|Note: Thanks to Leone for some great ideas.
Janeway sat watching silently as Azai began to chant quietly in a language the translators were unable to interpret. The alien's hands were still on her officers' shoulders, and his eyes were closed as he spoke. There was an air of calm surrounding the three, and Janeway wondered what was actually happening; what sort of knowledge was being imparted, and how? Would it be useful?
Azai had said that the gift was not dangerous, and Janeway had trusted him, but she hoped she hadn't made a terrible mistake. She felt guilty that maybe her anger had forced the two men to accept the gift as a way of atoning for their indiscretions, and she prayed that Azai had told the truth, and her officers would be unharmed. As she watched, Azai lifted his hands to the men's heads, and she saw Chakotay and Tom close their eyes.
A feeling of warmth and security flooded through the two men as Azai continued his chant, and Chakotay felt his mind being drawn closely to Tom's. As they met, and their thoughts entwined, darkness and silence filled them, and they found themselves suddenly drifting in an ocean of nothingness. Their minds stayed tightly wrapped around each other, as in the all-encompassing blackness, a distant speck of light appeared and slowly began to grow. It crept closer and closer, the brightness intensifying until it was almost blinding.
Chakotay held Tom firmly as the light approached them, and as it enveloped them, they heard Azai's voice calling to them to accept the gift he was giving. In unison, the two men took what was offered, and as they did, the light diminished until it was just a tiny dot in the back of their minds.
Azai ceased his chanting as his gift was accepted, and he removed his hands from the two officers. Chakotay and Tom opened their eyes slowly, a state of lethargy invading their bodies as they stared around the ready room.
"Do not worry," Azai said, smiling. "What you are feeling is normal. You have used up a lot of mental energy, and will be quite tired for the next few hours. I assure you, though, it will pass."
Chakotay nodded as he focused on Azai. "Thank you, Azai, but I don't really understand what happened. You said you would give us knowledge, but I can't say I know anything more now than I did before. Could you explain what it is we should know?"
"All will become clear as time passes," Azai assured him. "You cannot know yet. The gift I have given you is planted in your minds, and will germinate and grow like a beautiful flower. As it matures you will understand more, and the day will come when it finally blooms and everything you need to know will be revealed."
Zay stood up, and Azai turned his attention to Janeway. "We must leave you now, Captain," he announced. "Please keep the supplies you obtained, and know that you will always be welcome on any planet inhabited by either the Dergaj or the Derzai. You may take whatever you desire, as and when you need it."
"That's extremely generous of you, Azai," Janeway replied gratefully as she stood and smiled at him.
"You are more than welcome, Captain, and we wish you a safe and speedy return to your home. We will think of you often."
As Azai finished speaking, both he and Zay bowed low. Zay touched the shining bracelet he wore and the aliens disappeared.
"Well," Janeway said, turning to face her officers. "That was certainly different, and nothing like what I expected to happen. How do you feel?"
"Tired, Captain," Chakotay replied with a yawn. Tom nodded in agreement.
"Then you should go and rest. My questions will have to wait until you're more up to answering them."
"Thank you, Captain. We'll see you on the bridge in the morning," Chakotay replied as he and Tom stood to leave. "And we really are sorry for the embarrassment we caused you," he added.
"Well, I admit, the scene in the holodeck isn't one I'd like to encounter again, but considering how everything has turned out, I think we should just forget about it, don't you?"
"I was hoping you'd say that," Chakotay said with a small grin. "We'll see you tomorrow, Kathryn," he added, and followed Tom to the door.
After the Captain had wished them goodnight, they left. As they strolled down the corridor, Chakotay grabbed Tom's arm. Tom stopped and turned to see what his lover wanted.
"Come back to my quarters, Tom," Chakotay said quietly. "After the day we've had, I don't feel like sleeping alone."
"I know what you mean. I don't want to be alone either. I'll have to stop by my quarters to get my uniform though, so I'll see you at your place in a few minutes, okay?"
"That's fine, Tom," Chakotay replied. He checked that the corridor was clear, then gave Tom a quick kiss. "See you in a moment," he said, then left to go to his cabin.
Tom quickly headed for his own quarters, gathered up his clothes and packed them into a small bag. He arrived at the First Officer's cabin shortly after, and joined Chakotay in getting ready for bed.
