DISCLAIMER: Star Trek belongs to Paramount. Cinderella belongs to whomever. I am neither Paramount or whomever, so they don't belong to me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is just a quickie I had to write after reading Wendy's Cinderbella... It's also the first thing past a page I've managed to write in about four-five months, so I'm rather chuffed even if it is just fluffy filler. It might also answer the panto challenge, but I'm not sure as I can't remember the details. This is dedicated to Hapless and Clueless for a memorable bus ride home.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Panto
By ralst

The senior officers sat squirming in their seats as Neelix outlined his latest idea for improving ship's morale and celebrating Earth traditions. The enthusiastic Talaxian was pacing back and forth in front of the star filled windows, his arms flapping in excitement as he explained the idea of a pantomime.

"People actually did this?" Tom interrupted.

Neelix's head bobbed up and down, his whiskers twitching with excitement. "Oh yes, it was very popular in certain geographical locations."

"What, in the land of the cross-dressers?" Tom laughed. He thought the idea was rather silly but it also sounded like fun, and considering the hellish couple of weeks they'd all been through he was willing to make a complete fool out of himself if it meant lightening the mood a little.

"Cross-dressing, as you put it, was very common in early theatre," Seven explained, "as females were not permitted to act on the stage and therefore all parts were played by men."

B'Elanna snorted. "That might explain the ugly sisters but what's with this Prince Charming guy? I mean, who on earth goes around slapping their thigh and wearing green tights?"

"Robin Hood." Harry supplied helpfully.

Chakotay sat up straighter his mind having grasped on a thought. "Robin Hood was a myth, just as my own ancestors shared myths about..."

"Yes, quite, thank you Chakotay," Kathryn interrupted. "It's a very nice idea Mr Neelix but I'm not sure it would be appropriate for the senior staff to make an exhibition of themselves in such a way."

Several heads bobbed in agreement, but strangely it was Tuvok who voiced a contradiction. "I have observed that crew morale is often heightened by exposure to the more... carefree actions of the command staff."

"It's always fun to laugh at your commanding officers," Tom agreed, "and doing it this way means that we're all in on the joke." He noticed the sceptical looks from those around him. "Look, I know this kind of thing might not go over well in the Alpha quadrant but out here the lower decks need to know that we're all approachable. Seeing us up on stage hamming it up for an audience will do that."

"And destroy all sense of command," Kathryn challenged.

"Build a sense of camaraderie," Tom countered.

B'Elanna squeezed her eyes tight hoping to distance herself from what she was about to say. "As loathed as I am to prance around on stage dressed like a pumpkin, I have to agree with Tom." The helmsman beamed at his friend but she ignored him to concentrate on Kathryn. "The crew needs to let off some steam and, even though they'd probably never admit it, a lot of them would enjoy the chance at poking fun at us." She held up a hand to stop Kathryn's objection. "We ask them to put their lives on the line for us day after day, it's only natural that they'd harbour a little resentment. This way they not only get to laugh at us, but we get to be in on the joke."

"She has a point." Harry leant forward to retrieve the data padd on which Neelix had outlined the various characters for the proposed pantomime. He was vaguely familiar with the story, although in the version he'd read there had been no mention of cross-dressing. "I think I'd make a good Dandino."

"Wimp," Tom muttered.

"I fancy myself as an ugly sister," Neelix told the group, his words meeting with a smattering of laughter. "Mr Vulcan?"

Tuvok took the data padd from Harry and scrolled through the options. "I believe my talents would also be best deployed as an ugly sister," he said with a totally straight face.

The room went quiet, the only sound to be heard was the struggle to withhold laughter, before Kathryn cleared her throat. "It looks..." she coughed past an un-captainly giggle. "It looks like I've been out voted. So what part would you suggest I play, Mr Neelix, the wicked stepmother?"

"Actually, Captain, I thought you would make a wonderful Fairy Godmother," Neelix began, "and Commander Chakotay would be best suited to the role of stepmother." Chakotay opened his mouth to object but somehow no words formed. "As for the other parts, Tom would make a fine Buttons, and it seems fairly obvious that B'Elanna is to be our Cinders and Seven her Prince Charming."

"My what!"

"Your Prince Charming, Lieutenant."

"There is no way in hell she is going to be my Prince," B'Elanna bellowed.

"I would be honoured to accept this dance," Cinderella told the Prince, placing her hand delicately within the other woman's grasp. "I have dreamt my whole life of dancing with... Seven! You're standing on my dress! Again!"

"I apologies, Lieutenant." Seven stepped away from the other woman, making every effort to avoid the delicate dress that had replaced B'Elanna's usual attire. "I am not very familiar with dancing and even less so with dancing with a partner in a full length dress."

"Yeah, well I'm not exactly used to dancing in one, but I don't go around stamping on your toes, do I?" B'Elanna pulled at the silver dress, silently cursing Neelix, the captain and whoever in hell thought up the stupid story in the first place. She was not a sequins and pearls type of woman.

"You are an excellent dancer, Lieutenant, and I will endeavour to improve." Seven replaced her hand on B'Elanna's waist, pulling the smaller woman closer. "Are you ready?"

