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.
V. Loop Five
It’s the pounding in my head that wakes me. My mouth feels desiccated and my eyes full of grit. With an effort, I roll to my hands and knees and have to swallow thickly against the rising nausea in my throat before I can stagger upright.
I call for lights and stumble to the bathroom, staring into the mirror. I look like shit. Sonic waves aren’t going to help the circles under my eyes, so I call for a hot-water shower. By the time I’m dressed it’s almost 0600. “Computer,” I ask, “what’s the stardate?”
~Stardate 50652.7,~ the computer replies dispassionately. I close my eyes briefly, then square my shoulders, take a steadying breath and head for Kathryn’s quarters.
I hear her call, “Come,” and I feel like crying.
She’s immaculately dressed, hair pulled back in the ponytail she’s recently taken to wearing. “You’re early,” she says, smiling at me automatically; then she really looks at me and a crease appears between her eyebrows. “Looks like you need coffee as much as I do this morning. Didn’t you sleep well, Chakotay?”
“Not really,” I mumble, but don’t elaborate.
She waves me to the table and goes to the replicator, returning with a pot of coffee and a plate of toast. I watch her surreptitiously as she wraps her hands around her cup and inhales the scent, eyes closed, before taking her first reverent sip. She opens her eyes, catches me watching her and colours a little, picking up a PADD to distract herself. “What did you think of B’Elanna’s latest suggestions for increasing warp drive efficiency?” she asks.
I reach out and take the PADD from her hand, placing it face down on the table. “Kathryn.”
She looks up.
“I don’t want to talk about ship’s systems.”
She opens her mouth to question me, and the ship shakes.
~Captain to the bridge.~
We scramble into the turbolift as Voyager shudders again. Rollins is clearly relieved when he sees us rush out onto the bridge. “Captain,” he addresses her. “An alien ship is holding position two million kilometres to starboard. They’ve attacked us without provocation and aren’t responding to hails.”
I head immediately to the tactical station and Ayala steps back to let me at the controls. “I’m sending out a resonance pulse inverse to their shield harmonics.”
“Commander?” Kathryn raises an eyebrow at me.
“Trust me,” I answer, and nod toward the screen.
“Their shields are down,” Harry notes from Ops. “They’ve stopped firing. They’re hailing us.”
“Don’t answer yet,” I interrupt, striding down to the command level. “Captain, these aliens are called the Draelath. They’re a highly territorial and xenophobic species. You can’t trust anything they say.”
She’s silent for a moment. “I expect a full explanation shortly, Commander,” she says quietly, then nods at Harry.
“Channel open,” he says.
Festan appears on the viewscreen and I swallow down my hatred with difficulty. Kathryn rises from her chair. “I’m Captain Kathryn Janeway. Why have you fired on us?”
~Outsiders are not permitted in our space,~ he replies predictably. ~Your violation of our borders will not be tolerated.~
“Okay, that part you can trust,” I mutter. Kathryn flashes me a quelling glance and turns back to the screen.
“We had no intention of trespassing on your borders. We’re unfamiliar with this region and are simply passing through.” She pauses, then adds, “And, as you can see, we are quite capable of defending ourselves.”
~Is that a threat?~ Festan draws himself up.
“Not at all. May I ask whom I’m addressing?”
~I am Festan of the Draelath.~
“Festan, we have no hostile intentions. Perhaps we could meet in person to discuss passage through your space?”
After a pause, Festan inclines his head. ~You may transport to my vessel in three hours.~
I can’t help shifting in my seat. They’re letting us board their ship?
~We have strict protocols for contact,~ Festan continues. ~You may bring one unarmed escort. I will transmit further instructions. Study them carefully. Any deviation will result in your destruction.~
“I look forward to meeting you,” Kathryn answers calmly. “Janeway out.”
The instant the channel is closed I’m standing. “Captain, you can’t go to their ship.”
She holds up a hand, already moving toward the conference room. “Save it for the briefing, Chakotay. Senior officers, with me. Now.”
The minute we’re all seated around the table, Kathryn nods at me. “Time for that explanation, Commander.”
I relate our first encounter with the Draelath, the attack that created the temporal distortions, the time-looping and my own awareness of it, the evolution of the Draelath’s interactions with Voyager. I don’t make the mistake this time of omitting what happens to Kathryn.
She listens carefully, and when I’m finished she asks, “Why do you think they’ve decided to allow us on board their ship this time?”
“I don’t know,” I say honestly, “but I doubt their intentions are benign.”
Kathryn turns to Harry. “Did you detect any other Draelath ships in the region?”
