Author's Note: This story, forming part of the "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" series about Samantha Wildman and Joe Carey, is also set in the Desideratum universe of stories. There, James (one of Voyager's pilots) and Rue Hamilton have a son, Jamie. Tom and B'Elanna have one daughter, Elizabeth. Joe and Samantha (in this story at least) are married, the two of them having been brought together by Naomi (the little matchmaker). In the Matchmaker series, I have yet to write a few more stories that will get Joe and Samantha to the point where they marry.
Gleamin' The Tubes
Neelix entered the children’s room which was situated just off the sickbay. It was quiet, much too quiet when three very energetic and extremely noisy children should be doing very energetic and noisy things.
He scratched his head at the area just above the right eyebrow, and clucked worriedly.
“Naomi... Elizabeth... Come on out now. Jamie! Where are you?”
He bent low at the desks and chairs, looked under other items of furniture - a futile gesture. He would have seen and heard them the second he entered the school room again.
He sighed. Young Naomi was a little leader, though somewhat misguided, he thought. The children were always playing pranks on crew members, and Elizabeth, for all that she was only three years old, had Daddy Tom’s gamin innocence and prankish smiles and Mama B’Elanna’s volatile nature. No doubt once he got hold of the three of them, Elizabeth would have scratches in her face and Jamie would have a bleeding nose.
He didn’t want to disturb their parents. All were on duty, as it were, and Samantha, being preoccupied with her new husband Joe, would not like it indeed if he complained about the children’s behaviour and Naomi’s influence on the other two.
So he did the next best thing, which, perhaps, might not have been such a good thing at all: he informed the Captain.
“You say they are missing, Neelix?”
“Er...yes, Captain...Ma’am...” he plodded through his explanation.
“Weren’t you supposed to be the crew on duty in the school room today?” Captain Janeway asked as she held the PADD in her hand which Chakotay had handed her that morning, containing the month's duty rosters.
That gentleman entered the ready room, frowned as he saw Neelix, then walked up to the Captain and kissed her.
“Chakotay,” Kathryn said as she hugged him, “the children are missing.”
“Yes, Commander. I just left the school room for a quick - “
“You left them alone in the school room, Neelix?”
“I - er... C-commander, er - “ Neelix coughed and bumbled his way through explaining to Chakotay, who looked at Kathryn and observed that Kathryn was not amused.
They both looked at Neelix, who didn't know where to hide his face because the children had once again outsmarted him.
About half an hour earlier:
"Put it in the recycler, Naomi," Jamie whispered. He was standing next to Naomi, with an impatient Elizabeth Paris watching the two older children take all three commbadges and throw it in the recycler. A soft sound and the badges vanished.
"Yes!" crowed Jamie.
"Yes," Elizabeth piped up, pushing Jamie out of the way to hold Naomi's hand.
"Where are we going?" Elizabeth asked. At three years old, she followed Naomi around everywhere, often pushing Jamie out of the way when he stood too close to her friend.
"If she told you, you'll squawk all over the mess hall," Jamie retorted, sticking his tongue out at Elizabeth.
"I won't," Elizabeth cried, readying her little fists, at which Jamie, when he saw her ready to strike at him, backed away a little quickly.
"You will, too."
"Are you two coming?" Naomi asked as she held Jamie and Elizabeth apart.
"Aye," said Jamie.
Elizabeth just nodded her head vigorously, her little heart pounding wildly. Boy, if her Mama knew, they would let the doctor put the pacemaker in again.
"Okay, make sure there are no officers walking in the corridor, and Jamie, don't let go of Elizabeth. Remember, you wanted to see the ship."
"Yeah," Jamie smiled as he followed Naomi into the corridor and walked quickly the few steps to sickbay.
"I knew it," Naomi whispered when she saw the sickbay empty. I had to make sure - "
"The doctor is off-line!" Elizabeth crowed loudly.
"Shhh...!" Jamie stilled her as they made for the other end of the sickbay where they stopped at a bulkhead.
"Here," Jamie offered as he and Naomi prised the cover off the entrance to the Jefferies tube.
"Ohhh..." Elizabeth gasped when she saw the opening and the short rungs of a ladder.
"My Daddy calls it the - the - " She struggled to find the word.
"Suder tube - "
"I knew that!" she said indignantly.
"You know now," Naomi said calmly as the three of them entered, and once inside the entrance, Naomi and Jamie fixed the cover again from the inside.
They sat there for a few seconds.
"Where are we going?" Elizabeth asked again as Naomi and Jamie started crawling.
