Love Is Blind, And Lovers Cannot See...
by Jade (email@example.com)
Date: 2nd November 2001
Disclaimer: I don't own them... if I did, the show would probably have been slightly different... Anyway, no, everything belongs to The Powers That Be. Unfortunately...
Author's Note: This was written in response to JuPiter Station Narrative Challenge #352: "Write a story where Kathryn goes blind, permanently or temporarily. Also include in the story a necklace, a bootlace, and an annoying old watch that goes tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock all the live long day. And night. And for all of eternity after that."
Not the screaming. Not the screaming! The screaming which drove him insane, the screaming which just seemed to hammer in the fact that they were never getting out. The screaming which made him feel so... helpless...
Tom Paris awoke with a start, his eyes jerking open, then almost closing again as the bright light made him squint. Where was it coming from? He forced his eyes to remain open as they slowly adjusted to the brightness. As his vision became clearer, he found himself looking up at a strangely familiar ceiling. It wasn't the ceiling of the cell he had spent the last few months of his life in, it was cleaner and brighter than that. And whatever he was lying on... it was soft.
He heard someone approaching. He quickly closed his eyes and pretended to still be asleep as he sensed whoever it was walking over to him, then stopping to look at him. The sound of the person's feet made it clear that he was on a bed of some sort...
His eyes jerked open again. That voice... but surely not? But as things once more came into focus, it became clear that it was who he thought it was. He was back on Voyager! Or was he? Was this just a cruel trick? Was he still dreaming?
"How do you feel?" the Doctor was asking.
"Okay..." Tom replied, uncertainly. Should he trust him?
"I've treated most of your injuries, but I don't think you should go back on duty for a while yet."
"Oh." said Tom. He thought things over for a moment, then decided that, even if this wasn't real, he might as well enjoy it while it lasted. "Where's Kathryn?" he asked, sitting up.
Raising his eyebrows slightly at Tom's use of the Captain's first name, the Doctor nodded his head towards the next bed. "Right here." he said, going over to check some readings.
"How is she?" Tom moved into a more comfortable position, looking at her. She certainly looked a lot better than when he had last seen her, asleep and curled up into a ball in their cell.
"She's going to be fine. I've given her new eyes, since I couldn't repair the damage done to her old ones. I don't think she'll notice the difference between these and the others."
"Wow." Tom was impressed. Their captors had burned out the Captain's eyes a few days ago, leaving her blind. She had wanted to kill herself. Thankfully Tom had been able to stop her.
Speaking of the Captain, she was stirring. She moved her head and shut her eyes tight before opening them. Tom could see that the Doctor had indeed done a good job with them. They were the exact same blue color as he remembered them to be.
"Tom." said Kathryn, her hand reaching out searchingly. She had done the same thing every time she'd woken up for weeks.
"I'm here." he replied, grasping her hand firmly. She relaxed slightly.
"Where are we?" she asked.
"Back on Voyager." he smiled slightly. "Can't you tell?"
"I thought it smelled familiar."
"Smell?" the Doctor got out his tricorder. "Captain..." he said carefully, "Can't you see?"
"No." said the Captain quietly, lowering her head. "My eyes... They burned them out." The last part was barely above a whisper.
"But..." The Doctor closed his tricorder in exasperation and moved over to the biobed's scanners. "I don't understand! I - oh..."
"What?" Tom stood up, trying to see the console.
"There's an implant in the Captain's brain... it's stopping the electrical impulses from her eyes being processed."
"How is that possible?"
"I don't know."
"Well can you get it out?"
"I don't know yet." the Doctor looked up, his expression grim. "But from the looks of it, I'd say it's unlikely."
Kathryn's grip on Tom's hand suddenly tightened. Wordlessly, he sat down next to her, holding her tight. It was the only thing he could do. But he doubted that it would be enough...
* * *
Later that night, Tom was lying on his biobed, thinking over the events of the past day in his head. He still couldn't quite believe that they were back, but so far there had been no indication that they weren't. Besides, even a short respite from the torture and pain of the last few months was more than he had hoped for for weeks now. He had thought Voyager had given up looking. Maybe they had, maybe this wasn't real after all... but he didn't want to think about that. Instead, he turned his thoughts to Kathryn, who was currently asleep on the next bed. All they had wanted when they were in the prison was for things to get back to normal. Now it looked like that could never happen. He wondered if she'd ever be able to command the ship again. For now, she had told Chakotay to continue as if he was Captain, since she couldn't possibly resume command in her current condition. He had noticed that she seemed surprisingly calm while talking to Chakotay. Knowing her, she was probably trying her best not to let her emotions show, just like she had always done. The Captain had to be strong, had to be in control no matter what. He wondered how she really felt. He knew that the news had had a bigger impact on her than she was letting on, but he had no idea as to how big. Losing your sight, with little hope of ever regaining it, would hit anyone hard. Add to that the endless torture of the last few months, and the situation looked pretty grim. Would she be able to get over it? Would anyone, if they were in her position? He certainly hoped so...
