Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager and all characters therein are the property of Americans who are not me. No infringement of copyright is intended.
This is set post-Season 7 and is my 'feel good' ending to the show; I also try and provide as many plausible reasons for this alternative future as I can! NB – the 'main segment' of this story is sent ten years after the crew got back from the Delta Quadrant. Spoilers – entire series. Rating T/PG13 for odd risqué phrase.
NB –Certain chapters are longer than usual for my postings; however, to do otherwise would interrupt the flow of the narrative too much, so apologies.
They ambled along the sidewalk in the cocooning silence of true companions; San Francisco was warm without being oppressive on this late summer night and there was no need for speed.
Kathryn paused on the sidewalk as they reached the Paris house, a fine old building in San Francisco's historic quarter, purchased mainly for the spacious but enclosed-courtyard back garden wherein fraught parents could let a hyperactive quarter-Klingon daughter have free rein. "Maybe we shouldn't tell them? Surely it would be too much like trying to hog the limelight from Harry's news? Besides, it would eclipse your own news as well –"
Chakotay smirked and silenced her by the simple expedient of capturing her hand and raising it to his lips for a gentle kiss across her knuckles. Ah, his Captain, always thinking of everyone else in their exclusive club of 'Voyagers'; unsurprising, considering in many ways Kathryn Janeway had never really stopped being Captain of the USS Voyager.
What had Neelix said so long ago, to Kes? One of your most endearing qualities…and it was also in this woman. He chuckled softly now, "Have you forgotten the 'grapevine' already? They'd never forgive us if they heard it elsewhere first, and if half of them don't already know, I'll specifically ask Neelix for a bowlful of stewed Leola root."
She smiled in return, her eyes bright and her face as rosy as a child's. As he linked his arm through hers again, Chakotay marvelled again at how his beloved hadn't seemed to age a day, ruefully aware of the ever-broadening streaks of silver shot through his own formerly polished-obsidian crop; one more thing for Tom Paris to tease him about.
"Auntie Captain! Auntie Captain! Uncle Chakotay!" With delighted squeals, Miral Paris shot out of her front doorway, her healthy trio of Klingon lungs helping her announce to everything within a two-block radius that her beloved 'honorary' aunt and uncle had arrived.
"Miral, speak from the diaphragm, I don't think they got that in Paraguay," called Tom Paris from the doorway ruefully.
"Huh?" Miral stopped and looked puzzled; daddy was just too weird sometimes.
"Evening Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay," came the highly amused greetings of the family across the street as they got in their own vehicle for an evening out, having heard Miral's exuberant greeting. There was, however, no malice – Tom and B'Elanna were loving but firm parents who did not allow their children to run riot.
Kathryn and Chakotay went straight through to the courtyard, where a large table groaned under the weight of food; this annual event had occurred sufficiently now for there to be no need for direction. As Chakotay went to get drinks for them both, Kathryn greeted those already present.
Since Harry Kim and his wife, Libby, lived next door, they were always first. In the ornamental lantern light, Libby's curling chestnut hair seemed almost polished and she positively glowed, being in the early stages of her second pregnancy. Nobody had been surprised when she and Harry had come together again once Voyager made it home; she had always been Harry's real love.
A sensible and emotionally mature young woman, Libby had come to terms with Harry's occasional lapses in the Delta Quadrant, but always joked that she had given in to stop Tom Paris's relentless lobbying of her on his best friend's behalf. It was true that in those initial days, Harry Kim had moped around like a lost puppy in Libby's vicinity and Tom had pulled out all the stops to get the pair together again – according to him it was either that or strangle Harry if he played 'one more clarinet dirge'. The couple had purchased the house next door since, in the words of Harry, 'somebody has to keep Paris in check'. There was only 48 hours age difference between Tom and B'Elanna's second child and Harry and Libby's currently only child – Harry Eugene Paris and Thomas Sun Lao Kim were inseparable and according to B'Elanna twice the wreakers of havoc that their fathers had been in the entire Delta Quadrant. Having just started first grade, they were presently trying to harass Miral in between attempting to filch a few delicacies off the table without attracting B'Elanna's attention.
