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.
VI. Loop Six
I wake with a start, heart thudding, fling off the covers. “Computer, locate Captain Janeway.” I hold my breath.
~Captain Janeway is in her quarters.~
“What’s the time?”
~The time is 0548.~
“Computer, cancel alarm and reset for twenty-four hours.”
I duck under the shower. I’m smiling. Fate has given me another chance, and this time I’m going to do it right.
At 0615 I’m ringing for entry at Kathryn’s door. She answers distractedly; when I enter, she’s pacing the room, a PADD in hand.
“Morning,” I greet her.
She looks up and smiles. “Good morning. Tea?”
“I’ll get it. Why don’t you sit down?”
I take the PADD from her hand, usher her to the table and pull out her chair. She sits and raises an eyebrow at me. “Chivalry’s not dead, I see.”
I order my tea and her coffee at the replicator, then slide into my seat opposite her at the table and grin at her. “I’m bringing it back.”
“You’re very cheerful this morning,” Kathryn remarks.
“Why not?” I spread my arms wide. “It’s a beautiful day in the Delta quadrant.”
Kathryn’s eyebrows arch and she glances exaggeratedly around at the climate-controlled room and the stars through the viewport. Her lips quirk up at the corner. “Whatever you say, Chakotay.”
She reaches for her PADD again, but I take it gently from her fingers. “We can go over status reports later, Kathryn. Let’s just talk for a minute.”
She looks like she doesn’t know what to make of this, and I realise just how much we’ve come to depend on work to hide from each other. Hiding from our feelings, hiding from the chasm that’s grown between us. I don’t want to hide anymore, but I also don’t want to frighten her into pulling away, so I get up and head for the replicator again. “What do you fancy for breakfast? Fruit, toast?”
“Some fruit would be great,” she answers. “Thank you.”
Over breakfast we keep the conversation light: the Doctor’s operatic performance at Talent Night, Tom’s holodeck programs, the Delaney twins’ latest conquests. We talk about our favourite vacations back home, the meals we’d love to eat again, what we wanted to be when we were kids. By the time we finish eating and move over to the couch, Kathryn is relaxed and laughing. I could almost believe that Riley had never happened.
I’m enjoying being with her like this so much that I don’t want to spoil it, but odds are tight that we’ll meet the Draelath in the next few hours and I need to prepare her for it. So after her second cup of coffee I touch her hand and wait for her to look at me. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
She listens as I explain what happened in each of the time loops so far, how the accident made me aware of the temporal repetitions, how Kes has sensed some of it as well. Then I tell her that I’ve come to believe it won’t be resolved until I’ve prevented her from dying. She pulls back a little at that; it doesn’t sit well with her scientific, factual nature. She needs evidence, not some esoteric, spiritual solution. But I ask her to suspend her disbelief and stay close to me today, and eventually, hesitantly, she agrees.
We go up to the bridge; as we leave the turbolift I place my hand in the small of her back, something I used to do whenever I had the opportunity but haven’t dared for the past couple of weeks. She flicks me a glance over her shoulder but doesn’t comment and doesn’t pull away. I let my hand drop as she moves slightly ahead, calling the senior staff to the briefing room.
After I’ve filled in the senior staff we head back to the bridge. It’s another three hours or so before the Draelath make their appearance, swooping out of warp and opening fire without a word. Our shields are up, though, and there’s no damage. Kathryn waits through several volleys of phaser fire and three attempts to hail them before she gives the nod to Tuvok to return fire.
“Their shields have collapsed,” he announces. “They are responding to our hail.”
Kathryn nods to Harry to open the channel. “I’m Captain Kathryn Janeway of Voyager,” she addresses the alien onscreen. “Am I speaking to Festan?”
His head draws back sharply. ~How do you know me?~
“According to my first officer,” she waves a hand in my direction, “we’ve met before. Several times.”
~That is not possible.~
But he’s not as surprised as he should be. I wonder what he thinks is impossible: that we’ve encountered his ship before, or that I’m aware of it?
“Be that as it may,” Kathryn continues, “Commander Chakotay claims that we are experiencing a temporal phenomenon. We have detected subspace distortions and tachyon readings in this area. Perhaps you’re aware of them as well?”