He thought he heard her make a noise, so he decided to go over to her. She was lying on her back, tears running silently down her cheeks from her new, but useless eyes. He reached down to take her hand, but she grabbed him and hugged him as tight as she could. Sitting on the bed, he hugged her back, brushed the tears away with his fingers.
"I'm sorry." she said quietly.
"Overreacting like this. I should be glad we're alive, glad we're back. Instead I'm bawling my head off because I can't see."
"Hey, hey..." he stroked her hair. "You're not overreacting. You've been through a lot, and this is a big thing to take in. It's gonna take time."
"I don't want to take it in. I don't want it to be true."
"I know, I know, nobody does."
"Then why is it?"
He didn't have an answer to that one, and she knew he didn't. So they just held each other tighter, for the small comfort it provided.
* * *
"Ready to go?" Tom asked as he strode into sickbay.
Kathryn had finally convinced the Doctor that it was safe for her to be released, and he was there to pick her up. She was siting on a biobed, the Doctor hovering around her nervously. He obviously wasn't sure that this was a good idea. Tom had done his best to reassure him, but it hadn't really worked that well. Still, eventually even he had realized that the Captain couldn't stay in sickbay forever, and, after having several long talks with Tom (which were, quite frankly, more like lectures on how to care for the Captain), he had agreed to let her go.
"Ready as ever." said Kathryn in a determined voice.
Tom took her carefully by the arm and led her to the doors.
"Take care of yourselves!" said the Doctor just before they closed.
Walking through the corridors, Tom noticed that Kathryn was awfully silent. He looked over at her and saw that her expression carefully masked whatever she was feeling. Somehow Tom doubted that it was excitement over getting out of sickbay.
Kathryn was wearing a sensor web under her uniform (she had insisted upon wearing her uniform even though she was off duty for the foreseeable future). The Doctor had thought it up based on a similar garment he had found in the Federation database. The jumpsuit-like piece of clothing, which was the same gray as the Starfleet undershirts, allowed the wearer to "feel" obstacles by increasing pressure in the area it would come in contact with if he or she were to take two more steps in that direction. He had also been thoughtful enough to have the pressure be different depending on whether the obstacle was a person or not. Unfortunately, he had predicted that it would take a long time to get used to, and so it was unlikely that Kathryn would be able to make her own way around the ship any time soon.
They reached Kathryn's quarters, and Tom led her in. There was classical music playing, and, seeing the slight smile on her face, he steered her towards the table, where there was a big bowl of coffee ice cream.
"I took the liberty of replicating you a snack." he said as he helped her sit down.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Guess." said Tom, picking up a spoonful of the ice cream. "Or just open your mouth wide so you can taste it."
Kathryn smiled when she tasted the ice cream. "Thank you." she said sincerely.
"Glad you like it. Now," he said, putting the spoon in her hand and guiding her left to the bowl, "I'm afraid I'll have to leave you for a few hours. Think you can finish all this ice cream?"
"Probably." she said, again smiling slightly. "Just don't leave me alone for too long?"
"I'll be back in no time." He squeezed her forearm reassuringly, then got up and headed for the door.
"Okay..." she said as he left.
She just sat there for a few moments, then decided to pull herself together. Don't be stupid. I can do this! she thought to herself, so, holding the bowl tightly, she carefully took a spoonful of ice cream and put it in her mouth, enjoying the taste. Coffee... coffee! She stood up carefully, then made her way to the replicator, feeling her way along the wall.
"Coffee. Black." she said, her voice full of anticipation.
She heard the sound of the replicator, put her hands in, felt the warmth of the cup, and took it out. She lifted it to her nose, relishing the smell. She took a few steps back towards the table, smiling.
And then she tripped over a chair.
The coffee went everywhere, all over her, the carpet, the furniture. She gasped as the hot liquid came into contact with her skin, tried to get away, but ended up falling again, this time backwards, landing flat on her back. She lay there for a few seconds, breathing heavily after her heart rate had been sped up by the shock. Then she sat up, intending to clean up the mess.
That was when she realized that she didn't know how.
How was she supposed to find the cleaning equipment when she couldn't see? Even if she did, how did she know she wouldn't make an even bigger mess?
