Disclaimer: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: nothing but the words in between the characters and the universe is mine. Oh, and Amelia. And yes, I shamelessly brought my heritage into this one. Paramount owns the rest...
AN: I am the WORST. I know. I have been unfortunate enough to be so stressed with work in the last year or so that taking time to revel in the soothing pastime of writing fic has fallen to the wayside. I am doing my best to rectify both problems...
A special note must go to my lonely cheerleader and the only one willing to listen to my late night, wine-fueled ramblings of ST and other things and, on TOP, ensure that whatever I post here is as fit as my fic can be for an audience such as ye. And if you find any mistakes, its because I either ignored her, or I slipped it passed her without checking. ArgyleTrekkie, I owe you quite a lot of 'Irish currency' (alcoholic drinks) that I hope someday to pay out in person! For now: thank you!
Ensign Amelia Maguire was a child of a large, crazy Irish family. She was a small framed woman, slim but with curves in places she regarded as 'doomed' and lacking in areas she deemed 'desirable'. She was a quiet soul, who knew when to listen and when to speak up and she fast became aware, growing up, that she was also a very skilled communicator. Her ability to read people combined with her witty, quick mouth had gotten her further than her engineering skills ever would.
Growing up with more brothers and sisters than most people had meals in a day also allowed her a few advantages working on a starship. Being comfortable in cramped spaces with many people, for example, learning to deal with your place in the food chain without complaint, finding holes and back doors to that food chain when required, making friends on both sides of that hierarchy and many, many more.
One of the more useful advantages, that grew organically, was stealth - specifically, the ability to be nearby without being noticed, and even when noticed, appearing like a piece of furniture that didn't care what you were whispering about. She had pulled this trick on her siblings countless times. Being the second youngest, her brothers and sisters - and to their detriment, her parents as well - often assumed she was too young to understand what they were saying, plotting or arguing about and it had grown from there. Right now, Tom Paris, and her boss, B'Elanna Torres were making a similar mistake.
"Come on B'Elanna," Tom whined. "Even the captain has given up for the day."
He had been trying to convince his wife for at least ten minutes to give up for the day and go to bed. Amelia raised her eyebrows at his argument. It was a ballsy one. Let your wife know that even the fiercest competition to her intelligence and commitment has already bowed to the precipice of the longest day in their journey and hope she throws her engineering Bat'leth down. Mr. Paris knew how to manipulate his wife. Even if Amelia hadn't grown to know the half-Klingon woman and her nuances so well, the minor decrease in speed of the chief engineer's fingers over her console were telling enough.
Beneath heavy, long lashes and the dip of a head of dirty blonde hair, the young ensign's eyes and mouth twitched with a smile.
"There are still issues with the gel packs," Torres responded, not looking up and moving to another console, closer to Amelia.
"Replicators are hardly a priority right now," Tom scowled and moved to stand behind her.
"It's not the replicators."
And it wasn't. Amelia agreed. Several of the operational reports they had run following the resolution of the gel pack blockage returned framework errors. There were still failures in the system, just not large enough for anyone to notice because it wasn't directly disrupting any major processes or systems. Her boss, however, as always, did not tolerate anything less than a shiny system, inside and out. This was why Amelia had pulled four extra hours after her shift. She was monitoring adjacent systems to try and help eliminate possible causes by, and links to, other systems as Torres and ensign Benz performed tests on the gel pack environment.
"Then we can stand down the Red Alert. Janeway has her coffee."
Amelia couldn't help it, her laugh came out in a snort and it drew Paris' attention. The echo of the snort was luckily buried in a heavy sigh from Torres, and the frown she could see on the pilot's face in her peripheral vision was quickly diverted from her, back to his wife's head. Amelia chided herself for the slip, and reminded herself that Lieutenant Paris' particular sense of humour was a little too close to her own for her to forget her bearings in such a situation.
Privately, she was rooting for him to win this particular argument. Normally, she was all for staying late and helping Torres out, not just because she learned a bucket load from the woman in those quieter hours, and not because she enjoyed the opportunity to build a closer relationship with a woman she revered, but because it also meant she was contributing to something. More than something. Helping Torres, helping anywhere really - but especially Torres - made Amelia feel like she was aiding in keeping Voyager alive. Engineering was the heart of the ship in her mind, and Torres and their team, her team, were keeping it pumping. That always made her go the extra mile, or fifty, even when Voyager was under no threat.
