Disclaimer: Star Trek is owned by Paramount/Viacom. I just borrowed that universe and characters for this non-profit story.
Eyes Wide Open
by Scott Taylor
Seven of Nine waited for only a few seconds before the turbo lift arrived. As it opened, the occupants, Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay, each shifted away from each other so that she could stand between them. As they exchanged the expected pleasantries with her, she noticed their pupils were dilated again. She felt it most curious that they would continue to go to such great lengths to hide their feelings. Perhaps she would address this with the Captain, should the occasion present itself.
Naomi and Samantha Wildman strolled into the Mess hall. Naomi had her new pet on her shoulder. She had been given permission by the Captain to take care of the stowaway from the last away mission, provided that she take the animal and introduce it to the crew first. It was an intimidating looking animal and the Captain felt introductions would ease the crew's apprehension. The black hairless creature had skin resembling soft leather. Its head was similar to that of a North American bat. Its body was more like a spider, with eight clawed legs. The Delta Flyer had been on a routine supply mission several days before. Apparently, while the ship was being loaded, the creature wandered into a space under the aft storage compartment and made a nest. Upon the animal's discovery, it was placed in stasis until the Doctor could examine it. Naomi, visiting her mother in Sickbay the following day, saw it in the stasis chamber and immediately fell in love. Later, when it was determined that the "spider bat", as it was called, was not a threat, Naomi begged her mother to keep it. Sam then approached the Captain with Naomi's request. The Captain had just as hard a time as Naomi's mom in refusing Voyager's only child a pet.
The Wildman's made their way from table to table. The general reaction was the same, revulsion. To avoid hurting the little girl's feelings, everyone made a brave attempt to say hello to the winged beast. At the table where Tom, B'Elanna and Seven were sitting, Naomi introduced her new pet to her friends.
"The Doctor says she's a girl. I named her Charlotte. It's from a story Uncle Neelix read to me. Isn't she neat?" She exclaimed enthusiastically.
"You bet she is honey," Tom said reluctantly.
"Charming creature," B'Elanna added.
"Naomi Wildman, what is the relevance of harboring such a creature? Seven asked.
"What?" The little girl asked, looking up at her mother.
"She's a pet, Seven. People love to care for little animals," Sam explained.
Naomi approached Seven and crouched down so Charlotte was at eye level. "Pat her head, she won't bite. The Doctor said so." Seven reluctantly reached out to pat the spider bat on its head. Charlotte closed her eyes and started to purr like a kitten.
"See, isn't she precious?" Naomi asked. Sam gave Seven a look that she interpreted as a plea for her not to pursue her line of questioning.
Seven hesitated as she struggled for an appropriate response. "She is…most precious," She said without conviction. Sam smiled and nodded her thanks.
Looking around the Mess hall, Naomi asked, "Where's Harry?" Obviously disappointed he wasn't there to meet Charlotte.
"He going to be late. I'm sure he'll meet Charlotte soon," Tom reassured her. "Are you going to the BBQ later on the holodeck?"
"Yes, we all are. Momma said if I kept a careful eye on Charlotte, she could come too," She said triumphantly.
"Oh good," Tom and B'Elanna said in unison, and less than unenthusiastically. Sam shrugged her shoulders as if to ask, "What could I say?"
"Come along, we have to get going," Sam told her daughter. They said their good-byes and left the Mess Hall.
"That thing is disgusting," B'Ellana said as soon as the door closed behind them.
"You aren't kidding," Tom responded.
"Am I to assume you do not approve of Charlotte as a pet for Naomi? Seven asked.
"It's not that we don't approve. It's just a creepy 'thing'," Tom said making a face.
"It's horrible, that's what it is. Half bat, half spider. Did you hear it purr like a cat? That's the weirdest thing I've ever seen." B'Elanna was shuddering.
"Of all people, I thought you'd be tougher than that," Tom teased.
"I'll be the first to admit, I'm a bit squeamish of animals that look like that. The only thing it doesn't have is a snake's tongue."
The Mess Hall doors opened and Harry quickly picked out a muffin and coffee and made his way to the table.
"Sorry I'm late. I just couldn't get going this morning. What have I missed?"
"Naomi brought that spider bat in for a visit," B'Elanna explained. "The Captain said she could keep her for a pet. She's named her Charlotte."
"Oh, that's cute. She must have named her after the spider in Charlottes Web," Harry said between bites.
"That's right," Tom said. "Have you seen that thing yet?"
