Series: Voyager
Season: 5
Pairing: P, J & C, P/T
Parts: 5/?
Rating: PG
SYNOPSIS: A shining beautify day. A moving sea of little blue flowers. Tom and Kathryn by the edge of cliff.

Prior story in the Among The Bystanders series:
1) Standing Over The Sea
2) Looking Down
3) Searching For What Is Lost
4) Finding Only Pieces.

Standing Up For Oneself
by Isabelle

"Captain, are you all right?" Tom asked her his voice filled with concern. "You look like you had the fear of your life!"

"Err..." She forced a breath in, pushing the images out of her mind. She had to calm down. Now, was not the time to panic. She could still lead Tom away from this place. "I... I don‘t feel very well," she told her pilot, which was true enough.

"Try to take even breaths," he recommended. "That‘s it... We‘ll land in a few minutes."

"Land?!" she almost gasped. She bit her lower lip in reprimand.

She took another deep breath. "Tom, this is very kind of you.

But, if you don‘t mind, I would like to return to the camp."

"I understand, Captain," he said. "But we‘ll have to land. Neelix and his team are waiting for us, remember? As soon as they‘re ready we‘ll head back." He gave her a soft smile. "You‘ll have to let me take a look at you this time."

Kathryn simply nodded. She looked away at the field of blue flowers over which they were flying. It was so pretty. At the far end of the field, the landscape was more hilly. She could not see what was on the other side of the field. She had not seen any high cliffs yet, but it did not meant there was none.

She felt Tom gaze falling on her again. He was giving furtive looks in her direction. Then, his attention was returning to his landing procedures. She allowed herself a sideways look of her own. Tom had been so happy a few minutes earlier, just like a child who had been working all morning on a special surprise. Now, she knew that he was worried about her, but he was calm and professional. He certainly did not seem like a man who was about to commit suicide!

What if it had not been about suicide all along? She hoped for the umpteenth time. What if it was just about a freak accident? Would it really make a difference? Certainly not in the long run. She knew that something was about to happen. Something that would drag to the surface the pain Tom had been carrying and hiding for years. And to her great sadness, she was somehow part of it.

Tom flew over the field and smoothly landed the Miramichi on a plateau at the foot of a steep hill. It was obvious by the trace left in the blue-green grass that he had landed there before.

"Are you feeling better?" he asked.

"A little," Kathryn replied. "I would feel much better if we would return to the camp as soon as possible."

"I know," he said before getting up. "I‘ll go get the others."

It took Kathryn a moment to realize that he was leaving without her. A shiver went up her spine and she jumped out of her seat. Under no circumstances was she going to let Tom out of her sight! She looked at the back of the shuttle where her pilot was opening the hatch. Tom was fixing her with clouded eyes and a stunned expression. He was as surprised by her uncharacteristic behavior as she was. In that instant, she could barely recognize herself.

She cursed her weakness.

She was Kathryn Janeway, she reminded herself. She was the captain of the Starfleet starship Voyager. She had battled the Cardasians, the Kazon, the Vidiians, the Borg, and too many others. She had defeated Fear and Death. But it did not matter anymore because Kathryn Janeway felt idle with helplessness in the face of human fragility.

"I need some air," she hastily told Tom with a smile she wanted to be reassuring.

She was not even out of the Miramichi that she caught the sweet smell of the blue flowers. It reminded her of the ones of lilac and magnolia. The odor was just strong enough to be soothing. Tom waited for her to exit the shuttle first, then he followed her. Overlooked by the hill, they were standing over the vast sea of blue flowers with green and yellow leafs.

"We found another kind of seed underneath the yellowish leafs which are as close as Earth coffee seeds as we ever found so far in the Delta Quadrant," Tom enthusiastically told her.

"This planet sure as been full of wonderful discoveries," unable to hide her satisfaction at the prospect of drinking coffee.

"Captain! Tom!" called Neelix, who was walking through the flowers alongside of the hill. "Am I glad to see you!"

One would of have doubt about the sincerity of the last statement at listening to Neelix‘s uncharacteristic monotone voice.

