A Lessening of Enmities
by
Sapphire
October 1999
 
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It is impossible to go through life without trust
that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all,
oneself.
Graham Greene



The sudden silence was deafening. The firefight had ended abruptly except for a couple of stray shots by those who hadn't yet realized that the other side was no longer firing back.

"No life signs from the other side, Captain," reported Ayala quietly after scanning with his tricorder.

Chakotay climbed to his feet, cautiously emerging from the cover of the large boulder. The attack had come out of nowhere by aliens who had been dogging Voyager's tail for the past two weeks. Pride in his crew's ability to handle the unexpected calmed Chakotay's racing heart. He gazed around. They had survived with only superficial wounds. Or so he thought until he heard Kim's panicked voice.

"Captain!"

Following the voice, Chakotay found Harry Kim kneeling over a weakly struggling Tom Paris. Chakotay cursed silently. When the aliens had descended upon them he had forgotten that Paris had been brought along on the away team to help collect foodstuffs for Voyager. And Paris was unarmed.

Kneeling next to Kim, Chakotay did a quick visual inspection of Paris. The other man was having difficulty breathing due to a wound to his throat. Paris' hands clawed at his throat in a futile effort to clear an airway. Chakotay slapped his commbadge.

"Chakotay to Voyager."

"Voyager here, Captain."

Chakotay frowned. What the hell had possessed Torres to leave the Bridge to a Fleeter while she personally attended to the transporter problems? Shoving that worry to the back of his mind, he snapped out, "Baytart, are the transporters back up yet?"

Chakotay mentally crossed his fingers. He should have known this away mission was doomed when B'Elanna had commed him shortly after they had transported down to report that the transporters had gone offline. At the time she had advised it would take at least twenty minutes to get the transporter back up and then a few more to run a safety check, and Chakotay knew from experience that B'Elanna wasn't one to pad her repair times.

B'Elanna's voice came on the comline. "Captain, we won't have transporters back up for another ten minutes. Seven at best."

Closing the link without another word, Chakotay leaned over Paris, grabbing his flailing hands. "Hold his hands down, Harry."

Harry Kim did as ordered by the Captain, hoping he wasn't misplacing his trust in this man. He knew the Captain disliked Paris and would be happy to be rid of him but he didn't think the Captain would ever resort to outright murder. Not any more, anyway.

Chakotay probed at Paris' neck wound, searching for the actual entry point of the projectile from the alien weapons through the blood that obscured the wound. He ignored Paris' increasingly frantic movements, until Paris' body bucked upward.

"Damnit! Hold him still, Harry! Sit on him if you have to."

Swallowing, Harry put more muscle into holding Tom down.

Site of wound located, Chakotay realized that Paris was choking on his own blood. None of them had the medical expertise to know what the precise problem was but most of them, those of them in the Maquis, had experience in dealing with emergency medical situations in the field.

"Medkit!" he yelled, only to have Seska run up holding their only medkit, which had been blasted into several pieces by a stray shot. Chakotay was startled by a stray thought that wondered if the medkit had really been destroyed in the firefight or if Seska, seeing who was in need of it, had destroyed the kit. Her hatred for Paris had been clear from the beginning and had not dissipated with time.

Quickly scanning the destroyed medkit, all Chakotay could see that might be of use were a few stray bandages. It was more than obvious that the most immediate concern was Paris' inability to breathe. They would have to perform an emergency tracheotomy. For the first time, Chakotay was glad that he had been forced to do this on the field in the past.

Before he could verbalize his needs, Ayala was there with a 20-centimeter length of hollow reed from a nearby plant. Nodding his thanks, Chakotay grimly took the reed from Ayala, who had taken in the situation and, like Chakotay, had known instantly what needed to be done.

Reaching under Paris' tunic and fumbling toward the waistband of the other man's trousers, Chakotay found what he was looking for, what he knew would be there. Harry's eyes widened when Chakotay pulled out a wicked looking dagger. Seska angrily muttered beneath her breath before turning her back on the proceedings and stomping off. Ayala had already retreated to round up the rest of the away team until such time as beam up was possible.

Sitting back, Chakotay quickly sterilized the blade of the knife with the low power setting of his phaser. When he moved back toward Tom's neck with the knife, Harry suddenly understood what the Captain intended.

"Hold him, Harry. If he moves and the knife slips . . ."

Chakotay didn't have to finish the sentence for Harry. He lay his upper body across Tom's and put all his strength into holding the other man down.