Festan is silent for a long moment, then answers grudgingly, ~We are.~
“Any idea what’s causing them?”
But Festan has had enough talk. ~They are irrelevant. You will leave our territory immediately.~
“Festan, we’d like your agreement to travel through this space. We have no hostile intentions, just a long journey ahead of us.”
~Impossible. Outsiders cannot be permitted to violate our borders. Leave immediately or we will not hesitate to destroy your ship.~
I watch as Kathryn draws herself up, eyes hardening. “Festan, we’ve just demonstrated that we’re quite able to defend ourselves against you. We could have attacked you while your shields are down, but we don’t want to fight you. We’d prefer a peaceful solution.”
~Then retreat is your only option,~ Festan spits.
Kathryn sighs. “Understood. Voyager out.” She nods to Tom. “Come about, Mr Paris. Take us on a trajectory that skirts the edge of Draelath space.”
“Aye,” he answers. Voyager turns to starboard, and the Draelath ship takes off at warp in the opposite direction.
I raise an eyebrow at her and pitch my voice low. “I guess discretion really is the better part of valour.”
She gives me a sidelong look. “Since when have you known me to cave in to a bully, Chakotay?” She raises her voice a little. “Tom, as soon as that ship is out of sensor range, plot a new course. We’re going through their space whether they like it or not.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he grins.
My stomach tightens. I was beginning to hope that I’d talked her into caution this time, that maybe I could avoid her ending up in a fatal situation, but apparently I’ve failed to take the Kathryn factor into account. “Captain,” I murmur, “could I see you in private?”
“My ready room.” She stands. “Tuvok, you have the bridge.”
“I think I can guess what you’re going to say, Chakotay.” She gives me that lopsided smile as we take our seats on the couch. “You’re going to say that it’s worth adding six months to our journey home if we can avoid taking Voyager into enemy territory. You’re going to tell me I’m needlessly antagonising an aggressive species and take me to task for my reckless behaviour.”
I smirk at her; I can’t help it. “I think you’re confusing me with Tuvok.”
That surprises her. She puts down her ever-present coffee cup and really looks at me. “Well, what then?”
I lean forward and touch her arm; funny how I can’t seem to stop touching her. “I can’t tell you I’m happy to be forging blindly on into Draelath space. But if you think that’s the best course, I’ll support you. I just want you to be careful.”
“Of your personal safety. I don’t intend to watch you die today, Kathryn.” I try to keep it light, keep smiling, but I know I’m failing. “I can’t lose you again.”
Whatever she sees in my eyes makes hers soften. She reaches out to clasp my hand, and I curl my fingers over hers, holding on until she gently disentangles from me. “Let’s get back to the bridge,” she says, and I follow her, a step behind.
“Kathryn,” I blurt before we can reach the door. “Have dinner with me tonight.”
She hesitates, her eyes searching mine. “All right,” she says a little uncertainly. “1900 hours, my quarters.”
“See you then.” Before I can stop myself, I reach out and touch the tip of my finger to her cheekbone, trailing it gently along the line of her jaw. I hear her breath catch and watch her eyes darken, and then she steps slowly back from me and turns for the bridge.
The rest of Alpha shift is quiet. McKenzie takes command for Beta shift and I follow Kathryn into the turbolift, my hand resting low on her back. We ride in silence to her deck. “See you at 1900,” I remind her as she steps off the ‘lift.
In my quarters I shower, change into jeans and a button-down shirt and replicate a bottle of the pinot she favours. I have half an hour before I’m due for dinner, so I try to relax with a book. But my thoughts keep wandering to her.
I’d wondered if, should we become lovers, it would take the edge off the aching need I have for her, but yesterday’s taste only made me want her more. I wonder if she’s known it all along – that we’d never be able to quench that desire with just once. I wonder if that’s why she’s held back from me.
I don’t regret being with her. God, I can’t regret that. But the look in her eyes when we’d finished – I never want to see that again. She was so angry – I’m not sure if she was angrier with me or with herself. A moment of weakness, she’d said. I don’t want us to come together in the heat of the moment, because we’re angry or desperate or so needy we just can’t deny it anymore. I want her to come to me willingly, knowingly, and if I can’t have that, then it’s better that we remain friends.
