“Miral cries. A lot,” Tom says with a laugh as he gently picks the small baby up and hands her back to her mother. “As all week-old babies do, the Doctor assures me.”
“Yeah but why does she cry whenever I hold her?” Harry asks. He’s exhausted from the past week of reunions and interviews and debriefings they had to go through since Voyager returned home. It would be nice, he thinks, to just sink right here into the couch cushions of Admiral Paris’ house and hibernate for the next few months.
“Maybe your face is just scary,” B’Elanna says with a shrug before she smiles at the now-happy baby in her arms. Her motherly demeanor isn’t something Harry has quite gotten used to seeing yet. He thinks back to when the two of them first met, trapped together on Ocampa by the Caretaker. She’s still got that hotheaded spark, but she’s not as fiery as she was back then.
Tom has grown up too, Harry notes, as he watches his friend gather up little Miral’s toys scattered on the floor. He’s still got that mischievous look in his eye, but it’s different than the early days on Voyager when he was the rebel without a cause.
“I’m going to miss you guys,” Harry says, suddenly filled to the brim with nostalgia of the past seven years together, knowing that the journey is finally over and they’re back home.
“We’re not going to be far away,” Tom replies. He grabs a colorful rattle from the pile of toys and gives it to Miral as her arms reach out to grasp something other than B’Elanna’s shirt. “We’ll be right here in San Francisco. Just a transport away. And hey, who knows when I may need to crash on your couch for a night when things get crazy here?” he adds with another laugh.
B’Elanna gives him a don’t-you-even-dare-think-of-running-away look, but it’s interrupted by a wince as Miral somehow manages to hit her neck with the rattle.
Harry is a bit jealous of Tom and B’Elanna having already decided so quickly what to do now that they’re back on Earth. Both planned to leave active Starfleet duty, B’Elanna having been offered a position as an engineering researcher and Tom as a flight instructor at the Academy. With Miral in the picture now, they were ready to focus on family for a while. Tomorrow they were planning on going house hunting, though Admiral Paris had kindly offered to let them stay with him for as long as they needed.
Harry, on the other hand, is still trying to figure out what he wants to do, although he’s got a nagging feeling that he’ll probably choose to serve on Voyager once it’s commissioned to go back out again. His first mission had turned into one that stretched on for seven years. He’s not sure he could get used to anything else now.
Plus he was finally due for a promotion.
“You’re right,” Harry says with a nod. “We’ll keep in touch as much as possible. Promise me that at least.”
“Of course we will,” B’Elanna answers, scoffing a little at his unwarranted concern. And then she stifles a yawn, the exhaustion starting to catch up to her as well.
Harry stretches his hands out to hold the baby again. But as soon as Miral’s resting in his arms once more, she starts wailing.
Tom pats him on the shoulder. “She’ll get used to your face eventually, buddy.”
B’Elanna fidgets in her seat, looking a bit uncomfortable in the fancy dress she’s wearing. Harry can’t blame her because he feels kind of stifled in the suit he’s donned as well. It’s like the fabric was replicated too stiff or something. Even Starfleet dress uniforms were more comfortable than these civilian clothes.
Tom, however, looked perfectly at home in his black-tie suit as he settled into his seat at the table in the middle of the restaurant. It had been his idea after all to go out somewhere fancy to celebrate Harry’s promotion to lieutenant (although Harry half-believed Tom had suggested this so he and B’Elanna could have an excuse to let the Doctor babysit for an evening while they still had the chance).
Voyager would be going back out to explore the galaxy again in a few days—closer to home this time—and a lot of the original crew was returning with it. Harry would be at his usual post under the command of Captain Janeway (who’d declined her promotion in favor of staying on her ship a little longer), and though it wouldn’t be the same as old times, he was looking forward to manning his station again.
“I have no idea what to choose,” Harry says, looking over the restaurant’s menu. The names alone don’t tell him anything about the food choices, and he feels too embarrassed to ask a waiter about them.