Chakotay's large hands moved to Paris' head, firmly angling it so that their eyes met. Paris' were wide and anxious with his inability to breathe. The anxiety increased when he saw who hovered over him.

"Paris, listen to me. I have to do a tracheotomy. You're going to drown in your own blood if I don't. The medkit's gone, so no painkillers. You have to stay absolutely still. Understand?"

Paris' weak struggles died down but the fear in his eyes grew.

"Trust me, Paris. Just this once." Chakotay's tone was soft, firm, sincere. Paris' eyes closed briefly and then he relaxed as much as a body starving for oxygen can relax.

Chakotay made the cut quickly, cleanly, pushed the hollow reed in, and cleaned the excess blood away. Moving so he was kneeling at the top of Paris' head, he watched the injured man closely until  the other man's breathing, still ragged but evening out, steadied. He held the reed in place, having nothing to hold it clamped to the incision he had made in Paris' throat for the breathing tube to be inserted into the injured man's windpipe. Dark eyes met blue ones and Chakotay surprised himself by saying, "Hold on, Paris. You're going to be all right. Stay with me here. You're going to be fine."

Their gazes locked and held. Chakotay couldn't say there was trust in the other man's gaze but the fear was no longer there and the blue eyes held his with a probing look that spoke of unanswered questions that would most likely never be asked. The distance between the two men was too great for that to ever happen. But for one brief moment, Paris' life had been in Chakotay's hands and Chakotay had not failed him. It was a beginning. Chakotay wasn't sure whether it pleased him or not. He had no desire to become even remotely friendly with Paris.

When his commbadge chirped, Chakotay indicated that Harry should take his place holding Paris' breathing tube. Standing, Chakotay didn't miss the way Harry's hand tightly gripped Paris' shoulder in silent sympathy. He tapped his commbadge. "Chakotay here."

"Transporters are back up, Captain," Torres reported.

"Beam Mr. Paris and Mr. Kim directly to Sickbay, Torres. The rest of us will follow shortly." Chakotay silently watched the two men disappear as Voyager's transporter claimed them.

"You should have let him die."

A cold anger settled in the pit of Chakotay's stomach as he turned to face Seska. "I've had enough of your attitude regarding Paris, Seska. Stow it."

Her gaze narrowed. "You like him," she accused.

"No. But he's a valuable member of this crew. We need his piloting skills and he's done nothing since I've granted him the helm position to deserve a death sentence. So get his death off your agenda because I'm telling you for the final time it won't happen by my hand. And if any of the crew," his dark eyes pinpointed her meaningfully, "get it in their minds to take the situation into their own hands, they'll answer to me."

Angry, Seska strode to the other side of the clearing. Her back remained to Chakotay as an outward sign of her displeasure.

"You did the right thing."

Chakotay turned to gaze in surprise at Ayala. Ayala grinned. "What? You expected me to push for Paris' death? I don't like the guy, Chakotay. But, in my eyes, he hasn't done anything to deserve a death sentence. Seska's got it in for the guy for some reason other than his past with the Maquis. You might want to keep an eye on her."

Chakotay's astonished gaze followed Ayala as the other man went to round up the rest of the away team for beam up. He had thought Ayala one of the Maquis crew's biggest proponents for doing away with Paris. The man radiated animosity whenever he was in Paris' company. It restored his faith that not all the Maquis thought as Seska did.

Left alone with his own thoughts, Chakotay found he still didn't regret backing down from his decision to execute Paris. The execution had not been something his father would have approved. In fact, Chakotay knew that his father would have despised the cold Maquis warrior he had become for a brief period. He now felt at ease with his soul and conscience and he knew his father smiled down upon him, despite his past mistakes. No, he had made the right choice in not executing Paris.

Shaking his head, he joined the others for beam up. Still, Paris was going to be the death of him yet. The man didn't seem to know how to stay out of harm's way and Chakotay had to wonder how seriously he himself was taking this life debt between himself and Paris. Perhaps it ran deeper in his blood than he thought.

Only time would tell. And he still couldn't promise that he wouldn't strangle Paris out of sheer frustration one of these days. But for now, he was at ease with the status quo between himself and the other man.

Finis

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So, will Captain Chakotay give the dagger back to Paris? Now that could make for an interesting scene. Will Paris express gratitude to Chakotay for saving his life or make a snarky comment? Seska has plots, I think, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Paris damaged from her machinations. Will fighting a common foe draw Chakotay and Paris a little closer when it comes out that Seska is a Cardassian and is plotting Voyager's downfall with the Kazon?

Hey, Maisie, doesn't this make you want to write something? Certainly makes me want to write something.

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