The Edge
By Morticia



R for language.

Warning: ** Typical Mort Angst **

"Tom," Chakotay said gently, after Tom had carried him back to the
bunk. "I need you to listen to me. Can you do that?"

Tom was sitting on the edge of the bunk, trembling with obvious
fatigue, his head twisted towards the scattered piles of food. He
didn't even react to Chakotay's words until Chakotay tapped him
impatiently on his left arm.

Tom spun in surprise, his face swiftly regaining its bright smile as
he noticed Chakotay's attention on him.

"Fud Tay?" he asked hopefully.

"Not yet, Tom," Chakotay replied patiently. "I need to ask you
something important, and I need you to try and concentrate."

Tom tipped his head to one side, frowning slightly. "Eh?" he queried.

It was obvious to Chakotay that he was trying to listen, but simply
couldn't follow the complexity of Chakotay's words.

Chakotay tried to imagine he was talking to Naomi.

"Tom, does your head hurt?"

Tom nodded, his face screwing up in misery.

"That's because your brain is hurt, Tom," Chakotay explained
slowly. "Your frontal lobe is hurt. That's why you can't remember
things. But the real problem is your temporal lobe."

"emfal obe," Tom repeated slowly, "Eashuh."

Chakotay jumped with excitement. He had been right. Tom WAS able to
think, at least in a limited capacity. He HAD made the connection.

Well he had if "Eashuh" meant what Chakotay hoped it did.

"That's right, Tom. Your temporal lobe is damaged," he agreed. "That
means you are having seizures. I need your help, Tom. You have to
tell me what I can do. How can I help you Tom?"
Tom blinked slowly, his face screwed up in pain, as though the very
attempt to think was agonising for him.

"Eashuh?" he repeated slowly.

"Yes, Tom. What will help?" Chakotay begged.

"V- V- v-," Tom slurred, unable to get past the single letter.

Chakotay's mouth filled with a bitter taste as he understood the word
Tom was struggling with.

"Voyager is still more than a week away, Tom. We're alone here.
There's only us."

Tom began to rock miserably, wrapping his arms around his chest, and
he began to cry softly.

"Tam gun day," he finally managed, a tear escaping his brimming eyes
and slowing dripping down his cheek.

`Tam gun day?" Chakotay repeated to himself desperately, and then
realisation struck him, and he covered his own face in horror.

Shit, what had he done? He had been trying to help, dammit. He had
been praying that somewhere under Tom's confusion there was still
enough spark of knowledge remaining to help him. Instead, all he had
accomplished was to inform the already terrified pilot that his
injury was fatal.

He reached out and clutched Tom's hands in his own.

"NO," he growled. "Tom is NOT going to die."

But the blue eyes dipped away from him miserably, as though Tom
couldn't bear to see him lie.

"Tom. Listen to me. TOM," he squeezed Tom's fingers cruelly, forcing
the younger man to flinch and pull back, but also to turn his head
towards him once more.

"Diazepam, Tom. What is it? What does it do?" he demanded.

For a long moment, Tom's fear-filled eyes stared at him blankly, then
the pilot frowned, his forehead wrinkling with thought.

"eashuh," Tom whispered.

"Diazepam prevents seizures?" Chakotay demanded excitedly.

"Tam day," Tom just muttered miserably in reply and, wrenching his
fingers out of Chakotay's hands, he staggered to his feet and headed
to the far more interesting piles of foil packets.

Watching Tom's retreating back, doubt assailed Chakotay. What if Tom
had been trying to say that Diazepam CAUSED seizures? What
if "eashuh" actually just meant, "Let me go. I'm hungry and I can see
a pile of food in the corner?"

Giving Tom the wrong treatment would surely be worse than doing
nothing. The wrong drug could cause convulsions, perhaps even
precipitate a coma. He had no idea how effective the regenerator had
been, after all.

What if the swelling HAD been reduced enough for him to survive until
rescue, but Chakotay's `cure' killed him?

He seemed happy enough, now Chakotay had left him alone. He was
cheerfully sifting through the food packets, moving the piles into
patterns that obviously held some meaning to him, judging by the
broad grin on his face.


It was late the next evening before Chakotay became desperate enough
to take the risk.

Tom's behaviour had been rapidly changing, becoming increasingly

The inane grin, the one that had irritated him so much, was soon
interspersed with flashes of a temper so volatile that Chakotay
desperate to regain the happy Tom of the day before.

Tom would sit for hours, happily playing with the food packets,
building intricate patterns, only to occasionally freeze for a few
seconds, then bellow with rage and destroy his own carefully
constructed fortresses. Then, as quickly as the tantrum came, it
would leave and he would collapse in the midst of the chaos, weeping
at the sight of his own destruction.