“I don’t think I can pronounce half of these names,” B’Elanna adds in agreement, squinting at her own menu. “I swear, if I accidentally order some sort of Bolian delicacy…”
Tom just grins. “Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”
“I suppose none of these options are as bad as leola root stew,” Harry jokes, suddenly thinking back to the early days of their trip when that was practically the only thing Neelix would ever cook for the crew before they’d learned to expand their options and Neelix picked up a few new recipes and ingredients.
“I almost miss that,” Tom chuckles while B’Elanna just grimaces at the memory, even sticking her tongue out in disgust like she’s a five year old. The old couple sitting nearby gives them a glare of disapproval.
Harry tries to discreetly loosen his collar so he could breathe better. He figures Tom thought the fancy restaurant would be the best way to celebrate, but he would have preferred something more casual. He didn’t think his promotion was that exciting.
Tom closes his menu. “Both of you look miserable.”
“I’m not—” Harry begins to lie but B’Elanna cuts him off.
“I’m going to burn this dress when we get home,” she says with the same tone of determination she used whenever she needed to fix the warp core.
Typical B’Elanna, never holding back her bluntness.
“Well, it’s Harry’s celebration,” Tom says, turning to him with an expectant look on his face. “What do you want to do? Eat here or go somewhere else? I don’t mind either way.” He shrugs, looking content to just get a meal from anywhere.
“It’s up to you Harry,” B’Elanna adds, though now she’s got that scary Klingon look on her face that says she might murder him with a bat’leth later if he chooses the fancy restaurant option. That would have intimidated him in the past, but now he knows she’d forgive him if he actually wanted to stay and eat here.
Luckily for them though, another idea has popped in his head.
“I think I know a different place we might all enjoy,” he answers with a sudden grin. “But we’ll need a change of clothes.”
They sneak out of the high class restaurant, ignoring the annoyed look from the waiters, and head back to the Paris residence to change into more comfortable clothes. They arrive at the house to see the Doctor lying on the floor with the six month old baby, toys scattered around as they play some sort of game.
“Well that was a quick dinner,” he says, making a move to stand back up. “I haven’t even put Miral to bed yet.”
B’Elanna disappears into the bedroom while Tom opens up a closet to find more comfortable, casual clothes for Harry to borrow. They’re about the same size so there’s no need to bother trying to program measurements into the replicator for something new.
“Don’t get excited yet, Doc,” Tom says as he tosses a shirt to Harry. He’s caught off guard and the shirt lands squarely on his face, eliciting a hearty laugh from Tom. “We haven’t even eaten yet. We’re going out again, not sure how long we’ll be.”
“Don’t let Miral stay up too late,” B’Elanna says, returning from the other room. She looks so much happier in different clothes. Harry can’t even imagine what she did to dispose of the previous dress. But he doesn’t smell any smoke at least.
The Doctor’s familiar disapproving look pops up on his face. “I’m a doctor, not a 24-hour nanny service.”
“We have the utmost faith in you, Doc. You’re a great babysitter,” Tom says as they head for the door to leave again. “Harry’s face always makes Miral cry.”
Harry rolls his eyes. “Oh come on, she stopped doing that months ago.”
The three of them head back out into San Francisco, Harry leading the way to a little hotdog stand he used to visit all the time during his Academy days. The juxtaposition of an old-fashioned 20th century-styled hotdog stand in the middle of one of the most advanced cities on the planet had always fascinated Harry. He wasn’t the huge history buff like Tom, but he appreciated something retro every now and then.
Tom and B’Elanna look surprised at first, but they quickly embrace the idea of hotdogs for dinner. Harry watches the two of them lightly tease each other about their condiment choices for a few minutes before they turn on him for putting way too much pickle relish on his own hotdog.
They pick a quiet spot by the Bay to sit and eat, letting the wind mess up their hair and accidentally blow their napkins away. They talk about everything, letting their laughter echo into the cool night air. Harry almost feels like a teenager again, and he wonders what it would have been like to have known Tom and B’Elanna in their younger days too.
Of course, he’s had too much experience with time travel over the past seven years to wander down that train of thought for too long.
