May 20, 2372

Summary: Sometimes, the best birthday gift is a friend who'll shoulder your burdens.

Characters: Chakotay, Janeway

Codes: Janeway/Chakotay

Disclaimer: Characters are Paramount's. No infringement intended.

Notes: Stardate 49382.5, during Meld and at the beginning of the Investigations arc.

Rated K

“Captain, we need to talk about Tom Paris –”

His speech and steps halted as he took in her pinched expression, but her face smoothed out quickly.

“You were saying, Commander?”

Chakotay hesitated. “Never mind. Is something wrong?”

“It’s Tuvok.” She bit her lip.

“He does seem a little off his game.”

“And Darwin is dead, and Suder is –" She grimaced. “And on top of all that, it’s my birthd-“

“I’m sorry I forgot.” He touched her hand. “Happy birthday.”

She smiled briefly.

“What were you saying about Tom?” she recalled.

“It’s nothing,” Chakotay said softly. “I’ll take care of it.”