Tricks of Time

By Diane

Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager is a registered trademark of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.



Quiet conversation and soft footsteps floated through the air of the open courtyard as people rushed back and forth from the building on the far side. The path they followed passed by a central platform, and they nodded to the man who stood patiently beside it, waiting for someone to be transported in.

He didn't have long to wait. Soon there was the hum of a transporter and a beam shimmered before him then faded away, leaving behind three Starfleet officers.

"Captain Janeway, welcome to Mendera."

Kathryn Janeway faced the man before her and raised her hands in the traditional Mendeeran greeting. She hid a smile as she remembered Chakotay trying to teach it to her just a few hours before.

As soon as the greeting was returned, the officers by her side did likewise. "Minister Darrin, may I introduce two of my officers. The is Lieutenant Tuvok and Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres."

"Welcome," the Minister repeated.

Kathryn stepped down from the platform and looked round with curiosity. Chakotay had led the first away team earlier that day, and his report had made her very eager to visit herself.

'An almost exact replica of San Francisco on Earth' had been his description of this city. His descriptions of the capital and its people had held her mesmerised, and now seeing for herself, she realised he hadn't lost his gift for story telling.

"What a beautiful city Minister," Kathryn began. "Commander Chakotay was full of nothing but praise. I'm looking forward to seeing it for myself."

Minister Darrin turned to Kathryn and smiled. "Thank you Captain. Would you like to visit elsewhere first? I suggested this," he indicated to the building they were approaching, "as Commander Chakotay thought you would you enjoy it."

"Commander Chakotay knows me too well Minister. Your suggestion is perfect," Kathryn said, reassuring him.

The three officers followed Minister Darrin across the courtyard, listening intently as he spoke. Kathryn almost felt as though she were on a member planet of the Federation. It had been too long since Voyager had met a friendly species.

"This is one of the last remaining original courtyards of the city," the Minister explained to his guests. "Even the buildings were built many hundreds of years ago. All the structures have been preserved, though there are of course modern conveniences inside."

The buildings he spoke of were peppered round the outskirts of the courtyard, all of which had retained an old-worldly look. They were built with a light coloured stone, though slightly lighter than those that paved the paths of the courtyard itself. Scattered throughout were trees laden with delicate yellow flowers in full bloom, beside which were benches for busy passers-by to take a well earned rest.

Arriving at the main building, Minister Darrin stopped at the bottom of a flight of stairs, directly underneath the door's archway. Above the arch was a gold coloured plaque upon which unfamiliar symbols were engraved. But Kathryn knew that it read, 'The Mendeeran Research Centre for Advanced Science.'

And from what Chakotay and Minister Darrin said, it was one of the most advanced science centres she was ever likely to visit.

"This particular section of the building is centuries old," Darrin explained. "Some experiments are in the early stages, others are in the final clearing phase before being available to the general population."

Kathryn nodded, allowed Tuvok and B'Elanna to precede her, and then followed. She found herself in a large entryway, with many, many rooms branching off from it.

They were led from one room to the other, each one full of scientists busy on their latest projects. The rooms were a blur of activity and alive with excitement, and Kathryn and B'Elanna were in heaven as they listened to Darrin explain what was happening in each.

"Now Captain, if you would come this way, I think you will find this most impressive."

Kathryn looked up from the console she had been studying, wondering what Darrin had to show them now. So far everything had been more than impressive.

She looked at Tuvok and B'Elanna and saw they shared similar thoughts. Without a word, they followed Darrin through another doorway and into an adjoining room.

There was an immediate change of atmosphere. While the other areas had been a bustle of activity, this was far quieter, where even the people seemed to move at a slower pace. Not one person noticed their entry.

A serious and sombre mood shrouded the entire room, one that seemed to affect Darrin as well. Instead of the tour Kathryn had come to expect from her visits in the other rooms, Darrin lead them straight to the centre where they stopped before an unusual device.

"This is our latest experiment and one we are delighted to say we feel is almost at a conclusion."

"These look vaguely familiar," B'Elanna began, her eyes gliding over the readings that flashed across the screens.

Tuvok and Kathryn stepped forward and looked more closely at the readings. B'Elanna was right.

"Captain, Lieutenants," the Minister began moving to stand opposite them, "we believe we are on the verge of making time travel a possibility."

The three officers stood, stunned, only the faint beeping of a panel in the background breaking the silence.

"How?" Kathryn asked eventually. Whatever she had been expecting it wasn't this. Without further prompting, the Minister immediately jumped into a detailed explanation. And while Kathryn was fascinated, she could feel that headache that generally accompanied anything to do with time travel make itself know.

"Excuse me."

Kathryn was roused from her thoughts as a Mendeeran scientist moved beside her. While listening to Minister Darrin, she watched out the corner of her eye as he began to make some adjustments to the instrument panel. Some she understood, others held no meaning to her whatsoever.

Only when he had finished his task and moved away did Kathryn realise Tuvok and B'Elanna had followed Darrin to another panel across the room. But before she could follow, the faint hum from the panel she had so intently watch the scientist work on, caught her attention.

She looked closely, but was taken completely unawares when a bright beam shot out from it and headed in her direction. She didn't have time to react, and found herself lying flat on her back on the floor within seconds.

"Oooh..." she moaned.

"Captain, Captain are you okay?" Blinking, she tried to open her eyes and focus. She could hear both her officers and Darrin calling out for her.

