Chakotay pulled the blanket
down to Tom's waist and ran the cloth, dipped in warm water, over the other
man's chest. Paris stirred restlessly, quietly murmuring beneath his breath
but the words were too slurred to be made out. As he wiped the feverish
man down, Chakotay replayed the last few days in his mind.
It had begun when Captain Janeway
had assigned him to lead an away team to this planet to negotiate for some
star charts in the local inhabitant's possession. He had taken Tom Paris,
due to his position as ship's conn officer, with him as well as Ensign
Azrael from Security.
The Planerians had been most cooperative
and enjoyable hosts. They were a long-limbed, pale-skinned species with
huge blue eyes that could have made them look comical except for the fact
that those eyes conveyed such strong emotions. Their average height being
around seven feet only added to the illusion of frailty; however, Chakotay
had quickly learned the Planerians were far from frail. Within a day of
being there, his negotiations with their alien hosts had been concluded
and the star charts were safely in his possession. Then chaos had broken
A plague had hit the local village
where Chakotay and his away team were housed. Planerians fell victim to
the plague quickly. Fevers, chills, no appetite. Then it grew worse. Bodily
functions began to fail, and they lost their first victim to the plague.
Knowing they had already been exposed,
Chakotay, Paris, and Azrael had done all they could to assist the Planerians.
Tom, with his limited medical knowledge, had volunteered to help in the
infirmary, which had been moved to a local gathering hall due to the growing
number of patients. Paris had drafted Azrael to help him where needed.
Chakotay had conferred with the local Planerian leaders and offered his
assistance where possible.
On the second day of the plague,
Chakotay had come to the infirmary to check on his away team's status.
None of them had come down with the plague yet, but they had no proof they
were invulnerable to it. He had come across Azrael first.
"Where's Lieutenant Paris?" Chakotay
Azrael tiredly nodded his head toward
an area further down the long room. Looking past the rows of beds, Chakotay
saw Paris hunched over one of the beds. "We just lost another patient,"
Azrael told him. "A young child. Elysia. You remember her?" Azrael looked
as if he were about to cry.
Chakotay's breath caught. He clapped
a hand to the ensign's shoulder. Elysia. She had latched onto the offworlders
almost immediately, seeming to take an immediate interest in Tom Paris.
The pilot had teased the young girl mercilessly and she had loved every
minute of it.
"Get some rest, Ensign," Chakotay
told Azrael. "You look as if you could use it." After another long look
in Paris' direction, Chakotay headed toward where he sat on an infirmary
Tom stared down at the young
girl he held cradled in his arms, where she had drawn her last breath.
He couldn't believe she was gone. Just two days ago she had been so full
Tom looked up blankly, Chakotay's
presence not really registering with him.
"Tom?" Chakotay sat on the bed next
to him. "I'm sorry about Elysia."
Tom carefully placed Elysia back
on the bed. As he pulled the covers back over her as if tucking her in
for the night, he hesitated, then he pulled the sheet up the rest of the
way, covering her face as well. He wiped a hand tiredly over his own face.
"Are the Planerian doctors any closer
to finding a cure?" Chakotay asked.
Tom shook his head. "It's got them
mystified. We sure could use the Doc right now. I feel -- I feel so damn
useless." His voice shook with held-in emotions. Raising his eyes to meet
the Commander's, he said, "She won't be the last, you know. We've got several
others we're on the verge of losing and there'll be more after them."
Chakotay read the despair in the
younger man's eyes. "Tom--" He stopped, at a loss what to say.
Tom waved away his concern as he
got to his feet and slowly moved on toward another bed and another patient.
"How're things going on your end?" he asked.
"Not very good," Chakotay was forced
to admit. "Tolsen," he continued, referring to the local leader, "spent
the day trying to convince the neighboring provinces to send help, but
they're all leery of exposing their people to this plague."
"What the hell is wrong with those
people?!" Tom exploded, slamming down a tray on a nearby table. His loud
voice caused heads to turn and was obviously disturbing the patients. Closing
his eyes as he attempted to regain control over his ragged emotions, Tom
reopened them seconds later to stare indignantly at Chakotay. His voice
lowered, he said, "Don't they understand? We need help here!"
