Title: "Phoenix Fire"
Pairing: predominantly C/P
Chapter Fifteen (15/?)
Summary: Tom reflects. The Voyager crew continues to struggle.
Rating: PG-13. (for language)
All the while I thought I was learning how to live, I was learning how to die.
--- Leonardo Da Vinci.
Tom stared numbly at the door, convinced that his heart had died in his chest. He was dimly aware that things flowed about him in a blurry dream-like haze, but he could only think about one thing: Chakotay. The name brought a terrible combination of both bittersweet pain and sharp-edged sorrow, making him wince silently. But he welcomed the pain, for it reminded him that he was still alive. Still very much alive. He mused -- with a shred of his old sarcastic humor -- that he was human. Then, the rush of sorrow came back and he was trying hard not to go berserk with the agony clawing like a live fanged demon in his soul.
He was so sure that Chakotay would come and save him. His heart did leap with joy when he saw Chakotay standing right in front of him. The big man had caught his eye. He was safe at last. Free from this damned place. They would both leave the station, join the crew and go. Yet…Chakotay was gone when the doors opened once more. Tom was shocked beyond belief. Chakotay had abandoned him. Left him alone. Betrayed him.
Who knows? Voyager might be halfway across the Alpha Quadrant right now! Tom bit his lower lip, trembling slightly. Everyone, except him. Including Chakotay…
Chakotay. Memories flooded into Tom's mind. Chakotay's kindness. Chakotay's fierce sense of protectiveness. The fact that he stuck with a handicapped invalid! Tom could remember a gentle face, bathing him in the shower-room. Chakotay was never rough with him. He was a stoic, caring man… or so --Tom believed -- until now.
Tom cursed. His body had also betrayed him. It missed the caresses, the stroking and the kisses on bare skin. He found himself wanting to be touched and he hated it, feeling unclean and sickened. Why did he believe in Chakotay? Why did he believe in him so deeply? He felt as if Chakotay had reached deep into his innermost self, captured the delicate butterfly that was trust, and crushed it cruelly, without a care. Tom, he told himself, you have been living a lie. You keep thinking that you live but in actual fact, you die.
He was dying slowly. Chakotay never loved him at all. All his efforts of trying to get better, going to that crap Da Vinci program and building the Firebird were simply a waste of time. He had invested in something that he thought would make Chakotay happy. He also believed that he would get better if he regained a understandable amount of self-esteem. The lies were beautiful, like stained-glass windows.
They were only, simply illusions.
If I die here, Tom thought darkly. No one will notice me passing away. Worse, I will become a statistic. A file-number in some damned 'Fleet office. File 4763, formerly known as Thomas Eugene Paris, ex-Starfleet officer, Auckland Penal colony. Reduced to a number. Maybe, I will die and become a nameless file, with only a footnote at the bottom.
He realized that he was banging his fist against the biobed. The nurses were staring at him, wide-eyed. Damned goody-two-shoes.
He missed the man.
File 4763, loved by no man. Not even his own flesh-and-blood father…
The thought of seeing his father chilled Tom right to the core…and it only served to make him feel more terrible.
Chakotay, I need you. Chakotay, I hate you. Dammit, Chak, why? Why?
He would have stayed with the Feir'n.
Bad life choices huh, Tom?
It bugged him that he had been making bad choices all through his sad and sordid life. A half-forgotten childhood memory whispered across his mind. His father bringing him to a shuttlecraft. That was the day he flew for the first time. Tom shook his head, feeling the tears seep under the eyelids. That was the only happy memory/choice he had.
Chakotay, damn you. Where are you now?
He turned and glared at the darkly handsome man standing beside him. Julian Bashir flinched.
"We are going to begin the occupational therapy sessions soon," the doctor continued, unusually touched at the sight of a man, known for his cockiness, distraught and…exhausted.
Tom didn't respond. Life was already seeping out of him.
*** *** ***
"Got it!" Harry exclaimed excitedly, his brown eyes shining with pride and jubilation. There was a loud hiss and the door slid open, revealing the ramp leading to their beloved ship.
On the ground, the captain of Deep Space Nine pondered about his present situation. His groin hurt. He was also on the floor, with the cold muzzle of a phaser rifle placed on his neck. He glanced at the woman standing next to him. Her russet hair had come undone, but she was still defiant, still proud.
"You are not going to win," he said, stating it as a matter-of-fact.
They were already rushing up the ramp, their boots ringing hollowly on the metal states. Only the Vulcan and the woman stayed.
"You can't out-run a Sovereign-class ship, Captain Janeway."
"That Sovereign-class ship is also holding one of my crew," Kathryn said clippedly.
The next thing Sisko knew was a cool hand resting on his neck…
Tuvok lifted an eyebrow as he straightened primly. Benjamin Sisko had fallen unconscious, result of a nerve pinch. The Vulcan officer regarded his captain, his friend, solemnly. He wasn't sure how things would come out at the end. Everything they were doing now was running against logic. Yet, his duty was to his captain and his ship.
"Let's go," Kathryn Janeway said and they headed for Voyager.
*** *** ***
Somewhere in an orchard on Earth, a man was watching the pickers pluck ripe nectarines from the trees.
He had taken a few days' leave from his office. The sun felt good on his skin. The warmth was better than the cool air-conditioning of his room. His work could wait. In fact, his doctor told him to relax. His blood pressure was already elevated, and for a man of his age, it was a bad sign. He used to take pride in himself as a strong tough man. He would brush off any minor ailment and work diligently.
There was laughter coming from the pickers and he smiled to himself. They were young people, mostly from the nearby university, working for some extra income. One of the young men had strawberry blonde hair, reminding him of someone…
The blue sky was a change from the blackness of space. He gazed up. He knew that his son was back. It was only a matter of time…
The strawberry blonde-haired boy stood in front of him, holding a particularly large nectarine in his hand.
"You've been standing for a long time," he said. "I figure you need something."
The man chuckled. "I need to pay for this."
"Nah," the boy laughed. "My father won't mind. Here, take this."
The nectarine was warm in the man's hand. The boy waved and wandered back to the pickers.
A headache began to throb in his temple. The man winced. Blasted hypertension. He had to see his son soon.
*** *** ***
The old Native American man brushed off the dust from his trousers. He could feel the eyes of the younger men on him. Someone coughed, breaking the silence. The air was heavy with tension. It was hot in the abandoned quarry.
"I heard," the old man said, his rich voice filling the enclosed place. "I heard that Chakotay was being captured. "
"I do not doubt your sources, Grandfather," a man separated himself from the group. He wore the simple worker's overall; there were patches of oil and dirt on the fabric. But his mien was noble. "But we have tarried long enough. The Feds are starting to get suspicious. "
"Sanchez, do you remember Eddington?" The voice of the elder was sad.
The silence became more absolute. Sanchez nodded. "He was sentenced to a life in prison. But…" He glanced at the older man and swept his gaze at the assembly. "I am Maquis and Chakotay is my friend."
A sigh came from the elder. He said nothing.
"Then, I will speak to the leaders of all the divisions," Sanchez said and left, striding off by himself. The rest of the men followed. The old man lingered, kneeling on the ground. He brushed the sand with his fingers, feeling the grit, the tangibility.
Something fluttered past him. It was a tiny butterfly.