Running On Fumes
by Ghostwriter

"Hail them."

"Yes, First Minister," the young Daelanian acknowledged, long fingers dancing across the control panel in front of him. "They're responding."

"I assume they have visual capabilities?" the older being asked, his voice tight with apprehension. They had heard many strange and terrifying things about the ship that now approached their coordinates. It was said this vessel had firepower unequaled by anyone in the sector, and that their leader was a fierce and unforgiving woman whose gaze could reduce someone to ashes in a nanosecond.

"The signal is coming through now, my Liege." First Minister Bralin steeled himself for the confrontation that was to come. The travelers were obviously going to demand the right to pass through Daelanian space, and, by all accounts, he was in no position to deny them what they wanted. Bralin waited for the picture to appear and clarify itself, and when it did, he came face to face with this woman leader and her race for the very first time....

What he saw was stunning, to say the least. Bralin exchanged a slow and dumbfounded look with the younger Daelanian as a chorus of laughter filtered through the link. There appeared to be only one female present in the ship's command center, and she was bent over a console toward the front of the screen wiping tears from her eyes. The rest of the crew were caught in various stages of hysterical laughter and amusement. This wasn't exactly the picture Bralin had been expecting. If these people were as fierce as their reputation promised, they had a very strange way of catching their potential adversaries off guard.

Cautiously, Bralin cleared his throat. The woman looked up at his image and smiled brightly, her eyes twinkling. "Well, hello!" she called enthusiastically.

"I am First Minister Bralin of the Royal Daelanian Council for Primary Territorial Affairs," he announced diplomatically, his voice betraying none of the surprise he felt.

"My goodness," the woman replied, looking perplexed. "Do you have to say all that every time you hail someone?" The young, fair-haired crew member sitting beside her gasped for breath as he recovered from his fit of laughter. Spinning around in his chair, he mumbled something to the rest of his crew mates, instantly setting off a new wave of laughter around the room. The woman doubled over the console again, desperately trying to contain her own reaction, but to no avail. Bralin's pale eyebrows raised as he watched their merriment. This was *definitely* not what he'd been expecting.

"Shall I alert the border patrol, First Minister?" the young Daelanian asked softly.

Bralin shook his head slightly, "Not yet." He then cleared his throat again, louder this time, in an effort to regain the woman's attention. "May I inquire as to the nature of your business in Daelanian territory......?"

Their leader looked back up to him, still giggling and wiping her eyes. "I'm terribly sorry," she said. "Captain Janeway at your service, First Minister. Our voyage back to our home seems to be taking us across your region of space," she continued with surprising clarity and a flair of unexpected diplomacy. "May we be permitted to continue?"

The entire command center on the screen became quiet while this Captain Janeway spoke, all bemused eyes resting uncomfortably on the First Minister. Bralin thought quickly, weighing the situation at hand against official protocol and all the available data they had surrounding this ship and its crew. They seemed sincere enough, and they certainly didn't appear to be the battle-hungry people that rumors suggested they were. Still, the Daelanians were a relatively peaceful race. Their own firepower would be no match for the weapons complement their sensors informed them this ship had. Bralin took a deep breath and swallowed hard, knowing his next actions were of vital importance. "You may proceed on course, Voyager," he stated, purposely identifying the name of their ship, even though their leader hadn't divulged that information. "Our border patrol will escort you to the outer perimeter of our territory to insure journey."

A loud cheer rang out through Voyager's ranks, momentarily startling both Daelanians. Captain Janeway stared at the First Minister as the background noise continued, another smile crossing her face. "You are so sweet, and you offer us such hospitality..." she trailed off, turning back to face the rest of the crew. "Aren't they wonderful?" Another cheer flooded their command center, even more deafening than before, forcing the young Daelanian to yank out the communications device he had embedded in his ear.

The woman then faced the screen again and lifted one of her hands to her lips, kissing her fingers and then extending them in Bralin's direction. "Peace and long life, Bralin, First Primary Daelanian Territorial Council Minister for Royal Affairs. The crew of Voyager salutes you!" With that, the woman bowed deeply in front of the screen while the rest of her officers waved emphatically at their images. A very loud and obnoxious sound echoed through the link right before the screen went blank, leaving two entirely confused Daelanians staring at one another.

* * *

Kathryn Janeway continued to stare at the view screen, now filled with stars. "Weren't they sweet?" she asked softly to no one in particular. The rest of the bridge was once again engulfed in hysterical laughter. Tom Paris swung around in his chair to face the Tactical station.