"Hey, Neelix," Tom replied."Something wrong?" he asked meeting the Talaxian half way. He was sweating heavily and his breathing was labored. "Are you all right?"

"Yes... yes, I am. But the others..." Neelix replied. "But, the others have fallen sick."

"Sick?" echoed the Captain. "How sick?"

"They started to have cramps in their stomach and to be feverish. Then, they began to hallucinate and to wonder in all directions," the little alien explained.

"Sounds like a typical psychedelic drug reaction," Tom concluded. He gently reached for Neelix‘s chin and forced him to hold still so that he could looked into his eyes. The pupils were dilated. "Although, it seems to have a different effect on you. More like a depressant." He gave a sideways look toward the captain. "What were saying about wonderful discoveries?"

Janeway ignored his last statement. "Where are others, Neelix?"

"Not far this way," he said showing the direction he had been coming from. "I tried to keep us all together until you arrived, but I lost track of Ensign Wildman and crewman Dalby. Lieutenant Ayala is holding his own. He stayed with Ensign Lang, and crewman Chell. Ann-Mei, she is very sick."

"Hell, I knew this wouldn‘t last long!" Tom sighed, frustrated. "There‘s no such thing as a peaceful away mission. At least not for me. Something always has to happened!" He drew in a calming breath. "Neelix, let me grab a medkit and I‘ll come with you," he told him. "Captain, you should stay here. Hopefully, Dalby and Wildman will come this way."

Oh no, Mister. You are not going to get rid of me that easy. she thought.

"Thank you for your concern, Mr. Paris, but I‘m coming with you," she said with a firm voice. "Tom, we don‘t know exactly what we‘re dealing with, yet. We wouldn‘t want any us to go wondering around on our own."

"She‘s right, Tom," Neelix agreed.

"Captain, with all due respect, moments ago you weren‘t feeling well," Tom argued. "All the better for you to stay away from a possible dangerous psychedelic agent."

"You‘re concern is noted, Mr. Paris. But, I made my decision," she said definitely.

"I was afraid you‘d say that," Tom mumbled. "Well, it‘s time to test if Doc‘s lessons about psychopharmacology sank in. With a little luck, I should be able to come up with a counteragent. We‘ll also need medkits, tricorders, and blankets," he told them as they returned to the shuttlecraft.

Chakotay made his way through the base camp. He was not too surprised to find it almost deserted as most crew members were on away missions are tending to ship operations. However, the absence of Captain Janeway at either locations was unexpected.

He could not help feeling uneasy about it.

He found B‘Elanna and Harry loading cases of various minerals into shuttlecrafts.

"Chakotay, something I can do for you," came the Chief Engineer‘s greeting.

"Hello to you too, B‘Elanna," he replied. "Have you seen the Captain around?"

"She left with Tom over a hour ago to retrieve Neelix‘s team?" she informed him.

"Alone with Tom?" he whispered mostly to himself.

B‘Elanna obvious did not like the last statement—or was it its possible implicit implications. She stood up straighter.

"Is something wrong?" she asked coldly.

Harry walked out of the shuttlecraft with a concerned look on his young face.

"No, nothing is wrong," Chakotay hastily replied. "I just need to talk to Janeway. Harry, could try to hail them?"

"I can try, Commander," the Ensign told him. "But, I can‘t guarantee that it‘ll work. The ion storms in the atmosphere are still interfering with communications."

"Just give it a try, Harry," Chakotay said before walking away.

He was not sure if he wanted to know where Kathryn and Tom were. He was just hoping that it was as far away from high cliffs as possible.

Janeway and Paris followed Neelix through the field of little blue flowers, tricorders in hand.

"I‘m picking up traces of hallucinogen agents coming from the flowers into the air, but in an extremely low quantities," Tom informed the captain. "No wonder we missed on it during our first survey. Still, people shouldn‘t be sick, there doesn‘t seem to be that much hallucinogen agent in the air.."

"Maybe a prolonged exposure to the agent reinforces its effects," Janeway offered. "The more they‘re exposed to it, the more sensitive to it they become."