Right now, though, as far as Amelia could figure, they were hours from home, from the finish line, and so far from any threat that it was like a forgotten shadow that had never even existed. There was no need to ensure the heart was pumping at maximum efficiency. If it was pumping, it was enough. Who cared about the odd blip in between pulses as long as it was beating? In less than twenty four hours Voyager would probably be taken apart and dissected, and so all Amelia wanted to do was go back to her cramped quarters and sleep. Sleep deeply and dream of Earth. Sleep and not worry. Sleep with a smile. It had been a long time since she had done any of those things, let alone all in one night. But tonight she would go to sleep and dream of not only Earth, but of her family, with knowledge that it wasn't only a dream, but a pending reality - she would see them soon and, damn it, she couldn't wait. Because this was certain, she would also dream without worry, and she would fall into that dream and wake from it with a smile on her face. She was certain. So, yes, for the first time ever, she wanted B'Elanna Torres to lose.
The console whined in response to Torres' commands and she gave it a thump with the heel of her hand, barking, "I can't figure out why this is happening!"
"Maybe Voyager wants to go to sleep too, honey," Tom suggested and it made Amelia bite her lip to stop another smile. "Come on, Miral is sleeping and I have a nice bottle of Antarian Cider waiting for us."
B'Elanna's eyes flew to him immediately and she parted her lips in anticipation of the answer to the question on her face. Tom nodded, grinning and said, "The real stuff."
"You found it!" she gasped.
"Chakotay was never the best at subterfuge. That's how Janeway caught you all in the first place." This earned him a stab to the ribs with a sly smile. Suddenly though, the chief engineer's mood turned sour again and she sighed sadly, leaning over the console, her work apparently - hopefully - forgotten.
Tom seemed to sense what she was thinking because he moved closer, rubbing her arm with his hand and whispered softly to her. "Chakotay will be fine, B'Elanna," he reassured and the concern in his voice and the look on her boss's face made a thread of anxiety breathe over Amelia too.
"I hope so," B'Elanna whispered back, taking a furtive glance around to check if anyone was watching them.
Amelia immediately tried to appear very interested in her work while listening intently to see if they would continue given her close proximity, or move somewhere more private.
"I really thought he would do something about it after we talked."
"Maybe he did," Tom suggested.
"I don't think so. She was here today, helping me with the gel packs-" B'Elanna paused and snorted. "-well, more like standing around and providing narrative every so often."
"That doesn't sound right."
"Right?" B'Elanna exclaimed at the confusion in Tom's voice, seeming charged by the fact that he was agreeing with her. "She was so distracted she would have been more useful on the Bridge pressing me for resolution. If she hadn't made the flippant remark about highways I would say she was more of a hindrance than a help."
Amelia had also found the Captain's presence today a little odd. Normally when she was in Engineering she was elbow deep in engine grease and standing toe-to-toe with Torres to solve the problem. It was usually a beautiful thing to watch - the two of them together. They worked in tandem, bouncing ideas and theories off of each other until something sparked and they solved the problem. Today however, the captain had just followed Torres around on her heels, asking a question or stating the obvious now and then. Amelia had just assumed, at the time, that the captain had too many other things on her mind to be so involved with their problems and was just on edge because of lack of coffee. The woman never did well long without the black stuff.
The other black stuff, she reminded herself, feeling an unwelcome but not surprising, sudden pang for a real pint of Guinness.
"That still doesn't mean he didn't say anything. Maybe he did and that's what had her distracted."
What the hell are they talking about? Amelia wondered, their words floating into her ears, making her hotly intrigued. Intrigued enough to already erase all longing for the other black stuff. It wasn't often she was privy to private details between the captain and commander.
It certainly isn't about Chakotay's famed secret stash of Antarian cider…
Chancing a glance in their direction Amelia saw Torres kneading her forehead and shaking her head.
