Disclaimer: Same old story here: Paramount and Viacom are the big guys, we're the little guys. They make the money, we don't. This story is purely for the enjoyment of Voyager fans, especially those who appreciate a certain long unseen lieutenant. Forward your comments to AnnitaS@aol.com.
Author's Note: Sorry if this is a little late in coming. This story was left half done after the original airing of "Hunters." After the recent rerun of the episode, I was inspired to finish it. I've only now had the time to do so! Thanks to Josh, as always, for the inspiration, and thanks to Kim, Jam and PJs for the encouragement! See? I'm writing!
Again, a note of explanation about names: Regular readers of the "Carey On" series know that the children in these stories seem to constantly be changing their names! Not my fault! In "Uncle Joe," I mentioned Joe Carey's youngest son was named Joshua. In the next story, "Friends and Family," the boys became Hunter and Joe, Jr. (or Joey), since our buddy Josh Clark (who, of course, played Joe) told us that's what he had thought of as the boys' names. For the same reason, Joe's wife's name was revealed to be named Sarah. In "Making Memories" I went with my instincts and named Samantha Wildman's daughter Kim. I still think it was a (pardon me, Tuvok) logical choice, since Harry brought her across from the other Voyager, but TPTB named her Naomi. Therefore, in this story, she's Naomi! I guess it's a little confusing no matter what I do, but it's the price you pay when you write stories based on a continuing series and don't possess precognition, and we certainly want Voyager to continue! If the discrepancies bother you, change them in your copies. Eventually, I may get around to changing the posted versions. By the way, Sam's husband's name (Greskrendtregk) is courtesy of the Star Trek Encyclopedia. That mouthful is definitely not my fault!
Seven of Nine's fingers darted across the controls before her, her eyes flicking back and forth from the instruments to the display screen. "The data stream degraded during transmission. Elements have been dislocated, rearranged. It's going to require some time to decompress the message and rearrange it in the proper sequence."
"Well, don't worry about the sequence," Captain Kathryn Janeway replied impatiently. "Get it out in bits and pieces if you have to. We can put it together later."
"I've accessed a block of data. I'm downloading the text."
The captain leaned in to the console to read the screen. "'...how much we miss you. We talk about you often. Wondering about your... day.' Sounds awfully personal for Starfleet Command. 'The children have grown so much you wouldn't...'" Janeway paused as the realization struck her and her heart welled up with emotion. "These are letters," she said softly. "These are letters from home."
Word about the messages from the Alpha Quadrant spread like wildfire through the Starship Voyager. The crew had never been more excited and the rumors regarding the number of messages grew exponentially as everyone waited anxiously for Neelix' arrival.
"Have you heard anything yet?" Sam Wildman asked Joe Carey as she stepped into his quarters, having hardly waited for him to answer the door chime.
"Not yet," Carey replied with an uneasy smile.
"I'm so nervous, I'm shaking. The doctor said he told Starfleet about Naomi, so I guess Greskrendtregk knows by now he's a father. I wish I could have been the one to tell him, but..."
"I'm sure he was thrilled with the news, Sam. He's twice blessed to learn not only is his wife alive, but he's got a beautiful little girl, too."
Sam looked away, lost in thought. "He didn't even know I was pregnant."
Joe frowned and reached out to take Sam's trembling hand in his. "Are you afraid he won't be happy about the news?"
Sam shook her head. "Oh, no. He'll be thrilled. We both wanted children. We had made plans. I just..." she closed her eyes. "It's just been so long."
"I know," Joe replied with such complete understanding it made Sam look up to meet his gaze.
"Of course you know. I'm sorry. I guess you're just as nervous about hearing from Sarah and the boys."
"I'm not sure what I feel," Carey admitted. "It's been four years. That's a long time for anyone to wait when you have no reason to hope. When we were first marooned out here, I was sure Sarah would wait forever, but that wasn't realistic, and it wasn't fair. After a while, I realized I didn't want her to waste the rest of her life waiting for me. I just wanted her to be happy. And it would probably be better for the boys, too. Now, if she did go on with her life, if she found someone else, and then suddenly out of the blue, she gets word that I'm alive..." He sighed. "She'll feel guilty, I know that. And I don't want her to."
"And if she has waited?"
He looked down at the floor. "If she's waited and now she knows I'm alive, she'll never move on. And we may still never get home. Finding out I'm alive may be the worst thing that could have happened to her, either way."
Sam watched his expression for some time, not sure how to respond. It had been a long time for the people back home, but it had been a long time for them as well. In their own way, the crew of Voyager had moved on with their lives... lives that, of necessity, had not included those loved ones left behind. They had all developed new relationships to replace those they'd lost. But could the sense of family that had grown so strong among the Voyager crew ever truly replace the love of their real families? And should it? She didn't have an answer for that question either.
