In Momento Temporis
Summary: All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
Characters: Chakotay, Janeway, Kes
Disclaimer: The characters, the background and the reset button belong to Paramount. The rest is mine.
Notes: This story is set a couple of weeks after Unity, because my romantic little heart just had to try to make some sense of that episode.
Warning: Major character deaths. Truckloads of angst. Sex. Also, the occasional profanity.
II. Loop Two
~The time is 0600. The time is 0600.~
My eyes open slowly. They feel scratchy, and my head’s thick and pounding. I swivel out of the covers to sit on the edge of the bed, trying to orient myself. I’m on Voyager, in my quarters.
Kathryn is dead.
My stomach lurches and I barely make it to the bathroom in time. When I’ve finished heaving, I sit back on my heels, wiping my mouth and shaking like I have a fever. I get up and brush my teeth, splash water on my face. I’m walking into the living area when I hear my door chime.
“Come,” I call, hardly recognising my own voice. The doors slide open.
Kathryn walks in.
She’s smiling at me, saying something about dressing for breakfast but I can’t hear her. My vision has tunnelled and all I can do is stare. She stops short and her brow furrows. “Chakotay? Are you all right?”
What the hell is going on?
In two strides I’m across the room and pulling her into my arms. I’m shaking all over, holding her so close I hear her squeak, but I can’t let go. I’m too busy making sure she’s real. I can hear my own breath coming in gasps and sobs, and I’m running my hands over her arms, her back. I feel her hands come up to my chest, gently pushing me away. With great effort I loosen my hold on her, but I don’t let her go.
“Chakotay?” She sounds a little breathless.
I can’t stop my hand coming up to her face, my fingers skimming over her cheekbone. Her eyes widen and I see her pupils dilate, her lips part a little.
“You’re alive.” My voice is shaking as my thumb strokes her jawline. “How are you alive? You died on that shuttle … I tried to save you.”
She stares. Her fingers curl a little against my chest, no longer pushing at me. “That was weeks ago, Chakotay.”
“No, not the crash on the planet – the debris field. The aliens attacked us.” I swallow. “You died.”
She’s shaking her head. Something is seriously wrong. “We were there together, on the Drake,” I insist. “You wanted to study the debris from the alien shielding.”
“From the ship that attacked us. It exploded, and the temporal displacement caused disruptions in subspace …”
And that’s when I figure it out.
“What’s the date? The stardate?”
“Stardate 50652,” she answers, concern deepening in her eyes. “Chakotay, what is it? What’s the matter?”
“That was yesterday,” I tell her emphatically. It’s in that moment that I realise I’m still holding her and I force myself to let her go, stepping back. Her palms slide down my chest as I move and she visibly swallows, then straightens.
Just as I open my mouth to do so, the ship shakes and we’re on red alert. Kathryn spins for the door and I follow, but just before we trigger the opening mechanism she stops short, so suddenly I almost skid right into her.
She arches an eyebrow at me. “I admire your haste to get to the bridge, Commander. But perhaps you should put on your uniform first.”
She’s already out the door by the time I look down and realise I’m only wearing the sweat pants I slept in.
Tuvok beats me to the bridge this time. The ship is shuddering under another burst of weapons fire as I step off the turbolift and hurtle to my chair. On the viewscreen is the same alien vessel that attacked us yesterday. Or was it today? I shake it off; no time for temporal philosophy.
Kathryn stands behind the helm, hands on hips. “Ensign Kim?”
“Still no response to hails,” Harry reports.
“You won’t get one,” I tell him, and Kathryn turns to face me, a question in her eyes. Instead of trying to explain, I address Tuvok. “Lieutenant, are you detecting a temporal displacement signature in their shield matrix?”
He taps at his console and raises an eyebrow at me. “I am, Commander.”
“Set the deflector to emit an inverse harmonic resonance pulse. Make sure it’s at minimal power or you’ll overload their shield grid and destroy them.”
Tuvok glances at the captain. She shrugs. “Do it, Mr Tuvok.”
We watch the screen as Tuvok reports that the pulse has neutralised the aliens’ shields.
“They’re retreating,” Harry says.
I start to relax and Kathryn begins, “Do you mind telling me –”
But she’s cut off by Tom’s warning. “They’re coming about, Captain. Incoming fire!”
It’s a direct hit on the bridge. Forward shields must have been severely weakened, because all hell breaks loose. There’s smoke everywhere, sparks shooting from computer panels, conduit hanging from the ceiling. But by the time I’ve dragged myself upright, the alien ship has gone.