Most importantly... how could she live her life like this?
So instead she sat leaning against the chair, hugging her knees, and cried.
* * *
Tom stood in front of Kathryn's quarters and waited for her to let him in. He waited for several seconds. Then several more. Then he tapped his commbadge.
"Paris to Janeway."
There was still no response. He waited a few more seconds, then, making sure no one was looking, he tapped something into the touchpad by the door. It opened with a whoosh.
He stepped inside and looked around as the doors closed behind him. On the table lay the coffee ice cream, barely touched. On a very stained patch of carpet a few feet away was a coffee cup. And, hidden behind a chair, was Kathryn Janeway.
"Kathryn?" Tom took a few steps towards her.
A small sob came from behind the chair.
"Kathryn..." he said again, reaching her and sitting down, carefully putting a hand on her arm.
There was another sob.
"What's the matter?" he asked, moving so he could hold her properly.
"Everything's the matter!" she cried, biting her lip.
"Hey, hey! It can't be that bad."
"It is! I can't even make a cup of coffee!"
"You made the coffee fine. Otherwise you wouldn't have another stain to add to your collection."
"I hate the Cidreen. I hate them! Why did they do this to me? An implant! How cruel can you get?"
"Not much more cruel than them."
There was a long silence.
"Um, Kathryn? I don't know about you, but I'm getting a little uncomfortable hunched up like this."
"Then get up."
"Will you get up with me?"
"I can't. I can't do anything..."
"That is not true." he said, grabbing her arm. "Now come on." He pulled her up and led her towards the bed. "You can do whatever you want. It's just gonna take time, that's all."
"I can't do whatever I want. I want to see, and I can't do that!" she sat on on the bed. "And why does it have to take time? Why am I in this time and not the time where it's already taken enough time?!"
"I don't know. But you shouldn't wish your life away like that." He sat down next to her.
"Why not? It's not like I'm going to have any enjoyable experiences until then."
"You don't know that. You could enjoy any number of things between now and then. It's all up to you, really."
"Look Tom, just leave me alone, okay?"
"Are you deaf? Is that what they did to you, made you deaf? Oh no wait, they didn't do anything to you!"
"That's not true!"
"Oh no, of course it isn't! I wasn't the one whose fingers were broken one joint at a time, who had drops of acid burn little holes all over her body, who had her eyes burned out! I wasn't the one who screamed for them to stop every time, even though I knew they never would. No, that was you!"
"Okay, fine, maybe they didn't treat me as badly as they did you, but it was still bad! They hurt me too, okay? But the worst part, the worst part was hearing you scream, day after day, and knowing I couldn't do anything about it!" he got up off the bed and walked to the door angrily. "Maybe I shouldn't have cared so much after all." he said before leaving.
Kathryn lay back on her bed as she heard the doors shut, trying not to start crying again. She hadn't cried this much in decades! Why can't I just get over myself and deal with it?!, she thought to herself angrily. This was nothing, a minor setback. It doesn't feel like it. Then make it feel like it! You're right. You're right! I can do this. I'll get up off the bed and get some more coffee. I will. I will...
But she didn't. And, after a while, she fell asleep.
* * *
Tom woke up in a cold sweat, shivering. He sat up, rubbing his eyes, then went over to the replicator for some hot chocolate. Sitting on the bed with the beverage in his hand, he took a sip and thought back to the dream he had been having.
It wasn't really a dream, it was a memory. He had been reliving it every night for the past few days, and he wasn't enjoying it. He woke up each time hoping that was all it was, a dream. But it wasn't. It wasn't...
Tom lay on the floor, eyes squeezed shut, desperately trying not to hear the screams coming from the room down the corridor. They had had her in there for a long time now, longer than usual. What were they doing to her? What kind of new torture were they subjecting her to this time? No, he said to himself firmly. Mustn't think about that. Think about good things, nice things... skiing... fresh air... sunshine... piloting... Voyager... Ah, Voyager. He wondered if they'd found out where they were yet. That was the only thing keeping he and Kathryn going, the hope that Voyager would find them. Rescue them. But what if they didn't? What if they had given up? What if they had been destroyed? What if he and Kathryn were stuck in this hellhole forever? Kathryn. He smiled to himself bitterly. A few months ago he would never have dreamed of calling her Kathryn. Funny how things could change in such a short space of time.
They had been on a routine trading mission when it happened. Out of nowhere, a ship belonging to a species they didn't even know existed had seized the shuttle and thrown them into this godawful prison, claiming that they were "collaborating with the enemy". They had no idea where they were, in space or on a planet, above or underground. They just knew that they didn't want to be there.
