by Myu

Disclaimer: The rights to Star Trek: Voyager and everything associated with it is owned by CBS/Paramount
Notes: A Christmas story (like every other, I don't doubt). 
Rating: Universal


It was mid-December during Voyager's sixth year in the Delta Quadrant.  Kathryn was waiting in her ready room by the viewport, growing uneasy with trepidation.  Her eyes moved constantly over the faint streaks of passing stars outside, yet focused on nothing in particular.  Over the past week a rumour had been circulating around the ship that something terrible had happened.  Crewmembers whispered behind hands, suspicious looks were exchanged and colleagues were reluctant to look each other in the eye.  Thinking of all the far-fetched stories flying around, Kathryn took to pacing round and round the ready room, acutely conscious that if she didn't receive any news soon the carpet was in danger of having a lopsided oval trodden into its pile permanently.  She was startled out of her thoughts when Chakotay entered without warning.  She moved across the floor toward him immediately and stopped short of grasping his hands and pleading for good news.
"Yes?" She scanned his face urgently.
"It's true," He answered wearily.  Kathryn couldn't hide her disappointment and turned her head.
"I suppose we all knew it would happen at some point," Chakotay offered, looking grim.
"Mm...but I hoped - maybe just one more year..."
"We just have to accept it," He retorted firmly, "Neelix has discovered Christmas."

"...maybe it won't be so bad," Chakotay reasoned later as he sat down with Kathryn to dinner.  Kathryn stopped unfolding her napkin long enough to give him an ugly look.
"Really?  You're not joking?"
"I'll admit that I don't agree with everything Neelix has proposed," He nodded to the padd Kathryn had discarded after reading less than half of the content, "But he does make some good suggestions."
"Does he?  I stopped reading after the request to change the doorchime tones to something more festive."
Chakotay pushed the padd across the table, next to her elbow.
"You should at least read the rest of it.  It's not all so -"
"Item twelve: infuse green lighting with standard Red Alert lighting for a real holly-day spectacle?" She raised an eyebrow at him incredulously.
"Kathryn, you know better than I do that he's not being serious.  He either just got carried away or else he wanted to make you laugh." He watched her curiously as she reacted.
"Humour in an official proposal?  When did that become protocol?"
"He got your attention, didn't he?"
"Hah," Kathryn replied dryly, scowling as she skimmed through the rest of the padd with one hand and began eating with the other.  After a moment she set it down and continued eating silently.
"Well?" Chakotay enquired casually.
"Well...tell me what exactly you found so appealing."
"The events for the children.  I think they'd enjoy learning about Christmas."
"Is that all?" Kathryn didn't look up from her plate.
"I like some of the ideas for the staff celebrations.  Things like that always boost morale," He offered.
"Half the crew probably haven't even heard of Christmas."
"Fewer know about Talaxian traditions and we've celebrated some of them," Chakotay frowned, "Did you celebrate Christmas on Earth?"
"Sometimes," Kathryn answered shortly.  She wiped her mouth and surveyed him over clasped hands.  "I'm not going to win this one, am I?" She conceded, mouth twisted in an expectant half-smile.
"The Doctor's already practising carols," Chakotay returned the smile sheepishly.
"I'd draft a formal reply to this, but I'm afraid of what will happen to my blood pressure," Kathryn cast a final weary glance upon the padd.
"Get used to it - I have the feeling it'll be the first of many," Chakotay volunteered solemnly.
TO: Captain Kathryn Janeway, U.S.S. Voyager
FROM: Morale Officer Neelix, U.S.S. Voyager
TOPIC: Peril Noel
Preparations for the Christmas Day festivities on the Holodeck are going according to plan, except that it looks like we may be a little shorthanded with the elves.  Would the Bridge staff be so kind as to lend a hand?
With all the very best Seasons Greetings,

TO: Morale Officer Neelix, U.S.S. Voyager
FROM: Captain Kathryn Janeway, U.S.S. Voyager
TOPIC: Re: your recent request