"No, not yet. I'm sure I'll meet her soon enough." Harry turned his attention to Seven. "Are you ready for the BBQ tonight?"
"Yes, I have accessed all the files from the database regarding a BBQ. I am prepared to engage in this social engagement."
"Good. Have you decided what you'll wear?" Harry asked, glancing quickly in Tom and B'Elanna's direction. They just rolled their eyes.
"The Doctor has replicated a garment appropriate for swimming."
He smiled. "Great. Tom, I'll see you on the bridge." Getting up to leave, he looked at B'Elanna and Seven and added, "I'll see you two later at the BBQ."
Naomi had been wandering around the outskirts of the BBQ, with Charlotte perched on her shoulder. As she made her way to the center of the crowd, Charlotte became frightened at the increased activity and flew off. Naomi looked and looked, but Charlotte was no where to be seen. She was going to get in trouble if she didn't find her. Her mother had been quite adamant about her responsibility of caring for her pet.
"I've got sand all over me. I'm going to take a quick shower before we eat. Save me a spot near you two." Harry hesitated before finishing his thought. "And, um, see if you can get Seven to sit next to me, OK?"
Tom rolled his eyes. "Are you on that Seven of Nine kick again? I thought you had given up on her."
"Never mind what I said. Just 'do it'."
"Yes Captain, I'll see what I can do?" Tom said.
Harry headed for the bathrooms. He hadn't showered with water in some time and was really looking forward to it. He reached in and turned on the water, then began to remove his clothes.
Out near the bar, Seven had been contemplating how to approach the subject of Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay's obvious attraction. She didn't understand why they insisted on denying what they obviously felt for one another. The Captain, Chakotay, Tom, B'Elanna and the Doctor were in the middle of a conversation near the bar. She saw her chance and approached to join the conversation.
"I just never saw the opportunity to bring it up," The Captain explained. "But now that you've seen how well I play Volleyball, I think my stock will rise in the ship's pool. Wouldn't you say Ensign?" Tom hated it when the ship's pool was brought up in the captain's presence. It was even worse when she mentioned it herself. He figured it was just a matter of time before she came up with a 'Starfleet' regulation stating pools were a violation of the Prime Directive.
"The money's still on Seven, once she decides she's studied the database long enough to play. When is that, Seven?" Tom asked, diverting everyone's attention to her.
"My status in the ship's pool is irrelevant. I will, however, participate at the next outing. After evaluating the talent displayed here today, I have no doubt I possess superior skills."
"That's rather arrogant of you, wouldn't you say?" The Captain asked rather smugly. "Remember our Velocity games? You were so sure your ability was superior to mine, yet I won nearly every match. Certainly you won't deny that? Relevant or not, you took a beating in the pool that day."
Seven raised her brow. "Denial is something I have noticed humans do when they don't want to or are afraid to admit something." The Captain noticed, as did the rest of the group, that Seven had blatantly changed the subject away from her Velocity matches with the Captain.
"OK Seven, I'll bite," Captain Janeway conceded. "What about it?"
"For instance, the obvious attraction you and Commander Chakotay have for each other. I have witnessed the 'body language' when you two are in close proximity. I also noticed that you each had dilated pupils when I encountered you in the turbolift today."
Tom shifted his weight from foot to foot and looked down at his feet. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. This was bold even for Seven. Looking up at the others in the group, he could see he wasn't the only one feeling uncomfortable. Chakotay had a look of stunned embarrassment. B'Elanna and the Doctor, just looked like they wished they were anywhere but there. As for the Captain, she went from the look of outrage to anger in a matter of seconds.
Turning to face Seven she said tightlipped, "Seven, this matter is none of your business. Have I made myself clear?"
"Yes captain. I believe I have made my point clear as well."
Knowing Seven as well as he did, Tom knew she would not back down. This was a social occasion and he wasn't about to let Seven ruin it. "Seven, this isn't the time or place for this discussion."
"Very well, I will wait until it is brought up again at the next 'ship's pool' discussion in the Mess Hall."
Janeway turned and shot Tom a look. He just stood there with his mouth open not saying a thing. Just as the Captain was about to tear into her helmsman, a commotion erupted near the bathrooms. There were a series of screams and the sound of things falling. It was Harry. He shot out of the bathroom door at full speed, clutching his head and screaming, "What is it? Get it off, get it off!" He ran soaking wet, bare-naked and at full speed past the bar toward the beach. It was clear to all, it was Charlotte clutching tightly onto Harry's head, wings flapping and shrieking with fear. Realizing Charlotte was in danger of being injured, Naomi immediately began to chase after Harry on the beach, desperate to save her pet.
