|No Time Like the Present
Author: missparker85 PM
The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once. - Albert EinsteinRated: Fiction K - English - Supernatural - K. Janeway & T. Paris - Words: 4,713 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 2 - Published: 10-14-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4595953
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
a/n: i wrote this a while ago, but thought since i've been posting so much voyager fanfic, i'd throw it up here too.
The Continuum is not what she expected it to be, especially for a woman who has been there twice. Things are very different from the other side. She'd been fine with her approaching death – everyone goes at some point. It had taken her some time to realize that the Continuum wasn't the afterlife, that she herself had become a Q.
"Q," Q says, demanding her attention. She looks up, knowing that she has been addressed. "What are you doing here? Why are you a Q?"
"I'm not sure," she says. "I believe it was Q who saved me."
"Q," Q says disgustedly. "I should have known."
"I didn't know Q's could be made," she says.
"Q's can do anything," Q says. "Even make Q's. Though you should know it's extremely rare. You're only the second Q that has ever been made in all time."
"Who is the other?" she asks.
"Q," he says.
"Ahh," she says, understanding. "Well… what do I do now?"
"Anything you'd like," Q says. "You're a Q."
"Right," she says. "A Q."
She spends some time exploring. At first she stays on the same linear timeline, visiting different areas in her now. She goes back to the Delta quadrant and watches the species that once had been a menace to her. They seem like toys now, so insignificant. She lingers around Earth. They've built a statue in her honor. It feels quaint. She goes places that no mortal has ever gone. She visits Voyager at Jupiter Station, where the ship will most likely rest indefinitely.
She interacts with no one. She doesn't let them see her.
"They think you're dead," Q says, appearing next to her.
"Isn't it better that way?" she asks.
"In the blink of an eye, everyone you loved and knew will be gone," Q says. "Doesn't that make you sad?"
"I thought time had no relevance?" she says. "They die, yes, but not to me. I can always go back. Watch any point of their life. I can watch my life, if I wanted."
"You could," Q says.
"I could sit myself down and say look, Kathryn, look what becomes of you."
"Let's go," Q says. "Let's do it now."
"It doesn't matter," she sighs. "One timeline, one universe out of billions."
"You've barely begun your life as a Q and already you're bored," Q tsks.
"I understand Q better now than I ever did," she says. "He wanted to die. I should've let him without the trial."
"A little morose, don't you think?" Q asks.
"I lived my life knowing it would end in death," she says. "Honestly? I feel a little cheated."
"Come on," Q says. "I know where to go."
He snaps and she looks around. She's in her childhood home.
"Indiana?" she asks. "We have existence at our fingertips and you bring me to Indiana?"
"Your friends are having a gathering in your memory," he says. "Let's watch."
Inside the house, there's a table covered with food and familiar faces mill around. Most of the Voyager crew is there and her sister and mother stand in the kitchen, speaking in low voices. She watches for a while, feeling rather detached from it all. Until she notices someone is missing.
"Where's Tom?" she asks.
"Who?" asks Q.
"Tom Paris. My pilot," she demands. "He's not here."
"Ah, your pilot," Q says. "He is rather conspicuously absent."
"How dare Tom Paris not come to my memorial," she seethes, raising her hand to disappear.
"Where are you going?" asks Q.
"To find him and give him a piece of my mind," she says and disappears in a flash of light.
She watches him for a while, first. He goes to work – designing shuttles for a transport service. He sits at his desk, pouring over schematics. He drinks coffee during the day, hard alcohol at night. Sometimes he goes to a bar in neighborhood, but mostly he goes home and replicates dinner and a drink – watches the news until bed. He walks the line, the straight and narrow. Sometimes, he talks to his daughter who is living on a Starfleet ship with her mother. Tom's interactions with his ex-wife are always terse and overly polite.
"What's wrong with him?" she asks Q.
"This is what the life of a mortal is like," Q responds. "This is what you did for years."
"But not Tom," she argues. "He's fun! He likes to… gamble and have adventures and make people laugh."
"I thought you were going to give him a talking to," Q says, conversationally.
"I was," she says. "I am."
"You could always go back. Find a more fun version," Q offers.
"But this is the Tom I knew as a mortal," she argues. "This is the Tom I want to be happy. Oh, Q, why did you make come back to these people? They shouldn't matter and I shouldn't care."
"Of course you should care," Q says. "You are Q. You protect the universe and those who inhabit it."
