Summary: How did the captain’s lost rank pip end up in Chakotay’s bed? Inquiring minds want to know.
Characters: Janeway, Q, Braxton, Chakotay
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS knows all, sees all, and owns all.
Notes: A sequel to Helen8462’s The Pip, which was a response to Prixin Prompt #1 (Explain how Kathryn knew where Chakotay kept his Antarian cider). I’ve borrowed some dialogue from her story, with her permission.
This story is also a response to Prixin Prompt #4: After Voyager's return to Earth Kathryn has a feeling Chakotay isn't who he says he is.
If you’d asked me this morning what I planned to be doing tonight, hiding under my former first officer’s bed would not have been the first idea to come to mind. Nor would I have considered I’d be back in the Delta quadrant, having spent my evening sneaking around my ship with a pair of troublemakers – one galactic, one temporal – trying to avoid being spotted by terminally curious ex-drones, tenacious Vulcans or over-protective XOs, while incidentally helping to save the future of the Federation.
Then again, it’s a whole lot more interesting than sifting PADDs behind a desk. And after four months back in the Alpha quadrant, the latter two of those in the admiralty, I admit I’ve been hankering for a little excitement. Best of all, it has finally put paid to a mystery that’s been bothering me for close to a year now. Except that it hasn’t. Or hadn’t, and now it has.
And here comes that headache.
But I suppose I should start from the beginning – if there is such a thing as a beginning when you’re being whisked all over space and time.
Today is my birthday.
This is an event I usually try to ignore, even more so since I passed the dreaded milestone of turning forty. I am a child of the twenty-fourth century, and as such I’m fully aware of the advances in medicine that would enable me to remain fertile well into my fifties – not to mention I’d be the first to protest if anyone dared to suggest that a woman’s self-worth should be tied to her ability to produce offspring – and yet, there’s just something about being over forty and without the prospect of a mate or children that makes me sad. And I’ve never been one to lick my wounds in company, so on my forty-third birthday I plan to spend my day at work and my evening in solitude, with perhaps a nice glass of wine and a good book in my hand.
I’m well on my way toward achieving that goal when there’s a knock at my office door and a head pops around it. Dark hair, tattoo and a pair of dimples.
“I thought I’d find you here.”
My heart sinks. Why did it have to be him?
“Captain,” I acknowledge my visitor. “Can I help you with something?”
Chakotay enters the office and rests a hip on the edge of my desk. Too close. I scoot my chair back a little, rather pointedly.
“Yes, you can, Admiral.” He holds out a hand, palm-up. I stare at him; am I expected to take it? “I’m here to show you a good time,” he says, and grins at me.
My eyebrows arch. And what does Seven think of that? I want to ask, but that would be petty, so instead I say, “I’m busy.”
Chakotay lets his hand fall and leans in closer. “Actually, Admiral, I happen to know that you’re not busy at all. And it’s your birthday, so stop sulking and come have some fun.”
I glare at him. “I am not sulking.”
He raises an eyebrow.
“And I already have plans.” I stand up and start shuffling PADDs around my desk, avoiding his all-too-knowing gaze. “You can show yourself out, Captain.”
He sighs. “You’re leaving me no choice, Kathryn.”
I ignore him, shoving the PADDs into my shoulder bag.
“All right then,” he says, and the next thing I know, a large hand is circling my wrist, I’m being spun and pulled into his waiting arms, and Chakotay is kissing me.
With absolutely no tenderness, passion or skill whatsoever.
Perhaps it’s the disappointment that makes me do it – after all, I’ve harboured guilty dreams about kissing Chakotay for years, and this is not at all the way I expected it to be – but it takes barely a single, shocked second for me to come to my senses. I stomp my boot heel down on his instep while simultaneously gripping his earlobe between finger and thumb and giving it a vicious twist. Chakotay howls, his grasp on me loosening, and I take the advantage, shoving him hard in the chest.
He stumbles backward, trips, and lands gracelessly on his backside.
“Ow,” he complains. “That didn’t go the way it was supposed to.”
I’m almost speechless – almost. “What do you think you’re doing?” I squawk. “What in seven hells is wrong with you?”
He glares at me from the floor, rubbing his bruised behind. “What’s wrong with you? I just gave you what you’ve been wanting for years, and your reaction is to physically assault me?”
I gape at him. “What I’ve been – Chakotay, are you out of your mind? And what about Seven?”
He rolls his eyes. “That intolerable drone. If you only knew the trouble you caused when you welcomed her into the family. All that striving for perfection. It’s enough to drive a man to drink.”
