Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
Summary: Neelix runs a tight ship.
Characters: Neelix, Paris, Chakotay, Seven, Janeway
Codes: Chakotay/Seven, Janeway/Chakotay
Disclaimer: Characters are Paramount’s. No infringement intended, but the satire is definitely intentional.
You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Let's call the whole thing off
It wasn’t until it happened at the third lunch service in a row that Neelix’s inklings grew into suspicion.
“I saw them holding hands in the turbolift,” Tal Celes whispered to Billy Telfer. “I can’t believe this is actually happening.”
Megan Delaney sighed beside her. “You have to admit, they’re very pretty together.”
“Yeah, but I’d never have thought Chakotay would –”
But whatever Jenny Delaney thought Chakotay would or wouldn’t do was obscured by the shushing of her companions as Neelix hovered nearby.
Neelix thought back to the whispered conversations he’d overheard yesterday between Baytart and Brooks, and the day before that when he’d caught Farley and Fitzpatrick gossiping in a corner over a padd. He’d only caught a brief glimpse of the image on the screen before Farley tucked the padd away, but he was quite sure he’d identified the man in that picture. Those dimples and obsidian orbs were unmistakable. And Commander Chakotay had been smiling at a woman, he was sure of it.
Neelix’s heart began thumping. Could it be true? Had a certain pair of star-crossed lovers decided to stop resisting their instincts at long last, and admit how they felt about each other? After seven long and lonely years, had Voyager’s very own Disney movie finally found its happy ending?
If anyone would know, it was Tom Paris. Neelix resolved to pull Tom aside the next time he appeared in the mess hall and demand that Tom spill the tea.
He bustled into the galley, whistling a tune from the movie he’d watched the night before – Naomi had fallen asleep partway through, but Neelix had felt such affinity for the seven plucky little working men that he’d enjoyed the whole show – and pulled on three pairs of surgical gloves before he began slicing the Talaxian tomatoes. He’d heard they were the captain’s favourite, and if the captain liked something, Commander Chakotay was bound to like it, too.
And Neelix was willing to risk triggering his deathly tomato allergy if it would smooth the path of true love.
But the First Couple of Voyager didn’t show up at dinner that night. Neelix hovered by the serving counter all evening, hoping for a glimpse of the pair of them to no avail.
Tom Paris, however, ambled in at 2100, just as Neelix was packing up the last dregs of the tomato and mozzarella salad.
“Tom!” Neelix gasped, gripping the other man’s arm and yanking him forcefully into the galley. “I’ve been waiting all night for you to come!”
“That’s what she said,” Tom chortled, but when Neelix stared at him uncomprehendingly, Tom shook his head. “Never mind. What’s up, Neelix?”
“I need you to confirm a suspicion for me.” Neelix leaned in and lowered his voice. “I’ve been hearing whispers about Commander Chakotay.”
“What kind of whispers?”
“The happy kind.” Neelix’s whiskers were quivering in excitement. “I’ve been hearing that his love life has taken a turn for the better.”
To his surprise, Tom looked shifty. “I’m surprised at you, Neelix.”
“Why? I think it’s wonderful!”
“You do?” Tom frowned. “I mean, I know how invested you’ve always been in the captain and Chakotay’s relationship.”
“Well, I just want them to be happy …”
“Not to mention how you feel about keeping up crew morale,” Tom continued.
“Yes,” Neelix said, trying to follow his logic.
“And, while this news is obviously great for the couple in question, quite a few of the crew aren’t exactly delighted about it.”
“Really?” Neelix furrowed his spotted brow. “They aren’t?”
“No, they aren’t,” Tom explained. “Which is why I’m surprised that you’re so happy about Chakotay dating Seven of Nine.”
Neelix’s brain glitched.
His eyes crossed.
His knees wobbled.
All he could do was focus on a slice of Talaxian tomato he’d dropped on the galley floor earlier that day, and think that he would never be able to look at a tomato again without the horror of this moment returning to haunt him.
And it was all Tom Paris’ fault.
Neelix sucked in a huge, deep, cleansing breath of air.
“Do. Not. Ever. Let. Me. Hear. You. Speak of this. Again,” he uttered in a voice that billowed directly from the depths of hell.
Tom’s eyes went wide and he backed up a step. “What?”
