|Tom Through the Looking-Glass
It was an effort to rise the next morning. Chakotay's muscles were still protesting from the previous day's exertions, but he willed himself to move. He knew they were only about a day away from the boulder now, and that thought spurred him on. He stretched his muscles, warming them up for a good fifteen minutes before rousing Tom.
Tom came to slowly. He felt very weary, his movements lethargic as he attempted to sit up. Chakotay hugged Tom to him and kissed him tenderly, before they set out once more.
Chakotay was okay for the first two hours, but each time they stopped after that, he found the distance he could walk before tiring became less and less. He felt sluggish, his legs like lead at times, and Tom seemed to weigh more as the hours passed. As the sun climbed high in the sky, he came to the conclusion that he would have to stop for a more substantial rest. So, stretching out in the shade, they slept for a couple of hours as the brightness of the day increased around them.
Afterwards, as he picked Tom up to resume their journey, Chakotay knew he wouldn't get very far before he had to stop again. He had hoped the rest would have helped more than it did, but he only managed to walk for fifteen minutes before he had to rest for another fifteen.
"Cha?" Tom whispered. "Let's stop for today. You're too tired."
"No, Tom. I know I'm tired, but it won't help to stop for that length of time. By tomorrow we'll both be even weaker, and it will be that much harder to go on," Chakotay replied, resting his head against the tree behind him. "We'll be stopping when it gets dark, in about four hours time, anyway. I'm just going to go on for as long as I can each time, even if I only last five minutes before resting. Each step is a step closer to getting home, and we've got to do it before we're too weak. The longer we go without food and water, the worse it's going to get."
Tom sighed and rested his head on Chakotay's shoulder as they sat side by side. "I wish I wasn't so useless," he muttered.
Chakotay slipped his arm around Tom's shoulder and squeezed gently. "You're not useless, Tom. Your body's just had too much to cope with," he reassured the younger man as he climbed wearily to his feet. "Come on, let's get going again. See how far we can get this time."
They progressed slowly, stopping and starting at very short intervals, for the rest of the day. By the time darkness fell, Chakotay found he was barely shuffling along, Tom limp in his arms. He found a place for them to sleep, then laid Tom down for the night. As his muscles screamed at him, Chakotay wrapped himself around the already sleeping pilot, and joined him in slumber. Tomorrow they would reach the boulder, he thought, as sleep claimed him.
Night gave way to day, and Chakotay slowly opened his eyes, looking appraisingly at the man laying in his embrace. Tom's face was pale and thin, and he was in desperate need of medical attention. Even though Tom hadn't complained, Chakotay knew the infected wounds were causing the younger man pain. He could tell that the insect bites on Tom's body were irritating him too, and he was weak from lack of food and water. He knew he had to get Tom back to Voyager today.
He shakily rose to his feet, every part of him hurting. He felt light-headed, so stood still a moment, before bending to scoop up the still-sleeping pilot. Chakotay carried Tom from their resting place, and back onto the track that led to the boulder, the younger man never stirring once.
Trying to divert his mind from the pains that ran through his body, Chakotay concentrated instead on just putting one foot in front of the other for as long as he could. In spite of his muscles' protest, he trudged on for half an hour before he gave in and stopped. He sat down, still cradling Tom in his arms, as he tried to summon up the energy to continue. Ten minutes later, he forced himself to rise, then struggled onwards.
For the next two hours, he inched his way forward, his concern for Tom growing. He shuffled on though, and as he looked ahead, he saw that he was approaching a clearing. Despite the fact that he could hardly stay upright, and every muscle hurt more than he'd ever experienced before, Chakotay suddenly wanted to run. There, fifty yards in front of him, was the boulder. "Tom! Tom! Wake up!" he shouted excitedly as he walked up the track "We're there, Tom!"
As Chakotay neared the boulder, Tom stirred. His eyes flickered open, then widened in surprise as Chakotay stumbled and fell. Tom landed on his back with a thud, Chakotay falling to one side of him, his feet towards Tom's head. The older man had managed to twist as he fell, in order to avoid landing on top of Tom.
Tom lay still a moment as his brain processed what had just happened, then he lifted his head and looked over at Chakotay, concerned as he realised that Chakotay wasn't moving.