"A sensitization effect? Possible, but that‘s pretty rare. People usually develop tolerance, more than sensitization." Tom argued. "Neelix, you‘re sure you and the others didn‘t eat or drink anything you shouldn‘t have?"

"I‘m quite certain. We were very careful," Neelix assured them.

"I‘m sure that you were, Mr. Neelix," the Captain told him.

"Well," Tom said. "If the counteragent I came up with starts to wear off on me, please remain me that I can‘t fly—biologically speaking of course," he added with a smile.

Attempting to fly by jumping off a high cliff...? The thought gave Kathryn shivers. If he only knew how much she was scared for him. Despite herself, she gave him a resentful look to let him know that she had not appreciated his last remark. A look that he never caught as his attention was suddenly drawn to the right side of the field where Kenneth Dalby was wandering around in Adam‘s costume, as if he was in Eden‘s Garden, and talking to himself.

"Oh my..." she breathed. It was quite a sight! Well, Dalby was a handsome man, and she was still a woman... "And me," she said. "*please* remind me to keep my clothes on."

"Wait until the poor guy comes down," Tom chuckled. He reached into his medkit and gave a hypospray to the Talaxian. "Neelix, also take a blanket and try to catch up with him, will you? Be careful. In this state, Dalby can be irrational and dangerous."

"You mean he‘s not always irrational and dangerous?" he quipped.

"You‘ve been hanging around Tuvok too long," Tom replied.

The three of them chuckled, then kept on their different directions. Kathryn had to give it to Tom once more: he knew how to make things seems less dramatic. A great survival strength, but also one that could lead to misleading conclusions.

About five minutes later, Kathryn and Tom found Lieutenant Ayala, who was supposed to be with the rest of the away team, which they could not see. Ayala was obviously nervous and kept pacing like a sentinel guarding the entrance of a fort.

The security officer sprang around phaser in hand.

"Stay where you are!" he ordered.

"What was it you were saying about irrational and dangerous?"

Kathryn whispered to Tom.

"Mike, it‘s Tom Paris and Captain Janeway," the pilot announced.

"Oh yeah! I know you," Ayala retorted. "You‘re the traitor who sold us out to the Federation to save your neck. I see that you brought your Federation friends with you."

Oh, God, no... Kathryn pleaded. *Don‘t let Tom go through this

again. Not now...*

"I‘m afraid so," Tom responded calmly. "Mike, are Sam, Ann-Mei and Chell with you? Neelix said that Ann-Mei is very sick and that Sam had wondered off on her own. I can help Ann-Mei. I‘m a nurse remember? I work with the Doctor on Voyager. I came to your help and Carla‘s on the Klouani Home World."

"Carla..." Ayala echoed as images filled his already clouded memory.

"Yes, Carla. She‘s waiting for you on Voyager," Tom said. "We have to bring Ann-Mei, Chell, Sam, and yourself to Voyager too. You‘re really sick."

"That‘s not going to work, Traitor," Ayala told him angrily. "I will die before I let you capture us."

They heard muffled voices coming from the ground. By the pitch, it sounded like woman‘s voice. As if it was possible, Ayala looked even more nervous.

This was obviously not working. It was time to change strategy.

"Mike! Listen to me. We don‘t have time to argue!" Tom said. "The Cardassians are coming this way. You‘ll have to make a choice: Either you let us help you, or we all get captured by the Cardassians. Let us help you before it‘s too late."

"I don‘t trust you!" Ayala retorted. "I won‘t let you touch them."

"All right," Tom agreed. "I won‘t touch them, but let Captain Janeway help Ann-Mei. Please."

Ayala looked down at the ground from where they could hear the voices again. After what seemed like eternity, he finally agreed. Slowly, showing that she was unarmed, Janeway walked toward the small group. With one sweep, she quickly assessed the situation. Wildman was nowhere in sight. Chell and Lang were laying on the ground. The Bolian‘s eyes were closed and he was snoring. It was good bet that he was sound asleep. However, at that moment, Kathryn could not tell if the young Asian woman was still alive.

