Story: The Cliff's Edge
Disclaimer: All things Voyager is owned by Paramount. I just
borrowed a few of the characters for a little non-profit geared
Summary: Coda to the episode “Extreme Risk”
When I was little I believed in monsters: not the kind that hid
in the closet or under the bed - the frightening, hairy, horn
covered beasts that menacingly filled the dreams of most children…
No, mine were the silent, invisible kind: a tickle up the spine,
the feeling of being followed, the closing in of some dark, ominous
force that threatened to engulf me kicking and screaming. These
monsters became a common presence shortly after my father had
left my mother and I, and hung over our house like a dark storm
cloud, never to be discussed, analyzed, or even alluded to. After
all, fear was not courageous or honorable… it wasn’t Klingon,
even if I was only half.
I remember walking home from school one day when dread filled
me and the monsters came, seemingly out of nowhere, filling my
young, confused heart with terror. I ran then, as fast as and
furiously as my legs would carry me, neither paying attention
to where I was going, or caring, I just kept moving with the
fear that if I stopped, even for a minute, they would catch up
to me. Eventually I came to a cliff: the end of the road, the
bridge between my own lost soul and the darkness that followed
me. I paused at its edge, taking a moment to look out across
the great void, contemplating for a split second what it would
feel like to leap off its top and just soar – not land, or plunge
to my death, but to glide through the air continuously, light
and free, without the chains that bound me to the world.
I stood there for hours, entirely lost to the world around me
as I remained in this daze, safe and protected, retreating into
this world I had found within me. Eventually the daylight turned
to night, and a cool breeze stirred in the air, sending goose
bumps up my arms - reminding me of where I was. I turned then
to sullenly make my way home, mentally preparing myself to face
my mother’s wrath over my unexplainable absence and once again
return to the universe as I knew it from my limited scope of
My mother and I had never been close. Like the monsters, she
was this omnipotent, non-penetrable force that seemed entirely
closed off to me emotionally. I used to try to think of ways
to keep her attention, to have her put aside her stoicism or
her strength in her Klingon beliefs, and get her to see me for
exactly who I was. I learned early on that the only way to do
that was through anger – she seemed to respond the most to confrontation;
the fire burning brightly in her eyes as she raged herself into
her own bad mood in response to mine. We’d battle with words
in a way that would send most other young children my age into
a quivering mass of fear, but for me, being who I was, it was
some of the few times I felt there, in that moment, *alive* -
placing all of my pent up frustration into my voice… a hidden
cry for help.
“You come from a great line of warriors, B’Elanna. It is our
way…” my mother would state with fierce pride, repeating a mantra
that I had long since memorized. When my father had left he had
taken the humanity in our household with him, leaving me alone
on a human colony where the other children were the first to
point to my mixed heritage as if it were a curse. At school I
wasn't human enough, and home I wasn't Klingon enough: a fact
my mother set out to rectify despite my resentment at having
it forced upon me and my hurt over the belief that it was the
Klingon temperament that drove my father away.
“I don’t want to be a stupid warrior. I don’t want to have anything
to do with being Klingon,” I had lashed out, starved for attention:
part wanting to make my mother angry, and part wanting her to
tell me that everything was okay and that I was just fine the
way that I was.
“No daughter of mine will dishonor her family!” She would scream,
eyes blazing as she attempted to subdue me into submission with
her domineering glare.
“Maybe I don’t want to be your daughter anymore!” I yelled in
return, wanting her to hurt as I hurt, while simultaneously longing
to escape somewhere and hide until I was adult enough to venture
out on my own.
As I grew the monsters visited less and less, although they did
occasionally reappear - like when I was 19, on my own at last,
and feeling more alone amongst an Academy of young Starfleet
hopefuls than I ever had before, even with all of the countless
faces and the instructors who refused to accept the voice of
a young, aspiring engineer. And so, as I had done in my youth
so long ago - I ran. I avoided looking back - entirely closed
myself off to the rapidly revolving world that I knew would only
leave me dizzy, never pausing to breath in fear of being caught…
Until a kind hand reached out, saved my life, and offered me
“Who are you?” I had asked, frightened, battle ridden, and infinitely
“The name is Chakotay. And you?” the man before me asked gently,
with a soft wisdom in his eyes that held me strangely captivated.
