Breath of Life
(inspired by Erasure's 'Breath of Life')
Never had a point of view
'Cause my mind was always someone else's mind
I never had to tell a lie
'Cause I left the choices up to them
Don't know why but I did
Oh, I want life
Life wants me to breath in its love
He was drowning.
Trapped in dark, swirling waters that threatened to cover him completely. To obliberate him.
He tried to call out, to shout for help.
He was drowning, going into deeper waters. Deeper, colder ...
Suddenly, he could hear someone. A surge of warm hope coursed through his already numb limbs. He strained harder to grasp that ephemeral voice --- and jerked back in shock.
"You did it again, Tom. I have warned you not to do it. "
His father. Impossible.
Then everything turned horribly blur and he knew he was dying ...
They did everything. From ropes to life-jackets. At the end, Chakotay made the choice to jump into the minus-degrees celsius water.
As Chakotay forced himself to swim in the freezing cold dark water, he focussed on only one thing : Tom Paris. He had to. The water stung and his body was starting to turn numb, but the first officer of Voyager did not care. He plunged further into the dark waters, concentrating on his breathing and the wild hope that Paris was alive. Live, Tom, live, Chakotay thought, live.
Then he saw something in the murky liquid. Something that moved, even if it was moving with an unseen current. Chakotay made for it, grabbing its hands ---great spirits, its so cold! --- and pulled with all his strength. There was a dim light shining at the surface and Chakotay, with his charge, swam quickly towards it.
He emerged, gasping and shivering. The captain was there, having ---no doubt --- beamed down onto the planet with the slightest hint of trouble. She was the one with the wrist-light, her patrician face worried. It lit up with pleasure and relief the moment he appeared. But it went back to a frown once more, lips turned down in worry.
"Blankets!" Kathryn Janeway barked as Chakotay lay the unconscious Paris on the ground. The young pilot was already turning blue. Janeway shivered at the sight of it, suddenly reminded of unpleasant and painful memories. She shrugged it off, bending down next to Chakotay to size up the grave matter. The first officer shuddered, even with a thermal blanket around him. He attempted to resuscitate the pilot, calling up every first-aid skill in his disposal. Mouth-to-mouth, CPR ...everything ... But Paris remained unmoved, cold ...
"Chakotay ? " Janeway murmured softly. " Are you ...alright ? " The big Indian was quiet, his face serious, solemn. On the Bridge, everyone took heart and inspiration from that quiet face, so full of wisdom and inner strength. Now that face was grim. Janeway edged closer, her heart aching to see tears trickling down.
It took him quite a while to realize that there was someone beside him. Chakotay stirred. " He's ...alive. Barely. " He said to the woman next to him. "Kathryn ! We have got to save him!"
Janeway nodded wordlessly . She tapped her comm-badge and barked out, " Emergency transport. Three to Sickbay. "
The Doctor's dour face met Janeway the moment she beamed into the sterile Sickbay. He glanced quickly at Paris's blue frozen face, then at Chakotay's hopeful-expectant one. He motioned the first officer to carry Paris to the bio-bed and the big man did, gently lifting the young man into his arms, so gently that Janeway turned away discreetly to wipe away unshed tears. He carried Paris as if the pilot was fragile filigree, making no big sudden movements. Just gentle, soothing motions.
Janeway sighed and walked up to the Doctor who was efficiently running medical checks. He pursed his lips, looked at the blinking panels and went to the tests.
"I always know that Mr Paris's taste for bravado will lead him to trouble, " the EMH was saying, almost to himself. Nearby, Chakotay looked up swiftly like an alert wolf and a look of frustration crossed his normally-placid face. Janeway could have sworn that Chakotay was acting ...protective.
"How's Tom ... Mr Paris's condition ? " The native American asked, gazing down again at the man on the bio-bed.
The Doctor's answer was the answer which every medical practitioner would use, when the outlook is bleak and they try to lift the spirits of the patient's closest kin : " He has gone into a deep coma but he will recover."
