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Summary: Summary - An accident occurs, leaving Janeway blind and upset. Who will be there to comfort her in her despair? Who else?

 

Blinded

The away team shuffled through the wreckage aboard the deserted Candara vessel, hoping to find something of use on Voyager. The team consisted of Lt. Torres, Ensign Kim, Neelix, and Captain Janeway. Janeway sought to join this mission for the sheer adventure. Though they had not encountered any of the Candara race, this was a prime opportunity to learn as much as they could about them, just in case they should. She wanted to be prepared.

"Captain! Look at this!" Neelix shouted, scrolling through the database. "It looks like some very interesting recipes!"

Delightful, Janeway thought, as she joined him at the console. Only Neelix could find food favorites of an unknown alien race. While she listened to the ingredients for Candaran stew, B'Elanna and Harry searched the engine room for the source of the deuterium readings.

"I think I found something," Harry called out as he lifted the large scrap of metal from the floor. "The readings are coming from below this floor panel. Must be their main power source."

"Good work, Harry. Let's start extracting some of the deuterium so we can get back to the ship. This place gives me the creeps!" B'Elanna answered, giving a small shudder.

"Agreed!"

Meanwhile, Janeway had journeyed into what appeared to be the bridge, leaving Neelix to the excavation of the Candara cultural database. She sat down in what was inarguably the Captain's chair. It resembled the great thrones she had seen used by kings and queens during Earth's Renaissance era. Very ornate...and not altogether unattractive. I may have to salvage this for myself, she laughed to herself, imagining the crew's reaction to their captain seated in this on the bridge.

She accessed the captain's console, trying to find some record of what may have happened to this vessel. When she reached the logbooks, a password screen appeared. A very careful and suspicious race, she thought, making her best attempt at a password. After she had entered her educated guess, the screen went blank and the console began to make a shrill piercing sound. I guess that wasn't it, was her last thought as the blinding explosion hit seconds later.

Tuvok had been monitoring the away team for any possible danger when something strange caught his eye.

"Commander, I'm reading a massive energy buildup on the Candara vessel," Tuvok noted. "Should I alert the..." he started, when his read-out started going berserk.

"Get them out of there now!" Chakotay ordered, as the blinding light covered the viewscreen where the Candara vessel was located. He watched in horror as the vessel exploded into millions of pieces. "Do we have them?" he yelled through his comm badge at the transporter chief.

A few silent and tense seconds passed before a response came.

"The away team is in Sickbay, Commander," the chief reported.

Chakotay breathed a sigh of relief. He ordered Tom to move away from the debris field, then tapped his comm badge.

"Doctor, is everyone alright?"

"Not exactly. You may want to come down here. And I could use some assistance, if Ensign Paris is available."

"We're on our way," Chakotay responded, motioning to Tom. He followed Tom to the turbolift. "You have the bridge, Tuvok," he said as the doors shut.

"Mr. Paris, I need you to treat the others. Then prepare for surgery," the Doctor ordered as soon as they entered Sickbay. Chakotay checked with them, as well, then walked over to the biobed where the Doctor was working with the Captain. He was shocked at what he saw.

Janeway was severely burned, and a huge gash ran across the side of her face. The Doctor was scanning the wound. She was unconscious.

"How is she?" Chakotay asked, never taking his eyes from the Captain.

"Hard to say. This wound is pretty deep. It will require a lot of reconstructive surgery. There is some internal bleeding, as well as second and third degree burns. However, it appears that she has also suffered some damage to her optic nerves, which I will attempt to repair, but..."

"What are you saying...that she won't be able to see?"

"I can't say at this point. Her trauma is severe. We'll have to wait until she wakes up. I'm sorry that I can't give you any more information."

Tom, in the meantime, had finished with the others and joined Chakotay and the Doctor. The Doctor excused himself to help with the surgery preparations. Chakotay walked to Janeway's side. He could hear her labored breathing, and was thankful that she was unaware of the terrible pain her body was surely going through.

"Hang in there, Kathryn. Don't leave me," he whispered, taking her injured hand into his and squeezing it lightly. "Please hold on."

Chakotay looked up and noticed that all eyes were on him and the Captain. He quickly placed her hand back down and cleared his throat. "Keep me informed," he said to the Doctor, and took his leave from Sickbay. As he moved past Torres, Neelix and Kim, he requested that they report to his office at 1800 hours for a full report.

"Yes sir," they responded to the closing doors.

"What happened over there?" Chakotay asked, motioning for the trio to have a seat.