"Anywhere, you little - "
"Careful, Jamie. Hold your nose."
"I don't like her.'
"You do. That's why you fight."
The tubes were wide enough for the three children to crawl abreast. They took the first steps that went down deck 7.
"Here we are..." Naomi whispered as she showed the two younger children the tiny grille through which they could peep.
"Who's that?" Jamie whispered.
"It's Lieutenant Baxter! He's gripping those - what's that?" Jamie asked.
"It's dumb-bells," Naomi said sagely.
"For dummies, stupid," Jamie retorted, and he was amply rewarded with a thump of a fist in his side.
His cry of pain was cut off as Naomi plastered her hand over his mouth. "Shhh..."
"Come," she whispered again and grabbed Elizabeth's hand.
Naomi sighed. She played referee most of the time between Jamie and Elizabeth. Jamie was five, and considered himself superior, bragging that he had a baby brother, something that was a sore point for her, and especially Elizabeth. On more than one occasion she had to stop the two of them fighting.
Now they continued their search of the ship through the tubes.
She didn't want to think what would happen if they were found out! But Jamie insisted...
And he did promise to filch some biscuits from Uncle Neelix's secret cupboard. Uncle Neelix had to look after them, but he was late. Again, she created a diversion that made Uncle Neelix late.
No doubt, he would complain to her Mommy and new Daddy Joe, and to Jamie's Dad and... she shuddered when she thought what Elizabeth's parents would do.
Uncle Tom was very angry the last time...
"Oh, look," Elizabeth gasped when they peeped through yet another grille and saw two people together.
"High heels..." Jamie said knowingly. "He's eating her up..."
Naomi gasped: "Oh-h-h..."
Elizabeth went: "Urhggg!"
Jamie went: "Wow!"
"Naomi," Elizabeth gasped, "it's Uncle Harry and Seven!"
"Yeah, dummy," Jamie said with an air of disgust and got a dirty look from both girls. He backtracked as two ridged foreheads advanced on him. "I swear I'll be good, Naomi," he promised as he saw her intent.
"No dummies," Elizabeth warned. Her little fist was already balled in readiness to do a work on his nose. They looked at Harry and Seven who were locked in an embrace. Hands were fumbling everywhere and both girls gasped while Jamie just said: "Cool..."
"Oh look," Naomi said, "she's tearing his uniform!" She gasped. "Oh, his jacket is torn and her blue suit..." She gasped again then asked: "Are they fighting now?"
"No, silly," came Elizabeth's rejoinder. "My Daddy's uniform got broken just like that, and Mama's Kling - Klingon costume was torn, and my Daddy, he had scratches on his face and his cheek."
"They were fighting?"
"I don't know, but I asked and Daddy said: 'It's nothing to worry about, sweetheart.'"
"But Harry... Oh, my... what's he doing?"
That's when Jamie piped up:
"They're making love, stupid. Like my mom and dad. Then they get a baby. Now I have a brother, so there!"
"Here, Elizabeth, kiss me," Jamie commanded and he pursed his lips and pouted it to emulate a kiss, with the accompanying sound.
"Come on, we can't see them anymore," Naomi said. Her Mom and new Daddy Joe... she wondered when she'd get a baby brother...
They crawled right up to deck one, which was a long, long way from where they were.
"This isn't where we wanted to be," said Jamie as they peeped through a tiny grille above the ready room. The heard really more than that they were able to see anything.
"It's Uncle Chakotay," whispered Elizabeth.
"Commander Chakotay," warned Naomi when she stared with something like reverence into the ready room. She couldn't really see anything, but she sure wanted to have her own ready room one day.
"We're married, Kathryn. Why are you doing this?"
"They're married? Like my Mama and Daddy?" Elizabeth asked and got another long-suffering stare from Jamie.
"Oh boy..." he sighed and shook his head.
"Dammit, Kathryn. You know I love you. Don't pull rank on me now."
"I wonder what she's pulling," Jamie ventured.
"Maybe it's his hair," Elizabeth offered.
"No, it's his rank! stupid," was Jamie's comment. "Maybe she doesn't like him anymore."
"But they're married. You said so."
"He doesn't like her pulling his rank," Jamie said wisely, at which Naomi shook her head.
"But he loves her," Elizabeth complained, almost in tears.
"She doesn't like him..."
"But you said they're married. He loves - "
"Stop it, you two," Naomi warned them. "They can hear us!"
"But she loves him," Elizabeth persisted.
"Shhh - !"