Now I know he’s lost his mind. Chakotay would never speak so unkindly about anyone, let alone the woman he’s dating. And speaking of which…
“You kissed me,” I accuse, planting my hands on my hips. “You’re with Seven, and you kissed me. How dare you?”
Chakotay gets smoothly to his feet, grinning at me. “Do you know how sexy you look when you’re in command stance, Kathy?”
Oh, no …
“You’re not Chakotay,” I say slowly. “You’re Q.”
Chakotay/Q clicks his fingers, instantly appearing in the form I’m used to seeing. “Ta-da!” he whoops gleefully. “Look Mom, no tattoo!”
My legs give out from underneath me and I flop back into my chair.
“Happy birthday, Kathy,” he smirks. “Are you ready for your gift?”
“That’s it? Just no?”
I continue striding down the corridor, ignoring the omnipotent fingers plucking at my elbow. “No. A thousand times no, Q. I don’t want a gift from you. Not today. Not ever.”
Q clicks his fingers and appears in front of me, pouting. I duck around him.
“You’re no fun,” he whines.
“Good,” I snap, stepping through the main doors and out onto the path.
Q dogs my heels. “Aren’t you even the least bit curious, Kathy?”
“Oh all right then,” he grumbles, stopping. “I guess I’ll just leave you to brood. All alone. On your birthday,” his voice rises as I get further away.
My stride slows. It can’t be that easy. Can it?
“Of course,” he calls, “then you’ll never know what was supposed to happen.”
Supposed to happen?
No. Ignore it, Kathryn. He’s just playing with you. Keep walking.
“Good night, Kathy,” he shouts after me. “When you see him, tell Captain Braxton I said hello.”
I stop short.
“Braxton?” I ask apprehensively. “Of the Relativity?”
I turn around, ready to let Q have it, omnipotent being or not, and find myself alone.
“Damn it, Q!”
I can’t settle. I wander around my apartment, my second glass of whiskey in one hand – I’ve bypassed the wine and gone straight for the hard stuff – fidgeting with the edges of the cashmere shawl Phoebe gave me last week; an early birthday gift. I can’t stop thinking about Q’s parting taunt.
Captain Braxton of the Federation Timeship Relativity is the last person I want to see right now –
A flash of light, and Q appears, smirking and lounging on my couch, in his Starfleet captain guise.
Make that the second-last person.
Q glances around at my empty white apartment. “Well, this is really pathetic, Kathy. All alone on your birthday,” he sighs. “You’d think nobody cared about you at all.”
I scowl at him.
“Of course,” he picks a non-existent piece of lint off his jacket, “it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it isn’t supposed to be this way. If the timeline had turned out the way it was meant to –”
“Stop!” I hold up a hand. “If you’re trying to bait me into a temporal prime directive violation, Q, you can just leave right now. I am not interested. And besides,” I can’t help continuing, “if the timeline had turned out the way it was supposed to, Voyager would still be in the Delta quadrant right now and wouldn’t be home for another sixteen years.”
“Oh, pish posh.” Q waves a dismissive hand at me. “That timeline was an abomination. Nobody wanted things to turn out that way, not even your persnickety time police. Obviously, because I don’t recall you receiving a visit from them over your silver-haired doppelganger and her exploits, do you?”
I have to admit, that’s been bothering me. Braxton once told me I was responsible for far too many temporal violations that he and his crew had to clean up. Surely travelling back in time to alter the course of Voyager’s history wasn’t something he’d have just let slide?
“Right,” Q nods. “However, that pompous little targ and his timeship will be popping up shortly, but don’t worry, Kathy. Old Uncle Q is on your side.”
“Lucky me.” The sarcasm fairly drips from my voice. “Look, Q, all I want is to spend a quiet evening alone, and I really don’t think that’s too much to ask –”
I’m cut off by the whisk and sparkle of a transporter beam, and Captain Braxton materialises in my living room.
“You,” he snarls upon seeing Q. “I should have known you were involved in this.”
“Oh, so you two have met?” I snark.
“Unfortunately,” drawls Q. “I thought Jean-Luc was a stick in the mud, but this one… well, let’s just say he’s not my favourite captain.”
Braxton’s face reddens. “If you knew how much time I spend cleaning up after you –”
“Blah, blah, blah,” Q says rudely. “If it weren’t for me – not to mention lovely Kathy here – you’d be bored out of your tiny mind. Of course if you prefer I could wipe you out of existence. It’d be my gift to the universe.”