"Hey Tuvok! That was a real barn burner!!" he laughed loudly.

"I seem to have developed gastrointestinal problems," the Vulcan replied, looking surprisingly embarrassed.

"Awesome! I'd give it a ten!" volunteered Harry Kim as another fit of laughter gripped him.

"Have I been successful in initiating the human ritual of ‘male bonding'?"

"Damn straight, Tuv-man," Paris called as he spun his chair around in circles, "Now all we have to do is get you to down a few beers and belch the entire alphabet."

"No way!," called Kim. "You've never done that, Tom!"

"Yes, way!"

"No WAY!"

"Must be an acquired talent," laughed Chakotay as he got up from his chair and walked up behind Janeway.

"Don't you think they were very sweet, Chakotay?" she asked, turning to look at her first officer.

"Maybe we should name a Jeffries Tube after them," he offered.

A wicked smile quickly formed on her face. "What is this recent obsession with Jeffries Tubes, Commander?"

"Back still hurt?" Chakotay smiled, wiggling his eyebrows. Upon hearing that, Paris stopped his spinning and began whistling loudly. Kim joined him while Tuvok just smirked....yes, smirked.

"Do you know what I really need right now?" she purred softly, ignoring the cat calls echoing around her.

Chakotay's eyes burned with desire as he spoke. "Your wish is my command." Janeway chuckled seductively as she brushed past him. By the time she reached her command chair, her uniform jacket had been removed and tossed dramatically off to the side. Then, as all eyes remained transfixed on her, she sat down and slowly removed each of her boots, flinging them across the bridge. Only then did her eyes meet Chakotay's again.

"I need a foot, Mister." Her order was crisp and clear; full of unspoken meaning. Chakotay rushed to obey, dropping to his knees before her and taking one of her small, delicate feet in his large hands. He lifted it to his face, loudly sniffing the intoxicating odor of her as he growled in anticipation. She smiled, a shimmer of electricity running up her spine. The rest of the bridge crew was clapping and continuing with their raucous behavior.

"You know what?" Paris asked through the din, spinning his chair around again.

"What's that, Mr. Paris?" the Captain replied.

"I just don't feel like working today."

Janeway broke eye contact with her first officer long enough to scrutinize the blond pilot in front of her. "Well, then by all means, bring us some champagne," she suggested with a smile, groaning as Chakotay began his ministrations on her foot.

"With strawberries," Chakotay interjected, his eyes never leaving Janeway's face.

"Oh, and make sure it's sufficiently chilled," she finished with a wink.

"Aye, aye, Skipper!" Paris stood and saluted crisply before bouncing up the steps and into the turbolift.

"I like that boy..." Janeway pondered, her eyes taking on a faraway look as she once again stared at the view screen. Without looking down, her fingers found and engaged the ship-wide comm system. "Attention all crew members...Talaxians...Borg...and assorted holographic projections which provide a constant source of comic relief for Voyager's day to day trials and tribulations," she began. "This is your...incredibly intelligent and beautiful Captain speaking."

More whistles and clapping sounded from behind her as she continued, leaning her head back and closing her eyes to the exquisite feel of her first officer's hands working their magic. "It has come to my attention..." she paused for effect, "...that morale has been slowly deteriorating over the past few months. To coin a Borg phrase, ‘This is unacceptable.' Therefore, I am ordering the entire crew on four weeks of shore leave..."

"Six," Chakotay whispered.

"...six weeks of shore leave," Janeway corrected, "at the next available opportunity." She groaned loudly again as his touch sent a delicious shudder through her body. "Oh, God that feels good." Her whisper carried through the entire ship, echoing off all the bulkheads like a caress. "Please don't stop..."

The turbolift doors slid open behind her, admitting a very frazzled holographic doctor. He moved down to the command level with determination, punctuating his arrival with the sharp stab of his finger on the commlink control button, effectively shutting it off. "Captain Janeway, your chief medical comedian would like to have a word with you."

Janeway slowly opened her eyes, a huge smile forming as she took in the grim expression of his face. "Doctor, we really need to redo some of your programming; you've become a total sourpuss."

"We have far more to worry about than my lack of appropriate enthusiasm, Captain," he began. "I've analyzed the contents of the air circulating through the ventilation system. Somehow, some way, this entire ship has been filled with nitrous oxide!!"

"And this is a bad thing?" Janeway asked, the silly smile still firmly in place.

