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Losing a Layer

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So, I'm minding my own business in Sandrine's, about to take my final shot and wipe the floor with Dalby – never fails to improve my evening – when I get the call. The Doc says I'm needed at the diplomatic dinner the Captain and Chakotay beamed down to earlier. Says Janeway called up and demanded someone bring down a medkit immediately. I'm still in my uniform, so I head straight to sickbay to pick one up and then on to the transporter room.

XxX

It takes me a while to spot them when I enter the dining room, because I'm looking for the red and black of his dress uniform and I don't see it. Finally I see them. Or him, rather – because most of what I can see is Chakotay's back. She's sitting in one of those bar stool-height chairs, and from here it looks as if she's wearing her first officer as a wrap.

He has her cornered – her chair is backed up against the wall – and she's peering out furtively over his bowed head. One of his arms is around her shoulders and the other across her body, holding onto the arm of the chair. From here it looks like he's pretty much holding her prisoner in that chair, and his head is lolling forward suspiciously. I can already tell that he isn't himself. Guess he's the reason I'm here with the medkit.

She's already looking my way, and I waste no time in getting over there. She has a cup in her hand, and there's an earthenware goblet on the table next to them.

"Captain," I offer, "what can I do for you?"

"You took your time, Lieutenant!" Janeway accuses, none too happy it would seem.

"I got here as soon as I could, Ma'am," I point out.

She tries to get her hand out from underneath Chakotay enough to gesture towards the medkit I'm holding. "Scan him, now!" she hisses.

From the looks of him, either he's asleep standing up – or he's about to pass out on top of her. I whip out the medical tricorder and scan him.

"What's the matter with him?" she demands immediately.

The big guy tries to look up, and I see his eyes almost roll back in his head as he tries to focus on our esteemed leader.

"I tried to get him to sit down, but, suffice to say, he's not being very… cooperative," she goes on. "And I'm not having security carry him out! He already insulted the Ambast- Ambassador."

"Just gimme a minute," Chakotay gets out, before his head lolls forward again to rest on her shoulder.

My scans of him send me in search of the source of the contaminants. So I scan his drink. Pretty much all the bells and whistles there are on this thing go off. "This is the matter with him," I tell her, flicking the tricorder shut.

"Why? What's in it?"

"I could bore you with a long list of the toxic ingredients, but basically, Captain, 'unfit for human consumption' just about sums it up," I tell her. "I'm guessing you didn't try this particular delicacy yourself?"

"No, I just had the coffee," Janeway replies, as she hands me her cup to hold while she tries to wriggle out of Chakotay's almost embrace. "They said the other drink was a traditional and very ancient beverage – something they've been producing for millennia."

"Guess the Commander just couldn't resist then."

"'I'm afraid not," she sighs. "He'd already had two before I noticed anything was wrong – I presumed it'd been tested along with everything else!"

Chakotay lifts his head again and shakes it to one side slightly and his right hand finds its way from the arm of the chair to hold her waist.

"Le's get out of here, Kathptain," he slurs right in her face.

"Yes, Good idea," she says loudly, craning past him, her hands fluttering nervously in the small space left between them. "Look, Commander, Mr Paris is here so it's time to go back to the ship."

I put my hand on his shoulder and try to turn him, but he completely ignores me - he's not giving an inch. The man is immovable. It's like trying to get between a bear and his dinner.

"Le's go outside. S' beautiful here. Le's gesome air," he says to her.

"Yes, let's you and me go outside now, Chakotay," I say loudly, getting hold of his shoulder and trying to turn him my way again.

This time he momentarily releases her waist to give me a hefty shove. "Getcha hands off me!' he growls, and I realise too late that being wasted doesn't seem to have had much of an impact on how damn strong he is, because I nearly lose my balance.

I silently curse whoever decided I was the right man for this mission. I'm still persona non grata with him after some of my all too convincing and memorable performances a little while ago – and this is unlikely to help my cause.

I figure patience isn't always a virtue, and I'm already getting tired of looking at the back of his thick neck, so I tug him forcefully round to face me in one swift movement. The Captain grabs the opportunity to duck under his arm and escape his clutches. She's quick – far too quick for him in his current state, and she curtly nods her thanks to me as she beats a swift retreat towards the exit, her green evening gown flaring out gracefully behind her. She looks pretty good from the back. It's always a breath of fresh air to see her out of uniform. Shame I didn't get to see the front of the dress without him draped all over it.

He sways a little before steadying himself on the chair, head hanging down again. He's still ignoring me – I'm wondering if he even knows who I am – and as soon as he stops swaying he looks up again to search the room for her, so I move in front of him, obscuring his view.