Chakotay blinked. Not they
but we. How quickly Paris had adopted these people and become protective
of them, but then he had been caring for them and their families in a crisis
situation for the past twenty-four hours. "They understand," he reassured
Paris. "They're not unfeeling, Tom; they're scared. When I left, Tolsen
was talking to a doctor two provinces over. It sounded promising. If the
doctor agrees to help, I've offered to take the shuttle and ferry him and
some supplies back here."
Tom stared at him, seeing his own
helplessness echoed in Chakotay's eyes. "I'm sorry," he apologized. "I
shouldn't have snapped at you."
Chakotay grinned at the apology.
"It's okay. Better you blow steam off at me than one of your patients."
An elderly female Planerian approached
them at that moment. "Commander Chakotay?"
"Leader Tolsen is asking that you
come immediately. I think he may have good news."
"Thank you." Chakotay turned back
to Tom. "Maybe he's convinced that doctor to help. I'll check in with you
later." Chakotay turned to go but once he reached the exit, some instinct
made him turn back and seek out Paris. The other man was sitting at a nearby
bed, talking to an elderly male patient who appeared to be in the first
stages of the plague. Chakotay watched, mesmerized. All Tom's tiredness
had dropped away and for that moment his attention was focused solely on
the old man before him. There was a tenderness in his touch that calmed
the Planerian elder. Chakotay's eyes traveled to the bed beyond Paris.
The bed with the sheet drawn up over Elysia. They had to help these people.
He was overcome with a desire not
only to help these people because they deserved the help but to help them
for Tom. That thought caught Chakotay off guard. His gaze returned to the
other man, still bent over the elderly patient. His blond hair shone in
the soft light of the infirmary, but Chakotay didn't miss the tired lines
on his face nor the way his body hunched, as if warding off an expected
blow. He had a sudden urge to take the other man in his arms and comfort
In the crisis of the plague he had
completely put other thoughts out of mind. Thoughts of Paris. Thoughts
that had been haunting him for several weeks now, ever since they had lived
that year that hadn't existed where he and Tom had spent the better part
of a year in a Krenim prison. It had been a year of hell and a year of
discovery. Chakotay had discovered Tom Paris during that year.
Once time had been set back as it
was supposed to be, they had the year to live over again. It was as if
that year of hell had never been, except they all retained the memories
as if they had lived them. It still seemed so real at times, but the Doctor
had assured them that it hadn't happened. Time paradoxes were terribly
confusing, especially in this case.
An unexpected attraction had arisen
between himself and Tom during that year of hell. They had never acted
upon it, but the feelings were still there, unresolved. Yet, the Doctor
told them that what had occurred during that year was all in their heads.
That year had not happened in their reality. Regardless, Chakotay was unable
to shake the attraction he felt for Tom. He had no idea if Tom returned
those feelings. There had been indications during that year that he had,
but since returning to Voyager and the correct time stream, Tom
had not acknowledged those feelings in any way.
Frowning, Chakotay turned and exited
the infirmary, determined to see this crisis through and determined that
he and Tom would have a talk once it was over.
That had been two days ago.
Chakotay had gone and retrieved the Planerian doctor and supplies the next
day. Shortly before he had left, Azrael had collapsed. At first they had
been hopeful it was just fatigue, but then the symptoms became more clear.
Azrael had the plague. It seemed that humans weren't immune after all.
Chakotay had left to retrieve the
Planerian doctor, his heart heavy with an unexplainable feeling of dread.
When he returned, that feeling of dread became all too clear. Tom had collapsed
while he had been gone. According to the nurse, he had been aware he had
the plague before Chakotay left, but had instructed that the commander
not be told.
Now Chakotay stared down at the golden
head, blonde hair drenched brown with sweat. He gently wiped the sweat
from Tom's face, then pulled the sheet down to his waist, continuing to
wipe him down. He stopped at the edge of the sheet, which he had pulled
down a couple of inches below Tom's bellybutton, and let his hand rest
on Tom's chest, nestled against the golden red curls there.
He could feel the steady heartbeat
beneath his fingers. Still alive but for how long? Tom had already been
near exhaustion from long hours in the infirmary when the plague had struck
him down and now the plague was taking its toll. He stared at the brown
hand that rested against the pale skin. They were so unalike, yet they
fit together so well.
Why had it taken him so long to figure
that out? And had he waited too long? Would he now lose Tom before he had
the chance to tell him? Azrael was gone already and Tom was fading fast.
