down their systems." Bridge-wide snickering ensued as everyone recalled the last time B'Elanna had run a level 4 diagnostic, neglecting to notify Neelix before she shut down power to the mess hall. The aftermath had not been pretty.
B'Elanna chuckled as she replied, "I have no intention of repeating that mistake again. The last thing I need is the entire crew blaming me for Neelix serving leola root for an entire week! Torres out."
The ship continued on her course. Tom was trying desperately to think of something to say to break the monotony. Although he knew talking was basically taboo on the bridge, for some reason the captain usually let him get away with it. Only now he couldn't think of a single thing to say.
Suddenly, Harry gave a little yelp of surprise. He blushed when he realized all hands were staring at him. "Um, Commander, there's an object 800,000 kilometers ahead of us. It just appeared out of nowhere."
A small blob appeared in front of them, too small to make out its identity. Whatever it was, it seemed to be flashing -- the light fading in and out.
"Magnify," commanded Chakotay. The ensign complied and the bridge crew emitted a collective gasp as they stared at the view before them in stunned silence. Even Tuvok appeared taken aback by the sight.
Finally, Chakotay was able to speak. "Chakotay to Captain Janeway. Please report to the bridge immediately," he called, unable to take his eyes from the viewscreen.
"On my way, Commander," responded the captain. The ready room door swooshed open and the captain walked on to the bridge. "Report, Comma--" she halted mid-sentence and gaped at the view before her. "What the--?!"
Kathryn looked at Chakotay, who shook his head and echoed Kim, "It just appeared out of nowhere."
The crew continued to stare at the object on the viewscreen: a gigantic yellow and black arrowed sign that was flashing 'DETOUR' and pointing to their right. Now that the image was enlarged, they could also see orange cone-shaped objects lined up off to the right of the sign.
The captain turned to Ops. "Harry, what is the composition of that -- that sign?"
Harry looked at her, confusion and disbelief reflected in his voice as he answered, "It's made up of wood and metals found on late 20th century Earth."
"I knew I'd seen it before!" exclaimed Tom excitedly. He turned to face the captain. "When we were in 1996 Los Angeles I saw signs like this one everywhere -- Rain said that whenever they had to repair the roads they had to reroute traffic and they used these signs. But what's it doing out here?"
"And in perfect condition in space?" Kathryn added. "I want--"
Before she could say anything further, there was a flash of light, forcing them to shield their eyes. When they looked at the viewscreen again, the sign and cones were still there -- but they weren't alone. There was now a humanoid in front of the sign in clothing Kathryn recognized from her visit to Los Angeles -- a late 20th century police uniform. She couldn't quite make out the face but could see that he was gesturing to their right.
Suddenly, a shrill whistle sounded and a voice emanated throughout the bridge, "Keep it moving, people, keep it moving. You're holding up traffic!" She'd recognize that voice anywhere.
"Q!" she breathed.
"Oh, great!" muttered Chakotay under his breath. A visit from Q usually meant trouble in one form or another. What could he want this time?
Tom turned back to the captain. "Uh, Captain? We're getting awfully close to the sign. Should I follow it or change our heading?"
Captain Janeway resolutely put her hands on her hips and called out to the viewscreen, "Q, whatever you're up to -- we're not interested." Sweetly she continued, "So, please kindly remove your sign . . . or we'll remove it for you," she finished darkly. "Tuvok, ready phasers. Tom, maintain course."
Another flash of light and Q was on the bridge -- now in his customary Starfleet-captain uniform.
"It's so good to see you again, too, Kathy." He took her hand and brought it to his lips. Kathryn rolled her eyes impatiently. Bestowing her with a grievously hurt expression, he continued, "I was only trying to bring a little sunshine into your otherwise dreary little day. Poor Tom here could barely keep his eyes open and the rest of your crew wasn't fairing much better. You should be thanking me for providing a diversion to keep your crew on its toes."
"Thank you," Kathryn offered sarcastically, walking over to her chair. "Now that my crew is alert, you're business here must be finished. Don't forget to pick up the sign on your way out." She sat down in her chair and nonchalantly crossed her legs.
Q heaved a heavy sigh. "Oh, all right. Have it your way." With a grand wave of his hand the sign and cones disappeared. "You know, sometimes I think you have the sense of humor of a Vulcan!" He afforded a disgusted look at Tuvok, who merely raised an eyebrow in response. Kathryn looked at Q expectantly.
Somewhat subdued, Q began, "Captain, I never properly thanked you and your crew for helping to save the Continuum. Not a small feat, I assure you. And I haven't forgotten how you nearly lost your life on my behalf. Nor can I overlook the fact that you are more than a little responsible for the existence of little Q Junior. So," exuberantly Q spread his arms and announced, "it's time to celebrate! The Mrs. and I are throwing you a party!"
