by Veronica Jane Williams
"So, what are you going to do for talent night, Joe?" B'Elanna asked where they were working on the new data for the warp coil efficiency in engineering.
Joe merely mumbled something unintelligible until B'Elanna, who hadn't been looking at him when she asked the question, did look at him now.
"No, not this time, B'Elanna. Neelix isn't getting anything out of me this time," he said with his characteristic frown, his eyes serious.
B'Elanna thought he eyes were far too serious in the last months.
"Why, was it because you had Elizabeth and Naomi and Jamie sing the 'Drinking Song' at the last concert?" B'Elanna gave him one of her crooked little smiles.
"What?" He looked at her. He thought she knew something she wasn't going to tell him about. Or tell him.
"Elizabeth talks, Joe. She may be only two and a half, but she's got a mouth on her," B'Elanna said, her voice all tender speaking of her daughter.
"Don't I know!"
"So, what up, Joe?"
"She got really miffed at me for letting them sing the song at the last talent night."
"I take it you mean Samantha," B'Elanna asked, not a bit abashed that she knew what was going on, or not going on between Joe and Samantha.
"Yeah," he sighed. "She thinks I want to get at her through her daughter. She - she doesn't like me getting close, you know..."
"Hey, it will work out, Joe. Samantha needs to come to terms with a lot of things. She's only recently begun to accept that her husband chose someone else, you know."
"Don't get me wrong, B'Elanna. I really like Naomi. She - she could be - could be..." his voice trailed off, and B'Elanna kept her counsel then, knowing he was thinking of his own sons, back in the Alpha Quadrant, cared by their grandmother. Yes, she thought, Naomi could be the daughter he always wanted.
"Joe, listen, get your act on talent night. Tom and I will support you. I know you've been teaching Naomi something new - "
"What? The kid talked!" Joe sounded completely aggrieved. "Girls!" he complained as they continued their work.
"So, what's it to be?" she asked him.
"Now that's a secret, if the girls can keep it that way. Just don't know what Samantha will think."
"Ahhh...so Naomi is part of it?"
"B'Elanna, let me know if I could get a hand in and break your nose."
"Not a chance, Carey. Not a chance," she laughed.
"Mom, don't look now, but uncle Joe is on his way here," Naomi said where they were sitting at their table in the mess hall.
"Naomi, sweetheart, you know - "
"Mom-m-m-!" he 's going to ask if I can sing with him at talent night and - "
"No, Naomi...he can sing with Elizabeth and Jamie, sweetheart." Samantha stopped as Joe stood next to their table.
"Mind if I join you?" he asked with a tentative sound to his voice.
"Mom-m-m," Naomi whispered to her, "be good..." With that she got up from the table, tugged at Joe's leg, and whispered to him:
"She'll say yes..."
"Well?" Joe asked as he sat down opposite Sam, his eyes never leaving hers. Hell, he was attracted to her. No, more than attracted.
"Joe, you know that I don't like you using Naomi - "
"Sam," he sighed, "it's not what you think, you know. I really like Naomi. Who doesn't love all the children on the ship? Give her a chance." Give me a chance, he thought.
She looked away to where Naomi had joined Jamie and Elizabeth, and was engaged in an animated discussion with them. She was a sour old harridan, she thought, to withhold Naomi from enjoying simple little pleasures. She looked back at Joe. She liked him. She more than liked him, she corrected herself.
But she - she was in sickbay the day B'Elanna gave birth to Elizabeth and Tom lay there, on the other bed, dying. She remembered how B'Elanna was distraught at the thought that her husband and daughter would die. Elizabeth had been born with a non-functioning second heart, and the first hours after her birth looked like she may not make it. B'Elanna crying that she wanted do die herself...
No, she couldn't lose her heart again. Not after Gres...
But she thought of their daughter. So wise for her age. So aware of who she was and who she wanted to emulate.
"Yes...yes, Joe. It's okay," she said finally.
Joe's hand covered hers where it rested on the table top. For a moment he felt a surge of desire flow through him. God, he thought. It's only her hand I touched.
And Samantha, aware of her own reaction to Joe's hand touching her, drew her hand away, slowly, almost reluctantly. She looked away again. Her eyes connected with B'Elanna's, who gave her a thumbs up sign. Damn, she thought. Now they noticed.
