"I don't believe it. You're imagining things, Commander," Kathryn insisted.

"I tell you, I heard them. Plain as day. As distinctly as you talking to me now," I rebutted.

"So you eavesdropped on them? Is that what you're admitting? That isn't very polite. Or appropriate for a senior officer."

"I *overheard* them. And they shouldn't be talking about the senior officers that way. Or the rest of the crew, for that matter."

"I still find your claim highly improbable..." she began.

"I'll prove it!" I claimed. "I'll repeat the conversation back to you verbatim. Will that convince you?"

"Perhaps. At least it will give me more evidence on which to base my judgment," she agreed. After several moments of silence, Kathryn suspected she'd called my bluff. "Well?" she inquired archly.

"I'm thinking." Seeing her accusatory glance, I quickly clarified. "*Not* about what was said. It's just that, I don't think I should use the involved parties' actual names. I wouldn't want to overly tarnish their captain's opinion of them. I mean, I'm more concerned with the fact that such conversations go on, not who's involved in this particular one."

"Fine. Make up names for the offending parties. Frankly, I'm still not convinced you're not making up the whole incident," Kathryn replied pointedly.

I gave her a look filled with hurt innocence. "Me? *Fabricate* a story? When there're so many wonderful *true* stories to tell? Captain, you wound me." Seeing I would garner no sympathy from this approach, I began his tale. "Okay, let's call the three of them... Eolé, Glennis, and Phoenix." I shot her a cagey look. "They're all female, I'll tell you that much." Was that a smile on Kathryn's face?

Girl Talk
by m.c. moose

"I swear, if he ever touches me again, I'll scream. I've seen what's happened to so many of the others he's taken out," Glennis fretted.

Her colleagues dismissed these concerns. "My dear, you're clearly over- reacting. Personally," Eolé purred seductively, "I can't wait to get him inside me."

Phoenix chimed in her agreement. "Yes, Chakotay has the most wonderful touch. I just love his hands... so skillful. That's the advantage of a 'mature' man. There's simply no substitute for experience."

Eolé smiled wistfully. "I don't know about that. Some are just born with a natural talent. In many ways, I think Tom is better. He seems to instinctively know *exactly* what to do." She sighed with the memory of her last encounter with Paris.

"Oh, the two of them take us for granted. And they're *both* too rough." Glennis insisted.

"Now, darling, you think *everyone's* too rough. Doesn't anybody suit you? How about Tuvok? Do you like his cool precision?" Phoenix queried her overly sensitive friend.

Glennis blushed demurely. "Well, actually," she hesitated, but then decided to confide in her friends, "I prefer the captain. She has such a delicate set of hands. So gentle."

The three companions smiled conspiratorially. Discussing the captain *was* inappropriate. But this was just among friends. In that spirit, Phoenix felt compelled to contribute her confession to the discussion. "Hmmm. I once had the captain *and* B'Elanna."

Glennis was shocked. And more than a bit jealous. "At the same time?!? You lucky dog! How was it?"

Phoenix gave a luxurious sigh. "Wonderful, as you can well imagine."

But Eolé was not so easily convinced by Phoenix's claim. "Wait a minute... I remember that time; you said you thought it was going to be the end of you!"

"I did," Phoenix admitted, "but I meant it in a *good* way. I mean, if you've gotta go, what a way to go!!" Her peal of girlish laughter was quickly joined by the other two's.

As the laughter quieted, Eolé added her fond comment for Voyager's chief engineer. "That B'Elanna, she always makes my engine purr."

Glennis gave a derisive snort. Sometimes she thought Eolé gave too many of the crew access to her engine. She told her friend as much. "You seem ready to invite almost anyone onboard."

Eolé saw nothing inappropriate in her attitude. Nor did she think it necessary to justify her behavior to Glennis. So she kept her tone light. "Well, anyone but Neelix. He always wants to involve such strange stuff."

"Tell me about it!" Phoenix chimed in. "Last time he was with me, I couldn't even recognize half the things he'd brought along."

Eolé continued the round of Neelix bashing. "And he's always trying to stick in things that just won't fit! 'Trust me, trust me, I'll make it work,' he always says."

Even Glennis couldn't resist getting in a dig. "Neelix certainly can put the 'lie' in alien, all right."

"Or is it the 'ali!' in alien?" Phoenix countered. Again, the three dissolved into fits of laughter. No, this time it was honest-to-God giggles.