“No, Captain. But their space appears to be pretty big. Going around it would add about six months to our travel time.”
“Then I think we have to take the risk that we can negotiate safe passage. Tuvok, you’ll accompany me to the Draelath ship. Dismissed.”
Ensign Lang, covering for Harry at Ops, hands Kathryn a PADD when she steps back onto the bridge. “I’ve downloaded the information the Draelath sent over for you, Captain.”
Kathryn glances at it. “I’ll study this in my ready room. Chakotay, you have the bridge. Tuvok, with me.”
They’re in there for half an hour, and then Tuvok returns to his station and Kathryn comms me to let me know she’ll be in her quarters. I head up to Tactical. “A word, Lieutenant?”
We go to the briefing room, leaving Tom in command. “I need you to brief me on the Draelath’s instructions,” I tell Tuvok.
“Captain Janeway and I are to take a shuttle to the Draelath vessel at 0930 hours. We are required to appear in dress uniform and follow a strict series of contact protocols. The Draelath have been clear that any divergence from these instructions will result in hostilities.”
I hold my hand out for the PADD, and Tuvok gives it to me. I scan it, picking out key phrases. Outsiders will speak only when directly addressed … maintain a kneeling position … no direct eye contact … submit to a comprehensive search of their person. I clench my jaw. “They can’t be serious.”
Tuvok says nothing.
“And the Captain plans to agree to these conditions?”
I slap the PADD onto the table. “Return to the bridge, Tuvok. I’ll be with the Captain.”
I’m still shaking with fury when I punch at the entry pad outside Kathryn’s quarters. The door slides open and I stride in, ready to do battle. I stop short when I realise her quarters are darkened. She’s curled up on the couch gazing at the stars through the viewport, the PADD with its offending demands on the low table beside her. Her feet are bare, her jacket and turtleneck gone. My anger dims a little.
She turns her face to me and sighs. “I suppose you’ve read this.” She gestures to the PADD.
“Yes.” The anger starts rising again. “Tuvok says you intend to go through with it.”
“I don’t seem to have much choice.”
I step towards her. “Yes, you do. Don’t go.”
“Kathryn, they want to strip-search you. They want you to kneel, for God’s sake.”
She unwinds herself from the couch and stands to face me. “If that’s the price of diplomacy, I’ll put up with it.”
“This isn’t diplomacy! It’s … it’s a power play. It’s insulting.”
“I’ve been insulted before,” she shrugs, and moves toward her bedroom. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to change.”
“You don’t have to do this.” I follow her, ignoring her dismissal. “Let me go instead.”
She turns just before her bedroom door, frowning at me. “You know I can’t do that. They’ve insisted on negotiating with the captain of this ship.”
“Then let me come with you.”
Kathryn arches an eyebrow. “You don’t trust Tuvok to protect me?”
“In this case, no,” I tell her bluntly. “I’m the one with experience dealing with these people. I think that gives me a tactical advantage here.”
“You also have an obvious prejudice against them. I need someone with me who’ll keep a clear head.”
She crosses her arms and glares up at me. Her head is tilted back to meet my gaze; she’s so much smaller without her uniform boots. It only makes her fragility more evident, and I’m determined to protect her. I can’t help myself; I reach out and take hold of her arms just above the elbow. “Can you really blame me for not trusting them, Kathryn? They’ve killed you in four timelines now.”
“This time will be different.”
“You’ll be unarmed and at their mercy. And believe me when I tell you that they don’t have any.”
“I’ve been in worse situations and come out unharmed, but the chances of that are much less if you’re with me and at red alert.”
I try to soften my voice, knowing she’ll respond better to that than my anger. “You’re right; I am having trouble being clear-headed about this. But I have good reason for it.” I can’t seem to let go of her, and I realise abstractedly that my thumbs are stroking the insides of her bare arms. She shivers a little and some of the indignation leaches from her eyes. “Can you blame me for not wanting to watch you die all over again?”
Kathryn lifts her chin a little. “I have no intention of dying today, Chakotay.” She lets the corner of her mouth quirk up. “And if I do, at least you won’t be there to watch it.”
I stare at her. “You think this is a fucking joke?” Before I realise it, I’ve backed her up against the bulkhead, pressing her into it with my body. Her eyes go wide as I bend close and hiss at her, “You think it’s funny that I’ve woken for the past four mornings thinking you’re dead? Do you have any idea what that’s doing to me?”