In his efforts to avoid hurting Tom, Chakotay had struck his head on the boulder. Blood was pouring from a nasty gash, and Chakotay was unconscious, his face pale. "Oh, my God. Cha!" Tom shouted, panic-stricken, as he tried to sit up. Calling up all the strength he had, he pulled himself closer to the boulder, then looked at Chakotay's head wound. It was deep, and Tom knew he wouldn't be able to stop the bleeding easily. He had to find the 'marble' and hope it would take them home.
He pressed on the gash with his hand as he looked around desperately, fear fuelling his energy reserves. He tried to remember back to his arrival, and what position he had woken up in. An image formed in his mind, and he looked to where his hands would have been.
He didn't see it at first, but when he scanned the ground a second time, he spotted the 'marble'. It was lying amongst the stones next to Chakotay's foot. 'You hold, you return' flashed through Tom's brain, and he prayed that it would work. And, if it did, that both he and Chakotay would be taken back.
Tom took his hand away from Chakotay's head, wrapping it around the man's legs as he reached out with his other hand to pick up the 'marble'. For a few seconds, nothing happened, then a blinding flash of light hit the two men, and Tom shut his eyes as he clung tightly to Chakotay's legs. For a short while, he felt as though he was spinning, and didn't open his eyes until the sensation ceased abruptly, and he found himself, and Chakotay, on the floor of their bedroom.
As his vision began to blur, Tom let go of the 'marble'. "Computer. Medical emergency. Two to beam directly to sickbay," he managed to call out, before his body finally succumbed to his ordeals and he collapsed on top of Chakotay.
Kathryn Janeway had the shock of her life. She was in sickbay, in deep discussion with the Doctor, when her missing officers appeared on the floor almost directly in front of her. For an instant, she stood immobilised as she took in their battered condition, and the pool of blood that was forming on the floor around Chakotay's head. The Doctor's frantic actions finally snapped her out of her frozen state, and she helped him get the two men on to adjacent biobeds.
Chakotay's head wound was the Doctor's first priority, and he worked quickly to stem the flow of blood, checking for other injuries once that was done. He concluded that there was nothing life-threatening,, although the Commander would need to be treated for blood loss, dehydration and exhaustion. The appropriate drips were quickly set up, and the Doctor turned his full attention to Tom.
It was obvious that Tom hadn't eaten in quite a while, and as well as dehydration and exhaustion, he had other problems. Janeway looked on with shock as Tom's jacket was removed. There were badly infected wounds on both his sides, along with numerous insect bites. Some of those were very red and also infected. Standing back, she watched as the Doctor worked steadily for the next half hour to repair the most urgent injuries.
"I'm going to attend to the lower half of Mr. Paris' body now, then I shall keep both him and the Commander sedated for the next twelve hours," the Doctor informed Janeway. "Although, of course, I shall have to wait for the Commander to regain consciousness naturally first. I want to check him out fully before I give him a sedative. Can't be too careful with head wounds."
"Would I be able to speak with him for a few minutes before you sedate him?" Janeway asked.
"Quite possibly. I'll let you know when he wakes up."
"Very well. Keep me informed of Lieutenant Paris' condition as well, Doctor," Janeway said as she walked towards the door. "I'll be in my ready room."
It was half an hour later that Chakotay began to stir. His head was hurting, and he kept his eyes closed as he struggled to recall what had happened, before suddenly remembering that he'd fallen while carrying Tom. "Tom!" he shouted out, sitting up quickly. The sudden movement made his head swim, and it wasn't until he heard the Doctor's voice that he realised where he was. "Doctor? How did I get here? Where's Tom?"
"Relax, Commander. Tom's fine. If you look the other way, you'll see he's in the next bed. As to how you got here, I'm not sure," the Doctor said calmly. "Now, please lay back down. I don't want to have to replace those drips."
Chakotay lay down, his gaze fixed on Tom. The younger man was also attached to various drips, but Chakotay breathed a sigh of relief. They were home. He wasn't sure how, but it didn't really matter right now.
A few moments later, the sickbay doors swished open, and Captain Janeway appeared at Chakotay's bedside, the Doctor having called her when Chakotay first awoke. "Commander. How are you feeling?" she asked, looking at him carefully.
"Glad to be back," he answered tiredly.
"I found Tom," he replied as he struggled to stay awake.
"Captain? I think it would be best if you were to speak with the Commander tomorrow. After he's rested," the Doctor advised.
