Prior story in the Among The Bystanders series:
1) Standing Over The Sea
2) Looking Down
Searching For What Is Lost
by Isabelle S.email@example.com
Kathryn was being held into an comforting embrace. The man, on whose shoulder she was heavily laying her head, was no one she had ever been close to. His solid frame was giving her the strength to stand upright. His touch was warm and reassuring. He was not Chakotay, Tuvok, nor Tom.
Tom. Tom needed her help before it was too late. She panicked and fought to free herself. But the man holding her tighten his embrace. His large hand gently stroked her back.
"Please, Captain," he pleaded in a pain stricken voice. "Please, don‘t look. It‘s over. There is nothing more to do."
The voice belonged to a member of her crew and she suddenly shared his grief. Kathryn could not stop herself, however. She had to see. She struggled harder and released herself. She sprang on her heels and faced... no one.
In front of her, the land was ending sharply. The sky and the ocean was melting into one another in a blue monochrome. The same shades of blue Tom‘s eyes could get. Tom loved the ocean so much. Kathryn took a few steps forward and look down.
"Oh God! Noooo!" she cried as she woke up in the dark.
"I can‘t stop crying," Kathryn said as Chakotay came to sit beside her on the couch.
"Here," he said giving her a warm cup of tea.
It was passed 3 a.m. Kathryn first reaction to her nightmare had been to call Chakotay. He had not said a word to the fact that she had just woke him up. He had simply promised to be there in a few minutes. So, there he was, her eternal solid wall of support, sitting beside her in his green PJs.
"Thanks for coming so quickly," she said between a sip and a sob.
"Another bad dream about Tom?" His question was more a statement.
"Was it the same one as the last time?"
"No." She took a deep breath. "Last time, I was in my ready room with the Doctor. He had just finished Tom‘s autopsy. He was saying that Tom probably wouldn‘t have done it if he hadn‘t been intoxicated. I don‘t know by what, but he wasn‘t drunk."
"What happened this time?" Chakotay asked softly.
Kathryn brought a hand to her mouth. Her lips were suddenly tied shut. She sniffed. Her tears were threatening to start poring down from her red-rim grey eyes again. Chakotay put a comforting hand on her other arm.
"I was being held by someone, a member of the crew. He wasn‘t you or Tuvok. I though of Tom and I panicked. I knew that he needed my help. So I struggled to free myself from the man‘s embrace and I turned around..."
She sniffed again. This time, she was not able to retained the tears.
"You turned around," Chakotay repeated in a whisper. "What did you see?"
"I saw... I saw the sea," she said in a sob. "I was standing on the top of a cliff, looking over a beautiful blue sea that was melting into the clear sky. I looked down. Oh, God..."
Heartbreaking sobs rocked her body. Chakotay came closer and took her in his embrace. Gently, he caressed her back.
"I looked down," she said again. "And I woke up screaming. I... I don‘t remember seeing Tom at the bottom. But... but I knew he was there. I knew he was dead... What I am going to do?"
Chakotay stayed silent. He kept on stroking her back until her tears ran their course and her sobs had faded into small tremors. He let her go. Slowly, she composed herself.
"This is so strange," she said. "It‘s like things are going in reverse."
"You‘re right," Chakotay realized. "During your vision quest, Tom had been dead for three days. Your first nightmare was about his memorial service. Then, the autopsy, and now this... You have to talk to him, Kathryn. This can‘t go on. It‘s devastating you."
"I did. I talked to him," she argued. "We went sailing on lake Tao together. Brother Tiul said to me that Tom‘s empathy is what drives him. So, I played that card. I told him that I was missing our friendship and that I was concerned about him, among other things. I shared my feelings, and he shared back. He was very open and honest with me."
She paused reflectively.
"Things aren‘t perfect." she granted. "He wishes that his relationship with B‘Elanna could be more. And.. this whole incident with the Water Planet and the strain that it put on our relationship sadden him greatly. But, he would do it again if he thought he could make a difference. A selfish thing he said. But, he just couldn‘t stand there and do nothing. He had to try."
"I understand, but he took things a little too far."