They giggled, then stopped when the voices went all silent. The three of them were dead quiet as they waited for the captain and Chakotay to talk again, then they quietly crawled away - towards the school room again.
That's when they found themselves over cargo bay two, then over Engineering; some time later they found themselves staring against an air lock.
"Oh, boy," Jamie crowed, "we're lost!"
"Now where is sickbay?" Naomi asked worriedly.
"Don't know," Jamie said as the panic started to rise. But they remained quiet, scared to be found out.
An hour later they were still roaming around then stopped eventually when they found themselves again over engineering.
"My Mama is going to skin me alive!" Jamie said before he started bawling his eyes out.
That was all Elizabeth needed as she started crying and Naomi hauled her into her arms and cuddled her. Naomi was on the point of tears.
That's when they heard voices again, over Engineering:
"Tom, when Elizabeth is naughty, why is she suddenly *my* child?"
"Come on, Angel. You know I didn't mean it like that."
"I'm worried, Tom. What if she's lying sick somewhere?"
"Fine. Then leave Joe with your precious engines, and come with me."
"Tom, you know he - "
"Someone is going to get killed today," she muttered as she left Engineering, following Tom.
"Oh boy," Jamie said again in a tremulous voice.
A few moments later they heard Mr Tuvok say: "They're here."
That was when Elizabeth, Jamie and Naomi learnt the meaning of being grounded. The three of them were finally rounded up and marched back to the school room, escorted by two of Uncle Tuvok's security team. Naomi started trembling when she saw her mommy, because Samantha gave her such a strange look, that it made Naomi cry. Jamie's mama looked like she wanted to kill him.
"Okay Jamie, whose idea was this?" Jamie's daddy James Hamilton asked and Uncle James looked so funny at Jamie. Like he knew Jamie started it all.
Jamie looked down and without looking at her, pointed to Elizabeth and said:
"She said we must do it,"
Naomi's eyes went wide at Jamie's blatant lie.
"No!" Elizabeth scowled. "I didn't, I didn't! You lie!"
And right there she walked up to Jamie and punched him on his nose. She was so angry she cried. Jamie didn't stop there, he punched her back, and the two of them were rolling on the floor already before their harried fathers dived in to break up the fight. Her daddy hauled her up under his arm like she was a sack of potatoes, and put her next to Naomi.
Elizabeth looked at her Mama, immediately contrite, for her Mama had that look again. Do all mamas have that look? she wondered. They can make you feel really, really bad. Then all you want to do is just cry and feel sorry for yourself.
Her Daddy looked her straight in the eye and she could see he was a little angry and he declared solemnly that they were going to erect a forcefield around the three of them. She didn't know what a forcefield was, but thought it must be something really bad. She threw an almighty tantrum then, screaming and raging, the ridges on her forehead like red, angry weals. She kicked and scratched and howled like a banshee. But Elizabeth came face to face with what Mama called Daddy's Paris Resolve. She learnt that when Daddy made up his mind, he was not going to back down. She took one stricken look at her Mama, hoping to find a champion, but Mama gave Elizabeth *her* evil eye. Mama was clearly on Daddy's side. It wasn't fair, she thought - two against one.
"Elizabeth, you gave us a scare. We were very worried," Daddy said. "But you were naughty, you know you must keep your badge on all the time, sweetheart, and not play hide and seek in the ship."
"I'm sorry, Daddy," she said, her lips trembling.
So she picked up her Phoenix and obediently let Uncle Tuvok set up the forcefield around her, Jamie and Naomi.
Daddy Joe came up to Naomi, knelt down before her and looked her in the eye. "Naomi, no more of this, understand? And you realise you have to be punished?"
Naomi shook her head, afraid to say anything, and her tears were very close as Daddy Joe held her close.
"I'm sorry, Dad," she wailed softly. "I know we gave you a scare. It won't happen again."
"Promise," Naomi said, and Joe smiled at his daughter, just knowing it would be a matter of time before they would think of something else again. They've done everything, from hiding in the Delta Flyer - Elizabeth got the codes for that, and even ran the start-up sequence. They found the children that day, playing with the toggle switches - Tom's pride and joy. Boy, was Tom cross that day!
They were behind the forcefield for only a few minutes, when, horror of horrors, Aunt Kathryn the Captain arrived and looked at the three of them.
She looked at each child in turn, but her gaze remained the longest on Naomi, who lowered her head in deep mortification. It was a good thing Naomi didn't look at the Captain, or she would have seen the Captain's smile.
Then the Captain spoke:
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