Janeway put down her medkit and blankets on the ground. She retrieved a medical tricorder and a hypospray. With the swiftness and the agility of a cat, she turned on her heels and applied the hypospray on Ayala‘s neck. Quickly, Tom was by their side, helping her to lay the security officer on the ground.

"I knew..." Ayala muttered to Paris. "I knew you‘d betrayed us."

"Sorry, Mike, it‘s for your own good," the pilot apologized.

"Tom, you should take a look at Ensign Lang," Janeway told him.

Without losing anytime, he went to knell beside the fallen woman.

He ran his tricorder over Lang‘s still body. His blood ran cold. He had never seen life signs like these before. He had to do something now, or they would lose her. He was barely aware that Janeway had joined him as desperately tried to stabilized Lang.

It was not working. She was slipping away and there was nothing he could do to prevent it.

Tom tried one last hypospray on Ann-Mei‘s neck and carefully studied the reading of his tricorder. Then, defeated, he let go of the instrument. His shaky hand moved to her face and he caressed her cold and clammy cheek. Tears rolled down his own as Ann-Mei passed away.

Kathryn looked up at Tom. The younger man had shock written all over his face. He looked totally lost. His eyes were half closed. His fair features seemed more livid. Kathryn gently covered his tensed hand and slowly drew it away from Ann Mei‘s lifeless body. He did not resist her nor did he make a move of his own. His hand was cold and trembling, so she held it in both of hers.

She squeezed it delicately.

"Tom, you did the best that you could," she murmured to him.

He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. He just freed his trembling hand from her grasp and dried away the tears on his face. With even and steady breaths, he managed to composed himself and stood up.

The atmosphere was awkward as everyone looked everywhere except at one another. Then, footsteps coming from behind them caught their attention. Neelix and a very embarrassed Kenneth Dalby, wrapped in a cover, were coming their way.

Tom‘s eyes suddenly flashed back to awareness with panic.

"Sam..." he breathed.

It was all he needed to say as everyone understood the urgency.

"We‘ll divide into teams of two. Neelix and Dalby, you‘ll go west. Ayala and Chell, you‘ll go north. Meanwhile, Tom and I will go back to the Miramichi. With the shuttle‘s sensors we‘ll cover more ground and we‘ll be able to beam you up as soon as any of us find Ensign Wildman."

"Aye, Captain!" Ayala acknowledged for them all.

Slowly, and very carefully, Tom took Ann Mei‘s body into his arms. He started to make his way east, toward the shuttlecraft, without giving a second glance behind him to see if Janeway was following. They made their way back in silence. She concentrated on the readings of her tricorder, hoping for some sign of life. She tried not to think of young Naomi, who was waiting for her mother back on Voyager, and it was impossible.

It took them about fifteen minutes to get back to the Miramichi. There was still no news from the rest of the away team. Janeway opened the arch and let Tom in. He delicately laid Ann Mei on a bunk while Kathryn proceeded to the front. She powered up the shuttlecraft and, without losing a second, made a few sensor sweeps.

"The sensors can‘t penetrate past the hillside to the south," she informed Tom. "I‘m not picking up anything other than the life signs of Ayala, Neelix, Chell, and Dalby. We might have more luck from the air. Tom, close the arch," she told him, looking back.

He was not there anymore.

"Tom!" she called.

She felt a lump in her throat.

She swiftly made another sensor sweep around the shuttle. Tom was going up the hill. She jumped out of her seat and ran after him. She called his name, she even comm him. He never looked back. He was a lot faster than she was and quickly disappeared over the other side.

Tom had been under considerable stress during the last forty-five minutes. There was a good chance that psychedelic agent could start to have an effect on him, she tried to rationalize.

*If the counter-agent I came up with starts to run off on me, please remain me that I can fly,* Tom words echoed in her mind.

She dread what she was about to find on the other side of that hill. Panic threatened to take the best of her and she ran faster in powered by a sudden rush of adrenaline. They had just lost Ensign Lang. They might have already lost Ensign Wildman. God knew, she had been losing Tom for months now.

This was not happening, she refused to believe. Her nightmare would not take a life of its own. She would not let it!

She was not going to lose neither Tom nor Sam! She firmly decided that what she would find on the other side of that hill would be the two of them together.

