Little Red: "OMG Voyager used to be SO HAPPY and then it gets all CRAZY-PANTS AND ANGSTY and altogether WTF!"
A.j.: "There should totally be an A.U. where Chakotay and the Doctor lock Janeway up for being crazy so she can get sane-"
Little Red: "AND THEY ALL LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER."
A.j.: "... right! And Kathy fixes Engineering things sometimes and bonds with B'Elanna!"
Little Red: "OMG YAY."
This isn't quite that A.U., but that's where the this does not actually need to suck for everyone! idea came from. Oh, and aj wanted discussion of romance novels.
Five years ago, B'Elanna Torres would absolutely, definitely, completely never have thought that she would ever be discussing romance novels with Captain Janeway.
Actually, five years ago, she hardly ever discussed anything with the captain if it didn't involve the Warp core, or something important that was broken, or the word diagnostic. Janeway existed in a world of authority figures and chains of command and those Starfleet protocols that B'Elanna was always tripping over, and it took five years and a rather brazen suggestion of Chakotay's to change all that.
B'Elanna wasn't present for the closed-door discussion, but rumor has it that Chakotay said something along the lines of "hand over your ship to me two months a year," and Tuvok praised the possibility of a more democratic system for their lifelong journey home as opposed to a strict military heirarchy and the Doctor said... something about something... and Janeway -- according to rumor -- agreed.
No mutiny, no phasers, just, "Let me think about it," and three days later, a ship-wide announcement and Janeway turning up in Engineering with a toolkit and calling it a vacation.
She has been recalibrating power relays for almost eight hours, but she's smiling and was laughing with Seven of Nine (well, the Captain was laughing, anyway), and she certainly seems like she's on vacation, power relays or otherwise.
B'Elanna's still not entirely convinced that this isn't some kind of practical joke on her. Even after five years, the captain has the ability to make her... nervous, in a way no one else on the ship can. Having her in Engineering looking over her shoulder all day isn't B'Elanna's idea of a vacation at all, and she's gone from being frustrated to stressed out to just plain ornery. And yet, she has to keep her temper in check because, well, the captain is there, even if she's pretending not to be the captain for some reason that, surely, only Chakotay could think of.
In all fairness, Janeway has been stuck under terminals and inside Jeffries' tubes most of the day, seeming to be making a conscious effort not to micro-manage anyone, but B'Elanna's still not ready to let her guard down.
Something beeps on the console Janeway's working at, and there's a bit of coolant steam.
B'Elanna goes and hovers over her shoulder.
"I've got it, Lieutenant..." Janeway says, grasps above her head for a hyperspanner, and the steam and beeping stop. "There. Good as new."
Janeway smiles up at her from under the diagnostic terminal. There's a smudge of something on her cheek and her hair is flying a little wilder than usual with all the electrically charged power relays she's been around. She looks so relaxed that she almost seems like an entirely different person.
B'Elanna doesn't mean to think it, because it's got to be wrong to wonder that about her captain, but the pleased, calm look on Janeway's face makes her wonder just what other brazen suggestions of Chakotay's she might have taken under advisement lately.
B'Elanna blushes at the thought -- she can't help it, and is fortunately blessed with a half-Klingon complexion that does a good job hiding it -- and busies herself examining the closest workstation. Environmental control, apparently. Whichever.
Janeway says, "If I'd known you were keeping all the fun to yourselves down here, I would have let Chakotay borrow my chair years ago."
B'Elanna isn't sure if she's supposed to laugh or not. She thinks this is probably the captain's way of trying to put her at ease with the situation. "Well, feel free to recalibrate power relays any time you like," she answers diplomatically.
Janeway shoots her a raised eyebrow and a smirk, like she can tell B'Elanna's squirming. She probably can tell. Janeway has always been eerily good at that, and usually -- when she's not on vacation, that is -- she tries to make her feel as comfortable as possible.
On vacation, apparently, she instead chooses to egg her on:
"Tom suggested I ask you for some reccomended reading while I'm banned from the bridge... something about... Klingon romance novels?"
Item one: B'Elanna's pretty sure Janeway isn't exactly banned from the bridge.
Item two: The fact that Janeway would say that, even in jest, means that she's either not totally okay with it or not totally used to it, and B'Elanna should try to be sympathetic.
Item three: She's going to kill Tom Paris. Kill him. If she doesn't sink through the floor and die first.
"He said what?" Her voice actually breaks with anger, and -- insult to injury -- sounds a lot more like an indignant squeak than a burst of Klingon fury. "On the bridge he said this to you!?"
She's never going to hear the end of it from Harry Kim. Or Tuvok, for God's sake, with his looks and superior Vulcan commentary. Or Chakotay, and she's still busy never hearing the end of it from the last ten embarrassing things that man found out about her.
Janeway watches her little fit with open amusement. "There's nothing shameful about a little escapist reading, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna narrows her eyes, willing her to stop this line of inquiry, biting her tongue to keep back any unintended threats. Janeway looks undaunted. She's eerily good at that, too.
"I've never read a Klingon romance novel, though. Are they at all comparable to Terran novels?"
B'Elanna darts a few glances around Engineering to see who's within earshot, and whose bodies she might have to hide later. Joe Carey is remarkably good at making himself scarce when she's on a rampage, but Vorik has made a masterful art of being underfoot at the worst possible moments for her pride, ever. The Vulcan is nowhere in sight, though, so she leans closer to the captain's workstation and answers her:
"They are, actually. There's more violence, of course. Less self-pity." When she's in a self-pitying, less violent mood, she prefers the human versions, and has been known to lock herself in her quarters with warm blankets, hot chocolate, and what the captain calls 'escapist reading'. Not that she'd ever admit that to Tom Paris. Actually, she's strongly considering never admitting anything to him ever again, but that's another story.
