Summary: Two captains. Two lost ships. Two moments that changed history, and two choices to make.
Characters: Lorca, Garrett
Codes: Lorca/Garrett, Lorca/Mirror!Cornwell
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Star Trek universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: There are many possible explanations for what happened to Prime Lorca. Here’s one of mine.
There’s no sound, no movement. All around him is a sky so black and velvety he can almost feel its plushness on his skin, and the stars are diamonds he could pluck from it if he reached out a hand. He’s standing on a solid surface – he can feel that – but when he looks down he can see nothing but blackness and the pinpoints of stars.
Vertigo grips him and he shuts his eyes quickly, breathing hard.
It’s supposed to be peaceful. Somehow he knows this, but his strange surroundings only make his heart beat faster. The adrenaline of battle still courses through his veins.
And he vividly recalls the moment the d’k’tahg was buried in his heart.
He slits open his eyes. The front of his uniform is wet with his own blood, the hilt of the Klingon’s dagger sticking out of his chest. But he feels no pain. Not from the broken arm dangling at his side, not from his bruised and swollen eye, and not from the blow that killed him.
This is all wrong. He gathers his breath to shout, demand answers. But somebody beats him to it.
“Hello?” calls a female voice, roughened at the edges and quavering slightly. “Is anybody here?”
He swings around, surprise rendering him mute. Standing an inestimable distance from him is a woman dressed in a red uniform. Her back is to him, but he can see that her short hair is ruffled and her uniform torn and scorched in places.
Then she turns, and he spies the jagged piece of metal buried in her forehead.
She sees him and gasps, faltering back a step before she gathers herself, chin up. “Who are you?” she demands. “What is this place?”
The authority is clear in her voice, and he finds himself drawing straighter in response to it; or perhaps it’s her evident fear – though she’s trying to hide it – that evokes his empathy.
“My name is Gabriel,” he replies, injecting a calm he doesn’t feel into his tone. “Captain Gabriel Lorca of the Federation starship Buran.”
He hopes – half-expects – to put this strange, frightened woman at ease. But her reaction is the opposite. Her jaw drops, eyes widening. She lifts a hand to her throat and he can see it’s trembling.
“That’s not possible,” she whispers finally.
Gabriel frowns. “Why not?”
She swallows. “Because you’re dead.”
He glances down at the d’k’tahg protruding from his chest. “So it would seem.”
“No,” she says, “I mean you died almost ninety years ago.”
This time, Gabriel is the one rendered speechless.
The woman’s curiosity evidently gets the better of her fear, and after glancing downward at the invisible floor and swallowing tightly, she steps carefully closer to him.
“What’s the last thing you remember?” she asks as she approaches.
“You mean aside from the enormous Klingon who stabbed me in the heart?” Gabriel regrets his sarcasm immediately as the woman’s pale skin flushes. “Sorry.”
“I meant about your ship. The Buran.”
“We were ambushed,” he says slowly. “Two Klingon raiders. They crippled us before we could get off more than a couple of shots. By the time we were boarded most of my crew was dead. But I couldn’t let them take the rest of us alive. I set the self-destruct.”
He turns away, eyes burning, his mind full of blood and smoke and pain. Then he feels her hand on his arm.
“I’m so sorry,” she says softly. “I know your story, of course – they teach it at the Academy. In my time you’re quite famous.”
“Famous for losing my ship?” Gabriel huffs out a laugh. “I guess I’m a cautionary tale for all those fresh new cadets, huh?”
“It would seem you’re not the only captain here to lose a ship.” She smiles a little wistfully. “I wonder what they’ll teach the cadets about me.”
That gets his attention. “You’re a captain, too? Starfleet?”
She nods. Her hand slides away from his arm and her posture straightens.
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Captain Rachel Garrett of the Enterprise-C.”