Also present was the Doctor; only having to download yourself from Point A to Point B as a datastream had enormous advantages if you wanted to always be first in the queue. The Doctor had a position at Starfleet Academy, teaching Senior Year xeno-medicine; his classes were massively oversubscribed and as Starfleet Admiral N'Mimbi had explained, his pithy and unsympathetic demeanour was perfect for puncturing the egos of those high-flying cadets who were just a little too over-confident in their abilities after years of being treated, albeit rightly, as the 'crème de la crème' of Starfleet's best and brightest.
Although the Doctor had embraced an active social life (nowadays most people forgot he was a hologram) he never brought any of his paramours to this party, and so was attending alone as usual. He had let slip that Admiral Janeway had revealed he was married in the alternate timeline, but on reflection, had decided against this – his hologramatic status meant that he was relatively immortal and he knew the profoundly damaging psychological effect of this fact on even the most understanding wife would probably destroy the marriage. Discreet liaisons were the order of the day.
As well as this, not requiring food or rest like a biological species enabled him to lead an active life 24/7. Besides his Starfleet career he did a lot of fashion modelling, and was even now the picture of sartorial elegance; the fact that his body-shape never changed made him an ideal living mannequin. He was a frequent visitor to his close friend, Commander Reginald Barclay; the deeply shy man had been profoundly moved and overwhelmed to discover that his tireless efforts on the 'Pathfinder' project to locate Voyager had elevated him to the status of 'honorary' crewmember in their eyes. The Doctor also frequently visited his human creator, the EMH pioneer Lewis Zimmerman; according to Counsellor Deanna Troi, another friend of Reg Barclay, the Doctor had given the previously erratic and depressive Zimmerman a new lease on life. After some deliberation, the Doctor had named himself 'Barclay Zimmerman' for legal purposes, but had been known as 'the Doctor' for so long he couldn't get used to anything else.
"Seven and Tuvok are going to be late – San Francisco spaceport's heaving," B'Elanna explained as she came out of the house, still slender and attractive after having two children and 'riding herd on Tom Paris' as she put it.
Kathryn smiled and noticed how B'Elanna accepted a glass of wine from her mate as Tom came and put his arm around her waist; so she wasn't pregnant again then, although Harry was now over four years old. Time had not dimmed the love, or the mutual passion between her former Con Officer and Chief Engineer. Harry Kim had once explained it to her, after being sent to an alternate timeline where an Ensign Daniel Bird was on Voyager instead of him and that Tom Paris had ended up a bar-fly drunk…at the most fundamental level, Tom Paris needed to be needed.
He was in his element when he had someone to look after; with his wife, his children and his best friend next door, he had never been happier. B'Elanna, who was still a Practical Engineering Applications lecturer at the Academy, had voiced her worries to Kathryn – no, to her Captain – a few years back when Tom had cheerfully abandoned his redeemed and rejuvenated Starfleet career for a civilian position flying Earthbound experimental spacecraft prototypes, especially as the job was a daily commute between 'San Fran' and Perth, Australia. But Tom had had no difficulties giving up the chance to steer a starship all over the inhabited galaxy for nine-to-five mundane life; 'been there, done that' was his attitude.
He was still a frequent visitor to Starfleet Academy as a hugely popular part-time instructor at the Pilots' School; like the Doctor his lectures were booked solid weeks in advance and on the day were always standing room only. As the only Federation pilot to ever have flown a starship over half the completely uncharted Delta Quadrant - in, out, on, off, through and around interstellar voids of nothingness, dark nebulas, imploding super-novas, worm holes, black holes, starship-eating space monsters, Borg space, fluidic space and Demon-Class planets - it was not as if he had anything left to prove to the young bucks who could only sit there and aspire.
