Series: From A - Z
Part: 14
Title: Nebula
Author: Chuckles
Pairing: C/P
Series Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Paramount's, not mine!
Summary: Some secrets are shared, while others must be kept.

Chakotay and Tom held each other close as a low, soft voice drifted towards
them through the mist and filled their minds.

"You are one. We are one," it stated. "The gift was accepted and it grows.
You must now know the law and obey. You are ready."

"We don't understand. What are we ready for?" Chakotay asked quietly. "Why
were we not told about your laws before the gift was given to us?"

"You could not be told before. We had to be certain that the gift would not
be rejected by you. If we had told you of the law and then the gift was
refused, too much would have been revealed. By knowing the law, a part of
the gift is also known."

"Why would it matter?" Tom queried. "Wouldn't it have been better if we'd
had more information to decide if we really wanted your gift?"

"No. The gift must be accepted unconditionally, it cannot be discussed. Our
law is strict with regard to this, and no exceptions can be made."

"Tell us more about your law," Chakotay suggested. "What is it that we're
supposed to do?"

"Obey," the voice responded softly. "Listen to me and follow my directions.
I tell you first, that the knowledge that is steadily growing must never be
revealed to those who are not Derzai.

"Each gift is unique, and yours was determined by what Azai saw inside you
both. You must not reveal its nature to anyone, no matter what the
consequences for keeping it secret may be.

"The knowledge you will gain may be used to help others, but they must never
know the source of their help. You will not take credit for your

"Be aware that if these laws are broken, anything resulting from the use of
your knowledge will be returned to its original state. All will be as it
was, and the gift will be reclaimed. You will not remember.

"Use what you have been given wisely. Obey, and do not waste this
opportunity, my young ones. There is much that you can do."

As the quiet voice ceased, Azai reappeared in front of Chakotay and Tom. He
gazed to where they still sat together in the darkness, and spoke once

"You have heard the law from the one that came with me," he stated. "Take
heed of what was said. Keep the law and the gift to yourselves."

"How are we to do that?" Chakotay queried. "Our Captain already asked us
about the gift this morning; she wanted to know if we'd learnt anything

"But you did not reveal what you have seen."

"No, we didn't. We decided to keep things to ourselves until we understood
them more. It wasn't easy to evade her questions, and it will just become
more difficult in the future."

"Yet you understand the importance of secrecy, I know. When I first saw you
both it was obvious to me that those around you were unaware of your bond;
you had concealed your link from them. It is still unknown to your
colleagues, and must remain that way now that the gift is growing."

"So, we'll never be able to tell anyone about that either?" Tom asked,
looking at the vision of Azai floating before him.

Before Azai had a chance to reply, Chakotay interrupted with another
question. "Why did you mention our bond in front of the Captain if no-one is
supposed to know of it?" he asked.

"Because of her position," Azai answered. "As the Captain, she is
responsible for each member of her crew; much like the mother of children.
The parent's permission must always be sought.

"I knew from her reaction to my statements that she did not understand - she
knew nothing of the completion of your bond - but still I had to seek her
permission for you to accept the gift. By asking you in her presence, and by
her passing the decision to you, the law was followed."

"I see," Chakotay nodded. "But," he added, "how are we to keep all these
secrets? The Doctor is already concerned about us; he says our brain wave
patterns are becoming more unusual. He will keep checking up on us and it's
going to be hard to keep his curiosity under control."

"Do not worry, you will find a way to curtail his testing. You do not
realise yet what you can do," Azai said with a smile.

"The other one said that you determined what our gift would be," Tom
commented. "Can you tell us what it is?"

"I cannot. To do so would be to reveal the path that you must find for
yourselves. I have given you what I believe will bring you happiness, but
there are many ways in which it can be used. I must not influence you, or
tell you things that you are not yet ready to accept. As your knowledge
grows, you will understand."

"But what are the images that we keep seeing?" Tom persisted. "What do they

"The beginning; creation; the moment of birth. It is how the knowledge
starts, but I cannot tell you more," Azai replied quietly. "It is time for
me to go now," he added, "but I will come to you again soon. Take care, my
friends, and keep the law."

