Note: This story was written between third and forth season's of "Star Trek: Voyager" and is now, for all intents and purposes, an alternate-universe where Tom once dated Meg Delaney.
Disclaimer: Voyager, it's crew, and the Star Trek Universe belong to Paramount. And the Place likewise is not of mine own devising, and much thanks and awe and admiration must go to its author, Mr. Robinson.
Acknowledgements: Special thanks go to Jessica and Amy, who put up with me as I forced them to read drafts, and corrected my grammar and helped me rework the occasional awkward turn of phrase, and for friendly ants and Snelling.
Author's Note: You know, I feel bad for the Delaney Sisters. Aside from a few not entirely serious mentions on the series, we don't really know much about them, and yet Meghan and Jenny Delaney have developed a rather unfortunate reputation in fanfic. I spent a day at work puzzling over this, and decided to see if I could turn a running gag into a decent "slice-of-life" story about real people. I'm not entirely sure I succeeded, but here's my attempt anyway.
All feedback is not only appreciated, it's downright cherished. Nobody likes sending their baby out into a void. So if you like it- -and especially if you don't like it--drop me a line and tell me why. It's the plea of authors everwhere, and I'm no exception. It can only help me improve my craft, in the long run.
Shared Pain, Shared Joy
"Where are we going?" Harry asked as Meghan Delaney dragged him and Tom Paris by the hand down the hall much to the amusement of passing crewmembers. Her dark auburn hair was down, and she was in comfortable off-duty clothes consisting of a dark green jersey and grey loose trousers tucked into low boots. The loose clothing did little to disguise her trim figure, a fact which Tom certainly didn't seem to be overlooking. Harry followed his friend's gaze, and then decided to keep his eyes forward. It was... safer that way.
"It's a surprise."
"What kind of surprise?" Tom asked, bemused.
"If I told you, then it would hardly be a surprise, now would it?"
"You and Jenny have been working on this for days--"
"There was a lot of data to sort through. And if you think I'm going to tell you what kind of data, Thomas Eugene Paris, then you've got another think coming."
"I could break your security codes."
"And I could break your arm," she said sweetly, swinging her arms as they walked. "Your choice."
"You know she'd do it, Tom." Harry pointed out, and Tom stroked his chin thoughtfully with his free hand. "Tom?"
"I'm still weighing my options."
"You would be," Meghan laughed, and dropped their hands as they approached Holodeck Two. The doors slid open, and she motioned for them to follow her inside. "Computer, run programme M. Delaney, zero three."
"What is this place?" Tom asked as the holodeck doors slid shut and vanished, leaving them standing on a quiet street, the noise of the highway fading off into the distance.
"A bar." Meghan grinned, gesturing to the simple wooden sign hanging above the door.
"I can see that. Do we really need another one?"
"Trust me, you'll love it." Meghan laughed, and pushed open the door.
Music poured out--a skinny guy with unruly dark hair sat in a comfortable looking wooden chair, a guitar in his hands, his eyes closed as he picked out a tune. Next to him, another man sat at an old upright, a glass of half-finished beer to hand. A cap was pushed low over a face that looked like someone had taken a chimp and handed it a razor. However, the two of them were making music straight from the angels, and every single patron in the bar sat in rapt attention, grins and wistful smiles on their faces.
Behind the bar a big, red-haired man with a handlebar mustache and unlit stogie grinned as Meghan found a seat near the huge fireplace. She waved, and motioned for Tom and Harry to sit beside her.
As the tune came to a close, applause swept through the bar, wolf-whistles punctuating the shouts and clapping. The guitar player flashed a grin, ears pink, while the pianoman simply reached for his pint, draining it in one swallow, and raising his hand. On cue, the bartender slid a fresh pint along the counter, and the piano player caught it without a glance, never spilling a drop.
"Just a little brighter than Sandrine's, and much more comfortable chairs. No offense," Meghan whispered to Tom, smiling.
"None taken. How goes the unrelenting pursuit of Crewman Gerron?"
"Well, it would go a lot faster if I could convince him I'm not a soul-eating succubus. Who knew Bajoran attitudes about sex could be so..."
"Actually, I was thinking 'Old-fashioned,' but you may be right in this case. Did you know he was studying to be a vedek?"
"Gerron? Doesn't surprise me."
"At least, he was until his colony was attacked by the Cardassians. I feel so bad for him--he feels abandoned by the Prophets, seventy thousand light years from the Celestial Temple and his homeworld."
"He told you all this?"
"Hell, no. He thinks I'm an insatiable demon, remember? No, I overheard him talking to Dalby in the mess hall."
"And out of the goodness of your heart, you want to cheer him up?"
"Well, that and he's got a great ass."
"Meghan, did it ever occur to you that Gerron's just shy, and your being forthright is coming across to him as... terrifying?"
"You think I should lay off the honest appreciation of his butt, and act coy?"
"You know, sometimes I think you're my best girlfriend."
"I here I was just thinking you're just one of the guys."
"Funny how that whole stereotypically assigning traits to a specific gender thing can completely backfire, huh?"
"Tell me about it."
"And speaking of relentless pursuits. Harry," she turned to the ensign, dark eyes twinkling. "Jenny'll be off shift in a bit--and she's really looking forward to joining us."
Harry blushed slightly, and then shifted in his chair, eyes flitting around the room--everywhere except Meghan's face. "Do you want anything to dr--"
Before he could finish, the mustached barman appeared, setting down a pint of stout before Meghan. "What can I get you boys?"
"I think I'll have a Rigillian Sunburst," Tom said, and the bartender looked to Meghan with a perplexed look on his face.