"I doubt it. Besides, he would have told me if he had confessed his -"
Amelia's eyebrows shot up and she gasped all at once as she noticed Tom Paris was staring at her, eyes guarded.
She almost wrenched a muscle swinging her head and attention in any direction but theirs, trying to pretend she hadn't been listening. To give credence to her pretense she also moved to the testing console to check her latest test results and only on the return did she attempt to look back. When she did she saw the two officers were already leaving and she sighed deeply, thankful Paris hadn't called her on the eavesdropping.
She scolded herself for being so silly. She had been pulled in by the lure of juicy gossip on her superior officers and she had forgotten herself. Never get too interested. It always shows. Then you get caught. Luckily, she hadn't heard anything of real interest and Tom Paris clearly seemed to agree when he said nothing to his wife.
Amelia figured there must be nothing to know. Why then, did she feel like she had just heard something really big? Probably because her mind was filling in the blanks and as usual, her imagination was running rampant as she finished Torres's sentence in her brain.
Besides, he would have told me if he had confessed his...
The last, colorfully filled gap made her stop. And a huge grin spread out on her face. Love. Maybe he had confessed his love! Amelia was always a sucker for romance and the sensation that ran under her skin thinking on the commander telling the captain he was in love with her, mere hours from the end of their journey, made her overflow with girly giddiness.
Ridiculous as it was she was a hopeless romantic. It was a part of her that she kept, ironically, close to her heart and tried not to advertise too much. She had learned to keep hurt, hope and love closed within herself a long time ago lest it make her even more vulnerable. It didn't mean she valued it any less, she was just very careful with whom she shared that part of herself.
She had been in a relationship for a few years before she was assigned to Voyager. It was only supposed to be a two week mission, and her partner Rob, had encouraged her from the onset that this was an opportunity she couldn't miss. They both had known it could mean a longer stationing aboard the ship in future but neither had brought up how that might affect their relationship in the long term. They had avoided it. A lot of good that had done…
Rob was tied to his own business in Sicily, Italy on Earth, something that had already made their relationship difficult because of barely overlapping time zones and lots of transports as Amelia lived close to Starfleet Academy in San Francisco. Adding a starship and extended missions to that was going to be something they would need to discuss.
That had been what was weighing on her mind over seven years ago as she embarked on Voyager.
Back in the present she sighed heavily and let her body sag against the terminal in Engineering. It wasn't on her mind anymore. Rob had written to her a few years ago to tell her he had, of course, moved on. She hadn't been surprised, but somewhere deep inside, she had to admit, she had hoped that he had spent those years pining for her and staying celibate. The thought suddenly amused her and with a role of her eyes, a scowl about romantic melancholy being the death of her, she pushed away from the console with a smile and headed for her quarters.
Romance had its ups and downs and she couldn't fault Rob - her heart had also moved on and she had let him go a long time ago too. It was hard, without real closure, but it wasn't any less true. She hadn't fallen in love again but there was still time. And not being romantically involved left her with a lot of time to meddle in, or hypothesize about, others' romantic lives, or lack thereof. And, the hottest of those topics was always the senior staff. The captain and certainly the commander too.
With Paris and Torres already paired off, it left their two leaders, Tuvok (a moot subject for love), Seven (really?), the Doctor (who, according to rumour was obsessed with his pet 'number#), and Harry Kim.
Amelia twisted her mouth to hide the growth of a smirk until she was clear of Engineering. Harry Kim had been hotly sought after for many years in the early days. He was senior staff and that alone was enough to get him noticed among the females and males among Voyager, but he was also kind, easy to talk to and cute! Paris had presented too much of a challenge for most at the beginning, no one knew if he could be trusted or even liked at one point and Chakotay could only be a dream, never a reality, given his position. So, yes, Harry Kim had been the most eligible bachelor on Voyager for quite a long time. Probably still was. Although she had noticed some leeway on the Chakotay subject recently, it was generally thought, though never discussed, that Chakotay was off limits. This thought brought her back to the captain.
Gossip happened on Voyager. In fact, it didn't just happen. It bred. Like fruit flies near your glass of wine, or, like the bacteria under your nails - furiously - as her first grade teacher had often attested to, alongside continuous tricorder scans in between dirt fun and bathroom visits.