"Captain," she heard again.

Her first attempt at speech more of a croak, she cleared her throat and tried again, thankfully with more success. "I'm fine. More stunned than anything."

Shakily she sat up then steadied herself before attempting to get to her feet. Still a little off balance, she was thankful for the support from Tuvok and B'Elanna.

"Captain, I am extremely sorry," Darrin said.

His body language screamed regret at what had just happened; it obviously wasn't an every day occurrence. But feeling fine, Kathryn was eager to let the incident pass.

"Captain, maybe it would be wise to beam back to Voyager and have the Doctor examine you," Tuvok suggested.

"I'm fine Tuvok," Kathryn answered, but staggered a little as soon as she tried to walk. Tuvok's arm was quick to support her again, and a raised eyebrow said more to Kathryn than any words could.

"Maybe I should," Kathryn conceded. She slowly turned to face their escort.

"How can I apologise Captain?" said an agitated Darrin. "This has never happened before. Never. If there's anything we can do please do not hesitate to contact us."

"I'll be fine Darrin," Kathryn tried to reassure him, though it did not appear to help.

"Please, follow me. I'll take you back to the transporter site."

"Thank you Darrin," Kathryn said, as they followed him out the room.

The walk back to the courtyard seemed to take forever. Though she didn't show it, she was grateful for Tuvok's presence close by her side. She could tell he was concerned and didn't completely believe she was uninjured.

Finally they were back at the platform they had beamed to.

"I'd like to thank you for showing us round Minister Darrin. It was an amazing few hours."

Darrin, still concerned for her, again began to apologise profusely for the accident.

But assuring him she was fine, Kathryn, Tuvok and B'Elanna eventually managed to say their goodbyes. Contacting Voyager, they were quickly beamed back on board.

*****

"Well Captain, I'm pleased to say you are perfectly healthy. I can find no physical damage that could have been caused by the beam." He paused briefly before adding, "The only anomalous readings I'm detecting are the high levels of caffeine in your system."

Kathryn rolled her eyes but decided to ignore the comment. She should have known the Doctor couldn't let the opportunity to comment on her coffee habit pass him by. Pushing herself up off the bio-bed, she swung her legs around to the side.

"Thank you Doctor. That's what I've been trying to tell you all for the past fifteen minutes." She looked pointedly at Tuvok and the Doctor.

"Hmm, I didn't realise you were a Doctor as well as a Starfleet Captain... Captain," he responded.

As he placed the medical tricorder down on the trolley beside him, Kathryn jumped down from the bio-bed. "Do I detect a note of sarcasm Doctor?"

"That's not a note, it's a whole symphony," he retorted. "I'll decide if and when someone is healthy."

Kathryn's eyebrow rose in surprise.

"So far Captain, I've had four different people come into sickbay today, only to listen to my advice then completely ignore it as soon as they left. Why bother having me around at all?" He turned his back on her, pushing the no longer needed trolley to the side.

The Doctor appeared to be on a roll; his tirade only beginning, so the sound of the doors opening was a welcome distraction. Chakotay entered and glanced quickly round the room before walking with purposeful strides to her bed.

His hand lifted as though to touch her arm, but pulled away at the last minute. He settled with an, "Are you okay Captain?"

"I'm fine Chakotay..." she answered with a smile, but stopped mid sentence as the Doctor cleared his throat. She and Chakotay turned simultaneously to look at him.

"Oh sorry, the Doctor will tell you the prognosis Chakotay, after all, I'm only the Captain." Chakotay did a double take before looking expectantly at the Doctor.

"The Captain is fine, though I'm sure whatever advice I gave her would be ignored anyway."

Chakotay turned back to the Captain, but she sent him a look that brooked any further questions. For once, they were glad when Tuvok interrupted.

"Captain, since I am no longer needed, I shall report to the bridge. There are reports that need my attention." At the Captain's nod, Tuvok left sickbay leaving Kathryn and Chakotay behind with the Doctor.

"I suggest Captain," the Doctor stressed once the doors had whooshed shut, "that you restrict yourself to light duty for the next 24 hours. And though I'm sure consulting me if you feel ill would be the last thing you would consider, that is what I am asking you to do."

Satisfied that he had made his point, the Doctor seemed to have finished. Finally.

"Don't worry Doctor, I'll make sure the Captain reports directly to sickbay if she feels even remotely ill," Chakotay answered.

Kathryn threw him a dirty look before quickly thanking the Doctor, and making a hasty retreat with Chakotay from sickbay.

"What was all that about?" he asked as soon as they were alone.

"It seems members of the crew have been ignoring the Doctor's medical advice," Kathryn began, "And luckily for me it all came to ahead while I was his patient." She snorted at her own timing.

"So, did you enjoy your brief visit to Mendera?" Chakotay asked, nicely changing the subject.

"Yes I did, and thank you for suggesting the Research Centre to the Minister."

"You're welcome," he smiled. "Did you find out anything interesting? I hear some of the research is very advanced, more so than even the Federation." Kathryn recognised the thinly veiled attempt at asking if they had any technology that could help them get home, but unfortunately nothing she had seen would have helped.

But the experiment that had resulted in her visit to sickbay came to mind. "They actually believe Chakotay that they will soon be able to make time travel a possibility." She turned to look at him when there was no response. He looked just as shocked as she, Tuvok and B'Elanna had.

