"The Commander's mind is intact," Tuvok told them. "My actions do not appear to have caused any lasting damage."
Janeway sighed in relief then asked, "And you Tuvok? How are you?"
Tuvok lifted an eyebrow, a small smile tugging at the edges of his mouth, "Surprisingly well, Captain. I believe that, with the Doctor's permission, I am ready to return to duty."
"I see no reason not to allow you to return to duty, Mr. Tuvok," the Doctor replied. "Although I would prefer that continue wearing the neuro-cortical monitor. That will give us warning should you suffer any relapse. And light duties only for the first few days. Then I'll have another look at you, and if everything is satisfactory you can return to full duty."
"Understood, Doctor," Tuvok acknowledged
Kathryn grinned. "Very well..." She turned to the two security personnel, seeing her own relief mirrored in their faces, "Gentlemen, it appears we no longer need your services. You may return to normal duty." They returned her wide smile, turning and walking out of the sickbay. Janeway watched them go then turned her attention back to Tuvok, "Glad to have you back aboard, Lieutenant Commander. Return to light duties as of oh-nine-hundred tomorrow..."
"Thank you, Captain." Tuvok started to walk around the biobed, then hesitated, glancing across at the EMH.
The Doctor smiled, "If there is any change in the Commander's condition, I'll let you know." He checked the readouts, "But from these indications he is healing well and sleeping peacefully." Turning back to Tuvok, he fixed the Vulcan with his best level stare, "Can I suggest that you follow his example! And remind you that you have not slept since the Commander was brought into sickbay!"
Tuvok nodded. Deep within the link he felt the human stir in his sleep. And once again the impression of the glittering, dancing dragonfly shimmered through his memory. He suppressed a smile, aware that the Captain was looking at him intently. She was Chakotay's friend, she was his friend, she was worried about them both, and, he decided, she deserved to know the truth.
Kathryn could see that there was something Tuvok obviously wished to tell her, something that he was unwilling to say in front of anyone else. She turned to the EMH, "Thank you, Doctor. Tuvok, will you join me."
Together they walked into the corridor, heading for the turbolift. Janeway remained silent, waiting for Tuvok to begin, realizing that whatever it was he had to say, it was obviously difficult for him to put into words. Not that she could blame him. He had been to his own private hell and back.
Finally he spoke, "Captain... there is something that... that you should be aware of."
She held up her hand, stopping him, some sixth sense telling her that this was not going to be a conversation that should take place in a corridor, "Not here, Tuvok. My quarters." He nodded, dropping into step beside her as she walked quickly towards the turbolift. It took only a few minutes to reach her rooms, but for Kathryn the time stretched like hours. Finally they were walking through her doors. She indicated that he should take a seat, then crossed to the replicator. "Vulcan spiced tea," she ordered. "Two glasses. Hot."
She picked them up, turning back to Tuvok. Crossing the room she sat on the chair opposite him, handing him the tea. "I'm listening," she told him gently, not pushing, letting him know that he could take all the time he needed.
"The link between Commander Chakotay and I has taken a... somewhat unexpected turn."
She looked up at him, intrigued, "Explain."
"It appears that... that the Commander harbored deep feelings for me..."
"Feelings...?" she echoed quietly as he took a sip of the aromatic liquid.
He looked into the glass for a long moment, then lowered it, gathering his thoughts. "Feelings that he felt were improper to act upon, feelings that he tried to push aside, knowing that I was married." He frowned, looking up at her, "He lays great importance in honor. I was aware of this... I simply never realized how deep it ran."
He paused again, looking back down into the tea. "When I forced the meld with him..." He stopped, swallowing before beginning again, "Chakotay saved my life, Captain. His love for me saved me from the madness that was consuming me. When the link with T'Pel was broken so abruptly... I had not realized how much I relied on her strength, on the quiet presence always there in the back of my thoughts. The grief overwhelmed me."
Looking back up at her, he admitted, "I am unable to understand why her loss affected me so much. We are trained to recover from such eventualities... I am truly unable to find an explanation."
"We humans," Kathryn interrupted softly, "never know how we're going to deal with grief. Some cope, others don't. Some appear to be dealing with it well, but inside they're coming apart at the seams. Even when you've been waiting for a death, nursing someone through their last days, it can still be an insurmountable blow when they finally leave you. Sometimes it's worse than if they die unexpectedly..." She paused for a moment, then continued, "Each individual reacts differently, Tuvok, there is no right way or wrong way. Just because you have been trained to cope with a loss, doesn't mean that you will be able to when the time comes. Had we had a Vulcan healer on Voyager, I have no doubt that your reaction would have been very different."
He nodded, acknowledging her words. Then told her, "You offered help, Captain. I refused it."
"Chakotay offered help. And you took it."
"No, Captain. I acted..."
"Tuvok," she interrupted, "You told me that you have no clear recollection of what happened. You have just said that Chakotay saved your life and that he loves you. Isn't it possible that in your most vulnerable moment you recognized his feelings towards you? Isn't it possible that your attack was simply and instinctive need to bond with someone who loved you? Can you be sure you would have still attacked if it had been me who came to your quarters?"
He blinked, sitting back slightly, considering her words. Kathryn smiled, then asked, "Tuvok, I know that it's very soon after the loss of T'Pel... but what do you feel for Chakotay?"
"I have a deep respect for the Commander."
"Respect?" Janeway asked. "Is it simply respect?"
He looked at her, realizing that in his regret and self-recrimination he had never paused to explore his own feelings for Chakotay. His emotion for Chakotay was not as strong as it had been for T'Pel, but that strength had grown over time. His feelings for Chakotay *were* different... but instinct told him that every relationship varied from every other. He was concerned about the combination, but that was more concern about a human bonding with a Vulcan than concern over the idea of Chakotay himself as a mate.
"You are correct, Captain, " he admitted finally, "it is too soon after T'Pel for me to be sure of my own emotions and desires. But I do respect Chakotay, not just as a superior officer but for his honor, his honesty, his trust..." He quirked an eyebrow, "If I were given the choice, I would not elect to break this link."
Kathryn slid forward, reaching out, resting her hand on his arm, "The strongest relationships are built first on friendship. Everything else you can work round."
* * * *