However, given that fact and the volume of gossip to swim in, she had been surprised not to have heard more on the topic of their two leaders and that. Maybe it was just her, but it seemed like there was something between them. She had never broached the subject with anyone because she knew that things like this can be picked up completely backwards from the outside, and she was definitely on the outside.
Janeway and Chakotay were certainly good friends and spent a lot of time together, knew each other well enough to be comfortable touching, leaning close, sharing private jokes, teasing and more, but that didn't mean there was anything going on beyond what they saw on the outside. She often put a lid on such romantic notions about her command team because she knew that sometimes that was all it was. Notions. She herself knew that she acted the same way Janeway did with Chakotay in the presence of her good friends (male and female), and so she had no premise other than a feeling that there was something there. She suddenly heard her mother in her head.
It's only a notion to ya...
Imagining her retort to her mother, with an indulgent smile, she reminded herself that it didn't hurt to hypothesize that they were in love. How romantically tragic would that be? Shaking her head at herself again, she hit the button for the turbolift to go to her deck and laughed at herself, glad that no one else could hear her thoughts. She had done her best to build a tough, smart-girl reputation that would be completely shattered by the briefest glimpse into her brain right now.
When the turbolift reached the deck and opened to reveal Harry Kim she started for a second.
"Amelia," he greeted her with a warm, energetic smile. Recovering quickly she smiled in return and stepped inside.
"Big day tomorrow, Harry," she quipped, watching him closely. He grinned wider at her and it made a warmth grow inside her. One of the endearing things about Harry was he rarely hid his emotions, at least, the good ones. She loved that. She supposed the fact that she often felt things keenly, bad and good, but rarely showed it, made him all the more attractive to her because of that. Harry Kim made her believe that being open and honest about how you felt wasn't something bad. She had a ways to go before she would ever be similar, but the horizon wasn't so far off. Not anymore.
Harry was actually one of the first people to make her realize that being open and vulnerable was something beautiful - and she would never forget that. It was around three months into their journey and she had been pacing in her quarters, angry and feeling like a caged animal when she had made the decision to go to Sandrine's and blow off some steam...
She had spent the day agonizing over her feelings for Rob, never seeing him again, what did he think had happened? What would happen if they didn't get home soon? Was he already with someone else?
Work had been a disaster. Lieutenant Torres had chewed her out for forgetting to run standard tests before she purged the plasma injectors. Rightly so too. That made her even angrier. Torres had been right. She messed up. She never messed up.
She needed a drink.
So when 3:00 am came and she was wearing the already pale grey pigment out of her Starfleet couch with her worrying, tearing fingernails, she decided she needed a distraction. Minutes later she found herself at the holodeck, ready to call up the newly popular Sandrine's program when she realized it was already running.
Not entirely sure she wanted real company tonight, she hesitated before entering, then quickly dismissed the thought as the need for distraction and the promise of a good glass of something strong overruled it.
Entering with a beeline for the bar, she called for a single malt to start. Sandrine was presently not in sight and a tall, pale, dark haired, Frenchman served her instead. She quirked her eyebrow and half a smile at the fortune. She was not a huge fan of Sandrine herself. Hopefully Tom Paris had made her up because if she ever met the woman, she might actually waste a glass of alcohol over her pretentious banter. Might.
It was halfway through that single malt that the whiny tones of Sandrine's voice caught her attention. She swiveled on her stool to find the woman draping herself over Harry Kim at the back corner of the room. It made her frown. Ensign Kim looked so forlorn he was barely fighting her off, despite his obvious will to be rid of her.
After the third, distasteful, if not sacrilegious, pick up line, Amelia rolled her eyes and smacking her lips after downing the dregs of her drink she hopped off the bar stool with the intent to rescue the gentleman in distress.
"Ensign," she announced herself with a sharp bark. The young man's eyes snapped up instantly from the table they were bowed at. So did Sandrine's. "I've been waiting - where the hell have you been?" She frowned sternly at him, gripping her hips indignantly. She almost stomped her foot, but he was already blinking at her in alarm so she just about stopped herself. Sandrine was also giving Amelia her full attention, together with a side of scorn as she reluctantly peeled her limbs off of Harry to regard her thoroughly.