"Time travel?" he repeated.

She nodded her head. The Captain in her retreated for a while, and the scientist appeared. "As much of an advance in science as it is, I can't help but feel that it's something we shouldn't be experimenting with." Her left hand rubbed the bridge of her nose as she and Chakotay stopped at the turbolift doors.

"Are you sure you're okay Kathryn?" Chakotay asked again, concerned.

"I'm fine Chakotay," Kathryn assured him. "You know how I feel about time travel," she grinned.

The grin was returned with a look of relief.

"Would you like me to take bridge duty?" Chakotay asked. "The Doctor did say you should take if easy for 24 hours."

"That's okay, I have some reports I want to finish by the end of today. Bridge," Kathryn called once they were in the turbolift.

"Well, just promise me you won't work too hard," Chakotay asked, leaning closer to her.

Teasingly she hesitated before replying, "I promise." They shared a smile just as the doors opened and they stepped onto the bridge.

"Status?" Kathryn called to Tuvok.

"Minister Darrin has contacted the ship on several occasions Captain. He is... extremely concerned for your well being. He also informed us that the council are ready to begin trade."

"Thank you Tuvok, I'll see to it in my readyroom. Commander Chakotay, you have the bridge."

"Aye Captain," Chakotay responded taking his seat. Tuvok returned to his own station and Kathryn headed directly for her ready room.

******

With a relieved sigh, Kathryn placed the last padd on her desk, for once quite ready to end her duty shift on time. What she thought would be a relatively easy afternoon of report reading had turned into a marathon of communiques with Minister Darrin and the Mendeeran council.

Trying to convince Darrin that she was perfectly well after the accident had proved harder than getting Neelix to keep leola root from most of his dishes.

Ensuring her desk was clear for the next day, Kathryn left her ready room and entered the bridge as alpha shift was coming to an end. She could see Chakotay had already overseen the necessary shift change duties, so simply nodded to the young Lieutenant in the Captain's chair and walked with Chakotay to the turbolift doors.

"You were in there an awfully long time. Were there any problems?" Chakotay asked as the lift took them to the deck their respective quarters were on.

"Took me most of the time to convince Minister Darrin that nothing serious had happened to me," Kathryn replied. "Let's just say I'm glad today's duty shift is over."

"Well, why don't you join me for dinner on the holodeck? I have a new programme that I'd like to try." Kathryn heard the hope that laced the question, and realised it had been quite a while since they had spent some time alone in the holodeck.

"I'd love to," she decided, feeling the hectic afternoon become a distant memory already. "So what programme is this? Will I like it?"

"It's a surprise, but wear something warm." Seeing she was about to ask more questions he quickly added, "I'll pick you up at 1830 hours Kathryn."

"I'll be ready; I'll see you in..."

But Kathryn stopped abruptly. A strong, brilliant flash of white light was blinding her and she instinctively lifted her hands to cover her eyes. Calling out for Chakotay, she tried to block the light, but it didn't help.

There was no response. She called again and again, before realising that the light wasn't just as bright anymore. She also realised that she wasn't standing either.

"Captain, Captain are you okay?"

"Chakotay?" she called, dropping her hands from her eyes.

"Captain?" she heard again. That certainly wasn't Chakotay calling for her.

Opening her eyes, she saw Minister Darrin, Tuvok and B'Elanna looking down at her. She blinked several times, trying to clear the last shreds of light from her retinas.

"Aaah," she croaked. "What the...?" She stared at the concerned faces gazing down on her, feeling a wave of deja-vu sweep over her. She sat up abruptly, though immediately wished she hadn't, as the room and people in front of her swam before her eyes.

She closed them, trying to push the dizziness away, so felt rather than saw the arm that steadied her. She knew without looking that it was Tuvok.

"Captain, I am extremely sorry," she heard Minister Darrin say.

"How could this happen?" Kathryn muttered, speaking to herself rather than those beside her.

"I don't know Captain. Believe me when I say there will be a full investigation. Again, I apologise for this happening." Kathryn stood, not even aware of the help from Tuvok and B'Elanna, only now realising that she had spoken aloud.

"What? No, I'm fine Minister," she said distractedly. Turning to her two senior officers Kathryn said, "We have to get back to Voyager. Immediately."

"Captain, are you injured?" Tuvok asked promptly.

"No, no I'm fine Tuvok. I'm fine Minister," she repeated before the question she knew was coming was asked again. "We must return to Voyager," she stressed. She looked at Tuvok, trying to convey the urgency of the matter without worrying Darrin more than she had already.

Tuvok nodded, accepting his Captain's need to return to the ship without question.

Pushing aside the wave of disorientation that still ran through her, Kathryn went through the motions of consoling Minister Darrin and saying goodbye, before returning to the ship for the second time that day.

*****

Kathryn was pacing sickbay when Chakotay entered.

"Chakotay and I were saying goodbye when there was a sudden flash of blinding white light," she continued. "I called for Chakotay but when I opened my eyes I was back on Mendera with Minister Darrin, Tuvok and B'Elanna looking over me."

She finished her story, looking at the worried and slightly disbelieving faces of the people around her.

"So you are saying Captain that you have somehow gone back in time and that this moment," the Doctor's hands gestured around sickbay, "has already happened?"

