~ A post-"Endgame" Story ~


(PG)
by Delta Story
September 2011

Written for VAMB's Secret Summer Story Exchange based on a request from littlejaneway
who asked for a "J/C fic using the song 'Somewhere only we know' as inspiration".
Here's what came from that inspiration.


Somewhere Only We Know
Songwriters: Tom Chaplin; Richard Hughes; Tim Rice-Oxley
Performed by: Keane

I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete

Oh simple thing, where have you gone?
I'm getting old and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you're gonna let me in
I'm getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I've been dreaming of?

Oh simple thing, where have you gone?
I'm getting old and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you're gonna let me in
I'm getting tired and I need somewhere to begin

And if you have a minute, why don't we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don't we go somewhere only we know?
Somewhere only we know


~*~


Booming thunderclaps and pounding raindrops startled Kathryn Janeway awake. She jerked up from the coach where she had sunk into a deep sleep at her mother's farm home in Indiana; she rubbed her eyes, trying to erase some now-forgotten dream.

A piercing howl came from outside, pulling her to a more alert state. Mazzie - it was Mazzie! She suddenly recalled that she had let out Mazzie, her mother's Lab and Dalmatian mix before she lay down. The animal's wails seemed to come from a distance from the house and the animal sounded panicked.

Fighting through the last tendrils of sleep, Janeway recalled that her mother had said that she, too, was going to lie down - a heavy Midwest lunch would do that to you. She pulled an umbrella from the tall holder next to the door and called up the stairs to her mother, "Mom, I think Mazzie needs some help; I'm going out to find her." Without waiting to hear a response, she ran out into the hard rain coming from ominous skies.

"Mazzie, Mazzie. What sort of trouble have you gotten into now?" Janeway muttered as she ran towards a copse of trees from which she heard the pitiful bays coming. "You have the body of a Labrador but the brain of a Dalmatian," she continued in reference to the two family sides of the mixed breed dog.

A wiggling white spot played hide and seek through the underbrush beneath a large oak tree. Mazzie's white chest, studded with furry black polka dots, heaved with the animal's efforts to try to free itself from the small branches tangled around her collar. Her whimpers turned to happy yips when she saw her newfound friend approach.

"Hold still," Janeway said as she attempted to calm the dog and release her from the briary shackles. The rain pelted down and she tucked the handle of the umbrella between her chin and shoulder, freeing both hands to perform her task.

"There," she smiled triumphantly as the collar finally pulled away from the branches. Mazzie squealed with delight and lapped a couple of wet kisses across her new friend's face. "You're welcome," Janeway laughed, as the dog bounded towards the house.

Mazzie's happy bark suddenly stopped and the dog turned towards Janeway. The animal's face suddenly filled with fear and warning.

"Wha..."

But that was all Kathryn Janeway managed to get out as a vertical bolt of energy found a pathway through the umbrella that she held, its negative ions seeking their opposite in the positively-charged ground beneath her. Like a rock dropped from a second floor window, Janeway sank with a thud to the ground. The offensive umbrella, caught in the swirling winds, flew out of her hand that now bore a small but definitive burn hole - a mark of entry for the massive energy surge that had ripped through her body.

The jagged spears of lightning were getting more frequent. Mazzie was torn between staying with her friend and heading towards the shelter of the house. Something told her that Janeway needed help, so the dog took off towards the house, her bark announcing her.

Gretchen Janeway bolted up, fully alert, from her own nap. Together with a mother's uncanny instinct and the piercing staccato of Mazzie's frenetic barking, she ran towards the front door. The rain was coming in torrents now, although the thunder and lightning seemed to be moving away. Through the barrage of the streaming rain, she could make out a lumpy form about a hundred meters from the house, one that hadn't been there in the twenty-seven years she'd lived there. Kathryn - where was Kathryn? As if in answer to her unspoken question, Mazzie began running short laps out into the rain and back again.

Gretchen had her answer without ever going outside.

~*~

The EMH-Mach 4 kneeled over Kathryn Janeway's inert body, performing his voodoo like motions and mutterings.

"I have normal cardiac and respiratory activity," the EMH-Mach 4 finally responded turning around to look at Gretchen Janeway. "Neurological functions appear to be intact; however, I cannot obtain a visual or vocal response from the patient. I should like to have her moved to a medical facility for further evaluation."

Gretchen Janeway was doing her best to hold herself together but this inhuman medical persona was treating her older daughter like a scientific experiment rather than a living human being. Yet she knew she should be thankful for the emergency medical program that was installed in her house. As isolated as she was here in a rural area, her daughters had urged her years ago to have an EMH program available. Phoebe herself had ordered this most recently released update just last year.

"I've called for a response team already," she managed to answer. "They should be here shortly." And I hope they have a better bedside manner than you do, she wanted to add. But she knew that wouldn't help Kathryn any.

Almost as if reading her mind, three living and breathing medical personal materialized in the room. The EMH stood, allowing them to access Kathryn's inert form while filling them in on his findings.

"I found this human female in full cardiac arrest due to her grounding an atmospheric electrical discharge during the recent storm. She was located one hundred and seventeen meters from the house. I initiated emergency resuscitation procedures in the field and with positive results, I brought her into the domicile. My tricorder readings indicated that she had been without cardiac and respiratory support for six minutes, thirty-one seconds. There is no damage to the brain stem so there should be no residual paralysis. However, until the patient recovers consciousness, I cannot predict a complete prognosis for a final outcome."

A tall ginger-haired male knelt down next to Kathryn Janeway, his skilled hands gently moving her onto her side in preparation to rolling her onto the portable gurney the team had brought. "Thank you, Doctor. I'm sure your efforts saved Admiral Janeway's life."

"Of course they did," the EMH-Mach 4 answered curtly. "That is what I am programmed to do."

"And they are most appreciated," the paramedic nodded. "We can take over now." He stood as his two partners secured Kathryn into place. Turning to Gretchen Janeway, he continued. "Let's power down the EMH and get the admiral to a medical facility, Mrs. Janeway. Do you mind if we transport directly to Starfleet Medical Headquarters?"

"Only if I can come with you," Gretchen answered. "I'm not going to let her out of my sight. If you will give me a moment, I want to call a neighbor to come get Mazzie. That sweet dog certainly was the heroine today."