The torture had started the next day, horrible things he would've never even imagined, using all kinds of ancient and high-tech torture devices. And the worst thing was that their captors seemed to be doing it just for the sake of doing it. Kathryn and Tom had told them everything they knew after only a few days, but the torture had continued, each time something new and more horrible, more painful and degrading. If something didn't happen soon he didn't know what he'd do. Kill himself, probably. He'd heard about captives who killed themselves rather than undergo more torture, but had never really understood why someone would take their own life even if there was the tiniest of hopes of being rescued. Now he understood all too well. That small hope wasn't enough to keep him going, not in the long term. He knew that Voyager would look for them, but after so much time, who could be sure that they hadn't just given up and left? If that was the case, there was no end in sight. And he didn't know how long he'd be able to live with that knowledge.
He heard the sound of the forcefield being turned off, and Kathryn was thrown back into the cell. He waited until the guard had left, then made his way across the small confines of the room to where she lay, curled up into a ball, whimpering. Silently he took her in his arms, holding her close. She wrapped her arms around him tightly. After a few moments, she looked up at him. He had to stop himself from gasping in shock. Because, instead of her beautiful blue eyes, there were two burnt, black holes in her face.
"Tom," she said weakly. "I can't see."
"Oh, Kathryn..." he whispered, holding her even closer, tears streaming down his cheeks. Those sadistic bastards...
Sadistic bastards indeed, he thought, taking a huge gulp of hot chocolate. If they hadn't done that, everything would be back to normal right now. Well, almost back to normal. But Kathryn wouldn't be lying in her quarters feeling useless, and he wouldn't have said those things and now be sitting here feeling useless. He really regretted having stormed out on her like that. But the things she had said had hurt him. And when Tom Paris was hurt, he often did things he regretted later. But the Doctor had said she might be volatile! He should've been prepared. He shouldn't have done that.
He should, he realized, go see her later on and apologize.
* * *
For the second time in as many days, Tom Paris broke into the Captain's quarters. They looked the same as the day before, right down to the coffee cup on the floor. The only difference was that Kathryn was in bed instead of behind a chair. Tom decided she was probably asleep, so he made himself useful by cleaning up the mess and recycling the cup. Then he went to sit on the bed. After a few seconds he cleared his throat.
"Go away." came a small voice from underneath the covers.
"I'll go when I've apologized." he said gently.
"Then apologize quickly." came the response.
"Okay... I'm sorry I stormed out yesterday. I shouldn't have reacted like that."
"Okay. Goodbye then."
Tom sighed and got up, looking around the room. "If you insist..." he started towards the door, but then a thought struck him. "Kathryn," he said, turing to face her, "When was the last time you ate anything?"
"I dunno. Go away."
Ignoring her request, Tom went to stand by the replicator. "Chicken soup." he said.
"I'm not hungry."
"I think you should eat it anyway." He put the soup on the table by the bed, then put his hand on her shoulder. "Sit up."
"I'm not hungry."
"Go on, sit up. I'll stop bothering you if you eat this."
"Fine." she grumbled, sitting up.
"Good. Now take this." he held the bowl in front of her and put one of her hands on the side.
"I'll spill it."
"No you won't. Go on, take it."
Gingerly, she took the bowl in her hands.
"Okay, okay, now take a sip. Go on."
She raised the bowl to her lips carefully and took a tentative sip.
"That's good! Just drink it all up, go on."
Tom watched with a smile as Kathryn drank the soup. It looked like she was making progress.
But when she finished drinking and put the bowl down, he saw that he was mistaken.
"Now go." she said, burying herself under the covers again.
Slightly disappointed, he recycled the bowl and left.
* * *
After that, feeding Kathryn became part of Tom's daily routine. He'd go in, she'd tell him to go away, he'd replicate food, she'd tell him she wasn't hungry, he'd make her eat it, she'd tell him to go, and he went.
He was getting increasingly worried about her.
So was the Doctor, evidentially. When he had tried to feed Kathryn, she had refused to come out from under the covers. When other members of the crew stopped by she wouldn't even let them in, and of course they'd never break in like Tom did. And so Kathryn spent week upon week, then month upon month in bed, sleeping and eating and saying "go away".
Finally, both Tom and the Doctor decided that she needed a little push in the right direction.
"Goodbye." said Kathryn, after having finished the pasta dish Tom had replicated for her.
"Not so fast." he said as she turned on her side, pulling the covers up.
"What?" she asked faintly, already starting to doze off.
"Before you go back to sleep, we're having a little outing."