Instantaneously, the Voyager crew found themselves in a large banquet hall. The room was decorated for the holiday season with a Christmas tree and a menorah standing in the center of the room, surrounded by lights and decorations from different cultures and worlds. A small orchestra was playing. Tables of food lined the walls, which were actually windows facing out to an ocean and sandy beach. The crew looked around in awe.
Another flash of light and their uniforms were replaced with evening gowns and tuxedos. Tom was astonished but delighted to see that B'Elanna was wearing the red dress he had given her. But wouldn't that mean--?! Tom and B'Elanna looked at each other in shocked dismay. Q appeared next to Tom and whispered, "Excellent taste, Helm-boy!"
Facing his guests he announced joyfully, "Welcome, one and all. Since, according to your earth calendar, 'tis the holiday season right now, we've decided this would be the perfect time to throw you a little bash to show our appreciation for your recent good deeds. So, please, eat, drink and be merry!"
With the snap of his fingers, Q's Starfleet uniform became a Santa Claus suit. SuzieQ appeared beside him dressed as Mrs. Claus, holding Q Junior, appropriately attired as an elf.
"You're looking very jolly, my dear," Q complimented his mate, who in return gave him a baleful look and snapped her fingers. The Mrs. Claus costume became a beautiful blue evening gown. Q frowned briefly but brightened immediately. "Doesn't the little tyke look simply adorable in his costume?" Q asked of Kathryn, who was now dressed in a stunning white, strapless gown.
"He's precious, Q," smiled Kathryn.
"Thank you," said the proud papa. "One would never know by looking at him that he just sent two moons on a collision course with each other this afternoon."
Kathryn looked at him in shock. But before she could say anything, SuzieQ drolled, "Oh, don't worry, Captain, the moons are back where they belong. And Q learned a valuable lesson."
"And which Q would that be?" inquired Tuvok, not so innocently.
Nonplused, Q replied, "Why, Tuvok, you do have a sense of humor! Droll as it may be."
After the laughter had quieted down, Kathryn turned to the Qs, "This party is really a very lovely gift. Thank you."
"It's exactly what the doctor ordered," affirmed the holodoc.
"And the morale officer," Neelix concurred before he scurried off to inspect the culinary delights.
The crew moved about the banquet hall. Some filled their plates with the delicious foods while others went outside to the beach. Still others began dancing. Tom, Harry and B'Elanna wandered over to the food and filled their plates before sitting at a table near the windows.
"What a gorgeous view," commented B'Elanna, looking out at the vista before them.
"It is that," agreed Tom. "But I don't think Samantha is enjoying it that much." He tipped his head toward the table with Ensign Wildman and her daughter. They had been joined by SuzieQ and Q Junior. The kids were having fun, but Samantha looked uneasy. She kept nervously looking over at the children while trying to carry on a conversation with the female Q.
"Do you suppose Q is pumping her for motherly advice?" Harry asked.
Tom shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. But I think I'd be more worried about what Junior could do to my kid if things didn't quite go his way."
"Maybe we should go over there," suggested B'Elanna. But before they could, they saw Ensigns Hudson and Cavelle heading to Samantha's rescue. Samantha visibly relaxed when they sat down at her table.
"Ah, the first potential crisis of the evening avoided. So, what's the scoop on those two, anyway?" questioned Tom.
"Don't know. It's too soon to say," answered Harry, looking around the room. "But Ethan and Janine over there, I hear they've been spending quite a bit of time together." They looked over at the secluded table for two where Janine & Ethan sat, deep in conversation.
"They do make a cute couple," Tom acknowledged.
B'Elanna burst out laughing. "Men!" she exclaimed. "You're really worse gossips than women," she accused with a huge grin. Tom and Harry both looked at her aghast.
"We're not gossiping," Tom retorted indignantly.
"Absolutely not," agreed Harry. "We're simply being observant. Paying attention to detail is an integral part of being a good Starfleet officer." Tom nodded in agreement.
"Yeah -- right," snorted B'Elanna.
Harry stood up. "I'm going back for more of those mashed potatoes. You know, they taste just like my mom used to make." He walked away.
"That's funny," commented Tom, "I thought they tasted just like my mom used to make."
Tom and B'Elanna were alone for the first time that evening. They looked at each other and Tom's eyes involuntarily wandered down to B'Elanna's dress. She noticed his gaze and smiled wryly. "So, what else do you think they know?" she asked.
Tom smiled. "I don't know and tonight I really don't care. I'm just going to enjoy the evening. And the company. You look stunning, by the way."
She bowed her head slightly. "Thank you, sir. And, may I say you look pretty dashing yourself." With a grin he stood up and held his hand out to her. "Well, then, my lady, how about a dance?" She didn't even pause before standing and taking his hand. Together they made their way to the dance floor.