"All right, but make it quick. We need to get your daughter under complete medical care as soon as possible." As Gretchen swung into action, the paramedic did so also. "Deactivate emergency medical hologram," he said quickly. The EMH Mach-4 was silenced before he managed to utter any objections as his image shimmered into a shower of photons.

A couple minutes later, a larger flicker evaporated five humans into the miasma of teleportation.

~*~

By the time Phoebe Janeway arrived in San Francisco three hours later, Gretchen's initial shock had dissipated and reality overwhelmed her. Although Kathryn's heart was beating with increasing regularity, she knew that her daughter was far from being out of the woods. What a cruel and bitter twist of fate, to have Kathryn survive seven years in the unknown and hostility of the Delta Quadrant only to have her taken to the brink of death by a natural event within months of her return to Earth. If only she had realized sooner where Kathryn had gone; if only...

As if reading her mother's mind, Phoebe wrapped her arms around the older woman's shoulders. "Mom, there's nothing more that you could have done. If anything, you're the one who saved Kathryn by remembering your EMH program."

Gretchen choked back the tears and patted her daughter's hand. "And I have you to thank for getting the program installed." She paused for a moment before speaking the words really weighing on her heart. "I know we have Kathryn back, Phoebe, but do we really have her back? With her being 'gone' for as long as she was, there's bound to be some anoxic brain injury. Even though we're no longer in the dark ages when it comes to regenerating damaged nerve tissue, anoxia still destroys the memories. How much will she have lost? There's no rebuilding memory. This isn't like amnesia, you know. It's an actual loss, like erasing a hard drive of a computer."

"Shh, shh," Phoebe comforted her. "We both know Kathryn. She's going to pull through, Mom - I just know it." She settled her mother into a chair beside the bed where her sister lay, pale and immobile. "It's going to take time but knowing Kathryn, she's probably already fighting her way back - we just can't see it. We've just got to be here for her when she needs us."

"But why hasn't she regained consciousness?" Gretchen asked. "It's been several hours now. Surely she should have responded by now."

"Because her entire body has been shocked... insulted," Phoebe continued softly. "It needs some downtime to heal itself. Remember what the doctor told us -it's as if Kathryn has had a massive stroke that has affected her entire brain. Even though the damaged tissue has been regenerated, all of her systems have been affected adversely in some way. That's why she has been wrapped in this cooling sheet, to stabilize her temperature. That's why she's on anti-seizure medication, to help stabilize the erratic pulses being created in her brain. You yourself know that sleep is a great healer when you're ill or injured; that's what is going on with Kathryn now."

Gretchen nodded her understanding. "I haven't contacted anyone else; have you?"

Phoebe knelt next to her mother and smiled gently. "I think word got out before you and Kathryn even arrived here. I understand that Tom Paris has organized an entire brigade of people wanting to sit with Kathryn and to give you some relief. She will have at least one person she knows with her every hour of the day for at least the next ten days and by then, I'll bet that the list will be even longer."

"When is Chakotay coming?" Gretchen asked abruptly, her words sounding more like a demand than a question.

"Chakotay?" Phoebe looked puzzled.

Gretchen's tone became firmer still. "Yes, Chakotay. Since when did you become hard of hearing, girl? She's going to want him here. No, she's going toneed him here."

"Uh... I think Tom said he was off-planet. But I can check to make sure he's been notified. Why do you think she's going to need him? She was close to many of her Voyager crew."

Gretchen's eyes drilled into the young woman's gaze. "And now you're blind, too? Because she loves him, Phoebe. And he loves her." She sighed with exasperation at her daughter's naiveté.

Phoebe leaned back against the bed, so taken aback by her mother's adamant statement. "She told you this? When? How long has it been... "

Gretchen waved her hand to stop Phoebe. "Nothing like that. She didn't need to tell me; I've just... known. For how long? Oh, probably for about three years, maybe even longer."

"You mean while Voyager was still in the Delta Quadrant?" Phoebe was truly shocked now.

Gretchen's head nodded a strong affirmative. "Call it a mother's intuition for knowing these things, but I couldn't be more certain of it then if I'd been there the entire time myself. Now let's get that man here as quickly as possible."

~*~

Susan Nicoletti fought to stay awake. She sat upright and pushed back her brown hair, now much longer than she'd ever worn it on Voyager. Light from the breaking dawn winked around the window covers in Kathryn Janeway's room where the young woman sat during her second stint of watching over her former captain. Almost a week had passed since that horrendous event in Indiana and, although Janeway's vitals and organs showed steady improvement, she still remained comatose.

Nicoletti blinked her eyes open, trying to adjust to the early sun this May morning. There was still enough darkness left that shadows played against the light. But wait - that wasn't a shadow she saw. No, it looked like movement! Two of Admiral Janeway's fingers just moved; she was sure of it! She jumped out of her chair and ran closer to the bedside and took Janeway's hand in hers. Now she knew something was going on - a couple of the older woman's fingers tried to squeeze her hand.

With her free hand, Nicoletti hit her comm badge, alerting the nursing station while trying to keep her voice calm and professional. "I think the admiral is waking up. Can someone come check on her?"

Susan had barely finished her request when a tall, young but balding physician appeared in the admiral's room.

"Has she moved? Has she spoken?" the medical man managed to ask in his rush to the bedside.

Susan looked up into his thin concerned face, her own expression filled with a broad smile. "See for yourself - she's trying to grasp my hand."

The doctor picked up Janeway's other hand and began squeezing it with his long slender fingers. Although his patient didn't respond to his touch as strongly as she did to that of her fellow Voyager traveler, there was a definite response. He quickly threw off the thin blanket covering her and started pricking her gently with a needle that he'd brought in just for that purpose. His own smile joined that of Nicoletti as he detected movement in response to his actions. Then there was a flutter of Janeway's eyelids as she made an effort to open them and the two younger people heard a muffled sound.

"Ow," Kathryn Janeway moaned, her eyes peeking from underneath heavy lids that fought to stay open.