And so she found: Tom and Sam together, standing on the top of a cliff, overlooking another sea of little blue flower.

"It looks breathtaking," Tom was telling Sam. "Can I join you?"

"Of course, Tom," she replied with an angelic smile. "You will love this... all the colors and the waves..."

Tom let go his medkit on the ground, and came closer to the edge.

"Isn‘t it the most beautiful sea that you ever seen?" Sam asked him totally mesmerized, as they both looked over the horizon.

"You‘re right. Although, I got to admit that I never seen one like this one before," Tom answered her with a smile of his own.

Without any brusque movement, he applied the hypospray that he had been concealing into his right hand, very smoothly on the woman‘s neck. As it had did for the others, the counter-agent took effect very rapidly. Samantha began to panic as she gradually became aware of her situation.

"Careful!" Kathryn warned as she saw the younger woman losing her balance.

Tom took a hold of her shoulders and steadied her as they steeped back away from the edge together.

"It‘s alright, Sam," he assured her. "You‘re safe now. Take deep breaths."

Kathryn reached for her comn badge. "Janeway to Ayala, Neelix, Chell, and Dalby. We found Ensign Wildman. She is alive and well. Rendezvous at the shuttle."

"Aye, Captain," replied Ayala.

"That‘s wonderful!" came Neelix enthusiastic voice. "See you shortly."

"How do you feel, Sam?" Kathryn asked warmly as she came closer to her two officers.

Samantha‘s gaze furtively flew over the cliff, then she looked-up at them with disbelieve written all over her pale face.

"Confused," she sighed. "Things were so beautiful... Full of bright colors... I don‘t understand."

"You were hallucinating," Tom explained.

"We found traces of a psychedelic agent coming from the flowers," Janeway added. "It has a possible sensitization effect."

Samantha allowed herself a grin. "So, I got high. I‘m glad that I didn‘t do anything too stupid!"

"You still scared the hell out of us!" Tom grinned back. "Wait until you learned in what condition we found Dalby in." His grinned disappeared as a ghost of a memory passed over his eyes.

"Something wrong?" asked Samantha.

"We lost Ensign Lang," Janeway solemnly told her. Another of those awkward silences settled between them. "Come on, lets go back to the Shuttle."

Halfway down the ill, Kathryn heard Tom curse. She turned around to see him make his way back up the hill. What was he doing now? What ever it was, she did not like it!

"Tom, where are going?" she called up to him. "Come back down immediately."

"I forgot the medkit," he told her keeping on his way.

"Forget about it. Come back down. It‘s an order, Ensign."

"I‘ll be back in a flash," he said as he started to jog.

"Why does he always have to do that?" sighed Janeway.

Samantha gave her an helpless look.

"Captain! Sam!" echoed Neelix‘s voice.

The two women looked down. The other members of the away team were coming their way. Janeway look back up. Tom had almost cleared the top and her uneasy feeling returned. She had to go after him knowing deep down that she was about to have the confrontation that she had been desperately trying to avoid.

"Ensign," she said, turning to Wildman. "Go join the others and prepare to take off."

Sam put an hand on Kathryn‘s shoulder as she became aware of her fear. "Tom‘s going to come back in a few minutes. He‘s going to be fine," she tried to reassure her.

Kathryn was hoping as much. However, the clock kept on ticking and Tom was not back yet. Her patience quickly ran out.

"Go!" she ordered the younger woman.

Again, she ran up the hill as fast as she could.

Again, she found Tom by the edge of the cliff.

It was a scene she had saw too many times already. But, this time, it was real. She would not wake up to find Tom sitting at helm in the morning if she did not do something. She was walking on egg shells. She would have to do just the right thing if she did not want to break any of them.

Kathryn drew in deep breaths in order to steady her respiration. As she came closer, she noticed that the medkit was hanging from Tom‘s shoulder. She knew his intention to retrieve the item and come back immediately afterward had been just that—she also knew that he was attracted by high cliffs and danger.

The common saying: Living on the edge, had always described Tom in more than one way. However, this was a little too literal for her tastes.

