By Jade East (jadetrekeast@yahoo.com)
© November 2002
Rating: PG
Series: Star Trek: Voyager

Anne Rose says that a Christmas fic is plot device 47b, so what number is a turbolift, Christmas story? Well, whatever the number, here is my first of either.

Acknowledgements: I want to thank Sylvia and Spiletta for giving me the idea. Thanks to Kim for helping me keep the story out of the sap mire, to Caffey for your encouragement, and to Jemima and Brianna for their fine beta work.

The annual Christmas party was already in progress, so Chakotay walked quickly toward the turbolift. Like everyone else, he was looking forward to the break from the trouble of the last few days.

The past week had been hectic with small problems cropping up everywhere. Troubles with the replicators, holo-emitters, and turbolifts almost caused the party's cancellation. A thoroughly frustrated B'Elanna Torres had worked nonstop for three days, finally discovering that a computer error was responsible for the various malfunctions. She had been in a buoyant mood at the morning senior staff meeting. The good news put the entire staff in a festive frame of mind.

After dealing with all of the repercussions of the failures, Chakotay was more than ready to have a good time with crew. In his hand, he carried a small wrapped box and an envelope for Captain Janeway. Neelix always insisted upon a Secret Santa gift exchange, and Chakotay had drawn Kathryn's name from the chef's hat. Looking at the present he became unsure of her reaction to it and almost turned back. An impersonal gift of replicator rations for her coffee habit suddenly seemed a much safer bet.

As he hesitated in front of the turbolift doors, he heard the distinctive sound of his captain's footsteps. Turning to face her, he smiled, "Merry Christmas, Kathryn."

"Merry Christmas, Chakotay." Her voice was light and cheery. "I thought that I would be the only late one to the party."

Chuckling, he said, "We'll both be fashionably late."

Calling for the lift, Chakotay stood watching Kathryn surreptitiously. The dress she wore was reserved solely for this party every year. Lush green and trimmed in red glitter at the throat and cuffs, the dress showed off her tiny figure well. Her hair was pulled back from her face on one side with a holly and berries covered clip. She looked like a gift waiting to be unwrapped. Realizing where his mind was going, he quickly focused on the opening lift doors and stood aside to let Kathryn enter.

Kathryn lightly touched his arm and thanked him as she passed him.

Did she have any idea what effect that simple act had on him? His heart constricted and desire raced through his body. Being desperate for a change of focus, Chakotay asked, "Whose secret Santa are you?"

"Oh no, you don't!" She pulled the package she was carrying out of his reach. "All in due time. You don't want to ruin all the surprises, do you?"

After ordering the turbolift to deck 6, Chakotay grinned down at his captain. "Spoil sport!"

Kathryn didn't have time to respond because a few seconds later there was a grinding sound and the turbolift stopped. She commanded, "Computer, resume turbolift."

"Unable to comply."

"Computer, run a diagnostic of the turbolift malfunction."

"Unable to comply."

"Computer, initiate site to site transport of Captain Janeway and commander Chakotay to holodeck one."

"Unable to comply."

"I guess all the bugs weren't worked out after all," Chakotay said with a frown on his face. "I'll call B'Elanna."

Kathryn caught his hand before he could hit his comm badge. "Let's not take her away from the party just yet. She worked so hard to fix everything. Let her enjoy herself. Being here a little longer won't hurt us." She smiled at the look of skepticism on his face. "The crew needs the break, and they'll look for us eventually. At least one of us isn't stuck in here alone. Besides, we have everything we need for our own private party."

Chakotay pulled on his ear as he always did when he wasn't quite sure whether to believe what he was hearing. Kathryn was so relaxed, so much less Captain Janeway in this moment. What did it mean?

As she observed his gesture, Kathryn laughed and said, "Oh? You don't believe me?" She pointed toward the wall opposite her. "There's the comfortable sofa. Let's sit down and I'll serve the refreshments." Kicking off her shoes, she slid to the floor and tucked her feet under her.

"Don't just stand there, Mister." Kathryn patted the floor beside her. "Sit here."

Chakotay couldn't keep from chuckling as he joined her on the floor. He leaned back against the wall. Whatever he had expected for this evening, this was not it. Kathryn's mood had him baffled, but he decided to enjoy it.

"What now?" he asked with amusement.

"First you have to notice all of the decorations. Over there is a lovely, fresh evergreen festooned with lights and silver ornaments. Next to the tree is a table heavily laden with tasty treats without a trace of leola root in any of them." Kathryn eyes sparkled as she described each goodie on the table. She glanced quickly at him before she said, "I may share the coffee fudge with you, if you're lucky and I'm in a good mood."

Flashing his dimples, Chakotay said, "Don't forget the gifts." He put his small offering on the floor in front of them.

She laid hers next to his, but chided as he reached for it, "How do you know its for you. Besides, we still have to sing carols." With that she began to sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas! Her voice was husky and rich as she sang the old song. Chakotay joined in after she poked him.

They sang a few more songs until starting one in such a high key that they ended up laughing more than singing.

"I think I need something to drink."

"What would m'lady like?" It seems so easy to slip into the make-believe that Kathryn was spinning.

"Does m'lord have to ask?" Kathryn slipped her hand through Chakotay's arm and leaned her head on his shoulder. "This is really very nice. Why don't we get stuck in a turbolift more often?"