"Oh, Chakotay. Don‘t give me that!" she lightly resented. "You‘ve been in similar situations. You also took things into your own hands and went against the law. So, have I." She sighed with frustration. "That‘s not the point anyway. The point is that he is fine. I don‘t know why he would commit suicide."
It was Chakotay‘s turned to sigh. "I don‘t know either. Harry and the Delaney sisters noticed that Tom was more quiet than usual, that he was no longer engaging in his regular activities, and that he was less passionate about things. But, they all agreed that he is fine, too. Although, Megan was concerned by the fact that Tom had lost some weight."
They both knew that there was not much they could do except keeping an eye on Tom for the time being.
"If I see things in reverse, does it mean that the next time I‘ll see him jump?"
"I certainly hope not," Chakotay replied sympathetically.
"Kathryn, I know that you don‘t want to give him any ideas. But, if this goes on, you‘ll have to tell him about those dreams. If you don‘t, I will."
She first glare at him, not liking that threat. But then, she could only agree with Chakotay.
"Minister Diac was very cordial," Captain Janeway said as she finished debriefing the senior staff concerning her meeting with the Frelian minister to foreign affairs. "Hopefully, this supply mission will go as quickly as the one on the Klouani home world. I‘ll see the away team in transporter room two in 20 minutes.
As everyone was leaving, Paris approached Janeway. He waited for them to be the only one left in the room before saying.
"Captain, do you think it‘s necessary for me to go with you on this mission?" She stared at him in surprise. "You don‘t need a pilot."
"True," she granted. "But, on this new world, I could use a member of the medical staff."
It sadden her that after all this time, Tom was still seeing himself only as a pilot. He had proven to be so much more. She felt guilty for not pointing that out to him more often.
"The Doctor would be a better choice," he argued.
"Tom, you‘re an excellent medical assistant," she told him seizing her chance. "You also have an affinity with people that the Doctor has yet to master. In addition, I know I can always count on your intuition. Those gut feelings of yours often came handy."
Tom slowly let out a breath. Obviously, he did hot want to disappoint her.
"Is something wrong?" she asked. "You love away missions. You always complain that we don‘t go planet-side often enough. Do you have a bad feeling about this one?"
"No bad feeling," he said reassuringly. "I have some work to catch up in sickbay and I could use the time."
Those words sounded strange to her coming from her Chief Pilot, but Tom appeared sincere.
"If you prefer not to come, I won‘t force you," she told him. "But, the offer still stands. If you change your mind, join the away team in fifteen minutes."
"Thank you, Captain." he said.
"You‘re welcome, Tom."
Kathryn looked blankly at the door closing behind Paris. She was not sure how to interpret this situation. She sighed. This musing was not going to help her prepare for her away mission. She left the conference room for her ready room. While crossing the bridge, Chakotay came up to her.
Janeway invited him to follow her. Once in the privacy of her ready room, she told him about Tom‘s request.
"Tom preferred working in Sickbay to going on an away mission?" asked the Commander unbelievingly.
"You heard me right, Chakotay. It sounded strange to me too."
"Now, I‘m definitely worried," he stated.
"Oh, because you weren‘t worried before?" she asked him.
"I was." He looked at the window while she assembled a few padds on her desk. "You know, Kathryn, maybe this is just a good thing."
She gave him a sideway look. "You mean keep Tom off away mission and from high cliffs? How long can I do that, Chakotay? Tom and B‘Elanna don‘t even use the safety protocols in the holodeck."
He had no answer to give her.
Kathryn finally saw Tom materialized in the middle of the large hallway, a few feet away from where she stood. He quickly surveyed his surroundings. Local art that resembled painting, but not quite, were exhibited on the walls. Plants, sculptures, and other ornaments were displayed in the long corridor, as far as they could see. The light was coming from beautiful crafted chandeliers, hanging from the ceiling. Around them, people were passing by, going from one room to another.
"I‘m glad you decided to come," Kathryn greeted him.
"Well, I must say Captain that you were quite insistent," Tom pointed out with a smile. "Not to mention Commander Chakotay who almost made it an order..."