And then it happens. Her gaze darts to my mouth and back up to my eyes; her own lips part a little and I hear her catch her breath, and, thinking she’s about to speak, to argue with me, I give into impulse and silence her with my lips on hers.
I feel her flinch a little, her hands coming up to my chest, and I know she’s about to push me away. But I’m here now and I’m not backing off, and she won’t remember this tomorrow anyway, if she’s even here tomorrow. So I slide one arm around her waist to pull her close and the other cradles her head, tilting her face up to me. I soften the pressure of my mouth, licking at her bottom lip, and I feel the moment she stops fighting herself and starts kissing me back. She makes a small sound in the back of her throat and sucks my tongue into her mouth, curving her hips into me, her hands sliding up to grip the back of my neck.
There’s a moment when my better self tells me to stop. But then she curls her fingers into my hair and I feel her rise on her toes, pressing closer, and my better self dissolves like smoke. I pull my mouth from hers and latch onto her neck, hearing her moan as I suck at her pale skin. My right hand works at the fastening of her pants, pushing them down; my left is under her tank, fingers curled around her breast, thumb rubbing across her nipple. I shove her panties over her hips and she spreads her thighs for me, gasping as I brush my fingers against her. She’s swollen, slick; I dip my finger into her, stroke my thumb over her clitoris and feel her tremble. My teeth fasten on her collarbone as I slide two fingers inside her and her knees buckle. Her breath is shuddering in my ear, her fingers wound tightly into my hair, her hips moving as I stroke her.
God, I want her so much.
I pull my hand out from under her tank and unfasten my own pants one-handed, then slide my hands under her thighs and lift her, pressing her back against the bulkhead for support. She winds her legs around my hips. One arm clutches my shoulders and her other hand snakes down between our bodies and takes hold of my cock, guiding the head into her. I can feel I’m stretching her and she winces a little, resting her forehead against mine to catch her breath, and then she twists her hips and I slide slow and deep inside her. By the time I’m fully sheathed in her she’s moaning, her back arched, clutching my head to her breasts.
She’s so tight, so hot, so slick, and she’s Kathryn, and I’ve wanted her for so long. I want so much for this to last so I can savour every moment, make her body sing with drawn-out pleasure. But then she tightens her inner muscles around me and it almost makes me come right there. It’s close to impossible but I manage to hold myself in check and draw out of her almost as slowly as I first slid in. I can feel her inner walls grasping at me, hear her small whimper of loss, and then I thrust back into all that soft heat and we’re both groaning, gasping. I move one hand under her bottom to hold her up and squirm the other between us, touching her where we’re joined. My thumb strokes her nub and she bites down on my shoulder, muffling a cry as she jerks and trembles against me. I didn’t realise she was so close. I circle my thumb against her as I stroke into her, harder and faster, and then I feel her entire body tense and her inner muscles ripple around me and she throws her head back and screams.
Even if I’d wanted to, I couldn’t have lasted after she did that. I feel a blinding pressure behind my eyes and I shove myself into her, hard, slamming her against the bulkhead, and I don’t even know what I’m shouting as I empty myself into her. She’s still twitching around me as I feel my knees go weak and we slide down the wall, limbs tangling on the floor.
All I can smell is sex and sweat and her.
I struggle to get my breathing back under control. Her body is flush against mine, her hair a tangled mess. My hand goes to her chin and I turn her face toward me. Her skin is flushed and her lips soft and swollen, but when she looks at me I’m not ready for the expression in her eyes. She looks angry, disappointed, embarrassed.
She pulls away from me and clambers carefully to her feet, wincing at unfamiliar twinges in her muscles. I watch her collect her clothing from the floor and disappear into her bedroom. I look down at myself. My heart is pounding, no longer from arousal, but from fear. I tuck myself back into my pants and step warily to Kathryn’s bedroom doorway.
She’s wrapped tightly in a robe, laying her dress uniform out on her bed. She glances over at me, her face unreadable.
“Don’t you think we should talk about this?” My voice is rough-edged.
Kathryn turns to face me. I take a small step over the threshold, but she holds a hand up, palm out, and I stop.
“This was a mistake,” she says, clipping the words off. “I had a moment of weakness. I can only apologise. I hope this won’t damage our working relationship.”
I stare at her. I don’t even know what to think. I feel sick to my stomach.
“If you’ll excuse me, I need to get dressed.” She turns away, heading for the bathroom.
“So that’s it?” I demand, and she stops, turning back to me. “A moment of weakness, and you’re not even prepared to discuss it?”
“You know this can’t happen again.” For a moment I think I see her lips tremble, then she tilts up her chin and stares straight into my eyes. “Please see yourself out, Commander.”