Twice Chakotay had witnessed Tom's face during the seconds preceding
his tantrum, and on both occasions, Tom's eyes had rolled back in his
head and his body had been shaken by almost imperceptible spasms.

But that evening, everything had taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

He had finally managed to lure Tom away from the bright foil wrappers
that so fascinated him. It had taken a long time to catch his
attention because he had been sitting on Chakotay's right side at the
time, and Chakotay had finally realised that Tom seemed to be
completely deaf in his left ear.

Chakotay was ashamed that it had taken so long for him to realise
that the reason Tom alternated between responding to him and totally
ignoring him, had very little to do with concentration. It simply
depended which way Tom was facing at the time.

Since the damage was in the left hemisphere of Tom's brain, so his
hearing and movement in that side of his body was particularly

The truth was, that it had only been when Chakotay noticed Tom
beginning to limp, favoring his left leg, that he had finally made
the connection.

No wonder Tom had rarely reacted to being shouted at for being
inattentive. When his right ear was turned away, only a raised voice
managed to register with him at all.

So, because he couldn't catch Tom's attention with his voice without
yelling loud enough to make his diaphragm spasm violently against his
cracked ribs, Chakotay had crawled painfully off the bunk and had
dragged himself towards the pilot.

By the time he reached Tom's side, his biceps were trembling with
exhaustion, knifing pains were shooting through his legs, and he had
collapsed unwittingly against Tom's latest masterpiece.

As the towering edifice of food packets tumbled to the floor, Tom had
screamed in outraged panic, his arms flailing crazily to catch the
falling food and only causing the foil to spin wildly in all

"BAA TAY!" Tom howled, his face flushing with rage, "BAA BAA TAY!"

"I'm sorry Tom," Chakotay had apologised as Tom's face screwed up in
an uncanny imitation of a thwarted three-year old's and then Tom
began to bawl loudly, tears streaming down his furious face.

"I'll help you build it again," Chakotay promised desperately.

The tears stopped as abruptly as though a faucet had been turned off.
Tom's furious expression was wiped away by a huge sunny smile, and
Chakotay heaved a sigh of relief.

And that was when Tom's body arched in a spasm, his spine contorting
unnaturally, as his eyes rolled back until his orbs were horrifyingly
white, and he began to convulse.

It wasn't dramatic. He didn't thresh about, or foam at the mouth as
Chakotay had expected. He simply sank to the ground and trembled
silently, his skin twitching as though an army of ants was crawling
under the surface.

The very quietness of his fit was somehow the most terrifying thing
for Chakotay.

It only lasted a few minutes, although it felt like hours to Chakotay
as he watched helplessly. And when it was over, and Tom's eyelids
fluttered open to reveal his bewildered blue eyes, Chakotay took the
opportunity to thrust two of the Diazepam tablets into Tom's slack

Tom chewed the tablets dry, his face screwing up in disgust at the
taste, and then turned on his side and fell instantly into a deep

Chakotay had to fight the impulse to shake him awake again. What if
this wasn't sleep? What if it was a coma? What if he had
inadvertently poisoned Tom?

Yet Tom's breathing was steady, his breath punctuated by his usual
soft snores. So, exhausted by Tom's fit and overcome by the ceaseless
waves of pain in his legs, Chakotay simply rolled over, pulled Tom
against him in a hug and tried to fall asleep



The softly spoken word was enough to break into Chakotay's dreams.

"Yes, Tom?" he murmured sleepily.

"Hurt, Tay. Head hurt," Tom moaned with such misery that Chakotay had
to choke back a sob, even as the clarity of Tom's words jolted him to
full awareness.

"I gave you the Diazepam, Tom. Did it help? Do you feel better?"

"Seesurs," Tom nodded painfully.

"Diaepam prevents seizures?" Chakotay demanded hopefully.

"Seesures" Tom agreed, with a tired nod.

Chakotay had a sudden urge to jump to his feet and dance. A jolt of
pain through his legs sobered the impulse.

"How long between doses, Tom?" Chakotay asked, praying that Tom was
lucid enough to give him the correct reply.

"How - how - " Tom struggled, then gave up.

"How MANY doses?"

Tom gave a tired nod.

"There are six more, Tom."

"V- V- Voy-" Tom demanded.

"I don't know. Maybe five or six more days," Chakotay confessed.

"Goan die Tay," Tom mumbled.

"NO. I won't LET you die, Tom. We're going to make it, Tom. Both of
us. You are NOT going to die," Chakotay snapped.

