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Blinded - Part 2
The doors of the mess hall opened, allowing passage for Chakotay. The hunger he had been ignoring for the past few days finally had overwhelmed him. He had lost his appetite in his worry for the Captain, and knew that he would be of no use to the crew if he starved himself. He strolled over the Neelix's counter to see what the menu had to offer, unaware that his actions were carefully being monitored.
"Look at him! He looks like a lost puppy dog!"
"What are you getting at, Tom?" Harry asked, taking another sip of his drink.
"Give me a break, Harry. You saw him in Sickbay. You can't tell me that you didn't think it, too!"
"Tom, you are a pig! He's just worried, like the rest of us! Why can't you just leave it alone?" B'Elanna jumped in, tired of the speculation. She dropped her gaze, suddenly aware that she had yelled the last part. A few heads had turned towards their table. Tom eyed her suspiciously.
"You know something," he guessed, never taking his eyes from her. She lifted his gaze to meet his. Damn, if he couldn't read her like a book. But she never wavered, narrowing her eyes to slits, an attempt to dispel his suspicions. No such luck.
"You DO know something, don't you? B'El, if you're holding out, I swear..."
"What, Tom? What will you do? Even if I did know something, what makes you think I would tell you? What Chakotay feels for the Captain is none of your business!" She quickly covered her mouth, realizing that she had said too much.
"So there IS something...I KNEW IT!" Tom started chuckling. He was about to become a rich man. Harry started shaking his head, aware of Tom's future plans. B'Elanna banged her fist on the table, knowing that she had to set things right, even if it meant breaking her promise to Chakotay.
"Tom, there is nothing going on between them. I can promise you that. But there may be some feelings of..." she began, quickly being signaled to lower her voice as Chakotay walked up from behind.
"Mind if I join you?"
"Sure, Commander," Harry responded, moving over to allow room. As Chakotay took the seat across from B'Elanna, she stuck an elbow into Tom's side, who stifled a yelp. The conversation screeched to a halt as Chakotay began to consume his dinner, and he soon felt the stares.
"Please, don't stop talking just because I'm here." He was confronted by throats clearing and eyes averting their gaze elsewhere. Then Tom started grinning, and decided to have some fun.
"So, B'Elanna, what were you telling us? Something about...feelings?" Her foot came squarely down on his boot, applying extreme pressure to his toes. He tried to hide the pain from his face, biting down on his lip to keep from screaming, and B'Elanna smiled, quite calmly as she put her elbows on the table and laced her fingers in front of her face.
"It wasn't important," she replied. Harry covered his mouth to hide the laughter that was building up. B'Elanna quickly changed the subject to save Harry from the embarrassment.
"Tom didn't give us much information. How is the Captain doing?"
Chakotay stopped mid-chew and met her gaze. He suddenly realized that he had to find some way to inform the crew. And he certainly wasn't prepared to do that now. He looked back down at his food and swallowed, aware that he was no longer hungry.
"She's recovering. The Doctor has to perform more surgery to her face. But..." he hesitated, not quite sure how to put it into words. Same way as you told Kathryn, he thought. Taking a deep breath, he continued. "She's lost her eyesight. The Doctor's not sure why the operation didn't work. He's going to do what he can. It's...just too early to tell."
Three pairs of eyes glared back at him as the mood had suddenly taken on a somber tone. Chakotay desperately wanted to leave. He excused himself, mumbling something about unfinished reports, and rose from the table. Just before he turned to make his way for the door, Harry intervened.
"Commander, is the Captain taking... visitors?" he asked. Chakotay smiled. What an absolutely perfect idea! What better way to lift Kathryn's spirits than to receive visits from her faithful crew?
"I will certainly ask her, Harry," he replied.
Harry turned back around to face Tom and B'Elanna as Chakotay left the mess hall.
"See? Lost puppy dog!" Tom offered, and was immediately pummeled with leftover food from Chakotay's abandoned dinner tray.
Early the next morning, the Doctor informed Chakotay that he had successfully completed all the reconstructive surgery on the Captain's face. Chakotay finished a few reports, then immediately reported to Sickbay to see for himself.