As he finished speaking, Azai's face disappeared with the mist, and the two
men were left alone in the quiet room. Tom pulled away slightly from
Chakotay, and sighed.

"This is getting pretty weird, Cha," he remarked. "I know I didn't want
anyone to know about our link, but d'you think it's safe to keep all this to

"I hope so, Tom, because at the moment I don't see that we have any other
choice. We've been given something that we're told can be used to help
others and will bring us happiness. What other choice do we have but to find
out what it is?"

"None, I guess," Tom agreed. "But like you said, it's gonna be difficult
keeping it all from the Captain and the Doc."

"Azai said that we'd be able to do something about the Doctor's tests,"
Chakotay commented. "We'll have to try and figure out what that is before
our next appointment. Perhaps once that's out of the way we'll be in a
better position to deflect the Captain's curiosity."

"You mean let her think that the gift was just a gimmick? That nothing's
come of it?"

"That's a possibility. We'll have to give it more thought once we've sorted
out our trips to sick bay."

"Okay," Tom agreed, "I suppose we'll come up with something."

"I'm sure we will," Chakotay remarked and moved to give Tom a gentle kiss on
the cheek. "Come on," he said then, "We should be getting back to the
bridge; lunch break's almost over."

Tom smiled, and they shared one long kiss before leaving the dark
observation lounge to resume their shifts.

The afternoon passed quietly, with Harry studiously ignoring both Tom and
the Commander, and Janeway off the bridge for most of the shift as she
attempted to catch up on her reports.

When it was finally time to leave, Chakotay and Tom made their way to the
turbolift. They held the door open for Harry to join them, but he returned
to his station on the pretext of having forgotten something.

As Tom sighed and allowed the doors to close, Chakotay took hold of his hand
and gave it a gentle squeeze. They rode in silence, exiting the lift when it
reached their stop, then walked down the corridor to Tom's quarters.

Once they had entered, Tom crossed immediately to the replicator. While he
ordered two cups of tea, Chakotay pulled off his uniform jacket and sank
down onto the couch.

When the cups had been placed on the low table in front of Chakotay, Tom
discarded his own jacket and sat next to his lover.

"I wonder if we'll ever have days where strange stuff doesn't happen," Tom
mused as he snuggled against the older man. "I mean, nothing's exactly been
normal since our mission to that mud-ball planet."

Chakotay gave a soft snort as he smiled at Tom. "That mission wasn't exactly
normal either," he commented. "I spent most of the time there wondering if
you were as interested in me as you seemed."

"You mean you noticed?" Tom grinned. "And I thought I'd concealed it so

"Not that well," Chakotay laughed. "You got all flustered as soon as I was

"Yeah, well, you don't know the half of it," Tom muttered.

"Oh? Are we talking about you rushing off to pee in the woods?" Chakotay
asked as he prodded Tom in the ribs. "Or were you up to something else?"

"What d'you know about that?" Tom asked in surprise. "Did you follow me or

Chakotay laughed and was about to answer when the door chime sounded.

"I'll have the answer to that question later," Tom stated, before calling
for his visitor to enter.

The door opened and B'Elanna walked in, her gaze going straight to the two
men sitting side by side on the couch. They looked extremely relaxed in each
other's company and B'Elanna smiled as she greeted them.

"Hi, I hope I'm not intruding," she said. "I just wanted to have a quick
word with you, Tom."

"That's okay, B'Elanna, have a seat," Tom replied, waving her towards a
nearby chair. "What can I do for you?"

"Well, I'm not sure. I wanted to tell you about a visitor I had this
morning, but...." She stopped, unsure of whether to continue in front of her
former Captain.

"Was it Ensign Kim?" Tom asked.

"Yes," B'Elanna replied. "He came to see me before breakfast."

"And what did he say? That I threw him out last night?" Tom guessed.

"Yes, but is it okay to talk about this now? I don't want to reveal anything
that you might want to keep private."

Tom smiled at her concern, then nodded towards his lover. "It's okay,
Chakotay knows everything," he assured her. "Just tell us what happened."

