Janeway walked slowly across her quarters, her fury just barely under control. She stopped in front of her two silent officers, then looked Chakotay squarely in the eye. "Just what the hell were you two thinking?" she angrily asked the First Officer. "I've never been so embarrassed in my entire life! There I was, giving our guests a tour of the ship, hoping that it would placate them enough to allow us to keep the supplies we collected, and what do I find? Two of my senior officers having sex on the floor of an unlocked holodeck! I want an explanation, and I want it now!"
"I'm sorry for the embarrassment we caused you, Captain, but it wasn't intentional. And I must admit, it wasn't the way I expected you to find out about the relationship between myself and Tom," Chakotay replied calmly.
"I already knew about that," Janeway remarked curtly. "You told me yourself. Don't you remember?"
"No, I don't," Chakotay replied with a puzzled look. "When did I tell you?"
"In sickbay, when you contacted me through the computer. You told me that you were in love with Tom. But that's not the issue here. I want to know why you felt it necessary to be intimate with each other in a public place. That's not the sort of behaviour I expect from either of you."
"No, it isn't, but we weren't expecting anyone to walk in on us. We initiated a privacy lock, but it obviously disengaged without us being aware of it. We wouldn't intentionally put ourselves on display."
"Then, how do you explain this?" Janeway asked, gesturing towards her computer terminal where the poorly-defined visual recording that Seven had supplied was continually replaying. "The two of you appear to be in a rather compromising position, wouldn't you say?"
Chakotay and Tom moved to the terminal, and stood in shocked silence as they gazed at the image of themselves sitting in the Commander's chair. Fortunately for all concerned, Seven had only managed to retrieve the beginning of their activities, and both men were still fully clothed.
Chakotay glanced at Tom, and a look of relief passed between them as they communicated silently and without Janeway's awareness.
/That was a close call, Cha./
//Yes. But we now have to add Seven to the list of people who know of our relationship.//
/That still only makes three, but we'll talk about it later. Right now, I think the Captain expects an explanation from you./
//Yes, I think she does.//
"Well? What have you got to say about *that*?" Janeway asked, looking from one man to the other.
Chakotay faced the Captain, and looked her in the eye as he spoke. "You have to understand, Captain, that we had no idea what had happened at that point. The entire experience of seeming invisible to the crew was very unnerving for both of us. We were just trying to reassure each other that we existed. We believed that we couldn't be seen, so assumed that our intimacy wouldn't offend anyone. I'm sorry that we were proven wrong."
Janeway's anger cooled a little as she conceded that neither indiscretion had been intentional, but she was still far from pleased. "I accept what you say about the bridge incident, but your carelessness in checking the holodeck's privacy lock will most probably result in us having to return the supplies. That's something we could definitely have done without."
"I understand that, Captain, and I'm sorry. If there is anything that Tom and I can do to rectify the situation, then you know that we'll do whatever it takes," Chakotay answered apologetically.
"Well, I appreciate the offer, Commander, but I think you and Mr. Paris have done more than enough already," Janeway stated. She looked Chakotay up and down. "You're obviously back to full health now though, so I'll see you on the bridge tomorrow. Both of you," she added, turning her gaze on Tom. "And in your own chairs. Dismissed." Janeway turned her back on the two men, then went to turn off her terminal.
Chakotay and Tom left without a word. Once they were in the corridor, and the door to Janeway's quarters had closed behind them, Tom finally let out the breath that he'd been holding. "You handled that really well, Cha," he said with admiration. "I know I wasn't much use, but if I'd opened my mouth I'd have probably put both feet in it."
"Don't put yourself down, Tom. You would have done just as well," Chakotay stated as they walked away from the Captain's cabin.
"You say the nicest things, Chakotay," Tom grinned. "But they're not always true. You're a better diplomat than I am, and you know it."
"Maybe, maybe not. What I do know though, is that we're both in need of a shower. I suggest we do that, then go and get something to eat."
"Okay. Do we shower at your place or mine?" Tom asked with a cheeky smile.
