Snips and Snails
(For @lodessa @cheile @katesfire82 @carlynroth and @jhelenoftrek because reasons.)
“I don’t know what to do. They just keep showing up.”
She’d be wringing her hands if they weren’t currently being tongue-bathed by a cocker spaniel called “Buster Kincaid” and an excitable Dalmatian bearing a tag reading “Captain Proton”.
Chakotay tugs his ear in consternation. “How many do you have now?”
“Going on a hundred and thirty.” Kathryn blows a lock of hair out of her forehead. “Even Tuvok sent one. Look,” she gestures to a Great Dane, possibly the only well-behaved puppy of the lot, seated regally by the door.
Chakotay can’t help the twitch of his mouth as he reads the dog’s collar tag. “T’Paws?”
She rolls her eyes. “The Vulcan idea of a joke. Chakotay, seriously, why does the crew keep sending me puppies?”
“Maybe they’ve taken a leaf out of Q’s book,” he teases.
“Hush your mouth. Honestly, though, if they wanted to cheer me up, couldn’t they have baked me some coffee cake? What am I going to do with all these dogs?”
“Well, have they cheered you up?”
Kathryn bites her lip, glancing around at the heaving mass of fur surrounding her. A greyhound named “Eight of Nine” is chasing a fluffy labradoodle called “Naomi Woofman”. A schnauzer with endearing eyebrows whose tag reads “Chief” is supervising a pair of identical border collies named “Thing 1” and “Thing 2”, whom Kathryn vaguely remembers were a gift from the Delaney twins. A haughty Doberman called “Doc” regards the merriment from his position on the couch beside her. Kathryn can’t help grinning.
“There you are, then,” Chakotay says, satisfied. “And actually, I do have an idea.”
“Well, animal companions have long been used as part of therapy for people who are stressed or depressed, and since the end of the Dominion War there’s a lot of that going around. Why not set up a dog therapy ranch? You’d be doing a great public service.”
Kathryn cocks her head to one side, looking for all the world (though Chakotay keeps this thought firmly to himself) like the Irish setter in the framed picture on the mantelpiece behind her. “Actually, Chakotay, that’s a wonderful idea. Why don’t you do it?”
“Yes, you! You’d be wonderful at it! I always said you were Voyager’s unofficial counsellor. This is a perfect career opportunity for you.”
“But Kathryn –”
Chakotay tugs his ear again. “Does this mean you don’t want to keep my gift?”
In answer, Chakotay puts two fingers to his mouth and lets out a glass-shattering whistle. There’s the thud of puppy footsteps, and a black Labrador puppy thunders through the open door and leaps onto Kathryn’s lap, its entire rear end wagging enthusiastically.
She lifts his name tag. “Warrior?” she reads, raising an eyebrow.
Chakotay shifts his feet. “You can change his name if you want.”
“I don’t think so.” Kathryn places the puppy gently beside her and rises, walking over to her erstwhile first officer. “In fact,” she continues, resting her hand on his chest, “I wouldn’t change a thing about him.”
Chakotay’s eyes crinkle at the corners as she steps even closer. “Really?”
“Really,” she says as she reaches up on tiptoe, “he’s perfect just the way he is.”
A chorus of howls and yips is the backdrop to their very first kiss.