"Laughing gas, Captain! The ship is filled with laughing gas, and I can't even begin to tell you where it's coming from! I've tried initiating a level one quarantine alert, which would allow the current air to be vented in favor of a fresh oxygen mixture, but the computer is refusing my commands! I have an antidote I could give the crew, but it won't be effective with the nitrous oxide still present!"

"I'm sure Engineering will clear up the problem in no time," she replied contentedly, looking back down at her handsome masseur. He was working obediently on her foot, kneading and stretching, coaxing aching muscles to relax while he undressed her with his eyes.

"Your Engineering staff is heading up the Conga line on deck six," the Doctor pointed out acerbically.

"Conga line?" Kim asked excitedly.

"Oh, I do hope they come this way," Janeway murmured thoughtfully. "I haven't done that in years." Playfully, she raised her free foot to Chakotay's face, nudging his lips with nimble toes. He took her big toe into his mouth, sock and all, and sucked greedily. She responded with a seductive purr.

Paris bounded back through the turbolift doors just as she finished speaking, holding a tray filled with chilled champagne, glasses and a dish of delicious looking strawberries. "What haven't you done in a long time?" he inquired loudly as he stepped down.

"What took you so long? You were gone for hours!" Janeway exaggerated.

"The Conga!" Kim laughed.

"Well, you're in luck, Skipper," Paris continued, setting the tray down on Chakotay's empty chair. "There's a line heading this way! They snagged me on deck five, but I managed to get loose a few corridors later."


"Oh, Doctor, please have a glass of champagne and calm yourself," Janeway replied languidly. "Stress is bad for your holo-emitters."

"This is a three-ring circus!" the hologram murmured incredulously to himself as he watched the champagne and strawberries being distributed. Everyone on the bridge stopped what they were doing and looked up to the ceiling as music flooded through the comm system. It started as a low, driving beat, the rhythm steady and hypnotizing. Several people were already tapping their feet as the turbolift doors opened once more, revealing a very confident and garishly dressed Talaxian. Neelix stepped forward, walking with the beat of the music, until he was down on the Conn level, the lime green of his pants suit clashing brightly with his ruddy features.

"Is that real polyester?" Paris asked as he watched the Talaxian start to move seductively to the music. There were excited smiles all around the bridge as Voyager's cook started his provocative show. Everywhere, that is, except on the Doctor, who stared in disbelief as the husky voice of the singer finally joined the music...

I'm too sexy for my love, too sexy for my love
Love's going to leave me....

The bridge once more erupted into rowdy cheers, everyone getting to their feet to urge the Talaxian on. Janeway stepped up onto her chair for a better view, slipping two fingers into her mouth to whistle loudly.

"I stand corrected," the Doctor stated flatly. "This is definitely a nightmare."

"Go baby!! Woooohooo!!!" Paris shouted over the noise. Neelix had already removed his coat and was in the process of unbuttoning his shirt when the Doctor finally turned and headed for the turbolift, shaking his head in disgust.

"There are limits to what even my program can handle," he murmured to himself as the doors closed behind him.

"I think we should make this a regular form of entertainment on board!" Janeway shouted down to Chakotay. He smiled back up to her.

"Only if you head up the list of participants!" he yelled back, clapping his hands to the rhythm.

"That could be arranged!" she winked, turning back to the show at hand.

I'm too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt
Too sexy it hurts
And I'm too sexy for Milan, too sexy for Milan....

With a bright flash of light, Neelix's gyrating form disappeared and was replaced with that of Q, the tall omnipotent being sporting a lascivious smile as he continued the dance. The bridge lights dimmed suddenly and a spotlight appeared on the main attraction. More raucous cheering and cat calls reverberated loudly off the walls. Janeway's eyes nearly popped out of her head as Q ripped his shirt and pants away effortlessly, leaving him dressed only in a silky black G-string. The immortal folded his hands behind his head as he began a series of pelvic thrusts that left very little to the imagination.

Janeway cupped her hands around her mouth, "Nice package!!!!" she yelled enthusiastically, following it with a high pitched whistle.

I'm too sexy for my car, too sexy for my car
Too sexy by far
And I'm too sexy for my hat...

The music stopped suddenly with a horrible scratching noise reminiscent of yanking the needle across an antique vinyl record. "Hey!!" yelled Q, as the rest of the bridge occupants looked around in confusion. A split second later the lights came back on, showing Q's tall and beautiful mate standing beside him, arms crossed in front of her and a look of pure rage in her eyes.

"Q!!!!!" she bellowed.

"Q!!!" he retorted, his eyes widening in fear. "You weren't supposed to be back from letting Junior slide through the black holes of Andromeda for at *least* another hundred years!!"