"Sorry, Mike. He means Sex-On-The-Beach. And I think Harry hear would enjoy God's Blessing."
"Coming right up."
"No one's heard of Rigel III in the late twentieth-century," Meghan explained to Tom at his bewildered look.
"Where exactly are we in the late twentieth-century?"
"Specifically? Suffolk County, New York, somewhen in the late twentieth century."
"God's Blessing?" Harry asked, and she chuckled.
"Something to warm you up after your little dip," Meghan watched Harry's ears turn a bright shade of pink. "You don't intend to jump into any more bodies of water, do you? I know Jenny can be a little... over-eager, but you don't need to be afraid of her."
Harry paled, and looked to Tom for support, but the helmsman was too busy trying to keep from laughing out loud to be of any real help. "I--I'm not afraid--"
"I'm just teasing you, Harry. Trust me--if anyone knows how exuberant Jenny can be, it's me. But she really does like you." Meghan winked. "And so do I."
"How do you think Gerron would feel about that?" Tom raised a brow.
"Haven't you heard? We twins share everything."
Meghan was rewarded by Tom turning funny colours, and she buried her smile in a mouthful of stout. "God, you're easy."
Tom raised a brow, and she almost choked on her beer. "To provoke, Tom. To provoke. Why is it every conversation we have delves into the gutter relatively quickly?"
"Point taken." Meghan grinned as the bartender returned with a steaming mug he set before Harry, and a tall glass with shocking fuscia liquid for Tom. "You still pull the slowest pint in Suffolk County, Mike."
"Practise, Meghan-me-love. All in the wrist."
They raised their glasses, and just as Harry's mug met the rim of Tom's glass, the ship rocked and shuddered. Tom gripped the wooden tabletop as Meghan's glass overturned, dark liquid spilling across the scarred wood. The glass rolled off the edge, shattering on the floor.
Harry's eyes went wide, and he and Tom rose as one, Tom tapping his commbadge.
"Paris to bridge."
"All hands to stations, Red Alert--" Chakotay's voice came over the link, and Harry called for the arch as Meghan rose from the table.
There was a crash, and Tom looked back to see the table overturned, Meghan lying on the floor, clutching at her throat and gasping for breath.
"Computer, end programme!" Harry snapped, and the bar and all its inhabitants disappeared, replaced by the holodeck grid.
Tom knelt at Meghan's side, eyes wide. "Meghan?"
"I'm okay--" she stammered. "I... I'm okay."
Harry slapped his commbadge reflexively as Tom checked Delaney's throat and wrist for vitals. "Kim to Sickbay, medical emergency in Holodeck Two. Beam Lt. Delaney directly to Sickbay."
She shimmered, and then vanished as the transporter took hold.
"What the hell is going on?" Tom asked as he and Harry ran through the corridor to the turbolift, but the ensign simply shook his head, rattled and confused.
Sickbay was in chaos as Meg materialised on a bio-bed. The Doctor was bent over the operating table, Kes at his side, and bruised and bleeding crewmen lay on half the biobeds. Kes glanced at the Doctor, who nodded, and then came over to Meghan's side.
"Lt. Delaney, there's been a hull breach on Deck 12--"
Meghan caught a glimpse of auburn hair as the Doctor moved to one side, and pushed the Ocampan away, trying to rise and get a better look.
Kes tried to push her back down on the biobed, her voice low and soothing. "The Doctor's doing all he can for your sister--"
Meghan struggled against Kes's arms on her shoulders, her voice rising in panic. "Jenny? Oh my God, Jenny?" she moaned at the sight of her twin lying on the table. "No... please, no..."
"Sedate her!" the Doctor growled at Kes.
Meghan continued to scream her sister's name, hysterical, and clawed at the hands that held her back. "God, no... Please, no... Jen--" A hypo hissed at her neck, and then darkness came up to claim her.
When Meghan opened her eyes again, it was to silence. She tried to rise and found a restraining field prevented her from doing so. She licked parched lips, and cleared her throat. "Hello?"
Kes appeared over her, laying a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, you were in shock. We had to--"
"Where's my sister? Where's Jenny?" Meghan asked, tears gathering at the corners of her eyes. "Please, tell me she's okay. Please."
The Doctor came over, running a scanner over her head and chest, his eyes fastened on the medical tricorder's display. "Lt. Delaney was in Stellar Cartography when a Kazon ship came out of warp and attacked. There was a hull breach, and she was severely injured--"
"Oh God--" Meghan's hand went to her mouth, the tears sliding down into her hair, blinding her. "Please," she said through her fingers. "Please tell me she's okay."
The Doctor's usual expression of efficiency tempered by annoyance softened slightly, and he reached over to release the restraining field, and helped Meghan to a sitting position. "Your sister suffered severe head trauma from impacting with the bulkhead before the emergency systems sealed the breach. We performed a motor cortex reconstruction, and repaired the damage to her lungs, but she remains at the moment in a comatose state--"
"I want to see her," Meghan croaked, and Kes took her by the hand, leading her over to the surgical bay. "Oh God," Meghan whispered at the first sight of Jenny Delaney, bruised and pale, in a loose blue hospital gown.
Jenny's auburn hair, which normally fell to chin length in a sleek bob, lay on the pillow, lank and dull. A cortical stimulator blinked on her forehead, which was mottled with half-healed bruises. Her chest rose and fell evenly, but her face was a mask.
Meghan impatiently wiped tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand, and met the Doctor's eyes. "Is she going to be all right?"
"Her injuries were severe," he said softly. "But I believe we were successful in repairing all the major damage. However, she has not yet regained consciousness." He reached out as if to pat her shoulder, and then withdrew his hand, thinking better of it. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have other patients to attend to."