"You can‘t fly you know—biologically speaking of course," she finally reminded him.

He chuckled giving her a sideways look. "Lost that perception a long time ago. Ever dream that you could fly, Captain?"

"Once or twice," she replied with a grin. "My sister Phoebie and I had put into our heads that we were angels seated on a cloud from which we could look after people from above. Of course, at the time Phoebie was five and I was seven. Our cloud was a huge oak three in the backward from which I eventually fell from and broke my arm. My father used to tease me and call it my *fall from Grace*."

Tom chuckled as he briefly looked back at her, then his gaze flew over the horizon once more.

"Some falls are harder than orders," he finally said. "Mine was from totally different kind..."

"I‘m sorry that you had to go through that scene with Ayala earlier. I‘d never thought that they would still hold a grudge against you after all this time."

"It didn‘t matter in the past. It certainly won‘t matter now."

"I don‘t believe that," she challenged. "I don‘t think that you do either.

He replied by a snort.

Kathryn recognized that particular old defense mechanism of his. It just confirmed that she was right. It always had mattered to him.

He turned around and walked away from the edge. Obviously, he was also walking away from their confrontation by returning to the shuttle. Despite herself, she could not drop the issue. They had made it this far which let her to believe that this was meant to happen whether they liked it or not.

As Tom was about to pass her, she grasp his arm. Their eyes met. She felt her breath being stolen away as Tom‘s blue gaze cut through her like sharp knives. She felt little and vulnerable - literally exposed. And yet, there was this warmth passing from one to the other.

"What are you so afraid of?" he whispered.

"Losing you?" she replied ever so softly.

Tom looked at her with total disbelief. She felt embarrassed and let go of his arm. Needing some air, Kathryn distanced herself from him. She found herself at the edge of the cliff.

Always the edge of the cliff.

"Tom, how did you know where to find Ensign Wildman?" she asked.

He remained silent. She turned to face him, her gaze demanding an explanation. He seem taken aback by the question.

"A hunch," he finally shrugged. Clearly, she was not satisfied with his answer. "Sensors couldn‘t get over the hill," he added.

"It doesn‘t explain why you took off like you did," she pointed out, holding his gaze.

He was more and more confuse.

"I‘m... I‘m not sure... I don‘t know anymore."

Silence settled down between them as though it was its rightful place—a self-appointed guardian to their many hidden demons and secrets. Well, it did not belong there anymore and so she broke it once again. It was her time to share after all.

"I have this recurring dreams for months now that you fall from a cliff just like this one. I never see you fall nor do I ever see your body at the bottom. Although, at the end, it‘s always the same: you die. Something so terrible happens that you jump or accidently fall. I don‘t know which."

She felt his presence closer behind her and she turned around to face him.

"Tom, I am not going to a bystander to your death. But, I can‘t help you alone. You have to let me in."

"Captain... I don‘t know what to say except that I don‘t want to die," he assured her sadly.

"Then, why the cliffs? Why this constant need to live on the edge?" she asked begging for answer.

He joined her by the edge A step closer to hers.

"It reminds me that I‘m still alive," he said as if it was the most ironic thing in the universe.

The bitterness in his voice brought tears to her eyes.

"I don‘t know how you people do it," he went on. "Keeping such a distance away from death. Don‘t you feel the pain, the fear, the sorrow... the curiosity, the joy, the peacefulness...? Each time it‘s like a part of me is dying too. Each time I fear that it will be the best part of me—if that is not already gone."

Now, she understood.

She understood what Brother Tiul had meant when he had said that Tom was driven by empathy. What it would mean if came to lose this gift.

"Oh, Tom, it‘s certainly not gone, I assure you," she told him.

"We might not feel as strongly as you do," she said. "But, it

doesn‘t mean that we‘re indifferent. Tom, this empathic capacity

that you have is what makes you so special to us. It is what

makes you the wonderful friend and officer that you are. I‘m just

sorry I didn‘t realized how strong it was until today. I‘m afraid

I still don‘t know you very well "

"Captain, you don‘t know any of us very well," he pointed out.

"True," she granted. "It‘s a personal choice I made a long time ago."