Harry opened his mouth to reply but only muttered an, "I…" before Amelia jumped in again, pushing past Sandrine to sit beside him.
"I'll forgive you if you buy me a double - immediately!" she quipped with a grin and turned pointedly to Sandrine. "A double Connemara - and whatever he's having. On his tab."
Sandrine narrowed her eyes and twisted her mouth as she slowly looked to Harry for confirmation. Finally catching on, Harry nodded and encouraged her, "Please," he added abashedly.
When the french woman didn't move immediately she felt the panic in Harry almost bounce off of her. "Now. Lady," she growled slowly and with an audible hmpf, Sandrine was gone in a second.
While she smiled like a wolf after the bar owner she felt poor Harry's body sigh in relief. "Thanks," he sighed and she offered him a smile as she looked over to him.
"You looked like you needed some help. I hope you don't mind the intrusion."
"Not at all - thank you," he said sincerely and managed a weak smile. His eyes went back down to the table again and Amelia could feel the waves of sadness undulating from him.
"I'll leave you be," she said softly, getting up to leave him with his thoughts. "You might want to delete her for the evening if you want to be alone."
Suddenly Harry seemed alert, as if she had just slapped him and before she had taken her first step he interrupted her. "Stay!" he said just a little too eagerly and the hand that gripped her uniform sleeve made her pause. Harry recovered quickly and added, "I could use the company, actually," he confessed. "If you don't mind?"
Amelia hadn't expected to be invited, she didn't really know Harry Kim but something in his eyes made her want to stay. She nodded, glancing towards the bar and noting that Sandrine was watching them like a hawk. It was uncomfortable.
"On one condition," she announced and he only blinked at her again as she reclaimed her seat and directed her attention to the bar. "Computer, remove character Sandrine." Harry laughed as the hologram shimmered into nothing after the computer confirmed the order.
They spent the evening getting to know each other and they bonded over lost loves, family and food. She learned a lot about Libby and Harry's parents. And Harry. How wonderfully human he was and how openly free he was about admitting that. She admired him. She wished she could be more like him. And on some level she felt she understood him like no one else.
He missed his family horribly. She could relate to that. She felt like she was losing part of herself without having hers nearby, without having their counsel. Harry had confessed to answering himself in his mind in his mother's voice. She had laughed so hard at his impression of his mother that tears came to her eyes. She assured him in between gasps for breath that he wasn't the only one who did that, but that his mother was candidly more polite than hers - even in her head. Especially in her head!
She could also understand the fears he had about losing Libby. Similar thoughts had led her exactly here tonight. It was her anniversary with Rob and thoughts of never seeing him again had driven her to distraction. Harry was feeling similar fears and she felt secure enough, surprising herself, to relay some of hers to Harry as well.
They left Sandrine's that night, not necessarily having their fears and heartbreak alleviated, but at the least, shared. And that made a difference. A huge difference.
Ever since then, they had been friends. And they often found each other moping in Sandrine's, the other returning the favor to help banish the melancholy. As the years went on, the conversations about Rob and Libby faded away and it became more about family, and home. Mostly family.
She had slowly come to realize that her mother hadn't been simply preaching for years to her to make her feel bad. Family was most important in life. Period. When everything else is gone, family would remain. Even if they were over 50,000 light years away.
Growing up she had never been allowed to forget that, even when she went out of her way to do so. Family will always remind you. Her last seven years on Voyager had not diminished that. In fact, it had strengthened it tenfold. The gaping hole that she had felt in the beginning of their journey had been merciless. She had never felt so alone in her life. And yet, while the hopes and wishes for the other people in her life, like Rob, faded away, her family never did. They were so far away, untouchable, unreachable and yet still there.
And people like Harry Kim helped her get through that loss, that distance. People like Harry slowly became family and while missing one family, she gained another. Now, on the eve of reuniting with her blood family, she was excited to introduce them to the family who had traveled alongside, stood by, fought with and supported her for seven years - relentlessly, unconditionally and most of all, loyally.
Right now, one of the most loyal, endearing members of that family was rewarding her with an ear splitting grin.