“Report,” Kathryn croaks from the floor beside the helm. I stagger over to help her up and she winces, pressing a hand to her side.
I watch her while Tuvok and Harry provide a litany of damage. She’s pale, but she straightens under my scrutiny. “Organise repair teams and start continuous scans for any more of those ships. I’ll be in my ready room.” She indicates I should follow her.
“You need to get to Sickbay,” I say, the moment the doors close behind us.
“Later,” she brushes me off. “First I want you to tell me what you know about these aliens.”
“Captain, you’re hurt –”
There’s no arguing with that tone. “Will you at least sit down?”
She humours me enough to take a seat behind her desk, clasps her hands in front of her and waits.
I ease into the chair opposite. “This isn’t the first time we’ve come across these aliens. At least, it isn’t to me.” I scrub a hand over my face, trying to work out how to explain – and how much to tell her.
“We were called to the bridge at 0300. An attack was already underway and the aliens didn’t respond to hails. We sent a feedback pulse through the deflector grid and it overloaded their shields, causing a massive explosion. Somehow the temporal displacement in their shield harmonics created some kind of subspace effect, and temporal disruptions were spreading throughout the region.”
Kathryn holds up a hand and goes to the replicator. “I have a feeling I’m going to need coffee for this.”
I smile, waiting for her to take her first sip of coffee before I continue. I’ll never get tired of watching her in that small moment of pleasure.
“I went to seal a hull breach on Deck Four, and I was hit by a tachyon-infused plasma bolt from the EPS panel I was working on. The Doctor said it caused my body to go out of temporal sync, but he claims he counteracted the effect with a chroniton serum. I don’t know if it was the tachyon surge or the chroniton serum, but the end effect seems to be that I’m living this day all over again.”
“But with differences,” she points out. “We weren’t attacked early in the morning. We didn’t destroy that ship, and you haven’t been injured working on a hull breach.”
“No.” I look away before my face tightens, but she sees it.
“What else happened, Chakotay?” She reaches out and places a hand on my arm. “This morning in your quarters, you said –”
“You died.” I face her. “We took a shuttle to investigate the debris of the ship we destroyed, and another of their vessels came and attacked us. You received plasma burns so severe that the Doctor couldn’t revive you.”
She’s looking right into my eyes, and for a moment I can’t shore up my guard any longer and I let her see what that did to me. Tears of sympathy spring to her own eyes. “I’m sorry, Chakotay,” she says softly. “That must have been … difficult.”
“Difficult,” I repeat, somewhat blankly. “Yes. You could say that.”
She squeezes my hand a little, then lets go. “Tell me the rest.”
“The rest? I went to bed that night, and when I woke up, it was the same stardate as the day before. And nobody seems to have noticed it but me.”
Kathryn drums her fingertips on the desk, then taps her commbadge. “Janeway to Tuvok. Are you detecting any temporal distortions in the area?”
~Yes, Captain,~ he replies after a moment. ~There appear to be minor temporal fluctuations throughout subspace in this region. May I ask how you knew?~
“I’ll explain later, Tuvok. Call the senior staff to the briefing room in one hour. Janeway out.” She meets my gaze again. “Well, Commander, at least there’s a bright side. You knew how to disable that ship’s shields, which may have saved us from a much worse attack.” She smiles. “And I’m not dead.”
I try to smile back at her; I do. But it’s all too fresh, too raw. And to be honest, no matter how much time passes, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to smile about the last twenty-four hours.
It obviously makes her uncomfortable, seeing this much naked emotion on my face. She stands and says briskly, “We’d better get back to the bridge,” and heads for the door.
“A temporal anomaly?” B’Elanna shrugs. “Well, why not? This is the Delta quadrant, after all.”
Kathryn allows the small ripple of chuckles that follows, then holds up a hand. “Harry, I want you to work on mapping the temporal distortions. B’Elanna, keep trying to restore warp drive. Tuvok, you and Chakotay will analyse our readings from the alien shield configuration. Try to figure out how they’ve caused Chakotay to experience this temporal displacement and devise a way to stop it happening again. Tom, I want continuous sensor scans. Let me know the minute you pick up any sign of our friends returning.” She stands. “Let’s get to work. Dismissed.”
I hang back as the others file out; nobody else appears to have noticed the way Kathryn grips the edge of the table, but I can see her slight pallor and the light prickling of perspiration at her hairline. “Are you all right?” I ask her quietly.
