A/N: Yes, this is different than everything else I've posted here. Yet another universe/crossover, not related to anything previous (no wormholes to the Citadel).
Chapter 1 – To the Journey
"You know, whatever was in that nebula probably wasn't worth the risk of being assimilated."
Harry Kim, endless fountain of optimism, hated to admit it but if Tom Paris wouldn't go along with his idea to use the Delta Flyer II to snoop around looking for a shortcut home, it forced him to reevaluate his line of thinking.
"Where's your sense of adventure, Harry?"
"Very funny, Tom."
The number of times the crew of USS Voyager thought they might find a shortcut to cross what at the beginning had been over 70,000 light-years and decades of travel would be depressing if viewed in isolation. However, considering the experiences had so long as nobody got turned into a Borg drone, infected by Species 8472, had organs stolen by Vidiians, or innumerable other hazards… Well, Voyager's crew had actually survived all this and more—they'd be on the lecture circuit for years upon returning home!
"Unless you want to do some quick runs in Captain Proton, it's 2200 hours. I'm beat!"
"It'll be there in the morning. Besides, I'm headed for the night shift!"
Paris took his turn at an annoyance exhale. Harry Kim served on the night shift (a little more eagerly than most) for years—yet remained at the rank of Ensign despite having more practical experience than people several ranks above back home. He would bring this up when crew evaluations came around again—and he wasn't the only one thinking Kim demonstrated the gumption to earn more responsibilities. Chakotay had also supported such a notion in passing.
In her quarters, Kathryn Janeway tried to quash a nagging voice in the back of her head. What if that nebula had in fact contained a faster way home? She'd made decision after decision that while procedurally sound and morally upstanding, lengthened the trip home. Some called it the stress of command, though lower-deck rumors were less charitable. Still, given the situation, thankfully such talk faded over time rather than bulging out into a Maquis-style mutiny.
"You can't spend your time asking 'what-ifs'" she chastised herself out loud.
On the bridge, Harry Kim sat in the Captain's chair.
"Some days, I wish something would happen" he sighed. "Not a Borg cube or anything, I'd take a weird nebula, or an expanding star."
"You keep talking like that, and something's gonna happen. And when it does, I'm telling Janeway it was you!" joked another night-shift crewmember. It almost seemed as if the universe itself followed Voyager's shifts—most of the "action," as it were, took place during the primary shift.
The relative quiet did allow for rotations that might otherwise be discouraged—an example being Ensign Samantha Wildman operating the science station in Seven of Nine's absence with her daughter Naomi shadowing.
Kim befriended the Captain's Assistant, if only because she brought as much enthusiasm for the night shift as he did (likely due being allowed to stay up past bedtime). In fact, more than once, an exhausted Samantha would offload her hyperactive, overly-awake daughter onto Harry so she could get some rest. The girl didn't care if they went through the same tour of engineering or the shuttle bay they'd done dozens of times before—by the end, Naomi would collapse from tiredness and Harry carried her back to the quarters she shared with her mother.
The first few times this happened, Tom Paris ribbed Harry mercilessly for being "the ship's babysitter," but always concluded with an affirmation that he'd be a "great dad" if he could only "divorce Starfleet."
"You sound like B'Elanna, you know that?" Kim would always reply.
This evening, Harry pulled out his recorder. When Naomi had asked for music lessons, he'd hesitated due to never having taught music before. He feared not being up to the task, until Seven of Nine suggested he start on a simpler instrument than his favored saxophone/clarinet. Hence the recorder.
"I've been practicing!" she announced.
"That's always good to hear. Let's see what the Anthem of the United Federation of Planets sounds like this week…"