"I think you're right," she agreed, then briefly turned back to Chakotay. "I'll see you tomorrow, Chakotay. If you're up to it, we'll talk then."
Chakotay nodded, too tired to speak, then fell asleep without the aid of a sedative.
It was fifteen hours before Chakotay woke again. This time, his head felt fine, and the wound there had been regenerated. His limbs no longer ached, although he still felt a little weaker than normal, and he noticed that the drips had also been removed. He sat up carefully, and looked around.
Tom lay on the next bed, his drips also gone. Chakotay swung his legs over the side of the bed, then stood, a little shakily at first, before walking the few steps to Tom's bed, the sickbay pyjama bottoms feeling strange on his legs after days of just wearing boxers. Chakotay was pleased that Tom looked a lot better than he had done before, and that his face had a little more colour. Bending forward, he gently brushed Tom's cheek with the back of his hand, causing Tom to shift slightly in the bed and open his eyes. As their gazes met, they both smiled, then hugged each other tightly as they reassured each other that this was real, and not a dream. They were home.
The Doctor cleared his throat twice before he got their attention. "How are you feeling, gentlemen?" he asked, looking appraisingly at them.
"Fine," Chakotay answered. "A little weak, but I'm okay."
"And you, Lieutenant?"
"Much better, Doc. And ready to get out of here," Tom answered with a grin.
"You still need to rest, Mr. Paris. And I'd like to see you eat before I let you go. How long were you without food?"
"I'm not sure. About nine days or so, I think"
"Then you may find it difficult to take solid food again straight away. I suggest you start with something along the lines of soup. I will continue to give you nutrition supplements along with the antibiotics you also need."
"So if I eat now, I can go?" Tom questioned.
"Yes, Mr. Paris. But I want you back here for your medication in eight hours. And you are to rest. I don't want reports of you playing pool at Sandrine's, or any other such nonsense. Do I make myself clear?"
"I'll make sure he behaves, Doctor," Chakotay said, smiling. "I'll bring him straight back if he doesn't."
"I'm glad to hear it, Commander. Now, both of you go and replicate some soup, and you can go when you've finished it."
"Doc? Could we be transported back to our quarters? I don't fancy walking through the ship in pyjamas," Tom said as he headed for the replicator.
"Fine, Mr. Paris, I'll transport you. Now get on with your meal."
When they eventually arrived back at their quarters, Tom headed straight for the bedroom.
"What's the rush, Tom?" Chakotay asked as he followed him.
"That marble thing. When we got back, I left it on the floor by the bed," Tom announced. He stopped just inside the bedroom door and stared at the floor. It was stained with Chakotay's blood.
"What happened, Tom?" Chakotay asked as he saw the mess. "I don't remember how we got back."
"Let me just put the 'marble' back where it belongs, and I'll tell you," Tom replied as he picked the object up. He quickly placed it on the sphere's base, noting, as he did, that the blue crystal no longer glowed. "You were right about how to get back, Cha," he said, guiding Chakotay back to the living area, and on to the couch. "You were bleeding badly after you knocked yourself out when your head hit the boulder, and I was really worried. But then, I found that 'marble' amongst the stones. I grabbed on to you, then picked it up, and a few seconds later we were in the bedroom."
"You got us home, Tom," Chakotay said softly, hugging the younger man.
"God, Cha. If it hadn't been for you, we'd never have made it. I don't know how you managed to carry me for so long."
"Let's just say we got each other home then," Chakotay said, smiling fondly at Tom. "Now, though, you'd better rest. Or the Doctor will want you back in sickbay."
"Okay," Tom agreed. "But I'll stay here, on the couch. I don't want to go back in the bedroom for now. I can't handle seeing your blood again just yet."
"Lay down then, Tom, and I'll get you a pillow and a blanket," Chakotay said, rising. He went to the bedroom, returning a moment later to settle Tom down on the couch. "Go back to sleep, and I'll get the bedroom cleaned up. Okay?"
"You should rest too, you know. Don't overdo it," Tom said, as he held Chakotay's hand and rubbed his thumb over the back of it.
"I won't overdo it, I promise. But it's my mess, and I'll clean it up. I'll rest when I've finished." He kissed Tom's forehead. "Sleep now. We'll eat again when you wake up."
