Bait and Switch, Part 1


By Britta

I feel like I've been demoted--and maybe I have. I sit here in a cabin that belongs to a lieutenant. Looking around, I see how much smaller it is than the one I've become accustomed to. And yet, if I think back, I recall rooms aboard other ships that make these quarters seem like a palace.
*
My anger at Paris is at an all-time high. How dare he get us into this situation? I want to wrap my hands around the bastard's neck and choke the life out of him, but I can't, because now it's my neck. I am stuck inside his body for a week, maybe more, and it's all his fault. Damn him anyway!
*
Of course, Paris is living in my body as well, and I don't like that fact at all. Gods! What will he do to it? Will he ignore it--like he has his quarters? Or will he leave me a few extra scars as sick, permanent reminders that he was there? What will he do to me--and what will I do to him?

<><><><>

Well, this is one hell of a way to get promoted! Nice big cabin, a real bathtub, large viewport, and all the perks that come with being a First Officer. It's a fucking dream come true. I have access to everything now that I'm 'Commander Chakotay', or so appearances say. I have his voice, his finger and retina prints, along with the rest of his body. Oh, yeah, I've got it all now.
*
This will be fun. A whole week where I get to be him. I think I'll begin by spending some of his rations and have a drink or two, maybe even make a toast to those aliens that did this to me, or should I say, 'us'. Nice folks they seemed, but a little testy in the protocol area, if you ask me.

<><><><>

EARLIER...
*
Chakotay and Tom Paris were beamed back to Voyager after being unceremoniously scolded and punished by the advanced race inhabiting the planet upon which the crew had been allowed to take shore leave. As they materialized, they were greeted by a glowering captain.
*
"In my office. Now." Janeway didn't wait to watch as the two men stumbled from the transporter pads. She didn't need to; she knew they wouldn't be very graceful, getting used to new bodies and all.
*
Once inside her office, she turned to the men and frowned. "I know what happened. The Minister of Manners contacted me and informed me of your transgressions." She held up a hand before either man could speak, and continued, "She asked for my permission to treat you as children, which I gave instantly, considering the circumstances, and how lenient they were being with you."
*
She motioned for the two to be seated, and shifting around, they did so. Then, she paced as she spoke. "This condition is not permanent. I would not have either of you harmed. But, because we need these people's goodwill and their help in making repairs, not to mention that they have been kind enough to offer us shore leave opportunities, I felt it right to let the both of you pay for your actions in their fashion."
*
Chakotay's voice said, "It wasn't my fault!"
*
"Can it, Tom. They told me what you did." Janeway paced some more, then stopped and peered at the body of Tom Paris which contained the mind and soul of her First Officer. "Chakotay, I am disappointed that after all these years you haven't learned to let Tom find his own way to hell. If you hadn't interfered and started arguing, they would've exchanged Tom with the local equivalent of a dog for a few days. Instead, your public disagreement has caused this interesting scenario."
*
The body of Tom Paris heaved a huge sigh while the face turned a bright red. The voice then inquired, "Why do I get the feeling that you're enjoying this on some level, Kathryn?"
*
Janeway smiled briefly and replied, "Because I am. You two need to work out your differences and this situation provides an ideal opportunity for you to do so. I am, according to the planetary government, your 'Mother'. As such, I concur with the punishment meted out to the two of you and will add a twist of my own."
*
Two sets of distressed eyes met hers as she leaned against the table. "I want you both to learn something from this, therefore you will spend the next week living each other's lives. You are to tell no one; the only other people who will know are Tuvok and the Doctor. You will learn your lessons well, I guarantee it."
*
"But--"
*
"But what, Tom? Or should I say Chakotay? What about your jobs? What about your privacy?"
*
Two stunned men just nodded.
*
Janeway grinned and explained, "We'll be orbiting this planet for the next two weeks while the crew, those who can behave anyway, will enjoy shore leave. So, Mr. Paris' body will do what it usually does under these conditions: he'll fly us in circles and help the Doctor in Sickbay."
*
She started pacing again, but refused to look at the men still squirming uncomfortably in their chairs. "Chakotay's body will go over myriad fascinating reports and handle all the emergencies that a First Officer gets to deal with on a daily--and nightly--basis. In the event that something comes up requiring more expertise than either of you have, contact each other, Tuvok, the Doctor, or myself."
*
Stopping in front of her switched-around senior officers, she swallowed a laugh and said, "Now I'm sending you both to your rooms--without supper. Dismissed."
*
Captain Kathryn Janeway watched as the two men shuffled out of her office and had to wonder if she was doing the right thing. She'd never seen Chakotay's dark brown eyes shine with such glee or Tom's blue ones so dull they appeared almost gray.

<><><><>

LATER...
*
Tom lay on Chakotay's bed, wearing the commander's clothes, and thought that the man had no imagination. A closet full of boring, utilitarian off-duty togs really said a lot about their XO: in other words, he was as dull as ditchwater. After a thorough snoop through his new quarters while he drank his alcoholic dinner, Tom decided the best thing he could do was take advantage of what perks were available.
*
Rising, he stripped off the clothing he'd been beamed up in and chose to take a bath. He ordered the water to his preferred temperature, then turned to look at himself in the mirror.
*
That's when he fainted and fell into the bathtub.

