A CONTINUUM CHRISTMAS

By Shayenne

Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything to do with Voyager and it's characters. This story borrows them for a bit.

Rated G

A Voyager Christmas story.

 

Captain Janeway was in her quarters. This was where she normally retreated to at the end of her duty shift. And nearly always alone. It was nine years into Voyager's journey. Nine long years of tedium, interspersed with moments of frantic work and panic. Voyager was closer to the Alpha Quadrant, but not by much. Fifty thousand light years to go. The link that they had forged with the Alpha Quadrant a few years ago had dropped out. There was still no way to get them home. And inexplicably, a lot of the time they seemed to be flying in circles. At one point, they were thirty thousand light years from home. Now they were fifty and there seemed to be no explanation. Just a gradual shifting of their location, a subtle shift in the twisted intermingling of time and space, and the thirty became forty, then fifty. They were further away now then they were three years ago.

Morale dropped then steadied. The crew were quiet, but the focus of people's lives gradually shifted away from "when we get home" to "if we get home". Voyager now was home to most people, and it had a cozy, small town feel. The crew were content, but the fire was gone from many bellies. People were heard to mutter about planets to settle on and to wonder aloud why they were driving themselves at peak efficiency like this.

People paired off faster, babies were being born. Even among the senior staff this settling and nesting was evident. Tom and B'Elanna had one child, with another on the way. Harry and Jenny Delaney were expecting their first. Naomi Wildman had two half brothers now - the offspring of Sam and Joe Carey.

Only she was still totally alone.

She knew it was her own fault. She had persisted in pushing Chakotay away. He had retreated, and from a distance she had seem him forging other friendships to replace the time he used to spend with her.

But she had no one to replace him. No close friends on the ship to laugh and joke with - Chakotay had provided that bridge to the crew along with his own support and friendship. When he moved away, those friendships, faltered and grew uncomfortable, so she pulled back.

It had always looked like a long, lonely road home. Now it stretched for eternity.

She got up and replicated a glass of wine and settled on the couch under the viewscreen. Tonight was longer and lonelier then others. Tonight was Christmas Eve, and in addition to the ever present dull ache of loneliness, tonight she was missing her family, her dog, Mark even, although both he and she had moved on. She missed the closeness, laughter, hugs, and sharing of a family Christmas.

She let herself dream a little. Indiana, the warm fug of her mother's house, a snug haven against the cold outside. A tree in the front window, glittering with baubles old and new, collected over the years, each one marking a special family event. Children born, pets, graduations, marriages, and one for each Christmas. Together, the collection made up a patchwork of life for generations of Janeways. She could picture Phoebe bursting in, cheeks flushed from the cold, a toddler on her hip, A faceless husband followed her in, Janeway couldn't quite imagine what sort of man Phoebe would marry.

She pictured egg nog by the fire and Christmas music playing as she imagined snuggling closer into Chakotay's arms on the couch. Chakotay? Now where had that thought come from. She quickly substituted Mark into her mental picture. Although Mark was now married to someone else, the image of him was safer to think of than Chakotay.

Chakotay. Best not to think about him. He was probably at one of the Christmas parties right now. Most likely playing Santa Claus for the children's party before continuing on to the Engineering one. She could have gone of course, she had been invited. It was good form to invite the captain which was exactly why she didn't go.

She moved back to replicate a second glass of wine. Christmas Eve and she was drinking alone in her quarters.

There was a blinding flash of white light.

"You don't have to be alone, Kathy. You chose to."

Q, dressed in his typical red and black captain's uniform, was suddenly lounging on the couch in the spot she had just vacated.

She rolled her eyes. "I just remembered why I like being alone."

"Come now, Kathy, this is no way to spend, Christmas Eve is it? An important holiday for many of you humans. And you're drinking alone and dreaming of Chuckles." He snapped his fingers and a second glass of wine appeared in his hand. "There. At least you're not drinking alone any more."