"Tom would be a great Q," she says. "Better than me."
"Good!" Q exclaims. "I thought you've needed a project."
"I can't make Tom into a Q," she argues. "I thought that wasn't done?"
"So what?" Q says.
"I don't know how to make a Q," she says.
"It's all in the wrist, really," Q responds. She rolls her eyes. He mimics her. "Why don't you speak with him?"
"Just pop in? Surprise, I'm not dead and nor will I ever be?" she asks.
"I like to make an entrance but everyone needs to find their own style," Q says. When he's gone, she looks at Tom, who is leaning over the sink, shaving. Now or never, she thinks.
"Mr. Paris," she says, appearing behind him. Tom jumps, his razor flying up into the air and landing in the sink with a clatter. He spins around and rubs his eyes. "You aren't crazy," she assures him. In the reflection of the mirror she can see herself. She's in her Starfleet uniform and her hair is up. She looks as she did the day she first stepped foot on Voyager. She's not sure why she looks like this and she supposes she could change her appearance if she wanted to, but she likes this version of herself.
"Captain Janeway?" he asks.
"Close," she says.
"You're dead," he accuses.
"No," she says. "I'm Q." When he says nothing, she soldiers on. "You didn't come to my memorial service."
"At my mother's house in Indiana," she presses.
"The remembrance celebration?" he says. "Mrs. Janeway has one every year, I stopped going last year. I'm sorry, did you say you were a Q?"
"I am Q," she confirms. She didn't realize that's what she was looking at, a remembrance celebration. She's lost all track of time, linear human time. She hasn't realized it's been years since her mortal end.
"Since when?" he asks.
"Time doesn't matter," she says. "You look good."
"You look…" He cocks his head. "You're a Q?"
She smiles, a big toothy grin. He seems startled by the openness of her face.
"Come on," she says. She snaps and suddenly they're on the bridge of Voyager. He's in his seat at the helm and she's sprawled out in the Captain's chair, her feet dangling over the arm. According to the data on the console, they're in the Delta Quadrant once more but it seems as if they're the only people on the whole ship. It's quiet.
"Where are we?" he asks.
"You know where we are," she scolds.
"It isn't possible," he argues. He realizes he's back in uniform too. "Voyager was practically dismantled when we got back."
"You don't get it, do you?" she asks. "Nothing is impossible anymore."
"For you," he says. "Right? But not for me."
"It could be," she says noncommittally.
"What's that mean?" he asks. She looks at him, sits up straight in her chair.
"I have an idea," she says. "Come on."
The corridors are ghostly empty but she doesn't seem to notice. He keeps up with her fast pace and they stop in front of the holodeck.
"Computer," she says. "Activate the Captain Proton program."
"Program active," the computer responds. He puts his hand on her shoulder to stop her.
"You want to play on the holodeck?" he asks.
"With you," she clarifies. "I want to do what you like to do."
"I have to go to work, Captain," he says.
"No!" she says. "You don't!"
"All you do is work and drink and be alone. Why wouldn't you want to stay here? With me?" she asks.
"Have you been watching me?" he asks.
"I've been watching everything," she says. "You're the first person from my now that I've spoken to."
"Your now?" he asks.
"Come on," she says. "Chapter sixteen."
"I don't want to go on the holodeck," he says. She sighs and snaps her fingers. They are back in his dingy, small apartment. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," she says.
"What did you mean? Your now?" he presses.
"The timeline I occupied when I was alive," she says.
"I feel like I'm talking to ghost," he says. "Like I'll wake up at any moment."
"It can be that way," she offers. "If you'd like. I can go."
He shakes his head.
"Do you want some coffee?" he asks, finally. She no longer eats. She doesn't have to sleep; she doesn't produce waste. She never needs to shower, to cut her hair or to brush her teeth. She hasn't thought about coffee in a long time.
"Yes," she says. "I would."
She drinks the coffee but fails to bring her the same thrill it once did. When she finishes the cup, he stands.
"I have to go to work now," he says. "It's been interesting." He pauses for a moment. "Will you be back?"
"If you'd like," she says.
"How can I contact you?" he asks. She smiles, snaps her fingers, and disappears.
She goes back to the Continuum for the first time since venturing out into the wider universe. Q waits for her with an all-knowing smile.
"You like him!" Q accuses.
"I don't know what you mean," she says, haughtily.
"You like that strange little human and his fascination of archaic lifestyles, his love for gambling and alcohol, his sense of whimsy," Q says. "How wonderful!"
