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MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

A Star Trek: Voyager Fan Fiction Story

by Laura Picken

DISCLAIMER: If you think these characters actually -belong- to me, you need serious psychological help. (Although, I wouldn't mind getting royalty checks...) This story takes place right after the events in Blood Fever. It's definitely J/C and P/T, which I figure covers all the major gen romance bases. This is my first attempt at writing a serious (okay, -semi-serious-) romantic piece in any universe (my principle universe, believe it or not, is The Sentinel, so this is also my first Trek story), so -please- send me comments! My e-mail address is cranesnake@bigfoot.com.

This is for Zadra, one of my Sentinel beta readers, who is also a die-hard P/T Voyager fan. She got me hooked on Voyager, so without her, this story probably never would have happened.

And now, on with the show...

*****

Scene I: Decisions, Decisions...

Neelix looked over his clean kitchen and sighed with deep satisfaction. The day's meals were done, and everyone seemed well-fed and satisfied, even if it wasn't the food they were used to. But even though things seemed to be going well, the Talaxian was restless. The crew was in high spirits, and, he surmised, it was his job to keep it that way. Everyone seemed to like the resort, and Sandrine's, but Neelix also got the distinct impression that there could be more. The weekly talent shows were going well, but the same people seemed to be coming up to perform week after week, and Neelix was certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was more talent on the ship than that. [Hmmm...,] he thought, [perhaps staging a play might be the answer...] After all, he -had- done quite a bit of theatre work in his youth, and many people thought he was quite good at it. And he knew how getting a role in a play could bring out the best in someone, particularly when they could hide behind their roles and let just a little bit of themselves shine through. [But which play to do?]

He wanted to do something that everyone on the crew could relate to; a story that would allow people to relax and have a little fun. As he sat down to the terminal to start working, he muttered to himself, "we shouldn't do a drama the first time out -- that would be a little too depressing. Yes, yes -- a comedy would do just fine..." Speaking in a clear voice, he asked, "computer, please display a list of classic theatrical comedies."

Hundreds of play titles came up in the window -- far more than Neelix had expected to see. Shrugging, he muttered, "going through this is going to take a little longer than I thought..." Earth comedies came up first, and as he scrolled through the list, he noticed that a lot of the comedies were by a human by the name of William Shakespeare. Deciding that might be the place to start, Neelix ordered the computer, "computer, isolate the list to include only the comedies written by William Shakespeare, and provide a summary for each play." The computer instantly complied.

As Neelix read through each of the plays, he came across an unusual name, one that seemed to pose a strange contradiction. And yet, as he read through the summary, he realized that this might be just the thing the crew needed. The Talaxian scurried to the kitchen to get a cup of his favorite leola root tea, and, just before he settled in for a few hours of reading, ordered the computer, "Computer, bring up the full text of the play Much Ado About Nothing..."

*****

Captain Janeway sat on the couch in her ready room, sipping a cup of coffee and enjoying a rare moment of relaxation. The day had been not been going well so far -- first the replicators had broken down just before breakfast, giving the crew no choice but to eat whatever blue egg-like concoction Neelix was serving for breakfast -- or starve. Which, needless to say, left half the crew in a foul mood for most of the morning, until B'Elanna was able to fix the problem around 1100 hours and -everyone- rushed to the replicators to get themselves at least a small snack -- something to tide them over until lunch.

Of course, the minute the replicators were fixed, the computer controls to Holodeck One malfunctioned, leaving a group of off-duty ensigns locked in the holodeck while the computer decided to run a torrential rainstorm. The six drenched ensigns were in Sickbay an hour later, working with the EMH who, unfortunately, seemed to forget to activate his bedside manner logarithm that morning. By the time the ensigns had been treated for the early symptoms of pneumonia, both they and their captain (who had overseen the rescue operation) were more than ready to leave the good doctor to his work.

So, now that she had called B'Elanna and asked her to run a check on the Doctor's program, the captain was finally able to enjoy a moment's peace.

Then the door beeped, and Kathryn sighed. "I knew this couldn't last..." she breathed just before she called out, "Enter!"

Janeway had to allow herself a smile as the ship's self-appointed 'morale officer' Neelix came in with a tray of food and a fresh flower from the hydroponics bay. He announced his presence by inviting Kathryn, "I noticed that you didn't come down for lunch today, Captain, so I brought you a little something to eat."

Kathryn forced herself to continue smiling as she looked over the masses of unknown substances that Neelix had called "a little something to eat". "Thank you, Neelix, that was quite thoughtful of you."

Neelix shifted his position as he set the tray down, looking a bit apprehensive. "Actually, Captain, that's not the only reason I'm here."

As Kathryn swallowed a bite of a pink filet that tasted amazingly like chicken, she asked the Talaxian, "Oh really? What can I do for you Neelix?"

