Disclaimer: Paramount owns the characters. Elton John/Bernie Taupin wrote the song...I wrote the story, but I'm not rich...that's the only difference.
The door loomed ahead of her like the last barrier of a hidden treasure. She didn't want to do it; go into the lions den per se, by herself. However, she knew if she asked anyone else, then she would be trying in vain to not break down in front of them.
Going through quarters. Correction. Going through his quarters. Too many memories, too many specters. First officer, best friend, confidant, teller of stories and bad jokes. A drinking companion, a debater. A fighter, a man that thought with his head and his heart. Compassionate, intelligent and resourceful.
No longer by her side.
Kathryn stepped up to the door and wished that he would just open it up. She could see the look of surprise on his face, the smile just teasing his lips, therefore teasing her. In her mind, she saw herself smile up at him, her arms behind her back, shifting back and forth. He'd say something like "this is a surprise," then he'd stand to the side and usher her in. She would smile and take those steps. . .
She reached up and tapped in her override to his quarters. The door slid silently open and before her lay a slight darkness. Slight only because she could see the phantom ghosts of furniture, waiting in silence for an owner that would never return. A light over the desk was the only thing on. Stepping inside and letting the door shut behind her, Kathryn finally felt that she could breathe.
It was time to go through his things, pack it up. Give to those whom he had cited in his will. A time for her to grieve. Not that she hadn't. It was all inside, behind a facade that threatened to crumble at the next sight of a crewman with his or her head down with a frown on their face.
She hadn't been here too often. She preferred the sanctuary of the holodeck or mess hall; places with other people. When it was dictated that they needed to be alone, it was always her quarters or ready room. Someplace where she had control of the situation. A place where she could tell him to leave and deal with the consequences in the privacy of a world of her making.
The fact was, his quarters were just too dangerous for the two of them.
Kathryn walked around the living quarters. The first things she looked at were the shelves. Shelves that really didn't have much on them. A couple of antique leather bound books. A few large stones on which he'd drawn out an intricate design, waiting for his hands to carve. Wood sanded and carved into shapes. A few holo pictures of those he cared about. One of B'Elanna, another with Kes and Neelix with their arms wrapped around each other. One of Harry and Tom standing with drinks in their hands. Harry had an innocent smile and Tom had a hand up behind Harry's head, in a Vulcan salute which made Harry look like he had rabbit ears. There was one of Tuvok and the Doctor, standing solemnly together, apparently in the midst of some deep discussion.
A couple of smaller pictures stood on the top shelf. Kathryn had to stand on her tiptoes to reach them. One was of Samantha and Naomi. Kathryn remembered the event-his birthday. Naomi had worked long and hard to draw a picture of his tattoo. She'd painstakingly drew it with a preciseness that everyone had thought was wonderful for a child of five. The other picture was that of Kurt Bandera, one of his friends who had died so early into the mission.
Setting the pictures back, she sighed. Not one had her in it. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry over the omission. Then again, years of being led on would leave anyone wondering about truth. Kathryn walked into the bedroom. Just as neat. For some reason, she always thought he would be the unkempt kind. But he wasn't. The bed was made with not a wrinkle. His table held a simple reading lamp, his medicine bundle, a padd and a photograph like the others. Sitting upon his bed, he noticed it was a picture of her. One taken at when her hair had still been long and held back in a clip. She was standing nonchalant against a pillar on the holodeck, hands behind her, smiling as she watched some amusement.
She opened the top drawer of the stand and found to her surprise, a book. Upon opening it, she saw Chakotay's own handwriting. A beautiful script, especially for a man. Kathryn found herself drawn to the writing. As she turned the page, a small sheet fell from the pages and fluttered down to the floor. She bent over to pick it up. Upon turning it over, she could see her name written clearly on it.
Over the years, I've told you many stories. Many from my home, many from exploits in Starfleet and the Maquis. Yet there is one story I've never told a living soul. To be truthful, I don't think I could tell it to anyone while I lived. So I started writing it down.