The doctors were perplexed as to why Chakotay had not yet been struck down
and had been drawing his blood for tests, hoping it would lead them to
a cure. Chakotay couldn't imagine what Tom and Azrael had in common with
the Planerians that he didn't. They were all Human. A moan brought his
attention back to Tom.
Tom's head whipped back and forth,
caught in some dream of his feverish delirium's making. "Nooooo," he moaned.
He subsided into unintelligible mutterings, then Chakotay heard him say
Leaning down close to his ear, Chakotay
softly said, "I'm here, Tom. You have to fight this. Voyager will
be here soon. You have to fight it until they get here and the Doctor can
help you. Don't give up."
As Chakotay straightened back up
and lay a soothing hand on Tom's feverish forehead, the blue eyes flickered
open to gaze at him, except the eyes weren't seeing him. Tom was lost in
a feverish haze. "Mama? Hurts, Mama. Make the hurt go 'way."
"Shhhhh," crooned Chakotay as he
tried to gentle him back to sleep. "Go to sleep, Tom. Go to sleep."
Tom's body suddenly heaved and then
went alarmingly limp. His head lolled to the side as he fell unconscious.
Chakotay waved one of the Planerian doctors over as he ran the tricorder
over Tom's inert form. Still alive, thank God, but his major organs were
showing signs of failure. Death was close. Chakotay felt despair wash over
He watched as the Planerian doctor
checked Tom then shook his head. "I'm sorry, Commander. There's nothing
we can do. It's only a matter of time now."
Nodding, Chakotay took Tom's hand
in his and held on as if he could keep him here by that hold alone. Head
bowed, he didn't see the doctor they had shuttled in from a neighboring
province rush into the infirmary and confer with the doctor who had just
been with Chakotay. Both Planerians looked in Chakotay's direction, then
the doctor who had just arrived approached the silent man keeping vigil.
"Commander, I have good news."
Chakotay's head raised. His eyes
glinted with hope as they lit upon the vial in the doctor's hand. "You've
found a cure?"
"Yes, we think so. It appears to
have something to do with the genetics that create blue-eyed humanoids.
It has worked on the two Planerians we've tested it on so far." The doctor's
features clouded. "We are uncertain how a human will react to it, but Lieutenant
Paris . . ."
Chakotay realized with a start that
Azrael had been blue-eyed as well. Strange how they could overlook something
so obvious. Staring at Paris' unconscious form, he spoke to the doctor.
"He doesn't have much time, does he? It's this or nothing at all."
"I'm afraid so. May I have your permission
to inject him with the serum?"
Chakotay nodded and watched as the
doctor injected the serum with the Planerian version of a hypo into Tom's
neck. For a long moment there was no reaction, then Tom's chest heaved
as he gasped for breath. Both doctors crowded around his spasmodic form
and Chakotay was forced to relinquish his spot at Tom's side. He stood
back, watching as they worked over Paris.
Finally, after what seemed like hours
but in reality was only a matter of minutes, Tom's body stilled and the
doctor turned to Chakotay. Chakotay braced himself for the news, but the
doctor's words took him by surprise.
"The worst should be over now. He's
responded as hoped to the serum. Now we must wait for his fever to break."
Chakotay stared at the doctor for
a long moment, sure he had misheard. The doctor lay an understanding hand
on his shoulder. "I believe he will recover, given time, Commander." Then
the doctor reverted to business. "His bedclothes need changing. I'll summon
one of the nurses."
Chakotay knew they were short-staffed
with the epidemic. "No, that's all right. I'll see to him myself."
"Very well." The doctor gave him
a brief smile and then he and the other doctor moved on to the next patient.
Chakotay slowly and methodically
stripped the bed of the sweat stained sheets, rolling Tom back and forth
to remove them. With the bed stripped, he quickly washed down Tom's body,
starting with his face and working his way down to the feet. He couldn't
help noting, even in his worry for Tom, that he had a beautiful body. Frowning
at himself for having such thoughts at a time like this, he quickly fitted
the bed with clean sheets, tucked Tom in, then reclaimed his position at
It was hot in here. He kicked
at the covers, trying to free himself of their confines. Hands on his shoulders
invaded and he pushed at them, telling them, "Go 'way." The hands wouldn't
leave. They moved to his face, stroking, reminding him of his mother. "Mama?"