The Captain sat curled up on the biobed, like a scolded child sulking. The room was filled with tension, and Chakotay could tell that cruel words had been exchanged, if not only by the expression on the Doctor's face. She was taking her handicap pretty hard, and the Doctor was suffering for it.
As soon as he walked in, the Doctor seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness you're here, Commander. I need you to talk to Captain Janeway. She is insisting on returning to her quarters. That is something I would not recommend at this time. She needs...supervision," he said, turning his head towards her room.
"I heard that...and I can take care of myself!" she argued from the other room. Looks as though she is returning to her old self, Chakotay noted, grinning. "I'll do what I can, Doctor," he said, walking into the other room.
"I will not stay here another night. I want to go to my quarters!" she started, throwing her legs over the edge of the biobed.
"We'll have to see about that," he replied, and he heard the Doctor groaning from the other room. Chakotay stifled a laugh. He returned his attention back to Kathryn, whose face, he thought, was more beautiful than it had ever been. No scars, no redness, no irritation. Just beautiful Kathryn.
'You're looking much better today," he told her, reaching up to caress her once injured cheek. It was a gesture he knew he shouldn't have made, and he fully expected her to draw back or say something about it. But she didn't. Kathryn totally surprised him with a smile.
"Thank you Chakotay. I am actually feeling much better. I really should apologize to you for my behavior yesterday. I was out of line, and..."
"It's OK, Kathryn. I understand. This has to be hard to accept."
Kathryn smiled again. Chakotay was so sincere and caring. The perfect First Officer. The perfect gentleman. She was lucky to know him. And she knew that if anyone could spring her from the confines of Sickbay, it would be him.
"You have to help me get out of here. You know what it's like to be around him 24 hours a day! All the medical discussions and scans...not to mention the singing. He's non-stop!"
Chakotay couldn't hold back the laughter. He definitely knew. The Doctor loved to hear himself talk and sing. His voice was magnificent, but one could only stand so much. Now he understood her plight. But unfortunately the Doctor was right. Now he had to convince Kathryn of that.
"Can't you at least give him a few more days? Time to help you adjust to your condition? That is his main concern."
Kathryn sighed. She knew that they were both right. She had to face the fact that she was blind, and that she could not simply jump back into her role as Captain. Things were definitely going to be different for her...and for the entire crew, for that matter. She slowly began to nod her head.
"FINE! I'll do it your way for now. But two days is my maximum level of tolerance!"
Chakotay smiled at her. At least some progress is being made, he thought.
"Before I go, I do have one question for you...a request, actually," he started, realizing that now would be a good time. "A few crew members have been asking about visits. Do you feel up to it?"
Kathryn's eyes widened with fear. "Absolutely not!"
Chakotay was confused by her reaction. "Why not? I thought it might make you feel better."
"No. It's just too...I don't know...embarrassing. I don't want the crew to see me like this," she responded, her voice cracking. She began to damn the tears which suddenly began to sting her eyes.
"You have nothing to be embarrassed about, Kathryn. The crew just wants to see you get well. They care a great deal about you...and so do I." Chakotay bit down on his tongue, ashamed that he had spoken the last part out loud. But Kathryn reacted as though she hadn't heard his comment, and to that, he was somewhat thankful.
"Please, I just need a little time before I'll be up to receiving visitors. Maybe once I get back to my quarters, someplace more comfortable." She spoke the last part loud enough for the Doctor to hear in the other room, and briefly smiled when she heard him grunt.
"OK, I'll hold them off for a while. But just promise me that you won't isolate yourself from the crew again." Kathryn threw her hand up in a gesture to stop his statement.
"Please, don't remind me."
"I'm sorry," he apologized, giving her a soft pat on the arm. "Lighten up on the Doctor," he said, turning to leave.
"I'll do my best," she replied, giving him another smile. Lying back on the biobed, she closed her eyes, hoping that the next few days would whisk by. And praying that when she opened her eyes, she would awake from the nightmare of the past few days.