Series: Voyager
Season: 5
Pairing: P, J & C, P/T
Parts: 6/?
Rating: PG
SYNOPSIS: Now that Kathryn knows the future, can she save Tom‘s life? Or, as the future already been changed?

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.
5) Standing Up For Oneself

Knowing The Future
by Isabelle

From the terrasse of the Klouani monastery, Kathryn Janeway was standing over the sea. Hours had passed since her conversation with Brother Tiul. Long hours during which she had pondered the implications of her revelation over and over again. Brother Tiul had assured her that Tom falling of that cliff was one possible future, but not the future. Could she really save Tom and Ann Mei Lang‘s lives with what she had seen?

At times, she had the firm conviction that she could. Then, vivid flashbacks of the dreams that had tormented her all along were painfully destructing her confidence. Those dreams had been the precursors of the tragedy that was awaiting them. She had first dreamed of Chakotay reminding her of Tom‘s suicide. Then, there had been the memorial service and Tom‘s autopsy. In a backward order, each dream had brought her closer to the fatal moment. Deep down, Kathryn felt that she was missing a crucial part of that puzzle. She could not stop second guessing herself.

Being unable to accept that Tom could ever take his own life, could she have influenced her vision by the sheer force of her will? Kathryn shivered at the thought. Whatever the truth was, she was back at the beginning. She was left to wonder if Tom was really in psychological distress. The key to that assessment had been clear all along, she had to confront Tom. But, when and how?

Looking below to the garden, Kathryn noticed Chakotay. He was slowly making his way back form the beach towards a bench on which he sat down heavily. Her first officer looked tired even from the distance. She felt guilty. All day long, she had hidden on the terrasse while her crew had looked over the last minute details before Voyager‘s departure from the Klouani Home World. The least she could do was to apologize to her good friend.

So, Kathryn put her musing aside for a moment. There were other pressing issues that she had to give her attention to, and maybe, just maybe, backing off from this whole situation would help her gain the insights that she so badly needed.

She gazed once again over the deep blue sea, seeking strength in the giant moving mass. She took in a few deep breaths, savoring the taste of the salty air. The cries of the seagull-like birds flying above her, the sounds of the waves crashing on the cliffs below, the wind playing in the leafs of the trees behind her calmed her. With a renewed confidence, she walked down to the garden.

Chakotay smiled at her as he caught sight of her. His smile was genuine, however it was not hiding the uneasiness that was clouding his dark brown eyes. With a slump gesture of the hand, he invited her to sit down next to him.

"You look exhausted, Commander," she said softly, with sympathy.

He sighed. "I probably feel as exhausted as I look," he replied in a raw voice as he briefly looked at her. He cleared his throat, but remained silent.

Kathryn could tell that he was bothered by something. He seemed to be willing to talk about it, but just did not seem to be able to bring himself to do so. This man, who usually was a wall of confidence and serenity was unsure of himself. It was an unlikely characteristic for him. She eyed him carefully in that instant. His gaze was lost somewhere over the horizon in front of them, his lips were almost trembling.

She put a hand on his muscular forearm. "Chakotay, what‘s wrong?" she asked gently.

He cleared his throat again. "Kathryn, do you think that Tom...

Tom Paris could ever commit suicide?"

Kathryn‘s blood ran cold the instant Chakotay first mentioned Tom‘s name. Her breath got caught in throat. Her mouth went dry. She felt as if she had been physically slapped in the face.

"Kathryn...," Chakotay‘s concerned voice called her back to reality. "You look like you‘ve seen a ghost..."

She forced a breath in. God, she felt like she was about to throw up on his lap. She swallowed hard once, twice...

"W-what makes you asked that, Commander?"

Did she even want to know the answer?

"I had a vision," he told her. "A very disturbing vision..."

"A vison of Tom falling of a cliff?" she asked.

"Yes, how did you know?" he wondered, startled.

"I had it too, Chakotay" Kathryn confessed. "A gift from Brother Tiul. I s he the one that helped you have this vision?"

"I don‘t think so. I was meditating on the beach when I started to have flashes of you and me discussing about Tom. You *had dreamed* of him falling of a cliff. You were concerned... I remember talking about Tom‘s withdrawal attitude to B‘Elanna..."