"Is all this really necessary?" Kathryn grumbled on Christmas Eve, ducking to avoid some stray tinsel dangling from the doorway to the Messhall.
"Captain, I helped put up the decorations," Naomi Wildman announced proudly, looking so happy that Kathryn couldn't help smiling after her as she skipped away to Neelix. 
"I think that answers your question," A voice muttered close to Kathryn's ear and she turned to find Chakotay standing next to her looking amused.
"Yes, fine."
"Say it," Chakotay insisted.
"I was wrong.  This was a good idea," She admitted grudgingly.
"That's the spirit, Captain," Neelix bustled past them towards the galley, where the contents of a large pot were simmering on the hob.  Kathryn's eyes travelled past him to the cheerfully decorated Christmas tree and for a moment appeared to look almost wistful.  Watching her carefully, Chakotay was about to say something when she blinked and her expression was extinguished along with the flame under the pot in the galley.  Neelix emerged from behind the counter and took the hand of a sleepy-eyed Naomi.
"I'm going to take Naomi back to her quarters and then turn in myself.  Is there anything I can get you?"
"We'll be fine, Neelix," Chakotay answered.  He and Kathryn stood awkwardly as Neelix left the room with Naomi in tow.
"Speak for yourself - I was hoping he'd brew me some coffee," Kathryn smiled wanly.
"Maybe I can get you something better," Chakotay disappeared into the galley and returned with two steaming mugs.  Kathryn cast a doubtful eye over the reddish liquid before taking one sip, then another when she was satisfied.
"What do you think?"
"It's not coffee, but it'll do.  What is it?"
"It's a traditional Christmas drink."
"I should have known," Kathryn took a seat by the viewport and gazed out.  As he seated himself opposite her, Chakotay noticed that some part of the faraway look still lingered around her face as her eyes drifted over her surroundings .
"It's made with wine and sugar and..." He stopped and decided to be direct, "Kathryn, why won't you join in with any of the Christmas preparations?  Normally you at least offer to help with these sorts of things."
"Do you really want to know?"
He hesitated for a moment, having fully expected her to fob him off with some sort of vague protest.
"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't."
She swirled a fingertip in the contents of her mug inattentively and took a quick sip before speaking.
"It's not that I don't like Christmas - it was something to look forward to between birthdays.  More than anything else, it was a time for all the family to be together..."
"You're missing them?"
Kathryn stretched her mouth into what Chakotay supposed was meant to be a smile, but it didn't quite succeed.
"Not really any more than usual, to be honest.  It's the timing." She pressed her lips together.
"I don't understand."
At this point something in Kathryn seemed to click: she set her mug down, folded her hands in her lap and looked Chakotay straight in the eye.
"A week after Christmas it's January.  Another year gone past and we're still here - that's not something I can get excited about.  When I was at home Christmas was such a warm time, but here it's like I'm stuck in the winter.  I feel cold," She finished quietly, keeping her eyes firmly fixed on his.  He hardly dared to blink, aware that she had never looked at him with that kind of intensity and all the time becoming conscious of something stirring faintly within himself that he had buried long ago.
"Don't isolate yourself.  Not again," He said before he could stop himself, remembering how the Void incident had occurred around that period in time almost two years ago. 
"The year's events pass by in a cycle," Kathryn continued dully, " - when we're here I get tired of running around the same old circle and never moving on.  I..." She paused, and Chakotay leaned across as if to take her hand, but instead gripped the armrest of her chair.
"Spend Christmas with us - let the new year take care of itself.  If we're still here next December, then...then we'll have an even better celebration and forget about New Year."
Kathryn finally looked away and down at her mug for a moment, where her fingertip had swilled the dregs into a dark spiral.
"Is there any more of that wine?" She asked finally, sounding almost like her old self.
"I'll get you some." Chakotay returned with a large jug and fresh mugs.
"If I start talking about 'the good old days' at the Academy - " Kathryn began as he started to pour.
"I'll transport you directly to your quarters," Chakotay cut in wryly.
"How did you -?"
"'Remember the time when B'Elanna brewed that Klingon drink?"

Later on Kathryn stood outside her quarters with Chakotay - both with perhaps a little more colour in their cheeks than usual, but otherwise fine.
"How do you feel now?" Chakotay asked.
"It almost feels like Christmas," Kathryn replied, blushing slightly as she caught sight of a sprig of mistletoe hanging above a doorway further down the corridor.  Chakotay bade her goodnight and she hesitated as she watched him retreat down the corridor.
"Wait," She murmured, knowing he'd stop underneath the aforementioned doorway.  Before she knew what she was doing she had scooted down after him, stretched up on tiptoe and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
"Goodnight," She whispered and withdrew to her quarters without looking back.  In the morning she could always blame the wine.