Put simply, it's a story I experienced and I'm not sure I could and do believe. I hope that maybe it will give you something. We all tend to forget how lonely it truly gets at the top. Even with those we believe in guiding us and helping us on the path.
After reading this, tell me-was it in my head? Did I imagine it? Is there a hidden meaning or message behind it? I don't know. But maybe it will make sense to you.
With that, Kathryn turned on the reading lamp and lit the candle on the window ledge. Propping his pillows up, she opened the book and began reading his story. One that he'd never told to another soul. One in which she would be the first and last to read.
I was nineteen when it happened. A break between semesters at the academy and not a whole hell of a lot to do. The transport to Dorvan would have taken up too much time and the other exotic locations my fellow classmates went too, didn't appeal to me.
I found myself touring over ancient war grounds. Where your civil war had been fought centuries ago. A turbulent time in your history, to say the least. I'd gone to about three or four when I wandered from the tour group and headed out on my own.
Late afternoon and I pulled the land rover over in a wide spot and climbed out, not really sure why. All I knew is that air was clear. I mean really clear. No odors, other than that of a early spring day when life is starting to return. New leaves rustled in an almost lazy way. Sleepy little birds were singing their final song of the day before going to sleep and letting the night creatures have their turn. A sky that was turning shades of orange and purple and blue. The moon had even began to show up in the sky. Just a sliver.
I grabbed the lunch I'd brought with me and ventured out into this field. Finding a tree, I leaned up against it and just watched the night come. Night has never bothered me, nor has the dark. I had trained my ears long ago to pick up something different and my sixth sense had rarely let me down. So, needless to say, I wasn't worried about getting caught out here in the dark.
It was clear when my eyelids dropped shut. I guess I never did realize how damn tired I really was. When I woke, it was dark. A mist had fallen on the flat and it swirled in time to the crickets song. It was so damn peaceful, I didn't want to leave. I thought, 'what the hell, it's not like you have to be anywhere'. I stayed put. I pulled my shirt a little tighter around me and just listened to the night. No thoughts of importance played. Just the serenity of a bygone time.
I must have dozed off again and this where it gets interesting. To this day, I don't know whether I was asleep or awake. I awoke to the sound of voices. Not just any voices. The landscape around me had changed ever so slightly. I could hear the ocean with perfect clarity, the waves rolling in one after another-pounding on the shore.
It was then I looked around. Men in blue uniforms surrounded me. It took me a moment to realize that they were uniforms of the civil war. We'd been studying historical conflicts before I left and here it was. A reality. Some sat around fires, which were just now starting to burn out with the first rays of sunshine. Some stood around, cleaning and loading their guns. Some were like me; leaning against a tree with their legs out straight, caps over their eyes against the sun. I could hear some in a few big tents across the way, singing in drunken song.
What had woken me, I guess was a small amount of gun fire. Like that time Q took you into the continuum and they were having a civil war. There wasn't any real amount of joy here, just men getting a few minutes of rest before it began again. You know, each day is taken just as it's presented: One at a time. In the distance, I could see the bell tower of a church, blackened and pot marked with holes. A town lie over there in ruin. Someone's dream scattered to the wind.
I got up then. I had to have been a ghost to them, someone from another time. They didn't see me, they didn't hear me. I was a complete and total observer to something no one had seen in years. Something that had happened in a place that wasn't even marked as being significant in any way. Just a field in the middle of nowhere. But it wasn't that. Something had happened here and I was witnessing it, first hand you might say.
I walked a well beaten path and found myself upon a cliff. Out in the turbulent Atlantic, white sails dotted the blue. Ships waiting for the injured to take them further north. Men flanked past me, looks of dejection haunting their eyes. From the snatches of conversation I heard, they were out of ammunition and they couldn't continue until they got more.