Chakotay stalked up to the Doctor who automatically backed away. " What do you mean by that, doctor ? " He spat out, looking in the world as if he was about to throttle the holographic doctor.
Unperturbed, the EMH smiled. " Mr Paris will recover, Commander."
Janeway watched the brief exchange of words. Chakotay was clearly distressed and it was coming out, in his words and actions. It was a little strange to see a normally-mild man acting that strongly. But the captain couldn't blame him. If Mark was here, he would probably do the same thing ...
Chakotay inhaled deeply and saw Janeway observing him with a gently-smiling face. "Captain, if you please, I would like to keep vigil in Sickbay for a while. "
"Go ahead, " Janeway nodded, " and please, gentlemen, keep me informed of Paris's status. "
Chakotay visibly relaxed and went back to his silent vigil. The Doctor muttered something about unpredictable human love and activated the case files on drowning, hypothermia and coma.
Janeway did not comment further and strode out of Sickbay.
In the quiet clean atmosphere of Voyager's medical center, unfettered by the burdens of advanced technology and equipment, sang a soft voice, full of hope : Live, Tom, live. Breath, breath. Live.
I never had to call the tune
'Cause I always drifted with the tide of the moon
I would go out every night
Looking for someone to treat me right
Not a chance, not a hope in this world.
Oh, I want life
Life wants me to breathe in its love.
In the darkness, a trembling soul probed for a way out, for the light. It could hear some sweet voice, crystal-clear and pure : Live, Tom, live.
The trembling soul clung onto the voice like an anchor, hanging on it as if it was the embodiment of stability itself.
Dark, rushing waters, like the river of Lethe, rushed up in a horrible wave.
And the trembling soul was, for a moment, stilled.
The Doctor lifted his eyebrow at his transformed Sickbay and cleared his throat, concerned about the lack of privacy in his medical center. Ever since Tom Paris was hospitalized, everyone came in to offer their sympathies and condolences. Replicator rations were manifested in the forms of flowers, cards and more flowers. It was not, the Doctor mused to himself, a funeral but everyone onboard Voyager certainly thought that the pilot was already lost, gone.
Gingerly removing a bunch of orange tigerlilies, the EMH wrinkled his nose. He spied someone next to Paris's still figure. Once again, his eyebrows flew up in indignation.
"Ahem, " He said and Chakotay turned around in shock, his hand in mid-air. He was holding a rounded stone. The medicine wheel with its bright colors and mystical runes hung before him.
"I am a doctor, not a florist. " The Doctor began. "And this ... ---indicating the medicine wheel-- is stretching my limits ..."
"Lieutenant B'Elanna used it before, " Chakotay did not flare up like the last time. " She was aiding my soul back to my body. "
"So you are aiding Mr Paris's soul back to his body, " the EMH stated matter-of factly. " Fascinating indeed. I can assure you that he is only suffering from the prolonged effects of hypothermia and drowning. I am sure that his soul is within him."
A shadow flittered across the Indian's face briefly. "I hope, Doctor, I hope. " He whispered softly, looking at Tom. He appeared to be sleeping, a sweet-faced child without a care in the world.
The EMH nodded. "I will be in my office .If need arises, don't hesitate to call me, Commander. "
As the dour-faced holographic physician went back to his office, Chakotay returned to his medicine wheel. He closed his eyes and let his instincts guide his aim ...
He waited.And waited. And waited ...His arm refused to budge.
Chakotay almost dropped the stone in sheer anger and desperation. He controlled himself and instead, he knelt before the bio-bed. His face was level with Tom's head. He could see the tightly-shut eyes, the handsome cheekbones, the barely-noticeable breathing. The first officer reached out a hand and stroked the cold face, trying to convince that Tom was still alive.
He is alive, he is alive, Chakotay repeated the phrase in his mind like a mantra. He has to be. Come on, damn it, LIVE !