She straightens and gives me her professional smile. “I’m fine, Commander.”
I give her an even look. “Promise me you’ll have the Doc check you over.”
She brushes past me, waving a hand in irritation. “I’ll get to it. For now, we have work to do, and I have no intention of being stuck in Sickbay listening to one of the Doctor’s pointless lectures if those aliens come back.”
I follow her onto the bridge and move over to Tuvok’s station, where he’s already immersed in studying the sensor readings from the alien attack. He suggests we run a simulation of the explosion and the subsequent injury I sustained from the tachyon-infused plasma burst, so we head down to Holodeck Two and program in the parameters. I comm the Doctor and ask him to join us the holodeck; he might have some insights into why I’ve ended up jumping back in time.
The Doc has a theory that his chroniton serum interacted with the tachyon surge and hyperstimulated my hippocampus, and insists I accompany him to Sickbay for further analysis. I jump up onto the biobed and Kes affixes a cortical monitor to the base of my skull while Tuvok watches the Doc runs his scans.
“As I suspected, Commander,” he informs me proudly, “your neurotransmitters are in a state of temporal flux. My suspicion is that this is interacting with the temporal distortions in local subspace.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that we are, indeed, experiencing a temporal paradox, and you appear to be the only one aware of it.”
“What kind of paradox?” I ask.
The Doc shrugs. “I’m a doctor, not a temporal theorist. I suggest you discuss it with the Captain. She seems to have an affinity for temporal mechanics.”
I exchange a glance with Tuvok. “I’m not sure she’d agree. But thank you, Doc; I’ll speak with her about it. In the meantime, get working on a way to reverse the effects. Trust me when I tell you I’m not keen to be stuck in a repeating time loop for the foreseeable future.”
I tap my commbadge on my way out of Sickbay, Tuvok at my heels. “Chakotay to Janeway.”
~Janeway here.~ She sounds distracted.
“The Doc has a theory I’d like to discuss with you.” I check my chrono; it’s almost 1500 hours. “Have you eaten lunch yet?”
I hear her sigh over the commline. ~No, Commander, I haven’t, but I suppose you’re going to insist that I do so.~
I grin at Tuvok. “Meet me in the mess hall and I’ll fill you in on what we’ve discovered over a delicious plate of Neelix’s finest.”
~On my way,~ she grumbles. I’m still grinning when I cut the commline.
Tuvok heads back to the bridge, claiming he doesn’t require nutrition at this time, and I pause to comm Harry and B’Elanna in Engineering for a quick update, then take the ‘lift to Deck Two. Kathryn is already at our usual table by the viewport when I arrive, her head bowed over a PADD, a plate of stew cooling beside her. I grab a plate from the galley, exchange a brief hello with Neelix while he fills it for me, and slide into the seat across from her.
“Is it really that bad?”
She raises her gaze to me. She looks pale, exhausted, and there are dark smudges like bruises under her eyes. “Sorry?”
I gesture to her untouched plate of stew. It seems like a couple of seconds before she focuses on it.
“Oh,” she says. “No. I don’t know.” I watch as her hand drops to her right side and she winces.
“Kathryn?” I’m seriously concerned now. “Are you okay?”
She just looks at me as if she hasn’t heard me. And then all the colour drains from her face and she pitches slowly sideways and crumples onto the deck.
“Kathryn!” I’m at her side in an instant, feeling for her pulse; it’s sluggish and when I lift her eyelids, her pupils are unfixed. I gather her carefully in my arms. “Medical emergency. Two to transport directly to Sickbay. Now!”
Sickbay is my worst nightmare all over again. The Doctor works feverishly over Kathryn’s biobed. Kes runs back and forth with instruments, calling out numbers that mean nothing to me, but I know from the Doc’s reaction that they’re not good. I can’t tear my eyes away from Kathryn, lying still and pale. And then she flatlines, and in spite of everything the Doctor tries to bring her back, eventually his shoulders drop and he steps back from the biobed. From the corner of my eye I see him glance my way.
“Time of death, 1538 hours,” he says quietly.
“No.” I’m shaking my head. “Try again.”
“Commander…” He puts a hand on my arm. “The Captain had massive internal haemorrhaging from an untreated laceration to her liver caused by blunt force trauma. If she had presented for treatment even an hour earlier, I could have saved her, but it was too late. She’d lost too much blood. I’m sorry.”
I walk out of Sickbay without looking back.