A feeling washes through him, radiant white light that infiltrates every bone and sinew. Gabriel’s breath catches in his lungs and he has to close his eyes and grit his teeth. The sensation is as strange as everything else about his current existence, yet it leaves in its wake a sense of relief, of serene acceptance.
When he comes back to himself and meets the dark, wide eyes of Rachel Garrett, he can see the changes immediately. Gone is the metal embedded in her forehead – he assumes that’s what killed her – and the tacky, drying blood that had stained the side of her face. Gone is her scorched and tattered uniform as well. In its place she’s wearing a simple shift. It’s teal-blue and made of a fabric he’s never seen before, something that shimmers and looks soft to the touch.
He looks down at himself and discovers the d’k’tahg is missing, too, and he’s wearing what appears to be his most comfortable pair of jeans with the shirt Katrina gave him a few birthdays ago. It’s the first outfit he packs when he travels; he supposes he’d call it a favourite. He wonders if Rachel’s dress is her favourite. It should be, he thinks. It suits her.
“Who’s Katrina?” Rachel asks him.
“What?” Gabriel blinks down at her.
She looks as confused as he feels. “I don’t know why I said that. I just focused on you for a moment and I felt something – something strong and conflicted. And that name just came to me.”
He shuffles his feet. “You’re a telepath now?”
“Well,” her mouth quirks unexpectedly to one side, “there have to be some advantages to being dead, right?”
Gabriel snorts. “Trust me, if you’re going to read minds, you can find much more interesting ones than mine.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” She smiles faintly. “There has to be a reason we’re here, don’t you think? The two of us, alone in this place. Two captains without ships, both of us dead before our time.”
“What is this place, anyway?” he grumbles, not wanting to think about the implications of her question. “Some kind of afterlife?”
Rachel looks thoughtful. “I don’t know, but I think maybe it’s more like an antechamber of some kind.” Frowning, she looks around, and Gabriel follows her gaze. He notices for the first time that the starfield they’d been standing in has faded, and they’re now surrounded by a silvery cloudscape.
“This is heaven’s waiting room?” he mutters dubiously.
“Depending on the way you lived your life, it could be hell’s.”
He shoots her a suspicious glare, but her lips are curved in that quirky half-smile again. “You’re mocking me,” he accuses.
Rachel shrugs. “If you can’t have fun when you’re dead, when can you? C’mon, let’s look around.”
“At what?” he grumbles. “More clouds?”
But when she reaches for his hand he lets her take it, and when she moves off in her chosen direction, he follows.
They’ve been walking through pale, silent tatters of cloud for an indeterminate time when Gabriel glimpses a splash of colour from the corner of his eye.
Stopping, he tightens his grasp on Rachel’s hand, tugging her to a standstill. “Did you see that?”
He moves cautiously, pushing aside wisps and veils until the object comes clearly into view.
“Is that what I think it is?” Rachel’s eyebrows are high on her forehead.
He clears his throat. “If you think it’s a bed, then yes. That’s what it looks like.”
The bed – because that’s what it is, incongruous and somewhat confronting as Gabriel finds it – floats atop a cloud, covered in fluffy white pillows and a scarlet throw rug. Cautiously he moves nearer, drawing Rachel with him. He reaches out a hand. The pillows are smooth and cool, the rug slightly scratchy.
“It’s real,” he mutters.
He feels her jerk her hand away from his. “Is this some kind of trick?” she demands angrily. “Did you set this up? Are we on a holodeck?” Spinning away from him, she shouts, “Computer, end program!”
“Hey,” he snaps. “I’m just as dead as you are, remember? I didn’t do this.”
Rachel whirls on him. “Then what the hell is this about?” she shouts, hands on hips. “I was about to send my ship backward through time to stop a perverted future from coming to be. That was my destiny! But instead I was killed before I could complete my mission, and now I’m here with you and – and a bed?” A sob chokes off her words.
“Rachel,” he tries.
Pacing, pressing her lips together, she regains her control enough to hiss, “If this is someone’s idea of a cosmic joke, I don’t find it very funny!”