“B’Elanna Torres,” I had said without thinking, instantly trusting
the strange human with the facial tattoo. There was something
about him I couldn’t place, something knowledgeable and serene
that I subconsciously picked up on which instantly allowed me
to recognize that he was a kindred spirit.
“Well B’Elanna Torres, it’s not safe here. Follow me,” he requested
in a tone that was part question, part command. It was the question
part that softened me. He wasn’t there to make assumptions, and
he didn’t immediately try to grab the position of authority,
and for that alone I instantly liked him.
Chakotay entered my life in a flurry - the only hero I had allowed
myself since the day my father had walked out on me. For the
first time that I could remember I had someone who believed in
me: who cultivated my ambition and my knack for all things engineering
by encouraging me to make suggestions, and who granted a purpose.
With Chakotay’s respect came the notice of the rest of the Maquis,
all of them quick to follow at his heels. It was an entirely
new feeling for me, this idea of belonging, of being a part of
something – something that mattered. It was nice to feel useful,
needed, respected – nice to have a title, a name, but the darkness
that surrounded me never fully went away, and the ghosts remained
present, if not veiled by my newfound sense of security.
The first day I set foot on Voyager, lost in the Delta Quadrant
and away from a good majority of the Maquis, I felt the monsters
return. I remember once, early on, just after I was appointed
chief engineer, I was alone in the mess hall, gazing out into
the void of space through a window, trying to lose myself within
as I had on that cliff edge so long ago as I fought the darkness
that surrounded me. Janeway came in then, entirely imposing and
larger than life, yet silent at first, like a feline on the prowl.
At the time I wasn’t sure what I thought of her, alternating
between rebelliousness, annoyance, intimidation, and the first,
faint stirrings of respect.
She came up to stand by my side, and stood there for the longest
time, staring out into the same void I was, allowing me my solitude
for ceaseless moments before she turned and gave me this look
that reminded me so much of my mother.
“Are you looking towards the Alpha Quadrant, B’Elanna? Are you
missing home?” she asked in her quiet, reflective tone, her eyes
returning to focus on the stars that surrounded us.
“No,” I had said, bluntly, honestly, “I wasn’t thinking or feeling
anything at all.”
I expected her to recoil at that, to gauge the hidden anger in
my tone and leave me to my own devices. Instead she smiled serenely,
alarming me enough with her unmoved reaction to jolt me nervously
out of my spiritual retreat.
“I sometimes do that too. It’s nice to escape every once and
awhile, isn’t it? Safe and secure… as long as it’s not a habit.
You don’t want to close yourself off too much from the rest of
the world, we have a crew and a ship that needs you.”
I didn’t know how to take that, whether to be alarmed by understanding,
annoyed by her intrusion, or warmed by her willingness to take
me under her wing. And so I just continued to stand there silently,
glancing at her briefly before returning my gaze to space. But
she must have seen something in my gaze in that brief second,
some emotion in my eyes that satisfied whatever reaction she
had been looking for because she gave me a little smile, one
that I could feel rather than see, and patted me on my shoulder
in one of her rare outward signs of maternal affection.
“They are looking for you in engineering, Lieutenant, please
don’t keep them waiting too long,” she announced formally, reminding
me of where I was and who I am in her own, subtle, Janeway-type
And for awhile that reminder was enough; the monsters retreated
to their own devices and left me to commit to my job, to make
friends, to start to feel comfortable again, but most of all
they left me to fall in love.
All of my life I had seen myself as this island out in the middle
of nowhere, surrounded by rocks and impossibly high waves - marking
it as impenetrable to anyone who would threaten its solitude.
My island was desolate and devoid of any other form of life,
mountainous and rigid; a frightening representation of the isolation
in which I existed... Until one brave soul with eyes bluer than
the Caribbean sea, and a spirit stronger than a Vulcan's resolve
forged a bridge between his island and mine and dared me to walk
Tom, in all his eccentric quirks, and unique obsessions. Tom
with a beautiful smile and a fast and easy whit. Tom who loved
me for who I was and didn't expect me to be either all Klingon
or all human. And Tom with those tender eyes and the even softer
touch… The man who refused to leave me to my isolation and forced
his way through my walls as if they were made of paper and not
Falling in love was like being hit by a powerful ocean wave on
a white sand beach, and then being swept out to sea to drift
with its current. I didn't want it, I didn't think I needed it,
and I was entirely unused to it but it was forceful and it was
strong, and after giving in to it I found that the dizzying whirlwind
in which I was swept was the most exhilarating experience I had
I guess my mistake was getting too comfortable, allowing myself
to forget about the monsters and the cliff's edge while burying
my past behind me as I blindly moved ahead, never really dealing
with or facing the ties that irrevocably bound me.
