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Where my Heart Leads
Chakotay sat alone in his darkened quarters, it wasn't quite dusk, but the narrow windows didn't allow in much of the rapidly fading day. It had been a long day and an eventful one. Thinking of it now, it had been an eventful seven, almost eight years. Today, it was over or maybe it was just beginning; he wasn't sure how to look at it. Only this morning the decision had been handed down; the Federation had pardoned all the Maquis; he had a future to decide. Another solitary decision. Alone again. Wasn’t that the way it always went with him? No matter how many people he surrounded himself with, he continued to live this isolated lifestyle.
As he wandered through the shadows of his quarters, he contemplated the shadows of his life. To Chakotay it felt as if he had grown up alone. Oh, there were people, family, around and he understood that they loved him, but in many ways they never knew him. He had been a contrary, an outsider among his people, even in his own family and now they were gone. All of them long ago wiped out by the Cardassians. How ironic it seemed sometimes, that he wore a tribal marking on his forehead to honor a people who never understood him; a people he refused to understand for many years.
Chakotay made himself a cup of tea and sat on the floor under the window to watch the sun go down. The setting of the sun seem so significant, pulling the last of the light from the sky just as the hope always seem to drain from his dreams. Starfleet had been his dream, to explore different worlds, soar among the start, but over the years he often questioned why. Was it only because it was the farthest thing from his tribal teachings? Or at least at the time he though it was. Later he learned the ideals were not so different. Still he had worked hard, studied hard and made something of himself in Fleet. Then they betrayed everything he believed in, even things he wasn't sure that he believed in until they were gone; they abandoned his people and deserted him. So, he had walked away from his dream; Chakotay went home, even if home wasn't there anymore. It seemed curious to him, after all his struggles, all the fighting to get what he wanted, to become a Starfleet officer, the decision to walk away hadn't been all that difficult. Strange how his life kept twisting.
It was dark enough now for the first stars to push through the velvet canvas outside his window; the serenity of the night sky was a comforting sight after so many years in deep space, the familiarity bringing him peace. It occurred to him that, at first glance, for someone who had always thought himself a peaceful man, the Maquis appeared an even more bizarre choice than Starfleet had been. But Chakotay had learned the hard way, that even for the pacifist; there came a time when fighting was inevitable, and so he fought. It had been a life contrary to his soul, one that left him raw and vulnerable, susceptible to the likes of Seska. She was a spy, a complete fraud; he should have seen through her, but in truth he hadn't wanted to. She lied, betrayed them, betrayed him really, but he had used her too. She was an intelligent woman, determined and strong, someone he could have loved had the circumstances been different; their ideologies not so diametrically opposed. At the time, he pretended to care, even convinced himself at some point, that he did, but the reality was, he was alone, frightened and seeking comfort in her arms. Even that grew cold and empty; sex wasn't enough to sustain him, certainly nothing to build on. Many people paid a high price for his weakness; he was grateful that in the end, it hadn't been higher.
There were some good things that came out of those darker days; he tried to remember them now. He formed many good and loyal friendships in his years on Voyager. Even before that, Ayala had been such a friend. They served together as Maquis and Starfleet and he knew he could always count on Mike. They didn't always agree but he always knew where Mike stood and he always trusted him. They had become good friends through the years, still were, but now they were finally home and Mike had a family to get reacquainted with.
B'Elanna too had become a friend, more than that;-- a sister. He had to smile thinking of the young hot-tempered Klingon warrior whom he had always felt so protective of, like a big brother even from the early days. They grew even closer those early years on Voyager making it difficult for him to accept the changes in her life, and even harder to accept her relationship with Tom. Part of it was the fact that he had never liked Tom, something he had since overcome, but he knew part of it was pure and simple jealousy. Tom and B'Elanna seem to have everything he wanted, everything he couldn't have. He was very happy for them, but it still hurt to be left behind. Now, they had Miral and although he loved them all, this would only widen the gap. They were a family now and they tried to include him, but they had their own lives to live. So, he remained outside of yet another family.
There were other close relationships with other crewmembers, who were now either dead or off rebuilding their lives; he missed his friends. Then, of course, there was Kathryn. They had grown so close over the years, shared so much of themselves and sadly ended their journey so far apart. He truly missed her, even though she hadn't deserted him, or gone off to make a new life like the others. No, Kathryn had stood by him right through today's final hearings. But there was so much he missed about the Kathryn of their earlier years. The years had taken a toll on all of them, perhaps the heaviest on Kathryn, but still she stood by him. She was next to him today when the tribunal announced its findings; she had been first to congratulate him and the others. He told himself she was a good captain and she would see her crew through this to the end, but he knew there was more. Kathryn genuinely cared for these people, not only as captain to crew but also as people whose lives had intertwined with hers for more than seven years, as friends. He had left her standing there in the mist of the hoopla today, but then she knew he had left her over a year ago, when he started his relationship with Seven.
