In the Fullness of Time
Summary: If there’s one thing they both know in any timeline, it’s losing Kathryn Janeway.
A Christmas gift for @jhelenoftrek and @capt-nyc.
Characters: Chakotay, Mark Johnson, Kathryn Janeway, Carla Johnson
Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/Johnson
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
I exist in two places: here, and where you are.
- Margaret Atwood
Chakotay - December, 2375
It’s taken months to steel myself for this meeting. I’ve obsessed over it for so long that my need to know has finally won out, but now that it’s time, I find myself wishing I’d resisted curiosity after all.
He’s taller than I expected. Shoulders wide and spare, hair a distinguished grey that makes me feel stupid and vain for the unnaturally even black of my own. He pauses just inside the doorway, stamping the rain off his boots and squinting in the low light.
I don’t raise a hand to call his attention; I want to watch him, unseen, for a few moments longer. Try to see what it is about him. What he has that maybe I don’t.
Why she loved him.
Too late; I’ve missed my chance to observe him. Either the server showed him to my table without my noticing, or he found me on his own.
“You are Commander Chakotay, aren’t you?”
I get slowly to my feet and force my hand steady as I hold it out to him. “It’s … good to meet you, Dr Johnson.”
“Mark,” he corrects, shaking my hand.
The table is set with flowers. There are candles, too, but I asked the server not to light them.
She’d had candles on the table, that last night. The light gleamed on her hair and cast inviting shadows across her body. My eyes were drawn to the curve of her shoulder, the dip of her waist.
But then, her body had never been invisible to me, not even in uniform. Especially not in uniform.
I watch Mark Johnson glance around the restaurant, a faint smile on his face. “This was Kathryn’s favourite place,” he remarks. “I haven’t been here since –”
He breaks off and anger surges like a tide along my spine. “Since the first time she died?”
“Since the first time I thought she’d died,” he says, evenly. “Yes.”
He’s been through this before, I realise, anger ebbing into shame. It’s not his fault he’s dealing with it a whole lot better than I am.
It’s not his fault I’m not dealing with it at all.
“I’m sorry,” he says, and I realise he’s been watching me. “You must have loved her very much.”
“This could be our last night in the Delta quadrant, Chakotay.”
Shadows and promises move in her eyes. I’ve been on my guard all evening; I knew just what she was planning from the moment I stepped inside her quarters. She wants to take the slipstream flight, and she’s using every weapon in her arsenal to garner my support.
She doesn’t need my agreement to issue the order. The fact that she wants it must mean she’s nowhere near as confident as she appears.
I keep my responses cautious, non-committal. If she wants to convince me, she’s going to have to work for it.
And she does. She touches my face, my chest. She licks her lips and lowers her eyes. She’s glittering and careless, and so beautiful it makes my stomach hurt.
“What do you think about my decision, Chakotay?”
She’s not asking for my professional opinion. She’s asking for my acceptance. My allegiance.
She will always have that.
“She was my captain,” I answer flatly.
Mark Johnson sips his wine and watches me without expression.
“I read the mission reports,” he says eventually. “The ones Starfleet declassified, anyway. You went through a lot out there.”
“You could say that.” How did my glass empty so quickly? A server appears at my elbow to pour another.
“You must’ve gotten to know her pretty well.” He settles more comfortably in his chair. “What was she like?”
“You’re asking me?” I stare at him. “You’re the one she was engaged to marry.”
“I never saw her in a professional capacity. And I imagine she was quite different than when she was out of uniform.”
Out of uniform.
“She was always the captain,” I tell him. “Even when she wasn’t.”
“What will you do?”
She’s shed her jacket and boots – always her signal that we’ve moved from professional to personal, although tonight the line is more blurred than ever before – and is draped over the couch, one hand propping up her head.
“What do you mean?” I ask her.
“When we’re home.” Kathryn traces patterns on her knee with a fingertip.
“That depends on Starfleet,” I deflect, thinking, and on you. “There’s a good chance I’ll end up in prison.”
“And if that isn’t an issue?”
Is she holding her breath? It’s too dark in here to tell, and I’m not taking any chances. I’ve been wrong too many times before.
“If I’m a free man?” I shrug. “There’s a war going on. I suppose I’ll fight.”
She meets my eyes. “On whose side?”
“Are you testing me, Captain?” There’s an edge to my voice.
“You’re angry,” Mark observes. “With her?”
“Why would I be angry with her?”
He takes a bite of steak, chews carefully, swallows. “Kathryn could be utterly infuriating. Boneheaded, arrogant, completely convinced she was right. Unwilling to listen to anybody else’s opinion.”
“She was the captain,” I answer without inflection. “It was her prerogative.”
“And she was magnetic,” Mark says. “Intelligent, curious, warm, funny … She could make you feel like you were the only other person in the world.”
I try to ignore the haze across my eyes, but he’s far too sharp.
“I’m guessing you know exactly what she was like.”
She shifts restlessly, and the light from the stars through her viewport illuminates her face. “It’s not a trick question, Chakotay.”
“Well, what do you intend to do when we get home?”
“I don’t know if I’m done with space exploration just yet.” Kathryn’s lashes lower, her teeth digging briefly into her lower lip. “But mostly I was hoping …”
This time I’m sure of the catch of her breath. Despite myself I lean imperceptibly closer. “What were you hoping, Kathryn?”
“That there’s still something between us to explore,” she confesses in a rush. Her eyes lift to mine.