"We were friends, once," she says begrudgingly.
"I always thought you liked that brooding fellow with the thing on his face but no, you were always robbing that cradle in your heart, weren't you?" Q laughs, claps his hands. "Q was right to invite you to the Continuum. We'll have good fun, you and I," Q says. She glances around.
"I don't think the other Q's like me," she says.
"Oh come now," Q scoffs. "They simply are wary of your tender age."
"Tender?" she asks.
"You are like a child, you know. Gallivanting all over the universe, spying on people you knew in your life. Drinking coffee!" Q rests his chin on his hand. "But I've always liked you."
"I recall," she says.
"What will you do with him now?" Q asks.
"He didn't seem so thrilled to see me," she says. Q rolls his eyes.
"He dreamt about you that very night," Q says.
"How do you know?" she asks. Q leans in so he can whisper.
"I spied," he says. "He dreamt about you doing all sorts of flexible things."
"Humans and procreations," Q says. "It's a surprise your race ever made it into space for all the time and energy you devote to intercourse."
"And yet, I seem to remember you wanting to make it with me rather badly," she says.
"There's still time," Q offers.
"No," she declines. "It not the same here. Half the fun of sex is the sweat, the moisture the… filthiness of the act. It may still feel good here, but it isn't the same."
"You do have a way with words," Q says.
"I suppose that is behind me now," she sighs.
"Only if you want it to be," Q says. "You can do anything, even if it isn't necessary. You could seduce Mr. Paris with the snap of your fingers."
"I don't want it like that," she says.
"So you do want it!"
"Go away Q," she says, finally. He walks away but she's more certain than ever that he's watching every move she makes.
When she visits Tom again, she makes sure she's the same rank he carried. A Lieutenant Junior Grade, age 33. She was a science officer then, so her uniform is blue.
He's staring at his computer console. There are schematics displayed that look very similar to the Delta Flyer.
"How are you going to fix that problem with the EPS manifold?" she asks. He looks up, startled again. They lock eyes for a while before he gives her the once over.
"I never knew you like this," he says, finally.
"Thought it might help you look at me as something besides your Captain," she says.
"You're younger than me," he says.
"I'm not any age anymore," she reminds him. "I'm a Lieutenant, just like you."
"I don't work for Starfleet," he says, turning back to his console.
"Do you dream about me?" she asks. He looks at her and she can see him flush.
"Not like this," he says. "Will you please go back to the way I knew you?"
"How you knew me doesn't exist anymore," she warns him but he doesn't look convinced so she snaps her fingers. Now she is older, back to the age she was on Voyager. Her hair is long, braided over her shoulder. She wears a blue dress.
"What do you want with me?" he asks. She leans across the desk and taps the picture of the shuttle.
"Is this really what you want to do for the rest of your life?" she asks.
"I don't know," he says honestly.
"What did you dream about?" she asks. He looks unwilling to talk about it. "Did we have sex?" she asks. "Was I in my uniform? Were we on a ship?"
"If you already know, why are you asking?" he asks.
"You always had a little crush on me," she says. "It's okay. I had a little one on you, too."
"Really?" he asks.
"Oh yes," she says. "But Kathryn Janeway would have never acted out on it."
"Now you're not Kathryn Janeway," he points out.
"Sure I am," she says. "She'll always be a part of me. Now I'm just more."
"Were you sad when I died?" she asks.
"Devastated," he says.
"Really?" she presses.
"B'Elanna and I divorced two months later," Tom says. "She said she didn't want to be married to such a sad man. That I was sad and that I was making her sad and that we were going to raise a sad daughter if she stayed."
"Because of me?" she asks.
"No," he says. "Yes. I'm not sure. It was the last in a long line of things."
"We didn't speak much, you and I, when Voyager returned," she recalled.
"No," he says. "You were made an Admiral and I decided to leave the fleet, so…"
"I thought about you," she admits. "Checked in on you now and then."
"Why didn't you contact me?" he asks.
"I never had a good excuse. I wasn't supposed to miss people for the sake of it, I guess." She gets a confused look. "Made sense at the time but seems ridiculous now."
"I didn't tell anyone I saw you. That you are…"
"I haven't spoken to any one either," she says. "Not interested. People are boring, you know?"
"Thanks," he says.
"But not you! You are fascinating, I can't figure why," she says. "Have you given it any thought?"
"What?" he asks.
"Coming with me!" she says. "Spending time with me."