"I'm still not sure myself," B'Elanna started. "Harry and I were in the engine room when we heard the explosion. Then just before we de-materialized, there were several small explosions inside the engine room."

"I was reviewing the cultural database when I saw the bright light that came with the blast. It came from the bridge, where Captain Janeway had gone," Neelix offered

"Then...she may know," Chakotay concluded, resting his arms on his desk.

"How is the Captain, sir?" Harry asked cautiously. He looked terribly troubled, Chakotay noted, and he gave Harry a reassuring glance to put him at ease.

"No word yet. I'll be sure to let you all know when I find out myself," he replied. He had to keep his own spirits up in order to keep the crew morale up. Not an easy task. "Is there anymore information you can give me?"

They all shook their heads. Obviously worried. He could sympathize.

"Thanks for coming by. Dismissed." They all stood to leave, but B'Elanna remained. Somehow, Chakotay knew that she would. After the others had gone, she walked over to his desk.

"You okay?" she asked.

"I'm fine. Just a little concerned."

"That's all?"

"Is there something on your mind, B'Elanna?" he inquired, wondering where her line of questioning was leading.

"It's just that back in Sickbay...it seemed that..." she began. Now he understood.

"I do have a right to be worried, don't I? I want the Captain to make a full recovery as much as everyone else. I wanted to offer her words of encouragement."

Chakotay read the look on B'Elanna's face. She stared intently back at him. He wasn't fooling her. She knew him too well, and she knew how he felt about the Captain, even though the Captain didn't seem to share those feelings. But to B'Elanna's credit, she said nothing. And to that, he was grateful. There were enough rumors, most of them generated by one Tom Paris, who would stop at nothing to preserve his hoard of replicator rations. There had to be some Starfleet regulation against that. Chakotay began to chuckle at the thought, and a baffled look came across B'Elanna's face

"What's so funny?" she asked.

Gathering his thoughts once more, he replied, "Nothing. Was there anything else you wanted to ask me?" She shook her head.

"Then, if you don't mind, I do have a lot of reports to catch up on."

"Of course. I didn't mean to pry. I'll go now," she said, turning to leave. "And Chakotay, your secret is safe with me. If you want to talk..."

"Thanks, B'Elanna. I know who to call." He gave her a half-hearted smile, which she returned as she walked through the doors of his office.

As soon as the doors had shut, Chakotay's comm badge chirped.

"Sickbay to Commander Chakotay."

He didn't wait to see if the Doctor had any additional comments. He tapped his badge and replied, "I'm on my way."

When Chakotay entered Sickbay, he immediately scanned the room to locate the Captain. He noticed that the Doctor had moved her to another biobed in the other room, and the lights had been dimmed. He also noticed the bandages covering her eyes.

"Commander, it wasn't necessary for you to come down..."

"How is she, Doctor?" Chakotay cut in, unable to contain his concern any longer. The Doctor's eyes widened in surprise at the Commander's persistence.

"We were able to repair most of the burned tissue on the Captain's face and hands, and we have stopped the internal bleeding. The wound will require some more work in order to reduce the chance of scarring. She will recover."

"And what about her eyesight? Will she still be able to see?"

"Again, I don't know yet. Her chances are good, but we will have to wait."

Chakotay nodded, somewhat perplexed. Not the answers he had wanted to hear, but at least the outlook seemed hopeful.

"Thank you, Doctor. Would it be alright...if I went in to see her for a few minutes?"

"The Captain needs plenty of rest. You can stay for just a few minutes."

Chakotay smiled in thanks, and walked into the Captain's room. She looked much better than she had earlier, he noted. A scar still remained where the gash across her face had been. Her skin was no longer burned, but still reddened from the blast. Yes, she looked a lot better.

He took her hand again, this time surrounding it with both of his hands. No one was around to notice this time. As he grasped her hand, he noticed that her breathing had changed. He had accidentally awakened her.

"Where am I...what's going on?" she whispered.

"Don't try to talk. You're in Sickbay. You had a little...accident."

"Accident? The last thing I remember was sitting on the Candaran bridge," she muttered, her face suddenly twisting into a grimace.

"You're doing just fine now, Kathryn. The Doctor has you fixed up. Before you know it, you'll be back on the our bridge."

"Well, I certainly don't feel like it. My head..." she said, bringing up her free hand to her forehead. She felt around at the bandages over her eyes. "What the..."

