Title: Phoenix Fire

Pairing: C/P, others

Rating: PG

Chapter One: (1/?)

Summary:Tom and Chakís personal thoughts as Voyager is ready to emerge from the wormhole

* * * * * * * * *

Sunbird in the bushes,

Busy with your nectar-gathering,

Flashing around ---

A tiny work of art,

Alive with the morning light.

Sunbird in the bushes,

Catching my attention swiftly,

Rustling branches ---

A sleek form ...

If only I could be like you.
 
 

I found this poem while I was rummaging through my personal collection. It was written on a crumbled piece of paper. The black ink was slightly smudged. I had to squint. The writing was small. 

It was my own writing. I must be about fifteen when I wrote this. How I managed to put this poem into my personal collection Ö I donít know Ö 

Sunbird.

The hazy, half-forgotten memory of a tiny bird, its feathers shimmering in the sun, appeared. I think I was sitting beside the window, watching the world go by when I saw the sunbird. It reminded me so much of a hummingbird but more mundane, less jewel-like. I watched it fly, its wing-strokes blurring. I fancied hearing a tiny hum as the sunbird flew about, winking in and out of the shadowed bushes. 

I remembered wishing for freedom, like the sunbird. If I could fly away like it, free and independent Ö My ears were still smarting from the scolding, courtesy of Dad. 

My eyes hurt from the unshed tears. I had to wipe them away lest Chakotay saw me crying again. The big man was stressed enough and I hated to see him scrambling around with millions of ship business as Voyager began its final two hoursí journey. Soon, I knew, she would slip out from the wormhole, with the Feng Huang fast beside her. 

Home.

I wondered how things were like now. We were gone from the Alpha Quadrant for almost four years now and things would Ė did Ė change. How did the relationship between the Federation and the Klingons go? How about the Dominion? 

How about the Maquis?

I had to confess that there was a stab of cold fear, right in the middle of my chest. My heart constricted. I left the Alpha Quadrant a paroled convict. 

How would people view me now?

The captain of the Feng Huang was pretty uncommunicative about home news. She readily fed us with bits and pieces of information but she blithely left out important details about the Maquis. Chakotay was concerned and suspicious; he admitted to me while we lay in bed at night that he didnít trust Captain Mariko Sato. There was too much subterfuge going on in the background. Nuances. Unheard thoughts. I could see them in the eyes of the young crew and their covert glances at Seven. 

I also saw them looking at me as if I was a freak. 

Yep, Thomas Eugene Paris on a wheelchair. Step right up, folks. See the strange, the odd Ö the handicap called Tom Paris!

I took another glance at the poem, suddenly struck by its simplicity. If I could get back the innocence, the ability to be simple Ö I wanted to become the sunbird, a creature blessed with freedom. Perhaps, I had projected my innate desire onto more tangible matters. I created the Delta Flyer and the Firebird. They both flew. My dreams became realities. 

They were fragile dreams made flesh. 

Would they become fragile once more the moment we returned back to the Alpha Quadrant? Back to Earth? Would our four yearsí journey in the Delta Quadrant turn into nothing?

Dad.

Damn it, I wanted him to be proud of me. Me. His only son. The Paris heir to his Paris throne. I found myself wishing that Dad would see the Flyer and the Firebird. I wanted to prove him that damn it, Tom Paris was something. 

The flicker of hot anger surprised me. The rage was still there, buried under layers and layers of self-denial. But it was there. Hot, furious, angry.

Dad.

With a sigh, I went back to my personal collection. I had to pack up my stuff into containers. Packing. We were going home. I took a look at the chronometer, at the calendar. November. It was probably cold at my side of the world. November. Snowing. Suddenly, I thought of Auckland and I shuddered. 

Going home.

I dreaded going home.

* * * * * * * * *

I spotted Tom sitting quietly at a corner, his expression intent as he looked through his personal belongings. I smiled. He looked much better now. Color was returning back to his face and he was back as the Tom I knew. On his wheelchair, he looked happier, more confident. 

Things were finally settling down as Kathryn and I managed to run through the complicated inventories. At least things were back into place, new information added and the crew manifest tidied up. We were going home Ö finally. 

I walked over and gave Tom a tight embrace. He smiled, his blue eyes shining. He was looking at a crumbled piece of paper. There were words on it but they were so faint that I had to look more closely. 

"A poem?" I teased, seeing Tom turn red, his ears a startling tomato hue.

"Yeah." 

He turned away, slotting the poem back into the container. I had to admire him. Tom was dressed like me, in the Starfleet bi-colored uniforms of black and red. His blonde hair was darkening but his skin was still fair, fuzzy on his chin. He had put on some weight, slightly rounding his cheeks. To me, he looked like the Tom I knew from Day One, when I first met him at the Maquis camp. He was a gorgeous man. Handsome. Cocky. But he betrayed a sense of fragility.

No. I ended up finding strength and iron in Tom. He was surprisingly resilient. With this revelation, I grew to love him more.

There were boxes, big and small, covering the floor. Some of them were mine, some of them his. We spent two hours last night, just packing up our clothes. It was a strangely familiar task, packing bags and boxes, as if we were going on a journey. Perhaps, we were. We were going back to the Alpha Quadrant and a new journey would begin. Good or bad, I donít know.

Tom continued packing his stuff. He remained silent and I sensed withdrawal in him. I chose not to disturb, preferring rather to sit next to him and watch him pack. He was a joy to watch. 

I sighed, folding my boxers into neat squares. I took comfort from his presence in the room. It was so soothing, so reassuring to see Tomís face once again. I hated talking to Captain Sato. Not that she was unpleasant, but I sensed something amiss. There were definitely things brewing in the Alpha Quadrant and Voyager was going to wade into it, innocent and confused. 

I found myself crumbling the pair of boxers in my hands and I quickly smoothed out the creases. I wanted to see home myself. I wanted to see my family. I wanted to be able to stand on the mountaintop and inhale the fresh biting cold air. I wanted to do many things.

I wanted to see Tomís father.

We talked about it for a few weeks. Tom would clamp up like an oyster everytime I tried asking him about Admiral Owen Paris. It was as if he had suppressed the memories of his father, right back into the darkest forgotten regions of his mind. No. I wanted to see Owen because I wanted to tell him that his son, Tom, was a good man. A talented and sensitive man who deserved his love and respect. 

No, I had no desire to confront Owen in a hostile manner. 

I glanced out of the window, seeing the odd opalescent hues of the wormhole. I heaved another sigh and this time, I reached over and kissed Tomís lips. He was startled at first but he warmed to me, leaning close. 

"Neelix has planned to give us a going-home buffet," I said, stroking Tomís face gently. 

"Do you think he can manage?" Tom laughed. "We have one and a half hours left!"

I shrugged, grinning. "You know, I am gonna miss Delta Quadrant food for a while now Ö"

To my surprise, Tom became quiet. Too quiet. I began to worry.

"Tom?"

"I am going to miss the Delta Quad," my lover said softly.

"But we are going home right?"

Tom shook his head and went back to his task, turning his full attention to the box of personal belongings. This signaled his wish to end the conversation.

Tom. My tiger

I caught sight of the tiny replica of the Firebird, standing alone on the bedside table. I was curious why Tom hadnít even packed it into the box yet. 

For some strange reason, I shuddered and I had to sit down. 
 

TBC