"I don't think so."
"Oh, but I do!" he pulled the covers off the bed.
"I'm cold." she said, now clutching at her pillow.
"That's because you haven't moved in months! Now come on, get up." he pulled the pillow away from her too.
"Right, that's it." he grabbed her ankles and pulled her off the bed.
"Ow!" Kathryn untangled herself from the heap on the floor and rubbed her head.
"That's what you get for being lazy. Now, here's some clothes. I'll be back in ten minutes and if you haven't got them on I'll put them on you myself."
Kathryn sighed as Tom left. Why couldn't he leave her alone? She wanted to go back to bed. Her bed was nice and warm and familiar. She didn't need to see to find her way around her bed. And she liked sleeping. In fact, sleeping had become her favorite pastime. Not that she had any others, of course. After all, you couldn't do anything when you couldn't see.
Still, even if she couldn't see, she had no intention of letting Tom undress her. And so she reluctantly put on the clothes he had dumped on her head, carefully feeling them so she didn't put anything on back-to-front or inside-out.
Then, since Tom wasn't back yet, she climbed back on the bed and was about to go to sleep again, when a loud voice said:
"Are we ready then?", in an annoyingly cheerful manner.
"No." she said.
"Good!" Tom went over to her and pulled her up, holding her arm. He led her out the door and into the corridor. They walked for several minutes, Tom with a huge grin and Kathryn with an exceedingly grumpy expression on her face. Finally, they reached the holodeck.
"Computer! Run program Paris beta-five." said Tom. He then pushed Kathryn through the door. She landed on her hands and feet in something very cold.
"Ow." she said.
"That," said Tom, helping her up, "did not hurt."
"Whatever you say."
Ignoring her bad mood, he put a pair of skis on the snow in front of her. "If you'd step this way." he again guided her by the arm, until she was standing on the skis. Then he grabbed hold of first one foot, then the other, and put them in the ski boots, already mounted on the skis. They adjusted themselves to fit her feet.
"Tom, what are we doing?" she asked.
"Skiing." he responded, donning his own skis.
"I can't ski."
"That's strange. I seem to remember you demonstrating your skiing skills by showing me up at least ten times last year." he put her sticks in her hands.
"Last year," she said pointedly, "I could see."
Kathryn sighed. Couldn't he show even the slightest bit of consideration? Didn't he understand that she was handicapped, for God's sake?
"Come on now."
"I told you, I can't ski."
"And I told you, yes you can. The safeties are on, , there are no trees or rocks to crash into, don't worry."
She put on her worst frown.
He ignored it.
"I'll meet you at the bottom!" he shouted.
She heard the swish of his skis get fainter. For a moment, she pondered what to do, then, sighing, she pushed off in roughly the same direction as Tom had gone.
The wind in her face was like a breath of fresh air. Well, it was a breath of fresh air. Despite herself, Kathryn found herself enjoying the sensation, tucking her arms into her sides so she could go faster, so the wind would get stronger. The old movements all came back to her quickly, and, surprisingly, she found that she did not need to see in order to ski.
Just as she was really starting to have fun, the ground evened out and she swished to a halt. She smiled slightly, sticking her stick in the snow so she could get her hair out of her face.
"Told you!" said Tom's voice from a few meters away. He came up to her. "And is that a smile I detect?"
Kathryn tried to stop smiling and put on her customary frown, but after a moment she gave up and laughed.
"Well I am impressed." said Tom. "Seeing as you can't ski."
Kathryn sighed, but this time it was a good-natured sigh.
"Computer, set location 2. Want to go again?" Kathryn could hear the grin in his voice.
"Are we standing next to a sheer drop?"
"Um... not quite..."
"If you say so." grinning, Kathryn pulled her stick out of the snow and set off without another word.
She soon found that Tom had been telling the truth when he had said it was not quite a sheer drop. It was a very, very steep hill. Her favorite! She felt a huge thrill as she zoomed down, almost falling but not quite, the wind in her face, blowing her hair back, her hands cold because she wasn't wearing gloves, but she didn't care, she didn't care because it was so bloody fun.
For the first time in months, she was happy.
* * *
Tom almost jumped out of his skin. He had become so used to having to break in to Kathryn's quarters that he hadn't expected her to let him in voluntarily. Then again, she had been in a very good mood when he brought her back yesterday. Curiously, he entered.
Kathryn was sitting at the table, facing the door, eating a hearty meal of toast, eggs and sausages, and - he smiled to himself - there was a steaming pot of coffee in front of her.
"Morning." he said.
"Good morning!" she said. "Care for some toast?"