A commotion at the door heralded by more delighted cries from Miral proved to be the arrival of Neelix, sweeping the child up in his arms. She was a queen in his world, and she knew it. After accepting this due homage of her stature, Miral went happily back to playing, while Neelix accepted a large glass of dry red wine from Tom Paris. The fact that he was massively overdressed showed he come straight from his Ambassadorial Chambers at Starfleet's Diplomatic Section.
"Still no breakthrough, Neelix?" Chakotay enquired.
"They're feisty, but I'm confident," Neelix replied with a cheer that boded well, before tut-tutting, "Mr Kim you really need to move. You're blocking the far more lovely view of your wife with your head."
Having heard it all before, Harry just rolled his eyes and obediently hutched out of the way as Neelix swooped on the chuckling Libby.
"Such radiance; such glow!" Neelix clasped both her hands in his dramatically.
Everyone chuckled, but as always during Neelix's familiar ritual, Kathryn felt a poignant pang on behalf of her friend. Back when Neelix and Kes had pleaded to join the Voyager, she'd not thought much beyond relief at having a couple of for-once friendly native faces around. Over the years everyone had become so accustomed to Neelix that it had never occurred that when they made it back to the Alpha Quadrant, Neelix would be the one stranded permanently 70,000 light years from home.
Despite her own personal feelings of loss, she'd been happy that Neelix had found a new life with Dexa and her son, Brax, in the Delta Quadrant – and he had for many years, finally putting behind him the loss of his immediate family in the Metrion Cascade so long before. But twenty cycles later, Dexa had passed away in her sleep a cycle – about 14 months in human time - after Brax's marriage had produced her first grandchild. With his stepson grown and settled, Neelix's restlessness returned and he had moved on, eventually finding a relatively stable wormhole he thought would take him to the Alpha Quadrant.
It had in fact led to the Gamma Quadrant, and like the ancient microscopic one they discovered in the Delta Quadrant so many decades before, it was a wormhole through time as well as space. Neelix had inadvertently sent himself to the Gamma Quadrant over 15 Earth years in the past – at same time that Admiral Janeway was implementing her audacious plan to rewrite Voyager's history which, if it worked, would bring them home 16 years early and save 22 lives. Oblivious to this, Neelix had encountered the Dominion, and one of the Founders was a former Deep Space 9 Security Officer named 'Odo', who had filled Neelix in on the recent end of the Federation-Dominion War, and helped him to reach the Alpha Quadrant. Granted passage through the stable wormhole, Neelix had arrived at Deep Space 9 (although he didn't know it then) just two days before Admiral Janeway indeed pulled off her plan and Voyager made it home.
Permitted to send a message by Captain Kira when the news of the ship's dramatic arrival via Borg transwarp corridor spread, Neelix had been overwhelmed when Admiral Picard aboard the USS Enterprise and had collected him from Deep Space 9 and took him to Earth at maximum warp in time to witness the USS Voyager's triumphal return and he had been greeted ecstatically by the crew, who jocularly declared they were now safe from the culinary dangers of Ensign Chell.
But at first Neelix had been lost too, adrift in that depressive lull they'd all experienced after the initial euphoria, without direction and feeling useless. But then he'd managed to very publicly defuse a standoff between a Klingon Bird-of-Prey and a Romulan Warbird by the simple expedient of declaring himself the only representative of his species in the Alpha Quadrant and that if they were representative of the Alpha Quadrant's higher life-forms, he was going to go all 70,000 light years back home again.
Far more species than humanity found Ambassador Neelix a godsend. As the only one of his kind around, and native to the Delta Quadrant, he was the perfect completely impartial negotiator. He had no agenda, no 'side' or vested interest in any one party; Latinum as a currency was unknown to him, making him essentially impossible to bribe.
He was in constant demand for treaties, business negotiations and peace talks, etc., and made all the more popular by his refusal to be intimidated or browbeaten. Once during high-level treaty negotiations, when a Klingon youth made a derogatory remark about B'Elanna being a half-breed he had shot him in the leg with a phaser on the spot and as the youth crumpled in agony Neelix had thrown the Klingons out of the treaty talks for their 'outrageous slur' against the incomparable B'Elanna Torres, slayer of the Borg, scourge of the Hirogen and reigning Chez Sandrine pool champion of the USS Voyager. Having never mentioned any of this to her parents or her Clan, B'Elanna found herself regarded with much greater interest by the Klingons.