"She didn‘t think that there was something wrong with him," Kathryn continued. "She explained his lack of sleep to his habit of reading until the wee hours of the morning. She was describing his weight losses as a yo-yo thing, depending upon what Neelix was serving..."

"We tried to get closer to him. Then came the Frelian incident," Chakotay remembered.

"Tom did not want to go on that away mission," she said guiltily.

"He did not want to go on away missions, even before that," Chakotay pointed out.

"True," Kathryn agreed. "It got worse afterwards. Tom Paris not wanting to go planet side..." her words sounded as strange as she had felt each time Tom had declined the opportunity to leave the ship. "He kept saying that we were cursed," she added with a nervous giggle. She took a deep breath. "Chakotay, in my vision, Tom did not commit suicide on Eldorado—we were afraid that he might—but he fell saving my life."

She caught his eye, so much sorrow...

"That‘s not what happened in my vision, I‘m afraid," Chakotay said sadly. "I wasn‘t there when Tom fell, but Ayala was. He saw him jumped and so did you. When you came back to the base camp with the rest of the away team, you were in shock. We could barely get a word out of you. The following few days, you kept on forgetting that the incident had happened or remembering a different version, until it all came back to you."

"What I saw...," she began as tears rolled down her cheeks. "What I saw was him falling by accident. Oh Chakotay, deep down I‘m afraid that I‘m wrong. But... But, I can‘t accept that he could ever jump voluntarily. Tom doesn‘t want to die. He told me so."

"Maybe, he didn‘t really wanted to," Chakotay tried to comfort her. "His autopsy showed that the anti-agent Tom had given all of you had started to wear off and that he was getting affected by the drug."

Kathryn forced herself to stay focused as her rational mind sought an explanation. "The drug, it had a sensitization effect, meaning that the effects were building on themselves. Tom had already been exposed when he had first flown the away team to the field. He would have been more sensitive to its effects once the anti-agent would have started to wear off."

"It might have messed up with his true feelings," he offered.

"Or drag them back to the surface and amplify them," she argued.

"What do you remember of the conversation you had with him?"

Chakotay asked.

"I can remember everything so vividly, it scares me," she sighed.

"I know," Chakotay told her. "I can also remember all the details."

The idea of talking about it—to go through all of it again— was making her sick to the stomach. She did not want to believe that this nightmare could ever turn out to be true. But there they were talking about it. She knew that comparing notes with Chakotay was maybe the only way to find out the truth about what really happened—correction, what was likely to happen. Where to begin? She sighed. God, she felt so heavy.

"We were coming down form the top of the hill with Ensign Wildman when half-way down, Tom remembered that he had left his medkit behind. Against my order, he went back. So, I followed him. I found him by the edge of the cliff, staring over the horizon. I reminded him that he couldn‘t fly, biologically speaking—a joke between the two of us."

She looked away for a moment. She felt Chakotay cover one of her hand in gesture of comfort and encouragement.

"Tom was depressed, sad, confused," she went on. " Earlier, when we had found Ayala, Lang, and Chell, Ayala had called him a traitor, telling Tom that he was not trusting him. I can‘t believe that there are still people among the crew that don‘t trust him after all this time!" she said angrily as an aside.

With a swift motion of the hand, Kathryn brushed away a tear.

"We talked about that. He said that it never mattered, but I knew that it did. He dropped the subject. So, I asked him how he had known that Ensign Wildman was on the edge of the cliff. He did not know. Our conversation wasn‘t going anywhere, so I thought that if I opened up to him, that he might do the same. That‘s when I told him about the dreams I had. He didn‘t know what to say except that he didn‘t want to die. Then, why did he needed to live on the edge, I asked him. He replied that it reminded him that he was still alive. He went on by asking me how the rest of us were doing it, stay so distant in the face of death. Didn‘t we feel the pain, the fear, the sorrow, the joy, the curiosity, the peacefulness? That‘s when I started to understand."

"Tom‘s an empath, isn‘t he?" Chakotay validated.

"Brother Tiul assured me so," Kathryn replied. "But Tom isn‘t an empath in the same sense that Kes was or a Betozoid are. Tom doesn‘t actually feel other‘s emotions. He is very sensitive and is able to identify with another‘s thoughts and feelings. He can put himself in his or her shoes, so to speak. We‘re all capable of empathy—you, most of all, Chakotay—but Tom carries this ability even a step further without even knowing so. He has difficulty separating his feelings from what he believes the others around him feel."