Kathryn nodded, fully aware of how that sounded. "Yes," she answered, risking a quick look at Chakotay. He looked understandably confused, but she really didn't feel like explaining it all again.

"Scans may reveal temporal distortions Captain."

Kathryn nodded her approval, finally stopping by the bio-bed long enough for the Doctor to scan her.

"What's happening?" Chakotay finally managed to ask.

"Tuvok?" Kathryn asked. Knowing what she wanted, Tuvok retold the story that she herself had told only minutes before.

Just as Tuvok came to the point in the story where Chakotay had entered sickbay, the Doctor completed his scan.

"Well?" Kathryn asked impatiently.

"The tricorder has detected a chronoton flux. Your body has been through a temporal distortion. It appears you were correct."

There was silence as everyone digested what the Doctor had just confirmed. Kathryn was the first to recover.

"B'Elanna, go to engineering and see if you can come up with anything. Tuvok, please take bridge duty, and inform Minister Darrin that I will be beaming back to the planet."

"Aye Captain," Tuvok and B'Elanna answered, leaving sick bay for their stations immediately.

Kathryn exchanged a few last words with the Doctor, before leaving sick bay with Chakotay by her side.

"I'm coming with you Captain," he said. Kathryn knew that tone of voice; she knew she wouldn't be able to stop him.

She nodded and they headed directly for transporter room one.

*****

"Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay, I wish we were meeting again under different circumstances," Minister Darrin said as soon as they were brought to the site of the accident. "Commander Tuvok was very vague about what had happened, yet he assured me you were unharmed."

"I am," Kathryn raised a hand, hoping to stop the tide of questions she knew was about to flow. "I'm afraid a more serious matter has developed." With a curious Chakotay by her side, she walked closer to the time travel device, explaining what had happened to her. By the time she had finished, several Mendeeran scientists had gathered around, listening to her story with uncertainty.

"Our Doctor has confirmed this Minister. I assure you this isn't a figment of my imagination."

"I believe she is correct."

Everyone looked up to the person who had spoken. Kathryn recognised him as the Mendeeran scientist who had made the adjustments to the panel shortly before the beam had escaped.

"I never foresaw this outcome when I made the adjustments to the panel," he began. "Though I see now that what Captain Janeway has described is possible." Kathryn let go of the breath she had been holding. The story had sounded highly implausible even to her ears.

She listened as the scientist hypothesized how events she had described could transpire. But she was only able to follow him up to a certain point. The science behind this device was far too advanced for her to follow completely.

"Since Captain Janeway was the only one to be hit by the beam, she will most probably be the only one aware that this... time loop has happened," he concluded. "If you hadn't Captain, none of us would be aware that we were re-living a moment we had already experienced."

"So there will be no more after effects of this beam?" Chakotay asked, more than a little lost.

The Mendeeran scientist hesitated before answering. "Thinking back to the adjustments I made Commander, I'm predicting Captain Janeway will experience three more loops before time returns to normal. We of course, will not be aware of any of this happening."

Kathryn didn't like the sound of that. "Isn't there anything we can do to prevent it?" she asked.

The scientist shrugged. "I will of course run some scenarios through the computer, but I don't believe there is anything we can do."

Kathryn turned to Chakotay and the Minister. "I'm not known for sitting back and waiting Minister. I'll speak to my chief engineer. Maybe working together we can come up with something."

The few remaining scientists began to disperse, quietly talking amongst themselves. With a feeling of unease, Kathryn once more said goodbye to the Minister, and walked with Chakotay back to the transporter co-ordinates.

"As soon as we're back on board, I want a meeting of the senior staff," Kathryn ordered. "Let's hope B'Elanna has a suggestion."

*****

All senior staff were seated around the briefing room table, the events of the afternoon and the subsequent visit to Mendera having been briefly relayed.

"I haven't been able to come up with an explanation Captain. I can't even fully follow the explanation the Mendeeran scientist gave. Their technology is simply too advanced." Defeat laced B'Elanna's voice.

"Keep trying B'Elanna. It can't do any harm anyway."

B'Elanna nodded, though the confidence that normally radiated from her was absent.

"I have run continuous scans of the planet and the area of the incident Captain," Tuvok said. "So far sensors have detected nothing unusual."

Kathryn nodded.

"Very well people, everyone should report to their stations and carry on as normal...for now. Tom, obviously we'll be staying in orbit for the time being. Dismissed."

One by one they filed out of the briefing room, B'Elanna returning to engineering, while the others took their places on the bridge.

Sitting in her chair, Kathryn glanced round. She hadn't wanted to say anything during the briefing, but she sincerely hoped that the Mendeeran scientist had been right when he said the loops would eventually wear off. She didn't even want to contemplate what they would do if they didn't.

She was drawn from her rather depressing thoughts however, when the voice of Tom Paris filled the silent bridge.

"You know Captain," he began, swivelling his chair to face her, "these time loops are actually a wonderful opportunity."

Kathryn frowned. "Explain Lieutenant."

"Well, if you know that everything is going to go back to the way they were, you wouldn't have to worry about consequences, would you?" He drifted away, lost in thoughts of his own, distractedly turning back to face the viewscreen.

Kathryn sat stunned at his suggestion. Such a thought hadn't even occurred to her. One emotion was quickly replaced by another as ideas of exactly what opportunities she could take raced though her mind.

She quickly admonished herself, trying to push them to the back of her mind where she usually tried to keep them.

