Disclaimer - Paramount owns the characters.
A companion to 'Girls Night Out'. The end of this definitely relates to that, so if you need a reminder it can be found here.
The click of ball on ball echoed around Sandrines. On opposite sides of the pool table two men faced each other; one man looking deceptively relaxed, the other man actually relaxed.
The black ball thunked into the side pocket.
Chakotay smiled. "Nicely played Tom. Another game?"
Tom sighed in frustration, waving his cue about. "You are such a bad loser! I win, and you practically thank me!"
Chakotay had turned away and was rubbing chalk onto the tip of his cue. "Sounds like you're the one who's a bad winner."
Opening his mouth again and lifting the index finger of his free hand to make a point, he then paused. "Wait a minute..." He couldn't believe he'd been that stupid. "*That's* why you do it, isn't it? You know it drives me crazy and that's why you do it!" The gall of man was astounding.
The First Officer faced him calmly. "What do you expect? Every time we have a round of pool we both know that you're going to whip me at it. You play exactly because you know you're going to whip me at it; I play to have a little fun. You see Tom, the difference between us is that I play for the sake of it. You play to win."
Tapping the edge of his cue on the pool table, Tom continued his rant. "I see. Do you play for the sake of it when you play against other people?"
"Really? I find that strange because I've seen you playing against...oh...well, let's choose the Captain as an example, shall we?" He suggested, completely ignoring that warning glare that Chakotay sent in his direction. "You see, something strange seems to happen to your pool-playing technique whenever you have play a game of pool against her. You're not a bad pool player normally, Chakotay. But against her you suddenly seem to loose all hand-eye coordination."
Chakotay's glare lessened as he tried to play it off. "Hmm. I hadn't noticed."
Paris nodded knowingly. "A bizarre phenomenon."
"Perhaps we should have Harry run a scan for anything that might explain such a strange occurrence."
Finally giving in, Tom threw his cue onto the table and walked towards the bar. "Forget it."
"Forget what?" Harry asked as he walked into the bar.
Tom found a stool to sit on as he ordered a drink. "Just Chakotay's sudden lack of ability at pool when he plays against the Captain."
Harry frowned, making his way to sit on the stool to the left of his friend. "What's the point though? Didn't she used to be a professional player or something?"
"Not quite," Tom grinned, gulping down some of his drink "but close enough." He turned slightly and watched as Chakotay studiously ignored their conversation as he racked the balls for another go.
Harry's order arrived and he thanked the holographic bartender before taking a sip. "Hey, you know who would be great at pool?"
Chakotay and Tom, not moving their heads in the slightest, spoke: "Seven."
"How'd you know that's what I was going to say?"
"Educated guess," Tom responded.
Harry shrugged. "Well she would be. With her augmented eye and her Borg precision she'd probably be perfect at it. I'm going to teach her."
As Tom snorted Chakotay spoke. "You up for a game Harry?"
Swivelling around on his seat, Harry regarded the pool table dubiously. "Okay Commander. But I should probably warn you I'm not very good."
Chakotay winked. "I'll go easy on you."
"He certainly goes easy on the Captain..."
"What did he do this time?" The Doctor asked, strolling into Sandrines. "Did he...oh...forget to turn up for his shift?"
Tom rubbed his hand over his face. "I *knew* there was something I was supposed to be doing...I'm sorry Doc, really. I'll make it up to you."
The Doctor sniffed. "That's what you said last time."
"But didn't I keep my word?" Tom countered.
The EMH sighed, not wanting to admit it. "Yes. Yes you did." As Tom nodded happily, the Doctor watched Harry stand and grab the other cue. "So...what are we up to? What were we discussing?"
"Well," Harry began, chalking up his cue "the Commander and I are having a round of pool..."
"I can *see* that Ensign."
"And we're talking about the Captain," Tom volunteered, this time not ignoring Chakotay's glare at all.
"No *we* weren't. Paris was." Chakotay told the EMH as he indicated for Harry to break. The younger man did, spreading the balls around the table but not potting any.
Balancing precariously on the edge of the seat Harry had been sitting on, the Doctor continued. "Why was Mr Paris talking about the Captain?"
"I was just saying how crap Chakotay's pool-playing abilities become when he plays against the Captain."
Chakotay's cue completely missed the ball.
"That's hardly a surprise," the Doctor suggested, apparently thinking he had nothing to worry himself about - he was a hologram and couldn't be throttled. "Remember the party where he let her win the apple bobbing competition?"
"I did *not* let her win!" Chakotay yelled, throwing his cue on the table. "She was just better at using her mouth than I was!"
Someone was giggling.
All of them were laughing.
Shaking his head, Chakotay gave up on the game completely and sat on the seat next to the Doc.
Still chuckling, Tom turned to watch a forlorn Harry standing next to the pool table by himself. Patting the seat next to him, he spoke. "Harry, why don't you come and join us over here?"
Shrugging, the Ensign finally gave up himself and did as advised, sitting on the seat to Tom's right.
Approaching Chakotay, the holographic bartender finally spoke. "What can I get you?"
"A compression phaser rifle and an alibi?"
The bartender frowned. "I don't know what that is...what is it made of?"
Chakotay sighed good-naturedly. "Just get me a whisky please."
Once he did, the bartender moved to all the others, asking the same question. "What can I get you?"
Chakotay downed his whisky in one shot.
