Disclaimer:  Paramount owns everything and most of the people in this story.  I own nothing and gain no profit from writing this.  (except this lovely award from Alicia at Voyager Central)

                                        THE DANCE
 

Second place winner in The Dance contest

Rated: PG
 
 

He was there when they beamed her back.  She was hardly more than skin and bones and what was left of that was swollen, discolored, and scarred.  She had spent three weeks ---well 23 days – in the hands of the Kuprych and when they got her back, even he was barely able to recognize her.  The doctor was so unsure of who they had finally retrieved that he immediately asked the computer to match her DNA.  The computer confirmed it,  this emaciated, battered and bruised being was indeed the Captain---at least she used to be  the Captain.

The Doctor cleaned her up and was able to repair most of the obvious damage, the rest would heal on its own, physically she would recover in time.  Her most life threatening affliction was mal-nutrition, the doctor doubted she had been given any food at all during her stay, although some water must have been provided or she never would have survived this long.  He could feed her intravenously and ensured that she wouldn’t starve, but he couldn’t add back the weight needed to make her even resemble her former self.  She refused to wake up—that’s what the doctor said—‘refused’, because he found no medical reasons, but she would not respond to the stimulants, and so she lay still pale and quiet in sick bay.

For three weeks she lay motionless, the doctor designed a physical therapy routine and worked with her several times a day.  Chakotay visited and the senior staff checked regularly, but nothing changed. Chakotay watched the doc finish up her therapy, then motioned him to the office.

“Doctor, how is she?”

“Physically she is fine—in need of exercise but OK.”  He sat behind the desk.  “There is no change however, no sign of coming around.”

“What can we do?”

“I’m afraid there is nothing—if she doesn’t want to wake up she won’t”

“That’s crazy—why wouldn’t she want to wake up?”

“Commander, we have been over my findings---what we know could be only a small part of what she went through.  A mind can only handle so much pain.  She appears to have shut down to escape and now---well, she doesn’t want to risk coming back.”

“She’s safe here.”

“Yes, Commander, but she doesn’t understand that—yet.”

“OK, so we have to make her understand-- make her want to wake up.”

“Yes, Commander exactly, but how?”

“We show her she is safe--- that we need her---I don’t know, we have to do something.”  He ran his fingers through his hair.  “That physical therapy you do, could I learn to do it?”

“Yes, I suppose you could.”

“OK, that’s a start.  I’ll work with her, talk to her while we do it—then maybe B’Elanna can help and Tom---we get everyone involved…  What do you think?”

“It can’t hurt and ---maybe it will help.”

“OK, I’ll speak to the senior staff, you call me for your next session.”

Chakotay was the first to take on her physical therapy, but soon the rest of the senior staff was pitching in, each making good use of their time with the Captain.  Tom happily filled her in on all the current gossip, Tuvok offered her the wisdom of Vulcan philosophy and Harry brought her up to date on any curious phenomena they came across.  B’Elanna spent a good deal of her time ranting about engineering problems, as only B’Elanna could.  She often asked advice on a particular problem, she never got an answer, but she continued to ask anyway.  Chakotay alternated between discussing the current running of the ship and more personal topics and the doctor often encouraged her to take her entourage to another location and free up sick bay for those who needed it.

Chakotay came for a late night visit, something he did often, but this time he was surprised to find there were lights in sickbay, he entered quietly.  He could hear B’Elanna’s voice, she should have been long finished with the Captain’s evening secession, but she was still chatting with the Captain.  He didn’t want to disturb her, he had come in just close enough to hear her, then found he needed to take a peek.

“This will be much better.”  B’Elanna was fussing with Kathryn’s hair as she spoke.  “They don’t understand these things---Oh they mean well, but –you know—they’re just men.”

As he watched, he notice Kathryn wore her own nightgown, she had a faint pink glow evidence of a recent sonic shower.  B’Elanna had obviously been busy, Kathryn’s hair was clean and trimmed, styled as she usually wore it and she even had on a trace of lipstick.

