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.
“Well,” Q says, springing up from the couch, “this has been an amusing little diversion, but it’s time to get on with things. Shall we, Kathy?”
He extends a hand to me and I back away, glaring at him. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you that an unwanted gift isn’t a gift at all? And besides, what about Captain Braxton?” I gesture to the other man. “He may be one of the two most offensive people in this room, but if he’s right and I somehow cause the downfall of the Federation, I don’t want any part of this.”
“Would you stop fretting? It’s such a drag. But if it makes you feel better, I promise I’ll see to it that your precious Federation is still alive and kicking in this human’s century. All right?”
“How are you –” but I’m cut off by the clicking of Q’s fingers, and the next thing I know I’m enveloped by white light. When it clears, I’m watching myself standing over a hot stove staring into a gooey, steaming brown stew.
In the mess hall.
“Oops,” I hear Q whisper. “Those rank bars just won’t do.”
In a flash my grey-shouldered uniform is replaced by the older style I wore on Voyager, and instead of my admiral’s insignia, four shiny gold pips adorn my collar.
“Don’t worry,” he murmurs in my ear. “For the moment, nobody can see you. Just watch …”
“Q!” I hiss. “Get me out of here!”
“Did you say something, Captain?”
Oh God, it’s Neelix. I can actually feel myself welling up a little – I’ve missed his mohawked, spotty little face.
My doppelganger turns to smile at him. “Hello, Neelix. No, I didn’t say a thing.” The other me waves at the bubbling stew-pot. “What’s this? Breakfast?”
“Yes, ma’am, it’s a Bolian specialty this morning! Actually, would you mind giving it a quick stir for me? I’ll go brew you a cup of – Oof!”
Just as the one-year-younger Captain Janeway obligingly picks up the ladle and runs her finger under her heat-dampened collar, Neelix’s shoulder crashes into her back and she lurches involuntarily forward, and I watch in horror and disbelief as one of her pips bursts off her collar and disappears into the stew.
Omnipotent laughter sounds in my ear. “There, that’s set the wheels in motion. Poor old hedgehog never knew what hit him, did he?”
Q waggles the foot he’s apparently just used to trip up the unsuspecting Neelix.
“Come on, Kathy. Time for some real fun now.”
“What about Braxton?” I demand as Q and I materialise in my – I mean, Captain Janeway’s – ready room. “Why didn’t he show up in the mess hall to stop this?”
“He’s been unavoidably detained. I did tell you I’d sort out that silly business with the temporal transporter, didn’t I? It malfunctioned.”
“Malfunctioned? Oh God, is Braxton all right?”
“Of course he’s all right, Kathy. I just sent him to visit an old haunt for a while. Los Angeles, the year 1996 – you remember?”
I cringe. If Braxton hated me before…
“All right, Q. You’ve had your fun. Return Captain Braxton to the Relativity and send me back to Starfleet Headquarters. Now.”
“Ah-ah, not yet.” Q waggles a finger in front of my face. “But I think we can skip ahead a little. Why don’t we see what happens in a few hours’ time?”
He snaps his fingers, and the ship jolts under our feet. Automatically I slap my commbadge. “Janeway to the bridge, report!”
“They can’t hear you,” Q rolls his eyes. “Just as well, really. The Captain Janeway from this timeframe might have been a little surprised to hear her own voice, don’t you think?”
“The spatial rift,” I realise. “This is the moment Voyager was hit by the chronokinetic surge.”
“And splintered into thirty-seven different timeframes,” Q confirms. “Things are about to get very lively around here.”
“What are we doing here?” I whisper, crouching behind the railing on the upper level of Engineering.
“Why are you whispering?” Q whispers back.
I send him a sour look as I stand upright and ask in my normal tone, “Can’t they hear us?”
“Nobody will see or hear you, Kathy,” Q assures me. “At least, not until it’s time. Now shh. Watch.”
I redirect my attention to the main Engineering level, where Seska and her Kazon cronies are prowling around poking at consoles, just as the doors open and Chakotay comes in. I hear him gasp, “Seska?” and one of the Kazon slams him in the face with the butt of his phaser rifle.
