Arlington National Cemetery: Earth
Phil walked into the marbled visitor center. He gazed for a few moments at a tour group of elementary school children near the entrance. A guide was gently discussing the significance of this place and attempting to explain the sacrifices of the fallen men and women resting just outside the doors. He could see respect in the children’s faces. This generation, more than any other in recent Federation history, had felt the loss and pain of war. He wondered how many of these innocents had relatives killed by the Dominion.
Phil wondered over to a computer terminal and input a name. Instantly, the computer indicated which section and row he would find the person he was looking for. Silently, he wondered out into the cemetery grounds.
Arlington had been a resting place for the honored dead long before the United Federation of Planets had come into being. Nearly destroyed by World War III three centuries earlier, the Federation had restored these hallowed grounds and continued their sacred purpose as a place for remembrance. Now, alongside countless heroes of the past, Starfleet memorialized their fallen here as well.
As Phil walked alongside the countless thousands of white marble headstones, he looked out and saw several solemn scenes. A few families walked through the fields to visit the final resting places of their loved ones. Many knew the location in the vast cemetery by heart while others were re-discovering friends and family for the first time.
Then, Phil became aware of the sounds of marching feet behind him. He looked over his shoulder and saw a procession of uniformed Starfleet honor guards leading a horse-drawn caisson. A casket, draped in the blue banner of the Federation, slowly wheeled its way towards the site of another memorial ceremony. Phil stepped to the side and bowed his head as they past. A few family members quietly followed behind. A middle-aged man was supporting an older woman, quietly sobbing to herself. Phil felt deeply for her.
The funeral procession continued down the line and Phil resumed his search. A cool autumn breeze rushed past him carrying the first fallen leaves of the season. He zipped up his jacket and continued on. Finally, he found who he was looking for.
The lettering on the white marker was in gold instead of the normal black enamel. It simply read:
In Remembrance of
Lieutenant Junior Grade Paul Richard Montgomery
Christopher Pike Medal of Valor
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
He stood quietly a few more moments. Phil knew that Paul’s body wasn’t physically here. His remains had been forever committed to the stars when his ship was destroyed, but this stone provided some closure for all those who knew and loved him, and that was special enough. Eventually, he gained enough courage to speak.
“She doesn’t know I’m here…” Phil said looking down at the grass in front of headstone. “I decided to come on my own.” He waited a few seconds, almost expecting a response, but was met only with the tranquil sounds of the wind and the birds.
“Katie still loves you. I know it. You would think that would upset me, but it doesn’t. It’s just a reminder of what an incredible heart she has.” He took another deep breath.
“So, you’re probably wondering why I came? Well, I had to think about that for a while, but I think it’s to ask how I could be better man for her. I know from the way she speaks about you, you knew exactly what to do to make her happy.
You knew how to make her laugh, you knew how to stop her from crying…you knew exactly how to make her a drink at the end of the day,” he wiped a tear from his face, but found himself grinning at the same time. “She still says I don’t get her Trillian Martini quite right, but she still thanks me every time I mix her one.”
Now, he found himself fighting back tears.
“It’s just when she’s angry, or scared, or wakes up covered in sweat after another nightmare, I just feel so helpless! I hold her, I try to comfort her, but I know it’s not enough!.” He stopped himself and tried to calm down.
“I’m sorry,” Phil said trailing off again. “I’m not angry at you. I just want to be the best man I can for Katie. It’s what she deserves after all the shit she’s gone through.” He looked away at the serene scenery around him before turning back to headstone. “I love her,” he finally managed to get out. “I love her so much that I can’t imagine life without her anymore. I just wish that you could somehow say you were alright with us being together. Because as much as I want to be with her, I want to know that I could make her as happy as you could have. I’m just not sure I can.”
“Maybe you’re asking the wrong person…”
Phil’s stomach turned to ice as he heard a voice behind him. He turned around and saw an older woman carrying a bouquet of flowers. He immediately recognized her as Pam Montgomery. Katie was standing right next to her.
Pam lovingly gripped Katie’s hand before stepping forward. She knelt down to place the flowers on her son’s grave. As she stood back to her feet, she gently gave the terrified Phil a peck on his cheek.
“For what’s it’s worth,” Pam said with a gentle smile. “I think my son would have been very happy to see you two together.” She turned towards Katie. “I’ll give you two a few moments alone.” Pam then walked just out of earshot.
“Katie,” Phil said with a look of worry on his face. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t want you to hear that…” Katie walked over and gently kissed him.
“But I’m glad I did,” she said quietly.
“I…” Phil continued to stammer but a shake of her head stopped him again. She turned Phil towards Paul’s headstone and sat him down.
“Hey, Paulie,” Katie said wiping away her own tears. “I’m sorry I haven’t visited recently,” she said gripping Phil’s hand. He felt her start to tremble. “I don’t get back to Earth that much anymore,” she said with her trademark playful grin. “I thought I wasn’t ready to do this, but I guess now’s as good a time as any,” she said turning to Phil. “This is Phil Lexington. I’ve been dating him for a couple of months now. He’s a little rough around the edges, needs a little more practice with a cocktail shaker, and certainly could use a little more time in the gym…” Phil found himself smiling at those barbs. “But he’s done some amazing things to help me move forward. He’s been there when I thought I was all alone. He’s helped me realize that I can’t live my life looking backwards, and he’s helped me see that the future can still be bright.”
She softly placed an arm around Phil’s back. “But most important of all, I think he’s someone that you would call a friend. So, I think I’m going to be staying with him for a while and see where this goes. I just wanted to let you know.”
Phil squeezed Katie tight and she rested her head on his shoulder.