Keywords: The Happy Voyager Project. Ocampalets. Harry Kim. If you're not aj, chances are you will not appreciate it.
Dedication: Good thing it's for aj then, with birthday gleeewishes!
A lot of things had changed since Kes had children.
For one thing, the whole ship seemed noisier, and not in a bad way. Though all of the children on board were well-behaved compared to general galactic standards (five of them had once been Borg, three of them had inherited more of Kes's qualities than Neelix's, and one was a half-K'taarian who was determined to usurp Janeway's title as Captain), there were still nine of them popping up all over the ship asking questions and enlisting hide-and-seek participants and endlessly retelling Tom Paris's knock-knock jokes.
For another, their spacegoing modus operandi had changed... a little. Where Captain Janeway had once flung the ship boldly into danger any time there was a chance of cutting time off their long journey home, she seemed a bit more cautious now. Chakotay had been the one to suggest that school be held one morning a week on the bridge, with each child shadowing an officer's duty station (except, of course, the rescued Borg baby, who was still working out talking in complex sentences). Harry suspected that Chakotay's motives weren't purely about education the first time Janeway smiled and said, "I guess we should be on our best behavior and try to avoid starting any wars."
Of course, having such a visible presence of youth running around changed more than just how often they went to battlestations. There had been four weddings in as many months, and two recently-announced pregnancies. Tom joked about building a nursery and hanging it off the back of the ship. Janeway wasn't joking when she got misty and admitted to Harry, once when they both came to the mess hall for late-night tea, that she should never have resisted the idea of a generational ship. "I thought it would feel to the crew like giving up," she said. "But these are our lives."
The most surprising thing, though, was how everyone's sense of time had become incredibly skewed.
It became obvious, because every few weeks someone would ask whether anyone was going to throw a birthday party for the kids.
He still had a hard time believing it, but Harry knew the exact date when Kes's trio of half-Ocampa, half-Talaxian rugrats came into the world, because Mezoti liked to remind him of it. Daily. The former Borg girl seemed to take it as a personal affront that not only were there three new children on board competing for the adoring adult attention, but those three children were all going to reach adulthood before her.
So when Tom Paris said, after Wex and Tuvok (no relation to the Vulcan security officer of the same name) put their tiny blonde heads together to beat him soundly at 3-D checkers before being summoned to sickbay for a science lesson, "What are they, five now?"
Harry pointed out: "It's been less than six months."
B'Elanna, who was hanging out in the mess hall theoretically to refuel on coffee while filling out engineering crew evaluations, and actually to make fun of Tom losing a board game to grade schoolers, actually choked on her drink. "You're kidding!"
Harry shook his head. "I wish I were. I'm pretty sure Lisen is going to be after my job in a few weeks."
B'Elanna stirred more sugar into her coffee. "Six months!? When they were born, I could hold Wex in one hand."
"And now they're beating Tom at checkers."
B'Elanna snorted. "At least I'm less worried about getting old now. I was starting to feel like I was about to turn fifty."
Tom opened his mouth to make fun of her, then obviously changed his mind. "So they're going to be what... eight? Ten? Before they even have a birthday?"
"Technically they will be only one," B'Elanna said.
That was when the idea started.
As it turned out, planning a not-birthday birthday party wasn't as easy as it sounded.
It didn't take long to realize that actually, none of the kids, except Naomi (who also grew at least three times faster than the average kid and was therefore getting cheated out of birthdays) and the once-Borg baby had ever had a birthday party. There had been a celebratory dinner of the one-year anniversary of the Borg children coming on board (which doubled as a birthday party for little Nadezhda, officially adopted by Ensign Romanova and her longtime girlfriend Crewman Jenkins only two weeks after the baby's remarkable rescue). It didn't really count as a birthday party for any of the others, who had all seemed surprisingly solemn at the event – understandable, maybe, since their arrival on Voyager hadn't exactly been without trauma.
"We don't even know when they were born," B'Elanna complained, more annoyed about having been roped into the planning process than about the party actually not taking place on anyone's real birthday. "Even if the doctor can tell how mature they are biologically, they were in maturation chambers – they're almost certainly all actually younger than their biological age."
"It's a relative birthday party," Tom said.
"I'm being as precise as possible," Harry pointed out, since Icheb and Mezoti, at least, probably wouldn't agree with Tom's haphazard philosophy towards accuracy and facts.
B'Elanna huffed. "You can't have fractional birthday candles."