There’s a silent moment amongst the three of them after they finish eating, and it suddenly hits Harry that he’ll be returning to Voyager in a few days without his two best friends. He won’t be able to eat with them in the Mess Hall or hang out in the holodeck or just walk a few doors down the hall to say hello. It’s finally sinking in that they’re going separate ways, which just makes him feel all the more determined to stay in touch however often he can.
“Good luck back out there, Harry,” Tom says, punching him lightly in the shoulder, apparently thinking the same thing. “If you fall in love with anyone, call me so I can make sure she’s not secretly trying to kill you.”
“Oh shut up,” Harry laughs.
“Keep the new Chief Engineer in line so they don’t mess up my warp core, Starfleet,” B’Elanna adds with a grin.
Harry nods. “Whatever you say, Maquis.”
“We’ll come visit when we can, and you come visit us too,” Tom says.
“I definitely will,” Harry says.
He looks out over the San Francisco Bay again, the old Bay Bridge gleaming a bright orange underneath the nearby nighttime lights. The bridge was an antique leftover from the days humans still drove cars, not shuttlecrafts. It had stood the test of time for centuries with people taking care to make sure it didn’t crack and crumble.
Harry knows it’s a cheesy thought, but he hopes their friendship is as sturdy as that old bridge too.
It started out as a small makeshift memorial, Harry had read. Just something to commemorate the lives lost, to honor their sacrifice, whether people had agreed with their cause or not. Bit by bit though, more people came to visit it, leaving behind mementos until it grew into a nice little tribute to the fallen Maquis fighters.
“Do you mind if I go by myself first?” B’Elanna asks, and Tom automatically reaches out to take Miral from her arms, not even needing to say anything.
“Take all the time you need,” Harry replies, trying to find something else to focus on instead of the memorial in the distance.
He feels out of place here. He didn’t know the people’s names etched on the memorial, he didn’t fight alongside them. In fact, if Voyager hadn’t gotten stuck in the Delta Quadrant, he probably would have fought against some of them.
Harry can’t quite shake off the pervasive feeling like he’s intruding.
But he’s here today to be supportive of his friends. These were people B’Elanna had known well. The Maquis were her makeshift family before Voyager had taken over that role. And Tom too knew some of the Maquis fighters from his brief period of time with them. They never really got a chance to fully acknowledge what had happened while they were away in the Delta Quadrant.
The memorial is tangible proof that the massacre had happened.
Tom is occupied for a few moments entertaining Miral who is fascinated by her surroundings and babbling away in her incomprehensible baby talk, so Harry finally turns towards the memorial and B’Elanna.
She looks different as she stands before the wall of names. She’s not the Chief Engineer he knew who always held her head and shoulders up high so no one had a chance to look down on her. She’s hunched forward, reading each inscription, inspecting every memento left behind.
“You know we both appreciate you being here today,” Tom says, bringing Harry’s attention away from his friend. “You could have been doing anything during your shore leave, but you came here for B’Elanna and me.”
Harry doesn’t know what to say. He just knows he wanted to make sure they had support even for something tough like this. If the positions had been reversed, they’d be by his side too. No matter what.
“B’Elanna’s waving at us to come over,” Tom says, perhaps sensing what Harry was thinking without him having to voice any of it. “Come on,” he says as he begins walking forward. “Let B’Elanna tell you the stories of these people.”
“I’d like to hear that.”
“Is this going to be better or worse than Klingon opera?” Tom asks, and then winces a second later when B’Elanna elbows him hard in the ribs.
“I, uh, really can’t compare the two. They’re different genres of music,” Harry goes with the safest answer so as to not receive a stray elbow to his own ribcage just in case. “But, uh, you’ve heard me play jazz before. It’s like that.”
It was sheer luck that all three of their schedules had lined up so that Tom and B’Elanna could accompany him to this music concert he wanted to see. Voyager just happened to be back at Earth for a few days, so he figured he should say hello to everyone while he’d had the chance: visiting his parents, catching up with an old Academy friend, and then dragging Tom and B’Elanna to this concert.