She grinned. "That‘s because I have something to show you."
"You do?" Again, Tom looked around. "Where are we?"
"In the Historical Aviation Museum," she replied seeing a sparkle in those baby blue eyes of his. She had successful caught his interest.
They entered a huge room where pictures and full-size models of aircraft and small spacecraft were exhibited. Although, Kathryn had already seen the display, its impressiveness mesmerized her once again. It stole her pilot‘s breath away, who was standing like a statue, his month hanging open.
"Breathe, Tom," she reminded him.
He looked down at her, just long enough to return her grin, then his eyes flew back on the exhibit. His stunned expression was slowly shifting to a mix of delight and curiosity. His ultimate boyish expression was what was mesmerizing her now. He was looking like a six-year-old who did not have enough of his two eyes to take in all the wonders of the world.
He began to make his way toward the nearest aircraft model which was to their left. Slowly circling around it, he analyzed each angle of the small plane with the critical eye of an expert. Without even touching the frame, his long fine hands followed the structure, feeling its smoothness and its strength from a distance.
"This is an incredible engineering piece!" he commented.
"I am glad that you like," said a tall male joining them. "I assume you are Captain Janeway‘s Chief Helm Officer. I am Minister Diac."
"Ensign Tom Paris," the pilot introduced himself. "Pleased to meet you, Minister."
"As I was telling you earlier, Minister," said Janeway. "Tom is our unofficial historian." She liked that new title she recently gave him. "If you want to discuss Earth history and culture, crafts and other methods of transportation, he‘s the one to talk to."
Tom looked at her a bit taken aback by her comments. She just had time to smile at him before the Minister seized his opportunity and invited the pilot to follow him throughout the exhibit.
They must have spent over three hours in that room alone, discussing the different models and comparing Frelian aviation and space exploration history to that of Earth. Janeway, Kim, Torres, Neelix, and Tuvok were learning a great deal on both counts. Again, they were amazed by the extent of Tom‘s knowledge of Earth‘s history, his attention for details, and his enthusiasm.
"It is unfortunate that the museum has to close for the night," stated Minister Diac. "I had a wonderful evening in your company."
"Likewise, Minister," Janeway told him pleasantly.
Outside, on the plaza facing the museum, they found the rest of the away team gathered around a bench on which B‘Elanna and Harry were sitting.
"Where‘s Tom?" asked the Captain.
"Over there, by the street," replied Harry. "There was one last thing he had to look at. We just couldn‘t keep up with him anymore."
Janeway chuckled, understanding perfectly what Harry was saying. She was tired as well. It had been a long day and the last few hours had been like following an hyperactive child in a candy shop. Despite herself, she made her way towards Tom. She was curious to know what was the other discovery he had made.
Kathryn found Tom staring at an odd structure, which from human point of view, could be described as abstract art. It was a tall sheet of metal, at least nine or ten feet high, put on a plinth, cut at various angles. It was quivering in the wind, making strange screeching sounds that seemed to amplify in the dark.
"Sounds like.... I don‘t know... a horror movie," he decided giving up searching. "You like horror movies, Captain?"
"No. I can‘t say that I do," she replied returning his grin. She did not particularly like that structure either.
As Paris and Janeway began making their way back toward the away team, they heard what sounded like gunfire and screams coming from the busy street. They quickly exchanged a look and ran toward that direction instead, hoping to be able to offer assistance if needed.
Panicked people were running in different directions as gunfire could be heard again. Paris forced Janeway to the ground. Someone else screamed. She looked up to see a young man being shot at by a Frelian military officer. Other gunfire could still be heard. Tom was staring at a young male that did not seem much more than a teenager. Kathryn felt that he was about to make a move toward the fallen boy and she grasped his arm. It was too dangerous. He could be hit in the process.
Tom‘s eyes met her own. Her heart broke over the distress she could read in his blue orbs. He was imploring her to let him go. He had the medical knowledge. He could do something, they both knew it. She was also aware of that he could not stay there doing nothing without at least trying to help. She desperately wanted to bring her arm around his shoulders to keep him low, away from flying bullets, but mostly to give him comfort. Instead, Kathryn tighten her grip, afraid that if she was to let go that he would make a run for it.