"Of course..." Meghan murmured, but the Doctor was already across the room and ministering to another patient.
Kes pressed a glass of water into Meghan's hands, which she accepted with a murmured "thank you".
"Tom and Harry had you beamed directly sick bay. What happened?"
"We were in the holodeck, waiting for Jenny, and then... we were attacked, and suddenly I couldn't breathe. Meghan ran her fingers through her hair in a gesture of frustration, and then took a big swallow of the water.
Kes took the glass from her fingers, setting it on the counter. "Maybe if you talked to her, let her know you're here... The Doctor assures me that contact can mean a great deal towards a comatose patient's recovery."
"What do I talk about?"
"Anything. Everything. The good times you've had?"
"We had a lot of them."
"Then start with those, and just see where you go." Meghan moved closer to Jenny's bedside, tucking her hair behind her ears, and taking a deep breath. She looked up at Kes, who nodded her encouragement.
"Hey, Jen. Um, remember--remember when we were little, before Dad died?" She reached out tentatively to smooth back Jenny's hair, wincing at the green and purple bruises. "And we used to go on those picnics at the falls on Septima Prime? You used to eat the crusts off all the sandwiches, and then stuff yourself on blackcurrent pie with heavy cream, and Mom used to get so mad, but Dad would just laugh.
"And, um--oh! Remember when we were fourteen, and cut that one time, and they pulled Mom out of class to tell her we'd used her transporter credits to go to New Orleans? We ran away from home for seven whole hours, and never did anything except sit in Cafe Du Monde and eat Begniets and we drank so much coffee I thought we'd never sleep again. She was so mad. No holo-comics for a month, and we used to sneak over to Casey's house and watch his...."
Kes headed back to the Doctor's side, smiling as Meghan took her twin's hand in hers and laughed even as the tears continued to slip down her cheeks.
Janeway surveyed the faces of her senior staff critically as she settled into her chair at the head of the conference table.
Chakotay picked up his padd. "Repair crews are at work on Decks 10-12."
"There was minor damage in Engineering," B'Elanna added, "and we should have the warp engines back on line in a few hours."
"Sickbay reports eleven crewmen were admitted, most with minor contusions and broken limbs," Chakotay continued. "However, Jenny Delaney is listed as critical, and hasn't regained consciousness, though Meghan has."
"Both the Delaney sisters are in sickbay?" Janeway glanced up from the damage report, alarmed. "Was she anywhere near the areas of the ship damaged in the attack?"
"No, Captain. Meghan was in Holodeck Two with me and Harry. When Chakotay called red Alert, she suddenly collapsed."
Chakotay frowned, and picked up his padd. "According to their records, the Delaneys do have an marginally high Esper rating--that is not uncommon for identical twins."
Janeway looked to Tom, eyebrows raised. "I always assumed that was more of a myth?"
"You'd have to ask the Doctor, Captain." Tom shrugged. "All I know is that Meg looked like she was going to keel over, so Harry and I had her beemed to Sickbay. We were just as surprised as anyone to find out Jen was already there."
"Of course. Thank you, Mr. Paris." She looked up and met the eyes of her senior staff. "Keep me apprised of the repair status, and return to your duty shifts. Dismissed."
All assembled stood and began to file out of the conference room.
"Tom?" Janeway called after him, and he stopped in the doorway.
"Why don't you stop down and see how Meghan's doing? This can't be easy for her."
"I was just thinking the same thing, Captain." Tom offered her a wan smile, and then let the door to the conference room slide shut.
"...wouldn't be a party without the Delaney sisters," a voice drifted to his ears, and Tom glanced up to see two crewmen waiting for the lift. One had a single round pip and wore the blue sciences uniform, while the other was a Maquis that Tom vaguely recognised.
"Didn't you hear? They're in sickbay ever since the attack."
"Oh." The ensign flushed slightly, embarrassed, but the lieutenant didn't seem to notice.
"Yeah, Jenny was in a bad way for a while, but I guess everything is okay now. I mean, I assume it is." The Maquis shrugged.
"Which one is Jenny?"
"The one with the short hair. Do you know her?"
"I think I've met one of them, but I can't think which one."
"I know what you mean. Doesn't really matter anyway, I hear Paris and Kim already got to them."
Tom frowned as the crewmen moved into the lift, their voices swallowed by the swishing of the closing doors. Part of him reacted to what they had been saying with annoyance, but another part remembered that, a year ago, he probably would have said much the same thing. And deep in the back of his mind, that bothered him.
The lift opened before him, and he stepped inside, still feeling vaguely out of sorts.
"Remember Sam Lavelle? The guy with the Vulcan roommate? The whole first month we were here you kept calling Vorik 'Taurik.' I didn't even know Vulcans had twins--I don't know why they wouldn't, it just seemed such a weird coincidence. Remember the horrendous double date to the Canadian Rockies? Poor Reg. I don't know what Commander LaForge was thinking when he set me up with Reg. He was so sweet, and so out of his depth. He kept stopping in the middle of sentences, and starting again, and you and Sam were totally ignoring him, all hot and bothered to go climbing..."
Tom watched Meghan from the doorway for a moment. She was still wearing the same off-duty clothes she'd had one when she'd dragged him and Harry down to the Holodeck the day before. The soft jersey and loose pants were slightly wrinkled, and her boots were sitting underneath the biobed, one on its side. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and her cheeks were chapped from crying, but she was smiling as she recounted the adventure in a slightly raspy voice.
"How long...?" he asked Kes as she came to his side, hands clasped behind her back.
"She's been talking for hours."