It was all Susan Nicoletti could do to keep from grabbing Janeway in a massive hug, but that would have to wait awhile. The admiral would need all of her energy for this initial adjustment back into the world. But she was alive and she was looking around in an attempt to make sense of her world.

"Welcome back; you had us quite concerned for awhile. I'm Dr. Corbett. Do you know who this is?" he asked, indicating Nicoletti.

"Susan," she mumbled but managed a weak smile.

"And your name is..." he prompted. Janeway let her eyes close for a moment and Corbett was concerned that she would slip back into a semi-comatose state. "Stay with us; come on... stay awake!"

Slowly her eyes opened again and with an effort she finally managed to get the words out. "Kathryn. Kathryn... Janeway."

Nicoletti started to speak but Corbett shook his head 'no' in a silent warning. "Do you know where you are, Kathryn?"

Janeway looked around with a glazed expression. "Sickbay. " She blinked her eyes as she stared at Corbett. "Where is... the doctor?"

"I'm the doctor," Corbett said softly.

Janeway's face filled with panic. "No... you're not... doctor. Where is... EMH?"

"She thinks she's on Voyager," Nicoletti whispered across to Corbett.

There was nothing wrong with Janeway's hearing. "Yes - Voyager!" She tried to lift her head but the effort was too much. However, the panic increased in her voice. "Chakotay - I need to get to him."

Susan's eyes silently asked Corbett if she could speak and he nodded his assent. "Where is he, Adm...I mean, Captain Janeway?"

With obvious effort, Janeway scrunched two fingers into Nicoletti's arm; she licked her dry lips and her eyes flared with anxiety. "Nazi headquarters. I've got to get him to the portal... to the doctor."

"Hallucinations," Corbett murmured. "They're an after-effect of anoxia. We'll give her a medication to calm her."

Nicoletti firmly shook her head. "No, I don't think she's hallucinating at all. She's remembering a horrific time aboard Voyager over three years ago, when we ran into a violent species called the Hirogen. They had us all believing that we were involved in a battle during the Second World War during the twentieth century on Earth. Although it started as a holodeck game for the Hirogen, it quickly became gruesome and real. Hardly anyone escaped without injury of some sort."

"The Hirogen - yes, the Hirogen!" Janeway affirmed. "Must get to..."

Corbett reached one arm across Janeway, trying to calm her. "We'll get to them and we'll find... Chakotay. Right now, you have to rest." He deftly lifted a hypospray to her neck.

Janeway sighed in resignation. "Rest. Oh, yes. I was shot. My leg..." Her words drifted off as the sedative quickly took effect.

"Did you really have to do that?" Nicoletti asked irately. "She was trying to remember."

"Yes, I did," Corbett responded just as harshly. "Her blood pressure and temperature were starting to spike. That's the way it will be for a few more days. We want to get her off the sedative as soon as possible but we've got to do it gradually. In the meantime, I'd like to get this Chakotay in here."

Nicoletti fought back her annoyance. "Captain Chakotay has been in here several times already; I'm surprised you don't remember."

Corbett smiled and shook his head. "Sorry; it's just the patients I remember. Pretty sad for a memory neurologist, isn't it?" He got a small grin out of Nicoletti. "And now... back to the patient! Commander Nicoletti, we have a lot to celebrate with these positive steps, small as they might appear. It would seem that Admiral Janeway has no paralysis and we know that she can talk. Her hearing and vision seem to be normal. She recognized you without difficulty and she knows that I'm not Voyager's EMH. And she certainly seems to know Chakotay."

"Well, he was her first officer for those seven years," Nicoletti commented. "They were very good friends."

"So it would seem," Corbett agreed. "Her memories are quite strong about these aliens, the Herosins..."

"Hirogen," Nicoletti finished.

"Right," the doctor nodded. "Now, we've got to see what else the Admiral remembers. I'm a bit concerned that her memory seems to have left off three years ago. That's going to be quite a lapse to fill in if we can't get her more current. I've seen what these large memory gaps can do: patients become frustrated and angry at not being able to remember. All of their energies go into trying to piece together the past to the point that they can't function in the present. They become rather tunnel-visioned in their actions and lose the ability to concentrate or make decisions. I certainly wouldn't want that to happen to Admiral Janeway, not with all she has left to contribute.

"We'll be doing active monitoring of her every couple of hours and I'd like for any of you who are sitting with her to enter comments into the computer log of any movements she makes or if she says anything else, even in her somnolent state," Corbett continued. "In the meantime, I'm going to arrange for a cognitive therapist to evaluate Admiral Janeway when she can remain awake. We'll also have to assess her ability to swallow; it will be good to get her to eat and drink normally rather than administer all her nutrients parenterally."

"That's quite a checklist," Nicoletti said. "But I guess that means she is getting better."

"And we hope she'll demonstrate more improvement soon." Corbett's eyes brightened as an idea took began to grow and he continued thinking aloud. "The admiral was confused that I wasn't the doctor on Voyager... the EMH you had onboard. I understand he has greatly broadened his original EMH program; maybe he can fill me in on some of her medical background from Voyager, tidbits that possibly didn't make it into her medical records. That might give us an even broader base upon which to build."

Corbett snapped out of his musings. "Well, Commander, I think we both have things to do. Today is starting out pretty good for us and more importantly, for Admiral Janeway." He gave Susan a big smile and quickly exited the room.

The door barely slipped into place before Susan Nicoletti hit her comm badge. "Captain Chakotay, please," she smiled. She would probably be waking him up - it was barely past 0500 - but she knew he would want to be the first to know.

~*~

While Susan Nicoletti was contacting Chakotay, Aksel Corbett headed off to make a few inquiries of his own. He needed to contact various rehabilitative therapists and then Voyager's EMH.

Another bullet on his list was to speak with someone at the Vulcan Science Academy. The grandiose idea formulating inside his head would need input from someone regarding Vulcan rituals. The young doctor knew that he might be denied access to these sacred rites, but he hoped that at least some sympathetic Vulcan would hear him out.

Kathryn Janeway was too valuable an asset to Starfleet and the Federation to allow her to spend the rest of her life locked in a mental prison of partial memory. She deserved more and he was going to put his own reputation on the line to restore her.

