Rumors, a Star Trek : Voyager story by Brenda Antrim. Set after the events of the episode "Year of Hell." No copyright infringement intended. Rated R. Enjoy!

-----

He couldn't put his finger on it. The last month had been so dull he'd nearly worn out the holodeck after shift just to keep himself alert. Harry was talking his ear off about working with Seven on the launch of the new astrometrics lab, B'Elanna was being as friendly as usual, sort of a cross between a teddy bear and a targ on a diet, Tuvok was staying out of his hair, the Captain was her usual efficient self, Neelix hadn't tried to poison anyone lately, the Doc was staying off his back. Everything was pretty standard.

Well, everything except maybe Chakotay.

Tom Paris took another clear sighting on the Hirogen warship in his holosight and blasted it into smithereens. Resting his head against the back of the pilot's chair in the little Maquis fighter he'd lifted whole from the Commander's private holoprogram, giving himself an absent, mental pat on the back for his hacking skills, he thought about Commander Chakotay.

Then he spent the next five minutes wondering why the hell that should give him a hard-on.

Tom wasn't high on self reflection. Usually, when it came up, and looking down at his lap he agreed that it was up about as far as it could go given the cut of the uniform, the stimuli were obvious. Pretty smile. Big eyes. Soft skin. Breasts. Not that he was exactly a virgin when it came to sex with people who didn't have them. He just preferred to choose his partners, and most of the time when it was a guy he hadn't exactly been in charge. Yet another thing to thank the Federation penal institution system for. But he didn't think of that very often. He was pretty pragmatic at heart. What was done was finished, he was out of there, no terminal or even uncomfortable diseases lingered, and he could go back to girls.

Which sort of left him wondering when it came to Chakotay.

It happened overnight, it seemed. One day, he's thinking of the big guy, if anything at all, that he's okay now that the chip is off his shoulder, and if Chak gets lucky and finally pins the Captain like he's been panting to for months, maybe he'll turn out to be human after all.

The next, he's plotting ways to trip Chakotay and beat him to the ground. Naked twister. Cuffs and mickeys slipped into his milk after a game of pool. Stuck turbo lifts and hours of darkness To Be Denied Later. Spreading him over the nav controls and eating him like a buffet.

Okay, he'd always had an active fantasy life. Kept him from dying of boredom on routine patrols. WEEKS of routine patrols. But Chakotay was a new player for his little mind games. And there was this weird little edge of reality in them that made his skin crawl.

A loud popping noise and the dispassionate voice of the shipboard computer broke into his thoughts. "Your ship has been destroyed. Re-set simulation or end session."

Yes, ma'am, he grinned, then unwound himself from the cramped pilot's seat and headed for the door. "Computer, end simulation. Might as well get some sleep." At least try. God only knew what he was going to dream up tonight. It couldn't be any worse than the chocolate sauce finger paints and the bottle of wine from a nonexistent race.

-----

Chakotay glared at the wolf in utter frustration. He growled. She growled back. Obviously, he had to deal with this. Whatever the hell _this was.

He risked a glance back over his shoulder. Yeah. Nothing had changed. Tom Paris still reclined elegantly in his bed, right in the middle of the misty glade where he normally met his spirit animal. The younger man had the sheet draped around one foot, his head thrown back against the pillows, one arm flung out across the mattress. He was stark naked, and from the glistening smattering of fluid along his torso and abdomen and the boneless relaxation of his body, he had been well and truly loved.

There was a livid bite bruise along the side of his throat. Chakotay recognized the bite. He just didn't remember putting it there. And he sure as hell didn't remember ever inviting Paris into his bed. He shivered, turned back around, and glared at his spirit animal again. She yawned in his face, then reached down and began grooming between her flanks. He pulled a nasty face at her.

So, looked like he had to face this on his own. Thankfully, before he had to turn around again, his communicator beeped. He descended from his spirit walk with unbecoming haste and reached for his uniform.

"On my way, Captain." He didn't even care why. Even battle had to be better than this.

-----

It started out as it always did. They were in a battle with an unknown foe, their weapons were defenseless, they were getting the shit kicked out of them. He was at the helm, fighting to evade the incoming missiles, coaxing more power out of Voyager, trying to keep them in one piece long enough for the brains on the bridge to find out what the fuck was going on so they could fight back. Chakotay comes up behind him, they look up together, there's the impression of a monstrous ship blocking out the light

then hands on his shoulders, on his knees, holding his still, stripping him and poking him and prodding him arms flail, feet kick, he even headbutts one of the bastards, but he can't stop them. It's like being back at Auckland, no control, people doing whatever they want with him whenever they want then throwing him back in the hole. No light, nobody else there, just himself and his thoughts and the darkness and the hands reaching out. He starts to thrash, starts to scream

and the darkness is gone, replaced by a sumptuous buffet of dead people's offerings, curdling in his stomach. Although he's hungry he has no appetite; it's a feast of the dead, and he's not dead yet. Confrontation, anger, desperation, and only one familiar face, Chakotay, who's threatening him. One line, ringing through his head, "Either we maintain our command structures, or else we settle our differences the old fashioned way." Soft as velvet over steel.

