Speculation

Speculation
Written August 1996
Rated PG
Synopsis: Crew members become spies when everyone begins to believe that Paris and Janeway are having an affair.

Disclaimer: All of the characters and situations featured herein are property of Paramount Pictures.  No infringement is intended.


“Game … again.”

Tom Paris sighed. “You know, there’s a rule against captains defeating their officers in five straight games of pool.”

Kathryn Janeway raised an eyebrow. “Oh really?”

“Yeah. Starfleet regulation eleven billion.”

Harry Kim chuckled. “Eleven billion?”

“Okay, eleven billion and one.”

“I’ll try harder to lose, Lieutenant, but you’re not making it easy for me.”

“I’m having an off day.” He grabbed the rack and began to gather the balls.

“Maybe you need a break.  Ensign Kim, a game?”

“No thanks, Captain. I prefer to watch.”

“And by watch, he means ‘not lose’,” Paris mock-whispered.

“That too.”

Janeway smiled at the banter.  “Very well. Tom?”

“You’re on.”

Kim looked around the holographic bar, Chez Sandrine. Something was missing. Gaunt Gary, the professional pool player, wasn’t there, but that wasn’t it. Sandrine was pouring drinks for the other officers, the gigolo was flirting as usual, but … Ricky. Ricky, Paris’ holographic ‘friend,’ wasn’t in the program.  “Hey, Tom, where’s Ricky?”

He hit the cue ball too low, and it spun forward, stopping just short of the racked balls.  He straightened and sighed.  “Harry, don’t you know it’s bad to distract the players?”

“Thank you, Ensign,” Janeway smiled, lining up her shot.

Paris leaned to his friend. “I, uh … took her out of the program for a while.”

“Why? Isn’t she your good luck charm?”

“I was hoping to be blessed with luck without her help, but right now, I don’t even think she could get me out of this mess.” He winced as he heard Janeway call her shot and sink it with perfection. “This is depressing.”

“I think I heard Ensign Parsons start a betting pool–will the captain defeat the lieutenant again?  Pretty sure the odds are not in your favor.”

He sighed as another ball was removed from the table with the help of Janeway’s cue stick. “Can I bet against myself?”

***

“I’m … very sorry.”

Paris smiled weakly. Ten games out of ten he had lost. He’d gotten close though, and that was only because he asked the gigolo to distract her while he rearranged the position of some of the balls on the table. “That’s okay, Captain. My bank shot got a little messed up last week while skydiving. The doctor said it would be fine, and it feels great … it just doesn’t work so great.”

“There’s always next time, Lieutenant. Care for lunch?”

His smile was more sincere. “I’m starving.”

“Ensign Kim?” she asked, extending the invitation.

The look on Paris’s face made him back down. “Thanks, but no thanks. I promised I’d help Torres in engineering.”

“See you at duty call.”

Paris gave him a mock salute and fell in step with Janeway as they left the holodeck.

“Hey, Harry.” Parsons gestured to the empty chair at his table, and Kim sat. “So what has he told you?”

“Who?”

“Paris.  I saw the look he gave you.  You guys are pretty close; I figured he would have confessed.”

“Confessed to what?”

“You mean you don’t know?”

Irritated, he sighed. “Know what?”

“Tommy Paris has a thing for the captain.” He chuckled. “Everybody’s talking about it.  It’s completely obvious. Why else do you think he didn’t activate Ricky? And that warning glare he gave you?” He paused at Kim’s blank expression. “He really hasn’t told you anything?”

“There’s nothing to tell.”

He snorted. “Yeah, right. They’ve been seen together at all hours of the day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, you name it.”

“This is ridiculous.  Two people are spotted together and you instantly assume something’s going on. It’s–“

“Go down to the mess hall and observe them.”

Kim started to roll his eyes. “Parsons–“

“I’m serious! Just…” He held his hands out like a magician finishing a trick. “Watch.”

***

“B’Elanna?”

The chief engineer looked up. “Hey, Harry.”

“You busy?”

“I’m just rerouting the E.M.S. conduit flow. I’ll be done in a second.” She put the finishing touches on her project and turned off the tool in her hand. “What can I do for you?”

“Will you come down to the mess hall with me?”

“Sure, why?”

He opened his mouth to speak but laughed.  It sounded so stupid.  “Apparently, everybody is speculating about a possible … thing between Tom and the captain.”