“You meddling, know-it-all –”
“Gentlemen.” I step between them. “If you must have a pissing contest, take it somewhere else.”
Braxton rounds on me. “You’re in no position to dictate to me –”
“Enough,” I snap. “I didn’t invite either of you here, and you’re welcome to leave at your earliest convenience. And in case you didn’t notice,” I forge on as both of them open their mouths to object, glancing pointedly at the insignia on their collars, “I outrank you both.”
Surprisingly, that shuts them up.
“Good.” I fold my arms. “Now if you’re not going to leave, perhaps one of you would be kind enough to tell me what the hell all of this is about?”
I’m beginning to regret the whiskey. Temporal mechanics is a bitch to follow at the best of times, let alone tired and cranky and ever so slightly tipsy. It certainly isn’t helping my headache.
“So let me get this straight.” I rub at my pounding temples. “You” – I point to Q – “want to whisk me back a year in time to help my younger self find a rank pip I don’t remember ever losing, and you” – I gesture to Braxton – “want to stop the pip from getting lost, because somehow losing it will change the course of history?”
“The course of your history,” Q corrects.
“What’s the difference?”
“What does it matter?” Braxton interrupts. “This creature wants to interfere in the integrity of the space-time continuum. I can’t allow that to happen.”
“Can you even spell continuum, you insufferable badger? And this is such a trifling little change, really. Hardly anybody is even going to notice.”
“Then what’s the point?” I ask in exasperation.
“The point, Kathy, is that you’ll notice. You and that graffiti-faced lout of yours. Although why you’re so fond of him, I’ll never know. Even Riker is more interesting.”
“Q,” I plead, my head spinning. “What does Chakotay have to do with any of this?”
“Well, Kathy dear, let me explain. Do you remember the night Chuckles burnt out your deflector dish?”
“The space-time anomaly that shattered the ship into different timeframes,” I answer. “Yes, of course.”
“You had dinner together after all the excitement,” he reminds me. “You were a little merry, if you don’t mind me saying. Getting all flirty with poor old Chuckles while you tried to wheedle him into breaking your precious temporal prime directive.”
“Which he didn’t,” Braxton interjects pointedly.
“And do you remember how the evening ended?” Q goes on.
I frown, thinking back. “I don’t remember anything out of the ordinary. We finished off a bottle of cider, and then he went back to his quarters and I went to bed.”
“Exactly!” Q crows.
“I’m not following you, Q.”
“Then I’ll spell it out for you. You see, Chuckles had had quite an interesting evening, traipsing around all over your ship with a younger and somewhat sprightlier version of you, Kathy dear. It was so interesting, in fact, that it inspired him to revisit the nature of his affection for you.” Q snickers dirtily. “You should have seen some of the fantasies he used to have about you in the early days. He had quite the imagination – I didn’t know he had it in him…” He trails off at my glare. “Anyway, time passed, you two argued quite a lot, blah blah. Eventually Tattoo Boy had to accept that you were never going to give him the key to your chastity belt.”
“But that night, Chuckles was reminded of the old you, Kathy, and why he had all those intriguing fantasies about you in the first place – do you think you could wear body paint for me sometime, by the way? – and he was gathering his courage to make a move on you. Except that he chickened out.”
My mouth is hanging open.
“And do you know why? Because he was waiting for a sign that you returned his feelings.” Q rolls his eyes dramatically. “Honestly, he really is rather dim, isn’t he? I mean it’s obvious you have a soft spot for the big lug. What did he want, a club over the head? Anyway, he slunk away believing it was over between you, nursed his crushed ego for a few months, and then along comes Miss Catsuit and makes a play for him, and the next thing you know they’re an item.”
I swallow hard.
“So I’m doing you both a favour, don’t you see? Chuckles gets his sign painted in great big neon letters even he can’t possibly miss, he never starts dating Metal Girl, and you two live happily ever after.”
The room is silent for a full minute.
“You’re taking me back in time,” I finally manage, “so you can fix my love life?”
Q cocks finger-guns at me. “Not just a pretty face, are you?”
“I told you,” Q sighs. “I want to give you something nice for your birthday. Now, chop chop, Kathy. Time’s a-wasting.” And he raises his hand, fingers poised to click.
“Wait,” roars Braxton, making me jump; I’ve almost forgotten he was here. “Doesn’t anybody want to hear my side of the story?”
“Oh, by all means, throw your big wet blanket on the party,” Q snorts.