As they sit in their seats waiting for the lights to dim and the curtain to rise, they catch up. He hears stories of Miral finally teething (“I think I’m going to have scar from this bite,” Tom says, pointing to his forearm where Miral had chomped down earlier that day), stories of their work (“So he only has one eyebrow now because he didn’t listen to my warning,” B’Elanna says of one of her fellow engineers).
And in return they listen to Harry as he catches them up with all the news of the ship (“Then Tuvok got showered with confetti,” he says with a laugh, “and I swear he almost lost his Vulcan composure for about a nanosecond.”)
Neither Tom not B’Elanna, however, managed to stay awake long enough to make it to the second half of the concert. Harry sneaks a glance over to his side to see B’Elanna’s head resting on Tom’s shoulder, and Tom’s head drooping forward. When he leans a little closer, he could even hear some light snoring.
Harry resists the urge to laugh out loud. He can’t believe Tom and B’Elanna spent seven years together on a starship facing death and danger every other week, but their toddler daughter is the one who managed to tire them out enough to fall asleep in public.
He turns his attention back to the stage, letting the two of them get what was apparently some much needed rest. But he vows to definitely tell them all about the last half of the concert on the way back home later. In excruciating detail.
Tom’s face fills up the screen, his familiar grin shining through the lightyears between them. “Harry, Harry, Harry, what’s this I hear about you canceling on us?”
Harry sighs, resting his elbow on his desk and his chin on his hand. His quarters were cozy but not exactly where he wanted to be right now. “We found something interesting in the nebula we were exploring, so the Captain is going to keep us out here a few more days. Sorry that I’m not going to make it back to Earth to meet up like planned.”
“Nah, that’s okay,” Tom says with a nonchalant shrug, leaning back in his chair. “We understand. Besides, Miral’s in that sort of ‘terrible two’ phase right now which is kind of a hassle to deal with.”
Harry thinks that’s kind of a funny description. “Isn’t she three now?”
“Yeah, but she’s really enjoying keeping that ‘terrible two’ phase going,” Tom explains, and then glances down. “Oh, speak of the devil…”
Miral’s face fills up the viewscreen, having climbed up on her father’s lap before leaning too close so that only her eyes are visible. “Hi Uncle Scary,” she says in her adorable young voice, syllables stretching and then crashing together as she hasn’t quite grasped proper pronunciation techniques yet.
Harry can’t help but smile and wave back, already used to the stupid nickname her parents had taught their daughter. They were never going to let him forget how the baby always cried in his arms at the beginning.
“Miral Paris!” B’Elanna’s voice echoes sharply from somewhere offscreen, startling even Harry momentarily who’d been on the wrong end of that tone of voice before. “What did I tell you about drawing on the walls with markers!”
“Bye bye Uncle Scary,” Miral says, looking not at all concerned about being in trouble. “Gotta go on the run now.” She disappears from the screen, apparently having climbed back off of Tom’s lap to make her escape as a young fugitive.
“She has your personality,” Harry says to Tom with a laugh.
Tom just smirks in return. “I know.”
“Anyway,” Harry says, changing the subject back to their earlier conversation. “We can catch up next time I’m home. I might have a date or two to tell you about.” He raises his eyebrows in an attempt to look extra mysterious.
Tom’s mouth drops in mock surprise. “Well, I can’t wait to hear that. Please tell me she’s not another unattainable woman,” he teases, which makes Harry feel the edges of his face begin to flush.
“We’ll see,” he answers cryptically—thinking quietly to himself that he’s glad she’s not a hologram at least—and then tries to change the subject lest he get subjected to Tom’s teasing. “What about you?”
“I’m happily married, thanks,” Tom says with his usual laugh.
“I meant just about life in general,” Harry rolls his eyes because he knows Tom was just being dense on purpose.
Tom looks serious for a moment and then leans closer to the screen so he can speak with a lowered voice. “Actually, I’ve been… writing a holo-novel. Don’t laugh!” he adds quickly, his index finger pointed to the screen like a warning as if they’d actually been standing in the room together.
Harry shakes his head, though he does stifle a chuckle. “I’m not laughing! You should send me a draft. I’ll give you some good feedback. Let you know if it’s interesting.”