For a moment Tom held his gaze, then as tears brimmed in their blue
depths, Tom closed his eyes tightly.

"Goan die Tay," he whispered again, the moisture beginning to trickle
from beneath his wet lashes.

Chakotay desperately gathered him in his arms.

"You won't die, Tom. I promise. I promise you won't die," Chakotay
choked, hugging Tom tightly.

But Tom didn't reply.


Chakotay tried to make the Diazepam last, waiting until Tom actually
began to have a fit before dosing him, yet the intervals between
episodes shortened with each application of the drug.

Less than 24 hours after Tom's first petit mal seizure, the medicine
was gone.

Then Tom's seizures began to increase in strength and rapidity, each
one leaving him more confused and helpless. After each fit Tom would
sink quickly into a state of unconsciousness. Each time he woke, his
eyes were more glazed, his voice more slurred, his motor functions
swiftly failing.

Barely able to move himself, let alone drag Tom, Chakotay pulled the
mattress from the bunk and made a nest on the floor next to the tiny

He dragged as many of the unopened food packets next to the mattress
so that he only had to move himself the few meters from the head and
back to both take care of his own bodily needs and to enable him to
keep Tom as clean as possible.

Tom lost control of his bodily functions at about the same time as he
finally lost the ability to speak.

Chakotay could only pray that Tom was unaware of his own body's
betrayal. He surprised himself with how easily he adjusted to having
to look after Tom in this fashion.

Somewhere in the last few days, all his rage and anger had
dissipated, his own selfish concerns about his own pains faded and he
found comfort at least in being able to do something.

He might not be able to save Tom's life, but he was sure as hell
going to let Tom die with dignity.

The days were the hardest, when the temperature in the shuttle rose
to stifling levels, making it uncomfortable for him to lie with Tom
in his arms, as perspiration stuck their bodies together and the heat
of Tom's body against his own became almost unbearable.

Yet, since Tom seemed unaware of the heat as he lapsed in and out of
consciousness with increasing rapidity, Chakotay suffered in silence.
He also stopped taking the painkillers. Without them, the dull pain
in his legs blossomed into agony, yet they made him sleepy and he was
terrified that he would fall asleep and somehow fail Tom.

The thought of even releasing Tom from his arms terrified him. What
if he let him go and Tom had a fit, without the comfort of Chakotay's
arms to ease the terror? What if Chakotay released him and Tom chose
that moment to die?

That terrified Chakotay more than anything. That Tom would die alone.
That he would take the opportunity of Chakotay sleeping, or even
dragging himself to the head, to simply pass away.

What if, in that last moment, Tom woke and was lucid? What if he
passed into the spirit world in the belief that he had been abandoned
and became one of the spirits who forever roamed the spirit plane in
lonely, bitter madness because their passing had seemed to go

In the end, Chakotay designed a make-shift chamber pot and a bowl of
clean water and rags for cleaning them both, and refused to leave
Tom's side at all. Without the painkillers he could barely move
anyway, so the mattress became their mutual prison.

Chakotay simply lay on the narrow mattress and talked endlessly to
the unresponsive man in his arms, knowing that Tom couldn't
understand him, but sure that the sound of his voice would somehow
ease Tom's fear.

"And then the Captain told me what you did, and I had to literally
bite my lips not to laugh out loud. I know that you find that hard to
believe, considering the way I reamed you out over it, but the truth
is, I DID see the funny side.

"I OFTEN see the funny side of your behaviour, Tom. Just because I
chose to sit alone in my cabin while you gallivant around the ship
with your holoprograms and pool games and scams, doesn't mean I'm not
aware of what you are up to."

Chakotay chuckled ruefully.

"To be honest, I love that part of you, Tom. The irrepressible
mischief maker. Always at the centre of whatever scam is going down
on the lower decks. I love the way you hustle at pool. The way that
everyone KNOWS that you are hustling them, but they still can't
resist letting you hook them in anyway.

"And I love the other side of you, too. The way you are such a good
friend to Harry. The way that you befriended Seven, when most of us
couldn't see past the Borg to the vulnerable woman beneath. I love
your protective nature, Tom, your unfailing need to be on the side of
the underdog.

"I guess, the bottom line is, I love you, Tom Paris," he
confessed. "I never dared to tell you that. I let you think that I
hated you because I just didn't have the courage to face the fact
that you might reject me.

"Hell, Tom. Of course you would have rejected me. Why wouldn't you?
You're like something free and untamed, and I'm the foolish hunter
who wanted to trap you and cage you and make you mine.

