Disclaimer: "Fourscore and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation; conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all characters and etc. pertaining to Star Trek: Voyager belong exclusively to Paramount."

Copyright 1997 by JoAnna Walsvik; all rights reserved. Spread around if you like but keep my name & the disclaimer attached.

Throwing Away The Key (Voy; PG; J/C and P/T)
by JoAnna Walsvik

Part 1

"Hey, B‘Elanna!" I called, strolling into Engineering. "The captain wants to know when the warp engines will be on-line."

B‘Elanna turned and scowled at me. "They‘ll be on-line when I get them on-line," she said irritably.

"Could you rephrase that?" I asked her, knowing this news wouldn‘t do much to improve the captain‘s already foul mood. "Captain Janeway isn‘t very happy as it is, and I think if I went on the bridge and told her that she‘d deck me."

B‘Elanna‘s tense expression relaxed visibly at the mental picture this statement conjured up, and I could see a hint of a smile on her lips. "Two days, maybe."

Now it was me who was doing the scowling. "Two days? I think I‘ll stay down here for a while; she really will deck me if I tell her that."

"Well, Paris," she said, turning back to her console, "I can‘t help it. I‘m working my butt off down here, and so are the rest of my staff. We can‘t work much faster."

I sighed. The last few days had been incredibly hectic. Interference from a nearby collapsing protostar was wreaking havoc on all our systems; namely warp power and communications. The comm system was still off-line, as were the warp engines, and other systems were malfunctioning as well. Various crewmembers had become trapped in or kept out of their quarters because the doors had refused to open and the transporters, like almost everything else, were off-line. We‘d even had a few people stranded in a turbolift, but luckily the turbolifts were the one system B‘Elanna had managed to get on-line first. Captain Janeway was none too happy about Voyager‘s current condition, either. We had already been delayed two weeks by a skirmish between two warring alien races; we had been forced to go around the conflict to avoid getting blown up by both sides.

I also suspected that the captain was in one hell of a bad mood because she and Chakotay had apparently had a fight which resulted in long moments of uncomfortable silence on the bridge. Both of them were so goddamn stubborn; each refused to even talk with the other unless absolutely necessary. Of course, they had done their best to hide this little quarrel from the crew, but it was painfully obvious to everyone that they weren‘t getting along. Usually, the two would talk quietly and joke around on the bridge; I could usually hear their cheerful but quiet banter from my station. But the last week or so they both had just sat in stony silence until I thought I would scream.
Both had their own ways of dealing with their anger: Captain Janeway snapped orders and never smiled anymore. Chakotay just stalked around the ship moodily, sometimes secluding himself in the holodeck with that animal guide of his.

Daily briefings were hell. The captain never addressed Chakotay unless it was absolutely necessary, and when she did address him her tone was so icy it could have frozen a hot lava pit. Chakotay, whenever he was required to speak with the captain, would use a voice so sharp it could cut one of Neelix‘s pot roasts with no trouble.

Tuvok had tried to talk to the captain about it, but when I inquired how it had went, he disclosed that Captain Janeway had said, "That‘s none of your goddamn business, Tuvok, and I thank you to stay out my personal affairs."

Then he had tried talking to Chakotay, but the commander had more or less said the same thing, only in slightly more civil terms. It was becoming painstakingly clear that unless someone did something quickly, the most celebrated couple on Voyager might become a thing of the past.
"Tom?" B‘Elanna‘s voice snapped me out of my reverie.

"Oh, um—Yes?"

"You looked a million light-years away. What are you thinking about?"

"What else?" I responded wryly. "The little spat our dear captain and beloved commander are refusing to mend."

"You too, hmm?" B‘Elanna said sympathetically, busily tapping away at her console.

"Yeah, me too. Life on Voyager has been nothing short of a nightmare with both of them in a bad mood. I‘ve never seen two people be more stubborn in my life!" I exclaimed. "I mean, they‘ve had fights before, but nothing like this. I don‘t think I‘ve heard them say more then three words to each other in the past week!"

"It‘s that damn pride of Chakotay‘s," B‘Elanna said, shaking her head. "It won‘t allow him to apologize to her, even if it was she who was wrong."