"When is it due?" Neelix asked, beaming at Libby's abdomen as if he thought the baby could see him.
"Not for seven months, and it's a she." Libby's cheeks blushed prettily at his outrageous flattery.
Kathryn raised her glass and took a sip to hide her wry smile; Neelix was charming and effervescent and believed he had almost a divine mission to make everyone feel good about themselves, but he was essentially alone. There were no female Talaxians within 70,000 light years of Earth and, despite his successful marriage to Dexa and for all his flirting, she had long ago realised that as far as Neelix was concerned, Kes had been his 'one and only', in the same manner that Tom Paris's obsession with B'Elanna Torres still burned as bright today as it had getting on for – good lord, seventeen years or more! – since he had first clapped eyes on the obstreperous half-Klingon Maquis. Incredible to realise that Miral Paris was a decade old.
Still, at least Neelix's people knew he was safe. She had stood in her Starfleet office and set her datapad to call out "Q!" imperiously non-stop for a whole hour before the exasperated being had appeared. He had spluttered when she demanded he inform the Talaxian government of Neelix's safety and happiness in the Alpha Quadrant, but she had browbeaten him down. Her message had been delivered, though he had stopped off on the way back to the Enterprise and spent a solid two hours bending the ear of Admiral Picard that this was what you got when you let a woman take the command chair. She still had the message sent by Admiral Picard, Captain Will Riker and Counsellor Troi that they hadn't laughed so much in ages.
A polite rat-a-tat-tat came at the door; nobody moved but they chorused in unison, "Come in, Icheb!" A couple of seconds later, two young people appeared in the doorway, smiling, Icheb and Naomi Wildman.
"Ensign on deck!" declared Harry loudly, suddenly standing up.
Everyone rose in auto-reflex before his words registered and they all looked again at the ruddy-faced Icheb and giggling Naomi. Indeed, the Crewman tabs on his uniform tunic collar had been replaced by an Ensign insignia.
Tom Paris made a lazy swipe at laughing Harry's head, which he easily avoided, as Kathryn stepped forward, "Icheb, congratulations. When were you promoted?"
"Admiral Picard did it yesterday morning, Captain." Though still furiously blushing, Icheb answered with his usual composure. "He and his senior staff send their regards from Enterprise to everyone."
"Thank you," Kathryn cocked a stern look at Naomi. "So how much did you win, Crewman Wildman?"
"Captain…" Naomi attempted her best 'angelic innocence' look, but couldn't hold it for more than a few seconds under the intimidating force of their united scepticism. She laughed again. "I cleaned up; by last week it was up to forty gold-pressed bars of Latinum on what day before the month was out would Admiral Picard make Itchy an Ensign."
"Please don't call me that, Naomi," Icheb winced.
"Hey, you owe me! I talked Qb out of throwing you an impromptu party on the Enterprise Bridge complete with Trallian dancing girls and Ndiisi sex maidens." Naomi said and then frowned, "well, maybe talked him into postponing it at any rate. He said to say a "'double hello to Aunt Kathy'" ma'am and that you'd know what he meant."
Kathryn merely nodded, meeting Chakotay's eyes over the girl's head; aloud she said, "Kewbie?"
"'Qb'," Icheb explained, "I'm afraid that since we have been stationed on the Enterprise," he indicated himself and Naomi, "Q and his son have taken to popping in every so often. I feared that Admiral Picard would have me reassigned because of it, however, he has kindly seemed to accept it as a necessary evil."
"With the Q, you can't do much else," Chakotay pointed out wryly.
"Well, I hope you enjoy spending all that Latinum," Tom was congratulating Naomi, passing her the glass of red wine she'd chosen.
"I was thinking of running a double-or-nothing sweepstake," Naomi teased.