Against her will, she smiled. Q was irrepressible, and if she was honest, even his company was welcome if it kept her from lapsing further into nostalgia.

"You were dreaming about home, your family, this whole Christmas thing, weren't you?" said Q. "You humans, you miss the oddest things. "

He snapped his fingers again and snow started falling in her quarters, softly and thickly, until the furniture and carpet took on a deserted, eerie feel. Another snap and a brightly lit Christmas tree appeared.

"Aren't you going to look for the U.S.S Voyager ornament?"

Kathryn turned to him. "It's a lovely tree, Q. Thank you. Can I keep it?"

"Of course you can," he said expansively. "Do you want the snow as well?"

"No. In fact if you wouldn't mind getting rid of it before it melts?"

A snap of the fingers and the snow disappeared.

Kathryn returned to the couch and sat, sipping her wine. "Well, Q, I'm sure you didn't drop in for some wine and conversation. What do you want this time?"

"Kathy, you think so little of me. Maybe I just wanted to cheer you up. Make your Christmas happy. Claim my Christmas kiss."

A sprig of mistletoe appeared over her head. She moved out from underneath it. "I know you don't mean it. Tell me what you want." One corner of her mind registered that although she was sipping her wine, the glass never emptied. Tom Paris would love this glass.

Q stretched an arm along the back of the couch, and brushed an imaginary speck of lint from his uniform with the other hand.

"Really, I don't like to see you so down. so I came to give you a Christmas present. One that will make you happy again." He chucked her under the chin.

"Are you going to send us home?" She said it without hope, she knew what the answer to that one would be.

"You know I can't do that, Kathy. Shame on you for even thinking it. I have something better for you."

There was a blinding flash and she rematerialized somewhere completely different, still clutching her wine glass.

She looked around. They were standing on a paved highway, stretching as far as the eye could see across the barren rocks and plains of a desert. There were no plants taller than the knee-high sagebrush, stretching back to the red mountains on the horizon. The only sign of life was an eagle circling over head. The air was still, the heat oppressive, the air crackling dry. The highway stretched out in front of her until it was lost in a shimmering heat-haze so that it seemed to float in the air.

"The Q continuum," breathed Janeway.

"Very perceptive of you." Q was still there. "But this time it's not the Q continuum, it's your own. Your perception of the Delta Quadrant. You've a long way to go. Better get walking."

He disappeared.

Janeway looked all about her. No buildings, no people. Nothing except this road and her wine glass. She took a sip and realized that it was now filled with water. At least it was still refilling itself. There was nothing else to do. She carefully set the glass down and took off her jacket, tying it around her waist along with the turtleneck. Dressed in her tank top and uniform pants and carrying the precious water glass, she started walking.

* * *

It felt like she had been walking for ever. At least that's what her feet thought - Starfleet boots were not meant for endurance hikes. The sun burned her shoulders, the landscape unchanging. She estimated that she had been walking for five or six hours and she still wasn't getting anywhere. At least her Christmas-induced melancholia had gone, evaporated with the heat and the need to keep walking.

"Q," she called. "If this is my Christmas present you can have it back. I don't want it."

No answer, no flash of light. She tried again.

"I know you're there. Take me back to the ship. Or is it your intention for me to miss Christmas altogether while I walk in circles down here?"

A willy-willy blew dust at her feet. The eagle still circled in the sky. The road still disappeared into the horizon. Nothing changed. She took a sip of water from the wine glass and trudged on.

The Delta Quadrant Q had called it. This simulacrum of the Q continuum he had called her own. Was this how she saw the Delta Quadrant? An endless road along which she had to trudge? Never changing, never varying, just the tedium of putting one foot in front of the other because it was what she had to do. She skipped off the side of the tarmac road into the sagebrush just for variety. Grasshoppers and small insects spread in front of her in waves, disturbed by her passing. The sage prickled her through the uniform pants and its pungent smell assaulted her nostrils. Dust puffed underneath her feet and the heat was unrelenting. She went back to the tarmac.