"Tom, please! Don‘t move!" she pleaded.
In the few minutes that followed, things quieted down. Slowly, carefully, they stood up. Tom seemed to be shaky on his legs. He was holding his mid-section. For instant, she feared that he had been hit. But, there was no blood. Kathryn‘s gaze flew to the boy She realized that Tom was holding his mid-section about the same place that the victim had been wounded.
Soon the crowd gathered around. They found themselves among curious bystanders who just looked at the scene without doing anything.
"Captain!" came Tuvok‘s voice. "Are you and Mr. Paris alright?"
The Vulcan Security Officer was followed close by the Minister and the rest of the away team.
"I think that we are. Are we?" she asked Tom scrutinizing his face.
He simply nodded.
"Minister, I‘m a medical assistant, can I?...."
"Do not trouble yourself with this, Tom," Minister Diac interrupted him. "Those people are rebels. The police will handle them. Please, let‘s walk away from this unfortunate incident."
Kathryn and Tom caught a sight of each other. He opened his month. He was about to say something, but the protest that she was expecting never came. He furtively took one last look at the still unattended teenager before steeping back and looking away, ashamed and barely holding his own.
*Remember that Tom‘s empathy is what drives him. Losing that will kill him inside,* Brother Tiul had said.
Fear struck her as if she had been shut at herself.
Not only could Tom understand others‘ distress, he could share their pain. His feelings were like an eggshell that had been scratched and hit too many times. By preventing him from relieving the young boy‘s distress, he could not release his own. This was the breaking point that Chakotay and herself had been looking for, and fearing, for weeks.
She realized that, during the incident with the Water Planet, she had overlooked too quickly his empathy, shattered his passion in the process. Now, she had involuntarily denied it all together, threatening his life.
Her heart sank. Oh Tom...What have I done to you?
Chakotay knew the instant that he had saw Tom in the transporter room that something had happened to the younger man. His bad feeling had been confirmed moments later as he had exchanged a look with his captain.
Now, Chakotay and Kathryn were the only one left in the room. He was sitting on the transporter platform. She was pacing.
"I can be damn proud of myself," she said with anger. "I did the impossible. I broke the wild horse. I killed the rebel. I made him the obedient child his father was hoping for. I turned him into the model Starfleet officer his teachers at the Academy wanted him to be. I reformed him by only a month in the brig where seven months in New Zealand had not been strong enough. You see Chakotay, I succeeded where others have failed. The only thing I had to do was to kill him."
"Kathryn, you did not kill him," Chakotay told her. "Tom is still with us. He is not dead inside either. Being dead inside would not lead him to suicide. He would not be motivated to do it."
Chakotay stood up in front of her, putting a stop to her pacing.
"Kathryn as long as he is with us, there‘s something we can do," he assured her. "I don‘t know why you have those visions, but it gives us the advantage, especially now that we know what we are dealing with."
"And what are we going to do?" she asked. "For the first time in my life I feel completely helpless," she admitted tears in her eyes. "I feel like Tom‘s about to fall and that I just can‘t get close enough to catch his hand. I don‘t know what to do. "
He forced her to look at him and he held her gaze.
"We‘re going to get you close enough. That‘s what were going to do," Chakotay told her forcefully. "We‘re going to get you close enough so that you can grip his hand and pull him back."
He took both of her hands.
"Brother Tiul told you that you might be able to make a difference and you will. You‘re not alone. I will help you as I know Tom‘s friends will too. We‘ll be there for Tom as I am here for you. I won‘t let you go down either."
She gave him a small smile. "I know I can always count on you.
Thank you for being with me, Chakotay."
He placed a gentle friendly kiss on her forehead. Putting his arm around her shoulders, Chakotay led Kathryn out of the transporter room and walked her to her quarters.
Next Part:Finding Only Pieces
Big thanks to PJ in NH for helping proofing this story.
Thank you for reading.
Feedback is always very appreciated.
Isabelle S. firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyrights @ April 1999.