"It‘s the same with the captain," I agreed. "Too proud to concede defeat. At this rate, we‘ll be home long before they make up."

"Tell me about it," B‘Elanna snorted. "I bet if right now all of our systems magically came on-line, the captain would still have a frown the size of the cargo bay on her face. And did you notice Chakotay rubbing his neck on the bridge this morning? It‘s a sure sign he‘s been sleeping on the couch or the floor."

I winced in sympathy. "It must really be bad if they‘re not even sleeping in the same bed anymore."

"Someone ought to lock them both in a room and throw away the key until they start talking to each other like two civilized adults," B‘Elanna declared. "I—" Suddenly, she stopped talking in mid-sentence and a strange look came over her face. It was an expression I recognized. It meant she had suddenly been struck by an idea.
"What?" I asked.

"I wonder..." she murmured, beginning to work furiously at her console. A sly look gleamed in her eyes as she read the results of whatever she had typed. "Paris, I have an idea," she said slowly, "but I‘m going to need your help."
"Anything," I promised. "Just name it."

She leaned over and began to whisper in my ear. As her scheme unfolded, I began to smile wickedly. This was going to be fun.

"Hey, Tom! B‘Elanna!" Harry ran to catch up with us in the corridor two days after B‘Elanna and I had come up with our plan. "Did you hear about the captain and Commander Chakotay?"

"No, what about them?" I asked, trying to appear natural. I didn‘t dare look at B‘Elanna for fear both of us would burst out laughing.

"They‘re trapped in their quarters. The doors won‘t open and we can‘t pry them apart."

"The doors or the captain and Chakotay?" B‘Elanna asked slyly.

Harry gave her an exasperated look while I tried to keep back hysterical laughter. "The doors, of course. Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay aren‘t speaking to each other yet."

"That‘s too bad," I said, trying to sound sympathetic. "Do you know if the doors will be fixed soon, B‘Elanna?"

She shook her head, and I could see she was trying to keep back a smile. "Not for the next few days, at least. The captain told me herself that the warp engines and comm system were our first priority, and we haven‘t gotten either of them up yet."

"When did it happen?" I asked Harry, mainly to keep his attention off B‘Elanna‘s struggle to contain her mirth.

"This morning, apparently. Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay tried to go to the bridge and they couldn‘t get the doors open. When neither of them appeared on the bridge for their shift, Tuvok went down to their quarters to see if everything was all right, and he discovered that the doors were stuck. They‘re going to have to stay in there until the unlocking mechanisms are fixed," Harry continued, seemingly oblivious to B‘Elanna‘s twitching lips and sparkling eyes. "Tuvok is looking for you, B‘Elanna. He‘s going to brief you on the situation. The captain did say that she wanted the warp engines and comm system to remain your first priority, though, so it looks like they‘re going to be in there for a while."

"Maybe they‘ll be able to work out their differences while they‘re trapped in there," I offered, winking at B‘Elanna behind Harry‘s back. She smiled and winked back, and Harry didn‘t notice a thing.

"I sure hope so," Harry agreed. "Or else there will be hell to pay once they get out." He dashed off, probably to go find someone else to spread the...er...good news to.

B‘Elanna and I took one look at each other and burst out laughing. We leaned against the corridor walls, both of us giggling hysterically.

"Oh—oh, gods—did you hear him?" B‘Elanna choked, tears in her eyes.

"‘It looks like they‘re going to be in there for a while," I mimicked, laughing until my side ached. "Well, duh, Harry, that‘s the whole point! Man, what I wouldn‘t give to be a fly on that wall!"

"Would you mind sharing what is so humorous?" B‘Elanna and I stopped laughing as we faced Lieutenant Tuvok. "Oh...Tom just told me a really funny joke," B‘Elanna hastily fibbed. I could see she was hoping her weak excuse would prevent Tuvok from questioning her further, especially if he had heard my last remark.
"Want to hear it?" I asked quickly. "A Klingon and a
Romulan walk into a bar—"

"Quite the contrary, Mr. Paris, I do not wish to hear a ‚joke‘," Tuvok interrupted coolly. "I find the concept of humor most illogical. My purpose in coming here was to debrief Lieutenant Torres on our current situation."

