Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager™© is the registered trademark and sole property of Paramount Pictures. This story is non-commercial and for enjoyment only. No copyright infringement is intended.

20071225

AUTHOR: JinnyR

EMAIL: jrossca@sympatico.ca

RATING: NC-17 (Some people might consider a warning necessary for this story, but no one I surveyed thought so. I guess it’s just one of those ‘Proceed at your own risk’ stories.

SUMMARY: Starfleet. Maquis. And, getting to know you. All wrapped up in a big Yuletide bow. (A Voyager & Liberty a/u fic.)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: For VAMB’s 2007 Secret Santa Story Swap. Merry Christmas, Pook!

 

The First NoŽl

 

If she squinted her eyes and bent her head to one side it almost looked like stars at warp speed. Almost.

Kathryn Janeway stood at the window watching the snowflakes streak by in the dark. She didn’t have a lot of time to dawdle but that didn’t mean she had to hurry. She brought the wineglass to her lips and sipped slowly, watching the wild winter night while her mind worked overtime.

Voyager’s many celebrations over the years were varied and merry, but Christmas was always the most special for her. Christmas on Earth was starting to feel normal, but it had taken a few years to make it feel that way.

Kathryn smiled and let her eyes fix on the winter evening outside. They slowly blurred until she saw what she wanted to see. The ear to the shoulder was the finishing touch.

Those were stars at warp speed, speeding back in time to old memories.

 

 

If she squinted her eyes and bent her head to one side it almost looked like snowflakes. Almost.

Captain Kathryn Janeway stood at the viewport watching the stars streak by at warp speed. If anyone had suggested her first command would have taken longer than three weeks she would have tossed her head and laughed in their face. All she had to do was capture a Maquis cell leader, bring an old friend in from the cold, and then head on home. Easy peasy and put another commendation in her file.

She took a sip of her wine and let her mind wander. If only she hadn’t accepted the invitation this evening. She’d definitely been caught off guard and that was never a good thing for a captain.

Sandrine’s had become the gathering place as soon as Tom Paris got it up and running. The captain had visited it a couple of times but knew instinctively that it worked more wonders without her presence. She stayed away deliberately and let a simple holo-programme begin to chip away at the barriers between the two divergent crews. No diplomat could have done a better job.

So, whatever made her agree to show up this evening? All she knew was that Chakotay had agreed to attend as well, and the Starfleet in her wanted to grab any opportunity to get that taciturn Maquis captain to consider becoming more than a guest on Voyager.

And, then she’d looked around the bar and the truth hit her to her very core. She toasted the crewmembers and told them to have fun, and then turned tail and beat it out of there. Now she stood here sipping wine and trying to see Terran snowflakes in deep space. She’d definitely been caught off guard and that was never a good thing for a Starfleet captain. What a difference a year could make.

Kathryn almost missed the quiet sound behind her. She took another sip of wine before she put the glass down and kept her eyes on the stars. She mentally counted to three before stating, "That door was locked."

"I noticed that. And, it is again."

His voice was always soft but the undertone of tritanium was never absent. If nothing else, it was the one thing about Chakotay that kept her on edge. She tried again. "This is not a public room."

"I figured that out when it didn’t even show up on the ship’s specs."

"Then how did you find it?"

"That would be telling, wouldn’t it?"

There was no sound of movement but she could still feel him getting closer to her. "I am not wearing my commbadge."

"It’s in your quarters but I’ll go get it if you really want. It would take about six minutes to bring it back to you. Seven if the lifts are busy."

She could actually smell the leather combined with his unique scent. "You were Starfleet once upon a time. You know what it means. I am not available."

His warm breath touched the back of her neck and she felt the tiny hairs spring to attention. "Well, I know you’d like to be permanently unavailable to me but it doesn’t seem to be particularly effective because—ta-daaa—here I am."

She felt his hands slowly slide down her arms to cover her hands. "I don’t suppose you could just disappear in a puff of smoke?"

"Highly unlikely. Is that wine for anyone?"

Kathryn swung around and glared at the Maquis captain. Ex-Maquis captain. "You’re a guest on this ship, mister. Why are you intruding on my privacy?"

"I’m here because you are. Frankly, we should both be in Sandrine’s partying with everyone else. Just because you forgot it was Christmas Eve was no reason to run."