“Hold on a minute, Q,” I object, finally gathering my wits. “Preserving the timeline is Captain Braxton’s job. And besides, I want to hear this.”
Q throws himself backwards on the couch with a melodramatic sigh.
“If you go ahead with this,” Braxton announces theatrically, drawing himself up to his full height, “the future of the entire Federation is at risk.”
Oh. Well, of course. It couldn’t possibly be a gift from Q if it came without strings attached.
“We’ve been here before,” Braxton explains. “This miscreant fiddles with the timeline for his own specious and nefarious purposes, I try to fix it, and everything goes horribly wrong. You see, it all begins with a pot of breakfast stew…”
It’s quite an incredible tale.
On the morning of the day that Voyager encounters the spatial rift, Neelix decides to make a special Bolian recipe for Chell, who’s been expressing some homesickness. Like most Bolian food, it’s not exactly popular with the crew, including myself – or should I say, my younger self. Upon leaning over the stew pot to inspect its vile-smelling contents – scientific curiosity, naturally – I’m discovered by Neelix and dragooned into stirring the lumpy brown mush within. It’s hot and I’m sweating, and just as I run my finger under my turtleneck collar, Neelix bumps into me from behind and one of my pips is knocked off my collar and sinks unnoticed into the stew.
Upon masticating a healthy portion of the unappetising mush, Chell bites into my missing pip, breaking a tooth in the process and accusing Neelix of trying to kill him. I step in and take Chell to Sickbay, where the Doctor heals him and blithely informs him that the offending object should reappear once it’s passed through his digestive tract.
“Wait a minute,” I stop Braxton at this point. “I don’t remember any of this.”
Braxton glares at me. “Of course you don’t, because it didn’t happen in the original timeline.”
“All right, just for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re right; I changed the timeline and Chell ended up swallowing one of my pips. What on earth does that have to do with the fate of the Federation?”
“It’s not the pip,” Braxton says angrily. “In the course of trying to clean up the temporal mess you and your omnipotent friend here made, I prevented your kitchen rat from jostling you while you were stirring the stew, and your pip never fell off. What did happen is that Seven of Nine entered the kitchen, recognised me from our previous encounters, and attempted to immobilise me. I had to leap over the counter to avoid her, and in the process of getting away I dropped my temporal transport device.”
“Into the stew?”
“Correct. Shortly thereafter, your Bolian crewman swallowed it. Eight days later it made a rather unappealing reappearance, and being the curious type, Mr Chell tinkered with the device and ended up on Bolius IX in the twenty-eighth century.”
Okay, so now this is getting good. “Go on,” I encourage.
“Once he’d got over his shock, Chell took advantage of the situation like a good little Maquis. He wormed his way into the government, where he eventually became Chief Minister of Bolius, reinstated the ancient monarchistic system and promptly declared himself king. After spending a few years lying about with nubile slave-girls, he grew ambitious, started a war with the Federation, overturned the president of the day, disbanded Starfleet and outlawed all space travel, thus ensuring that the twenty-ninth century I know never came to exist.”
I have to admit, I’m impressed. Who knew Chell had it in him?
Then it occurs to me. “But if it was your temporal transporter that broke Chell’s tooth, doesn’t that make this all your fault?”
“Oh, thank you very much,” Braxton snaps. “I knew you’d see it that way. Try to remember, Admiral, that I wouldn’t have even been there if it weren’t for you.”
Q laughs loudly. “He has a point, Kathy. Irony! I love it.”
I ignore him. “And why, exactly, were you there? I can’t believe that a rank pip falling into a stew is important enough to send a timeship to stop it. Especially as your interference apparently ends up causing a far worse situation.”
“Why don’t I answer that, Kathy?” Q interrupts smoothly.
I turn to him. “By all means, Q. Please enlighten me.”
“Well, you see, it’s not just any old rank pip. It’s your rank pip. And when you realise it’s missing you become somewhat fixated on tracking it down. In fact, you spend an entire afternoon obsessing about it, and when you finally find it, its location is the trigger for a rather life-changing decision for you and Tattoo Boy.”
I blink. “Find it? But I thought you said Chell swallows it?”
“Oh, he does. Which is why you have to find another pip, identical in every way. Nothing less will do.”
“And where exactly would I find this mythical, identical pip?”
Q smirks at me in satisfaction. “In another timeline, of course.”
I swing back to Braxton, who’s glaring at me triumphantly, arms folded.
“Are you beginning to understand now?” he demands. “You and your shady friend here are responsible for not one, not two, but three temporal violations. And all because you can’t get laid.”