"Doctor! Doctor Hansen!" Came the rather excited call from the furthest end of the hospital corridor. The wildly flapping arms of the male nurse, indicative of the excitement he was feeling at the latest development. "Quick, Doctor Hansen, she's awake."
A small frown marred Annika's otherwise glacial expression, as she reluctantly altered her course to find out what this latest glitch in normal operating procedure related to. "Neal, I have reprimanded you on several occasions about shouting in the hallways. It is very upsetting for our other patients, as well as being unprofessional."
The shorter, jovial looking man bowed his head in mock acceptance, the smile on his face refusing to alter in its intensity. "I'm sorry Doctor, but this is, is, well come and take a look for yourself." Grabbing hold of Annika's sleeve, his practically dragged the young woman towards room 265, the home of one of their longest serving patients.
If it hadn't been for their normal friendship, Annika would have exploded in anger about such an overly familiar gesture. Somehow, with Neal, she could just never be as uptight and formidable as she was with most of the others on staff, a fact he used to his and her advantage on many occasions. "Has there been an improvement in Kathryn's condition?"
"More than that."
Entering the room, Neal pointed to its sole occupant, a forty-ish woman with messed up auburn hair and a look of perpetual worry embedded on her face. She was sitting crossed legged on the bed, gently rocking to and fro to a rhythm of her own making. It was the same sight that had met Annika each and every time she had visited Kathryn Janeway's room, during her residency at Mount St. Helen Psychiatric Institute. "I fail to see what has caused such excitement and your breach of hospital regulations."
Walking into the room, Neal sat down on the bed next to Kathryn, his hand gently resting on her shoulder in an attempt to capture the woman's attention. "Katie. Katie, do you know who I am?"
For the barest of seconds, hazel eyes looked into the compassionate face of the nurse, words escaping from her lips in a croak of disuse. "Neal."
"That's right." Beaming at Annika, Neal gestured for the young doctor to move closer. "Now, Katie, what is it I do?"
Kathryn's brow furrowed, as the answer she was about to give died on her lips, to be hesitancy replaced by another. "You're a nurse?"
"That's right." From the look on his face, it was obvious it was taking all Neal's self control not to engulf the woman in a bear hug. Turning back to Annika, he indicated for her to continue the test.
"Kathryn." Annika began, wondering if it would have been better to call one of the other doctors on staff, as her presence had in the past tended to excite the patient. Unfortunately, by this time Kathryn was already looking at her expectantly. "Do you know where you are?"
Kathryn shook her head, looking confused and for the first time frightened. "I, don't..I. I." She looked about her and then at Neal's encouraging face, before settling on his nurses uniform. "A hospital?"
"That's correct." Although she didn't show it, Annika was excited, this was the first time in the four years she'd been at the hospital that Kathryn Janeway had come out of her imaginary world long enough to acknowledge reality. "Neal, find Doctors Tuvok and Torres, quickly."
As the older man rushed off to find the others, Annika took his place on the bed next to Kathryn, noting with some relief that the other woman's eyes followed her movements. It was only a small sign, but as with her verbal responses of moments ago, it pointed towards her newly required connection to the world around her. "Kathryn, can you tell me the last thing you remember?"
"Talking to Neal." Her voice was still hesitant but was coming out less croaky, as she once more became accustomed to talking.
"What before that?"
"I.." Eyes becoming unfocused, Kathryn tried to find an answer for the pretty young woman, her need to please this particular doctor was very strong, even though she didn't exactly remember why. "I got home?"
It hadn't been the type of answer she was expecting, but on analysing it in reference to Kathryn's recorded delusions, it began to make sense. Becoming aware of her patient's nervousness, Annika smiled at the older woman, placing a comforting arm around her shoulders. "That's very good Kathryn, you're doing exceptionally well."
"Doctor Hansen." Came a clipped voice from the doorway.
Looking up, Annika noticed the arrival of Doctor's Tuvok and Torres, along with a still smiling Neal. "Neal, please stay with Kathryn for a few moments, while I confer with my colleagues." Turning to Kathryn she squeezed her shoulder encouragingly. "I'll be back in a few minutes."