*     *     *

On Christmas morning Kathryn woke with a mixture of excitement and nervousness churning inside.  She had been entertaining an idea in her head the night before and rose from her bed with her mind made up.  By the time she had drawn up a list of items for the replicator it was time to go to the Christmas day celebrations on the Holodeck.  
Kathryn had expected the wintry, snow-covered spectacle she was faced with upon entering the Holodeck, however she hadn't anticipated how low the temperature would be set to, nor how extraordinarily pretty the setting would look.  Her rubbed her shivering arms vigorously, quivering with cold and anticipation.  She took in a little more of her surroundings and quickly spotted a path leading through the trees.  Before long Kathryn was standing in front of a small wooden house that looked like it had come straight from the pages of an old storybook, save for the ice sculptures of various alien species dotted around the frozen garden.  Shadows were moving in the windows and the sound of laughter and happy chatter grew louder as she approached the door.  Kathryn entered quietly and was immediately bombarded with a mass of greetings and well wishes from her crewmates that almost brought tears to her eyes.  Somehow she managed to manoeuvre herself over to a space by the fireplace to catch her breath and observe the scene as she warmed her hands.  Everyone around her was engaged in animated conversation, sipping drinks and greeting friends, but she couldn't see many of the people she was closest to on the ship.  Tuvok was (unsurprisingly) nowhere to be seen, nor Chakotay.  After a moment she glimpsed Tom and B'Elanna huddled together to one side, and beyond them the children were gathered around a holographic Santa.  Beside them stood a beaming Neelix, dressed in an elaborate green and red elf costume that Kathryn knew she would quite happily have rather died than wear.  Apparently the rest of the staff shared the same opinion, as Neelix stood alone.
"I still say you should have teamed up to be an elf with him," A voice whispered in her ear, exactly as it had done the previous day.  She directed a withering look at Chakotay, who stepped to her side.
"I'm sorry - drink?" He offered her a glass hastily and they stepped over to the drinks table.  More and more crewmembers were arriving and as they converged upon the drinks table Kathryn and Chakotay were slightly squashed together.  Fortunately Chakotay didn't seem to mind and, if nothing else, Kathryn was glad that the loud, busy atmosphere gave her the chance to talk to him without being overheard easily.
"I wanted to thank you for last night," She told him in a low voice, shielding her mouth with her glass..
"You're welcome - and thank you, too.  I'm glad I could help." He coughed suddenly, "When I -  well, when you said goodnight, I -"
"May I have your attention, please?" Neelix's voice cut in suddenly.  Kathryn jerked her arm in a reflex provoked by either anger or surprise and some of her drink slopped over the sides of the glass.  She set it down on the table hurriedly and turned to focus her attention on Neelix as he began to speak.
"Christmas is a time for sharing, giving and coming together,"
Kathryn felt the joints in her fingers twitch at the words and pretended not to notice that she had inadvertently tapped Chakotay's knuckles in the process.  She stared straight ahead, focusing on the golden bell atop Neelix's elf hat, although out of the corner of her eye she saw Chakotay turn his head towards her and look back quickly.  
"...and it is at this time when we can truly show our love for each other as - "
Kathryn didn't hear any more - a light tap had fallen on her own knuckles and something had plummeted through her abdomen, sucking all the blood from her head down with it.  Feeling slightly disoriented, she gripped the edge of the table behind her and concentrated hard on listening to the remainder of Neelix's speech and remaining upright.  
"I'm going off to take a short breather," Kathryn muttered to Chakotay, knowing she looked a little flushed and bright-eyed.  She placed her hand on his arm lightly, wondering if she had imagined the significance of their contact during Neelix's speech.
"Will you be long?" The enquiry was casual, although a muscle twitched in his cheek.
"No," Kathryn tightened her hold slightly, seeing something in his expression that provoked senses of nervousness and enthusiasm at the same time in her gut.
"Will you be staying here much longer?" She asked in a half-whisper, silently daring him to shake her hand off and give her an uncomfortable look.
"Probably not for much more than twenty minutes.  Let me know if you'd like to get together later on." He held her gaze steadily.
Kathryn could barely speak over the thumping of her heart in her throat and was just about to mutter 'Likewise' before she left, but stopped and looked curiously at the darkish brown ring her glass had left on the wood surface of the table.  In her mind's eye she saw Chakotay retreating down the curve of the corridor again without her, in the same old loop they had been stuck in for years.
"I do want to see you later on.  I don't want to go around in circles anymore," She didn't look up.
"Neither do I," He answered, covering his mouth as an ensign passed by them closely.
"I'll see you later, then," Kathryn murmured and left.