"Thomas Eugene Paris," enunciated B'Elanna with mock sternness, "You have utterly corrupted this child. I have a good mind to sic Sam Wildman and her husband on you!"
Tom raised his hands in mock surrender but Chakotay chuckled, "As I recall, there was a certain Maquis who used to regularly wipe out what little Latinum most of us poor suckers managed to acquire by running betting pools on everything from the 'amount of Dilithium in the warp core' to 'number of Cardassian patrols left eating our space dust'."
"Really?" Tom folded his arms and looked at his flustered wife with interest; Kathryn, closest, could tell from the subtle gleam in his eyes that he would pursue the subject much later on this night, when he and B'Elanna had their own, far more private party.
Sparing B'Elanna's blushes, Naomi assured them, "Actually I'm putting the Latinum in the Starfleet Academy Prep Account ready for the fearsome foursome. I think mom and dad are counting the days."
"Some days I can relate," B'Elanna agreed, "and I only have three kids to look after."
"I resemble that remark," Tom laughed.
Upon their return to the Alpha Quadrant, Ensign Samantha Wildman had promptly left Starfleet after having endured a seven-year enforced separation from her Katarian husband. Despite an initial rocky patch, their marriage had prospered, and they had had four more children, a set of identical twin girls followed by a set of identical twin boys. Much older than her siblings, Naomi often acted more like a benevolent aunt, but she was a responsible young woman who cared deeply for her parents, especially as Samantha and her husband had taken Icheb under their wing. Privately, Kathryn was certain that Naomi and Icheb would pair off together eventually, but for now they were very close platonic friends only.
Yet again there was noise at the front door as the final members of the evening arrived, Tuvok and Seven. The latter immediately spotted Icheb's change of insignia as she entered the courtyard and raised one eyebrow. Kathryn felt a twinge of relief as Seven warmly praised Icheb for his achievement. Although Icheb had integrated seamlessly into human life, his and Seven's mutual Borg past meant she was the closest thing to a parental figure he had, and that was vitally important to him.
"Come one everyone, time to eat – Kim and Paris, you pair can get to the back of the queue as you've been grazing like Bolian heifers on everything I've made today!" B'Elanna peremptorily shooed them back from the table.
"I was just smelling, Tom was the one stuffing his face –" Harry tried to fib.
"Were too!" Tom folded his arms indignantly.
"Ah the scintillating wit and repartee," the Doctor came to join them since of course as a hologram he did not eat.
The meal progressed as they chatted with the comfortable lack of ceremony customary amongst old, close friends, exchanging news and gossip. Tuvok and Seven were on their current visit to Vulcan, Tuvok had become a grandfather for the sixth time, finally having a granddaughter after four grandsons. The Doctor had been present at the birth by permission of Tuvok's second son and his mate, having transmitted himself there directly from Deep Space 9 after delivering the first child born to William Telfer and his Bajoran wife, former Ensign Tal Celes – a marital match that had surprised nobody, since she negated his hypochondria and he cancelled out her low self-esteem.
Still, Kathryn mused to herself, it was for the best that Tal had left Starfleet as fast as she could once they returned to the Alpha Quadrant. Although not as inadequate as her low self-confidence had her believing, she had been more right than wrong in her conviction that Starfleet had let her in on the grounds of being Bajoran than any genuine aptitude. She wasn't cut out for Starfleet life and she was only too happy to return to being a civilian.
Kathryn tuned back in as the doctor amusingly related how Will Telfer had transferred his hypochondria from himself to his newborn daughter, Celia Kathryn Telfer. After he had been summoned three times between midnight and dawn by Telfer demanding to know "'but should she be breathing like that?'" the Doctor had threatened to summon Deep Space 9's resident physician Doctor Bashir and have Telfer medically confined to the remotest Bajoran monastery he could find until the man calmed down. In contrast, Tuvok's second daughter-in-law had been the model of Vulcan efficiency with a 45-second labour.
