The air smelled wonderful to Chakotay. There was a slight breeze, carrying on it the scent of flowers, both alien and familiar.
I really don't get out much, he thought to himself. He remembered times when he and his father had gone for camp-outs in the fields...he was suddenly thrown out of memory lane by someone tugging on his sleeve. It was Ensign Kim.
"Commander," he said in a hushed tone. "I think you should come see this." Chakotay had absolutely no idea why Kim was whispering, but was intrigued none-the-less. "Tom buried the other lot we found," said Harry, his dark eyes flicking back and forth, suspiciously. Now Chakotay was extremely curious. Where ever Tom Paris was, trouble was right behind. Chakotay even partially believed that the mere presence of Paris--now there was something quotable--caused things to spontaneously combust.
Chakotay's theory did explain how Paris managed to burn out the systems on a newly repaired shuttle while "only" taking it out for a test drive. (B'Elanna Torres, the chief engineer, threatened to stick Paris's head on a pike, as a warning to other pilots, if he didn't start treating the shuttles better. Paris had replied that if the shuttle had been repaired properly they wouldn't have burned out.
Later, as the Doctor was fixing Paris's black eye, Paris quipped that he had always known at his autopsy it would be discovered he had a big mouth. The Doctor replied that it wouldn't take an autopsy to figure that out.)
Chakotay was lead up the steep hill by an extremely nervous Ensign Kim. "Should I alert the Captain?" Chakotay asked. Kim's jumpy manner was beginning to disturb him.
"No!" Harry exclaimed. "Neelix might overhear!" Now Chakotay was extremely confused. What would Voyager's Talaxian cook have to do with anything?
At the top of the hill was Paris, who was whistling and apparently trying to look inconspicuous, but as it happened he stuck out like a sore thumb.
Kim took Chakotay's arm like a small child and lead him to the spot Paris occupied. Paris himself looked extremely concerned.
"Look," was all Kim said.
Chakotay looked, but didn't see anything until Paris pointed with his foot.
Then Chakotay saw. And was horrified.
"Oh no..." He looked at Paris, begging with his eyes to be told he was wrong. Paris shook his head.
"We thought they might be an inedible subspecies or something, but the tricorder says they're perfectly normal. I buried the first lot we found but around here they're growing like crabgrass. The only thing we can do is hope that Neelix doesn't find out." Even as Paris said this, the trio could hear Neelix yelling. They watched as Neelix climbed up the hill, while Kim tried frantically to bury the cache.
"Gentlemen, what did you find up here? Something edible, I hope." Neelix asked, looking too earnest and hopeful for words.
"Find?" asked Paris, the picture of innocence.
"Edible?" echoed Kim, who did not look the picture of innocence but instead resembled a small child caught with his hand in a cookie jar.
"Well, Mr. Paris here was using the ancient T'B'Lian signal for a large find. I didn't know you were so versed in the ancient T'B'Lians!" Neelix exclaimed boisterously.
"Uh, I wasn't doing anything?" Paris said, looking confused and slightly guilty. But then, from Chakotay's point of view, Paris always looked slightly guilty. Even if he hadn't done anything. Especially if he hadn't done anything.
"You mean that whistling with his hands behind his back?" asked Chakotay, with sudden insight.
"Why yes," said Neelix, "Of course I do. T'B'Lians were excellent signallers. Now, what did you find? I'm very curious."
"Nothing," said Paris and Kim, a bit too quickly.
"Oh well," sighed Neelix. "I was hoping that we could find food on this planet, but it's been very disappointing--wait a second--" he studied the ground at Kim's feet. Kim shifted nervously.
"You may not have meant to, Paris," chattered Neelix excitedly, "but by signalling me you may have just found largest amount of liola root that I have ever seen!"
"Really, Neelix, I--" Paris protested, but was interrupted by the rotund little chef.
"Hey everyone!" he was yelling to crewmembers spread out below them in the valley. "I just wanted to announce to everyone that our own Tom Paris has found enough liola root to last six months without rationing! Isn't that wonderful?" He stood with his arms wide open, apparently waiting for applause.
He didn't get any. Instead, everyone was glaring at Paris, who, by now had turned a beet red that very nearly matched his uniform.
"I didn't find it," he announce, pretending to just be talking to Neelix, but he had his voice raised so that everyone could hear him.
"Now, don't be so modest," boomed Neelix, not realising why Paris had raised his voice and wanting to be let in on the secret. "This find is incredible. I'll be able to make liola root every day for months!"
Chakotay and Kim both groaned, as well as everybody else in earshot. Those who weren't groaning were shooting daggers at Paris, and as for Paris himself, he looked as if he was about to cry.
Now Neelix was very confused. He'd expected everyone to be happy for him, and at Paris. Neelix had noticed that Paris's confidence in himself had taken a nose-dive lately, and all Neelix wanted to do was make him feel better by sharing in the glory of this momentous occasion. Instead, everyone looked incredibly angry. Chakotay and Kim seemed as though they'd failed something important, and Paris looked like he wanted to kill himself.
Humans. They were so hard to please. It was a good thing Neelix liked challenges or he would never have asked Captain Janeway to allow him and Kes to stay on Voyager.