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And Be One Traveler

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Kat found she was reluctant to turn her back on the Discovery.

The ship was holding position off the Buran's starboard bow. From Kat's quarters, it felt like Discovery was looking down at her.

Irrational. She pulled her boots off, shed her jacket and sat down at her workstation. Discovery hovered in her peripheral vision.

Watching, she thought, and immediately regretted it.

This was stupid. And unproductive, when the captain would be expecting an updated report in -- she checked the chronometre. An hour and eighteen minutes.

Kat dismissed Discovery from her attention and called up Captain Burnham's brain scans.

It was closer to two hours before Gabriel stalked in. He gave her a quick, tired smile and headed straight for the shower.

Kat got up, stretched, poured two glasses of bourbon, and flicked Burnham's brain scans over to the main display, then retrieved her PADD and returned to her reading.

When Gabriel emerged, his hair still wet, uniform exchanged for sweats, he took a quick swallow from his glass, kissed her on the forehead and sat down on the couch.

He said, "Updates, Doc?"

"Yeah. Something's wrong."

"We knew that. Starship captain turns up announcing she remembers living another life, that's not a sign things are going right."

Not to mention demanding her fellow captain undergo tests to prove his identity before she would even speak to him. Yes, he had returned the favour by demanding the scans Kat had been staring at for most of the afternoon, but it was a professional discourtesy. Unbecoming of Starfleet's youngest captain, the protégée of Philippa Georgiou.

But, given the circumstances, maybe it was understandable.

Kat selected and highlighted a portion of Burnham's brain and said, "These are Captain Burnham's memory engrams."

"Parallel storage in her long-term memory. Believe it or not, I do pay attention."

"Right. The two timelines."

Not an hallucination, or deception. Genuine memories.

"The thing is," she said, "Captain Burnham's memories -- and the timeline, we thought -- diverge when she's ten. Twenty years ago."

"But?"

She rested her chin on her hand. "This is going to make me sound self-centred," she warned.

A smile tugged at the corner of Gabriel's mouth. "Go on."

"And I don't know if it means anything."

"Kat." He leaned forward, resting his hand on her knee. "I trust your judgement."

Still, she hesitated. Finally she said, "Captain Burnham was under the impression -- the very strong impression -- that I was a psychiatrist in the other timeline. Not a trauma surgeon."

Gabriel recognised the problem right away.

"You chose your specialty--"

"--Over thirty-five years ago."

"Before Burnham was even born." He got up and stalked over to the window, looking up at Discovery. "She didn't know we were married, either. She didn't exactly go into detail about her other timeline, but the way she looked at me -- I'm pretty sure I went … wrong."

"You're dead?" Kat was impressed at how dispassionate she sounded.

"Best case scenario. I think." He turned to look at her, and his grin would have been convincing to someone who didn't know him as well as she did. "Her other timeline -- I don't think it was a picnic. It's not just that her parents died. There was a war. And more."

"And she wants to get back to that?"

"She had a foster brother." He passed her a PADD of his own. It displayed a portrait of a solemn Vulcan boy of about twelve or thirteen. "In this timeline, he's dead."

Kat wondered if her kids would change history to save each other. Then, before she could stop herself, she wondered if they even existed in Burnham's other reality.

She asked, "What happens to us if she succeeds? Do we just … stop?"

Familiar anger washed over her at the thought. It was an old friend, that rage, one she met for the first time on her fourth-year cadet cruise. If she closed her eyes, she would smell disruptor-scorched polymer, hear the cries of the colonists as they waited for the rescue party. It was the Klingon raid on the Jasper Colony which had led her to become a surgeon. It was why she had married Gabriel, why she held so tight to her family and her crewmates, her patients.

She had taken her anger and nurtured it, and didn't apologise. It helped her steal life from death.

If Burnham thought she could risk Kat's universe--

Gabriel's hands were on her shoulders.

"Ensign Tilly is running simulations," he said. "Captain Burnham's not going to destroy everything for one man."

"Good." Kat's voice was hoarse. She leaned against Gabriel, closing her eyes.

"I've reassigned Tilly to the Discovery."

"Good."

"In the meantime, Captain Burnham has asked me to find her mother. Something was changed before Michael was born."

"Something small," Kat guessed.

"But it's caused one hell of a ripple."

Kat's ship had been on the very edge of the range of Jasper Colony's distress signal. If they had been even an hour later--

One of the other ships in the area would have responded.

She would have gone on to become a psychiatrist. And then--

Kat pulled away. "While I was running tests on you," she said, "Captain Burnham said something to me. She called me--"

"Admiral."

"You heard."

"And I saw you liked the sound of it."

Despite everything, she found herself smiling. "It's silly."

"Mmm." He sounded noncommittal.

"I love medicine. I'm happy on the Buran."

"You're a damn good CMO. And I like having you on my ship. We're a good team."

So I should forget it, Kat tried to say.

Gabriel said, "Commander Losa will sponsor you for the Command Training Program."

"What?"

"Well, I can't do it. And not right away, we have a time-altering astrophysicist to find. But yeah, think about it." Gabriel frowned. "If … that's what you want. Because it sounded--"

"I do," Kat admitted. "But it's been a long time since I was--" ambitious -- "career planning. I'm settled. I'm--" stale?

"You're hungry," said Gabriel, and he pulled her close again. "Kat, you're smart and you're tough. I've seen you make the hard decisions. If you switch to command, it's just a matter of time before you're the one giving me orders."

Kat smiled.

"Okay," she said. "I do like the sound of that."

"We could start now," he added, resting his hands on her hips. "If you want practice."

She kissed him slowly, then stepped back, reaching for the privacy controls.

Kat reduced window opacity by eighty percent, enough to reduce Discovery to an indistinct in the darkness of space, and put the ship behind her.

 

end