The room had emptied out, as the Doctor had discharged all the recovered patients, and only Jenny and Meghan were left. The Doc sat in his office and looked up as Paris entered, and then studiously returned to his screen as the lieutenant crossed the sickbay to Meghan's side.
"Hi," Meghan rubbed one eye with her knuckle--Tom was reminded of an eight year old trying to stay up past her bedtime, suddenly-- and tried to smile brightly.
"How's Jenny?" he asked, and Meghan sighed.
"The Doctor says her condition has stabilised, but he doesn't know when she'll regain consciousness. He was trying to get me to go back to my quarters, but what would I do there, other than stare at the walls and go crazy?"
"These are for Jen," Tom produced a bunch of replicated purple and yellow tulips in a green glass vase. "Something to brighten things up."
"I'm sure she'll love them."
Paris looked around for someplace to set the vase, and finally sat it on the low table next to Jenny's bed. He sat on the edge of Meghan's bed, which had been moved closer to Jenny's. Meghan sat next to him, their shoulder's touching. "How are you holding up?" he asked softly, and she leaned her head on his shoulder.
"It's like part of me is missing," she whispered.
"You've never been apart?"
"Once. When we graduated from the Academy, I was posted to DS4, and Jenny got a spot on Enterprise. It was two months of hell. Sure, we talked every day on subspace, but I couldn't seem to do anything right. I'd turn around, expecting Jenny to be there, and she wasn't. I just couldn't do the things I knew I knew how to do. I felt like such an idiot, but I never said anything to her. I didn't want her to think I was jealous, because I wasn't. I mean- -the flagship of the Federation, you don't turn that down. The best of the best, I told her... When the Commander called me into his office, I thought for sure I was finished in Starfleet. Turns out Jenny was a mess too, and her ship's counsellor had arranged for me to be reassigned.
"I'll never forget the look on the Captain's face the first time he saw both of us together. 'Ensign Delaney,' he said, and Jenny, never breaking a smile, said: 'Which one, sir?.' I think he thought there was something vaguely insubordinate about the whole thing. Of course, it didn't help that the XO was about ready to bust a gut. Did Jenny ever tell you I had a hopeless crush on our XO?"
"I made a complete idiot of myself around him for an entire year. Jenny never lets me forget it, either. There was this one time--"
"Meg!" Tom broke through the constant stream of chatter, and cupped Meghan's face in his hands, forcing her eyes to meet his. "Jenny's going to be okay."
She drew in a long shuddering breath, blinking rapidly to try and keep the tears at bay. "Tom, I don't know what to do," she whispered, looking young and terrified, and he pulled her into a hug.
"I don't know... I thought I could handle anything," she said into his shoulder. "Even being stranded in the Delta Quadrant--it was somehow okay, because Jenny and I were together. No matter what, we had each other, and that just made it all right. Oh God, if she dies..."
Paris just continued to rub her back, and stroke her hair, meeting Kes' eyes over Meghan's shoulder as he rocked gently back and forth, her tears soaking the fabric of his uniform.
"She's my baby sister, Tom. She's my sister, and I'm so scared. I'm so scared."
"It'll be okay," he whispered. "It'll be okay." Part II
"Harry, it was awful," Tom sat across from Harry in a dimly lit corner of Sandrine's, an untouched synthale sitting in front of him. "I felt completely and utterly useless."
"It's hard to picture Meghan that..."
"Weepy? She's a girl, Harry. Just because she doesn't usually exhibit girlie behaviour does not mean she can't turn into waterworks occasionally. That's what made it so horrible--Meg never falls apart, and she was a complete mess."
"I never realised before how much the two of them rely on each other."
"If Jenny doesn't wake up..." Tom trailed off, and then reached for his ale, taking a long sip while Harry contemplated his own ale, drawing circles on the wooden table with the condensation.
"I really do like Jenny," Harry looked up guiltily. "I mean-- Don't get me wrong, I miss Libby."
"But it is nice to have someone..."
"Yeah, it is." Tom agreed with a half-smile. "I hear Jenny likes Bajoran leeta flowers."
"Leeta flowers," Harry repeated, half to himself. "I can do that."
"I have every confidence in the world in you, Harry." Tom clapped him on the back, and then returned to staring into his drink as the ensign wandered out of the bar, no doubt wondering how many replicator rations he was going to have to sacrifice.
"Night" meant nothing in the cold spaces between the stars, which knew eternal night in a vast tapestry of constellations spiralling out from the heart of the universe. But Starfleet vessels were manned by crews that almost to the last were used to some kind of sun rising and setting to mark their hours, and Voyager was no exception. The day and night were broken up into four shifts of six Terran standard hours, with Delta and Gamma shifts universally referred to as "Swing" and "Graveyard" for some long lost cultural significance.
Approximately two hours into the graveyard shift, the Emergency Medical Programme looked up from his desk in his office to see Jenny Delaney sit part way up, fingers splayed across her cheek as she smothered a yawn with the heel of her hand.
"Lt. Delaney, I am pleased to see you are conscious," The Doctor whispered at exactly half the volume of his speaking voice, and noted peripherally that Meghan Delaney remained curled on her side on the adjacent diagnostic bed, sleeping soundly.
"Why's it so dark in here?" Jenny mumbled as the Doctor scanned her.
"It is 0200 hours," he said matter-of-factly, as he removed the cortical stimulator from her forehead and replaced it on the instrument tray.
"My head feels like it's made of sheet rock."
"I assure you, it's not."
"You were critically injured during a Kazon attack when the hull in Stellar Cartography was breached by weapons fire."
"I don't remember."
"You impacted with a bulkhead before the ships systems sealed the breach. Short-term memory loss is common with head injuries."
"How long was I out?"