"You know he's right." The voice startled her.

"What?" she asked.

"He's right," Chakotay repeated, his right elbow resting on the arm of his chair as he leaned in her direction, closing the gap that stretched between them. "It is a wonderful opportunity."

Kathryn looked into his eyes, but quickly turned away.

"So what opportunity would you take Kathryn?" he asked, loud enough that only she would hear. She didn't answer. "Well?" he prompted.

Kathryn could feel her cheeks begin to burn and just knew that they were turning a very bright shade of red. Before Chakotay could ask any more questions, she stood quickly and said for the benefit of the bridge, "I'll be in my ready room. You have the bridge Commander."

Not even waiting for a reply, Kathryn made a hasty retreat.

As the doors closed behind her, she let out a long sigh. Her thoughts were a wild jumble, and she desperately tried to pull them together before the inevitable happened.

But the inevitable happened a little sooner than she had expected. The door chime rang, and taking one last deep breath, she called for Chakotay to enter.

"Would you like some coffee?" Kathryn asked in a weak attempt to stall him, her back turned to him as she moved to the replicator.

"No thank you," he declined moving silently up beside her. Lifting her mug from the replicator she turned and was startled to find him so close beside her. But she covered it well and moved to sit by the viewport instead.

She watched him over the brim of her coffee cup as he slowly sat beside her, his body almost brushing hers as he did so. She felt the tension in the room double at the simple action, but continued sipping her coffee.

"What can I do for you?" she finally asked. She expected he would ask her about the ship's operations, so was startled once again when he repeated the question he had asked her on the bridge.

"What opportunity would you like to take Kathryn? What did you think of when Tom made the suggestion?" Kathryn couldn't help notice as his voice grew quieter, or as his body moved closer to hers. But this time she didn't have the safety of chairs, or the prying eyes of the bridge crew to keep them apart. All that lay between them was empty space and a highly charged energy that seemed to be growing with each passing minute.

Kathryn quickly leaned forward and placed the coffee cup on the table, trying to put some space between them. But as she moved back she realised she had just provided him with an opportunity to close the gap even further.

The thoughts that had raced through her mind only minutes earlier resurfaced, but this time with greater force. She didn't dare look at Chakotay, sure he would know exactly what she was thinking if he was only able to look directly into her eyes.

"Do you want to know what I'd do in your position?" he asked, unwilling to give up.

Her head snapped round in surprise. He had never taken it this far before. Just how far would he take it?

"I'd take the opportunity to kiss you," he whispered to her, his face so close that his breath caressed her lips. Kathryn's eyes widened in shock, but she believed he wouldn't take it any further.

But she was soon proved wrong. His whole body moved closer to her, his left arm gently moving up to caress her right, the sensation of his touch sending shivers racing through her body.

And he moved closer still. His head bent towards her then tilted to the side, and Kathryn felt herself forgetting about rules and regulations.

Finally his warm lips touched hers, gently, reverently, and her eyes closed as she willed all the reasons she shouldn't be doing this to another part of her mind. She sighed into his mouth as his lips slowly moved over hers, only the slightest of pressure, but enough to make Kathryn want more.

But all too quickly he pulled back. She watched him as his gaze wandered over her face, gauging her reaction, before he finally returned his lips to hers, but with so much passion and heat that it took her breath away.

When they eventually broke apart, Kathryn whispered his name, silently thanking Tom for that suggestion.

"Maybe you should take some of those opportunities more often," Kathryn smiled, the taste of him still lingering on her lips.

She delighted in seeing Chakotay's face light with a smile. Lifting her hand to touch his face, she reached for him... but cried out in shock when a familiar light embraced them both.

It blinded her and she closed her eyes, realisation of what was happening suddenly dawning. As she heard her name being called, then called again, she knew she was right. She knew when she opened her eyes she would find the Minister and Tuvok and B'Elanna watching her.

"Captain, are you okay?" Kathryn steadied herself for the wave of disorientation she knew would come, but when she finally forced her eyes open, it was the overwhelming sense of loss that was almost her undoing.

"We have to get back to Voyager," she called out without explanation.

"Are you injured Captain?"

"No, I'm fine, but this has all happened before." Getting to her feet with the help of Tuvok, Kathryn knew she sounded far from sane. A quick explanation was all she was willing to provide though before she insisted on beaming back to the ship.

"The Doctor will be able to confirm my story," she called already on her way out the room.

*****

"The Captain is correct. My scans do show a temporal displacement." The Doctor placed the tricorder on the briefing room table where Kathryn had gathered the members of the senior staff.

Even though Kathryn knew the Doctor would confirm her story, it was still a relief to have him say it.

"So you are saying Captain that we have all experienced this moment twice already?" Tom tried to verify as everyone took in what Kathryn had just told them.

"Yes." She paused and looked at those before her. "We weren't able to discover a solution on the last loop, but maybe we'll have a little more luck this time."

"And if we can't?" Harry asked.

"That's not an option," Kathryn said with determination, then stopped to recollect her thoughts. "If what the Mendeeran scientist said is true, there should only be two more loops to go. If after that time the loop doesn't seem to have broken... well, we'll worry about that if it happens."

Seeing acceptance in the eyes of her crew, she was satisfied she had done all she could for the moment.