I don’t remember getting here, but I’m back in my chair on the bridge. I haven’t spoken to anyone. The bridge activity goes on around me, normal, like any other day. I know I have to tell them, make an announcement, but right at this moment I’m so angry I can’t speak.
God damn that woman and her stubbornness. Why didn’t she go to Sickbay right after she was injured, like anyone else would have? Why can’t she listen to reason? What makes her think being captain grants her immortality?
How am I supposed to get through this again?
“Commander.” I hadn’t even noticed Tuvok was standing beside me.
My voice is rough. “What is it?”
“If I could see you in private for a minute, sir.” He turns for the ready room without waiting to see if I’ll follow.
Kes is in there already; she must have entered through the corridor. “I see you’ve informed Mr Tuvok of our status,” I address her.
She looks at me with eyes brimming with sympathy. “The Doctor told him a few minutes ago.”
“And you’re here for what reason?” I know Kes doesn’t deserve my anger, but I can’t help myself. In this moment, everybody should be hurting as much as I am.
“To listen, if you want to talk,” she says quietly. “Tuvok has offered to inform the crew.”
I’m suddenly livid. Does he really think I’d shirk this responsibility? “No. I’ll handle it.”
I activate ship-wide. “This is Chakotay to all hands. I regret to inform you that Captain Janeway died a short while ago from an injury she sustained in this morning’s attack. I’m sure there are many of you who will find it difficult to accept this news. The senior officers will be available to you to address any concerns. A memorial service will be arranged shortly. Chakotay out.”
Kes is staring at me in dismay when I finish, and even Tuvok looks disconcerted. They exchange a glance and Tuvok exits onto the bridge. Kes assesses me for a long moment, then moves to sit on the couch by the viewport. “Would you join me, Commander?”
“It’s my fault, you know,” I tell her without moving, as though we’re continuing a conversation. “I knew she needed treatment. I should have made her go to Sickbay right after the attack.”
“She could be very stubborn,” Kes says without inflection.
“It was my job to make her take care of herself. Even when she didn’t want to listen to me.”
“She made your job difficult.”
“I should have known she needed help. She never would let me help her.”
“You found that very frustrating.” Kes’ even voice still hasn’t changed.
“You’re damn right,” I burst out, finally turning to look at her. “How do you protect someone who insists on recklessly throwing herself in the path of danger on a regular basis? Someone who won’t listen to reason?” My voice is rising. “I only ever wanted to keep her safe, but she fought me on it every time. She cut my balls off every single - fucking - day.” I crack on that last syllable and suddenly I’m trembling so hard I almost fall over.
Kes is there in an instant, guiding me to the couch where I sit with my elbows on my knees and her hand on my shoulder. My eyes are dry, but I can’t stop shaking.
“I can’t do this without her.”
“You can, and you will,” she answers. “She had faith in you and so do we all. None of us will ever forget her and nobody can ever replace her, but I know you can get this crew back to …” She falters, her eyes searching mine, then says hesitantly, “Commander, I know it’s not possible, but I feel like we’ve had this conversation – or something like it – before.”
That gets my attention. “Actually, Kes, we have. Just yesterday.”
Her eyes widen. “The same thing happened in the previous timeline you experienced? Captain Janeway died?”
“I’m so sorry,” she says softly. “To go through it once is heartbreaking, but twice is beyond cruel.”
“Yes, it is.” I straighten my shoulders. “Kes, tell me what else you remember about this conversation.”
She shakes her head. “That’s all. I’m sorry.”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s not as though it changes anything.” I wipe a hand over my face and get to my feet, and Kes stands too. I feel shattered and I know it shows. “I need to get to the bridge.”
“I understand,” she says. “Commander, I’d like to stop by your quarters and give you a mild sedative tonight. You look like you could use a good night’s sleep.”
I nod acquiescence. At this moment, crawling into bed to sleep without dreaming sounds like all I want to do.
I move through the next few hours as though I’m sleepwalking. I read reports and coordinate repair crews. Tom comes over to give me a sensor log analysis and when I glance at him as I hand back the PADD, I see that his eyes are bright with tears. I look away. B’Elanna comes to the bridge and stands before my chair until I can’t ignore her anymore, but when she crouches beside me and puts her hand on my arm, I shrug her off and tell her to get back to her station.
After an eternity, Tuvok reminds me that Alpha shift has long since ended and we’re well into Beta. I hand the bridge to McKenzie and trudge back to my quarters, where I continue working until Kes arrives at 2200 to administer the sedative hypo, and within minutes I’m unconscious.