“Chakotay!” I cry out as he drops to the floor. “Q, help him!”
Q is leaning against the railing, smirking at me. “You really are fond of the big lug, aren’t you?”
I stiffen. “He’s my first officer.”
“Not anymore,” Q sing-songs.
“He’s my friend.”
“Really?” Q drawls. “Seems to me that friends don’t ignore each other for months on end. And isn’t that what you’ve been doing since you got back to Earth, Kathy?”
“I’ve been busy.” I cross my arms defensively. “And I didn’t want to interfere.”
“Interfere?” Q grins. “You mean, in his mid-life crisis?”
“I mean in his relationship with Seven,” I retort through gritted teeth. “He has a right to be happy.”
“So do you,” Q points out. “Which is exactly what I’m trying to get through your pretty little self-sacrificing skull.”
My gaze drifts back to Chakotay, who’s slumped in a chair and beginning to regain consciousness. “Is he going to be all right?” I ask anxiously.
“Of course he is. He saves the ship, doesn’t he?”
“Yes.” I can’t help staring down at Chakotay; I’m not sure I’ve ever had the luxury of gazing at him like this without having to guard the feelings I know must be visible in my eyes. “Yes, he does.”
“Well, then.” Q’s voice sounds a little softer. “Let’s move on, shall we?”
I jump almost a metre in the air at the triumphant shout from behind me in the corridor. Turning, I spot a wild-eyed Captain Braxton.
He’s brandishing a fist at Q, who looks bored. “So your time police lackeys managed to find you, did they?” he drawls.
“You dumped me back in that primitive hell-hole with those barbarians!” Braxton is practically frothing at the mouth. “How dare you? And as for you, Janeway –”
“Oh, shut up,” Q says, waving a hand, and Braxton falls silent, still mouthing his fury at us. “That’s better. He’s rather annoying, isn’t he, Kathy? What should I do with him?”
“Q.” I give him the force-ten stare. “That’s enough.”
“All right,” Q grumbles, and waves a hand again. Braxton splutters. “Clearly you aren’t going to leave well enough alone, Captain Temporal Prime Directive, so you might as well come along for the ride. Just don’t cramp our style or I’ll send you back to the primitive hell-hole. Permanently.”
I pat Braxton’s shoulder. “It’s probably best if you do as he asks, Captain. After all, he’s already stopped you from losing your temporal transporter. Much as it pains me to admit it, I think Q’s heart is in the right place.”
Braxton sets his face in a scowl, but follows as we move on down the hallway.
I catch up to Q. “Where are we going now?”
“The cargo bay.”
“What on earth for?”
“You’ll see,” Q answers smugly.
Stars. I’d forgotten how imposing Seven of Nine looked all decked out in full Borg regalia. Not exactly attractive, a small, mean part of me whispers. I squash it immediately.
“Why have you returned?” she demands. “Did the plan fail?”
I blink at her, then turn to Q. “She can see me,” I hiss at him.
“Oh, did I forget to mention that part? Don’t worry. She can’t see me. Or your time-travelling stuffed-shirt friend here.”
I glare at him and return my attention to Seven’s emotionless visage. “Er, the plan. No, no, it’s in progress.”
What plan is she talking about?
She’s looking at me suspiciously, for a Borg. “I understood that you and Commander Chakotay would be administering the chroniton serum in tandem. Why have you returned alone?”
Good question. “Um, I ah, wanted to check up on you.” It sounds lame. It is lame.
She looks unimpressed, in a Borg kind of way. “We do not require your supervision. Your time would be more efficiently spent by not deviating from the prescribed course of action.”
“Ah…” I’m lost. “Help,” I mutter to Q.
“Tell her you’re looking for engineering components in the storage containers,” he sighs, jerking his head toward the containers in question.
I repeat Q’s suggestion, then brush past the full metal jacket version of Seven and begin randomly opening cargo containers. Engineering parts. Why am I looking for engineering parts? I throw Q a glance over my shoulder, noting at the same time that Seven and her fellow drones have returned to assimilating the cargo bay.
Braxton is watching them with an expression of fascinated distaste. What, they don’t have Borg in the twenty-ninth century?