"Nor do we know you," he added ignoring her last comment.

"That‘s my own fault," she added.

"Captain! Is everything all right?"

The unexpected voice of Michael Ayala filling the silence took them both by surprise. Kathryn turned on her heels a little too quickly and felt herself falling backward. Tom grabbed her and forcefully pushed her to the ground. Doing so, he lost his own balance.

"TOM!" cried Ayala.

Kathryn looked up. All she could see was the various shades of blue of the horizon.

"Oh, God! NOOOOO!"

"He didn‘t commit suicide," Kathryn sobbed, her eyes lost into her empty glass of fruit juice. "He saved my life."

"Probably because you did the right thing."

She looked up at the man who was sitting in front of her. He got up and came to kneel by her chair. Without any rushed movement, he took away the glass of greenish fruit juice that she had been barely holding into her tense and shaky hands.

"Captain. Kathryn, try to relax now. It‘s over," he said taking her hands into both of his.

"I don‘t understand," she told Brother Tiul.

"You will in time," the monk assured her.

She was back on the Klouani Home World, which she knew that she had never left. They were on the terrasse of the monastery, as they had been before, sharing fruit juice and talking about Tom.

"Tom...?" she dread asking.

"Tom is alright," said Brother Tiul as he guided her to the railing. "Look, he is still down in the Garden with B‘Elanna."

"It seemed so real," she breathed.

"It was real," he told her. "It is one of the possible futures that awaits you. Kathryn, I did not lied to you. You can still make a difference."

"A difference," she echoed, anger rising into her. "You saw what happened. I didn‘t do the right thing. I couldn‘t save Tom. He is still going to fall from that cliff."

Brother Tiul reached to her face and brushed her tears away.

"He might," the monk said sadly. "But, knowing what you know now, do you not think that it could make a difference?"

"Why me?" she wondered.

"Because since the two of you have met, you Kathryn Janeway of

the Federation Starship Voyager have been playing a very

important role in his life."

"I remember you telling me that," she said.

"Kathryn, Tom was not alone on the edge of that cliff, nor will he be in the future. As you told Tom, you cannot help him alone. You need help yourself."

"You really think that I can prevent him from falling of that cliff?" she asked with a hint of disbelief.

Brother Tiul nodded confidently.

"What will I have to do?"

"You already know the answer to that," he replied.

Kathryn looked down at Tom who was still seated on a bench with B‘Elanna.

"Talk to him," she answered her own question. "I have to talk to him before he ever come close to that Cliff."

"Do not be afraid to do so, Kathryn. Remember that Tom‘s empathy is what drives him." the monk gave her reassuring look.

"I had the impression that Tom doesn‘t know that he is an empath. He seemed to think that we all feel as strongly as he does," said Kathryn reflectively.

"I don‘t think that he knows that he is either," Brother Tiul agreed. "As far as I can tell, Humans seem to be a very emotionally driven race. It would be easy to assume that you are all capable of empathy as much as Tom is. Besides, Tom‘s perceptions are such important parts of his reality, he is bound to come up with the same conclusion."

"We often meet and work with members of telepathic and empathic races. It‘s hard to believe that no one ever noticed until today," she comment.

"Sadly, Tom has such an intense need to protect himself from others that his defense mechanisms are so stronger than his empathic abilities, I‘m afraid. One need to know what to look for in order to notice."

Kathryn met the monk‘s gaze. "Which you taught me how to do," she told him with a smile. "Thank you."

Brother Tiul took both of her hands into his and gave them a warm squeeze.

"On this long journey of yours," he said. "Promise me that you will take good care of yourselves."

"We will, Brother," she promised. "We will."

"Good luck."

As the monk took his leave. She looked down at the garden. Tom and B‘Elanna had left. Kathryn turned her gaze back to the ocean, pondering all of what Brother Tiul had showed her. She felt a new sense of purpose filling her. She would get to know the members of her crew, all of them. Most of all, she would save Tom‘s life. She knew how to do so now.


The next part: Knowing The Future

Feedback is always very appreciated.
Isabelle S.
Copyrights @ October 1999