Gezegend – Chapter 9
Harry Kim sat in the mess hall toying with Neelix’s latest breakfast concoction, a fried piece of dough that looked and tasted like a cross between a burned waffle and a damp acoustic ceiling tile. Life had been uneventful since Voyager had escaped from Broden space seven days earlier, but Harry had found it impossible to relax. The captain had yet to make an appearance, spending her days in her quarters where she took physical therapy and recovered from the treatment the Broden had given her. With each passing day, Harry’s feelings of guilt over her ordeal had increased until he was desperate for news about her condition.
“You aren’t going to eat that, are you?” Tom Paris asked as he sat down across from him and eyed Harry’s plate. “I decided skip that and go for some of the leftover lushka stew from last night.”
“This isn’t so bad if you use enough syrup, and, besides, that stew always gives me the trots.”
“Ugh. Too much information.” Tom stirred the stew and speared a vegetable, holding it in front of his eyes for a close inspection before popping it into his mouth. “Did you hear? The captain’s coming back on duty today. For a while, anyway.”
“She is?” Harry’s face lit up. “That’s the best news I’ve had in days.”
“You aren’t still feeling guilty about what happened, are you?”
“If I’d just stayed with her, things would have turned out differently.”
“You don’t know that. Whoever found her would have found you both. They still would have taken her to the priests, and who knows what they might have done to you. We would have had to find two of you, and it was a close enough call just getting the captain out in one piece.”
“I could have explained who we were, talked them into letting me contact Voyager. Everything could have been a lot easier that way.”
“They weren’t going to give up the captain, no matter what you said.”
“I could have gone with her.”
“Yeah, and they could also have shot you dead. The only reason they didn’t shoot the captain was because they considered her some sort of sacred messenger.” Tom laid down his fork and leaned forward, lowering his voice. “Listen, Harry, and listen good. Most of us would have made the same decision you did and left her alone while we looked for help. I know I would have. Let it go. Everything worked out okay.”
“Except that the captain nearly died and is spending weeks getting off the drugs and going through rehab on her leg.”
“I give up.” Tom sat back and gave his friend an exasperated look. “If you want to feel guilty for the rest of your life, go ahead. I imagine the captain will tell you to move on.”
“You’ve seen her, right? In sickbay? How is she doing?”
“I haven’t seen her. As soon as she had gone through the first stage of her withdrawal from the drug, she went back to her quarters and has been there ever since. I thought you knew that.”
“I heard the withdrawal was brutal.”
“It wasn’t pretty, but, thanks to the doc’s treatment, it’s been getting better every day.”
“I just figured you’d see her when she came to sickbay for rehab on her knee.”
“That’s not the way she does things.” Tom shook his head. “Chakotay and Tuvok take turns helping her with her rehabilitation exercises, and the doc makes frequent house calls to help with the withdrawal.”
“How frequent are the house calls.”
“I’m not sure. Five or six times a day.”
“The drug addiction is NOT your fault, Harry, so don’t worry about it, okay?”
Harry focused his attention on his breakfast, listening to Tom interact with the crew sitting nearby. The whole ship was buzzing with excitement to have the captain returning to work, and the bridge crew was filled with anticipation as they waited for her to arrive. Every eye was on the turbolift doors as the Tom and Harry arrived for duty, and every eye was disappointed that one of them wasn’t the captain.
Harry crossed to his station and went to work, trying to control his growing anxiety. How would the captain react when she saw him? Would she be angry with him? Would she reprimand him for putting her life in danger? He found refuge in running his scans and checking the work done by the overnight crew, but his eyes kept looking up at the ‘lift doors in expectation.
Finally, some fifty minutes later, the captain arrived on the bridge with Chakotay at her side.
“Captain on the bridge!” Harry cried, bringing the crew to attention.
“As you were, please,” Janeway ordered, giving all of them a huge smile. “After all, I’ve just been a couple of decks away, and Tuvok and Chakotay have kept me informed of what was going on up here.”
She walked slowly down the ramp, using a cane to stabilize her still-weak right leg and holding the railing with her free hand. Chakotay walked behind her, ready to catch her in case she lost her balance. When they arrived at their command station, Chakotay held her hand as she lowered herself into her seat, and Harry noticed that, for the first time in memory, she didn’t cross her legs after she sat down. He could see the pain in her eyes as she bent her knee and then rubbed it gently. Chakotay sat down beside her and studied her intently, no doubt assessing just how much pain she was trying to hide.
Harry saw her glance up and give him a reassuring wink, and his eyes widened in surprise at yet another sign of a close friendship between them. Everyone on the crew watched for signs of intimacy, but they were careful to keep such things private. Harry felt that he’d been given a rare glimpse at their friendship. A wink? On the bridge? He would have to tell Tom and B’Elanna about it over dinner later.