"He said you'd had an argument," B'Elanna began, "That you'd kept asking him
if he'd still be your friend if you were gay."

"Did he tell you what his answer was?"

"He never told me exactly, but considering his attitude towards same-sex
relationships and his fear of being labelled 'gay', I sort of got the
feeling that his answer was probably 'no'."

Tom snorted at what he knew was a deliberate understatement from B'Elanna.
"Did he say anything else?" he asked, leaning his head on the back of the

"Yes," B'Elanna confirmed. "He wasn't happy with Chakotay either. I'm
sorry," she added, turning to the Commander, "But Harry thinks you're the
reason that everyone will assume that Tom's gay."

"Because I touched Tom's shoulder a couple of times while we were on duty,"
Chakotay said, nodding.

"Harry seemed to think it was more than a couple of times. He said you were
all over Tom."

"Yes, I know what he said. I was here when he said the same thing to Tom."

"He never mentioned that," B'Elanna said looking puzzled.

"That's because he didn't realise Chakotay was here at the time," Tom said,
glancing at his lover.

B'Elanna looked from one man to the other. She decided it was time to ask
the question that she'd often thought about. It had resurfaced when she'd
seen the pair of them leaving the turbolift the previous day.

"I know this is none of my business," she began. "And you can tell me to get
lost if you want to, but I have to ask this. Are you two together?"

"Do you think we are?" Chakotay asked softly.

"Yes, I do," B'Elanna answered with a nod. "You've spent all your spare time
together lately; ever since you left sick bay in fact. We never see one of
you without the other when you're off duty. And then there was yesterday,
when you got out of the lift that I was waiting for. You both looked like
you were about to jump each other in the corridor. So, yes, I think that
you're together."

"And if we said that you were right, what would your reaction be?" Tom
asked, as he moved closer to Chakotay. "What would you say, B'Elanna?"

"I'd say 'congratulations', Tom, and I'd mean it," B'Elanna said sincerely.
"I can't think of anyone better for you than Chakotay, and I think you'd be
great for him too."

// It's your decision, Tom, // Chakotay remarked silently.

Tom nodded in response to his lover's unspoken words, and took a deep breath
before addressing B'Elanna again.

"Then you'd better say 'congratulations'," he said with a smile.


"Another trip to sick bay after lunch, I can't believe it," Tom remarked, as
he and Chakotay left the ready room and entered the bridge the next morning.
"What're we gonna do, Cha?" he added quietly.

"Improvise, I suppose," Chakotay responded. // And stop talking about it out
loud // he added.

/ Yeah, that would be a good idea, / Tom conceded, as he approached the

Chakotay smiled and sat down in his chair. He looked across to where Harry
was already busy at his station. "Anything to report, Ensign?" he asked.

"Just a nebula that our scanners detected about an hour ago, Sir," Harry
replied coolly. "It's not directly in our path, so there's nothing to worry

"Thank you, Ensign, but I think either the Captain or I will be the judge of
that," Chakotay remarked as he turned to check his own readouts.

"Aye, Sir," Harry responded quietly.

A moment later, Harry looked closely at the information in front of him.

"Sir?" he said, addressing the Commander. "I'm detecting an energy pulse
from somewhere on the other side of the nebula."

"Can you pinpoint it's location?"

"Yes, Sir, I think so," Harry replied, as he interpreted the readouts. "It
appears to be coming from a small M-class planet, but that's all I can tell
you for now because the nebula is interfering with our scans."

"Is the energy pulse likely to be a natural phenomenon, or is it
artificial?" Chakotay asked.

"I would say the pattern suggests that it's artificial, Sir. I think it's a
beacon of some kind."

Chakotay nodded and hailed the Captain. "Captain, you're needed on the
bridge," he told her "I think we have something that needs investigating,"

"Very well, Commander, I'll be right there. Janeway out."

/ So, Cha, is this gonna be another day of strange events? / Tom queried
silently as he faced the viewscreen.

// I have no idea, Tom, // Chakotay replied.

// We'll just have to wait and see, won't we? //