Several hours later they had retreated to a booth at the back of the room. With Harry and Chakotay on one side and Tom and Doc on the other, they were laughing at something one of them had said.
The Doctor couldn't help but notice that the others were...slightly inebriated. None of them were actually drunk - the computer only provided synthehol - but it had many of the same effects as real alcohol. A relaxation of some inhibitions for one. Of course, if they really wanted to they could shake off the effects and be absolutely fine within a matter of minutes. They seemed to be having too much fun to do so.
The most sober of the group seemed to be Chakotay, who hadn't drunk all that much. Once they calmed down, he spoke.
"Can I ask you guys a question?"
"Yes sir Commander sir!"
Wincing at Tom's loudness, he nonetheless continued. "Why do I have to suffer through so much teasing about the Captain? You never get so much about B'Elanna."
"It doesn't work that way," Tom slurred, his hand absently careening through the air in what was supposed to be an emphatic movement. "B'Elanna and I are already an established couple. We still get teased a bit, but it's much more fun teasing someone who are just good friends...or have the hint of something more."
"Is this that whole stupid 'men and women who work together can't just be friends' thing?" the First Officer asked.
Harry shook his head.
Tom agreed. "No, this has nothing to do with that. I...it's...well...it's pretty obvious how you feel, Chakotay." There was no censure or teasing in his voice this time. Just a statement of the facts.
Rubbing both hands over his face, Chakotay then leant forward and rested his elbows on the table. "I guess I've never been particularly good at that..."
The Doctor nodded. "Even I - a 'mere' hologram - have been able to notice certain things."
Tom frowned. "What's all this 'mere hologram' crap about?"
The EMH chuckled briefly. "Don't be silly Mr Paris; we all know how I'm viewed."
"No, no we don't know. What have people being saying to you?"
He hesitated. "If you insist. I was in sickbay going over the latest medicals when Seven walked in and-"
"Oh of course," Tom said smugly. At the Doc's confused look he continued. "You know as well as I do that her people skills still need a lot of work. And I can understand why it would upset you. No doubt you had a conversation about something and she referred to you as a mere hologram. It wasn't an insult - in the way that Seven analyses existence that's exactly what you are. She'll learn to classify better eventually, but until she does her classifications will be what she fears most: imprecise."
The others stared at him.
Thinking that he may have overstepped the boundary of who he was supposed to be, he grabbed his drink and gulped it down. "Plus she has a great pair of-"
"-watery eyes. The kind that make her look lost and vulnerable when she wants to be anything but."
Two of the men sitting around the table nodded in understanding. The third remained still, deep in thought.
"I know what he's thinking..."
Chakotay blinked, realising they were talking about him. "Sorry?"
Tom grinned. "We know who you're thinking about. Don't deny it."
He didn't. There was little point. "She...they've always been her most expressive feature. Sometimes all she has to do is look at me..." He stopped, realising the company he was in. "Of course, sometimes she looks at me and I know she's about one inch away from throttling me."
"Then it must be love," Doc volunteered smugly.
Chakotay ignored him. "Today, for example. You wouldn't believe how long I had to bug her before she would leave her ready room and go down the planet for shore leave. It was a good thing there was a desk between us or should would have-"
"I had the same thing with B'Elanna!" Tom exclaimed, butting in. "Prying her fingers off that console in engineering was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do!"
The Doctor shrugged. "Convincing Seven to go down to the planet was surprisingly easy. I just told her it was yet another important part of understanding individuality."
Harry frowned, kind of jealous that he'd had no one to bug.
The door to Sandrines swung open and they all turned to see Tuvok step in. "Commander, Doctor, Lieutenant, Ensign."
They nodded together in greeting. "Tuvok."
Approaching the booth, he looked towards Chakotay. "Commander, as requested here is the bridge report you wanted 'the minute it was completed.'"
He chuckled and took the PADD from Tuvok's extended hand. Sitting back down, he quickly scanned through the contents, nodding a few times. Finished, he stood. "Harry, can I get out?"
"Oh sure Commander." Quickly scurrying out of the way, he stood to one side as Chakotay stepped out and headed towards the exit.
"I'll be back in a minute."
"Taking that to the Captain?" Tom asked too innocently.
"Ye-that's none of your business," Chakotay amended quickly, continuing his journey to the exit that became faster with each step.
As the doors swung shut behind him, Tom looked up at the Vulcan. "Does he *have* to take the report to her?"
Tuvok remained standing with his hands clasped neatly behind his back. "Although it is more usual for all reports to go through the First Officer, and then he provides a summary for the Captain, there is nothing stipulated in Starfleet regulations that states he does not have to take her every report."
"So the answer is no."
Chakotay returned several minutes later, something between a frown and a grin on his face.
Harry's curiousity got the better of him. "What happened Commander?"
"They're all in Kathryn's quarters." he told them, frowning even more.
Tom blinked. "What are they doing?"
Harry had moved over to the side, so Chakotay sat next to him. Tuvok had declined a seat.
"Having fun from what I can figure."
The Doctor beamed. "That's excellent news. They all work themselves too hard. I'm sure the time together will be beneficial."
"Yeah," Chakotay laughed, remembering what he'd heard. "I'm sure it will."
Knowing that something was up, Tom spoke. "Come on, what really happened?"
Grinning, Chakotay shrugged. "Nothing really. I just discovered that purple is definitely her colour and...that they spend a lot of time staring at certain parts of my anatomy."
Three and half sets of eyebrows rose.
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