Harry thought back to the chaos of the Broden battle and remembered the way Janeway had praised Chakotay and had said that her last thoughts would be of him. He studied them as they shared their console, talking quietly, discussing something on the screen, and he asked himself the same question he’d been asking for the last six years: Just how close were they?
They were close enough for him to be her primary nurse during her recovery. Everyone knew that Chakotay and Tuvok had helped her extensively during the last week, but it had been Chakotay who had spent the bulk of his off duty time in her quarters while Tuvok had been an almost constant presence on the bridge. Just how much help had she needed? Had either of them spent the night there? Had they helped her bathe and dress?
Harry realized that he was staring at the captain and tore his eyes away. He didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable on her first day back at work, and yet he wondered about her condition.
“Captain?” he replied, his voice an embarrassing squeak. He looked up to find her standing in front of her chair, leaning heavily on her cane as Chakotay perched on the edge of his seat, his eyes glued on her in case he needed to help her keep her balance.
“Would you join me in the ready room?”
“Of course.” He noticed that she waited for him to arrive at her side before she handed the bridge to Chakotay and started for the ramp.
Her voice was soft as she put her hand on his arm and asked him to keep her from smashing into the ready room doorway. “I’m a little shaky yet,” she chuckled.
Once Harry had guided her into the ready room and had helped her settle into her desk chair, she asked him to bring her a cup of coffee and help himself to a hot drink, as well.
“Nothing for me, thanks,” he said as he fetched the coffee. “I just finished breakfast.”
“Suit yourself, but, please, sit down. I want to talk to you.” She took a long sip of her coffee and gave him a level look. “That was quite an experience we had on the planet, wasn’t it?”
“It was a nightmare, Captain.” He swallowed hard. “I’ve been really worried about you.”
“Of course you have.” She made a face. “I should have had you come see me sooner, so you could see that I was alive and well, but I really haven’t been fit for company until today.”
“You certainly look better than you did the last time I saw you.”
“We were in an alley? Or a some basement room?” She shook her head. “I’m afraid those last minutes are very fuzzy.
“Yes, it had been an apartment at one time, but was being used as a storeroom. I’m afraid it wasn’t a very good hiding place.”
“It was the best we could do.”
Harry nodded, but he felt miserable.
“Harry, rumor has it that you’ve been blaming yourself for what happened to me.” She looked at him with sympathy in her eyes.
“I should have handled the whole situation differently.”
“In what way?” she demanded, looking surprised. “It was just bad luck that I was hit by that projectile, and after that, we just had to do the best we could to survive.”
“I shouldn’t have left you alone when you were so sick. If I had stayed with you-.”
She stopped him with a raised hand. “I ordered you to leave, Ensign. Have you forgotten that?”
He stared at her, his mouth open.
“And if the tables had been turned and you were the one who was injured, I would have left you there to look for help. It was the logical thing to do.”
“Please, let me finish.” She took a deep breath and then continued, “What happened was totally unexpected, and you did the best you could in very fluid circumstances. The important thing is that we all escaped without suffering any serious permanent damage.”
“But, Captain, you almost died!”
She shook her head. “But I didn’t die, Harry, and that’s what matters. What I remember is that the crew managed to find a workable solution to an impossible problem and rescued me just in time. You played an important part in the rescue, and that’s what we should focus on as we move on.”
“I wasn’t involved in the actual rescue, Captain.” At her puzzled look, he continued, “I didn’t leave the ship after Tom beamed us onto the shuttle.”
“But you played an important part of the planning. You brought the doctor the projectile that had traces of the poison on it so he could analyze it and create an antidote. And you helped to bring down the dampening field so that Tom could beam you and the other two off of the planet in time to track me down at the ashram. I’m putting all three of you in for a commendation.”
“I don’t know what to say, Captain.”
“There’s nothing more that needs to be said, Harry. I asked you to come in here today because I wanted to thank you for saving my life. I want you to put all the guilt you feel behind you. I have no room on my bridge for a distracted officer.”
“Yes, Captain.” He felt himself blushing. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Not right now. I’m going to review a few reports, but then I’m going to return to my quarters for another rehab session on my knee.”
“I don’t envy you that, Captain.”
“I’m getting better every day. However, I sometimes think Tuvok and Chakotay get some sort of vindictive pleasure out of putting me through the exercises.”
Harry grinned as he stood up to leave. “They just might.”
“I tell you what, Harry,” she continued, her eyes sparkling. “In a couple of weeks, when my knee is completely healed, we’ll play a few games of velocity. Maybe it will make you feel better if you let me win.”
He couldn’t help but laugh. “That can definitely be arranged.”