"Um, sure..." he sat down next to her.
"Just take some." Kathryn held out her plate. "I'm not sure where it is exactly, but I'm sure you'll find it."
"Thanks..." he took a slice of toast and Kathryn put her plate back in front of her, feeling with her fork for something she could pick up with it, then cutting with her knife in the general area of the fork. She put the rather large piece of egg in her mouth, then put the fork back on the plate and wiped the grease off her mouth with a napkin.
"So, um, how are you today?" Tom asked, biting into his toast.
Kathryn paused to consider the question. "Better." she said eventually.
"I can see that." he said, making sure his voice showed how impressed he was.
"Well, you're not in bed, you haven't told me to go away once, and you've made your own breakfast. Very impressive!"
"Thank you!" she smiled. "I've decided that lying in bed is not as fun as it once was. There are far better things I could be doing with my time. Such as skiing."
"Couldn't agree with you more.
"And I have discovered that making breakfast is not hard at all. It's all a question of knowing where the furniture is."
"And this sensor web is actually very useful."
"Oh, good. Good!"
"I thought I might test it in a less confined space. The messhall, for instance."
"Yes. I was wondering if you'd come with me?"
"Um, sure, I guess." Tom stared at her. This huge transformation was hard to take in. Was it even possible? She seemed sincere enough...
"Great! Breakfast tomorrow?"
"It's a date! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of logs to listen to." Kathryn drank the last of her coffee, put everything on a tray, and walked carefully over to the replicator, not stopping once. She recycled the dishes, then felt her way to the couch, sat down and ordered the computer to start playing the ships logs in chronological order from the time that she and Tom had been abducted.
Shaking his head in stunned disbelief, Tom exited and made his way to sickbay to tell the Doctor of the Captain's miraculous progress.
* * *
The next day, Kathryn did not seem quite so sure of her decision to venture out of her quarters. She clung to Tom as if her life depended on it, and just smiled nervously when crewmembers greeted her.
Just before they reached the messhall, she stopped.
"I can't do this." she said.
"Of course you can! It's only a few more steps."
"I can't. I can't do it."
"Come on now, that doesn't sound like the Kathryn Janeway we all know and love!"
She stayed rooted to the spot, not responding.
Tom sighed, then put his free hand on her shoulder reassuringly.
"You can do it. I'm right here with you. Come on."
There was a pause.
"Okay..." said Kathryn uncertainly.
"That's what I like to hear! This way, if you please..."
She gripped his arm tighter and he led her to the messhall.
"Captain!" Neelix was upon them the moment the doors opened. "So nice to see you up and about! What can I get you? I've just fried up some vegetables... or if you like I could replicate something - would you like some coffee? - Ensign Kim just complimented me on my nnew casserole, perhaps you'd like some of that?"
Kathryn found herself infected by Neelix's enthusiasm. She smiled as Tom led her to the counter. It was nice to be back in the messhall, there was always such a nice sense of camaraderie she got when eating there. She realized that she hadn't been there since before she and Tom had been captured. Oh well, time to make up for lost time!, she thought as Neelix's chatter subsided.
"I think I'll have some of that casserole." she told him. "And," she added, "a large cup of coffee."
"Casserole and coffee coming right up!" said Neelix excitedly, rattling pots and pans as Tom led Kathryn to a table.
"So, is it as bad as you thought?" asked Tom quietly when they were seated.
"No." she admitted. "Actually, I think I'm rather enjoying myself."
"Good!" said Tom, as Neelix brought them their food.
"Enjoy!" he said cheerfully before leaving again.
Tom watched in amazement as Kathryn ate with ease. She seemed to know exactly where everything was, and when she didn't, she felt for it in a calm and practiced manner. This certainly was a big change.
"Have you been practicing?" he asked eventually.
"Practice makes perfect." shrugged Kathryn. "And I didn't want to appear completely incapable in front of all these people."
"You really are back to your old self, aren't you?" he asked, grinning.
"Not yet, but I plan to be. My old self wouldn't be in the messhall at 0930. She'd be on the bridge."
"So you do want to resume command!"
"Eventually, yes. But first I have to learn to use this sensor web properly! I don't want to sit on Chakotay's lap by mistake."
Tom laughed, then turned serious. "What made you change your mind about your 'I can't do anything' attitude?"
"You did." she said, putting down her fork. "You made me realize that I was wrong about that. So if you were right about me being able to ski, who was to say you weren't right about everything else as well?" she smiled. "Let's just say I've decided to give your attitude a try. Can I have your casserole if you're not going to eat it? Retaking your life makes you hungry."