It was probably some divine joke. For the past few weeks, he and Paris had established an almost-telepathic rapport, understanding each other even before the thought was voiced out, before anything was said. And the times they spent with each other in the Holodeck, Chakotay showing Paris the beauty of the spirit world while the younger man taught the native American the finer points of living, of enjoying life. These moments were so delicate but so precious. Chakotay saw the vulnerability in Paris, the frightened soul. Yet, he saw something as well : a steelly will, forged by hurt, disappointment and adversity. At the same time, Paris reciprocated by returning back intimate trust and open-heartedness, something Voyager personnel wouldn't get to see in their daily public lives.
Their love was young, nascent, a rose-bud full of promise ...
Now it seemed that the rose-bud was about to be crushed by an uncaring fist of fate.
Chakotay sighed tiredly and peered for any sign of life in the immobile visage of the man on the bio-bed.
Live, Tom, live. Fight it ! Fight the darkness like you always do !
The trembling nebulous soul solidified into an identity. It had a form and shape. But its edges were still indistinct.
Surrounding the soul were facets of memories, sensory and psychic, moulding the identity like the hands of a potter.
"Thomas !" A harsh voice barked and the soul shivered in response. " Why did you not attend school ? " It was the father's voice, always imperious, always too proud.
"Thomas, you are a brilliant pilot." Another voice. The instructor's, one full of admiration.
"Tom, you are such a Casanova! " A different voice, a silky female one. She laughed.
Then the soul/identity cried out in terror at this point, shielding its sensitive self against something painful ... Images of blood, twisted metal and failure flooded in, distorting the shape for a while. But the slight discrepancy was etched into the soul. Images, memories of recklessness made more hard unfeeling impressions.
"Thomas Eugene Paris." A voice. "Dishonorably discharged."
Anger, bitterness, pain.
The soul-identity shrank , from others, from itself.
Take me, I 'm yours
Now I'm coming up for air
I'am gonna live my time
For the rest of my life
Then I'll be coming back for more ...
Seven of Nine, B'Elanna Torres and Harry Kim stood silent in Sickbay. Kim was unable to say anything, seeing his best friend in a coma. He might be dying, Kim! He thought sadly, feeling more depressed than before.
B'Elanna was tight-lipped. Seven was quiet too ; she was intrigued and awed by the atmosphere in the medical center. It was B'Elanna who broke the awkward silence.
"He shouldn't have jumped into the underground lake!" She hissed angrily and Kim shook his head.
"What's done, B'Elanna, is already done. " Kim muttered. " The only thing we can do is to talk to him, even though he looks as if he is dead. "
Seven spoke. Her low voice was soft. "Talking to cadavers seems irrelevant. But the bio-readings indicate life-signs." She gazed at Tom's inert body. "Yet ... I feel that it is oddly appropriate for me to say something to Tom Paris." Her expressionless face softened until Kim couldn't help but thnk of the pictures of nuns he saw as a child. "Remember ...your humanity."
Kim swallowed a lump down his throat. " Tom, remember the pool games we have. Remember the time we were in the prison-barge? You said you could eat stuff like grilled mushrooms. I wish we can have mushrooms in the messhall, even if we have to force Neelix to find some decent mushrooms ..."
"Wake up, Tom!" B'Elanna 's tone was at once rebuking and encouraging. "Breathe!"
Chakotay met the three when they left the Sickbay. Seven's smooth unsmiling face did not divulge any emotion but she lingered for a while, looking back into the Sickbay ; it told Chakotay that she was moved. B'Elanna was frowning, refusing to speak. Harry's young open face was glum. They greeted him politely and then went on their way, each in their own world.
I am back again, Chakotay sighed to himself, striding in and seeing his beloved on the bio-bed. Still unmoving. Still ...dead. Chakotay longed to hear the biting wit and sarcasm of Tom, to hear him laugh, cry. He thought back to the time when Tom cried in his room, those precious tears of sadness. Did he, then, vow to protect the source of those tears ?
The holographic Doctor was not around. Apparently, he had not been activated. The Sickbay , without the EMH's presence, was oddly still, liveless. Kes used to liven up the place with her gentle presence but she was gone.