"Who said I forgot it was Christmas Eve?"

"I did. Just a second ago." He relented at the pain in her eyes and turned and took a good look around the room. Finally, he spoke. "This is Voyager’s Captain’s Lounge, isn’t it?"

"Yes."

"You actually altered Voyager’s design to cloak this lounge because the Maquis came aboard."

"Yes again."

"Chicken." He turned and went to the bar and poured a glass of wine.

"Oh really? And what would you have done if our positions were reversed?"

"Hell, that’s simple. I would have taken you to bed before alpha shift was over." He held the full glass up at her in a silent toast.

She jutted her chin out. "Ergo the cloak. I suggest you drink that fast. I’m not in the mood for jousting with you. Dismissed."

He ignored the order. "Kathryn, have you ever really thought what it would have been like if our roles were reversed?"

"No. It would have been a waste of my time and time was a precious commodity then. It still is."

"A waste of your time? Wonderful. The Maquis are a waste of your time."

"That’s not what I meant and you know it."

"Would you like to prove that?"

Her eyes narrowed. "I have nothing to prove to you."

"Oh yes, you do. You’re a Starfleet officer lost in the Delta Quadrant and if you and I can’t find a productive working solution we’re all screwed. You know it, I know it, and so does everyone else on board."

"If you think I’m going to let our crews play at role reversal you’re out of your mind."

"Who said anything about them? This is between you and me." He put his wineglass down and locked eyes with her. Even as she saw him approaching she couldn’t hear him, until he lowered his mouth to her ear and whispered. "This is personal now."

She pushed him away. "Big talk. So, what are you thinking?"

"I’m thinking tomorrow morning. 0900 hours. Holodeck. Don’t be late." He turned and left as quietly as he arrived.

Kathryn poured herself another glass of wine and returned to the viewport. She was captain enough to know she didn’t have to respond to a challenge like a teenage boy, but she was intrigued. Chakotay seemed so sure of himself.

Just thinking about him made the hairs on the back of her neck rise again. She grabbed her glass and gulped the rest of the wine. The snowflakes were stars again.

 

 

She was awake before the first tone of the computer’s morning alarm. This morning, however, Captain Janeway didn’t immediately kick off the blankets. She had to decide whether or not to accept Chakotay’s challenge and under the covers seemed like a good place to ponder the situation.

He wanted her to do it and she was hard pressed to consider that fact as a positive. If she didn’t do it, though, the rift between the two crews would probably never heal.

God, she needed coffee. The covers were sent flying and another day began.

 

 

"So. I’m here. Let me guess—Voyager was destroyed and we’re going to be on Liberty. I still say that the dynamics are the same even if the roles are reversed. What’s the point?"

"Who said that was the challenge?" Chakotay handed Kathryn a parcel. "Go and put these on. The programme starts in five minutes so you won’t want to dawdle in the dressing room." He turned and entered the other dressing room.

It was 0855 hours.

Kathryn certainly had to hand it to him. She slowly pulled out leather pants and a soft, tight top. There was a leather jacket still in the bundle and then she eyed the leather boots. They were gorgeous, but the clock was ticking too quickly to revel in them. The clothes fit perfectly—damn those personal databases—and she loved the way they felt on her body. She was still looking at herself in the mirror when it began to morph and shimmer away.

Suddenly she was on Voyager’s bridge. Chakotay’s attention was on the viewscreen and she couldn’t help but notice that his Starfleet uniform fit him perfectly. The captain’s insignia on his collar made him an impressive sight. He slowly turned around and said, "Nice outfit." His smile was appreciative as his eyes raked her over.

"Thanks. A dozen photonic cows died to make you happy."

"It was worth it." He glommed her again. "Are you ready for some fun?"

She shrugged. "It’s like as I said last night. I don’t think it’ll change my mind or our circumstances much."

"Well, I guess that’s up to you. But, before it really starts, you have to decide something. I have two Maquis rank bars here, one captain and one commander. Which one do you want?"

"Does it matter?"

"If it didn’t matter I wouldn’t have asked. Think of this as being all about choices, Kathryn. Those dynamics that you’re so fond of mentioning will take you one way or the other, but either choice is going to stretch your capacity to understand the Maquis."