Giving the exact same orders as she had done on the previous loop, Kathryn watched as they left the briefing room then took a few quiet moments for herself before following them out to the bridge. She was thankful she had such a loyal crew; such a story was still hard for her to believe even though she was the one who was actually experiencing the loops.

Taking her seat on the bridge, Kathryn began her own research on the panel by her chair and was deeply emerged in temporal mechanics when Tom's voice broke her reverie. She could only listen as familiar words left his lips.

"You know Captain," he began, swivelling his chair to face her, "these time loops are actually a wonderful opportunity."

This time she knew exactly what he meant. But he carried on unawares.

"If you know that everything is going to go back to the way they were, you wouldn't have to worry about consequences, would you?" She watched him swivel back to face the viewscreen, her heart pounding as thoughts she had had when Tom suggested that before were replaced with a far more real experience.

And as the memories flooded her mind, she almost missed Chakotay's quiet call. But not wanting to give him the opportunity to say anymore, she stood and called out that he had the bridge.

She knew she had left behind a bewildered bridge crew, but the thought of Chakotay asking the question he was bound to out there was more than she knew she could handle right now. To her, that kiss had only been a short time ago. And Chakotay didn't even remember it.

She knew she should be grateful. Wasn't that why she had allowed the kiss to happen? Because he wouldn't remember it had taken place, because it would allow her to experience something she could never normally allow to happen?

The ringing of the chime interrupted her thoughts and bracing herself she quickly moved to the seat by the window before she called, "Enter."

Kathryn's heart almost stopped as Chakotay walked in, heading directly for her. But instead of sitting by her as he had done before, he stood in front of her, hands clasped behind his back. She could see the hesitation, so as she had done before, broke the silence before it became too awkward.

"What can I do for you Chakotay?" As she asked the question, ideas on how to prevent a repeat of their earlier encounter were contemplated, but then discarded just as quickly.

"Well... I had intended to ask you to join me for dinner tonight but... well... maybe there's no point now." Kathryn immediately relaxed, relief flooding her as he mentioned something she knew how to handle.

"Your new holodeck programme?" she asked. She smiled as a look of surprise crossed his face.

"You asked me that question on a previous loop," she explained. "And you told me to dress warmly."

"Ah."

"It... umm... sounded like a wonderful programme," Kathryn ventured, pulling a piece of imaginary fluff from her trousers.

She watched Chakotay from the corner of her eye as he sat down beside her. Thankfully not as close as the last time she noticed.

"Really?" he asked.

"Oh yes," she answered.

"I didn't tell you, did I?" he smirked.

"What?" Yes, that sounded innocent.

"I didn't tell you what programme it was." It was more of a statement now than a question.

Kathryn raised her hands in surrender. "Okay, I admit it; you were keeping it a surprise. You can't blame a girl from trying now, can you?" They shared a knowing laugh, unconsciously moving closer together.

"Well, I suggest we keep the programme until we can both remember it. How does that sound?"

"Wonderful," she agreed, looking forward to that moment. Feeling more relaxed now, she took the opportunity to look at him, a real look, one she hadn't given him since he entered the ready room.

And immediately wished she hadn't.

The smile remained on her face, but she knew it was a smile that didn't reach her eyes. The tension that had built between them before resurfaced, and she could see the moment that dreaded question entered Chakotay's mind.

"What's wrong Kathryn?"

"Nothing," she turned away from him. She couldn't let it happen again. She couldn't.

"Why did you leave the bridge when Tom made that comment about opportunities?"

Kathryn closed her eyes, trying to find the Captain's mask that was buried below a sea of emotion, quietly cursing his ability to notice the slightest change in her moods. Having no idea how to answer that, she remained quiet.

"Did something happen between us during another loop?" Chakotay asked.

Kathryn's eyes opened wide, surprised again as his astuteness. How had he known? She listened as he tried to explain.

"When Tom made that comment about opportunities, there was only one opportunity that I'd want to take that entered my mind."

Kathryn held her breath.

"And if I thought about it this time, I'm sure I did before."

"Yes," Kathryn barely whispered, answering his earlier question. "Something happened."

"What happened?" he questioned.

At her silence, he repeated it. "What happened Kathryn?"

She could feel that Captain's mask sinking even deeper. "We kissed," she answered, still unable to face him.

She sensed him moving closer, just as he had done before. "Well, you may remember that kiss, but I don't," he said, this time his breath tracing the contours of her ears.

Before she knew it was happening she was in his arms, her own wrapped securely around his neck. Somehow she had managed to turn into his body and pull him closer. This time there was no slow first kiss, she wanted to taste him and feel him against her. Now. And it seemed Chakotay felt the same.

His lips pressed roughly onto hers, hands roamed through her hair and down over her body. She gasped as he found a particularly sensitive area of her neck and eagerly urged him to continue.

"Kathryn," she heard him call, as his lips made their way from her neck to the top of her uniform collar. She felt his hands open up the front of her uniform, pull the turtle neck from the waistband of her trousers and almost whimpered when he finally made contact with her skin.

Slowly, teasingly, his hands made their way further up her body, but just as he reached the curve of a breast, he stopped, and gradually made his way back down.

"Chakotay?"

"I want to be able to remember what happens Kathryn," he breathed, still taking in gulps of air. Understanding, she nodded her acceptance.

They sat together, still wrapped in the other's arms, their breathing slowly returning to normal. "We should return to the bridge," Kathryn spoke. "I don't think I could sit here and not let this go any further."