~*~

By the time Kathryn Janeway next awakened into consciousness, her eyes fought to focus on the burnished visage of her former first officer. "Chakotay." A weak smile spread across her face - she spoke his name with her eyes as much as with her voice.

"Welcome back, Kathryn," Chakotay whispered. "You've had us a bit worried."

"Are you... all right?" she asked with effort.

Susan Nicoletti and Dr. Corbett had filled in Chakotay on the scenario that was playing out in Kathryn's mind. Corbett had coached him into ways to ease her into realizing that they were no longer on Voyager but instead, three and a half years after the period she recalled. The physician didn't want her to panic or become more confused but she also had to be led into the reality of the situation.

"I'm fine," Chakotay smiled back at her, gently taking her hand in his. "Can you squeeze my hand?"

In response to his request, her fingers weakly wrapped around his hand. "You have a big hand," she muttered.

He smiled with her observation. "All the better to help you." You look so weak and so tired, he thought. I so want to pick you up and will some strength into you, to see you vital and vibrant again. However, they had to settle for just being there together, allowing their silence to speak the unspoken words.

"Thirsty," she finally uttered.

Chakotay reached to the small table beside the bed and picked up a few small ice chips. "I'm sorry we can't do better than this but we can't let you try to swallow too much. Here - place these in your cheek and let them melt."

Janeway opened her mouth birdlike and allowed him to give her the ice. "Good," she responded as she savored the tiny pieces.

He knew it was time to ask her some of his assigned questions. "Kathryn, do you know where you are?"

As before when Dr. Corbett had asked her, she looked around, trying to comprehend her surroundings. "Voyager?" she queried but there was doubt in her voice.

Without answering her, Chakotay asked another question. "And what is the last thing you remember before being here?"

Kathryn's eyes swept around the sparsely furnished room, stopping momentarily when she saw the covered window. "Holoprogram. The Hirogen."

Chakotay nodded, recalling what Nicoletti and Corbett had told him. Time for the big question. "What is the year, Kathryn? Not the stardate... the year, in Earth terms."

The woman seemed confused and upset; she pulled her hand away from him. "You know. Why... are you asking... me?" She closed her eyes and thought. "It's September... 2374."

Chakotay took a deep breath before answering. "No, Kathryn, it's 2378 - May tenth to be exact." He saw her eyes begin to widen and reached over, placing his hands on hers, trying to keep her quiet. "I know that this is difficult for you to understand, but we are on Earth... back in the Alpha Quadrant and we're in Starfleet Medical Center in San Francisco."

Kathryn strained against him but realized she was too weak to struggle and settled back into the bed. "The crew... okay? Voyager?"

"We're fine and so is Voyager. You got us back, Kathryn - we're safe here on Earth." His answer appeared to confuse her all the more. "You can't remember it because you had an accident a week ago. You were visiting your mother in Indiana and walked out into a thunderstorm to find Mazzie..."

"Mazzie?" Kathryn asked. Confusion washed over her face.

"Your mother's dog. Do you remember any of it?"

Lights flashed from the medpanel next to the bed and Chakotay saw that Kathryn's heartbeat was starting to race.

"Storm - the plasma storm! My equipment..." Janeway's eyes filled with concern.

"No, this wasn't a plasma storm; it was a good old fashioned thunder and lightning storm here on Earth. You managed to act like a lightning rod for one of the electrical bolts, thanks to an umbrella you were carrying."

Now for the hardest part, thought Chakotay. "You died, Kathryn. You were dead for all practical purposes for over six minutes - full cardiac arrest with no oxygen getting to your brain during that time. Thanks to an EMH-Mach 4 program that your sister had installed at your mother's, you were resuscitated and stabilized. Then you were transported here."

The man stopped to allow Kathryn to try to absorb what he had said. He felt her eyes pleading with him but knew he must wait for a response from her.

Janeway took several shallow breaths and closed her eyes, her brow furrowing in deep thought. "I can't... remember."

Chakotay gently ran his fingers over her cheek. "I know and I can't even begin to imagine how difficult this is for you. But we're looking into ways to help you remember. It's just that the short-term memory part of your brain - the hippocampus - was severely affected by the lack of oxygen. Dr. Corbett is investigating some techniques that might help you."

"Dr. Corbett?" Kathryn looked puzzled.

"The physician who is treating you. Do you remember him?"

"Tall..." Kathryn responded.

"Yes, he's tall." Chakotay smiled; at least this was a start.

The single-word description seemed to trigger another thought for Kathryn. "Tuvok - where's Tuvok?"

"Tuvok is fine. He's on Vulcan right now, but he is making plans to come here as soon as he can."

"Tom? B'Elanna?"

Questions about others, recalling them - this is good, Chakotay thought. That's my Kathryn. "Easy," he calmed her. "There's a lot to tell you but we don't want to overload you right now. I'll try to fill you in some but we'll save the details for when you can remember more." Please - oh please - may you be able to remember, he prayed under his breath.

"Your mother and sister will be here shortly and then you should get some more rest," Chakotay continued. "You've got some busy times ahead as Dr. Corbett wants to test you for different functions, like swallowing."

"Coffee," Kathryn smiled. "I'd like... some... coffee."

Chakotay smiled back, elated for this small step in remembering some of life's simple pleasures. "As soon as you're given the okay to eat and drink, I'll personally get you all the coffee you want. I'll even have a replicator brought into your room for that sole purpose."

He recognized voices in the hall. "I think my time is up - I hear your mom and Phoebe." He leaned over Kathryn and without much thought to the gesture, placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. "I'm so glad I... we... didn't lose you." A hint of a blush burnished his face as he quickly backed away to allow Gretchen and Phoebe their visitation time.

~*~

Over the next few days, a carefully orchestrated parade of Kathryn Janeway's friends and colleagues came in. With the exception of Gretchen, Phoebe and Chakotay, there was no overlap of visitors in an attempt not to over-stimulate Kathryn.

Everyone had been instructed to not force any thoughts from the woman but to let her guide the direction of the conversations, nor were they to elaborate on events that occurred during Kathryn's "dark ages".