He held up a rank bar in each hand. Her eyes narrowed and she pointed to the captain’s insignia. He dropped in into her palm, and murmured, "Then let the games begin." He turned back to the viewscreen.

Kathryn looked at the rank bar to confirm the design of its clasp and then snapped it onto her top’s neckline. The atmosphere suddenly turned cold and tense and she realised—no, she knew—that she had everything riding here. She could taste the danger and tried to shake it off. She allowed herself a quick deep breath and looked toward the ship's captain. And then she looked beyond him.

The viewscreen was full of ships, both large and small. It was obvious that a battle was going on. She identified one large Cardassian cruiser as it circled and then saw an old craft without markings. Her stomach sank; it was Maquis. She knew everyone on it.

Ayala, working the tactical station, calmly announced that the large Cardassian ship in the viewscreen was loading a single plasma torpedo. Chakotay ordered Bendera at helm to co-ordinate evasive manoeuvres with the cruiser, without even glancing at her. Everyone watched the screen to witness the annihilation of the Maquis ship.

Before the taste of bile subsided in Kathryn’s mouth, another Maquis ship shot across the screen. The same Cardassian battle cruiser swooped around and gave chase. She swore under her breath and felt her hands crunch into fists. She looked away from the inevitable and suddenly spied a tiny craft. It was managing to take advantage of a blind spot starboard of the Cardassian cruiser, mirroring the larger ship’s every move. Sensors would soon betray its position but, in the meantime, it seemed safe.

Jonas at Ops called out. "Captain, we’re being hailed by that small Maquis ship."

Chakotay nodded. "This is Captain Chakotay of the Federation Starship Voyager. What can I do for you?"

A woman’s voice filled the bridge while the visual took its time in clearing. "This is Lieutenant Janeway of the Maquis ship Remembrance, Voyager. We’re requesting sanctuary on board your ship. Almost all our complement is dead or in need of urgent medical attention. The Cardassians are not powering down."

Kathryn strangled out a whisper and then turned toward Chakotay. "You have to let them dock with Voyager!"

His eyes stayed on the viewscreen. "No, I don’t. Starfleet has a treaty with Cardassia, remember? Our enemy in this conflict is the Maquis—you, in fact. I won’t fire on them unless they fire on me but I won’t protect them, either." He abruptly turned to face her. "Of course! ‘Janeway’. Who is she?"

"My sister." She hesitated for only a moment and added, "And my mother is probably on board with her."

He nodded. "Interesting." His eyes slowly trailed down her body to her leather boots and then back again. When they reached her face a leisurely, deliberate smile spread over his face. "Very interesting."

There was a quiet cough from behind them. Chakotay glanced back at Ayala and then turned back to Kathryn. "How much do you want me to save them?"

She couldn’t help but hear the danger in his voice. "What do you mean?"

"You heard me. I’d be breaking treaty so just how much do you want me to protect your sister and mother. No, don’t answer just yet. We’ll discuss this in my ready room." He grabbed her upper arm and pulled her toward his office. Over his shoulder he announced, "I don’t want to be disturbed."

The ready room was huge to Kathryn’s eyes. She couldn’t help but compare Voyager with all the Maquis ships she’d had to coax into flying. She could actually feel the strength in this room. And then her thoughts were interrupted.

"Make a choice, Janeway. It’s up to you."

She tried. "You haven’t given me any choices."

His eyebrow reached up, taking his tattoo with it. "Wrong answer. I was willing to help you save both your sister and mother, but now we’re going to negotiate. Which one?"

The pain around Kathryn’s heart almost made her voice inaudible. "You don’t expect me to choose between them, do you?"

"Yes. I do. I can make it easier for you though. That’s if you want to, of course."

"Just say it, you bastard."

"I’ll ignore that insult for the time being. In the meantime, I’ve been planning to fuck you to Friday since I captured you, and now you can even enjoy it. Who do you want to live? Your mother or your sister?"

Kathryn couldn’t speak, so he continued. "Okay then. I’ve owed Ayala for a bet for a while now and I know he’d like to settle up. So, are you up to being double teamed? For your mother and sister, of course."

Kathryn could only whisper. "You bastard."