“You know, I –I really miss you….”  B’Elanna stopped and stared at her a minute.  “Well, I have to go—have an early shift.  I’ll see you tomorrow, sleep well.”  She started to leave and turned back.  “Hey Captain, I could sure use your help in engineering too--- I know you know that --just thought I’d remind you, well good night.”

     Chakotay stayed out of site until B’Elanna had gone, then he went to see Kathryn.  She was as still and quiet as ever, but thanks to B’Elanna she looked more like herself.

“You look beautiful, Kathryn; B’Elanna did a nice job.”  He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and chuckled.  “I miss doing that--- tucking that strand of hair—I miss you, we all do.”  He touched her cheek.  “Kathryn as much as the crew misses you, as much as they need you---- I need you more, Please Kathryn, come back to us, come back to me.”  He  kissed her cheek.  “I have to go now, Kathryn---I love you.”

     Chakotay was with Kathryn the next afternoon, he had just finished her therapy, when Sam Wildman paged him.

“Wildman to Chakotay.”

“Chakotay here”

“Commander, I was wondering if you could spare me a few minutes—I need to discuss something with you.”

“Sure Sam, I’m just finishing with the Captain---where are you?”

“I’m just outside the messhall—we could meet there, if that’s OK?”

“Sure be right there.  Chakotay out.”  He repositioned Kathryn and kissed her forehead.  “I  have to tend to your crew now, I’ll come back later.”

When Chakotay entered the messhall, Sam waved him over, she was seated in a corner away from the others in the room.  He collected a cup of tea and joined her.

“Hi, Sam.”  He sat across from her.

“Hi, thanks for seeing me.”  She looked around the room before continuing.  “How is she?”

“No change.”  Sam smiled and nodded at him.  “But I don’t think you asked me here to talk about the Captain---did you?”

“In a way –yeah.  You see it’s Naomi.  I know the senior staff has been to see the Captain, but –well—Naomi wants to see her.”  She made a face.  “I don’t know if that’s good or not—but the thing is that she is really scared and she thinks that we’re lying to her.”

“About the Captain?”

“Yeah, she thinks maybe the Captain is dead and we won’t tell her.  I wouldn’t bother you with this, except it’s getting kinda bad, she’s having nightmares and I was thinking maybe if she just saw her---well maybe that would help.”

“Well ---Sam, she has looked better—but she’s far from dead.”  He sensed Sam was more than a little desperate.  “Do you think Naomi can handle this?”

“She’s a tough kid—I think she will be relieved just to know she is alive.”

“How about you give me half and hour, then bring Naomi to sick bay—OK?”

“Fine.”  Sam already felt better.  “Thanks, Chakotay.”

“Yeah, just let me go make sure she’s dressed for company.”  He stood and gave Sam a smile.  “See you in half an hour.”  Sam nodded and he headed for the lift.  Once inside the lift he hit his comm. badge.  “Chakotay to Torres”

“Torres here Commander.”

“B’Elanna, grab some makeup and a hair brush and meet me in sickbay.”

“What?”

“Just do it.”

“Aye Sir.”  He heard her laugh.  “Torres out.”

He met B’Elanna just outside of sick bay, stepped back and ushered her inside.

“OK what’s this all about?  Going out tonight or what?”

“I wish---no, Naomi is coming to see her and I thought a little makeup wouldn’t hurt and since I don’t have a clue …”  He shrugged, grinning at her.

“Well I didn’t really think it was for you—but.”  She looked at the Captain and back at him.  “Do you think that’s wise?”

“Seems she’s worried sick over this and Sam thinks just knowing Kathryn is really alive will help her.”

“Sam knows more about her kid than I do—let’s get the Captain ready for company.”