"It's just like everything else we've had to face since we were lost here," she whispered. "And there's nothing we can do about it until we hear... or don't hear."
Joe looked up at her. "I know you're right. But it doesn't make it any easier, does it?"
Sam smiled sadly and shook her head.
At that moment, the door chime sounded, causing them both to start. Taking a deep breath and giving Sam's hand one last squeeze, Joe got to his feet. "Come in."
Neelix practically bounced into the cabin, a broad grin spread across his features. "I have a letter for you, Lieutenant Carey!"
Despite the doubts and fears he had just expressed, Joe couldn't help feeling a tremendous sense of excitement, and the smile he returned was absolutely genuine. His eyes locked on the padd the Talaxian extended toward him.
Sam rose to her feet as Neelix handed the padd to the engineer. "I need to get back to Sickbay," she said quietly. Joe nodded, so intent on the padd in his hand, he almost didn't hear her. Then, he looked up to see her guiding Neelix toward the door.
She turned back with an understanding smile. "I'll talk to you later."
He nodded and watched as the door closed behind his two friends.
He stood frozen still for a moment as his eyes fell on the padd. "Lt. Joseph Carey," it read. "From Sarah Carey."
Finally, taking a deep breath, he sank back on his sofa and started to read.
Silent tears traveled down his cheeks as Joe tenderly ran his finger across his wife's name on the padd. A smile played at his lips. He should never have doubted her faith in him. Something inside him had always known she was there with him. How could he not have realized she felt the same way? And how could he have forgotten her strength? His Sarah was not the kind of woman to close herself off from the world. She was all right. And she would be all right.
And so would he.
He stood up and walked to the viewport of his quarters and looked out at the passing stars. It wasn't the first time he'd looked out into the perpetual night that surrounded Voyager and sent his thoughts across the vastness toward home. And he'd always known Sarah was there, just on the other side of that dark space. But it was good to have these words, even if they had never really been necessary. Sarah knew him better than he knew himself. That rock steady confidence in him was something he hadn't even realized he'd missed.
Maybe because it had always been there after all.
That evening, as he entered the mess hall, he looked around at the wide variety of expressions on the faces of Voyager's crew. Some were excitedly relating the contents of their letters to their friends, many faces had flown to the door when he'd entered, anxious for Neelix to appear with letters for them. Still others sat quietly, some sad, some content, contemplating their news from home.
At a table in the middle of the room sat Harry Kim, one of the anxious ones. All the maturity that had come to Harry from his experience on Voyager seemed to have melted away as he looked toward the door like a little boy waiting for Santa Claus to arrive.
Along with Harry was Tom Paris, who appeared to be totally unconcerned as he ate his lunch. From his own experience with Voyager's pilot, Carey was sure the nonchalance was an act. Paris had more reason than most to be wary of any communication from the Alpha Quadrant. It was typical of him to feign disinterest to protect himself.
Just beyond Kim and Paris, Sue Nicoletti, another friend of Carey's whom he'd known and worked with even before Voyager, sat listening to Ensign Richards exuberantly relating the contents of her missive to those gathered at her table. Sue was anxious too, Carey realized, but she was better at concealing it than Harry Kim.
On the far side of the mess hall sat Samantha Wildman. She was among this last group. A padd rested on the table before her, face down, her hands pressed on top of it, her expression further away than Voyager was from Earth. For a moment, Joe debated whether or not to intrude on her reverie, but Sam was his friend, and she certainly looked like she could use some support right now.
Wildman looked up at the soft voice speaking her name. She forced a smile through the tears that still filled her eyes. "Hi, Joe."
Carey sank into the seat opposite her, waiting for her to speak if she wanted to. There was a long pause before she did.
"So, how was your letter?" she asked, genuine concern showing through her sadness.
"Everyone is fine at home," he replied. "Everything is fine."
Sam looked at him more intently. "I know, it's none of my business, but..."
"She's there for me just like she's always been and always will be," he replied with a gentle smile. "I was an idiot not to realize she could do all right without me and still be there for me."
"I'm glad, Joe," Sam replied, reaching out and placing her hand over his. "I truly am."
"Sam..." Joe turned his hand over to grasp her cold, trembling fingers.
"My letter was from my mother. Starfleet notified her."
"Well, I'm sure your husband will write, too. You'll just have to wait and..."
She was shaking her head. "Greskrendtregk's ship was lost four months ago during a battle with the Dominion forces. The crew is all listed as missing and presumed dead."
Joe tightened his grip on her hand as he sat in silence, not sure what he should say.
"He never knew about Naomi," she whispered, fresh tears flowing down her cheeks. "He never knew we were alive out here."
"He believed we were dead?" Joe asked, remembering Sarah's assurance that she never doubted he was alive.