He smiled. "You’re repeating yourself so I’ll take that as a yes." He slapped his communicator. "Ayala, report to my ready room." He took off his tunic and laid it over a chair as Ayala arrived. "We’ve got a live one here, Ay, but you go in the back door."

"Hey, I was the one who won that bet, remember?"

"Yes, but I’m the captain." He turned to Kathryn. "Why aren’t you naked? We want to see you. All of you."

"Don’t rush her, Chakotay. I want to watch her strip. You get things ready."

Kathryn knew she’d never forget the names "Voyager" and "Captain Chakotay" as long as she lived. As she removed her clothing with the loathsome help of Ayala she died a million times, but that was only the beginning. She saw Chakotay separate and arrange the sofa’s sections to mimic a bed, allowing him to sit on the edge, leaning back on his hands. He waited for her reluctant nakedness with a callous smile.

Her mind became foggy as she was roughly forced to mount him. She heard him order her to make enough noise to impress the bridge crew but, when her efforts weren’t satisfactory, he signalled to Ayala and suddenly pulled her down against his chest. Ayala filled her with one dry thrust and she screamed. She kept shrieking and screaming as they both found their rhythm and pumped into her.

She kept her sanity until Jonas at Ops interrupted to advise Chakotay that the small Maquis ship was urgently hailing them again. The two men picked up momentum and came within a minute of each other. Slowly Ayala pulled out of her and then Chakotay rolled her off himself. He activated the screen in his ready room and then pulled Kathryn up. He played with her breasts while Ayala reached down and stroked her.

The Maquis ship appeared on the screen and then quickly dissolved into the visage of a young woman. She was obviously related to Kathryn and Chakotay raised his eyebrow and winked at the appreciative Ayala. An older woman appeared behind her. They both gasped in horror at seeing Kathryn being molested by the two learing, naked men.

They were starting to protest when Chakotay held up his hand and smiled. "Ladies, please! I’ve been negotiating long and hard with Kathryn for your safety on board my ship. She’s really the perfect diplomat, very open and eager to co-operate." He looked at Ayala and they both turned back to the screen with smug smiles.

Chakotay kept his smile and then shrugged. "It’s a shame about the treaty, though. I guess some things just can’t be broken. If it’s any consolation, Mrs Janeway, your daughter can be. I just hope it takes a lot more time and effort on my part." He signalled Tactical and said one word. "Fire!"

The sight of her mother and sister being blown into space dust burnt deep into Kathryn’s brain and she fell to the deck with an agonising shriek. The two men flipped a communicator to see who would get the sloppy seconds and, while the winner enjoyed his prize, the other confirmed that the holo-camera had captured all the images so they could create another new holo-programme for the crew.

Kathryn finally found relief when she passed out.

 

 

"Torres, I’m not kidding! What happened?"

They were in sickbay and the Doctor was passing instruments over Kathryn Janeway’s unconscious body. Chakotay had just carried her from the holodeck after alerting B’Elanna to meet him there.

"I’m not quite sure, Chakotay. The programme should have kept going until your holodeck time was up. I definitely programmed a finite time frame."

His voice was icy. "I know that. So, what happened?"

"I’m telling you, after she put on that Maquis captain’s rank bar all you had to do was pull up a chair and knit. The effect should have been almost instant."

"It was, I’m not disputing that. For forty minutes she stood there like a statue. Then, all of a sudden she fell to the deck like she was phasered."

The EMH interrupted with a sudden triumphant, ‘Ahah!"

They both turned toward him and chorused, "What?"

"Her brain synapses are compromised."

Chakotaoy nodded."That would have happened when she put on the captain's rank insignia. It was loaded with a holo-library of personal stories of hundreds of Maquis. The one queued at that exact moment became her reality but her synapses should have reverted to normal as soon as I took the insignia off her collar."

"Well, they didn’t, but I can fix that. If you don’t mind my asking, Mr Chakotay, just what were you and Miss Torres up to?"

"What do you mean?"

"I think you know. You did a pretty good job of it, too. If I didn’t know now that my ethical sub-routines were compromised I’d think I did the procedure."

"There was no procedure, Doctor. It was just a temporary detour in some of her neural nets."