"Yup - big day. Huge!" Harry responded and she couldn't help but laugh at his untempered exuberance.
"It's going to be great," Amelia said with a smile.
"The best!" he agreed. "Your family will be there?" he asked and she nodded.
"The whole clan."
"My mother is bringing my old clarinet," he blushed. He had forgotten it on his first mission. He had been mortified when he realized she had called the captain to ask if she had time to bring it to him before they left on their original mission. "She suggested I play something at the evening event."
Amelia smiled indulgently and linked her arm with his, leaning against him with a friendly nudge to his hip. "I would love to hear you play again." He blushed and gave a slight nod.
The turbolift neared her deck and she untangled herself just in time to say goodnight. As she exited he moved out with her and at her look of confusion he swiped a hand in front of him and explained he had promised Chakotay he would finish a small task in Astrometrics before he turned in.
"Let me walk you 'home' for the last time?" he suggested with a cheeky wink.
"Thank you kindly, Sir!"
Immediately around the corner they bumped into Seven. Harry almost barreled into her as she worked on a panel in the corridor. While he apologized and she deflected his conversation awkwardly, attempting to leave as swiftly as possible, Amelia was struck by the oddness of the situation. Seven was tinkering with an engineering panel. Torres would not be happy because Amelia was fairly certain that maintenance of that station wasn't in any work order. Her eyebrows raised as she tried to get a glance of what Seven was up to when the woman snapped the panel closed with speed and left abruptly in the middle of Harry's sentence.
"Odd," he quipped, scratching at the side of his face.
"Seven is a little uneasy about returning home." The way he delivered the fact made Amelia recoil. He was defending Seven. Perhaps she had sounded just a tad too sarcastic just now. It was a gift and a curse at the same time. She and sarcasm were just too close of friends. It often got her in trouble and she resolutely blamed that flaw on her beloved family.
"I know, Harry," Amelia reassured him with a squeeze of his bicep and she noticed him disarm a little. "I am just used to damage control between her and Lieutenant Torres - I forget it's not important anymore." When he looked at her with question she continued, gesturing at the wall where Seven had been working. "Engineering station 48 has no work order on it. I reviewed the list this evening myself in preparation for the reports to Starfleet Maintenance. Torres gets really pissed when Seven messes with things and doesn't report to her. I just left Engineering, and I am almost certain that whatever tinkering Seven was doing, Torres knows nada about it." Amelia shrugged, having given her explanation. She noticed Harry frown a little and divide glances between the panel and the empty space that Seven had charged down moments ago. He then took a deep breath and released it at length.
"It's not important. She's probably just trying to distract herself."
By getting into trouble? Amelia wondered and immediately realized that that is exactly how it's achieved. She tried to imagine coming back to Earth and having no family there. It was almost too sad for her to consider, and on top of that, Seven was returning to a world, a life, that she knew nothing of. She had struggled to fit in on Voyager and yet had thrived in the last few years under Janeway's guidance and the support of the crew. But Amelia knew just how unique the ecosystem on Voyager was - family. Voyager was family. Suddenly she felt a deep pang of sympathy for Seven. She didn't know the woman very well, but maybe she should try to.
She was family, after all.
Yes, when things settled down, she would make an effort to get to know Seven. And if the half Borg woman could get past the fact that her blood family were completely inefficient, terribly illogical and borderline insane, maybe she could share them with her too.
"I can understand that. Being confronted with an alien world, people you don't know, no one you do know and a daily life that is completely foreign to you is something I can relate to." Amelia smiled sheepishly as she remembered her panicked pacing, sleepless nights and frustrated, erratic behavior in her first few months in the Delta Quadrant.
Harry took her hand and squeezed it, reading her mind. "I think we all can, on some level." A nod from Amelia closed the moment. Emotion was just a little too raw tonight to get into such topics and so she strode forward towards her quarters bidding Harry a curt goodnight. She was thankful that he didn't follow her all the way and instead waited until she was out of sight to continue his route to Astrometrics.
Swallowing at the lump in her throat that rose without permission, Amelia dashed into her quarters determined to increase her mood with some family photos and another single malt before she drifted into her restful, worry free night, filled with pleasant dreams of family, home and the future.