Gradually she began to make out a figure approaching her, walking along the edge of the pavement as she was doing. By squinting hard into the sun she made out a tall man dressed in something red and white. The gait looked familiar. The slightly rolling walk, a sailor's walk, reminded her of Chakotay.

Slowly, she drew nearer to the oncoming figure, and she realized that it was Chakotay, dressed in a Santa suit. He had discarded the beard.

"Kathryn," he greeted her. "I'm glad to see you. One minute I was getting ready to give Naomi her Christmas present, the next minute Q appeared, told me I had a pressing appointment and dumped me here. I think I've been walking for hours. He could at least have let me change first."

His red and white suit was wet under the arms and there were damp patches on his chest. His hair was drooping down from his normal immaculate grooming.

"You normally take a wine glass to the desert?"

Belatedly she offered him the glass. "Water. And it keeps refilling so drink deep."

He gulped the glass empty twice. "Which way should we go, Kathryn? Forwards or backwards?"

"Which is which? They both look the same to me."

"Forwards," he decided. "We'll go forward your way."

He reversed his direction and offered her his arm as if they were entering the mess hall for dinner. She took it and they linked arms and continued down the ribbon of heat.

"I feel like Dorothy," she mused.

"Dorothy?"

"The Wizard of Oz. She was picked up by a tornado and taken over the rainbow to another land. She had to follow the Yellow Brick Road, arm in arm with unlikely companions."

He grinned at her sideways. "Are you comparing me to the tin man, the lion, or the scarecrow?"

She pretended to consider. "Well, you have courage, I know you have a heart, so I guess that makes you the scarecrow."

Clumsily in her boots, she attempted the skipping steps made famous in the old movie. Chakotay laughed and followed suit, and they hopped and skipped their way down the bitumen road. Soon they were both panting and sweating profusely.

Chakotay stopped and started undoing the incongruous Santa suit. "I can't wear this thing any longer. And seeing as how this is Q's world he can dispose of it for me." He left the top lying beside the road. He eyed Kathryn. "I'd take the pants off too, but I've only got boxers underneath."

"Don't mind me," she said. "But I think you'll burn in this sun. Not to mention look pretty silly in boxers and Santa boots."

She inspected her shoulders which were getting pink. "I hope Q sends us back soon, before I burn to a frazzle and you go into meltdown."

"He normally has an agenda for these things. Just what did he say to you before he decided you shouldn't be in Kansas anymore?"

She linked arms with Chakotay again. He looked a lot more comfortable in his tee-shirt, but his arm was still damp with sweat.

"I was having a glass of wine in my quarters and feeling a bit down. Thinking of Christmas at home, missing my family, day dreaming." Her mouth twisted up. She wouldn't mention that he had starred in it. "Q appeared, brought me a Christmas tree and this never-ending wine glass. Made it snow in my quarters, offered me a Christmas kiss..."

"Did you take it?" He was curious.

"No. he didn't mean it. Then he said he'd give me a Christmas present, something I really wanted. I hoped he might give me a black Labrador dog, but he dumped me here, well, about six hours up the road."

Chakotay was hesitant. "He wanted to give you something you really wanted? Maybe he was trying to tell you that you spend too much time alone."

"So he dumps me totally alone in the desert and then puts you here. I spend time more time with you then anyone."

"We don't have fun anymore. I don't even see you much these days. Nobody does, Kathryn."

"I guess... well, I just don't want to butt in where I'm not really wanted. I wasn't going to go to the parties tonight."

"You were invited. I know you were. Lots of the kids were hoping you would be there. B'Elanna thought you were going to the Engineering Christmas party. She was looking forward to seeing you. Heck, you spend enough time down there helping them."

"It's different for you, Chakotay. You are more relaxed off-duty than I am. People don't see you as the commander, they see you as Chakotay. They look at me and only see the captain. I know they invited me, I know it was because they felt they should. That's why I wasn't going to go."