“A thing?”  She quirked an eyebrow.  “What kind of thing?”

“That’s what I’m going down there to find out. Everyone thinks they may be having some sort of off-duty … thing.”

“Ooh, an off-duty thing,” she teased.  “That’s even worse.”

“Just–” He grabbed her arm and led her to the turbolift. “Come on.”  Once they were inside, away from potential eavesdroppers, Kim sighed.  “I don’t know what’s going on.  Probably nothing.  But supposedly, the whole ship thinks Tom and Captain Janeway are spending too much time together.  That there might be something going on … r-romantically.”

She tried not to grin at his reddened cheeks.  “And this concerns you how?”

“It doesn’t,” he answered quickly.

“If they were dating — and that’s a very strong if — don’t you think they’d be more discreet?”

“Well, that’s what I thought. But Ensign Parsons–“

“Parsons told you this? Well, then, it’s just a rumor.  He’ll say anything to get the gossip wheel turning.”

“But even I saw evidence to the contrary.”

“Harry–”  The lift doors opened, and they exited.  “What’s more likely?  That Tom has somehow managed to convince the captain to sleep with him–“

“Ssshh!”

“–or that they’re just friends?”

Once they entered the mess hall, his eyes scanned the room for Paris and Janeway.  He spotted them by the windows, smiling and talking.  “Guess we’ll find out.”

They each took a cup of coffee from Neelix and headed to a table near the couple.  He sat his data padd on the surface to give the illusion of working, but his attention was clearly elsewhere.

“Can you hear what they’re saying?” he whispered.

“No. And why are you whispering?”

“So they don’t hear us.”

She rolled her eyes. “Harry, if we can’t hear them, there’s a good chance they can’t hear us.”

“I’ll bet they’re not listening to us anyway.” He leaned forward some more, becoming more and more convinced that something was going on between them.  He could only see the back of Tom’s body, but Janeway’s smile was radiant, and she laughed easily in his presence.  He’d never seen her so informal with anyone.

“We look really stupid,” she muttered, sipping her coffee.

He put a hand on his padd and continued drifting forward. “I can almost hear them…”  The padd slid off the table, and Kim lost his balance, toppling onto the floor.  Torres put her head in her hands with a sigh.

The commotion caught the attention of the rest of the mess hall patrons.  Paris walked over and helped him up. “You okay, Harry?”

He looked startled. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just … fell out of my chair.”

“I can see that. Be a little more careful, all right?” He handed him his padd and returned to his table. A few officers chuckled before turning back to their food.

Torres shook her head. “Well, if we didn’t look stupid before, we sure do now.”

“Are you going to help me or not?”

“Help you what? Look more ridiculous than you already do?”

“Help me find out what’s going on between the two of them.”

“It doesn’t concern you, Harry.  If they want to start dating, that’s their business.  I’m sure Tom will tell you about it eventually.”  A thought struck her.  “That’s what this is about, isn’t it?”

“No.”

“Tom has a girlfriend and isn’t spending as much time with you.”

“B’Elanna–“

“He’s not sharing all the the dirty little details with his best friend, and you’re hurt.”

“No!”  His voice was a little too loud, and he glanced around before addressing her in a hushed tone.  “Look, Tom’s not exactly made for monogamy.  And if he decides to move on to someone else, I’m worried how it’ll affect the rest of us.  Captains aren’t supposed to be in romantic relationships with other officers.”

“But we may never see another group of humans for the rest of our lives. You really think she wants to spend that time alone?”

He sighed and gazed at the couple once more.  Their conversation was less animated now, empty lunch dishes pushed aside, but she still had that smile.

Neelix, the alien chef, brought them two plates of Krellian pasta with a Talaxian tomato sauce. “There you go. Fresh from the kitchen.”  He waited for a response, then followed the path of their eyesight. He pulled up the nearest chair, lowering his voice. “They have been here together every day for the past two weeks. A lot is being said about it.”

Kim turned to him. “Like what?”

“Oh, it’s just speculation, mind you…”  He leaned closer.  “Crewman Fellows told me he was waiting for the turbolift the other day when it opened, revealing Lieutenant Paris and the captain. They were standing awfully close, much closer than she’d stand to any other person on board this ship. And Jarvis mentioned seeing her leave Paris’ quarters very late in the evening.”