Chakotay stiffened and began to worry. What was going on? This was so unlike his captain.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I've made you uncomfortable." She sounded contrite as she lifted her head and pulled back from him.

As incredulous as he was, Chakotay couldn't stand to lose this chance for closeness with Kathryn. "No, you've just taken me by surprise." He held tightly to her hand so she couldn't remove it from where it lay on his arm. "I must admit I'm surprised by your mood, enjoying it thoroughly, but still surprised."

Settling her head back on his shoulder, she sighed. "I'm even more sorry, Chakotay, that you've had little opportunity to spend time with this Kathryn. As you know, the responsibility of being captain weighs heavily on a person. For seven years now there haven't been many times when I allowed myself to be anyone but Captain Kathryn Janeway."

She moved so as to look into his eyes. "When I realized it this morning, I was scared." The smile on her face looked forced. "What if I couldn't be myself anymore? What if I had allowed protocols to replace the blood in my veins?"

"Kathryn," Chakotay whispered as he gathered her small hand in his. With his other one he touched her cheek. "Protocols wouldn't make your skin warm as it is now."

"Thanks for always being Chakotay."

The ensuing silence was a comfortable one. Chakotay relaxed as Kathryn leaned against him once again. He wanted pull her into his arms. Love for the woman beside him threatened to overwhelm. He had to be careful not to destroy this new openness.

Grasping for a safe subject, he spoke, "We have murdered, I mean, sung the carols. So it's gift time now. I'd like you to open this."

"You're my Secret Santa?" She was surprised.

"Yup," he said as he handed her the gaily-wrapped parcel.

Kathryn took it in her hands and slowly turned the object around, appreciating the beauty of the packaging.

She sighed, "I drew Naomi's name. I don't have a gift for you."

Smiling widely, Chakotay told her, "Time alone with my friend is a gift enough. Don't worry about it?

Looking up at him, she asked as she notice the envelope, "Should I open the card first?"

"No, open the gift first." Chakotay's heart beat rapidly as he worried about how she would receive what was inside.

Very carefully, Kathryn took the wrapping off the package. Like women for centuries before her, she prolonged the experience by being methodical in opening it. Finally she reached the small carved box and marveled at the intricate design. "You did this yourself." It wasn't a question, merely an awed statement of fact.

She lifted the lid to reveal a small oval-shaped pendant, carved as stylized cloud with three raindrops falling from it. Kathryn put down the box and picked up the necklace, carefully examining the design. "It's lovely, Chakotay. Thank you." Indicating that she wanted his help putting it on, she handed the pendant to him and turned her back to him.

With hands trembling slightly, he placed the chain around her neck. Out of habit, Chakotay steeled himself against the effects of being so close to Kathryn. The simple intimacy of the moment strained that resolve. The ivory skin of her neck and shoulders beckoned him to kiss it. As quickly as he could, he removed his hands and dropped them to his sides.

If Kathryn noticed his abrupt movement, she didn't show it, reaching for the card that had come with the gift. Opening it she began to read, "Kathryn, rain has always been important to my people. They believed that rain was a gift from the spirits. It gave life to the crops and the people. Without it there was no hope. The symbol of three drops coming from a cloud has always meant hope.

"I once told you that because of you I had peace. What I didn't tell you was that I also have hope. I want you to have this emblem of hope. You have never completely given up, and I pray you never do. Thank you, Kathryn for all you are to me. Always, Chakotay."

Chakotay hadn't watched her as she read, knowing that he wouldn't be able to handle it. But now he had to see her reaction. Looking up, he saw Kathryn still staring at the card. Tears fell onto the paper. Without thinking he reached out his hand to touch her arm, softly speaking her name.

With that, Kathryn picked up the pendant and gazed at it for a while before she said, "Chakotay, stop hoping." She reached out and lightly touched his face.

Her words were like a crushing blow to his heart. How many times could he endure her rejection? What a fool he was? The anger colored his face as he turned quickly and slapped his comm badge. "Chakotay to Torres."

"Torres, here," Laughter could be heard over the link as she asked, "What's wrong, Chakotay? What aren't you at the party? And have you seen the captain?"

"The turbolift malfunctioned and we're both stuck here. The computer isn't responding, so could you see if you can transport us out of here?"

"I'll get it right now it. I'll contact you as soon as I know. Torres out."

After a silent few seconds, Kathryn spoke softly, "I think you misunderstood me, Chakotay." Moving closer to him, she pleaded, "Look at me, please."

Something in her tone made him turn and face her, but his expression was hard.

Kathryn reached for his hands. "I remember reading somewhere that hope seen is not hope; so if someone sees, why does he still hope? You don't have to hope any longer. I've come to my senses."

As each word she said worked their way into his understanding, his hands tightened around hers. The realization of their full meaning threatened to overwhelm him. Chakotay stared into Kathryn's eyes, to make sure he had heard correctly and found open love shining back at him.

As he leaned forward to kiss her, his comm badge chirped, "Torres to Janeway and Chakotay, I'm ready to transport you to the party."

Kathryn quickly stooped down to pick up the gifts. She put her hand through Chakotay arm. "We're ready, B'Elanna."

Just before the transporter's hum, Chakotay heard Kathryn say, "I wonder where Neelix put the mistletoe this year."


Merry Christmas, everyone!