Kathryn quickly noted the absences particularly of Neelix and Joe Carey and she asked Chakotay where they were. For the first time since her accident, Kathryn shed tears - tears of sadness for the loss of Carey, who had died so close to their return to the Alpha Quadrant. Similar tears fell when she heard that Neelix chose to remain in the Delta Quadrant but they were also mixed with ones of joy as she accepted the fact that he found more of his shattered, scattered race and had found a home with them.

However, remembering their stories proved to be another weird twist in her short-term memory problems. She had no difficulty in remembering that Neelix had found a new home, yet she kept asking about Joe Carey and had to learn of his tragic demise over and over again, bringing to the surface the horror of the event to anyone who had to tell her.

Physical functions returned to Kathryn's pre-accident state quite quickly. She passed her swallow test with flying colors and, as promised (and with Dr. Corbett's approval), Chakotay made certain that she had good coffee available whenever she wanted it. Her appetite took a bit longer to surface, as it seemed that her taste buds had been rewired. But soon she was able to differentiate between the sweetness of an apple and the sourness of a pickle.

Kathryn's balance and walking, quite rocky initially, rapidly improved and soon she was able to walk on her own, although someone was always with her. One day, to the dismay of the nursing staff, she wandered off by herself and ended up in a garden outside the building but then couldn't remember how to return to her room. Without her comm badge, no one had been able to track her. Fifteen minutes after her disappearance, a security officer saw her and recognized her and returned her to her room.

For about two weeks, it seemed like Kathryn would show promise of progress only to have the steps overshadowed by bouts of what appeared to be hallucinations. One day when Dr. Corbett was asking her if she could remember going out into the storm looking for Mazzie, she became agitated and frantic, telling him some story about monkeys and storms and destroyed experiments. Another time, one of her nurses opened her blinds at night when the skies were overcast and moonless. Kathryn looked out and, seeing nothing but the inky nothingness, she began sweating and pacing, talking about being "put into a void for all the evil I've done". Sedatives seemed to calm her, but Corbett sensed that there might be some underlying factors - and truth - to the incidents.

Corbett was determined to move ahead with his plan. It would require the approval of several people, particularly that of Kathryn Janeway. Also, some high-level diplomatic skills would probably be needed.

His first job of persuasion was the former EMH of Voyager. The Doctor was only too willing to help his former captain, but upon hearing details of Corbett's plan, his face became a skeptical scowl.

"While I can appreciate the theory behind your concept, it is the ethics with which I am concerned," Voyager's physician said.

"As I stated initially, I would only do this with Admiral Janeway's utter and complete approval," countered. Corbett. "After all, it would involve her personal logs. What better way to try to restore her missing memories than to download her personal thoughts that she has stored in a computer?"

"But would she allow you to access them?" the EMH questioned. "I know I wouldn't want you to read some of the things in my memory banks!"

Corbett chuckled at the thought of an EMH harboring a secret life. "I wouldn't be the person involved. I would want her to suggest someone she had known for awhile, one whom she trusted to act as the 'vessel' for the transfer."

"Hmmph." The doctor still was not convinced. "What about Vulcan approval? Would you be insulting their beliefs if you used their ritual of fal-tor-pan for a non-Vulcan? For that matter, we're talking about transference of computer files, not the katra of a humanoid."

"My request is being discussed on Vulcan even as we speak," Corbett noted. "And my proposal to them was that we would not use a humanoid for the transfer." He paused before continuing. "That's why I suggested we use you as the conduit for the process."

"Me?" The doctor's eyes bulged with shock. "I... I..." he stammered.

"Look." Corbett continued. "You are the perfect one for the procedure. It wouldn't be difficult to use your circuits as a conduit and then there's your oath regarding medical ethics and doctor-patient confidentiality. If there's any worry on your part about retaining the memories, we could just delete the pathways as soon as the transference is complete."

The holographic doctor was still hesitant. "What if some of my 'memories' escaped and merged with those from the logs? Wouldn't that complicate matters even more?"

"I'm sure something can be designed to act as a shield or a buffer. Please, Doctor - you would be making medical history with this! It would be another magnificent accomplishment for you to add to your other accolades." Corbett had done his homework and knew he'd found his trump card when he saw the EMH light up with a smile.

"Well... it would be good to be able to help out future cases like this." The EMH nodded confidently. "Yes. Why not? Let's do it!"

Corbett just about broke into a dance. "Wonderful! I'll contact the Vulcans and then present the idea to Admiral Janeway. Here's to one more bit of advancement to holographic history."

With a handshake, the first part of Operation Memory Restoration was in place.

~*~

"What do you mean that a hologram can't be used?" It was all Corbett could do to keep his temper in check while talking to T'Entreia, chair of the ethics section of the Vulcan Science Academy. "Where is your sense of IDIC?"

The serene Vulcan woman was unmoved. "While we understand your dilemma, Doctor Corbett, my colleagues and I must adhere to a strict interpretation of our millennia-old doctrines of rituals. The fal-tor-pan is to be used only for transference of the essence of sentient beings to one another. Even then, there are only a few documentations on the success of the practice."

"But humanoid holograms are now being accepted as sentient beings. And the one I have asked to participate is well acquainted with Admiral Janeway. He is in full understanding of the process and respects the sanctity of the ritual." Corbett's voice faltered a bit as he felt defeat creeping into his well-laid out plans.

"However, we are not without sympathy for your dilemma," T'Entreia continued.

Corbett's sagging spirits stopped their downward spiral and he perked up. "Yes? I'm listening."

"We have been told that there is a Vulcan who served on Voyager in her engineering department, a certain Vorik."

Corbett nodded. "Yes, I believe so. I think he's visited the Admiral a couple of times."

"We would suggest that we contact Vorik with some suggestions as to how he might make an interface between the computer logs and another one of your species and then use a double mind meld to transfer the data to Admiral Janeway," T'Entreia continued. "It would be similar to fal-tor-pan but since it would not involve a Vulcan as the final recipient of the information, it would lack the spiritual effect."

"Why not make the transfer directly to Janeway?" Corbett anxiously inquired.

"Her mind is already injured and it might not be able to handle the interface without another mind acting as a buffer," T'Entreia answered honestly.

"And you don't think that there would be any injury to a 'normal' brain?" Corbett shook his head. "It still sounds rather risky to me."