She felt him smile against her hair, and knew she had made the right choice, no matter how hard it was. He placed one last kiss on her head, then stood and extended his hand out to her.

Taking it, he helped her up, and they slowly made their way to the doors, stopping just short of activating them. She smiled sadly as he turned and pushed a strand of her hair back into position. His hand still outstretched, Kathryn moved forward, walking onto the bridge as the doors opened.

She could feel Chakotay directly behind her as they made their way to their seats in the centre of the bridge. With mixed emotions, Kathryn sat down, and wondered how she would deal with such a turn of events when everything eventually returned to normal.

Turning to Chakotay, she caught his eye, and together they raised a hand between their chairs. Forgetting they were on a crowded bridge, they reached out to touch, fingers mere centimetres apart.

But just as suddenly and without any warning, a bright white light forced Kathryn to pull her hand away, and shield her eyes from the glare.

Seconds later she heard the voices.

"Captain, Captain are you okay?"

Squeezing her eyes shut tightly, Kathryn clenched her fists tightly before thumping them against the hard floor. She winced as the pain spread through her hand, but ignored it, sitting up straight, trying to forget the accompanying dizziness she knew would come.

"Captain?"

"Not again," she shouted. This looping through time was becoming extremely frustrating. Ignoring the hand that was offered to her, Kathryn got to her feet only to be met with shocked looks from the people before her.

Calling out the first thing that entered her head, Kathryn almost ran from the room, Tuvok, B'Elanna and Minister Darrin close on her heals. She tried to calm an agitated Darrin with a quick explanation of recent events on her way to the transporter site, but as she hesitated before stepping on the padd and contacting Voyager, she saw she had probably only worried him more.

Tuvok and B'Elanna she knew would keep their questions till they were on board. And she would deal with them then.

"Janeway to Voyager, three to beam up. Now." Seconds later, they dematerialised from the courtyard.

*****

"Captain, would you please slow down." The Doctor was becoming more agitated by the minute as Kathryn paced back and forth in sickbay.

Kathryn stopped pacing, but continued with the story she had been telling for the past five minutes. She had wanted to call an immediate meeting of the senior staff, but Tuvok had insisted she come here first.

'He no doubt thinks I'm insane,' Kathryn thought, recalling the way she had behaved. At least the last time she had been a little more coherent.

"So you are saying that you have somehow gone back in time and that this moment," the Doctor's hands gestured around sickbay, "has already happened?"

Kathryn's hands went to her hips as she took in a deep, steadying breath.

"Yes, several times now in fact. Please scan me Doctor, it will confirm everything I have said."

Lifting his tricorder, the Doctor did as she asked. Kathryn, growing impatient again said, "Tuvok, please explain it to Chakotay."

"Commander Chakotay is not..." Tuvok began but stopped when the doors opened and Chakotay entered sickbay. Tuvok's eyebrow rose high, while the Doctor momentarily stopped his scans in shock, their eyes riveted on the Commander.

Chakotay frowned at the unwanted attention he was receiving, and walked hesitantly further into the room.

"What?" he asked.

"I'm fine Chakotay," she answered before he could say anymore. Chakotay closed his mouth, that exact question dying on his lips.

"Doctor would you please scan me for a temporal displacement."

"Humph, and I thought I was the Doctor," he muttered under his breath.

Everyone ignored the Doctor and now that Chakotay was indeed present, Tuvok began reciting what had transpired.

"The tricorder has indeed detected a chronoton flux Captain. It appears you were correct."

"Tuvok, inform the senior officers there will be a staff meeting in 10 minutes. Chakotay, you're with me."

Tuvok left immediately for the bridge, Kathryn and Chakotay following closely behind.

*****

"Are there any questions?" Kathryn asked, purposefully looking each of her senior staff in the eye. Thankfully there didn't appear to be. This was the second worst part of the looping; explaining what was going on. The worst had to be waking up on the floor of the research lab with three people looking over her.

"Very well then, everyone will resume their usual posts until further notice. Dismissed."

Kathryn rose with the others and moved to leave the room, but stopped when Tom began to speak.

"You know Captain," he said, turning back to face the rest of the senior staff, "these time loops are actually a wonderful opportunity."

Kathryn closed her eyes, preparing for the upcoming comment.

"If you know that everything is going to go back to the way they were, you wouldn't have to worry about consequences, would you?"

Kathryn paused before answering, "No, you wouldn't," and smiled sadly.

He shrugged, and Kathryn watched as there were a few hushed whispers as they left the briefing room.

She stood at the end of the table, arms crossed against her chest. Chakotay had remained behind, and he waited silently until the senior staff had left and the doors had closed behind them.

"So," he began, moving closer. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she lied.

"Must be hard living the same few hours over and over again, especially when you're the only one remembers," he continued.

She shrugged. She didn't want to risk saying anything, but watched as he continued to come nearer.

"Something happened, didn't it," he stated.

Kathryn looked down at the table top before answering the question. "I don't know what you mean."

"I saw it in your eyes when Tom made that remark," he answered. "What was it?" When she didn't answer he carried on. "I know what I would want to happen Kathryn."

"Really?" she replied, trying to act as though this was having no affect on her, even though she felt sure the officers on the lower decks could hear her heart thumping in her chest.

"Uh huh," he said. "And if kissing a certain Captain is what I want to do in this loop, then I'm sure it's what I wanted to do in all the others."