"Interesting," Janeway says. "I'm not sure you could call it a romance novel, per se, but the Bolian Epics are pretty passionate. If... a little bizarre." She goes back to poking at the underside of the terminal with the hyperspanner.
B'Elanna isn't quite sure what to say to that, but is surprised to find herself enjoying the conversation, and the captain's company. She never really thought of them as being friends -- for all the authority-figure, chain-of-command, Starfleet-protocol-tripping-over reasons -- but that doesn't mean they aren't friends, exactly.
Besides, she really doesn't have anyone else to talk about romance novels with.
"Are you considering a cross-cultural literary study, Captain?"
She can just see Janeway shrug, still elbow deep in machinery. "Well, I do have the time. Could you hand me the microlitic inducer?" She reaches up a hand, then says, "Thanks. Did you know that Risian literature is actually remarkably dull? They don't even have any native poetry."
"Well, they probably don't need fantasy lives." B'Elanna has actually never been to Risa. Not surprisingly, it's Tom Paris' favorite planet, so she's heard a lot about it. If they ever make it back to the Alpha Quadrant, she's making a special point not to go there.
Janeway wriggles out from underneath the terminal and dusts her hands off. "You may be right."
The captain's still sitting on the floor in a rather uncaptainly position, and that's probably the reason B'Elanna can't stop herself from asking, "Are you... okay? About all this?" When Janeway doesn't answer, she backpedals, "I know it's not my place to ask, Captain, but..."
"Chakotay and Tuvok didn't push me into anything, if that's what you're thinking."
"Believe me, Captain, I wasn't." She has actually attended staff meetings before, after all. As far as battles of will go, Janeway has been running the table on both Chakotay and her security officer since they landed in this quadrant.
Janeway stands and pats her shoulder. Still Janeway, still the captain, even if she's on vacation. "I do owe you an explanation, B'Elanna. Chakotay made some good points and, in the interest of science, I'm willing to try this on for a while." She searches B'Elanna's face in that intense way she has. It always manages to unnerve B'Elanna, like the captain can read her mind. "You'll let me know if you have a problem with this."
"I'm sure we can handle it, if you can."
Janeway smiles. "We'll see about that too, I guess. It's only for a little while. A nice vacation. I promise not to spend too much time in Engineering."
B'Elanna realizes that she has sort of forgotten to be annoyed about Janeway's presence. "You're always welcome, Captain."
"I'll try not to overstay that welcome," she says, nodding her head graciously. "Besides, I don't know how long this little exercise will last."
"Maybe it's a good thing," B'Elanna suggests. "You do seem... happy."
Janeway pauses for a long moment, like she hadn't actually considered that.
"Do I usually seem unhappy to you?"
B'Elanna can't think of a way to answer that that isn't damning, so she tells the truth. "Lately, yes."
Janeway doesn't comment, and doesn't tell B'Elanna what she's thinking. The chief engineer suspects it'd take longer than a day's vacation full of power relays to convince Janeway to open up too far.
"Those novels," the captain says instead. "May I borrow them?"
"They're in the database," B'Elanna replies. "But I still have the PADDs. I can bring them by tonight, if you like." Her quarters are a mild disaster, but she should be able to find them. Plus, it's probably better that the captain not venture into the library of Klingon romance without a guide. She might actually enjoy the over-ritualized ones, the ones with obscure ceremonies of honor that had B'Elanna turning to the computer for references every page or two, but B'Elanna would just rather the captain didn't read some of the more ridiculous ones. She vividly recalls a matchmaking targ in one of the stories she put down almost immediately.
Definitely best to spare the captain that.
"No rush," Janeway assures her. "I can reccomend a Bolian Epic, if you're interested, but..."
B'Elanna can only guess what Tuvok's reaction would be to the idea of the captain starting an interplanetary romance novel book club. Or Tom's. She can't wait to tell him about this conversation-
-except for the part where she's still killing him the next time she sees him. Right.
Tuvok, though, that would be a sight to see.
"Do Vulcans have romance literature?"
Janeway makes a mischievous face. "I doubt they call it that. I'm all done here, B'Elanna... I'm going to go check on Commander Chakotay."
"I thought you were on vacation, Captain."
Janeway opens her mouth, closes it, and then shrugs and corrects, "So I am. I'm headed to the mess hall, then. Thanks for letting me borrow your power relays."
"Thanks for an... interesting conversation."
She's still not sure what to make of all of this, but the captain does seem happier. She double-checks the work on the power relays and, finding no errors, decides that this experiment isn't completely insane, just... a little bizarre.
And she still doesn't know what precipitated it. It's been obvious, even down here in Engineering, that the captain has been under unusual stress for a long time... but she honestly would never have considered a consensual mutiny the most likely solution. She'll have to corner Chakotay and shake him down for the information later.
After she brings the captain some Klingon romance novels, of course.
Weird, weird day.
Joe Carey pops out of nowhere, as he is wont to do. He's been in some conduit or other most of the day, according to the work log, only ducking in and out for parts and eavesdropping. "Is the captain gone?"
B'Elanna rolls her eyes. "Yes. You can come out now."
Carey rolls his eyes right back. "What were you two talking about, anyway?"
B'Elanna contemplates actually telling him, then decides against it. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you," she says instead. "Now, about those impulse reactors..."
OMG A.j.! We should totally do a pants!verse, but ON VOYAGER, and possibly without pants.