"That would explain a lot," Chakotay said reflectively. "What happened afterwards? Did Tom tell you how he was feeling?"

"Remember that we had just lost Ensign Lang. Tom said that each time someone died, that he felt like a part of him was dying too. He was afraid that the best part of him was already gone. I assured him that it wasn‘t. That this empathy he had for people was what was making him so special among us. I apologized to the fact that I didn‘t know him all that well after all these years. He reminded me that I didn‘t know any of the crew very well, nor did the crew know me. I acknowledged that it was my own fault and that‘s when Ayala showed up. He caught us by surprise," she swallowed hard. "I... I felt myself fall backward and Tom... Tom... he pushed me to the ground. Ayala screamed Tom‘s name as he saw him fall. I looked up... he was not there anymore..." she finished in a high pitch whisper, hot tears streaming down her fair skin.

Chakotay got closer and embraced her in a warm hug. He slowly caressed her back until her sobs subsided. What would she ever do without his comforting presence, she thought. It took her a moment before composing herself. Then, she sought his gaze.

"I remember the dreams. But, besides those, what make you so sure that Tom committed suicide?" she challenged. "What did Ayala tell you?"

"You‘re not going to like this," he replied fleeing her gaze.

"I already don‘t like this, Chakotay" she retorted harshly. "Since the beginning of this... this vision quest... I know that I have something to do with Tom‘s death. You don‘t think I pushed him, do you? Maybe not physically, but psychologically."

"No Kathryn, you could never do that," Chakotay reassured her. "As I told you before, when you came back to the camp, we could hardly get a word out of you. So, we talked to Ayala. A few days later, when it all came back to you, you confirmed everything he had told us.

"Then, what happened," she asked in small voice.

"It seems that he arrived earlier than you remember. He called after you, asking you if everything was all right. You didn‘t turn around. You just extended a hand in the air, instructing him to stay were he was. Tom barely looked at him as he kept on talking to you. Ayala was disturbed by how flat and emotionless Tom‘s voice was."

"What was he saying?" she whispered with apprehension.

"He was telling you that each time someone died in his presence that a part of him was dying too. He had nothing left to give. Being on the edge of the cliff didn‘t even make him feel alive. It didn‘t scare him anymore. There were no fear, no adrenaline rushes, nothing left to hold him back. He felt dead inside."

Kathryn swallowed a lump. It was what she had feared all along.

"You told him that it wasn‘t true," Chakotay continued. "That you were still there to hold him back, and so were B‘Elanna and Harry. B‘Elanna loved him. Harry was considering him as a big brother. Tom asked you if you were really there, if you really cared. You were trying to make amends with him and to be his friend, but you kept your distance, protecting yourself. Since you were unwilling to know any member of the crew very well, he wondered if you were truly interested in getting to know him. Each time that he was looking through your eyes, he couldn‘t say which were your true feelings."

Kathryn could remember the shivers that had gone up her spin each time Tom had looked deep into her eyes—into her soul—and how vulnerable and exposed she had felt. How could he not know that she cared for him? She truly did. He was like a little brother to her.

"You were calling him a friend, but you didn‘t trust him any more," Chakotay was still relating. "True, it had been his own fault. By acting the way he had, during the incident with the Momeans, he had shot himself in the foot, so to speak. Oh, he did understand and respect your position. However, he couldn‘t help but wonder what good he was to Voyager if you couldn‘t trust him. Because of his latest mistake he had became expendable once more. He couldn‘t stand ever living like that again. He couldn‘t bear ever being a casual observer—a bystander—ever again. It had hurt to much in the past."

The sister she wanted to be for him had rejected him, just like his family had done...

"I... I still trust him," Kathryn defended herself with grief.

"And no, he‘s not expendable, none of us are.

"He told you that if he was reduced to be a mere expendable bystander among the crew, it wasn‘t worth living anymore. That," It was Chakotay‘s turned to swallow a lump. "That if he was to jump off that cliff, it wouldn‘t matter. His life had no value. He already felt dead."