Neelix picked up a spatula and advanced on the evil miscreant who’d had the nerve to casually mention the Couple Who Would, Henceforth, Never Be Named.
“I don’t EVER want to hear you or ANYONE talk about C/7 EVER again,” he hollered. “This topic is BANNED! Never again, in my kitchen!” He gestured to the platter of tomatoes and mozzarella he’d abandoned on the counter. “Not in front of my salad!!!”
“But Neelix,” Tom spluttered. “You can’t stop people from talking about them! They’re seeing each other. You can’t deny that – it’s canon.”
“NEVER,” Neelix thundered. “I will NEVER accept it, and if you DARE to defy me, I will never let you darken the doors of this mess hall again.”
“Whoa,” Tom mumbled. “Take it easy with that spatula, Neelix.”
“GET OUT,” Neelix howled. “Get out of my servery!”
Tom turned and ran.
“Hey, Neelix, what’s for breakfast?” Chell leaned over the counter the following morning. “And what are you doing with all those tomatoes?”
Neelix heaved the crate of Talaxian tomatoes into his arms. “I’m throwing them away, along with my broken hopes and shattered dreams. What do you want, Chell?”
Chell launched into a story about the porridge his sister used to make and her love of geology and the Bolian cats he’d once babysat, but Neelix had already tuned out.
“Go, help yourself,” he waved the Bolian into the kitchen and marched through the mess hall.
Just as he reached the doors, they opened.
Chakotay stood there with his arm around Seven of Nine.
Neelix dropped the carton of tomatoes and watched numbly as they rolled all over the floor. One came to rest against Seven’s boot. She reached down and picked it up.
“This is reminiscent of the sauce I constructed at dinner last night,” she remarked to Chakotay.
He bent and licked the tomato seeds from her fingers. “Still needs salt.”
They grinned gooily at each other.
Neelix tried to hold it back, but he couldn’t. The tears sprayed from his eyes as he fell sobbing to the floor.
“Neelix, what’s wrong?” Chakotay knelt beside him in concern.
“All I wanted was a happy ending,” Neelix blubbered. “Disney promised me I’d get my happy ending… that my space mom and dad would end up hashtag-married and they’d have children and live happily ever afterrrrr…” He tailed off into incomprehensible snot bubbles.
“There, there,” Chakotay soothed, patting his shoulder.
Eventually Neelix’s sniffles died away. He raised his head.
Around him, the crew looked on, some in sympathy, others hiding their snickering behind their hands. Seven and Chakotay exchanged loaded looks.
Then the captain walked into the mess hall.
“Oh no,” Neelix wailed, the tears starting afresh as Janeway took in the scene. “I’m so sorry, Captain. You must be heartbroken.”
“I am,” she agreed. “This is such a terrible waste of my Talaxian tomatoes, Neelix – what on earth were you thinking?”
Neelix blinked up at her. “You mean… you’re not upset about the pairing that cannot be named?”
“C/7,” he whispered. “How can you even stand to look at them?”
Janeway’s eyes went wide with mirth. “You’re kidding me, right? I’m delighted for them. Besides, I’ve already had them both.” She looked around the mess hall. “And him, her, her and him,” she added, pointing to Tom Paris, B’Elanna Torres, Tal Celes and Mike Ayala.
“Oh my stars, Captain...” Neelix’s lip wobbled. “Anyone who can get you off, huh? I’ll bet you even had that fascist Kashyk when he was on board, and those captains from the twenty-third century when you time travelled last month.”
“Hey,” Tom Paris objected. “I thought we weren’t allowed to talk about that either.”
Neelix drew himself upright with great dignity. “Perhaps I was wrong to censor discussion about things that I don’t like, since they’re going to happen anyway.”
“That’s true,” and “He has a point,” murmured several people in the crowd.
“So, what now?” Paris asked. “Are we allowed to talk about whatever we want in your mess hall?”
Neelix nodded thoughtfully. “As long as we’re all polite and respectful to each other, we should be able to talk about anything we like. I suppose I’ll just have to accept that people are going to like things I don’t like, and that’s okay.”
“Good for you, Neelix.” Captain Janeway patted him on the shoulder. “Now … who do I have to fuck to get some tomato salad around here?”