by Veronica Jane Williams
It was Lieutenant Joe Carey's duty shift in the nursery, which had started to fill up in the last few years. If four occupants could be said to fill up the place. He was excited. He liked looking after the children. Presently there were three of them. Naomi, Jamie Hamilton and Elizabeth Paris, all of four and a half, three and a half and two years old respectively. He sighed, as three pairs of eyes looked at him. Tonight they're going to give me hell, as he looked at the three little hellions. It was Elizabeth, probably the most ebullient of the three, who barreled into him.
"Uncle Joe! I missed you!" she crowed as she dived into his arms. He picked her up, looked at Jamie's mournful eyes, and scooped him in the other arm. Naomi looked at him, her expression saying:
"I'm too big to be picked up." He walked, holding a squirming Jamie and Elizabeth under each arm, and stopped in front of Naomi.
"Okay kid, where shall I throw these two?" he asked her.
"In the brig, Uncle Joe. In the brig!" she hooted with laughter.
"Fine," Uncle Joe said, walking with the two to the alcove in the nursery, and dumping two squealing kids in the corner. They laughed happily. Uncle Joe loved to play little games with them. Elizabeth especially loved it. Now they were in the "brig", just like when the Captain ordered her Daddy to go to the brig on Voyager.
"It's like being in jail," Naomi said to her, making Elizabeth's eyes go very wide.
Joe looked at the two of them, pointed his finger and said:
He walked back to Naomi, went down on his haunches, his eyes now level with hers. He touched the little nodes on her forehead gently, in a soft caress, thinking of her Ktarian father. She's never known one, he thought with some heartache, always catching her in unguarded moments when she watched James Hamilton lift his son on his shoulders through the corridors of Voyager, or when Tom came to fetch Elizabeth, always picking her up in his arms, hugging her tightly and kissing the ridges on her forehead. He sighed. It didn't matter if all the male crew of Voyager were her uncles, they didn't make up for an absent father. Like he is, he thought with pain. He is probably now a vague memory to his sons.
"You don't want to be picked up, miss?"
Naomi nodded furiously, yet with smiling eyes. He knew how she just longed to be lifted like Jamie or Elizabeth. So he knew what he had to do. He flipped her right up on his back, and piggybacked her around the room. She was laughing while he swung her round and round. She was enjoying it.
"Uncle Joe, put me down! Put me down! I'm getting drunk!" she shouted.
When he stopped near the "brig" where the other two were waiting, he put her down. Then he hauled the three of them to the other side of the room where the kiddie chairs and couches were.
He looked at them indulgently. His heart gave a sudden lurch. His own sons would now have been ten and eight years old. He tucked his longing deep away into his heart. Three pairs of eyes looked expectantly at him. He eyes lit up in a smile. The naughty little squirts, he thought. Their cherub like faces could be so misleading. He had a feeling they were going to cause the crew some really nerve-racking moments. As soon as Elizabeth got older, he mused. She was calamity personified, with her angelic innocence. Naomi, already now, was turning into a little leader. And likely to lead them into scrapes.
"Okay, guys, what do you want to play?"
"We want to sing, Uncle Joe," Jamie crooned.
"Yes, let's," said Naomi"
"Oh no..." he groaned in an exaggerated air.
"Oh...okay, what do you want to sing?" looking straight at Elizabeth, knowing what she was going to say.
"Drinking song!" Then she jumped up and down. Doesn't she know how to stand still?
He sighed. She loved that song, but it made Sam mad whenever Naomi tried to sing it for her. "Joe, what are you teaching the children?" he could hear her say. He relented. She didn't like it, she didn't like him, he reflected, wondering why she's always so defensive around him.
"Fine, the drinking song it is."
They lined up in front of him, Jamie flanked by his two girlfriends. He called Elizabeth his girlfriend once, who, not knowing the inference, and deciding she didn't like it anyway, punched him in the stomach. She was every inch B'Elanna there, he thought.
They stood, fingers laced together in front of them, and began swinging their arms to and fro.
"Right: One, two, three!"
Three kiddie voices began to belt at the top of their lungs:
"I was drunk last night, dear Motherrrrrr!
I was drunk the night beforrrrrre!
But if you'll forgive me, Motherrrrrrr!
I'll.......never get drunk anymore!"