“Captain Garrett!” he snaps.
Rachel jerks to a stop, sucking in a breath.
“That’s better,” Gabriel says, calming his tone. “Look, you said yourself we must be here for a reason. I have no idea what that might be, but how about we just consider that thing a handy place to sit down and talk about it?”
She gives him a sour look. “This isn’t part of your seduction routine, is it?”
“Trust me, Captain, if I was seducing you, you wouldn’t have to ask that question,” he deadpans.
To his relief, her lips quirk up at the corners again. “Fine. It’s just a place to sit, then.”
She strides over to the bed and perches on the edge, crossing her legs.
Gabriel tries not to notice that they are very nice legs.
“Well, come on then.” Rachel pats the coverlet beside her, and he pushes aside his sudden reluctance to sit beside her.
They each fall silent, looking everywhere but at each other.
“So,” he offers eventually, “you said something about your destiny? Changing the timeline to prevent a version of the future?”
“Yes.” Her voice is raw. “I guess I’m not breaking any directives if I tell you. It’s not as if you can use the knowledge, is it?” Before he can react, she goes on, “The Enterprise responded to a distress call from the Klingon outpost at Narendra III. Four Romulan vessels were attacking it. We joined the fight –”
“Wait, wait a minute,” Gabriel interrupts. “You went to the aid of the Klingons?”
“I realise from your perspective that sounds unbelievable, Captain.” She sends him a quick smile. “But the war you’ve been fighting lasted less than a year. Both sides held to the ceasefire, and forty years later a peace treaty was signed.”
He stares at her, incredulous.
“But Narendra III changed all that,” Rachel says. “At least, so Captain Picard told me.”
“During the battle, the weapons fire tore a hole in subspace and the Enterprise-C was pulled through it. We ended up twenty-two years in our future. The starship that came to our aid was the Enterprise-D.”
“Under Captain Picard.”
“Yes. He told me that the disappearance of my ship at Narendra made the Klingons believe we had abandoned them. Over the next few years hostilities between us increased, until finally war broke out. In Picard’s time, the Federation was on the verge of surrender.”
Gabriel pushes off the bed, anger coursing through him and clenching his fists. “Fuck,” he says. “Fucking Klingons.”
“But I was going to take my ship back through the rift,” Rachel tells him. “We’d have been destroyed, but we’d have gone down fighting to save that outpost. My hope was that would be seen as an honourable act by the Empire and averted the war in Picard’s time.”
He barks out a laugh. “You really think that would’ve worked? You have a lot more faith than I do in Klingon honour.”
“It was worth the risk,” Rachel says quietly. “And I hope to God it worked. But I guess I’ll never know.”
Gabriel halts in front of her. “Because you died before your ship could go back.”
“Klingons,” he sucks in a breath. “You were attacked by Klingons.”
“How did you know?”
“Just a feeling.” He stares at her. “I focused on you, and I felt an emotion. Despair, I guess. Anguish. And somehow I knew it was them that killed you.”
“Just like I knew Katrina was someone important to you,” she murmurs.
He looks down. “Yeah.”
Her hand comes into view, taking hold of his. When he looks up she’s watching him with sympathy in her large, dark eyes. “Will you tell me about her?”
“It’s a long story.”
Rachel smirks. “Apparently, I have plenty of time.”
“Katrina and I…” Gabriel hesitates, then laughs. “I’m not sure how to describe us. I’m not even sure how to begin.”
“Why don’t you start with how the two of you met?”
Rachel has propped her back against the headboard and swung her legs up onto the coverlet, bare feet crossed at the ankles. She looks comfortable, at ease. It makes Gabriel feel awkward, hunched over on the edge of the bed. He shuffles up beside her, careful to leave half a metre of space between them.
“How we met,” he muses. “You know, this would be easier if we had some whiskey.”