"I‘ve already heard about Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay, Lieutenant," B‘Elanna said, shooting me a look that said, Whew, that was a close one. "I assume the captain wants warp power and communications to take first priority?"

"That is correct, Lieutenant," Tuvok confirmed. "She would also like you to—" Tuvok suddenly cleared his throat and looked slightly uncomfortable. "—in her words, ‚hurry the hell up.‘"

"I guess that means she wants me get both systems back on-line as soon as possible," B‘Elanna said, exchanging a mirthful glance with me, a glance Tuvok intercepted but luckily did not comment on. "I had better get back to work, then. I‘ll see you later, Tom."

"Bye," I called, watching her leave. Once she was gone, I looked up at Tuvok. "I take it the captain and the commander are not happy with their present circumstances?" I asked innocently.

"Indeed," Tuvok answered. I could tell he was itching to reprimand me for something, but there was no way he could fabricate a plausible excuse for doing so, for I could claim that my question had been completely legitimate.

"See you on the bridge, Lieutenant," I said glibly, and left him standing alone in the corridor to wonder what I was up to.

But if everything went correctly, Tuvok would never find out.

Part 2

B‘Elanna didn‘t manage to get the warp engines up for four more days, and the comm system didn‘t come on-line for one more day after that. By the time she managed to get around to fixing the unlocking mechanism on Captain Janeway‘s and Chakotay‘s quarters, the two had been stuck inside for a grand total of six days.

She had requested my help with the repair work, her excuse being that Harry was too busy trying to bring the weapons system back on-line. Tuvok, now acting captain, had reluctantly granted me permission to assist B‘Elanna, seeing as the navigation systems had already been repaired and I had nothing else to do. I‘m sure he believed that either myself or B‘Elanna had an ulterior motive, but he couldn‘t prove anything that could incriminate us, much to his own chagrin.

When the doors to Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay‘s quarters finally opened, Captain Janeway stepped out. Our first clue that our plan had been a success was the soft smile on her face. Our second clue was the grinning visage of Commander Chakotay that appeared behind her.

"I‘m sorry for the delay, Captain," B‘Elanna said apologetically.

Captain Janeway waved her off. "No need for apologies, Lieutenant," she said in the most cheerful tone I had heard her use in weeks. "You merely followed orders. An excellent job of getting the systems back on-line, by the way."

"Thanks," B‘Elanna said, shooting me a triumphant glance which, luckily, neither Captain Janeway nor Commander Chakotay intercepted. They were too busy staring lovingly into each other‘s eyes, and I could tell they almost wished they could be locked in their quarters again.

"Well," Janeway said brightly, "we had better get to the bridge and get caught up on the last six days, Commander. Thank you again, B‘Elanna. And you too, Mr. Paris."

"You‘re welcome, Captain," we replied in unison, watching the two lovebirds walk away hand-in-hand. It didn‘t take a doctorate in psychology to figure out that they had reconciled during their seclusion.

Once we were absolutely certain the two were out of earshot, B‘Elanna and I began to laugh exultantly. "Yes! It worked!" B‘Elanna exclaimed delightedly.
"B‘Elanna Torres, you are a genius," I praised.

"I know, Paris. You don‘t have to tell me," she replied smugly.
"Modest, are we?"


"Hey, wanna go celebrate with dinner? Together?" I proposed.

B‘Elanna thought it over. "Why not," she said cheerfully. "I don‘t have anything better to do."
"Gee, thanks."

"No problem."
Two days after Captain Janeway‘s release from her rather enjoyable confinement, she called both B‘Elanna and I into her ready room. Her demeanor was cheerful, but I suspected she had a hidden agenda—which she soon revealed.

"I was going over the repair logs," she said pleasantly, "and I noticed that most of the unlocking mechanisms on the doors of the crew‘s quarters were affected because of a power surge on deck 6."
"Yes," B‘Elanna said cautiously.