"The attack occurred two-point seven days ago--"
"Meg?" Jenny noticed her twin across from her as her eyes adjusted to the dim light.
"Your sister has remained in sickbay since you were both beamed in, and this is the first uninterrupted sleep--"
"Hey, Meg--" Jenny reached across and jostled her sister's shoulder. "Slugabed."
"I would advise against waking--"
"Jen?" Meghan's eyes drifted open, and then widened as she saw her sister smiling at her from less than a meter away.
The Doctor folded the medical tricorder in half, and considered throwing up his hands in disgust as the twins shared a tearful hug, Jenny still half lying on the biobed, Meghan on her knees on the floor.
"Lieutenants Delaney--" The Doctor said sternly, and they turned to him with identical grins. "Lights to three-quarter full," he instructed the environmental controls, and both women blinked while their eyes adjusted. "Please return to your biobeds! And may I suggest, Lt. Delaney," he turned to Meghan, "that now that you can be assured of your sister's recovery, you might return to your quarters and your own bed, in case someone with a real medical problem should have need of this one? This is after all a Sickbay, not Girl Scout Camp."
"She's going to be okay then?"
"Yes, she is. However, I still have several tests I will need to run. And you have only had three-point-four hours of sleep in the past sixty-five hours, so I would strongly suggest, when you return to your quarters, that you try and get at least another six."
His glare made it quite clear that suggestion was closer to an order.
Jenny frowned at the Doctor. "Doc, can I just talk to Meghan for a sec?"
"Of course. Why not? Go right ahead." The Doctor smiled brightly, and then retreated back into his office, his stiff-legged stride belying the sunny smile. Meghan stifled a chuckle.
"Hey, how'd the programme turn out?"
"You almost die, and you want to know about a Holodeck programme?"
"Look at it from my point of view: one minute, I'm getting ready to end my duty shift, and the next I'm waking up in sickbay with the mother of all headaches. It was the last thing on my mind before my enforced nap."
"It was almost the last thing on your mind--ever."
"I'm fine now--doesn't that count for something?"
"I'm sorry I scared you, Meg."
"Just don't ever do it again, okay?"
"I'll do my best. Who brought flowers?"
"Tom was here yesterday. At least, I think it was yesterday. It may have been the day before."
"That was sweet. Thank him for me?"
"And Meg?" Jenny called after her as she started towards the door.
"Are you two quite finished?" The Doctor stood in the office door.
"Keep working on that bedside manner, Doc," Meghan clapped him on the shoulder, stuck her tongue out at her sister, and then stepped through the sliding doors into the darkened corridor. Relief coursed through her like sweet air to a drowning man, and she looked down to see her hands were shaking. She started back through the deserted corridors to her cabin, and then halfway there, tapped her commbadge.
"Computer, locate Lt. Paris."
"Lt. Paris is in Holodeck Two."
Sandrine's was deserted except for the holographic owner herself, who lounged behind the bar watching Tom line up a shot. Actually, she was watching Tom's rear as he lined up the shot, a self- satisfied smile on her face, when the door opened and Meghan slipped in.
Tom set the pool cue on the green felt. "Is Jenny--"
Meghan smiled, giddy. "She's awake, and the doctor says she's going to be fine."
"That's great." Tom matched her grin, and then let the air out of his lungs in an oof as Meghan got him in a bear hug that could have cracked ribs.
"Tom, do you know why we broke up?" She looked up into his face, and his brows drew together in a frown.
"I vaguely remember it had something to do with you being incredibly, incredibly pissed off with me for not telling you I was getting myself thrown off the ship on purpose."
"But do you know why I was so upset?"
He shook his head.
"Because you're my friend, you idiot. And it's really hard to see your friends self-destruct right before your eyes. Harder still to see them put themselves in danger, even though I know that a Starfleet officer's first duty is to his ship and Captain, and that danger is part and parcel of being Starfleet. And whether you want to believe this or not, you are Starfleet through and through."
"So you just came down here to insult me?" Tom was completely mystified.
"Nope, to thank you. For being my friend, and being there for me."
"It wasn't hard, Meg. You're a pretty easy person to be friendly to."
"See, anyone else would have made that sound vaguely suspect, but not you. That's why I like you so much. You're the only guy who, after the 'Let's just be friends' speech, actually stayed my friend."
"Has it ever occurred to you to wonder how many of the guys you go out with were friends to start with?"
"Yeah." She released him from the hug, but stayed leaning with her chin on his shoulder. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Good. And anybody messes with you, you tell me, and I'll beat 'em up for ya."
She just laughed, and then got up on her tiptoes and kissed him. A lot.
"You know, you're the only friend I have who french-kisses me," Tom reflected once he got his breath back.
"You mean Harry doesn't give you tongue?"
"What--personal question?" Her dark eyes sparkled, and leaned forward, brushing his cheek with her lips.
"What about Gerron?"
"He may just be my Susie Crabtree."
He twisted around, blue eyes wide. "How the hell do you know about Susie Crabtree?"
"I know everything," she pronounced, and was rewarded with a low chuckle from Paris.
"You know what scares me is that I almost believe you."
Meghan sighed, and wiped at her eye with the back of her hand. "I'm going to go crash now."
"Okay." He gave her fingers a squeeze and watched her go. Sandrine came out from behind the bar, and rested her chin on top of her hands on Tom's shoulder in a gesture very like Meghan's, a fact which did not escape Tom's notice.
"That one--it is a good thing to have such friends."
"I couldn't agree more," Tom wiped at his cheek.
Jenny continued to stare at the sickbay doors until long after the Doctor had finished his examination, her fingers fretting with the edge of the shiny thermal coverlet, when suddenly they slid open, and Harry Kim poked his head inside. He broke into a grin when he saw Jenny up and awake, and stepped in, his hand conspicuously behind his back.