"Well," Neelix reluctantly replied, "I was thinking about the weekly talent show, and how the same people seem to keep doing things week after week, and I was hoping we could try something a little different?"

"Really?" asked Kathryn, hoping the apprehension she felt in her heart didn't show in her voice. After all, when Neelix wanted to do something 'a little different' with his cooking, half a dozen people often ended up in sickbay. "What did you have in mind?"

"What about putting on a play? I've had some theatrical background myself, and I know how losing oneself in a role can often bring a shy person out of their shells..."

Before Neelix could ramble on about the virtues of theatrical productions, Janeway cut him off by asking, "What play were you thinking of doing, Neelix?"

Neelix looked up, bewildered by the interruption to his justifications for doing a play, and replied, "Oh. Much Ado About Nothing, by a human named William Shakespeare."

Kathryn had to fight the urge to laugh. Considering the morale officer's track record, it was a pretty amazing accomplishment for him to stumble upon an old Earth classic the first time out. Getting up to walk the Talaxian out of the Ready Room, she smiled warmly, declaring, "Neelix, I think that's a great idea! Why don't you post an announcement in the mess hall when you're ready to start holding auditions?"

Neelix was brightening with excitement by the minute. "You mean it, Captain?"

"Absolutely." As the door opened, she concluded the conversation by telling Neelix, "And who knows? I just might try out for a part myself."

To Neelix, that was the icing on the proverbial cake. "That would be wonderful, Captain! I'll get started on it right away."

Feeling refreshed enough to tackle the bridge again, Kathryn walked out with Neelix to go to her command chair and reminded him, "Just don't forget to let me know when the auditions are going to be!"

Practically bouncing with excitement, Neelix left the bridge, exclaiming, "Yes ma'am! Right away!"

Chakotay watched the exchange between his captain and the ship's morale officer with great interest. Once the turbolift's doors closed, he turned to Kathryn and asked her, "Auditions?"

Kathryn smiled broadly in response. "It seems we're going to be putting on a play."

Chakotay raised an eyebrow in pleased surprise. "Really? And you're going to audition?"

The captain nodded. "What about you? Might you be interested in spending some time in the spotlight, Commander?"

Chakotay thought about acting with his favorite leading lady. "I just might do that, Captain. I just might."

*****

Scene II: Auditions

Neelix made the announcement at lunchtime, and the crew, bored as they were in this region of space, was instantly abuzz with excitement over the idea. A stack of PADDs containing copies of the play were placed on a table in the mess hall next to Neelix's terminal, which was set up to allow people to sign up for the part they were most interested in. By then end of lunch, the copies of the play were long gone; the list of people auditioning for each part, blissfully extensive.

Lt. Tom Paris walked into the mess hall for dinner after a long day on the bridge, collapsed into the nearest available chair and sighed deeply. [Why is it,] he thought, [that after a day this boring I'm more tired than I am after thirty-six hours on Red Alert?] Idly he realized that he was sitting not at one of the tables, but at Neelix's computer terminal. Glancing at the screen, he realized that this was a sign-up list of some sort. Scanning the list, the announcement from lunchtime came back to him, and he realized that this was the sign-up sheet for Neelix's play. Curious as to who were the 'actors' on the ship, he read through the list thoroughly, and was surprised to see B'Elanna's name under the list of those trying out for the female lead, Hero. [B'Elanna?], Tom thought, [an actress?] At first it didn't seem to be something the fiery half-Klingon would do, but the longer he thought about it, the more that it made sense. After all, she would have had to create some carefully crafted 'roles' for herself just to have survived Starfleet for what little time she had. Who's to say she didn't have some talent for it?

A hand on his shoulder brought Tom out of his reverie, and he looked up into the face of Commander Chakotay. Startled, he jumped involuntarily, exclaiming, "Commander! I didn't hear you behind me."

Relaxed, Chakotay simply shook his head and smiled. "It's all right, Tom. I'm sorry I startled you." Noticing the list on the terminal, Chakotay asked the young pilot, "Is that the sign-up sheet for the auditions?"

At Tom's nod of affirmation, Chakotay asked, "You going to try out? I see that B'Elanna's auditioning for Hero."

Looking back at the lists again, Tom sighed. "I don't know, Commander. It's been years since I did any sort of acting work."

Curious at the fact that Tom had done any acting at all, Chakotay asked him, "How long ago was this, Tom?"

"I was twelve at the time."

Chakotay couldn't help but let out a small chuckle at the thought of a twelve-year old Tom Paris reciting lines in front of an audience. Turning back to the screen, Chakotay scanned the descriptions of the characters and coaxed Tom, "Seems that Hero has a leading man in the story..."