Then his vision tilts again, and those hard brown eyes are softer now, confused, conflicted. Hot, too, with a need to move, to hide, to rest for awhile. Then the steel rips through the velvet, and it's all hard, bare, essential. Hands on his face, holding him steady as his mouth is taken over and over. Hands spreading his thighs, holding him still while the pleasure is returned in kind. Fingers in his hair, a mouth at his throat, broad damp heat of muscled chest below his own, legs clamped around his waist as he loses himself in an inferno of yielding pressure. His own hands clamping muscular buttocks, his knees digging into the mattress beneath them, muffling his scream in the short soft hair under his face.

The scream broke free, echoing in his bedroom, filling his quarters. He felt the wet warmth spreading over his stomach, his palm, rapidly cooling in the dark. Staring up at the ceiling, heart pounding out of his chest, Paris wondered for the umpteenth time what the hell was going on his head. Then he rolled over and headed for the shower.

Might as well head back to the holodeck and get some Aikido practice in. He sure as hell wasn't going to sleep any more tonight.

-----

Crew evaluations. Not normally a difficult task, by the three year point in the voyage home. The biggest challenge was motivation, keeping the crew up and alert, keeping the edge sharp. Kathryn Janeway fiddled with the edge of the padd for a few moments before she realized that Chakotay was simply sitting opposite her, staring at the floor, paying no attention whatsoever to the padd in his lap. This wasn't the first time it had happened in the last week or so. Something major was bothering her first officer.

"Care to tell me about it?" Before I make it an order? Before it affects your performance on the bridge? As usual, the verbal component of her question was just the tip of the iceberg. Also the norm, Chakotay picked up on the whole conversation. He slanted her a half-grin, which slid right back off his face as if it had never been there.

"I'm having some difficulties with my spirit journey." She canted her head a bit, encouraging him to go on. He paused for some time before he did, and she was surprised to note a slight blush creeping up his cheeks. "There is some intrusion from the events of everyday life. It seems to be out of place but my Spirit Animal doesn't appear to be surprised by the unusual elements." He fell silent again, staring off into the distance. She gave him a solid minute to reflect before hauling him back on task.

"We're going through some slow times right now. I can spare you for a day if you want to explore this further and see if you can draw it to a satisfactory conclusion." Get your shit together, Chakotay. You're spacing out on me and I can't have that. He looked at her, startled either at the offer or the undertone, and she held his gaze steadily. The twinkle she hadn't seen in too long appeared briefly in his eyes, and he nodded at her.

"It won't be necessary, Captain. I can deal with it on my off hours. It won't interfere with duty."

She grinned at him. He was so good at hearing what she never wanted to have to say out loud. "Then let's get back to Ensign Leabrih, shall we?"

The rest of the session went just fine. But she kept an eye on him anyway.

-----

Aside from one short squabble with wandering space pirates who'd turned thrusters and ran when they discovered that Voyager had teeth, it was another very boring month. Chakotay managed to contain his distraction during duty hours, although he found he had a distressing tendency to hover over Paris' shoulder in order to watch his hands move. Janeway called him on it, in private, and he stared at her for several moments before giving a helpless shrug and muttering something about 'that damned wolf.'

Tom was starting to get shadows under his eyes, and spending a lot of time at Sandrine's, to the point that no one would take him up on a pool challenge, not even the programmed pool sharks. Harry kept trying to get him out to the beach, but he complained that the light was too bright and fidgeted all over the bar upsetting little fruit drinks with tiny umbrellas until the holo-bartender kicked him out. B'Elanna actually considered wearing perfume, for almost ten seconds, before batting her head against the wall and telling herself that Paris was making her nuts. He didn't notice. He also didn't notice when she showed up for their date wearing a _dress. That showed _cleavage. They spent the whole evening talking about holoprogramming and she went home alone. Then she shredded the dress, went to the holosuite and slaughtered several dozen Cardassian Obsidian Order assassins.

People were talking.

Tuvok, assuring himself that his position demanded it, allowed himself to eavesdrop shamelessly on everyone. The mess hall was an especially fertile spawning ground for crew gossip. Neelix was a sympathetic and garrulous conduit for it. Sitting unremarked in his quiet corner, he pricked up his ears and took notes.

"Spent a week's worth of rations, Harry. On a _dress." Self-loathing in Lieutenant Torres' voice, pure shock on Ensign Kim's face. "And he didn't even _notice."

