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.
III. Loop Three
I wake an hour or so before my usual time. My head’s a little fuzzy and it takes a moment or two for reality to set in, but when it does I wish I hadn’t woken up at all.
I drag myself to the bridge early, but instead of relieving Rollins, who has Gamma shift this week, I head directly to the ready room. I’m going to have to face that room sooner or later; it might as well be now.
Kes brings the Captain fresh flowers from the airponics bay every morning; she hasn’t cleared away yesterday’s lilies yet and they droop a little in the vase on the coffee table. There’s a stack of PADDs on the desk. I pick up the first one. It’s Kathryn’s personal log. I key it off quickly. A coffee cup sits unrecycled in the replicator. I sit in her chair and pull the monitor toward me. At some point, I’ll have to record the official change of command. It might as well be now.
I’m just activating the official log when the door slides open and I raise my head, annoyed at the unheralded intrusion, and then Kathryn enters and all the blood drains from my face.
She quirks an eyebrow at me. “Mind telling me what you’re doing in my chair, Commander?”
I must be gaping like a fish, because her expression changes immediately. “What’s wrong, Chakotay?”
This cannot be happening. “Computer,” I call shakily, “what’s the stardate?”
Oh God, it is happening. It’s yesterday all over again.
“Chakotay?” There’s an edge to Kathryn’s voice now. I get up from her chair and take her by the hand, leading her over to the couch by the viewport.
“You’d better sit down for this.”
Predictably, she pulls away and puts her hands on her hips, her eyes steely. I sigh. “Well, I need to sit down,” I mutter, collapsing onto the couch. I look down, trying to figure out how to explain this all over again, and feel her sit beside me.
“I’m listening, Commander.”
“Okay,” I begin. “Two days ago we were attacked by a species who never identified themselves. We blew up their ship. You and I went to examine the debris in a shuttle. Another of their ships attacked our shuttle and you were killed.”
“Wait.” She holds up a hand. “Chakotay, what the hell are you talking about?”
“Something in their shield harmonics emitted a temporal displacement signature. When the ship was destroyed it caused some kind of time disturbance in subspace. We’ve been stuck in a repeating time loop for two days now, and the only one who’s aware of it is me.”
“Because of an injury I received during our first encounter with the aliens that put me into a state of temporal flux.” I pause. “At least, I assume it was our first encounter. I can’t actually be certain of that.”
Kathryn sits back a little. I can see the workings of her mind in her eyes. “All right,” she says finally. “You said we’re in a repeating time loop. What happened in the second loop?”
“We were attacked again, although the circumstances were different.” I don’t want to tell her the rest, but she knows I’m holding back. I can’t stop myself reaching for her hands again. “You died. Again.”
She gives me an unreadable look. “Apparently, reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.” She tries to pull her hands away but I tighten mine a little; I can’t seem to lose the contact just yet.
“Chakotay …” She looks uncomfortable.
“Please.” My voice is low. “Kathryn, I’ve watched you die twice now. I need to know –” My breath catches a little. “I need to know you’re really here.”
A couple of weeks ago she would have allowed this small contact without hesitation. A couple of weeks ago, we were friends. Now, she tugs a little harder and her hands slip from mine. She pats the back of my hand in a conciliatory gesture, but shifts away from me on the couch. “I’m here,” she assures me, but it’s clear she would rather be somewhere else. I hate myself for bringing us to this point.
“I’m sorry,” I blurt.
“You have nothing to be sorry for, Chakotay. It’s not as though it’s your fault I died in two other timelines.”
“Actually, it is,” I mutter, “but that’s not what I was apologising for.”
Kathryn understands, and I watch her spine stiffen. “As I said, Commander. You have nothing to be sorry for.”
I want to make her talk to me about it. I want to explain why I did what I did, make her understand. But the steel in her eyes warns me not to push it further, so I let it drop.
She stands, and I stand with her. “We need to brief the senior staff,” I tell her. “I don’t know what’s going to happen this time, but we need to be prepared.”
The briefing is déjà vu all over again, only this time it’s Tom who makes a crack about weird being the Delta quadrant norm. I fill them in on the events of the past two days that they never experienced, although I leave what happened to Kathryn out of it. She gives me an assessing look but keeps silent.
I know Tuvok, for one, is a little sceptical; the aliens haven’t appeared in this timeline and as far as he knows, I’ve hallucinated the whole thing. It’s only when we head back to the bridge and Tuvok confirms the presence of temporal distortions throughout subspace for several light years that I can see he accepts it.