After a moment, the three sobered. Eolé introduced a more serious tone with her next comment. "But we *are* supposed to be open to all the crew. "

"Then they should treat us better!" Glennis insisted. "I always feel like we're playing second fiddle to *her*!" It was completely unnecessary to specify who *she* was; the other two knew perfectly well the subject of Glennis' envy. And to some extent, Eolé and Phoenix shared their colleague's resentment. Sensing this common bond, Glennis continued her rant. "I'm just so sick of their attitude: ‘Oh, we can't risk *her*, let's just send one of them instead.' As if we're completely expendable!"

"True, so true," Eolé acknowledged. "Sometimes I feel that nobody appreciates us."

"Harry does," Phoenix suggested. "He's such a sweet young man, so caring."

"Yes," Eolé agreed, "he's young, but always eager to learn. And there's nothing like being the one to break-in a new ensign!"

"Hmmm. Better a new ensign than a former Borg. Right, girls?" Phoenix interjected. "Remember her first time? Hoo, baby, I can still see the sparks. Talk about a smoking hole!"

Glennis felt compelled to defend the young woman. "Now, now. Seven is... well, she's still learning. And she was in a big hurry that time; I think she knew the captain didn't approve of what she was doing. Besides, I don't think the Borg are very experienced at such things."

"Then maybe *the captain* should show Seven how to do it right," Eolé suggested. "Seven could certainly use the lesson. And, frankly, the captain could use the practice. It *has* been a while," she added archly.

"That's because she really wants to do it with Chakotay, but protocol advises against it. And Tuvok would certainly disapprove if the two of them tried to..." Phoenix began.

"Do you blame him?" Glennis interrupted. "The man is dangerous! If he touches me again, I'll simply scream."

"Yes, dear," Eolé sighed tiredly, "we know... "

* * *

I looked at Janeway expectantly. "Well?"

"Sorry, Commander, I still don't buy it. Shuttlecraft cannot talk; they do not discuss the crew." Janeway gave me a bemused look. "You're either being fanciful or delusional. This *is* just another of your stories, right?"

"Captain!" As before, I assumed a most grievously wounded expression. "You misunderstand the nature of my narratives; you confuse 'story' with 'fiction'," I protested.

"Either that, or you confuse 'creativity' with 'psychosis'," she countered.

"So you think my claiming to hear conversations among our shuttlecraft means I'm..."

"Looney-tunes, nutty as a fruitcake, a peck shy of a bushel... oh, Tom Paris has supplied me with an abundance of twentieth-century idioms to describe your mental condition, Chakotay," Kathryn teased.

"I'm sure he missed all the best ones," I grinned back at her. But my smile faded as a realization struck me. "Wait a minute!" I protested. "I've heard you talk to Voyager. You talk to *her* all the time!"

"That's different," Janeway insisted.

"How?" I pressed.

"Captains are supposed to talk to their ships. It's allowed. It's expected," Kathryn explained.

"So, let me get this straight. A captain who talks to her ship is perfectly rationale, but a first officer who listens to the ship's shuttlecraft is delusional. Right?"

"Right," Janeway confirmed, obviously pleased that I'd finally accepted her indisputable logic. "Said first officer is definitely crazy." She leaned up and kissed me on the cheek. "But highly amusing. And always wonderfully distracting. Thank you, Chakotay."

"You're welcome," I replied softly, resting my head against her hair. I could swear I heard the gears turning inside that woman's head. She wasn't quite ready to let this story rest.

A moment later, she confirmed my suspicion. "Eolé?" she inquired.

"Clément Ader's flying machine. First powered, if not really controlled, flight," I explained.

"And Glennis?"

"The Bell X-1 Chuck Yeager flew--"

"When he broke the sound barrier. I remember now… Glamorous Glennis. Named after his wife, right?"

"Right. And Phoenix--" I began.

"Zefram Cochrane's ship, of course. Who wouldn't know Earth's first warp-capable ship? And you're using these historic names as pseudonyms for..." she prompted, turning to look at me.

Oh, no... I wasn't going to fall into her trap. My sources were safe. "As I said, to protect three not-so-innocent shuttles. But the conversation I heard was real, I swear it." She shot me her best don't-bullshit-me look. I returned one of saddened disappointment. "You still don't believe me... your most trusted first officer, your eternally devoted lover..." I chided gently.

Her skeptical expression softened, and the ghost of that wonderful smile reappeared. "Maybe," she allowed. "I'll have to ask Voyager what she thinks about it."

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