"I'm not tired anymore," she says, as we undress in darkness.

"I think I'm too tired to be tired," I answer.

"Tough day?"

"You have no idea." I drop my rankbar onto the table.

"You want me to replicate you something?"

"No, that's fine. I ate on the run." We are in silence for a little while. "I thought I had a story for you tonight... but it's not the right one, anymore." I try to explain.

"Tell me anyway," she says.

"I can't. It's not right anymore."

"Then tell me how you would have liked to have told me," she says, speaking to me in the darkness. "Please?"

Voyager's Stowaway
by Morgan

'This is the story of Voyager's stowaway,' he began.

'Voyager does not have a stowaway,' a quiet but firm voice interrupted. He smiled at her response and started to gently stroke her hair.

'That's all you know, do you think Tuvok and I tell you everything? We keep all the good stuff to ourselves.'

'Very funny.'

'Who's joking? Well as I was saying. Voyager's stowaway was very small, which was why no one noticed her - she was a little black cat, with white socks. She was born with a instinct to travel and a healthy fascination for the stars and so, with no one in particular to take care of her, she decided to embark on a lifetime of exploration. Her first step was to creep on board a creaky old freighter from earth. The freighter stopped at Deep Space 9 and being curious, as cats are, she decided to get off and stay there for a while. DS9 was a great improvement on the freighter, which had been small and dingy and finding food had been a problem for the little cat. On DS9 it was a lot easier to find food and warm, safe places to sleep - and for a while she was happy to be there.'

'However, the little cat soon came to realise that it was not the safe place that she had thought. There were problems with the Cardassians and with the wormhole, also Constable Odo was very difficult to fool and she was sure he was on her trail. All in all the little cat decided this would be a good time to move on.'

'One day the answer to her problems arrived. It was a beautiful, sleek ship which everyone said was brand new, the pride of the fleet. The ship was called Voyager and the little cat decided that it would be her new home. She crept on board and went to live in the Jeffries tubes, being careful to stay out of everyone's way - especially the Captain. The little cat had heard that she only liked dogs and so she certainly didn't want to get on the wrong side of her.'

'Not long after she'd moved in something terrible happened and the ship was flung a long way across space. The little cat didn't know what was happening at first, she only knew that the ship had lurched violently and then moved very fast. She was lucky to land on her feet, but then cats normally do. It took her a long time to find out what had happened, but she gradually managed to piece it all together from the scraps of conversation that she heard.

Apparently the ship was lost in a distant part of the Galaxy, a long, long way from home and the Starfleet crew had joined forces with a Maquis one. The little cat didn't know who the Maquis were, and she didn't really care, her only concern was that now there might be less food for her to eat and less warm, safe places for her to sleep.'

'Time passed and the little cat watched the crew and realised that they were trying to make the best of their situation- and so she decided to do the same. It wasn't as difficult as she had feared to find food to eat either, one of the big rooms was converted into a kind of canteen and there were always lots of scraps for her. The little cat soon learned that some of the food there tasted very strange because it had something called leola root in it. She didn't like it at first, but she soon got used to it, although she wished sometimes that she could eat food for cats, rather than for humans, vulcans or klingons.'

'The little cat was a silent, unobserved witness to many strange events, but as time passed she became more and more lonely. She watched as the crew became friends and wished that she had someone to feed her and stroke her and a couch of her own to sleep on. The little cat decided that it was time she found an owner. With this in mind she made a careful, systematic study of the crew, deciding who she was going to select. Eventually she had narrowed her choice down to one person and that was how it came to pass that one day Lt. Johansson came into his quarters to find a little black cat with white socks sitting on his couch and meowing at him.'

'The little cat's diligent survey had payed off - she had made an excellent choice. Lt. Johansson was a quiet, thoughtful young man who was rather shy and so found it difficult to make close friends. He was glad to have someone to look after and took excellent care of the little cat, feeding her, letting her sleep on his couch and finding her toys to play with. The little cat had never been so happy.'

'Then one day a very bad thing happened; the Hirogen boarded the ship and used the crew as playthings in a vicious and dangerous game. When the crisis was over and the crew regained control of Voyager Lt. Johansson raced back to his quarters to see if the little cat was there, but she was gone. For two days her waited for her to appear, but she did not return. He decided she must be hiding, because the Hirogen had scared her and that he needed to search the ship for her. But Voyager was a big place and he was just one person; he knew he needed to find some help, but he was so shy he didn't know who to ask to help him in such an endeavour.'

'Eventually he decided to ask Lt. Nicoletti, who was a kind person who often tried to include him in evenings in Sandrine's or the luau programme. He explained the whole situation to her and although she was surprised that there could be a cat on board Voyager, even a small one, she agreed to help him with his search. Together they looked for the little cat, between them they managed to gain access to most places on the ship and using a little subterfuge they even managed to search almost all the crew's quarters.'

'But they still hadn't found the little cat and Lt. Johansson was now very worried. He and Lt. Nicoletti decided that they needed some more help so they went to the very handsome and kind First Officer,' (something like a derisory snort emerged from the woman lying next to him at this point, but he decided to pay it no heed and continued with his tale) 'and asked him for his help. The handsome and kind First Officer agreed to help and let them search his quarters and his office, but there was no sign of the little cat. By now they were running out of places to look, only the Captain's Ready Room and quarters and Lt. Tuvok's quarters remained.

The First Officer, who as well as being handsome and kind was very wise, knew that it would be difficult to search Lt. Tuvok's quarters without him realising, so he decided to leave that for last. He looked in the Captain's Ready Room while she was in Engineering one day, but there was no sign of the little cat. Lts. Nicoletti and Johansson were very downcast because they thought that the Captain's quarters would be just as hard to search as Lt. Tuvoks.'

'But the First Officer knew that sometimes, if he was very, very fortunate the Captain would stay with him all night and sleep with him in his bed and while he didn't want anyone else to know that at the moment he knew that if he invited the Captain to have dinner with him there was a chance she would stay.'

'So the First Officer invited the Captain to dinner and gave Lt. Johansson the access code to her quarters which he had found out using a special magic spell. While she was gone Lts. Johansson and Nicoletti crept into her quarters and started to search for the little cat. Finally after a very careful search they found her at the very back of the Captain's wardrobe, curled into an old shoe box. The little cat was very thin because she had not been eating properly and very frightened, but she was overjoyed to see Lt. Johansson and to go back to his quarters to her bowl, her toys and her couch.'

'Is that the end of the story?' A small, sleepy voice asked.

'No, the end of the story is that Lt. Johansson and Lt. Nicoletti got along so well while they were looking for the little cat that now they are dating and might, perhaps live happily ever after. The morale of the story is that the Universe is a very mysterious place and that sometimes the most unlikely things can bring two people together, be it a small black cat with white socks, or a mission to bring a dangerous Maquis commander to justice.

* * *

She stares at me. "Chakotay, that's beautiful!"

"Yes, it is, isn't it?"

"What's wrong?" She sits up.

"It's not the only story I'm going to tell you tonight, Kathryn."

"I know." She slids a hand along my chest.

"They won't always be kind stories."

"I know that too."

I begin to speak.

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