A round, gilded tray materialises on the bed. On it are two thick-cut tumblers and a bottle of single malt.
Slowly, with suspicion, Gabriel open the bottle and sniffs it. He shrugs, pours a glass and takes an experimental sip.
“Well?” Rachel asks.
“It’s good,” he says frankly, and fills a glass for her.
She studies it, holding it up to the light. “I wonder if this means there’s an intelligence at work here.”
“Maybe,” Gabriel allows. “But if there is, what do they want from us?”
She gives him a sidelong glance. “Seems like they want you to drink up and tell me a story.”
Grinning, Gabriel tips the glass and enjoys the whiskey burn as it warms his throat.
“I met Katrina at the Academy,” he begins. “She was beautiful and so smart – streets ahead of the rest of us – and she seemed aloof, you know? Sophisticated.” He tips another finger of whiskey into his glass. “I liked her a lot but I thought she wouldn’t give me the time of day, so I acted like a jackass around her. Then one night I ran into her at a bar and she, I guess she’d had a few drinks. We played a few games of pool, shared a bottle of whiskey.”
He glances over at Rachel. She’s listening with her full attention, fingers interlaced around her glass.
“We talked for hours that night, ended up drinking black coffee in a greasy spoon after dawn. I walked her back to her apartment. She seemed like she was reluctant to let the night end, so I kissed her.” He smiles at the memory. “You can guess where things went from there.”
“And then…” Gabriel sighs. “We’ve always had this mostly-unspoken arrangement that when both of us happened to be single, in the same place and in the mood, we’d go to bed together. It’s been that way ever since. We’ve both fallen for other people more than once – she even got married and divorced – and she’s my best friend. That’s never changed, but I guess I’ve always hoped we’d be more. Maybe she has too; I don’t know. We’ve never really talked about it.”
Rachel arches her eyebrows. “Not once?”
He feels the back of his neck burn with remembered humiliation. “Okay, once,” he mutters. “I was going through a rough patch and I took some shore leave to visit her. I don’t know what I expected, what I hoped for. I had this crazy, romantic notion of turning up on her doorstep unannounced and telling her I couldn’t live without her.”
He laughs, but it’s bitter and short, and Rachel rests a hand on his. “What happened?”
“She opened her door and I launched into my speech. And then I heard some guy calling to her from inside the apartment.”
“Ouch,” she sympathises.
“Yeah. She tried to get me to open up about it after her boyfriend left, but I couldn’t.” He shrugs. “I could tell she was pretty serious about him. And then I got a deep space posting, and when I came back she was just leaving for a residency on Andor, and …. I guess I think of us as a series of missed chances and broken connections.”
“When was the last time you saw her?”
Gabriel can’t help smiling at the memory. “The Vega Nebula,” he answers. “Before the war started. The Buran was on a survey mission and Kat was part of a Starfleet inspection tour – did I mention she’s an admiral? We spent a couple of nights together and then she moved on.”
He doesn’t tell Rachel that those sleepless, sticky nights had cracked his heart wide open again, just as it did every time they were together. He doesn’t talk about floating around his ship while Katrina was on board, a smile never far from his lips, or the way his mood plummeted when she left. ‘Twas ever thus, he thinks, and wonders if they’d ever really have made it, if they’d both have been brave enough to try.
Rachel’s fingers curl over his, and Gabriel thinks about Katrina and lost possibilities and his abruptly truncated future, and doesn’t pull away.
“How about you?” he rouses himself to ask after a time. “Any regrets?”
Rachel is quiet for so long he turns to check she heard him. At his movement she summons a wan smile.
“I was married at twenty-eight,” she says. “He was the love of my life. We had three wonderful years together, until he was injured on an away mission. He died before I had the chance to say goodbye.”
“Me, too,” she says. “It devastated me. Worse, it turned me into a coward. I haven’t been able to bring myself to love anyone else, not after losing him. And I don’t even remember the last time somebody touched me.”