She goes into the bathroom and closes the door, and my feet move as she’s ordered them to do. Before the door can close behind me I hear the water shower start, and know she’s already stepping in there to wash me off her skin.
~Cochrane to Voyager. We’re ready to depart.~
She looks perfectly composed. You’d never know that less than an hour ago I was fucking her against a bulkhead as she screamed her orgasm to the stars.
Two can play that game. “You’re cleared, Cochrane,” I answer neutrally. “Safe travels.”
~We’ll check in as soon as we can. Janeway out.~
The channel closes, the shuttle dips out of the bay on course to the Draelath ship, and I sit back in my chair. All I can do now is wait and hope.
An hour later, Harry announces that the Draelath ship is hailing us. Festan’s scaly face appears on the viewscreen.
~Your shuttle will be returning shortly,~ is all he says, and the channel closes abruptly.
The shuttle appears from behind the Draelath ship, and I spring to my feet. “Harry, open a channel to the Cochrane.” He nods. “Chakotay to Janeway,” I snap.
“Chakotay to Tuvok. Respond.”
There’s a brief pause, and Tuvok appears onscreen. Green blood wells from a gash on his head, and my stomach clenches.
~Commander. I request an immediate beam-out to Sickbay for both of us.~
“Where’s the Captain?” I hardly recognise my own voice.
~The Captain is dead. She was shot with a disruptor at close range. The Doctor may be able to revive her.~
Somehow I keep my grip. I turn to Harry. “Ensign, initiate transport.”
His hands shake and he’s pale, but he jumps into action. “Transport complete, sir.”
“Paris, you have the bridge. Tractor the Cochrane into the shuttlebay and raise shields. I’ll be in Sickbay.”
I know as soon as I reach her biobed that there was no way of saving her, despite what Tuvok said. There’s a wound in her chest the size of a dinner plate and the skin around the edges of it is blackened and charred. The Doctor looks up as I approach, closing his medical tricorder, his whole demeanour wretched. “I’m sorry, Commander,” he says. “There was nothing I could do.”
I can hardly bear to look at her. Two hours ago she was warm and alive and coming apart in my arms, and now … I turn away.
“Commander.” Tuvok’s voice is weak.
I move over to his biobed. “What happened?”
“One of us did something that offended the Draelath. I am uncertain what it was. Festan shot the Captain immediately.” Vulcan or not, there’s sorrow in the depths of his eyes. “I regret that I was not quick enough to save her.”
I want to kill him, but I know it’s not his fault. It’s mine. “I’ll expect a full report once the Doctor releases you from Sickbay, Lieutenant.”
I leave without glancing back at Kathryn’s lifeless body.
After the announcement to the crew I call Kes to the ready room.
“I was expecting your call, Commander,” she says softly.
“I’m guessing you’ve had some unusual experiences today. Déjà vu, visions?”
“Yes. You were sitting at Captain Janeway’s desk in this room,” she waves a hand, “and she came in and asked what you were doing there. You looked shocked.”
I nod. Was that two loops ago, or three? I’m losing track.
“Then I saw you holding flowers. You and the Captain were arguing.”
“Yes, I remember that.”
“And then you were, um…” She trails off, blushing. “You were in her quarters.”
I’m pretty sure I know where this is going, but I have to be sure. “What were we doing?”
“You were in bed.” Kes twines her hands together.
“In bed? Is that a euphemism?” Because we sure didn’t make it to the bed this morning.
“No, Commander.” She looks up, surprised. “You were in bed together. Intimately. I saw you touch her face. She was smiling at you, and then she said your name and kissed you.”
I can’t swallow past the lump in my throat. It’s the way I’d always wanted it to be. Not that the sex this morning wasn’t incredible, but afterwards … I always wanted to hold her and tell her how I feel.
“Anything else, Kes?”
“Nothing helpful. I’m sorry, Commander.”
“It’s all right. Thank you, Kes.” I show her out and return to Kathryn’s favourite spot by the viewport.
I don’t think Kes’ awareness of the other timelines is going to help me break us out of the looping. And so far, the time loops haven’t lasted long enough for the Doc to find a medical explanation or Harry and B’Elanna to come up with a technical solution. Which leaves me with only one option. I have to figure out how to change things myself.
I’m convinced I have to save Kathryn’s life. It’s the only thing that’s happened in every time loop, and it’s the only thing I have the power to change.
If I’m lucky enough to wake tomorrow to a world in which Kathryn is alive, I’m not letting her out of my sight.