Sam shook her head. "No, my mother said he would never believe it. He volunteered for the mission that went to the badlands to look for us. Even when they found no trace, he still believed were alive."
Joe nodded, then reached out and tilted her chin up so she was looking at him. "You know, we were 'missing and presumed dead,'" he reminded her. "What do you feel in your heart?"
Her eyes widened for a moment, then she looked away at the stars, her thoughts turning inside. After a few moments, a small smile played on her lips. "My heart still feels him with me. But I'm not sure..."
"Trust your heart," Joe advised. "I know this is hard for you. I can't really know how you feel, but we're a long way from home. We may be able to keep in touch through this alien network, or we may not. Until you hear otherwise, I think you have to go with what your heart tells you. It will tell you the truth - that Greskrendtregk is right here with you. You can see that every time you look at Naomi."
Sam let his words sink in, then she took a deep breath and smiled at him. "You're a good friend, Joe. Thanks."
"Hey, you know what the captain says. We're a family right here. No matter what anyone hears or doesn't hear, none of us are alone."
At that moment, the door opened. Following Sam's gaze, Joe turned to see Neelix enter bearing a tray of padds. The tension in the room increased exponentially as he began to call out names. One of the lucky ones was Sue Nicoletti. She flashed Joe and Sam a smile as she walked toward Neelix.
When the ship' self-appointed morale officer had finished, only a few padds had been passed out. The disappointment was palpable. Harry Kim said something to Tom Paris, then strode out, his own disappointment showing itself in anger. Carey saw a flicker of pain cross Paris' face before his mask fell back in place and he continued with his meal. Harry was too wrapped up in his own thoughts to realize his best friend was hurting too.
"There's going to be a lot of emotion on this ship for a while," Sam observed. Joe turned back to see her watching Paris, too.
"We'll all help each other through," Joe told her. He made a mental note to mention the incident to B'Elanna later. If anyone could break through Tom's walls and help him, it was the fiery half- Klingon engineer. Tom and B'Elanna were so lucky to have each other. At times, he envied them their physical closeness. But they were his friends, a part of his Voyager family, and he was genuinely glad for them.
"I think I'm going to go spend some time with Naomi," Sam said as she rose from the table.
"Are you going to be all right?" Joe asked.
She smiled and nodded, giving his hand a last squeeze before releasing it and heading for the exit. Joe sat at the table a little while longer, then headed for engineering. He had work to do.
It had been a long shift. With B'Elanna busy taking over for Seven of Nine in retrieving the letters, he had been in charge in engineering during the crisis that had ensued with the Hirogen ships. Now it was over. And so was any further chance of sending or receiving messages from home. The network had collapsed.
He lifted the padd from his desk and read it again. He was one of the lucky ones. He knew his family was safe and waiting for him. Many people hadn't received letters at all, and some had received less than welcome news. The former-Maquis among the crew, including his chief and friend, B'Elanna, were all dealing with the news that almost all their comrades had been killed or captured. There was this war with the Dominion and the Cardassians that he still knew little about, but it made everyone feel a little helpless stuck so far away, unable to help. Harry had finally got his letter from his parents and was walking on air. Tom's father had sent a letter to him, but it had been lost when the connection was severed.
Sam was right. Emotions would run high on Voyager for some time to come. Because of the general disappointment from losing their only source of contact with home, Neelix had organized a party to raise everyone's spirits. It was a good idea. They all needed their friends... their family... around them now.
Stepping toward the viewport, Joe looked out at the stars.
"Thanks for giving me the one thing I needed most," he whispered. "I love you, too, Sarah. And I'll be home some day."
He smiled as one of the stars seemed to grow brighter as if in answer to his words. Maybe it was just a distant star going nova, but he chose not to think of it that way right now.
After a few moments, he turned and placed the padd back on his desk, next to the photograph of Sarah and the boys, and headed for his closet. He had to change before heading for the party, and he intended to stop by and collect Sam and Naomi to go with him.
Somehow it felt good to know he had family right here that needed him. No, none of them were alone.
Author's Note: Note to all you Carey/Wildman fans out there: I had no idea what was going to happen when I started this story a few months ago, right after "Hunters" aired for the first time. I have toyed with the idea of Joe and Sam getting together. Who knows, maybe they will sometime in the future. Certainly they have in other excellent fan fiction out there. But I find I've grown fond of Sarah and the hopeFUL romantic in me just couldn't let go of the idea that love could survive and remain strong even across so many thousand light years. Sue me.
cast news |
recent additions |
index by author |
archivist's challenge | archivist's bookshelf | crew manifest | character/actor bios | life on board
ranks and insignia | science | stardates | the maquis | stellar cartography | reader reviews
submission guidelines | fanfic FAQ | links | message board | guestbook | webring
search | feedback | banners | awards | acknowledgements | site survey