"I know you'd never meet me on my terms, you see. You wouldn't have
wanted to settle down with a middle-aged man who has seen too much,
and experienced too much, to be able to just let go and relax.

"I could never have settled for PART of you, Tom, and I knew you
weren't willing, or able, to give ALL of yourself to anyone, let
alone me.

"So I couldn't take the risk. I couldn't even meet you half way when
you tried to offer me your friendship. I always felt like I was
teetering on the edge of a precipice whenever I was near you and that
if I took a single step towards you, I would fall off the edge."

Tom stirred restlessly in his arms, and Chakotay stiffened, his body
tensing as he waited for the inevitable seizure to begin.

It was worse this time, lasting almost ten minutes, and by the end of
it, Chakotay was trembling with the exhaustion of trying to keep Tom

"I'm so sorry, Tom. Sorry I didn't have the courage to tell you how I
felt when there was still time. I know it wouldn't have changed
anything. I know you would still have said no. But, at least, if I
had had the nerve to step off that cliff and confess my feelings,
then at least you would know that your death DOES matter.

"At least you would understand that someone DID love you and you
wouldn't be feeling so frightened and alone."

"Shit, if we'd gotten along better, if we'd been friends, we probably
wouldn't have even been sent to this god-forsaken place together. So,
it's all my fault, Tom. All of it," Chakotay confessed and then he
silently began to cry.

A little later, while Tom was sleeping, Chakotay dragged himself to
the edge of the mattress and stacked the food packets into a new,
intricate tower. Although he had no idea what Tom thought he was
seeing when he looked at the bright foil wrappers, it obviously
comforted him in some way. Perhaps a new structure would break
through his haze, spark a little interest in him, remind him to keep

But Tom never woke to see Chakotay's offering.

The last fit had ruptured too many blood vessels. He lapsed into a
coma and his body began to silently shut down, perhaps relieved to at
last be free of pain.

Chakotay felt Tom's life slowly ebbing away, as the heart beat slowed
against his own chest, and Tom's breathing began to hitch and grow
ragged, until with a final rattle of breath, Tom's heart finally

As he realised that the Shuttle was going to become Tom's tomb,
Chakotay simply reached into the inside pocket of his jacket,
retrieved the remaining painkillers and injected them one after
another into his own thigh.


"Why the hell didn't we get here sooner?" Kathryn Janeway demanded
furiously. "The doctor said it was eight minutes, just EIGHT minutes.
We didn't have to stay with the Betlanni for so long. We had the
supplies we needed. Why didn't I come back for them earlier?"

Tuvok merely raised his brow at the Captain's self-recrimination.

"There was no logical reason to suppose that the Shuttle had crashed,
Captain. You responded as soon as we received the automatic emergency
signal from the shuttle. Consequently, we arrived three days earlier
than scheduled. Had we returned at the pre-arranged time, then both
the Commander and Lieutenant Paris would have died," he reminded her.

"The Doctor assured me that Chakotay would make a full recovery,"
Kathryn admitted. "He's already walking, but I think it will take a
long time for him to get over what happened to Tom."

"Commander Chakotay did an admirable job, under the circumstances.
The Doctor says that Tom's injuries should have proved fatal within
three days. The Commander should be commended for managing to keep
him alive for as long as he did," Tuvok stated.

"I need you to talk to him Tuvok. The Doctor says that the overdose
was probably accidental, given Chakotay's physical debilitation and
state of mind, but I don't want to take any chances," Kathryn said.

"It is `possible' that the Commander did attempt suicide," Tuvok
confirmed reluctantly. "However, the Commander was in considerable
physical pain, believed that Voyager was still several days away and
that he would be incarcerated for several days with Lieutenant
Paris's corpse. It is not surprising, therefore, that he made a
mistake when administering his own medicine."

Kathryn smiled gratefully.

"For a Vulcan, you have a remarkable habit of using `logic' to
justify illogical behaviour, Tuvok. But, I thank you, for it. The
official logs will mirror your opinion that Chakotay simply made a
mistake. However, I still would appreciate you taking the time to
talk to Chakotay, as a friend."

"I DO consider the Commander to be my friend, Captain, and I will do
as you ask. I believe it will be unnecessary though. The person whom
Chakotay needs to confide in is Lieutenant Paris."

"Well, the Doctor said he would be up to having visitors today,
although it will be a couple of weeks before he is fit for duty
again. Knowing Tom, he'll decide to spend his recuperation in the
Resort." Kathryn chuckled affectionately.

"Since the desire to procreate is a natural reaction to the threat of
death, Captain, it is more logical to assume that the Lieutenant will
spend his recuperation in bed," Tuvok said dryly.