"--can't keep from watching each other. Never would have thought it." Darby, sounding betrayed.

"I don't believe it. Chakotay and _him? No way. Not in this universe." One of the mouthier Maquis, who was still having a few adjustment problems. Most people ignored him, but a few were nodding their heads in agreement. Many others were shaking various appendages in disagreement, however.

"Watch sem," a Muxicine crewman fluted, ancillary limbs quivering with sincerity. "Cee komander he watches Toom all cee time. Alwaays stan'ing nest to heem."

"They can't keep their eyes off each other." More rampant disbelief from Jenny Delaney. Megan just nodded and reached for another forkful of something purple, chasing it briefly around the plate before stabbing it, stuffing it in her mouth, and chewing viciously. Obviously not a good day for the Delaney sisters.

Abruptly, all talk ceased as the door swished open and Tom Paris came in. He looked like he hadn't slept in a week, and there were fine lines of fatigue and stress bracketing his eyes and mouth. He went quickly through the line, accepted a bowl of purple and burnt umber glop, and headed for the table where Harry and B'Elanna were sitting. On his heels, the door swished open again, and Commander Chakotay stepped in. His eyes flew unerringly in Paris' direction, seemed to get stuck for a moment in the general vicinity of his hindquarters, then wrenched away with apparent effort and concentrated on Neelix's most recent attempt at cooking. There was a definite green tinge under his healthy bronze complexion.

"Hi, B'Elanna, Harry. What's up?" Tom sounded cheerful, if a little tense. Kim stared at him, eyes round, mouth firmly shut. B'Elanna glared at him, then, yes, she definitely had -- she pushed her chest out a measurable amount. Harry's eyes got impossibly wider. Tom didn't notice. "Y'know, I noticed something yesterday when I was working on holosim zed twelve, B'Elanna." His voice continued, as he shoveled glop carefully into his mouth. Harry's eyes bounced from Torres' bosom to Tom's face and back. B'Elanna's chest eventually resumed its normal position, and her entire face wrinkled into a snarl, before something Paris said triggered the latent engineer curiosity in her, and hormones were pushed aside in favor of a knotty electronic puzzle. Tuvok stared, entranced. Humans, and assorted non-Vulcan off-shoots, were a fascinating bunch.

His attention was drawn away by the muted clatter of cutlery down the row from him. Carefully keeping his attention ostensibly on his plate, he glanced over at Chakotay. The commander was playing with his food, drawing abstract designs of tallow yellow, vivid eggplant that tasted nothing like the originator of the descriptive term, and chalky orange on his plate. His eyes never left the profile of the pilot who was assiduously ignoring him. He licked his lips. Tuvok didn't think it had anything to do with the unpalatable mess on his plate.

Fascinating, indeed. Perhaps it was time to have a conference with the Captain.

-----

It started off the same way, fast forwarded through war and despair and zoomed straight to the sex. His Id had gotten tired of replays and wanted the good stuff right away. An alien ship, a room he recognized but couldn't place, a pocket out of time and space for just the two of them, with a sword hanging over their heads and only themselves to turn to -- they were sanity and escape for one another. He kept Chakotay from drowning in what-ifs and Chakotay kept him from leaping over cliffs, and only wrapped around one another were they ever really safe.

He awoke to release, again, and this time he didn't scream.

Tom sprawled comfortably on newly changed sheets and flipped on the vidscreen. Another long hard day of not a fucking thing but steering a course around stray asteroids and trying to keep from getting worked up about Chakotay breathing down his neck. He looked down at his, for the moment, exhausted penis. Talk about long and hard. If it kept up much longer he was going to see about trapping the commander in a nice handy coat closet or Jeffries tube for a few hours and giving him a close-up of the territory he'd been visually mapping for days.

Neelix's broad face filled the screen, and Tom turned the volume up a bit. Ever since they'd run out of things to talk about, a year ago, Neelix had turned his efforts at morale boosting from talk shows to entertainment. He hosted a late night vid show, Neelix's Nuances, and the name alone made most people laugh. Tonight's vid was an ancient one, remixed from somebody's personal library and added to the ship's stores long before. Neelix was rambling on and on about seeing oneself and others as they were and accepting each other and the validity of emotional reality or some such stupid shit. Then he switched back to the vid, and there was a little old guy with a lisp and a big hat crooning about "Wuuuve, twue wuuuuuve " while a villain with great hair and a tight clasp on the golden haired maiden beside him hissed at him to "Get on with it!" Yeah. Love. Ain't it grand.

His eyes popped wide open, but he wasn't staring at the screen.

No way.

No. Fucking. Way.