Its like a morgue, Chakotay mused and pushed the thought furiously away. He is *not* dead. Tom is not dead. For the sake of the great spirits, don't think that way, Chakotay!
Tom's visage resembled those icons Chakotay had seen in medieval cathedrals : plain, smooth, peaceful. Tranquil . The native American knelt down once more, caressing the cool cheeks.
Almost unconsciously, Chakotay began to speak. His voice was soft, reverent.
"Tom, I hope you are listening to me. I hope somewhere in that comatose body of yours, you are listening to me. " A pause, fraught with tears and sorrow. "Please, Tom. You have got to listen to me ! You are Thomas Eugene Paris, damn best pilot in the Delta Quad. Do you remember the time I taught you to *see* your spirit guide ? You almost jumped out of your skin. "
... A hawk soaring in the sky, brown feathers glistening bronze-gold in the sun of the spirit world ...
"The hawk ...Its a very noble creature, a powerful predator. Tom, try to reach your spirit guide. He is there with you. You have to find it, seek its wisdom. Tom ... please, listen. Wake up."
Tom remained quiet, silent.
Chakotay gazed at Tom, almost crying. Then irrational rage surged through the Commander's body, hot and angry. He grabbed the shoulders of the pilot and shook him hard, wanting to scream . Instead he muttered under his breathe, " Live, damn it, live! Tom, live !!! Tom, LIVE ! "
"Ahem, " a cool voice said imperiously. " You are disturbing my patient."
It was the Doctor, all unflustered dignity.
"Sorry, Doctor. " Chakotay turned away so that the EMH couldn't see his tears streaming down his cheeks.
"Good, " the Doctor nodded. " I am going into my office."
Chakotay turned back to Tom and shook his head. " Tom, I really hope you are listening to me. " The first officer held the cold hand and rubbed it gently, tenderly. "Tom, there is *someone* here who really misses you ..."
In the darkness, the soul heard the voices. Two soft ones and one more harder. They were encouraging Tom to wake up. Then they left and the soul was all alone.
All of a sudden ,the voice returned. The soul strained to listen to the voice. It was there again, sweet and clear. It held onto the voice ; it was beautifully familiar.
"Tom, there is *someone* here who really misses you ..."
Images. Of acceptance, of affection. Warm. Gentle.
Light pierced through the darkness, silver beams. Something fluttered.
A hawk's scream. Then there were brown wings in the growing light. The wing-tips were rimmed with incandescent light. Follow me, the wings beat out a message, follow me.
And the soul did ...
I must have dozed off, Chakotay frantically thought as he woke up. The Sickbay was still quiet. The Doctor was not present.
Chakotay had dreamt. He dreamt of his spirit guide, a grey timberwolf with wise eyes. She was prancing like a pup, happily biting the air. Above her was a hawk who swooped and darted about.
A soft cough.
It wasn't the Doctor. It wasn't the Captain either. Chakotay was worried that his long absence from the Bridge might have caused Janeway a great deal of frustration ...
A cough again. It came from the bio-bed.
"Chak ..o.tay ? " A tired voice, music to Chakotay's ears. "Chakotay?"
Tom's eyes were open, the blues gazing at him with a mixture of relief and love. "Why ...no kiss for the sleeping prince ? " He croaked, his humor returning as he spoke.
Chakotay laughed and bent over to kiss those beloved lips. Then he tapped his comm badge.
"Chakotay to Janeway."
A buzz and Janeway's answer, " Janeway here."
"Tom Paris is back."
An audible exhalation of relief. " This is good to hear, Commander. Very good to hear indeed."
Take me, I'm yours
Now I 'm coming up for air
I'am gonna live my time
For the rest of my life
Then I 'll be coming back for more ...
Disclaimer: Chakotay and Paris belong to Paramount Pictures who own the copyright laws. This piece of fanfic is a product of my own twisted imagination. Please send any suggestion, comment to firstname.lastname@example.org