<><><><>

Chakotay sat in Tom's cabin and tried to become comfortable in Tom's body. It was difficult because he was now a bit taller than he used to be and his reach was a tad longer. He'd tried to eat a simple meal that he'd replicated, using a minimum of Tom's rations, but he'd knocked over the glass of tea and stabbed himself in the lip with the fork.
*
So far, this younger body wasn't doing him any favors. He opted to eat with his fingers and keep the glass in his hand until he felt more sure about his movements.
*
Damn, he thought as he pushed lettuce leaves into his mouth. How am I going to manage in Sickbay, even if the Doctor does know the truth?
*
Carefully, he lifted the second glass of tea to his lips and drank deeply. Finally finished with his meal, he sat back and thought that at least he could handle flying Voyager in a set orbit, but doing it for hours on end might very well tax his patience.
*
He gave up worrying about everything when fatigue took over, and so he undressed and crawled into Tom's bed. Thinking he'd be asleep in moments, he was surprised when he couldn't relax. The shape and scent of Tom's pillow haunted him. It was all wrong somehow.

<><><><>

Tom struggled to consciousness only to find Tuvok staring down at him. He didn't understand anything except that he was cold, wet, and naked. Suddenly, he found himself in Sickbay and heard the holodoc calling for him, and the captain as well. His head hurt and he raised a hand to feel the lump he felt sure was forming, but then he saw a brown hand with blood on it, and he passed out again.

<><><><>

Moments after he'd finally fallen into an uneasy sleep, Chakotay was commed. "Lieutenant Paris, report to Sickbay immediately."
*
He opened an eye and wondered if this was part of his ongoing nightmare. Figuring it had to be and he must still be asleep and dreaming, Chakotay just added it to the list of things he needed to meditate about, then he rolled over and went back to sleep.
*
His eyes popped open as the Doctor's strident voice catapulted him into wakefulness once more. "Did you not hear my earlier order, Lieutenant? I said, and meant, that I want the body of Tom Paris in my Sickbay, right now! Is that understood?"
*
Memory slammed into Chakotay as if he'd hit an asteroid head-on in a shuttle with no shields. Shit. The Doctor wanted him, not Tom. "Yes, sir," he muttered, "I'm on my way." Then he called up the lights and donned the clothing that he'd worn before.
*
When he reached Sickbay, he was ushered over to a biobed, where Tuvok and Janeway stood looking down at his own body, covered by a thin sheet and sporting many bruises. What had that bastard done? He looked around trying to make sense of things, but couldn't get a handle on the situation.
*
All that came to mind was the worst possibility. Had Tom died? Killed himself? Would he, Chakotay, now be stuck forever in Tom's body? If they ever got back to the Alpha Quadrant, would he have to go to prison and serve Tom's sentence? Would he ever get his own life back?
*
The rush of panicked thoughts collided with a sudden sense of pure embarrassment when he realized that half the senior staff, and the captain in particular, were gazing at the nearly nude physical representation of himself. Damn it all to hell!
*
The weirdness of everything came crashing down on him all at once, and before he knew it, he was kissing the floor of Sickbay. His last thought before the blessed darkness claimed him was that he hoped to hell he'd broken Tom's nose--even if he would be the one that would feel the pain.

<><><><>

Tom rolled onto his side and opened his eyes. Fuck. He was in Sickbay again. Before he could wonder why, he spied an awfully familiar form on another biobed. Since when had they installed mirrors in here? As his somewhat fuzzy mental processes began working, he noticed he had two black eyes. It didn't occur to him that his eyes were closed yet he could still see.
*
His head hurt and his body ached as well. He thought he must've been in a fight when he was on shoreleave. Yeah, that's probably what happened. As he was settling back to sleep, the Doctor's voice came out of nowhere and said, "Captain, I believe Paris is awake."
*
"Is that so?" Her voice dripped disapproval.
*
Tom thought he was right in thinking that he was in trouble again. What surprised him was when she said, "Wake up Chakotay and let me talk to both of them."
*
He peeked out of nearly closed eyes and watched as the Doctor went to his mirror image and pressed a hypospray to his neck. A moment later, he heard himself moan. Uh oh, something really strange was going on. He felt a hand on his shoulder which startled him into opening his eyes all the way. Janeway peered down at him and said, "Stop playing 'possum, Tom, and sit up. I have a few things to say to you."
*
She yanked him into a sitting position on the bed and held him steady while the Doctor tended to the man who looked just like him. What the hell was going on? Tom tried to remember, but found everything a big, fat blank.
*
A few moments later, his double sat up and demanded, "What happened?" The man moved off the biobed so quickly that the Doctor couldn't stop him, and Tom was suddenly face-to-face with himself, being yelled at with his own voice. "Paris! What did you do to my body?"
*
The Doctor wrapped his holographic arms around the blond and forced him to sit back down on the biobed across from Tom. With a jolt of the mental sort, Tom looked at his hands, finding them to be brown instead of the paler color he was used to, and, as he swayed with the knowledge that his drunken fantasy was reality, he felt Janeway grip his shoulders hard.