Torres sighed. “Okay, that’s enough.  Jarvis works the gamma shift, so ‘very late’ would be 1800 hours.”

Neelix continued. “She wasn’t wearing her uniform, and her off duty attire had been slightly rumpled.”

“Because clothing gets rumpled the longer you wear it.”  She stood up.  “Can’t you see?  This entire thing has been exaggerated.  I don’t believe it.  I won’t believe it until I see something to the contrary.”

“Oh. My. God.” Kim’s mouth fell open as he gaped. Neelix’s face seemed to be stuck in the same position. Torres turned.

Paris and Janeway were on their feet, heading toward the door.  He whispered something to her, mouth dangerously close to her ear, and she had a hand on his arm to steady herself.  Laughter followed, and she linked arms with him as they walked out of the mess hall.

***

News of the most recent incident buzzed around the U.S.S. Voyager with incredible speed. The officers who had witnessed it told their friends, who slightly altered the story to include hand-holding, who shared it with others, who changed it to full body contact. By the end of that shift, every person on board had heard at least two different versions of the story.

The story amused some and surprised others, but a handful of officers were genuinely concerned with this new development.  They requested a meeting with Chakotay, and when he was informed it had something to do with the captain, he agreed to hear them out in the mess hall after the dinner rush was through.

Torres attended the meeting as well, although she felt like the only voice of reason.  She didn’t think their camaraderie was anything other than friendly, but trying to convince others of that was a futile effort.  What the captain did behind closed doors was nobody’s business but her own, and if she wanted to do it with Paris, well, who was she to judge?

When Chakotay walked in, several people started talking at once.  He held up his hands, and they quieted.  “I appreciate you all coming.  Now, one of you, tell me what’s wrong.”

Parsons chuckled.  “You haven’t heard, sir?”

“Heard what?”

“The captain and Lieutenant Paris are having an affair.”

“An affair?”  Humor touched his eyes.  “And you know this … how?  Did they tell you?”

Kim shook his head. “No, Commander. But it’s pretty obvious.”

“No, it isn’t,” Torres said. “It is not obvious. There is nothing to support your claims.”

“Oh, yeah?” Parsons countered, his anger growing by the minute. “You were there this morning.  You saw what happened.”

“Nothing happened!”

“Her hands were all over him.”

“Her–”  Torres groaned.  “Are you even listening to yourself?”

Neelix interrupted, hoping to diffuse the tension. “They eat at least one meal together every day.”

“She comes out of his quarters late at night, Commander,” Parsons added, ignoring Torres’s look of frustration.  “They stand too close, stare too long. Now tell me there’s nothing going on.”

Chakotay shook his head. “I can’t say that for certain. I haven’t observed any behavior to suggest an ‘affair,’ as you put it. Besides, it certainly isn’t any of my business. I suggest you not make it any of yours.”

“Not any of our business?” Parsons stood up from the chair where he had been sitting. “When she starts picking favorites, does it become our business?  When Paris shows up late to the bridge, will she reprimand him, or will he take advantage of their relationship?  It’s going to change the way things are run on the ship, Chakotay.  As our captain, her actions concern all of us, whether they involve her private life or not.  So, yeah, I’m going to make it my business.  We all are.”

“So she’s supposed to take a vow of celibacy for the next seventy years?” Torres spat.

“That’s not what I said.”

“Oh, you’re just mad she didn’t pick you.”

“B’Elanna,” Chakotay said, his voice heavy with warning.  When she crossed her arms and glared at him, he turned his attention to Parsons.  “I appreciate you bringing this to my attention, but at this time, I don’t see any cause for concern.  I will, however, keep an eye on things.”

“But, sir–“

“That’s the best I can do, Ensign.  In the meantime, perhaps you can use your energy for something more useful than gossip.”

***

Over the course of the next few days, Chakotay observed what the crew had been speculating about all along: Paris and Janeway’s supposed relationship. He didn’t really notice anything out of the ordinary until the bi-monthly senior staff meeting.

Paris couldn’t keep his eyes off of her. At first, the first officer dismissed it as a strong attention span.  But then he noticed the far-away look on Paris’ face and came to realize that the reason he was staring at her had little to do with what she was saying.  Janeway’s gaze drifted but did rest on Paris longer than the others.  She tried to do it discreetly, but everyone noticed because everyone was studying them.  Apparently, neither of them knew that they were being spied upon.