Actually, that sounds like a century I wouldn’t mind living in. No Borg. Particularly the ones who turn out blonde and statuesque with a penchant for tattooed Native Americans – Stop it, Kathryn Janeway. You are not a petty woman.
Q wanders over to hover at my shoulder. “Cold,” he says as I move down the line of containers. “Getting colder.”
“What?” I move back the way I came.
“Warmer. Warmer. Hotter,” he chants as I open each container in turn. “Boiling. Scorching. Ooh, Kathy, you’re downright blistering.”
As I peer into the container, my foot nudges it and I hear the unmistakeable sound of liquid sloshing inside a flask. Intrigued, I rifle through the storage box and pull out – a bottle of Antarian cider.
“So that’s where he kept it,” I can’t help crowing.
And suddenly I remember.
We’d finished our dinner and we were sitting on the couch in my quarters. I’d been trying to wheedle the story of Chakotay’s adventures on our time-shattered ship out of him and he was resisting. We’d almost finished a whole bottle of Antarian cider together and I remember sitting even closer to him than usual, touching him more than strictly necessary and giving him looks from under my lashes. I’d been sure he was about to cave and tell me what happened, but then he pulled away, making a joke about the cider bottle being empty, and I suggested he go get another one. From the cargo bay.
How do you know that’s where I keep it?
Oh, I can’t tell you. Temporal prime directive.
I’d been teasing – the cargo bay had been a guess. Or was it? Q said we’ve done this before – the pip, Braxton’s interference, the mishap with the temporal transporter. Maybe I’ve retained some kind of knowledge from my previous trips through time …
“Take my advice, Kathy,” Q says, leaning against the cargo container. “Don’t try to make sense of it. You’ll only give yourself a headache.”
“Then what’s the point of bringing me here?” I ask him, rubbing my throbbing temples.
“To remind you that that night was your last chance with Chuckles, and you blew it.”
I stare at him. For some reason my eyes are damp and my throat feels all clogged.
“Oh, don’t worry, Kathy. That’s why I’m here – to make sure everything turns out just the way it’s supposed to. Now, I think it’s time we finished the job, don’t you?”
“Mind if I ask you a question?” the seven-years-younger version of me is saying, her gaze darting to Chakotay’s.
Q, Braxton and I watch unseen from the upper level of Engineering as Chakotay shifts on his feet nervously. “Will I have to break the temporal prime directive to answer it?” he asks.
“Maybe just a little.”
Am I really that flirtatious? The cast-down glances, the sway of my hips … For the first time I fully realise the depths of Chakotay’s patience all those years. Not to mention his self-restraint.
“For two people who started off as enemies, it seems we get to know each other pretty well. So I've been wondering … just how close do we get?”
My jaw drops. “Oh no she didn’t!”
“Oh yes you did,” Q says, an irritatingly knowing smirk on his face.
Chakotay goes through about a hundred micro-expressions while the younger me is talking and finally settles on something I’d describe as resignation. “Let’s just say,” he answers slowly, “there are some barriers we never cross.”
And the look on my face – my-seven-years-in-the-past, newly-engaged-to-Mark face – is disappointment. Disappointment. I’m blushing so hard I can’t even look at Captain Braxton.
Q nudges me. “Older doesn’t necessarily mean smarter, eh, Kathy?”
We watch as the pair shake hands and move off in different directions.
“Okay, Kathy,” Q announces. “It’s showtime.”
“What are you talking about now?”
“You need to take her pip.”
Q rolls his eyes. “I told you earlier – only a genuine Captain Janeway pip will do for our purposes, and the one the other you was wearing ended up in a Bolian’s digestive tract. You need to go get hers. Just walk right up to her and grab it. Trust me, she won’t remember.”
“Now do you see why I hate you?” mumbles Braxton. “You know the Bureau of Temporal Investigations has an entire division dedicated to implementing the Janeway Protocol?”
“All right,” I hold up my hands for mercy. “Let’s just get this over with.”
With a deep breath, I follow Captain Janeway’s steel chignon into the hallway and tap her on the shoulder.