I look for the tell – the faint flicker that will tell me she’s toying with me again – but it isn’t there. There’s trepidation and defiance and yes, unmistakably, desire, but I can’t help wondering how much of this is Dutch courage, or manipulation.
Before I can decide, her fingers are lifting from her lap, coming to rest on my own hand. She’s trembling infinitesimally. It could be an act. If it is, it’s her best performance yet.
“So tell me, Chakotay,” her voice quavers, “have I waited too long?”
“You’re right,” I tell him. “I am angry. With her, with fate, with the whole fucking Delta quadrant. But mostly with myself.”
“Because I knew,” I grit out. “I knew the slipstream flight was too big a risk. And I let her talk me into it anyway, because –”
I break off, swigging from my glass. Mark waits, patient, fingers steepled.
“Why did you let her talk you into it?” he asks when my silence grows so weighty it bows my shoulders.
“Because I wanted her.”
I want to believe her. I want it so much I’m shaking with the wanting, but her timing brings a sour, discordant taste to the back of my throat. Why now? Of all times, why tonight?
Silence extends between us, tense and blooming, until she draws a sharp breath and her fingers slide away from mine.
“I’m sorry,” she says. It’s quiet, almost breathy. Enervated. “I guess I am too late.”
My hand lashes out and grasps her wrist. Her gasp enflames me, my control already frayed beyond endurance. I search her eyes for any sign of deceit and find only an echo of my own need.
“Chakotay,” she whispers.
“If we do this now,” I grate out, “we do it for keeps. No matter what happens tomorrow.”
A shadow clouds her eyes, but I tighten my fingers further – a challenge – and her expression clears. “Okay,” she says.
With the hand not held in mine, she reaches up and tugs the pips from her collar. They scatter carelessly on the carpet, gleaming faintly like stars. Then her fingers are spreading on my jaw, cool and insistent, guiding my face to hers. Her lips part against mine, her tongue tracing and exploring. Inviting. She moves across my thighs, both hands holding my face now. Holding me to her, as if she’s afraid she can’t.
My hands tangle in her hair, grasp her shoulders, knead her breasts and hips, and she’s moaning softly, almost keening as she arches and yields. “Chakotay,” she says, my name reverberating against my own lips, “I knew we would be like this.”
Elation swells inside me as the pieces of our uniforms drift to the floor and our hands shape and learn each other’s bodies, but beneath it, doubt lurks like a caged, uneasy beast.
For the first time in our acquaintance, Mark Johnson’s geniality is ruffled.
“So you had her,” he states, then takes a big gulp of his wine.
“You’re jealous,” I realise, and on the heels of that, “You still love her.”
“I love my wife.” He grimaces. “But I’d be lying if I told you I don’t still think about Kathryn. She’s not an easy woman to get over.”
I push my untouched meal away.
“You don’t have to mourn her forever,” he says. “You don’t owe her that.”
“How the fuck would you know what I owe her?” I ask him, smiling with all my teeth. “You know nothing about us. You don’t know anything about me. All you know is that I killed her. I killed them all.”
His eyes are steady. “You know nothing about me, either.”
I laugh at him. “You had a place in her life. She loved you openly, and you knew where you stood. She was loyal to you. And when it was over, you mourned her and moved on. You were blameless.”
“Is that why you wanted to meet me?” he asks. “To size up the competition?”
“Maybe,” I answer honestly.
“What does it matter anymore?” He’s just a whisper from shouting, hands gripping the edge of the table as he leans in toward me. “She’s gone, Commander. There’s no absolute proof, there’s no body to bury, but she’s just as dead as she was the first time. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can start living again.”
His anger deflates mine like a pricked balloon.
“Trust me,” he says bitterly, “if there’s one thing I understand, it’s losing Kathryn Janeway. I’ve been losing her for years. Since long before she died.”
“And you still can’t let her go,” I point out, and the words may be harsh but they carry no heat. Only a cold ache that settles into my bones like it’s never going to leave.
She shivers, and I pull the blankets up around her shoulders, cradling her against my chest.
“Are you warm enough?”
Kathryn nods, a smile curving her lips as her arms tighten around me. I press a kiss to her hair and hear her sigh, a sound soft with contentment.
I’ve dreamed of this moment more than any other. More, even, than the moment there was nothing between us and we were joined, heart and mind and flesh. Or the moment she came apart in my arms, her plaintive cry echoing in the silent room.
Just this moment, crystallised and perfect, that exists outside of space and time. This moment I thought would only ever exist in dreams.
But in my dreams there was no need to talk. Everything we needed to say had already been said. Reality is not quite so clean.
“I know,” she says, softly, before I can draw breath. “I meant what I said, Chakotay. Whatever happens tomorrow, this won’t change. This is for keeps.”
She stretches up to press her lips to mine – sweetly, like a benediction. “I promise.”
Rain sluices from the awning over the restaurant door, and Mark Johnson turns to me. “Do you need a ride somewhere?”
I shake my head.
He hesitates. “I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but it does get easier. Just give it time.”
“Time,” I echo, aiming for wry and failing. “The great healer.”
He clasps my shoulder briefly. “If you ever need anything, you know where to reach me.”
Mark hunches his shoulders against the deadening rain and hurries to the hovercar parked at the kerb. I watch him pull away and think about how I have nowhere to go. Nowhere to be.
And about how if it was within my power, I’d take it all back in a second. Even if it meant that the forever she promised me never existed, except in that one single, perfect moment out of time.