He missed the days when they could just meet up in the Mess Hall and bounce ideas off of each other. Talking through a computer screen just wasn’t the same.
Tom leans back in his seat again, looking more relaxed now that he had that confession off his chest. “I might.”
Harry opens his mouth to respond to that, but suddenly the whole ship lurches to the side and he’s thrown a bit off balance. The red alert klaxon starts going off. He can hear Captain Janeway’s voice summoning him to the Bridge.
“Duty calls,” he says as he stands up. Tom is already nodding and telling him to be safe during whatever has just begun. The screen goes black as the transmission ends, and Harry sets off from his quarters for the Bridge, no time to think about anything else.
Harry waits patiently after ringing the doorbell until he hears the patter of small footsteps heading towards the door. Not a moment later, the door opens and he receives a punch to the kneecap from Miral.
“That’s a warrior’s hello,” she explains with a toothy grin, though it has a few gaps from where baby teeth have fallen out.
“Is that so?” he asks, deciding that her cuteness outweighs the pain in his knee.
“Miral,” B’Elanna’s voice calls out from another room, the sound of her footsteps indicating that she’s coming closer too. “I told you not to answer the door unless I’m there to see who it is.”
B’Elanna steps into the room with a basket of laundry in her hands. “Oh, it’s just Starfleet,” she says, the old nickname for Harry slipping out automatically. “Never mind.”
Harry can’t help but laugh as he picks up Miral for a hug. She’s almost getting too big to be lifted up, but he tries not to think about how quickly time is flying and how much of it he’s missing out in space.
“Tom’s not going to be able to make it today,” B’Elanna says as she sets the laundry basket down on the couch, and then explains that his work schedule had been rearranged at the last minute. She purses her lips like she’s a bit annoyed, but then shrugs it off. “Hope you’re not too disappointed.”
“Nonsense,” Harry says, waving off her concerns. “We’re still on for having lunch together, right?” It had been a while since just ‘Starfleet’ and ‘Maquis’ had hung out together. Harry wonders briefly if B’Elanna had been a little bit worried that he thought of his married friends as a packaged deal.
Which, of course, he didn’t.
“Of course we’ll still have lunch,” B’Elanna answers, finally brightening up. “I’m so hungry I could eat a whole…” She trails off as she tries to think of a suitable example.
“Targ?” Harry suggests as a joke, which makes Miral giggle. She holds her hand up for a high-five and Harry obliges.
B’Elanna grimaces at the thought. “Please, let’s go eat before I find one and try.”
They drop Miral off at Admiral Paris’ home first, having already made arrangements for her to spend the day with her grandparents. Miral has fun on the way there telling Harry about her first day of school in lots of unnecessary detail, and Harry can barely believe she’s already old enough for that. Once Miral is settled in, the two adults head into the city for something to eat. Harry asks B’Elanna to choose the restaurant because she’s more familiar with the area than he is. She eliminates option after option until finally they arrive at a simple-looking sandwich shop which specializes apparently, according to their sign, in “sandwich delights from across the Alpha Quadrant.”
“This place is fantastic, but I don’t get to go as often as I’d like,” B’Elanna explains as they walk inside. “It’s a little too far of a walk on my lunch break.”
“Must be nice to have different places to choose from for lunch instead of just the Mess Hall,” Harry jokes as they place their orders. They’ve apparently chosen just the right time to come since it isn’t too crowded yet. He likes the vibe of the restaurant, a very casual and cheerful atmosphere amongst the staff and customers, photographs and murals adorning the walls to liven it up as well.
B’Elanna picks up her tray of food and guides him towards an empty table. “Yeah, but at least for you, the view outside the window changes every now and then,” she says, to which Harry nods because he did actually get to see the swirls of a very pretty gas giant from Voyager’s Mess Hall last week.
There is a lot they have to catch up on, so they stay at their table long after their sandwiches have been devoured.
“Woodworking?!” Harry says, incredulous. He’s sure he heard B’Elanna wrong.