The crippled were being loaded onto small craft when I heard the bugle call. The able bodied ones went to tables set up and began eating breakfast. I couldn't smell what they were eating, hell, I couldn't even smell the wood smoke from the fires. I'd even tapped the back of my hand three times just to make sure I wasn't lucid dreaming. Either I was really dreaming or I was awake.
Yet all I could feel was a sense of impending pride. That victory, no matter how small was at hand. They smiled battle weary smiles and they held that hope. They had families, homes, lives they wanted to return to. This war was nothing more then an interruption in the way of life they'd known. Only so much was at stake. I got the feeling they new what that stake was, but they weren't sure if they could hold out until the end.
I saw a man ride up on horseback. He jumped with no effort from its back and he went up to what I believed to be the leader of the men. More cords on his shoulders, the whole bit. He read the letter, his eyes caressing each and every word on that paper. He read it again, and again. Then he crumpled it up in his hands and he turned away from his men. He closed his eyes and he remained motionless for what seemed like hours. He finally opened them and a lone tear ran down his face, disappearing into the beard he sported.
"We retreat," he said. The men at the table stopped in mid bite. Forks paused in mid air, or knives paused at cutting into some meat. Hands stilled on tin cups and talking and laughter stopped. He then repeated it, louder. "Pack the compass, pack the tents," he said. As he started toward his tent, I heard him add, "take the bunks as well."
I closed my eyes briefly. Kathryn, I swear it was only a second. And in that second, the whole scene around me changed. Now I was in this town, the one with the blackened church tower. The time of day was different. People ran around, excitement in their eyes. Women wrung their hands and children played. In the distance, up a rutted road, I could see the first signs of the end. Men in uniforms, limping along with their few belongings slung over their shoulders. Families were reunited, women pressed themselves to long lost husbands. They introduced them to the children born in their absence. It was just as it should have been; a happy reunion.
Then I began to see. It was something I never thought I'd see. Defeat in victory. War had taken a uncanny toll on these men. They kept their uniforms. Medals were taken from their breast and put into boxes and stored away. They took up where they'd left off. Plows began moving through dirt. They planted their crops.
Some dealt fine with it, others lost their tenuous grip on reality. All the uniforms and medals that had been carefully packed away into attic trunks represented were that they had once stood beside the best. That God had saved them; the chosen few, while the devil took the rest.
Then my perspective changed yet one more time. I stood on a high cliff, overlooking the ocean. I could smell the salt air and I still heard the voices. Yet I knew this was years later. I saw an airplane like Amelia Earheart had flown, flying low over the sky. Eagles cried as they rode the wind; dipping and climbing with the changes.
I heard the sound of the old general, and below and around me, I could see their white shapes, walking about. He still shouted orders and the men took up their guns. Upon the ocean, the mist looked like crazy angels dancing. And they began to retreat again. . .
I woke up and it was the early hours of the morning. Light was just starting, but sunrise was still a ways off. My clothes were damp and I was cramped from my position. I stood, stretched and looked around. Really looked around. I walked that clearing and I walked the wood. Not far, I found the remains of an old town. It sat there like history had forgotten it. The roads still had ruts from wagon. Some of the paint was still visible on boards, weathered and gray. Wildflowers claimed the road. Picket fences stood, leaning this way and that, the missing boards looking like missing teeth. Old wagon wheels, stables. It was like something out a holonovel.
A town someone forgot.
Curiosity got the better of me and I explored a few of those old places. I knew I shouldn't have, but it was something I knew I'd never see again, no matter how hard I tried to find it. I went into one of the homes and followed the steps up to the attic and there was the trunks. I opened it and there lay the tattered remains of a union jacket. Moths and other bugs, weather and time had gotten to it. But the medals were there. Ones put away to forget the past.