-----

The mist was rising, but the moon was full, so he could still see his way. Chakotay pressed deeper into the forest, desperate to find his animal guide, needing help in the worst way. He'd had a revelation at dinner. Well, what passed for dinner. He hadn't actually eaten any of it, but that wasn't the important part.

He and Tom were linked somehow. He'd stared at that sharp profile tonight in the mess hall, seen those lips, those lashes brushing lightly against the cheeks as he'd blinked, and nearly moaned out loud. These visions, they were grounded in reality, somewhere, somehow. He had to find out how, when , why great Spirit, most definitely why.

Sitting there, he was suddenly elsewhere, and Tom was with him, with others he recognized but didn't know. They were in danger, but it was a diffuse danger, as if they had all the time in the world to address it, and yet must face it immediately, for the sake of others, if not themselves. It made his head swim.

Without warning, his vision shifted. Another room, a well-lit hall that gave the impression of stealth and secrets. Staring up into defiant, frightened blue eyes, a mocking voice barely containing the need to act. "What are ya gonna do, take away my holodeck privileges?" An alarm, a shock, denial, desperation all flooding him at once. He turned, lost, adrift, and strong hands came out to clasp his arms, steadying him. He turned, and Tom gathered him up against him, Chakotay's face pressing into the open vee of his shirt. Salt and heat, soft rasp of light fur against his cheek. Turning, trembling, pressing closer, his mouth opening to taste, agreeing with the soft whimper of need that rumbled under his mouth, whispered past his ear.

A tumble of impressions, not visions, but memories, somehow. Hands reaching for his clothes, his own reaching out to draw away fine cloth in shades of walnut and onyx, from skin that glowed cream and gold. A fine sheen of sweat easing the slide of their bodies against one another, a tilting fall and they were wrapped tightly around each other, mouths seeking, hands moving. Legs twining, heat grinding together, wet suction and strong kneading bringing them both to the edge of the universe, then pushing them over into light and thunder.

His eyes flew open, and he panted for breath, knowing without needing to look that he had come all over his clothes. His conscious mind knew that these events could not have happened, but another side, the instinctive side that recorded every sensory experience he'd ever had, knew better. Somewhere out of time, he and Tom Paris had been lovers. And he wanted it back.

Curled over in a ball, staring at his dream stone, his eyes gradually drifted shut and he fell back through trance state into a deep, restful sleep.

-----

Tom was running late, not surprising, considering the interrupted sleep he'd managed to snatch, full of images of Chakotay in black pirate pants and open shirt, whispering "As you wish" as he gobbled him up. He flew into the turbolift and barked, "Bridge!" still fastening the front closure on his uniform. Before he could get the damned thing closed, a big hand came over his.

"Computer. Pause lift."

Tom's head popped up, and he stared bug-eyed into Chakotay's face. The hand wasn't going up. It was going down. Lost in the sparks lit deep in those dark eyes, Tom gave up all hope of rejoining reality and wrapped his arms around Chakotay's shoulders, pulling him close. The hand trapped between them reached down and cupped his growing erection, and he moaned. The sound was muffled by Chakotay's tongue as he closed his mouth over Tom's.

Neither man noticed when the computer, mistaking the moan for a command, put the lift back into motion.

------

"So what you're telling me is that Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Paris are have need what precisely are you telling me, Tuvok?" Janeway stared at her chief of security. He looked as sane as always, and Vulcans weren't usually prone to hallucinations. Usually.

"They are in the process of discovering that they have an emotional attachment to one another. It is beginning to impede the performance of their duties. Given the current stability of our course and lack of apparent enemy action, I would recommend a short period of off duty time for both crewmen to adjust to the reality of this emotional attachment. I believe the correct term would be 'honeymoon'."

She stared at him. He stared impassively back. "Let me think about it." For a millennia or two. Tom? And Chakotay?! What about all those long glances he keeps kept giving me her thoughts stumbled to a halt. For the last several days, he _hadn't been giving her much in the way of longing glances. In fact, most of his mooning was directed at Tom Paris.

"You may wish to close your mouth before it begins to ache, Captain."

Her jaws snapped shut. Smart-ass Vulcan. She couldn't help grinning at him, and he inclined his head a fraction in response. Ooooo-kay. This could be interesting. She drew herself up to her full height, nodded briskly and gestured toward the bridge. "We'll see how it develops, Tuvok. I may end up giving them that honeymoon, if it turns out you're right. This will take a lot of adjusting."
 
 

As they reached the bridge, the turbolift doors opened. Wrapped around one another so tightly no clear space could be seen, Tom Paris and Chakotay were doing their best to inhale one another. Dead silence settled on the bridge. Eventually, with no outward movement from the inhabitants of the lift, the doors drifted shut again. Harry stuttered out a command to direct it to the crew quarters deck. Janeway turned to Tuvok.

"Or perhaps not."

finis