Chakotay was standing alone at one of the dessert tables when Q appeared next to him. Now dressed in a tuxedo, Q slapped Chakotay on the shoulder and exclaimed, "Chuckles! So how goes your romance with the beautiful captain?" Chakotay closed his eyes and inwardly shuddered. With his hand still on Chakotay's shoulder, Q lowered his voice and said conspiratorially, "You know, I'd be happy to help you win her heart. I've come up with all sorts of things I should have tried the last time I was here."
The commander shrugged away Q's hand and turned to face him. "Look, Q, there is no romance with the captain, and even if there were, you would be the last person I would ask for advice."
"Tsk, tsk, Commander. I was only trying to help. What is it with you humans, anyway? Do you really want to spend the rest of your life alone when the perfect woman is right in front of you?"
"The captain isn't interested in a relationship right now," admitted Chakotay, "and I'm not going to do anything that could make her life more difficult."
"How noble of you! The gallant knight putting his fair maiden's needs ahead of his own. Standing heroically by her side through thick and thin while silently pining away for her. How poetic! How virtuous! How stupid!!" Q finished mockingly.
Taking a deep breath, Chakotay forced himself to stay calm. "Why are you so interested, Q? Don't you have better things to worry about?"
Benevolently Q replied, "Now that I've been blessed with a beautiful mate and child, I want everyone to be as happy! And your captain means a great deal to me, you know. So even though you would be poor seconds, compared to me, of course, you are the most obvious choice."
Chakotay snorted and turned away to return to his table. "Sorry to disappoint you, Q, but nothing's going to happen between me and the captain. Not tonight, anyway. And if something ever does develop, it will be for me and the captain to decide. Not you." He walked away.
"Hmmm. We'll see about that, Chuckles," Q mused to himself and then turned his attention to Ensigns Simms and Lamont. With an impish smile and a snap of his fingers a mistletoe appeared above the ensigns. Startled, they looked up and blushed. Ethan looked around the room but no one was paying any attention to them. He caught Q's eye. Q just winked and vanished. Ethan smiled and leaned over to kiss Janine, who blushed even more furiously than before.
Tuvok and the doctor sat at their table and watched as the majority of the crew danced. Most of the crew had swapped dance partners throughout the night. But some had remained almost entirely with the same person. Tuvok hadn't been surprised to see Kes and Neelix or Janine and Ethan together. And seeing Tom and B'Elanna together merely confirmed his suspicions. Although B'Elanna had danced with Harry and Ensign Bristow. And Paris had kept busy dancing with the captain, Kes, Megan Delaney, and even the female Q. Tuvok had observed the captain and commander sharing a number of dances, as well.
Throughout the night mistletoes mysteriously appeared above unsuspecting couples. At first the targeted couples had been embarrassed, but it hadn't taken long for the crew to relax and join in the fun. And there had been an inordinate amount of cheering and whooping when the mistletoe had appeared above the captain and commander.
Now the dance floor was filled: Janeway & Chakotay, Tom & B'Elanna, Kes & Neelix, Ethan & Janine, Harry and Jenny Delaney. Even the Qs were dancing. Although the Qs were doing more floating than dancing. Tuvok noted that Ensigns Wildman and Bristow were dancing while Ensigns Hudson and Cavelle watched the children.
"The crew appear to be enjoying themselves," Tuvok commented to the doctor.
The holodoc nodded. "This is an excellent diversion for the crew. I'm going to suggest to the captain that we schedule events like this on the holodeck at regular intervals."
Just then Kes came over to the doctor and asked him to dance. With a huge grin he accepted. This left Tuvok with Neelix. Tuvok sighed inwardly.
Tom and B'Elanna were walking barefoot on the beach when the sun began to rise. It was a breathtaking sight. Silently they held hands as they sat next to a boulder to watch the colors change and listen to the waves breaking on the shore. B'Elanna laid her head on Tom's shoulder and he put his arm around her. It was so quiet and peaceful.
B'Elanna sighed contentedly. "The night was almost . . . magical, I guess is the word."
"The Qs certainly know how to throw a party," agreed Tom, somewhat drowsily. "Sandrine's is going to seem pretty dull after this."
They sat quietly. The party and the crew seemed so far away. It seemed like they were the only two people in the universe. Soon their eyes began to close. Tom knew he couldn't stay awake much longer. He wished the night would never end.
Suddenly the sandy beach turned into his bed and the breaking waves were replaced by the steady hum of the ship. I guess the party's over, he thought sleepily to himself. The least they could have done was drop B'Elanna off in my quarters or dropped me off in hers.
The last thing he heard before sleep overtook him was "HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL -- AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!"
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