"Not true. B'Elanna genuinely likes you. She admires and respects you and thinks of you as a friend."

"A friend who still calls me 'captain'?"

"She would call you Kathryn. They all would off-duty if you wanted it."

"That's just it. If I wanted, not because they wanted it."

"I think you're making barriers where none exist." He stopped walking. "Want to tell me why you've pushed me away lately?"

"Do I have to? I've already told you more then I wanted to."

"No. But I hope you will." He touched her cheek. "I missed my friend."

In a moment of unthinking candor she answered him honestly. "You wanted to be more then my friend. I thought our friendship was stringing you along. All around us people were pairing up. I thought if you spent less time with me, you might find happiness elsewhere."

"You are my happiness, Kathryn." He spoke quietly and she had to strain to hear what he said, even in the listening desert. "When I am with you I'm happy. If all you can give me is friendship, then that is all I will take. I'm happy now, here in this desolate place, no end in sight. Just being next to you makes it so much brighter. I thought you felt the same."

"I did. I do." She realized it was true. Right now, this instant, she was content. The endless slow movement along the highway was suddenly sparkling, no longer just something that had to be done, it was ... fun. It was something to be savored and enjoyed because he was here with her.

A flash, barely noticeable in the glare of sunlight.

"Well done, Kathy. You're halfway there." Q appeared, dressed in Starfleet pants and a gray tee-shirt like Chakotay's.

"Halfway to where?" Kathryn looked about her.

"Kathy, why so literal? Not halfway to any place. Just halfway there. Chuckles, I'm sure you've figured it out. Help her out here."

Q looked annoyed for a moment, then made a sun parasol appear in his hand. "Much better."

Chakotay looked at him. "I know what you think, Q. I know what you think I should say, but I'd prefer you not to listen in."

Q pouted. "And miss all the fun? I've waited a long time to see this."

Chakotay just glared at him.

"If you insist. Keep the sunshade, she's burning." He disappeared again, leaving the parasol on the ground.

Chakotay picked it up and held it over the two of them. "I bet he's still listening in."

"What was he talking about? Do you know?"

"I think so, it's not exactly a secret, but you're not going to like it."

She tilted her head consideringly and looked up at him. "Tell me anyway. Maybe if you do he'll send us back to the ship."

"Kathryn, do you enjoy being with me?"

"You know I do."

"I think Q is saying you don't have to be alone. You can let yourself be friends, lower the barriers. You don't have to be lonely." He looked at her searchingly. "Maybe he is also saying you can let yourself become involved with me."

"Easy for Q to say." she sniffed slightly. "Easy for you to say too."

"The Delta Quadrant doesn't have to be like this." He waved an arm to encompass the never-ending desert landscape. "It can be home to us. It is already home to most of the crew. And if you can accept that you are where you want to be, at home but moving towards a definite destination, then maybe it will be less lonely and tedious for you. For us."

He was searching her face, probably wondering how she was taking this; the two forbidden subjects finally out in the open. That of a relationship between them, and that of a shifting of perspective, so that Voyager did become home with all that it represented.

She bit her lip, thinking.

"Kathryn, no-one is expecting you to change your thinking overnight, but at least let yourself consider that Voyager is home to us for now. With friends, families, maybe a lover here around you. Some one to share things with, have fun with. Someone who loves you."

She gave him a small, half smile. "You paint a pretty picture."

"All I'm asking is that you just try. Please. I've hated seeing you so alone these last months. At least let us be friends again, even if you don't want to try anything else."

Another flash and Q was back. He walked around them in a circle, studying them as they stood close, Chakotay's hand on her arm.

"I knew that you at least got the point, Chuckles," he said. "Now, Kathy, tell him you love him, kiss him better and we can all go back to your Christmas party."

"Q!"

"I said I'd give you what you wanted for Christmas. You didn't want to be alone, you wanted to be happy and you wanted Chuckles here. Now hurry up, Naomi is still waiting for her Christmas present and Santa Claus is unaccountably missing." He folded his arms and tapped his foot impatiently. "What are you waiting for, Kathy?"