T'Enteria's dark eyes pierced Corbett's gaze on the Earth side of the transmission. "You are correct that there would be risk with the procedure; there is always risk whenever one attempts something new. There would even be risk with your original proposition of using the hologram. However, if there were one person whom you consider to be highly motivated in trying to help Admiral Janeway and willing to take that risk, the positive attitude of that person would facilitate the success of the procedure.

"Remember that this person would have to be able to handle the Admiral's most intimate thoughts as recorded in her personal logs, someone whom she could trust and not be afraid of any betrayed confidences. Do you think that you might have a candidate for such a task?"

Corbett's somber look gave way to a sly grin as a lone name popped into his thoughts. "I think I have just the person. Thank you so much for considering my proposition and aiding us with this dilemma. Your help has been invaluable, T'Entreia."

The ageless Vulcan woman nodded. "It is the least we could do to help this noble woman, Kathryn Janeway. We shall contact Vorik and then discuss the procedure further."

The comm link between Earth and Vulcan had barely closed when Corbett reached out to his comm monitor to contact the one perfect person for the data transfer. He smiled when another dark face appeared on his screen. "Captain Chakotay! I'm glad I could reach you. I have a very special project in which I'm hoping you will be interested in participating..."

~*~

If not being able to remember anything from the previous three and a half years wasn't disturbing enough for Kathryn Janeway, when Corbett presented his idea to her of having her private logs being 'transcribed' into Chakotay's brain and then transferred to hers, she gasped. She could remember certain entries from the earlier years, some that she would be mortified if Chakotay ever read or heard about, especially those following their time on New Earth. But what had she said in those during the lost years? What had happened between them in that time? Nobody had mentioned anything other than a professional relationship between the two of them, not even Chakotay. She had not asked and he had not volunteered. Did she really want him to know?

But Corbett had convinced her that an installation of the logs as memories could help jumpstart the other memory sequences, making synapses between existing ones and those that remained as ghostly figments. If that worked, then they could possibly look into doing the experiment in smaller increments using the ship's logs until most of the lost time could be replaced.

It had now been three weeks since her unfortunate mishap. Physically, she was doing well. Her balance was almost perfect, she had strength in all her limbs, and her heart and lungs were functioning a well as always. It was just her brain, that part of her that controlled her very being, that didn't want to cooperate. Some things that happened or she was told she could recall days later. Other events she had no memory of moments after they transpired. Neither she nor the medical personnel could determine why this happened, but such was the case frequently with anoxic brain injury.

She didn't like having to rely on second-hand knowledge of the events that had happened during that time frame. She didn't like hearing how Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant; she wanted to remember for herself when the older Janeway arrived at the ship and how she had planned with the time-traveling woman how to get past the Borg and arrive safely home. She wanted to be able to remember how to mourn Joe Carey's death, to rejoice in Miral's birth. The frustration was making her more and more despondent, in spite of her physical well-being.

Kathryn Janeway knew that she couldn't continue to live like this. She had fought periods of depression before, but none of them had taken her into a downward spiral as quickly as she was being sucked into the vortex of hopelessness now. It was time for her to put aside any fears of Chakotay's learning more than she wanted. It was time for her to agree to go through with Aksel Corbett's plan.

~*~

It took some persuading for Corbett to convince Chakotay to be an integral part of the memory restoration for Janeway. Like Kathryn, he didn't give a second thought to the physical risks involved; his greatest fear was the knowledge that he would be immersed in her most intimate thoughts and concerns. He felt like he would be betraying her trust by becoming a mental eavesdropper. He also knew that some of those log entries would more than likely reflect the growing rift in their relationship, both professional and personal, in the more recent entries. Currently, Kathryn's mind was a blank slate concerning those years, something he would gladly have rewritten if given the chance. And he was hoping he was being given that chance.

But now, if the process worked, she would be able to recall everything: his growing dissatisfaction with her decisions about Voyager; his own withdrawal from her and growing attraction to Seven of Nine. Surely she had been told that he and Seven called things off shortly after their return to Earth - but did she remember this or was it one of the things of which she couldn't retain any recollection? Even though he and Kathryn had barely spoken since the end of the debriefings almost four months ago, certainly she had heard the news through someone, like Tom or B'Elanna.

Time to put personal fears away. He knew what he had to do; he might as well get it over with. The sooner the transfer could be made, the sooner each of them could get back to their individual lives.

~*~

"I cannot promise either of you that there will not be any after-effects from this transfer," Vorik stated matter-of-factly to Chakotay and Janeway. "The theory is valid and would certainly work between two Vulcan minds, but the consequences in humans is an unknown. Do you each understand this?"

Chakotay and Kathryn Janeway lay back into the reclining chairs in the small, darkened room and voiced their acceptance and agreement. In addition to themselves, Dr. Corbett, Voyager's EMH and Tuvok were present. Tuvok's presence was at the request of his two friends, both as an advocate for them and as a natural liaison between Starfleet Medical and T'Entreia.

Corbett stretched a pliable cap covered with electrodes across Chakotay's head. About a dozen leads ran back into what looked like a small valise that contained the personal logs of Kathryn Janeway from late 2374 to shortly before her accident. The computer data had been adapted using bio-replicator theory so that they could download into a human brain.

"These lines and electrodes will transmit all the stored records to synapse with the neurons in your hippocampus, Captain. I'm not sure that you will be able to know what they are or even make sense of them if you can recognize them. We don't think there will be any chronological order to them but rather a random dump of bits of information."

As the physician adjusted the delicate covering, Chakotay asked some final questions. "How long do you think the process will take? How will you know when the transfer is complete?"

"We're estimating that the procedure will probably take from thirty to sixty minutes. We'll be able to note its conclusion by a flattening of your brain waves. This doesn't mean that you're not thinking; it merely will indicate a sudden decrease in your brain usage." Corbett rocked back on his heels. "There. You are ready, Captain Chakotay."

"And then it will be your turn, Admiral," the EMH continued with describing the process. "This is where we will be utilizing Mr. Vorik's skills as he makes a humanoid link between your brain and Captain Chakotay's."