"It could never work," he says. "I could never keep up with you."
She waves her hand in the air.
"Let me worry about that," she says.
"What kind of person abandons their responsibilities to go off with a Q?" Tom says.
"Is that what you think I did?" she asks, understanding. He shrugs, as if to say he isn't sure. "I thought I'd died," she admits. "I didn't choose this. It happened."
"You didn't want to be a Q?" Tom asks.
"I didn't have a choice," she says. "But it's not so bad. It's freeing."
"Freeing," he murmurs.
"I lived my life under the thumb of Starfleet from birth," she says. "It's nice not to have so much structure."
"What do you do now?" he asks. "What is life as Q?"
"I haven't been Q that long," she says.
"You've been dead five years," he argues. "Long enough."
"Has it really been five years?" she muses. "Oh, I've poked around here and there. Many Q like to play the part of the muse. Inspire greatness, but…"
"But?" he prods.
"Mostly, I've thought about talking to you," she says. "If you were Q what would you want to do?"
"If I were a Q?" he asks. "I can't even begin to know how to answer that question."
"You could inspire the Wright brothers to invent the airplane," she offers.
"But that's already happened," he says. She smiles.
"One of the things I did was check in on myself," she says.
"I don't understand."
"I looked at all the paths my life took, the ones I specifically didn't follow. The Kathryn who never made it out of the Cardassian P.O.W. camp, the Kathryn who stayed on the planet with Chakotay forever, the Kathryn who didn't go into Starfleet, the Kathryn who didn't change to the command track, do you see?" she says.
"What did you see?"
"Myself as a mother, as a wife," she says. "I had twin girls with Chakotay on that planet. Or, in one life, I didn't go on Voyager at all. I had a boy and a girl on Earth with Mark. Worked behind a desk." She smiled slightly. "Did you know that I looked at countless timelines, followed my life through endless possibilities and in only two did you and I end up together?"
"Together?" he asks. "Romantically?"
"In one we met because of your father. He hosted a party at your home. We were married within the year," she says. "No children."
"And the other?" he asks, swallowing.
"On Voyager. I got pregnant with a boy, hard pregnancy," she says. "Boy didn't make it." She slaps his desk. "But we did. It was nice to watch."
"Huh," he says. "How are you living all those lives and being here at the same time?"
"As it turns out, I become Q in every timeline," she says. "Very thorough."
"But you seem to have come directly from our linear timeline," Tom points out. "Why this one?"
"Because this is the first time line in which it happened?" she says. "All other timelines in which Kathryn Janeway currently lived followed suit."
"This all makes my head hurt," he says.
"Why? Kathryn Janeway has ceased to be. Now there is only me," she says, "Q."
"You say that like it's a good thing," he says accusingly.
"It's neither good nor bad, Tom, it just is," she explains. "Why fight what is and cannot be changed?"
"But it can be changed," he argues. "It has before. When we had Quinn on our ship. He chose to give up his omnipotence to live a mortal life."
"Is that what you want me to do?" she asks.
"It's what I'd do," he says. "You have a get out of jail free card. You could make yourself into whatever you want and then leave your powers behind. You could be 25 again if you wanted."
"Does anyone want to be 25 again?" she laughs.
"I'm serious," he says. "You could come back."
"You could come with me," she says.
"What about my daughter?" he asks. "You don't understand. You can't just leave your kid behind."
"Oh, don't be so dramatic," she says, losing her patience. "You wouldn't be leaving her behind. You would just be different. Better!"
"Better," he scoffs. "Is that what you think you are? I feel like I hardly know you like this."
"Honest?" she says. "Open?"
"Maybe," he concedes.
"You aren't who I thought you'd be either, you know," she says. "The old Tom Paris wouldn't have hesitated."
"The old Tom Paris was an idiot," Tom says. "And if that's who you want, you should go get him."
"Well," she says. "I'm stumped. Go back to your work, then." She raises her hand to disappear.
"Wait," he says. She does. "Is this goodbye?"
"Is it ever goodbye with the Q?" she asks rhetorically. She's gone before he can come up with an answer.
She watches him sleep that night with Q, who arrives uninvited.
"Humans consider pornography to be morally sinister," Q says.
"I beg your pardon?" she asks.
"If you're not here to watch his dreams, then why are you here?" Q asks. She raises her eyebrow. She isn't sure.
"Are they about me?" she asks. "His dreams?"
"Almost always," Q says. "Take a peek."