"I found it rather odd that my quarters were affected, because my quarters are on deck 8," Janeway continued. "Upon further inspection, I discovered that the power surge ran nowhere near deck 8, nor was there another phenomenon that could explain it. Actually, I didn‘t have much luck at all until I delved into the unlocking mechanism activation log itself."

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see B‘Elanna gulp nervously. I myself was feeling Neelix‘s dinner do the hula in my stomach as Captain Janeway spoke. Her voice was still bright and cheery, yet with a note of warning to it.

"It was there I discovered that my door‘s locking mechanism had been programmed to activate itself and not turn off until a certain code was entered into the computer. To do this, the computer required the command codes of two senior officers—and much to my great surprise, the codes belong to you two. Now, would you mind explaining yourselves?"

B‘Elanna and I gave each other sheepish looks. "Looks like we‘ve been busted," I commented wryly.

"Permission to speak freely, Captain?" B‘Elanna asked, ever so politely.

"Granted." Captain Janeway leaned back in her chair and fixed her gaze on B‘Elanna.

"With all due respect, Captain, you and Commander Chakotay were making life on Voyager a living hell, and Tom and I decided to do something about it."

This calm reply startled the captain for a second, but she quickly regained her composure. "Please define ‚living hell‘, Lieutenant."

"For starters, you snapped at anyone and everyone who tried to talk to you, not to mention the fact that you hadn‘t cracked a smile in weeks," B‘Elanna pointed out. "Chakotay stalked around the ship like a disgruntled child and then secluded himself in the holodeck with his animal guide; which is not unusual in itself except for the fact that he seemed to derive no solace from his spiritual journeys. Whenever we had a briefing it was painfully obvious that the two of you could barely stand to talk to each other. You told Tuvok, of all people, to mind his own goddamned business, something you wouldn‘t do under normal circumstances."
"Not to mention the fact that you and Chakotay would just sit and stare at the viewscreen instead of chatting like you normally do when you‘re on the bridge," I spoke up. "B‘Elanna and I discussed this one day last week—"

"—and I said that someone ought to lock you both in a room and throw away the key until you started talking to each other like two civilized adults," B‘Elanna interjected, apparently determined to take her share of the blame. "And I came up with the idea of—well—locking you two in your quarters and throwing away the key until you began talking again. Your dignity nor your reputation was not tarnished in any way. The crew believes it was simply a malfunction of the doors, nothing more. We only meant to make life a little easier for the poor ensigns and lieutenants who had to bear the brunt of your wrath."

Was I imagining things, or was that a smile tugging at the corners of Janeway‘s lips?

"I apologize, Captain, for any inconvenience I might have caused you or Chakotay," B‘Elanna continued. "But, again, with all due respect, you two let foolish pride get in the way of your relationship and it was affecting the morale of the entire crew. This was entirely my idea. Tom was merely an accomplice."

"Actually, part of it was my idea," I disagreed. "I‘m as much to blame as she is, Captain."

"And that is our explanation, Captain," B‘Elanna concluded. "Again, I apologize for any inconvenience and I realize that your personal life is none of my business, but in this case drastic measures were called for."

"Not to mention the fact that we really hated to see you and Chakotay so unhappy," I added.

Captain Janeway was silent for a long while, staring at the surface of her desk while she deliberated over what we had just said. B‘Elanna and I exchanged nervous glances. Frankly, I didn‘t know what the captain‘s reaction would be, and neither did B‘Elanna. We actually hadn‘t expected to get caught, but I guess we hadn‘t anticipated Captain Janeway‘s curiosity.

Finally, she looked up. "You are right, Lieutenant, that my personal life, or Chakotay‘s, for that matter, is none of your business. Chakotay and I did have a rather serious disagreement," she admitted. "It is none of your business, however, what that disagreement was about."

B‘Elanna nodded. "Of course not. That aspect of your personal life is entirely your concern."

"And you were also right that Chakotay and I let foolish pride stand in the way of our relationship," the captain said gently. "Both of us realize that mistake now. We shouldn‘t have let our personal life affect our behavior on the bridge or otherwise. To be honest, we didn‘t think the crew had noticed we weren‘t getting along."

