Never Brought to Mind, by Brenda Antrim. Not rated. All rights to characters and universe belong to Paramount; to the story, the author, copyright Jan. 1997. No infringement intended.
Happy New Year.
When Chakotay had suggested the party that first year, she had had her misgivings. New Year was a time to spent with friends and family, and too many of both were too far away. But Captain Janeway knew that it was imperative to keep morale as high as possible in trying circumstances, and she had approved the bash. With Tom Paris spiking the punch, Harry providing the music, Neelix and Kes going all out on the feast, B'Elanna improvising, of all things, a mirror ball out of scrap parts, and Tuvok making sure none of the rowdier Maquis versus Star Fleet arguments got out of hand, it had gone surprisingly well. Now, four years into the voyage home, it had turned into one of the most anticipated parties of the year.
Tonight's festivities were no exception. Spirits were well lubricated and flying high, buoyed by an unusually peaceful fortnight of high speed flight. While no promising wormholes or spacial anomalies had appeared, neither had any hostile raiders or unfriendly new species with territorial tendencies. They were well stocked up with food supplies, the engine was almost purring, and the gelpacks hadn't had a sniffle in weeks. Even the not- officially-acknowledged still was working, leading to a rather high-octane but thoroughly appreciated party punch.
Keeping a careful eye on the proceedings, Tom Paris was pleased to see his New Years offering being so heartily enjoyed. Talk was flowing freely, couples were dancing here and there in the corners of the main holosuite, programmed to recreate a grand hotel ballroom from bygone days. The early tensions had eased over the years as the two opposing factions gradually learned to be one crew, relying on each other for their lives against the vagaries of the unknown space around them. Us against the universe, he smiled to himself, leaning against the side wall and watching the ebb and flow around him. Harry and B'Elanna, caught up in a spirited discussion across the room, caught his attention, and the smile softened. Good friends. He was so lucky to be where he was, surrounded by the people he cared about, caring about the people he was with. It was an unusual situation for him. All his life, the holidays had been his father's show. Mixing and mingling with the upper echelon of Star Fleet and the diplomatic corps, best suit shining, saying all the right things to all the right people, trying so hard to bring an expression of approval to his father's disinterested face, his aunt's unconcerned one, his grandmother's frankly oblivious one. No, they didn't seem to notice his effort. Only the effects when those efforts failed. For a long moment, his body went completely still as he slipped back into the past, surrounded by the ghosts that had bound his life to a course that was wrong for him for so many years.
His first year at Auckland he had spent New Year's Eve in solitary confinement, having broken the arm of a fellow prisoner who had decided the admiral's son was fair game. His second, he'd been on work detail, and not noticed it was a new year until they'd returned to the compound three days later. Other holidays came to mind, too. He'd been sentenced shortly before New Years. Spent the night in a holding cell, trying very hard not to think. At the Academy, New Years had meant command appearances to Show The Flag for the Paris Dynasty ... more of the same of what he'd endured since he'd been in short pants. The only truly enjoyable New Year holidays he could ever remember had been the three, now four, he'd spent adrift hundreds of light years from home. The smile returned, a little strained at the edges. Auld lang syne, for certain. His old times were better forgotten than remembered.
Tuvok stared placidly at the celebrating crewmembers from so many races, laughing, talking, drinking, dancing. While his trained eye automatically cataloged the behavior in front of him, ever watchful for potential friction or an overly exuberant celebrant, his mind turned inward. Vulcan celebrated in an utterly different manner than this. Logical, of course, and deeply satisfying in its own way. He remembered the sound of his wife's voice, reviewing the actions and lessons of the year past, his children's eyes focused unwaveringly on their mother, sharing and learning in a uniquely close way that defined family to him. For an instant, the reality of his separation from them clenched the muscles in his throat and caused a fine tremor in his hands, but he overcame it with a conscious effort of will. He would see them again, if it was to be. Until then, he would remember, and honor, in his own way. He swallowed firmly, loosening the knot in his throat, took a deep breath, and resumed his watch.
Kes surveyed the energetic crowd around her and basked in the warm flow of emotions from her adopted people. So many good friends, and their loyalty and love had proven themselves time and again. They had walked through fire for her, waded into a civil war for her, come for her when she had no hope of rescue. She remembered the times her friends had risked themselves for her and felt incredibly blessed. Flashing a blinding smile at Neelix, she reached out to him and caught his larger hand in her own, squeezing strongly. He smiled back at her, a little startled but so very pleased at her pleasure. If the new year was anything like the old, it was going to be one heck of a ride.