"That part will most likely be like a dream sequence to each of you," Tuvok passed along to his friends. "It will all seem new to you, Admiral, although Chakotay might sense much déjà vu, especially with memories that are mutual. I shall be here to note any adverse effects and take immediate action to terminate any further transference, as will the two physicians in attendance. It will be a well-controlled course of action."

A puzzled look came over Janeway's face and she asked the question she had asked several times before but could not remember. "Why is Vorik doing the meld rather than you, Tuvok?"

With Vulcan patience, her old friend explained to her the reason one more time. "There is concern that my own neurological problems might interfere with the process. Mr. Vorik is fully capable of performing the task, Admiral."

His answer and demeanor eased her concerns. She looked over to her former first officer, reclining in his chair about a half a meter from hers. "Chakotay?" she whispered.

"I'm ready, Kathryn," he said softly. He reached over and took her hand, gently running his fingers across hers. "I want you back."

The last thing he saw before the transfer took over was her small, quirky smile and her eyes glistening.

~*~

"Captain... Captain Chakotay."

Chakotay heard a tinny voice as if calling him from a distance. He blinked his eyes at the dim light around him. He took a few quick breaths and realized that his head hurt. Not a throbbing pain but a dull one, one that seemed to sit on him and weigh him down.

But he could remember nothing about what had just happened. It was all a hazy emptiness, colorless and nebulous and silent. No images, no sounds. Just... nothing. Slowly his senses awakened and he remembered where he was and what was going on.

"Captain Chakotay," he heard again and struggled to alert himself. Then his eyes focused and he was staring at the source of the voice - Voyager's EMH.

"How are you feeling?" the holographic doctor asked.

"I've been better," Chakotay managed. "Is it... is it over?"

"The transfer to you has been completed," the doctor relayed. "Next, we will be doing the dual mind meld. But we thought we should let you regain your mental equilibrium before we proceed."

"Let me take this harness off you." Corbett spoke from the other side of Chakotay and was already peeling back the electrode-studded cap. "That should make you feel better."

The removal alleviated the constricted feeling around his head, but Chakotay still felt a heavy grogginess. Suddenly he noticed that Kathryn was no longer beside him and panic gripped him. "Where's Kathryn? Is she all right?"

"The Admiral is fine," the EMH said, patting Chakotay on the arm. "She became somewhat agitated with watching the process going on with you so Dr. Corbett talked to her and suggested she wait in another room. He also gave her a mild sedative that shouldn't hamper the final transfer in any way. Her mother and sister are with her, so she's not alone with her thoughts... whatever thoughts she might have in her current condition."

Chakotay leaned back in relief. This was all hard enough on him; he could only imagine what it must be like for Kathryn, with a memory that was stop and go, working with random bits of recall. No wonder she almost always seemed frustrated and frantic! Please, spirits, may this work. I don't care how much pride I might have to swallow, but please just let her be able to function normally again.

Corbett again was at his side. "Captain, here's some water. We need to make sure you are properly hydrated throughout the procedure. Are you hungry? Would you like to take a break for anything else?"

Chakotay shook his head. "No, I'm fine. I'll just have the water and then let's keep this all rolling along." Let's get it over with!

~*~

Tuvok slipped out and returned with Kathryn Janeway. She looked smaller and more fragile than Chakotay could ever recall seeing her.

As if reading his thoughts already, even without the meld in place, she smiled wanly. "I'm okay, Chakotay. I guess I was more concerned about you than I thought."

"That makes two of us," he managed to smile back. "Are you ready to make history?"

"Isn't that what we've always done?" Kathryn answered.

Again the man and woman were settled into their reclining chairs but this time, there was no technical apparatus; this time, Vorik walked in between them. The lighting was diminished to a twilight level and Vorik passed along final instructions in a dolce but firm tone.

"We will take a few moments to clear our minds and reach a meditative state. Take deep breaths and count to ten before exhaling slowly. Each of you should focus on a time and place that brought you great peace and happiness. When I sense that your bodies are relaxed, I will begin the transference meld. Let us begin."


Chakotay looked around. He was in a wooded area with weak sunlight dappling through the dense tree leaves. Each step allowed the musty moistness to waft from the sylvan floor.

He wasn't in a Starfleet uniform but rather trousers and a shirt made from natural fibers; a wide belt held a leather vest in place over the shirt. He couldn't be back on Dorvan - it was much too verdant.

Then he heard a voice... a laughing voice. Rich and husky, full of vibrancy. "Chakotay - where are you? Come see what I've found!"

He ran towards the sound of the voice... Kathryn's voice. There was a lilt in her tone, happy and content like it always was when she made a new discovery. And there were many new things here on this little planet where they found themselves.


Corbett and the EMH noted that Chakotay and Janeway were both easing into a relaxed state. It appeared that so far, things were going well.


Kathryn pulled back the branches of the small clump of bushes where she had seen blossoms a few days back. Now, huge blackberries, plump and ready to burst, had replaced the small white flowers. She might not be able to cook, but she knew how to pick berries! At least she could help provide for their upkeep in this small way.

The only thing she had with her that she could use as a container for the berries was the insect trap she was going to place in one of the trees. Oh, well, she could always come back and do that, but the berries wouldn't always be there. Good thing she had on her blue dress today; that way if she got some juice on it, stains wouldn't show that much.

"Chakotay - where are you? Come see what I've found!" she called out excitedly.


Vorik nodded at the readouts indicating that his two subjects had entered into a realm of complete relaxation. Tuvok signaled that the transfer should begin and Vorik placed his right hand in the familiar span on Chakotay's head. Then, he repeated the action with Janeway using his left hand.


Kathryn!

Chakotay! What are you doing here?

You called me, remember?

I can't remember, Chakotay. That's my problem.

But it won't be much longer. I have your memories and I'll be passing them along to you.

Can you read them? I don't know if I want you to know them, Chakotay.

Why not? We've shared so much over the years.

But in the more recent years things haven't been too pleasant.

They haven't been for anyone, Kathryn. Our time in the Delta Quadrant was bound to take its toll.

I said things... did things. Oh, Chakotay, I didn't mean to hurt you!

You didn't. Why do you say that, Kathryn?

We both said and did things, Chakotay. Many times without realizing it. We... all right, I stopped trusting you. I felt that you wouldn't understand.