"Really?" exclaimed Tom, "Who?" Turning the terminal so he could get a clear view of the character descriptions, Tom realized that the character of Claudio in the story gets engaged to Hero in one of the pivotal scenes at the beginning. Looking again over the list of people signed to audition, Tom could almost hear his own blood boiling when he realized that Ensign Vorick had signed up to audition for Claudio. [After the whole Pon Farr incident, Vorick has the -nerve- to try something like this…] Tom sighed. Naturally, the possibility of Vorick doing something, well, less than honorable with -his- B'Elanna [since when did I start thinking of her as -mine-?] had to be stopped at all costs.

But there was -no- way he was going into this thing alone. Looking at the sign-up list again, then at the character descriptions, a plan started forming in Tom's mind. One that would, hopefully, bring up crew morale far more than a simple play ever could. Pretending to sigh, Tom feigned consenting, "All right, I'll sign up to audition, on one condition."

Curious, Chakotay asked, "Oh really? And what condition is that?"

"You audition for Benedick."

The Commander's eyes widened in surprise, and he tried to beg off. "Oh no, Lieutenant. I'm not much of an actor..."

Tom would hear nothing of the kind. "Nonsense. You're former Maquis -- lying had to have become a way of life for you, to some extent. And acting is a form of lying. You'd be great at it."

Chakotay seemed to want to continue to beg off, but Tom could see his resolve weakening. [Now,] he thought, [it's time for the clincher.] Leaning back to get close enough to whisper into Commander Chakotay's ear, he told the other man, "Besides...I noticed before that the Captain is auditioning for Beatrice."

Chakotay raised an eyebrow in semi-mock surprise. She had, after all, mentioned that she would be auditioning for a part in the play -- he just never thought he could get up the nerve to be her 'leading man'. The more he thought about it, though, the more the idea appealed to him. Forcing down a slight case of nerves, Chakotay answered the young pilot, "Very well, then. Sign me up."

*****

Audition day snuck up on everyone, it seemed. Neelix had worked with Tom to create a holodeck program that resembled an old Earth theater from the district known as "Broadway", and it seemed like half the crew was now packed into the theater, each deeply engrossed in a PADD they held in their hands, fervently trying to memorize their lines before Neelix called them onstage.

At times like these, both Chakotay and Tom were grateful for their quick memories--they already had their scenes memorized, so they relaxed in the heavily cushioned velour seats, watching the others take the stage.

Looking up to the stage, both the First Officer and the Lieutenant were surprised to see Lt. Tuvok onstage, preparing to audition with the Captain. Nudging Tom to get his attention, Chakotay commented, "Now -that's- something I wasn't expecting to see."

Trying to keep his eyes from widening any further, Tom commented, "you can say that again." Both men were shushed by the auditioners sitting around them, so they resisted from commenting further and instead listened in as Tuvok assumed the part of Don Pedro:

DON PEDRO In faith, lady, you have a merry heart.

BEATRICE Yea, my lord; I thank it, poor fool, it keeps on

the windy side of care. My cousin tells him in his

ear that he is in her heart.

(Neelix spoke the one line for) CLAUDIO And so she doth, cousin.

BEATRICE Good Lord, for alliance! Thus goes every one to the

world but I, and I am sunburnt; I may sit in a

corner and cry heigh-ho for a husband!

DON PEDRO Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.

BEATRICE I would rather have one of your father's getting.

Hath your grace ne'er a brother like you? Your

father got excellent husbands, if a maid could come by them.

DON PEDRO Will you have me, lady?

BEATRICE No, my lord, unless I might have another for

working-days: your grace is too costly to wear

every day. But, I beseech your grace, pardon me: I

was born to speak all mirth and no matter.

DON PEDRO Your silence most offends me, and to be merry best

becomes you; for, out of question, you were born in

a merry hour.

BEATRICE No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but then there

was a star danced, and under that was I born.

Cousins, God give you joy!

By the end of the scene, all eyes on the holodeck were on Tuvok and the Captain. Many of the auditioning officers had seen the Captain's earlier performance, and were not surprised by the wistfulness and bitterness that tinged her voice as she spoke. For Chakotay, though, it nearly brought him to tears. It was as if she was speaking from her own heart, fighting off the idea that because of her own stubbornness and pride, she would live the rest of her life alone.

Every person in the holodeck though, was floored by Tuvok's performance. He -laughed-! He actually spoke with -emotion-! Just about everyone in the theatre had been under the impression that Vulcans just couldn't -do- that. Once the shock wore off, though, the two actors were met with thunderous applause from everyone except those who were only auditioning for Don Pedro. Those men promptly stomped out of the holodeck, their dreams of having their names in lights dashed by a surprising Vulcan science officer.