She rolled her eyes at Chakotay. "He has a way of forcing the issue. And unfortunately I can't say he is wrong."

"The powers of telepathy," said Q smugly. "No point denying it."

"Is he right?" Chakotay searched her face. "You love me?"

She stepped up close to him.

"She does," said Q.

Kathryn glared at him. "Q, you could let me tell him myself. I've waited a very long time to tell him."

"Well it's said now, so just kiss him, then we can all go to the party."

She looked at Chakotay. "Do you think if we ignore him he will go away?"

His eyes were tender as he smiled down at her. "We can try."

She reached up to him and brought his mouth down to hers. A soft kiss, a kiss of promise. Their mouths met and merged as he cradled her in his arms. A homecoming of a different kind. A kiss so many years in the making.

Another flash.

Slowly they drew apart and realized they were in the holodeck in the middle of the children's Christmas party. All of Voyager's children, and most of their parents, were staring open mouthed at their command team in each other's arms, obviously just breaking apart from a kiss.

"Come along everybody," Q was there too. "Nothing to stare at. They'll be doing this for the next few millenium I'm sure, plenty of time to get used to it."

A small child with faint brow ridges tugged at Chakotay's pants. "Santy, want *my* present," he demanded.

Kathryn crouched and gave Richie Paris a hug. "Santy's coming, Richie," she said. "Just let him find his sack of toys." She stood, with Richie in her arms and let him pull on her hair.

B'Elanna came over to them. "Richie, you've already had your present." She slapped his hand away. "And don't pull on the captain's hair like that," she scolded. "Shall I take him, captain?"

"No, he's fine," replied Kathryn. She paused, Q's words about aloneness echoing in her ears. "B'Elanna, don't you think it's about time you called me 'Kathryn'?"

"I'd say it's long overdue for that, and the other things we all just saw." She touched Kathryn's arm. "Seriously, I'm very happy for you, Kathryn. Let him cherish you."

With Richie still in her arms, Kathryn mingled amongst other crew members. There were no condemning looks; on the contrary, there were smiles and a few whispered congratulations. Richie broke any awkwardness she might have felt at mingling with the crew so informally. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Chakotay handing out presents with a flourish, his eyes rich with promises when he caught her eye.

Her attention was caught by the unusually subdued figure in a captain's uniform, alone in the corner. She went over. "Q," she greeted him. "Still here?"

"Yes, nothing much happens in the continuum as you know. Mind if I stay here for a bit?"

"I can't believe you're asking me," she teased him.

He was uncharacteristically reticent. "You humans are so playful. I like to watch."

She really looked at him, as she rarely did. Saw past the mocking, flippant exterior and saw that in his own way, he was as lonely as she had been. Had been, past tense, and now, thanks to Q, she had a feeling she wouldn't be alone for very long. Impulsively she kissed his cheek.

"Stay for the Engineering party too," she said.

Richie grabbed his cheek. "Funny man!" he exclaimed and reached out his chubby arms for a hug.

Kathryn dumped Richie in Q's arms, laughing at his nervous expression. Richie settled in happily with another person to hug him, and started to pull the captain's pips from his collar.

"That's the idea, Richie," said Kathryn. "Demote the man."

Taking Q by the arm, she led him over to join a group of the crew.

She felt an arm sneak around her waist. She leaned back slightly, pressing into Chakotay's warmth.

"This isn't the time now," he whispered in her ear, "but can we talk later?"

"Definitely," she replied. "We have a lot to talk about. A lot of things to work out. And I hope you'll kiss me again."

His eyes burned hot with an intensity far beyond what she had expected.

"Kathryn." He said her name reverently, his hand rising to caress her face. "I love you."

And suddenly, the ship, the Delta Quadrant, the whole universe was alive with promise. It was going to be the best Christmas ever.

Feedback? Please. Shayenne

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