“Seriously!” B’Elanna replies with a laugh but looking excited as she explains the new hobby she’d picked up. “It’s a really nice activity when I get frustrated. Instead of banging consoles or cursing circuitry, I can take out all my anger with a knife and some wood. Tom says my work looks pretty good. For a beginner.” She shrugs her shoulders as if it’s no big deal, even though it’s clear she’s proud of the accomplishment.
Harry thinks briefly how the B’Elanna Torres he first met all those years ago would have definitely been dangerous with a knife in her hands when angry. For a moment, he almost feels philosophical as he contemplates how people grow up over the years. But that’s a precarious road to go down because then he’ll start wondering whether his life is stagnating, wondering whether he’s changed as much as his friends.
“Harry, are you listening?” B’Elanna waves her hand in front of his face. “I said I made something for you too, so don’t let me forget to give it to you before you leave, okay?”
The fact that B’Elanna wants to share some of her wood carvings with him instantly chases away all the negativity that was beginning to settle in. At least for now.
“Thanks,” he says with a smile.
A commotion of noise from the kitchen area interrupts their conversation and they both turn to see what’s going on. The chef behind the counter is using a fire extinguisher to put out a smoking bit of equipment, letting out a string of muttered curses that could almost rival B’Elanna on a good day.
“I’m sorry,” the chef announces to the restaurant patrons. “We won’t be able to serve any more food until we fix our little, uh, ‘technical difficulty.’”
Technical difficulty seems like a bit of an understatement from where Harry is sitting. The smoldering equipment looks like it had blown out an entire circuit board.
“I bet we could help fix it,” B’Elanna says, leaning towards him with a bit of a smug smirk on her face. Her eyes light up at the thought. In all these years, Harry’s never seen her back down from a challenge.
“Let’s do it,” Harry nods.
It’s fun actually, Harry realizes, once the chef lets them behind the counter to examine the equipment after they explain their qualifications. It’s fun working with B’Elanna again like this. Analyzing the problem, drawing up a few theories to fix it, laughing when a spark catches B’Elanna’s hand and she spits out a Klingon curse in response as if the machinery is personally targeting her.
It takes some finagling before they accomplish their task but the restaurant equipment is functioning again. The fix is only temporary with the limited tools they had to work with, but it’s good enough to get the chef through the rest of the day at least without losing any more business.
“Nice to work with you again,” B’Elanna says as they head back to the Paris household. “I see you haven’t lost your touch.”
Harry brushes off the compliment and fires back with one of his own, but his mind is already wandering back to memories of the trip through the Delta Quadrant and all the projects he and B’Elanna worked together on through the years. The new Chief Engineer is good, but not nearly as good to work with as B’Elanna had been.
Before Harry leaves to return to the ship, B’Elanna presents him with his little gift: a combadge carved out of wood. It’s not perfect—a tiny knick on one corner, an edge that curves slightly too much—but it’s good work. He can tell she put a lot of time and effort into it.
He’s looking forward to seeing what she’ll have created by the next time he visits.
“Oh nooooo, not Satan’s Robot,” Harry drawls out in deadpan fake surprise, going along with the program. He makes a half-hearted attempt to wave his ray-gun in the air before the monochromatic robot, moving at the pace of molasses, finally apprehends him.
“Come on, Harry,” Tom—or rather, Captain Proton—says, though he doesn’t look up from all the knobs and levers of the control panel in front of him. “You don’t sound very terrified.”
“I was kind of hoping we’d play through a program we didn’t already know the storyline to,” Harry answers with a sigh, not even fighting back as his character gets taken hostage. Again. He’s just not really in the mood for this today.
Tom gives him a mixed glance of concern and confusion. “But it’s been years since we played the Captain Proton program. Even I can’t remember all the details of it.”
“You play one Captain Proton story, you play them all,” Harry replies with a bit more bite in his voice than he probably should have. “I was kind of hoping for something where I didn’t have to play sidekick again actually.”
Tom looks slightly offended, and splutters for a moment as he tries to come up with a way to defend his choice of holodeck program. They only had a limited amount of time as Tom’s visit to Voyager was supposed to be brief, but this wasn’t turning out to be the fun, hang-out time Harry had in mind.