Chakotay grabbed her hand. "The Doctor had to repair your eyes. It was a pretty spectacular explosion. Your eyes are really sensitive right now and you need the bandages to protect them. It will only be for a few days, at the most. Nothing to worry about." He knew that wasn't true, but he felt that there was no need to upset her any further. "You should get some rest now. I'll come back tomorrow to see how things are." He squeezed her hand in assurance. To his surprise, she squeezed his hand in return.

"Thank you, Chakotay. Thank you for everything." She settled back down, attempting to regain her slumber. Chakotay walked to the door and looked back one more time.

Anything for you, Kathryn, he thought to himself, turning to leave Sickbay.

As promised, Chakotay returned to Kathryn's side the next day. He was happy to see the Doctor there, removing the bandages from her eyes. She was seated on the edge of the biobed, her hands clasped around the edges.

"Chakotay, is that you?" she asked, sounding anxious.

"I'm here," he responded, grinning. "How are you this today?"

"The Doctor says I'm going to have to have some more surgery. I'm trusting my ship to you until I can return to duty."

"Understood. It might be fun playing Captain for a while."

"Just don't get too used to it!" She laughed, obviously feeling much better than the previous day. Chakotay was glad to see her like this.

The last bandage came off, and Kathryn fluttered her eyelids open. Her eyes darted back and forth, and a confused look spread across her face.

"Why is it so dark in here?"

The Doctor and Chakotay looked at each other. This was not a good sign.

"Captain, I've dimmed the lights so that it would not be too harsh on your eyes," the Doctor responded. "Can you see anything at all?"

"Maybe if you turned on the lights!" She was clearly shaken, and becoming more agitated with each passing second. Chakotay took her hand in an effort to calm her.

"Computer, increase illumination by 10%," the Doctor ordered. The lighting increased, and the Doctor returned his gaze to the Captain. The confusion on her face was worse.

"Why is the computer not responding? I still can't see anything!"

Chakotay dropped his head, a despairing sigh passing his lips. The Doctor's concerns had been warranted, and his own fear realized. Captain Janeway was blind.

"Captain, I'm sorry, but..." the Doctor began, trying to choose the right words.

"Sorry for what?" She attempted to jump down from the biobed, and nearly lost her balance as a wave of dizziness hit her. Chakotay and the Doctor caught her by the arms and helped her to steady herself. "We've got to get the lights back on."

"Captain, please..." Chakotay tried, not knowing how to break the news, as well. She was reaching panic mode, and it was hurting him deep inside to see her this way. "Please try to remain calm...."

"But the lights..."

"The lights are on," Chakotay retorted, deciding that the best way to deal with the situation was to be direct with her, then allow her to absorb the news. He took in a deep breath, then continued. "You've lost your eyesight, Kathryn. The explosion on the Candara vessel has left you blind." The words sounded harsh as they echoed off the walls of Sickbay.

Her face twisted into a frown, and Chakotay could see the tears forming in her eyes. "I thought you told me that...that..." she stammered, trying to keep her voice clear. Kathryn refused to break down in front of them. She bit hard into her lip, fighting the tears as the Doctor attempted to explain.

"We had to repair your optic nerves. It was a very delicate operation. This may just be a residual effect..."

"MAY be residual?!? All that Starfleet medical knowledge, and all you can say is that it MAY be residual?"

"There are alternatives. Conic implants. Another operation. Maybe we can determine the reason your eyesight hasn't returned to normal. I can start researching the database..."

"NO! Haven't you done enough already?!" she snapped back, facing the direction from which the Doctor's voice had come.

"Kathryn, stop this!" Chakotay said, grasping her arms. "You can't blame this on anyone! What good does that..."

Kathryn threw her arms up to loosen Chakotay's grip. "Leave me alone!" she yelled. "Just leave...me... ALONE!" She crawled back up onto the biobed, pulling her knees into a hug. The tears hovered on the edge of her eyes, threatening to spill over the edge. She desperately wanted them to go before that happened.

Chakotay just wanted to pull her into his arms. Tell her that everything would be fine. Take away all the pain she felt. But he fought the urge, and followed her suggestion, giving the Doctor an encouraging pat on the shoulder before leaving. As the Sickbay doors hissed shut, Kathryn released an audible sigh. She was halfway to her goal.

"Captain, if there's anything I can do..." the Doctor asked, hoping to ease her suffering.

"Just go...I need some time to myself."

The Doctor nodded and walked away from her bed. As he left the room, she offered one more comment.

"I'm...sorry for what I said. I have every confidence in your abilities, Doctor."

The Doctor smiled and returned to his office. Silently, the Captain began to weep.

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