BUCKETS OF RAIN


Spring 2001

A challenge from monkee. Here's the scenario: You're sitting on your couch, just minding your own business (whatever that may be), and the phone rings. You answer it. It's Brannon Braga! Carefully, deliberately, you bite back all the scathing things you'd like to say to him, including the snide 'How's Jeri?' because, naturally, you're curious. What could he possibly want from you? He says, "So [insert your name here], we've read all of your fabulous fanfics on the internet and would like your help writing Voyager's final episode." Well, he rambles on and on, and you negotiate, and eventually a deal is hammered out. He's had a change of heart. He wants to put a short J/C scene in the final episode to reward the J/C ers for their patience and congeniality. And he wants you, [insert your name here], to write it. What would you write? What J/C scene would leave you happy when all is said and done? You'll have to keep it clean enough for television, of course, and it will have to be a relatively short scene, because the final episode is going to be packed full of stuff. Assume that Voyager gets home and that there's trouble for the Maquis, but Janeway stands by her crew and convinced Starfleet to drop all charges. Or don't assume that - but keep the scenario close to something you think TPTB might do. The idea is to have a collection of alternate J/C scenes for all of us to fall back on if, God forbid, TPTB decide to do nothing at all with J/C in the final episode. This is mine.

BUCKETS OF RAIN

It was raining on Earth.

He knew it was ridiculous to think of it that way, that the whole planet was under a dark cloud, that it was raining all at once, everywhere. But that's the way it seemed. It had been raining when they put down in Golden Gate Park escorted by a dozen runabouts, raining when the Starfleet MP walked him across the compound to the judiciary facility, raining every time he stole a glance out the courtroom windows at the gathered media and onlookers.

He'd smiled at the apologetic explanation. After the war with the Dominion, the Federation's resources were stretched so thin that atmospheric control had been abandoned in favor of producing food and shelter for thousands of now-homeless refugees. The planet's own atmosphere was in chaos after so many years of tight control, and mere men were at a loss to predict the weather. Historical patterns would eventually take over, they claimed.

But for now...

Rain. Weeks of it. People grumbled, sent angry glances heavenward, and pulled their cloaks tighter. Someone somewhere was making a fortune on umbrellas.

Secretly, he loved it. He enjoyed watching Earth dwellers struggle to deal with an unpredictable natural world. And after seven years on a starship, it was good to have mud beneath his feet again, and rain on his face.

He emerged from the judiciary facility for the last time and stood in the square for a long moment, letting the cold April rain soak through to his skin. He would miss this ever-changing sky, this procession of seasons. Extremes. Without regular atmospheric control, Earth would revert to its ages-old pattern of wild variation - saturated rainforests and arid deserts; bone- chilling winters and searing summers; high, bright days and impenetrable nights. He brushed the wet hair from his eyes and turned his face up to the sky.

Extremes kept life interesting, he mused. Sorrow and joy. Distance and proximity. Misery and elation. You had to experience the low to fully appreciate the high.

Captivity and freedom.

Hate and love.

No. Indifference and love. Over the years, he had come to realize that indifference was much worse. Hate gives you a certain force, a strength. The courage of your convictions, at least. Indifference leaves you powerless.

The footsteps behind him came as no surprise.

He'd slipped out the back to avoid the media and onlookers, to escape the confining press of people. He'd hoped, foolishly, that no one would notice.

The footsteps stopped a few feet away. There was silence for a moment, filled only by the distant sounds of the media frenzy from the other side of the building, the constant splatter of rain on the pavement.

Her voice, when it came, was sharp and accusatory, as crisp as summer lightning.

"You're not staying for the debriefing."

He refused to turn to her. It was his right now to ignore her if he wished, to answer only if it suited him.

"Chakotay," she began, but he stopped her. He could do that now, too.

"I don't owe you anything anymore, Kathryn," he said.

The momentary silence was cold.

She raised her chin. "What do you mean by that?"

He turned sharply, surprised at his own sudden hostility. "For seven years you've had my loyalty, Kathryn. You didn't throw my crew in the brig even though you probably should have, and you kept us alive in dangerous territory. For that, you've had my loyalty. But now we're home, the Maquis have been exonerated, and I've resigned my commission. I don't owe you anything now, certainly not another damn debriefing. You can handle this one on your own, Captain."

Her eyes moved over his civilian tunic, paused where his communicator should have been, and flicked back to his face. He saw the confusion there and was oddly pleased that, after all this time, he could still surprise her.

"You resigned?"

"I had no choice."

She waved her hand dismissively. "Of course you did. Starfleet was ready to reinstate your rank and --"

"Bullshit." He took an angry step toward her. "We both know that Starfleet exonerated the Maquis because there aren't enough of us to pose a threat anymore. It was a PR gesture, just like reinstating our ranks was a PR gesture. I said it to you seven years ago, and I'll say it to them now. I won't be anyone's token Maquis officer."