Maybe it was simply that Harry had just gotten off of an extremely hectic duty shift, or maybe it was because he was dealing with a recent break-up of another girlfriend that just didn’t seem to work out. Maybe it was just that he’d spent a lot of time lately thinking about how his life hasn’t measured up at all compared to his friends. But whatever the reason, Harry just didn’t have the patience at the moment to play second fiddle to Tom’s hero.
That was the past.
Harry knows Tom has written a number of more interesting holodeck programs recently, but today he’s apparently decided to wallow in nostalgia instead.
Tom gives the command to freeze the program, giving Harry the chance to step away from the robot.
“I thought this would be fun for old time’s sake,” Tom explains, a hint of defensiveness creeping into his tone. “You always seemed to have fun when we used to play this one.”
“Yeah, seven years ago when I was just your sidekick,” Harry answers sharply, but then immediately regrets his words. He knows that’ll start an argument.
And sure enough, Tom lets loose in return.
“That’s ridiculous,” Tom scoffs, throwing his arms up in the air. “What do you mean, sidekick? It’s just a holodeck program. Why are you so angry?”
Harry’s not even really sure he knows the answer to that question himself. It’s like everything hits him at once: that feeling of living in the shadow of his more successful friends. Seven years later after they’d all spent seven years together lost in space, Harry doesn’t feel like he’s accomplished anything compared to them. Hell, he was still serving on the same ship he started on fourteen years ago.
So he doesn’t say anything, just lets the silence stretch on as his frustration simmers.
“Computer, end program,” Tom says, and turns for the door. “We can talk later.”
Harry takes a deep breath, fingers curling around his clarinet as he stands ready to play once the curtain rises. He feels a rush of excitement and nausea all rumbling around in his stomach like they were playing a game of dodgeball in there. The Doctor had given him some semblance of a pep-talk just a few moments ago, but it hadn’t really done much to calm Harry’s nerves.
Once the curtain goes up, there’ll be a couple hundred people waiting to hear his performance. He glances again at his saxophone resting nearby, making sure once more that it’ll be ready when he reaches that part of the program.
For a half second, he wonders if Tom and B’Elanna are in the audience too. But then he brushes that thought away. He hadn’t spoken to either of them since he’d had that stupid fight with Tom six months ago. They didn’t even know anything about the performance. If it had been the old days, the two of them would have made up in a matter of hours or a day or two at the most. He and Tom probably would have sat down together in the Mess Hall and talked over a bowl of ice cream or something, working out the problem and getting back to the normal routine of their friendship. B’Elanna would probably drop by to call them both idiots too.
But it was so much easier to let a wound fester, even a mental one, when there were lightyears of distance in between. It was easy to just go back to his quarters after a long shift and flop into bed instead of sending a message. And, he reminds himself, Tom hadn’t tried to contact him either.
Instead, Harry had thrown himself into writing music for the past few months, pulling out old things he’d started on years ago while also composing new pieces for both his clarinet and saxophone. That sense of feeling unsuccessful driving him to prove himself wrong. He’d shared the new songs with the Doctor and played a couple of them for a small amount of the crew. The opportunity to hold an actual concert had simply fallen into his lap through a series of unexpected events lining up just right—Voyager being in this solar system for a diplomatic mission, the Doctor happening to know quite a few of the prominent musicians living on this colony, and a program looking for young artists to perform their work.
He takes another deep breath as the curtain starts to rise. All his worries fly away as he focuses on the music and his performance. It’s just him, the stage, and the instruments. Nothing else is important while he gets lost in the music, letting the sounds echo throughout the concert hall. His fingers dance across his instruments while the notes dance across the air.
Once it’s over, he is filled with the wonderful sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that it all turned out well. He can’t see the audience very well in the darkened room, but he can hear their applause and cheers. He bows low and then smiles as he straightens back up.
The curtain falls and he lets out a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding in.