I... I thought that you had just stopped caring for me. In the beginning, we needed each other and I guess we learned how to live on our own and just closed each other out. And now... oh, Kathryn! I feel things... coming.

Me, too! I think that the memories... oh, the memories! I don't know that I want them. Stay with me, Chakotay.

I'm here, Kathryn; I'll always be here.

Don't stop loving me, no matter what you experience.

I've always loved you, Kathryn, and I always will.


Multiple images and experiences tumbled over one another, merging and meshing into a mental convolution as they passed from Chakotay's mind via Vorik's conduit and into Janeway's empty memory banks. Glimpses of arguments, shared confidences, failed trust, defiant stubbornness, physical infidelities, regrets and rejections... all flashed through Chakotay's subconscious like wisps of dreams never dreamt, vestiges of hopes long denied.

Details long forgotten, grudges buried deeply, psychological pains still raw and tender... all found their appropriate compartments in the memory nest inside Janeway's mind. Minutia from daily messages Kathryn composed to herself, replaying emotions that she never realized she had.


Are you all right, Kathryn?

I'm fine. I just feel that... I've been asleep for days and am now just waking up. So many sights and sounds... from just words. Too much to try to make sense from right now.

It will take awhile, I'm sure.

Chakotay, did you... how much of did you see?

Only brief glimpses, just fragments of ideas and random phrases.

I never meant to hurt you, Chakotay. I didn't mean to pull away or toss you aside. Yet that's the way some of this seems.

You didn't any more than I did. I'm partially at fault for letting a wall come between us. And then, I think we each tried looking for replacements, for compassion in others much like what we saw in each other once upon a time.

Yet that concern still here. Why else would you have agreed to help me like this?

And why else would we have 'met' in the same place when our minds were first joined? Kathryn, that place has been there for us all along, waiting for us to return.

Have you, like I, gone there in your mind whenever you needed a safe place? There was such peace and happiness.

There still can be.

Do you truly believe that, Chakotay?

With all my heart. Neither of us let it leave our souls and that's where I think we need to look to begin to rebuild.

Like my lost memories, we need to reinstall what we once had and let things grow from there. There are some memories that I'll want to forget and others for which I'll need forgiveness.

Only if you will allow me to do the same, Kathryn.

I will, even if it takes me the rest of my lifetime to make it up to you.


Tuvok and Corbett had their eyes fixed on the histogram on the screen of the metal memory container following brain activity of Janeway and Chakotay. The scattered lines that had shown a steady constant ebb and flow of energy began to lose their slope, flattening to the y-axis.

"That is sufficient," Tuvok declared. "Anything more and we will be delving into Captain Chakotay's personal memories."

The older Vulcan flexed his fingers into a peculiar grip on Vorik's shoulder and the young man released his holds on Chakotay and Janeway. He backed away, obviously weakened himself, and Tuvok guided him to a chair.

Chakotay and Janeway opened their eyes at almost the same moment. Their breathing came in heavy gulps; perspiration beaded on their foreheads. Corbett noted that their hearts were beating at increased rates as if they had just finished a ten-kilometer race.

"Captain... Admiral... the transfer is complete. How are you feeling?" the physician asked.

Chakotay spoke first. "We're fine, just a bit fatigued. When you pour out your mind to someone, it does take a toll." He smiled at Kathryn and reached over to her. "But when you go through that with someone you love, the benefits far exceed the efforts."

"And you, Admiral?"

"I'm very tired," Janeway sighed. "And I feel as if my head has been stuffed with a hundred terabytes of information that I really can't make any sense from. But there are some things that came through very clearly. Things that make me feel more comfortable with my sense of well being than I've ever felt." She squeezed Chakotay's hand and returned his smile before turning back to Corbett.

"Give me a few days to assimilate and sort out what all you have fed me today and then we can see what can be done about doing a similar procedure with Voyager's logs."

The EMH decided it was time for him to say a few words. "Admiral, if I might suggest, why don't you arrange to talk with someone about all of this information that you have gained? It might help to organize everything." He paused to clear his throat dramatically. "I'd be happy to volunteer to do just that. After all, I was your physician during all those years on Voyager and since we returned to Earth."

"Doctor, I completely agree with your idea and while I appreciate your offer to help me, I think I'd like to have that person be Chakotay."

"But my experience and expertise..."

Even Tuvok read between the lines of Janeway's comment. "Doctor, I believe that Admiral Janeway knows who would be best for this job. Don't you concur, Dr. Corbett?"

Unlike the staid Vulcan, the more intuitive Corbett blushed a dozen shades of red, having been drawn into this increasingly personal situation. "Agreed. Now, gentlemen, why don't we go over to my office to discuss our next steps? In the meantime, Admiral Janeway and Captain Chakotay can rest a bit. We'll check in on them later."

"But don't you think they need to be monitored? Shouldn't someone stay in the room with them?" the EMH continued in his naiveté. "After all they have been through..."

"They can alert us if there's a problem," Corbett responded, ushering the rest of the team out. "There's water and juice on the table behind the recliners; help yourselves," he called out over his shoulder to Janeway and Chakotay. "We'll be back in oh... about ten or fifteen minutes."

Corbett was the last to exit and he quietly closed the door behind him.

"Were we so obvious?" Kathryn chuckled.

"Not obvious enough for our dear Voyager EMH," Chakotay smiled back as he slid off his recliner. He wobbled a bit and grabbed on to the armrest on Kathryn's chair. "Ooofff. Guess that took more out of me than I realized. Sort of lost my land legs there for a second."

"Then lie back down. You don't have to move around quite yet," Kathryn said in a tone that sounded like she was back on the bridge of Voyager.

"Yes, I do. I've waited too long to do this and I'm not going let a couple of shaky legs keep me back." Chakotay steadied himself and then wrapped his arms around Kathryn, drawing her close. "I want this to be the first memory you recall in your reconstructed memories."

He leaned down and found her lips. His kiss was hesitant at first but when there was no doubt that Kathryn wanted it as much as he did... when her arms circled his neck and pulled him down closer to her... when their long denial gave into the hunger that had been buried so long... when they each knew that their new lives, with new memories, were just beginning.


~ the end ~



Fiddle by Camryn






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