"Of course!" Tom had completely forgotten about his food. He put it in her outstretched hands, then leaned back and watched her again. She really was an amazing woman. He had always thought so, but this... well, this was proof of that fact. He hadn't been sure if she'd be able to get over the loss of her sight, but, yet again, she had proven herself a lot stronger than expected.
Captain Janeway was back, determined as ever.
* * *
Kathryn sighed. "Don't tell me you've tripped over your laces again." she told Tom.
"Okay, I won't. Doesn't make it any less true. Sorry." Tom said sheepishly.
"I don't see why you insisted on wearing those boots anyway. There is a reason why laces went out of fashion, you know." she said, as they started walking again.
"But I like them!" he whined.
"Whatever you say. But if it happens again I'm not waiting for you to get up."
"Yes ma'am." he said.
"Now come on. I don't want to be late for my own party."
"Yes ma'am!" he said again.
They were on their way to the messhall for a party to celebrate Captain Janeway resuming command of the ship. After weeks and weeks of tireless effort, the Doctor had finally pronounced her fit to return to duty. The crew was overjoyed, because, although Chakotay was a good captain, he could never fill Kathryn's shoes. So it was no surprise that they wanted to throw a huge party in her honor, really.
They entered the messhall to resounding applause, and it took almost a minute to subside. Kathryn thanked the crew for their warm welcome, then sat down on one of the couches, where she was at once surrounded by people wanting to congratulate her and give her gifts.
"Looks like you have enough chocolate to last you a lifetime." said Chakotay when the rest of the crew had gone over to the dancefloor Neelix had put together on the other side of the room.
"Well, at least I'll never go hungry." she smiled. "I suppose you've brought me a giant chocolate truffle?"
"Not quite." he sat down next to her and gave her a box.
"It's ticking." she said, opening it. "It's a bomb, isn't it! You've become so accustomed to the Captain's chair that you can't bear to give it up!"
"Sorry to disappoint you," he said as she took it out, "but it's a watch. It has holographic hands. You can feel what time it is."
"That's... very thoughtful." she ran her fingers over it. "Thank you."
At that moment, Tom came up. "Care for a dance, milady?" he asked in an overly posh voice.
"I'd be honored." Kathryn put out her hand and Tom pulled her up, leading her to the dance floor, where a slow song was playing.
Holding Kathryn close, Tom looked at her admiringly. She was so completely at ease, it was hard ot believe she was the same person she had been a few months ago. She was such an amazing person. And beautiful, too, he thought, regarding her sleek black evening dress, necklace, earrings. He held her closer.
And so they danced, just enjoying each other's company, until the last song was played, half the crew had left, and they were both extremely tired.
Tom escorted Kathryn back to her quarters, she looked as though she might collapse from exhaustion at any second.
They said goodnight, and Kathryn was about to go through the doors when she stopped and turned back to him, a very concentrated look on her face. Then she seemed to shrug it off, took a step towards Tom, grabbed his face, and kissed him.
"Hmm." said Tom when she let him go. "That was... interesting..."
"Goodnight." Kathryn again turned to go into her quarters.
This time it was Tom who stopped her, grabbing her arm and spinning her into his arms to kiss her again, more passionately than before. Then he let her go, cleared his throat, and bade her goodnight with exaggerated formality.
Kathryn smiled as she entered her quarters. Things were just as good now as they had been before she'd lost her eyesight.
No, that wasn't true after all, she corrected herself with a grin.
They were better.
But, as she got into bed, she began to have doubts.
What if all her preparations hadn't been enough? What if the Doctor was wrong? What if she wasn't fit for duty after all?
What if she inadvertantly put the crew in danger? What if she accidentally activated the wrong console? What if they met a race which communicated only through sign language?
No, she decided, she was being silly.
But she still slept with a slightly uneasy feeling.
* * *
The Voyager crewmembers rushed to take cover behind the table, taking shots as they went. Kathryn rolled, listened, then fired a shot in the direction of the enemy. She heard a grunt and grinned, satisfied. All the hours she had spent on the holodeck practicing were paying off.
It was her first day back in command, and already she was faced with a challenge. They had been negotiating for dilithium with an alien species. After they had reached an agreement, the aliens had invited them to join them in a meal to celebrate. It had gone quite well really, and was definitely a valuable cultural experience. But just as they were eating dessert, another group of aliens, who's origins and motives were as yet unclear, had stormed into the room and started shooting. Which explained her current predicament.
Still, she was glad to be back in charge.