Afterwards, he stands in front of the stage as people pass by to congratulate him on his performance. His parents who’d made the trip out here, several of his crewmates who requested he play more often on the ship, strangers who didn’t even know him but were still kind enough to pay him a compliment.
And, once the crowd dispersed, there was Tom, B’Elanna, and Miral standing there too—almost like a mirage playing tricks on his eyes—waiting to talk to him. Miral waves to him with excitement, and he can’t help but wave back happily, though he’s not sure what he’s going to say to Tom.
“Hi,” Harry says, feeling a bit awkward. “I wasn’t expecting to see you guys here.”
“A little birdie told us you were giving your first big public performance,” B’Elanna said with a knowing smirk. “We couldn’t miss that.”
“It wasn’t a bird,” Miral said, shaking her head and then looking up to address her mother. “It was Mr. Icheb when you guys were talking about that weird theoretical engineering stuff last week.”
Harry wanted to hang on to his months-old feeling of annoyance, but Miral always had been able to make him smile. She’d grown taller since the last time he saw her. So much time had passed in a blink of an eye.
He had wasted it holding a stupid grudge.
“Also Mom, I gotta go to the bathroom,” Miral says before anyone else can say anything. She tugs on B’Elanna’s sleeve for attention again.
B’Elanna sighs and takes Miral’s hand. “Okay, we’ll go find it.” She turns back to Harry and Tom. “You two idiots have a chat while we’re gone.”
“Yes ma’am,” Tom says with a mock-salute as the two of them leave.
“So…” Harry isn’t sure where to begin.
“Listen, Harry, I’m sorry,” Tom begins with a more serious look on his face than before, getting right down to what he wanted to say almost as if he’d memorized his words by thinking about it for a long time. “I know I should have reached out sooner. I wasn’t thinking that day in the holodeck. I miss the days we used to run those programs together, you know, and I didn’t really consider anything else. I should have listened since something was bothering you. That was stupid of me to just leave.”
He looks uncertain after his deluge of words ends, his apology resting in the air between them waiting to rejected or accepted.
Harry shakes his head. “No, I was just having a bad day,” he answers. “Sometimes, well, I compare myself to you and think that I just haven’t accomplished as much. And I probably never will.”
“Harry.” Tom slings an arm around his shoulder. “We just sat through an hour-long concert in a sold-out concert hall featuring a multitude of songs you wrote and performed yourself. I don’t think you have to worry. We’ve done different things with our lives, but neither one is lesser than the other. You’ve grown up so much since that stiff ensign I met fourteen years ago.”
Perhaps all he really needed was to hear that validation from his best friend.
“When did you become so full of wisdom?” Harry asks with a laugh, knowing Tom had a point. There’s no need to keep feeling sorry for himself.
“It just comes with old age along with my gray hairs,” Tom grins, gesturing towards his head.
That makes Harry snort. All of Tom’s hair looks the same color as it’s always been.
“We’re not that old yet,” Harry says.
B’Elanna and Miral return from the bathroom, and B’Elanna shoots them both an inquisitive glance, asking whether things were okay again without even having to say anything out loud. Harry nods with a smile, feeling like the universe was simply a piece of equipment whose phase alignment had just been fixed.
“Uncle Scary,” Miral says, tugging on his sleeve. “Can you teach me to play too?”
“Of course I can!” Harry doesn’t even mind that she still won’t call him by anything other than that silly nickname. Having someone willing to learn from him makes him feel very happy, like he has another purpose in life.
Harry agrees to catch up with them back on Voyager before they head their separate ways again, but he hangs back for a few moments in the now-empty concert hall.
As is often the case these days, an old memory pops into his head. The memory of their last time in the Delta Quadrant before they made that risky move that brought them all home. He had said to the rest of the senior staff some sentimental stuff about the journey being what mattered more than the destination. It had taken him seven years to come to that pretty obvious conclusion.
And now seven years later, he realizes that he’d been thinking about things all wrong again. He thought the journey was over once they’d reached Earth. But really, though they had scattered in different directions, made different choices, lived different lives, the journey hadn’t ended. It never stopped, even when he felt like he was standing still.
They always end up bouncing back together again somehow.