"Get outta my way," he grunts. "Need to talk to the Captain!"

"That's not going to happen right now," I placate.

"Fuck you, Paris!"

"That's not gonna happen either." Guess he did know it was me.

For a moment I'm not sure whether he's going to swing for me or keel over, but suddenly he sways so badly that I instinctively move in and grab him around the waist. This time he allows me to steer him back to lean against the chair he'd had his captive audience pinned to. Then I almost fall over as I step back and slip on something underfoot, which turns out to be his dress uniform jacket. I pick it up and dust if off.

He gestures in the vague direction of the long dinner table in the middle of the hall. "Scaly tongued bastard. Ambassador," he spits. "Couldn't keep his hands off her!"

"Not like you, of course," I risk quietly, because it's obvious he's too far gone to pick up anything that isn't said very slowly and at full volume. I open the medkit and quickly load the hypospray with all the detox there is and press it to his neck while he continues his tirade.

"Shouldda seen him- couldn't wait to start pawing her. Kept sliding his hand down her back, trying to slip it into that- the back bit. That bit at the back of her dress. You know, the... gaping bit…jus' there," he gestures vaguely. "When she sat down. Wanted to get his hand in there- against her skin and slide it down under-"

"Good job that you were paying such close attention, eh?" I cut him off, because that's as much as I can take of that, frankly. "Good job you were looking out for her – so there's nothing to worry about now. "

"Where's she gone?"

"She beamed back up to the ship."

"Gotta check that Ambastard didn't follow her…"

The detox should have some immediate effect, but I'd say there's nothing doing yet. Although I think the alien chemicals may have actually enhanced his sense of humour.

"Come on, Commander," I cajole, "let's go." I sling the medkit over my shoulder and stuff his jacket under my arm, ready to go. He doesn't move. "We need to get to the beam out site. It's not far. Come on."

Still nothing. He's starting to droop again and if he keels over onto the floor I'm definitely going to have to call for help to get him up and out of here.

"Chakotay," I almost shout, as I try to haul him away from the chair he's leaning on. "Let's get back. The Captain is probably already back on the ship by now."

"Damn it, Paris," he mumbles, but with less conviction than before and I know I've gotten through to him this time. Somewhere in that thick skull of his he probably knows he needs to get back to the ship. I have to really yank to get him to move though, and the man weighs a ton! But eventually we're up and I drape his heavy arm over my shoulders and grab him around the middle again so I can steer him towards the exit.

We make our way unsteadily across the dinner hall, with him nearly tripping over his own feet more than once and me nearly dropping his stupid jacket. A waiter takes pity on me, and holds the doors open for us and I manage to somehow manoeuvre us through and we're finally at the beam out site.

Then it hits me that my troubles aren't over yet. What the hell am I supposed to do with him once we beam up? Sickbay, I decide, even though I'm pretty sure the Doc won't be able to do anything more than I've already done. At least then I can make a quick exit and he won't be my problem anymore.

"Paris to Voyager – two to beam directly to sickbay."

XxX

By the time I get him to sickbay and balance him against a biobed I feel like I've done my good deed for the day several times over. I'm already looking forward to trying to salvage what's left of my evening, but it seems the Doc has other ideas. Don't know if it's just me, but he seems to be going out of his way to be even more helpful and charming than usual this evening.

"There's nothing more I can give him. This is a sickbay - not rehab. I have real patients to deal with. The consequences of his self-inflicted excess aren't going to kill him."

I look pointedly around the empty sickbay, but the Doc's expression is unchanged and I sense where this is headed. "He only drank two glasses of the stuff actually," I throw in lamely.

The hologram frowns sceptically. "Anyway, I see him in here far too often as it is. It makes a change to be able to send him on his way without having to spend hours reconstructing several parts of him."

"Drink plenty of fluids and get some sleep, Commander," he says loudly to Chakotay, patting him on the back.

Chakotay burps.

"He's all yours, Mr. Paris - the walk back to deck three will do him good."

As the Doc strides purposefully back into his office, for a couple of seconds I wonder vaguely whether I should ignore the Doc's recommendation about walking and protect my commanding officer's reputation by getting us a site to site instead. Chakotay's a pretty private kind of man, after all, and he likes to stay in control.

He burps again and I watch him for a moment. "Jus' tell me where he is," he mutters. "Fucking Ambastardor," he adds, as his head droops forwards onto his chest.

Nah. It's good for the crew to see that their leaders are only human, isn't it? And Janeway is obviously some sort of superwoman, so I figure Chak here needs to be doubly human to compensate. And how better to appear approachable than to be seen to get totally plastered once in a while? I'm sure he'd approve of anything that's for the benefit of crew morale, so I decide to follow medical advice.

