Title: Look Homeward, Ensign
Disclaimer: If they were mine, poor Seven would get to wear something besides a unitard. Either she replicated a whole heap of 'em or makes lots of trip to the Voyager laundry room. If they get stranded on a snowy planet, that gal's in trouble. Brrrrrrrrr. Okay, I'll stop.
Summary: Dangit, I like Harry. He's a geek like me. I'm letting him talk. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
Look Homeward, Ensign
"You're going down, Paris!"
"Get real, Kim. You can't play hockey to save your life!"
"How come my team is winning then?"
"I programmed your goalie as better than mine…to even the odds."
"You lie like a dog!"
"Harry, watch out for the------!"
Ensign Harry Kim groaned as Tom Paris dragged him across sickbay. Harry was in too much pain to speak, but Tom Paris made up for his friend's silence. Ignoring the Doctor's raised eyebrow; he recounted the story of Harry and the renegade hockey puck, embellishing the details with great style and skill. Even Harry's humiliating, pain-wracked belly flop was tweaked to Tom's satisfaction, becoming an act of martyred heroism unparalleled in holodeck history.
Tom dumped him on one of the beds, and turned back to the Doctor, who looked to be enjoying the epic tale despite himself. The two began tossing out medical terminology. Harry sighed and lay back, throwing an arm across his eyes. He supposed their conversation pertained to his injury somehow. Tom meant well, and Harry loved him like a brother, but it seemed he had to be--to use an old expression--the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.
Much later, Harry limped out of Sickbay. The corridors were nearly empty at this late hour, but the few live bodies he encountered walked in pairs. Entering his quarters, Harry felt a familiar loneliness tugging at the center of his being. Settling into a comfortable chair with his clarinet, he tried to squash the unworthy feeling. Voyager was a magnificent ship, and he was absurdly grateful to be included. The Captain, Tom, Chakotay...they were larger than life, the stuff of legends. They bounced back from broken bones, mind melds and trauma with astonishing alacrity. Harry hated to admit the sad truth, but he wasn't as hardy. No one in the crew knew his other secret, thank heavens.
Back home, he was considered a mama's boy.
His parents fussed over every scrape and bruise. He was their miracle child, the pride of the family, always number-one son. He'd hated the attention at the time, of course, and the snickers it elicited from his so-called friends. On Voyager, Harry had painted himself as a popular, if quiet, young man, a team player. Most of it was true; he'd played in the Juliard orchestra, though his chair had been more toward the back then he'd let on. Yes, he had musical talent, but his tone-deaf parents were his biggest fans. If he played nothing but "Turkey in the Straw" for days they'd still beam with pleasure and consider it art. Yes, he'd written articles on the Maquis/Cardassian conflict. Unfortunately, neither side had liked his wording and both camps expressed their displeasure by kicking the crap out of him. His life on earth was fairly pathetic, but at least the opportunity existed to better himself, to grow up, cut the apron strings, and prove himself worthy of more.
But here he remained, an Ensign after seven long years. The career he'd envisioned was a long-lost dream, like his beloved Libby. No one on Voyager suspected how often his thoughts came back to her. She was the face pinned on all his abandoned hopes. The clown had been right; he did fear growing old and dependent, but more than that, he feared being alone in the wheelchair years. He didn't want to be a bitter, bookish old man, or the crazy uncle that Tom and B'Elanna's kids hid from. His failed romances were desperate attempts to locate the winsome Libby, all except for Seven. Oh, he held no illusions about a future with her, but a guy could dream. She had all the strength and pragmatism that he lacked. She was the ultimate survivor, a woman on the verge. Seven was unattainable, as lost to him as Libby.
He'd struggled valiantly to prove himself, and when the Nightingale fell into his ambitious hands, it seemed Harry's moment had come. He'd be able to point to his temporary command and say 'This is what Harry Kim is made of'. Instead of showing off his capabilities, the incident had highlighted his deficiencies. He'd been pompous enough to suggest he was ready for command when he was not, and probably never would be. Deep inside, Harry suspected he wasn't command material at all. Captains were brilliant and erratic, like Kathryn Janeway and James T. Kirk. They had the ability to tear out a crewman's heart, rip it to confetti, and return it intact, all within the space of a minute. Harry didn't have the dual nature that allowed leaders to choose in favor of duty when the heart cried out for love to carry the day.
Harry raised his clarinet to his lips and blew half-heartedly. Playing his instrument wasn't as much fun since the failure of the Kim Tones. That had been a humiliating experience, but he was used to humiliation by now. Only recently had cowbells, cow figurines, and other things cow stopped appearing at his workstation, in his bed, and on his dinner plate. Tom had spread the story all over Voyager, from Fair Haven to the bridge, repeating Harry's blurted words when the comely Maggie became bovine: "I could have been trampled!" He was positive Tuvok had mooed at him in the hall last week.
Searching his memory for a tune, Harry began to play softly. It was an old song. He remembered bright afternoons in the living room back home, his mother humming the lyric as Harry sat practicing in a puddle of California sunshine.
On the day I was born
Said me father, said he,
I've an elegant legacy waitin' for ye...
What would his legacy be? Harry Kim could admit, without rancor, that his story would be lucky to get a page in the Voyager chronicle, sandwiched somewhere between voluminous chapters on Tom and Naomi Wildman. They might include a side note about his almost murdering a delirious Paris while scuffling over a pipe. Despite Tom's kind words, it was Harry's secret shame, his great sin. He feared it wasn't the clamp causing his rage, but some deep-seated envy of Tom's charisma and adaptability. Was he jealous of the fond looks the Captain bestowed on her fair-haired boy? Why would he want to kill someone who would die for him? The questions haunted Harry Kim, along with others more basic. Who was he? Where would he end? Had he even begun?
During climactic battles, he stared at the back of Janeway's head and squeaked out readings, praying he wouldn't make a mistake. Voyager would go down in a flaming heap, due to his stupidity, putting an end to exploration in the Delta Quadrant. Undiscovered alien races would take over the allied planets and the Federation would end in fire, all thanks to Ensign Harry Kim. His terror during those firefights was another well-kept secret. How could he admit to it when the rest of the crew turned from torpedo warfare looking fresh as spring daisies?
Despondent, Harry blew into his clarinet and remembered his mother's comforting, off-key soprano.
Look, look, look, to the rainbow
Follow it over the hill and stream
Look, look, look, to the rainbow
Follow the fellow who follows a dream…
Harry's funk was interrupted by a stage whisper coming through his comm-badge.
"Paris to Kim."
Oh, for God's sake. Harry reined in his impatience and reminded himself, for the thousandth time, that Tom meant well.
"Yeah, Tom?" he sighed.
There was some smothered snickering, as if Tom simply couldn't contain his glee.
"Tuvok's visiting the holodeck tomorrow. What do you say to the oracle of K'Tal in B'Elanna's luau dress?"
Despite himself, Harry burst out laughing. "Maybe we could have him do the hula?"
Tom snorted. He liked that idea. "See you in five."
Harry set his clarinet aside. The fog was lifting, if only for a while. It was the way of life on Voyager, an endless push and pull, the call of the wild balanced by the call of home, moments of supreme doubt woven with moments of great hilarity.
As he left, Harry thought perhaps it was time to say good-bye to the fair Libby, and to the Juliard orchestra, to the Nightingale, and his dreams of glory. Those things were lost to him now, light years farther than earth could ever be.