“That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard,” says Gabriel.
He squeezes her hand, meaning only to impart sympathy and comradeship. But something happens – a feeling, a warming of his bones – as before, when their mortal wounds had vanished and peace crept in in their stead. But this is different. Hotter, more urgent, a tingling surge that inflames him and makes his breath quicken and his stomach clench.
Beside him, Rachel utters a sound so low and gravelly it’s almost a moan. His eyes widen in response and he swears he can feel her accelerating pulse through their joined fingers. He almost doesn’t dare look at her, afraid of what he’ll see in her eyes.
Or what she might see in his.
“Oh, God,” Rachel whispers. “What’s happening?”
I don’t know, he thinks, and can no longer resist the urge to turn to her. Her eyes are huge and lit with fever and her hand lifts, trembling, to his jaw. The touch of her fingertips burns him and he groans in response.
He leans into her, pulled like gravity. Her breath is warm on his lips and he wants more than anything to kiss her.
She kisses him first.
It’s slow at first, exploratory and almost shy. But as her mouth opens under his and her tongue strokes across his lower lip, Gabriel lets go of her hand to clasp her waist and pull her close. Her body falls across his, her hip pressing into his thigh as the kiss deepens.
Her gasp as his hands stroke over her back makes his toes curl, and his mouth is on her neck now, sucking at her pulse point. Hands wander, tracing curves and planes, mapping unfamiliar flesh and finding the places that bring the most pleasure. Her breasts are fuller than Katrina’s. Gabriel cups them in his hands, thumbs rubbing experimentally over the hardened peaks, enjoying the resultant sigh and shiver.
It’s not until Rachel’s fingers find the fly of his jeans and curl over the solid bulge beneath that Gabriel finds a measure of sanity.
“Wait,” he mumbles, laying his hand over hers to still it. “Rachel. What are we doing?”
She kisses the underside of his jaw. “We’re dead, Gabriel. What does it matter?”
He shifts her away from him a little. “Doesn’t this seem weird to you? Like we’re being manipulated?”
“To what end?” she frowns, focusing on him properly.
“How should I know? I’ve never been dead before.”
A twitch pulls at the corner of her mouth. Then, turning serious, Rachel says, “Maybe this really is a kind of waiting room. Maybe we’re supposed to look back on our lives, and the things we regret.”
She bites her lower lip, and Gabriel’s stomach tightens as a wave of lust sweeps over him. He looks away so he won’t pull her down to him.
“Maybe this is the moment when we get to make up for lost time,” Rachel says.
His eyebrows rise.
She swallows. “I won’t beg you for it, Gabriel. But if this is it for me – my life – I would hate to pass up the opportunity to be touched, one last time.”
If this is some kind of purgatory, he wonders what regrets he’s supposed to be exorcising. But maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe he wouldn’t change the choices he made even if he could go back and live his life all over again.
Maybe he’s here for her. Rachel.
He reaches up to touch her face. Her eyes are so serious.
“I’m a hundred years older than you,” he says, trying to lighten the mood.
“I always did prefer older men,” she shrugs, and leans in to kiss him again.
There’s a certain kind of gravity to being somebody’s last lover. He fervently hopes he won’t disappoint her. But as his tongue dips into her navel she shivers and clutches his hair, and he puts his nerves aside. She wants to be touched, he reminds himself. He can give her that.
Afterward, they don’t sleep, exactly, but with her body curled close to his and her cheek to his chest, he feels himself sinking into languor. The feverish need has dissipated, leaving his limbs heavy and his mind clouded. He can barely dredge up the energy to clumsily stroke his fingers along the length of her spine.
“What do you suppose happens next?” Rachel asks him drowsily. “Do we just … drift away? What will it be like, being dead?”