"Not noticed?" I responded. "Captain, no disrespect intended, but it was painfully obvious. We know you and Chakotay too well not to notice."

"Yes, I see that now," she agreed. "However, that still does not give you the right—if you‘ll excuse the term—to play matchmaker."

"On the contrary, Captain, we had every right," B‘Elanna said quietly. "Not as your officers, but as your friends."

"Moreover, Captain, what we did, we did out of friendship and concern, and nothing more. No mean spirit was intended," I said firmly. "Punish us if you like, because I admit we deserve it, but we were only trying to help—and with all due respect, I believe we did help."

"You certainly did," the captain said after a lengthy pause. "God only knows how long that fight would have lasted had not you two intervened, and for that I thank you. It was extremely unprofessional of us as well, and I‘m glad to see that I have two level-headed officers who helped us to correct that particular mistake. And, I must admit—" Captain Janeway suddenly broke out into a broad smile. "That was rather ingenious of you."

Both B‘Elanna and I started visibly. That comment from her had not been expected. "Excuse me?" I asked dubiously, not certain if I had heard her right.

"Locking us in our quarters until we talked. Very clever. I admit, we didn‘t actually start being civil to each other until the fourth day, but the point is you did get us communicating."

I bet you did more then that, I thought, but I wisely kept that remark to myself.

"You know," Captain Janeway continued, "it sounds like something I would have done. I‘m very impressed with both of you."

B‘Elanna and I just looked at each other. "Thanks—I think," B‘Elanna said.

"Next time, however," the captain said calmly, "I would appreciate it if you could just come and talk to us instead."

"Um, well, actually, Tuvok already tried that—and you told him to mind his own goddamned business," I tactfully pointed out.

The captain considered this for a moment. "True, I did say that. Well, hopefully there won‘t be a next time, anyway. Both Chakotay and I have learned a great deal from this. Dismissed." And with that, she turned her attention back to the reports on her desk.

B‘Elanna and I sat still in our chairs, not quite sure what to do. "That‘s all?" I ventured.

Captain Janeway looked up. "You‘d rather be punished? I could arrange that, if you wish."

"No," B‘Elanna said hastily, "that‘s perfectly all right. To tell you the truth, we weren‘t expecting you to take this so well."

Captain Janeway seemed amused. "You were right, after all; Chakotay and I were acting like children. I can‘t reprimand you for stating the obvious and acting on your decision, now, can I? Besides, there was a great deal more good then harm done. However, if you should decide to embark on a venture like this again, I would appreciate being notified. Oh, and by the way—let‘s keep this our little secret, okay?"
"Yes, Captain," I said obediently.

"Dismissed," she said again, and this time B‘Elanna and I didn‘t hesitate. We got up from our chairs and left her ready room.

Since we were both off duty, we both headed for the turbolift.

Once we were safely inside, we exchanged an surprised glance.
"Well," B‘Elanna said reflectively, "that wasn‘t so bad."

"That wasn‘t bad at all," I agreed. "And, the important thing is that the captain and Chakotay are back on good terms again."

"Speaking of," B‘Elanna said thoughtfully, "I thought you‘d like to know—I had a very interesting chat with Chakotay yesterday. I asked him just how he and the captain had started speaking to each other again."

"And he told you?" I asked incredulously. Chakotay was normally very private; but then again, B‘Elanna was his best friend, so it was probably natural that he would open up to her.

"He got this dreamy look on his face," she grinned, "and he said that he and the captain had alternated sleeping on the couch and the bed. Well, it so happens that on the third night Chakotay had the bed, and he couldn‘t sleep, so he got up to get a drink of water from the replicator. The blanket Captain Janeway had been using had fallen on the floor, and he saw her shiver, so he picked up the blanket and covered her up. While Chakotay was doing so, she woke up, saw what he was doing, and kissed him. And the rest, as they say," she concluded, "is history."
I grinned. "How cute."

"I thought it was sweet," B‘Elanna confessed. "It was a very compassionate gesture on his part."

"Hey, I‘d be glad to cover you up anytime," I said lightly, winking at her.

I sighed in relief. It seemed that everything was finally back to normal.