"And *this* is how you entertain yourself while I'm away?" she accused, indicating Voyager's extremely relaxed crew. A new round of laughter began throughout the bridge, prompting a harsh glare from the female Q.

"I'm just playing, Q!" Q pleaded, trying to laugh his way through the excuse. "They're being incredibly receptive to my sense of humor.."

"They're chemically happy, Q; they would be receptive to a Denebian Slime Devil doing the same thing!"

"Well, how else do you expect me to have any fun with them?"

"You're a pathetic excuse for a Q," she spat, finally turning back to look at her mate.

"Your arrogance is most unbecoming, my dear," Q smiled hopefully at the woman. "Why don't we go home and discuss this like two civilized Q?"

"Don't you just love a good spat between lovers?" Chakotay asked Janeway as they watched the omnipotent pair continue to bark at one another, providing additional entertainment.

"They do sound like an old married couple," the Captain giggled, stepping down from her chair into Chakotay's arms.

"I hope we do, too, someday," he whispered seductively into her ear. Their lips melded together so quickly there was no time to breathe, causing yet another round of whistles and applause from the junior officers. They made a dramatic show of it, groping each other shamelessly as they slid to the ground, still in each other's arms.

"See!" Q exclaimed as they watched Voyager's commanding officers getting it on right there on the floor. "They're having fun, too!!"

"Put everything back, Q!" his mate threatened.


"Because I said so! Return these puny, boring creatures to the boring lives they're destined to lead, and then come home and teach your son something redeeming!"

"Like knocking planets out of their orbit?" Q asked weakly.

"I don't care!! Just do it! And make sure they don't remember anything about what happened," she finished, eyeing Q's lack of clothing.

"Nothing?" Q asked with a smirk, turning back to look at the couple sprawled on the floor playing a fierce game of tonsil hockey. Janeway had rolled them over, taking the superior position as Chakotay ripped her turtleneck and T-shirt off, leaving just her regulation brassiere in place.

"Nothing!" the female Q insisted angrily.

"As you wish, my dear," smiled Q. With a snap of his fingers, both Q disappeared in a dramatic flash of light.

Janeway felt Chakotay's lips beneath her, felt his warm hands rubbing her body sensuously. She groaned into the kiss, sliding her still fully clothed lower body back and forth against his hardness. She was so unbelievably aroused it wasn't even funny. A draft rippled over her bare shoulders, giving her gooseflesh and forcing her to lower herself further into his warm embrace. His arms welcomed her, as they had a hundred times before. She felt safe and secure in his strong hold, moaning her encouragement to him. Her eyes were blissfully closed, her entire being focused sharply on the pleasurable sensations building in her groin. Something didn't feel right, though. Deep down, one of those sneaking suspicions was creeping up on her at this most inopportune of moments.

Off in the background, someone cleared their throat...

Janeway felt Chakotay go instantly soft as their lips stopped moving together. In a rush of panicked adrenaline, the Captain of Voyager opened her eyes and looked up...directly into the eyes of an astonished Harry Kim, who stood on the top bridge level with his mouth wide open. Tuvok stood beside the young Ensign, his eyebrows fully cocked and an indescribable expression on his face. Janeway looked back down at Chakotay, searching for some kind of an answer to the situation at hand, but his dark eyes only held the same embarrassed shock and confusion that her own surely did.

Down on the command level, Tom Paris poured himself a glass of champagne. The commanding officers looked up again in time to see him silently toasting them. After taking a large gulp, Paris refocused his eyes on Voyager's first couple, laying in a most inappropriate position right there on the floor. A wicked smirk formed on his face as he blatantly studied them both. "Nice package, Captain," he exclaimed appreciatively, finally breaking the silence. Janeway closed her eyes in complete embarrassment.


* * *

She groans and slaps her forehead. "Please, don't remind me of that."

I laugh out loud, and pull her towards me. "I'd like to see you try and explain that when we get home."

"I think there's going to be a lot of things we have to explain."

"Do you worry about that a lot?" I ask.

"Sometimes." She looks away. "Sometimes more than sometimes."

I hear it in her voice straight away. The uncertainty is creeping back. We're almost out of their space -- we've almost gone far enough that we can't feel guilty about not helping. For tonight, at least, I must keep talking.

"Kathryn, did I ever tell you about the time I heard--"

"--No!" She groans dramatically, knowing what I'm about to say. "No. No. Please, Chakotay, not that again. Anything but that!"

I clear my throat dramatically.