With everything taken care of, they climbed under the covers and snuggled up to each other. Chakotay sighed contentedly as Tom's warm body wrapped around his, and he felt himself drifting off to sleep. "I love you, Tom," he whispered, before sleep finally overtook him.
"I love you too, Cha," Tom whispered back, and fell asleep with his head resting on Chakotay's chest.
They slept soundly, and when they awoke the next morning, it was too late to have breakfast in the Mess Hall. After a hasty meal provided by the replicator in Chakotay's quarters, they hurriedly left for their shifts on the bridge.
The first couple of hours passed without incident, but by midmorning Janeway was beginning to wonder what was wrong with her First Officer and her pilot. They both seemed restless, and Chakotay had left his chair on several occasions to stand behind Tom and rest his hand on the younger man's shoulder.
She decided to question the Commander first, and leaned towards him as he sat staring at the back of Tom's head. "Chakotay? Is everything okay?" she whispered.
"Yes, Captain," Chakotay replied with a sigh. "I'm still just a little tired that's all." It wasn't the complete truth, but it wasn't a lie either. He *was* tired, but what he had no intention of revealing to the Captain was that he felt an almost irresistible pull towards Tom. All morning he'd felt drawn to his lover, and the desire to touch him was almost overwhelming. Through their link he knew that Tom was feeling it too, and they were both counting down the minutes until lunch time, which they'd agreed they would spend in Chakotay's quarters. As the Captain continued to look at him with concern, Chakotay made an effort to smile. "I'm fine. Really," he tried to reassure her.
Janeway nodded. She wasn't convinced that Chakotay was okay, but she decided to accept his word on it for now. "I presume Mr. Paris is similarly afflicted," she commented as she discreetly gestured towards the fidgeting pilot.
"Yes, I think he is. It appears that Azai was correct when he said we had used up a lot of energy, but I'm sure we'll be okay after lunch."
"Very well. But if you're not, I'll call up replacements. I'd rather sort this out today than leave it to get worse."
Chakotay nodded his agreement, then resumed his study of Tom.
When the lunch break finally came, Chakotay and Tom were the first to leave. As soon as the doors to the turbolift closed, Tom launched himself at his lover.
"God, Cha, I need you!" he exclaimed as he ran his hand over Chakotay's groin, and pressed his lips to the other man's neck. "This morning's been torture. I don't think I can wait a minute longer."
"I know," Chakotay gasped. "But we have to. Just a few moments more, Tom. That's all," he said as he aligned his groin with Tom's, and pressed forward.
Tom groaned, and rubbed himself against the hardness that was thrust against him as Chakotay pulled him closer. As Chakotay's hands began to caress Tom's back, the turbolift stopped. The two men had just enough presence of mind to pull apart before the doors slid open to reveal B'Elanna waiting to enter. Concealing their arousal as best they could, the two men stepped into the corridor. They nodded a quick greeting as they passed B'Elanna, then walked off before she had chance to engage them in conversation.
When they reached Chakotay's quarters, they stumbled through the doors and quickly resumed where they'd left off in the lift. After a few moments of frenetic kissing, Tom pulled frantically at his own pants until they were pooled around his ankles. "Take me, Cha," he begged as he placed his hands on Chakotay's table and bent forward.
The older man gazed longingly at the sight before him, then rushed to the bedroom to grab the lubricant. Tom was almost consumed with need by the time Chakotay returned, and was panting heavily with the effort of waiting. "Forget the prep Cha," he gasped. "I don't need it."
"Just a little, Tom," Chakotay insisted as he inserted a finger inside Tom's body. "I don't want to hurt you."
"You won't. I'm ready for you now. Just take me. Please!"
At Tom's demand, Chakotay released his own weeping erection, and covered it with as much lubricant as he could before pressing himself against Tom's opening. As soon as Tom felt the hard flesh against him, he pushed back, forcing his lover deep within his willing body.
They both knew the situation was too desperate for either of them to last long, and after just a few short moments of frenzied thrusting and counter-thrusting, both men shuddered violently as their much needed release forced them to cry out loudly. They sank to the floor, breathing hard, but with a sense of relief that the waiting they'd endured was over.
"What *was* that?" Tom asked as he began to recover. "I've never felt such an urgent need to have sex before."