I know I should have left it, but I couldn't. The pull on me was too strong and it was something I had to do. I took the medals and I took a locket. But I touched nothing else. Someone or something told me it was the right thing to do. As I went back the way I came, I caught sight of the graveyard. It was huge. Over grown, tombstones broken and weathered to the point that you couldn't read the names anymore. But I walked through it.
Then I found it. One that I could barely read. The one that made the sense of what I'd seen.
"This yard contains the earthly remains of those killed in the greatest of conflicts. Brother against brother, father against son, friend against friend. They gave of themselves to protect our union. They gave themselves for us."
Over 400 graves marked that place. Only about 150 had been town residents. With my treasure, I left. I walked back through the clearing, picked up my stuff and went back to my rover.
Years later, I flew over the area with a shuttle. I knew where it was, but my feeling from years before had been correct. I couldn't find it. A town that was literally a ghost. I couldn't even find the clearing. But I still had the medals and the locket.
Do you believe in destiny, Kathryn? That you've lived before, in another time, another place. That people you know now, you knew then, but in a different way?
I do. After that, I do. Did. This is where my story ends. But yours begins in a box at the bottom corner of my closet.
It had taken Kathryn four hours to read the story and the more she read, the more intrigued she'd become. She had laid the book open on her legs and stared straight ahead, wondering about his story. He'd asked her to decide whether it was real or not. She wasn't sure.
Reality would be if there really were medals he'd found. Who knew. She quietly crawled off the bed and went to his closet. Uniforms were carefully separated from off duty attire. Shoes and boots were kept in a neat row.
In the corner lay the box.
She picked it up and took back over to the bed. She took the lid off and found things other then what he said was there. A length of her hair; individual strands braided. The picture Naomi had drawn for his birthday. A tiny piece of metal, with just the name Liberty on it.
Kathryn found another box within that one and she opened it. It were the medals. Old. Ancient. A memory long forgotten. Her thumb rubbed at the name on the medal. An A became visible and the letters J, N,E,A,Y became visible. After a moment, it dawned on her. It was her last name.
She shifted through the other medals, each from the same person. Another piece of paper caught her sight and she opened it.
By now you've read my story. I did research and discovered something I thought you'd find interesting. The medals, if your suspicions are still right on, are from your family. Aidan Janeway. He was a captain, flung into an impossible situation. He had taken a rag tag bunch of men. A few from this regiment, a few from that. Men remaining that had lost their entire groups. His troops, numbered 152 at the beginning of the stay in that town.
He kept them together, a group with no discipline, far from home and only memories to keep them company. They stayed and fought for that place. By the time the night fell, all but nine members of his regiment lie on the ground, dead or dying. The enemy had been wiped out. All nine went on north and joined other areas. But in the end, they returned to the town. Names that are familiar.
Now you know why I never told anyone about that adventure. To this day, I think I was meant to see that. I never found the town again. But even now, it still haunts my memory. The way the captain turned that morning and got control of himself before he gave his orders. The small child that ran up to a soldier. The cocky blonde man who smiled as he recounted a tale. The tall blonde widow, with ice blue eyes.
Do you believe in destiny?
Kathryn sat the sheet down and pulled out the last box. A small one. Inside, a simple locket. A brass rose sat embedded on the front. Curiosity got the better of her.
Her fingernails found the hidden clasp and she opened it. Inside, were two small black and white photos, preserved amazingly well. On the left, was a man. Dark eyes, dark hair. Long nose. On his head, a dark hat. Kathryn knew from looking, he was a Union soldier.
And he looked like Chakotay.
The other picture was of a small woman. Brown hair, sparkling eyes. Light skin. Unlike most pictures of the time, this one had a smile.
The same smile gracing Kathryn's face. It was her, only centuries before.
Inside, the bottom of the bigger box, she found another small book. The locket had belonged to Caroline Janeway, wife of Aidan. The medals were his.
Directly, she began to read about a life long ago, entwined with that of a certain man who had shared something with her no one else knew. . .
Words by Bernie Taupin Music by Elton JohnReturn to Index