Finally during a lull, Kathryn cleared her throat meaningfully and was rewarded by the instant and complete attention of the entire group. Not bad ten years after the fact of being their Captain in any real sense. "Chakotay and I have an announcement of our own to make..." she couldn't stop the smile or the happiness bubbling up, "I'm pregnant."
"Well, finally, it's about time!" Tom Paris declared, "We were beginning to worry -I've been asking the Doc to run a health scan on Chakotay for the past six months!"
"Watch it, Paris," growled Chakotay, "until Friday I can still have you thrown in the brig."
"Yes, sir," completely unabashed, Tom raised his glass in salute to his Captain, an action imitated by all of them, even the Doctor quickly creating a holographic wineglass for himself.
The doctor brought out his datapad, though he did not really need the affectation; but it made him seem more human and less intimidating. "When would you like me to schedule your first antenatal consultation?"
"We were hoping next week," Chakotay admitted, "but we know you're so busy…"
The Doctor consigned his schedule to oblivion with an airy flick of his fingers. "Nonsense, I have delivered every child born to the Voyagers since we returned, and I have no intention of breaking that tradition with the Captain. I am peerless in the field of midwifery. In fact, I have more experience in dealing with alien childbirth than any Starfleet physician. Remind me to write a paper on the subject."
"Yes, doctor." Kathryn acquiesced; collection of light particles or no, she did love this conceited little man.
"Are you aware of the foetal gender?" Seven enquired, her efficient mind already moving into Supplies Needed mode.
"Yes, and its genders," Kathryn corrected. "My scan showed we're having identical twins – girls."
"Qb's message: double hello," murmured Naomi to Icheb in realisation.
"You'd be welcome to any of Miral's things," B'Elanna instantly offered.
"Thanks," Chakotay accepted, "We are getting a lot of stuff from my family though; they're ecstatic – these will be the first females born into my paternal family for ten generations."
"Well, this should get you going," B'Elanna declared mischievously, holding out a datapad.
Chakotay took it and Kathryn looked at it with him, both puzzled.
"It's a list of all the names I was given when I was pregnant with Miral," B'Elanna explained.
"You kept it all these years?" Naomi asked.
"I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it," B'Elanna admitted with rare unselfconscious sentimentalism. "Besides, we were sure Harry was going to be a girl too."
"The thought is appreciated, but we've already selected their names," Kathryn handed back the datapad as it scrolled down to 'Gokwuth', a traditional Bolian name as suggested by Ensign Chell. She pointed at her abdomen, "The tadpole on the left is Teya, and the tadpole on the right…is Seven."
Seven's eyes widened in shock, and then she inclined her head. "I am honoured."
"We'd like you to be a bit more than honoured," Chakotay admitted. "We were hoping that you and Tuvok would agree to be amongst the godparents."
Tuvok and Seven didn't even need to exchange glances, "It would be our pleasure. Thank-you."
"I'd hold on to that sentiment for a while if I were you, Tuvok," Kathryn advised dryly. "If the pair of them turn out anything like I and my sister were as children, you will need every ounce of Vulcan imperturbability you can muster."
"I look forward to the challenge." Tuvok said with unconcern. "May I enquire as to your intentions now that you are leaving Starfleet, Commander?"
"Leaving Starfleet?" Harry repeated as they all regarded Chakotay.
"You stated that you had the power to incarcerate Mr Paris in the brig until this Friday, implying therefore after that date you would no longer possess that authority. Such would only be the case if you were no longer a Starfleet officer." Tuvok reminded Chakotay.
"Absolutely right," Chakotay grinned, not annoyed that as usual he had not been able to slip anything past the Vulcan. "I've been offered a full Professorship of Anthropology at Starfleet Academy at the London base and I've accepted. I start a week Monday."
"At this rate we're going to get toaster's elbow," joked Tom. "That's wonderful, Chakotay; it's what you've always been interested in."
"Being on the bridge of a starship every day lost its appeal a long time ago," Chakotay shrugged as he expressed a sentiment common to them all. "We're only living a street away from campus and Kathryn will be just down the corridor as a Professor of Astrometrics."