B’Elanna added a touch of makeup and brushed Kathryn’s hair.  Chakotay just watched amazed at how careful and gentle his friend, the ‘Klingon Warrior’, was with her.  They all needed Kathryn to come back.  His thoughts were interrupted by the swish of the doors.

“Hi are we too early?”  Sam called before letting Naomi see the Captain.

“No, come on over.”  Chakotay met them half way and in a minute B’Elanna joined them.

“Can I see her now?”  Naomi stood wide eyed.

“Sure honey go ahead.”

Naomi ran toward the Captain’s biobed, the others followed slowly.  Naomi appeared a little shaken when she first saw her, but quickly calmed and began to survey all the monitors around the bed.

“Can I talk to her?”  She turned to the other and asked in a whisper.

“Honey, I don’t know if…”  Sam looked at Chakotay.

“Sure Naomi, I do all the time.”  Chakotay jumped it.  “I’m not sure how much she hears, but I tell her everything that happens on the ship, just in case.”  Naomi took this in and nodded before returning to the Captain’s side.

“Hi Captain, it’s me ---your assistant?—Naomi Wildman.”  She moved closer and touched Kathryn’s hand.  “I just wanted to see you.  Mom said you were tired and needed a long rest----and that’s OK 'cause I know you work real hard.  I only wanted to see for myself and to tell you I hope you come back to us real soon---The Commander is doing a fine job –don’t get me wrong—I don’t want you to worry or anything–but well, you do better.  So if you do come back soon---I promise to work real hard and help you all I can so you won’t be so tired and well--- I guess that’s all I have to say, so I’ll let you rest now—bye now.  Oh and Captain—I love you.”  She turned and walked back to the adults.  “Thanks --- can I come back some time?”

“Sure Naomi, you can come back.”  Chakotay had all he could do to hold back the emotions he felt bubbling up inside.

“OK.”  A much happier Naomi skipped out of sick bay.

“Thanks, Chakotay I think she’ll be better now.’  Sam glanced back at the Captain and then followed her daughter out.
 

       It was a few days after Naomi’s visit that the Captain began to show signs of waking.  Then about a week later Chakotay received an urgent call to sick bay.  He arrived on the run and went straight to Kathryn’s side, she opened her eyes and smiled at him.

“Hi.”  Her voice was deep and rusty from lack of use

“Hi” He knew he was crying but he didn’t care.  “Welcome back.”
 

         It was two months before the Captain returned to duty and another six before she left the relative safety of Voyager.  She went on a few away missions, but avoided as much personal contact with alien races as possible.  She was quiet and withdrawn some of the time and spent a good deal of time alone, even Chakotay couldn’t seem to reach her.  Oh she functioned well on the surface and there were those on board who didn’t notice any difference, but some did.  She rarely socialized, preferring to stay in her quarters, alone.  She never touched the crew anymore and each time Chakotay tried to draw her out she withdrew farther.  Some days she was almost the old Captain, but not quite and those days were rare.

      The Captain had been stiff and formal in most of her dealing since her return, so when she began to relax and seemed to almost enjoy their stop on Thaose, the senior staff was both happy and relieved.  To everyone’s surprise she assigned herself to the away team who would spent three days negotiating with the Thaose governor, for some badly needed supplies.  Although the negotiations went well, they ran a little longer than anticipated.  The away team spent six days on the planet, but the Captain had checked in three times a day, so Chakotay wasn’t worried.  He was however surprised when the Captain returned and announced the Thaose were hosting a party for the crew, in celebration of the successful negotiations and she wanted the duty roster rearranged to allow as many as possible to attend.  And he was completely astonished when she announced that she would be attending.

“Come.”  She called when her door chimed.

“Captain, the duty roster.”  Chakotay smiled as he handed her the padd.

“Since when Commander, do you need me to approve this?”  She took the padd and returned his smile.

“Since I wanted to double check your plans.”  He took a seat across from her.

“If you are asking if I still plan to attend, yes I do.  And I would very much appreciate it you would accompany me.”