Then he heard the soft voice, only it wasn't his mother, it was--
He opened his eyes and the surrounding
room slowly swam into focus. Above him, looking concerned, was Chakotay,
whose hand was resting on his forehead. His nice cool hand. It felt good.
Tom opened his mouth to speak and ended up in a coughing fit instead as
his dry throat tickled him.
Once the coughing subsided, he found
Chakotay's hand beneath his head, gently elevating it and holding a cup
to his mouth. Tom took a tentative sip. Water. Cool, delicious water. He
drank it all.
"More?" asked Chakotay. Tom shook
his head and Chakotay gently lowered his head back to the pillow. "How
do you feel?" asked the older man.
"Completely wiped out," admitted
Tom. "I was sick?" Then his cloudy memory began clearing. The Planerians.
The plague. Elysia and others had died. "I caught the plague," he said
as realization dawned.
Chakotay nodded. "We almost lost
you. Luckily, the doctors located a cure before that happened."
Chakotay shook his head.
Chakotay didn't even have to ask
what he meant. "Including Azrael, sixteen."
Tom winced. Silence fell between
the two men, the last few days weighing heavily on them. Tom's memories
of the past two days were vague but he remembered a soothing presence.
"You, uh, stayed here with me? When I was sick?"
Instead of answering, Chakotay sent
a glare his way, but Tom saw concern behind the glare. "You should have
told me you were sick before I left to pick the doctor up."
Tom shrugged. "What difference would
it have made?"
Chakotay sighed. "Do you do this
"What?" asked a clearly confused
"Aggravate me." Then Chakotay smiled,
a true smile. Even the dimples came out of hiding. Tom loved it when he
smiled like that. He didn't do it nearly often enough.
Feeling a bit cocky now that he knew
he was going to live, Tom replied, "I live to aggravate you, Chakotay.
It's my life's ambition."
His attempt at humor didn't have
the desired effect. His words, instead, seemed to sober Chakotay. "Thank
god you lived," he breathed like a man waking from a nightmare. His hand
reached out to clasp Tom's.
Surprised by the unexpected but not
unwelcome display, Tom gave his hand a squeeze, but said nothing. He wasn't
quite sure what to say at this point.
"We need to talk," Chakotay told
him, eyes serious, "but it can wait until you're stronger. Think you can
eat something?" Tom started to shake his head, but Chakotay interrupted,
saying, "You need to eat, Tom. Maybe some broth?"
At Tom's nod, Chakotay rose and left
in search of the promised broth, leaving Paris alone to think. Chakotay
wanted to talk. A serious talk from the sounds of it. Tom let his eyes
close as a wave of tiredness washed over him. This was about
year, the lost year. He just knew it was. Why now? It had been several
months since that had occurred. What had changed?
What has changed? a voice inside
shot back at him. You almost died, Tom. Vague memories of a voice and hands
soothing his fevered dreams came back to him. Chakotay. It had been Chakotay.
His presence had been real, not a dream. He opened his eyes when he heard
Chakotay come back and watched the other man thoughtfully.
They took it slowly. Tom was too
weak to sit up so Chakotay elevated his head and held the cup of broth
to his lips as he slowly sipped from it. Eventually, Tom felt his eyelids
drooping. It was a struggle to stay awake. Chakotay seemed to realize this.
"Get some sleep," he urged.
"You'll be here when I wake up?"
"Do you want me to be?" Chakotay's
voice sounded unsure.
Eyes closed, Tom felt a hand softly
caress his forehead as fingers brushed his hair back. "Then I'll be here,"
came Chakotay's voice and then he was asleep.
Tom awoke to a cool cloth
caressing his face. Eyes fluttering open, he saw Chakotay watching him
as he ran the damp cloth over Tom's face, wiping away the last vestiges
of sickness and fever. "That feels good," said Tom drowsily.
Smiling, Chakotay said, "Lay back
and enjoy it."
Who am I to argue? thought Tom, mouth
quirking slightly as he thought of all the times he had done just that
to give Chakotay a bad time.
Chakotay saw Tom's mouth turn up
but didn't question it. Obviously the other man was feeling better. He
moved the damp cloth over Tom's jaw and to his neck. Pulling the sheet
down to his waist, he ran the cloth over Tom's chest in long strokes, moving
outward to run the cloth over his shoulders and down his arms. Dipping
the cloth in the bowl of water, he wrung it out and then ran it down Tom's
abdomen. Casting a wary eye upward to Tom's face, Chakotay pulled the sheet
the rest of the way down. Tom was nude underneath the sheet, but he didn't
utter a sound of protest at Chakotay's actions. Eyes closed, he seemed
content to let Chakotay continue the bath.
