December 20th

By Diane

Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager is a registered trademark of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.

What could have happened if Christmas had fallen during the episode 'Unimatrix Zero'?

Kathryn followed Tuvok onto the bridge and immediately locked eyes with Chakotay.

"How's your headache?" he asked.

Kathryn didn't reply, merely headed for her ready room and indicated that Chakotay should follow.

He did so, and as soon as the doors had closed behind them said, "I'm guessing it didn't go well."

"Let's just say we ran into a little trouble. Have a seat, Commander." Kathryn nodded towards the chair, but remained standing, obviously disturbed by what had happened.

"I'd prefer to stand," Chakotay answered.

"The collective's found a way to infiltrate Unimatrix Zero," she began without preamble. "It won't be long before they learn enough to destroy it from the inside out." Kathryn turned and faced him, looking down at him from the upper level. "I plan to stop them."

Not at all surprised by her remark, Chakotay asked, "What have you got in mind?"

Kathryn's voice calmed as she continued. "The people there are vulnerable. They don't have the ability to take action in the real world. We're going to give them that ability."

"How?" Chakotay asked, both perplexed, and concerned now.

"The Doctor and B'Elanna are working on it. I know what you're thinking." She turned from him but continued speaking as she moved to the viewport. "We'd be violating half a dozen Starfleet protocols. And if the collective ever learned we were involved, we'd be putting Voyager in the middle of a civil war. Valid objections."

She held up her hands, acknowledging she knew what he would say, interrupting him before he could say it. "But Chakotay, we've had our disagreements, and there have been times where I have chosen to proceed without your support." She walked back towards him and knew the next part of what she had planned to say must be said. "But this can't be one of those times. I won't do this without my first officer."

She watched Chakotay carefully, looking for any sign of what he was thinking. As much as she wanted to help those in Unimatrix Zero, she also knew that this time, if they did this, they would do it together.

Finally Chakotay spoke.

"The way I see it, risking the safety of Voyager is a small price to pay. We help these people, this could be the turning point in our battle against the Borg."

Kathryn felt a wave of relief wash over her. "I'm glad we agree, because I almost talked myself out of it."

She watched the smile spread across Chakotay's face, even under such dire circumstances. "Somehow I don't think you were ever in any danger of doing that."

"You'll inform the crew?" she asked, knowing that with both of them in agreement on this, the crew would follow without objection.

He nodded and turned from her, ready to leave for the bridge, but stopped before his presence activated the ready room doors.

"Commander?" Kathryn asked when he didn't leave.

"I suppose I should speak to Neelix about the Christmas celebrations."

Kathryn closed her eyes briefly, amazed she had forgotten about the upcoming celebrations mere days away, then stepped down to the lower level.

"Christmas with the Borg. Not how we'd intended to spend the holiday season."

"It certainly isn't," he agreed, moving away from the doors and closer to his Captain. "But I suppose we should be used to it by now. It's not the first time we've had to postpone Christmas."

Kathryn sighed as she leaned against the desk, and rubbed her temples as she felt the headache she hadn't admitted to having throb even harder. He was right; it certainly wasn't the first time something had interrupted one of Voyager's holidays. Whether it was Christmas, or Prixin, or one of the many other times they seemed to celebrate, something always seemed to intrude on their well-laid plans.

"Yes, you'd better speak to Neelix. I think his role of morale officer will be needed more over the next few days than anything else."

"How's the head?" Chakotay asked, repeating his earlier question.

"I'll survive," she said, consciously sitting up straighter, attempting to look better than she really felt. She doubted it would fool Chakotay though. It never did.

But she gave in long before Chakotay said anything. As soon as he sat down beside her, his right side gently brushing her left, she slumped again.

"You should see the Doctor," was all he said.

"I will," she promised, hating the thought of it, but knowing she would need a clear head over the next few hours. "Anyway," she continued, attempting a lightness she didn't feel, "Do you think you could spare a few minutes later tonight?"

"Sure. Why?" He turned slightly, and Kathryn couldn't stop herself from admitting she missed the close contact.

"I'd like to give you your Christmas present," she replied, turning to see him better. She knew there was no need to add, 'Just in case'.

But before answering, Chakotay stood and surprised Kathryn by taking both her hands in his own. "I'll see you tonight," he began, looking down at her from his position. "But don't give me my present."

Kathryn looked at him, puzzled.

"Keep it until all of this is over," he clarified. "It'll be something to look forward to."

Kathryn thought about it for a few moments, and then nodded in agreement. "It's a deal," she smiled.

"Good, I'll see you tonight. Merry Christmas, Kathryn."

Still holding her hands, he leaned in and placed a soft kiss on the corner of her mouth, lingering before slowly backing away. He hesitated a moment, gave her hands a final squeeze before dropping them, and then turned and left the ready room.

Kathryn smiled despite herself, but it soon gave way to a frown. She just hoped they would all be in a celebrating mood when this was finally over.

The End

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