“Are you asking me on a date?”  He flashed her the dimples.  “Or am I just the local muscle?”  Even now it was sometimes risky to joke with her, but he sensed a lighter mood since this mission.

“Well I must say they are impressive---the muscles that is, but I was looking for the company.”  The laugh that followed was a bit nervous.

“Well, how can I turn that down.  I would be delighted to accompany you.”  He knew that laugh, he could see through the brave face.  “So shall I pick you up – say 1900 hours?”

“Great.”  She returned the padd to him without reading it.  “I’m sure this is fine, Commander.”

“Thank you, Captain.”  He took it and stood.  “See you later.”
 

      The room was vast, the large round tables were arranged around an open dance floor and the seating a mix of Thaosen citizens and Voyager crewmembers.  Chakotay was seated to Kathryn’s left and the governor to her right.  The food was delicious and the conversation flowed easily, Chakotay could see why Kathryn had enjoyed these people.  The governor’s wife was a beautiful young woman, intelligent and very relaxed in her role as hostess.  As they cleared the dinner dishes the band warmed up and almost immediately the dance floor was covered with couples, most of them a mix of the Thoasens and the crew.

“So Commander, in your culture is it appropriate for a woman to ask a man to dance?”  Napa, the governor’s wife smiled at him.

“Certainly, we are all equals.”  He smiled at her, but noticed Kathryn shift in her seat.

“Well than Commander, will you do me the honor?”  She stood and extended her hand to him, living him little choice, but to join her on the dance floor.

       As they danced, he watched Kathryn chat with the governor, then he stood and offered her his hand.  She hesitated, said something, which the governor laughed at and then she finally took his hand and allowed him to lead her to the floor.  She appeared to stiffen and although no one else would have noticed, Chakotay knew she was having a great deal of trouble maintaining her composure.  He tried to guide Napa toward the other couple but the floor was crowded and progress was slow.  He was half way there when he saw Kathryn step back and say some thing to the governor.  They immediately left the dance floor and exited by the nearest door.  The music ended and Chakotay brought Napa back to their table and was about to go in search of Kathryn, when the governor rejoined them.

“Commander.”  He took Kathryn’s seat next to Chakotay.  “Your Captain was suddenly taken ill, she has returned to the ship and asked me to tell you to stay and enjoy the rest of the party.”

“Thank you governor, but maybe I should check on her.”

“Please, stay and relax, she said she would visit sickbay and retire for the night.  I’m sure it is nothing serious.  She wanted you to stay.”

“Alright, but I think I’ll contact the doctor—just to be sure, the Captain tends not to take her health seriously.”

“Yes, governors are the same way, Commander.”  Napa smiled at her husband.  “You check on your Captain, it will make us all feel better, but then, I want another dance.”

“Thank you, if you’ll excuse me –it’s a little noisy in here.”

“Certainly, use my office.”  The governor pointed to an exit.  “It is just across that hall.”

“Thank you.”  Chakotay excused himself and crossed into the quiet of the governor’s office.  He hailed voyager and after determining that the Captain was in her quarters, he was patched through to the doctor.

“Doctor here, Commander---you aren’t having problems too are you?”

“No doctor, I’m fine.  Do I take that comment to mean the Captain visited you?”

“Yes she did Commander, but it’s nothing.”

“She’s alright?  Then why the visit to sickbay?”

“I should not be discussing my patients with you, Commander.”

“Look Doc.  I don’t want any personal information, I just want to know she’s alright.  She left here suddenly, saying she wasn’t well and I’m concerned, both as her friend and her first officer.”

“Yes Commander, I know---She is fine, a little anxiety attack, I would say—she hasn’t been in many social setting since… well you know.”

“Yeah, that’s what concerned me too.”

“She returned to her quarters and I sent along a hypospray to calm her nerves and help her sleep.  She will rest well if nothing else.”