The spectacle taking place on the beach had the attention of everyone on the holodeck. The band stopped playing and the patrons of the bar abandoned their meals to watch Harry's nightmare unfold. The senior officers all ran to the edge of the bandstand to get to a better view. Laughter spread throughout the crew. It wasn't every day you saw a hysterical, naked man with a spider bat on his head, running on the beach, being chased by a little girl.
"Harry! Stop! You're scaring her," Naomi screamed as she remained in hot pursuit.
The bridge staff couldn't believe what they were seeing. B'Elanna turned and said to the group, "I guess I'm going to have to stop thinking of Harry as my 'little' brother." Everyone started laughing.
" Sam," The Captain said so only she could hear. "I bet you thought you had a few years before she'd be chasing after boys."
"They grow up awful fast, don't they?" Sam responded, smiling.
The Doctor standing next to B'Elanna said, "You know Lieutenant, seeing Harry run free like that, reminds me of something I've lost."
"I'm guessing you're not referring to your hair." Ignoring her comment, the Doctor continued. "Recently, I became aware of some changes to my 'Masculine Enhancement Program' you and I implemented four years ago. It appears that a certain sub routine has taken over, causing what could best be described as 'a return to my youth'."
"What are you getting at Doctor?" B'Elanna asked, hardly able to contain her urge to laugh.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about," He said raising his voice. "I suddenly have the genitalia of a seven year old boy!"
Fighting her urge to laugh, B'Elanna said, "I was beginning to wonder if you had the balls to tell me you knew I did it." She burst out laughing. Disgusted, the Doctor turned and stormed off in a huff.
Harry's screams for someone to get the unidentified creature off his head intensified. Charlotte in her fear had dug her claws even deeper into his scalp, her wings flapping wildly, periodically slapping Harry in the face. Running up to where his friends were watching he stopped to face them, his eyes wide open with fear. Although he had stopped running, his legs never stopped moving. He was running in place, out of breath, still begging someone to free him of his torture. Catching up, Naomi stopped and called to Charlotte. She immediately removed her claws from Harry's scalp and flew to her. Harry stopped screaming. Charlotte stopped screeching. Harry stopped running in place. He just stood there rubbing his head. A crowd had circled Harry, as he stood facing his Captain and friends. Charlotte was perched on Naomi's arm purring softly, obviously no worse for wear. Naomi walked up and stood between her mother and Seven and said, "Harry, there was no reason to be frightened. It was only Charlotte. She wouldn't hurt anybody. The Doctor even said so."
"It's true Ensign, I did," The Doctor said with some amusement as he approached Harry to assess his injuries.
Harry, still rubbing his head just gave her an embarrassed smile. He noticed the giggles from the crowd.
"Are you all right Ensign?" the Captain asked, smiling, yet concerned.
"Yeah…I just got a bit spooked I guess. I'm sorry Captain," He responded sheepishly. Looking down he realized,"OH MY GOD, I'M NAKED!"
His first reaction was to cover himself with his hands but quickly realized that it was a little too late for that now. His cheeks and every other part of his body felt the heat of his embarrassment.
Naomi tugged at Seven's bathing suit and gestured for her to bend down. Whispering in her ear Naomi said, "Momma says it's not polite to stare."
"I was not staring," She responded defensively.
Overhearing the exchange, Chakotay leaned closer to Seven. "That, is called denial," He said with a smile of satisfaction on his face. It was then, Seven experienced her first wave of embarrassment.
Someone in the crowd handed Harry a beach towel. He quickly tied it around his waist as the Doctor finished his medical evaluation. The Doctor healed his clawed scalp using the portable Dermal Regenerator and assured the Captain her bridge officer would be fine. "I apologize Captain," Harry said again as he headed back to the bathroom.
Along the way, he saw Samantha Wildman and Naomi headed for the holodeck door. Taking Samantha out of Naomi's earshot he said, "Sam, I'm sorry. I'm not in the habit of running around naked in front of children. I'm sor…" Samantha held her hand up to Harry's mouth.
"Don't worry about it. I really don't think she noticed. She seemed more concerned about Charlotte than about what you were…or weren't wearing. If she doesn't hear any more about it, she probably won't think anything of it. That's why I'm taking her home. Harry, being born and raised on Voyager, this little girl has seen things most children never see. Seeing you run around naked isn't going to do her any harm." She patted him on his cheek. "Go on, get dressed and enjoy the rest of the BBQ.
