Forever in One Second
Summary: Alice: How long is forever? White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Lorca
Codes: Janeway/Lorca, Janeway/Chakotay
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager and Discovery universes and their characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: A sequel/prequel to Of Kings and Fortune, and Helen8462's For Captains and Duty.
“I’ve been doing some research.”
“Sounds dangerous. On what?”
Kathryn folds her hands neatly on her desk. “Have you heard of the USS Discovery?”
She watches his brow furrow. “I don’t think so – was it commissioned after I left Starfleet?”
“No.” She fixes her gaze on her hands. “It was a science vessel, in service during the Federation-Klingon War.”
“That era of history isn’t my strong point. What’s its significance?”
She knows he’s reading her, sensing her unease. But the last time she’d planned a dangerous mission alone is still fresh in her mind – he’d called her unreasonable and insisted she wouldn’t succeed without trusting him, trusting her crew – and so she squares herself and meets his curious gaze.
“I’m temporarily upgrading your security clearance to Level Ten.” She pushes a padd along the desk toward him. “Read it. Report back to me at 1900 hours.”
She holds up a hand, standing, and indicates he’s to leave her ready room. “Read it, Chakotay. We’ll talk later. And I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that nothing on that padd is to be discussed outside of the two of us.”
He strides into her quarters and tosses the padd carelessly onto the table, displacing the neatly arranged cutlery. She tips her chin up, leaning back in her chair as he towers over her.
“Are you out of your mind?”
It’s exactly the reaction she’s been expecting, so she simply gazes up at him, calm and unblinking.
Chakotay shoves a hand through his hair as he begins to pace. “This … technology is unstable, dangerous and highly speculative at best, Kathryn. And, if history is to be believed, it doesn’t work.”
“It didn’t work,” she emphasises, rising from her chair.
He swings back to her and plants his feet, ready for battle, but she forestalls him.
“Yes, it was dangerous, enough that Starfleet clearly abandoned it and classified the test results. But that was then, Chakotay. More than a century has passed since Captain Lorca’s experiments, and our technology – our knowledge – is so much more advanced now. I think it’s worth another look.”
“Mycelium spores?” He shakes his head. “I’m not even going to pretend to understand it, but evidently you do. That doesn’t mean following in Lorca’s footsteps is a good idea. We have only the bare minimum of scientific data on this … network, and if you start experimenting on Voyager, we could end up like the Glenn.”
“I have no intention of following in his footsteps,” she says evenly, arms folded.
“Then what is your intention?”
He stares at her, and realisation punches the light from his eyes. “No,” he says flatly.
Her eyebrow quirks just slightly, and then she turns, sliding gracefully into her seat and shaking the napkin over her knees. Her hand is perfectly steady as she pours wine into two glasses.
“No,” he repeats. “Tell me you’re not thinking –”
“If it makes you feel any better,” she interrupts, “I’ve already decided to bring Seven and B’Elanna in on it.”
“You’ve already decided.”
She watches his gaze roam the room, taking in – for the first time – the low lighting, the candles, the gentle music, and coming to rest on the wine glass waiting for him.
“This isn’t going to work.”
It’s unclear whether he’s referring to her admittedly unorthodox plan, or her usually tried-and-true method of bringing him to heel. She suspects it’s both. Still, she’s always known he’s wise to her tricks; it doesn’t mean he’s immune to them.
“Sit down, Chakotay,” she says softly. She angles her body; candlelight falls over the dips and shadows of collarbone and cleavage, and she reminds herself not to smile as he shifts in discomfort. A slow sip of her wine, a dart of her tongue to catch the liquid on her lips, and she watches his shoulders drop a fraction.
She has him.
“Thirty-six hours,” he reminds her, “and not a second longer.”
“You have my word.” She shifts the bag over her shoulder and switches her gaze to Seven, standing at the transporter controls. “Energise.”
Temporal transportation, she reflects as the beam scatters her cells and gathers them up in a loose fist, is far less pleasant than the regular kind.
When she opens her eyes, they focus on a skeleton displayed in a perspex case.
Blink. Where am I?
Blink. It’s a Gorn.
Blink. Did I fail?
“Well, hello there.”
With effort, Kathryn Janeway swivels her head seventy degrees to the left.
He’s handsome. Features she’d describe as rugged, strong chin, a narrow nose, slightly beaked. Eyes that contain galaxies. He’s looking at her with amused curiosity, crouched easily beside her where she lies prone on the deck.
She sits up, carefully, unsure whether her stomach has returned to its rightful place.
“Captain Gabriel Lorca,” she says, voice a little huskier than usual. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise.” He rises gracefully to his feet, takes her hands and helps her upright.
She sways a little, and his hands catch at her waist.
“And who might you be?” he asks mildly.
She has debated this with herself several times over; there’s the temporal prime directive to consider, of course, but he’s … special. Exempt.
And he’s a captain, just like her. She knows full well that in his place, she wouldn’t accept dissembling.
“My name is Kathryn,” she says. “Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager.”