Kathryn's mouth gaped open and then she gave a bark of laughter.

"The next time someone accuses Vulcans of having no sense of humor, I
shall quote you, Tuvok," she chuckled.

Tuvok merely raised his eyebrow in response.

"Thank you, old friend," Kathryn murmured. "Talking to you has
helped. Now I can walk back out on the Bridge, at least, without
constantly wondering how it felt for Chakotay to hold Tom in his arms
and watch him die."

"While I do not deny that it was a traumatic experience for the
Commander, since they were transported to the sickbay only eight
minutes later, and the sub-zero temperature of the shuttle prevented
the Lieutenant's brain from being further damaged during that time, I
believe the human saying is "all's well that ends well.""

"But will it?" Kathryn asked, and was rather pleased to see Tuvok's
look of bewilderment. It was good to know that Tuvok's wisdom was not

Her attempt to make Chakotay and Tom face their obvious attraction to
each other, rather than continue to spat like a couple of angry alley
cats, had tragically backfired, admittedly.

Yet, who knew what might still happen?


Chakotay approached the bio-bed nervously. The Doctor had taken great
pains to advise him that not only was it highly unlikely that Tom
would have more than vague memories of what had happened down on the
planet, but that Tom would probably not have heard, let alone
understood, anything that Chakotay had said while he was comatose.

It didn't stop Chakotay from flushing with embarrassment though, when
Tom's eyes flickered open.

"How are you feeling?" he asked awkwardly.

"Not bad for a dead guy," Tom replied flippantly, only to be stunned
by the look of grief that flashed over Chakotay's face before he
managed to control his features back into a mask of calmness.

"I'm sorry, Comm-, Chakotay. I know it must have been pretty bad down
there, but I can't remember that much of it. Just bits and pieces. It
just feels weird that I actually died, you know?" Tom said in a
softer voice. "The Doc says you saved my life, that I should have
died days earlier."

"You saved your own life, Tom. If you hadn't looked after me those
first few days, giving me a chance to heal a little, I wouldn't have
been able to look after you when you got really ill," Chakotay
replied. "Besides, it was you who told me that the Diazepam would

"Really?" Tom grinned. "It's good to know that all the shifts I have
had to pull in Sickbay, were worthwhile after all. And all the time,
I thought you only assigned me here because you know how much I hate

Chakotay flinched.

What the hell was he doing here? This was Tom Paris, remember? The
cocky, smart-ass who hated him. This wasn't the man who had curled up
in his arms for comfort. This wasn't the man who had scuttled around
the shuttle, with a beaming smile, doing his best to help Chakotay
even as the pressure in his brain was slowly dragging the life out of

That Tom had died, had died in his arms, down on that lonely planet.

He had come here to face Tom, to finally say face to face what he had
only been able to whisper as Tom had died in his arms. Yet, the
mocking glare of those blue eyes drained his courage, turned his
intended words of love into dry ashes in his mouth.

"I'm glad you're feeling better," was all he managed to choke before
he turned around and hurried towards the door, both hating himself
for his cowardice and grateful that he hadn't just blurted out his
confession of love.

Tears stung his eyes as he cursed himself for a fool.


The plaintive word stopped him in his tracks. For a moment he
hesitated, unwilling to turn around because he suddenly couldn't
control the expression of pain that ravaged his features.

If he turned around, if Tom saw him like this, then his pretence
would be over. He would never be able to face the pilot again without
knowing that the other man knew him for the middle-aged fool that he

He took another resolute step towards the door.


The panic in Tom's voice was too much. He couldn't refuse it,
couldn't escape the siren call of Tom's voice, whatever the price his
pride would have to pay.

His whole body stiff, he slowly turned, allowing Tom to see his tear-
stained face, only to see that Tom's eyes were sparkling with unshed
tears too.

"What do you want, Tom?" he asked, his voice gruff with emotion.

"You were just planning to leave, huh? Just like that? Without saying
anything else?" Tom demanded.

"What did you want me to say?" Chakotay challenged warily.

"Oh, I don't know. I guess I was just kind of hoping that you might
want to find out what would happen if you DID step off that edge,"
Tom replied.

Chakotay flushed, his heart beginning to beat a rapid tattoo in his

"You remember?" he gasped.

"Enough," Tom admitted with a shrug.

"What WOULD happen if I stepped off, Tom?" Chakotay asked, feeling a
ridiculous urge to close his eyes, in case Tom's face twisted into
that familiar mocking smirk.

But instead, Tom's face blazed into a huge, sunny smile.

"I'd catch you," Tom promised.

The End