Images flashed through her mind. Images that she had never seen before, but which she implicitly knew the content. She closed her hands into tight fists, fighting the urge to block them.

"He took a step closer to edge and looked down," Kathryn said. "I begged him to step back. I told him that I never intended to devalue his life... I knew that I had hurt him greatly. I was trying to repair my mistake, but he had to give me the chance to do so. ‚You can see through my soul each time you look into my eyes, Tom. Can‘t you see that I‘m sincere?‘ I had asked him. ‚You don‘t understand, Kathryn.‘ he had replied. ‚I don‘t know what else I‘m seeing in your eyes besides the pain that I‘m giving you. I‘m sorry, I can‘t see that anymore.‘ And... and he jumped without a second glance.. he jumped."

"Mind if I join you?"

Kathryn and Chakotay snapped out of their daydreaming and looked up at Brother Tiul.

"Why didn‘t you tell me that I was wrong?" Kathryn asked the monk, a bit resentfully.

"Because what you saw was a possible future, Kathryn," Brother Tiul answered her. "It was just like the one Commander Chakotay saw. Things might not even turn out either way."

"Because, by the simple fact that we gained knowledge of the future, we already changed it," Kathryn rationalized.

"Exactly," the monk agreed. "The fact remains, however, that Tom is deeply tormented inside. He is like that rock at the bottom of the cliff which is constantly beaten and eroded by sea, losing little parts with each crashing wave. One day, Tom will let go of life, just like the rock will detach itself from that cliff. We fear that it might come too soon and with a lot of pain."

"If Tom commits suicide or not," Chakotay concluded. "What you‘re saying is that he might die very soon?"

The monk nodded.

"Oh no, gentlemen!" Kathryn retorted as she sprung to her feet. "No one is going to die, not Tom nor Ensign Lang. I won‘t let that happen. I won‘t let any member of my crew believe that they are not valued for who they are, especially not Tom. Not with all the efforts he made in order to find his place among us. None of us deserves to be left on the side."

Kathryn started to pace. Now that they knew what they were up against, what were they going to do about it. "What do we do now?" she asked her companions.

"In the visions," Chakotay began. "We both waited too long before talking to him."

"But, we did talk to him," Kathryn argued. "We didn‘t tell him about the dreams because I was afraid that it might do more harm than good, and I still believe that it will."

"My friends," Brother Tiul called upon their attention. "If this experience has been a book, what would have been the point of the story?"

"That if we don‘t do something soon, Tom is going to die," Chakotay replied.

"True, in part," the monk agreed. "Would that be the most important part?" he challenged.

"Tom is capable of great empathy," Kathryn stated, understanding.

"We‘ve known each other for only a week, but from what I learned about Tom during that time, I can tell that he can be an extremist," Brother Tiul said.

Kathryn and Chakotay exchanged a look. "That‘s an understatement, Brother," she told the monk.

He smiled briefly, accepting her remark for what it was. "Well, like anything else he does, Tom can also take his ability to great extremes. It will be a lot easier for him to deal with it, if there are people, like the both you, to acknowledge what he is capable of."

The two senior Starfleet officers nodded, understanding the importance their roles would play in their friend‘s life.

"Changing the future will be a difficult task," the monk stated. "However, as I told you before Kathryn, you are alone," Brother Tiul said, exchanging a nod with Chakotay.

As Kathryn, Chakotay, and Brother Tiul walked back to the terrace, they ran into a very annoyed half-Klingon. Noticeable, there was no sign of Tom Paris around.

"B‘Elanna," Chakotay greeted her, careful to keep his tone neutral. It was common knowledge that frustrating an already aggravated half-Klingon even more was never been a wise thing to do. "Something wrong?"

"No," she answered dryly, eager to get on her way.

"Where‘s Tom?" he questioned lightly.

"Tom? Oh, you mean Book-Rat. Try the library," she retorted with a hint of anger. She quickly fled the terrace through the nearest set of stairs leading to the garden, leaving the stunned trio in her wake.

"Trouble in paradise?" wondered Janeway.

"Why don‘t we go find out?" proposed Chakotay. "It‘s as good as any other excuse to approach Tom," he rationalized.

Kathryn‘s shoulders tensed up. "I don‘t know, Chakotay. I still feel that we should wait to get back on voyager before talking to Tom."

