Disclaimer: All Voyager characters are the property of Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.

The whispered crackle of falling snowflakes filled the air around a snug cabin. It covered every thing with a soft white blanket embedded with diamonds waiting to sparkle when the gray clouds parted to let the sun peek out.

However the serenity didnít reach inside the cabin, which was a bustle of activity as Kathryn Janeway got things ready to decorate a Christmas tree. She set out boxes of ornaments in the living room and finally got the special ones her mother brought yesterday. Soon everything was ready, all she needed was to get Chakotay dressed for the outdoors..

Voyager had returned to the Alpha Quadrant in time for Christmas last year, but some how the ambience that went along with the season got lost in the hustle of coming home. There had been no time to enjoy last Christmas, but this year she was determined that things would be different. Kathryn decided she wanted to introduce Chakotay to a few Janeway traditions.

She left Chakotay to finish laying a fire for later and slipped into the den to complete a small task.

"Are you sure you want to go out in this snow storm for a Christmas tree?" Chakotay called out as he set the kindling in the old stone fireplace.

"Yes I do, Chakotay." She put the finishing touches on the package she was wrapping. "There is nothing like a real Christmas tree. Itís something that a replicator cannot get quite right." She placed the gift in a desk drawer and then joined him in the living room. "Besides it isnít snowing that hard anymore and the wind isnít blowing at all."

"But it was a blizzard last night. Weíll be hiking in about two feet of snow," he pointed to the frozen scene just outside the large picture window.

"Come on, you promised," she wheedled with a bright smile, and knelt down to hand the logs to him.

Chakotay placed the logs over the pile of kindling, and then turning to her he stood up. "Ok Kathryn, a real tree it is. How far do we have to hike?"

"I donít intend to hike," she laughed. "We need to go to an area that is about five miles from here, I want to get a tree, not exhaust us both." She rose on her toes to press a kiss to the deep dimple in his left cheek. "I have plans for later, too."

He slipped gentle arms around her, drawing her close. "Plans huh. Why donít we get a little start on those plans?"

She laughed again, simple joy sparkling in its sound. "Come on, we have plenty of time for plans, but we need to get that tree now, this is Christmas Eve." She caught his hand and pulled him up the stairs to the bedroom they shared. "Get dressed, the quicker we get the tree, the faster we get it decorated and the more time we will have left for plans." She began to pull on insulated pants and a sweater, "Come on Chakotay, hurry up."

Laughing he started to dress, but watched her out of the corner of his eye. As she bent down to put on her socks, he quickly pulled a small package from the bedside chest, then he left the room. "I think I left my boots in the back hall."

He had barely hidden the package in the hall closet when she came down the stairs. He turned to her holding their parkas, as she removed two COM badges, a transporter tag, and a tricorder from a kitchen drawer.

"I think we will use the transporter both ways," she laughed.

"We still have to hike to the transport station," he grumbled, barely suppressing a grin.

"I think not," she led him out to the back and across the piles of fluffy snow to the large barn behind the house.

He whistled in surprise as she opened the side door, to reveal the Delta Flyer parked inside. "What is that doing here?"

"Donít tell anyone, but itís a present for Tom from his father. Iím hiding it, until tonight. Admiral Paris and BíElanna pulled a lot of strings to get it. It still belongs to Starfleet, but Tom will get custody, and we can use the transporter on board get our tree."

In no time at all Chakotay and Kathryn had transported into a large area with dozens of fir trees. The aromatic evergreen fragrance of the trees surrounded them, and the view of the trees with their heavy blanket of snow was beautiful. It held peacefulness quietness in that snowy morning that calmed the soul.

There were trees of all sizes; some so big that they wouldnít fit in any home and others were just saplings.

Chakotay took a deep breath of the cold crisp air and slowly let it out as the ambience wash through him, "This is a beautiful place, Kathryn."

She smiled, "My motherís family has been growing Christmas trees here for over a hundred years. We never take the oldest ones and always replace what we do take. Later we will come back to replace the one we cut down. Itís a family Christmas tradition."

"I like it, Kathryn. Now which one do you want?"

She led him through the trees looking at first one and then another trying to decide which tree she wanted. Occasionally she would stop at a tree checking its date marker with her tricorder.

Finally she stopped at a particularly large tree, double-checked it and then drew in a breath, "This is the one Daddy and I planted to replace the one we used for the last Christmas we had together." She grew silent for a moment just studying the tree and then turned away from it.

"Are you ok, Kathryn?"

"Yes I am, Chakotay, this has always been a peaceful place, no matter the season, and Iím often drawn to it. You know youíve given me a gift, my love because today is the first time in years that I have came here to this tree without feeling a deep pain of loss. I will always miss Daddy and Justin, but now I can also remember them with joy."

