Pandora's Box
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Summary: When temptation torments you every day, it’s crueller to hold onto hope than let it go.

 

Characters: Janeway, Chakotay

Codes: Janeway/Chakotay

Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.

Notes: Written for #fictober2018 Day 27 prompt: “Remember, you have to remember.” Episode addition to Shattered.

Rated T

Then

When I look at him I’m filled with questions and I can hardly stop them on my tongue. It’s not curiosity about Borg drones in my cargo bay or holodeck villains or telepathic pitcher plants – I’ve given up on that after his second admonishment about the temporal prime directive – but about us. About him and me. About the kind of friendship we have – or will have, in my future –, how it grew, and who we are together.

He looks at me like a lover. Like a man who knows me in the most intimate of ways, not just my body but my soul; like a man who can predict how I’m going to act, what I’m going to say, even how I’m going to think. Like someone I’ve enthralled and wounded and left wanting, who has seen me at my best and my very worst, and loves me anyway.

Yes. Loves me. I’m not blind, no matter how practised he appears to be at veiling it. It wasn’t so long ago that I was seeing that same look in Mark’s eyes. So I know how he feels about me, or will feel, when I’m her.

I wonder if she knows. It seems impossible that she mightn’t, but there are none so blind as those who will not see.

“Just how close do we get?” I ask him, pinning his gaze with mine, as if that will glean me the answers to every question at once.

Because as talkative as he’s been over these past strange hours, as fervently as he’s countered my every argument for changing my future, he has very skilfully deflected me every time I’ve strayed into more personal territory.

I wonder how many questions she has stopped herself from answering, over the years.

“There are some barriers we never cross,” he tells me carefully, each word selected like a Ferengi picking over precious gems. And I know there’s a world of truths and possibilities he has left unspoken.


Now

The way he’s looking at me is setting off warning signals. There’s an enigmatic curl to his lips, heat in his eyes and in the slightly-too-lingering way his fingers brush mine as he hands me a glass of cloudy, sweet cider. He’s teasing me, letting slip just enough information to ratchet up my interest until I’m burning with curiosity. And with something else.

I’m supposed to be done with this – we’re supposed to be done. Too many years have passed to turn us down that path. And I thought he’d long since given up any such desire.

But the look in his eye, the smoke in his voice, tells me otherwise.

“We’ve been down this road before,” he smirks, “you wanting answers to questions you shouldn’t ask.”

It makes me angry. It makes me want to needle him, to incite the same unsettling feelings he’s provoking in me. To tilt him off-balance.

There’s one sure-fire way of doing that, and I’m not above using it. So I smile back at him, hot and slow and a little bit cruel. The retort I offer him is relatively meaningless; the tease is all in the way I lean in close, shadows in my eyes and a purr in my voice.

I once told him the story of Eve’s fall from grace, and he said I was misinterpreting it. That it wasn’t a warning to resist temptation, but a reminder that the truth is not always comfortable.

But Chakotay has never been able to resist temptation when I place it so squarely in his path.

Gotcha, I think triumphantly as whatever reply he intended to form dies on his lips, how do you like them apples?

Then his gaze drops briefly to my smiling mouth and when he meets my eyes again, his are filled with an emotion I’ve only seen in them on the rarest of occasions.

Hope.

Before I know it, I’m reaching for him. Spreading my fingers on his jaw, feeling the slight bristle-shadow, the warmth of his breath as it curls around my wrist, as he turns his face into my touch and presses a kiss to my palm.

“Kathryn,” he grinds out, the movement of his lips making me shiver. And I sway toward him and he reaches for me and wraps his hands in my hair, and the taste of cider is so much sweeter when I’m licking it from his lips.


Then

I should feel guilty about Mark. Even looking at this man, Chakotay, it feels like a betrayal. But there’s something dreamlike about it too, as though this moment in time is a gift from my own future; a future in which it’s written that Mark and I will never be together again.

And so, furtively, I indulge my curiosity.

I let my gaze linger on the bulk of his shoulders, the broad sweep of his back; I wonder if the rest of him, hidden under his uniform is as strong and capable as the promise of his hands. I wonder what his arms would feel like around me, his hands on my body.

I look at his face as he speaks, the planes and angles of bone, the hawk-like nose and the breadth of his cheekbones. His lower lip is fuller, more luscious than the upper. I want to chew on it, to draw a surprised laugh from him and fit my thumbs into those delightful dimples.

I wonder what he would be like as a lover. Would he be gentle, generous and tender; would he let his fingers skim my skin, tantalising and sweet? Would he be confident, accomplished, vocal in what he wants and what he’d like to do to me?

God, how I’d love to find out for myself. With each moment that passes, my imagination spirals into ever more fanciful daydreams of him taking my hand, gazing at me with those enigmatic, soulful eyes; of him performing some heroic feat to save my life; of him pushing me up against the warp core and kissing me as though there’s no tomorrow.

Curiosity. Temptation. The allure of things unknown. I try to resist it – out loud, at least – but when the adventure is over and we’re standing by the same warp core where I imagined him taking me, I can’t help myself.

 

I ask the question.

After his evasion that speaks volumes and tells me nowhere near as much as I want to know, I hold out my hand in farewell and he clasps it.

What will she do, seven years in my future when this man returns to their time and tells her he met her for the first time all over again?

What barriers might she cross if by some miracle, the memories of today persist? Will they be enough to keep the thrall in the way he looks at me, but banish the wounds she’s left on him?

Remember, I tell myself. You have to remember.

Remember how he looks at you. Remember that holding his hand, looking in his eyes, feels like home.

Remember him.



Now

There isn’t a thought in my head. All alarms are silenced, all prudence gone. There is only Chakotay: the soft heat of his mouth, his hands, his body warm and solid and real in my arms. There’s only how powerfully I want him, and how the shock of it sends tremors along my limbs, makes me clutch at his hair and gasp against his mouth.

There’s only the feel of him holding me, fingers trembling with barely-contained fervour – so gentle, so fierce – of his body pressing me back into the couch, of the inevitable end we’re careening toward.

And then there are words, hot and jumbled, half-swallowed like honey drops. Words that turn to acid when they're exposed to the air.

These are not words I have any right to hear, and I can’t accept them. Not now. And if I can’t hear them now, the first time he’s said them, I don’t deserve to presume I’ll ever hear them again.

Remember, I lash at myself, you have to remember.

Remember the years that have gone before. Remember the ache of wanting him, of denying yourself. Remember slipping into temptation and how much worse the longing was afterward – for both of you.

Remember the promises you’ve both made and broken, how impossible this is, and remember this moment. This pivotal moment, poised on the knife-edge between giving in and letting go.

Remember that holding onto hope is crueller than loneliness.

Remember your duty.

Set him free.


I push at Chakotay’s chest. He shifts back immediately, pulling his hands away from my body, and I sit up, staring at nothing until I have control of my breath.

I make sure there’s nothing but cool disinterest in my eyes when I speak.

“This cannot happen,” I state. “You need to move on, Chakotay.”

He swallows. “What if I can’t?”

“You have to.”

I rise from the couch and stride over to the door, looking back at him with raised eyebrows. He takes the hint, walking slowly toward me.

“I told you I’d wait,” he says, quiet. “I haven’t given up hope that one day it’ll be our time.”

It takes the last of my will, but I keep my voice cold and flat.

“Get over it,” I shrug, turning away before the words can register in his eyes.