Spotting Tom Paris and Chakotay in the audience, Kathryn escorted Tuvok off the stage to a nearby seat, words of compliment and congratulations stopping them repeatedly along the way. Finally when they reached the two men, Paris was the last to compliment Tuvok, "Tuvok you were incredible! I never thought I would hear you speak with such --"

One Vulcan eyebrow raised, Tuvok cut him off. "Emotion, Lieutenant? May I remind you that although Vulcans have learned many techniques to suppress their emotional responses, they -still- have emotions. Occasionally, safe avenues arise where the expression of those emotions is logical. I myself was quite actively involved in Vulcan theatre as a youth. It has been an enlightening experience to reacquaint myself with those acting skills."

Chakotay complimented, "Well, you certainly did one hell of a job, Lieutenant."

Nodding, Tuvok accepted, "Thank you, Commander. Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to enjoy the rest of the performances."

While Tuvok moved away from the group to find a place to sit, Chakotay turned to his captain and complimented him warmly, "And -you-, Captain, make a wonderful Beatrice. How many others auditioned for the part?"

Shifting around slightly, Kathryn replied, "Actually, no one that I know of. After my audition, Neelix offered me the role. Said it would be a waste of his time to audition anyone else."

Paris chimed in, "Well I'd be hard-pressed to argue that."

Graciously accepting the compliment, Kathryn asked him, "Thank you, Mr. Paris. What part are you trying out for?"

"Claudio. Neelix told me that he was going to audition the main male leads last, so I just got here a few minutes ago."

"Well break a leg, as they say." Turning to her First Officer Kathryn then asked, "What about you, Chakotay? Are you just here to give Mr. Paris some moral support?"

Chakotay fidgeted uncomfortably, unwilling to meet her gaze. Shyly, he answered, "Actually, I'm auditioning for Benedick."

Kathryn had to fight the attack of nerves that had just come over her. If he got the role, then it would mean that, at the end of the play… Swallowing the lump in her throat, she hoped her voice was controlled as she encouraged him, "Well that I'd like to see. Break a leg, Commander."

Before he had a chance to thank her for the encouragement, Neelix called out to the assembled group, "All right, everyone, we're now going to start the auditions for Benedick, so if everyone who is auditioning for that part would sit in the front row, please, that would be quite nice. Quite nice, indeed."

As Chakotay excused himself and made his way toward the front, Neelix caught up with him. "Commander! I must say it has been a pleasure to see how many of the senior staff have taken an interest in this little production of ours. You're here for your audition, I take it?"

At Chakotay's bewildered nod, Neelix clapped his hands together, bouncing with excitement. "Wonderful! Now, I know that you are a busy man, especially what with the Captain taking the afternoon off to help with the auditions and all, so why don't you go first? That way, you'll get this over with quickly, and you can return to your duties."

The Talaxian had him onstage before he could possibly approve or object, then called out to the audience, "Captain! Would you mind terribly coming onstage and running lines with the Commander?"

Chakotay couldn't make out the Kathryn's face from the nearly blinding footlights onstage, but he had no trouble hearing her call out, "I'd be happy to, Neelix."

As she bounded onstage, he repeated to himself, [Relax…take deep breaths…Remember, this is what you wanted, and unless you can get yourself into Benedick's mindset, you're -not- going to get it.] Having calmed himself out of his nervousness, he looked down into the face of his leading lady and called out to Neelix, "Ready when you are, director."

From his seat in the third row of the theater, Neelix called back, "We're fine down here, Commander. Start whenever you're ready."

[Whenever I'm ready,] thought Chakotay. Pacing a few feet away from Kathryn, Chakotay took another deep breath, and settled into his role…

BENEDICK If Signior Leonato be her father, she would not

have his head on her shoulders for all Messina, as

like him as she is.

BEATRICE I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior

Benedick: nobody marks you.

BENEDICK What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?

A loud chorus of "Ooooh" erupted from the audience. True, it was a play, but seeing the Captain and the First Officer in the closest equivalent to a 'lover's quarrel' that they would ever be a party to was just too good to pass up.

BEATRICE Is it possible disdain should die while she hath

such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?

Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come

in her presence.

BENEDICK Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I

am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: and I

would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard

heart; for, truly, I love none.

BEATRICE A dear happiness to women: they would else have

been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God

and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that: I

had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man

swear he loves me.

BENEDICK God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some

gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate

scratched face.

BEATRICE Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere such

a face as yours were.

BENEDICK Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.

BEATRICE A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.

BENEDICK I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and

so good a continuer. But keep your way, i' God's

name; I have done.

BEATRICE You always end with a jade's trick: I know you'll fold.

As the onstage scene concluded, every man sitting in the front row of the theater promptly walked out.

The rest, still laughing, cheered so loud the noise could be heard in Engineering.

*****