"Give me a good night kiss, then, and I'll sleep," Tom grinned, their first night together in his thoughts.
"Okay, but a kiss is all you're getting for now," Chakotay grinned back. "Anything else will have to wait until we're both fit enough." They shared a long, loving kiss which Chakotay eventually broke a few minutes later. "No more just yet," he said, tapping Tom on the nose.
Tom sighed, and snuggled under the blanket. "Okay. I'll sleep now, then," he yawned.
Chakotay smiled, then got up, and after one last look at Tom, he headed for the bedroom. He scrubbed at the floor, stopping twenty minutes later when he heard the door chime. He quickly grabbed his robe and pulled it on over the sickbay pyjamas that he still wore. "Enter" he called out, as he returned to the living area.
"Chakotay, how are you?" the Captain asked as the door closed behind her.
"I'm fine now. Thank you," he answered quietly, looking across at Tom, and noting that the younger man was fast asleep. "Have a seat," he said to Janeway, then gestured towards the two chairs next to the dining table. They both sat down, and Chakotay took a deep breath. "I should apologise for my behaviour on the bridge. I shouldn't have spoken to you like that. Although, I won't apologise for my reasons for doing so," he stated calmly. "And I'll understand if you wish to send me to the brig."
Janeway sighed, and studied Chakotay's face. "I won't be sending you to the brig, Chakotay. It was my fault as much as yours. I could see you were very upset, and I shouldn't have pushed you. If I'd let you calm down, we could have continued talking later, in private. I suppose I just didn't expect you to react like that."
"I'm only human, Kathryn. I can only take so much. I know everyone expects me to always stay calm and level-headed, and I do try, but when Tom disappeared, so did my reason for living. I couldn't think straight. All I knew was that I had to find him. I couldn't give up."
"And you found him," Janeway smiled. "But where? What happened? I couldn't believe it when you disappeared as well. Where did you go?"
"It was something Tom bought on Yartis. It seems to be a transport device, although we didn't know that then. Tom went through a portal, if you like, and ended up being imprisoned. He'd been attacked, and his captors had left him in a tiny cage to die." Tears welled in Chakotay's eyes as he remembered how he had found Tom. "He hadn't eaten, and they... I can't. I'm sorry." His voice trailed off as he struggled with the painful memories.
"It's okay. Leave it for now. Let me get you a drink," Janeway offered, and walked to the replicator. "Tea?"
"Yes, please," Chakotay replied, rubbing his hand across his eyes.
There was movement from the couch as Tom stirred, and opened his eyes. "Cha?" he called softly.
"I'm here," Chakotay answered as he walked across to him, then kissed him tenderly. "The Captain's here as well."
"How are you feeling, Tom?" Janeway asked as she noted the obvious love the two men had for each other.
"A lot better, Captain. Thank you." Tom said, sitting up.
"Would you like a drink, Tom?" she asked, handing the tea to Chakotay.
"Not just yet, thanks."
"I was just explaining about the sphere," Chakotay said to Tom as he sat next to him.
Tom snorted. "I wish I'd never seen that thing," he said, emphatically.
"Where is it now?" Janeway asked.
"In our bedroom," Tom replied. "But I think we need to get rid of it. It's too dangerous to keep here. Who knows what else it might do."
"I agree," Chakotay said. "Although I would recommend putting it into secure storage rather than disposing of it completely. If it can be studied safely, off the ship, it might turn out to be useful."
"Can I see it?"
"Certainly, Captain. But don't touch it," Chakotay warned. "That's how Tom and I got into trouble."
Janeway followed the two men into their bedroom, where a bowl of water and a cloth still sat on the floor. "Excuse the mess, Kathryn," Chakotay apologised. "I head-butted a rock just before our return."
Tom avoided looking at the floor, and went towards the sphere. "This is it, Captain," he said, pointing. "I just thought it was an elaborate mirror. Shows you what I know," he grinned wryly.
"It's beautiful, Tom. I can see why you bought it," Janeway commented as she looked at the object in front of her. "But I think it deserves to be called a looking-glass. It's too fancy to be called a plain old mirror."
"Maybe," Tom answered, stepping away from the sphere, then gesturing at it as Chakotay placed an arm around his shoulders. "But it can go. Take it away. I never want to see it again. After all the trouble we had, I want nothing more to do with it," he insisted. "Tom is definitely through with the looking-glass!"