"This fight is over, Chakotay."

"How can you say that? Everyone I knew is gone. They died in prison, or on Dorvan, or in battle. They're all gone, and I couldn't do anything to stop it. I couldn't even say goodbye." His voice broke and he swallowed convulsively, searching for the hard core of his rage. "This fight will never be over, not for me."

"That's ridiculous."

"Maybe. But it's real. What I feel is real." He chuckled without humor. "Real emotions for real people. You should try it sometime." He turned away from the hurt in her eyes. His skin felt hot and the rain was cold on his neck.

"Where will you go?" she asked.

"I don't know yet. I want to lay low. Disappear for a while. Get away from all that." He inclined his head toward the cacophony of voices from the other side of the building.

"Will I be able to reach you?"

"B'Elanna will know where to find me."

The rain came in hard, angry waves now, pelting him with needle-fine points. Her voice was very soft, almost indiscernible beneath the sound of the rain. "Will you come back?"

He shrugged. "I don't know."

Out of the corner of his eye he saw her draw her shoulders back and straighten her spine. Her mouth set in a thin, tight line. "Then this is goodbye."

"Probably. Yes."

He waited, but there were no more words to say, nothing left to be discussed. And so he turned and walked away, the rain seeping into his boots with every step. He didn't know where he was going; his letter of resignation had posted automatically as soon as the review board declared the trial closed, and his few belongings were locked in a Starfleet housing complex. There was nothing left on Earth for him now. He stalked across the square toward the nearest transport station, with no clear destination in mind.

"Take me with you."

He faltered, infuriated that, after all this time, she could still surprise him.

"Take me with you," she called again. Her voice was closer now, and he stopped.

"I don't know where I'm going," he called over the pounding rain.

"I don't care. Take me with you."

He looked back and she was coming toward him, gathering speed. "Why? Why should I take you with me?" he asked intently. "After all these years, why now?"

"Because we don't owe each other anything anymore. Because I can't give you orders anymore." She stopped a meter away from him and he stared at her mouth, the movement of her lips. "Because I can't sit through another debriefing if you're not there."

He inhaled sharply. "I don't know what you want from me, Kathryn. I never have."

She looked up at him, raindrops shimmering on her eyelashes. "I don't know, either."

He shook his head, crystal drops flying from his hair and face. "You can't expect me to change my life to suit you. Not anymore."

"I don't expect anything from you. The choice is yours. I will live with whatever you choose."

"It's not that simple."

She reached up and pushed her hair away from her face. He watched her hands, her fingertips moving through the wet strands, and shivered. "I know it's not simple," she said. "Nothing between us has ever been simple. Captain and Commander. Starfleet and Maquis. It's always been complicated negotiating those roles, deciding what to leave unspoken, and where to draw the line." She cocked her head to one side, staring up at him. Her blue eyes flashed in the rain. "I'm willing to give up some of those roles for something simpler. I want to try just being -"

"Chakotay and Kathryn?" he asked.

Her smile was crooked and sad. "'Kathryn' is a role I've forgotten how to play. I may need to start with something more fundamental than that."

"What's more fundamental than that?"

"Man and woman."

He stiffened at the implication, the presumption, searching for long-buried feelings he'd hoped were forgotten. "It may be too late for that," he said.

"I know," she whispered.

"You've changed so much."

"So have you."

The regrets were almost visible, flowing between them like a curtain of water, distorting the view on either side. "What happened to us?" he murmured.

"I don't know. Take me with you. Maybe we can find out."

Chakotay raised his face heavenward, letting the rain fall on his closed eyelids. The world spins beneath my feet, he thought. The breath in my lungs is the world's breath, the rain on my face is the world's rain. I own nothing but the thoughts in my head and the courage in my heart. I am a man alone, newly free, newly born.

She touched his sleeve. "Chakotay?"

"Back on Voyager, I used to dream about rain like this," he said softly. "I dreamed of a rain that would last for days and days and wash everything away. I dreamed about the way the world would smell after the rain, clean and fresh... Ready for something new to take root and grow."


BUCKETS OF RAIN
(Words and Music by Bob Dylan)

Buckets of rain
Buckets of tears
Got all them buckets comin' out of my ears.
Buckets of moonbeams in my hand,
I got all the love, honey baby,
You can stand.

I been meek
And hard like an oak
I seen pretty people disappear like smoke.
Friends will arrive, friends will disappear,
If you want me, honey baby,
I'll be here.

Like your smile
And your fingertips
Like the way that you move your lips.
I like the cool way you look at me,
Everything about you is bringing me
Misery.

Little red wagon
Little red bike
I ain't no monkey but I know what I like.
I like the way you love me strong and slow,
I'm takin' you with me, honey baby,
When I go.

Life is sad
Life is a bust
All ya can do is do what you must.
You do what you must do and ya do it well,
I'll do it for you, honey baby,
Can't you tell?

(Bob rules.)