"Maybe you should wear your jacket, Commander?" I venture, gingerly draping the dress uniform jacket loosely over his shoulders. He doesn't protest and then we set off in plain sight down the corridor towards the 'lift.

Unfortunately he seems to be overheating and shakes off the jacket only a few minutes later as I'm trying to bundle him into the 'lift.

"Fuck it!" he snarls. "Gotta get outta this clown suit!"

"Well I guess you didn't really need that," I say. Then I realise he's already pulling at the collar of his turtleneck and mumbling more expletives.

"Or that," I add as he gets it up and over his head.

"This thing is too damn tight," he protests from inside it, as he fights his way out, and I give up trying to keep a hold of him.

I lean against the 'lift wall, wishing there was someone else here to share the madness with a few seconds later when he gets the thing stuck over his head. I finally take pity on him and yank it off for him, so he's standing there in his grey regulation tank.

"S'better," he remarks, rubbing a hand over his face, "s'always so damn hot in those things."

He's got a point – I do wonder sometimes why we have to wear so many layers. But if he starts on his pants, I'm calling for an emergency stop and rethinking the site to site.

When we exit the 'lift, en route to his quarters he starts to get chatty – maybe it's the detox finally kicking in. The weight of him on my shoulders lessens too – we're talking half grown rather than a full size grizzly now.

"She's a woman you know. The Captain."

"Can't get much past you, can we, sir?"

"Beautiful woman, I mean. So goddamn beautiful, she is."

"If you say so."

"Shouldn't have to put up with it."

"Put up with what?"

"You mustav seen'em."

"Seen who?"

"They're always staring, or pawing her. Wanting her. Thinking about what they'd like to do to the little minx. Lecherous bastards."

Little minx? Seems I'm not the only one here who has had unprofessional thoughts about his commanding officer at some point.

This is turning into one strange evening. Let's face it, intoxication rarely improves anyone's personality – except from their own warped perspective. If anyone had asked me, I'd have guessed the big guy would either be an aggressive or a maudlin drunk, but I'm not sure I would have expected the fixation on Janeway. Then again, maybe he's gone without for a little too long now. Too damn proud to use the holodeck like the rest of us, I wouldn't mind betting. And she did look pretty good in that dress. I'd have expected him to still be smarting over how she left him out of the loop with the spy plot, but I guess he must have forgiven her sooner than he has me.

So – we finally arrive outside his quarters and I waste a good five minutes trying to get him to key in his code until I admit defeat.

"Paris to Torres.

"Torres here. What do you want?"

"Was sobering up the boss your department back in the old days, or do I need to comm Ayala?"

"Chakotay's drunk?"

"In a manner of speaking."

"What did you do to him, Paris?" she spits.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence! I didn't do anything to him. He did it to himself by trying some deeply spiritual alien cocktail."

"Oh. Well, first off I'd recommend moving to a safe distance and hiding anything breakable."

"That bad?"

"He never was much of a drinker. Don't think alcohol agrees with him."

"Any other tips?"

She pauses. "Far as I remember he usually managed to stagger to his bunk and the rest of us just stayed the hell away 'til the next morning."

"Right. So – just dump him in bed?"

"And pray he doesn't remember anything about it tomorrow."

"Got it. And you don't happen to know his code do you?"

"He's forgotten it?"

"In as much as we're on our tenth attempt, I'd have to say yes."

"That bad, huh?"

"That bad. So, any ideas? All I know is that he keeps punching in 5s and 2s, but so far we're not getting that magic number."

"Try 0152"

"OK." I try it and we're in. "Thanks. What is it? Someone's birthday?"

"No," she sighs. "It's the Federation membership number of his home colony."

Now that's not what I was expecting.

"Well that's cheerful." I reply, a little taken aback. "I can't imagine I'd want a constant reminder of something like that."

"Some things you don't forget," she says as our conversation suddenly falls flat.

"Thanks, anyway, I'll be OK from here," I say and she closes the channel.

So – I get him inside, point him at the bed and hang the jacket from the clown suit over a chair. He more or less falls flat on his face, but eventually, after I pull off his boots, he seems to shift into a more plausible looking position for sleep.

I put a glass of water next to his bed and find myself watching him for a moment, wondering how the hell he'll get through his 07.00 bridge shift with Janeway tomorrow, when I actually hear him mutter, "Thanks, Paris."

It stops me dead, as I hadn't realised he was still conscious, let alone together enough to be expressing gratitude, and I'm suddenly feeling awkward about still being here. "Don't mention it," I hear myself saying, and I mean it.

I'm just glad he doesn't seem to be still bearing a grudge. After everything, maybe we're quits.