"You're incorrigible, Tom Paris," Chakotay stated with a laugh. "And I love you," he added quietly.
"So, your place, then."
"Ah, Mr. Kim. Now what can I get for you this evening?" the Talaxian asked as he put down the pot he was carrying, and greeted the Ensign. "Would you like to try tonight's special dish? It's very nutritious. Of course, it would've been even better if I could've used some of the roots that are on the shuttle...."
"I'm sure it's fine, Neelix," Harry interrupted as the other man threatened to go on at length. "By the way, has Tom been in yet?" he asked, picking up a bread roll to go with the meal that Neelix was dishing out.
"No, he hasn't. Perhaps he's still on the holodeck with the Commander. Although, come to think of it, he probably isn't. It must be almost two hours ago that Tom was seen going in there."
"Hold on, Neelix. Who saw Tom go into the holodeck, and how do you know the Commander was there too?"
"Well, I don't think I ought to divulge names, but I have it on good authority that the Commander entered the holodeck first, then after Tom arrived, there was a privacy lock put on the door. Now why they would want a privacy lock, I have no idea, but it does seem a little odd, doesn't it? But here they come now. Perhaps you could ask them yourself," Neelix said cheerily as he nodded towards the Mess Hall door.
Tom and Chakotay entered and, oblivious to the scrutiny of Harry and Neelix, made their way to a table on the opposite side of the room. Harry watched as Chakotay took a seat, then smiled up at Tom. The two men shared a short conversation before Tom crossed to the food counter, and finally noticed Harry.
"Hi, Harry," Tom said with a smile. "Neelix. You're back on duty quickly. I thought the Captain would've given you the night off. I mean, we only got back from our mission a few hours ago."
"Oh, she did say I didn't need to work tonight, Tom, but I wanted to. I was hoping to try out some new recipes with the food we brought back. Such a shame that we might not be able to keep it after all."
"Yeah," Tom agreed quietly.
"So, how did the mission go, Tom?" Harry asked as Tom surveyed the meal choices.
"Pretty routine. Nothing out of the ordinary," Tom answered distractedly.
"Nothing remarkable about the planet, then?"
"No. Should there be?" Tom answered, frowning at Harry.
"I was just wondering what makes it so sacred to the Derzai and the Dergaj," Harry replied. "How about telling me all about it over our meals?"
Tom was silent a moment before responding to Harry's suggestion. "Yeah, okay," he said with a smile. "Chakotay and I are sitting over there. Go grab a seat."
"Oh. I thought we'd have a table to ourselves, Tom. We haven't had a proper chat for ages," Harry answered with disappointment.
"I'm sorry, Harry, but I promised Chakotay that I'd sit with him. He won't mind you joining us, y'know. Come over, and we'll arrange to do something together another time, okay?"
"Yeah, okay," Harry agreed reluctantly.
"Good. You go and sit down, and I'll join you in a minute," Tom said before turning to Neelix.
Harry wandered across to Chakotay's table, leaving Tom to order his food. Chakotay smiled at the ensign as he approached. "Have a seat," he said, pointing to the chair opposite him.
"Thanks, Commander," Harry replied, placing his meal on the table, then sitting. "Tom said you wouldn't mind if I joined you."
"And I don't," Chakotay confirmed. He was about to continue when Tom arrived at the table, carrying two plates of food.
"There you go, Sir," Tom said with a smile as he placed one plate in front of Chakotay. "I hope that meets with your approval."
"It's exactly what I wanted, Lieutenant," Chakotay grinned. "However did you know?"
/That would be telling, now wouldn't it , Cha?/
//Yes, it would.//
Tom took his seat next to Chakotay as Harry sat baffled by the two men's interaction. He was perplexed by how friendly they appeared to be lately, but decided to put it down to their recent unusual experiences. "So, Tom. I've got some holodeck time booked for tomorrow, how about joining me?" Harry asked.
"Yeah, sure. What time?" Tom enquired before tucking into his food.
"1900 hours. Are you free then?"
"I should be. What program are you gonna run?"