Kathryn stole away from the Holodeck as swiftly as possible and alternated between running lightly and walking until she reached Chakotay's quarters.  She overrode the door entrance authorisation and made her way over to the replicator, pushing several arguments from her conscience to the back of her mind in the process as she brought the plan she had formulated the previous night into action.  
"Locate file Janeway-9627 and replicate the items specified," She commanded, eyes darting about as if she expected Chakotay to appear from behind a chair.  A dozen different types of Christmas decorations - from a tree to holly garlands - materialised in an instant and, as she hauled the tree into the centre of the room, she hoped that Chakotay would appreciate the gesture enough to overlook her entering his quarters without permission.  Although somewhat rushed, Kathryn was satisfied with her work when she finished and left the quarters unnoticed.  Rather than go back to the party, she planned to wait around the corner until Chakotay returned and then...well, she'd cross that bridge when she came to it.  
*     *     * 
Kathryn drummed her fingertips on the edge of the bulkhead impatiently.  She had been monitoring the internal sensors covering the corridor on a panel just around the corner from Chakotay's door and was starting to feel uneasy.  The chronometer on the display informed her that she had been waiting for three quarters of an hour - more than twice as long as Chakotay had told her.  Feeling vaguely disappointed, Kathryn trudged off towards the turbolift, wondering all the way if he had changed his mind and feeling too dispirited to check his location with the computer.  Still, she reminded herself, she could easily have misread the looks they exchanged - the touches, too...  
As she shuffled back to her own quarters the walls of the corridors seemed to exude a bleaker shade of grey, despite the gaudy hangings.  It didn't take long for a frown to settle back over her forehead as it had in previous weeks, compressing her senses and wringing some of the happiness out of her mood.  She eventually recognized the door to her quarters through the fog and dragged her feet across the entrance.
"Computer, locate Comman..." Kathryn's request was lost in the middle of a syllable as she stared curiously at her viewport.  It appeared to be misted over with some sort of white dust but, before she could take a closer look, a tiny glittering speck of light on the other side of the room caught her eye.  She turned her head and could only gape wordlessly.  The glimmer had come from the light reflecting on the surface of a tiny gold bell - which was only one of several ornaments hanging on a tree that was sitting stoutly in the corner.  Kathryn turned slowly, wondering briefly if she had walked into the wrong quarters.  Gradually she came to recognize her own furniture and belongings underneath the cheerful decorations and powder snow and she suddenly spun round and round until she fell over onto the floor in a dizzy spell fraught with happiness.  With her vision still juddering she leant over and plucked a small greeting card from underneath the tree, but knew who it was from before her eyes passed over the scrawled 'Merry Christmas' inside.  
"Janeway to Chakotay," She tapped her combadge with the corner of the card.
"Chakotay here."
"Chakotay, go to your quarters first and then come to mine.  That's an order."
"It's really more convenient for me just to come straight to your quarters."
Kathryn frowned, fidgeting with the crease in the middle of the card.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I'm right outside the door."
"Come in, then."
Chakotay entered and seemed only mildly surprised to find Kathryn sitting on the floor.  
"Now I see why you wanted me to go to my own quarters first." He folded his arms, "Too much wine?"
Kathryn frowned at him, although the look was short-lived.
"No, it was because I had the same idea - I decorated your quarters, too."
"You did?  I thought you had either gone elsewhere or didn't appreciate me breaking and entering," He
"Me neith - oh, I'll explain later.  Give me a hand and help me up."
Chakotay obliged and pulled her upright clumsily.  Kathryn was never sure whether it was residual dizziness or a case of over-judgement in pulling on Chakotay's part, but by whichever means she found herself pressed against his chest and immediately clung to him before he could move away.
"Thank you," She murmured gratefully.  
"Thank you, too."
Kathryn raised her head and cast her eye around the ceiling quickly.
"You forgot the mistletoe." Her colour heightened a little.
"I didn't want you to think I need any reason to kiss you other than...well, that I love you," He replied evenly.
"Well, in that case it's good that I love you too, isn't it?" She remarked so off-handedly that he was struck dumb for a moment and could only look at her as she fiddled with the collar of his uniform nonchalantly.  Her fingers lay still as Chakotay tried his best to encompass several years of longing and suppressed feelings into one kiss, which pushed almost everything out of her mind save for a faint sense of fragility she could feel quivering around her knees.
"A very good thing indeed," He eventually mumbled, somewhere between the corner of her mouth and the point where his thumb rested on her cheek, "You know, I did actually replicate some mistletoe."
"Really?  Where is it?"
"You'll have to find it."
Kathryn drew her head back and raised an eyebrow at him.
"Tell me."
"You'll have to find - it - yourself," Chakotay answered calmly, the latter half of his sentence punctuated with her kisses.  He knew that sooner rather than later they'd stumble across the mistletoe he had hidden under her pillow.

~ End ~

This is my fourth Voyager fic and was originally written for VAMB's Secret Santa 2006, however I didn't complete it in time to send to my recipient.  What can I say...Christmas is a time to write and read soppy fluff - that's my excuse, anyway.  Comments to miss_myu(at)hotmail.com