"Aren't you on Alpha this week? I thought you'd be trying to catch some sleep. Or don't you want to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for Lieutenant Tuvok?"
"The Doc told me you were awake." Harry pulled out a bunch of leeta flowers, their delicate white petals shot through with rose and lavender, resting in a glass bowl, and Jenny made the appropriate appreciative noise, and then met his grin with a lopsided smile.
"So much for date number two, huh?"
"Hey, I was waiting for you."
Jenny set the glass bowl next to Tom's vase of now wilting tulips. "I guess I'm pretty late, then."
"Yeah. I was beginning to think maybe you didn't want to go out with me."
Jenny chuckled. "Oh, yeah. Except instead of jumping out of a gondola, I tried to jump out of the ship. Funny, though, a bulkhead got in my way."
"Remind me to thank that bulkhead."
"I think I already did. With my forehead." She lifted her bangs so he could get a better look.
"It doesn't look so bad."
"I look like an eggplant," Jenny insisted. "Doc says the bruises'll be gone in a few hours, though. Hey, Meg told me she took you to the Place." She was met with a blank look. "The bar we programmed. What did you think?"
"It seems really nice, but we really didn't get a chance to really see it."
"Tuesdays," Jenny said with a decisive nod. "Tuesdays are the best."
"Okay," Harry replied with a bemused smile, having absolutely no clue why one night would be better than another, especially when you could programme it to be any night in the holodeck. "Meghan was worried about you."
"Meghan worries too much."
"You're her little sister."
"By all of three minutes!" Jenny exclaimed. "I just wish she wouldn't worry so much." Her mouth twitched into a smile. "You know, I'll never forget the look on her face when her shuttle arrived on Enterprise. That morning, I'd gone and gotten my hair cut. I mean, short. Pyxie. No hair.
"Meg kinda stared, and then reached behind and tugged the end of her braid, and looked me square in the eye and said 'Okay, and we don't dress alike either, got it?' and just grinned."
"Wait--you guys used to dress alike?"
"Oh yeah--same hair, same clothes. We drove our instructors at the Academy crazy."
"And you weren't ever tempted to trade places for tests?"
"Oh, sure, when we were kids. In grammar school, Meg took all the trig tests for me, and I took half her music classes until Pushface Kellogg ratted us out."
"That's what we used to call Sally Kellogg, this girl in our class. She always looked like she was sucking on a lemon. Evil girl. I hear she's working on the kelp beds off the shore of Australia now. But anyway, we never tortured the instructors at the Academy on purpose. In Stellar Cartography, half of them were Vulcans--you didn't dare."
"Could they tell you apart?"
"Most of them--the Vulcans that is, although there was one. Jeez, what was her name... T'Vau. She always smelled like peppermint. Not only could she not tell us apart, she didn't particularly care. If one of us showed up for class, she was happy."
"Why couldn't I have had her for Astrophysics, instead of Snelling?"
"Because I, Jenny Delaney, lead a charmed life, and you, Harry Kim, do not. Isn't that a simple answer?"
"I'll keep that in mind."
"We were quite the team, Meghan and I."
"I bet you cut a swathe through the cadets."
"Yeah. Not a wide swathe, mind. But we grew up in the shadow of the Academy. After Septima Prime, Earth seemed like heaven. Not that I have anything against mining colonies... I'm prattling on like an idiot, aren't I?"
"I don't mind. Actually, if we had started out this way, maybe I wouldn't have gotten wet last time."
Jenny actually had the grace to blush. "Maybe it is time I changed my tactics."
"As tactical officer, I can tell you that this approach will get you a lot farther."
"Yeah, but will it lead to a confirmed kill?"
"So, what are you doing Tuesday?"
Kes set a bowl of chilled green kessel soup on her tray, smiling to herself at the spray of dill floating in the liquid--she loved all of Neelix' little touches, and the dill did go nicely with the pureed kessel--and caught sight of Meghan Delaney sitting in a corner of the mess hall, an untouched plate of boiled shevva root before her as she stared out the port. Meghan turned at Kes' reflection in the glass.
"How's Jenny?" she asked reflexively, getting half out of her chair, and Kes smiled.
"She's fine. Harry was with her when I left. The two of them seem to have really hit it off."
Meghan settled back down in her seat, and moved some of the root around on her plate with her fork. "Harry's a good friend."
"So's Tom," Kes added.
"Yeah." Meghan nodded, and then glanced back up at Kes as the Ocampan set her tray down across from her. Her eyes widened slightly, and Kes froze.
"Oh, I'm sorry. If you're expecting someone--"
"No... I mean, no. But you don't have to, if you have someone..." She scanned the mess hall quickly, and saw at least half a dozen half-empty tables.
"I'd like to, if that's all right?" Kes settled into the chair, a gentle smile on her face.
"I guess I'm just not used to other girls being friendly," Meghan said bluntly. "I don't quite know how to adapt to that particular new stimuli."
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"Kes, Jenny and I--we don't have a lot of close female friends," Meghan smiled wryly. "Actually, make that none..." she trailed off.
Kes continued to watch her with a serene smile.
"I know what people say about us--not a lot of people, but enough. Jenny... Jenny can ignore it. She tells me she doesn't care about scuttlebutt, and sometimes I believe her. I just know I've always been more comfortable with male friends. And a lot of other women don't really understand that. It doesn't exactly engender friendships when people consider you the competition...
"Anyway, like I said, I know what people say about us. And I just want you to know that it's not true."