I relay the aliens’ warp signature and shield harmonics from memory, as much as I’m able, and Kathryn tells Harry to increase our regular scanning range and alert us the moment he detects any matching readings. Then she hands the conn to Tuvok and asks me to accompany her to Sickbay.
“Your brain scan shows traces of chronitons and tachyons, as well as a temporal variance in your neurotransmitters,” the Doc tells me after we’ve explained my situation and he’s run his scans. “I’m also detecting increased acetycholine in your hippocampus, not to mention slightly elevated adrenaline levels. I’d speculate that you’ve been through a number of traumatic incidences recently.”
I exchange a look with Kathryn. “Your speculation would be correct, Doctor.”
“I assume you’d like to find a way to stop your time-travelling, Commander?”
I don’t bother to answer that, and the Doc harrumphs. “Very well. I’ll analyse these scans and report back to you when I have some information of use.” He’s muttering something about being a doctor, not a miracle-worker, when Kathryn and I make our escape.
In the turbolift, she watches me furtively and I pretend I don’t notice. The ‘lift opens on Deck One and she motions me into her ready room. She orders my herbal tea and her coffee from the replicator and moves up to stand by the viewport. I take my usual position slightly behind her left shoulder and gaze out onto the same stars she’s contemplating.
Just as I start wondering if she wants me to break the silence, she says in a low voice, “I haven’t been fair to you, Chakotay.”
“What do you mean?”
She interlaces the fingers of both hands around her cup as though holding onto it gives her strength. When she speaks again her voice is hesitant. “If I’ve given you the impression that you owe me some sort of … fidelity … beyond the parameters of friendship, that’s very wrong of me.”
I open my mouth, realise I have no idea what to say, and close it again.
“You’re my first officer,” she continues quietly. “You’re my closest friend. You have no obligation to me outside of those boundaries.”
“You can’t change the way I feel, Kathryn.”
I hear her draw a quick intake of breath, and when she answers there’s the slightest quiver in her voice. “I wish I could.”
It cuts me like a knife. “Don’t worry. I’ll never mention it again.” I try to swallow around the rough ache in my throat. “I made you a promise that I’d try to lighten your burdens and I intend to keep it.”
“You always have,” she says so softly I can barely hear her, and then she faces me, her eyes searching mine. “You aren’t the one at fault here. You aren’t the one who’s,” she pauses, “having difficulty with boundaries.”
I’m staring at her, trying to figure out if she means what I think she does, trying to work out what she wants me to say. But before the meaning and the words can coalesce, Voyager lurches under our feet and we’re both thrown to the deck.
Kathryn scrambles to the ready room door and flings herself onto the bridge just as another blast hits us. “Report!”
“An alien ship dropped out of warp on our port side and started firing,” Harry yells. “Shields and warp drive are down.”
I drop into my seat next to Kathryn. That same ship looms on the viewscreen, and I feel my gut clench.
“They’re responding,” Harry says, and I jerk my head towards him in surprise, then back to the screen.
Kathryn gives her standard greeting, then demands, “Why have you fired on us?”
The alien onscreen is huge, with mottled yellow-brown skin, scaled like a reptile’s. ~You have violated Draelath space,~ he responds. ~Outsiders are not tolerated.~
“Wait,” Kathryn says quickly. “We meant no intrusion. We’re unfamiliar with this region of space. We’ll leave immed-“
The alien doesn’t even let her finish her sentence. I see him jerk his monstrous head at someone offscreen, and we’re pummelled with weapons fire. Something happens, a chain reaction in the EPS relays on the bridge, I don’t know. An arc of energy snaps out of the console between the command chairs. It feels like I’m watching in slow motion as it slams into Kathryn’s chest.
For a moment she’s boosted half out of her chair, her back arched, the tendons in her neck rigid, her fingers curled. Then as quickly as it started, the energy burns itself out and she slumps back into her chair, boneless, her head lolling to one side.
I know before the scream has even left my throat that she’s dead.
The Draelath, true to type, turn tail and flee after wreaking their destruction. I bellow at Tom to follow them, but warp drive is offline. We’ve lost phasers, life support is gone on two decks and structural integrity is down to seventy-three percent, but the only casualty of the attack is Kathryn.