"I already deduced that. But this was more than ingesting a hallucinatory drug. You physically tapped into her brain and that’s a procedure—and one that took some very sophisticated medical engineering."

B’Elanna spoke up. "Well, actually, Doctor, it was you who tapped into her brain."

The EMH looked at B’Elanna. "No wonder I’m impressed. So, are you the person responsible for altering my memory banks as well as my ethical sub-routines? You’ve been a busy little beaver, haven’t you?"

"Well, you wouldn’t let me do anything myself and it was necessary to augment the receptors in her brain to correspond with the rank bar’s."

"I see. So, in other words, you made me do the dirty work. Well, looking at her lying here I’d say I did a good job—if you wanted Voyager’s captain to lose her mind entirely. If that wasn’t your intention, I’m all ears."

Chakotay spoke up. "It was nothing like that at all. The intention was simply for Captain Janeway to experience a verified Maquis experience using any characters of her choice. She’s obviously not trained to be particularly sympathetic towards us but she is trained to be fair and think out of the box. I just wanted to give her a little shove in the right direction."

"You chose the ‘experience’?"

"No, we didn’t choose anything. Once she was connected to the library it became random and I was out of the picture. All I could do is sit down and wait for it to finish. But, enough of the explanations. You know what has to be done, so do it. B’Elanna will repair your programmes and, once that’s done, you’ll take care of the captain."

The EMH recognised the voice of authority. "Good thing my sub-routines are still compromised or I’d be hailing Mr Tuvok." He stopped and stared at the uniform. "Although, you seem to outrank him now."

Chakotay watched through narrowed eyes as the EMH turned and marched to his office. He shifted them to B’Elanna when she gave him a glance over her shoulder as she followed. Once they were gone he turned to the unconscious woman on the biobed. He reached out and stroked her forehead. Then, after looking toward the doctor’s office, he bent down close to her.

B’Elanna would wonder for the rest of her life if her eyes deceived her when she looked up from her tricorder. She would forever wonder if Chakotay bent down close to Janeway to whisper encouragement in her ear, or something totally different. Like a kiss. Ridiculous.

 

 

It was later in the day when Chakotay was summoned to sickbay "at the request of the Captain." The formal wording sounded like something Janeway would say when she was angry, but in control. He could handle that.

He pulled a chair up to the biobed. "So, how do you feel?"

"I haven’t decided yet." Her voice was low and the husky drawl was weak.

"Well then, what does the doctor say?"

"Not much since I threatened to delete his programme. "

"Damn, and he thought his visit with me was bad. Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?"

"Well, let me think." She paused dramatically. "I suppose if you spaced yourself it would allow me to make a log entry that wouldn’t get me court marshalled in the Alpha Quadrant. It could be my best Christmas present ever."

"I don’t think I’m that obliging. Must be a character flaw."

"Apparently you have quite a few of those."

"More than a few, Kathryn; I never said I was perfect. But tell me, do you remember anything at all?"

She rose up onto her elbow and whispered. "Oh yes, Chakotay. I remember it all. But the doctor tells me that you don’t. Since his programme was tampered with, I admit I wonder about that."

"It’s the truth. Did he explain your brain’s physical reaction to the Maquis captain’s rank insignia?"

"Yes, but I wanted to hear it from you." She hesitated, and then lay down again. "He said that my experience was not programmed by you or anyone else. He said what I experienced was all in my head—in more ways than one."

"That’s a good an explanation as any." He paused. "Kathryn, I don’t know what happened in your mind this morning except that a real person actually lived what you experienced. The purpose with all this was for you to understand my people—where we come from and why we are what we are. I can only hope you believe me when I say I would never deliberately put you or anyone else on this ship in real danger."

"I do know that, Chakotay. If I didn’t you would be space dust now, and this time I’m not kidding." She sighed and closed her eyes. "Did the EMH tell you that I almost killed him when I woke up? For a second I thought he was you."

"No, he’s avoiding me." He looked down at her tired face and hesitantly stroked her brow. "But, why does that make me think I was a part of your random experience?" Suddenly he swore. "Shit! I suppose that became inevitable when I gave you Maquis gear and I put on that damned Starfleet uniform. And, it wouldn't help that you've been angry with me since day one in the DQ. Last night was particularly hostile."