"Thanks, Samantha. Naomi will be happy. There, look."
They both looked now in Naomi's direction, who smiled broadly at both of them.
Of course, Captain Janeway did her dying swan act, but not before she got the commander to shoot the huge red apple from her head. There was she was standing, tied to a tree and an apple perched perfectly on her head. Only this time, the Commander did something more challenging.
And did the Captain panic when she saw the Commander not with the phaser like she dared him in the first place, but like William Tell of old, with the most beautiful crossbow anyone had ever seen. And he stood right at the back of the hall, while she was on the stage, tied to the tree. There was an aisle down the middle.
Then the William Tell Overture played. Fast and furious. The Captain's eyes went wide as she saw the Commander use his foot to set the arrow in the crossbow, pulling with all his might.
"Oh no," said Jamie Hamilton, "she's gonna die!"
"Mama," Elizabeth wailed where she sat in her mother's lap, "is Aunt Kathryn gonna die?" The tears were already rolling as Elizabeth gave her mother a stricken look.
"No, sweetheart. The safeties are on. She won't get hurt."
They all looked to the back where the Commander stood with the crossbow raised to his right shoulder, and their eyes and heads too slow when he released the arrow.
By the time they looked at the Captain on the stage, all they heard after the apple lay on the floor, neatly sliced in half, was the Captain saying:
"I'll get you for this, Commander."
This had everybody applauding, even Seven who graced them with a smile. Well, it wasn't a smile really. But they liked to think it was.
"Our next act will be Naomi Wildman and Lieutenant Carey. They will be accompanied on the piano by Lieutenant Paris, Tom Paris that is," Neelix announced.
"Mama, it's Naomi," Elizabeth whispered to B'Elanna. "When do I get to sing the "Drinking Song' again, Mama?" she asked.
"You can sing it for Daddy tomorrow morning, sweetheart. A nice way to wake him up," Mama said a little wickedly.
Then Naomi and Joe came on the low stage. The piano was on the one side. Tom sat down, his hands ready over the keys.
Joe stood beside Naomi, and she looked up at him, her eyes full of what B'Elanna watching this could only describe as hero worship. Naomi really loves him, she thought in amazement.
Suddenly she heard and understood Elizabeth's words:
"She likes Uncle Joe to lift her up and swing her round when he's in the nursery, Mama. That's 'cos we have Daddies, 'Omi doesn't have one."
B'Elanna looked quickly to where Samantha was sitting on the other side, her eyes inscrutable. Oh, Samantha, give Joe a chance. He's in love with you. He's made peace with his loss, had mourned a long time. She turned to look at the stage again. Then Tom started playing this rhythmical tune.
And Joe and Naomi both started simultaneously. Dancing a version of a cakewalk. They stepped forward and sang to each other:
"If you like-a me and I like-a you - "
Here Joe pointed to Naomi and she in turn pointed to him.
Then they sang together:
"and we like it both the same..."
"I'd like to say,
this very day,"
And Joe replied:
I'd like to change your na-a-me."
'Cos I lova you, and lova you too,"
"and if will lova me."
Then both sang together:
"One lives as two
two lives as one
under the bamboo tree!!!"
There was a loud applause as Naomi jumped up and demanded to be picked up by Joe. He complied and picked her up, holding her close to him, like a...father, B'Elanna thought. Joe looked at the audience, and B'Elanna saw how his expression changed. The smile that always crinkled up his eyes froze. She looked across and saw Sam's face. It was an angry scowl that seemed to mar her attractive features. Joe put Naomi down again, smiled at the audience and with Naomi holding his hand, left the stage, where he deposited her with her mother, then quietly left the holodeck.
And anyone who had eyes to see, could see how unhappy he looked. Why was it Samantha could be so thickheaded not to see the way she hurt Joe? B'Elanna thought to give Sam a shakedown first thing in the morning. She just shook her head, and waited out the rest of the first half so the children could leave to go to bed.
"Why did Uncle Joe leave, Mom? I thought he was your friend."
"I - sweetheart, I don't know."
But Naomi was not to be appeased as her mother prepared her for bed. She could see her mother had tears in her eyes. But she was...
"Are you angry with Uncle Joe, Mom? I liked the song he taught me. It was nice. He liked it too."
"Naomi sweetheart, I'm sure he meant well. Now go to bed, honey," she said a little distractedly.