Harry looked up from the replicated Voyager-shaped cake that had been the ultimate purpose for his math. The warmth of the beach program was starting to make the icing on the nacelles look melty. "I'm burning the candles to fractional lengths," he said.
"It's not the amount of wax that represents age. It's the number of candles. It can only be expressed in integers."
"It's symbolic," Harry informed the half-Klingon killjoy hotly and went back to adjusting the candles for each child on the planet-and-asteroid-shaped smaller cakes surrounding the Voyager replica.
"Who cares!" Tom declared. "There's a pinata!"
"We could have just told Neelix about the party, and then I wouldn't have had to take the afternoon off from Engineering just because you two forgot to finish programming the decorations into the holodeck," B'Elanna reminded them.
"It's a surprise party!" Harry insisted. "Neelix couldn't have kept it a secret!"
Keeping the secret was the hardest part, which was part of the reason why the event was so rushed – and therefore so unfinished – ten minutes before the party and two days after they'd initially thought of it. Janeway knew, and the other department heads, who were all to announce it to their staff at exactly 1400, to give them enough time to assemble before the kids were led in for a "holodeck field trip."
Music started playing. Harry decided that seven-twelfths was close enough to eight-twelfths that he didn't have to fuss with Naomi's last candle anymore and looked up to see that all the balloons and streamers and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey were all in place.
"Who picked the music?" B'Elanna asked, making a face Harry couldn't quite decipher.
"Tom found it. Azan and Rebi got really into Bossa Nova last month. Don't ask."
"I tried to get all the kids' favorites in there," Tom said. "So don't blame me. Lisen's favorite music is actually the Doctor singing Wagner operas."
B'Elanna shook her head and finally cracked a smile. "Those kids are nuts. They should really spend less time with the two of you."
Tom grinned. "Hey, we invited you, and we can't help it that Naomi actually wants to play Captain Proton." They'd ended up writing in some additional parts. In the original holoprogram, Captain Proton hadn't had quite so many sidekicks.
Harry started to pace, eyeing the melting nacelles. "Where is everyone? Should we remind the captain?"
B'Elanna said, "It's not like it's really their birthday. It's okay if it's a few minutes late."
Tom frowned. "You have no sense of fun, you know that?"
Harry said, "Sure she does," at the exact moment B'Elanna chirped, "No, I don't."
The door opened, and in came a running Talaxian.
"HOW could you have done this without me!?"
B'Elanna held up her hands. "I swear, I was kidnapped."
The nacelles fell off the cake before the kids got around to blowing out the candles, but the party was a raging success anyway.
Harry spent most of it hosting -- directing wayward crewmembers to the refreshments, giving pinata instructions, wondering which child had snuck away long enough to add a giant waterslide into the program.
For the first time, he was actually looking forward to the Doc's picture gallery. One thing about having a relative-age-of-growing-up birthday party for nine children (Nadezhda, at twenty months, seemed to be aging relatively equivalent to human norms despite her mysterious species origins, but it seemed cruel not to include her) meant that there was no way to see each of them maximally enjoying the experience. Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey ended up being a three-way-split between the equilibrium-and-coordination-enhanced Mezoti, Azan and Rebi, while Naomi and Chakotay, in a hilarious late-breaking finish, won the three-legged race. At one point, a very serious-faced Tuvok Jr had been photographed spoon-feeding the captain a bite of his piece of cake. Kes, who still didn't quite understand the concept of birthday parties but still seemed to be enjoying herself, was dragged into the holographic ocean fully clothed by Lisen, Wex and, for some reason, Tal Celes.
Neelix was still fuming, especially when he overheard Janeway complimenting B'Elanna on the décor.
Mezoti sought Harry and B'Elanna out at one point, and it wasn't for seconds on cake. "You successfully engineered a complete surprise," she informed him.
"Is that good?" he asked, because sometimes, even after all this time, it was hard to get a good read on her.
She nodded affirmative. "Your mathematical calculations on the cake were not correct, however. Next time, you should allow me to assist you."
B'Elanna tweaked the girl's nose, apparently having got caught up in the playfulness of the event. "You just don't like being kept in the dark."
"It would be easier if we didn't attempt to calculate our relative ages," she pointed out helpfully. "We could have birthday parties every month instead to approximate the times when one of us might be turning a year older."
B'Elanna laughed. "You and Tom are on your own," she told Harry.
He rolled his eyes in agreement, but he couldn't genuinely believe her.
At least not after he found out, because Lisen was never any good at keeping secrets, that the waterslide was B'Elanna's idea in the first place.