Chakotay moved the cloth over Tom's
hips, being careful not venture too close to the groin area. Then down
the long legs and as Chakotay was finishing with the feet, Tom's voice
"I have to go to the bathroom."
Chakotay wasn't surprised. Since
the sickness had hit Tom, he hadn't eaten or drank enough to cause this
need to arise, but the water and soup he had consumed before falling asleep
had apparently done the job.
He came to with a start, realizing
he had been staring at Tom in a very unprofessional manner. His eyes flew
up to the pilot's and saw acknowledgment there that Paris was aware of
what he had caught Chakotay doing.
"You're not strong enough to get
up and use the facilities," Chakotay told him, "even with my help."
Tom opened his mouth to argue but
then realized Chakotay was right. When he'd tried to sit up earlier, he
had nearly passed out and the room had swung in dizzy circles about him
for several minutes. "So what do you suggest?"
"Let me get a bedpan," Chakotay murmured.
Tom frowned. Oh, great, he thought.
Chakotay pulled the sheet back up over him before he went in search of
Chakotay returned a few minutes later
to find Tom dozing. "You awake?"
"Barely," he replied without opening
his eyes. He felt Chakotay lowering the sheet once more, then felt the
other man's hand on his penis as he directed it toward the bedpan. Tom
let out in involuntary gasp at the touch then felt his face flaming. He
dared peek beneath lowered eyelids but thankfully Chakotay wasn't looking
at him. Instead, he was studiously looking elsewhere and looking decidedly
uncomfortable. Tom almost laughed aloud as he wondered which of them was
the more uncomfortable.
Then Chakotay's gaze did flick toward
his. "Okay," he told Tom, "anytime you're ready."
Tom let loose, sighing in relief
as his bladder emptied. Once done, he concentrated on the feel of Chakotay's
hand on him. Gods, if I weren't so tired, I could enjoy this. As it was,
he didn't even have the energy to get an erection.
When nothing more was forthcoming
and Tom didn't speak, Chakotay thought perhaps the other man had fallen
"Ummmm?" Paris had a delightful little
smile lurking around the corners of his mouth and suddenly Chakotay understood.
Grinning, he asked, "You done?"
Tom's eyes snapped open to find a
dark, heated gaze on him and felt the heat washing up into his face. "Um,
yeah, all done," he said hurriedly.
Chakotay set the bedpan aside and
pulled the sheet up, tucking Tom in. Face inches from Tom's, he asked,
"Anything else I can do for you before you fall asleep?"
Gazing into those eyes, Tom was struck
full force with the feelings he had buried since the year of hell. Without
thought and held by those eyes, he said, "Yeah, a kiss would be nice."
He didn't even realize what he had
said until he saw Chakotay's face descending toward his. Lips gently touched
his and Tom heard his own soft sigh of satisfaction. Then the lips were
pulling back. Faces still mere inches apart, Chakotay quietly said, "Get
some sleep. We still need to have that talk." He kissed Tom on the forehead
but Tom was already fast asleep, a smile curving the corners of his mouth
Tom awoke to find Chakotay
dozing in a chair beside his bed. He looked downward and stared at their
hands. His right hand clasped in Chakotay's left. Together. They belonged
together. That sudden thought was so all consuming and powerful that Tom
knew he finally had it right. Chakotay was his. He was Chakotay's.
It didn't even occur to him at that
moment to doubt that conviction. It was fate. Destiny. Whatever word one
used to describe something that was meant to be. And there was no fighting
it. Tom's lips curved upward. Bringing their clasped hands to his mouth,
he kissed Chakotay's knuckles, watching as first one brown eye lazily opened
to be followed by the other. Chakotay gazed at him, everything he needed
to say there in his eyes.
"Who needs to talk?" said Tom softly.
Chakotay leaned in close, running
a finger down Tom's face in a loving caress. "Not me. I know what I want."
Tom's smile widened. "Chakotay, I'm
gonna aggravate the hell out of you for the rest of your life."
"Looking forward to it, hotshot."
Their lips met in a heated kiss,
sealing the bargain with a promise of more in the near future.