"You know youíre not alone," he put an arm around her waist pulling her close.

"Iíve know that for years Chakotay, but now I feel it. I love you."

"I know, as I do you, but now letís choose a tree and get back inside where it is warm." He let her go and she started looking at the trees again.

Finally she chose one, and Chakotay quickly cut it down with a small laser ax. They placed the transporter tag on the tree and then used their COM badges to call for the computer on the Delta Flyer to beam them back.

It took a while to shake all the snow out of it, but soon the tree was standing in the warm barn as the last of the moisture dripped off it, while Kathryn and Chakotay went inside for lunch, and to sort through the boxes of ornaments.

Finally Chakotay brought the tree inside, quickly trimmed the base and set it in a large stand. "Kathryn, I have the tree up," he called.

"Just in time too," she laughed setting down a tray with a thermal carafe, mugs and a plate of chocolate chip cookies. In the background he could hear soft music.

"Just coffee, Kathryn?"

"Iíll have you know this is hot chocolate. Itís another Janeway tradition, to have hot chocolate while you trim the tree."

"You know, I am really starting to enjoy all these traditions." He picked up a cookie and bit into it, while Kathryn poured chocolate into the mugs.

The afternoon quickly sped by, as they laughed and talked. There were boxes of hand made ornaments and Kathryn told him stories of past Christmases. "My mother had so many she finally had to divide them up between Phoebe and me. It was one of the things I missed most in the Delta Quadrant."

At last Kathryn opened the special box her mother had brought yesterday, took out six glass balls, and hung them on the tree.

They had a special luster and each was a deep jewel color. Then Chakotay touched one and it lit up inside revealing a hologram of Kathryn. He touched the rest finding holograms of each of her parents, Phoebe, and finally one of her parents together and another of Phoebeís family

"Where did you get these, Kathryn?" he asked.

"Mom makes them. She has one of everyone in the family and a lot of groups on her tree. I thought Iíd like some for our tree."

They put the finishing touches on the tree, then Chakotay lit the fire and they sat on the rug in front of the fireplace, holding hands, drinking hot chocolate, sharing loving caresses, and sinking into a simple contentment that renewed the soul.

Late in the afternoon Admiral Parisís assistant beamed in and took the flyer away for Tomís surprise, and they received a few calls from friends wanting to wish them a Merry Christmas. But mostly they spent the afternoon and evening joyfully together.

They watched the snow grow lighter until it disappeared, and marveled at the golden light that swept across the landscape when the clouds broke and let in the light from the setting sun. They fed logs to the fire and ate their supper there in front of it watching the stars twinkling out through the picture window as the snow clouds drifted eastward.

Finally Chakotay brought out his small package. "Kathryn, we wonít have a lot of time alone tomorrow, your mother expects us early, so I want to give you this now," and he handed the present to her.

She took the package and pulled away the bow and shiny paper. Opening the small box she found a small velvet case, and inside a simple ring set with one diamond.

"Oh Chakotay, this is beautiful, thank you."

"Itís as beautiful as you are, Kathryn. A long time ago I told you a legend about an angry warrior, and how he found peace. It was true that I found peace with you on Voyager, but now that we are home and together. I have found true contentment these last months that we have been together. I love you. Will you marry me?" he took one of her hands, weaving their fingers together.

She looked at him her eyes awash with unshed tears. Giving his hand a gentle squeeze she pulled away to reach behind a chair for another bright gift, and handed him the package she had wrapped earlier. "I think your answer is inside."

He tore into the package, quickly opening it to find two balls identical to the holographic ones he had helped Kathryn hang on the Christmas tree, one ruby and the other emerald.

Kathryn reached out to activate the image inside the red one, and there embedded inside was a holographic image of Chakotay himself.

"Chakotay, I want you to be a part of my life, so I wanted your ornament on our tree too, and this green one is for Mamaís tree because she wants you to be a part of our family too. I was going to ask you to marry me tonight, you see I love you too. I want to make this commitment with you, to be together the rest of our lives, so yes Iíll marry you. Chakotay, will you marry me?"

"Oh yes Kathryn," and he gathered her up in his arms and took possession of her mouth. There was no urgency in that kiss, only the deep need to take joy in the giving of pleasure to the other.

"Is this part of the Ďplansí you mentioned earlier?" He asked when they broke the kiss.

"Well, at least the first part," she laughed snuggling close in his arms. "I might have a couple of additional surprises."

It seemed fitting that Kathryn and Chakotay decided to create public permanent bonds in the season of renewal, and forever after the Christmas season would have special meaning for the couple.

In the years to come there would be more holographic balls on a tree cut from the Janeway woods, but there would also be hand carved symbols of Chakotayís heritage too as traditions were combined to create a new loving whole forever.

The End


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