He shifted in the darkness as he thought about Seven; he needed to speak with her. She had been working today, her fate having been decided months earlier in the debriefings. He scanned the crowd for her this morning, but she wasn’t there. He knew she wouldn’t be; it wasn't logical to her that the outcome could be anything but satisfactory. She felt no need to attend, so had no understanding of how her attendance might be beneficial to others. There was still so much she needed to learn. She was a beautiful young woman and she had come a very long way since her days as part of the collective. He was confident she would continue to make progress; or maybe he was just fooling himself there also. She had been more reserved with him lately; maybe she would never fully release her emotions.
Chakotay was growing more restless and sitting alone in the dark musing about the past wasn't helping him plan a future. He needed guidance; he needed to seek out his spirit guide. Taking his medicine bundle and a blanket he headed towards the lake. There was a quiet spot down there open to the night sky yet sheltered by the low branches of ancient evergreen trees; the perfect spot for a vision quest. The night was clear and warm; the slight breeze was chilly but would be blocked once he reached the trees. He walked until he reached the edge of the lake, searching the night for answers, not finding them. Chakotay spread the blanket on the soft ground beneath a large old pine. He sat crossed legged. Carefully, he opened the bundle, spreading out the contents before him. The feather of the black bird, a stone from the river of a planet he called New Earth, the akoonah, a simple leather tie that was all he had of his father, a small piece of baakonite broken from a Klingon bat’leth and a small dried flower.
“A koo chee moya” He placed his hand on the akoonah closing his eyes and allowing the light to engulf him. “I am far from the places of my grandfathers, far form the bones of my people….” He chanted into the night.
Chakotay opened his eyes; he was alone in a desolate place covered in dark crusted earth and jagged rocks. Nothing lived here, the earth parched the air oppressively hot, breathing was difficult and the sun burned like a hot iron. His spirit guide lay panting in the small shade of a boulder, her yellow eyes following him as he approached.
"Why have you call me here to this wasteland?" The yellow eyes accused him.
"I did not select this, I only sought your guidance." Chakotay settled himself on the dusty ground.
"It comes from you, this emptiness." She barely lifted her head toward their surroundings. "Why do you seek me?"
"I don't know what to do. I have settled my quarrel with Starfleet or theirs with me and now I need to find a new direction."
"How has this been settled?"
"All Maquis have been pardoned, offered their commission. I have been offered a teaching position at the Academy."
"This does not please you?" The heat seemed to be trying her patience.
"Yes, yes it pleases me very much. My people are free and I can teach in subjects of great interest to me."
"So what causes us to suffer in this desolate place?" She lay her silver head on her front paws closing her eyes against the sun.
"It is my life, not my work that troubles me." Chakotay picked up a sharp rock and began to draw idle circles in the dirt. "My life is like this place, empty and dry. I am incomplete, my soul is wounded."
“Then you must heal it.”
“I don’t know how.”
“Yes, you do. Chakotay, why do you act contrary to your nature?”
“How have I done that?”
“You have always followed your heart. Why do you now try to overrule it? Trust your heart, Chakotay. It has chosen wisely.”
“How can I do that?”
“Reach out your hand she who takes it will bond with you for life.”
“How do I know if I’m reaching out to the right person? How do I know she will accept my hand?”
“You know already.”
“But how..?” Chakotay looked around but she was gone. The rocks faded and he was once again seated beneath the old pine, in the cooler night air.
Chakotay was as confused as ever. He needed to find fulfillment, completion, the one thing missing in his soul. He worried that his heart had made an impossible choice. Other hearts had been mistaken. She was proud and beautiful, strong and intelligent, but emotionally she was restrained. She had not openly welcomed his attention of late. This was why he was alone, why he had sought his spirit guide tonight. The wolf hadn’t really helped, he still had no idea how to put the affairs of his heart back in order.
“Chakotay?” She ducked under the branches, her voice was soft and quiet, not wanting to disturb him or maybe not sure she would be welcome. He turned to look at her. “May I join you?”
He smiled. It seemed odd to see the vulnerability, the trepidation with which she asked. Not like her at all to be so unsure; he offered her his hand and she took it.
“I was just thinking about you, Kathryn.”
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