“Alright, I have to stay here and finish this up.  If any…”

“Yes Commander, I will contact you immediately if something happens.  Have a nice evening.  Doctor out.”
 
 
 

      Chakotay assured the Governor and his wife of the Captain’s well being and managed to make a passable attempt at enjoying the rest of the party.  It was very late when it broke up and, being the highest ranking representative, he remained until all members of the crew had beamed back to Voyager.  After a lengthy goodbye, he finally beamed aboard---it was 0330.  He didn’t want to disturb her, so he asked the computer her status.  When it told him she was awake and in her quarters he rang the chime.  It took three rings, and he was about to override the lock in panic, but she finally called for him to come it.

“Kathryn, are you alright?  It…”  He entered the darkened quarters and found her standing by the view port.

“I’m fine, why wouldn’t I be?”  She snapped at him, turning with her hands on her hips.

“The governor said you weren’t feeling well.  I just thought…”

“What that you had to baby sit me?  Please, it’s the middle of the night go to bed.”

“Kathryn what’s wrong?  I only wanted to be sure you were OK.”

“I’m..”  She dropped her hands from her hips and reached on to her forehead.  “I’m fine—just a bit tired and edgy.”

“You should get some rest then, I‘ll go so you can.”  He didn’t move.

“Yes, I should—the doctor gave me a hypospray, I think I’ll use it now.”  She walked over and picked it up from her desk.  “Thank you, Chakotay—I’m fine.  Good night.”

“Good night, Kathryn.”  He backed slowly toward the door.  He really wished he could stay and be sure she used that hypospray, but he knew it would only anger her, so he left.

       There was a noise or maybe he was dreaming, he listened --or was he still sleeping, he rolled over, it happened again.  He was trying to force himself awake, he lay staring into the darkness then another sound –different— someone was there. He checked the chronometer 0430—he had only been asleep a little over half an hour—another sound.  He sat up quietly and crept into the other room, just in time to see the door slide open.  In the light of the hallway, he saw her leaving.

“Kathryn?”  She turned back.  “Kathryn what are you doing?”  She stood half in and half out, looking like a lost little girl in her bathrobe and slippers.  “Kathryn, please come in and let the door close.”  She stepped back inside and the door closed them back into the darkness.  “Lights ¼.”  He crossed over to where she still stood.  “Kathryn, are you OK?”

“I—I—yeah –no.”  She shook her head and looked down.

“What is it?”  He put his hand on her shoulders and she stepped back.  “Sorry.”

“No—Chakotay…..”  When she looked up, he saw the tears pooled in her eyes.  “I want –I
need you to help me.”

“You know I will do anything ---what do you want Kathryn---what can I do to help?”  He watched her try to hold back the tears and take deep breaths to calm herself.  “Kathryn?”

“Chakotay----dance with me?”  She held her breath, closed her eyes and stepped closer to him.

“Computer music selection Chakotay alpha574.”  He felt her stiffen when his arms closed around her., but she didn’t move away.  “Relax Kathryn, I will never hurt you.”

      She was just beginning to relax when the music stopped, he ordered it to continue with a number of random selections.  After a while he felt her shoulders shudder, then she gulped for air as the tears over came her.  As he held her, he realized he had not been this close to her in over a year, no one had.  The dance continued in silence for long minutes, his chest was wet with her tears, but finally the sob subsided.

“Kathryn, do you want to tell me about it?”  He was relieved to have made this much progress, but he knew she had a long way to go.  What they saw when she came back was only a small part of what happened to her, he was sure, and what they could piece together had been horrible---but she would discuss it with no one.  They danced on in silence.

“Yes.”  A rush of air against his chest.  “But--- tonight just dance with me.”

      The music continued and the soft light of the stars shown through the view port, illuminating the tall dark man a contrast to the small pale woman, he held in his arms  --- his Captain, his best friend and his life .  He knew it wouldn’t be easy, knew it would take time and patience, but he now knew, he would have her back.  They danced.

The End.

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