Shaking her finger at her companion in laughing reproof for his hideous pun, B'Elanna couldn't hold back the threatened laugh. Harry could be so ridiculous sometimes, and always with that earnest, little boy innocence plastered all over his round face, only the wicked twinkle in his eyes giving him away. She took another sip of fiery punch and noticed Tom leaning against the wall. Raising her glass in salute to his mixing skills, she waited for his answering smile before returning her attention to the conversation flowing around her. If someone had told her five years ago, while she was band-aiding shuttles together and trying to turn them into weapons in the fight for freedom against the Cardassians, that she'd be snickering over bad puns in the holosuite of a Star Fleet starship with a baby-faced Ensign for one best friend and an ex-convict pilot for another, she'd have hurt herself laughing. But this ... this was good. For the first time in a very long time, the first emotion she felt when she woke up in the morning was not anger. It was anticipation. Not to fight, or strike out, but to work, create, invent. She was surrounded by friends, not comrades in arms, and it felt ... good. No matter how long it took to get back home, these would be the times she remembered.
Harry crowed a little to himself. He'd finally gotten B'Elanna to laugh so hard at one of his truly bad puns that she'd actually snorted, then blushed. He so seldom got to her, and he almost never got her to blush. It was worth the effort. She was gorgeous when she dropped her defenses. For a spare moment, her dark features were overlaid with a paler, smoother bone structure, longer dark hair, softer brown eyes. Libby stared at him from B'Elanna's face, and he swallowed dryly, eyes going wide in a suddenly pale face. Muttering a quick excuse, he watched B'Elanna turn to Chakotay to answer a laughing question, and turned rather blindly to head to the cluster of tables by the bar. Settling tiredly into one of the cushioned chairs, he stared vacantly at the couples dancing to the soft music from the holoband. He thought he was handling it pretty well, had decided that Tom was right, after all, and Libby would have gone on with her life, and it wasn't fair to her or healthy for himself to continue to pine for her. But there were times when the sense of loss would hit him with the force of a body blow and he would miss her with his whole heart. He wondered, vaguely, if it ever completely went away. He would go for days, and then in a moment, she would be all he could remember, and he wondered if he would ever forget.
She saw his stricken look from her place at the bar and thought for a moment before deciding to join him. Harry was one of her favorite junior officers, and right now he looked like he needed a friend. Gesturing to an empty chair, she asked, "This seat taken?" He looked up and made an effort to smile before shaking his head. Sensing that he was not in the mood for small talk, she settled in comfortably and offered him silent company. Holidays were the hardest, she knew. She missed Mark, and Bear, and her family, fiercely. Harry was undoubtedly thinking of his family, and she understood his need to withdraw from the gaiety for awhile, center himself, remember and grieve, in the midst of the celebration. Captain Janeway never gave up hoping for a miracle, but she also never expected one. It would be a long time home, and until then, the best she could do was to be there for her crew, her friends, when they needed her. Feeling the tension seeping from the young man seated opposite her, she shared a smile with him, and relaxed into her own memories.
He had always been a spiritual man, although he had fought it as a youngster. But celebrations such as this served to remind Chakotay of the depths of that spirit. His eyes saw laughter and flirting and conversations on many levels, but his heart saw healing, and coping, and retrospection, and hope. Each new year was a relief that they had survived the past one, and an anticipation that the new one would bring hard-held desires ... to be happy, to be better, some way, to get home. His mind flashed back to his father, so patient with his own impetuousness, so cherished, too late told. Silently, he thanked him for that patience, and shared with him the joy in his soul that they were all together, safe for the moment, and finding their way home. It was so different from the celebrations of his youth, the wild times he remembered and the quiet times he thought of often when he needed to draw strength from them, but it was better than he had hoped to find when fighting for his people, and satisfying in a way he would remember the rest of his days.
Happy for once to be free of the portable holoemitter, the least physically substantial and most acerbic member of the crew took a deep breath and smiled rather smugly at the party. Bits and pieces of conversation came to him and he settled behind the bar, content to observe and learn. Since his forced 're-boot' he had lost so many memories, but snatches were coming back to him. It was an odd but fascinating concept to think of himself as a crew member, and the casual acceptance of the people around him gave him a contentment deeper than he had expected. Not that he would let any of them know. He wasn't the sappy sort, after all. But still, it was warming, in ways he hadn't thought he'd need. Humming a Verdi tune under his breath, the Doctor straightened his beret and mixed another synthetic gin and tonic.
Shrugging away from the wall, he moved slowly into the crowd, exchanging smiles and comments as he went. Paris snagged a glass of synthchampagne from a passing waiter and settled in next to B'Elanna, casting an appreciative eye on the crimson silk mandarin suit she wore. Red was definitely her color. Listening to the chatter around him, easing to the side of the cluster of friends to allow Harry to rejoin them, he smiled again and let the past go, at least for tonight. His old life had no place in his new life. This was the new year, after all, and every new year was supposed to be a new beginning. And he was determined it would be a year he would never want to forget.