"Yes, I have and yes it was, but I'm finally willing to get past all that. Seeing everyone in Starfleet uniforms only confused me for a few minutes. I know what I went through was pure Cardassian treatment. Believe me when I say I know how they work." She paused and sighed. "I wonder what happened to her."

He stroked her brow again. "We may never know. So, what are you thinking? Can you forgive me?"

She hesitated for so long that Chakotay began to wonder. Finally, she looked up at him and spoke softly. "Yes. It's my duty to understand this if I want to build a cohesive crew. And, frankly, I'm very glad that I woke up alive on this Voyager. I also think I now understand you and your people better. Right now everyone may still think of themselves as "Maquis" or "Starfleet", but I'd like to work with you to change that. We need to mould everyone into one crew. I believe I understand both of our crews now although, to be honest, I don't think I'll ever understand the Cardassians."

He smiled. "Then we'll make our common enemy our common starting point."

"It's as good as any. Besides, don't you think it's time our people started earning their rations"

"I do. It's definitely time they all got to work."

"Right. And, it’s time we both showed them how." Kathryn tried to sit up and swing her legs off the biobed. She wobbled a bit and then her head cleared. She smiled tiredly. "I still have to understand one more detail, Chakotay."

"I’ll help all I can."

"Good. I knew last night that you’d be a Starfleet captain this morning on the holodeck. That was always so obvious to me. I just don’t understand why you let me have an equal rank."

"Why not?"

"Because I expected to be subordinate to you—at your command and under your control. You know, to teach me some lesson in life."

"Kathryn, what you keep forgetting is that we already have equal rank. I’m a captain, too, just not in Starfleet." He hesitated and then plowed on. "I’m not sure I want to tell you this, but I guess I have to. If you had chosen the lower rank insignia there would have been no holo-programme at all. Nothing. Nada. Finito. And, if you had chosen it, I was completely prepared to accept a lower rank on Voyager—at your command and under your control. I admit I would have died of utter shock if you had done that, but I would definitely have gone through with it."

She snorted quietly. "Well, I wouldn’t want you to die of shock, so how about a small first compromise under our new regime?"

"What kind of compromise?"

"How about one that just involves both crews getting comfortable with each other. Could we make a start there?"

"Possibly. What are you thinking?"

"First, that you agree to be Voyager’s second-in-command."

"You want me to be your XO after all I put you through?"

"Absolutely. That way I can keep an eye on you and God knows someone has to do it. And, second, when you and your people are on duty you’ll wear the Starfleet uniform."

His face was a study long enough to make her feel unsure. Then he spoke. "I’ll agree to that, Kathryn." A huge smile spread across her face. "As long as you and yours don’t wear uniforms when you’re not on duty."

The smile faded. "You realise a captain is never really off duty."

"As a matter of fact I do know that, being a captain myself. Ditto for every XO who ever served, anywhere. So, I’ll be clear here. Nobody on Voyager will wear any uniform unless they’re on duty."

"That sounds excessive at this stage. There are still people on board who only packed for three weeks."

"There are others who arrived with just the clothes on their backs, but I can be tolerant as long as a schedule is put into place. Starting right now, ‘off duty’ can just mean no tunic or rank insignia. The trousers and boots are acceptable as long as the rest makes it obvious that person is enjoying some leisure time."

"I suppose that would be acceptable."

He laughed. "You still sound dubious. Kathryn, nobody can be on duty for 75 years; it’s not natural. And, new friendships and love can’t be determined by rank. We’re building a village here with 100% employment and villagers do not walk around looking like clones."

"Well, except on Risa…"

"Oh, well, that uniform I’ll accept without reservation."

"Over my dead body."

"Making me the captain of Voyager. Merry Christmas to me!"

 

 

The stars at warp melted away to snowflakes again. Kathryn’s long sigh was loud enough to be heard from the doorway across the room.

"Try tilting your head the other way. Maybe we’ll get out of here faster if you do."

Kathryn spun around and smiled at Chakotay. ‘No! It only works one way. You should know that by now."

"I guess I’m just slow." His eyes flashed as he looked her up and down. "You’re looking particularly ravishing this evening. Let’s stay home."