Harry was about to reply, but the chirping of Chakotay's comm badge stopped him. "Janeway to Chakotay," came the hail.
"Chakotay here, Captain. What can I do for you?"
"I need to see you straight away. I presume you still have Mr. Paris in tow?"
"He's here, yes."
"Good. Then I'll see you both in my ready room immediately. Janeway out."
"I wonder what we've done now?" Tom said, turning to look at Chakotay. "She still sounds annoyed."
"Yes, she does. So I suggest we get to the ready room before she gets any worse," Chakotay replied, rising.
"Yeah," Tom agreed. He turned to look at Harry, who sat with an expression of curiosity on his face. "Sorry, Harry," Tom apologised as he stood up. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Yeah, sure Tom. 1900 hours, don't forget."
"I won't," Tom assured him.
Chakotay and Tom disposed of their virtually untouched meals, then left quickly. A few minutes later, they were entering the ready room to find Janeway still looking displeased with them. "Have a seat, gentlemen," she said. "Our guests will be here shortly."
"Guests?" Chakotay enquired.
"Yes, the ones I was showing around earlier; Zay and Azai. They contacted me a short while ago to arrange a meeting. Apparently your holodeck display has been reported to the other Derzai - that's their equivalent of Holy Men - and Azai wishes to speak to you two about it. He is also Derzai, and he insists that their laws regarding incidents like these are carried out."
"Did he say what their laws entail?"
"No. All he said was that something of this nature is taken very seriously. I presume there will be some kind of penalty to pay, and the supplies will probably be part of it."
"We're very sorry, Captain. If we could change what happened we would. I hope you know that."
"Yes, I do, Chakotay. But you'll understand it when I say I'm very disappointed in both of you. Although we can stretch what supplies we have, it would have made life a little easier if we didn't have to."
Before Chakotay could respond, the door chime sounded. At Janeway's command to enter, Tuvok appeared accompanied by the two aliens.
"Azai, Zay, welcome," Janeway greeted her guests. "Thank you, Tuvok," she said, turning to the Vulcan and dismissing him. As the door closed behind Tuvok, Janeway gestured towards two chairs. "Please be seated," she said to Azai and Zay.
"Thank you, Captain," Zay replied as they sat down. He turned to Chakotay and Tom then. "You are the two that we saw," he stated.
"Yes, we are," Chakotay confirmed. "I am Commander Chakotay, and this is Lieutenant Tom Paris," he said, nodding towards Tom. "We wish to apologise for any embarrassment that we caused you earlier. I assure you it wasn't intentional."
"Why would we be embarrassed?" Azai asked. "There was nothing in your display that would have caused that. Your performance was excellent and we wish to thank you for that."
"You do?" Janeway asked incredulously.
"Yes, Captain," Azai said, turning to her. "Your men honoured us greatly, and according to our laws should be rewarded."
"I'm not sure that I understand, Azai. I thought you were upset by my officer's actions?"
"On the contrary, Captain. When we first encountered your ship, we did not realise that your species was so similar to the Dergaj, and that some of your kind are as different from you as I am to Zay. To witness the moment when two that share this difference complete their bond is an honour and a blessing."
Azai turned his attention back to Chakotay and Tom and looked at them appreciatively. "Thank you for allowing us to witness such a special moment," he said, rising. "For the honour that you granted us, I am obliged by our law to give you the gift of knowledge, and would be further honoured if you would accept it."
"What form does this gift take, Azai?" Chakotay enquired as the alien moved to stand between him and Tom. "Do we have to do anything?"
"Just open your minds and allow me to place the gift within. It is not dangerous, I assure you."
"Captain?" Chakotay said, looking across at Janeway.
"I leave the decision to the two of you, Commander," Janeway replied. "If you are unsure about accepting, then don't. I'm sure our guests will understand."
/Let's do it, Cha. Perhaps they'll let us keep the supplies then, as well./
Chakotay looked at Azai and smiled. "Thank you for your offer. We accept gladly."
"Then I give you knowledge," Azai said, and placed his hands on the two men's shoulders.