Flashes of pulling his body to hers, of the reverent then passionate kisses they had shared came flooding into her mind.

Remembering the Mendeeran scientist's words, she knew this would be the last loop before everything returned to normal. A war raged within her. Should she take this one last opportunity, or should she put a stop to whatever was or could happen right here and now?

She made up her mind. Kathryn stepped forward and reached her hands up to cup Chakotay's cheeks.

Gently, but confidently, she pulled his head down to her height and kissed him passionately. She felt him tense at first, could sense his surprise, but within seconds he was returning the kiss eagerly.

Her body melted into his, and she showed him exactly what they had done in the other loops.

"There's one thing I need to know Kathryn," he asked between kisses.

"What?" she asked breathlessly.

"How far did it go? At the question she stopped the kiss, her lips resting on his before she pulled back slightly.

"This is as far as it went Chakotay, I didn't even mean for it to go this far, but..."

"Sshh," he calmed her. "You don't have to explain." He pulled her into a warm hug, one hand on her neck, the other wrapped securely around her back.

"Why don't we let Tuvok take bridge duty," Chakotay suggested. One delicate eyebrow rose at that suggestion. "I'd like to spend some time with you, didn't we do that in the other loops?"

"No," she confessed. "It took me so long to explain what happened we didn't have much time together."

Making up her mind, Kathryn pulled back from Chakotay's embrace. "Janeway to the bridge."

"Tuvok here Captain."

"Tuvok, Chakotay and I won't be returning to the bridge right now, you have command." She hesitated before adding, "And Tuvok... we've not to be disturbed."

There was only a momentary pause on the other end of the line before Tuvok replied, "Understood Captain."

"Kathryn?" Chakotay asked, a smile in his voice.

She shrugged. "The others will have a field day with that comment. But then... in a few hours they won't even remember I said it."

"Let's go," Chakotay said, holding out a hand which she immediately took.

Together they left the briefing room, silently agreeing that they would return to her quarters. They walked in silence, hand in hand, ignoring the surprised and shocked looks of passing crew members.

Arriving, Kathryn keyed in the code, guiding him in after her. She led him to the sofa and settled down, savouring the feel of relaxing in his arms. Her head dropped to his shoulder as his arms wrapped around her, holding her securely against him.

How long they remained like that neither knew. They sat quietly, speaking of anything that took their minds off their situation, before lapsing into silence once more. The experience of just being with each other was enough.

"How long do we have left?" Chakotay finally asked, bringing up the one topic they had both avoided.

Kathryn turned from his arms and looked at the grandfather clock by her bedroom door. "I don't know exactly how long each... loop... lasted," she sighed. "But it can't be long now." She turned back to him as he brought her deeper into his embrace.

"I love you." The words had left her lips before she could stop them.

"I love you too." The words were whispered feather light into her hair, and she closed her eyes and let herself slowly drift into a peaceful slumber.

*****

"Captain?"

Kathryn heard the voice calling to her from somewhere in her subconscious. She recognised it as Tuvok's and immediately her recent experiences came flooding back to her, even in her sleep induced state.

"Tuvok to Captain Janeway."

She tried to ignore the voice, but it persistently called to her. She didn't want to open her eyes just yet, only to be confronted with the same images as she had so many times before.

But the voice continued to call, and gradually she began to notice small differences from the previous times. The floor wasn't as hard as she recalled, in fact she felt quite comfortable. It wasn't as cold as she remembered either, it was actually very warm... and was moving.

Kathryn's eyes opened instantly, only to be met with the sight of her own quarters and a sleepy Chakotay. She bolted upright.

"Tuvok to Captain Janeway," she heard again.

Watching as Chakotay sat up from his reclined position on the sofa she said, "Janeway here."

"Captain, I am sorry to interrupt you," he began.

"That's okay Tuvok," Kathryn said standing up. "What's wrong?"

"Captain, I believe the time frame for which you estimated the time loop to start again has passed. Minister Darrin and a Mendeeran scientist also wish to speak to you."

"I'm on my way Tuvok. Inform Minister Darrin that I'll contact him shortly. Janeway out."

The moment the commlink closed, Kathryn felt very unsure of herself.

Turning to Chakotay she said the first thing that entered her mind. "The Mendeeran scientist must have misjudged... he estimated one time loop too many."

She walked away from the sofa, feeling the need to put a little distance between herself and Chakotay. But it didn't last long. He was on his feet behind her, so close that she could feel his breath skimming over her neck.

"So," he started.

Kathryn slowly turned to him. "Chakotay..." But didn't get any further. His fingers were placed on her lips, a silent gesture for her to remain quiet.

"Kathryn please... don't say it."

She hesitated again. The same question she had asked herself earlier came back to her. Should she take what could be the last opportunity for them to *be* a them, or should she put a stop to whatever was or could happen right here and now?

She made up her mind.

"I was only going to say... maybe we should thank the Mendeeran for misjudging the loops." She laughed aloud at the look of amazement on Chakotay's face before stepping forward into his personal space, standing on tiptoes to speak into his ear.

"Now, the sooner I speak with Minister Darrin, the sooner you can show me this new holodeck programme of yours," Kathryn murmured before turning and heading towards the doors.

The doors opened and she walked out, listening as his words drifted after her.

"Wait, how did you know about my holodeck programme?"

The End


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