<><><><>

Chakotay's face hurt. Even though he knew it was really Tom's face, he could still feel the pain. As the Doctor and Janeway glared at both of them, his anger grew. This was not his fault. None of it. He could lay all the blame at Paris' feet and his conscience wouldn't bother him one bit.
*
Before he could speak up, the Doctor intoned, "Commander Chakotay, please relax, your body will be fine. Lieutenant Paris had a few drinks and attempted to bathe. Unfortunately, he didn't count on your low tolerance for alcohol and so he lost consciousness, fell down and nearly drowned. If it's any consolation, he will be the one to suffer through the hangover."
*
The captain piped up with every ounce of the parental ooze which she could muster apparent in her voice, "We will be having a discussion as soon as the Doctor fixes you up and you both get a good night's rest. Don't think for one minute that either of you are getting off the hook just because you're having trouble adjusting."
*
Chakotay cleared his throat and said, "Captain? May I have a word with you in private?"
*
"No, not now, Lieutenant." She turned away from Chakotay, then fixed on the brown eyes that Tom peered out of and stated, "Commander, we will convene at 0600 for a breakfast meeting. Be at our table in the Mess Hall on time. Understood?"
*
Tom blinked and nodded. "Yes, ma'am."
*
She turned back to Chakotay and said, "Go back to your quarters and get some rest. I'll expect to see you on the Bridge and manning the conn at 0800." With that order in place, she turned on her heel and stalked out the door, with Tuvok following a nanosecond later.

<><><><>

After performing the required minimal healing, the Doctor dismissed them both and turned himself off. Tom felt the beginnings of a mother of a hangover, and realized that all he was wearing was a sheet. Pissed off, he snapped, "Could you go get me something to wear?"
*
Chakotay felt his face throb and snapped back, "Why should I?"
*
Seeing the blackened eyes on his own face, Tom thought that a walk through the halls in nothing but a sheet might be payback enough for what Chakotay had done to his face. "Never mind," he spat. Then, gathering his pain and what little dignity he had left, he waltzed out the door before Chakotay could object.
*
He wasn't too surprised when the commander followed quickly. What did surprise him though was when Chakotay sidled up next to him, and laid a protective arm over his shoulder, saying in a low voice, "We have to talk."
*
It didn't occur to him right away what other people might think if they were seen like this. Shit, as they walked along, a possibility suggested itself. His body sported black eyes and a swollen nose, while Chakotay's was wearing nothing but a sheet. Oh god, what if they were to run into B'Elanna? How could he ever explain that it wasn't what it looked like? He hadn't rescued Chakotay from some fate worse than death even though judging by appearances, that might seem to be the case.
*
He walked faster, determined to get out of the public eye as fast as possible. Chakotay kept up with him easily, murmuring what must appear to be sweet nothings in his ear, but were in reality entreaties to talk over the mess they found themselves in.
*
On the way to the commander's cabin, they passed Crewmen Dalby, Geron, and Henley. Fuck, thought Tom, word would get back to B'Elanna in nothing flat. When they reached their destination, he shrugged off the arm supporting him and yanked Chakotay inside saying, "Listen, I don't know what game you're playing, but I don't want you screwing things up between me and B'Elanna."
*
Chakotay stood back and stared at Tom as if he were the most alien of beings ever encountered. "Why would you think for one minute that I'd interfere in your personal relationships?"
*
Glowering, Tom felt his headache increase in intensity. "I know you have a thing for her, you always have. I can see it in your eyes every time you look at us when we're together," he snapped.
*
Tom saw his own blue eyes glitter with anger and forgot to be cautious since he was watching himself get all riled up. His own voice grated out, "She is a very good friend of mine, Tom. I wouldn't hurt her for any reason." Then a fist connected with his face.

<><><><>

Chakotay watched Tom drop like a sack of vegetables, turned on his heel, and left his quarters. He headed to Tom's cabin and let himself in, then checked his new face in the mirror. Deciding he could live with it, black eyes and all, he spared a thought for how he'd treated his own body by nailing it with a left hook.
*
Oh well, he thought as he crawled into bed, Tom had no call to bring his girlfriend into this mess. Chakotay had figured out what to do about her hours ago, but now he wasn't so sure. Before setting the alarm for 0530, he wondered why Tom had acted the way he had. Were they having problems? If so, why hadn't she come to him? B'Elanna had always sought his advice in the past.
*
Hmm, this could complicate matters considerably since he was under orders not to divulge the truth to anybody. Perhaps Tom was worried about what B'Elanna might say. Then again, it was a double-edged sword, and, as he drifted off to sleep, he wondered who would wind up being slashed.

END OF PART 1

Comments? Suggestions?
E-mail me at Britta

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Bait and Switch, Part 2