He doesn’t have the answers. But. as they lie there, skin cooling – and how strange, he thinks, that non-corporeal bodies can sweat – a sense of anxiety takes root inside him. Rachel lies heavy against him, utterly relaxed, yet as the moments wear on, Gabriel becomes seized with the need to move, to run, to protest.
“This isn’t right,” he blurts. “I can’t – I’m not ready.”
As soon as the words tumble out, something takes form in the ethereal cloudscape before him. Rachel lifts her head, and Gabriel pushes her gently to the side and rolls to his feet.
Two doorways have appeared, both standing open. Through one he can see more silver-streaked clouds, and what looks like a shining staircase extending into the distance. The other spills black night and stars. As he stares, the starfield contracts and wisps of violet and orange appear in the familiar shape of the Vega Nebula.
Rachel gets off the bed and walks without hesitation toward the door that opens onto the staircase.
“Come on,” she glances back at him, but her smile falters when he shakes his head. “Gabriel, what’s wrong? This is it. We have to go through that door, I’m certain of it.”
“No,” he says, “I can’t.”
She walks back to him, compassion in her eyes. “Are you afraid?”
“No. I mean, yes. But that’s not – I just know I have to take the other doorway.”
“Because this is my last chance,” he says urgently, gripping Rachel’s upper arms, needing her to understand. “I get it now. I can go back, make different choices. Grow a pair of balls and tell Kat how I feel. Maybe it’s not too late for us.”
Rachel looks at the starfield, then back to search his eyes. “You’re sure?”
He nods. “Goodbye, Captain Garrett. It was a pleasure to get to know you.”
“And you, Captain Lorca,” she says softly. She hugs him briefly, then turns and walks onto the staircase without further delay. The door swings shut behind her.
Gabriel squares his shoulders, draws in a breath, and steps through the open doorway into air and darkness.
He’s immediately seized by cold so intense his bones creak and his teeth feel brittle enough to shatter. The very breath in his lungs feels solid, choking him, and his spine and fingers curl and lock. A scream rises in his chest as his entire body spasms and the stars rush toward him, screaming.
Being reborn, Gabriel decides, is a hell of a lot more painful than dying.
Gabriel is in a room.
Blinking, he stares around, searching for something recognisable, a point of reference. The architecture of the room is vaguely familiar in its form – stark, unembellished, not unlike the interior of a Starfleet ship. His attention is caught by a wide viewport in one wall. Through it he can see stars, and the orange-purple streaks of the Vega Nebula.
He is on a starship. When he concentrates he can feel the low hum of the engines reverberating in his bones. Impulse drive, he thinks, noting that the stars are moving, though slowly.
There’s something about the stars. Something different. Something wrong.
Cautiously, feeling for a pain that is – thankfully – no longer there, Gabriel gets to his feet. He’s still naked, he notes. But that’s the least of his concerns.
He goes to the viewport.
It’s not the stars, he realises. It’s the light.
There’s no warning – no sound, not even the faintest displacement of air. Just the cold shock of a phaser barrel pressed to his vulnerable, bare neck.
“Well, what do we have here?” purrs a voice that sends heat through his spine and cold prickles across his skin. A voice at once familiar and strangely alien.
He starts to turn.
“Ah-ah,” comes the warning as the phaser’s nose digs painfully into the soft flesh under his chin. “As pleased as I am to see you, and …” – a chuckle – “I certainly can see you, I’m very interested to know how you got in here. Not to mention the fact,” – and the barrel of the phaser is drawn slowly downward, over the ridge of his collarbone until it reaches the swell of his chest, just above his heart – “that you, Captain Lorca, are supposed to be dead.”
The weapon is drawn back – still pointed directly at his chest – and his captor steps into the light. The wrong, strange, different light.
It is her. The lean limbs, the smooth dark hair, the piercing, light-green eyes: they are all as they should be. But like the stars, something indefinable is wrong.
“Katrina?” he ventures.
And the stranger wearing his erstwhile lover’s face says, “That’s Emperor Katrina to you,” and smiles.