"He likes you, Mom..." she said as sleep began to overtake her after Sam read her "Flotter and Treavis and the Mystery of the Missing Branch" for the third time.
"I know, honey. I know he likes me. I like him too...only..."
She sighed. He was telling her through the song that he loved her, and wanted to marry her.
I can't, she thought with some panic. I can't.
"So, Samantha," B'Elanna said as they sat in the mess hall with an inquisitive Neelix hovering over them with his usual almost inedible fare for the morning, "why did you cold shoulder Joe last night? Again?"
"B'Elanna, he - he's using Naomi - "
"He loves her! Anyone but you can see that, Sam. She's longing for someone she can call Daddy. And she's grown so attached to him. Don't shut him out too long, Sam. Don't."
"You don't understand - "
"I understand perhaps more than you think, Sam. I've seen you watch Elizabeth interact with Tom. You...you are afraid of being hurt again."
"He - married someone else, you know..."
"I know, Sam...I also know you loved him very much. But it's time for you to move on too, you know." B'Elanna looked directly in her eyes, seeing how unhappy Sam looked.
"I know... I know, B'Elanna. It's just..."
"You don't want to lose him too, isn't it...?" she asked softly as she realised with some insight she hit on a raw nerve. After all, didn't she go through a similar experience herself? And only recently came to terms accepting that they would always be taking risks? That she couldn't, for almost two years, allow herself to enjoy her intimacies with Tom? She sighed. Samantha had been there the day Elizabeth was born, had witnessed B'Elanna's extreme trauma. So was Joe in the sick bay as well.
"Yes..." Samantha admitted, feeling almost embarrassingly the onset of tears. "Yes, I am...afraid. It's why I can't - "
"I'm sorry, B'Elanna."
"You love him!"
"No - ! Please, I don't want to continue this. I'm sorry..."
Samantha rose from the table, and left the mess hall quickly. Leaving a thoughtful B'Elanna staring long after she left the mess hall.
Joe sat in his quarters at his desk. He had in his hands the old framed photograph of his wife, Eileen. Her eyes stared out at him, a merry smile.
"You always were the optimist," he spoke to the face in the picture. And as if he could hear her the last time he saw her, way back home,
"Joe, sweetheart, we live every moment as if it were our last. Fully, and embrace life to the fullest. Remember that."
"I remember, sweetheart," he said to the picture. "You would have wanted me to get on with my life, don't you? You lived by your own tenet: You embraced every moment of your life."
I love another, Eileen, came his thoughts. She has a little girl. Remember how we always wanted to have a little girl? I love Naomi as if she were my very own. And - and I think she loves me too, you now. It's her mom. She is afraid, I think. Of letting herself love again and embracing every moment of her life, like you did. How can I reach her? Do you know, Eileen?
It was as if Eileen spoke from across the great expanses of other realms. As if he could hear her voice so clearly:
"Sing her the Bamboo Tree until she says yes to you. Like you sang it to me, Joe. You won't have to wait long... You won't have to wait long..."
Joe's eyes turned misty as he thought of the Bamboo tree song he taught Naomi. She loved it so much. So much. He sighed and put the picture away, this time in his wardrobe drawer, under the little gifts he collected for his sons should they ever...
The beep broke in his reverie as he almost shook himself awake.
She came in and stood just inside the door. Her hair beautiful shoulder length, and hanging loose. He rose from his seat, but did not move forward.
"Joe," she said softly as she came in, and stood in front of him, "I need time..."
"Sure, Samantha. All the time you need. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."
"I know," she said, smiling with her relief clearly showing.
He held her shoulders, looked deep into her eyes, and said:
"I'll sing you the Bamboo Song..."
"For heaven's sake, Joe!" she said as he grabbed her closer and kissed her, stunned that she could return his kiss with equal ardour.
"Naomi will be happy," he said after kissing her breathless.
"So is her mother, Joe."
Star Trek: Voyager, Captain Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, Torres, the EMH, and other characters of the series, etc. are the property of Paramount Pictures. Other characters created by the author, will remain the author's property. All photos/images are copyright of Paramount Pictures, 1998, 1999, No infringement upon their trademarks or copyrights were intended. All stories are my own property, that Paramount or anyone else doesn't own. The stories and displaying of pics are intended for entertaining purposes only and not for any financial gain.
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