"My sister and her family live in England, too," Kathryn explained, "so I've transferred from Starfleet HQ campus as of next month."
"How much does the rest of the crew know about everything that's happening?" Neelix enquired.
"Oh I'm sure the rumours are already multiplying, but we're relying on you to spread the word, Neelix," Chakotay asked.
"Absolutely," his eyes alight with the joy of so many juicy titbits to tell, Neelix practically bounced in his seat.
"But before we go any further, I want to apologise to Harry," Kathryn said. "We had no wish to spoil your own wonderful news, Harry, but there's no way we could have kept my condition secret after I fainted and –"
"Fainted?" The word was chorused unanimously in alarm and the Doctor made to get out his medical tricorder.
"My own fault," Kathryn waved them down, sheepishly admitting, "I'd skipped breakfast, I downed two full pots of coffee virtually in one gulp and I jumped up out of my chair too fast because I was late for my 9:30am class."
"We discussed the occurrence at length," Chakotay commented sternly, "and it won't happen again."
"The two pots of coffee certainly won't" the Doctor stated firmly, "otherwise Teya and Seven will bounce out of your womb on their own; from tomorrow – one small cup – per day."
Tom Paris had now folded his arms and eyed his friend quizzically. "Wait a minute, what news, Harry? You haven't said anything to me about anything."
"It's nothing, really," Harry dismissed, "I wasn't going to announce it to anyone."
"It is important, Harry," Kathryn contradicted, "and nobody is more suited."
"Harry, don't make me get the Klingon pain-sticks," Tom threatened, "give."
Libby and Harry clasped hands grinning like loons at each other. "You know how when I transferred from active duty to Engineering Design at Starfleet HQ because Tom was born, there was only a two-day lecturer's position available?" Harry reiterated, drawing out the suspense.
"Haarreee…" Tom growled like an impatient child, making Kathryn smile.
"You have been offered a full-time position?" Icheb guessed.
Harry shook his head, grinning "No; I was going to apply for one when we knew we were expecting again, but…from next month I am going to be the solo clarinettist for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra -"
"…And the first piece he's going to play is The Void," Libby couldn't contain herself any longer.
"Harry, that's wonderful!" B'Elanna exclaimed for them all.
His blush actually spread to his neck, but his eyes were delighted. Seven also looked pleased. When Voyager came home, none of the crew gave much thought to the holonovels, poetry, art, sculpture and music they had created for themselves or collected/exchanged with alien species on a ship cut off from the latest entertainment. Seven had decided to keep all of it as part of her ongoing understanding of her humanity and had ordered the collection with her usual efficiency. One day someone had heard her playing the music and had asked for a copy. They had given it to someone else and it had become part of the public domain. She had lent a copy of her rather grandiloquently entitled 'Insurrection: a Paris-Tuvok Holonovel' to a neighbour whose journalist friend saw it and ran excerpts with an op-ed piece. It had earned its authors considerable royalties and even now a decade after their return had never been out of the Top Ten in the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' section. Seven had loaned the entire collection to the Smithsonian, where it had been incorporated into the USS Voyager, the ship now a permanent exhibit.
"You'll have to let us know when to buy tickets, Harry," Chakotay urged.
Libby laughed, "Actually that won't be necessary. That was the condition that Harry insisted upon."
"What do you mean?" Tom looked at his best friend, who was blushing furiously.
"It's incredibly difficult to get part-time soloists for any orchestra unless they're of independent means, since most musicians who already have another job don't have the flexibility. Harry's engineering post means he sets his own schedule," Libby explained, "and they were falling over themselves to grab a clarinettist of his calibre, so they agreed to Harry's condition for accepting the position, namely that first refusal of the best seats in the house at any performance he is involved in are given to the Voyagers."
"Nice going, Harry," Tom complimented, tilting his glass towards him.
"I learned from the master," Harry raised his glass to his best friend in mutual salute.
Continued in Chapter 2…
© 2005 Catherine D Stewart