She likes his voice; the timbre of it, the easy drawl. She finds herself listening to the pitch and roll of it as much as the shape of his words. From the way his luminous eyes light on her lips as she answers him, she suspects he feels the same ways about hers.
“The technology is promising, I’ll grant you,” Lorca says when she tells him what she wants. “But we haven’t hit on the right equations yet. It’s far too unstable for a full field test.”
“I’m aware of that. But my crew is highly capable, and if we can make it work …” She turns to him just outside the test chamber. “Let’s just say a journey that feels like forever could be over in a second. If I can take the schematics, and a sample of the spores …”
“I’m sorry. It’s too dangerous.”
Her hand alights on his chest. It’s a gesture so familiar to her that it’s only when his gaze tracks downward and his own hand comes up to clasp hers that she realises how strange it is.
“Then if I could just see how it works…” She falters, the persuasive words tripping on her tongue.
Gabriel’s eyes are on hers now, his fingers twining into her own. “Come on,” he says, opening the cubicle door. “Let me show you.”
In a cloud of starlight and fireflies, on the simulated sands of an alien planet, he kisses her for the first time.
When he returns at the end of his shift, she’s sprawled belly-down on his unmade bed wearing his old Academy t-shirt. With each quick motion of her fingers across her padd, the fabric slips and slides over the curve of her behind.
She’s aware of his presence, but not of how close he is until she feels a warm hand drift over the back of her thigh, upward, inward. Her breath sucks in, her back arching like a cat’s.
“Solved those equations yet?” he murmurs against her shoulder blade, and follows the words with a sharp, light nip.
Kathryn switches off the padd, turning over to pull him down to her. “You know I can’t tell you that.”
“And yet you want me to help you.” His hands slide up beneath the t-shirt. “Tell me why I should.”
She stills his hands, placing hers over them. “Because I’ve been lost for five years,” she says. “And I just want to go home.”
She waits until he’s sleeping soundly, helped along by the light sedative she slipped into his wine. Easing the cylinder close to his lips, she activates the tiny vacuum and seals the collection unit tight, clipping it into the hypospray.
It brings a new meaning to stealing someone’s breath, she thinks wryly as she activates her transport device. She materialises directly in front of the mycology lab, presses the hypospray to the lock, and she’s in.
Advanced as this starship and its technology may be, in many ways it’s no match for her own.
As for Captain Gabriel Lorca, she suspects he is more than a match for her. She should leave now, while he’s unaware.
And Chakotay will be waiting and worrying, even though she still has three hours until her deadline.
She should leave.
Instead, when she has what she came for, she transports herself back to his quarters and slips back into his bed. It’s a simple matter to dial up the counteragent to the sedative and apply the hypospray to his neck.
As he wakes he reaches for her, and she slides her thigh over his and wraps herself around his body.
History had taught her not to expect a miracle, but hope doesn’t always listen to reason.
With her stolen cargo safely delivered, Kathryn locks her quarters and sheds her uniform on the way to the shower. She feels the stretch and twinge of rarely-used muscles as she soaps herself clean. There should be marks on her skin, she thinks as she watches the water sluice over her. It seems strange that there’s no visible evidence of him. Of them.
They had only thirty-six hours, barely an instant in the fabric of the universe, but in ways she can barely elucidate it felt like forever.
She dries off, dresses in her most well-worn and comfortable pyjamas, and pours a glass of wine against the melancholy. She curls up on her couch, turning her face to the stars that have always brought her comfort. Tonight, they only remind her of his eyes.
She turns away, picks up the padd she brought home with her.
B’Elanna will report in the morning on the schematics, and whether the spore drive can be adapted to Voyager’s systems. The equations are, as Gabriel told her, promising. Whether she and Seven can complete them remains to be seen. She could play with them now – she begins to – but her eyes, and her mind, are too heavy, and she places the padd to the side.
There’s no comm, no chime; her door simply slides open. She looks up, somehow unsurprised when Chakotay strolls into her quarters as though he has every right to be there uninvited. There’s a rolling ease to his stride and a glint in his eye, the likes of which she hasn’t seen in too many years.
“Commander.” She raises an eyebrow. “I thought you were supposed to be on the bridge.”
He shrugs, walks casually over to help himself to a glass of wine. “I rostered Harry on duty. A perk of being the first officer.”
“I see.” She watches him approach and take a seat on the coffee table, facing her. “So you decided to pay me a visit?”
He grins at her. “I guess I’ve missed you.”
She glances down to hide the smile flirting with her lips. “I’m honoured. Although I’m a little concerned - I was under the impression that my entry code was unbreakable.”
“I used my override.”
She tilts her chin. “Confident, aren’t you?”
“You did tell me that fortune favours the bold.”
She eyes him speculatively. “So I did.”
Chakotay raises his glass. “To strange and wonderful fortunes.”
“And to new beginnings,” she decides.
This time, when her tongue darts out to lick the droplet of wine from her lower lip, it meets his lips instead.