Chakotay sighed inwardly as Parsons’ words rang through his head.  As our captain, her actions concern all of us, whether they involve her private life or not.  He still wasn’t sure that there was anything going on between them.  And yet Parsons did have a point.  Janeway’s decisions would certainly change depending on how she felt about the crew member.  And if she was in love with the crew member … could they trust her to be impartial?

“Commander, do you have anything to add?”

His head shot up. “I’m sorry, I was … somewhere else. What did you say?”

She smiled sympathetically. “Was there anything you needed to address?”

“No.”

“Then this meeting is adjourned.”

Everyone stood up and began to leave. Kes, the Ocampan medical assistant, hurried to Janeway. “Captain, there is something I need to discuss with you.”

Paris nodded. “I’ll meet you later.”

She gave him a large smile and turned back to Kes. “What is it?”

“Well, it has to do with the doctor. He and I have been working on a way to…”  Their voices drifted out of the room as they left.

Chakotay stared out the window, lost in thought.  Torres hung behind, watching, waiting.  “Now that I have started to study their behavior, I’ve become more and more aware of how their relationship has changed.  Whether they’re just good friends or something more requires further study.”

“Not you too.”  He frowned at her.  “They’re not a laboratory experiment, Chakotay.  Why can’t people just accept the fact that maybe they genuinely like each other?”

He shook his head.  “I’m just wondering if … Paris is the best choice.”

“The best choice?” she repeated.

“For her.  He’s a thief and a murderer and a spy.  He’s everything that she shouldn’t want and yet she wants him.  I don’t understand.”

“You’re acting like a jealous lover.  Are you?”

He finally looked at her, an expression on his face that she couldn’t quite interpret.  “I care about the captain a great deal. We’ve been through a lot, and she’s become one of my closest friends.  I respect her and trust her.  And I have made a vow to stand by her side and protect her.”

“You can’t protect her from love.  Whether it’s right or wrong, she needs to be the one to make that decision.  Not the crew.  Not you.”

There was silence for a moment, then he smiled.  “You’re quite the romantic, B’Elanna.”

She rolled her eyes.  “Yeah, well…  Don’t tell anyone.”

***

“I don’t get it.”

“What happened?”

“Did they break up?”

“I don’t know. He’s not here.”

“Maybe they’re meeting later.”

“They’ve never met — always came together.”

Kim, Neelix, Chakotay, and Parsons sat in the mess hall, staring at Janeway.  She was alone at a table.  It was the first time in a month that she wasn’t accompanied by Paris.

“Talk to her.”

“Why me?”

“You’re the senior officer.”

“She likes you better.”

“What?”

“Just go, Chakotay.”

Sighing, he carried his mug to her table. “Good morning, Captain.”

She smiled broadly. Her voice was softer than usual. “Good morning, Chakotay. Would you like to join me?”

He sat across from her in the place he imagined would typically be occupied by Paris. “How are you?”

“Fine, and you?”

“Fine.” He glanced at the trio at the other table, who urged him on with hand gestures. “Uh, Captain…”

“Yes, Commander?” Her eyes were almost sad, or maybe he was imaging things.

“Permission to speak freely.”

“Always.”

“You seem … upset.”

“I do?” She frowned at her breakfast. “I’m not.”

“Did something happen with Lieutenant Paris?”  Her eyebrow rose, and he continued hastily, “We noticed he’s not with you this morning.”

“We?”  She looked over her shoulder and saw Kim, Parsons, and Neelix trying to look nonchalant but failing miserably.

Paris approached the table.  “Sorry I’m late.  Am I interrupting something?”

Chakotay looked confused. “Where have you been?”

“Uh … the holodeck.”

“Pull up a chair, Tom.” Janeway turned to her first officer. “I suppose there’s no use in keeping it a secret any longer, since it appears we’ve been under constant surveillance.”  She signaled the three nearby officers, who approached the table slowly.  “We have something to announce.”

“It’s all right,” Chakotay said.  “We already know.”

Paris frowned. “You do?”

“Well, the whole ship’s been talking about it.”

“They have?” Janeway asked, exchanging a glance with Paris.  “How?  We’ve been cautious.”

Kim spoke first. “You have our full support, Captain.”  He nudged Parsons in mid-eye roll, and the man nodded in agreement.