"Really?" Kes asked, leaning against the tabletop. "Then it's not true that you and Jenny spent a week teaching aikido to Gamma shift?"
"That was Tom's idea after Jenny practically killed that holodeck gigolo in Sandrine's."
"Then you didn't plan Ensign Parson's birthday party with Neelix last month either?"
"Kes, I know what you're trying to do--"
"Then you don't need me to tell you how much an important part of this crew you and Jenny are."
"Careful--the term 'morale officer' can be quite the euphemism in the wrong hands."
"I'll be sure and let Neelix know," Kes nodded, seriously.
"That's not--quite--what I meant. But thanks anyway." Meghan's eyes drifted off as another group of crew spilled in through the doors, and her gaze lingered on one dark haired young man in particular.
Kes followed Meghan's eyes, and smiled as she recognised Gerron sandwiched between Chell and Dalby. She leaned forward conspiratorially. "Why don't you just go talk to him?" she asked in a stage whisper, and Meghan actually blushed.
"This is going to sound... Gerron's kind of--He's actually scared of me."
Kes laughed. It was a full-throat, delightful sound and Meg couldn't help but join her.
"It's horrible, actually," Meghan whispered. "I have no idea why; we've never spoken more than five words to one another, and half those 'hello,'at that, though--" She tipped her head towards Chell and Dalby. "--I have my suspicions."
"You shouldn't let that discourage you."
"I can't think of anything more discouraging, actually."
"Funny, I would have thought you'd see it as a challenge."
Meghan laughed. "And you know how Starfleet rises to meet any challenge."
"Precisely. What's the worst thing that can happen?"
"He runs screaming?"
"Would that be so bad?"
"Well... yes. Because I don't want him to."
"Then don't make any quick moves, don't brandish your phaser, and just say hello."
"Maybe..." Meghan frowned slightly, her gaze resting on the Bolian and human on either side of the slight Bajoran. "Maybe when he's alone."
"Oh look, I think they're leaving," Kes observed, and Meghan cast her a dark look, but the Ocampan just continued smiling, and handed Meghan her tray of boiled shevva root.
Gerron was, indeed, sitting by himself with a glass of fruit tea by the window, staring out at the stars as they floated past. The young Maquis crewmember's off duty clothes were all in earth tones, and his family earring caught the light as he turned his head this way and that, as if looking for familiar constellations and patterns.
"Courage," Meghan whispered to herself, and set off in his direction with her tray.
"Hello, Gerron," Meghan smiled brightly at the young Bajoran, who glanced up at the sound of his name, and almost spilled his tea. "I'm sorry if I startled you."
"Just... thinking," Gerron said softly.
"I love the view from this port."
"But it changes every day," Gerron said, confused.
"That's why I love it. Every day brings something that I never would have seen before."
Gerron nodded glumly, and she tilted her head, trying to coax a smile out of him.
"I know it's annoying, but I just can't help taking delight in every new experience. It's all so... Everything I knew seems so small in comparison. Not so much in size as in scope and magnitude."
"I used to think my home province was the whole universe," Gerron smiled wistfully at the stars beyond the glass.
"I thought the same thing about the mining colony where I grew up."
"I didn't know you grew up on a mining colony."
"There's a lot of things you don't know about me," Meghan said softly, without bite, and Gerron blushed nevertheless. "I'm, not a demon, Gerron. I'm flesh and blood, just like you."
"I... I never--" Gerron stammered, ears flaming red.
"You look like the mouse staring the cat in the face," she pointed out with a smile. "And I don't really want to be the cat. You just looked lonely, and I thought... Never mind. It was nice talking to you."
Well, Meghan thought to herself with a sigh as she entered the turbolift, that went up like a lead balloon.
"Deck Ten," she said to the computer, and the lift began to rise. She leaned against the wall of the lift, annoyed with herself and chewing on her bottom lip. The lift slowed to a halt, and she looked up as the doors slid open.
Gerron, his cheeks flushed, and breathing heavily, stepped into the lift, leaning heavily against the wall.
"How did you--" she began, mystified.
"... Jefferies . . . tube," he said between gasping breaths.
"You're insane," she observed with a smile. "Are you going to be all right?"
"Just . . . give me . . . a moment . . . "
"Computer, halt turbolift," Meghan said to the ceiling, and the lift obediently paused. She slid down the wall into a sitting position on the floor, legs folded lotus-style, and Gerron's eyes widened. Then he lowered himself to the floor, one leg stretched out before him, and rested his elbow on his bent knee, flashing her a quick grin.
"Much better," he agreed, and it was Meghan's turn to feel a flush creep into her cheeks.
"Look, I'm sorry--" she began, but he shook his head.
"No. You're right. My people even have a saying, 'Trust no glass to see through, least you find yourself looking into another's mirror.'"
"I'm not sure I know what that means."
"It means I should have taken what I know to be true, rather than to take other people's word for it, because then I am getting their version of the truth." Gerron stared down at his hands. "And it wasn't fair to you."
It was the longest sentence she had ever had from him. "Gerron?"
He looked up to see her smiling.
"Wanna start again?" She stuck out her hand, which, after a second's hesitation as he sorted out human customs, he shook. "Hi, I'm Meghan Delaney."
A smile spread across his face. "Hello, Meghan Delaney. I'm Gerron Tem."
Meghan inclined her head slightly, and squeezed his fingers. "Pleased to meet you, Gerron Tem."
B'Elanna Torres tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for the turbolift. "Computer, what is operational status of lift seven?"
"Turbolift Seven is currently halted."
"Computer, how long has Turbolift Seven been halted?"
"Turbolift Seven has been halted since 13:27 hours."