"I..." B'Elanna swallowed the lump that had suddenly formed in her throat. "I guess."

The two women began gliding across the dance floor, their eyes locked in a look of adoration that the Doctor, their director, thought extremely well acted. He might have issues with Seven's reluctance to slap her thigh or B'Elanna's inability to talk with her Fairy Godmother without bursting into laughter, but he couldn't fault the way they manufactured sexual chemistry. "Bravo! Bravo, ladies, that was wonderful."

Kathryn tugged at the wire that issued forth from the hole in her pink, sparkly outfit. "I still don't know why we couldn't have B'Elanna design a force-field to keep me afloat. This thing is a menace."

"Sorry, Captain, but it's all part of the panto mystique," Neelix explained. He added another layer of blusher to his already scarlet cheeks. "Pantomimes are not meant to be elegant and flawless," he pursed his lips for the third coating of fire-engine red lipstick, "they're about having fun."

Kathryn pushed the tiara further back on her head. "I don't see how watching me dangle from a piece of wire and flashing my...my unmentionables is meant to be fun."

Neelix looked at her as if she were simple. "You don't?"

"No, I don't."

Two more pairs of socks made their way inside Neelix's bra. "Trust me, Captain, the crew will love it."

Kathryn fluffed up her tutu and prayed to God that she wasn't about to ruin every ounce of credibility she'd spent the last six years of her life accumulating. If the curtain wasn't due to rise in ten minutes she'd have run for the nearest airlock and jettisoned herself into oblivion.

The pantomime opened to rapturous applause. Neelix, swaying his hips and blowing kisses to people in the front row, had stolen the first half of the show, but it was the introduction of the Fairy Godmother that had the audience rolling around on the floor in hysterics.

"I told you it wouldn't work!" Kathryn hissed at Tuvok and the Doctor, who were valiantly trying to control the winch that was keeping the woman suspended several feet off the ground. "Get me down! Get me down!"

B'Elanna ducked as a foot twirled in her direction and the pink, tutu'd redhead floated across the stage. "Erm, what was that, oh Fairy Godmother?"

"I said...you shall..." Kathryn's voice trailed off as she floated off stage left but reappeared as she careened back towards centre stage "go to the BALLLLLLL!"

B'Elanna ducked once more as Kathryn was lowered towards the ground, spinning and squealing all the way. It took several minutes for B'Elanna and the audience to stop laughing enough for the show to continue. "But, Fairy Godmother, how can I go to the ball looking like this?"

Kathryn's head was spinning and her stomach felt like it had gone ten rounds with Neelix's mystery stew. "You look fine."

"Erm, Fairy Godmother?" Cinderella gave her fairy godmother a gentle kick in the shins, mouthing the word 'dress' behind her hand.

"Oh, yes." Kathryn smiled sweetly and went on with her role, whilst at the same time devising various tortures for the senior officers who had championed the stupid panto idea in the first place, and a reprimand for her chief engineer for striking a senior officer.

As the pantomime went on scenes were changed and new characters introduced to much applause and a few wolf whistles. Seven had acquitted herself well on the dance floor and in a moment of improvisation had grasp B'Elanna's hand just before the clock struck twelve and deposited a rather salacious kiss to the inside of her wrist. The move had been so unexpected that Cinders almost forgot about her Fairy Godmother's warning and jumped the Prince where she stood.

As the final scene neared, Prince Charming knelt in front of a bedraggled Cinderella and produced the glass slipper for her to try. Just as Cinder's foot began to slip into the shoe Seven felt an odd vibration emanate from the glass and looking down she saw that B'Elanna's foot was stuck half in and half out of the slipper. "B'Elanna?"

"It's stuck," B'Elanna whispered back, wiggling her toes to try and force them to slide further into the shoe.

Seven took hold of the engineer's calf and tried to help force the shoe on, but it was no use. Seven spared the audience a quick look, smiled and turned back to B'Elanna. "What do we do?"

At that moment B'Elanna caught sight of movement from the wings and turned to see the Doctor and Tom giggling over a control box. The control box for the holographic elements of the show, which included the glass slippers, she realised. "I'm going to kill them!" she hissed.

Someone in the audience coughed and Seven knew their time had run out. Extracting the slipper, Seven threw it over her shoulder. "I do not need a slipper to tell me where my heart belongs." Standing, she took B'Elanna in her arms. "Cinderella, you are the lady of my heart, will you marry me?"

"Oh, Prince Charming, yes...yes!" B'Elanna swooned, playing the melodrama for all it was worth.

In a further show of her improvisational skills, Seven bent forward to capture B'Elanna's lips with her own, devouring Cinderella's moan of delighted desire with a kiss far more friendly than the peck on the cheek that had been the standard during rehearsals.

The curtain began to fall and the audience went wild and started clapping and stomping their feet in true appreciation of a memorable Christmas show. After several seconds the curtain was once again raised and the cast of characters lined up to take their bows... All that is except for Cinderella and Prince Charming, who had yet to realise that the show was over and persisted in continuing the final part of the scene. Again and again and again.

Happy Holidays everyone

The End

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