So that’s what I’ll do tonight: be her friend. Repair the damage I caused, rebuild the trust I broke. Restore our friendship.
At 1900 I collect the wine and take the ‘lift to her quarters. She answers at my chime, and I’m happy to see she’s dressed casually too, in leggings and a blue sweater that looks soft to the touch; it skims her curves and dips a little in the front, enough that I can see her delicate collarbones and the first slope of her breasts. I try not to look, but she catches me anyway and blushes a little as she takes a glass of wine from my fingers.
We sit on the couch, angled slightly toward each other, and she tucks her feet under her thighs, holding her wine carefully in both hands. By mutual, unspoken agreement we don’t talk about work. We talk about instructors at the Academy, books we’ve read, shore leaves we’ve enjoyed. She leans toward me, laughing, when I tell her about the pranks my Academy roommate liked to play on me; she talks about cave-diving on Mars and brushes my knee with her fingers to emphasise her words. When we’ve finished our wine she suggests we eat, and as we move to the table I slide my hand onto the base of her back and she leans ever so slightly into my touch.
She’s dialled up something light for dinner, some kind of fragrant, spiced vegetable dish, but if you asked me to describe it I’d be hard-pressed. All my senses are taken up with watching her as she delicately picks at the meal with her fork, as her fingertips slide on the stem of her wineglass, a lock of her hair falling forward over her shoulder as she reaches for the bottle. There’s something warm in her voice tonight, some kind of undercurrent. She looks at me from under her lashes as we talk, bites her lip, lets her fingers brush mine as she passes me a bread roll.
I’m trying not to read into this; I’m trying to just enjoy her closeness and the easy conversation, but I’d have to be blind not to know she’s flirting with me, more daringly than I think she’s ever done before. And I can’t help responding. She laughs at something I’ve said and her long hair almost dips into her plate; I reach up and tuck the strand behind her ear, letting my fingers trail over her throat. She returns from the replicator with dessert, and when she leans over to place it in front of me I let my hand rest briefly on her hip, my thumb stroking lightly up over her ribcage; she doesn’t move away for a moment after that.
We move back over to the couch and she curls up beside me, coffee cradled in her hands. My arm lies along the back of the sofa and she sips her coffee, places the cup on the low table, closes her eyes, tips her head back to rest in the crook of my elbow. She’s smiling, her face soft, and it takes every last ounce of my willpower not to kiss her. But then she opens her eyes and looks straight into mine, and I know she can see everything I’m feeling.
Her lips part, a quick intake of breath, and she sways slightly toward me. Her hand comes up as though she can’t control it. She places her palm on my chest. I’m sure she can feel my heart trying to thud its way out. She stares at me for a moment longer, and then she leans forward and touches her lips to mine.
Her kiss is light, almost tentative, a question, and I answer her immediately. I draw her lower lip gently between mine and my hand comes up to weave into her hair. She shifts closer, pressing her body into mine, her tongue slipping into my mouth, her arms pulling me into her. The kiss moves from light, through tender and into intense. By the time I pull back a little, trying to catch my breath, she’s trembling. She looks a little shocked.
I brush my fingertips over her lips. “Are you okay?”
After a moment, she nods, and her mouth curls into a smile. “I’ve wondered what that would be like. And now I know.” Her arms tighten around me a little.
I’m almost too scared to ask, but … “So, what happens now?”
She lifts one hand to trace the tattoo on my forehead. I’m gazing right into her eyes, her beautiful, blue eyes. “I don’t know if this is fair to either of us, Chakotay, and I can’t make any promises about tomorrow,” she says softly. “But we could have tonight.” Then she blushes, her eyes shadowed a little with uncertainty. “If you want that. I don’t want to assume.”
“Kathryn …” I can’t help grinning. “I think it’s safe to assume that I want you.”
“Then what are we waiting for?” she almost whispers. She disentangles herself from my arms and stands, holding her hand out to me, and I take it and follow her into her bedroom.
I can’t stop smiling.