Three hours? B'Elanna mouthed, and then scowled. "Override and resume," B'Elanna snapped, and crossed her arms, affecting her best 'this had better be good' pose.
Her jaw dropped as the doors slid open to reveal Gerron Tem and Meghan Delaney sitting on the floor, their legs stretched out before them. Meghan was giggling and Gerron--Gerron!--was grinning, his hand on her shoulder.
"Hello, Lieutenant," Meghan said cheerfully.
"Hi, B'Elanna," Gerron said at the same time, and then waved as the doors slid shut again, leaving B'Elanna standing in the corridor, her mouth still gaping like a landed fish. Part III
The Delaney's programme was running when Tom reached Holodeck Two, and he stepped inside, tasting the damp night experimentally. New York city was a faint glow in the distance, and the lights of the all night deli reflected on the slick asphalt of the car park as he made his way to the door.
Tom stepped inside, and saw a very tall, very thin man holding court by the fireplace. At first Tom thought he was standing, but then he realised he was sitting and realised he was very, very afraid. The long drink of water was in the middle of relating some kind of story.
"...so the roof of the lab comes off, sheared right away by the hurricane, right? And this entomologist runs pell mell into the ranger station, yelling incoherently about his friends needing help. And the ranger finally gets him sitting down and asks 'Who are your friends? Why do they need help?', and the entomologist yells--"
"The ants are my friends, they're blowin' in the wind!" The guitar player from the other night suddenly yelled, and was immediately hit with a shower of peanuts from all sides. Tom sidestepped flying nuts, and then stopped in his tracks when he saw the staircase, a metre-wide, wrought iron marvel to behold that rose up into the ceiling and presumably to the roof.
"It gorgeous, isn't it?" Meghan practically pounced on him, and he gave her a one armed hug. "And it took forever to get just right."
"Mike sometimes let's you drink up there." Meghan lead him to a table. Jenny and Harry sat on one side, with steaming mugs, and next to them, a glass of fruit juice in hand, was Gerron.
"Keeping your hands off his six?" he whispered.
"Seems to be working," Meghan observed, and Tom continued to take stock of the bar. Kex and the Doctor sat in tall armchairs, the latter looking vaguely confused but determined to observe and learn, the former smiling warmly, a tall glass with pale green liquid between her hands. About a dozen uniformed crewmembers were clustered around tables, and there was no way of really telling how many of the other patrons were off duty crew mixed in with the considerable number of holographic barflies.
The bartender handed Meghan a pint glass of stout, and she took a sip as she sat, the creamy head leaving a mustache on her upper lip which she licked off with a grin. To Jenny he handed a tumbler of dark amber liquid, and she took it and rose from the table, followed by Harry's confused gaze.
Jenny stepped up to the chalk line in the centre of the taproom and raised her glass high. Obviously this was some kind of signal, because an immediate hush fell over the holographic patrons, forcing Voyager's crew to follow suit. Within seconds of towing the line, Jenny had the undivided attention of everyone in the room.
"A wise man once said 'There's nothing in the heart or mind, no matter how twisted or secret, that can't be endured--if you have someone to share it with.'"
"Sounds familiar," the bartender boomed, and Jenny winked at him.
"I'm lucky, because I have my sister Meg to share with. She stands by me for all the little hurts and joys, sorrow and love, and a girl couldn't be any luckier than to have such a great sis. Even if she is over-protective, and clingy."
"Hey!" Meghan yelled.
"Well, y'are, don't you be trying to deny it." Jenny grinned, and then hurled her glass into the fireplace that took up almost the entire back wall. It was followed by a hail of glasses from the holo-patrons, and Voyager crew instinctively flinched back from the fireplace in anticipation of flying glass. However, a blue restraining field shimmered where the shards bounced back into the ashes.
"What was that?" Harry leaned across the table to whisper to Meghan.
Tom's eyebrows rose. "In the late twentieth century?"
"Long story." Meghan patted his shoulder, and then pushed back from the table, her stout in hand as she towed the line.
"In a similar vein--sorry, Pyotr," she inclined her head to a small pale man at the end of the bar who smiled as he flicked a shelled peanut at her head. She caught it with one hand while raising her glass in the other. "I'd like to make a toast.
"To my sister, of whom I am over-protective and to whom I occasionally cling--I couldn't have made it this far without you, and I'm damn sure, after this week, I wouldn't make it another day without you.
"To my friends, and to my ship-mates--you who proved to me 'shared pain is diminished, and shared joy is increased.' It'll be a long ride, but all the better for having good people around me who care, and give, and smile and cry along with me, and trust no glass to see through," she grinned at Gerron, who blushed. "To my friends and extended family."
"To friends," Tom raised his glass, and was echoed by the entire bar, holograms and crewmen alike.
The Captain entered just as the hale of glasses were pitched into the fireplace, and she raised her hands to her ears against the unholy din.
"Don't worry, Captain. They go straight back to the matter banks--no need for Mike to sweep it out each night."
"That's good to know." She nodded, unfazed.
"What'll you be having, then?" Mike asked, in his best brogue.
"Well, let's see." She glaced around at the motley assortment, backlit by the enormous fireplace. "I believe I'll have God's Blessing."
"A wise choice," Mike observed, and handed her a mug of steaming Kona blend, Jamesons, and rich cream.
She reached out to take it, and then pulled back, a smile on her face as she sipped with delight. "I thought you might agree," she smiled into her mug, and Meghan glanced at her quizzically before peering over the bar.
The bartender had his legs folded beneath him in a full lotus, and was floating four feet off the floor.
She looked back to the Captain, who simply winked, and raised her mug, which didn't ring so much as thunk when it met the rim of Meghan's pint glass.
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