“I still don’t think it was anybody’s business,” Neelix began, “but you were just so obvious!”

“We were?” Janeway said, her forehead creased with confusion.

Paris sighed. “Then I guess the surprise is ruined.  What gave it away?”

This time, Parsons did roll his eyes.  “It didn’t take a genius to figure it out.  You spend all your off-duty time together.  What else would it be?”

Neelix enveloped the two of them in an awkward hug.  “We’re so happy for you.”

They looked at each other again, disappointment morphing into confusion.  “Happy for us?” Janeway repeated.

“Love is an amazing thing, Captain,” he continued.  “I knew it would take someone like Tom to win your heart.  Someone bold and not afraid to take chances.  Maybe someone a little reckless.”

“Excuse me?” Paris exclaimed.

“Well, maybe reckless isn’t the right word–“

“No, no.  ‘Win her heart’?”

“Aren’t you having an affair?” Parsons asked, confused himself.

“Put it bluntly, why don’t you?” Kim scolded.

Janeway’s face registered shock. “What?”

“You’re … not in love with each other?” questioned Neelix slowly.

“Goodness no,” she replied, blushing slightly.

“Then what have you been doing for the past month?” Chakotay wondered.

“We were creating a new holodeck program,” answered Paris, flustered. “You … thought we were having an affair?”

“The whole ship thought so,” Neelix said. “Oops.”

***

Captain’s Log: Stardate 49233.8.

The rumor that Lieutenant Paris and I were having an affair has dwindled down. I think the crew was more shocked to hear we weren’t rather than we were. Commander Chakotay briefed me on the logic behind the speculation, but we quickly countered everything with some logic of our own — logic that made much more sense than their wild accusations. Hopefully, this has been a lesson for everyone in spreading rumors. Meanwhile, the holodeck program that Paris and I worked so hard on is a success, and everyone is looking forward to the themed party later this week.

“I told you, Harry,” Torres said as she and Kim walked through the doors of the speakeasy.  Paris and Janeway’s elaborate holodeck program was absolutely stunning, from the art deco facade of the building’s exterior to the vibrant jazz band performing on stage.

“I know, I know.  Don’t remind me.” He sat down at a small round table and sighed. “I can’t even talk to Tom, much less look at the captain.  I keep picturing their faces, so full of surprise — a surprise that wasn’t really good.”

“Well, don’t look now, but here they come.”  She waved.  “Hello, Captain, Lieutenant.”

“B’Elanna,” Janeway greeted, smiling. “How’s it coming down in engineering?”

Paris sighed dramatically.  “Can’t we talk about work later, when we’re actually on duty?”

“If I’m not mistaken, you’re scheduled for the next shift.”

“Ten minutes is plenty of time for a drink.  Join me, Captain.”

She followed him to the bar and leaned against it casually, waiting for the sharply dressed bartender to bring them some drinks.  “I added another song to the band’s lineup.  ‘Just Friends.'”

He laughed.  “‘Just Friends’?”

“Thought it might be appropriate.”

“I still can’t believe that’s the conclusion they came to.”

“Or that they were so disappointed when they found out the truth.”

He took a sip of his bourbon sidecar.  “You know…  I have a crazy idea.”

Janeway looked at him. “You said the same thing a month ago when you asked for my help on this program.”

“I know, but this time, it’s really crazy.”  He turned toward her. “Since the crew is still shaken up, what do you say we mess with their heads a bit more?”

A sly grin spread across her face. “I’m listening.”

“Let’s convince them that we really are having an affair.”

“You’re right; that is crazy.”  But she laughed anyway, shaking her head.  “It seems cruel somehow.”

“Not cruel.  It’s payback.  They’re still suspicious.  It’ll knock them for a loop.”  He put his face near hers and almost bumped her nose. “I wonder what would happen if we stay like this for just a bit more…”

“You might find my drink in your lap,” she teased. “You’re right, though. It … does make you wonder.”

Kim, who had been admiring the decor, turned his head toward the bar and gaped. “B’Elanna.”

She sighed. “Now what?”

He pointed, and she turned. “Look at them! They were lying about the affair.”  He gasped.  “I’ve got to find Parsons.”

“Harry, I’m sure there’s a perfectly logical–”  Torres’ words were cut short as Kim grabbed her arm and dragged her to the exit.  “Here we go again.”

The End

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