"Neither have I," Chakotay said. "I just hope that after that we'll be able to concentrate on our jobs a little easier this afternoon. I don't want to have to explain something like this to the Captain."
"Especially not after yesterday's fiasco," Tom agreed.
Chakotay snorted, and patted Tom on the thigh. "Come on, we'd better have a quick shower," he suggested. "And it might be best if we ate here again, because I'm sure it will be pretty obvious to anyone what we've just been up to."
Tom agreed, and they followed Chakotay's plan; showering, and eating lunch in his quarters before resuming their duty shifts.
Janeway was pleased that her officers appeared more relaxed after the break, and most of the afternoon went by without her worrying about them. It was only as the shift neared its end that she noticed the two men were once again restless. She still had a number of questions that she wanted to ask, but with the tiredness Chakotay and Tom seemed to be experiencing, she decided to wait until they were in more of a position to be able to answer.
At the end of the shift, the two men left together and made their way to Tom's cabin. The longing that they had felt that morning had returned, but had not yet reached the fever pitch that it had before. This time, they retreated to Tom's bedroom, and as they made love, unusual images flashed before them. There were scenes of hot, swirling gasses that hovered over huge expanses of swampland; violent eruptions of enormous volcanos, and the aftershocks of distant earthquakes. There were visions of vast seas, and red-streaked skies, and molten lava that gradually cooled and solidified as they watched.
With their minds concentrated on their lovemaking, and the vivid images that swirled around them, the hours passed unnoticed. It was only when Tom's door chime sounded a little after 1930 hours, that they were brought back to reality.
Tom kissed Chakotay softly, and climbed out of bed, then hastily put on his robe before padding out to answer the door. As it opened, and Harry Kim walked in, Tom suddenly remembered their plans for the holodeck. "I'm so sorry, Harry. I totally forgot," Tom apologised as Harry scowled at him.
"You promised you wouldn't, Tom. And why didn't you answer my hails? I spent fifteen minutes trying to contact you."
"I just didn't hear them, Harry. I was engrossed in something. You know how it is."
"No, I don't, Tom. If I promise to meet you, I always do. I never leave you hanging around. If I can't make it, I let you know. Why couldn't you do the same?"
Tom moved to the couch and sat down, and gestured for Harry to join him. "It wasn't intentional, y'know. I just had something really important to do, and our plans slipped my mind," he said, trying to placate the unhappy Ensign.
Harry snorted, and looked down at the floor. "I bet you wouldn't have forgotten if you'd been meeting Chakotay instead of me," he muttered.
"You two seem to be all over each other lately."
"We shared an unusual experience, Harry. We've had a lot to talk about," Tom said calmly.
"Yeah, like all the talking you did on the bridge today," Harry snapped.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Tom asked, frowning.
"He was out of his chair every five minutes, Tom, and he couldn't keep his hands off you!" Harry exclaimed. "If he carries on like that much more, people are gonna talk!"
"Oh yeah?" Tom queried. "And just what are they gonna say, Harry?"
"Oh, come on, Tom. You know what they'll say. They'll be speculating that you two are a couple. That Chakotay's your boyfriend! Do you really want people to think that you're gay?"
Tom took a deep breath as he tried to calm himself, he couldn't believe what he was hearing from his best friend. "I didn't think you were against same-sex relationships, Harry," he said quietly.
"I'm not, as such. I just don't want people talking about you."
"And why's that?" Tom asked. "Because I'm your friend? Or because if people think I'm gay, then you might get tarred with the same brush?"
Harry shrugged. "Both, I guess," he admitted.
Tom shook his head, his anger just barely in check. "So I take it that if I said I *was* gay you wouldn't want to be associated with me anymore? Is that right?"
"This is stupid, Tom," Harry said, getting up. "There's no need for you to ask me that. You're not gay. You're as straight as they come!"
"Interesting choice of words there, Harry," Tom muttered. "But maybe you don't know me as well as you think. Maybe there's parts of me that you've never seen; parts that have never come to the surface on Voyager before because I didn't think I could have the one person that I'd always wanted. So answer the question, Harry. If I said I was gay, would you still want me as a friend?"
"No, I wouldn't, Tom," Harry admitted.
"Then I think you'd better leave," Tom said, and pointed to the door.