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Later, That Night At The Ranch...

(For Leonie, et al.) Later, that night at the ranch...
D'Alaire — 12 Sep 1998, 3:57 PM

Miss Kathryn watched off the front porch the two standing by the fence. Standing in the bright moonlight, the horses shuffling and brurring not far behind, her boy's foot was perched up on the first rung, and an elbow sat on the top. He was leaning in, though not too much, to the comely young lady beside him as he spoke to her.

The girl was leaning against the posts, trying to look plain, shrugging from time to time and letting her gaze wander about. Occasionally, she smiled--but not too often. She gave little away, which roped him in all the more.

But Miss Kathryn knew the way of things, knew it all too well. She smiled at the young people, that lover's game, remembering well and fondly.

A fine young lady in her own right, B'Elanna was a very good horse trainer, indeed, she thought, laughing quietly to herself. And Tom's just the breed she's found a fancy for taming. But she won't tell him that. Not 'till he's jumped through a few more hoops for her will she say he's welcome to gallop in her corral.

She couldn't hear their words, though they certainly were more cheerful than the ones that had occupied her supper table. The girl was too angry then, rightfully so, and all her plans felt too rash, too risky. It got them nowhere. Tom finally put off any more talk until the next day, saying a good night's rest would help them think.

Miss Kathryn couldn't have agreed more. Grudgingly, B'Elanna did too. That's when he took her out for their walk, which ended at the gate those hours later.

Where was Kes? she wondered. The girl had been gone much of the day...though she'd gotten a report that she was having dinner in town, it wasn't like her to go off wandering. Miss Kathryn hoped Doc would send a report back from town on her daughter's whereabouts.

For the time being, though, things were quiet, and glancing once more to the young people at the gate of the corral, Miss Kathryn turned and went inside.

She wandered her way upstairs, passing by Seventina, who slept -- oddly very still -- by the door. Considering for a moment, Miss Kathryn eased aside the door and looked in on the Foreman.

He was breathing right, she noted, but his head was a bath of sweat.

Maybe an infection, she thought, rolling her sleeves off her wrists. Dipping her hand into the cool water basin, she removed a cloth and wrung it. Carefully, so not to wake him, she sat at his bedside and pressed the cloth softly to his dark, moist skin.

He did not move while Miss Kathryn administered the cool cloth, cooling his cheeks, his firm jaw. She dipped the cloth in the water again, squeezed it out.

She placed the cloth on his neck gently, pulled it down to his muscular chest, patting softly away the beads of perspiration there, smiling gently with her work.

He had tried, she recalled. He would've done fine. Yes. He was a good man. Difficult. Stubborn. Hard to understand sometimes. But a good, solid man.

Seeing no movement from him still, she dipped the cloth in the water again. Carefully squeezing it out, she smiled. It'd been a long time since she'd been forced to be the nurse. She forgot how satisfying it was, even though hard work. But Miss Kathryn was never one to shirk hard work, only...

"Thank you, Miss Kathryn," came a whisper beside her.

She turned to see his dark eyes barely open, but staring straight to hers.

"Hush," she whispered. "Go back to sleep. --Don't argue with me, Mister Chakotay. You need it. Everythng fine here, B'Elanna, too. You get your rest and let me take care of you."

Holding her in his tired but curious gaze for another moment, his eyes did close, a little smile creasing his mouth.

Once sure he'd obeyed her, Miss Kathryn continued her work.