"For heaven's sake, Joe, what are you teaching the children?"
He never even heard Samantha come into the nursery. His heart skipped a sudden beat at her voice. But she looked at him angrily. He looked at her, Naomi looked at him, and Jamie whispered to Elizabeth:
"Her Mama's going to skin her alive," at which Elizabeth's large blue eyes grew larger. Jamie took hold of her hand and walked with her to the "brig", taking them out of the line of fire. Naomi's Mama looked real mad at Uncle Joe.
"Oh, come on Sam, it's a harmless little ditty." He looked at her with some entreaty in his grey eyes. God, didn't she know how beautiful she was? Her eyes very blue, her blonde hair hanging shoulder length.
"Probably something you taught your sons," she snapped, then almost kicked herself. She saw his pained expression in his eyes.
"I - I'm sorry, Joe. I was insensitive. I shouldn't have said it." He merely nodded, looking suddenly a little sick. She took Naomi's hand and started towards the door.
"Come, sweetheart, you haven't had your bath yet." She almost dragged Naomi away. Most other times when the other children were still there, Naomi stayed with them, and Joe would kindly bring Naomi back to their quarters. But lately...
Joe looked down. He liked Naomi, and he liked her mother. They had both gone through so much, and needed the solace and comfort they could give each other as friends. He sighed. That's probably all they'll be, friends, albeit a little shaky right now. He knew he made her mad again.
Sam walked towards the door and thought she behaved like a tart, upsetting Joe like that. He was a good friend, and he doted on her daughter. She sighed. Then he looked down at Naomi, who looked back at Joe.
Naomi turned round to where Joe was still sitting on the couch. When her Mommy came in, he had gone all red in the face, and she could see he liked her Mommy very much. She sighed, thinking how Jamie's Daddy came to fetch him sometimes, then he would carry Jamie high on his shoulders, and Elizabeth's Daddy always called her his "saving grace". She looked up at her Mommy, saw the same red in her Mommy's cheeks.
Then she saw him get up and walk towards Jamie and Elizabeth. She wished her Mommy liked Uncle Joe more...
"Mommy," Naomi asked as they walked towards the turbolifts to go to their quarters on deck eight, "don't you like Uncle Joe?"
"Sweetheart, of course, he is my friend."
"But don't you like your friend?" she persisted.
Samantha sighed. How to explain to her daughter that she still missed her husband? Even after so many years? That her memory of her husband is slowly beginning to fade? Not missing him so much, especially after... she sighed. He is going on with his life, and doesn't know he has a daughter, she mused resignedly.
"Uncle Joe said his wife died, Mommy."
Out of the mouths of babes. She probably overheard that somewhere.
"Yes, I know, sweetheart. He's a widower now."
"Widower. That's when a man's wife has died."
"I had a Daddy, Mommy."
Samantha closed her eyes. Dear God, what now? Her daughter wants a daddy. She's seen Elizabeth enough times interacting with Tom, who dotes on his daughter. Seen Magnus Rollins crooning over his son in the holodecks where Tom programmed a playcentre for the children. I'm selfish, she thought. It's clearly not enough anymore for Naomi to have all the uncles she could have on board Voyager.
"Sweetheart, you know Mommy tried to explain to you about your Daddy."
"I know, Mommy. Doesn't he want us anymore?"
Because we are lost in the Delta Quadrant, with no hope of ever making it home, my loving child. We are so far away from home, this ship is our home now. She didn't say these words out loud. In near and relative terms, for Naomi, home was round the corner, home was this ship, or home was not very far away.
"Sweetheart, your Daddy decided it's maybe better for him to stay where he is.'
"He's never going to see us?"
Samantha felt her eyes stinging with unshed tears. She picked her daughter up as they stood in front of their quarters and punched in the code. The door slid noiselessly open.
She walked with Naomi to her big bed, and went to lie down, holding her little girl tightly in her arms. She sighed before she formulated her answer. Then she said:
"He's found someone else, sweetheart. Someone very near his own home." And of his own species, she thought with pain.
"Then Mommy," came Naomi's sage advice, "you must also find someone else. Like Uncle Joe!" she said, hoping her Mommy would say yes.
"I don't know, sweetheart. I don't know..."
How did you like the story? Let me know.
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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