This time is different. It’s not the wild, desperate fucking of yesterday morning. It’s slow movements and seeking touches, her soft skin against mine. Her lips press to my chest, my stomach; her hands smooth over my limbs. We take our time learning each other, delighting in small moans and tremors. I curl my tongue behind her ear to make her shiver, circle her nipple with the pads of my fingers and watch the gooseflesh prickle her skin, trail my lips along her inner thigh to make her back arch. She comes under my mouth and hands and when she’s stopped gasping she pulls me up to cover her and takes me in her hand, stroking me until I beg her to stop. She guides my cock to her entrance, spreads her thighs and smiles at me. “I want you inside me,” she whispers, and I sink into her welcoming body. She locks her ankles behind my back, urging me on with soft moans and whimpers and hands that are never still. I lean down to nip gently at her throat and feel her spasm around me, her back arching, and the heat rushes through me and I thrust into her as far as I can go, spilling myself into her.
She lies under me, her hair spread in a honey-coloured cloud on the pillow, and I gaze down at her beautiful face and I can’t stop smiling.
“Oh,” she says, and starts to laugh. “That was …”
“Yeah, it was.” I lean on one elbow, easing my weight slightly off her, my fingers tracing her cheekbone. Her laugh dissolves into a soft, satisfied smile.
“Chakotay,” she murmurs, and pulls me down to kiss her. Her hands stroke over my back, her breasts arching into my chest, and I feel myself hardening again.
“Already?” I can feel her smiling against my lips.
And just as I’m about to answer her, the red alert starts blaring.
We bolt out of bed, scrambling for our clothes; I have to grab the jeans and shirt I wore to her quarters, but Kathryn pulls her uniform on and twists her hair into a ponytail. I’m ready first, so I take the briefest of moments to watch as the black pants conceal her slick and sticky thighs, as she tugs the turtleneck over the sex-flush on her breasts. I feel a jolt of arousal so strong it makes my knees weak, but then she’s shoving her feet into her boots and grabbing my elbow on her way to the door.
In the turbolift she sends me a quick smile that I hope is a promise of later, but then we’re on the bridge and there’s a trio of Draelath ships on the viewscreen, and I realise with a sick chill that there isn’t going to be a later.
There’s no response to our hails, and the battle is quick and fierce. Two Draelath ships are destroyed, the third limps away, and Voyager takes heavy damage. Kathryn turns to me and there’s a deep, gaping gash at her temple from a piece of flying debris. She takes two shaky steps toward me, says weakly, “Chakotay,” and collapses into my arms.
“Chakotay to all hands,” I begin over the ship-wide comm. “As you all know, an hour ago we were attacked by a species called the Draelath. We’ve sustained damage, and I’ll need your support and your professionalism as we work to repair the ship over the next few days. I have no doubt you will all give me your best efforts, and we’ll be back on our way home very soon.”
I pause, and glance over at Kes, perched beside me on the edge of the captain’s chair. She gives me back a steadying look and reaches out her hand for me to grasp. With a deep breath, I continue.
“What many of you don’t yet know is that the attack cost us the life of our captain. I know this is devastating news. I know you – we – will all mourn her loss. She was the finest example of a Starfleet officer, the best and bravest captain we could have hoped to serve, and she was my friend. I know you’ll all miss her greatly, and so will I.”
At the helm, Tom’s shoulders are shaking and his head is buried in his hands. I can hear Harry behind me, muffling his sobs in his uniform sleeve.
“Captain Janeway would want us to continue on our journey, and we will. She would want us to keep the faith and make our way home, and we will. She would want us to hold fast to the principles she led us by. And we will. We will never forget Kathryn Janeway, but we’ll honour her by living up to the example she set for us.”
I turn toward the tactical station and meet Tuvok’s gaze. He gives me a slight nod; there’s grief in the depths of his eyes.
“Anyone who wishes to say something about what Captain Janeway meant to them will have the opportunity at her memorial service at 1800 hours tomorrow in the mess hall. I will be available to anyone who needs to talk about this, and I hope you’ll all support each other. Remember that we’re a family, and families take care of each other. Chakotay out.”
When I close the comm channel there’s silence on the bridge; Tom has straightened his shoulders and Harry seems to have regained control of himself. I release Kes’ hand and stand, looking around at all of them. Kathryn’s crew. My crew.
Unless I can make it right tomorrow.