The Commander met her eye with a challenging look. "Are you telling me that for the first time in your life, you—Kathryn Janeway—are afraid of taking a risk?"

She straighten herself. "I‘ve never been afraid of taking risks. I‘m not going to start today," she rebuked, knowing full well that she was responding to his bait.

"Prove it," he challenged, extending a hand toward the monastery‘s entrance.

Brother Tiul discretely chuckled as he let the two to friends find their way to the library without him. His part had been played. It was up to them to do the rest. Seeking to appease his doubts, the monk turned to the sea and drew in a breath of salty air. He still had mixed feelings for not telling them the whole truth. But he could only go so far... Kathryn and Chakotay, -- the rest of Voyager‘s crew—were good people. Behind their defenses—that were their protocols and regulations—they too were capable of great empathy. They would figure things out in time... He hoped.

Brother Tiul allowed himself a smile as he thought of Tom. His enigmatic new friend—who had been so candid toward him and his people—had finally a chance to see the gift, he had thought so far as a curse, as the blessing that it really was.

Three days later.

"I thought that I might find you here," Chakotay said with a grin as he found Tom Paris seated on a huge grey granite rock at the foot of the cliff. Tom briefly looked at Chakotay, acknowledging his presence, but nothing more. He did not seemed annoyed or glad to see him. "You did an amazing job reconstructing the beach," the Commander added, impressed again by Tom‘s holo-programming skills. "It feels as if we were back on the Klouani Home World."

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul—then I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can," Tom quoted, as an explanation.

Without an invitation, Chakotay found himself a place to sit on the rock, as he asked: "Who said that?"

"Herman Melville, I think," Tom replied.

Chakotay closed his eyes for a moment as he listened to the waves rolling on the beach. The sea—its sounds, its smells—it was undeniably soothing. He could understand now, with a new appreciation, why one would feel compelled to find his or her way back to it, one way or another.

"How have you been?" Tom asked after a while.

"Hey! That‘s my question," Chakotay replied with a grin. "For someone who received a wake-up call the hard way, I guess that I‘m doing fine."

"I‘m sorry that you and the Captain had to go through all this mess," Tom apologized for what seemed to be the hundredth time.

"You have nothing to be sorry for or embarrassed about," Chakotay reassured him.

Tom snorted, clearly not buying the Commander‘s perceptive. Chakotay knew that Tom had been embarrassed by the fact the Janeway and himself had visions about him. He had been shocked to learn that they had been through so much anguish. He had felt exposed and vulnerable, even a bit betrayed and angry. In the end, they had all been left with a lot to think about. Since their conversation, Tom had been ill-at-ease around his superior officers—his friends—afraid to let on anything.

"This time, it‘s the real thing, for Kathryn and me anyway," Chakotay reminded the younger man. "We made many mistakes that we don‘t want to repeat. One of them was not telling that we value you for who you are."

"Chakotay, you‘re getting melodramatic, again."

"Paris, will you hear me out," he retorted. "You think it‘s easy playing the melodramatic role with you as an audience?"

Tom grinned, shaking his blond head in dismay.

"The point that I‘m trying to make is that I consider you a friend," Chakotay went on. "You‘re my extremist, sarcastic, and sometimes-insubordinate friend, and that would make me your grounded, moralistic, sometimes-melodramatic friend."

Tom chuckled. "And me who thought you had no sense of humor..."

"The things you learn about people, huh?" Chakotay pointed out with a smile. "Tom," he said more seriously. "I know that Kathryn told you that her door is always opened if you ever need to talk. So, is mine. I‘m here if you need me."

Tom sighed in spite himself. "You know, Chakotay, I really thought that I had things all worked out—I mean the incident with the Moreans and all, now I‘m not so sure."

"If it makes you feel any better, so did Kathryn and I," Chakotay told him. "We‘ll work things out, together. We‘ll be fine in the long run."

Tom bit his lower lip . "In the long run," he echoed. "I don‘t want to die, Chakotay," he confessed in a soft whisper.

"Believe me, Tom, we don‘t intent to let you die, either," his friend assured him. "Knowing the future... or not."

next part: Going To Extremes

Hope that you enjoyed.
Thanks to Louise for her insights, as always.

Feedback is always appreciated.

Copyrights @ January 200