The crew seemed to be fighting off the aliens without much difficulty, already they had reduced their numbers considerably. Kathryn heard the noise of another phaser being fired, and stood up quickly to take aim and shoot. Then she quickly ducked back behind the table.
And noticed the deathly silence.
She listened to nothing for several seconds. Finally, she cleared her throat.
"What's the matter?" she asked.
There was another silence.
"Captain," said Harry eventually, "You just killed Ensign Jones."
* * *
Kathryn sat on her bed, not moving.
In her head was a whirlpool of thoughts.
She had killed him. She had killed him. Ensign Jones. A member of her crew. Brown hair, blue eyes. 29, a wife and two children. Expert velocity player.
She had killed him...
She noticed she was sitting on something hard. She pulled it out from underneath her and felt it.
The watch Chakotay had given her. It was ticking. Tick-tock-tick-tock...
She had stopped Ensign Jones' ticking.
Stopped him from breathing, stopped his heart from beating.
Suddenly, she threw the watch on the floor and stamped her heel onto it with all her might.
It refused to break.
Starting to get angry, she picked it up again, then threw it against the wall as hard as she could.
Still it kept ticking and tocking.
It was as if it were mocking her.
Stupid blind Kathryn.
Can't do anything right.
Can't do anything at all...
* * *
Tom hurried down the corridors towards Kathryn's quarters. He would have gone sooner, but he had had to help the Doctor with the injured in sickbay. Now that they were all treated, he could finally go check on Kathryn, who had disappeared into her quarters as soon as she'd been beamed up.
He didn't know what state she'd be in, exactly. The first day on the job and she'd killed a member of her crew. It would be bad, it would be very bad...
He got to her quarters and chimed. There was no answer, but he had been expecting that. He quickly tapped in the security code, then stepped in as soon as the door opened.
Then he half wanted to step back out again, as fast as he could.
Instead, he swallowed his horror and slowly approached the bed.
Kathryn was lying on it, eyes closed, still in her uniform.
Her skin was pale, ghostlike. Half-dried tears rested on her cheeks.
In her hand she loosely held a knife. Blood trickled out of the cuts in her wrists, down her arms, slowly forming a red puddle on the sheet. It was all down her front, on her face, in her hair.
Getting closer, taking in the horrible scene, seeing that his eyes really were telling the truth, Tom started to panic. He ran the last few steps, checked frantically for a pulse. It was there, but only barely.
Now gasping for breath, heart still hammering in terror, he tapped his commbadge.
"Paris to sickbay, medical emergency!"
Tears steaming down his own cheeks, he gathered Kathryn in his arms, stroked her hair.
"Don't die Kathryn, don't die Kathryn, don't die Kathryn..."
* * *
"Kathryn... Kathryn, wake up..."
Slowly she regained consciousness, and with it control of her senses. From the smell and feel of the bed, she deduced that she was in sickbay. But why? Had she been injured on an away mission? Shot, per--
And then the whole thing came flooding back to her. She inhaled sharply.
It was Tom. She could sense him hovering over her, and hear the anxiety in his voice.
"I killed him..." she said slowly.
"I know, Kathryn... but it wasn't your fault..."
She laughed, a grim, dark laugh, filled with sarcasm.
"I shot him, Tom. Of course it was my fault!"
"You didn't know it was him!"
"Yes, because I can't see! There are so many things I don't know because I can't bloody see."
"What? You're gonna say it's not true?" She sat up. "It is though. There's no getting around the fact. Without my eyesight I am useless. Dangerous, even."
"Now you know that's not true!"
"Yes it is! Don't say things to make me feel better Tom, it won't work. You should've left me to die."
"Don't say things like that."
"Why not? It would be better all 'round. I'm sure everyone would feel much safer, be much happier."
"Kathryn, stop this."
"Tom, I'm just telling you--"
"No Kathryn, now I'm going to tell you." He grabbed hold of her arm and sat next to her. "The crew would be devastated if you died. You're their leader, their role model, their mother figure. They look up to you, each and every one of them. Do you know how many concerned inquiries there have been in the past hour? The crew care for you, they love you. I love you, Kathryn, and if anything happened to you I don't know what I'd do. All I know is that I got a horrible feeling of dread when I found you, worse dread than I've ever felt before. You mean the world, the universe to me Kathryn. Please don't ever do that to me again."
There was a long silence, then Kathryn pulled Tom into her arms. They held each other, both crying, crying tears of sadness and relief and joy and love all rolled into one.
And from that moment on, things really were better.
I'd really appreciate some feedback... I'm not really sure what to think of it. Just leave your comments in the box below. Thank you :)
P.S. Thank you Mr William Shakespeare for the lovely title... :D