Exiting the room, the three doctors convened at a nearby nurses station, the most senior physician taking the lead in the conversation. "Nurse Owens informed us that there has been some improvement in Ms Janeway's condition?" Dr Alan Tuvok raised an enquiring eyebrow, which more than his words, demanded a response.
"The way Neal was flapping about, I expected old Katie to be half way out the doors and back to her old life." Torres added, her sombre expression cracking at the sight of matching raised eyebrows from her two friends. "So, how far out of her delusion does she seem?"
"I've yet to examine her fully, but from my initial questions, she seems to be cognisant of her surrounding and has managed to identify Neal by his name and occupation."
"So no more Neelix?" Belanna questioned, having thought the patients insistence on believing the male nurse to be an alien with terrible cooking skills, one of her better delusions. It beat the ridiculous notion that she was a half breed warrior woman, married to some space jockey, who for reasons she believed far outweighed mere insanity, was based on the hospitals janitor, Tommy Paris. "Did she know who you are?" She addressed to Annika. Kathryn's obsession with the blonde doctor had been somewhat of a surprise when it first manifested itself. Before that her only signs of romantic interest had been in a character called Chakotay, who they believed was based on the fireman who rescued her from a house fire nearly eight years ago. Although most of the staff had admitted that it at least showed Kathryn still had taste, if not sanity.
"I thought it best to wait before enquiring." Annika admitted, the attention she received in Kathryn's alternate reality tended to make her feel uncomfortable. For an attractive young woman, she had never reach a stage in her development where she felt at ease with other peoples appreciation of her physical appeal. Fortunately, she had found a partner who admired her intelligence, humour and compassion more than her mere appearance. "She did mention something I though could be of direct importance to her supposed recovery."
"Yes?" Taking out his pen, Tuvok prepared to begin the more formal portion of the patient assessment.
"When I asked her the last thing she remembered, before speaking with Neal, she became slightly confused, then replied 'I got home'." Annika looked at the other two to make certain they understood the importance of that statement. From their expressions it was obvious they did.
"So they got back to the Alpha Quadrant." Belanna summed up. "It could signify her readiness to re-enter normal reality."
"Possibly." Tuvok agreed, he had known this patient from even before her time at Mount St. Helen's and this was the first indication in all that time of any improvement. In many ways he had always felt as if he'd let down a friend, when he'd been unable to get through to the woman. That feeling was in many ways compounded when Kathryn's delusions had cast him as her oldest and dearest friend. "I want her on 24 hour observation, with full blood work up to account for any anomalies."
"I also want to be informed of any changes in her condition." Tuvok admonished, before his face broke out in a rare smile. "I have a feeling we might just have been given the breakthrough we've been praying for."
"Lets hope so." Belanna agreed.
"I'll come back after my rounds." With a friendly nod to his two colleagues, Tuvok left, his step slightly lighter than when he'd arrived.
"You do realise, this means Harry's won the pool?" Belanna asked, hoping to inject a moment of frivolity before they became immersed in the intricacies of Kathryn's psyche. "I though he was nuts when he plumped for seven years. I mean fancy basing a treatment period on the typical length of a syndicated sci-fi series. I guess I'll have to apologies for making fun of him now."
"Dr Belanna Torres apologising? Now, that is something worth seeing." Annika joked.
"Hey! I apologised to you just this morning, Ms Forgetful." Belanna countered, the confused look on Annika's face just what she needed in her ongoing attempts to make the young blonde blush as many times as humanly possible while they were at work. "Remember, you were complaining about that hickey on your neck and I said I was sorry and would make sure they were a bit lower in future?"
As expected Annika's cheeks turned a fetching shade of pink, darkening to red as she heard Neal's muffled laughter, as he came to join them. "I'll get you for that." She whispered to Belanna. "Just wait until we get home."
"Hmmm, I can't wait." Her lover replied with a wink.
The light flirtation having relieved some of the apprehension surrounding Kathryn Janeway's case, the staff of the hospital resumed their work. In this case trying to find out what exactly had prompted a once productive member of society to lock herself away in a make believe world of aliens, holograms and ships named Voyager. They might never know the true reasons behind it, but one thing they all fervently hoped, was that the delusions and Voyager, were finally over.
That's all she wrote
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