"I couldn't," she says. But of course, she does. It's fascinating to watch the way his brain works, to see their bodies moving fluidly against one another. It's fantastic but nothing like the reality would be. As a human, Janeway had never spent a lot of time on sex, never made it into an art form like Tom. She was proficient and always met her goals but she didn't dwell. On Voyager, it stopped being a part of her life all together.
In his dream, she's wearing a blue dress and he undoes her braid slowly.
She watches Miral for a while. She looks like B'Elanna, sounds like her too. But she speaks like Tom. She has a carefree way about her, funny and charming in the way B'Elanna could never seem to manage. It might be hard to leave a piece of yourself behind, she decides.
"What I don't understand," Q says. "Is why you want a mortal when you could have me."
"Could I have you?" she asks, curiously.
"If I wanted you then, why wouldn't I want you now?" he asks.
"Hmm," she says. She doesn't want Q. She doesn't want anyone except Tom.
"Even the omnipotent can't escape the occasionally bruised ego," he sniffs and leaves her be for a while.
Even when one is omnipotent, hard choices must be made. The next time she sees Tom, she says goodbye.
"I'm going to leave you alone," she says. He's working on the prototype shuttle, lying underneath the helm in the shuttle bay. He's used to her popping in and out now and he doesn't startle easily anymore, doesn't hit his head on the console or make a sound.
"What?" he asks, crawling out to look at her, sitting primly in the chair that hasn't yet been bolted to the deck.
"I've offered you another life and you haven't taken it. I'm going to leave you alone now. You don't have to worry about me bothering you anymore," she explains.
"Have I ever said that you were bothering me?" Tom asks.
"I'll stop spying, as well," she says, rising. "Goodbye Tom."
"Wait," he says but she doesn't listen. "Kathryn, wait!" he tries again. But that isn't her name anymore and when she snaps, she's gone for good.
Occasionally, over the years, Tom will call out for her but she doesn't come back.
Tom gets sick the year he retires but one doesn't cause the other. He's simply an old man who has lived a hard life. The doctor he sees tells him he has about three months; that the pain can be eased, if he wishes. That he should no longer live alone.
He ignores these suggestions. He walks home and sits at his kitchen table. He thinks about having a cup of tea.
When she appears in the chair across from him, he thinks she's a figment of his imagination. He's been having some trouble remembering things lately and seeing things that aren't there. Just the other day he saw B'Elanna sitting in his easy chair and she's been dead going on twenty years. He studies her for a moment – even after all this time he still finds her beauty striking.
"You're dying," she says conversationally.
"You're not real," he says, gruffly.
"I guess that's a matter of opinion," she says. He blinks and reaches out to touch her. She takes his hand and gives it a squeeze.
"Kathryn?" he asks, surprised.
"I can't save your life," she says. "But I can change it."
"Even after all this time?" he asks. She laughs.
"No time at all," she assures him.
"It's cowardice," he mutters. "Waiting until the last minute and then taking the escape hatch."
"Who cares?" she says.
"Who cares if you come with me? Your parents are dead, your sisters estranged. B'Elanna and Miral are both gone and now you don't even have work colleagues," she says.
"I lost Miral six years ago," Tom says. "Died in childbirth. Can you imagine? All the best medical procedures at our fingertips and still, women dying from childbirth."
"And your grandson?" she asks, knowing very well the answer.
"With his father on the Katarian home world," he says. "I'm not particularly close to him."
"I want it to be your choice," she says. "It doesn't have to be. I can take what I want, you know."
"You want an old man?" Tom asked.
"I want Tom Paris," she says. "As it turns out, I have existence at my finger tips but no one really ever taught me how to have a good time."
"Huh," he says.
"But you. You always knew how to have fun."
"When I was young," he concedes. "I'm not sure how to proceed."
"Give it a try," she advises.
"Give what a try?" he asks.
"An old friend once told me that it's all in the wrist," she says. "Think of what you want. Snap your fingers. Of course, the snapping is a formality but we Q like to put on a good show."
Dubiously, he snaps his fingers. On the table between them appears a bottle of wine. Oddly enough, he doesn't want any. He isn't thirsty. He isn't really anything.
"I haven't had a drink in ten years," he says.
"An odd choice, then."
"I didn't feel the change," he says.
"Not everything has to hurt," she says. Before her, he melts back into a younger man.
"Care to show me around?" he asks.
"I seem to have the time," she says, taking his hand. "Let's go."