When I heard that the Maquis had died: my friends who had been
the first to take me in and give me a place to call home and
people to call family; slaughtered inhumanly and with cruel cunning
- the monsters returned in full force. Only this time, with me
so inexplicably tired of running and so lost to my pressing sorrow
- I could no longer put forth the effort to fight them off.
It had been too much; the final breaking point to the events
that shaped my life: too much, too tragic, and more than I could
I walked to the cliff's edge, looked over, and discovered a void
so consuming I thought it would swallow me wholly. Unlike my
youth I jumped this time, over and over, in whatever means that
I could: orbital sky diving or a shuttle crashing on the holodeck,
it didn't matter - the peace I expected to find while soaring
never came but that didn't stop me from trying.
Janeway was right; existing in a void is both safe and secure,
it protected me from feeling… Except there this part of me, buried
deep inside, that remembered what it is like to feel - remembered
what it’s like to kiss Tom, or to love a job, and that part wanted
out again, in one form or another. I didn't know how to fight
the void, fight the monsters - all my life I had run rather than
confront them, and now that they had caught me I didn't know
how to escape. And my nature was at war: exist in void and be
safe, or fight my way out and have to deal with things, deal
Ironic that it was Chakotay who reached out and lent me a hand,
as he had done years ago. Chakotay: who was not my lover. More
ironic still was the fact that it couldn't have happened any
other way. I loved Tom. He was deep inside me, so intricately
woven within my spirit that my feelings for him were as powerful
as they were all encompassing but the part of me that was safe
in the void feared that kind of power: it was too strong, too crazy,
too extreme. But Chakotay, a friend, didn't pose as much of a
threat to the void. And he told me the things I had been longing
to hear since my youth: I was part of a team - part of a family
and the people on Voyager were willing to fight to keep me with
them. The monsters roared their protest but they gradually receded
until I couldn't feel them at all anymore and I found myself
figuratively facing the cliff's edge, a cool breeze wafting my
skin, causing me to wake up and fight my way home.
Tom came to see me that night, while the void grew more distant,
and the emotions grew more rampart. He waltzed in to my quarters
without preamble, and then proceeded to pause once he was inside
to stare at me, his gaze a hurricane of unkempt passion. For
untold minutes he stood there, not making a sound - holding me
hypnotized by midday sky reflected in his eyes. By that point
my heart was hammering loudly in my ears. Rap, tap, tapping,
like the beat of a drum which grew stronger as it drew closer
to play against my ear and finally he spoke, silencing my heart,
his voice raspy as if he were holding back a sob.
"If you ever do that again, I will kill you," he announced, his
facial expression as determined as it was fierce.
And for a moment I was shocked by the absurdity of his claim,
and then the laughter bubbled within, spilling out of my throat
like the flow of a waterfall, desperate for release. I laughed
in joy at feeling again, at being loved, at having warmth, at
wanting… needing… tasting what it was to live. I laughed to fill
the room with a healing sort of hope, and Tom, bless his heart,
began to laugh with me.
When we had stopped he finished walking the rest of the way to
me and knelt down to gaze at me from eye level, gingerly reaching
out to take my hand as I basked in the feeling of being touched
- at feeling his warmth once more. He brought my hand to his
chest and pressed it over his heart, his eyes meeting and holding
mine, refusing to let go.
"Do you feel that?" he asked quietly refusing to look away or
even blink. And I could only nod, silently awed by the feeling
of his heart beneath my fingers and the vibration I felt from
my hand to my toes.
"Its been breaking a lot recently, but I think it can be repaired.
I was thinking that the one it belongs to can help me repair
it," he finished then, letting me know in not so many words that
his heart was still mine, and that we would battle my demons
The tears flowed then, unhampered and carefree - the happy kind
of release I wasn't even aware I had been longing for.
And through the tears I smiled.