"Oh, by the way. If during the next BBQ your planning to show off again, just let me know and I'll arrange for a sitter." She smiled, turned and left with Naomi and Charlotte.
In the bathroom, Harry sat on a bench, bent over with his hands on his face. He was thinking about the teasing he was going to get. Oh god, he thought. I'll never live this down. He was fully prepared to continue his pity party when Tom walked in.
"Harry my boy…I have to hand it to you. That was one ingenious stunt you just pulled off."
"What?" he looked at Tom with disbelief.
"Oh don't play coy with me. Do you realize you just did yourself a big favor by running around naked?"
"Are you crazy? I just made a fool of myself in front of everyone I know."
"Sure, you're a little embarrassed now, but do you realize what effect this little self promotional stunt will have in the long term?"
Standing up, Harry reached for his change of clothes. "I don't have to ask. You are crazy. Only you could twist what just happened into something positive. I just made an idiot of myself, running around screaming…I can't believe I ran out of here naked."
Tom sat on the bench. "Yeah, I'll admit, the screaming was a bit much. As for the streaking, you had the attention of every woman out there. You shouldn't dwell on the negatives Harry. You're a good-looking guy and obviously in good shape. You have nothing to be ashamed of. There's only a handful of people that wouldn't be scared of that 'thing' Naomi calls a pet. It's disgusting. No one will blame you for being startled by it." Tom hesitated, smiled and continued, "You know, you will be teased unmercifully?"
"You don't think I know that!" Harry said, fully dressed now.
"Hell, you probably saved the BBQ."
"Really? This should be good," Harry said sarcastically.
"That's right. Seven and the Captain were about to square off. If you hadn't distracted them, I don't know what would have happened. Speaking of Seven, I couldn't help but notice, she seemed quite interested that you weren't wearing anything," Tom mused.
"With the exception of Naomi, I really wish she hadn't been there."
"There's nothing you can do about it now." Tom stood up and put his arm around Harry's shoulders. "Come on. You might as well get this over with."
With a big sigh, Harry headed for the bathroom door.
Outside, everything was back to normal. People returned to their food, the musicians to their music. Everyone was buzzing about how long it would take Harry to get up the courage to come out of the bathroom. They didn't have to wait very long.
When Harry emerged from the bathroom, the entire holodeck erupted in applause, whistles and cheers of approval. Harry smiled and waved trying to make light of the fact that this was embarrassing the hell out of him. Tom nudged him in his ribs to get his attention. "Look at the women's faces Harry." Harry saw them all right. It didn't matter. He'd give up his right arm if it meant he could have the last 10 minutes back.
After the initial bombardment of good-natured teasing, multiple 'Atta boys' and some rather descriptive comparisons to a warp nacelle, Harry got his wish. He was seated at the table with the senior bridge staff between Tom and Seven. He was nervous. Nervous like he hadn't been in Seven's presence in months. He nudged Tom in the side shortly after sitting down and said, "Of course you'd manage to have Seven sitting right next to me."
Tom looked from side to side and leaned toward Harry. "I had nothing to do with it. I was in the bathroom with you, remember? She sat there on her own. See, what did I tell you about self promotion?"
"Be serious, that has nothing to do with it," He responded.
Neelix arrived with a large platter of assorted meats from the BBQ pit, and placed it on the table next to the ears of corn, potato and green salads. Trying to break the ice, Harry tried to ease into conversation with Seven. "You've never had BBQ before, would you like to know what everything is?" He stammered.
"That will not be necessary Ensign. With the Doctor and Mr. Neelix's assistance, I have been made aware of the proper etiquette regarding 'eating BBQ'."
"Then please, ladies first," Harry offered, handing the serving spoon to her. She scooped a spoonful of potato salad, then using the salad tongs, took a small portion of green salad. Seven looked at the platter of meat and saw there was no utensil for serving purposes and remembered Mr. Neelix said it was proper etiquette to eat BBQ with one's hands. With everyone watching, she attempted to demonstrate her knowledge.
"As for my choice of charred flesh," She said confidently. "I have decided to have a kielbasa." Using her left hand, she proceeded to grab the largest sausage on the platter. Lifting it to her mouth, she took a bite off one end. The table erupted in laughter. Harry shook his head, slipped down in his chair and put his hands to his face. Had it been anyone other than Seven, it would have just been a crude joke. Seven, in her innocence, had made the joke of the day, and didn't have a clue as to why.
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