She’s transported to Sickbay the moment the Draelath depart, and ten minutes later the Doctor comms the bridge to confirm her death. He sends Kes to tend to the minor wounds many of the bridge crew have sustained. She runs a regenerator over the burns on my hands and asks me questions I barely acknowledge. I’m too busy organising Tuvok to restore phasers, Harry to work on shields, B’Elanna to repair the warp drive. If the Draelath return I have every intention of blowing the bastards out of the sky.
Kes asks me to come to the ready room when she’s finished healing the cuts and bruises on the bridge. As soon as the door closes behind, us I tell her, “I already know what you’re going to say.”
“You’re going to tell me I have a responsibility to the crew, and that Kathryn would have wanted me to get them home.”
“Oh.” She blinks. “Well, actually, I was going to ask if you’re all right.”
“All right,” I repeat. I sit on the couch, my gaze fixing on the vase of lilies on the table. “You didn’t bring fresh flowers this morning.”
A flash of bewilderment crosses Kes’ normally serene face. “It was the strangest thing, Commander. I went to the airponics bay to get the Captain’s flowers, but when I walked in I thought for a moment that there was a section of the bulkhead open to space. I could see the forcefield shimmering. But when I blinked, it was gone. It was so strange that I just left without the flowers.”
I stare at her. “In the first loop I experienced, there was a hull breach in the airponics bay. It’s the reason I was injured – I went to seal it and there was an accident with an EPS conduit.” I lean toward her. “In the last loop, you remembered something you’d said to me in the previous one. Have you had any other strange experiences today? Déjà vu, other visions?”
She bites her lip. “I knew the Captain was dead before the call came into Sickbay.”
This isn’t the first time Kes has demonstrated awareness beyond the usual, and over the past year or so her telepathy seems to have developed even more. I already have the crew working on a scientific explanation for my time-travelling, but I’ve always been one to look for less tangible answers as well.
“You’ve been working with Tuvok on controlling your psychic abilities. If you’re sensing events that happened in other time loops, maybe you can figure out how we got stuck in one and whether we’re out of it. Would you be willing to give it a try?”
“I’ll start right away,” Kes assures me, then gives me a look that tells me she’s quite aware I’m in denial. “Commander, there’s something you need to do, too, and it’s only going to get harder the longer you wait.”
She rests her hand on mine for a moment, and when she’s gone, I make – for the third time – the announcement I never wanted to make.
Tuvok comms me a couple of hours later and I make my way to Kes’ quarters. Kes looks tired and a little pale.
“Kes has described a number of events that, to my knowledge, have not occurred,” Tuvok explains. “We wished to discuss them with you to determine whether they occurred in previous time loops.”
“I saw you and Captain Janeway on a shuttle,” Kes begins. “You were talking about ways to protect the bioneural gel packs from virological attacks, and then your shuttle was fired upon.”
“That happened in the first loop,” I confirm.
“The next thing I saw was you telling the Captain she needed to go to Sickbay.”
I raise my eyebrows. “Trust me when I tell you, that could have been almost any day.”
“She was holding her hand to her right side, like this,” Kes demonstrates.
Any small amusement I might have felt dissipates. “In yesterday’s loop, the Captain died from blood loss. Her liver was damaged in the alien attack. I’m guessing that’s the day you saw.”
Kes flicks a glance at Tuvok. “There was one other event I saw.” She shifts uncomfortably.
“Go on,” I encourage her.
“I saw you and the Captain in her quarters. You were kissing her.”
I stare at her. “I can assure you with complete certainty, Kes, that has never happened.”
“I can’t explain it then, Commander. I saw it as clearly as the other two events.”
“It’s not something I’d have forgotten,” I mutter. “Did you see anything else? Any indication that we’ve escaped the temporal loop?”
“I don’t think so. I’m sorry, Commander.”
“It’s all right. Take some time to rest, then if you feel up to it, continue trying. Keep me informed.”
She nods, and Tuvok leaves her quarters with me. We head for the turbolift, but when he hears me call for Deck One, he says, “Commander, it’s late and you appear fatigued. I suggest you also get some rest.”
He’s right; I’m barely keeping my feet and I feel like I could sleep for a week, but I shake my head. “Too much to do.”
“There will still be plenty to do tomorrow,” he replies. “And the crew will not benefit from an exhausted captain.”
It’s the word captain that almost does me in. That’s what I am now. I turn away from Tuvok so he can’t see the emotion on my face. When I’ve regained control of myself, I nod. “All right, Lieutenant, you win. I’ll see you in the morning.”
I enter my darkened quarters, pull off my boots, and slump face-down onto my bed without bothering to undress further, and almost instantly I’m asleep.