She passed her empty glass to him and bent down to tickle Kazonkitty behind the ears. "Not a chance. I’d fly in from DS9 for any party put on by Tom and B’Elanna, but when it’s their turn to host Voyager’s Christmas party, well…"

Chakotay handed her a full glass and they clinked to toast one another. "Yeah, they’re the best. But, do you remember that first Christmas Eve on Voyager? I still can’t believe you forgot what time of year it was—and I can still see your face when you entered Sandrine’s and the penny dropped. That was when I discovered you could run at warp speed."

"I know, I know. I was there, remember? Realising I’d forgotten Christmas almost broke my heart, not to mention the will to live. It meant I’d forgotten home. But you bring it up every Christmas! Now you’ll say—"

"I found you hiding in your secret Captain’s Lounge."

She nodded. "Right on cue."

"Not that I didn’t come to enjoy that secret lounge. My favourite feature was the cloak. You could leave your combadge in your quarters, I could leave mine in my quarters and…" He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Kathryn’s eyes twinkled over her glass. "It did work out well, didn’t it? No one ever knew we were lovers practically from that horrible holodeck experience."

"Well, B’Elanna and the Doctor figured it out fast. Tuvok did too, of course; those ears never missed a thing. And, Tom and Harry. Oh, and Neelix and Kes, too. And, it really wasn’t Seven’s fault when she heard about us and discussed it with everyone. After all, she was used to a hive mindset and was just trying to understand Human behaviour."

Kathryn’s face shone. "Do you mean to tell me that the entire senior staff knew?"

"Oh no. Nothing like that."

"Thank God."

"Everyone on board knew, not to mention most of the aliens we befriended or fought. Why do you think we had such a happy crew?"

"Why didn’t you tell me?"

"Why would I? An XO’s cardinal rule is, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’."

"That was on board Voyager! I mean why haven’t you told me since we all got home?"

"Haven’t I? Oh well, it doesn’t really matter anymore. What matters is that we built a great village and I got to see you in a dress more often than not. I loved it when you wore a dress."

"I do not want to hear why."

"No?"

"No!"

"Then how about if I show you? We have time."

"No, we don’t. You’re thinking with the wrong head again. We have to be at the transporter station in fifteen minutes, and by the time we get bundled up and get going we’ll just be on time."

"Party pooper."

"Forget it. The last time we were late to the Christmas party Tom spent the entire time circulating and telling everyone it was because we were caught with our pants down and skirts up."

Chakotay grinned. "You’re not mad at him for that. You’re pissed because he was right."

"I should have spaced him when I had a chance, although I suppose living in Australia is punishment enough for now."

"Yes, but is it punishment for Paris or Australia? Just put your boots on, we have miles to walk in that white slop. I’ll never understand why you want to live in Tofino anyway."

"Well, let me count the why’s. Because it’s on Vancouver Island by the ocean. Because it’s painfully beautiful. Because it’s in the right time zone. Because the transporter station is only one block away. Because it’s definitely not San Francisco. And most of all, because this is where you built our home."

"Yeah. With our bedroom. Is this going to be a late night?"

Kathryn looked up from pulling on her boots. "It’s uncanny. I swear we have this identical conversation every year on Voyager’s party night."

Chakotay reached down and helped pull her back up. "Think of it as one of our Christmas traditions. And, as long as our later evening tradition continues you won’t hear me whine. Now really, it’s time to go. It’s time for our annual village reunion." He held her coat open for her.

Admiral Janeway slipped her arms into the sleeves and then turned to face her husband. "Merry Christmas, Chakotay."

He bent down and kissed her softly. "Merry Christmas, Kathryn. Now, c’mon! It’s Christmas!"

"Right! And, just for the record, I knew all along they were on to us."

"I know. You ‘fess up every year. By the way, I sure hope you’ve practised your hokey-pokey this year. You were terrible last year, couldn’t even put your right ear in without falling on it."

Before the door closed completely behind them, Kazonkitty heard, "For your information, my hokey is just fine. But just for that smart-ass comment, I’ll be seriously judging your pokey later on—"

The door clicked shut and Kazonkitty padded silently to the tree. She found a soft present and started punching it to make a comfortable cushion. That accomplished, she settled down contentedly for a long winter snooze.

Peace at last, and to all a good night.

 

The End

 

 

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